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Current Issue
September, 2018
Volume 44, Number 3
  
18 October 2018
Greg Kandra




Ukraine's parliament on Thursday 18 October voted to hand over St. Andrew's Church in Kiev to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. (photo: Creative Commons/Wikipedia)

Syria says it will re-open borders with Iraq soon (The Independent) Syria will reopen its borders with Iraq ”soon”, the country’s representative to the United Nations has said. Earlier this week the government of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, received a major boost as the country’s commercial gateway with Jordan and a crossing to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights were reopened…

Ukraine votes to hand landmark Kiev church to Constantinople (AFP) Ukraine’s parliament on Thursday voted to hand over a landmark Kiev church to the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate after it agreed to recognize the independence of Ukraine’s Orthodox Church. The move is seen as a step towards the Constantinople Patriarchate granting independence to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church despite protests from Russia. Ukraine’s parliament voted 237 votes to 30 to allow the Ecumenical Patriarchate to use Kiev’s landmark Saint Andrew’s Church “for worship, religious rites (and) ceremonies…”

Syrian refugees in Lebanon weigh risk of returning (The New Arab) The past few months have seen a growing number of refugees in Lebanon returning to Syria, leading Russian envoys to claim that government-controlled areas are now safe for returnees. In July the Syrian regime made its first formal appeal for the return of refugees, opening reception centers to monitor return: a move many interpreted as a bid to regain international legitimacy. However, according to UNHCR, conditions are not yet ready for the return of refugees to Syria, especially while the siege on rebel-held Idlib continues. Even in regions where armed clashes and bombing have reduced, imprisonment, forced conscription, and a lack of basic primary services make safe return for Syrians premature…

Young migrants bring vitality, need support, synod members say (CNS) Helping young migrants hold fast to their cultural and religious identity, especially in situations where they are a minority, was a recurring topic at the Synod of Bishops. Blessed Sacrament Father Robert Stark, director of the Office for Social Ministry for the Diocese of Honolulu and regional coordinator for the Vatican’s Migrant and Refugees Section, offered synod members very practical advice for assisting young people on the move…



Tags: Syria Ukraine Migrants Russian Orthodox

17 October 2018
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis greets the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in the Vatican on 16 October 2018.
(photo: Vatican Media)


At Synod: Young Catholics of India need inspiring priests (Vatican News) Young Catholics of India are like the fragile and sinful men and women disciples of Jesus yearning for His living water. These young people are urging the Church leadership to be an authentic inspiration on living the faith and to provide them opportunities and spaces to build communities and experience the Church’s mission. The call was made by Percival Holt, a young lay Indian, who on Tuesday addressed the ongoing world Synod of Bishops currently taking place in the Vatican…

Pope receives Grand Imam (Vatican News) Pope Francis received the Grand Imam of the prestigious Muslim al-Azhar Mosque of Egypt, Prof. Ahmad Muhammad Al-Tayyib, in a private visit, Tuesday afternoon, at the Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican, the Holy See’s Press Office said in a brief note. The two spiritual leaders have met a few times before, most importantly when the Pope visited Egypt, 28-29 April 2017, on the invitation of the Grand Imam…

War threatens deep divisions in Orthodox Church (CNN) while the Christian population in mostly-Muslim Turkey has dwindled to just a few thousand over the last century, the world’s Orthodox Christians call Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew “first among equals,” and many view him as the spiritual and symbolic leader of their faith. Loosely put, Bartholomew is the Orthodox equivalent of the Pope, though the Catholic Church has a stricter hierarchical structure than its eastern counterpart. ”This is something historic that I think will result in a schism,” says Rev. Alexander Laschuk, a Ukrainian Catholic priest who teaches canon law at the University of Toronto. ”The question is -- is this something short or something that will last centuries?”…

Syria approves UN aid delivery to camp at Jordanian border (GulfNews.com) The Syrian government gave approval for the UN to deliver aid next week to thousands of civilians stranded near a US garrison on the Jordanian-Syrian border, aid workers and camp officials said on Wednesday…

Bethlehem mayor to Netanyahu: stop using Christians to ‘whitewash’ occupation (Haaretz) Bethlehem Mayor Anton Salman strongly criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, calling on the premier to stop “using Christians as a tool to whitewash the occupation.” Salman was responding to comments made by Netanyahu on Sunday at the Christian Media Summit in Jerusalem, a gathering of Christian journalists from around the world…

