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Current Issue
July, 2019
Volume 45, Number 2
  
1 February 2019
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis on 1 February met with members of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and Oriental Orthodox Churches. (photo: Vatican Media)

Pope thanks God for dialogue with Oriental Orthodox Churches (Vatican News) Pope Francis quoted the Second Vatican Council document, Unitatis Redintegratio, when he affirmed that this dialogue expresses well how, between East and West, the “various theological expressions are to be considered often as mutually complementary rather than conflicting.” At the conclusion of this sixteenth session of the Commission’s work, he said, “we can together thank the Lord for the fruits already gathered along the way…”

UAE leader hails pope’s visit as a milestone (Vatican News) When Pope Francis arrives in Abu Dhabi next week, it will be the first ever papal visit to the Arabian Gulf. While this represents a milestone event in its own right, it is also a powerful testament to the longstanding values of acceptance, coexistence, inclusivity, tolerance and humanity that are embedded in the very core of the United Arab Emirates…

India mourns former seminarian who became defense minister (UCANews.com) India’s prime minister and president were among a coterie of high-ranking officials who expressed their condolences this week at the death of George Fernandes, a former Catholic seminarian who rose to become India’s defense minister. Fernandes, India’s best-known trade union leader, died on 29 January at the age of 88 at his New Delhi residence. He had not been actively involved in politics since 2012, after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease...

Turkey in a pickle over Syrian olives (BBC) Kurds in Turkey and the Syrian region of Afrin, which Turkey now controls, have accused Turkish forces of stealing the region’s olive crops. ”After this area fell to the Turkish occupation, thousands of olive trees have been cut down. It has since emerged that they have been stealing the olives,” said a commentary in the Turkish Kurdish newspaper Yeni Ozgur Politika last week…



Tags: Syria Pope Francis Muslim Oriental Orthodox

31 January 2019
Greg Kandra




In this image from 2016, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow greets Pope Francis at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana. Marking the 10th anniversary of his enthronement, the patriarch compared Kiev to Jerusalem for its significance to Christianity. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Patriarch compares Kiev to Jerusalem for its significance (TASS) Orthodoxy in Russia began with its Christianization by Prince Vladimir in Kiev, so for Russian believers that city is comparable in terms of its historic importance to the significance of Jerusalem for world Christianity, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia said at a meeting with delegations of Local Orthodox Churches that arrived in Moscow on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of his enthronement…

Many Syrian refugees in Jordan reluctant to return home (The National) Despite a warming of ties and reopening of borders between Jordan and Syria, security concerns and an absence of a political resolution to the civil war have prevented all but a few thousand Syrian refugees from returning home, raising questions over how long the community will remain in the economically struggling kingdom…

Places of worship for Egyptian Copts closed after protests (Al-Monitor) More disturbing episodes of intimidation against Coptic Christians took place this month in the village of Manshiyet Zaafarana in Minya governorate, 150 miles south of Cairo. On 11 January, Muslim hard-line residents of the village encircled a building used as the Copts’ place of worship, claiming Christians were seeking to turn it into a church without a permit. Subsequently, the place of worship was closed…

In Aleppo, a slow rebuild begins (IRINNews.org) More than two years after the Syrian government won a long and deadly battle for Aleppo, sounds of demolition and construction have replaced the explosions and gunfire that used to echo through the city’s center…

Ethiopia: 3 million internally displaced (Euronews.com) With three million internally displaced people, Ethiopia is going through one of the most severe — and under-reported — humanitarian crises in the world. The topic of refugees and displaced people will head the agenda at the Africa Union summit in Addis Ababa next month…

India’s failing health system hits women hardest (UCANews.com) Recent surveys have highlighted how poor women are on the receiving end of pathetic state-run health services. The latest study was released on 22 January by Oxfam, a confederation of 20 independent charitable organizations focusing on the alleviation of global poverty. It claimed that the poor are denied health care, exposing them to greater risks of lethal diseases…

Vatican urges fight against stigma of leprosy (Vatican News) The Vatican is urging the international community not only to help eliminate Hansen’s disease but also to end the stigma, discrimination and prejudice attached to it by treating those hit by it with love, compassion and solidarity. Cardinal Peter Turkson, the Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, made the call in a message on the occasion of 66th World Leprosy Day…



