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Current Issue
March, 2018
Volume 44, Number 1
  
8 March 2018
Greg Kandra




Embed from Getty Images
Turkish-backed Syrian rebels gesture as they drive down a road in the area of Hallubi, north of Afrin, on 8 March 2018. (photo: Nazeer Al-Khatib/AFP/Getty Images)

Eastern Ghouta cut in two as Syrian army seizes ground (The Guardian) Syrian government forces have seized vast swathes of territory from rebels in the opposition-held suburbs of Damascus, effectively dividing the besieged enclave of eastern Ghouta in two and further squeezing rebels and the tens of thousands of civilians trapped inside...

Pope Francis meets with members of International Migration Commission (Vatican News) Pope Francis on Thursday met members of the International Catholic Migration Commission on the occasion of their Plenary Council. In prepared remarks to members of the Commission in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall, Pope Francis expressed his thanks to them for their work carried out in the Church’s name to assist migrants and refugees in great need. The multiple projects initiated on five continents, he said represented “exemplary instances of the four verbs — welcome, defend, promote and integrate”...

New U.S. embassy may be in Jerusalem, but not in Israel (The New York Times) In two months, the United States plans to open a new embassy to fulfill President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. There’s just one problem: The embassy may be in Jerusalem, but it may not be fully in Israel...

Meet Kuwait’s homegrown priest (The Jordan Times) Dressed in a traditional white Gulf headdress and with two red crosses embroidered on his black clerical robe, Kuwait’s first homegrown priest cuts a unique figure in the predominantly Muslim emirate. The Rev. Emmanuel Benjamin Jacob Gharib, 68, celebrates both the Bible and Gulf Arab culture with his Christian congregation in Kuwait City. In an interview with AFP ahead of the 20th anniversary of his ordination, he stressed the level of acceptance he has felt from fellow Kuwaitis. “Everyone welcomes me wherever I go,” said Father Emmanuel...



7 March 2018
Greg Kandra




In this image from 2016, a volunteer embraces refugee children in a makeshift camp near Idomeni, Greece. The Vatican has called on Catholics and Catholic agencies to counteract the “refusal to welcome” migrants in some countries. (photo: CNS/Nikos Arvanitdis, EPA)

Turkey’s Erdogan criticizes UN ceasefire in Syria (The Independent) Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has criticised a UN-mandated ceasefire in Syria designed to stop the recent bloodshed in eastern Ghouta while defending his own military’s two-month-old operation against the Kurds in Afrin...

Vatican: Church must counteract ‘refusal to welcome’ migrants (CNS) The Catholic Church and Catholic agencies that work with migrants and refugees around the world are called to educate, advocate and seek alternative host countries in the face of a growing “refusal to welcome” newcomers, as the Vatican secretary of state defined the situation...

Jordan: Syrian refugees will benefit from regularizing their situation (The Jordan Times) Local organizations have welcomed the Ministry of Interior’s (MoI) announcement of a brand new campaign aimed at regularizing the status of Syrian refugees living informally in the urban areas of Jordan...

Report: Most Kerala converts choosing Hinduism (ManoramaOnline.com) If the results of a study published by the Media Research and Development Foundation, Kozhikode are to be believed, maximum number of religious converts in the state chose to embrace Hinduism....

Pope Francis makes donation for first Orthodox monastery in Austria (The Tablet) Pope Francis has donated 100,000 euros (£90,000) towards the first Orthodox monastery that is being built at St Andrä in Austria’s easternmost province of Burgenland...

‘Cycle priest’ gaining attention in India (UCANews.com) On the rugged mud paths of villages and the tarred roads of Rajkot town, people often spot a Catholic priest rushing on his cycle. After almost a decade’s work in Rajkot’s Junagadh parish, Father Vinod Kanatt is now nicknamed “cycle priest” in the diocese managed by the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate congregation...



