Posts Tagged ‘Pope Francis’

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, January 11, 2018 — The Lesson of Total Defeat and the Cure of a Leper — Never Surrender Hope

January 10, 2018

Thursday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 308

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Lepers beg Jesus that they be healed

Reading 1 1 SM 4:1-11

The Philistines gathered for an attack on Israel.
Israel went out to engage them in battle and camped at Ebenezer,
while the Philistines camped at Aphek.
The Philistines then drew up in battle formation against Israel.
After a fierce struggle Israel was defeated by the Philistines,
who slew about four thousand men on the battlefield.
When the troops retired to the camp, the elders of Israel said,
“Why has the LORD permitted us to be defeated today
by the Philistines?
Let us fetch the ark of the LORD from Shiloh
that it may go into battle among us
and save us from the grasp of our enemies.”So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there
the ark of the LORD of hosts, who is enthroned upon the cherubim.
The two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were with the ark of God.
When the ark of the LORD arrived in the camp,
all Israel shouted so loudly that the earth resounded.
The Philistines, hearing the noise of shouting, asked,
“What can this loud shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?”
On learning that the ark of the LORD had come into the camp,
the Philistines were frightened.
They said, “Gods have come to their camp.”
They said also, “Woe to us! This has never happened before. Woe to us!
Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods?
These are the gods that struck the Egyptians
with various plagues and with pestilence.
Take courage and be manly, Philistines;
otherwise you will become slaves to the Hebrews,
as they were your slaves.
So fight manfully!”
The Philistines fought and Israel was defeated;
every man fled to his own tent.
It was a disastrous defeat,
in which Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers.
The ark of God was captured,
and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were among the dead.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 44:10-11, 14-15, 24-25

R. (27b) Redeem us, Lord, because of your mercy.
Yet now you have cast us off and put us in disgrace,
and you go not forth with our armies.
You have let us be driven back by our foes;
those who hated us plundered us at will.
R. Redeem us, Lord, because of your mercy.
You made us the reproach of our neighbors,
the mockery and the scorn of those around us.
You made us a byword among the nations,
a laughingstock among the peoples.
R. Redeem us, Lord, because of your mercy.
Why do you hide your face,
forgetting our woe and our oppression?
For our souls are bowed down to the dust,
our bodies are pressed to the earth.
R. Redeem us, Lord, because of your mercy.

Alleluia  SEE MT 4:23

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Jesus preached the Gospel of the Kingdom
and cured every disease among the people.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
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Jesus heals


Gospel  MK 1:40-45

A leper came to him and kneeling down begged him and said,
“If you wish, you can make me clean.”
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand,
touched the leper, and said to him,
“I do will it. Be made clean.”
The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.
Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once.
Then he said to him, “See that you tell no one anything,
but go, show yourself to the priest
and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed;
that will be proof for them.”
The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter.
He spread the report abroad
so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.
He remained outside in deserted places,
and people kept coming to him from everywhere.

Pope Francis’ Reflection For 1 Samuel 4:1-11 and Mark 1:40-45

Faith makes the difference between victory and defeat, says Pope Francis, and faith is not something we learn in books, but simply a gift — a gift we should ask for.

The Holy Father contrasted the defeat of the Israelites recounted in the First Reading with the victory of the leper recounted in the Gospel.

Taken from Samuel, the First Reading speaks of the Philistines’ conquest: “the slaughter was very great,” and the people lost everything, “[even] their dignity,” the Pope noted.

“What led to this defeat?” he asked. It was because the people “slowly walked away from the Lord, lived in a worldly fashion, and even kept with idols.”

The people went out to the Sanctuary of Shiloh, but, “as if it were a mere cultural habit,” he said. They had lost their filial relationship with God – they did not worship God – and He left them alone.

Even the Ark of the Covenant was viewed more as a magic talisman, Francis said. “In the Ark,” he recalled, “was the Law – the Law that they did not keep and which they had abandoned.” There was no longer “a personal relationship with the Lord – they had forgotten the God who had saved them,” and were defeated.

Thirty thousand Israelites were slain, the Ark was taken by the Philistines, the two sons of Eli, “those criminal priests who exploited people in the Sanctuary of Shiloh,” met their end. It was “a total defeat,” the Pope said. “Thus does a people that has distanced itself from God meet its end.”

Moving mountains

The Gospel of the day, however, speaks of a victory, the Pontiff explained:

“At that time, a leper came to Jesus and begged him on his knees – precisely in a gesture of adoration – and said, ‘Look, you can make me clean.’ He challenged the Lord, saying, ‘I have been defeated in life’ – the leper had suffered defeat, insofar as he could not live life in common with others, he was always cast off – ‘but you [he said to the Lord] can turn this defeat into victory!.’ That is: ‘Look, you can make me clean.’ Before this Jesus had compassion, he stretched out his hand, touched him and said, ‘I desire that you be made clean!’

“So, simply: this fight is over in two minutes and ends in victory; that other lasts all day long, and ends with the defeat. The man had something that drove him to go to Jesus and send up the challenge: he had faith.”

The Apostle John says that the victory over the world is our faith. “Our faith wins, always!”:

“Faith is the victory. Faith: like [that of] this man [who said], ‘If you want to, you can do it.’ The losers of the First Reading prayed to God, bearing the ark, but they had no faith, they had forgotten it. This leper had faith, and when you ask with faith, Jesus himself told us, mountains will move. We are able to move a mountain from one place to another: faith is capable of this. Jesus himself said, ‘Whatever you ask the Father in my name, you will be given. Ask and you shall receive; knock and it shall be opened,’ but with faith – and this, this is our victory.”

Pope Francis concluded his homily with this prayer:

“We ask the Lord that our prayers always have that root of faith, that they be born of faith in Him. The grace of faith: faith is a gift. You do not learn [it] from books. It is a gift that the Lord gives you, but just ask for it: ‘Give me faith!’ ‘I believe, Lord!’, said the man who asked Jesus to heal his son: ‘I ask Lord, that you help my unbelief.’ Prayer with faith … and the man is healed.

