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December, 2017
Volume 43, Number 4
  
13 December 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Police surround Christian demonstrators during a march advocating for rights for low-caste Christians in New Delhi on 11 December. (photo: CNS/Anto Akkara)

Indian prime minister apologizes after Christian marchers beaten (Catholic Herald) Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh apologized to church leaders for the police beating of protesters — including priests and nuns — during a march advocating for rights for low-caste Christians…

Israel’s divided government scraps controversial Bedouin relocation plan (Al Jazeera) Israel is scrapping a controversial draft law that would have forced the relocation of tens of thousands of native Bedouin residents of the Negev desert, an official said Thursday. The move — which is known as the Prawer Plan and would have ordered the demolition of about 40 so-called unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev and the relocation of between 30,000 and 40,000 people — passed a preliminary ministerial vote in January. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel said Bedouin communities in the Negev face discrimination within Israeli society. More than 160,000 Bedouin live in unrecognized villages in the Negev, where the state does not provide basic services like water and electricity…

Orthodox bishop denies urging Christians to take up arms (Fides) Metropolitan Lukas al Koury of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch categorically denies inciting Syrian Christian youth to take up arms in the conflict that has bloodied the country, and asserts that the declarations attributed to him by the media “are false.” In a note sent to Fides, Metropolitan Lukas urges everyone to be wary of those newspapers manipulating stories for political ends…

Syrian extremist rebels target journalists (Der Spiegel) Radical Islamists embedded among the rebels in Syria are reportedly targeting foreign journalists for abduction. Instead of holding them for ransom, however, they use them as trump cards in their power struggles with more moderate rebel groups. On Tuesday, Ayman Mhanna, executive director of the Beirut-based SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom, said that 20 foreign journalists are being held captive in Syria. Some of the missing journalists are in the hands of the regime, he added, but the majority are captives of extremist groups…

Syria: U.S. and Britain call a halt to equipping rebels (AsiaNews) The United States and Britain have suspended the shipping of non-lethal supplies — armored vehicles, communications gear, etc. — to Syrian rebels, but will continue to send humanitarian aid. London and Washington have decided to sever ties with the rebels because of the continued growth of radical Islamist groups…



Tags: Syrian Civil War Israel Indian Christians Bedouin Dalits

12 December 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Christian demonstrators are taken away in a police bus on 11 December after being arrested during a march advocating for rights for low-caste Christians in New Delhi. The following day, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh apologized to church leaders for police beating some demonstrators during the march. (photo: CNS/Anto Akkara)

Archbishop of Delhi arrested while marching for Dalits’ rights (Fides) Archbishop Anil Couto of Delhi was arrested today by the Delhi police along with other Christian bishops and leaders of other denominations. The archbishop was participating, along with other leaders and many lay faithful of Christian churches, in a peaceful march to protest for the rights of the Dalits. The protesters had arrived in the area of Jantar Mantar and were heading towards the Indian Parliament. The police responded by beating and arresting many protesters. A complaint has been lodged against the Delhi police for assaulting priests and nuns…

Pope: Human trafficking a crime against humanity (VIS) Trafficking in human beings, a real form of slavery which affects all countries, including the most developed, was the theme chosen by Pope Francis in his address to 16 new non-resident ambassadors and one diplomatic representative to the Holy See. The Holy Father spoke about the numerous initiatives undertaken by the international community to promote peace, dialogue, cultural relations, politics and economics, as well as aid to populations affected by difficulties of various types, and went on to consider the question of trafficking in human beings which “affects the most vulnerable people in society: women, children, the disabled, the poorest and those who come from situations of family or social disintegration…”

Safety of journalists in Syria under the spotlight (Vatican Radio) Major news organizations are becoming increasingly concerned about the safety of journalists reporting in Syria. Thirteen news outlets have sent a letter to the leadership of the armed opposition in Syria, calling for urgent action against rebel groups increasingly targeting journalists for kidnappings. The letter is in response to a sharp rise in the number of journalists while on assignment in opposition-held areas in northern Syria. Many of the abduction cases go unreported at the request of families or employers in the hope that keeping the kidnappings out of public view may help with negotiating the captives’ release…

