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Current Issue
March, 2018
Volume 44, Number 1
  
7 January 2016
Greg Kandra




Syriac Catholics, most of them Iraqi refugees, receive communion at a Divine Liturgy in a makeshift church in Amman, Jordan. The pope today erected a new exarchate for the church
in Canada. (photo: Cory Eldridge)


Pope Francis erects new Syro-Catholic Apostolic Exarchate in Canada (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday (7 Jan) erected the Syro-Catholic Apostolic Exarchate in Canada with the Eparchal seat in Montréal (Québec), nominating as its first Apostolic Exarch Rev. Antoine Nassif. The new Apostolic Exarchate consists of the Canadian territory taken from the Syro-Catholic Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance of Newark...

Lebanon strains under the weight of refugees (CNS) While the flow of migrants into Europe and the West has sparked controversy, Lebanon continues to bear the brunt of absorbing massive numbers of refugees. A commonly cited figure is that one in four people in Lebanon is displaced from Syria. “The impact of the Syrian and Iraqi refugees on the Lebanese society is huge and multidimensional,” [Michel] Constantin [of CNEWA] told CNS, stressing that the Syrian crisis will soon enter its fifth year, “with no end in sight...”

In Epiphany message, pope says “Seek out signs of God” (CNS) Go out and seek the signs God is offering everyone today that will lead to Christ, Pope Francis said. The thirst for God is present in everyone, and it’s the church’s task to help those with “a restless heart” by pointing them to the true light of Christ, the pope said 6 January, the feast of the Epiphany, which marks the manifestation of Jesus as savior to the world...

Christians face violence in Odisha, India Christian leaders ask government to provide protection against Hindu hardliners who continue to threaten the community in eastern Indian Odisha state that has witnessed major anti-Christian violence...

Teachers in Nineveh rebel against school programs imposed by ISIS (Fides) More than 30 teachers working in the northern Iraqi province of Nineveh, currently under the control of ISIS, were stopped and arrested for refusing to follow the new education programs imposed by jihadists in the schools of the region. The news of the arrests of “rebel” teachers was reported by local sources to the Kurdish media that monitor the north of Iraq, such as News Agency Ara. The teachers arrested will be judged by the Islamic court established by the jihadist regime, that in Iraq has its stronghold in Mosul...

Ukraine set to rename over 900 towns with Soviet names (Reuters) More than 900 Ukrainian towns and villages will be renamed over the course of the year, in accordance with Ukraine’s push to remove commemorations of Soviet and Communist-era figures, the head of Ukraine’s state Institute for National Memory told Channel 5 on Wednesday. Since Ukraine’s pro-European Maidan protests toppled the pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych administration, the Ukrainian government has adopted a series of laws on “decommunization” — a process of removing displays, venerating anything Soviet...

Catholic agencies plead for help as Ethiopian drought worsens (Catholic Register) As the worst Ethiopian drought in 60 years threatens as many as 20 million people living in more than half of Africa’s second largest country, Catholic aid agencies in the desperate nation are asking for help as the crisis continues into 2016...

Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas (Vatican Radio) Orthodox Christians from around the world celebrate Christmas on Thursday (7 January), in line with the Julian calendar. Traditions vary from country to country but involve liturgies, jumping into frigid water, dancing, log-burning ceremonies, street processions and fireworks displays...



6 January 2016
Greg Kandra




In this image from October, refugees from Turkey arrive in a rubber boat on a beach near Molyvos, on the Greek island of Lesbos. At least 27 refugees attempting a similar trip drowned Monday night. (photo: CNS/Paul Jeffrey)

Migrants drown crossing from Turkey to Greece (Vatican Radio) At least 27 migrants and refugees from the Middle East are reported to have drowned Monday night while trying to cross from Turkey to the eastern Greek islands...

JRS: Urgent need to help Syrian children (Fides) Approximately 2.8 million Syrian children are out of school as a result of the war, 550,000 of whom are in Lebanon. The Jesuit Refugee Service center in Jbeil serves nearly 500 Syrian refugee children, including providing psychosocial support to children through Peace Education classes — an experience that allows you to see the “educational emergency” that must be addressed urgently, so as not to jeopardize the future generations of young Syrians. The report of the activities of the center in Jbeil, released by JRS, shows that all of the children at the centre have been touched by war, with mortars and bombs a daily risk...

