Catholic medical student sees Syria’s crisis up close

Photo: Tom Tracy A rare glimpse at the Middle East crisis, from Florida Catholic: When he came to study medicine in Jordan’s capital through a scholarship program for Holy Land Christians, Tareq Nasrawi had expected to see heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer and other basic public health concerns. But the 21-year-old Roman Catholic and native [Read More...]

“How many of you pray for Christians who are persecuted?”

This was very much on the pope’s mind this morning—along with some other challenging thoughts on unity, gossip and the “privatized” Church. From CNS:  Backstabbing and gossip hurt people and harm God’s desire for a united human family, Pope Francis said. Unity is a gift from God, “but often we struggle to live it out,” [Read More...]

This looks thrilling: a glimpse at the new IMAX movie “Jerusalem”

See the Holy Land as never before, thanks to the wizards at National Geographic. From HuffPo:  Jerusalem is one of the world’s most important cities, held sacred by three religious traditions, and it’s now possible to virtually visit its holy places in an unprecedented way thanks to the vision and daring of the team behind [Read More...]

Behold the Face of a Martyr

Details: A Coptic Christian priest in Egypt’s Northern Sinai has been shot dead, in what could be the first sectarian attack since the military overthrow of Islamist Mohammed Morsi. The priest, Mina Aboud Sharween, was attacked in the early afternoon while walking in the Masaeed area in El Arish. The shooting in the coastal city [Read More...]

UPDATE: Franciscans Deny Priests Killed in Syria: “The Monks Are Still Alive”

Note: I’ve removed an earlier report from this blog indicating that the Vatican had confirmed Fr. Francois Murad’s execution.  Details are just too sketchy. A colleague forwarded this brief news item to me, dated late Friday: In a statement to the religious information service SIR, Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa has said the news reported by Radio [Read More...]

In Plea for Peace, Patriarch Consecrates Middle East to Mary

Details:  The Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites Boutros Bechara Rai consecrated Lebanon and the entire Middle East to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, praying that all the peoples of the region are freed “from the sins that lead to divisions, aggression and violence “. The solemn Act of Consecration took place yesterday, Sunday, June [Read More...]

Love among the ruins: life in Aleppo

A glimpse at life in one corner of war-ravaged Aleppo, Syria, from AFP: The aging Christians holed up inside a retirement home in the devastated northern Syrian city of Aleppo have no light, no telephone lines, and little idea of what is happening in the outside world. But fellow Christians and rebel fighters still ensure [Read More...]

In Middle East, Christianity “close to extinction”

Sobering news for Christmas: Christianity faces being wiped out of the “biblical heartlands” in the Middle East because of mounting persecution of worshippers, according to a new report. The study warns that Christians suffer greater hostility across the world than any other religious group. And it claims politicians have been “blind” to the extent of [Read More...]

Vatican ambassador attends first Mass held at Iraqi monastery in 1,500 years

Amazing.  Read on: The Vatican’s ambassador to Iraq and a number of monks held the first mass in 1,500 years in one of the oldest monasteries in the Iraqi city of al-Hira (south of Najaf), and met with the top Iraqi Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Hira had been a spiritual capital for Christians, and [Read More...]

In Lebanon, pope issues call for religious freedom in Middle East

It couldn’t be a more timely or urgent declaration. Details: Pope Benedict XVI presented a major document calling on Catholics in the Middle East to engage in dialogue with Orthodox, Jewish and Muslim neighbors, but also to affirm and defend their right to live freely in the region where Christianity was born. In a ceremony [Read More...]