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Current Issue
September, 2018
Volume 44, Number 3
  
11 December 2018
J.D. Conor Mauro




A Nativity scene made of sand decorates St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Bethlehem church renovation hopes to bolster local Christian community (Christian Science Monitor) A historic renovation of the Church of the Nativity is lifting spirits in the biblical town of Bethlehem ahead of Christmas, offering visitors a look at ancient mosaics and columns that have been restored to their original glory for the first time in 600 years…

For Christmas, no exit permits for Christians in Gaza (Fides) This year Christians in Gaza will not have permission from the Israeli authorities to cross the border at Erez in order to visit relations and friends in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and other towns in the Holy Land to celebrate Christmas together. According to the Middle East Concern organization, this year most of the travel permits requested have been refused…

No haven from hardship: Why some Syrians return from Europe (Christian Science Monitor) Since 2016, thousands of disappointed Syrian refugees have left Europe. No one has counted their exact numbers, but many of them are thought to have joined the 310,000 others who have returned home from Turkey and Lebanon this year to both government- and opposition-controlled areas…

Bid to raise $5.5 billion for millions of Syrians and their host communities (U.N. News) Since conflict erupted in Syria in 2011, host communities in neighboring countries have supported those who have fled, despite the significant impact on their own development, The UN Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) Amin Awad, Regional Refugee Coordinator for Syria and Iraq, told journalists in Geneva…

Church offering job opportunities to youths in Ethiopia to prevent migration (Newsbook) The Catholic Church in Ethiopia is working on addressing the issue of migration by creating job opportunities for the youth so that they remain in the country and are not forced to leave to find a better future…

Catholics celebrate resignation of tainted Indian bishop (UCANews) Catholics in a southern Indian diocese let off firecrackers and exchanged sweets to express their joy over Pope Francis accepting the resignation of a bishop who has been facing allegations of stealing funds to maintain his “secret family”…

Bekaa river turns black, prompting action from politicians (Daily Star Lebanon) Both the Environment and Justice ministries have taken action to hold accountable those responsible for the waters of Zahleh’s Berdawni River turning black, statements from the ministries reported Tuesday…



Tags: Syria India Lebanon Ethiopia Gaza Strip/West Bank

10 December 2018
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis greets a child as he visits poor, sick people at a center run by the CasAmica Onlus organization on the outskirts of Rome on 7 December. The pope in a message for Human Right Day urged everyone to place human dignity at the heart of all policies. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)

Pope marks Human Rights Day (Vatican News) Marking Human Rights Day, Pope Francis makes an appeal in a message to an International Conference on Human Rights, urging everyone to place human rights at the heart of all policies…

Caritas releases message for Advent to ’share the journey’ with migrants (Vatican News) Caritas Internationalis is urging the people of the world ahead of Christmas to “Share the Journey” with migrants and refugees and expand the horizons of their hearts by organizing a short pilgrimage with the migrants and refugees in their community to learn more about one another and forge bonds of hope. “It is how we live out our journeys and how we treat the people we meet that has the potential to transform our world,” said Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle in an Advent message…

Ukrainian Navy commander dismisses Russia’s charge of provocation (Al Jazeera) Ukrainian Navy commander Admiral Ihor Voronchenko says Russia has no right to put the 24 captured sailors on trial as they were “prisoners of war, not some criminals involved in contraband or illegal fishing”. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Voronchenko said he had no doubt that Russia was behind the attack on three of his boats, saying, “I confirm with authority ... we are sure the tactical decisions were not being taken by the commanders of the Russian ships”…

Algerian martyrs bear witness to dialogue and coexistence, pope says (CNS) The lives of 19 religious men and women martyred during the Algerian civil war are a testament to God’s plan of love and peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims, Pope Francis said. In a message read 8 December at the beatification Mass for the six women religious and 13 clerics, Pope Francis said it was a time for Catholics in Algeria and around the world to celebrate the martyrs’ commitment to peace, but it was also a time to remember the sacrifices made by all Algerians during the bloody war…

Bishop Hinder: pope’s visit to UAE will be an opportunity for dialogue, peace (Vatican News) In an open letter, the Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia (UAE, Oman, and Yemen), Bishop Paul Hinder OFM Cap, commented on the announcement of the upcoming papal visit. ”We welcome Pope Francis with open hearts”, he writes, “and we pray with the words of St Francis of Assisi, which have been chosen as the theme of the visit: ‘Make me an instrument of your peace’”…