Iraq offers to mediate Saudi dispute amid fears of “disaster” (The Washington Post) Iraq offered Wednesday to mediate between neighbors Saudi Arabia and Iran in efforts to ease a standoff that threatens to expand sectarian fault lines across the region. The fast-moving diplomatic meltdown between Shiite power Iran and Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia has raised global alarms over its potential spillover across the Middle East, including fragile peace efforts in Syria. “We cannot stay silent in this crisis,” Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari said at a news conference in Tehran...

Hackers suspected in Ukraine blackout (The Washington Post) U.S. Homeland Security and intelligence agencies are analyzing computer code from what appear to be one of the first known cyber attacks that resulted in an electrical power outage — this one in Ukraine. The 23 December incidents, which lasted several hours and affected tens of thousands of people, were reported by Ukraine power authorities in the capital region and in the western part of the country...

Gaza gets first new hospital in a decade (Reuters) The Gaza Strip’s struggling healthcare system will get some much needed help in 2016 after the first new hospital in a decade opened its doors in the territory last month and as two more foreign-funded clinics are set to launch this year. After nearly five years of construction, with delays caused by fighting and restrictions on imports imposed by Israel and Egypt, the Indonesia Hospital opened its doors on 27 December and has since been treating more than 250 patients a day...

Vatican approves opening sainthood cause for nearly 100 murdered Indian Christians (CNA) The green light has officially been given to open the cause for sainthood of the nearly 100 Christians murdered in the Indian state of Odisha in 2008. The opening of the cause is a source of pride for the relatives of those killed, but also “for the whole Church this is a pride because our men, our women and our children, those who were martyred for the faith, they are not forgotten,” Archbishop John Barwa told CNA on 5 January...



5 January 2016
Greg Kandra




The video above, from late December, describes the circumstances surrounding the kidnapping of the Rev. Dhiya Aziz, who was finally freed in Syria several days after his disappearance.
(video: Rome Reports)


Kidnapped Franciscan priest reportedly freed in Syria (Vatican Radio) The Custody of the Holy Land announced late Monday that the Rev. Dhiya Aziz, OFM has been liberated, and the Custos, Franciscan Father Pier Battista Pizzaballa confirmed the announcement in brief remarks to Vatican Radio. “The situation remains very grave and dramatic in Syria, though we are doubtless happy and relieved that Father Dhiya [Aziz] has been released,” he said...

Syriac church leaders angered by ISIS attack in Qamishli (Catholic Register) Syriac church leaders denounced the year-end terrorist attack that targeted Christian-owned restaurants in Qamishli, Syria. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the 30 December attack, which killed 20 people, 13 of them Christian, and injured more than 40. “Most victims were young people willing to welcome the New Year with hope and joy,” Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan told Catholic News Service from the patriarchate in Beirut. Instead, he said, “In tears and gloomy hope, Christians of Qamishli welcomed 2016...”

Ukraine debates whether to celebrate Christmas twice (Reuters) Ukraine, which marks Christmas on 7 January, according to Orthodox Christian tradition, has embarked upon a national debate about whether it should also celebrate on 25 December a step that would bring it in line with Western Europe. The debate — which reflects a re-examination of national identity under the impact of the falling-out with Russia — could sharply divide opinion and comes amid a heightened battle for influence between the Russian and Ukrainian branches of the Orthodox Church...

Russian Orthodox Church becoming more visible in Putin’s Russia (Christian Science Monitor) The 1993 Constitution strictly defines Russia as a secular state, in which no religion is the official or obligatory one. But many people in post-Soviet Russia yearn for ideological certainties to fill the void left by communism. And with the ascent of Vladimir Putin and Russia’s new order, the Russian Orthodox Church, an ancient institution that was nearly annihilated during seven decades of Soviet rule, is returning to a highly visible and central role in the life of the country...

Cleemis praises multiplicity of voices in India (The Hindu) Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, head of the Syro-Malankara Church, has stressed the rich heritage of Hindu society in keeping tolerance and protection of smaller communities which is a way of life for society...

Pope’s monthly prayer intentions to be released on video (CNS) Pope Francis will deliver his monthly prayer intentions on video over social media as part of a Jesuit-run global prayer network. The new video messages, featuring the pope asking for prayers and action on various challenges facing the world today, will begin on 6 January, the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord...



