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December, 2017
Volume 43, Number 4
  
9 April 2014
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis arrives for his general audience on 9 April. (photo: CNS)

Pope expresses “profound pain” at murder of priest in Syria (Reuters) Pope Francis spoke on Wednesday of his deep grief over the assassination of a 75-year-old Dutch Jesuit priest in Syria and made a renewed appeal for an end to the violence. Frans van der Lugt had been living in Syria since the 1970’s and had become widely known for his refusal to leave Christians who remained in the rebel-held city of Homs as it was blockaded by government forces. He was beaten and shot dead by unidentified gunmen at his monastery on Monday...

During general audience, Pope Francis appeals for peace in Syria (CNS) Here is our translation of Pope Francis’ remarks today about the murder of Jesuit Father Frans van der Lugt and the continuing war in Syria: “Monday in Homs, Syria, Father Frans van der Lugt, my 75-year-old Dutch Jesuit confrere, was assassinated. He arrived in Syria about 50 years ago and always did his best for everyone with graciousness and love, and so was loved and held in esteem by Christians and Muslims. His brutal murder filled me with with deep sadness and made me think again of all the people who suffer and are dying in that martyred country, already too long a victim of a bloody conflict that continues to sow death and destruction...”

Ukrainian official: unrest will be resolved by force or by talks in 48 hours (CNN) Ukrainian acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said Wednesday that the separatist protests in Ukraine's eastern region would be resolved within 48 hours — either through negotiations or the use of force. At the same time, Russia insisted that the presence of its troops just over the border was no reason to worry...

Ethnic Armenians tell of flight from Kasab, Syria (Los Angeles Times) They fled Kasab at daybreak, amid the clamor of artillery and word that Islamist rebels were advancing toward them from Turkey. About 2,500 residents, most of them ethnic Armenians, gathered documents and what few possessions they could carry. They piled into cars and minibuses that carried them 40 miles down mountain roads to the government-held city of Latakia. Only some elderly remained behind, residents said. “We escaped with the clothes on our back,” said one of those who eventually made it to Lebanon...



Tags: Syria Pope Francis Ukraine Armenia

8 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Pro-Russia protesters scuffle with the police at the regional government building in Donetsk, Ukraine, on 6 April. A Ukrainian Catholic bishop has warned his church could lose its legal status under Russian rule, and pledged to use “all possible means in the international arena” to defend it. (photo: CNS/Reuters)

Ukraine cracks down on demonstrators; Russia issues warning (Los Angeles Times) Ukrainian riot police on Tuesday cleared a regional administration building and public square in the eastern city of Kharkiv of hundreds of pro-Russia protesters, detaining scores in the process, officials said. In response, Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a stern warning against the use of force on pro-Russia protesters in eastern Ukraine and alleged the direct involvement of private U.S. military experts…

Georgia’s ancient capital Mtskheta becomes holy city (Interfax) Georgian Orthodox Patriarch Ilia II has conferred the title of “holy city” on Georgia’s ancient capital Mtskheta, a place revered by Georgians…

Egypt’s media blackout on Sinai (Al Monitor) Ever since the beginning of the military operation that began in the Sinai Peninsula after the ouster of President Muhammad Morsi, there has been a media blackout regarding the events going on in this vital part of Egypt and the crises that its citizens are enduring. According to Mustafa Senger, a political activist from the Sinai, one of the most important problems is that mobile phone and Internet networks have stopped working…

Syria’s latest battle: The PR fight over sanctuary for Christians (Christian Science Monitor) When the Syrian opposition took over the Armenian Christian town of Kessab in coastal Syria last month, its 2,000 residents fled. Given the presence of Al Qaeda-linked Jabhat al Nusra and other Islamist groups, they feared the worst for their town. So far, these fears have not been realized. Instead, rebels appear to be using Kessab as an opportunity to try to undo their reputation for extreme brutality towards Syria’s Christians and Shiites. But the Assad regime, which considers itself the protector of minorities, has launched a media campaign to demonstrate how Islamists are terrorizing Christians in Kessab, turning the town into a public relations battlefield in Syria’s civil war…

