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September, 2017
Volume 43, Number 3
  
5 March 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




People attend a prayer service at a church in Kiev, Ukraine, on 23 February. (photo: CNS/David Mdzinarishvili, Reuters)

Hoping to shore up Ukraine government, European Union offers billions in aid (New York Times) The European Union added a significant financial underpinning to the struggling Ukraine government on Wednesday in the midst of the East-West crisis with Russia over Ukraine’s future, offering aid worth as much as $15 billion over the next two years. The offer comes on top of the $1 billion in American loan guarantees to ease Ukraine’s economic transition, announced here on Tuesday by Secretary of State John Kerry during a visit aimed at reassuring the interim Ukraine authorities and challenging Russia, which escalated the crisis last weekend by seizing control of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula…

Pro-Russian crowd recaptures Donetsk building (Daily Star Lebanon) A crowd of pro-Russian activists recaptured the regional administration building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on Wednesday, hours after they were ejected by police. Donetsk has seen the most persistent of a wave of pro-Russian demonstrations that broke out in southern and eastern cities on Saturday as President Vladimir Putin was declaring Russia’s right to invade…

With Ukraine under siege, Georgia and Moldova double down on Europe (Al Jazeera) On 22 February, as Ukraine politicians voted to remove their Kremlin-friendly president, a roaring crowd in another nation took on their Russian foe. The Georgian rugby team defeated the Russian Bears, 36-10, before a near sold-out crowd in their home stadium. During the lap of honor, the Georgian players held up a banner: “Sokhumi and Tskhinvali = Georgia.” It referred to the capitals of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which like Transnistria in Moldova and potentially Crimea in Ukraine, are breakaway regions now under de facto Russian control. Russia has long tried to intimidate Georgia and Moldova out of their westward shift; Moldova is currently bleeding from a Kremlin boycott of its wine, and Georgia is still nursing the wounds of its 2008 war. But watching Russian troops move into Ukraine has only steeled the resolve of these two small nations to join Europe as quickly as possible. It has also made Western leaders more committed to making that happen…

Patriarch Twal says pope’s visit will boost the peace process (Fides) The visit Pope Francis will carry out in the Holy Land at the end of May will give a new impetus to the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, wrote Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem in a pastoral letter for Lent. “[The pope] will come to confirm our faith, to intensify ecumenical relations and interreligious dialogue and give a new impetus to the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, strengthening relations between the Vatican and each of the Countries that he will visit: Jordan, Palestine and Israel…”

Creative Gazans develop new crafts to cope with siege (Al Monitor) In times of crises and hopelessness, people search for the smallest things to make life livable. The intensification of the siege has spawned creativity in the most unlikely of places, as citizens seek outlets in an attempt to adapt to the crisis. Mohammed al Zomar, Hassan Saad and Ahmed al Arouqi each took an idea and defeated despair using light, water and colors…

Christians under threat in Syria (U.S. Department of State) Last week in Raqqa, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant announced it will force Syrian Christians to either convert to Islam, remain Christian and pay a tax, or face death. These outrageous conditions violate universal human rights. The Syrian people have a long history of tolerance and coexistence, but both the regime and ISIL are fueling sectarian strife to justify their brutality. We strongly condemn these abuses and urge all parties to protect and respect the rights of all Syrians, regardless of ethnicity, gender or religion…



Tags: Ukraine Middle East Christians Gaza Strip/West Bank Russia Georgia

4 March 2014
Greg Kandra




Military personnel, believed to be Russian servicemen, walk in formation outside a Ukrainian military base in Perevalnoye, Ukraine, on 3 March. (photo: CNS/David Mdzinarishvili, Reuters)

Putin calls Ukraine revolt unconstitutional (Associated Press) Russian President Vladimir Putin pulled his forces back from the Ukrainian border on Tuesday yet said Moscow reserves the right to use all means to protect Russians there. He accused the West of encouraging an unconstitutional coup in Ukraine and driving it into anarchy. He also declared that any sanctions the West places on Russia will backfire...

