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September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
  
21 January 2016
Michael J.L. La Civita




Girls rest after drawing water from a pump built by the Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat of the Eparchy of Adigrat near the village of Mawo. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)

Caritas warns about threat of famine in Ethiopia (Vatican Radio) The Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis, Michel Roy, says the drought in Ethiopia and resulting food shortages means that the nation could slide into a famine situation later this year unless prompt action is taken to tackle this shortfall...

No one is excluded from the mercy of God, pope says at audience (CNS) The pope said that although divisions are often caused by selfishness, the common baptism shared by Christians is an experience of being “called from the merciless and alienating darkness” to an encounter with God who is “full of mercy...”

Lebanon’s Christian foes become friends (Al-Monitor) The meeting 18 January between the leaders of the two largest Christian parties and parliamentary blocs in Lebanon — Gen. Michel Aoun, former leader of the Free Patriotic Movement and the Change and Reform bloc, and Samir Geagea, the head of the Lebanese Forces — can be described as a miracle...

Vocations bloom in the desert: two priests are ordained in United Arab Emirates (CNA) Last week Catholics in Southern Arabia gathered in Abu Dhabi to celebrate the ordination of two Capuchin Franciscan priests by Bishop Paul Hinder, Vicar Apostolic of Southern Arabia...

Armine Sahakyan: The double-edged sword of Russia’s build-up in Armenia (KyivPost) The Russians are rapidly building up their two military bases in Armenia — and cranking up their PR machine to make sure everyone in the region knows take notice...



20 January 2016
J.D. Conor Mauro




St. Elijah Monastery in Mosul, the oldest Christian monastery in Iraq, dates back to the sixth century. (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

ISIS has destroyed one of Iraq’s oldest Christian sites (New York Times) The Islamic State destroyed one of the oldest Christian sites in Iraq as part of its campaign against ancient sites in the country, according to satellite photographs published by The Associated Press on Wednesday and confirmed by Iraqi officials and historians. The monastery of St. Elijah, or Dair Mar Elia, stood for more than 1,400 years above a riverbed south of the city of Mosul, which the Islamic State seized from Iraqi forces in June 2014. The satellite photographs — taken by DigitalGlobe, a private company with headquarters in Westminster, Colo. — showed that the monastery was razed in late August or September 2014, including the site’s square complex of partly ruined rooms and a largely intact sanctuary that dated from the 11th century…

U.N. agency calls on donors to support Syrian farmers in their hour of need (U.N. News Center) With the war in Syria now approaching its sixth year, agricultural production has plummeted and food supplies are at an all-time low, pushing millions of people into hunger, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization stressed today, calling on governments to boost funding to help farmers keep their lands in production and prevent the situation from deteriorating even further…

Syrian Orthodox patriarch organizes a meeting with diplomats in Damascus (Fides) His Beatitude Mar Ignatius Aphrem II, Syrian Orthodox patriarch of Antioch, organized a reception to mark the start of the new year where all the diplomats accredited to the Arab Republic of Syria were invited. The reception was held yesterday at the patriarchal seat, in the district of Bab Tuma, the area of the Old City of Damascus. During his speech to diplomats accredited to the government of Damascus, Patriarch Mar Ignatius Aphrem reiterated that terrorism and the ongoing war in Syria are fed from the outside, and has renewed his appeal for international support towards the Syrian people…

Pope Francis receives invitation to visit Rome’s mosque (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday received a delegation of Muslims who presented him with an invitation to visit the Mosque of Rome. The delegation included the imam Yahya Pallavicini from COREIS (The Islamic Community of Italy) and Abdellah Redouane, the director of the Islamic Cultural Center of Italy…

Timket colorfully celebrated in Ethiopia (Ethiosports) Timket (Ethiopian Epiphany), which marks the Baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist in the Jordan River was colorfully celebrated throughout Ethiopia today. Timket is usually observed on 19 January; because this year is a leap year, it is celebrated today. The patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, His holiness Abune Mathias, spoke after a benediction to the crowd gathered at Jal Meda, urging those with wealth to share it with the less fortunate…



Tags: Syria Iraq Ethiopia Monastery Catholic-Muslim relations

19 January 2016
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis listens as Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni, the chief rabbi of Rome, speaks during during the pope’s visit to the main synagogue in Rome on Sunday 17 January. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope visits Rome synagogue (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday became the third pope to visit Rome’s synagogue in a sign of continuing Catholic-Jewish friendship. During the visit that featured welcome speeches by prominent members of Rome’s Jewish community and a speech by the Pope, Francis greeted a number of people including several Holocaust survivors...