“We ask God for the grace to pray with faith, to be sure that everything we ask of Him we will be given, with the confidence that faith gives us – and this is our victory, our faith.”



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Homily from the Abbot of the Monastery of Christ in the Desert
My sisters and brothers in Christ,
It is not easy for us to understand being excluded completely from society, as were lepers in much of the Old Testament and even in the time of Jesus. Perhaps at this time in history, a close approximation to this situation would be someone who has just returned from a countrywiththeebola virus. There can be an enormous fear of being infected and a complete rejection of the person who has beeninanebola area.Thinking aboutebola and the scare that it can cause helps us understand the first reading and the Gospel today. The first reading, from the Book of Leviticus, tells us about how lepers are to be treated. We understand this attempt at quarantine as an effort to protect the community as a whole. Such efforts are not rejection of a person but an honest attempt to deal with the disease the person might spread and which could affect the whole people.The person afflicted with leprosy seeks healing in order to be allowed back into normal society.

Most of us don’t want to be completely shunned by others! We want to belong to society even if we don’t need to be the center of attention. Sotoo the person with leprosy. He or she would want to become part of the community once again but it would be impossible for most of them. For a few, whatever disease afflicted them might disappear and they could be readmitted.In the Gospel, a leper comes to Jesus and is cured. Jesus tells the leper not to tell others. That is impossible. The Gospel tells us that then Jesus begins to remain outside, in deserted places. That is to say, Jesus begins to live as most lepers lived: apart from others and in deserted places. It is almost as if Jesus trades place with the leper after he cures him.Two challenges present themselves to us today. Am I willing to pray for the life of others and to ask God to cure them? Most of us Christians, followers of Jesus, are able to pray for others. But am I willing to offer my own life for the sake of another person? It is not just the healing of the other person, but am I willing to take on the form of a slave, as was Jesus?

Am I willing to become outcast from all others so that another person can be accepted once more within the human community? Am I willing not to seek my own benefit but that of the many, that they may be saved? This is the teaching of the First Letter to the Corinthians in the second reading today.

To follow Jesus and to ask the healing presence of Jesus is not about doing good without a cost! Instead, I must be willing to give up my life for others, as did our Lord Jesus. There is no life in Christ without being willing to give up my life. There is always a cost to following Jesus. Yet we know that if we give all, He also will give us all in His Kingdom. Praise God forever!


Commentary on Mark 1:40-45 from Living Space

This healing story does not actually belong to that “Day in the life of Jesus” which we reflected on over the past two days.

Lepers were among the most piteous of people in scriptural times. Although little was known of the origin of the sickness, it was clearly known to be contagious and therefore greatly feared. The only solution was to isolate the victim and not allow him/her to approach people. So, apart from the appalling physical disintegration of body and limbs, there was the social ostracism, the contempt and the fear which the victim engendered.

What was probably even more tragic was that many who were branded as lepers were suffering from some other ailment, which may not have been contagious at all – such as ulcers, cancer or other skin diseases (some of them perhaps purely psychosomatic). The signs for diagnosis are given in chapter 13 of the Book of Leviticus and, by our standards today, are rather primitive indeed. The room for a wrong diagnosis was huge. It was a question of being safe rather than sorry.

The leper in the story indicates his great faith and trust in Jesus, a necessary and sufficient condition for healing in the Gospel. “If you wish, you can make me clean,” he says. He knows this because he has undoubtedly seen or heard of what others have experienced.

Jesus is filled with a deep sense of compassion for the man’s plight. Highlighting the emotional feelings of Jesus is a characteristic of Mark’s gospel and is seldom found in Matthew. What Jesus feels is compassion not just pity. In pity we feel sorry for the person; in compassion, we enter into the feelings of the other, we empathize with their experience. And in doing so Jesus does the unthinkable – he reaches out to touch the leper. This must have been a healing act in itself. The leper was by definition untouchable. “I do will it.” says Jesus, “Be made clean.” The man is immediately healed.

But that is not the end of the story because the man has still to be reintegrated into the community – this is the second part of the healing process. He is told to go to the priests to make the customary offering of thanksgiving. They will examine him and then pronounce him fit to re-enter society.

He is also told not to say anything to anyone about it. Jesus wanted no sensationalism. But how could the man refrain from telling everybody about his wonderful experience of coming in contact with the whole-making power of Jesus? He becomes an ardent evangeliser, a spreader of good news – something we are all called to be.

What is the outcome of our experience of knowing Jesus? How come we do not have the enthusiasm of this man? It is worth noting that that experience was the result of his first having been the victim of a terrible cross. It is often in our crosses that grace appears.

Once again, Jesus goes out into the desert to avoid the enthusiastic crowds. Jesus was not interested in having “fans”, only genuine followers. He would not be ready until his full identity was recognised. That would only happen as he hung dying on the cross (Mark 15:39)

Before we leave this story, we may ask who are the lepers in our society today? One very obvious group are those who have contracted contagious diseases like HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases which are becoming ever more widespread. Even though these are of little danger to most people who have no physical contact, the victims are often rejected in fear or disgust or embarrassment by family members, friends, employers, colleagues, even medical people.

There are also people like homosexuals. If many of them are not lepers it is simply because they dare not reveal their orientation. They dare not do so because they are most likely to be “leper-ized” by even family and friends. There are other marginal groups – nomadic groups like Romanies, drug addicts, poor single mothers, the homeless, alcoholics… Indeed, we have many lepers among us. Let us examine our attitudes today and revise them if necessary.


The leper women as shown in the film “Ben Hur”
Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
11 JANUARY, 2018, Thursday, 1st Week, Ordinary Time

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 SM 4:1-11Mk 1:40-45   ]

When we experience failure at work or in ministry, we tend to blame others for our difficulties.  We try to look for scapegoats for our mistakes.  This was the case of the Israelites.  When they were defeated by the Philistines, “about four thousand of their army were killed on the field”, they began to ask “Why has the Lord allowed us to be defeated today by the Philistines?”  Instead of looking at themselves, the morale of the soldiers, the moral standards of the officers, their military preparedness, they sought other reasons.

