POPE FRANCIS RECEIVES MERIAM IBRAHIM - PAPAL TELEGRAM FOR TAIWAN AIR DISASTER - THE CALIPHATE OF BRUTALITY - PATRIARCH URGES U.N. TO ACT ON ATROCITIES AGAINST CHRISTIANS IN IRAQ
Thursday, July 24, 2014
It has been an off and on day for Internet service but Im very pleased that I can offer some of the very important stories making headlines in the Vatican and around the world. Hopefully this will continue into tomorrow because I have some exciting news to tell! Unless you heard me mention it yesterday with Teresa Tomeo on Catholic Connection!

POPE FRANCIS RECEIVES MERIAM IBRAHIM

Edward Pentin just reported in the Register that Pope Francis received in private audience this afternoon Meriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese Christian woman who was jailed and sentenced to death by a sharia court in Khartoum for apostasy and for marrying a Christian.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told reporters the Pope thanked Meriam for her witness to the faith, adding that Meriam and her family thanked the Pope for his closeness, prayers and his support, and that of the Church. Their conversation, which was "very calm and affectionate," also covered the future of women in Sudan. Fr. Lombardi said the Pope wanted the meeting to be a gesture of closeness to all those who suffer for their faith, lived in difficult situations or with restriction.

Meriam and her family spent half an hour with Pope Francis, arriving just before 1 pm. She was accompanied by her husband Daniel Wani and her two young children, Martin who is 18-months old and Maya who was born in prison two months ago. The conversation took place in private, in the presence of Arabic-speaking Coptic Father Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, an official in the papal household who is a papal secretary and who served as a translator. After quarter of an hour, the meeting was expanded to include other members of Meriams party, according to Sismografo.

The 26-year-old doctor and her family arrived aboard an Italian government plane at Romes Ciampino airport at around 9.30 this morning. She was accompanied from Khartoum by Italys deputy foreign minister, Lapo Pistelli. Italys Prime Minister Matteo Renzi was among those present to welcome the Ibrahim family on their arrival. "Its a day of celebration," he said.

Born to a Muslim father and Christian mother, Ibrahim was jailed and in May sentenced to death by a Sudanese court, accused of converting from Islam to Christianity. She was also charged with committing adultery since her marriage to a Christian cannot be recognized under sharia law. Forced to give birth to a baby girl while in shackles, she said she never came close to renouncing her faith.

Her treatment caused an international outcry, leading to her eventual release. She and her family now plan to travel to the United States. Her husband Daniel lives part of the year in New Hampshire.

PAPAL TELEGRAM FOR TAIWAN AIR DISASTER

In the name of Pope Francis, Cardinal Piero Parolin, secretary of State has sent a telegram of condolence to the families of victims of an air disaster in Taiwan. The telegrsam was addressed to Archbishop John Hung Shan-chuan of Taipei, president of the Chinese Regional Bishops Conference.

The ATR-72 operated by Taiwan's TransAsia Airways was carrying 58 passengers and crew when it crashed into houses on the Penghu island chain in the Taiwan Strait between Taiwan and China late Wednesday, authorities said. The plane was on a flight from the city of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan.

The papal telegram said, The Holy Father learned with sadness of the air accident near Magong Airport and he asks you kindly to convey his heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and the assurance of his prayers for all affected by this tragedy. Upon all he invokes Gods blessings of consolation, strength and peace.

THE CALIPHATE OF BRUTALITY

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has removed the crosses from all 30 churches and monasteries in Mosul and converted the Syriac Orthodox cathedral into a mosque, according to the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA). ISIL, also known as Islamic State and ISIS, took over Iraqs 2nd-largest city in June and later ordered all Christians to leave, pay an unspecified tax, or convert to Islam. The jihadist group now controls 40% of Iraq and 30% of Syria.

The Vatican paper, LOsservatore Romano has run a front-page story called Caliphate of Brutality, in which it reports that ISILs leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has ordered all women and young girls within its territory to undergo genital mutilation. The paper also reported that ISIL earlier ordered families to give virgin girls in marriage to jihadists and has segregated universities by sex.

Whereas previous communiques from ISIS referred to the Iraq city of Mosul, the latest such communiqu with these provisions refers specifically to Aleppo in northern Syria. According to independent sources, about 30 female children have already undergone genital mutilation in recent days and two women have been stoned, though no specific accusations have been leveled against them.

LOsservatore notes that, according to UNICEF, in the world more than 130 million women and girls have undergone genital mutilation. UNICEF prodicts that, over the next decade, 30 million more girls risk the same treatment. Somalia, Guinea, and Djibouti are the countries where this is most widespread, with an estimate 9 out of every 10 women between the ages of 15 and 49 undergoing this brutal procedure. Alarming data, however, is arriving from Chad, Gambia, Mali, Senegal, Sudan and Yemen, as well as certain areas of Egypt.

PATRIARCH URGES U.N. TO ACT ON ATROCITIES AGAINST CHRISTIANS IN IRAQ

Following is the letter that Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako has addressed to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon on the situation in his country of Iraq: Your Excellency,

I am writing to you about the current situation in Iraq and the Middle East, which is of big concern to me and I know it is for you and the United Nations. Let me also take this opportunity to thank you and the United Nations Security Council on the issued statement of condemnation against ISIS. The instability in Iraq threatens the entire region.

Diplomatic pressure is sought to address the growing instability in the Middle East. The instability in the region is worrisome because of the increasing attacks mounted on Christians and minorities.

We, as the Christian community, appeal to the United Nations to put political pressure on the international community, the Security Council cannot stand by and be a witness to the ongoing atrocities committed against Christians. We were happy when your statement acknowledged that the crimes committed against Christians constitute crimes against humanity, we therefore urge you to put pressure on all to respect human rights.

Excellency, we Christians are peace-loving citizens, caught up in the middle of a clash between Sunnis and Shiites, as well as attacks from military groups. Our community has suffered a disproportionate share of hardship caused by sectarian conflicts, terrorist attacks, migration and now even ethnic cleansing: the militants want to wipe out the Christian community.

We appeal urgently to the United Nations to pressure the Iraqi government and put into practice every effort to protect the ethnic and religious minorities. The new government, once established, should engage in the protection of minorities and the fight against extremism.

We urge the United Nations to accelerate humanitarian assistance, ensuring that aid reaches those communities and those vulnerable groups who are in need of urgent help. In view of the current situation, this need for assistance might take longer than a year. The displaced Christian community needs water, medicines and basic services.

We urge the United Nations to develop a plan or strategy to protect and preserve our heritage, looted and burned by the militants. They continue to burn churches and ancient monasteries. The old churches and monasteries will be difficult to rebuild.

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