Report: Nearly 19,000 civilians killed in Iraq over 21 months (CNN) Nearly 19,000 civilians were killed in Iraq between January 2014 and October 2015 — a toll the United Nations calls “staggering” in a new report. The report, released Tuesday, outlines the horrific impact that Iraq’s ongoing conflict is having on its civilian population...

Vatican official: Dialogue is the only way to counter extremism (Vatican Radio) Father Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, the Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, on Sunday said “to counter extremism we have to commit ourselves to a sincere dialogue.” He was speaking at the First Arab Thinkers Forum at the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research in Abu Dhabi...

Pope to migrants: Do not be robbed of hope, joy of living (CNS) Welcoming thousands of migrants and refugees to the Vatican for their own Year of Mercy celebration, Pope Francis urged them to resist everything that would rob them of hope and joy. “Each of you is the bearer of a history, culture and precious values and, unfortunately, also often of experiences of poverty, oppression and fear,” the pope said on 17 January. But gathering in St. Peter’s Square for the Holy Year “is a sign of hope in God. Don’t allow yourselves to be robbed of hope and the joy of living, which spring from the experience of divine mercy, also thanks to the people who welcomed and helped you...”

Report: Hundreds of cases of anti-Christian violence in India (Fides) In 2015 over 200 anti-Christian violence occurred. Seven Protestant pastors and one lay person were killed, while the victims of violence as a whole are about 8,000, including women and children...

Believers celebrate Orthodox Epiphany with icy plunge (AP) Believers in St Petersburg, Russia, celebrate Orthodox Epiphany on Monday by taking a dip in icy cold water. The event started with a procession to the water, which was then blessed by a priest.Swimming in icy water is a traditional way for the Russian faithfuls to celebrate Epiphany...



15 January 2016
J.D. Conor Mauro




Mersen Chala shows a picture of his brother, Dinka Chala, who was killed by Ethiopian forces on 16 December for alleged participation in protests. (photo: Zacharias Abebeker/AFP/Getty Images)

Ethiopia confronts its worst ethnic violence in years (Washington Post) The cows are back in the valley near the village of Wenchi in Ethiopia’s highlands, after being driven out five years ago by the arrival of a Dutch agricultural company. They returned in the past few weeks, after villagers burned the warehouses filled with seed potatoes that were to be planted on communal grazing lands that authorities had turned over to the Solagrow PLC company. This attack is among dozens of demonstrations taking place for the past two months across Ethiopia’s Oromia region, which comprises a third of the country. Protesters from the Oromo ethnic group say the government is trying to take away their lands and use them for everything from industrial development to luxury housing projects. The response has been harsh; as many as 140 people have been killed by security forces using live rounds to quell the protests…

ISIS releases 16 Christian hostages of Khabur (Fides) Yesterday, ISIS released 16 more Assyrian Christians who were part of the large group of hostages that they captured and deported on 23 February, following an offensive against the predominantly Christian Assyrian villages scattered along the Khabur valley river of Hassake. Eight members of the group of released hostages were children. All appeared in decent condition. “This time,” said Syriac Catholic Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo of Hassake-Nisibis, “the hostages released were left near the city of Tel Tamar, and from there were able to reach their village of Tel Jazira…”

Mini-republics: A Syrian village seeks to survive amid carnage (Der Spiegel) Even as war continues to rage in Syria, normal people in the country are doing their best to survive in places like the village of Korin. It has transformed into a kind of mini-republic and has WiFi on the town square. But its population is slowly dwindling…

Russian military declares new objective: Humanitarian aid in Syria (Reuters) Russia’s defence ministry said on Friday a new objective of Russian forces in Syria was to provide humanitarian aid. Russian air force planes have delivered 24 tons of aid in the region around the eastern Syrian city of Deir Ezzor, a ministry official said in a televised briefing…