Oftentimes, when we feel guilty about our sins, we can become overly superstitious.  Instead of putting our house in order, we think God is taking revenge on us.   The Israelites came to conclude that it was because the Ark of the Covenant was not there.  Instead of repenting for their sins, they took out the Ark of the Covenant.  They said, “Let us fetch the ark of our God from Shiloh so that it may come among us and rescue us from the power of our enemies.’  So the troops sent to Shiloh and brought away the ark of the Lord of hosts, he who is seated on the cherubs; the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, came with the ark.  When the ark of the Lord arrived in the camp, all Israel gave a great shout so that the earth resounded.”  Religion became a means to satisfy their selfish interests.  Instead of being used by God and allowing Him to work in our lives, we seek to make use of God and to control how He is to fulfill our whims and fancies.

The Israelites’ faith in God was based on a mere superstitious belief in the mechanical action of God through the Ark of the Covenant, when in fact it was but a symbol and a promise of His presence with them.  Unless they were open to His presence and faithful to His covenant, the Ark could not save them. As a result, they were slaughtered by the Philistines.  “So the Philistines joined battle and Israel was defeated, each man fleeing to his tent.  The slaughter was great indeed, and there fell of the Israelites thirty thousand foot soldiers.  The Ark of God was captured too, and the two sons of Eli died, Hophni and Phinehas.”

This is true for many of us.  There are many Catholics who hardly pray or attend Church services regularly and least of all, live an upright life, but they would carry their rosary and wear blessed medals for divine protection.   Some think that if they wear the scapular, they will be protected from all harm and be assured of salvation, regardless what they do.  Such thinking is no better than the way the Israelites made use of the Ark of the Covenant.  When we are not ready to look into the source of our problems, we will end with more dire consequences.  Just blessed medals alone cannot protect us unless we have a faith relationship with God.  Unless we know Jesus, His strength and His power, when it comes to the test of faith, we will falter.  The blessed medals can only protect us provided we believe in the power of the one whom the medal represents.   But this presupposes that we have a living relationship with Jesus or Mary or the saints that are represented in the medals.  What the medal or scapular does for us is to help us to recall the presence of the saints so that we will not be afraid or think that we are alone in our time of difficulty.

What was the real reason for the Israelites’ failure to defeat their enemies?  It was their sinful life that pushed God out of their lives.  The leaders, including the religious leaders, were laxed in their moral life.  As a result, God had abandoned them to themselves.  Earlier on, the Lord said to Samuel, “On that day I will fulfil against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. And I tell him that I am about to punish his house for ever, for the iniquity which he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering for ever.”  (1 Sm 3:12-14)

Holiness of life is essential to the success of our ministry.  This is the key to fruitfulness in ministry and work.  But we also cannot be superstitious in our relationship with God as the Israelites did over the Ark of the Covenant.  We must not treat our prayers like magic or instruments to control God.  Today, we must be like the leper who begged for healing.  We must begin by acknowledging our sins and our need for mercy.  “Yet now you have rejected us, disgraced us; you no longer go forth with our armies. You make us retreat from the foe and our enemies plunder us at will. You make us the taunt of our neighbours, the laughing-stock of all who are near. Among the nations, you make us a byword, among the peoples a thing of derision.  Awake, O Lord, why do you sleep?  Arise, do not reject us forever! Why do you hide your face and forget our oppression and misery?”  We must confess our sins humbly, especially in the Sacrament of reconciliation so that we can begin our relationship anew with the Lord.

Most of all, we must listen to the Word of God attentively as Samuel did.  This also explains why the author said, “Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.”  (1 Sm 3:1)  They could no longer hear the voice of God.   Indeed, when our lives are not in order, we cannot act in accordance with the will of God.  Without hearing the Word of God, we cannot act according to His word.  If we want to act in union with the Lord, we must seek His will.  This is what the Lord asks of us.   “Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”  (Mt 7:24f)

Faith in God’s power is dependent on us hearing the Word of God first.  For this reason, Jesus preached the Word before He healed.  He instructed the disciples, “And preach as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.  You received without pay, give without pay.” (Mt 10:7f) He solicited faith in the person before He performed the miracle.   So too, in our healing ministry, the Word of God always precedes the sacramental action.  The Word of God comes before the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  Without faith the action that we perform would be meaningless and lacking in power.  Preaching must always be accompanied by signs.  “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. And these signs will accompany those who believe.”  (Mk 16:15f)

We ask the Lord to redeem us because of His love.  This is what the psalmist prayed.  We must place our confidence in His love for us.  The leper approached Jesus humbly and with trust in His love and power.   He was assured that Jesus would not reject him, for lepers were not supposed to come near to the people.  Jesus is ever ready to heal us and empower us, for that is what He said, “A leper came to Jesus and pleaded on his knees: ‘If you want to’ he said ‘you can cure me.’  Feeling sorry for him, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him.  ‘Of course I want to!’ he said.  ‘Be cured!’  And the leprosy left him at once and he was cured.”   Indeed, Jesus showed forth not just His power but His love by touching the untouchables.  Not only did Jesus heal his body but also his heart which needed much acceptace and human love.

However, like the leper, we must cooperate with His grace.  He was told to see the priest and make an offering.  “Jesus immediately sent him away and sternly ordered him, ‘Mind you say nothing to anyone, but go and show yourself to the priest, and make the offering for your healing prescribed by Moses as evidence of your recovery.’”  We must cooperate in prayer and conversion of life.  Many of us are not fruitful in our ministry, nor in our workplace, or even in family life because we are not living a righteous life.   St John Mary Vianney once asked a priest who lamented that his ministry was not fruitful, whether he had prayed, fasted or did penance.  If he had not done all these, then he had no reason to complain.  Let us renew our love for the Lord, beg for His mercy and open our hearts to His healing grace.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh

Gallup Poll: Obama Takes Title of ‘Most Admired Man’ for 10th Year in a Row

December 28, 2017


Former President Barack Obama took the title of “most admired man” for the tenth consecutive year, according to a Gallup poll released Wednesday.

The Gallup poll, which has been conducted every year since 1946, asked respondents to name their top two picks for most admired man and woman.

Obama took the top spot with 17 percent of the vote, while 14 percent of respondents voted for President Donald Trump to take the runner-up slot.

Pope Francis followed with three percent of the vote, and Rev. Billy Graham came in fourth with two percent of the vote.

Both Trump and Pope Francis have made the list before, although they have yet to take the top slot in the poll.

The poll also mentioned other political, business, and religious leaders, including Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, the Dalai Lama, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

For the ladies, Hillary Clinton topped the list for “most admired woman” — a title she has held onto for the past 15 years.

However, Gallup notes that she may not hold onto this title in future years because her polling numbers were at their lowest in 15 years and are unlikely to improve as her political career is “likely over.”

“She managed to win this year because she remains arguably more prominent than other contenders,” Gallup said. “However, retaining that stature may be more challenging in coming years with her political career likely over.”

Former first lady Michelle Obama took the runner-up slot, with seven percent of the vote, while Oprah Winfrey took third place with four percent.

Gallup surveyed 1,049 adults from December 4–11 with a four percent margin of error.

Mideast needs two-state solution, Pope says in Christmas message

December 25, 2017

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Pope Francis waves as he leads the “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) message from the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican December 25, 2017. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi Reuters

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis used his Christmas message on Monday to call for a negotiated two-state solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, after U.S. President Donald Trump stoked regional tensions with his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Francis spoke of the Middle East conflict and other world flashpoints in his “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) address, four days after more than 120 countries backed a U.N. resolution urging the United States to reverse its decision on Jerusalem.

“Let us pray that the will to resume dialogue may prevail between the parties and that a negotiated solution can finally be reached, one that would allow the peaceful coexistence of two states within mutually agreed and internationally recognized borders,” he said, referring to the Israelis and Palestinians.

“We see Jesus in the children of the Middle East who continue to suffer because of growing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians,” he said in his address, delivered from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica to tens of thousands of people.

It was the second time that the pope has spoken out publicly about Jerusalem since Trump’s decision on Dec. 6. On that day, Francis called for the city’s “status quo” to be respected, lest new tensions in the Middle East further inflame world conflicts.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future independent state, whereas Israel has declared the whole city to be its “united and eternal” capital.

Francis, leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, urged people to see the defenseless baby Jesus in the children who suffer the most from war, migration and natural calamities caused by man today.

“Today, as the winds of war are blowing in our world … Christmas invites us to focus on the sign of the child and to recognize him in the faces of little children, especially those for whom, like Jesus, ‘there is no place in the inn,'” he said.


Francis, celebrating the fifth Christmas of his pontificate, said he had seen Jesus in the children he met during his recent trip to Myanmar and Bangladesh, and he called for adequate protection of the dignity of minority groups in that region.

More than 600,000 Muslim Rohingya people have fled mainly Buddhist Myanmar to Bangladesh in recent months. The pope had to tread a delicate diplomatic line during his visit, avoiding the word “Rohingya” while in Myanmar, which does not recognize them as a minority group, though he used the term when in Bangladesh.

“Jesus knows well the pain of not being welcomed and how hard it is not to have a place to lay one’s head. May our hearts not be closed as they were in the homes of Bethlehem,” he said.

He also urged the world to see Jesus in the innocent children suffering from wars in Syria and Iraq and also in Yemen, complaining that its people had been “largely forgotten, with serious humanitarian implications for its people, who suffer from hunger and the spread of diseases”.

He also listed conflicts affecting children in South Sudan, Somalia, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Ukraine and Venezuela.

At his Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday, Francis strongly defended immigrants, comparing them to Mary and Joseph finding no place to stay in Bethlehem and saying faith demands that foreigners be welcomed.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Pope calls for peace in Jerusalem in Christmas message

December 25, 2017

Pope Francis leads the Christmas night Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on Dec.24, 2017. (REUTERS)
VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis called for “peace for Jerusalem” and “mutual trust” on the Korean peninsula as he highlighted the suffering of children in conflicts across the world in his Christmas address on Monday.
In the traditional “Urbi et Orbi” address in Saint Peter’s Square, the pontiff spoke of “growing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians,” hoping that the “will to resume dialogue may prevail between the parties and that a negotiated solution can finally be reached, one that would allow the peaceful coexistence of two states.”
“Let us pray that confrontation may be overcome on the Korean peninsula and that mutual trust may increase in the interest of the world as a whole,” the pope said.

Pope pleads for migrants at Christmas Eve Mass

December 25, 2017


© Andreas Solaro, AFP | Pope Francis kisses a statue of baby Jesus during Mass on Christmas Eve marking the birth of Jesus Christ on December 24, 2017 at St Peter’s basilica in Vatican


Latest update : 2017-12-25

Pope Francis in his Christmas eve mass Sunday urged the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics not to ignore the plight of migrants who are “driven from their land” because of leaders willing to shed “innocent blood”.

“So many other footsteps are hidden in the footsteps of Joseph and Mary,” the Argentine pontiff, himself the grandson of Italian migrants, told worshippers in Saint Peter’s Basilica

“We see the tracks of millions of persons who do not choose to go away but, driven from their land, leave behind their dear ones.”

Many engulfed in the ongoing migration crisis were forced to flee from leaders “who, to impose their power and increase their wealth, see no problem in shedding innocent blood”, said the 81-year-old, who will give his traditional “Urbi et Orbi” Christmas address on Monday.

The pontiff’s plea for “hope” came as fresh tensions simmered in the West Bank following Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The announcement by US President Donald Trump on December 6 unleashed demonstrators and clashes, including in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank where Christians marked the birth of Jesus at a midnight mass.

On Sunday, Guatemala President Jimmy Morales said his country would move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, following Trump’s controversial lead.

Fewer tourists in Bethlehem

Celebrating mass in the ancient town, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, used his homily to lambast the wars that “the Herods of today fight every day to become greater, to occupy more space”.