4 January 2016
Greg Kandra




Bishop Thomas Mar Eusebius Naickamparambil was nominated to be the first bishop of the newly-erected Syro-Malankara Eparchy of St. Mary, Queen of Peace, of the United States and Canada.
(photo: Vatican Radio)


Pope Francis erects new Syro-Malankara eparchy in the United States (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday erected the Syro-Malankara Eparchy of St. Mary, Queen of Peace, of the United States and Canada, nominating Bishop Thomas Mar Eusebius Naickamparambil as its first Bishop. The Eparchy consists of 11,500 faithful, especially in the US states of Illinois, Texas, Michigan, Florida, New York, and Washington, D.C., served by 19 priests in 19 parishes or missions. Three women religious Institutes also operate within the Eparchy’s territory. The Eparchy’s seat will be at St. Vincent de Paul Malankara Catholic Cathedral in Elmont, New York...

Saudi execution has “catastrophic effects” throughout Middle East (Fides) The sentencing to death of Shiite Imam Nimr Bakr al-Nimr, commissioned by the Saudi government on 2 January “has as immediate effect the worsening of the Lebanese institutional crisis, but its catastrophic effects are already being registered on all the scenarios of conflict that plague the Middle East, from Syria to Iraq and Yemen.” This is how Maronite priest Rouphael Zgheib, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Lebanon, describes the consequences triggered following the execution of the Shiite religious leader...

Holy See, State of Palestine Comprehensive Agreement goes into force (Vatican Radio) The Holy See announced on Saturday (2 Jan 2016) that the Comprehensive Agreement between the Holy See and the State of Palestine has come into full force. The Comprehensive Agreement was signed by the Holy See and the State of Palestine on 26 June 2015. It “regards essential aspects of the life and activity of the Church in Palestine, while at the same time reaffirming the support for a negotiated and peaceful solution to the conflict in the region...”

Ukraine bans Russian food products Ukraine says it will ban food products from Russia starting on January 10 in response to a similar measure taken by Moscow. The announcement comes amid East-West tensions over clashes in Ukraine between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed separatists...

Starvation as a tool in the war in Syria (Al Jazeera) Fighting from within, bombed from above, and now starvation. Syria's struggling population continues to dwindle as lives are lost to war and hunger. More than half of all Syrians are in need of humanitarian assistance. The UN says it is unable to help around two million children because they're blocked by fighting or siege. In some areas, the price of food has skyrocketed so that a kilogramme of rice now costs $100. While civilians are starving in Syrian towns, the international community is stalled on a political solution...

Earthquake rocks northeast India (Reuters) A powerful earthquake struck northeast India and Bangladesh on Monday, killing at least 11 people and injuring nearly 200, with efforts to reach remote areas where people may be trapped hampered by severed power lines and telecommunication links. The U.S. Geological Survey said the 6.8 magnitude quake was 57 km (35 miles) deep and struck 29 km (18 miles) west of Imphal, capital of India’s Manipur state, which borders Myanmar...



30 December 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this 1996 photo, worshipers walk to the entrance of St. Mariam’s Orthodox Cathedral in Asmara, Eritrea. Earlier this week, the funeral of the fourth patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church was held in this distinctive cathedral. (photo: Raphael Gaillarde/Gamma‑Rapho via Getty Images)

Funeral held for fourth patriarch of Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church (AllAfrica) A funeral for the fourth patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church, Abune Dioskoros, was held on Saturday, 26 December, following a night-long vigil at St. Mariam Orthodox Cathedral in Asmara. Abune Dioskoros has led his church since his election by the Holy Synod of the Eritrean Orthodox Church in April 2007. Due to controversy surrounding the removal of his predecessor, Abune Antonios, several Oriental Orthodox sister churches — such as the Coptic Orthodox and Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo churches — disputed the legitimacy of the election of the late patriarch…

Ecumenical patriarch: ‘Refugee Jesus’ is authentic guardian of refugees (Pappas Post) In his annual Christmas message, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the world’s 300 million Orthodox Christians, described as “truly a disgrace for the entire human race” the fact that children who have a right to life, education and development within their own family are forced to leave their homeland. Offering help and assistance to these brothers and sisters is “the most precious gifts of the wise men to the newborn Lord.” Forced to flee Herod’s murderous intentions, the child Jesus “is the authentic guardian of today’s refugees…”