United Methodist Church blacklists five Israeli banks (United Methodist Church) A recent decision by the United Methodist Church’s pension fund to halt investments in five Israeli banks is in keeping with its plan to use a human rights guideline for investments, announced a year ago. The banks are Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, First International Bank of Israel, Israel Discount Bank and Bank Mizrahi-Tefahot. In a recent press release, United Methodist Kairos Response, an advocacy group, said it was pleased with the pension agency’s action. The group called the move “the first time a major church pension fund has acted to preclude investment in Israeli banks that sustain Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land…”



Tags: Syria Ethiopia Israel ISIS

14 January 2016
Greg Kandra




In the video above, officials describe efforts to bring humanitarian relief to the starving city of Madaya in Syria. (video: Rome Reports)

Aid begins arriving in besieged Syrian city of Madaya (CNN) A second aid convoy is on the way to the besieged Syrian city of Madaya, where numerous people are reportedly starving, according to a U.N. source in the convoy. The new convoy is made up of about 50 trucks carrying wheat flour, medicine, blankets and winter clothes, the source said early Thursday. The source said the convoy hopes to reach Madaya shortly...

Dramatic conditions of Iraqi and Syrian children (L’Osservatore Romano) Women and children are the primary victims of the horrors that accompany the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, which are mostly the work of the so-called Islamic State. British daily newspaper, Daily Mail, reports the testimony of several young people who have escaped the Jihadist group in northern Iraq. These witnesses stated that they were trained — brain-washed — to sacrifice themselves as suicide bombers...

Watchdog group: 2015 “worst year” for Christian persecution (RNS) With North Korea leading the way and Islamic extremism rapidly expanding, 2015 was the “worst year in modern history for Christian persecution,” according to a group tracking this issue. Iraq is in second place on Open Doors’ 2016 World Watch List, a ranking of the top 50 most dangerous places in the world to be a Christian. It’s the first of 35 countries on the list where Islamic extremism “has risen to a level akin to ethnic cleansing,” said the report, released Wednesday...

Update on refugee families being housed at Vatican parishes (Vatican Radio) Two refugee families are now being hosted by the two parishes of the Vatican, in response to the 6 September 2015, Angelus appeal of Pope Francis for every parish in Europe to welcome a family of refugees...

Meeting street children is like meeting Christ (Fides) Meeting, visiting, assisting street children means encountering Christ: this is what a group of young Catholics in Nagpur, a city in central India experienced when they went in search of street children. Pushpa Singh, one of the young people involved, told Fides: “At Epiphany, the Wise Men make their way to the Child Jesus. For us it was the same experience. We saw the Child Jesus in the poor, marginalized, abandoned children”...

Closed Catholic church in Pennsylvania reopens as Russian Orthodox (Wilkes Barre Times Leader) After being vacant for more than three years, the former St. Rocco’s Roman Catholic Church on the corner of Tompkins and West Oak streets has reopened its doors as St. Irene Russian Orthodox Outside Church of Russia. The church plans to open more doors in the community by purchasing homes in the Greater Pittston area for parishioners in need...



13 January 2016
Greg Kandra




Syrian children are rescued from the wreckage after Russian airstrike hit a school at Zibdiyye neighborhood in Aleppo, Syria. (photo: Andalou Agency/Getty Images)

U.N. relief official calls for immediate end to blockades in Syria (The New York Times) The head of the United Nations’ relief efforts for Syria pleaded with all warring parties on Tuesday to lift their sieges on key towns and let aid agencies deliver food and medical care to people stuck behind front lines. “The immediate thing to be done is to lift sieges everywhere,” the humanitarian coordinator for Syria, Yacoub El Hillo, told reporters by phone from Damascus, the Syrian capital, where he is based...

Eight children, teacher killed in Russian airstrike in Syria (Reuters) Eight children and their teacher were killed by a Russian airstrike that hit a school in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo on Monday, according to a leading human rights monitor. The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that more than 20 people were also injured in the strike, all of whom were teachers and students at a school in the town of Anjara, located around nine miles north of the city of Aleppo. The death toll is expected to rise as the search for survivors in the rubble of the school building continues, Al Jazeera reports...

