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Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
  
13 March 2019
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis is seen Sunday during the Lenten retreat for the Roman Curia in Ariccia, Italy. Wednesday 13 March marks the 6th anniversary of his election as pope. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)

Curia officials celebrate anniversary of pope’s election (Vatican News) Some 65 officials of the Roman Curia who are on their annual Lenten spiritual exercises along with Pope Francis, Wednesday morning greeted the Holy Father on the 6th anniversary of his election as the head of the Roman Catholic Church…

Thousands surrender as ISIS group nears defeat in Syria (France 24) Around 3,000 Islamic State members have surrendered from the group’s last holdout in Syria, Kurdish-led forces said Tuesday, as air raids and shelling resumed after a brief lull. A ragged tent encampment in the eastern Syrian village of Baghouz is all that remains of a once-sprawling IS group’s “caliphate” declared in 2014 across large swathes of Syria and neighboring Iraq…

In Ethiopia, deep grief for crash victims (Al Jazeera) Some 50 people sat in tense silence underneath a white tent outside a gated house on the southern outskirts of Ethiopia’s capital. The women were dressed in plain mourning black; the men mostly in white. But the lull did not last long. A chorus of loud wails soon pierced the air, as the women started rocking back and forth, their hands covering their faces. Nearby, the men stared blankly at the concrete floor…

Catholics attack Indian bishop in land dispute (UCANews.com) A Catholic bishop had to be hospitalized after a group of parishioners attacked him, a security guard and a priest in a five-decade-old land dispute in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Salesian Bishop Jerome Dhas Varuvel of Kuzhithurai left hospital on 12 March two days after he was attacked by a crowd of about 130 Catholic men and women. The guard remains in hospital after suffering serious injuries in his attempt to protect the bishop, diocesan chancellor Father Russel Raj told ucanews.com. The Rev. Augustine Ponnaian, the diocesan financial administrator, only suffered minor injuries and was not hospitalized…

Israel seeks to quell Temple Mount tensions (Haaretz) Despite the hurling of a firebomb at a police position and the forces’ subsequent decision to close all entrances to the Temple Mount, what was most apparent in Jerusalem on Tuesday was the joint effort to contain the conflict. Israel, with Jordanian assistance, seeks to prevent a flare-up at the Jerusalem site, partly in light of the latest events in the Gaza Strip…



Tags: Pope Francis Ethiopia ISIS Indian Catholics

12 March 2019
Greg Kandra




A parish priest in Raigarh Diocese leads a procession to his village church to start a prayer chain launched by Catholics in two dioceses of India’s Chhattisgarh state.
(photo: Raigarh Diocese/UCANews)


Marathon prayers in India ahead of election (UCANews.com) Ahead of national elections in India, Catholics in two dioceses of Chhattisgarh state have launched a marathon prayer program, encouraged by the result of a similar program during a state election last year. The all-night prayer program has been designed to cover all 96 parishes of Jashpur and Raigarh dioceses…

Report: Iran preparing for role in Syria’s reconstruction (VOA) Iranian construction companies are to build thousands of residential units in the suburbs of Syria’s capital, Damascus, an Iranian state-run news agency has reported. Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) recently quoted a business official with the country’s investment association, who announced that Iran would build 200,000 residential units near Damascus…

Christians condemn acquittal of suspected vandals in Jerusalem (AP) Christian authorities in Jerusalem are denouncing the acquittal of two Jewish youths suspected of vandalizing a famous monastery. Wadie Abunassar, an adviser to church leaders in the Holy Land, said on Tuesday that an Israeli court’s decision to acquit those suspecting of sprawling anti-Christian graffiti on the Dormition Abbey several years ago is “unacceptable”…

Study finds discrimination in Kerala flood relief (Times of India) Flood-affected people belonging to the scheduled caste/scheduled tribe and Dalit Christian communities faced discrimination after the deluge, a ”fact sheet” released by an NGO reported last week…