International airport opens in Kerala (Economic Times) Kerala has become the first state in the country to have four international airports with the inauguration of the Kannur airport on Sunday…



Tags: Pope Francis Refugees Kerala Muslim Migrants

7 December 2018
Greg Kandra




The EU has expressed serious concerns about the situation between Ukraine and Russia, with martial law in Ukraine heightening the tensions. (video: EuroNews/YouTube)

Ukraine’s martial law brings unease (NBC News) Larysa Spitsyna was shocked and confused when she learned her city would be placed under martial law. ”As a psychologist, I know that the main thing that is disturbing to us is uncertainty,” said Spitsyna, 54, who teaches at a local university. It was precisely such a feeling that swept thorough Zaporizhzhia last week. The city is in one of the regions where martial law was imposed by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko — a response to Russian ships ramming, shooting and then seizing three naval vessels in the Black Sea…

Ukrainian police search homes of Russian Orthodox priests (AP) Ukrainian police searched the homes of Russian Orthodox priests and Russian Orthodox churches in several cities Monday, stepping up pressure as Kiev pushes for the creation of an independent Ukrainian church. The eight searches in Ukraine’s capital and the nearby Zhytomyr region were part of a criminal investigation into inciting hatred and violence, according to a police statement…

A thousand Syrian refugees return home from Lebanon (The Daily Star) Groups of Syrian refugees started to arrive back in their home country after leaving Lebanon early Thursday morning, Syria’s state-run SANA news agency reported. The returnees were met by medical and assistance teams in Syria’s Dabousieh opposite the Abboudieh border crossing, in Jdeidet Yabous opposite the Masnaa border crossing as well as opposite the Al-Zamarani border crossing, the agency said…

Indian state’s move on tribal people vexes church leaders (UCANews.com) Catholic tribal leaders in India are worried over a move by Jharkhand’s government to take away tribal status from people who have left their traditional Sarna religion to join other faiths. The eastern state’s move will deprive thousands of tribal people of social benefits meant for their advancement. ”It is a deliberate attempt to divide tribal people on grounds of religion ahead of the state and national elections next year,” said Bishop Vincent Barwa of Simdega, who is based in a tribal Christian stronghold…

Ancient synagogue reopens in Kerala (NDTV) An 818-year-old Kadavumbagam synagogue in Kerala, which was closed for worship since 1972, reopened on Thursday. The synagogue, located on Market Road in Ernakulam, was reopened on its anniversary. On the occasion, the Sefer Torah, which is a handwritten copy of the Torah (holy scripture), was brought from Israel and kept in the renovated synagogue…



Tags: India Ukraine Russian Orthodox

6 December 2018
Greg Kandra




In this image from 2016, Pope Francis shakes hands with Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi during a private audience at the Vatican. The pope will visit the United Arab Emirates next year, becoming the first pope to visit the Arabian Peninsula.
(photo: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano, handout)


Francis to become first pope to visit Arabian Peninsula (CNS) Pope Francis will visit the United Arab Emirates next year, becoming the first pope to visit the Arabian Peninsula, the Vatican announced. In a 6 December statement, the Vatican said the pope will “participate in the International Interfaith Meeting on ‘Human Fraternity’“ after receiving an invitation by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi…

U.S. makes plans to sail warship into Black Sea amid Russia-Ukraine tensions (CNN) The US has begun making the necessary preparations to sail a warship into the Black Sea, a move that comes amid heightened tensions in the region following Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian ships and detention of Ukrainian sailors. The US military has requested that the State Department notify Turkey of its possible plans to sail a warship into the Black Sea, three US officials tell CNN, a move they said is a response to Russia’s actions against Ukraine in the Kerch Strait, which connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov…

Tailoring a future in Jordan (Norwegian Refugee Council) Anas from Syria is one of many who graduated from the Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) vocational training centre in Jordan’s Azraq refugee camp this year. Today, several organizations request the products that the certified tailor and his colleagues produce in the camp…

Dalits march through New Delhi (UCANews.com) Beating their drums, some 200 socially poor Dalit people marched through the streets of Indian capital New Delhi on 4 December in a novel form of protest to demand that they be given social benefits denied to them because of their Christian faith. Participants in the “the drum, dance, demonstration” played their drums near parliament to demand that the government withdraw a 1950 presidential order that said only Dalits of Hindu religion should be given social security benefits meant for Dalit people’s advancement…