U.S.-led coalition destroys ISIS cash storehouse in Iraq (USA TODAY) Airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition blew up a warehouse in Iraq where the Islamic State had stored millions of dollars in cash, the U.S. military disclosed Tuesday. Coalition aircraft targeted a “cash distribution center” near Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, which is under control of the extremist group, the U.S military said in a daily report on details of airstrikes...

Pope prays for victims in Turkey (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis Wednesday remembered the victims of Tuesday’s suicide bomb attack in Istanbul which left ten people dead...

Archbishop advocates for Christian schools in Jordan (Fides) In the historical life of the Churches in the Middle East, there has always been a valuable role carried out by Christian schools especially in the present scenario ravaged by sectarian conflict. This was strongly advocated by Archbishop Maroun Lahham, Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, during his intervention at the conference for the training of Catholic school head masters being held in Amman...

Dialogue between Vishnus and Christians in India (Fides) In India there is need to bear witness to the power of prayer combined with action to build a community of peace and harmony: this is the result of the recent session of dialogue between Christians and Vishnus, which was attended by the Office for Interreligious Dialogue and Ecumenism in the Bishops’ Conference of India...



12 January 2016
Greg Kandra




Turkish police secure the area after an explosion on 12 January 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey. At least 10 people have been killed and 15 wounded in a suicide bombing near tourists in the central Istanbul historic Sultanahmet district, which is home to world-famous monuments including the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. Turkish President Erdogan has stated that the suicide bomber was of Syrian origin. (photo: Can Erok/Getty Images)

Vatican expresses sorrow over Turkey bombing (Vatican Radio) Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, on Tuesday expressed his sorrow for the terrorist attack which took place in Istanbul, Turkey. “What is happening [in Turkey] pains us. What is happening there, what continues to repeat itself, confirms that the best medicine in the face of these evils is always mercy”...

Pope acknowledges appointment of new bishop in Kerala (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Tuesday acknowledged the appointment of a new auxiliary bishop to a diocese in southern India’s Kerala state belonging to the eastern rite Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. At its meeting at Mount Saint Thomas in Kerala, the Syro-Malabar Church Synod elected Father Jose Pulickal as Auxiliary Bishop of Kanjirapally, headed by Bishop Mathew Arackal. Unlike in the Latin-rite Church where the Pope directly appoints bishops, the synods of eastern-rite Catholic churches have the autonomy of appointing their own bishops, to which the Pope gives his assent...

Kurdish militants attack checkpoint controlled by Christians (Fides) Kurdish militiamen of the YPG yesterday attacked by surprise a checkpoint in the Governorate of Qamishli in northeastern Syria, which was presided by men belonging to the militia of the self-defense Sootoro, formed mainly of Syrian and Assyrian Christians who act in coordination with the Syrian government army. The Kurdish attack provoked a firefight, which lasted an hour, during which — according to reports from the Assyrian International News Agency — the Assyrian militant David Gabriel was killed, and three Kurdish soldiers were injured. According to other sources, the three Kurdish soldiers may have also died...

U.S. bishop says Palestinians in Cremisan Valley have “lost hope” (CNS) A U.S. bishop visiting the Holy Land for the second year in a row said Palestinians whose land has been divided by the Israeli separation barrier “have lost hope.” “It was very sad to see the present situation where individuals have their lands confiscated and trees uprooted,” said Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico. “This is a sign of something much larger. It seems to be a diminishing of the rights of Palestinians to be there and a lack of acknowledgment of their legitimate right to be present whether in the state of Israel or in Palestinian lands.” Bishop Cantu and 12 bishops from Europe, South Africa and North America visited the Cremisan Valley 10 January as part of the Holy Land Coordination, in which they come to show solidarity with Palestinian Christians...



Tags: Syria Palestine Israel Kerala Turkey

11 January 2016
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis addresses the diplomatic corps at the Vatican on 11 January. During his speech, the pope dedicated key parts to the “grave crisis of migration.”
(photo: CNS/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)


Pope Francis addresses “grave crisis” of migration in speech (L’Osservatore Romano) In his speech to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See, Pope Francis dedicated the most significant passages to “the grave crisis of migration which we are facing.” The diplomats had gathered in the Regia Hall on Monday morning, 11 January, for the traditional audience at the beginning of the year. The choice was motivated by the Pope’s wish to help discern the causes of the crisis and “consider possible solutions,” in order to defeat “the inevitable fears associated with this massive and formidable phenomenon”...

