National Catholic Reporter

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Jerusalem

Catholic convent, Maronite village latest targets of vandals in Israel

A Catholic convent near Jerusalem and a largely Maronite village in Galilee were damaged in recent weeks as a two-year wave of vandalism directed at Christians and Muslims in Israel and the West Bank continued.

In late March, anti-Christian and anti-American graffiti was scrawled on the walls of the Deir Rafat convent, also known as Our Lady Queen of Palestine. The tires of cars at the monastery also were slashed.

Jerusalem patriarch says pope's May trip to focus on Christian unity

When Pope Francis visits the Holy Land in May, he will follow the pattern he set last year in Brazil by meeting with the leaders of the three nations he will visit as well as with the less fortunate.

But the trip also will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, and it is for that reason the theme of the trip is: "So that they may be one."

Pope accepts resignation of Israeli Melkite archbishop

Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Melkite Archbishop Elias Chacour of Haifa.

Canon 210 of the Eastern Code of Canon Law allows for resignation for health reasons or at the age of 75. Chacour is 74.

Last October, the well-known archbishop was called in for questioning for suspected sexual harassment of a woman who works in the community; the allegations concerned an incident that allegedly took place five years ago. Following several hours of questioning, the archbishop was released on bail under restricting conditions.

Bishops visiting Holy Land call for help for 'shocking scandal' in Gaza

Bishops from North America, Europe and Africa called on international leaders to act immediately so people living in the Gaza Strip can have access to basic necessities.

"Gaza is a man-made disaster, a shocking scandal, an injustice that cries out to the human community for a resolution. We call upon political leaders to improve the humanitarian situation of the people in Gaza, assuring access to the basic necessities for a dignified human life, the possibilities for economic development and freedom of movement," they said in their statement Thursday.

Floods, rain threaten to make Christmas even more difficult in Gaza

The snowstorms and torrential rain that battered the Middle East in mid-December threatened to make this Christmas season an especially difficult one for Christians in Gaza.

Matthew McGarry, Catholic Relief Services' country representative, described the situation as "quite bad."

"There is extensive damage to infrastructure, and we haven't been able to get our staff in until today," McGarry told Catholic News Service on Tuesday. "We are targeting the most vulnerable families."

Many schools remained closed because of structural damage, he added.

Christians, Muslims join Pope Francis in praying for peace in Syria

At the Church of All Nations at the Garden of Gethsemane, the stone that traditionally has represented Jesus' agony was scattered with notes in different languages -- all asking for peace in Syria.

Christian leaders of the Holy Land gathered there Saturday as Christians and Muslims all over the world prayed with Pope Francis for Syria.

In the West Bank and in Turkey, in Canada and the United States people gathered, responding to the papal call for prayer and fasting.

Israeli court OKs construction of barrier through Salesians' property

An Israeli court has approved the construction of the Israeli separation barrier along a route that will nearly surround a convent and its primary school and confiscate most of their land on the outskirts of Beit Jalla, West Bank.

After more than six years of legal proceedings, the decision was handed down by the Israeli Special Appeals Committee for Land Seizure under emergency law in late April.

Just in time for Passover, Israel braces for locust invasion

With Passover just three weeks away, the timing of a massive infestation of locusts in Egypt is striking many Israelis as downright biblical.

Millions of the grasshopper-like insects swarmed Israel's southern neighbor, damaging crops. Some have since made their way to southern Israel.

On the eve of Passover, which this year begins at sundown March 25, Jews around the world will recall the Exodus story and the 10 plagues that befell Egypt.

Visiting bishops note strain recent events placed on Mideast countries

Bishops who traveled to the Holy Land to assess the local church's needs noted the "profound anxiety" that the "dark and dramatic events" of the past year have caused in the region.

The civil war in Syria has resulted in an increasingly large number of refugees pouring into other countries, putting an enormous strain on national and government resources, they said. The situation within Israel and Palestine has also become increasingly polarized, they added.

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April 11-24, 2014

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