Tags: Syria Egypt Russian Orthodox Kiev

30 January 2019
Greg Kandra




A Muslim prays inside Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Pope Francis is scheduled to visit the mosque during his visit to the United Arab Emirates next month.
(photo: CNS/Ahmed Jadallah, Reuters)


Archbishop: Catholic-Muslim dialogue at heart of pope’s trip to UAE (Crux) Pope Francis will “encourage the Catholics throughout the world to continue to put into practice the teachings of the Church regarding dialogue with Muslims” when he visits the United Arab Emirates, according to one expert on interreligious dialogue. Francis will be the first pope to visit the Arabian Peninsula on his 3-5 February visit to Abu Dhabi, the capital of UAE. During his trip, the pontiff will meet with the international Muslim Council of Elders, participate in an interreligious meeting and celebrate Mass for the local Catholic population, mainly foreign workers…

Al-Qaida advances in northern Syria, threatening truce (Economic Times) It only took a few days for al-Qaida-linked militants to seize more than two dozen towns and villages in northern Syria from rival insurgents earlier this month, expanding and cementing their control over an area the size of neighboring Lebanon. The advance by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, or the Levant Liberation Committee, was the most serious blow yet to a September cease-fire brokered by Russia and Turkey that averted a major government offensive in Idlib province, the last main stronghold…

Russian Orthodox patriarch calls on religious leaders to help resolve conflict (TASS) Orthodox and Muslim representatives can help politicians to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia said at a meeting with Sheikh ul-Islam Allahshukur Pashazade, head of the Muslim Board for the Caucasus and co-chair of the CIS Interreligious Council, and Azerbaijan’s delegation…

Yoga guru charges discrimination in award given to Mother Teresa(UCANews.com) Christian leaders have criticized yoga guru Baba Ramdev’s comments that Mother Teresa was awarded India’s highest civilian award because she was Christian. The Bharat Ratna (jewel of India) was awarded to the Catholic nun in 1980 for her humanitarian work among India’s poor. Albanian-born Mother Teresa, who died in 1997 aged 87, became St. Teresa of Kolkata when she was canonized in 2016. Speaking to the media on 26 January Prayag in Uttar Pradesh, Ramdev questioned the government for giving the prestigious award to actors and politicians but not to the seers of the Hindu religion…

Biodiversity thrives around Ethiopia’s church forests (Nature) If you see a forest in Ethiopia, you know there is very likely to be a church in the middle, says Alemayehu Wassie. Wassie, a forest ecologist, has spent the past decade on a mission: preserving, documenting and protecting the unique biodiversity in pockets of forest that surround Ethiopia’s orthodox churches…



Tags: Syria Pope Francis Muslim Orthodox Church

29 January 2019
Greg Kandra




Vandals attacked and defaced a synagogue in Jerusalem Monday. (photo: Twitter)

Jerusalem synagogue defaced (Haaretz) A synagogue in Jerusalem was defaced Monday overnight as vandals broke in and damaged its Torah ark, facilities and books. Police has opened an investigation into the matter. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was “shocked” at the incident, writing on Twitter that “police must find those responsible immediately and ensure they are brought to justice…”

France planning to repatriate ISIS suspects (The Telegraph) France is reportedly planning to repatriate more than 100 French ISIS suspects from Syria amid fears they could lose track of them after US troops withdraw from the war-torn country. Some 130 Islamic State suspects being held in custody by Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in prisons across northern Syria are to be sent back within the next few weeks, according to French channel BFMTV. ”All those who will return to France will be entrusted to the judges. The judge will decide that it will be necessary to put them in prison,” Christophe Castaner, France’s Interior Minister, told BFMTV…

Ethiopia bans street begging by Syrians (AP) Ethiopia is banning street begging by Syrian nationals who have startled people by showing up in growing numbers in recent months. The deputy head of Ethiopia’s immigration office tells The Associated Press that “we have tolerated them for some time but we have now decided to ban the illegal practice...They are becoming a burden…”

Jordan Foreign Minister urges closure of refugee camp (The Jordan Times) Arrangements to deliver humanitarian aid to the Rukban camp are only temporary solutions that do not address the real issue, and the focus must be on the de-establishment of the camp and allowing refugees to return to their hometowns, Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi has said. ”The area in which Rukban exists has never sustained life. Humanitarian supplies are important, but now that the conditions of their return are met, with Daesh pushed out of them, I think all efforts should be focused on achieving that,” Safadi told Sputnik news agency in a recent interview…



