1. Merry Christmas, Iraq: Christians are joyful over Islamic State’s defeat—but they’re worried about Iran.

By  William McGurn, