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




In this image from 2016, Syrian girls walk near garbage inside an informal refugee camp in Zahle, Lebanon. (photo: CNS/Mohamed Azakir, Reuters)

Syrian refugees face growing pressure to return to insecure conditions (The Washington Post) With resettlement increasingly less possible and the domestic instability surrounding fears of naturalization, the regional and global push for the return of Syrian refugees is underway. In most instances, however, it is premature for the proper conditions of a sustainable, safe, secure and dignified repatriation to occur. Refugees are, thus, at risk of forced return to Syria, the result of shifting norms in the existing refugee solutions model…

Pope approves canonization of Syro-Malabar sister, Cardinal Newman (Vatican News) Pope Francis on Tuesday cleared the way for the sainthood of renowned English Cardinal John Henry Newman and an Indian nun, and brought six others a step closer to canonization. The Pope received in audience Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints and authorized him to promulgated two decrees on miracles for sainthood, a decree on martyrdom and five on heroic virtues…

India’s parliament shelves citizenship bill (UCANews.com) The upper house of India’s parliament has shelved a controversial bill on citizenship amid prayers by tribal Christians for its defeat…

Decision to raze Palestinian Islamic cemetery in Jerusalem denounced (WAFA) The Islamic-Christian Committee to Defend Jerusalem and the Holy Sites denounced Israel’s decision to raze the remaining part of an ancient Palestinian Islamic cemetery in Jerusalem. The Committee’s Secretary-General Hanna Issa denounced Israel’s decision to raze the remaining part of Ma’man Allah (Mamilla) Cemetery as a prelude to the construction of new roads and public buildings as a gross encroachment upon the inviolability of the cemetery, which enflames Muslims and Jerusalemites’ sensibilities…

Author holds up martyred Copts as model for contemporary Christians (Crux) Four years ago this week, 21 men were videotaped on a beach in Libya as their ISIS captors beheaded them one by one. Of the 21 victims, 20 were Coptic Christians from Egypt who had migrated to Libya for work. In his new book, The 21: A Journey into the Land of Coptic Martyrs, German novelist and poet Martin Mosebach chronicles his travels through Upper Egypt, where he met with the families and priests of the martyrs. Mosebach believes Coptic Christianity offers a purer form of the faith from which modern believers should seek to learn…



Tags: Syria India Refugees Palestine Syro-Malabar Catholic Church

12 February 2019
Greg Kandra




In this image from 2016, Pope Francis greets Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad, Iraq, during a meeting in Tbilisi, Georgia. Cardinal Sako has expressed his hope that Pope Francis will visit Iraq. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Top Iraqi Catholic says country’s Christians ‘really need’ a papal visit (Crux) Though reaction to Pope Francis’s recent joint declaration with the leader of Al-Azhar, arguably the most important figure in the Sunni Muslim world, received a mixed verdict — from being hailed as historic, to being dismissed as another feel-good statement without teeth — few men have more reason for wanting it to be the former than Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako. The Patriarch of Iraq’s Chaldean Catholic Church, Sako is among those who openly described the 3-5 February papal visit to United Arab Emirates, the first ever to the Arabian peninsula, as “historic” and the declaration on “Human Fraternity for world peace and living together” signed by Francis and Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the grand imam of Egypt’s Al-Azhar, as a “seed for a possible papal visit to Iraq…”

Forces strike Syria mosque being used as ISIS command center (Haaretz) The U.S.-led coalition says it has hit a mosque used by Islamic State as a command and control center in eastern Syria. The coalition said Tuesday it launched the strike in support of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, who are fighting to drive the extremists from their last tiny stronghold near the border with Iraq. It said the strike occurred Monday as Islamic State was using the mosque to direct attacks and employ suicide car bombs against the SDF…

Egyptian authorities arrest students for mocking Christianity online (AFP) Egyptian authorities have arrested four students for mocking Christian rituals in an online video and ordered them to be kept in custody for four days, a judicial source said Monday. The university students aged between 19 and 24 were accused of being in “contempt of the Christian religion”, the source said…

In Ethiopia, climate change leads herders to retrain as farmers (Reuters) With extreme droughts as much as five times more likely than 60 years ago in parts of the country, the estimated 12 million pastoralists in Ethiopia living off flocks of cows, goats and sheep have been hit hard in recent years. In the Hamar region, where Orgo lives, 1.5 million of the 3 million animals that herders owned perished during the particularly brutal 2015-2016 drought, when the region saw poor rainfall for 18 months, according to district authorities…



Tags: Iraq Ethiopia ISIS

11 February 2019
Greg Kandra




Cardinal Peter Turkson is in India to mark the 27th World Day of the Sick.
(video: Vatican Media/YouTube)


Cardinal visits India to promote World Day of the Sick (Vatican News) Cardinal Peter Turkson, the Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, is in Calcutta to celebrate the 27th World Day of the Sick, held annually on 11 February, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. Speaking to Vatican News, the Cardinal says the Pope’s message to the faithful is that there can be no true care without sharing in the situation of those afflicted, by showing compassion and being willing to empathize with the sick…

U.S. general: ’Tens of thousands’ of ISIS fighters remain in Iraq and Syria (CNN) The top US commander in the war against ISIS aligned himself Sunday with the US intelligence community assessment that there are “tens of thousands” of ISIS fighters spread across Syria and Iraq. “They are dispersed and disaggregated, but there is leadership, there are fighters there, there are facilitators there,” Gen. Joseph Votel told reporters traveling with him to the Middle East for his farewell tour…

Former Muslim highlights plight of Christian converts in Iran (Catholic Register) An increase in Muslims converting to Christianity has prompted a crackdown by Iran’s theocratic government, says an Iranian convert to Christianity…

‘Prison of Christ’ reopens in Jerusalem (AFP/Premier.org) Visitors are being allowed back to a place in Jerusalem where some people believe Jesus was held captive prior to his crucifixion. The ‘Prison of Christ’ chapel had been closed to tourists for a number of years while repairs were carried out following a fire which caused significant damage…

African leaders unveil statue of Ethiopia’s last emperor (AP) A statue of Ethiopia’s Emperor Haileselassie has been unveiled at the headquarters of the African Union on Sunday. The statue is the second to be erected inside the continental body’s offices in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, after one of Ghana’s first leader, Kwame Nkrumah, who championed pan-Africanism…



Tags: Syria India Ethiopia Jerusalem ISIS

8 February 2019
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis has made the issue of human trafficking the subject of his prayer intentions for February, as he explains in the video above. Friday, he declared that it is the duty of Christians to raise awareness about this crisis. (video: Rome Reports/YouTube)

Pope: Duty of Christians to raise awareness of human trafficking (Vatican News) Pope Francis on Friday received in audience members of the Galileo Foundation, telling them on the feast day of Saint Josephine Bakhita, the patron of victims of human trafficking, that Christians can follow her great example…

As ISIS shrinks, Syrians return home to discover a wasteland (CNN) As the war against ISIS wanes, civilians returning to their homes in Iraq and Syria are discovering wastelands where towns once stood — urban moonscapes of twisted metal, shattered concrete, unexploded bombs and mines…

Bishop: Abu Dhabi document is a roadmap for interreligious dialogue (Vatican News) Bishop Miguel Ángel Ayuso, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, told Vatican News that the Abu Dhabi document signed by the Pope and the Grand Imam of Al-Ahzar, is a precious roadmap for peace, and contains indications that must be spread throughout the world…

Discovering the ‘second Jerusalem’ for Ethiopia’s Christians (Andalou Agency) The churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia are pieces of architecture that fascinate visitors with their underground constructions. The region is called the “Jerusalem of Ethiopia” as Ethiopian King Gebre Mesqel Lalibela wanted to build a second Jerusalem in the area as the roads leading to Jerusalem were not safe. Each of the structures, constructed underground so enemies could not recognize them, help to understand the strong religious life of Ethiopia during that time through the symbols they reflect…



Tags: Syria Pope Francis Ethiopia Muslim Interreligious

7 February 2019
Greg Kandra




ISIS holdouts are continuing to fight, but many are fleeing the last villages they control in Syria. (video: CBS News/YouTube)

Families and fighters flee ISIS’ last village (BBC) Men, women and children, some with serious injuries, others describing running out of food, have been leaving the group’s rapidly shrinking enclave, which the US military on Tuesday said amounted to about 50 sq km (20 sq miles). They have been arriving at the village of Baghuz to surrender to the US-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)…

Indian court rules change of religion doesn’t alter tribal status (UCANews.com) The high court in India’s Chhattisgarh state has ruled that the tribal status of a person will not alter if they change their religion to Christianity, stressing they can still enjoy state concessions aimed at improving the life of indigenous people…

New hopes for reopening Greek Orthodox seminary on Turkish island (The Washington Post) American presidents, religious freedom advocates, the European Union and Orthodox Christian leaders have for years issued desperate appeals to Turkey’s government to reopen a shuttered Greek Orthodox seminary on an island off Istanbul, but to no avail. Before it was closed in 1971, the Theological School of Halki stood for more than a century as the primary center of scholarship and clerical training for generations of Greek Orthodox leaders. Now, stripped of its educational role, its classrooms — emptied by arguments over politics, nationalism and minority rights — are kept pristine in the stubborn hope the students will someday return…

Does God want religious diversity? Abu Dhabi text raises questions (CNS) That many religions exist in the world is a fact, but what that plurality communicates to believers about God is a question that theologians are still discussing. Pope Francis and Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar, a leading authority for many Sunni Muslims, stepped into the debate on 4 February when they signed a document on “human fraternity” and improving Christian-Muslim relations…

Orthodox Church changes jurisdictions (AsiaNews) The Russian Orthodox parish of San Remo, whose priest Dionisij Bajkov had been suspended in recent days by the Greek metropolitan of Italy Ghennadios (Zervos), has left the jurisdiction of Constantinople to join the Russian Orthodox Church abroad, the so-called Zarubežnaja. The parish priest with the community members also invited the other parishes of the former Russian archdiocese of Europe to join the new destination…



Tags: Syria India Turkey ISIS

6 February 2019
Greg Kandra




The video above shows highlights of Pope Francis' historic trip to the UAE.
(video: Vatican Media/YouTube)


Pope confers honor on Imam’s former councillor (Vatican News) Pope Francis has conferred the ‘Commenda con Placca dell’Ordine Piano’ upon Dr. Mohamed Mahmoud Abdel Salam, former councillor of the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, in gratitude for his work in strengthening relations between al-Azhar and the Catholic Church…

Iraq cardinal calls for end to persecution (The National) The mistreatment of Christians in the Middle East remains one of Pope Francis’ primary concerns, especially as the region remains engulfed in conflicts from Iraq to Syria and Yemen, according to the head of Iraq’s Catholic Church. Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans and head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, told The National that Pope Francis is seeking to turn a page in Christian-Muslim relations…

Politics suspected in burning of Marian statue in India (UCANews.com) A Marian statue was set on fire in India’s Madhya Pradesh state in the latest attack against Christians amid reports that more than 1,000 such attacks have occurred in the past year. Church leaders suspect the attack could have political undertones ahead of the national election due to take place in two months…

School in India celebrates Don Bosco (Vatican News) A Catholic school in extreme north-east India celebrated the feast of Don Bosco with an exhibition to promote and strengthen friendship with the created world. The Light of the World School (LWS) in Miao Diocese in Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh organized the exhibition on the theme, ‘Peace with Nature’ on the occasion of the 31 January feast of Don Bosco…

The Syrian-Armenian refugee jewelers of Yerevan (Al Jazeera) Vahe Hovhannesian is one of tens of thousands of Christian Armenians who have returned in the wake of Syria’s civil war. Two years ago, he was living in Aleppo, dodging snipers on his way to work…



Tags: Syria India Iraq Pope Francis Arabs

5 February 2019
J.D. Conor Mauro




People wait for Pope Francis’ arrival to celebrate Mass at Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, 5 February 2019. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis, amid Abu Dhabi’s opulence, celebrates Mass for its migrants (New York Times) The opulence of Abu Dhabi is not subtle. Bentleys line the roads, glass skyscrapers rise like blades over corporate business parks, a multibillion dollar hotel once used jewels as ornaments, and the presidential palace gleams with marble and sparkles with crystal chandeliers. But valeting those cars, cleaning those hotel rooms, servicing those high-rise elevators and preparing watermelon appetizers for guests in the presidential palace are millions of migrants, many of whom are Catholics from India, the Philippines and South America. On Tuesday, the last day of his 40-hour visit to the United Arab Emirates, Pope Francis came to speak to them directly…

Vicar of Aleppo says pope and imam deliver ‘Magna Carta’ for Islamic-Christian relations (AsiaNews) The document signed yesterday by Pope Francis and the great imam of Al Azhar, Ahmad Muhammad al Tayyib, in the context of the pope’s trip to the Emirates “may represent the new Magna Carta” in Christian-Muslim relations. Bishop Georges Abou Khazen, apostolic vicar of Aleppo, commented to AsiaNews on the “historic visit not only for the East, but for the whole world” from a political and religious point of view…

