Coordinated attacks against Christian Churches in Baghdad and Mosul

Baghdad,Iraq, Dec.06, 2008 ( – “They represent a clear message and are probably part of a coordinated plan” the attacks which took place today, the feast of the Epiphany, against numerous churches and Christian institutions in Iraq. The Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk. Loiuis Sako is convinced of this who confirmed to AsiaNews that the car bombs did not provoke any deaths, but only one injured and material damage.

The targets hit in the capital are : the Chaldean Church of St George in the Ghadir quarter, where Patriarch Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly had just finished celebrating mass; a Greek- Melchite Church and a convent of Chaldean sisiters in Zaafraniya. In Mosul, the car bombs targeted the Chaldean Church of St Paul, an orphanage run by the Chaldean sisters in Alnoor and a convent of Domenican nuns in Mosul Aljadida.

Source: AsiaNews

Fifty people killed inside a Church in Kenya

Nairobi,Kenya, Dec.02,2008 ( - At least 50 people sheltering in a church, most of them women and children, were killed in Kenya yesterday when a mob torched the building.

The victims had sought refuge at the Assemblies of God church in Eldoret, 300 kilometres from Nairobi, after rioters destroyed their homes in earlier attacks.

Red Cross officials say they have been overwhelmed by the number of casualties from the violence in the area and they fear worse is to come.

Yesterday thousands of armed people were heading towards Burnt Forest, a few Kilometres from Eldoret. Burnt Forest has a history of violent tribal clashes.

Many observers expressed concern about the fairness of the elections. Following the apparent victory of President Mwai Kibaki , four days of violent rioting has killed more than 228 people.

The Catholic Church has condemned the violence and appealed for calm and tolerance.

Bishop Martin Kivuva of Machakos Catholic Diocese said that history had shown violence brews violence. He appealed for political leaders to restrain their supporters.

"When we preach an eye for an eye, it means that many people would go blind," he said.

Kivuva said it was the ordinary Kenyan and not the leaders that were suffering.

"The skirmishes we are witnessing today are affecting the poorest of all and not those who live in estates like Muthaiga and other high class estates," he said.

Source: ICN

Pope at General Audience:Presence of Mary in the Church and personal life

Vatican City, Dec.02,2008 ( - An invitation to “carefully consider the importance of the presence of Mary in the life of the Church and in our personal life”. It was made today by the Pope, who devoted the first general audience of 2008 to the figure of Mary, “the Mother of God” (Theotokos), from the name that was officially given Her by the Council of Ephesus of 431, until the doctrine of Mary, summarised by the eighth chapter of the “Lumen gentium”. “The qualification of God’s Mother, so deeply linked with the Christmas festivities – recalled Benedict XVI –, is the fundamental appellation with which the community of believers has always honoured the Virgin” and that “aptly expresses the mission of Mary in the history of salvation”, because “any other qualification given to the Virgin has its foundation in Her calling as the Mother of the Redeemer, the human creature elected by God to accomplish the plan of salvation”. Also at the centre of the representation of the Nativity, the heart of the Christmas festivities, “we find the Virgin Mother who offers the Holy Child up for the contemplation of those people who go and worship the Saviour: the shepherds, the poor people of Bethlehem, the Three Wise Men”. In addition, the devotion of the Christian people “has always considered the birth of Jesus and the divine motherhood of Mary as two aspects of the same mystery of the incarnation of the Word”.