Fears rise about impact of drought on Syrians (U.N. World Food Program) The United Nations World Food Program (W.F.P.) provided assistance to a record 4 million people in Syria last month but a special report published today highlights how a potential drought would strain the country’s already fragile food security situation. W.F.P. food security analysts say rainfall since September has been less than half the long-term average, and will have a major impact on the next cereal harvest…

Syrians mourn slain Jesuit priest (Al Jazeera) After three years of civil war, during which brutal killing has become commonplace, many Syrians were left stunned Monday by the murder of a Dutch Jesuit priest gunned down in Homs, the besieged city that he refused to abandon. Francis Van Der Lugt — or Abouna (“Father”) Frans, as he was known to Syrians — touched the lives of many, not only Christians. As word of his death spread through Syria, Syrians grieved publically. On Facebook, young and old replaced their profile pictures with one of Frans: in a T-shirt, on a bicycle, among the olive trees, or smiling under the unmistakable black basalt arches of Homs’s Old City…



Tags: Syria Egypt Ukraine United Nations Georgian Orthodox Church

7 April 2014
Greg Kandra




Jesuit Father Frans van der Lugt chats with civilians in early January, urging them to be patient, in the besieged area of Homs, Syria. The Jesuits said on 7 April that the Dutch priest, who had worked in Syria since 1966, was beaten by armed men and killed with two bullets to the head.
(photo: CNS/Thaer Al Khalidiya, Reuters)


Jesuit priest killed in Homs (Vatican Radio) Dutch Jesuit Rev. Frans van der Lugt, a priest who lived in the war-torn Syrian city of Homs, was killed this morning. Fr. Alex Basili, Provincial of the Jesuits in the Middle East and the Maghreb confirmed the news to the Catholic news agency Fides. Fides reports that on 7 April, at around 8 am, Father Frans van der Lugt was abducted by armed men who beat him and then killed him with two bullets to the head in front of the Jeusuit residence in Homs...

“Serious” meeting held in bid to revive peace process (Reuters) The top negotiators from Israel and the Palestinian Authority held a “serious and beneficial” meeting Sunday night in an effort to rescue the stalled peace process, an American official was quoted as telling Israel Radio on Monday. Both sides are expected to meet again later on Monday, with Justice Minister Tzipi Livni representing the Israeli side and Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, representing the Ramallah government headed by Mahmoud Abbas...

Pope reaffirms evangelization in Africa (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has reaffirmed the importance of the Church’s work of evangelization in Africa, saying that lay and religious must “foster this missionary imperative” that has roots in the past but continues “every day in the Church’s pastoral work...”

Jesuit: Ukraine revolution “spiritual,” pitting good against evil (Catholic Register) The Canadian-born superior of the Jesuits in Ukraine is in Brussels to make the case for Ukraine’s revolution — a revolution rooted in Christian, European and democratic ideals, he argues. Church interest in Ukraine’s future runs high at the moment, Nazar told The Catholic Register in an e-mail. “There is a lot of interest in the Ukraine issue, not only with respect to Ukraine itself,” wrote Nazar. “(Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s nervous aggression, which he has never justified publicly, upsets a major European agreement following World War II that borders would be left as they are...”

Fire destroys Ukrainian Catholic Church outside Toronto (CBC) A two-alarm blaze has totally destroyed a Ukrainian Catholic Church in Brampton, Ont., outside Toronto. The fire at St. Elias the Prophet Church, located on Heritage Road north of Bovaird Drive West, started around 7 a.m. and by 8:10 a.m., according one witness, the entire building was fully engulfed by flames. “There is practically nothing left,” wrote Twitter user Tash Reed in a tweet less than 20 minutes later...



