POPE FRANCIS: “Let us pray especially for Christians who suffer persecution,” he said, adding, “ – [and] in these times, there are many Christians who suffer persecution, a great many, in many countries: let us pray for them from our heart, with love, that they might feel the living and comforting presence of the Risen Lord.”
ACN: Syria has become a battlefield
The head of an ancient Middle Eastern Church has described how "the whole of Syria has become a battlefield" and has appealed to world leaders to intervene in a bid to stop the fighting.
In a statement, Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III Laham says that the country’s “suffering has gone beyond all bounds” and that the conflict “has mown down thousands and thousands” of people, both civilians and military.
The Damascus-based patriarch estimates that, since the conflict broke out two years ago, up to 400,000 Syrian Christians, possibly more than 25 percent of the total, are either displaced within the country or have fled abroad.
In the statement, which was sent Monday, April 15, to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Patriarch Gregorios reports that since early 2011 more than 1,000 Christians have been killed, that “entire villages have been cleared of their Christian inhabitants” and that more than 40 churches and other Christian centers (schools, orphanages and care homes) lie damaged or destroyed.
He states that key to the country’s problems are chaos and insecurity, as well as an influx of “fundamentalist Islamists.”
The patriarch declares that the threat to Christianity in Syria has wider implications for the religion’s future in the region because for decades the country has provided a refuge for faithful from Lebanon, Iraq and elsewhere.
He states that the conflict poses a severe threat to Muslims, pitting one Islamic tradition against another.
As a Catholic charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians, Aid to the Church in Need has provided ongoing emergency aid (food, shelter and medicine) both in Syria and in neighboring countries, working through leading bishops in the region.
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VIA A MOMENT WITH MARY: Our Lady of Arabia: A New Cathedral in Bahrain
The apostolic vicariate of Northern Arabia stretches over Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Msgr Ballin explains: "I was in Kuwait when I received a phone call from the Secretary of the Minister for Follow-Up Affairs, telling me that the minister wanted to meet with me. Back in Bahrain, I immediately went to see the minister, and it was with great emotion that Sheikh Ahmed bin Atiyatallah Al Khalifa, the minister in charge of the follow-up of decisions made by the king or the government, gave me the land title for a 9,000 m2 plot where we will build the new church."
The document is dated February 11, 2013, feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, who in Bahrain, corresponds to Our Lady of Arabia: "Our prayers have been answered," the bishop wrote. "Our Lady of Arabia is well able to perform miracles!" The new church will be the Cathedral of Arabia.
"In the course of that meeting, the minister invited me to go [today] on February 13th to the royal palace to meet King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah with all the religious officials. He added that I would be seated next to the king as his special guest! I will therefore have the opportunity to thank him for the land given precisely by royal order," Msgr Ballin concluded.
OUR LADY, QUEEN OF ARABIA, QUEEN OF PEACE, PRAY FOR US!
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