For Syrian refugees in Lebanon, winter brings challenges (Washington Post) The United Nations said Wednesday that it is “extremely concerned” for Syria’s refugees as snow and freezing temperatures descended on the region. Syria and the countries that border it have been bracing for what is expected to be the worst winter storm in years. Snow hit some areas of Lebanon, Turkey and northern Syria overnight Tuesday as sharp winds and cold, heavy rains battered others, causing misery for hundreds of thousands in camps and shanties. In Lebanon, despite the wintry conditions, the flow of Syrians fleeing the war is unrelenting…

E.U. official: Ukraine’s Yanukovych will sign trade deal (USA Today) A European Union official said Thursday that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych intends to sign an agreement with the European Union, but some of those protesting in support of the deal said that won’t stop their demonstrations. “If the deal is signed now, I won’t leave the protest,” said Dmitry Zhuk, 24, a Kiev resident who has joined the protests after his workday almost every day since they started last month. “I don’t think anyone will leave.” Experts and the protesters themselves said that in the wake of a violent crackdown that broadened the protesters’ demands, they are unlikely to immediately disperse. “At first, it was indeed the protest for signing the association agreement with E.U., but after what happened — all the force used against protesters — only someone who is completely ignorant can say, ’O.K., now everything will change to the best’ and go home,” Mr. Zhuk said…

Ethiopian-born Israeli lawmaker spurned at blood-collection drive (Al Jazeera) The speaker of Israel’s parliament ordered a blood-collection crew to leave the legislature’s premises on Wednesday after it turned down an offer of a blood donation from an Ethiopian-born lawmaker. Knesset member Pnina Tamano-Shata, 32, wanted to donate blood to a routine visit by an ambulance service but was told by a member of the crew that set criteria disqualified her because she emigrated to Israel from Ethiopia at age 3. “Under health ministry directives, we are unable to accept blood from donors of Ethiopian Jewish origin,” the health official was reported to have said as he spurned the donation. Israeli President Shimon Peres expressed disgust at the incident, saying: “There must not be any differentiation between Israeli people’s blood. All Israel’s citizens are equal…”



Tags: Ukraine Refugees Indian Christians human trafficking Dalits

11 December 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky’s ecumenical legacy lives on in the Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies, in St. Paul University, Ottawa, Canada. (video: Sheptytsky Institute)

Russian government brands 113-year-old Sheptytsky sermon ‘extremist’ (Christian Today) Russian officials from the Meshchansky District Court in Moscow recently labeled the text of a sermon preached in 1900 by Ukrainian Greek Catholic Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky as “extremist.” This means its distribution is banned all across Russia and ownership of it can now result in criminal prosecution, according to a report by Forum 18 news agency. Archbishop Sheptytsky is currently a candidate for Sainthood in the Catholic Church because of his work in rescuing Jews from the Nazis. The sermon in question, which is entitled “The True Faith” (”Pravdiva Vira,” in its original language), was one of 16 Ukrainian-language texts initially deemed “extreme” by the Meshchansky District Court back in March this year. Ownership of this text could now result in a jail sentence of three years, and a fine of 300,000 Rubles (around $9,000)…

Archbishop: Inciting Christians to take up arms is ‘insane’ (Fides) “As men of the church, we cannot incite Christians to take up arms and to take part in the conflict. We cannot say these things. It is insane. It goes against the Gospel and the Christian doctrine,” said Syriac Catholic Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo of the eparchy of Hassake-Nisibis. His words are a response to recent statements made by Greek Orthodox Bishop Lukas al Khoury, according to whom “every young Christian in a position to do so should take up arms to protect Syria, churches and convents.” Archbishop Jacques adds: “We are against violence, from whatever side it comes. … Moreover, such reckless statements put Christians in danger of becoming targets of violence…”

Pan-Orthodox gathering in Munich (Serbian Orthodox Church) On the feast day of the Presentation of the Most Holy Theotokos, Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the church of St. Jovan Vladimir in Munich. Concelebrating were Russian Orthodox Archbishop Marko of Berlin, Romanian Orthodox Metropolitan Seraphim of Central and Northern Europe and Antiochene Orthodox Bishop Sophian of Kronstadt…

Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church issues statement on events in Kiev (Vatican Radio) “We are profoundly disturbed by the actions of the state security forces on the Maydan Square in heart of Kiev, conducted under the cover of the night.” In a statement issued Wednesday, the Permanent Synod of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has strongly denounced the police action against protestors in Kyiv’s “Independence Square.” The statement, signed by Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk and the members of the permanent synod, condemned “the action directed towards restricting civil liberties, especially the freedom of expression and peaceful civic manifestation of the citizens of Ukraine…”

Lebanon worries housing will incentivize Syrian refugees stay (New York Times) The modest shelter housing some Syrian refugees here, a few hundred yards south of the border with Syria, hardly looks objectionable. Made of plywood walls on a concrete foundation of some 250 square feet, with one door, two windows and a corrugated zinc roof, the squat structure is called a “box shelter.” But Lebanon has banned box shelters, regarding them as a threat to this already fragile nation. In the eyes of the Lebanese, the box shelters, made by the Danish Refugee Council, look too permanent and could encourage the Syrians to stay. Of the many factors complicating the world’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis, perhaps none are more peculiar to the Middle East than Lebanon’s deep-seated fear of permanence…

Pope Francis: Person of the Year (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has been named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2013. He is the third Catholic pontiff to receive this honor, after John XXIII in 1962 and John Paul II in 1994…



Tags: Pope Francis Ukraine Syrian Civil War Russia Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

10 December 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this 2007 photo, Mother Bellegia Shayaf, superior of the Antiochene Orthodox Monastery of St. Tekla in Maaloula, walks to lunch with one of the 20 orphaned girls in the care of her community. (photo: Mitchell Prothero/Polaris)

Ban appeals for safety of missing Orthodox Christian nuns in Syria (U.N. News Center) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon today appealed for the safety of 12 nuns who went missing from a convent in the Syrian town of Maaloula and all those who may be detained against their will in the strife-torn nation. Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement that the secretary general remains “deeply troubled” by the targeting of places of worship and religious representatives in Syria’s conflict…

U.N. to deliver aid to Syria via Iraq (New York Times) United Nations relief agencies are preparing to make their first deliveries of aid from Iraq to Syria this week but it remains unclear whether this will prove a regular channel of assistance, the U.N. refugee agency said on Tuesday. An airlift of 12 flights using Russian-built Ilyushin cargo aircraft is to start on Thursday and last until Sunday delivering food and other assistance from Iraq to Kurdish areas of Syria’s northeastern Hassake province, according to Amin Awad, the director of the Middle East and North Africa bureau at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees…

‘Historic’ water deal signed by Israel, Jordan and Palestinians (Al Jazeera) Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians signed a historic water-sharing initiative at the World Bank in Washington on Monday. The deal capped 11 years of water negotiations, and came as the United States continues to push a new effort to forge a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians. The project envisions a new desalination plant at Aqaba, where Jordan meets the Red Sea, as the linchpin of a sharing deal involving Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian government in the West Bank. Advocates say the project could protect water resources in the region amid rising demand, a continuing political impasse between Israelis and Palestinians, and concerns that climate change could threaten supplies…

F.A.O.: Waste denies human right to food (Vatican Radio) About one-third of all food produced is not eaten and, if food waste continues along this track, about 60 per cent more food will have to be produced by 2050 to meet the world’s food needs, says the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. But Robert van Otterdijk, agro-industry officer at the F.A.O., says such over-production can be kept at bay and the environment protected by simply reducing food waste. Mr. van Otterdijk says food waste is high on the world political agenda. To that end, the F.A.O. has gathered more than 150 organizations, whose mission is to reduce food loss and waste, for a two-day meeting in Rome. The groups will discuss ways to streamline initiatives and coordinate their efforts…

Church and people in Ukraine demand autonomy from Moscow (AsiaNews) As people of Ukraine continue street protests demanding integration with Europe and autonomy from Moscow, local Orthodox church leaders have openly taken sides in favor of the protesters, appealed for autocephaly, or independence from other churches. The positions of Patriarch Filaret, the 84-year-old head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s Kievan Patriarchate, may find an unreceptive audience in Moscow…



