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September, 2017
Volume 43, Number 3
  
8 November 2017
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis greets the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar at the Vatican on Tuesday.
(photo: EPA/Vatican Radio)


Pope meets Egypt’s Muslim leader (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Tuesday with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed Muhammad al-Tayeb who is in Rome to attend a conference organised by the St Egidio community...

Jesuits launch first child protection center in Addis Ababa (Vatican Radio) Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Ethiopia, a Catholic Church Organisation that works with refugees, launched the Child Protection Centre in Addis Ababa, which is the first of its kind in the city. The center, which is strategically located in the capital city, is established to respond to the growing demand of the urban refugee community due to the growing number of refugee children and their vulnerability...

Iraq’s Christians worry over Iraqi-Kurdish conflict (Al Jazeera) Many Christians are uncertain about their future in Iraq after government forces, with the help of Shia militia, retook most of the disputed territories in Iraq controlled by the Kurds...

Germany pledges more aid to Jordan (The Jordan Times) Germany on Tuesday pledged to provide Jordan with over 575 million euros in assistance to respond to the Kingdom’s development needs and support the Syrian refugees in Jordan...

Indian cardinal makes pastoral visit to New Zealand (New Zealand Catholic) The Syro-Malabar Catholic community in New Zealand was thrilled to be visited last month by Cardinal Mar George Alencherry, the major archbishop of their church. The church is an Eastern Catholic Major Archiepiscopal Church based in Kerala, India. It is a sui iuris particular church in full communion with the Pope and the worldwide Catholic Church. There are about 4500 Syro-Malabar Catholics in New Zealand and about 10 priests of that rite are ministering in this country, often in Latin rite parishes...



7 November 2017
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Syrian children tell some of the horrors they experienced in the final days of ISIS in Raqqa. (video: VOA/YouTube)

Al Azhar reacts to massacre at U.S church (Fides) Violent acts “which desecrate the holiness of places of worship and destroy innocent lives threaten the people’s stability and security.” And the shedding of innocent blood, irrespective of race and the religion of the victims, “is forbidden by all religions.” With these words, the University of Al Azhar, the main academic and theological center of Sunni Islam, expressed in a formal statement the condolences to the victims of the massacre carried out on Sunday, 5 November by a former military in a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas...

Rebuilding ‘Hell Square’ in Syria’s Raqqa (Voice of America) In mid-October, ISIS was driven out of Raqqa as the remaining families fled the battle. Making the city once again livable, according to officials, is now an overwhelming task complicated by a political deadlock. Rebuilding lives after mass trauma, they add, may be close to impossible...

Maronite patriarch urges ‘vigilance over any sabotage scheme aimed at undermining Lebanon’ (Fides) Following the sudden resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, “there must be vigilance and full awareness against any sabotage plot or scheme aimed at undermining stability in the country.” This is how Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai voiced regret over Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s shock resignation, warning of the destabilizing effects that this choice might have on the fragile national balance...

Archbishop emeritus S. Michael Augustine of India dies (Vatican Radio) Archbishop Emeritus S. Michael Augustine of Pondicherry-Cuddalore diocese of India passed away this morning in a local hospital. He served for 39 years as a bishop and 56 years as a priest till God called him to Himself at the age of 85...

Victims of ISIS in focus at U.N. forum (CNA) Persecuted religious minorities in Syria and Iraq deserve a better future after suffering at the hands of the Islamic State group. That was the message of Archbishop Bernadito Auza, the apostolic nuncio leading the Holy See’s permanent observer mission to the U.N. He said justice for the survivors “demands that we seek to return to them, as much as possible, what Daesh pillaged from them...”

Churches in U.K. to turn red in support of victims of persecution (Vatican Radio) Catholic schools and churches across the United Kingdom will be floodlit red to highlight the plight of persecuted Christians across the world...