‘Zero tolerance towards sexual assault’: Kerala Catholic Bishops’ body issues guidelines (UCAN-India) Reporting sexual offence cases to concerned authorities, cooperating in the investigation, avoiding inappropriate physical contact with minors and abstaining from taking overnight trips with them, are some of the key guidelines issued by the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council to church personnel in the backdrop of sexual assault cases tumbling out from within the community…

Iran ready to help rebuild Syria, says foreign minister (Al Monitor) Iran is ready to help rebuild Syria, the Islamic republic’s top diplomat said Tuesday as he hosted his Syrian counterpart in Tehran. Mohammad Javad Zarif, whose country has been a staunch ally to Damascus throughout Syria’s devastating war, met Walid Mouallem for closed-door talks at the Islamic republic’s foreign ministry. Damascus and Tehran signed a string of deals late last month, including a long-term economic cooperation agreement…

Search for Iraq’s stolen artifacts gets serious (AINA) Before Islamic State militants were forced from Iraq in 2017, they stole thousands of ancient artifacts. Most are still missing. Now, an international team of archaeologists is working to recover as many of the stolen national treasures as possible. Bruno Deslandes is an expert on historic buildings at UNESCO, the United Nations cultural agency. “We’re trying to recover a lot of artifacts and need all local and international resources to work. Iraq cannot do this on its own,” he said…

C.R.S. steps up as millions in Ethiopia displaced by flooding, ethnic violence (Crux) With millions of Ethiopians forced out of their homes, Catholic Relief Services is working with the local Catholic Church to offer immediate relief and to address the root causes of their displacement. Some 2.7 million people have fled their homes in Ethiopia in the last year, uprooted by devastating floods and violent land disputes between the Gedeo and Guji comminutes in the Oromia region of the country…



Tags: Syria India Iraq Pope Francis Arabian Peninsula

4 February 2019
J.D. Conor Mauro




Pope Francis and Sheik Ahmad el Tayeb, grand imam of Egypt’s Al Azhar mosque and university, arrive for an interreligious meeting at the Founder’s Memorial in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, 4 February 2019. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

In heart of Muslim world, pope calls for true religious freedom (Crux) Opening his historic visit to the heart of the Muslim word, Pope Francis on Monday pulled no punches in the United Arab Emirates, calling for true religious freedom while condemning the use of the name of God to justify violence…

Pope Francis seeks dialogue on first trip to UAE (Al Jazeera) Pope Francis started a three-day visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the first for a leader of the Roman Catholic Church in the Arabian Peninsula. Along with Saudi Arabia, the UAE is heavily involved in the war in Yemen — dubbed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis — and has a problematic human rights record. The UAE has also imposed an air, land, and sea blockade on Qatar, which has severely affected relations among Gulf countries over the past two years. Whether Pope Francis will address these issues is not clear, but expectations run high that the pope may do so in private talks with the UAE’s leadership…

U.N. chief hopes for new agreement after Israel concludes international observation mission (U.N. News) Noting a joint statement issued by the Foreign Ministers of the TIPH’s contributing countries — Italy, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey — the Secretary-General conveyed his hope on Friday “that an agreement can be found by the parties to preserve the TIPH’s long-standing and valuable contribution to conflict prevention and the protection of Palestinians in Hebron”…

To fight trafficking, Indian groups turn to the experts: survivors (Christian Science Monitor) Nearly eight million people in India live in modern slavery, according to estimates from the Global Slavery Index, many of whom were trafficked. Nearly 20,000 women and children were victims of trafficking in 2016, according to Indian government data, with the highest number in Bijoya’s state of West Bengal, along the border with Bangladesh. Victims’ advocates warn that the actual number is likely far higher. But even when trafficking victims escape, they face a new set of challenges. Survivors’ perspectives are rarely used to design prevention, rehabilitation, and advocacy processes, their advocates say — and that’s something a survivor group is hoping to change…

U.S. to leave nuclear arms treaty with Russia (Vatican News) The United States says it will stop complying with a nuclear pact with Russia of the Cold War era, raising fears of a new nuclear arms race between the two powers. The announcement comes after last-ditch negotiations to end the standoff collapsed…



Tags: India Pope Francis human trafficking Arabian Peninsula

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





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