He urged “Christians of the Holy Land, who are worried, and perhaps afraid by the reduction of our numbers, the inadequacy of our means, the insecurity that characterises our daily life,” to have courage in the troubled region.

Criticising Trump’s announcement, Pizzaballa insisted “Jerusalem is a city of peace, there is not peace if someone is excluded. Jerusalem should include, not exclude,” stressing the principle that Jerusalem is a city for both peoples and the three Abrahamic faiths.

“Jerusalem is our mother,” he said, and if one of her children “is missing the mother cannot be at peace, so we have to pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” the archbishop said in his homily in the presence of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.

Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has sparked almost daily protests in the Palestinian territories and put a damper on Christmas festivities.

Palestinian scouts played drums and bagpipes at celebrations in Bethlehem, but many tourists stayed away this year.

Hundreds of people gathered in the cold on Bethlehem’s Manger square to watch the annual scout parade towards the Church of the Nativity, built over the spot where tradition says Mary gave birth to Jesus.

But the square was noticeably quieter following the violence between Palestinian protesters and the Israeli army in the past weeks.

Twelve Palestinians have been killed since Trump’s declaration, including a 19-year-old who died of his wounds on Sunday nine days after he was shot during a Gaza protest.

In the square, Nahil Banura, a Christian woman from Beit Sahur, near Bethlehem, said Trump’s decision had made the run-up to Christmas “miserable”.

“People are only going out to vent,” she said.

‘Sadness and joy’

The Israeli army officer in charge of the Bethlehem area said that while tensions had been high in the area following the Jerusalem announcement, he did not expect trouble at Christmas.

“We’ve reinforced our troops, and are ready for any scenario,” Lieutenant Colonel Benny Meir told AFP.

Israel seized east Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed it, in moves never recognised by the international community.

Palestinians view east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, and interpreted Trump’s statement as rejecting their right to a capital in east Jerusalem, although the Americans deny this.

In a statement earlier, Abbas called on “world Christians to listen to the true voices of the indigenous Christians from the Holy Land… that strongly rejected the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital”.

Mitri Raheb, pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem,  told AFP that Christmas this year is a “mix of sadness and joy” because of the US decision on Jerusalem, which he called “the beating heart of Palestine”.

Christmas in Mosul

Christmas decorations have meanwhile become more visible in Christian areas of Syria’s capital Damascus this year.

In the central Syrian city of Homs, Christians will celebrate Christmas with great fanfare for the first time in years after the end of battles between regime and rebel forces, with processions, shows for children and even decorations among the ruins.

In Iraq too, this year marks a positive turning point for the Christian community in the northern city of Mosul.

Hymns filled a Mosul church on Sunday as worshippers celebrated Christmas for the first time in four years after the city’s recapture from the Islamic State group in July.

Muslims stood alongside Christian worshippers amid the candles and Christmas trees at St Paul’s Church in Mosul.

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Iraqi priests lead the prayers during a Christmas mass at the Saint Paul”s church in Mosul



UN Votes to affirm Palestinian right to self-determination — “Why don’t we get on with it?”

December 20, 2017
 DECEMBER 20, 2017 06:51


The United States, Canada and Israel were among the seven that opposed the text; four states abstained.

176 nations at UN call for Palestinian statehood

Pope Francis greets Jordan’s King Abdullah at the Vatican December 19, 2017. (photo credit: MAX ROSSI / REUTERS)

The General Assembly voted 176-7 on Tuesday to affirm the Palestinian right to self-determination, one day after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas pledged to renew his quest for state membership in the international body.

The vote is nonbinding and has no impact beyond underscoring international support for Palestinian statehood among most of the UN’s 193 members.

The United States, Canada and Israel were among the seven that opposed the text; four states abstained.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a news conference following the extraordinary meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul, Turkey, December 13, 2017

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a news conference following the extraordinary meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul, Turkey, December 13, 2017 REUTERS/Osman Orsal

While the General Assembly approves a similar text each year, PLO Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour said this year’s vote had to be seen within the context of international opposition to US President Donald Trump’s declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

On Monday, the US vetoed a UN Security Council resolution against the declaration that had the support of the other 14 nations on the 15-member body.

“The world rejects the new US position on Jerusalem, which increases its isolation, because it decided to stand by the occupying state, Israel, in violation of relevant Security Council resolutions,” Mansour said, according to Wafa, the Palestinian news agency.

It is one of a number of moves the Palestinians are taking at the UN this week to underscore their claim that Israel and the US are isolated on the world stage when it comes to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.

On Wednesday, the General Assembly will vote on a resolution stipulating the right of the Palestinian people to their natural resources in “occupied territory,” Mansour added. This includes the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

But the PLO needs Security Council approval to become a UN member state, which means that the US can block its momentum.

The PLO is seeking a way to circumvent the US; to date there are few UN organs that provide an alternative to a Security Council vote.

The primary organ for neutralizing the Security Council is the General Assembly’s Uniting for Peace Resolution 377A, approved in 1950 to neutralize the Soviet Union’s power at the Security Council, which at the time was blocking action on Korea.

Since then, the General Assembly has held 10 emergency session under Resolution 377A, half of which have been about Israel.

The last one was opened in 1997 over Israeli construction in Jerusalem’s Har Homa neighborhood, located over the Green Line. Eighteen General Assembly meetings have been held under that session’s title.

The last such emergency session was in 2009, regarding the IDF’s Operation Cast Lead against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

In 2012, the General assembly voted to recognize “Palestine” as an observer state, a move considered to be a form of de facto statehood recognition, but which does not grant the Palestinians full statehood rights.

Resolution 377A has not yet been used for statehood affirmation.

The Arab states, however, made use of it to reconvene the 10th emergency session on Thursday, so that the General Assembly can approve the vetoed Security Council text on Jerusalem. Turkey, Yemen and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation issued a request for such a session.

A resolution passed under 377A is not as binding as a Security Council resolution, but is stronger than a regulation General Assembly text.

Alan Baker, former legal adviser to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem and a senior fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, said that such a move was a “big bluff.”

