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A land where Muslims Greece is now a be part of the Church’￼smile at Mass-goers￼nation in reverse INTERVIEW, PAGE 7 NOTEBOOK, PAGE 12 CHARTERHOUSE PAGE 20 ￼￼
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￼ No. 6631 CatholicHerald.co.uk October 25 2013 £1.50 (Republic of Ireland €1.80)
Pope’s prayers ‘stopped Syria bombing’
￼BY ED WEST
The report says: “Christianity may yet remain the largest world religion, but its claims to universality – a truly global presence on all five continents – may soon be lost as it becomes the prime victim in the emergence of theocratic states where minority faith groups – most especially Christians – have no place, except perhaps as third-class citizens.”
tians, several hundred thousand of whom were in Syria before the civil war started, may be returning to their homeland despite no guarantees of safety. countries under review the situation for Christians had worsened.” THE PRAYERS of Pope Francis and millions of Catholics around the world helped to stop the war in Syria escalat- ing, the country’s most senior Catholic has said. In the report’s foreword the patriarch writes: “Until 2011, Syria was a sanc- tuary for Christians escaping persecution in Iraq. Our country was a beacon of hope for Christianity in the Middle East. Now, quite suddenly, those Iraqi Chris- tians who came to our country have fled once more.”
￼Patriarch says papal intervention was a ‘miracle’ as he launches report on anti-Christian persecution
￼During a visit to London, Patriarch Gregorios III, spiritual leader of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, said the Holy Father had played a major role in preventing a western attack on his country in August, when Britain and the United States came close to bombing Damascus. ACN has monitored the worsening situation for the faithful in the past few years, especially under Islamist-influ- enced and Marxist regimes. Its new report says that “as large and well-estab- lished communities, often with a long history, Christians are disproportion- ately vulnerable to attack”. A recent The patriarch said: “I believe in mira- cles and Pope Francis, in his appeal to fast and pray, he avoided the attack on Syria and he brought a new vision in the world: peace. America and Russia changed its tone, and so did England and Germany.” Patriarch Gregorios said that three Christians in Maaloula, north of Damas- cus, had been murdered after refusing to convert to Islam. The Aramaic-speaking village is still empty and controlled by Islamist rebels after they attacked in early September, but the patriarch said he hoped Christians would return to the village before Christmas. The patriarch was speaking before the launch of the latest Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) report Persecuted and Forgotten? in the House of Lords. HERALD VIEW ￼The report says that persecution is intensifying in 20 of the 30 worst affected countries and in some regions, in particular the Middle East, Christians are in danger of being driven out. Over- all, it states, the persecution of Christians is still getting worse around the world, especially in majority Islamic and Marxist states.
Aid to the Church in Need is bringing home the severity of anti-Christian persecution to a political establishment that would prefer to ignore it. P13
Reflecting on the Arab Spring, the paper’s authors, John Pontifex and John Newton, write: “A movement that started out with much promise for the advance of democracy has proved disas- trous for Christians, whose very presence in some parts of the Middle East now hangs by a thread. A domino effect of anti-Christian persecution and turbu- lence is now clearly visible, starting in Iraq, moving to Syria and now spread- ing to Egypt – three Middle East coun- tries which have had sizeable and influ- ential Christian communities... with the possible exception of Jordan, no Middle East country has over the past three years seen anything other than a decline in the fortunes of Christians.”
Despite fears about an Islamist takeover if the Assad regime fell, the patriarch said the Christian community remained neutral and that “reconcilia- tion” was the only way forward.
study by the European Union suggested that between 75 and 80 per cent of all religious persecution worldwide was directed against Christians. “I am willing to give my life,” he said.
The 2013 edition of Persecuted and Forgotten? focuses on 30 countries where persecution is particularly severe, or has been until recently, based on six years of research. He added that “both sides are willing to go to the bitter end”, and joked that they should wish for a “better end”. The report says: “Even in the period since the last full report was produced, in March 2011, there has been a wors- ening – in most cases a severe one – in a majority of cases. On Sunday four members of one family, including girls aged 12 and eight, were murdered after suspected Islamist gunmen opened fire at a Coptic wedding in Cairo.