4 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this 2007 file photo, Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk, the chairman of the Russian Orthodox Department of External Church Relations, sits in his study. (photo: Russian Orthodox Church/Wikimedia Commons)

The pan-Orthodox council, Ukraine crisis and Christian unity (National Catholic Register) Edward Pentin interviews Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk. The metropolitan discussed the crisis in Ukraine, the pan-Orthodox council planned for 2016 — the first of its kind in 12 centuries — and the current status of Catholic-Orthodox relations…

Pope Francis congratulates new Syriac Orthodox patriarch (VIS) The Holy Father has sent a message to Ignatius Aphrem II, the new Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, congratulating him on his election. Pope Francis expresses his joy at receiving this news and prays that His Holiness “may be a spiritual father for your people and an untiring builder of peace and justice, serving the common good and the good of the entire Middle East in today’s difficult circumstances…”

Israeli diplomat strike ends, clearing the way for papal visit (Vatican Insider) After a year of financial disputes and union battles and strikes that culminated in the complete suspension of all diplomatic activities in the past 11 days, Israel’s government and unions have reached an agreement, leading to the reopening, as of today, of all Israeli embassies and consulates across the world. This unprecedented Israeli union strike has caused serious harm to the country’s foreign policy, forcing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cancel a rare trip to Latin America. There had also been fears that the strike would affect Pope Francis’ late-May visit to the Holy Land, but the Vatican had assured it would be going ahead as scheduled…

Crimea’s schism splits Orthodox hierarchy (Al Jazeera) On the day of the Crimean referendum, a Russian-speaking Orthodox priest, flanked by two soldiers in unmarked uniforms, walked into a Ukrainian Orthodox church in the military town of Perevalnoye, Crimea. The Russian priest had made a 60-mile trip from Sevastopol to ask for proof that the Ukrainian church was properly registered. An hour-long theological debate ensued before soldiers and their accompanying priest left, according to the Ukrainian priest, Father Ivan Protoirey, 58. Father Ivan said the priest from Sevastopol’s message was clear: The Ukrainian church that aligns with the Kiev Patriarch, Filaret, rather than the Moscow Patriarch, Kiril, would have no place in the new, Russian-controlled Crimea…

Rebel assault in Kessab, Syria, revives dark memories for Armenians (Los Angeles Times) A rebel assault on the northern Syrian town of Kasab near the Turkish border has sparked a furor among Armenians worldwide and revived dark memories of the Ottoman-era genocide. It’s unclear how many civilian casualties occurred in the previously tranquil home to about 2,500 Armenian Christians. But the incident, which has also heightened tension between Turkey and Syria, provides a sharp new focus for the propaganda wars between the government of Syrian President Bashar al Assad and the disparate rebel forces that have been trying to topple him for three years…

Gaza theaters battle censorship, conservatism (Al Monitor) The joy of stage performance and creativity made actress Wala Mutir, 27, smile as she greeted the crowd in the city of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip. She played the leading role in “Scenes From Christine’s Heart,” a play adapted from the play “Mourning Becomes Electra” by Eugene O’Neill. But as an actress in the conservative Gaza region, Ms. Mutir faces challenges. A young man in the audience stood up and objected by saying: “We are in a society that doesn’t accept plays that incite women to reveal their feelings.” The theater is having difficulty finding talented female performers, according to actor-director Jamal Abu al Qumsan. “The situation here is difficult on the actresses because society judges them. Two of the best, Samah al Sheikh and Enas al Saqqa, had to leave Gaza and settle in Cairo,” he told Al Monitor…



Tags: Pope Francis Syrian Civil War Gaza Strip/West Bank Ecumenism Orthodox

3 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this September photo, Syrian children carry their belongings as they enter Turkey with their families at the Turkish Cilvegozu border gate. (photo: CNS/Umit Bektas, Reuters)

Syria’s ‘lost generations’ of illiterate children a source of future conflict? (Vatican Radio) Caritas Lebanon’s former president, Msgr. Simon Faddoul, says he’s concerned that generations of young Syrians growing up without an education in a climate of conflict are learning to “excel at the language of war … and hatred.” He warns, “we may face another warring generation in the short and long term…”