Syria has removed a third of its chemical weapons (Reuters) Syria has shipped out about a third of its chemical weapons stockpile, including mustard gas, for destruction abroad, the global chemical arms watchdog said on Tuesday. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague said Damascus had now handed over six consignments of the toxic agents it declared to the OPCW as part of a Russian-U.S. deal struck last year...

Syria begins season of Lent (Fides) In Syria, the Eastern Rite Churches have already begun Lent, the liturgical season during which the Christian, with a journey of conversion, fully lives the mystery of the resurrection of Christ in his annual memory. For the third consecutive year, the beginning of Lent is lived by Syrian Christians in a country torn apart by civil war. “In our parishes” the Armenian Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo Boutros Marayati said “we celebrated the beginning of Lent already on Sunday afternoon. There were many faithful and the participation was intense...”

Cardinal defends religious liberty (Vatican Radio) Cardinal Peter Turkson on Tuesday highlighted the importance of religious freedom saying “It is important to preserve and defend religious freedom because it concerns “each person’s freedom to live according to their own deeper understanding of the truth.” Cardinal Turkson, Pesident of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, was speaking at a conference entitled “The Church and Human Rights,” taking place in Bratislava, on the initiative of the Slovakian Bishops’ Conference. In his address, Cardinal Turkson said, “freedom of religion is inseparable from freedom of thought and conscience” and includes “the freedom to change one’s religion or belief” and “the freedom to manifest that religion or belief both in private and communally...”

Spanish missionary priest is the only Catholic presence in one region of Ethiopia (Fides) Father Christopher Hartley Sartorios, a 55-year-old Spanish diocesan missionary from Toledo, is the only Catholic priest who has ever reached the Somali region of Ethiopia called Ogaden, where he has been living alone for 7 years in Gode, a territory which is 100% Muslim...



3 March 2014
Greg Kandra




An Orthodox priest prays next to armed servicemen near Russian army vehicles outside a Ukrainian border guard post in Ukraine’s Crimean region on 1 March. The head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church said Ukrainians must be prepared “to sacrifice our lives in order to protect the sovereign, free, independent, and unified state.” (photo: CNS/Baz Ratner, Reuters)

Pope prays for Ukraine (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis asked for prayers for Ukraine on Sunday, which he said was living through a delicate situation. The Holy Father expressed the hope that all parts of the country “will endeavour to overcome misunderstandings and build together the future of the nation.” The Pope also appealed to the international community “to support any initiative for dialogue and harmony.” He made the call following the recitation of the Angelus in St Peter’s Square...

Russia: US threats over Ukraine “unacceptable” (Voice of Russia) The Russian Foreign Ministry has described US Secretary of State John Kerry’s threats to Russia in connection with the situation in Ukraine as unacceptable. “We deem the threats against Russia unacceptable, conveyed in a series of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s public statements in connection with the latest developments in Ukraine,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement...

World leaders condemn Russian invasion of Crimea (Sydney Morning Herald) The leaders of the world’s top industrialised powers have turned on fellow G8 member Russia, condemning its “clear” violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty after the invasion of the Crimean Peninsula. In a pointed statement referring to themselves as the G7 — rather than the G8 — the leaders said Russia’s actions were incompatible with the Group of Eight Nations, which Moscow joined in 1997, and said they would not take part in preparatory talks for June’s G8 summit in Sochi...

Ukrainian Catholic leader: “We must be ready to sacrifice our lives” (Catholic World News) As Russian military forces intervened in the Ukraine’s Crimean region, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church said that “we must stand up for our country” and “be ready, if necessary, to sacrifice our lives in order to protect the sovereign, free, independent, and unified state.” “The entire world community is on the side of Ukraine, as Russia is the aggressor,” said Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, according to a report from the Religious Information Service of Ukraine. “During the last three months, the Church, especially the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, was with its people. And it will continue to remain with its people. If, God forbid, we will have to stand together on the battlefield with our soldiers, with our army, the Ukrainian Church, especially the UGCC, is ready to provide pastoral support...”