Tags: Syria Ethiopia Jerusalem ISIS Jews

28 January 2019
Greg Kandra




The ‘caliphate’ of ISIS has been severely diminished in Syria, and the remnants are making a final stand in the desert. (video: ITV News/YouTube)

The ISIS ‘caliphate’ is reduced to a pair of villages in Syria (The Washington Post) A pair of dusty villages in the Syrian desert is all that remains of the vast expanse of territory the Islamic State once called its caliphate, and the complete territorial defeat of the militant group appears to be imminent, according to U.S. and Kurdish officials…

Asian bishops’ president issues statement for World Day of Sick in Calcutta (Vatican News) The Asian bishops’ president is urging believers in the continent to continue upholding the sacred duty and tradition of caring and respecting the elderly, the infirm and the helpless, saying it is a barometer of society’s health. Cardinal Charles Bo, the president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), made the exhortation in a message he released on Sunday in view of the upcoming international celebration of the Catholic Church’s World Day of the Sick…

Goa being hurt by exploitation (UCANews.com) The planeloads of foreign tourists and pleasure-seekers are no longer descending on the coastal state of Goa — a bastion of Christianity in India — with such regularity, lured by its palm-fringed beaches and hippie vibe. The lines of local tourists vying to try their hand at jet-skiing or paragliding have also shortened in this former Portuguese colony that sits on the country’s western coast. For the first time in years, hotel occupancy rates reportedly shot down to around 50 percent on average over Christmas and New Year, significantly lower than in previous peak seasons in this former tourism hot-spot…

Israel unearths a sacred Roman road in Jerusalem (The Washington Post) The main road winding through the densely built Arab neighborhood of Wadi Hilweh is like many others in Jerusalem, lined with convenience stores and often crammed with traffic. There’s little clue to what is happening just yards below the pavement and under the floors of surrounding houses and apartment blocks. For five years, Israeli archaeologists, supported by a nationalist Jewish organization, have been digging a tunnel here. Their aim is to uncover what they say was once an important thoroughfare used by worshipers some 2,000 years ago to reach the Jewish holy temple…



Tags: Syria India Jerusalem ISIS

25 January 2019
Greg Kandra




In this photo from 2014, Dominican Father Najeeb Michaeel works on a manuscript at his restoration laboratory in Qaraqosh, Iraq. On 25 January, Father Michaeel became the new Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Mosul. (photo: CNS/courtesy of Centre Numerique des Manuscrits Orientaux)

Iraqi priest who saved priceless manuscripts ordained archbishop (AFP) An Iraqi priest who saved a trove of religious manuscripts from the Islamic State group was ordained on Friday as the new Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Mosul. Najeeb Michaeel, 63, was ordained in a ceremony in Mosul’s St. Paul Church attended by Catholic leaders from the region and the US, as well as local officials and residents. “Our message to the whole world, and to Mosul’s people, is one of coexistence, love, and peace among all of Mosul’s different communities and the end of the ideology that Daesh (IS) brought here,” Michaeel told AFP…

Vatican, Indian theologians discuss Christian faith in India (Vatican News) A delegation from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and representatives of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) concluded a 3-day theological meeting on Thursday in the southern Indian city of Bangalore, a CBCI press release has said. It said the 21-24 January theological symposium on Christian faith in a multicultural context was organized by the CBCI at St. John’s Medical College. Forty-four 44 bishops and theologians from India participated in the colloquium…

Down to its last two villages in Syria, ISIS still fights back (The New York Times) Along two sharp curves of the Euphrates River in northeastern Syria, the Islamic State is fighting to hold on to the last speck of the vast territory it once controlled…

More Syrian refugees return home from Lebanon (AP) Hundreds of Syrian refugees in Lebanon went back to their war-torn country on Thursday — the latest batch to return home in recent months…

Patriarch of Jerusalem cancels meeting with Ukrainian president (The Jerusalem Post) According to the official version, Theophilos III was hospitalized with a minor illness. According to information from unnamed sources in the church circles of the Jerusalem Patriarchate, the head of the Jerusalem church did not want to meet with the Ukrainian leader after a scandal with a letter that Theophilus III sent to Poroshenko in December 2018…



