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Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
  
17 July 2019
J.D. Conor Mauro




Syriac Catholic Rev. Youssef Sakat reads documents of an Iraqi family seeking help from inside the chapel at the Holy Family Syriac Catholic center in Beirut on 8 July 2019. (photo: CNS/Dalia Khamissy)

When Islamic State came, the monks had just finished hiding the manuscripts (Catholic Herald) Already, the four monks at the ancient Syriac Catholic Mar Behnam Monastery in Khidr, Iraq, had felt they were under siege. Ten days earlier, on June 10, 2014, five carloads of militants roared through the peaceful road leading to Mar Behnam, announcing through megaphones that the Islamic State was in control. Not long before that, the Iraqi army had withdrawn from a checkpoint near the monastery, located southeast of Mosul. All the while, Father Youssef Sakat was deeply concerned about how to safeguard the monastery’s extensive collection of religious manuscripts from inevitable destruction by the militants. The 630 manuscripts, dating from the 12th to 18th centuries, were written in a range of languages, including Syriac, Greek, French and Latin…

Archbishop of Basra: The pope’s visit, an opportunity for rebirth for Christians and Iraq (AsiaNews) Pope Francis’ visit to Iraq, scheduled for next year, represents a world stage for the Baghdad government to show itself close to Christians and active in defending the freedoms and rights of the entire population. “[I]t is necessary to prevent the formation of a second class citizenship, especially for Christians and other minorities that are affected and relegated to the margins by the Constitution and a sectarian culture,” says the Chaldean Archbishop Alnaufali Habib Jajou of Basra, according to whom the nation “is in pieces” because of a “widespread and visible corruption”…

Turkish diplomat shot dead in Iraqi city, officials say (The Guardian) Gunmen have killed at least one Turkish diplomat in Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, in an attack on consulate staff gathered in a restaurant, Turkey’s foreign ministry said. The state-run Iraqi news agency identified the dead man as the deputy consul general, the Associated Press reported…

Can Israel’s courts deliver justice for Palestinians? (Al Jazeera) The demolition of Palestinian-owned buildings by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem is a routine occurrence. But in Sur Baher, a neighbourhood southeast of Jerusalem, an unprecedented mass demolition is looming — with the approval of Israel’s top court…



Tags: Iraq Palestine Turkey

16 July 2019
Greg Kandra




Cardinal Louis Raphael I Sako, the Chaldean Catholic patriarch, speaks during the presentation of the UK Independent Review on Persecution of Christians, in Rome on 15 July 2019. Looking on is Msgr. Antoine Camilleri, an official at the Vatican Secretariat of State. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Cardinal fears Iraq could be caught in U.S.-Iran conflict (CNS) Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Cardinal Louis Sako is concerned by rising tensions between the United States and Iran, fearful that his country, Iraq, could be caught in the middle of any potential conflict. It has also made a proposed visit by Pope Francis to Iraq next year uncertain, he said…

Alert issued for Kerala as monsoon strengthens (India Today) Authorities in Kerala have issued alerts across the state anticipating heavy rains in the next few days. The India Meteorological department (IMD) in its latest weather forecast has said very to very heavy rains are expected in Kerala. Besides this, IMD said the sea along the Malabar Coast in Kerala is expected to be very rough. This corresponds with the strengthening of monsoon in Southern India…

Study looks at how religious restrictions have increased around the world (Pew Research Center) Over the decade from 2007 to 2017, government restrictions on religion — laws, policies and actions by state officials that restrict religious beliefs and practices — increased markedly around the world. And social hostilities involving religion — including violence and harassment by private individuals, organizations or groups — also have risen since 2007, the year Pew Research Center began tracking the issue…

Archeologists unearth 9,000-year-old city near Jerusalem (The Jerusalem Post) A prehistoric ‘city’ — with complex streets, burial grounds and trade items from as far away as the Red Sea and Anatolia — was unearthed near Jerusalem during the work carried out to make a new entrance to the capital. The discovery of the cluster of buildings, homes, public compounds and ritual areas dates back to the Neolithic period and is one of the largest settlements discovered from the New Stone Age in the world…



Tags: Jerusalem Iraqi Christians Kerala Persecution

15 July 2019
Greg Kandra




Clashes continue in Syria, and thousands remain trapped by the ongoing violence, but much of the world is paying scant attention, analysts say. (video: Al Jazeera/YouTube)

