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March, 2018
Volume 44, Number 1
  
27 January 2017
J.D. Conor Mauro




“Today we brought back part of our dignity,” said Sophian, a parishioner in the town of Tel Kaif in Iraq’s Nineveh Plain, who helped raise the cross on the roof of his reopened church. (video: Rudaw)

Chaldean patriarch visits recovering community in Nineveh Plain (Fides) On Thursday, 26 January, a delegation of the Chaldean Church led by Patriarch Raphael Louis I visited the area of the Nineveh Plain recently retaken by the Iraqi army and met with local officials and community members. In Tel Kaif, in the Church of the Sacred Heart, the patriarch led a moment of prayer to invoke the gift of peace in the entire region and the prompt return of refugees to their homes…

Pope calls Catholics and Oriental Orthodox to work for peace (Vatican Radio) Wherever there is violence and conflict, Christians are called to work patiently to restore concord and hope. That was Pope Francis’ message on Friday to members of the Joint International Commission for theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox churches. The group, which is meeting in the Vatican this week, includes representatives of six ancient churches of the East that have been separated from the rest of the Christian world since the middle of the fifth century…

The desperate conditions inside a Serbian migrant camp (New York Times) Migrants are stuck in freezing conditions behind the central train station in Belgrade, Serbia, where they survive on one meal a day. Many of the estimated 1,000 migrants are escaping instability in Afghanistan, where a worsening war with the Taliban has sent record numbers of people fleeing their homes. They have lingered for weeks in legal limbo, unable to move north after European countries along the Balkans shut their borders last year…

Sisi’s church donation stirs religious controversy (Al Monitor) When Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al Sisi donated 100,000 Egyptian pounds to build a mosque and a church in the new administrative capital, he stirred a wave of criticism and a religious controversy…

Pope Francis: ‘Remember Holocaust so never repeated’ (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met with a delegation from the European Jewish Congress on Friday on the occasion of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which occurs annually on 27 January…



Tags: Iraq Egypt Ecumenism Interreligious Serbia

26 January 2017
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis delivers a joint blessing with Orthodox Metropolitan Gennadios of Italy and Malta and Anglican Archbishop David Moxon, the archbishop of Canterbury’s representative to the Vatican, during an ecumenical prayer service to conclude the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome on 25 January. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope: Christian unity requires learning from each other (CNS) Divided Christians need to recognize the gifts God has given to other communities and learn from them “without waiting for the others to learn first,” Pope Francis said. Leading an ecumenical evening prayer service 25 January for the close of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Pope Francis said Christians must overcome the “temptations of self-absorption that prevent us from perceiving how the Holy Spirit is at work outside our familiar surroundings,” including in the lives of other Christian communities...

Trump expected to order Syria ‘safe zones’ for refugees (Reuters) President Donald Trump is expected to order the Pentagon and State Department to produce a plan in coming days for setting up “safe zones” for refugees in Syria and neighboring countries, according to a document seen by Reuters, a move that could risk escalation of U.S. military involvement in Syria’s civil war. The draft executive order awaiting Trump’s signature signaled the new administration was preparing a step that Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama long resisted, fearing the potential for being pulled deeper into the conflict and the threat of clashes between U.S. and Russian warplanes over Syria...

Iraqi children returning to school in Mosul (AsiaOne.com) They have been waiting for two and half years and the children of Iraq’s east Mosul are flocking to enrol in their reopened schools, eager not to waste another day. “It’s a great day, today we are giving our children their right to receive an education,” said Ghassan Ahmed, queueing with his seven-year-old in the yard of Farahedi primary school...

New report highlights plight of displaced Palestinians (Vatican Radio) A new report released this week says the forced internal displacement of Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is making them poorer and keeping them in misery and despair...

Debate on Christians in the Middle East (Fides) In an extensive interview recently published by the Lebanese daily L’Orient-Le Jour, former French economy minister Emmanuel Macron, an “independent” candidate in the next presidential election of France, rejected the argument that the permanence in power of Syrian President Bashar Assad would represent a “guarantee” for the survival of Christian communities in Syria...

Pope blesses sculpture dedicated to migrants (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has again expressed his closeness and concern for migrants and refugees by blessing a sculpture to be placed in the port of the Sicilian Island of Lampedusa, the gateway to Europe for hundreds of thousands fleeing poverty and violence...