Tags: Ukraine Sisters United Nations Hunger Ukrainian Orthodox Church

9 December 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




A man throws a flare in the direction of Interior Ministry members during a rally in Kiev, Ukraine, 1 December. (photo: CNS/Gleb Garanich, Reuters)

Ukraine police dismantle Kiev protest camps (BBC) Ukrainian police have begun dismantling protest camps in front of government buildings in Kiev. An opposition party said the police had also raided their headquarters. The protesters had been given until Tuesday to leave. No clashes have been reported. Opposition leaders urged supporters to defend Independence Square, the main protest site. The standoff follows weeks of unrest after a U-turn on a free-trade deal with the European Union. The protesters have given Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych 48 hours to dismiss the government and are demanding new elections for the presidency and government…

Ukraine protests: Why Moscow played hardball with Kiev (Christian Science Monitor) Earlier this year, Russia had, at least publicly, stayed out of the discussion of Ukraine moving closer to the E.U. Then, over the summer, the Ukrainian government began to put forward legislation demanded by the E.U. as a condition for signing an “association agreement,” which would have deepened ties between Kiev and Brussels. Moscow responded accordingly. In July, imports of chocolates from Ukraine were banned, due to “quality concerns.” A few weeks later, lengthy traffic backups started appearing along the two countries’ border, as Moscow imposed tough new inspections on Ukrainian goods ranging from steel to beer to railway cars and locomotives. “All of sudden, it becomes clear to the Kremlin that there was a possibility that the Ukrainians might sign [the agreements] … and the Kremlin elevated it to a geopolitical competition,” says Jan Techau, director of the Carnegie Europe Center…

Chaldean patriarch: The flame of hope lights up Christmas for Iraqi Christians (AsiaNews) In his Christmas message, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael urges Christians to be steadfast and keep the faith alive even amid “suffering, anxiety and … considerable challenges.” Despite a difficult time for Iraq’s Christian minority, which has seen its size cut by half in the past ten years, the Chaldean leader expressed hope, thanking his community for their “perseverance,” and for the courage with which they bear witness to the “flame of hope,” following the example of Abraham…

Pope celebrates Mass with Egyptian patriarch (Vatican Radio) At his daily Mass on Monday, Pope Francis appealed for an end to division and hatred in the Holy Land and the Middle East. The Holy Father concelebrated the Mass with Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac on the occasion of the public manifestation of “ecclesiastical communion” between the patriarch and the successor of Peter. The pope spoke about his closeness to Egyptian Christians who are experiencing insecurity and violence, then renewed his appeal for religious liberty throughout the whole of the Middle East…

Syria nuns appear in video, deny kidnapping by rebels (Yahoo! News) A group of nuns from the historic Christian town of Maaloula in Syria denied they were kidnapped by rebels, in a video broadcast by Al Jazeera news channel on Friday. It was unclear who was filming the women or where they were. “A group brought us here and protected us, and we’re very happy with them,” one of the nuns said. An unidentified man asked the nuns questions, with several taking turns to speak. It was unclear if they were being pressured to talk, and some of the women bowed their heads as the camera turned to them. In the video, several of the nuns said they were in good health and that they fled Maaloula after intense shelling there…



Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Ukraine Sisters Russia

6 December 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




South African President Nelson Mandela assists Pope John Paul II at the Johannesburg International Airport in 1995, at the start of the pope’s first official visit to South Africa. Mandela, who led the struggle to end the country’s apartheid regime, died on 5 December at age 95 at his home in Johannesburg. (photo: CNS/Patrick De Noirmont, Reuters)

Pope extends condolences to the family of Nelson Mandela (VIS) Pope Francis sent a telegram of condolence to Jacob Zuma, president of South Africa, on the death of Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela yesterday. In the text, the Pope extended his condolences to the Mandela family, members of government and all South Africans. Pope Francis recalled: “the steadfast commitment shown by Nelson Mandela in promoting the human dignity of all the nation’s citizens and in forging a new South Africa built on the firm foundations of non-violence, reconciliation, and truth…”