Syrians remain trapped as the world looks away (The Washington Post) If the world is watching, it’s not doing all that much. A long-running diplomatic process initiated by the United Nations in Geneva and backed by Washington to find a political solution to the Syrian conflict now appears moribund. A separate set of talks involving Russia, Turkey and Iran will resume in early August, but these, too, seem to underscore the geopolitical complexity that hamstrings Syria’s prospects for peace…

What’s behind Ethiopia’s recent political violence? (The Washington Post) In Ethiopia, a wave of assassinations has renewed fears of political turmoil. On 22 June, gunmen burst into a meeting, killing the president of the Amhara region, Ambachew Mekonnen and two aides. Shortly thereafter, a bodyguard killed the army chief of staff, Gen. Seare Mekonnen, along with retired Gen. Gezai Abera.

Kerala to introduce anti-superstition bill (FirstPost.com) Kerala, which recently witnessed an alarming spurt in the number of black magic cases, is gearing up to bring in a legislation to curb “inhuman” practices and exploitation in the name of superstition. The Kerala Prevention and Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practices, Sorcery and Black Magic Bill, 2019 has been submitted to the CPI(M)-led LDF government for its consideration to pass as legislation…

Shevchuck: Pope wants flourishing Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (Vatican News) At a press conference on Monday, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuck, head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, said a two-day meeting with Pope Francis and curial leaders represents a “new methodology” for relations between the Holy See and the “sui iuris” Eastern Churches. The unprecedented meeting was called for by Pope Francis himself, with the intention of conveying his closeness to the Ukrainian Church. A statement from the Holy See Press Office said that the Pope, with his collaborators in the Roman Curia, showed “his appreciation for the history of this Church; its spiritual, liturgical, theological and canonical traditions; and its fidelity to communion with the Successor of Peter, confirmed and sealed with the blood of the martyrs…”

Jordan buckling under pressure of growing refugee crisis (Fox News) While the Kingdom has remained afloat as neighboring Syria and Iraq faced civil war and the rise of ISIS, Jordan is on the frontline as millions from across the war-torn region seek refuge in one of the only stable countries they can access. Jordan’s dangerous geopolitical position, surrounded by civil wars and taking in overwhelming amounts of foreigners, could seriously threaten the survival of one of the only stable regimes left in the Middle East…

Mother hopes for a miracle with Indian nun’s canonization (UCANews.com) Jessy Joppy expects to see the miracle of her 5-year-old son walking on 13 October, the day when Pope Francis is to declare an Indian nun, Blessed Mariam Thresia, a saint. The boy, Ebin Joppy, has been unable to sit or walk since birth and medical treatments have failed to correct his condition. However, the intercession of the nun will work a miracle on the day canonization, his mother believes. ”I expect a miracle,” she said as she lifted her son onto her lap as she sat on the veranda of the Mariam Thresia Pilgrim Center in Kuzhikattussery village in Thrissur district of Kerala state…



Tags: Syria Ethiopia Kerala Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

10 July 2019
J.D. Conor Mauro




An Israeli settler stands beside fences surrounding an Israeli settlement located on the roof in the Arab section of the Old City of Jerusalem on 26 March. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)

Israeli settlers take over east Jerusalem home after court battle (Al Monitor) A Palestinian family was evicted from a home in east Jerusalem near the Old City on Wednesday after Israeli settlers won a court battle that stretched more than two decades, activists said. The apartment in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan was home to a 53-year-old woman and her four children, according to Israeli NGO Peace Now, which opposes Israeli settlement expansion…

Britain is hoarding a treasure no one is allowed to see (The Atlantic) In a storeroom of the British Museum here sits a collection of 11 wood and stone tablets that nobody is allowed to see. They are Christian plaques, or tabots, that represent the Ark of the Covenant, and they belong — though belong in this case is a contested term — to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which believes only its priests should view them. The tabots were seized, along with hundreds of other precious items — processional crosses, gold and silver jewelry, illustrated manuscripts — by the British army in 1868, after it defeated Ethiopian Emperor Tewodros II at the battle of Maqdala. There is hardly a clearer case of officially sanctioned plunder: When Tewodros committed suicide, soldiers ransacked his treasury, then auctioned off their finds among their entourage to pay for the expedition…

Chennai city battles long drought (UCAN India) Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu state with a population of nine million, is in the grip of a drought and resulting water crisis. Public water taps are now dry. Most of the city’s middle class and poor wait each day in long queues for tankers to arrive so that they can fill a few plastic buckets with barely enough water for drinking let alone cooking and bathing.