Such a session can adopt resolutions, and “they carry a bigger punch,” but they are not binding, he said.

In general, the UN “cannot determine that a declaration by a US president can be legal or illegal, because the declaration itself does not violate any international law,” Baker said.

Separately, Jordan’s King Abdullah is in Europe to bolster opposition to Trump’s Jerusalem declaration. Abdullah and Pope Francis spoke privately for about 20 minutes at the start of the King’s visit to the Vatican and France.

A Vatican statement said they discussed “the promotion of peace and stability in the Mideast, with particular reference to the question of Jerusalem and the role of the Hashemite Sovereign as Custodian of the Holy Places.”

The statement said both sides wanted to encourage negotiations.

He also met in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss Jerusalem and the peace process. Reuters contributed to this report.


Pope to pay homage to venerated Italian saint — Padre Pio

December 19, 2017


© AFP/File | Last year, Pope Francis had the remains of beloved Italian saint Padre Pio brought to Rome where it was placed in a transparent coffin in the Vatican

VATICAN CITY (AFP) – Pope Francis will pay homage to the beloved Italian saint Padre Pio in March, visiting the sites connected to a man reputed by believers to have been able to levitate.The Argentine pontiff will make a quick trip on March 17 to Padre Pio’s hometown of Pietrelcina near Naples before flying by helicopter to San Giovanni Rotondo in southern Italy, the Vatican said Tuesday.

Pio was revered during his lifetime (1887-1968) and his popularity has grown since his death, particularly in Italy, where mini-statues and pictures of the mystical Capuchin friar are ubiquitous.

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Padre Pio

The pope’s visit will mark the 50th anniversary of Padre Pio’s death.

Born Francesco Forgione, he lived most of his life in the Capuchin convent of San Giovanni Rotondo, which is now a sanctuary where his body is on display.

In a crowd-pleasing move last year, Francis had the remains of the saint — a favourite among those looking for compassion and healing — brought to Rome and carried through the streets to the Vatican.

Thousands turned out to glimpse the body of a man said by followers to have been able to read minds and miraculously appear in foreign lands while remaining at the same time in his friary.

– Exhumation –

Canonised under Pope John-Paul II, Pio’s brand of popular, mystical Catholicism was less popular with the Vatican authorities when he was alive.

He regularly spoke of having both heavenly and diabolic visions, other clerics claimed to have witnessed him levitating in ecstasy and he was frequently associated with apparently miraculous recoveries among the seriously ill.

From the age of 31 until the end of his life, he regularly presented apparent signs of stigmata — marks on the body corresponding to the wounds of Jesus during his crucifixion.

One sceptic wrote a book suggesting Pio maintained his wounds with acid while a prominent doctor theorised that he suffered from a rare form of haemophilia.

While Pio was regarded with suspicion by popes John XXIII and Paul VI, he was admired by Polish Pope John Paul II, who confessed to the friar when he was a young priest.

Pio’s legend was further enhanced after his death when, in 2008, his body was exhumed from his crypt to be put on display and was allegedly found to be in remarkably good condition.

There were, however, no signs of any stigmata and his skull had become exposed, which resulted in a silicon face mask being made for him.

In Nigeria: Trump’s Jerusalem statement boils into rivalry, suspicion, supremacy, oppression, provocation, unwarranted attacks and other sentiments

December 15, 2017


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Several Muslim groups and organizations have condemned the United States President, Donald Trump’s recent declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The development drew the ire of world leaders, eminent religious leaders and Muslims world-over.

Protesting against the declaration, thousands of Muslims last Sunday gathered at the Dawah Centre of The Muslim Congress (TMC), Ijesha, Lagos recently, carrying placards with different inscriptions such as “free Palestine, end Gaza siege, end Al-Aqsa blockade”, where leaders of different Islamic organizations addressed a world press conference to vent their anger.

Other Muslims groups were The Muslim Awareness International (MAI), The Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria, MSSN Lagos zone. In the same vein, The Companion and National Council of Muslim Youths, NACOMYO also issued separate statements to condemn the development.

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With Vice President Mike Pence looking on, US President Donald Trump gives a statement on Jerusalem, during which he recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, US, December 6, 2017. (photo credit: REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE)

TRUMP Earlier, after a third day of violence and protests in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, there were condemnation by no fewer than 22 countries, including close US allies. To some of them, Trump’s will further deepen the crisis in the region.

However, Trump has faced fierce criticism for his decision around the world recently. The Arab League after hours of talks in Cairo, backed by a number of US allies, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, kicked,resolving that: The US had “withdrawn itself as a sponsor and broker” of any possible Israeli-Palestinian peace process through its decision.

Trump’s move might “deepen tension, ignite anger and capable of plunging the region into more violence and chaos. They also resolved that a request would be made for the UN Security Council to condemn the move. At an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council last Friday, the US found itself isolated, with the other 14 members all condemning Trump’s declaration.

In Nigeria, the Amir, The Muslim Congress, (TMC) Dr Lukman AbdurRaheem said the issue was purely a diplomatic issue, urging all Nigerian Christian leaders to follow the directions of world eminent men of God to condemn US President on the issue.

The group also urged churches to educate their members on the situation in Jerusalem, so they won’t be misinformed by politicians. The Muslim Congress (TMC) also said the loss of lives and many injuries suffered by many Palestinians in the last few days were not in the interest of Christianity, but a politically selfish desire of America’s Trump and his accomplice, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Let it also be known that the sufferings of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank are not meted out to Muslims alone. Christians are also being persecuted in Palestine. Contrary to erroneous belief that the state of Israel represents Christianity, we unequivocally state that the current Zionist regime has never represented Christianity.

“In fact, statistics show that there are more Palestinian Christians than Israeli Christians. There are 840, 000 Christians, about 7 percent of the 12 million Palestinian population, while only 2 percent, about 171, 000 Christians are part of the 8.5 million Israeli population.