In Ethiopia, visual storytelling from a deeper perspective (The New York Times) Aida Muluneh was a middle school student in Canada when local newspapers and magazines started running dramatic images of starving children in Ethiopia. The photos struck her as odd. She was born in Ethiopia, and the pictures were nothing like the memories she had of the country she left when she was 5. They also didn’t match the stories her mother told her of life there. ”This is not to say the famine didn’t happen, but there are so many different stories in Ethiopia — it’s not just the story of famine or the priest with the cross,” Ms. Muluneh said. “There’s so many things that have yet to be documented…”



Tags: India Pope Francis Ethiopia Dalits Abu Dhabi

5 December 2018
Greg Kandra




In the video above, Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko offers his views about the heightened tensions between Russia and Ukraine. (video: Bloomberg/YouTube.)

Ukraine council to meet to form independent church (Reuters) A Ukrainian church council will meet on 15 December in order to create an independent Orthodox church and elect its leader, President Petro Poroshenko said on Wednesday. Under Poroshenko’s presidency, Ukraine has pushed to establish a national church and thereby sever centuries-old ties with the Russian clergy. The Kiev authorities say the step is essential to tackling Russian meddling on its soil…

Pope appoints new archbishop in Nagpur, India (Vatican News) Pope Francis on Monday appointed a bishop in the Indian Archdiocese of Nagpur. The Pope transferred Bishop Elias Joseph Gonsalves of Amravati to Nagpur Archdiocese, both in Maharashtra state. The See of Nagpur has been vacant following the death of Archbishop Abrahan Viruthakulangara on 19 April 2018…

'Peace is everything': Ethiopia and Eritrea embrace open borders (NPR)Almost everywhere you go in Zalambessa, a town on Ethiopia’s border with Eritrea, there are reminders of war: buildings in rubble, walls riddled with bullet holes and a border still delineated by two rows of trenches. But now, dramatic change is underway…

Egypt’s Pope Tawadros discusses status of copts, regional politics, reforms (Arab News) The pope describes events in Syria and Iraq, with the rise of Daesh, as “very painful,” and points out that Christians who had to flee and seek asylum abroad were among the most affected. However, his concerns extend beyond the plight of Christians alone, and he argues that a “weakening of Arab countries” means “the weakening of Arabs as a whole … Christians and Muslims alike…”

Beirut’s refugee artists (Al Jazeera) The ongoing conflict in Syria has forced not only Syrians, but Iraqis and Palestinian refugees out of the country and into Lebanon in search of safety. Sitting in a Beirut cafe, Syrian screenwriter Najeeb Nseir is unable to accept being labelled a refugee. ”I tell people I’m a tourist,” he says...



Tags: India Ukraine Ethiopia Indian Bishops

4 December 2018
Greg Kandra




Ukrainian soldiers ride atop armored vehicles during military exercises on 3 December near Honcharivske. Ukrainian Catholic bishops said Ukrainians had a "right and sacred duty" to defend themselves against "Russian aggression," but should also avoid yielding to alarm and panic.
(photo: CNS/Valentyn Ogirenko Shevchuk, Reuters)


Bishops: Ukrainians have ‘sacred duty’ to defend against Russian aggression (CNS) In a message marking the anniversary of their country’s December 1991 referendum on independence from the Soviet Union, Ukrainian Catholic bishops said Ukrainians had a “right and sacred duty” to defend themselves against “Russian aggression,” but should also avoid yielding to alarm and panic…

Two refugees dead after fire rips through tents in Lebanon (AFP) A fire ripped through a refugee settlement in Baalbeck’s Yammouneh Monday, killing two Syrians, including a boy, and burning nearly two dozen tents, a local official said. An electric spark first ignited the fire in one of the tents, and winds caused the blaze to spread to around 25 others, a local source told The Daily Star, adding that Civil Defense units later fully extinguished the fire…

American-style holiday cheer comes to Jerusalem (The Jerusalem Post) The hoopla, billed as “Together: Marching with World Jewry,” was the initiative of the Diaspora Affairs Ministry and was designed to celebrate Hanukkah and demonstrate unity between Israelis and Diaspora Jewry…