Catholic church in Gaza attacked (Associated Press) A Palestinian rights group says assailants have attacked a Catholic church in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights says an explosive detonated in the church’s yard. The group said an “abusive slogan” was written on the church wall. No further damage or injuries were reported. Hamas police spokesman Ayoub abu Shaar said Thursday an investigation was opened into the attack, which occurred Wednesday...



28 February 2014
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis meets with 45 important interfaith leaders from Argentina who have just returned from the Holy Land. (photo: Vatican Radio/L’Osservatore Romano)

Ukraine’s ex-President makes first public appearance (BBC) Ukraine’s ex-President Viktor Yanukovych has made his first public appearance since being ousted last week, telling a news conference in Russia he would fight for his country. He said he was “not overthrown’, but was compelled to leave Ukraine after threats to his life. Those who drove him from power were “young neo-fascist thugs”, he said. He said current tensions in Crimea were “understandable” but stated his desire for Ukraine to remain united...

Christians fleeing Syria to return to Turkey (Reuters) When Louis Bandak fled the violence in Syria, he sought refuge in the country his grandfather was forced to abandon exactly 90 years ago this week. Bandak, his wife and two daughters are part of a small but growing trickle of Christians arriving in Turkey after three years of civil war in Syria killed more than 140,000 people. “Although I had never been here before, it does not feel strange. This too is my homeland,” says Bandak, sitting in warm winter sun outside the 5th Century Mor Abrohom Monastery in Midyat, 30 miles north of the border. While most Christian refugees are in Lebanon or Jordan, countries with which they share linguistic or cultural ties, several thousand have come to Turkey. For many it is a reversal of their ancestors’ flight around a century ago, when World War One and the subsequent building of the post-Ottoman Turkish state made Turkey a hostile land for millions of Christians...

Pope meets with interfaith group on its return from Holy Land (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has met with 45 important interfaith leaders from Argentina who have just returned from the Holy Land, which the Pontiff himself is due to visit in May. Thursday’s meeting in the Santa Marta guesthouse included 15 Jews, 15 Muslims and 15 Catholics. Their trip covered many of the stops which the Holy Father is expected to visit during his brief pilgrimage to Jordan, Israel and Palestine. The group met leading political and religious authorities and visited the holy sites of the three monotheistic religions...

Syriac community receives deed for ancient monastery land in Turkey (Hurriyet Daily News) The lands of the historic Mor Gabriel Monastery located in Turkey’s southeastern province of Mardin have been returned to the Syriac community, completing an important step in the slow-running restoration of the group’s property...

Study shows 74% of children in Kerala addicted to tobacco (International Business Times) Kerala, India’s most literate state with more than 93.91 percent literacy rate, is also home for largest number of alcoholics, cancer patients and children addicted to tobacco. A study by National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC) and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) revealed this startling facts. The study said that 74 percent of Kerala’s children between the age group 5-18 consume tobacco. As part of the study, a total of 119 children were covered examining their pattern, profile and substance use, reported American Bazaar...



27 February 2014
Greg Kandra




Flowers and rosaries are seen at the site in Kiev where people have been killed in recent clashes protesting against Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich. Yanukovich, ousted after bloody street protests, is wanted for mass murder. (photo: CNS/David Mdzinarishvili, Reuters)

Islamic group imposes rules on Christians in Syria under penalty of death (BBC) A jihadist group in Syria has demanded that Christians in the northern city of Raqqa pay a levy in gold and accept curbs on their faith, or face death. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) said it would give Christian residents “protection” if they agreed to the list of conditions. The announcement came in a statement posted online...

Tensions mount in Crimea (The Washington Post) With unrest growing in the Crimea over Ukraine’s political transformation, a group of armed men seized the local parliament and the regional government headquarters in Simferopol early Thursday morning, barricaded themselves inside both buildings and raised Russian flags, news services reported. They were reported to be wearing plain uniforms without designating marks. The Interfax news agency quoted a local authority as saying the men were from a Crimean self-defense group...