Can new media revive Christian publishing in India? (La Croix) At a time when the publishing industry has an overarching influence over many aspects of human life, the pressing question is, Has the Indian Church kept pace with the development and progress of the industry? The answer is yes, to a degree, but there is much more is to be done if the Church is to make a big impact on mainstream publications…



Tags: Syria Egypt Islam Russian Orthodox

16 October 2018
Greg Kandra




In a dramatic move, the Russian Orthodox Church has broken its ties with Constantinople, creating a schism. (video: AFP/YouTube)

Russian Orthodox Church breaks ties with Constantinople (AP) The Russian Orthodox Church decided Monday to sever ties with the leader of the worldwide Orthodox community after his decision to grant Ukrainian clerics independence from the Moscow Patriarchate. Metropolitan Hilarion said the Russian church’s Holy Synod resolved to “break the Eucharistic communion” with the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople…

Iraqi delegate at Synod says young people need a ‘fast response’ (Vatican News) Mr. Safa al Abbia is a 26-year-old Chaldean Catholic dentist from Iraq. He was invited to the Synod of Bishops on Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment currently underway in Rome. His plea to the bishops is that the universal Church helps young people in Iraq who are being persecuted for their faith. He explained that the main challenge for youth in Iraq is “peace and stability and their right to live in dignity…”

Syria’s key border crossings to re-open (AP) President Bashar Assad’s government received a major boost Monday as Syria’s commercial gateway with Jordan and a crossing with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights manned by U.N. peacekeepers were reopened years after the war disrupted their operations…

Hindu group in India seeks to shut down schools belonging to religious minorities (UCANews.com) Muslim and Christian leaders in India see danger in a pro-Hindu group’s demand that the government revoke a policy allowing minority groups to own and manage educational institutions in the country. A report released on 10 October by the Center for Policy Analysis, a think tank of hard-line Hindu group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, stated that allowing religious minority groups to have institutions for their own people was tantamount to “compartmentalization” that works against the unity of India…

In Ethiopia’s new cabinet, half the ministers are women (Washington Post) Ethiopia’s reformist prime minister announced Tuesday a new cabinet that is half female, in an unprecedented push for gender parity in Africa’s second-most-populous nation…



Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Russian Orthodox Church

15 October 2018
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis on Sunday canonized seven new saints, including Pope Paul VI. (video: CNS/YouTube)

Canonization offers signs and symbols of sanctity (Vatican News) A pope who championed dialogue and mission. An archbishop who was murdered for defending the defenseless. Two priests and two women religious, who dedicated their lives to serving the poorest and most in need. And a layperson who died of bone tuberculosis when he was only 19 years of age. All witnesses to their faith in different ways at different times. All officially recognized by the Church as being worthy of imitation. By formally declaring their sanctity during Mass on Sunday, Pope Francis was acknowledging that their names may be entered in the canon (hence “canonization”) of the saints, churches may be built in their honor, altars dedicated, and prayers directed to them as special patrons…

Russian Orthodox Church holds synod in Minsk over Ukraine issue (Radio Free Europe) Leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church were meeting in the Belarusian capital on 15 October amid a dispute over moves toward independence for the Orthodox Church in Ukraine…

Holy See calls for respect of indigenous rights (Vatican News) Speaking on behalf of the Holy See’s Permanent Observer, Archbishop Bernadito Auza, First Counsellor Monsignor Tomasz Grysa expressed satisfaction over significant progress in promoting and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples, particularly mentioning the adoption of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. However, he said the environmental, cultural and spiritual patrimony of many indigenous populations remains under significant threat…

India’s female feticide remembered (UCANews.com) Anti-abortion and other groups have joined government efforts to change India’s skewed sex ratio that is caused by large-scale female feticide. According to the Population Research Institute, at least 12.7 million sex-selective abortions were conducted in India between 2000 and 2014. On the eve of the United Nations’ established International Day of the Girl Child, various groups joined a program in a public square in the capital, New Delhi, stressing the importance of protecting girl children…