Vatican promotes message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees (Vatican Radio) The World Day of Migrants and Refugees will be celebrated on Sunday 17 January 2016. Pope Francis’ message to mark the day was released in October 2015. Based on the theme, “Migrants and Refugees Challenge Us. The Response of the Gospel of Mercy,” the Holy Father recalls what he said in the Bull of indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, Misericordiae Vultus; that is, “at times we are called to gaze even more attentively on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father’s action in our lives”...

In Gaza, visiting bishops see signs of hope amid continued destruction (CNS) From a new playground at the Catholic parish in Gaza to transitional housing provided by a U.S. agency, visiting bishops from three continents said they saw signs of hope and resilience amid the continuing poverty and destruction in the Gaza Strip. “There is still a lot of suffering, but I’ve seen more signs of hope. This year one of the main things (that impressed me) was this sort of hope,” said Bishop Lionel Gendron of St. Jean-Longueuil, Quebec. “There are a few signs that it is possible to rebuild in a very simple way. Last year, I thought it was truly awful; this year, hope is there”...

Christians and Muslims visit Christian cemetery desecrated in Iraq (Fides) On Sunday 10 January, a delegation of Christian and Muslim representatives visited the Christian cemetery in Kirkuk, desecrated on 23 December, with damage to several tombs and gravestones...

Kerala bishops slam state government over farmers’ issues (Vatican Radio) The Catholic bishops of southern India’s Kerala state have slammed the state government for not addressing the issues of farmers. In a circular, which was read out in Catholic churches in the state on Sunday, the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC) urged farmer cutting across religious lines to unite to strengthen the Indian Farmers’ Movement (Infarm), based in Kottayam district...

New book traces the ancient Christian civilization of Ethiopia (Irish Catholic) Here is a really remarkable book on which to begin the New Year, a book that will open up for many a new horizon of Christian culture and faith. This long book is a 17th-century biography of a very holy woman. But its distinction is that she is African, and the book contains elements of autobiography in a biographical framework. It is the work of an African author and has long been regarded as an important book by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tawahado Church as the Ethiopians now prefer to call it. As the earliest known biography of an African woman it is unique and it should be much better known...



Tags: Iraq Pope Francis Ethiopia Refugees Muslim

8 January 2016
Greg Kandra




In this image from 6 January, Syrian civil defense team members in Aleppo hold banners as they gather to protest for civilians who starved to death in Madaya, Syria. The Syrian government has agreed to allow aid into the rebel-held village.
(photo: Beha el-Halebi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)


Syrian government to allow aid into besieged town (BBC) The Syrian government has agreed to allow aid into the besieged rebel-held village of Madaya, the UN says, amid reports of residents starving to death. The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) said that if access were secured, trucks could begin to arrive by Monday. Aid agencies say conditions in Madaya, near Damascus, are “extremely dire”...

Call for homes taken from Christians in Iraq to be returned (Fides) The Chaldean Christian politician Pascale Warda, former immigration minister in the first government of transition following the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, has publicly expressed her satisfaction regarding Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr’s stand on the need to return to their rightful owners homes and property illegally stolen in recent months from Christian families in Baghdad, Kirkuk and other Iraqi cities. As reported by Iraqi media, including the website ankawa.com, Pascale Warda has asked all Iraqi citizens to support the reinstatement of the rights of the Christians owners supported by Muqtada al-Sadr...

Coptic Patriarch Tawadros: terrorism does not distinguish between Christians and Muslims (Fides) Terrorism “does not make any distinction between Christians and Muslims,” and even when it is fueled by religious ideology, it indiscriminately affects all believers in God, fomenting sectarian strife where people kill each other for “human stupidity” for “money” or to assert “their interests.” This is what Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II said during some interviews released on 7 January by different Egyptian media...