Bishops: ‘Persecution’ narratives play into the hands of extremists (Fides) The Bishops of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land warn against some misleading Western narratives of the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. The bishops recognize that there is no doubt the recent upheavals in the Middle East, initially called the “Arab Spring,” have opened the way for extremist groups and forces that, “in the name of a political interpretation of Islam, are wreaking havoc in many countries, particularly in Iraq, Egypt and Syria. There is no doubt that many of these extremists consider Christians as infidels, as enemies, as agents of hostile foreign powers or simply as an easy target for extortion.” However, according to the document, one must point out that Christians are not the only victims. Secular Muslims and those of other denominations, all those defined as “heretics” are being attacked and murdered, too…

Syrian Armenians, once insulated from war, forced to flee (Washington Post) Some fled in their nightclothes, others in their farming boots straight from the fields. Many thought they’d be able to return in a few hours but now fear they may never again. Until the shells started raining down late last month, the tiny Syrian village of Kessab and surrounding villages had been largely sheltered from the three-year-old conflict that has devastated other parts of Syria. But now the area is the focus of a rebel offensive in the coastal province of Latakia, and an accompanying social-media storm of disinformation…

Million Syria refugees registered in Lebanon (BBC) The number of refugees who have fled Syria and registered in Lebanon has surpassed the “devastating milestone” of one million, the U.N. says. Lebanon now has “the highest per capita concentration of refugees worldwide”, said the head of the U.N. refugee agency. “For Lebanon, a small nation beset by internal difficulties, the impact is staggering,” he added…

Ukrainian Greek Catholic leader: ‘Educate Christians for honest politics’ (Catholic World Report) On 28 March, a newspaper in Kiev published a lengthy interview with the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk. “The [Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church] believes in the possibility of Christian democracy, but it will never become part of the political process. More than once we have said that we support no political party or individual politician. But we strive to educate Christians, who would be capable of honest politics…”

Kiev-loyal Orthodox church doubtful of its future in Crimea (Ecumenical News) Ukrainian Orthodox Christians who are loyal to Kiev feel increasingly unsafe in Crimea after Russia’s annexation of the Black Sea peninsula and some have already left, church leaders said on Monday. Since the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the advent of an independent Ukraine, the country’s Orthodox faithful have been split principally between the Kiev and Moscow Patriarchates. The much larger Moscow-based Church does not recognize its Kiev-based rival, which is not part of the global Orthodox communion. The estimated 220,000 Crimeans loyal to the Kiev Patriarchate have long felt marginalized because of the region’s strong pro-Russian sympathies, but Moscow’s takeover of the peninsula has fuelled their feelings of vulnerability…



Tags: Ukraine Refugees Syrian Civil War Children Crimea

2 April 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




President Bashar al Assad Receives Patriarch-elect Mar Ignatius Aphrem II of Antioch and All the East on 2 April. (photo: SANA)

Newly elected patriarch: Syrians are determined to remain steadfast (SANA) St. George’s Syriac Orthodox Cathedral in Damascus held a reception on Tuesday on the occasion of the arrival of Mar Ignatius Aphrem II, patriarch-elect of Antioch and all the East. He stressed that followers of the Syriac Orthodox Church are determined to remain steadfast in homeland. Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III of Antioch stressed he will work with Patriarch-elect Ignatius Aphrem and all other patriarchs of Christian churches in Syria to make the church of Damascus one apostolic community that expresses Syria’s richness and diversity…

Palestinians defy U.S. and Israel; Middle East talks falter (New York Times) Defying the United States and Israel, the Palestinian leadership formally submitted applications on Wednesday to join 15 international agencies, leaving the troubled Middle East talks brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry on the verge of breakdown. The applications were signed by President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority on Tuesday evening as part of a move to gain the benefits of statehood outside the negotiation process…