Chaldean patriarch: Christian persecution a crime against humanity (National Catholic Register) “In one night, 120,000 Christians left their homes just with their clothes and have been living in camps for one and a half years. Is this not a crime against humanity?” Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I of Baghdad spoke of this and other serious hardships and persecutions against Christians at a recent Rome conference on religious freedom…

Moscow archbishop: A holy year to boost Catholic and Orthodox collaboration (AsiaNews) The Jubilee of Mercy is an opportunity to boost the cooperation and communication between Catholics and Orthodox, in support of the family, the poor, prisoners and the disabled, says Roman Catholic Archbishop Paolo Pezzi of Mother of God at Moscow…

Syrian army backed by Russian jets enters rebel-held southern town (Daily Star Lebanon) Syrian troops fought their way into a rebel-held town in the southern province of Dara’a Wednesday in an assault which rebels said was supported by the heaviest Russian aerial bombing campaign so far in the south…

Israeli group helps blockaded Gazans negotiate path to outside world (Christian Science Monitor) The phone calls from Gaza start in the morning. There are students trying to get to universities abroad; a daughter trying to see a terminally ill parent in the West Bank; a bride trying to get to her own wedding in Jordan. On the other end of the line — at a cluttered desk in a cramped Tel Aviv office — sits Shadi Bathish, a 39-year-old paralegal who helps Palestinians navigate the Israeli military’s sometimes Kafkaesque bureaucracy and obtain the rare permits to exit the blockaded coastal territory. The job makes Mr. Bathish one of the few Israelis with a direct line to the hardships of Gaza residents, many of whose homes and neighborhoods were destroyed by the 2014 war between Hamas and Israel…



Tags: Syria Gaza Strip/West Bank Christian Unity Eritrea Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I

29 December 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




Farmers harvest crops from their fields in October in Alaga, Ethiopia. (photo: Thomas Imo/Photothek via Getty Images)

In Ethiopia, drought threatens to overshadow progress (Newsweek) This year’s drought comes despite Ethiopia’s strides in economic development over the past decade. The country’s GDP growth hovered around 10 percent between 2013 and 2014, ranking it among the fastest-growing economies in the world. But the county’s economy is heavily invested in agriculture, which accounts for 38 percent of Ethiopia’s GDP and 80 percent of nationwide employment. If the drought continues it will undoubtedly affect Ethiopia’s economy…

Too early to cheer victory over ISIS in Ramadi, experts say (AINA) Washington is hailing Iraq’s recapture of Ramadi from ISIS as a key step forward in the global battle against terror, but it may still be too early to celebrate. Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s Anbar province, was seized by the militant organization in May. On Monday, Iraqi government forces finally declared victory after months of fighting, with televised images showing the Iraqi flag flying at a government complex. “They are still clearing out pockets of the city, there’s going to be a long process before they can call Ramadi secure. And then, there’s still the continuing threat from IS, which still holds Fallujah and other areas in Anbar,” said Iraqi General Ismail al Mahlawi, head of military operations in Anbar.

Refugees find freedoms and dangers in Brazil (Los Angeles Times) For many newly arrived Syrians in Sao Paulo, it is hard to find work, hard to communicate, hard to live in constant fear of street crime. They think of it as temporary refuge en route to more permanent homes, in more familiar lands. But in this freewheeling megacity of horizon-to-horizon skyscrapers and vertiginous freedoms, some also find space to remake themselves, in ways large and small…

A refugee’s journey: After risking everything to reach Europe, what next? (The Guardian) Earlier this year Patrick Kingsley met a Syrian family in Cairo and learned about their harrowing journey to Egypt. Patrick followed the father, Hashem al Souki, as he gambled on crossing the Mediterranean to seek asylum for them all in Sweden. Six months later he catches up with Hashem to see what happened next…

Syrian rebels shell Shiite villages after local truce, residents say (Daily Star Lebanon) Syrian rebels shelled two Shiite villages in the northwest of the country on Tuesday, killing at least one person, residents said, a day after pro-government fighters and civilians left the area for Turkey under a local ceasefire agreement…



Tags: Syria Iraq Refugees Ethiopia Drought

28 December 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




Iraqi security forces wave their flag on 28 December after recapturing the city of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s Anbar province, about 70 miles west of Baghdad. (photo: Ahmad al Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images)

Iraq declares Ramadi liberated from ISIS, sweeps for bombs (Daily Star Lebanon) Iraq declared the city of Ramadi liberated from ISIS Monday and raised the national flag over its government complex after clinching a landmark victory against the extremists…