6 March 2018
Greg Kandra




Syrian Red Crescent volunteers give medical supplies to civilians on 5 March in Ghouta, Syria.
(photo: CNS/Syrian Red Crescent via Reuters)


Report of ‘chlorine attack’ on embattled Syrian town (BBC) Medics in the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area of Syria say they have been treating people with breathing problems after a suspected chlorine attack. The reports follow government air strikes and shelling just hours after the last UN aid envoy left the enclave following a supposed five-hour truce...

Ambassador says Iraq is safe, urges refugees in Lebanon to return home (The Daily Star) Iraq’s ambassador to Lebanon Sunday called on Iraqi refugees in the country to return home “voluntarily” in the near future, citing “safe” conditions in Iraq following the withdrawal of Daesh (ISIS) from much of its territory. Speaking on Radio Liban Sunday, Ambassador Ali Bandar al-Aameri urged “all Iraqi refugees in Lebanon, particularly Christians, to return voluntarily to their country.” He did not specify a timeline for possible return, but promised funding and housing for voluntary returnees...

Trump may travel to Jerusalem for embassy opening (The Jerusalem Post) President Donald Trump warmly welcomed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the Oval Office on Monday, and said that he may come to Israel in May for the ceremony marking the formal transfer of the US Embassy to Jerusalem...

Saudi Prince invites Coptic leader to Saudi Arabia (Arab News) Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman invited Egypt’s Coptic Christians to visit Saudi Arabia after a rare meeting in Cairo’s main cathedral. Speaking to Egyptian media after the visit the head of the Egyptian church, Pope Tawadros II said: “In the name of the Coptic Orthodox church we welcome Prince Mohammed’s visit to his second country Egypt”...

Why Greek Catholics of Ukraine seek recognition as a patriarchate (CNA) The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is not a patriarchate, but it would like to be. A request for a recognition of patriarchal status recently came from Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, who addressed it in a speech delivered 9 February for the 125th anniversary of the birth of Cardinal Josip Sliyi...

Report: Vatican confirms canonization of Paul VI set for October (Crux) Adding specificity to what was already known about the impending canonization of Blessed Paul VI in 2018, Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the pope’s top deputy as the Vatican’s Secretary of State, said Tuesday that the sainthood rite will take place in late October at the close of a meeting of the Synod of Bishops, an institution Paul VI himself founded...



5 March 2018
Greg Kandra




Embed from Getty Images
A United Nations vehicle is seen at the al-Wafideen checkpoint near the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta region. A a convoy carrying aid for thousands of trapped Syrians headed towards the rebel-held enclave on 5 March 2018. (photo: Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images)

Aid convoy enters Eastern Ghouta in Syria (Al Jazeera) A 46-truck convoy carrying humanitarian aid has begun entering Eastern Ghouta through the government-controlled Wafideen checkpoint for the first time in nearly a month. “At last ... A convoy ... carrying desperately-needed aid for tens of thousands is on its way to Eastern Ghouta, Syria,” Robert Mardini, the head of the Middle East operations for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said in a tweet on Monday...

Mass grave with remains of Christians found near Mosul (Iraqi News) A mass grave with remains of forty Christians was found in Mosul, church sources declared on Thursday. “Al-Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces) along with security troops in Halila region, near Badush in west of Mosul, ran into a mass grave of Christians who were kidnapped from the region,” a source from the Syriac Orthodox Church told Alghad Press website...

Russian patriarch visits Bulgaria (RT.com) The heads of the Russian and Bulgarian Orthodox churches and the Bulgarian president marked the 140th anniversary of the end of the country’s occupation by the Ottoman Empire at the site of a famous joint victory over the Turks...

A second country plans to move embassy to Jerusalem (CNN) Guatemala will move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in two months, just two days after the United States plans to relocate its embassy to the city. Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales made the announcement Sunday at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference in Washington. His remarks were greeted with cheers and applause. “As a sovereign decision, we recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” Morales said...

Britain to take up persecution of religious minorities in India (Hindustan Times) Britain will raise the issue of alleged persecution of Christians and Sikhs in India during the April meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London and Windsor, following demands by MPs to take it up with Prime Minster Narendra Modi...