UN marks International Day of Rural Women (Vatican News) The United Nations chief is calling on the world to ensure the full rights of rural women and girls saying their empowerment will ensure a peaceful future and a healthy planet for all. ”The empowerment of rural women and girls is essential to building a prosperous, equitable and peaceful future for all on a healthy planet,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a message for the 15 October International Day of Rural Women…



Tags: India Ukraine Russian Orthodox Church Pope

12 October 2018
Greg Kandra




Patriarch Filaret, the head of the Kiev Patriarchate, has welcomed a decision to recognize the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. He speaks about it in the video above. (video: Radio Free Europe/YouTube)

Russian Orthodox Church to break with Constantinople (Reuters) The Russian Orthodox Church will have to break eucharistical relations with Constantinople over a split with Ukraine’s Orthodox Church, Alexander Volkov, spokesman for Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, was quoted as saying by Interfax on Thursday. Earlier on Thursday, the Synod meeting in Istanbul backed Ukraine’s request for an independent, “autocephalous” church and reversed the excommunication of Patriarch Filaret, who hopes to lead the independent church…

UN calls for health care access for refugees near Jordan border (Gulf Times) Some 45,000 Syrians living in a refugee camp in the Syrian desert near the Jordanian border need critical access to basic services as winter months approach, the United Nations warned on Wednesday. UNICEF said there is only one UN-supported clinic near the border inside Jordan providing basic health services for urgent lifesaving cases at Rukban refugee camp…

Time for Christians in India not to turn the other cheek (La Croix) A few years ago, church dealings with law-enforcement agencies were minimal. However, this is not the case now as violence and harassment against Christians have increased in recent times…

Eritrea’s joy becomes Ethiopia’s burden amid huge exodus (The Guardian) Since 11 September, at least 15,000 Eritreans have crossed into Ethiopia, according to local authorities. Many have come to trade and to visit the friends and family from whom they were separated in 1998, when war broke out. The border had been almost impermeable since Ethiopia’s failure to implement a UN peace deal signed in 2000. Most dramatic, though, has been the swell of refugees…

Found: mass grave, evidence of king’s bloody rule in Jerusalem (The Times of Israel) Evidence of a mass slaying, including cruel beheadings, committed during the bloody reign of the Hasmonean king Alexander Jannaeus (103-76 BC) was recently uncovered in a courtyard next to the Jerusalem municipality during excavations of an ancient water cistern…



Tags: Ukraine Ethiopia Jerusalem Russian Orthodox Church

11 October 2018
Greg Kandra




Two months after the historic flooding that hit India, efforts are underway to raise more money for relief and to raise awareness, as well, about disease. (video: CNBC/YouTube)

Relief workers: Thousands of Syrian refugees could face starvation (Reuters) Thousands of Syrians stranded on Jordan’s border with Syria are running out of food as routes leading to their camp are closed by the Syrian army and Jordan is blocking aid deliveries, relief workers and refugees said on Thursday…

Before and after photos of flooding show how Kerala is recovering (Indian Express) Even as two months have gone by since Kerala’s worst disaster in a century, the biggest challenge for the state has been to raise money for the relief and rehabilitation process. At least 493 people lost their lives in the rains and floods during the South West monsoon…

Israel destroys Gaza attack tunnel (Reuters) Israel destroyed a cross-border tunnel on Thursday running from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory, which it said was dug by the Palestinian Hamas group with the aim of carrying out attacks…

Young people of India show solidarity with Synod of Bishops (Vatican News) Young Catholics from all over the Archdiocese of Bombay in India came together in Mumbai on October 7 to participate in a novel way in the Synod of Bishops on young people currently taking place in the Vatican. Mumbai’s young Catholics celebrated what they called Synodgy2018 that aimed at inspiring young people to work together with the Church, with the promise that the Church would listen and respond to them...