6 November 2017
Greg Kandra




Cardinal Angelo Amato presided at the beatification ceremony for Sister Rani Maria in India on 4 November. (photo: Vatican Radio)

Indian sister beatified (Times of India) With teary eyes and overwhelming joy, the congregation celebrated the beatification of Blessed Rani Maria on Saturday. With the official declaration of the beatification, Blessed Rani Maria has become the first sister to be beatified in northern India and the seventh Indian to be beatified, after Sister Alphonsa, the Rev. Kuriakose Chavara, Mother Euphrasia, Father Joseph Vaz, Father Gonsalo Garcia and Mother Teresa…

Truck bomb in Syria kills dozens fleeing battle against ISIS (AP) A spokesman for U.S.-backed forces in Syria says more than a hundred people have been killed in a truck bomb blast in eastern Syria. Mustafa Bali of the Syrian Democratic Forces says the victims were refugees from the war against the ISIS group in the region. He said the attack occurred on Saturday near the Conoco gas plant near Deir Ezzor city…

Jordan plans new city to ease crowding, congestion (Middle East Eye) Jordan has announced plans to build a new city east of the capital Amman in order to ease rising population density and traffic congestion. The project to build the city some 19 miles from Amman was part of a drive to stimulate the economy and attract long-term investment, the government said in a statement published Sunday…

Archbishop of Canterbury forges closer ties with Russian Orthodox (Times of London) The archbishop of Canterbury is scheduled to pay a groundbreaking official visit to Moscow this month for talks with the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, and he will be received by senior politicians. This will be the first time that the head of the worldwide Anglican Communion has held talks with the patriarch in Moscow, and it is a signal of the growing importance of the Russian Orthodox Church, now one of the world’s biggest, richest and most powerful churches...

In Lebanon, maestro helps voices of refugee children rise above poverty, divisions (Voice of America) They are among the most underprivileged children in Lebanon, and now their voices can soar. For several months, conductor and composer Salim Sahab auditioned youngsters, most of whom work, for a choir of 300. With Syrian and Palestinian refugees selected along with Lebanese children, hopes are that the unifying power of singing will help cross political and sectarian lines…



Tags: Syria India Sisters Jordan Saints

3 November 2017
Greg Kandra




Embed from Getty Images
Smoke billows from the eastern Syrian city of Deir Ezzor during an operation by Syrian government forces against ISIS on 2 November 2017. Syria’s army and allied forces have taken full control of the eastern city of Deir Ezzor from the Islamic State group, Syrian state television said.
(photo: AFP/Getty Images)


ISIS ousted from last major city in Syria (CNN) The Syrian army and allied forces have taken full control of the city of Deir Ezzor, the last major Syrian city in ISIS’ hands, Syria’s Defense Ministry and state media said Friday. “Syria’s Army in cooperation with allied forces liberated the entire city of Deir Ezzor from the ISIS after killing a large number of the terrorists, among them foreigners,” the Syrian Defense ministry said in a statement...

Bishop dismisses call to make India a Hindu nation (UCANews) An Indian bishops’ conference official has reacted sharply against a radical Hindu party for trying to negate the secular Indian Constitution. Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary-general of the Indian Catholic bishops’ conference, also disagreed with their insistence that Hindus in India should get priority over Christians, Muslims and other religious minorities. “India is a secular country and it will also remain so. It was not born out of religion and we do not want it to turn it into some religion-based country,” he said...

Maronite bishops call for refugees’ safe return (The Daily Star) The Council of Maronite Bishops reiterated its humanitarian solidarity with Syrian refugees Wednesday, but called for the safe return of the displaced to their homeland. “If this crisis continues, there will be a generation of refugees with no national identity, so how will they partake in the future of Syria?” a statement from the council, released after a meeting in Bkirki, read...

English Catholic, Anglican leaders call for Palestinian homeland (CNS) Recognition of a national homeland for Palestinians is required to achieve justice and reconciliation in the Holy Land, English Catholic and Anglican leaders announced on 2 November. They used the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, in which Britain declared its support for a Jewish state, to press for a two-state solution to decades of strife between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples...

Historic agreement on Holy Spirit signed in Dublin (AnglicanNews.org) Theologians from the Anglican Communion and Oriental Orthodox Churches have signed an historic agreement on the Holy Spirit. The Agreed Statement on the Procession and Work of the Holy Spirit was signed on Friday at the end of a week of discussions by the Anglican Oriental-Orthodox International Commission (AOOIC) and concludes two years of work on the subject...



2 November 2017
Greg Kandra






Pope condemns ‘murderous folly’ of terrorism (CNS) Pope Francis prayed for victims of the terrorist attack in New York, as well as victims of other terror attacks, and condemned the murder of innocent men and women in the name of God...