1 March 2018
Greg Kandra




Sister Josephine Amala Valarmathi addresses a meeting of domestic workers in Chennai, India. The Indian religious sister has been providing legal aid to migrant workers to help them avoid exploitation. (photo: CNS/courtesy Global Sisters)

Eastern Ghouta bombardment: 674 Syrian civilians killed in 13 days (Al Jazeera) As many as 674 civilians have been killed in nearly two weeks by the continuous air attacks on the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta, a Syrian volunteer group has said. The Syrian Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets, said on Friday that more than 670 people have been killed since the Syrian government, aided by Russia, launched an air offensive on the largely rural area outside the capital on 18 February...

New law sought for Kerala church properties (UCANews.com) Catholic reformists have launched a campaign for a new law to govern church properties in southern Kerala as the Indian state’s top court studies land deals involving Cardinal George Alencherry, the major archbishop of the eastern rite Syro-Malabar Church...

Indian sister answers call of migrants (Global Sisters Report) Sister Josephine Amala Valarmathi says providing free legal aid to migrant workers in their destination countries is a must to end their exploitation by employers and employment agents. Numerous cases could be avoided, she says, if Indian embassy officials would join civil society organizations in those countries to educate workers on local laws. The nun says her priority since 2003 has been to organize awareness programs for migrant workers on safe legal migration procedures so that they could avoid exploitation and fraudulent recruitments...

Pope to visit Geneva for anniversary of World Council of Churches (Vatican News) Pope Francis will travel to Geneva on 21 June to mark the 70th anniversary of the World Council of Churches. The announcement was made on Friday at a press conference in the Vatican by the WCC General Secretary, Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit and by Cardinal Kurt Koch, head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity...

Archbishop recalls UN Human Rights Declaration (Vatican News) In the statement at the UN session this week, Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič spoke about how this 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights “represented a unique opportunity to reaffirm its pivotal importance as a reference point for global and cross-cultural discussion on human rights, fundamental freedoms and human dignity”...



1 March 2018
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, reflects on the controversy that led to the sacred site being closed earlier this week, and suggests a way forward. (video: Rome Reports/YouTube)

Iranian Christians fear the worst (The New York Times) They sold their homes and possessions, quit their jobs, and left their country — they thought for good. The Iranians, mainly members of their nation’s Christian minorities, were bound for a new life in America after what should have been a brief sojourn in Austria for visa processing. But more than a year later, some 100 of them remain stranded in Vienna, their savings drained, their lives in limbo and the promise of America dead...

New mobile money initiative launched for refugees in Jordan (Reuters) The Central Bank of Jordan today signs an agreement with Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to launch Mobile Money for Resilience (MM4R), a multifaceted grant initiative focused on financially empowering vulnerable groups such as low-income Jordanians and refugees. As the first initiative of its kind in the Middle East, MM4R will provide access to more advanced digital financial services, such as payment transfers, savings and credit...

Catholic priest stabbed to death in Kerala (Deccan Herald) A Catholic priest died after sustaining stab injuries in an attack by an employee of his parish, near the famed Kurisumudi pilgrim centre in Malayattoor in Ernakulam district, on Thursday. The Rev. Xavier Thelakat (51) was stabbed by a man identified as Johny, a sexton at the St. Thomas International Shrine in Kurisumudi where Father Xavier was the Rector...

Priest jailed for rape in India acquitted, freed (UCANews.com) A Catholic priest jailed two years ago on charges of raping a young girl was released 28 February after a court acquitted him of all charges in central Indian Madhya Pradesh state, a hotbed of anti-Christian activities...

For the birds: Armenian says ‘When you have a good pigeon, you get great respect’ (GlobalVoices.org) David Shirvanyan has been keeping doves (a type of pigeon) since he was five years old, when he got a bird as a gift from a relative. He fell in love, and today he has 300. He plies his trade at Yerevan’s bird market, which operates on weekends, offering animals both for food and for pets...



28 February 2018
Greg Kandra




Tourists place candles outside the locked doors of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City. The church, the holiest site for Christians, reopened on 28 February after a dispute over property taxes. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)

Church of Holy Sepulchre reopens (CNS) Christian leaders in the Holy Land announced they would reopen the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on 28 February after the Israeli government has set up a negotiating team to resolve a municipal dispute over property taxes...