The appellation of “God’s Mother”, explained the Pope, “led to all the other qualifications with which the Church honours the Virgin”: first and foremost, the “privilege” of the “Immaculate Conception”, whereby Mary is “immune from sin since conception” and “was preserved from any stain of sin, because she had to be the Mother of the Redeemer”. “Even the unique, unrepeatable place which Mary has in the Community of believers – commented the Holy Father – derives from her fundamental calling to be the Mother of the Redeemer” and the “Mother of the Church”: an appellation, this one, that Paul VI “rightly” gave Mary during the Second Vatican Council, on 21st November 1964. “Just because she is the Mother of the Church, the Virgin is also the Mother of each one of us, who are the limbs of the mystical Body of Christ”, went on Benedict XVI: “At the supreme moment of the accomplishment of the messianic mission, Jesus leaves to every one of His disciples, as a precious legacy, His own Mother, the Virgin”. Hence the Pope’s wish for 2008: “That the new year, which began under the sign of the Virgin – said the Pope –, may make us feel her motherly presence more deeply, so that, supported and comforted by the protection of the Virgin, we may contemplate with new eyes the face of her Son, Jesus, and more quickly walk along the ways of the good. Happy New Year, everybody!”.

The Nativity should not be “considered something of the past”, because “we are the contemporaries” of the shepherds, of the people of Bethlehem, of the three Wise Men, and “we are full of joy in saying ‘God with us’, because we can say yes to the Child and His Mother, who is our Mother”. With these words, uttered off the cuff during the first audience of 2008, wholly devoted to the figure of Mary, the Pope offered, as it were, a “Marian” interpretation of the Nativity, at the core of the Christmas festivities that have just ended. Also the “privileges” which stem from the appellations with which the Church honours the Virgin, explained the Pontiff off the cuff, “do not make Mary alien to us, but closer: like with this woman, God is extremely close to us, and she helps us as a mother and as a sister”. “Let’s place our trust in Her – was the Pope’s final prayer, starting from the figure of “God’s Mother” –, that She may guide our steps in this new period of time that the Lord gives us to live and may She help us be the true friends of Her Son and the brave authors of His Kingdom in the world, the Kingdom of peace and truth”.

Source: SIR

Violence against Christians in India,Church leaders to hold protest vigil

New Delhi, Dec.27, 2007 (CINS/CBCI) - As the violence against Christians by the Hindutva extremists in Orissa has seen over 30 churches and institutions destroyed, some people shot and injured in gunfire, nuns and pastors forced to flee their homes and the administration held to ransom, reportedly by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) activists, fear has engulfed the minority Christian community in Orissa.

Meanwhile, Civil society and Human Rights activists, university teachers and students, Nuns, pastors, priests and Bishops will be holding a prayer vigil ending with candlelight vigil from 4 PM to 6 PM today at Orissa Bhawan, New Delhi.

Former Prime Minister VP Singh, Delhi Archbishop Vincent Concessao, other Church leaders, and several other political leaders are also expected to participate.

“This is ominously renascent of the events in the Dangs district of Gujarat almost the day eleven years ago, on Christmas, 1998. The government of the day there, like the government in Orissa, failed to take action. The police were apathetic. The Bharatiya Janata Party then ruling at the Centre--and it is a coalition partner of the Government in Orissa today, sought to defend the Sangh goons. The rest is a dark chapter of India's recent history - leading to the burning of the Staines family in Orissa a month later, 21st January 1999, and the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat in February-March 2002,” said the statement issued by the organizers of the protest rally.

In Bramunigam area of Kandhamala district of Orissa, tension started on Dec. 24, with erection of an arch made by the local Christian in the eve of Christmas.

Some resorted to brick batting and ultimately bullets were fired injuring two youth, one of who died later.

World Vision office at Daringbadi was completely torched by the mob.

Two churches belonging to the Church of North India, one at Ladapanga in Daringbadi and the other at Irpiguda in Balliguda were burnt.

CNI church in Balliguda town was damaged by the extremists.
On Dec. 25 a Catholic convent was attacked at Bramunigam and destroyed using bombs.

On Dec. 25 morning, a mob objecting church service at a NMS church at Puri, threw footwear inside the church.

On Christmas evening, a petrol bomb was kept inside the premises of the Oriya Baptist Church in Berhampur. However the police immediately intervened and removed the material.

Curfew has been imposed at Daringbadi, Dasingbadi, Bramunigaon, Balliguda and G. Udaygiri.