Gaza women walk thin line between hope and despair (The Jerusalem Post) More than 2 million Palestinians live in the narrow Gaza Strip, which shares borders with Israel and Egypt. Israel maintains tight control of Gaza’s land and sea borders, citing security concerns emanating from Hamas, the Islamist terrorist group which controls the coastal territory. Egypt also restricts movement in and out of Gaza on its border. Those restrictions have devastated Gaza’s economy and left many of its women struggling to find work after graduating from college…



Tags: Syria India Jerusalem Iran

11 March 2019
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis has expressed his condolences and prayers for victims of a plane crash in Ethiopia which killed all 159 people on board. (video: The Guardian/YouTube)

Pope prays for victims of Ethiopia Airlines plane crash (Vatican News) Pope Francis has expressed his condolences to victims of a plane crash that occured near Bishoftu, some 50km from Ethiopia’s capital: Addis Ababa. In his telegram, the Pope “offers prayers for the deceased from various countries”, and sends his condolences to their families. He invokes “the divine blessing of consolation and strength” to all those who mourn. The Kenya-bound Ethiopia Airlines plane had taken off from Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa Airport 6 minutes prior to the fatal crash, which took the lives of all 159 people on board…

U.S. Ukrainian Catholic bishops meet with new metropolitan archbishop (CNS) The Ukrainian Catholic bishops of the United States met and prayed 5-6 March with Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak, newly appointed by Pope Francis to head the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia. During a daylong meeting 6 March, the bishops discussed plans for the week of prayerful events 2-9 June in conjunction with a Divine Liturgy and enthronement ceremony of the new archbishop 4 June at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Philadelphia…

Syria’s future remains buried under millions of tons of rubble (CBS News) Five years after the Syrian army liberated Homs, this city is still trapped. CBS News asked architect and author Marwa al-Sabouni if she has faith in the government to rebuild. ”No, the short answer is no,” she said…

Tensions remain over ’Gate of Mercy’ in Jerusalem (The Jerusalem Post) Hundreds of police were deployed around the Old City on Friday as thousands gathered for Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa mosque. The prayers came amid heightened tensions over Muslim prayers inside the Gate of Mercy and calls by Islamic leaders to protest on the Temple Mount…



Tags: Syria Ethiopia Ukrainian Catholic Church

8 March 2019
J.D. Conor Mauro




Armenian Apostolic Patriarch Mesrob II of Constantinople and All of Turkey, center, meets with a delegation of visitors, including former CNEWA President Msgr. Robert Stern, left, in August 2005. (photo: CNEWA)

Armenian patriarch in Turkey, Mesrob II, dies at 62 (Daily Star Lebanon) Patriarch Mesrob II, the leader of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Turkey, has died. He was 62. Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency said the 84th Armenian patriarch of Constantinople died Friday at Istanbul’s Armenian Surp Pirgic hospital. He had been incapacitated since 2008 due to early onset Alzheimer’s disease…

India’s tribal people pledge to fight for forest rights (UCAN India) Indigenous communities in India are fighting against a Supreme Court of India order that threatens to evict millions of their people from their natural habitat. Hundreds of Dalits and Adivasis blocked trains and road traffic in several cities across India on 5 March as they held a shutdown protesting the court’s move and the federal government’s inability to overrule it…

Syrian Orthodox priest: Negotiations under way for release of archbishop (Fides) Syrian Orthodox priest Samuel Gümüs, engaged in the pastoral care of the Syriac Orthodox communities present in Germany, declared that the Syriac Orthodox metropolitan of Aleppo, Mar Gregorios Youhanna Ibrahim, is being held prisoner by ISIS in the Baghuz area of eastern Syria, and “negotiations” for his release are under way…

India’s alarming air pollution crisis (Vatican News) India has an alarming air pollution problem, containing 22 of the 30 most air-polluted cities worldwide, according to a new study…



Tags: Syria India Armenian Apostolic Church Dalits

7 March 2019
Greg Kandra




In this image from 2014, Syrian President Bashar Assad looks at destroyed religious artwork with a member of the clergy during a visit to the ancient Christian town of Maaloula, Syria. Syrian refugees who fled to Jordan have begun a bid to have Assad tried for war crimes.
(photo: CNS/Syria's national news agency handout via Reuters)


