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Summer, 2014
Volume 40, Number 2
imageofweek From the Archive
In this 1996 image, children attend a festival in New York celebrating Greek heritage. (photo: Karen Lagerquist)
14 February 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

St. Valentine is pictured in a stained-glass window at the Basilica of St. Valentine in Terni, Italy, on 10 February. While some details of St. Valentine’s life are lost to history, the local diocese believes he was the martyred 3rd-century bishop of Terni. A special Mass was celebrated at the basilica on 10 February for engaged couples in advance of Valentine's Day, which is celebrated today. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Benedict XVI ‘close to these forgotten people’ of Syria (Fides) Ash Wednesday began the third Lent of suffering for Christians living in Syria: a time marked by anxiety and hope. Maronite Archbishop Samir Nassar of Damascus focuses on some recent events that have inspired mixed feelings among the baptized in Syria: the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, the visit to Damascus of the Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter and the exodus of the faithful of the Greek Orthodox church. The resignation of the Holy Father, Archbishop Nassar notes, touched in a very special way the Syrian Christians: prayer and appeals of Pope Benedict XVI for peace in Syria, along with his concrete acts of charity, “had made the Pope so close to these forgotten people.” The Maronite Archbishop hopes that we can proceed along the common path “in this time of Lent that he has chosen to continue his mission in a different way”…

Indian Catholics call for a moratorium on the death penalty (Fides) A few days after the execution of Afzal Guru, one of the terrorists responsible for the attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001, the Indian Catholic movements, while expressing solidarity and prayers to the families of the victims, call for a moratorium on the death penalty in the country. In a statement sent to Fides Agency, the “Catholic Secular Forum” (C.S.F.) movement of the Indian Catholic laity remembers that in a recent vote at the U.N. General Assembly, 110 countries called for the abolition of the death penalty, while India was among the 39 countries that sustained it. According to the U.N., about 150 countries have abolished the death penalty or have established a moratorium. The President of the C.S.F. says: “India should consider a moratorium against all executions, pending a … comprehensive review of the death penalty”…

Syrian rebels battle at military base near Aleppo airport (Christian Science Monitor) Syrian rebels fought pitched battles Wednesday against regime forces at a military base that protects a major airport in the country’s north in fighting that has left more than 40 government troops dead, opposition activists said. Rebels have been attacking the civilian airport in the city of Aleppo for weeks, and now appear to have overrun the main defenses around the facility. But the airport itself, which stopped handling any flights weeks ago because of the fighting, still remains in regime hands. Also Wednesday, Syria’s former Foreign Ministry spokesman made his first comments since disappearing in December, saying he left the country because “of the polarization and violence that left no place for moderation and diplomacy.” Jihad Makdissi, who was known for defending President Bashar Assad’s regime in fluent English, said in a statement sent to the Abu-Dhabi-based Sky News Arabia that he did not go to Europe or the U.S. after leaving Syria. He did not say where he currently is, adding that “I have no secrets that anyone would want.” In his statement Wednesday, Makdissi said the Syrian uprising has “legitimate demands”…

Russian Orthodox leaders respond to papal resignation (Russia Beyond the Headlines) Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, and chairman of the Department of External Church Relations, said that Pope Benedict’s decision was “a personal act of courage and humility. ... The news of his resignation was a surprise even for his closest collaborators,” he observed. “The Russian Orthodox Church is grateful to [the pope] for his work in understanding and solving problems that obstruct the relationships between Orthodox Christians and Catholics, especially in regions such as Ukraine.” Patriarch Kirill returned to the topic of relations between the two churches recently, stressing that he has by no means ruled out the possibility of an official meeting with the head of the Vatican. According to Kirill, the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church have many opinions in common today, such as “matters regarding the family, marriage, children and safeguarding Christian values in Europe.” Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, which will become effective on February 28, 2013, among other things, coincides with the arrival in Rome of the former Russian minister of culture, Aleksandr Avdeyev, now appointed Russian ambassador to the Vatican…

Syrian Greek Orthodox patriarch enthroned in Damascus (Huffington Post) Syria’s Greek Orthodox Church enthroned a new patriarch during a ceremonial mass in Damascus on Sunday amid civil war. Patriarch Youhanna X, 57, replaces Patriarch Ignatius IV, who died in December, as the Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East. There are a number of mostly autonomous Orthodox churches in the Middle East and the region also has more than a half dozen patriarchs, including the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of world’s Orthodox Christians. Christians represent about 5 percent of the population in Syria, where rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar al Assad are locked in a civil war the U.N. says has killed more than 60,000 people…

Tags: Syrian Civil War Pope Benedict XVI Russian Orthodox Church Patriarchs Maronite Church
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