National Catholic Reporter

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Beirut

Catholic aid group channels money to help Christians displaced in Syria

A pontifical aid organization has begun sending aid to families who fled their homes when Islamic State militants raided a cluster of Assyrian Christian villages on the Khabur River in northeast Syria.

The Catholic Near East Welfare Association, upon learning about the Islamic State attacks, contacted Bishop Aprim Nathniel of the Assyrian Church of the East in Hassakeh, with whom the agency had collaborated on previous projects, said Michel Constantin, CNEWA's regional director for Lebanon, Syria and Egypt.

Patriarchs' Lenten messages focus on struggles of Middle East Christians

The Middle East is suffering a "Way of the Cross" that is the greatest tragedy since World War II, Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregoire III Laham said in a Lenten message about suffering.

He said the church, despite its efforts, is having difficulty meeting the growing needs it faces in the region.

"We fail in front of the suffering of our people in all walks of life, Christians and Muslims. It's a universal suffering," he said.

Syriac patriarch calls Islamic State actions 'attempted genocide'

Returning from a visit to the Kurdish region of Iraq, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan called the Islamic State invasion "pure and simple religious cleansing and attempted genocide."

"What we, the five patriarchs, saw in Ankawa, Irbil and other cities of Kurdistan, was something indescribable in terms of the violation of human rights and the threat of disappearing of various communities among the vulnerable minorities of Northern Iraq," Younan said. "It is a pure and simple religious cleansing and attempted genocide.

Lebanese bishop says he was target of failed kidnapping

Maronite Bishop Simon Atallah of Baalbek-Der El-Ahmar said he was the target of a failed kidnapping attempt Saturday.

The incident occurred in the evening when two four-wheel-drive vehicles chased the bishop's car on a major road in the eastern town of Zahle. However, his driver sped toward an army checkpoint, after which the two vehicles drove away.

"What happened yesterday was a shameful act," Atallah told reporters the next day. He said the attempt was most likely motivated by a desire for ransom.

Syria's bishops call for cease-fire, urge Catholics to fast

Catholic bishops of Syria called for a cease-fire in Syria and for the pursuit of the Geneva peace talks to end the crisis in the war-torn country.

The bishops encouraged the faithful during Lent to "fast and show solidarity, charity and collaboration in alleviating the sufferings of internally and externally displaced persons."

Catholic officials: Release of kidnapped nuns was answer to prayers

The release of at least 12 Greek Orthodox nuns who were abducted in Syria in December was an answer to prayers, said regional Catholic officials.

Melkite Patriarch Gregoire III Laham said Monday that he felt "a wave of joy" along with "thousands and thousands" of other people when he heard the nuns had been freed a day earlier. Islamist rebels claimed responsibility for the abduction of the nuns in December from Syria's ancient town of Maaloula, where Aramaic, the language of Jesus, is still spoken.

Cardinal: Lebanese must coexist, get president elected in timely manner

Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai said the Maronite Catholic church could not remain a bystander as Lebanon neared an "existential crisis."

"We must return to the achievements reached by the Lebanese people when they devised the original national pact," Rai said, referring to the 1943 agreement that laid the foundation of Lebanon as a multiconfessional state. "Coexistence lies in belonging to a civilized project that brings together Muslims and Christians."

Displaced Christians in Lebanon experience a life in waiting

The misery experienced by Mariam, her husband, Ephrem, and their three young children is just one example of hundreds of thousands of Christians in the Middle East, displaced by wars in which they are not participating.

The family's place of transition is a single room in a run-down building in Beirut. It is a building full of people like them who have fled the war in Syria, all attempting to eke out an existence.

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March 27-April 9, 2015

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