Syrian refugees launch bid to try Assad for war crimes (The Independent) Syrian refugees who fled to Jordan after being tortured and witnessing massacres have submitted dossiers of evidence to the international criminal court in a novel attempt to prosecute President Bashar al-Assad. Although Syria is not a signatory to the court, based in The Hague, lawyers in London are relying on a precedent set by the ICC in extending jurisdiction to the crime of forcible population transfers…

India’s alarming air pollution crisis (Vatican News) India has an alarming air pollution problem with 22 of the world’s 30 worst cities in the country, according to a new study. The 2018 World Air Quality Report by Greenpeace and Air Visual Analysis, released on 5 March, showed Delhi continuing to rank first among the world’s 62 worst capitals. Dhaka (Bangladesh) and Kabul (Afghanistan) are among other Asian capitals with polluted air…

Indian tribal people pledge to fight forest rights (UCANews.com) Tribal people in India are on the warpath against a Supreme Court of India order that threatens to evict millions of them from their natural habitat. Hundreds of socially poor Dalit and tribal people blocked trains and road traffic in several cities across India on March 5 as they held a shutdown protesting the court’s move and the federal government’s inability to overrule it…

Five years after ’Maidan,” Ukraine’s small successes are its real revolution (The Guardian) As we ponder the impact of the momentous events we have experienced, we rarely pay attention to the “smaller” stories. Such as this one from the region of Zhytomyr: under a new decentralization law, local communities have united into a single entity to control their budget and finance priority projects they’ve chosen themselves. They have been able to set up a local fire station — something the state had for years failed to provide…



Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Dalits

6 March 2019
Greg Kandra




Hundreds of ISIS militants are leaving a besieged enclave in Syria. (video: ITV/YouTube)

Hundreds limp out of besieged Syria militant enclave (AFP) Veiled women carrying babies and wounded men on crutches hobbled out of Baghouz on Wednesday after US-backed forces pummeled the last militant village in eastern Syria. The Syrian Democratic Forces leading the assault expected more fighters to surrender with their families in tow before moving deeper in the Islamic State group’s last redoubt…

Patriarch Kirill to visit North Korea (AsiaNews) Moscow Orthodox Patriarch Kirill will visit North Korea at the invitation of President Kim Jong-un. The Patriarchal exarch for Southeast Asia, the 45-year-old metropolitan of Singapore Sergij (Chashin) revealed the news on 3 March, meeting with journalists in Bangkok. He added “in Pyongyang they always welcome us very cordially, we carry out our service there and I am recognized as the legitimate bishop…”

New Lebanon minister makes return of Syrian refugees a priority (Al Jazeera) Thousands of Syrians who fled to neighboring Lebanon when the war began are going back home. The new minister in charge of Lebanon’s millions of refugees, Saleh Gharib, is an outspoken supporter of the Syrian government. Gharib’s first act in the job was to visit Damascus, where he has vowed to make the return of refugees a priority…

Man arrested for alleged connection to rape of Indian nuns in 1998 (UCANews.com) A man has been arrested for his alleged involvement in the mass rape of four Catholic nuns that occurred more than two decades ago in central India. Police Superintendent Vineet Jain told ucanews.com that they arrested Kalu Limji on 5 March over his alleged involvement in the 1998 mass rape of nuns from the Foreign Missionary Sisters…

U.S. helping Ethiopia build capacity for disaster response (AfricaNews.com) Ethiopia’s National Disaster Risk Management Center (NDRMC) conducted a natural disaster simulation exercise to improve Ethiopia’s response to emergencies. The exercise was the first of its kind and provided a test run for NDRMC’s emergency operations center staff to coordinate a timely response to a simulated flood of the Awash River and areas around Lake Tana. This activity is part of an ongoing program supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to help Ethiopia to strengthen its National Incident Management System…



Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Russian Orthodox

5 March 2019
Greg Kandra




The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are struggling to take over the last ISIS-held area of Syria. The Kurdish-led group has slowed down its offensive after ISIS resorted to using civilians as human shields. (video: Al Jazeera/YouTube)