New institutes of Coptic studies founded in Egyptian public universities (Fides) In an unprecedented initiative, Egyptian political institutions have decided to invest resources to support the opening of institutes, centers and departments in public universities dedicated to the study and enhancement of the Coptic language and cultural heritage. The first institute of Coptic Studies was already inaugurated at the University of Alexandria, in collaboration with the Coptic Orthodox Church…



Tags: India Palestine Ethiopian Orthodox Church Coptic Christians Drought

8 July 2019
J.D. Conor Mauro




Pope Francis greets a woman and child during a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on 8 July 2019, commemorating the sixth anniversary of his visit to the southern Mediterranean island of Lampedusa. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)

On Lampedusa anniversary, pope prays for suffering migrants (Crux) At a time when the immigration issue is becoming more contentious across the globe — especially in Europe — Pope Francis offered a Mass on Monday commemorating his visit to Lampedusa six years ago, praying for all migrants who have either died or been abused along their route…

Migrant-rescuing sea captain discusses challenges (Der Spiegel) Carola Rackete saved 53 migrants adrift at sea. In an interview, she discusses the hardships on board, her arrest in Italy and the failure of European immigration policy…

Project helps young Christians in the Gaza Strip find jobs (Fides) Nine months ago, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, in cooperation of the Holy Family Parish, launched a job-creation and capacity-building program in the Gaza Strip. Today, the 20 Christian youth benefiting from the program are reaping the fruits of their work and seeing new career prospects from this project…

Jobs don’t come easy for India’s poor Christians (UCAN India) Among all religious groupings, Christian males have the highest unemployment rates in India, according to the Periodic Labor Force Survey 2017-18…

127 churches in Egypt receive legal status (Christian Today) Egypt has authorized the legalization of 127 congregations that were previously operating without a government permit in the latest wave of church approvals…



Tags: India Egypt Gaza Strip/West Bank Migrants Employment

28 June 2019
Greg Kandra




After a failed coup attempt in Ethiopia, the state-run television says hundreds have been arrested. (video: AfricaNews/YouTube)

Hundreds arrested in Ethiopia after failed coup attempt (Al Jazeera) Nearly 250 people have been arrested in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa and the city of Bahir Dar since a coup attempt was foiled, the state-run Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation reported on Thursday. The state broadcaster did not give any more details on who was arrested or when. But a party based in the northern region — the National Movement of Amhara (NAMA) — earlier said 56 of its members had been detained in Addis Ababa on Wednesday…

U.S. official: Christians in Iraq face uncertain future (CNA) The security of Christians in Northern Iraq remains “tenuous” and will require close attention in the future, the State Department’s religious freedom ambassador told members of Congress on Thursday…

Christians face new threats of persecution in Modi’s India (UCANews.com) With Prime Minister Narendra Modi starting his second term after leading his pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to victory in India’s recent election, complaints of violence are growing from the country’s persecuted Christians. Christians face a new wave of threats from Hindu groups after the BJP retained its grip on power in May…

Anti-Syrian refugee sentiment rising in Lebanon (Al Jazeera) Anti-Syrian refugee sentiment is on the rise in Lebanon. The country has the highest number of refugees per capita and many blame their presence for its economic crisis. Rights groups say the government is now pressuring Syrians to return home by making it harder to stay...

Egypt’s Coptic Christians claim they are being shut out of football (EuroNews.com) Many call it the People’s Game, but in Egypt there are claims that football is not for everyone. Coptic Christians say they’re being shut out of the sport in the overwhelmingly Muslim country. Football coach Mina Bindari felt so strongly about the issue that he set up his own “Je Suis” football academy for Copts, to provide them with a path to advance in the sport…



Tags: Ethiopia Iraqi Christians Coptic Christians Persecution

27 June 2019
Greg Kandra




A Catholic church destroyed by Islamic State militants in Karamdes, Iraq, is examined by a priest following the 2016 liberation of the predominantly Christian town. The U.S. State Department has released a new report detailing continued attacks against religious minorities around the world. (photo: CNS/courtesy Archdiocese of Irbil)