Most of the Arab Christians have fled Occupied Palestine since 1948 after the forceful creation of Israel. The facts are there for anybody to check. “It is rather unfortunate that many so-called educated are misleading the Nigerian Christian community to believe that the Palestinian struggle is Islam versus Judaism and Christianity.

This is very wrong and it is sad how some Nigerians politicise the unjust and unilateral American decision to go against international law to recognise the disputed Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Trump’s singular act drew wide condemnations from world leaders. Religious leaders too, particularly Christian leaders, have also condemned the act.

“The truth is, no matter how religious we might be, we cannot be more Catholic than the Pope. It should interest you to know that Pope Francis has also joined the world in criticizing Trump’s illegal move.  Just yesterday, the leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt cancelled his proposed scheduled meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence, in protest against Washington’s move to declare Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. “

We call on Nigerian Christians to follow the directions of these men of God to condemn Israel and the US. It is equally important for the churches to educate their members on the situation in Jerusalem, so they won’t be misinformed by politicians.

Let us all stand for justice and unanimously demand Trump and Netanyahu to return to the ideal status quo, a two-state solution where both Israel and Palestine will live, side by side, in peace. Israeli theft of Jerusalem—MAI The Muslim Awareness International (MAI) called on member-nations of the Arab League and the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to unite against the American and Israeli, describing the development as a theft of Jerusalem by Isreal, “a common historical parsimony of Muslims, Christians and Jews alike.”

Addresing the gathering, The Director of the organization, Abdul Waheed Adetoyebi urged the Arab and Islamic nations to individually and collectively mount diplomatic, political, economic and fossil fuel pressure on the United States and Israel, who are globally isolated in being the only protagonists and beneficiaries of this landmark theft. He stated that while the threat of these should be initially laid on the table to encourage a policy reversal of President Trump’s Jerusalem gaffe, he added that the indicated nations should proceed to boycott the US and Israel in the face of continued recalcitrance on the Jerusalem issue, up and until the desired policy change is effected.

“Western powers such as the United Kingdom and Canada have unequivocally stated that their embassies will remain in Tel Aviv, in consonance with international law and UN resolutions which render such appropriations by Israel illegal, keeping Jerusalem as one of the key final status issues to be decided as part of peace negotiations between the two parties. “MAI implored other world leaders, including President Muhammad Buhari to continue their just advocacy for the people of Palestine as they have always done.

We specifically demand that President Buhari condemns President Trump’s action and reiterates his stand for the respect of the international law and UN resolutions on Jerusalem and Palestine.” It’s a faulty personal opinion, to be ignored – Nigerian Muslim students

The Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria, in his own message urged other world leaders to reject the United States’ President Donald Trump declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. In a statement by Lagos State Area Unit of the MSSN, the students told world leaders to consider Trump’s statement as “a faulty personal opinion”.

The MSSN in Lagos State, led by Dr. Saheed Ashafa, described Trump’s statement as “ludicrous”.  Trump further showed that US government is not only biased, but also anti-Islam. “This is an obnoxious decision by the US President. It is not only an injustice to the Palestinians but also a slap on the face of all Muslims in the world.”

Ashafa, who will be hosting thousands of Muslim students in Epe, Lagos at the MSSN Lagos 104th edition of annual Islamic Vacation Course (IVC) starting December 23, urged the UN to address the development as a matter of urgency.

It will truncate fragile peace in Middle East —The Companion Earlier, a group of Muslim professionals and those in business,

The Companion in its own press conference, said the unpopular declaration would only truncate the fragile peace in the Middle East.  Addressing Journalists at its Ikeja secretariat, the group led by Alhaji Thabit Wale Sonaike condemned President Trump calling all Americans to rise against this move by their president.

“The significance and historical antecedent of Jerusalem is too widely known for anybody to make attempt to re-write or appropriate the city.   There is too much tension in the Middle East to start another controversy that may snowball into crisis in the region,” he said.

NACOMYO calls for Muslim unity National Council of Muslim Youth Organizations, NACOMYO however, underscored Muslim unity as the cornerstone and strength in the defence of Islam and Muslims, especially in the face of the rising provocations and affront on the religion and those who profess the faith.

Speaking against the backdrop of President Donald Trump’s promulgation of  the disputed Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, NACOMYO President, Kamal’deen Akintunde,(esq) charged Muslim nations to shun rivalry, suspicion, supremacy and other sentiments, and unite against oppression, provocation and unwarranted attacks on Islam.

He decried the increasing Western conspiracy against Islam, stating that it was uncalled for and should be checked. Akintunde advocated synergy and robust Islamic brotherhood as the solution to the unending America-Israel coordinated attack on Jerusalem.

The NACOMYO leader reminded Muslims of the Qur’anic verse , “And hold firm to the cable of Allah and do not be divided…..”, Q3:103,  just as he implored Muslim nations who under certain pretext and sentiments embark on adventures that ere detrimental to a united and cohesive “Ummah”/Muslim community.

Meanwhile, the apex Muslim group has described Trump’s statement on Jerusalem as being insensitive and a setback to the peace building initiatives in the Middle East region. NACOMYO stated that Trump’s pronouncement was volatile and constituted threat to global peace, and could fuel Israel Palestine war further.

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Erdogan: Israel a ‘terrorist state’ that ‘kills children’

December 10, 2017

Times of Israel

Turkish president vows to use all means to fight US recognition of Jerusalem


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during the Justice and Development (AK) Party's provincial heads meeting in Ankara, November 17, 2017. ( AFP/ADEM ALTAN)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during the Justice and Development (AK) Party’s provincial heads meeting in Ankara, November 17, 2017. ( AFP/ADEM ALTAN)

The Times of Israel is liveblogging Sunday’s developments as they unfold.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Israel a 'terrorist state' and a 'killer of children' as he lashed out following Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as its capital

Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Israel a ‘terrorist state’ and a ‘killer of children’ as he lashed out following Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as its capital

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Shin Bet: Jerusalem terrorist entered Israel illegally

The Shin Bet security service says the terrorist who stabbed and seriously injured a security guard in Jerusalem entered Israel illegally.