Bakers from Baghdad who fled violence pursue a sweet dream (The New York Times) The marriage of Nael and Manar al-Najjar was forged in sugar. Mr. Najjar grew up working in his family’s Baghdad sweet shop. When he proposed, three months after meeting his future wife at a family wedding, he traveled six hours to her hometown, carrying 15 boxes of confections: baklava, kenafeh and Turkish delights. The couple settled in Baghdad, opened a bakery and started a family. As Catholics, though, they faced discrimination and threats of violence. When those threats turned deadly, they fled and sought asylum in America…

Searching for the real Queen of Sheba in Ethiopia (National Geographic) The Queen of Sheba is the Greta Garbo of antiquity. A glamorous, mysterious figure immortalized in the Bible and the Quran, celebrated in an oratorio by Handel, an opera by Charles Gounod, a ballet by Ottorino Respighi, and depicted in paintings by Raphael, Tintoretto, and Claude Lorrain, she remains tantalizingly elusive to the inquiries of historians. Across swaths of modern-day North Africa her legend lives on, despite—or perhaps because of—the fact that no one knows for sure if she existed, or if she did, where she lived…



Tags: Lebanon Ukraine Ethiopia Jerusalem Jews

3 December 2018
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis places an Advent candle during the Angelus prayer led from his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square on 2 December. The pope lit the candle as part of a plea for peace in Syria.
(photo: CNS/Giuseppe Lami, EPA)


Pope leads prayers for ’tormented’ Syria (CNS) Leading thousands of pilgrims in prayer, Pope Francis lit a candle in remembrance of the people of Syria, especially innocent children tormented by the country’s eight-year conflict. ”May this flame of hope and many flames of hope dispel the darkness of war,” he said on 2 December after praying the Angelus prayer…

Battle between Israel and Iran shifting from Syria to Lebanon (Haaretz) Thursday’s incident occurred a few hours after former Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin made an unusual statement. Yadlin, who heads the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, told the radio station 103 FM that Iran has recently altered its behavior in the region…

JRS: a true Christian must ’welcome, protect, promote’ the other (Vatican News) As thousands of forced migrants continue to flee conflict and poverty in the countries, an increasing number of governments are implementing new migration plans and policies aimed at turning people back and discouraging them from setting out in their journeys of hope…

Ukraine calls up reservists amid tensions with Russia (AP)Ukraine’s president has announced a call-up of reservists amid tensions with Russia. Relations between the two neighbors have strained further following the 25 November incident in which Russia fired upon and seized three Ukrainian naval vessels and their crews…

Landmark Ukrainian Catholic church declared total loss after fire (CNS) A three-alarm fire that raged through St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church late 27 November left the landmark church on Roosevelt Avenue in Carteret a total loss. No one was injured in the blaze that sent tongues of flame into the night sky while smoke billowed out of broken spaces that once were beautiful stained-glass windows and holes in the roof made by the firefighters to gain control of the conflagration…

Artists work with refugees to create mosaic park in Jordan (The Jordan Times) What once was a dull desert area in the middle of the Azraq refugee camp was transformed into a new space for art and community engagement by the London-based organization Artmongers, recently…



Tags: Syria Lebanon Ukraine Israel Ukrainian Catholic Church

30 November 2018
Greg Kandra




In this image from July, Pope Francis releases a dove with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople outside the Basilica of St. Nicholas in Bari, Italy. To mark the 30 November feast of St. Andrew, the pope sent a message to the patriarch, expressing the importance of working for Christian unity. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope: Christian unity is hope for a suffering world (Vatican News) Despite differences between Catholics and Orthodox Christians, Pope Francis said the two communities are called to be a sign of hope by working together for peace, human dignity and care of creation. “We can work together today in the search for peace among peoples, for the abolition of all forms of slavery, for the respect and dignity of every human being and for the care of creation,” the Pope said in a message to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople on the occasion of the 30 November feast of St. Andrew, the patron of the Patriarchate based in Istanbul, Turkey…

Ukraine bans Russian men from entering country (NBC News) Russian men between the ages of 16 and 60 have been barred from entering Ukraine after long-simmering tensions between the countries escalated into a clash on the Black Sea. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko tweeted Friday that restrictions on Russian nationals were taken in order to prevent the formation of “private armies which in reality are representatives of Russian armed forces…”

Syria says it shot down ’hostile targets in suspected Israeli attack (Reuters) Syrian air defenses shot down “hostile targets” on Thursday, state media said, in an area regional intelligence sources said contains Iran-backed assets, while Russian media said no Israeli jet had been downed as earlier reported…