Tags: Syria Iraq Pope Francis Palestine Ecumenism

25 January 2017
Greg Kandra




In the video above, a Lebanese Christian now studying in Rome describes the significance of Lebanon as a place of refuge for so many. Many Syrian refugees now in Lebanon are struggling simply to survive. (video: Rome Reports)

At Mosul’s front lines, perils abound (The New York Times) After three months of fighting, the battle to retake Mosul has entered a new chapter, but the Islamic State’s vast arsenal of car bombs and suicide vests is far from spent and most of the civilian population is still trapped...

Syrian refugee children reduced to selling on Beirut’s streets (The Guardian) As the crisis in Syria approaches its sixth anniversary, the UN says 93 percent of refugee households in Lebanon don’t have enough food. When families can’t afford the basics, sending children out to work is one potentially dangerous way they try to cope. They also exhaust savings, sell any land or property they might own in Syria, and fall into debt...

Dispute over St. Petersburg cathedral sparks charges of anti-Semitism (The Washington Post) Recently announced plans to transfer the ownership of St. Isaac’s Cathedral from the state to the Russian Orthodox Church have sparked protests in the city, and on Tuesday that dispute turned uglier, with comments from a prominent politician leading to allegations of anti-Semitism in Orthodox-majority Russia. Those comments were made by Pyotr Tolstoy, the deputy chairman of Russia’s State Duma, during a news conference on Monday...

U.N.: New drought puts recovery of Ethiopia at risk (AfricaNews.com) The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has warned that new drought across parts of southern Ethiopia may put recovery efforts at risk, unless urgent efforts are made to shore up vulnerable households in rural areas. In a statement released on Tuesday, the U.N. Said pastoral communities in these regions could suffer consequences of last year’s El Niño climate phenomenon, already witnessing forage shortfalls and water scarcity...

Coptic bishop makes donation for restoration of mosque (Fides) Coptic Orthodox Bishop Takla, at the head of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Dishna, in the governorate of Qena, has offered a donation to finance the restoration of the historic mosque dedicated to Abd al-Rahīm al-Qenāwī. The symbolic gesture of the donation took place recently during a public meeting in the presence of some local sheikhs, some Coptic priests and many residents of the area surrounding the mosque, in a festive atmosphere and marked by the desire to show the harmony between the Muslim and the Christian component of the Egyptian people...



24 January 2017
Greg Kandra




Iraqi soldiers inspect the debris on 22 January at St. George’s Monastery (Mar Gurguis), an historic Chaldean Catholic church on the northern outskirts of Mosul, which was destroyed by ISIS in 2015. The U.N. is racing to prepare emergency aid ahead of the battle for western Mosul.
(photo: AFP/Ahmad Al-Rubaye/Getty Images)


At Syria talks, a pledge to safeguard truce (AP) Syria talks in Kazakhstan between the Damascus government and rebel factions have concluded with Russia, Turkey and Iran striking a deal on a three-way mechanism to consolidate the country’s nearly month-old cease-fire...

U.N. ‘racing’ to prepare emergency aid ahead of battle for western Mosul (Reuters) The United Nations said on Tuesday it is “racing against the clock” to prepare emergency aid for hundreds of thousands of endangered civilians in Mosul with an Iraqi army offensive looming to oust Islamic State from the western half of the city. Iraqi officials said on Monday government forces had taken complete control of eastern Mosul, 100 days after the start of their U.S.-backed campaign to retake Iraq’s second largest city from IS insurgents who seized it in 2014...

‘Gaza infrastructure nearing collapse’ (The Jerusalem Post) Gaza’s infrastructure is on the verge of collapse, the Israeli NGO Gisha said in a detailed report it issued on Tuesday, which painted a bleak picture of the lack of basic utilities in the Hamas-controlled Strip. It described how Gaza’s 1.8 million residents lack regular supplies of electricity, drinking water and adequate telecommunication services...

Turkey’s beleaguered Christians aim to stay resilient (National Catholic Reporter) “People are naturally afraid, so many are staying away from the churches,” Bishop Ruben Tierrablanca Gonzalez, apostolic vicar of Istanbul, told NCR. “But Christians and Muslims are united against this violence, and the police who’ve been guarding our churches are kind and considerate. Though no one knows what will happen, we’re talking together and sharing our concerns...”

Communist Kerala leader warns church on commercialization of schools (UCANews) The southern Indian Kerala state chief minister and communist leader has lambasted some private schools for corrupt practices and warned that the church, which has worked extensively in education, not to fall prey to the commercial education lobby. Pinarayi Vijayan spoke at the diamond jubilee of church-run Devagiri St. Joseph’s College in Kozhikode district on 17 January. He lauded the Christian service in education but warned that it is fast becoming a for-profit enterprise...