U.S. report documents attacks on religious freedom worldwide (CNS) The State Department’s newly released annual report on international religious freedom shows continued attacks and abuse by governments and societies against religious minorities in their respective countries…

Russian Orthodox Church plans ’Orthodox Vatican’ for Moscow (The Moscow Times) The Russian Orthodox Church has developed plans to construct its own Vatican to the tune of $2 billion in the Moscow region, the Vedomosti business daily reported on Thursday. Church officials have been in talks with officials in the city of Sergiyev Posad to transform it into the capital of Orthodoxy since 2017...

Gaza arson balloons spark 19 fires (The Times of Israel) Incendiary balloons launched from the Gaza Strip started 19 fires in southern Israel on Wednesday, according to authorities. The southern branch of the Fire and Rescue services said the blazes were quickly extinguished and that investigators determined they were started by arson balloons…

Catholics battle human trafficking in India (UCANews.com) The Global Slavery Index estimates that there are some eight million trafficking victims living in India, but the figure can vary according to definitions that are applied. For example, according to Indian government statistics, 8,132 cases of human trafficking were reported in 2016. Nonetheless, even the official figures indicated that the problem is getting worse as this constituted a 20 percent increase on 2015. Caritas-India in 2017 launched the ‘Swaraksha’ (self-defense) anti-human trafficking program near the Indo-Nepal border where most cases are reported…

Canadian-Indian development group with Sisters of St. Joseph offers support in rural India (Catholic Register) After 42 years of digging wells, setting up water purification systems, organizing villagers to demand better education, health care, roads and infrastructure, a little Canadian-Indian development agency estimates it has helped four million people live a better life in rural India…

Attacks threaten Ethiopia’s reforms (Reuters) The attacks, described by the government as part of a coup attempt in Amhara, highlight the dangers Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed faces as he rolls out ambitious reforms in Africa’s second most populous nation — a regional powerhouse whose economic boom is now threatened by deepening ethnic and regional fissures…



Tags: India Gaza Strip/West Bank Russian Orthodox Church Persecution

26 June 2019
Greg Kandra




In this image from 2016, women walk along a street in Asmara, Eritrea. Eritrea's Catholics are being asked to pray and fast in response to the government's move to close Catholic hospitals.
(photo: CNS/Thomas Mukoya, Reuters)


Eritrea’s faithful praying, fasting after closure of Catholic hospitals (Vatican News) Seventeen days of fasting and prayer. That’s what Eritrea’s Catholics are being asked to do in response to the government’s decision to nationalize all Church-run hospitals. Archbishop Abune Menghesteab Tesfamariam, of Asmara, announced the move in a letter dated 22 June. In his letter, the Archbishop condemned the decision to close Catholic-run health facilities, saying “only the Lord can console us and resolve our problems”…

Ethiopia’s chief of staff killed in failed coup plot (Vatican News) Security forces have deployed in strength across the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. Internet access and some telephone circuits have been blocked. The personal bodyguard of General Seare Mekonnen — the chief of staff of the Ethiopian army — shot him dead after he and another officer attempted to prevent a coup against the administration in the northern Amhara region…

Thousands of refugees returning to Syria face prison, torture (NPR) President Bashar al-Assad has called on the millions of Syrians who’ve fled the brutal civil war to return home, but thousands who have come back end up imprisoned and often tortured…

Mob lynchings spread to India’s heartland (UCANews.com) The mob lynching of a Muslim man in India’s Jharkhand state shows religious hate is spreading to the peace-loving people in the tribal heartland, church leaders and tribal activists say. The death of 24-year-old Tabrej Ansari was the third incident in the state in two years and the latest in a series of such incidents at the hands of Hindu groups who want to make India a Hindu-only nation…



Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Eritrea

25 June 2019
Greg Kandra




Security personnel investigate the scene of a bomb explosion on 9 April 2017, inside the Orthodox Church of St. George in Tanta, Egypt. The Holy See is calling for tolerance and inclusivity to combat terrorism against religion. (photo: CNS/Khaled Elfiqi, EPA)