The 24-year-old Palestinian had a permit allowing him to work in the so-called “seam region,” surrounding the West Bank, but not inside Israel proper, the service says.

The terrorist is from the Nablus area and had no previously known terrorist ties, the Shin Bet says.

— Judah Ari Gross


Netanyahu meets Macron in Paris

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at the Elysee Palace in Paris, where he is greeted by French President Emmanuel Macron.

Over lunch, the two are expected to discuss the status of Jerusalem, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the Iran nuclear deal and the future of Syria.

Late today, they will hold a joint press conference, before Netanyahu heads to Brussels for a series of meetings with top European Union officials.

 Raphael Ahren


Pope urges ‘wisdom and prudence’ on Jerusalem

Pope Francis on Sunday renews a call for “wisdom and prudence” over the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“The Holy Father renews his appeal for the wisdom and prudence of everyone, and raises fervent prayers so that the leaders of nations, at this serious moment, commit themselves to avert a new spiral of violence,” a statement from the Vatican says.



Police: Jerusalem terrorist a 24-year-old Palestinian

Police say the Jerusalem bus station stabber is a 24-year-old Palestinian man.

He was apprehended after a police officer and a civilian chased him down after he carried out the suspected terror attack, police say.


Hospital: Stabbing victim’s injuries ‘very serious’

The Shaare Zedek Medical Center admits the injured security guard for treatment.

The hospital describes his condition as “very serious.”

The guard is “sedated and on a respirator,” the hospital says in a statement.


Jerusalem stabber ‘neutralized,’ police say

Police say the Jerusalem bus station stabber has been “neutralized.”

His condition is not immediately known.

Security guard stabbed outside Jerusalem bus station

A security guard is stabbed in the chest and seriously wounded at the entrance to the Jerusalem Central Bus Station, emergency officials say.

Police are searching for the assailant.

Medics from the Magen David Adom ambulance service are treating the injured guard, who is approximately 25 years old

It is not immediately clear if the stabbing is a terror attack.

— Judah Ari Gross


Erdogan: Israel a ‘terrorist state’ that ‘kills children’

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan describes Israel as a “terrorist state” Sunday and vows to use “all means to fight” against the US recognition of Jerusalem as the country’s capital.

“Palestine is an innocent victim… As for Israel, it is a terrorist state, yes, terrorist!” Erdogan says in a speech in the central city of Sivas. “We will not abandon Jerusalem to the mercy of a state that kills children.”



Bennett says tunnels will be destroyed ‘within a year or two’

Education Minister Naftali Bennett says Israel will destroy Hamas’s terror tunnels network “within a year or two.”

His estimate appears to conflict with that by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who said the threat could be removed within “months.”

“Within a year or two we will topple Hamas’s leading project, the terror tunnels, so now is a time to be extra alert. We must also prepare for new aerial or naval threats, since Hamas is always looking to innovate,” Bennett says, after the IDF announces it demolished another cross-border tunnel.

“Today, those digging tunnels are digging their death trap,” says Bennett.

“The destruction of the tunnel is the result of a clear policy against terror. Security forces have developed a systematic system for the location and destruction of the tunnels. It will take time, but Hamas’s tunnels will crumble.”


Intelligence minister: ‘Tunnel threat era’ nearing its end

Echoing Defense Minister Liberman, Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz also says the “era of the tunnel threat” will soon be over.

“I welcome the successful operation of the IDF that neutralized the tunnel that penetrated the territory of the State of Israel,” says Katz in a statement. “This action conveys a clear message that the era of the tunnel threat is nearing an end.”

The intelligence minister says the discovery of the cross-border tunnel proves the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation deal will not come to fruition.

“The discovery and detonation of the tunnel proves once again the justice of Israel’s decision not to recognize the imaginary reconciliation government between Abu Mazen [PA President Mahmoud Abbas] and Hamas that is being formed these days. While Abu Mazen talks about peace and political agreements, Hamas is digging tunnels and preparing for war.”

Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz attends a press conference at the Transportation Ministry in Jerusalem on March 14, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Lebanon breaks up anti-Trump protest outside US embassy

Lebanese security forces break up a protest outside the heavily guarded US Embassy after demonstrators pelt them with stones.

The protesters gathered early Sunday hundreds of meters outside the embassy to reject the US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. After a rowdy start, the protest drew several hundred people and became more peaceful, with demonstrators chanting and singing.

The clashes resumed in the afternoon, with security forces chasing protesters, arresting a handful of them and lobbing tear gas canisters.

Lebanon is home to 450,000 Palestinian refugees, nearly 10 percent of the population.

— AP


Defense minister says tunnel threat could be gone in ‘months’

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman says he “hopes in the coming months, the tunnel threat to the citizens of the Gaza periphery will become a thing of the past.”

He speaks after the army announces it destroyed over the weekend another attack tunnel coming from the southern Gaza Strip that entered Israeli territory.

The defense minister hails Israel’s new technologies to detect the cross-border passages dug by Hamas.

The tunnels “are a threat we will not abide and we will invest all resources to thwart it,” he says.

U.N. rights boss says can’t rule out crime of genocide against Rohingya

December 5, 2017


GENEVA (Reuters) – The United Nations’ top human rights official said on Tuesday Rohingyas were continuing to flee northern Rakhine state in Myanmar, where he said the crime of genocide by state forces could not be ruled out against the Muslim minority.

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Rohingya refugees disembark from a boat on September 13 on the Bangladeshi side of the Naf River. Getty Images

Zeid Ra‘ad al-Hussein, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, addressing a special session of the Human Rights Council, said that none of the 626,000 Rohingya who have fled violence since August should be repatriated to Myanmar unless there was robust monitoring on the ground.

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Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Prosecutions for the violence and rapes against Rohingya “appear extremely rare”, Zeid said. “Can anyone – can anyone – rule out that elements of genocide may be present?,” he told the 47-member state forum in Geneva.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Alison Williams


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Pope Francis meets with sick people and staff of the Mother Teresa House in the Dhaka’s Tejgaon neighborhood, Bangladesh, December 2, 2017. REUTERS-Andrew Medichini