Tags: Syria Iraq Lebanon Chaldean Church ISIS

24 January 2019
Greg Kandra




In this image from November, U.S. soldiers surveil the area during a combined joint patrol in Manbij, Syria. (photo: CNS/Zoe Garbarino, U.S. Army handout via Reuters)

Future of Syria “safe zones” uncertain (CNN) A “safe zone” in Syria? The US tried it with Turkey before. It didn’t work. President Donald Trump has tweeted twice about the possibility of establishing a “20 mile safe zone” in Syria, something he has said is part of his decision to pursue a total withdrawal of US troops from Syria, a decision that sparked several high profile resignations from his administration…

Ethiopia says thousands have been granted amnesty (AFP) Ethiopia on Tuesday said it had granted more than 13 000 people amnesty as part of a broad reform agenda pushed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, state media said…

Terrorist involved in beheading of Copts killed in Libya (Egypt Today) Al-Mahdy Deqno, one of the three most dangerous terrorists, Libya’s national army (LNA) Killed on Friday, was involved in beheading 21 Egyptian Copts in Libya in 2015…

Ancient cistern complex found under Jerusalem playground (The Times of Israel) Back in 2005, the Israel Antiquities Authority received word that at a Jerusalem neighborhood playground, the sand was being swallowed up into the earth. After initial testing by IAA archaeologist Dr. Yuval Baruch, it was discovered that the sand box was constructed directly above an ancient water cistern…

Indian pilgrims gather for World Youth Day (Vatican News) An Indian delegation of some 56 young people is in Panama City to celebrate the Catholic Church’s 34th World Youth Day (WYD) with Pope Francis. The young pilgrims from across India landed in Panama on 15 January and were hosted in the parish of Atalaya in the Diocese of Santiago de Veraguas, for the preliminary “Days in the Dioceses” events of the WYD…

Pope highlights pros and cons of internet and social media (Vatican News) In his message for the World Day of Social Communications 2019, Pope Francis urges responsible use of the internet, saying it should be used to liberate not to entrap. In his message entitled “We are members one of another» (Eph 4:25) From social network communities to the human community, released on the feast day of St Francis de Sales, Patron Saint of Journalists, the Pope underlines that the Internet and social media are an important resource. But he also emphasizes that the Internet has been “proven to be one of the areas most exposed to disinformation and to the conscious and targeted distortion of facts and interpersonal relationships, which are often used to discredit…”



Tags: Syria Egypt Pope Francis Ethiopia Coptic Christians

23 January 2019
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis shakes hands with Abiy Ahmed, prime minister of Ethiopia, during a private audience at the Vatican on 21 January. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope receives Ethiopian Prime Minister (Vatican News) Pope Francis on Monday met with the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, at an audience at the Vatican. According to a communique from the Holy See Press Office, the “cordial talks” emphasized “important initiatives underway for the promotion of national reconciliation, and for the integral development of Ethiopia”. The talks also focused on the “role of Christianity in the history of the Ethiopian people”—Ethiopia was one of the first lands to adopt Christianity, and the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church remains the largest religious body in the country by population…

Holy See urges resumption of Israeli-Palestinian dialogue (Vatican News) The Holy See on Tuesday reiterated its appeal to Israeli and Palestinian authorities to resume dialogue for peace in the region and respond to the legitimate aspirations of both the people by ensuring the coexistence of two states. Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in New York, made the call on Tuesday at a Security Council debate on the situation in the Middle East and the Palestinian question…

ISIS gearing up for comeback in Syria (The Jerusalem Post) Four days after a major attack claimed by the Islamic State in Manbij, Syria killed at least nineteen people, including four Americans, a suicide bomb ripped through a passenger bus in nearby Afrin, causing numerous fatalities. While the nearly eight-years-long war has turned decidedly in the Assad regime’s favor, the prevalence of terrorist activity continues to force people from their homes, effectively providing cover for ISIS fighters to escape detection…

India state lifts ban on eggs for school meals (UCANews.com) Eggs are back on the menu for school students in India’s Chhattisgarh state, 13 years after they were banned for fear of hurting the religious sentiments of upper-caste Hindu and Jain vegetarians. The pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state government withdrew eggs from students’ midday meals in 2005, two years after it came to power…