Holy See urges tolerance to combat terrorism against religion (Vatican News) The Holy See is urging patience, perseverance, wisdom, courage and leadership in countering terrorism against every religion by fostering tolerance and inclusivity. ”I hope we will all become part of the short- and long-term solution,” Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in New York, urged on Monday at an event on countering terrorism and other acts of violence against all religious believers by fostering a culture of tolerance and inclusivity…

Iran president calls U.S. sanctions ’outrageous and idiotic’ (USA Today) Iran President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday mocked President Donald Trump’s decision to impose “outrageous and idiotic” new sanctions, saying the effort to target top Iranian authorities reflects confusion at the White House…

Melkite bishops call for peace in Syria during synod (CNS) Melkite Catholic bishops from around the world, gathering in Lebanon for their annual synod, called for reconciliation and peace in Syria. In Syria, the war is almost over, but the horizon is unclear,” the bishops said in a statement following the 17-21 June gathering, which was led by Melkite Catholic Patriarch Joseph Absi…

The biggest displacement crisis that almost no one is talking about (Slate) The world’s largest new population of displaced people results from a conflict that has received shockingly little international attention: More than 1.5 million people were displaced by violence in Ethiopia last year, nearly all of them internally. This increase doubled the total number of displaced people in the country…

Indian cardinal celebrates Corpus Christi in Italy with a special chalice (Vatican News) Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Mumbai, celebrated the solemnity of Corpus Christi in the Cathedral of Orvieto, Italy, on Sunday, bringing along with him a precious chalice where it originated over five decades ago. For the occasion, a delegation from Mumbai Archdiocese brought the “Golden Lily” chalice which Pope St. Paul VI had gifted the archdiocese when he visited the western Indian city in December 1964…



Tags: India Ethiopia Holy See Melkite

24 June 2019
Greg Kandra




In this image from 2018, Pope Francis greets Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople outside the Basilica of St. Nicholas in Bari, Italy. Continuing a longstanding custom, the Ecumenical Patriarch will send a delegation to Rome this week to mark the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
(photo: CNS/Vatican Media)


Ecumenical Patriarch’s delegation to visit Rome (Vatican News) An official delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in Istanbul, Turkey, will be in Rome, 27-29 June, on the occasion of the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, 29 June. St. Peter, the first ?bishop of Rome, ?and St. Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, were both martyred in Rome and are patrons of the Eternal City. Their feast is a holiday both in Rome and in the Vatican. Each year, the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Vatican send delegations for the feasts of their respective patrons. The Vatican sends a delegation to Istanbul on the 30 November feast of St. Andrew, the patron of the Patriarchate…

Tent collapse kills 14 at Hindu event in India (Vatican News) Locals in the Barmer district of India’s northwestern state of Rajasthan were gathered on Sunday for a Hindu religious event that took place during heavy rain and a thunderstorm. Video footage showed the man leading the event, Murlidhar Maharaj, shouting for the assembly to disperse, as wind could be heard rattling the venue. Witnesses said a stampede-like situation followed…

Russian Orthodox Church reconsiders blessing of missiles (The Telegraph) The Russian Orthodox Church is reconsidering the popular practice of priests blessing weapons including nuclear missiles. A document drafted by a commission on church law last week recommended that clergy perform benedictions for soldiers rather than military equipment…

UN warns of humanitarian disaster in Syria’s Idlib (Al Jazeera) In Syria, the devastation of continued air raids on Idlib is being laid bare. Nearly 500 civilians — many of them women and children — have been killed since the Russia-backed Syrian government offensive began nine weeks ago…

Iran faces new U.S. sanctions, threatens to shoot down another drone (CBS News) President Trump planned to unveil new sanctions against Iran on Monday as the U.S. and Iran traded more threats of military action. The tension could reach a new high with the expected sanctions, the latest response from Washington to Iran’s shooting down of a U.S. spy drone. Iran insists the drone and an accompanying U.S. manned military plane violated its airspace, but the Pentagon says the aircraft remained over international waters…

Conflict between Christians, Muslims in Ethiopia over planned mosque (BBC) For Ethiopia’s Orthodox Christians, the ancient city of Aksum is a sacred place, home to the Biblical Queen of Sheba and Ark of the Covenant. The ark is believed to contain the 10 commandments handed down to Moses by God, and is said to be under the guard of monks in the city. Some Muslim groups are campaigning to build a mosque in the city — a suggestion rejected by Christian leaders, saying they would rather die…



Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I





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