Ukrainians hope their nation has a new beginning (The Catholic Register) As Toronto’s Ukrainians woke up to news that former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was on the run in eastern Ukraine after parliament had voted him out of office and that national elections are scheduled for 25 May, they gathered to pray. At Dormition of the Mother of God Ukrainian Catholic Church all three Divine Liturgies on 23 February included special, added prayers for the future of Ukraine.It caps more than a month of prayers for their homeland at the giant Mississauga parish. “We’re all Ukrainians. We do want to show our respect and solidarity with our brothers and sisters,” said Vlodko, a cantor at the church who declined to give his last name. “And in prayer, that’s the best solidarity we can show...”

Maronites to ordain first married man to priesthood in United States (The St. Louis Review) Pope Francis has granted permission for a married deacon to be ordained to the priesthood for the Maronite Catholic Church for the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon. Deacon Wissam Akiki will be ordained 27 February at St. Raymond’s Maronite Cathedral in St. Louis. He is married to Manal Kassab and they have a daughter, Perla. He is the first married man to be ordained for the priesthood for the U.S. Maronite Catholic Church. The Maronite Church is Eastern rite and is among 22 Catholic Churches that are in union with each other and under the authority of the pope in Rome. The spiritual heritage of the Maronite Church is traced to a fourth-century hermit, St. Maron...



26 February 2014
Greg Kandra




In this image from November, tents of Syrian refugees are seen at a camp at the Lebanese border town of Arsal, in the eastern Bekaa Valley. (photo: CNS/Mohamed Azakir, Reuters)

Syrian refugee crisis intensifying (Vatican Radio) In more than three years of civil war, more than 100 thousand people have been killed, and more than 2.5 million Syrians have fled their homes. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), just over 2.1 million people have sought refuge in Syria’s immediate neighbours: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. Others have remained for the time being inside Syria, while fewer than 100 thousand people have declared asylum in Europe...

In rare statement, Benedict denies he was forced to resign (The Telegraph) Former Pope Benedict, in one of the few times he has broken his silence since stepping down a year ago, has branded as ‘absurd’ fresh media speculation that he was forced to quit. n a rare public statement, the 86-year-old former pontiff insisted that he had freely taken the decision to become the first Pope since the Middle Ages to resign the seat of St. Peter, in a move that shocked the Catholic Church and made headlines around the world...

Patriarch appeals for unity in Ukraine (AsiaNews) The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Kirill, on Sunday launched an appeal for the unity and peace in Ukraine at the end of the Sunday liturgy, celebrated in the church of San Michele in Troporevo, in the Russian capital. The primate — reports Interfax news agency — knelt at the altar and prayed to God to grant his light to minds “clouded by violence”...

New Israeli law draws fire (AFP) A new Israeli law giving Muslim and Christian Arab citizens separate representation on a national employment commission drew fire from the Palestinians on Tuesday. “This law aims to create a new reality among our people based on religion and not national identity,” Palestine Liberation Organisation executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement...

Coptic Church denies it is planning to build first church in Saudi Arabia (Arabian Business) The Coptic Orthodox Church has issued a statement denying reports it has struck an agreement with Saudi Arabian officials to build the first church in the kingdom. The rumours and reports surfaced after His Holiness Pope Tawadros II met with the Saudi Ambassador to Egypt, Ahmed Kattan, in Cairo at the weekend, with the MidEast Christian News agency claiming the possibility of setting up a church had been addressed at the meeting. However, Father Paul Halim, the official spokesman for the Coptic Orthodox Church, told the US Copts Association the reports were “untrue”...



25 February 2014
Greg Kandra




Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, major archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, speaks on 25 February during a Rome news conference on the recent events in the Ukrainian capital. (photo: CNS/Max Rossi, Reuters)

Russia cries “mutiny” over change in Ukraine (The Washington Post) Russian leaders expressed their distrust and dislike of Ukraine’s new government on Monday, saying it came to power through “armed mutiny,” just hours after the authorities here announced a nationwide manhunt for ousted president Viktor Yanukovych on charges of “mass murder of peaceful civilians.” Russia questioned the legitimacy of Ukraine’s interim leadership, charging that it used a peace deal brokered by Europe to make a power grab and to suppress dissent in Russian-speaking regions through “terrorist methods...”