UNHCR chief: Pope Francis is symbol of hope (Vatican Radio) Today, Pope Francis received in audience the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres. As high commissioner, Mr. Guterres heads one of the world’s largest humanitarian organizations, with more than 7,000 staff working in 126 countries providing protection and assistance to millions of refugees, returnees, internally displaced people and stateless persons. Tracey McClure spoke with the former Portuguese prime minister following his meeting with Pope Francis, and he had this to say: “Since ever, the Catholic Church has been absolutely impeccable in putting in the agenda the need to respect the rights of refugees, the rights of migrants, the need for societies to be tolerant, for societies to respect diversity — and this has been a constant line of advocacy for the Catholic Church. But I think Pope Francis gave a new dimension to this…”

‘Assad’s nun’ becomes unlikely power broker in Syrian civil war (National Post) Amid Syria’s ferocious civil war, a nun has emerged as an unlikely power broker and figure of controversy. Mother Superior Agnes-Mariam of the Cross has thrust herself into the role of go-between and publicist — arranging ceasefires, organizing pro-government media trips and conducting speaking tours as perhaps the country’s most prominent critic of the uprising against President Bashar al Assad. She is so despised by the opposition even acts of seeming good will are criticized, such as arranging a rare truce that allowed thousands to leave a blockaded town. The nun insists she is not an Assad propagandist, describing his family’s decades-long rule as a “tumor,” but she saves her harshest criticism for the rebels…

U.S. bishops speak against illegal demolitions in Jerusalem (Fides) United States bishops have written in protest of the demolition of a house owned by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem in late October. In a 26 November letter to Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer, Bishop Richard E. Pates, speaking on behalf of the U.S.C.C.B., asked the diplomat to convey to the Israeli government their “strong objections.” In early November, Fouad Twal, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, had visited the site of the demolition and described the occurrence as “an act of vandalism that violates international law…”

Palestinian activism evolves in Prawer protests (Al Monitor) Nonpartisan Palestinian youths have taken the lead in nationwide protests against Israel’s Prawer Plan — which seeks to move a sizable population of Negev Bedouin from its land and resettle it elsewhere — breaking away from traditional Palestinian political forces. These protests raise a number of questions about the organizational framework and courses of action currently available to Palestinians. These include the identity of the factions that could actually take the lead on the Palestinian arena, whether the situation is expected to escalate to a third intifada and how coordination was achieved over such a multifaceted issue…

Government supporters stage counterprotest in Ukraine (New York Times) Pro-government demonstrators deployed a new tactic on Friday to counter protests in favor of European integration, marching through the capital, Kiev, to oppose homosexuality, which they said would accompany a greater European Union role in Ukrainian affairs. Carrying religious icons and singing hymns, the group of about a thousand Orthodox Christian supporters of President Viktor F. Yanukovich filed out of a monastery and marched to a city park. Marchers said they favored allegiance with Russia rather than Europe because Russia more closely matches the cultural and religious heritage of Ukraine, once part of the Soviet Union. The protesters set off from the Kiev Pechersk Lavra, a monastery controlled by the Moscow Patriarchate, which is subordinate to the Russian Orthodox Church and is one of three denominations of Eastern Orthodoxy in Ukraine. The Kievan Patriarchate of Ukraine, in contrast, has supported the pro-European demonstrators and has allowed many to sleep in churches…



Tags: Pope Francis Ukraine Africa Palestinians U.S.C.C.B.

5 December 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




Protesters receive medical assistance in St. Michael’s Orthodox Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine, on 1 December. The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has condemned police violence against “peaceful demonstrations” after President Viktor Yanukovich’s decision not to seek closer ties with the European Union. (photo: CNS/Stoyan Nenov, Reuters)

Kiev protesters see potent ally under a spire (New York Times) After riot police officers stormed Independence Square here early Saturday, spraying tear gas, throwing stun grenades and swinging truncheons, dozens of young protesters ran, terrified, scattering up the streets. It was after 4:30 a.m., the air cold, the sky black. As they got their bearings, the half-lit bell tower of St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery beckoned. Inside, the fleeing demonstrators found more than warmth and safety. They had arrived in a bastion of the Kievan Patriarchate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, where they were welcomed not only on a humanitarian basis but because the church, driven by its own historical tensions with Moscow, is actively supporting their uprising. It strongly favors European integration to enable Ukraine to break free from Russia’s grip, and has joined the calls to oust the Ukrainian government…