Pope tells media to reject prejudice, leave space for hope (CNS) At a time when the media seem to feed a “vicious cycle of anxiety” and a “spiral of fear,” Christians should respond with honest stories that identify problems and evil, but also inspire real solutions, Pope Francis said...



23 January 2017
Greg Kandra




Government officials take part in the first session of Syria peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan on 23 January 2017. (photo: Aliia Raimbekova/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Syria’s warring sides kick off talks in Astana (Al Jazeera) A delegation of Syrian rebels attending a new round of talks in Kazakhstan’s capital will not hold direct talks with representatives of the government, according to opposition sources. The meetings in Astana, organised by Russia and Turkey, are aimed at strengthening a shaky ceasefire that has largely held despite incidents of violence across Syria...

U.S.-backed forces brace for ISIS’ last stand in Iraq (CBS News) CBS News correspondent Charlie D’Agata reports that in some neighborhoods of eastern Mosul, there is a sense that things are returning to normal. Iraqi forces have managed to liberate the eastern half of the city right up to the Tigris River, which divides it roughly in half...

U.N.: Syrian child refugees struggle to get an education (Reuters) Syrian refugee children in Lebanon are struggling to get an education and many are being pushed into work or early marriage instead, the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF said on Monday. Around 187,000 youngsters — roughly half the school-age Syrian children in the country — are not going to classes, the agency said, as it launched a documentary on their situation...

Pope Francis calls for continued prayer for Christian Unity (Vatican Radio) Following the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis noted that we are currently in the midst of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which has for its theme this year “Reconciliation — The Love of Christ Compels Us...”

Russian Orthodox phone goes on sale for $25,000 (RT) Why would you pay $25k for a phone that isn’t even a smartphone? Well, why wouldn’t you, if it was covered in gold leaf, had 18-carat gold buttons, and most importantly, had an Orthodox cross engraved on it? Moscow-based mobile phone company Gresso created 988 (the year Christianity was adopted in Russia) of the phones, ranging from $6,300 to $25,000, depending on how blinged-out the model is. There is a version with diamond encrusted buttons, for example...



Tags: Syria Pope Francis ISIS Russian Orthodox

20 January 2017
Greg Kandra




In this image from last May, people visit the ancient historical site of Syria’s ravaged Palmyra following its recapture by regime forces from ISIS. Syria’s antiquities chief said today that ISIS militants have destroyed part of the ancient theater in the city and ruined other parts of the historic site. (photo: AFP/Louai Beshara/Getty Images)

Syria confirms ISIS has destroyed ancient ruins in Palmyra (BBC) Militants from ISIS have destroyed part of the Roman Theater in the ancient city of Palmyra. Syria’s antiquities chief said the tetrapylon — a group of four pillared structures which were mainly modern replicas — has also been ruined. The jihadists recaptured the UNESCO-listed archaeological site in December from government troops...

‘I went to Aleppo to study; I left in a convoy of refugees’ (The New York Times) One summer day I joined a group of young women in an upscale neighborhood of western Aleppo. We walked through a market carrying banners critical of the regime. A few minutes later, pro-Assad militiamen arrived in several cars and began circling us. We ran. A girl and I who sought refuge in a house in an alley were arrested...

Russian Orthodox believers take icy plunge on Epiphany (Reuters) Hundreds of thousands of Russian Orthodox believers took a plunge into sub-zero waters across Europe on Thursday to wash off their sins as part of Epiphany feast day celebrations. The annual 19 January commemoration of the baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan River saw more than 150,000 people dip into several ice holes across Moscow, Tass news agency said...

Lebanon prime minister calls for billions in foreign aid to help refugees (Reuters) Lebanon’s prime minister called on Thursday for “adequate and substantial” foreign investments worth nearly $10 billion to address the Syrian refugee crisis and upgrade the country’s crumbling infrastructure. At least 1 million people fleeing neighboring Syria’s war have poured into Lebanon since the conflict began in 2011, making up a quarter of the small country’s population and seriously straining its public services...

Priest from Diocese of Orange to head USCCB ecumenical office (CNS) The Rev. Alfred Baca, a priest of the Diocese of Orange, California, has been named the new executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. Father Baca, pastor of St. Columban Parish in Garden Grove, California, since 2015, will assume his new post 1 July...