Ukrainian archbishop appeals for solidarity (Vatican Radio) The Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has made a heartfelt appeal to European Nations for solidarity and support for the people of Ukraine. Speaking to a press conference held on Tuesday at Vatican Radio, His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk denounced the fact that the cry of the Maidan protesters went largely unheard and ignored until the explosion of violence last week that left some 100 people dead, and thousands more injured...

Ukraine votes to send fugitive former president to be tried for “serious crimes” (Voice of America) Ukraine’s parliament voted on Tuesday to send fugitive President Viktor Yanukovych to be tried for ‘serious crimes’ by the International Criminal Court once he has been captured. A resolution, overwhelmingly supported by the assembly, linked Yanukovych, who was ousted on Saturday and is now on the run, to police violence against protesters which it said had led to the deaths of more than 100 citizens from Ukraine and other states. The resolution said former interior minister Vitaly Zakharchenko and former prosecutor-general Viktor Pshonka, who are also being sought by the authorities, should also be sent for trial at the ICC, which is based in The Hague...

Israel strikes near Lebanon-Syria border (Aljazeera) Israeli jets have bombarded an area on the Lebanon-Syria border, reportedly hitting a Hezbollah position, a Lebanese security source and a Syrian NGO said, “Two Israeli raids hit a Hezbollah target on the border of Lebanon and Syria,” the source told AFP news agency. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the target was a Hezbollah “missile base”. Lebanon’s state news agency also confirmed the airstrikes, however, there was no immediate confirmation from Lebanese security officials, and the Israeli military declined comment...

Pope Francis: Victims of war deserve mourning, not indifference (CNS) Pope Francis urged people to overcome indifference and to mourn for the innumerable victims of war and conflict around the world. He also condemned those who profit from the manufacturing of weapons and “live large,” lounging in their “parlors” while children in refugee camps starve.In a Mass homily on 25 February, the pope focused on the day’s first reading from St. James and the causes of divisions and conflict. “Where do wars and arguments among you come from,” he asked during his early morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he lives. “War, hatred and hard feelings, you don’t buy them at a store, they are here in the heart,” emerging out of people’s passions, he said...



24 February 2014
Greg Kandra




Retired Pope Benedict XVI greets Pope Francis at the conclusion of a consistory at which Pope Francis created 19 new cardinals in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on 22 February. Pope Benedict’s presence at the ceremony marked the first time he had joined Pope Francis for a public liturgy. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope creates 19 new cardinals, with Pope Benedict present (CNS) On a feast day commemorating the authority Jesus gave to St. Peter and his successors — the popes — Pope Francis created 19 new cardinals in the presence of retired Pope Benedict XVI. To the great surprise of most people present, the retired pope entered St. Peter’s Basilica about 15 minutes before the new cardinals and Pope Francis. Wearing a long white coat and using a cane, he took a seat in the front row next to Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church. Pope Benedict’s presence at the consistory 22 February, the feast of the Chair of Peter, marked the first time he had joined Pope Francis for a public prayer service in the basilica. Pope Benedict resigned 28 February 2013, becoming the first pope in almost 600 years to do so...

Pope Francis: no divisions between Christians (Vatican Radio) Following the celebration of Mass on Sunday morning with the 19 new Cardinals, Pope Francis greeted the crowds in St. Peter’s Square gathered for the Angelus prayer. In his address to them he urged them to work for Christian unity avoiding all divisions, because he said: “a community does not belong to the preacher, but to Christ...”

Official in Ukraine accuses ex-president of mass murder (The New York Times) Ukraine’s acting interior minister said on Monday that authorities were in pursuit of the ousted president, Viktor F. Yanukovych, who was believed to be in Crimea in the south of the country, and that he would be arrested on charges of mass murder in the killings of dozens of antigovernment protesters last week. The minister, Arsen Avakov, who was appointed by Parliament on Saturday, wrote on his Facebook page that he was personally involved in the manhunt and had traveled to the Crimean city of Sevastopol on Sunday night hoping to intercept Mr. Yanukovych at the airport there, but that the deposed president had not turned up as expected...