Syria death toll over 150,000, says human rights body (The Guardian) At least 150,000 people have been killed in Syria’s three-year-old civil war, a third of them civilians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said. The U.K.-based Observatory, which monitors violence in Syria through a network of activists and medical or security sources, said the real toll was likely to be significantly higher at about 220,000 deaths…

U.S. official says measles next menace to Syrian children (Al Monitor) A senior United States aid official has warned that the next health crisis facing Syrian children may be measles, as the Syrian government refuses to implement a United Nations Security Council resolution demanding urgent improvement in humanitarian access to war-battered populations…

Patriarch Aram I proposes that the Kessab region be declared a demilitarized zone (Catholicosate of Cilicia) After describing the situation in Kessab and the role of Turkey, His Holiness Catholicos Aram I, head of the Armenian Apostolic Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia, proposed that the Kessab region be declared a demilitarized zone. U.N. Undersecretary Jeffrey Feltman promised the catholicos to follow it up and discuss with Arab League Special Envoy Lakhtar Ibrahimi…

Blasts at Cairo University kill two (Daily Star Lebanon) A series of explosions outside Cairo University killed two people on Wednesday, including a police brigadier-general, security officials said, in what appeared to be the latest militant attack in a fast-growing insurgency. There was no immediate claim of responsibility but Islamist militants have carried out many similar operations against security forces since the army ousted President Muhammad Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in July after mass protests against him…

Zerqa parish first to acquire solar energy system (Fides) The Twelve Apostles Church of Zerqa is the first church in the Middle East to acquire a solar energy system. “The idea came to me during the summer period, when the heat in June, July and August makes us suffer,” says the Rev. Kurzum Elias. “I thought: Why not exploit it in order to pay less money?” The city of Zerqa is located in a semi-arid area, and the number of sunshine days is estimated at 300 days a year. “We cover, thanks to the sun, half of the total energy consumption. We aim to add more panels…”



Tags: Syria Egypt Refugees Syrian Civil War Armenian Apostolic Church

1 April 2014
Greg Kandra




In the video posted above, witnesses describe last week’s attack on Kessab. (video: RT.com)

Syrian Army trying to retake Kessab (RT.com) The Syrian Army is trying to retake the Christian majority town of Kessab reportedly seized by Al Qaeda-linked forces. The attack forced hundreds of ethnic Armenians to flee and caused international outcry, with Armenia blaming Turkey for supporting extremists. Warring sides in Syria are facing off over Kessab, an ethnic Armenian hub on the Turkey-Syria border…

Is Crimea gone? (CNN) In diplomacy, as in sales, success often depends on making your adversaries believe they proposed the result you wanted. By that measure, Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to have closed the sale on annexing Crimea from Ukraine. On Monday, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visited the region that Moscow now claims over international protests, while Russia also said it was withdrawing a battalion of infantry troops from the tens of thousands deployed near the border with eastern Ukraine…

Pope Francis to become first pontiff to be broadcast in 3D (Variety) Pope Francis will become the first pontiff seen globally in 3D during the upcoming 27 April ceremony in St. Peter’s Square when two of his predecessors, Popes John Paul II and John XXIII, will be canonized as saints…

Some Muslim countries won’t screen ‘Noah’ (Catholic Register) Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates banned the film in early March, citing Islamic prohibitions on showing images of prophets. The Film Censorship Board in Indonesia, home to roughly 215 million Muslims — more than any other country — banned the film last week. Cairo’s Al Azhar University, a historic center of Islamic learning, issued a fatwa against the film urging Muslims not to see it, citing a prohibition on depicting prophets. Yet most Muslim-majority countries have not banned “Noah,” and many observant Muslims in America saw the film when it debuted…



