On 3 May 2021, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, H.E. Mr. Fuad Hussein, met with Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States at the Vatican State Building.   --  The Minister expressed Iraq’s aspiration to activate the frameworks of cooperation with the Vatican in various fields, and in light of the distinguished relations between the two sides. He emphasized Iraq’s keenness to develop relations between Iraq and the Vatican to achieve the goals that serve
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In an address from the balcony of his limestone residence in the town of Bkerke, Lebanon, at the end of February, Lebanon’s senior Catholic prelate, Cardinal Bechara al-Rai, made it clear he believes his country is on the brink of collapse—and the key to rescuing it involves disarming Hezbollah. “There does not exist two or several states within one land,” Rai said before a crowd of hundreds of people, who had gathered despite the pandemic. “There does not exist two or more armies within one united state.”
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The problems faced by Christians in the Middle East in general, as well as how the local Christian churches can deal with them, were examined during today’s first visit of the Apostolic Nuncio of the Roman Catholic Church, Bishop Nicholas, who was received by Patriarch Theodore of Alexandria and All Africa, at the Patriarchal Committee in Hamzaoui, the capital of Egypt.

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Decision of Moscow's Synod and other news

From media reports, it became known that on March 21, 2021, during the Divine Liturgy at the St. George Cathedral in Istanbul, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, co-served by the hierarchs of the Patriarchates of Constantinople and Alexandria, as well as a representative of one of the schismatic communities of Ukraine, who did not have canonical consecration, headed the ordination of Metropolitan Andreas confirmed by the publication of the corresponding photographs.

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The Russian Orthodox Church is seeking to deter its followers from carrying out their own exorcisms following a series of deaths and injuries that have cast a spotlight on the religious ritual.  --  Metropolitan Hilarion, who heads the Moscow Patriarchate's department of external relations, said that the church is drawing up a document that would set out rules for the procedure.
The church had warned against people carrying out exorcisms, which led to the deaths of at least two people in Russia in 2019, including a nine-year-old boy who had been gagged and whipped by his father in Yekaterinburg.

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In a Sunday Mass sermon, ’s top Christian leader, Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi, expressed his stance on recent calls for a forensic audit and also warned that obstruction of a government formation could lead to exploitation and domination of struggling Lebanese people.
An interview of Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, to RIA Novosti
(Peter Anderson) On April 6, RIA Novosti posted an interview with Metropolitan Hilarion.  (link)  On the same day, the DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate posted the interview both in Russian and English. (link) (English)   Usually, there is a delay on the DECR website for an English translation, but not this time.  The caption of the interview is entitled: “Metropolitan Hilarion: Summit of the heads of Churches is possible in foreseeable future.”  The first question in the interview is whether Patriarch Theophilos or any other Church leader was planning another meeting of the kind of the Amman summit this year.  The answer provided by Metropolitan Hilarion is as follows:
ROME – One month after Pope Francis’s historic visit to Iraq, one of the country’s top Catholic prelates has outlined his vision for the country going forward, making the bold suggestion of enforcing a stricter separation between religion and the state.

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JERUSALEM – On Friday, April 2, 2021, His Beatitude Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, presided over the Passion of the Lord service at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre.
As Christians across the world begin to celebrate the Easter Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter, The Pillar spoke to a priest in the Holy Land about celebrating the Resurrection in the place where it actually happened.  --  Fr. Francesco Voltaggio is a priest of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the rector of the Redemptoris Mater seminary in Galilee.

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Minister of Foreign Affairs Ara Aivazian had a telephone conversation with the H.E. Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, The Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States.
In a joint message for the upcoming Easter, the Conference of European Churches (CEC) together with the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) affirm sheer hope in Christ’s resurrection in the time of the Covid-19 pandemic. Addressing all people in Europe, especially the poor and the most vulnerable, CEC President Rev. Christian Krieger and COMECE President H. Em. Card. Jean-Claude Hollerich SJ issued the following message on 31 March:

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During the cordial talk, Nuncio Giorgio Lingua congratulated Patriarch Porfirije on his election as the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and the Patriarch wished the Pope’s representative in Croatia a blessed Easter, which the Roman Catholic Church will celebrate next week.
“Recalling the events of the last ten years and summarizing the fruits of our ecclesiastical strategy of 2020 (The Vibrant Parish - a Place to Encounter the Living Christ), we naturally thank the Lord God for all that He has done and all we have received from Him. But at the same time, we want to look into the future, think about how to live further, in which direction to move,” the Primate said .
ABU DHABI, 28th March, 2021 (WAM) -- "The Pope and the Grand Imam: A Thorny Path - A Testimony to the Birth of Human Fraternity" is a newly published book in Arabic and English by Judge Mohamed Abdelsalam, Secretary-General of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity (HCHF).  --   The book gives a detailed account about the stages in the creation of the Human Fraternity Document (HFD) before it was eventually signed on February 4, 2019 by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in Abu Dhabi.