In Ukraine, the bitterness behind an upheaval (The Washington Post) Anatoliy Zhalobaha didn’t pay much attention to politics, but he was angry, and growing angrier. That’s what drew him to Kiev on Wednesday, and into the path of a sniper’s bullet on Thursday. The uprising convulsing Ukraine gets much of its strength from places such as Dubliany, a village of 8,000 in the westernmost part of the country. But the driving force behind it is not so much about geography, or differences in language, or ideology, though those are significant factors. For Zhalobaha, it was the raw deal he felt he had gotten in a country where those in power were brazenly helping themselves to as much as they could get their hands on...

Senior al-Qaeda commander killed in Syria (Aljazeera) A Syrian rebel commander, who fought alongside al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and was close to its current chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, was killed by a suicide attack in Aleppo, intensifying in-fighting between rival armed groups. The killing of Abu Khaled al-Suri on Sunday in a suicide bombing in the al-Halq area of Aleppo was confirmed by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights...

Kerala group launches website for cancer survivors (India Today) For the first time in India, a youth movement in Kerala is launching a matrimonial website to find life partners for cancer survivors, bringing solace and hope to those who have successfully battled the disease. The initiative by the St George Orthodox Youth Movement, under the St Mary’s Orthodox Parish church at Kumbanad in Pathanamthitta district, is first of its kind in the country, the sources claimed...



21 February 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Yesterday, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I spoke out against the violence and division in Ukraine. The patriarch also expressed recently his “expectant joy” for his meeting with Pope Francis, planned for May. (photo: Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constinople)

Ecumenical patriarch discusses tragic situation in Ukraine (Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople) “In the wake of the anniversary last year, celebrating 1025 years since Christian faith and civilization was conveyed to the Kievan Rus by our own predecessors in the Church of Constantinople, we are compelled, in the name of the ethos and culture of the freedom granted by God to all people as a divine gift, to condemn the present relentless brutality and insist on a peaceful and reasonable solution to the internal problems of Ukraine…”

Accord signed in Ukraine, amid hopes to end bloodshed (New York Times) Opposition leaders signed an agreement with President Viktor Yanukovych on Friday to try to defuse a deadly political crisis that has left scores of protesters and security officers dead and hundreds injured in Kiev, the capital. The German Foreign Ministry announced in a Twitter message that the leadership council of the Ukrainian protest movement had authorized the signing of the deal, which calls for early presidential elections, a coalition government and the reduction of presidential power through constitutional changes. A spokeswoman for the protest movement told the Associated Press that opposition leaders were headed for the president’s office to discuss the agreement…

Gaza left out of Middle East peace talks (Washington Post) This crowded bit of Mediterranean shore is a long way from the closed-door rooms where Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are holding the first real peace talks in years. But as Secretary of State John F. Kerry prepares to publicly present outlines of a proposed peace deal, the isolated and besieged Palestinian territory called the Gaza Strip is the rarely mentioned elephant in the bargaining room — a huge obstacle to a permanent settlement of the decades-old conflict…

Greek and Turkish Cypriots unite to restore a church and a bond (New York Times) In the days before this island was cleft between Greek and Turkish control, the church of St. Charalambos in this tiny village was a gathering place for all. But after decades of division, and fruitless talks between political leaders, local people grew tired of watching its paint peel and its altar decay. They took matters into their own hands. Like the church, relations between the two communities had crumbled after the island was partitioned after the Turkish military invasion of 1974. But this month, Turkish artisans’ drills buzzed. Greek woodworkers carved flourishes into the altar. After two years of work, craftsmen from both communities hurriedly polished the church in time for a grand rechristening that united nearly 500 Greek and Turkish Cypriots in a celebration under its lofty vaults — the first time the church had been used in 40 years. “After all this time, the people are ready to reconcile,” said Xenios Konteatis, 79, a retired Greek Cypriot who lived in Kontea before the Turkish invasion forced his family into a tearful flight to what is now the Greek-controlled south…