Tags: Pope Francis Syrian Civil War Turkey Crimea Media

31 March 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




The Holy Synod of the Syriac Orthodox Church convened and elected Mor Cyril Aphram Karim, metropolitan of the Archeparchy of the Eastern United States, to lead the church. He will be known as Patriarch Ignatius Aphram II upon his installation and will be the 123rd patriarch of Antioch. (photo: CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Syriac Orthodox Church elects new patriarch (ABC News) The Syriac Orthodox Church has elected a new patriarch to lead one of the world’s oldest Christian sects, Lebanon’s national news agency said Monday. The announcement of the election of Cyril Aphrem Karim, a 48-year-old Syrian, was made by the Syriac Orthodox Church’s Lebanese headquarters in the village of Atshaneh northeast of the capital Beirut. Karim, who served as bishop in the United States, replaces Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I, who died on 21 March at the age of 80…

Egypt presidential election set for 26-27 May (Al Jazeera) Egypt’s electoral commission announced Sunday that the country’s presidential election will take place on 26-27 May, less than a year after the army overthrew President Muhammad Morsi. The man who toppled Egypt’s first democratically elected leader in July, former army chief Abdel Fattah el Sisi, is expected to win the vote easily…

After Crimea’s annexation, what Tatars might do next (Christian Science Monitor) Leaders of Crimea’s Tatar minority gathered Saturday to condemn Russia’s annexation of the peninsula and appealed to international bodies for recognition as an autonomous group. Tatars, an ethnically Turkic and mainly Muslim group that was subjected to mass deportation from their native Crimea by Soviet leader Josef Stalin in 1944, gathered to forge a collective response to Russia’s absorption of their native region…

Ukraine crisis: Crimea celebrates switch to Moscow time (BBC) People in the Crimean capital Simferopol have been celebrating the clocks changing to synchronise with the time in Moscow. Moscow formally annexed Crimea earlier in March after the predominantly ethnically Russian region held a referendum which backed joining Russia…

After Crimea, Russians say they want Alaska back (The Moscow Times) After Russia’s annexation of Crimea, which the Kremlin said corrected a “historical mistake,” some in Russia would like to see the divide with Alaska eliminated by having Russia stake a new claim on the territory, which Tsar Alexander II sold to the U.S. for $7.2 million in 1867…

Activists return to northern Syria as extremists retreat (Al Jazeera) After a campaign of kidnappings and executions, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is starting to retreat. In areas the group controls, the ISIL has sought to impose Sharia, or Islamic law. In Raqqa, one of the group’s strongholds, the ISIL has forced women to completely cover themselves, banned smoking and forced business owners to close their shops during prayer times. The group recently imposed Sharia on Christians in Raqqa, telling them they couldn’t display any outward signs of faith and charging them a religious tax…



Tags: Egypt Ukraine Syrian Civil War Crimea Syriac Orthodox Church

28 March 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




During Pope Francis’ visit to the Holy Land, he will join Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I to issue a joint declaration on the 50th anniversary of the visit to Jerusalem by two of their predecessors, Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras. (photo: Nikolaos Manginas/Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople)

Pope to pray with Orthodox patriarch in Jerusalem (Daily Star Lebanon) Pope Francis will pray side by side with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople in Jerusalem, in a powerful sign of Christian unity during his May visit to Holy Land, the Vatican said on Thursday. The prayer will take place in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built over the spots widely believed to be the sites of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus…

Missile on an Armenian church in Aleppo during Mass (Fides) The Armenian Catholic Church of the Holy Trinity in Aleppo was hit by a missile while the faithful celebrated the liturgy. The attack damaged the dome and broke the windows, but caused no injuries. This was confirmed to Fides Agency by the Rev. Joseph Bazuzu, pastor of the church…

U.N. prolongs probe of Syria rights violations (Daily Star Lebanon) The U.N. on Friday lamented the devastating violence in Syria and extended a probe into the “gross, systematic and widespread” human rights abuses in the war-ravaged country…

Syrian Kurds, rebels find common enemy in ISIS (Al Monitor) Bitter enemies less than a year ago, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party and the Free Syrian Army are cooperating to fight the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham. The first basis for this cooperation emerged when wounded F.S.A. fighters were treated in the Afrin Hospital. Kurdish leader Salim Muslim told Al Monitor, “When ISIS came, they [F.S.A.] escaped to our areas, and we protected them. Those people fought against us, but we are protecting them. Even some injured are treated in our hospitals, despite our having a shortage of medicine…”