ISIS members ‘surrendering in large numbers’ in Syria (Al Jazeera) Thousands of people, including armed fighters, have left the last area held by ISIS in Syria, a spokesperson for the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said. Mostafa Bali of the SDF tweeted that about 3,000 people had come out of the village of Baghouz in eastern Syria on Monday through a humanitarian corridor established by the Kurdish-led group for those who want to leave or surrender…

US: Gulf countries helped ease conflict between India and Pakistan (Voice of America) The United States says it used its allies across the world, particularly those in the Gulf, to help defuse tensions between India and Pakistan, after military skirmishes between the nuclear-armed neighbors last week raised fears of a war…

India sees rise in lynchings of Christians (Catholic News Agency) Violent attacks including public lynchings against Christians in India are reportedly becoming increasingly common, with international NGOs and the country’s Catholic bishops raising their voices in protest against mob violence. ”The common man of the country is feeling insecurity in his own country due to the increasing cases of mob lynching,” Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal wrote on 27 February…

U.S. closes Jerusalem consulate that gave Palestinians a link to Washington (NPR) The U.S. officially shut down its Jerusalem Consulate General on Monday, severing a connection that for decades served as a direct link between Palestinians and Washington. The consulate’s work is being folded into the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem — a move Palestinian officials have condemned…

A decade on, anti-Christian riots inspire the Indian Church (UCANews.com) More than a decade after the worst anti-Christian persecution in the history of India, victims and their families are turning out to be biggest witnesses and inspiration of the Christian faith in the country, church leaders told the 22 February gathering in Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore) city. ”When Christians die for their faith, it is a time for the Church to remember that martyrdom is like a seed,” said Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore. Martyrdom helps faith grow more quickly than can be achieved by theology or the Bible, he said…



Tags: Syria India Jerusalem Palestinians Persecution

4 March 2019
Greg Kandra




Indian passengers are shown returning from Pakistan on the Samjhauta Express, also called the Friendship Express. (photo: Vatican Media/AFP)

Tensions ease between India and Pakistan (Vatican News) A key train service between Pakistan and India resumed on Monday, signaling an easing of tensions between the two nuclear-armed countries after a major escalation of tension last week over the disputed Kashmir region…

Hundreds leave ISIS-held region of Syria (AP) Hundreds of people including fighters from the Islamic State group evacuated their last foothold in eastern Syria Monday hours after U.S.-backed Syrian fighters said they were forced to slow their advance because the extremists are using civilians as human shields…

Kerala denies it aims to control Catholic Church property (Asia News) The Kerala government, led by the Communist-Marxist party of India, denies it wants to control the local properties of the Catholic Church. According to party secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, it is “mere speculation. Already there are laws to look into it and hence a new law is not required. Some people with vested interests are spreading rumors about this…”

Detained Ukrainian archbishop released in Crimea (Radio Free Europe) Authorities in the Russia-annexed Crimean Peninsula have released the head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine in the region after briefly detaining him, a Russian lawyer says. The reason for the arrest on 3 March is not clear…

Leaders of Ethiopia, Eritrea, visit South Sudan for high-level talks (Africa News) Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki are in South Sudan on an official visit. The two departed from Asmara International Airport on Monday morning and have arrived in Juba to bolster existing ties between their countries. Abiy had visited Asmara on Sunday along with Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta...