Tags: Syria Ecumenism ISIS Russian Orthodox

19 January 2017
Greg Kandra




Members of the Saint Elias Cathedral committee inspect the damage inside east Aleppo’s crumbling church, in the Old City, on 21 December 2016. The apostolic nuncio in Syria will be visiting Aleppo this week. (photo: Youssef Karwashan/AFP/Getty Images)

Cardinal to visit Aleppo (Fides) Cardinal Mario Zenari, Apostolic Nuncio in Syria, is expected to arrive in Aleppo in the early afternoon today, Thursday, 19 January, for a visit full of commitments and meetings that will continue until next Monday...

Syria’s Assad hopes for ‘reconciliation’ (Reuters) Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he believed peace talks in Kazakhstan would lead to local “reconciliation” deals with rebels, a sign of his confidence in a process launched by his Russian allies after the opposition’s defeat in Aleppo...

Will Gaza’s electricity crisis escalate tension? (Al Monitor) The fear barrier surrounding the Hamas regime has broken. For the first time, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets 12 January over the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip. The protesters were not afraid of Hamas’ security forces and were willing to confront them. Ever since Hamas took control over the Gaza Strip in a military coup almost a decade ago, many residents in the Strip have suffered from extreme poverty. As far as many of them are concerned, they no longer have anything to lose...

Young people engage in ecumenism in Toronto (Catholic Register) Younger generations, who have not seen a time before the ecumenism movement, are taking up the torch with great enthusiasm. One more indication of that is this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, where the Student Christian Movement (SCM) joins the Archdiocese of Toronto’s celebrations for the first time...

Ethiopians celebrate Epiphany (Andolu Agency) Tens of thousands of Ethiopian Christians gather in open spaces and around fountains Thursday in celebration of the Epiphany to commemorate the baptism of Jesus Christ...



Tags: Syria Ethiopia Gaza Strip/West Bank

18 January 2017
Greg Kandra




Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton, England, right, shakes hands with Palestinian Christian Daoud Nassar at the Tent of Nations 16 January in the West Bank, near Bethlehem.
(photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)


Pope: We look with hope to unity (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said on Wednesday that Christian Unity and reconciliation are possible. He was speaking during his weekly General Audience in the Paul the VI hall where he also continued his catechesis on Christian hope...

In Holy Land visit, bishops encourage peaceful resistance to Israeli settlements (CNS) Thirteen bishops from North America and Europe visited the Tent of Nations as part of the Holy Land Coordination, which meets every January to focus on prayer, pilgrimage and solidarity with the Christian communities in the Holy Land. When the bishops arrived at the farm 16 January, they were greed by brothers Daoud and Daher Nasser. Embroiled in a legal battle to protect their property from confiscation by the Israeli government for 25 years, the Nasser family has made their farm — the last Palestinian controlled hilltop in the area — a symbol of nonviolent resistance...

Iraq military says it’s gained ‘full control’ of eastern Mosul (AP) U.S.-backed Iraqi government troops announced Wednesday they were in “full control” of eastern Mosul, after routing Islamic State militants from that part of the northern city almost exactly three months since the major operation started. The achievement was a “big victory,” said Iraqi Army Lt. Gen. Talib Shaghati, who commands the counter-terrorism forces, describing the success of the Iraqi forces as “unprecedented...”

Inside rebel-held Syria, where children beg to die (CNN) A massive white Islamic flag signals our entry into rebel-held northern Syria on a cold, cloudy winter day. The road is dotted with signs: “Smoking is a sin,” and “Look only at what Allah wants you to see” — this second one urging people not to leer at women or watch Hollywood movies. As we make our way through the hills of Idlib province, west of Aleppo, our driver Abdullah (not his real name) tells us jets have just bombed Maarrat Misreen, a 15 or 20-minute drive away. “They say there is a ceasefire,” he sighs. “Maybe in Aleppo. But there is still bombing in other parts of the country...”

Catholic youth meet in India to promote leadership (Vatican Radio) National Youth Convention of Catholic youth leaders is being held from 18-22 January at St Joseph’s Engineering College, Mangaluru, India. Bishop Henry D’Souza of Bellary, chairman of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) Youth Council, said the convention will focus on promoting leadership among the youth...