Photographer captures Gaza’s efforts to rebuild (TIME) Italian photographer Federico Scoppa headed to Gaza for the first time in 2013, eager to make a contribution to the wide documentation of the enclave’s dire reality. “The initial idea was just to go [there] and see what the results of the bombing were,” Scoppa tells TIME, “but while walking the devastated streets and crossing neighborhoods completely knocked down, I started noticing spots of color that little by little appeared,” he recalls. “Then I saw that there were people who were coming back and settling back in their ravaged houses”...

Orthodox faithful mark Christmas (AP) As Christmas approached across the sprawling country’s nine time zones, Russians flocked to churches for long and solemn liturgies. At Moscow’s enormous Christ The Savior Cathedral, the service began at 11 p.m. on Wednesday and stretched two and a half hours, led by Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, with the devout standing shoulder-to-shoulder. President Vladimir Putin attended a midnight service at a church in the village of Turginovo, about 150 kilometers (90 miles) northwest of Moscow, where his parents were baptized...



Tags: Syria Iraq Egypt Gaza Strip/West Bank Orthodox

7 January 2016
Greg Kandra




Syriac Catholics, most of them Iraqi refugees, receive communion at a Divine Liturgy in a makeshift church in Amman, Jordan. The pope today erected a new exarchate for the church
in Canada. (photo: Cory Eldridge)


Pope Francis erects new Syro-Catholic Apostolic Exarchate in Canada (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday (7 Jan) erected the Syro-Catholic Apostolic Exarchate in Canada with the Eparchal seat in Montréal (Québec), nominating as its first Apostolic Exarch Rev. Antoine Nassif. The new Apostolic Exarchate consists of the Canadian territory taken from the Syro-Catholic Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance of Newark...

Lebanon strains under the weight of refugees (CNS) While the flow of migrants into Europe and the West has sparked controversy, Lebanon continues to bear the brunt of absorbing massive numbers of refugees. A commonly cited figure is that one in four people in Lebanon is displaced from Syria. “The impact of the Syrian and Iraqi refugees on the Lebanese society is huge and multidimensional,” [Michel] Constantin [of CNEWA] told CNS, stressing that the Syrian crisis will soon enter its fifth year, “with no end in sight...”

In Epiphany message, pope says “Seek out signs of God” (CNS) Go out and seek the signs God is offering everyone today that will lead to Christ, Pope Francis said. The thirst for God is present in everyone, and it’s the church’s task to help those with “a restless heart” by pointing them to the true light of Christ, the pope said 6 January, the feast of the Epiphany, which marks the manifestation of Jesus as savior to the world...

Christians face violence in Odisha, India Christian leaders ask government to provide protection against Hindu hardliners who continue to threaten the community in eastern Indian Odisha state that has witnessed major anti-Christian violence...

Teachers in Nineveh rebel against school programs imposed by ISIS (Fides) More than 30 teachers working in the northern Iraqi province of Nineveh, currently under the control of ISIS, were stopped and arrested for refusing to follow the new education programs imposed by jihadists in the schools of the region. The news of the arrests of “rebel” teachers was reported by local sources to the Kurdish media that monitor the north of Iraq, such as News Agency Ara. The teachers arrested will be judged by the Islamic court established by the jihadist regime, that in Iraq has its stronghold in Mosul...

Ukraine set to rename over 900 towns with Soviet names (Reuters) More than 900 Ukrainian towns and villages will be renamed over the course of the year, in accordance with Ukraine’s push to remove commemorations of Soviet and Communist-era figures, the head of Ukraine’s state Institute for National Memory told Channel 5 on Wednesday. Since Ukraine’s pro-European Maidan protests toppled the pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych administration, the Ukrainian government has adopted a series of laws on “decommunization” — a process of removing displays, venerating anything Soviet...

Catholic agencies plead for help as Ethiopian drought worsens (Catholic Register) As the worst Ethiopian drought in 60 years threatens as many as 20 million people living in more than half of Africa’s second largest country, Catholic aid agencies in the desperate nation are asking for help as the crisis continues into 2016...

Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas (Vatican Radio) Orthodox Christians from around the world celebrate Christmas on Thursday (7 January), in line with the Julian calendar. Traditions vary from country to country but involve liturgies, jumping into frigid water, dancing, log-burning ceremonies, street processions and fireworks displays...







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