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Madrid (Agenzia Fides) - Archbishop Giovanni Pietro Dal Toso, President of the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS), thanked Cardinal Juan José Omella, Archbishop of Barcelona and President of the Episcopal Conference of Spain, for the generosity of the Church in Spain which, despite the pandemic, maintained its commitment and support to the missionary activity of the Church.
According to the letter, released by the National Direction of the PMS in Spain, the     READ MORE
By Vatican News staff writer
NNA - Pope Francis sent Thursday a congratulatory letter to Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Beshara Boutros al-Rahi, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of his election as Patriarch of the Antioch and the Maronite community.   --    Papal Ambassador to Lebanon, Archbishop Joseph Spiteri, read out the letter following the ceremonial Mass presided over by the Patriarch marking the occasion in Bkirki today, in presence of the Maronite Church bishops and clerics.

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The Syrian conflict entered its eleventh year on 15 March 2021, bringing this “living nightmare” back to our minds.[1] This ominous anniversary should remind the world of the importance of addressing the bleak reality inside Syria. While the new US administration provides a glimmer of hope for a return to diplomacy, multilateralism and an end to the mercantilism of the past years, Europe would be wrong to simply wait for the US lead on Syria.

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The escalation of reactions of the Russian Church given the visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was foretold in an interview by the Chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk.

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The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development issues a press release describing the latest developments of its "WASH" project (access to drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) in health care facilities run by the Catholic Church.
INA - Baghdad  -  Patriarch of the Chaldeans in Iraq and the world, Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, confirmed on Saturday, that returning 50 properties to Christians andSabians is a step towards encouraging them to return to their homeland.  --  Sako appreciated "the initiative of the leader of Sadrist movement, Muqtada al-Sadr,” describing this initiative as “patriotism and humanity," according to a statement by Sako to the Iraqi News Agency (INA).

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In a letter written on behalf of Pope Francis by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, bishops throughout the world are asked to avoid looking the other way when faced with the situations of so many brothers and sisters in times of need and difficulty. This year especially, there is need for generosity in the collection ‘pro Terra Sancta’, as the Holy Land has suffered, both economically and socially, particularly harsh effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The following is the English text of the letter.
Alexandria Egypt (Agenzia Fides) - Today, March 18, the 5th Fair for Small Youth Enterprises, promoted by the local Coptic Orthodox Church, is being held in Alexandria. The annual initiative launched five years ago as an opportunity to support businesses created by young people, sees this year the participation of 70 exhibitors, young Christian and Muslim women and men, who present objects fruit of their creativity - mostly handcrafted products, relating to the clothing, furniture and utensils sectors of daily use - to wholesalers and large-scale producers, potentially interested in purchasing patents.

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Pope Francis yet again makes a heartfelt appeal for an end to violence in Myanmar as security forces continue their brutal crackdown on anti-coup demonstrators. -- Vatican News “Once again and with great sadness I feel the urgency to evoke the dramatic situation in Myanmar, where so many people, especially the young, are losing their lives to offer hope to their country,” Pope Francis said at the end of his weekly general audience. “I too kneel on the streets of Myanmar and say: stop the violence! I too extend my arms and say: let dialogue prevail!” the Holy Father said. 
By Vatican News staff reporter
In Najaf on Saturday, 6 March, the Holy Father visited for some 45 minutes with Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali al-Husayni Al-Sistani. Francis took the opportunity to stress the importance of cooperation and friendship between religious communities, and to thank Grand Ayatollah Al-Sistani for speaking up — together with the Shiite community — in defence of those most vulnerable and persecuted amid the violence and great
ROME: In the run up to the pope’s visit to Iraq on March 5-8, a Vatican foundation has announced a new program worth &euro;1.5 million ($1.8 million) to support young Christians living in the country.  Aid to the Church in Need (ACS) will fund scholarships for 150 students of the Catholic University of Erbil for the next four years. It is the only Catholic university in Iraq, and 54 percent of its 170 students are women.

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