Pope names new members of Congregation for Eastern Churches (National Catholic Reporter) Pope Francis confirmed the top leadership of the Congregation for Eastern Churches and named among its new members Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Byzantine Archbishop William Skurla of Pittsburgh. The Vatican announced Wednesday that the pope confirmed Argentine Cardinal Leonardo Sandri as prefect and Archbishop Cyril Vasil as secretary of the congregation, which assists the Eastern Catholic churches throughout the world and the Latin-rite Catholic dioceses of the Middle East. The new members also include: Coptic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak of Alexandria, Egypt; Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad; Cardinal-designate Vincent Nichols of Westminster, England; and Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne, Australia…



Tags: Ukraine Middle East Peace Process Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I Cyprus Congregation for Eastern Churches

20 February 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Riot police stand near a crucifix as smoke rises above Independence Square, where anti-government protesters are holding a rally in central Kiev, Ukraine, on 19 February. (photo: CNS/Reuters)

Truce crumbles amid gunfire in Ukraine, protesters claim 100 dead (CNN) A short-lived truce crumbled Thursday as gunfire erupted at Independence Square, the center of anti-government protests and an increasingly violent crisis that threatens catastrophe for this divided nation. The head of the protesters’ medical service said 100 people died and 500 were injured in clashes on Thursday, just hours after the government declared a truce in fighting that had shocked world leaders with the deaths of 28 people two days before. The Ukrainian government has not released its own casualty figures, but Interior Minister Vitali Zakharchenko said 25 police officers had been wounded and an unspecified number of them had died. Some others had been taken hostage, he said. If Thursday’s death toll is confirmed, it would make it the deadliest day in Ukraine since protests began…

Priests on front line in battle for Ukraine (NBC News) Carrying a cross, and at times a shield, Orthodox priests have placed themselves in the line of fire amid the turmoil of Ukraine’s bloody uprising. On Thursday, several priests stood alongside protesters in central Kiev, performing blessings and delivering the last rites to those who were killed…

Israel begins sending African migrants to Uganda (ABC News) Israel has begun sending dozens of African migrants — mostly from Eritrea and Sudan — to Uganda, an Israeli official said Wednesday, a move that has sparked concerns that they are being coerced into going to a country that may not keep them safe. The resettlement of people in Uganda, and perhaps other countries, marks a new phase in Israel’s campaign to rid itself of thousands of Africans who have poured into the country in recent years. Migrants and activists said the arrangement, which includes a one-way ticket and a stipend, is questionable because it is unclear if there is an official agreement with Uganda that would secure the migrants’ status. They said the new arrivals risk deportation to their home countries, where they may face conflict or persecution. Uganda, for its part, denied any deal…

Iraq moves to preserve Christian heritage, Syriac language (Al Monitor) Over the past 11 years, the Christian population in Iraq has decreased by more than 75 percent. It started to decline gradually after 2003, following the overall rise in violence and attacks targeting Christians. Before 2003, there were around 1.5 million Christians in Iraq, and according to recent church figures, only 300,000 remain. Perhaps this drastic difference pushed administrators in charge of education to find ways to preserve Christianity’s cultural and religious heritage in Iraq…

Aid workers deliver food to Damascus district: U.N. (Daily Star Lebanon) According to a statement by UNRWA, the relief agency supporting Palestinian refugees resumed food distribution inside the rebel-held district of the Syrian capital, which has been suffering from crippling shortages of food and medicine for months…

India’s government approves new 29th state (Washington Post) India’s Parliament has approved a plan to create a 29th state following days of political mayhem, including a melee in which a lawmaker unleashed pepper spray on his colleagues. The president is now expected to sign the bill to create the new state, called Telangana, from mostly poor, inland districts of Andhra Pradesh. Opponents had objected to including wealthy tech and industrial hub Hyderabad in Telangana…



Tags: India Ukraine Iraqi Christians Relief Migrants





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