Syrian opposition rejects Russian dialogue initiative (Al Jazeera) The Syrian opposition attending the latest round of peace talks in Astana has rejected the Russian call for a Congress in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi. The “Syrian Congress on National Dialogue” proposed by Moscow during the two-day talks in the Kazakh capital is expected to discuss the reconciliation between all of the warring parties, political reform and discuss the proposed new Syrian constitution...

Hamas hands control of Gaza crossings to Palestinian Authority (The Guardian) The Palestinian militant group Hamas has formally relinquished security control of key crossings from the Gaza Strip to Egypt and Israel to its long-term rival, the Palestinian Authority, marking the first test of a fragile reconciliation accord agreed last month...

‘Race of Saints’ turns focus on India’s child brides (Vatican Radio) The “Don Bosco in the World” Foundation that organizes the event, wants to draw attention this year to the child brides of India who are forced to marry adult men, with serious health and psycho-physical consequences. The foundation will sent the fund raised by this year’s “Race of Saints” to the Salesians of Don Bosco of the Province of Bangalore, active in the southern state of Karnataka, who have been working to help child brides who are denied their childhood and rights...

Sister’s beatification ‘a joy for India’ (Vatican Radio) The CBCI Secretariat has issued a Press Release on Thursday, ahead of the Beatification of Sister Rani Maria which will be held on Saturday in Indore, India. Sister Rani Maria, professed sister of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation whose cause was cleared for beatification on 23 March 2017 will be declared ‘Blessed’ at a ceremony to be held on 4 November in Indore...



31 October 2017
Greg Kandra




Samunder Singh, who stabbed and killed Sister Rani Maria, stands in prayer before a portrait kept in her former convent in Udainagar, a mission station in northern India. She will be beatified on Saturday. (photo: UCANews.com)

Beatification of Indian nun to inspire persecuted Christians (Malaysia Herald) The upcoming beatification of an Indian nun murdered over 20 years ago, will be an inspiration for India's persecuted Christians, say local church leaders. Indian Catholics are preparing for the 4 November beatification ceremony of Sister Rani Maria Vattalil who was killed in a knife attack on 25 February 1995 as she traveled on a bus near the city of Indore on her way to her home state Kerala for a vacation. Sister Rani Maria was a member of the indigenous Franciscan Clarist Congregation in Indore Diocese situated in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. She was 41 years of age when she was murdered...

Christians await compensation in India (UCANews) An ecumenical delegation has called on India’s Odisha state government to finally implement the Supreme Court’s directive to increase compensation payments to victims of anti-Christian violence. The Supreme Court issued the order more than a year ago...

Syrian refugees in Lebanon face mounting hostility (Haaretz) Heart-rending reports describe the difficulties of life in Lebanon, especially for children. Some of them, as young as 10 years old, have been forced to work. Their parents aren’t allowed to hold down jobs officially because the Lebanese government won’t give them work permits. The men who head households may find occasional employment, in construction or agriculture, but they are paid a pittance. Lebanese President Michel Aoun has explicitly clarified that Lebanon will not allow Syrian refugees to settle within its borders, and the establishment of so-called safe zones has become an excuse for the public to rally against the newcomers...

Patriarch Kirill appeals to shared faith in Romania (Christian Today) Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church is extending an arm of friendship to Orthodox Christians in Romania in the first visit by a head of the Russian Church since the fall of communism. Romania, a NATO and European Union member which now hosts part of the US anti-missile shield and NATO’s anti-ballistic defense system, has had cool relations with Russia since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, although the two countries share cultural and religious ties...

Salvaging bodies: a doctor’s everyday reality in Syria (Al Jazeera) Trauma surgeon Shazeer Majeed has worked for Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Yemen, South Sudan and Iraq. He is now working in northern Syria, a region gripped by instability, and shares his day-to-day reality of trying to keep victims of war alive...

Lebanese cardinal blesses New York chapel to St. Charbel (CNS) Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of Maronite Catholics, inaugurated a chapel to Lebanon’s St. Charbel in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The chapel is the first of its kind outside Lebanon...

Pope names auxiliary Chaldean bishop in San Diego to head Toronto eparchy (CNS) Pope Francis has appointed Auxiliary Bishop Bawai Soro of the Chaldean Catholic Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle in San Diego as bishop of the Chaldean Catholic Eparchy of Mar Addai of Toronto. Bishop Soro, 63, has been an auxiliary bishop of the San Diego-based eparchy since the the pope named him to the post in January 2014...