ISIS bomb Assyrian homes, monastery in Iraq, vandalizes cemeteries (AINA) Two days ago ISIS bombed ten Assyrian homes and a monastery in the Assyrian village of Tel Kaif in north Iraq. The blasts injured several people. The monastery belonged to Assyrian sisters. According to residents, ISIS threatened to bomb Assyrian homes in other villages in the area…

Christmas in Syria (Sputnik) [Slideshow] Despite the tense and volatile situation in Syria, the Christian residents of Damascus celebrate Christmas with a festive flair…

Syrian journalist who exposed ISIS Aleppo atrocities assassinated in Turkey (RT) A prominent Syrian journalist and filmmaker, known for his anti-Islamic State documentaries, was gunned down by unknown assailants in broad daylight in Gaziantep, Turkey. This is the third assassination of a journalist in the country over the last three months…

Catholic bishops react to anti-Christian extremist rabbi (Fides) The Assembly of Catholic Ordinary Bishops of the Holy Land condemned “with dismay” recent anti-Christian statements disseminated by Rabbi Benzi Gopstein. In recent days, the rabbi, known for his extremist positions and leader of the far-right Jewish nationalist Lehava movement, published his proposal on a website to ban Christian holidays and expel Christians from Israel, “before these vampires,” wrote Gopstein, “drink our blood…”



Tags: Syria Iraq Israel ISIS

23 December 2015
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this image from September, Jordanian King Abdullah II addresses the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City. Yesterday, in a televised address, the king described Arab Christians as “an integral part” of his kingdom’s civilization. (photo: Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)

King Abdullah: Arab Christians are an integral part of our civilization (Fides) Arab Christians “are an integral part of our past, present and future” and right from the beginning “have been an essential partner in building our culture and civilization and in defending Islam,” King Abdullah II of Jordan said in a televised speech on Jordan state television on Tuesday 22 December…

Iraq sends more troops to fight ISIS in Ramadi (The New York Times) Iraq sent battalions of reinforcements on Wednesday to secure neighborhoods in Ramadi recaptured from ISIS, as soldiers continued an offensive for a second day to try to take full control of the city…

Russian Orthodox Church slams seizure of churches in Ukraine (TASS) Deacon Feodor Shulga, member of the secretariat for inter-Orthodox relations of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, says that by seizing cathedrals of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, Ukrainian authorities are attempting to draw the church into the political and civil conflict in the country…

Mumbai holds interreligious Christmas celebration (Vatican Radio) The much-anticipated annual interreligious celebration of Christmas, hosted by Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay, is a fitting introduction indeed to the season of Christmas with its message of good will to all. This year’s theme emphasizes that we are all brothers and sisters caring for each other and for creation, in keeping with Pope Francis’ encyclical…

Palestinian eviction case spotlights Jerusalem settler push (AP) Ahmad Sub-Laban’s family has lived for decades under threat of eviction from their home overlooking the gold-topped Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem’s Old City. The experience inspired the 37-year-old Palestinian father of two to become a researcher for groups fighting attempts by Jewish settlers to move into properties in the city’s central Arab areas. The Israeli Supreme Court is now poised to rule in the final legal battle over the apartment, and Mr. Sub-Laban has tapped into his network of contacts to try to halt the eviction by putting pressure on the Israeli government. Under a longstanding U.S. framework for a peace deal, Jerusalem would be divided into two capitals, with Jewish neighborhoods going to Israel and the Arab ones to Palestine. This complex arrangement becomes yet more challenging as more Jews move into Arab areas. Earlier this month, Jerusalem-based U.S. diplomat Dorothy Shea visited the Sub-Labans to express concern about their fate and the “pattern of evictions…”



Tags: Iraq Ukraine Jordan Interreligious

22 December 2015
Greg Kandra




Young displaced Iraqis try to dig a drainage trench after heavy rains in November at a camp
in Baghdad. (photo: CNS/Ahmed Jalil, EPA)


Patriarchs encourage hope amid suffering in Middle East (CNS) Catholic patriarchs from the Middle East encouraged their trouble people to find inner peace at Christmas and urged the world to remember them. “In Iraq, we will celebrate the birth of Christ who comes into our hearts in silence and tears,” said Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad. However, he said, “We remain sustained by (an) inner peace that perpetuates the joy of faith and hope that we will, despite the trials, work toward a fairer country and a better future...”

