International news briefs


Day of prayer 

The September 7 day of prayer for peace in Syria, called by Pope Francis, was matched by the Sunni Muslim community in the war-torn country. Ahead of the worldwide event, the Grand Mufti of Syria, Ahmad Badreddin Hassou, publicly welcomed the Pope’s appeal as “good and for the good of humanity” and promised to match it with Muslim prayers. In a message sent via the Apostolic Nunciature in Damascus, Grand Mufti Hassou said: “We thank you for this appeal of great humanity, based on faith, to fast and pray together God Almighty in order to bring peace on Earth and protect us from the power of evil and oppression.”

Beyond September 7, the Grand Mufti stated, “Let us remain, hand in hand in spreading peace and security for all peoples of the world, to counter the extremists and divisions on the basis of religion or ethnicity. We continue our journey in the footsteps of the prophets, paints, the righteous and the men of good will. “May you remain, Your Holiness – concludes the text sent to Fides – under the protection, guidance and Providence of God, so together we reach the fullness of faith and light”.



King's message

King Abdullah II has stressed the need to protect the Middle East’s Christian traditions. Speaking on the issue of Christian persecution a week after his meeting in the Vatican with Pope Francis, the Jordanian sovereign insisted that protecting Christian rights was a duty for all Arabs.

“We are proud that Jordan constitutes a unique model of coexistence and fraternity between Muslims and Christians,” he said. “We also believe that the protection of the rights of Christians is a duty rather than a favour. Arab Christians have played a key role in building Arab societies, and defending the just causes of our nation.”

The king added that this defence worked both ways. “Arab Christians are the closest to understanding Islam and its true values. We call upon them at this stage to defend Islam, which is subject to a lot of injustice because some are ignorant of the essence of this faith, which preaches tolerance and moderation, and rejects extremism and isolationism.”



ëKing Solomonís minesí 

A new investigation of materials unearthed during archaeological digs at an ancient copper mine in the country have dated the site to the era of King Solomon’s rule. Earlier academic consensus had settled the operating period of the mines, in the Aravah Desert’s Timna Valley, as from the ancient Egyptian period, but now, radiocarbon dating of excavated materials place the mine as working during the Solomon period three centuries earlier, from the 11th to 9th Centuries BC. According to researchers, the site was owned by a tribal grouping known as the Edomites, a semi-nomadic group which clashed with the kingdom of Judah. The excavation has yielded a rich trove of artefacts which offer a clearer picture of society pre-Christ.


Sri Lanka

Jesuit questioned

A Jesuit priest, well known in the country for his work for human rights has been interrogated by police after he spoke with the United Nations.

Following a meeting with the UN Human Rights High Commissioner, Navi Pillay (pictured), the home of Fr Veerasan Yogeswaran was raided by officers who demanded to know the content of that meeting. According to Fr Yogeswaran, the officers, who came late at night, questioned him until dawn about his activities. “Such things should not happen four years after the end of the war,” he said. “People feel persecuted. I can only imagine the difficulties of ordinary people when they receive similar visits.”

Commissioner Pillay warned after her visit to Sri Lanka that the country is moving towards authoritarian rule.


United States 

Miracle claim

A young man from Colorado who met Benedict XVI before he stepped aside from the papacy has claimed a miraculous cure arising from that meeting. Peter Srisch, aged 19, had been suffering from a tumour in his chest as a result of what doctors diagnosed as stage four non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma when he expressed a desire to travel to Rome to meet the then Pope, a trip made possible by the charity Make a Wish Foundation. According to Peter, during his meeting at which he explained his illness to Benedict, the Pontiff laid a hand on Peter’s chest and blessed him. Now, Peter has made a full recovery from his condition and credits the blessing for his recovery. He has since stated his desire to study for the priesthood.


Funding for abortions

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is urging the Obama administration to comply with a long-standing policy against subsidising federal employee health care plans that cover abortions for members of Congress and their staff.

A new rule proposed by the federal government makes no “mention of any limitation with respect to abortion coverage” for members of Congress and their staff, according to comments submitted by the USCCB to the federal Office of Personnel Management.

Currently, the federal government is able to make contributions to health care plans purchased by federal employees, but a long-standing provision called the Smith Amendment states that federal funding cannot be used toward plans that cover abortion except in the cases of rape, incest or danger to the life of the mother.

In 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act provided that members of Congress and their staff only may be offered health plans on the newly created state health insurance exchanges.



Cardinalís 80th

The retired Archbishop of Santiago, Cardinal Franciso Javier Errazuriz Ossa marked his 80th birthday on September 5. This means there are now 111 electors in the College of Cardinals. The figure will further reduce at the end of October when both Cardinal Geraldo Majella Angelo of Brazil and Cardinal Raffael Farina, former Vatican archivist, turn 80.



Kidnap appeal 

The Greek Orthodox and Maronite Catholic Churches have issued a joint appeal for international help in locating two prelates who have been missing in Syria since April. The clerics, Greek Orthodox Bishop Boulos Yaziji and Syrian Orthodox Bishop Yohanna Ibrahim were engaged in a humanitarian mission in the country when they were abducted by gunmen who killed their driver. Since then, there has been no update on their whereabouts. Now Greek Orthodox Patriarch Youhanna Yazigi has joined with Maronite Catholic Patriarch Beshara Rai in calling for more help in locating the missing men.

“We are certain the international community could resolve the case,” Patriarch Yazigi said.



Police attack

Police have been accused of using violent tactics in breaking up a Catholic protest in the central Nghe An province. 

The protest had been undertaken in front of the My Yen church to protest at the detentions of two Catholics when police allegedly launched an attack using grenades and tear gas, causing serious injuries to some 40 people, according to one priest who witnessed the violence. It has been further alleged that church property, including buildings and statues, were damaged. The two detained Catholics, Nguyen Van Hai and Ngo Van Kho, were arrested in May when police also attacked Catholics, in that case a group of pilgrims attempting to reach a shrine dedicated to St Anthony of Padua.


The Philippines

Christians kidnapped

Two Church workers have been kidnapped by the al Qaeda-affiliated Abu Sayyaf group. Frederick Banot and Cherden Masong were working on behalf of a Church charity with villagers in Lantawan, in the country’s south when gunmen entered the village and snatched both. 

Specialist troops have since been deployed to search for the pair and though no group has claimed responsibility for the abductions, the volunteers were working in an area known as a stronghold of the Aby Sayyaf which regularly kidnaps people for ransom. On September 5, just days after the Lantawan incident, the group released another kidnap victim, Nancy Gonato, who along with her business partner, was kidnapped in April. Her partner was not freed.