Pope prays for Syria at General Audience (Vatican News) The Pope was greeting pilgrims and visitors from Syria, the Holy Land and the Middle East present at the General Audience on Wednesday, when he improvised yet another appeal for what he called that “martyred nation.” “We must pray for these brothers and sisters of ours,” he said, “and for all persecuted Christians”...

Ethiopian Jews threaten hunger strike (AP) Representatives for thousands of Ethiopian Jews announced Wednesday they will stage a mass hunger strike if Israel eliminates funding to allow them to join their families in that country. Hundreds gathered at a synagogue in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, to express concern that Israel’s proposed budget removes the funding to help them immigrate to reunite with relatives...

Meet a family that has tattooed Christians in Jerusalem for 700 years (The Federalist) Buried in a maze of alleyways in the Old City of Jerusalem near Jaffa Gate stands a small shop with a sign that reads, “Razzouk Tattoo: Tattoo with Heritage Since 1300.” The Razzouk family has been tattooing for 700 years. When the family moved to Israel from Egypt, they brought their tattooing tradition with them. Ever since then, the Razzouks have been providing tattoos for Christians in Israel as certificates of their pilgrimage...

In Jordan, a classroom for refugees built by refugees wins architecture award (TheirWorld.org) The building, which has won a global architecture award, was constructed in Jordan’s Za’atari village and is designed to cope with high and low temperatures. It looks like a giant beehive — but this amazing structure is a school for refugees built by refugees. The dome was constructed as a classroom for children in the village of Za’atari, near the huge Syrian refugee camp of the same name in Jordan...



27 February 2018
Greg Kandra




Tourists stand outside the locked doors of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on 26 February in Jerusalem’s Old City. Jerusalem’s mayor today suspended his plan to tax Jerusalem church properties, which had led to the church being closed. It’s not yet known whether this action will lead to the sacred site reopening. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)

Israel suspends plan to tax Jerusalem church properties (AP) Jerusalem’s mayor on Tuesday suspended a plan to impose taxes on properties owned by Christian churches, backing away from a move that had enraged religious leaders and led to the closure of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. In a statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said a professional team was being established to negotiate with church officials to “formulate a solution.” “As a result, the Jerusalem Municipality is suspending the collection actions it has taken in recent weeks,” it said...

Fighting in Syria goes on despite ‘pause’ (BBC) Fighting continued in the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area in Syria during the first daily five-hour “pause” ordered by the government’s ally Russia. Activists said there were government air and artillery strikes, while Russia said rebels shelled a “humanitarian corridor” meant to let civilians leave. As a result, there were no UN aid deliveries or medical evacuations...

Thousands of police dispatched to Gaza (Al Jazeera) The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has called for the dispatch of 3,000 policemen from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip, a senior PLO leader has told Anadolu Agency. “The move is aimed at establishing control over Gaza’s [Hamas-run] police stations,” Wasil Abu Yousef, a senior member of the PLO’s authoritative Executive Committee, said Monday...

Thousands venerate slain nun on first feast day (UCANews.com) Thousands of Catholics gathered at the tomb of a beatified Indian nun to mark the anniversary of her murder, with leaders projecting her as inspiration for persecuted Christians in the country. Six Catholic bishops joined some 200 nuns and 1,500 Catholics on 24 February at the tomb of Blessed Rani Maria on her first feast day since she was beatified as a martyr last November in a step that took her closer to canonization...

Ethiopia affirms open door refugee policy (Xinhua) Ethiopia has reaffirmed its open-door policy for refugees that are flocking into the East African country mainly from its unsettled neighboring countries. The Ethiopian refugee agency (ARRA) said Monday that even though the country presently shelters more than 900,000 refugees, it will maintain its open door policy towards refugees and “continue to receive new arrivals from several of its neighbors, notably from South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan and Yemen”...