A million rosaries from Bethlehem headed to Panama for World Youth Day (Vatican News) A million rosaries made by Christian artisans of Bethlehem have been destined as gifts to the participants in the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day (WYD) that kicked off on Tuesday in Panama City…



Tags: Syria India Pope Francis Ethiopia

22 January 2019
J.D. Conor Mauro




Turkish military vehicles are seen in late December 2018 in the countryside of Manbij, Syria. (photo: CNS/Khalil Ashawi, Reuters)

U.S. demands security guarantee for Kurdish Y.P.G. from Turkey (Al Jazeera) The protection of allied forces who fought and died battling ISIS in Syria must be guaranteed, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in a phone conversation…

How hundreds of Syrians found refuge in Ethiopia (Al Jazeera) While Syrians make up a tiny fraction of the refugee population in Ethiopia, estimated at more than 905,000 people by the U.N., they have attracted attention and sympathy among locals…

Orthodox patriarch of Antioch receives Russian delegation (Fides) A delegation of Russian parliamentarians visiting the Middle East was received in Damascus by Greek Orthodox Patriarch Youhanna X of Antioch. Interfax reports that the patriarch expressed gratitude for the role carried out by Russia in the scenario of the Syrian conflict…

Discrimination within Dalit community a huge challenge in fight against casteism (Kathmandu Post) The so-called “lower-caste Dalits” of Olani Village in Godavari Municipality, Kailali, cannot use the same water tap or well as that of the “upper-caste Dalits.” Separate wells have been constructed for the upper and lower caste Dalits in the village. This is only a case in point. Chairman of ward-11 Shiva Bahadur B.K. said incidents of caste-based discrimination take place in the municipality almost every day. “A Dalit is humiliated and discriminated by another Dalit. How can we fight against caste-based discrimination when the Dalit community itself is entrenched in casteism?” said B.K…

In Iraq, there’s life for Christians after Islamic fundamentalism (Crux) When Cardinal Patriarch Louis Sako presided over the episcopal ordinations of the new Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul, Najib Mikhael Mousa and the new auxiliary of the country’s capital, Bishop Robert Jarjis, on Jan. 18, the message seemed clear: There’s life for Christianity in Iraq after ISIS. “This is the greatest challenge that requires active participation of the church and Christians in public life in a city of ‘almost fully destroyed’ ancient churches,” Sako said. In fact, the bell tower of the city’s Dominican church is one of the few things that remained standing after the occupation of the city by the Islamic terrorist organization…



Tags: Syria India Iraq Dalits

18 January 2019
Greg Kandra




The Vatican yesterday announced guidelines to help the fight against human trafficking.
(video: Rome Reports/YouTube)


Vatican releases guidelines to help in fighting human trafficking (CNS) The Vatican has created a set of pastoral guidelines to inspire and improve the church’s work in addressing the crime of human trafficking and the care of its victims worldwide. The Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development released its “Pastoral Orientations on Human Trafficking” 17 January at a Vatican news conference…

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity at heart of ecumenism (Vatican News) The joint celebration that kicks off the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is a powerful symbol of unity and of the recognition that Christian denominations are on the path to unity and getting closer in doctrine. The Week of Prayer, traditionally observed from 18 to 25 January, unfolds this year on the theme “Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue” inspired by Deuteronomy…

Ukraine approves property law affecting thousands of churches (AP) Ukraine’s parliament on Thursday adopted a bill spelling out procedures for transferring church property after a new unified Ukrainian Orthodox church was granted independence. The bill could potentially affect some 12,000 churches in Ukraine and vast amounts of property, including the gems of Orthodox Christianity like the vast Pechersk Monastery in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev…

Ethiopia allows almost one million refugees to live and work outside camps (Reuters) Ethiopia passed a law on Thursday giving almost 1 million refugees the right to work and live outside of camps, in a move praised for providing them with more dignity and reducing reliance on foreign aid…

Jerusalem hit by rare snowstorm (The Daily Mail) Snow covered Jerusalem in a rare flurry which swept across the Holy Land last night, including at the Dome of the Rock and Western Wall. Citizens of Jerusalem flocked to the streets to enjoy the rare sighting, with some even grabbing hold of their toboggans…



Tags: Ethiopia Ukraine Jerusalem Christian Unity





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