Patriarch Gregorios painted a devas- tating picture of life for Syrians but said that neither he nor other Christians had “hate in their heart”, despite the suffer- ing of the community. The patriarch said that some 450,000 Syrian Chris- tians had fled their homes or the coun- try, almost a third of the pre-war popu- lation of 1.75 million. He reported that two bombs had been found at a church just the morning before he spoke. On top of this there are reports that Iraqi Chris-
“In only four of the countries under review had the situation improved – and of these, the improvement was marginal in three cases. In eight other countries no substantial changes were reported – in many cases because the situation was already so bad, it could scarcely get any worse. Important though these findings are, by far the most significant conclu- sion of the 2013 edition of Persecuted and Forgotten? is that in 20 of the 30
Seventy-five-year-old Fahmy Azer Abboud, who lost his son, granddaugh- ters and sister-in-law in the attack at the Church of the Virgin Mary, told the Times of Israel: “They were pure angels. They had the world’s kindness inside them. They helped me and shared with me everything they had.” The funeral of the four was attended by thousands of Copts, chanting: “With our blood and souls, we will redeem the cross.”
Editorial Comment: Page 13
￼Church sold to Muslim group is expected to be used as a mosque t
￼￼COMEDIAN Stephen Colber t joked about Cardinal Timoth y Dolan’s sartorial style in a speech at the Al Smith charit y dinner in New York last week
￼￼￼Cardinal Dolan roared wi th laughter as the presenter of The Colbert Report teas ed him at the dinner, whi ch raised £1.9 million for charit y. “I have great respect f or Cardinal Dolan,” Mr Colbe
￼￼￼￼BY MADELEINE TEA HAN understanding of the dioc ese is that they intend to rep air and refurbish the building for useasamosqueasith asa more convenient and le vel access than their exist ing premise s.” Catholics living in the a rea has shrunk to such an ext ent that those attending Mass at St Peter’s were simply no lon ger able to maintain a priest and the church buildin gs. sale proceeds, once receiv ed, will have to be retained in its name pending a decision by the trustees as to the fut ure needs of the parishioners in Cobridg e.” A CATHOLIC church sold to the Muslim community in the Archdiocese of Birming ham will be used as a mosque, it emerged this we ek. “The church was put up for sale on the open market . A modest number of offers w ere received and a local Mus lim community made the b est offer, acceptable to the dio ce- san trustees after consultat ion in other local parish e. ￼A spokesman for the Bi sh- ops’ Conference for Engl and and Wales confirmed that St Peter’s Catholic church in Cobridge, Stoke-on-Tre nt, will be refurbished and u sed as a place of worsh ip. St Peter’s Catholic chu rch was put up for sale follow ing a decline in the number of parishione rs. In a statement on Mond ay, the spokesman said: “ The A spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Birming ham said: “The parish of Cobri dge has a long history, but in recent times the number of “The parish of St Pete r’s still exists in Canon Law. The The church was forme rly associated with the lo cal Catholic school, St Pete r’s Catholic Acade
￼Comedian teases Boxer gives the Pope cardinal for charity his championship belt
BY STAFF REPORTER Prior to meeting the Holy Father Mr Martínez, 38 , said: “In the past couple o es. St Peter’s used to be h ome to the Sisters of the Imma cu- late Heart of Mary Mother of Christ before the church’s s ale was announced and the Sisters had to reloca
. MIDDLEWEIGHT boxing worl d champion Sergio Martín ez met Pope Francis at t he Vatican last wee k. months, I will have h ad two of my dreams as
￼￼￼competition.I’ d ha ve with the one-piece... Inste ad he was first runner-up. A nd that means of course that if Pope Francis tests positive f or steroids, Dolan’s in. Card i- nal, warm up your blessi ng arm in the papal bullpen
f￼BY LAURA GOTTI TEDESCHI said, “though I do have to say, sir, it is not easy when you’re wearing that outfit. In that cape with the red sash you look like a matador who’s really let himself go. Did you not see the invite? It said ‘white-tie’ not ‘flamboyant Zorro’.”
￼￼￼He continued: “Early th is year he came this close to being selected Pope. But he blew it in the swimsu it gave him a repli ca of his WBC cha m- pionship belt. He reportedly spo ke to the Pope abo ut his efforts to he lp youngsters resi st bullying. In 20 12 he mentored a 1 4- year-old girl forced to change schools becau se of bullyin
i n rt The Argentine box er went to the Pope ’s weekly general audien ce on Wednesday a nd Catholic come true, to visit the Basilica of o ur Lady Guadalupe
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