Torched Syrian camp in Lebanon illustrates tension between refugees, residents (Washington Post) The wood-framed tents on this muddy field in the Bekaa Valley have burned to ground, leaving only remnants of the lives of the Syrian refugees and migrant workers who occupied them: shoes, scattered tomatoes, a pink plastic comb and metal latrines provided by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees. Local villagers torched the tents amid allegations that the some residents of the camp had sexually molested a mentally disabled young man. The ousted Syrians say that claim was fabricated at the behest of a new landowner who wanted to evict them from the site. Because of political and sectarian sensitivities, Lebanon did not establish its first official refugee transit camp until last month. That camp has 70 tents. The vast majority of those fleeing the violence have found themselves dependent on private landowners for shelter…

Conflicting statements on the issue of the Maalula sisters (Fides) After the occupation of Maaloula by rebel militias, government sources have written that rebels had kidnapped nuns and orphans present in the monastery. On Wednesday, the pro-government daily newspaper Al Watan claimed that the kidnappers were planning to use the abducted nuns as human shields. On the opposite side, rebel sources widely mentioned by Al Arabiya television channel released the version that snipers loyal to the regime had tried to block attempts to evacuate the nuns to ensure their safety…

Egypt’s Coptic pope: Participation in referendum ‘a duty’ (World Bulletin) Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II has urged Egyptians to vote in an upcoming referendum on Egypt’s amended constitution, describing it as a duty. “Participation in the referendum is a must,” Pope Tawadros said during his weekly sermon at Cairo’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral of St. Mark on Wednesday. The referendum represents a central pillar of an army-imposed roadmap for political transition, unveiled by the military in the wake of Muhammad Morsi’s 3 July ouster…

Pope seeks meeting with man who murdered a nun (Times of India) Pope Francis has expressed his desire to meet Samundar Singh, a man who brutally murdered Sister Rani Maria, a Catholic nun, in broad daylight while travelling on a bus in Madhya Pradesh 18 years ago. She was stabbed 54 times before being dragged out of the bus and left to die on the roadside in front for several passengers. The pope was moved after viewing “The Heart of a Murderer,” a documentary film about the event and how forgiveness has changed Mr. Singh…



Tags: Egypt Ukraine Lebanon Refugees Ukrainian Orthodox Church

4 December 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this September photo, Syrian refugee Fatima Said poses for a photo in her room in Kilis, Turkey. Said shares the room in the Turkish border town with her daughter and grandsons. (photo: CNS/Michael Swan, The Catholic Register)

Syrian refugees in Istanbul sent from pillar to post (Al Monitor) In mid-September, a Turkish human rights organization issued a report estimating the number of Syrian refugees in Istanbul at 100,000, though it is claimed to be “well over 200,000” today. Now, as winter sets in, these displaced families struggle to find work and shelter…

Chaldean Church urges political participation among Iraqi Christians (Fides) The Patriarchate of Babylon of the Chaldeans has issued an invitation to its faithful to register to vote in the upcoming legislative elections, scheduled for 30 April. “Participation in the parliamentary elections,” reads the statement, “is a national and moral responsibility.” The patriarchate also encouraged Christians to consider candidacy…

Pope calls for prayer for nuns kidnapped in Syria (Vatican Radio) At the end of his general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis called on everyone to pray for a group of nuns taken by force from the Greek Orthodox Monastery of Saint Tekla in the ancient Christian town of Maaloula in Syria. “Let us pray for these sisters, and for all those who have been kidnapped on account of the ongoing conflict. Let us continue to pray and to work for peace…”

Greek Orthodox patriarch urges release of Maaloula sisters (International Business Times) Syria’s Greek Orthodox patriarch has urged Syrian rebels to release a group of nuns who taken hostage from a convent in the predominantly Christian town of Maaloula. “We appeal to the seed of conscience that God planted in all humans, including the kidnappers, to release our sisters safely,” Patriarch Youhanna X said. The church leader reported that orphans who were in the foster care of the sisters had also been taken hostage…