Pope Francis to open archives on Pius XII next year (Vatican News) Reflecting on the reign of “the Servant of God Pius XII, of venerable memory”, Pope Francis said that he “guided the Barque of Peter in one of the saddest and darkest moments of the twentieth century”. The figure of Pius XII, he said, “has already been investigated and studied”, and widely discussed and even criticized — at times in a prejudiced or exaggerated manner. Today, he said, the pontificate of Pius XII is being re-evaluated, in the hopes that a more balanced historical judgement might emerge. To further those efforts, the Pope said that Vatican archival materials pertaining to Pius’ pontificate (1939-1958) will be accessible to scholars beginning on 2 March 2020…



Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Vatican Pope

1 March 2019
Greg Kandra




Indian forces remain on high alert along the border with Pakistan. (photo: Vatican Media)

Indian and Pakistani bishops urge peace between their nations (Vatican News) The Catholic bishops of India and Pakistan are appealing for peace and dialogue as tensions and armed exchanges between the two nuclear-armed neighbors escalate. ”We pray and work for peace between India and Pakistan. We call on the rulers to choose the path of dialogue, the situation today is very delicate and we must not make false or hurried steps,” said Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias Archbishop of Mumbai. ”We condemn any act of terrorism against Indian forces. But we say ‘no’ to any war option: we must work for a peaceful solution, in favor of South Asia and will be meaningful for the whole world,” Cardinal Gracias, the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), told the Vatican’s Fides news agency…

Russia urging Syrian asylum seekers to return home (Reuters) In pre-war Syria, Safaa Al-Kurdi sold wedding dresses. Fed up with the conflict, the mother-of-three fled Damascus four years ago and sought asylum in Moscow. Now, Russia is saying she must go home…

Students rescued from Jerusalem school cut off from flooding (Times of Israel) Some 1,200 trapped students were evacuated Thursday from a school in southern Jerusalem that was cut off by flooding across an access road, amid unseasonal rains in the capital…

Kerala headed toward fiscal collapse (Times of India) Due to acute fiscal crisis, state government imposed stringent treasury restrictions in addition to the restrictions in force. This has paralyzed all planning and development activities of the state, including rebuilding activities for the rehabilitation of flood victims...

Ethiopian coffee ritual being exported (Quartz) In the 2018/2019 financial year, Ethiopia produced about 426,000 metric tons, exporting nearly 4 million bags, yet Africa’s largest coffee producer has few locally produced brands. Now, with a large diaspora that has introduced Ethiopian dining to the world, and domestic growth that has reintroduced the country to the global economy, Ethiopian coffee has the opportunity to take advantage of global consumer trends. Exporting a culture may require some watering-down though…



Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Kerala

28 February 2019
Greg Kandra




'Long live tribal unity' reads a banner behind the podium of a 26 February meeting in Madhya Pradesh state, where tribal groups joined to oppose a Supreme Court order to evict forest-dwelling people without title rights. (photo: Saji Thomas/UCANews.com)

Bishop expresses concerns over possible evictions of millions of Indian tribal people (UCANews.com) Millions of India’s indigenous people face eviction from their natural habitat following a court order that has alarmed Catholic Church leaders. The Supreme Court ordered governments of 21 states to evict people living on forest land whose claims to land title rights or user rights were rejected as proscribed in a 2006 law. ”We are worried. The fate of millions of indigenous people is threatened,” said Bishop Vincent Barwa, the head of the Indian bishops’ office for indigenous people…

Pakistan to release captured Indian pilot in ‘peace gesture’ (The Washington Post) Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan told parliament Thursday that his country will shortly release an Indian pilot it captured the day before, calling it a “peace gesture” after Pakistan and India engaged in their first aerial combat in nearly 50 years. The pilot’s release will take place on 1 March, Khan said, and the move is likely to de-escalate the current hostilities between the two nuclear-armed neighbors…

Yazidi children in Syria await family reunions (Voice of America) U.S.-backed Syrian forces battling Islamic State militants in their last hideout in eastern Syria said they have rescued dozens of Yazidi children held by the militant group for years. Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-led alliance, said last week that they had successfully freed more than a dozen Yazidi children from ISIS as they evacuated civilians from the Syrian town of Baghuz…

Russian church fires back over performance controversy (Radio Free Europe) A choral reinterpretation of a Cold War ditty depicting a Russian nuclear attack on Washington has variously drawn wild cheers, contrition, and ridicule for its glib message amid mounting nuclear tensions between Russia and the West. The St. Petersburg eparchy of the Russian Orthodox Church eventually expressed regret over the 23 February show.…



Tags: Syria India Russian Orthodox





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