Tags: Syria India Kerala

10 October 2018
Greg Kandra




Chaldean Archbishop Habib Nafali of Basra, Iraq, speaks to schoolchildren on 5 October at St. Columba's parish in Chester, England, about the persecution of Christians in Iraq.
(photo: CNS/Simon Caldwell)


Iraqi archbishop fears more persecution (CNS) Christianity in Iraq is just one wave of persecution away from extinction, said the Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Basra. In an interview with Catholic News Service, Chaldean Archbishop Habib Nafali said there were now so few Christians in his country that the church there would disappear if it was subjected to further persecution. He said the displacements and murders of Christians over the past 15 years constituted genocide…

Lebanon: 100,000 Syrian refugees to return home by year’s end (Xinhua) Lebanese General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim said Tuesday that the number of Syrian refugees returning home by the end of this year will reach 100,000. ”The General Security is offering security and logistic facilities in addition to financial exemptions to Syrian refugees living illegally in Lebanon to accelerate their return back home,” Ibrahim was quoted by Elnashra, an independent online newspaper, as saying…

Russian Orthodox Church warns of protests in Ukraine (AFP) A high-ranking Russian Orthodox cleric on Wednesday warned that protests would erupt in Ukraine if the country’s Orthodox Church is granted independence from Moscow…

Kerala reopens to tourists (The Times of India) The Kerala state tourism department on Tuesday said that the state was back to normalcy after the devastating flood and was ready to open its doors with several new tourism initiatives…

For some Americans, Jerusalem’s newest pilgrimage site is the U.S. embassy (NPR) The new embassy has become a magnet for American visitors, many of them devout Christians who support what it stands for: an about-face in U.S. policy, recognizing Israel’s sovereignty claims to the coveted city…



Tags: Syria Iraq Lebanon Kerala Chaldean Church

9 October 2018
Greg Kandra




A Marian icon is seen as Pope Francis leads an audience for laypeople, clergy and religious of the Slovak Catholic Church at the Vatican on 6 October. (photo: CNS /Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

Pope says families of Eastern Catholic married priests set example (CNS) The families of Eastern-rite Catholic priests give an important witness to what is healthy and wonderful about family life, Pope Francis said. Speaking to laypeople, clergy and religious of the Slovak Catholic Church — a Byzantine-rite church that has maintained its tradition of ordaining both celibate and married men — the pope said, “the families of priests live a unique mission today…”

Syria: rebels withdraw heavy weapons from Idlib (BBC) Syrian rebel fighters are reported to have withdrawn their heavy weapons from the frontlines around Idlib province. Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency said rockets, mortars and missiles had been removed in line with a deal to create a demilitarized buffer zone separating rebel and government forces…

Crowdfunding to be used to Kerala rebuilding (New Indian Express) The meeting to review the flood relief and rehabilitation work held here under the leadership of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has decided to make maximum use of crowdfunding for the purpose. An internet portal has been set up for crowdfunding. Details of the work to be taken up by various departments should be submitted to the portal by the departments concerned urgently, it was decided…

Israel to take in approximately 1,000 Ethiopian Christians (Jewish Press) The Cabinet, at its weekly meeting, on Sunday approved the proposal of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (kulanu) to bring to Israel approximately 1,000 members of the Falash Mura community who have children are in Israel. In 1860, Henry Aaron Stern, a Jewish convert to Christianity, traveled to Ethiopia and Eritrea in an attempt to convert the Beta Israel community to Christianity. Today, according to some estimates, there may be as many as 50,000 Christian converts in Ethiopia and Eritrea who maintain some familial relations with Ethiopian Israelis…

Authorities unearth earliest-known inscription bearing the name ’Jerusalem’ (Haaretz) The 2,100-year-old Hebrew inscription on a piece of limestone unearthed in Jerusalem is the earliest-known mention of the full name of the city that is spelled as it is today, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Tuesday. The name was inscribed on part of a Roman structure dating to the 1st century B.C.E., which was discovered during a salvage excavation prior to the paving of a road near the Binyanei Ha’uma convention center, at the entrance to Jerusalem. The artifact was found by IAA archaeologist Danit Levy…



Tags: Syria Jerusalem Kerala Ethiopian Christianity Byzantine Catholic Church

5 October 2018
Greg Kandra




In the video above from 2016, Nadia Murad speaks to the UN about her experience being kidnapped by ISIS and forced to become a sex slave. Friday, she was named co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to end sexual violence as a weapon of war. (video: The Guardian/YouTube)

Yazidi rape survivor from Iraq named co-winner of Nobel Peace Prize (CNN) The 2018 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict. Mukwege, a gynecologist and surgeon, has long worked to treat thousands of women and girls affected by rape and sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Murad is a Yazidi woman from the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, who was held as a sex slave by ISIS, she told CNN in an interview last year. In 2016, at age 23, she was made a UN goodwill ambassador…