Ukraine protests persist as bid to oust government fails (New York Times) Refusing to grant a central demand of protesters who have laid siege to public buildings and occupied a landmark plaza in this rattled capital, the Ukrainian Parliament on Tuesday defeated a measure calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his government. The failure of the no-confidence vote pushed the battle for the future of Ukraine back onto the streets, where demonstrators and allied political opposition leaders say they would not relent until they succeeded in removing the government, including President Viktor F. Yanukovich…

Senior Hezbollah leader killed in Beirut (Al Jazeera) A senior commander of Shiite Lebanese armed group Hezbollah was killed outside his house in Beirut late Tuesday night. An Israeli official denied Hezbollah’s accusations of being behind the assasination. Lebanese security officials told the Associated Press that assailants opened fire on Hassan al Laqis with an assault rifle while he was in his car, parked at the residential building where he lived, some two miles southwest of the capital…



Tags: Syria Refugees Violence against Christians Turkey Chaldean Church

3 December 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




A Greek Orthodox nun in Maaloula’s Monastery of St. Tekla prays beside an icon of the site’s patron saint. It was recently reported that an Islamist group has taken 12 sisters from this monastery hostage. As you keep them in your prayers, click here to read more about this imperiled religious community. (photo: Armineh Johannes)

Patriarch Gregory III prays for the ‘true martyrs in Maaloula’ (Fides) “We are determined to remain in this blessed land even at the cost of martyrdom and martyrdom of blood. This has already happened to some of our faithful, such as the three men from Maaloula,” said Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III, referring to those killed in recent sectarian violence. “They are true martyrs killed for refusing to renounce their faith.” The patriarch expressed strong concern regarding the new invasion of the Christian village of Maalula by armed Islamist groups, who terrorized the population and took hostage 12 Orthodox nuns in the Monastery of St. Tekla…

Syrian aircraft kill 50 in northern rebel town (Washington Post) Syrian government helicopters dropped barrels full of explosives on a rebel-held town near the northern city of Aleppo, killing at least 50 people in two separate attacks over the weekend, activists said Sunday. The shelling Sunday hit near a bakery in the town of Al Bab, located east of Aleppo, killing at least 24 people, said Rami Abdurrahman of the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Akram al Halabi, a rebel spokesman based in nearby in Aleppo…

Survey: Corruption worsens in world’s conflict areas (Los Angeles Times) Some of the world’s most tumultuous countries suffered setbacks this year in the fight against corruption, with civil war-torn Syria among the pack of nations increasingly at the mercy of bribe-takers and influence-peddlers, Transparency International reported Tuesday in its annual corruption survey. The assessments of public-sector corruption for each country are based on review of independent experts from 112 institutions, Transparency International explained in its report on methodology…

Caritas to launch global wave of prayer to end hunger (Caritas) The Caritas confederation will launch a global “wave of prayer” to promote an end to world hunger on 10 December, to mark the beginning of a new anti-hunger campaign. Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, president of Caritas Internationalis, says the problem is not one of production. “There is enough food to feed the planet," he says, adding that with enough support, it could be possible to end hunger as soon as 2025. Pope Francis also offers his blessing and support to the campaign in a five-minute video message to be released on the day of the launch…

Egypt constitution amendments enshrine military power (Al Jazeera) Extensive amendments to the constitution adopted under Egypt’s ousted president give the military more privileges, enshrining its place as the nation’s most powerful institution and source of real power while removing parts that liberals feared set the stage for the creation of an Islamic state. One key clause states that for the next two presidential terms the armed forces will enjoy the exclusive right of naming the defense minister, an arrangement that gives the military autonomy above any civilian oversight and leaves the power of the president uncertain. The charter does not say how the post will be filled following that eight-year transitional period…



Tags: Egypt Pope Francis Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Hunger

2 December 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this late-October photo, a Palestinian migrant from Syria whose daughter drowned throws flowers into the sea during a commemorative service at Valletta’s Grand Harbor in Malta. (photo: CNS/Darrin Zammit Lupi, Reuters)