Tags: Syria Iraq India Israel ISIS

17 January 2017
Greg Kandra




In the video above, a Christian Syrian refugee who has fled to Lebanon says faith has sustained many refugees. (video: Rome Reports)

Pope appeals for special care for migrant children (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis appealed for better treatment of child-migrants on Sunday. Speaking to pilgrims and tourists gathered in St. Peter’s Square to pray the Angelus with him, the Holy Father renewed his call for prayerful and concrete solidarity with minors forced to flee their homelands — especially for the children and adolescents forced to flee on their own, without the company of parents or older relatives...

Pope Francis meets with Palestinian president (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met Saturday morning with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas at the Vatican...

U.N.: nearly 150,000 people displaced in Iraq since mid-October (AP) Iraqi forces have captured the site of the Mosque of the Prophet Younis after driving Islamic State group militants from a new neighborhood in eastern Mosul, a spokesman said on Tuesday. The progress comes as the U.N. warned that nearly 150,000 people have been displaced since the Mosul operation started in mid-October. The mosque was among dozens of historical and heritage sites destroyed by IS militants after their June 2014 onslaught...

Europe’s Catholic, Orthodox leaders say they will stand against terrorism (CNS) Catholic and Orthodox leaders have pledged to stand together against fundamentalism and terrorism, as well as resisting forces working to erode and destroy religious belief in Europe. “Terrorist violence against people considered unbelievers or infidels is the extreme degree of religious intolerance — we unreservedly condemn it and deplore that such acts have developed in the soil of a misguided religious culture,” the church representatives said in a joint message on 13 January...

U.S. increases airdrops to forces battling ISIS in Syria (USA Today) The U.S. Air Force is increasing airdrops of weapons, ammunition and other equipment to a growing number of opposition forces closing in on Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria. “Our expanded precision airdrop capability is helping ground forces take the offensive to (the Islamic State) and efforts to retake Raqqa,” said Gen. Carlton Everhart, commander of the Air Mobility Command, which is headquartered here. The Air Force conducted 16 airdrop missions in Syria last year, including six in December...

Deputy cites Armenian genocide in Turkish parliament (Fides) The Armenian deputy of the Turkish Parliament Garo Paylan, representative of the Peoples Democratic Party on 13 January was suspended for three parliamentary sessions after referring to the Armenian Genocide, during the plenary debate on the subject of the new Turkish Constitution...

Russian Orthodox Church will help restore Syrian shrines (Interfax) Head of the Synodal Department for External Church Relations Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk has assured the Russian Orthodox Church will help restore destroyed churches in Syria. “Certainly, we will take part in restoring churches, but first of all, we should restore peace in the country. It is difficult to get down to restoration, when the power in the territory is changing hands every now and then,” he said at his meeting with Moscow State Linguistic University students on Tuesday in Moscow...



Tags: Syria Iraq Lebanon Turkey Russian Orthodox

13 January 2017
Greg Kandra




Palestinian men and children warm up in front of a fire on 30 December at the Khan Younis camp in the Gaza Strip. Crippling power cuts have reduced Gazans to having electricity only three or four hours a day, which prompted a massive protest yesterday.
(photo: CNS/Mohammed Saber, EPA)


Syria says Israel attacked military airport (NPR) The Syrian government says Israel has attacked a military airport west of Damascus, and warns of “repercussions” without promising any specific retaliation. The Syrian state news agency SANA reports that rockets fired by the Israeli air force caused a fire at the al-Mezzeh airport just after midnight local time on Friday morning. The report did not identify if there were any casualties...

With electricity in short supply, 10,000 protest in Gaza (The New York Times) The nearly two million residents of Gaza have been suffering through a cold winter of crippling power cuts, receiving electricity for only three or four hours a day. The popular anger over the cuts erupted on Thursday in a large protest. In a rare display of defiance against the Hamas authorities who control the Palestinian territory, about 10,000 people took to the streets in the Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip...

Iraqi forces clash at Mosul University (BBC) Iraqi forces have met heavy resistance after launching an attack to recapture Mosul University from so-called Islamic State (ISIS), military officials say. Elite troops entered the compound on Friday in an attempt to secure the area in the last major IS stronghold in Iraq...

Irish men help rebuild in Lebanon refugee camp (The Irish Times) On the bustling streets of the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon, locals are drawn to an Irish man fielding impromptu questions. One person asks when she can move into a new apartment; another wants to shake hands and say hello; another asks about building extensions to their homes. All of them know that Waterford native John Whyte can get things done...

What to expect when the pope meets with president of Palestine (CAN) Pope Francis’ private audience with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas on 14 January will be a delicate diplomatic moment for the Holy See...



Tags: Syria Iraq Lebanon Gaza Strip/West Bank Palestine





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