26 February 2018
Greg Kandra




A tourists prays outside the locked doors of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on 26 February in Jerusalem’s Old City. Protesting several recent actions they described as a “systematic campaign against the churches and the Christian community in the Holy Land,” the heads of Christian churches announced on 25 February they were closing of the doors of the church. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)

Church of the Holy Sepulchre closes over tax demands (CNS) Protesting several recent actions they described as a “systematic campaign ... against the churches and the Christian community in the Holy Land,” the heads of Christian churches announced on 25 February they were closing of the doors of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for an undisclosed period of time...

Air strikes continue to batter Syria (Vatican News) Rescuers said incendiary bombs caused fires to break out in several areas leaving entire districts shrouded in smoke. The severity of the bombardment has made it impossible to ascertain how many people were killed or injured...

Report: Attacks against India’s Christians doubled in 2017 (CNA) Compared to 2016, attacks against Christians in India by Hindu extremists more than doubled in 2017, amid efforts to label the religious minority a danger to the state. The persecution ranges from threats and physical violence to destruction of church property, but false allegations against Christians have also increased...

A quiet Jerusalem neighborhood gets a U.S.embassy, and a spotlight (The New York Times) For what may be the most visible foreign policy step the United States has taken since President Trump took office, the American Embassy set to open in Jerusalem in three months is a bit hard to spot. The ambassador’s new quarters — really, a provisional office until a full-fledged embassy building is erected — will be located in the United States Consulate General, a low-lying, fortress like compound. It is half-hidden down a steep incline off a quiet, residential street a few miles south of the Old City. Not much can be seen from the road, apart from a large American flag flying from the rooftop...



23 February 2018
Greg Kandra




A rescue worker carries an injured girl amid destroyed buildings on 21 February in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, Syria. (photo: CNS/Bassam Khabieh, Reuters)

Christian leader, bishop add to outcry over Syria (CNS) A Syrian Christian political leader has joined the growing ranks of international condemnation over violent attacks in Syria’s northwestern area of Afrin and the Damascus enclave of Eastern Ghouta. “The struggle is no longer in the Syrian people’s hands, it is a regional and an international conflict with colliding interests. What is happening in Afrin and Ghouta is tragic,” Bassam Ishak told Catholic News Service by phone...

As conditions in Gaza worsen, Israel turns to the world for help (VOA) Four years ago, Israeli forces and Hamas militants fought a 50-day war. The fighting caused heavy damage to many buildings, roads and other infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. Now, Israel fears a humanitarian disaster along its border. The country is appealing to the world to provide support for a series of development projects in Gaza...

U.S. Envoy visits Beirut, mediating Lebanon-Israel dispute (The Jerusalem Post) A senior US diplomat met Lebanon’s foreign minister on Wednesday in Beirut as part of a US shuttle diplomacy effort to resolve tensions between Israel and Lebanon over a border wall and energy drilling in disputed waters. Disputes over Israeli construction of the border wall, Lebanon’s start of oil and gas exploration at sea and the growing arsenal of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Shi’ite group Hezbollah have caused a spike in tensions between Lebanon and Israel, both friends of the United States that regard each other as enemies...

Ukraine, four years after the Maidan (Brookings Institute) Ukraine finds itself in a low-intensity but still very real war with Russia. Russia seized Crimea and has prosecuted a conflict in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas that has claimed more than 10,000 lives. While President Petro Poroshenko and his governments have implemented serious reforms, the pace has slowed markedly. Many are particularly frustrated that more has not been done on the anti-corruption front...

Preserving Chaldean culture in Saskatoon (CTV) Efforts of a community in Saskatoon to preserve one of the oldest languages in human history are paying off. The number of people in the city of Chaldean descent and speaking the language of the same name has grown roughly 50 times in the last three decades, according to Kaesir Istifo, one of the members of Saskatoon’s Chaldean community. Istifo immigrated to Saskatoon from Baghdad following the Iran-Iraq War during the 1980s. He refers to himself as Chaldean, a tribe from Iraq with roots dating back to 10th Century B.C. The group’s language, also called Chaldean, has roots in Aramaic. Aramaic was the language spoken during the time of Jesus Christ in what was then referred to as the Mesopotamia region...







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