Out of Syria, into a European maze (New York Times) The Syrian exodus has become one of the gravest global refugee crises of recent decades. More than two million people have fled Syria’s civil war, most resettling in neighboring Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. But since this summer, refugees have also started pouring into Europe in what became for many weeks a humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean. Over five months, Italy’s Coast Guard rescued thousands of Syrians, even as hundreds of other migrants, including many Syrians, died in two major shipwrecks in October. For many, reaching Europe was merely the beginning of another difficult journey. Having risked their lives in hopes of settling in prospering Northern Europe, many Syrians found themselves trapped in the south, living illegally in Italy, hiding from the police, as they tried to sneak past border guards and travel north to apply for asylum…

Pope Francis welcomes Melkite Greek Catholic pilgrims (Vatican Radio) On Saturday, Pope Francis received a group of Melkite Greek Catholics visiting Rome on a pilgrimage. The pope told the pilgrims that his thoughts are with the suffering in Syria, and that his prayers are with those who have lost their lives and their loved ones. “We firmly believe in the strength of prayer and reconciliation”, he said, “and we renew our heartfelt appeal to those responsible” to bring an end to the violence. “Through dialogue let them find just and lasting solutions to a conflict that has already wrought too much destruction…”

Netanyahu holds first meeting with Pope Francis (Jerusalem Post) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Pope Francis in a 25-minute closed-door meeting Monday, with a host of political and religious issues on the agenda as well as a formal invitation for the pontiff to visit the Holy Land next year. It was the first time the two leaders met face to face, and they discussed the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Iran’s nuclear program, the Syrian civil war, the welfare of Christians in Israel, as well as the pope’s expected visit to Israel…

West Bank violence jumps, but this time it’s more personal (Washington Post) A retired Israeli military officer was beaten to death with a pickax in his front yard. A Palestinian man was fatally shot after ramming his tractor into an Israeli army gate. These and other enigmatic, seemingly unrelated killings, all originating in the West Bank, have left four Israelis and at least 24 Palestinians dead this year — a notable increase from last year. The jump in violence follows the relative calm of 2012, which was one of the least-deadly years in decades for Israelis. It comes as stalled peace talks give rise to concerns about more killings to come…

20 arrested in Minya after deadly violence (Daily News Egypt) Security forces have arrested 20 people in the governorate of Minya after deadly violence in several villages left five people dead and dozens injured. The Security Directorate of Minya announced arrests in two neighboring villages, the predominantly Coptic Nazlet Ebeid and the predominantly Muslim Al Hawarta. A feud over a piece of land between residents turned violent last week and left four people dead…

Patriarch Kirill concerned about exodus of Christians from Iraq (Voice of Russia) Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill expressed his concern for the Christian population of Iraq during a meeting with the Iraqi ambassador to Russia. “We are deeply convinced that Iraq should remain a unified state, civil accord should be restored and there should be no outside influence,” he said…

Ukrainian protesters find refuge from police in Kiev monastery (Reuters) Around 100 Ukrainian pro-European Union protesters took refuge from police batons and biting cold on Saturday inside the walls of a central Kiev monastery. With a barricade of benches pushed up against a gate to keep police out, protesters — who had rallied against President Viktor Yanukovich’s decision to reject a pact with the European Union — checked their wounds in the pre-dawn light. “They gave us tea to warm us up, told us to keep our spirits strong and told us not to fight evil with evil,” said Roman Tsado, 25, a native of Kiev, who said police beat him on his legs as they cleared the pro-E.U. rally. “I don’t go to church much, only to escape from the powers of evil,” said Tsado, laughing. According to RISU, Ukrainian church leaders — including Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and Patriarch Filaret of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s Kievan Patriarchate — have condemned the brutal police response to protesters…

Cardinal Gracias celebrates the start of Advent among Dharavi’s poor (AsiaNews) Together with Caritas India, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai, has launched a Christmas campaign to raise awareness of the city’s poor. The initiative was launched with a visit to the largest slum in India and Asia, home to hundreds of thousands of inhabitants. The cardinal recalled Pope Francis, who “praised the courage of the poor, urging society to welcome them with love and compassion…”



Tags: India Egypt Ukraine Refugees Israeli-Palestinian conflict





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