The Hindutva extremists prevented the police from entering villages attacked and terrorised by them by felling roadside trees.

Meanwhile, many Christians spent the nights in the jungle in Balliguda area.

The extremists have begun targeting the G. Udayagiri area of Kandhamala district. They have threatened to demolish the nearby churches and also the CNI diocesan office.

The Union Government has sought a detailed report from Orissa govt on the violent incidents in the state.

Condemning the attacks on churches, the Congress party said, “The unfortunate incidents in Orissa are not good for the country, for any civilised society. The Congress demands that the Orissa government take immediate steps to stop the condemnable incidents.”

“The Polit Bureau demands immediate measures to protect the Christian community and its institutions in the districts”, said the CPI(M) statement issued on Wednesday.

Tony Blair received into Catholic Church

Vatican City, Dec 27, 2007 (CINS/CNA).- After years of rumors and speculation about his religious beliefs, former British prime minister Tony Blair was officially received into the Catholic Church on Friday. 

Blair was received into full communion by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster, during Mass in the chapel at the Archbishop’s house in Westminster.  He had been receiving doctrinal and spiritual preparation from the cardinal’s private secretary, Monsignor Mark O’Toole.

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor commented: “I am very glad to welcome Tony Blair into the Catholic Church. For a long time he has been a regular worshipper at Mass with his family and in recent months he has been following a program of formation to prepare for his reception into full communion.

“My prayers are with him, his wife and family at this joyful moment in their journey of faith together.”

According to the New York Times, aides say that Blair, who stepped down as prime minister six months ago, delayed his formal conversion until after leaving office to avoid politicizing his religious beliefs.  His conversion in office would also have generated controversy because the prime minister’s duties include a role in the appointment of Anglican bishops.

Tony Blair’s wife, Cherie, and their four children are Catholics.  Blair had made a practice of attending Mass with them, saying he did so to keep his family together on Sundays. 

In 1996, the year before Blair became prime minister, Cardinal Basil Hume wrote to him asking him to stop receiving Holy Communion at a Catholic church near his home.  Blair obeyed, but according to aides he wrote back to the cardinal, saying, “I wonder what Jesus would have made of it.”

Some Catholics in Britain have raised questions about Blair’s conversion, citing among other concerns the Blair government’s stands in favor of lax anti-abortion laws, embryonic stem cell research, adoptions by homosexuals, and same-sex civil unions.

John Smeaton, director of Britain’s Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said in an interview published earlier this month in the journal The Spectator that Blair needed to clearly articulate a change of mind. “We need to hear a full repudiation from him.

Without one, having Blair as a Catholic is like having a vegetarian in a meat-eating club. It simply does not make sense,” Smeaton said.

Some indications of a change of heart have leaked through the virtual privacy fence Tony Blair has set up around his faith. Fr. Tim Russ, the pastor of the parish Blair frequented when he was prime minister, revealed to The Guardian that Blair confided his doubts about his administration’s stance on embryonic research several years ago. As the debate on embryo experimentation was going on in Parliament, Blair told Fr. Russ, "We are acting beyond our competence." The pastor took this to mean that Blair thought “matters of life were not within men's competence to decide.”

Former Conservative minister Ann Widdecombe, who converted to Catholicism in 1993, also commented on Blair’s pro-abortion voting record saying, 'The crucial thing to remember is at the point you are received [into the Catholic church] you have to say individually and out loud: "I believe everything the church teaches to be revealed truth."

'That means if you previously had any problems with church teaching - as Tony Blair obviously did over abortion - you would have to say you changed your mind,' she told Sky News .

Meanwhile, Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, commented on Blair’s conversion to the Catholic faith. This is "good news that we welcome with respect," he said. "Catholics are glad to welcome into their community those who, through a serious and reflective journey, convert to Catholicism."

Archbishop Rowan Williams, the leader of the Anglican Communion, to which Blair had belonged, wished the convert every good in his spiritual journey.

Tony Blair is presently an envoy to the Middle East.

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