Ethiopian Orthodox Church takes roots in Ghana (GhanaWeb) The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church will take firm roots in Ghana with the establishment of a branch of the church in Ghana after the acceptance of a fact-finding report that recommends this course of action…

Mother of Coptic Orthodox pope dies (Ahram Online) The mother of Pope Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, passed away on Friday morning, spokesman Bishop Royce Morqos said in a statement. The funeral liturgy will be held at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria on Saturday.



Tags: Pope Francis Syrian Civil War Ethiopian Orthodox Church Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II

27 March 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




A Free Syrian Army fighter runs amid destroyed buildings during clashes with forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al Assad in the town of Morek on 11 March. Catholic bishops of Syria called for a cease-fire and for the pursuit of the Geneva peace talks to end the crisis in their country. (photo: CNS/Rasem Ghareeb, Reuters)

Syrian Ambassador says 98 churches, 1900 mosques destroyed in Syria (Interfax) Syrian Ambassador Riad Haddad said that 98 Christian churches were partly or entirely destroyed during the military conflict in the country. At the same time, 1900 mosques, 1600 schools and 60 percent of Syrian hospitals were partly or entirely destroyed, Haddad said at his meeting with Patriarch Kirill in Moscow…

Violence against Copts in Egypt continues despite fall of Muslim Brotherhood (AINA) Violence in Egypt against Coptic Christians has continued despite the fall of President Muhammad Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, with believers still facing abductions and the government seizing their property, the Board of Inquiry in Cairo reported. The report, according to Fides News Agency, shows that Copts, who make up close to 10 percent of the population, are continuing to face “endemic forms of violence and abuse” in many parts of Egypt, particularly in the governorates of Luxor, Sohag and Aswan…

Egypt’s Sisi to run for president, vows to tackle militancy (Reuters) Abdel Fattah al Sisi, the general who ousted Egypt’s first freely elected leader, declared his candidacy on Wednesday for a presidential election he is expected to easily win. Sisi toppled Muhammad Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood last July after mass protests against his rule and has emerged as the most influential figure in an interim administration that has governed since then…

Ukrainian crisis may split Russian Orthodox Church (National Catholic Reporter) As Russian troops massed on Ukraine’s border and a controversial secession vote in Crimea approached on 16 March, Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church called for prayers “that brothers of one faith and one blood never bring destruction to one another.” Russia has prided itself on its revival of Orthodox Christianity after decades of Soviet persecution, but a war with the Ukraine could splinter the Russian Orthodox Church. That church has its roots in Kiev, where Prince Vladimir baptized his people as Christians in 988, an event viewed as a cornerstone of Russian and Ukrainian identity…

Israel to allow materials into Gaza for Turkish hospital (Daily Star Lebanon) Israel said on Thursday it will allow into the Gaza Strip construction materials and electric equipment to help build a Turkish-sponsored hospital, in a possible sign of improving ties with Ankara. Gaza, ruled by the Islamist group Hamas, lacks much basic civil infrastructure and lives under an Egyptian-Israeli blockade meant to cut off arms flows but which also curbs imports of fuel and building supplies. Turkey began constructing the hospital in 2011 using materials smuggled into the territory through tunnels and this is first time Israel has let any in for the project…

Pope entrusts the people of Lebanon to the Virgin Mary (VIS) On 25 March, Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin sent a message on behalf of Pope Francis to the participants in the eighth Islamic-Christian Prayer Meeting, expressing joy at “Christians and Muslims united in their devotion to the Virgin Mary.” He also entrusts the participants in the meeting “and all the inhabitants of Lebanon to the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace and Protectress of Lebanon…”



Tags: Egypt Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Gaza Strip/West Bank Russian Orthodox Church





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