Indians say they’re being held hostage in Ethiopia over unpaid wages (Bloomberg) India’s foreign ministry is investigating claims by expatriates in Ethiopia who say they are being held hostage by local staff that haven’t been paid after the financier Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd. began defaulting on $12.6 billion in debt…



29 November 2018
Greg Kandra




Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal speaks to media outside a polling station on 28 November, after he says he was denied the right vote in the Madhya Pradesh state election. (photo: UCANews.com)

Ukraine urges NATO to deploy ships amid escalating standoff with Russia (AP) The Ukrainian president has urged NATO to deploy naval ships to the Sea of Azov amid a standoff with Russia. President Petro Poroshenko made the call in an interview with the German daily Bild published Thursday, saying that “Germany is one of our closest allies and we hope that states within NATO are now ready to relocate naval ships to the Sea of Azov in order to assist Ukraine and provide security…”

Report: Christians denied vote in Indian election (UCANews.com) Hundreds of Christians, including a Catholic archbishop, were turned away from polling booths in India’s Madhya Pradesh state because their names were not on the voter list. Christian leaders claimed there was foul play in the 28 November poll. Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal, the state capital, and hundreds of other Christians, had to return home without exercising their franchise to elect 230 legislators…

Syrian abuses reportedly slowing return of refugees from Lebanon (AP) Some refugees who have gone back to Syria from Lebanon have been killed, detained or forced to join the military, abuses that deter others from returning, a Lebanese Cabinet minister said Tuesday…

Dutch church holds non-stop service to prevent Armenians from being deported (ABC.net) A Dutch church service that began a month ago has maintained a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-per-week service for over a month to protect an Armenian refugee family from being deported. The Tamrazyans, a family of five, have lived in the Netherlands for nearly nine years, but are facing expulsion after a court rejected their appeals to stay in the country…

Vatican discusses Global Compact on Migration (Vatican News) In December, the international community will adopt two international agreements: The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration — at an Intergovernmental Conference in Marrakesh and the Global Compact on refugees at the United Nations in New York. One of the key partners in drawing up the Compact is the Vatican’s migrant and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. The Rev. Michael Czerny, S.J., Co-Under-Secretary of the Migrant and Refugees Section, spoke to Vatican News about the Vatican’s role and stance on this global compact…



Tags: India Lebanon Ukraine Armenia Migrants

28 November 2018
Greg Kandra




In this image from last spring, internally displaced Syrians wait in line for food at a camp outside Damascus. Pope Francis has written a letter to Franciscan friars in Syria, expressing his closeness to the "martyred land." (photo: CNS/Ali Hashisho, Reuters)

Pope expresses closeness to ‘martyred land of Syria’ (Vatican News) In a letter sent to Franciscan friars in Syria, Pope Francis expressed his closeness to the “martyred land of Syria.” “I wish to share in your sufferings and tell you that I am close to you and to the Christian communities which are so tried by the pain experienced in their faith in Christ Jesus…”

Russia warns Ukraine of escalation (Vatican News) Russia’s security service has released controversial statements by three captured Ukrainians after Russian ships fired on also, seized three Ukrainian boats off the coast of Russian-annexed Crimea. One of the men, Volodymyr Lisovyi, said he was aware of the “provocative nature” of the Ukrainian action. Ukraine’s navy commander said the men had been forced to lie under duress…

Benedict affirms Christians are called to ‘dialogue’ with Jews (Vatican News) In a “correction” sent to the German monthly Herder Korrespondenz, Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI affirmed that Christians are called to a “dialogue” with the Jews, rather than a “mission.” The Pope emeritus was responding to an article by theologian Michael Böhnke of Wuppertal. In the September issue of the journal, Böhnke had commented disapprovingly on statements made by Benedict concerning the relationship between Jews and Christians…

New study examines link between Kerala floods and climate change (The Wire) The frequency and intensity of extreme weather events in India appears to be on the rise, as projected by various scientific assessments on climate change. But it may not be right to connect every such event with climate change. This is what a new study on the recent Kerala floods highlights…

Ethiopia plans first census in a decade (Bloomberg) Ethiopia will hold its first population census in more than a decade, a step that could have far-reaching consequences for the Horn of Africa nation that’s grappling with multi-ethnic representation and rippling demands for self-determination…



Tags: Syria Ukraine Ethiopia Kerala Jews





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