Coptic Metropolitian Bishoy dies (Egypt Independent) Coptic Bishop Metropolitan Bishoy of Damietta, Kafr el-Sheikh and the abbot of the Monastery of Saint Demiana in Barrari, Belqas, died at the age of 67 from a heart attack. Bishoy, who was known as the “church’s iron man”, has been suffering from heart muscle disorder for years. He died after his return from a pastoral tour in Armenia. During his 45 years of ecclesiastical service, Bishop Bishoy became famous, especially during the time of the late Pope Shenouda III, for maintaining the image of the “strong man” and for being a professor of theology, which allowed him to participate in theological conferences against other churches at home and abroad…

Rights commission says Ethiopian government failing to protect people from ethnic violence (Reuters) Ethiopia’s government is failing to protect its citizens amid escalating ethnic violence that has displaced nearly a million people in the last six months, the head of a national human rights body that reports to parliament said on Thursday…

Kerala banks on tourism to revive its economy (LiveMint) Looking at the camera, several men and women in Kerala comprising fish vendors, rickshaw drivers, homemakers and children among others hold out a placard that reads “We Are Open.” This is how a new advertisement by luggage maker Samsonite ends, aimed at exhorting more tourists to visit the flood-ravaged state. It puts across a message that not just hoteliers and other big businesses, but commoners in Kerala too are seeking a revival in tourism.

Syria’s recovered antiquities go on display (The Times of Israel) Syria’s antiquities authority on Wednesday unveiled an exhibition in Damascus of hundreds of artifacts retrieved from around the war-torn country. Dozens of Syria’s archaeological sites have been destroyed, damaged or looted since the start of the seven-year civil war, with all sides blamed for the plundering…



Tags: Iraq Egypt Kerala Coptic Christians

4 October 2018
Greg Kandra




Archbishop Giambattista Diquattro (r), apostolic nuncio of India, speaks at the seminar in New Delhi on 27 September on the theme "Regional Interfaith Dialogue on Child Dignity Online."
(photo: Bijay Kumar Minj/ucanews.com)


Syria’s Assad reaches ‘understanding’ with Arab states (VOA) President Bashar al-Assad told a little-known Kuwaiti newspaper that Syria had reached a “major understanding’’ with Arab states after years of hostility over the country’s civil war. The interview in the Al-Shahed newspaper, published Wednesday, was Assad’s first with a Gulf newspaper since the war began in 2011…

Changes in fishing habits, loss of livelihoods after Kerala flooding (The Indian Express) Eight teams of scientists and researchers were constituted who spread across Kerala to visit major flood-affected areas and make detailed assessments. The key parameters to estimate losses were determined as damage to crafts and gears, livelihood and ecology. ”Many of the fishing gear and accessories were washed away from the stacking sites. The fishing crafts were washed away and damaged by hitting against obstacles,” a CIFT release stated…

When violence flares, Ethiopia turns off the internet (VOA) When dozens of people died in ethnic clashes last month on the outskirts of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, protesters took to the streets. The government, meanwhile, turned off the internet. Mobile internet service stayed off for about 40 hours. It was the second time this year the internet has gone down in Ethiopia during times of unrest, in addition to a months-long outage that began last year during protests that led to the resignation of former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn..

India deports Rohingya Muslims (The Washington Post) India deported seven Rohingya Muslims that had fled their native Myanmar back to their country on Thursday, sparking concerns that the move could endanger their lives and violate international laws that protect refugees…

A ’miracle in the Middle East’ (The Washington Post) Imagine 125 million refugees flooding into the United States (population: 328 million). That is what Lebanon has experienced on a per capita basis. Since 2011, this nation of 4 million people has seen an influx of some 1.5 million refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war next door. “I find it a miracle this country hasn’t exploded,” a Western diplomat told me last week. “Most countries would never have allowed this to happen.” This is the dog that didn’t bark — perhaps the most surprising good-news story in the Middle East…

Protecting Indian kids when they go online (UCANews.com) Indian Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh leaders are exploring ways to safeguard youngsters utilizing the Internet. Some 50 leaders from these faiths, along with international experts, formulated plans at the ‘Regional Interfaith Dialogue on Child Dignity Online’ held in the capital, New Delhi…



Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Kerala





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