Two Christian villages bombarded by jihadists (Fides) At least two civilians were killed and another twenty injured by grenades on Monday 21 December by anti-regime jihadist fighters against the villages of Maharda and Sqelbyia, in the province of Hama. The two towns, currently controlled by the government army, are inhabited by Orthodox Christians...

Canada to double number of Syrian refugees in 2016 (Time) Canada announced it will double the amount of Syrian refugees it admits in 2016. The country had initially pledged to take in 25,000 refugees by the end of February, but John McCallum, the minister of immigration and citizenship, said that number would be upped to 50,000 by the end of 2016, the BBC reports...

Syriac Christians in Palestine keep hope alive (Middle East Eye) In an unassuming room off a quiet alleyway connecting the Armenian and Jewish quarters of Jerusalem’s Old City, the self-described mayor of this city’s tiny Syriac community holds court. A prominent local tailor, Sammy Barsoum has for decades campaigned for the recognition of the approximately 5,000 Syriac Christians that call Palestine home...

Report: Newly crowned “Miss Iraq” receives kidnapping threat from ISIS (Jerusalem Post) Iraq’s new beauty queen received a threatening phone call on Tuesday telling her to join the ranks of ISIS or she will be kidnapped, according to a report by the Kuwaiti daily al-Watan. Shayma Qassim, 20, won the first beauty pageant to be held in Iraq in 40 years on Saturday. According to the report, following her win, Qassim received a threatening phone call in which she was warned that if she refused to join the ranks of the Islamic State movement she would be kidnapped...



21 December 2015
Greg Kandra




A displaced Syrian woman holds her ten-day-old twin grandchildren in a town on the outskirts of Damascus where they have taken shelter on 20 December 2015.
(photo: AFP/Amer Almohibany/Getty Images)


Pope appeals for peace in Syria (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis appealed for peace in Syria on Sunday, calling on the international community to realize in concrete action and genuine fact the endorsement of a UN-sponsored roadmap toward peace in the war-torn nation...

Christians disappearing from Gaza (USA Today) Dim lighting and candles softly illuminate decorative tapestries as the smell of incense fills the air and the harmonic sound of hundreds singing in unison drifts onto a busy street next to an overflowing church on a wet and windy Sunday morning. Despite the packed pews at Gaza’s Church of St. Porphyrius just weeks before Christmas, Christianity is not booming here. Rather, the worshipers at the 1,600-year-old shrine believe they may be the last group of Christians in Gaza, where they have lived and prayed since the birth of Jesus. The ongoing Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip and the highest unemployment rate in the world are prompting Christians to leave the besieged area in droves, some using the holiday season to their advantage...

Pope prays for flood victims in India (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis prayed for the victims of massive flooding in India on Sunday. Speaking to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square after the traditional Angelus prayer, Pope Francis said. “My thoughts turn in this moment to the dear populations of India, recently stricken by a great flood.” The city of Chennai, capital of Tamil Nadu state in southeastern India, was overwhelmed earlier this month after a series of record-breaking rainfalls triggered the flooding, in which some three hundred people perished. Much of the city’s 4.8 million population remains exposed to the threat of disease outbreak as a result of the flooding. Meteorologists fear unusually intense weather patterns could bring more rain...

President Assad visits a Catholic church (Fides) Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visited the Melkite Catholic parish of Our Lady of Damascus, in the Damascene district of al Qussur, with his wife Asma. Of the presidential visit, which took place on Friday evening, 18 December, the official Syrian media released photos and video the next day...

Russia confirms food embargo against Ukraine (AFP) Russia will introduce a food embargo against Ukraine next month over Kiev’s trade deal with the EU, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Monday, extending punitive measures already in place against Western countries. “These measures will be extended to Ukraine too,” Medvedev said at a government meeting. “I have just signed the relevant decree...”

Visiting a monastery in Ethiopia (Daily Mail) The rope being tied around my waist by a monk comprised lengths of scraggly old leather attached to each other by granny knots. I have a fear of heights, and as I looked up, the cliff seemed to topple towards me by degrees. But this was the only way to visit the 6th century monastery of Debre Damo, which perches on a plateau in northern Ethiopia, a true wilderness...



Tags: Syria India Pope Francis Ethiopia Gaza Strip/West Bank





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