30 October 2017
Greg Kandra




The tomb of the Jewish prophet Nahum in northern Iraq, shown above, is threatened by tensions in the region. (photo: Wikipedia)

Ancient tomb of Jewish prophet in danger (The Jerusalem Post) The tomb of the Prophet Nahum, which overlooks the Nineveh plains in northern Iraq, is now near the forefront of tensions between the Iraqi federal government and Kurdistan Regional Government. Since last week Iraqi forces, including Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias, have been fighting with Peshmerga in an attempt by Baghdad to push Kurdish forces out of disputed areas and take oil fields and strategic border areas from the Kurds. Although a cease-fire took effect on Friday, tensions remain high...

‘October Light’ spirituality energizes Mumbai children (Vatican Radio) St. Anthony’s Church, Vakola, Mumbai holds a week-long event ‘October Light’ for Sunday School children and enhances the significance of light during Diwali vacation...

Three Coptic Christian churches closed in Egypt (AP) Egyptian religious officials say authorities have shuttered three Coptic Christian churches over fears of attacks by Islamic militants. The Minya Coptic Orthodox Diocese said authorities sealed off two churches in the southern province, citing harassment and attacks by fundamentalists. A third was closed due to fears of attacks. The statement was issued late on Saturday, 28 October...

Pope urges U.S. to welcome migrants (CNS) Pope Francis called on the people of the United States to welcome migrants and urged those who are welcomed to respect the laws of the country. “To all people (of the U.S.) I ask: take care of the migrant who is a promise of life for the future. To migrants: take care of the country that welcomes you; accept and respect its laws and walk together along that path of love,” the pope said 26 October during a live video conversation with teenagers from around the world...



27 October 2017
J.D. Conor Mauro




Indian flower farmer Kanubhai Patel shows “divine roses,” which have suffered this year due to the hot weather, at his farm in Badarkha village outside Ahmedabad on 18 October. (photo: Sam Panthaky/AFP/Getty Images)

The uninhabitable village (New York Times) Hotter temperatures are forcing families in southern India to decide: Try to survive here, or leave? Hundreds of thousands of Indian farmers have committed suicide in the past 30 years, and some climate researchers believe hotter weather has driven crop failure and made the problem worse…

ISIS shores up last stronghold on Syria-Iraq border (Daily Star Lebanon) ISIS is building up its defenses in a pocket of territory on the Syrian-Iraqi frontier, the U.S.-led coalition said Friday, in an anticipation of assaults by Syrian and Iraqi forces aiming to snuff out the extremists’ last stronghold…

Iraq’s Christians ponder future in wake of Kurdish independence vote (Al Monitor) Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I, in a 16 October press interview, expressed his concern that the Kurdish crisis would risk Christians’ presence in Iraq. He said the current conflict in the disputed areas between Baghdad and Erbil would impede the Christians’ return to their areas, and prompt Christians to rush to leave their country for good. The leader appealed to Christians to unite their ranks and engage in dialogue to preserve the Christian component in Iraq. Nevertheless, the church’s calls for a dialogue that would have Iraq’s Christians discuss the future of “the Christian component” may not gain much traction because of the great divide among this religious grouping…

Iranian Christian official, Iraqi prime minister discuss safety of Assyrians (AINA) Mr. Yonathan Betkolia, the secretary general of the Assyrian Universal Alliance and the Assyrian representative in the Iranian Parliament, attended a special meeting between Iranian legislators and Iraqi Prime Minister Dr. Haider al Abadi. During the meeting Mr. Betkolia raised concerns about the safety and security of Assyrians in Iraq…

Vice President Pence says U.S. will help Middle East Christians directly (AINA) The vice president delivered a keynote address at the annual In Defense of Christians Solidarity Dinner. “America will support these people in their hour of need,” he said…



Tags: Iraq India United States ISIS Assyrian Church

26 October 2017
J.D. Conor Mauro




Fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces coalition walk down a street in Raqqa past destroyed vehicles and heavily damaged buildings on 20 October, after a Kurdish-led force expelled ISIS. (photo: Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)

ISIS ‘on the run,’ U.S. commander says (New York Times) The American commander of the international military campaign against ISIS said Wednesday that the militants were “on the run” and facing defeat as the American-led coalition made plans to kill or capture several thousand remaining insurgents…

Tensions on the Nineveh Plain: Iraqi bishops appeal for dialogue (Fides) In Tel Kaif, Christian militias allege aggression from Kurdish Peshmerga forces. Catholic bishops of Iraq have again expressed concern over these tensions, calling on national political leaders “to engage in peace through dialogue,” and urging that the cities on the Nineveh Plain do not become the object of division among opposing military forces…

Army shells Iraqi town, but Assyrian priest refuses to leave (AINA) A senior Iraqi priest refused to leave Tel Eskov, even after military forces gathered there for battle. Chaldean cleric Father Salar Kajo and nine church workers remained in the Christian-majority town on the Nineveh Plains, around 19 miles north of Mosul, despite Iraqi and Peshmerga armies amassing there over the last 48 hours. All other inhabitants left Tuesday, following mortar attacks that injured three children…

Christian Kandhamal victims deserve greater compensation, says bishop (AsiaNews) Christian leaders today handed the authorities a memorandum, in which they call on them to enforce the supreme court ruling that awarded compensation to victims of the 2008 anti-Christian pogrom in Kandhamal…

Breaking barriers, Arab-Israeli women join movement to ‘wage peace’ (Christian Science Monitor) Frustrated with the peace process, more Arab-Israeli women are joining the ranks of Women Wage Peace, rejecting pressure not to “normalize” relations with Israeli Jews. “We want, in our own way, to make peace,” says one member…

Lebanon looks to recreate Palestinian society in refugee camp (Al Monitor) A few streets away from Mohammad al Hajj Hussein’s home, a piece of graffiti scrawls across a wall. It reads, “typical neighborhood.” Compared to residential neighborhoods in Lebanon and elsewhere in the Arab world, the statement rings true. There are broad concrete streets punctuated by corner shops and modern, pastel-colored apartment blocks of multi-bedroom homes and breezy courtyards. Nahr al Bared, however, is not a typical neighborhood but a Palestinian refugee camp, places usually known in Lebanon for their overcrowded, ramshackle squalor. It is also atypical because it preserves social structures that can be traced back to villages uprooted in Palestine in 1948…



Tags: Syria Iraq India Lebanon Women (rights/issues)

25 October 2017
Greg Kandra




Embed from Getty Images
A picture taken on 23 October 2017, in the southern Gaza Strip, shows diggers searching for tunnels on the Egyptian side of the border with the Palestinian enclave. Reports indicate they were looking for three Palestinians who went missing. (photo: Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images)

Mideast church leaders look to U.S. to help obtain peace (CNS) Two prominent Mideast church leaders told a U.S. audience that they were looking to the United States for leadership to obtain peace in the Middle East. “We look to America to lead the international community in so many ways,” said Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite patriarch...

Thousands of ISIS supporters return home (Al Jazeera) Thousands of foreign ISIS supporters have returned to their home countries after leaving Syria and Iraq over the past two years, a US-based security analysis group has said. At least 5,600 people from 33 countries left ISIS-held areas in that period, with numbers increasing as the group began to suffer territorial losses, the Soufan Center said in a report published on Tuesday...

Israeli bulldozers raze land along Gaza border (Ma’an News Agency) Several Israeli bulldozers entered into the “buffer zone” in the central Gaza Strip, along the border with Israel, and leveled lands in the area on Tuesday morning. Palestinian security sources told Ma’an that four Israeli bulldozers entered dozens of meters into the Juhr al-Dik area and razed lands as drones flew overhead...

New Quebec law deemed ‘discriminatory’ against Muslims (Catholic Register) The new Quebec law on state neutrality on religion is under fire, as many deem it “discriminatory” against some Muslim women. Bill 62, officially “Act to foster adherence to state religious neutrality and, in particular, to provide a framework for requests for accommodations on religious grounds in certain bodies,” was adopted 18 October. This legislative text requires that, from now on, all public services be given and received without anything covering a person’s face...

Sharing cultures and religions at Sunday dinner (Huntington Herald-Dispatch) For more than 40 years, parishioners at Holy Spirit Antiochian Orthodox Church have treated the Tri-State to taste of their heritage at its annual Middle Eastern dinner, hosted Sunday, 22 October at the church in Huntington. From the heart of the Bible Belt to the Mediterranean coast and beyond, Sunday dinner holds a special place in the hearts of Christians worldwide — a time for family and friends to enjoy the Sabbath’s rest over a plate of home cooking from wherever home may be...







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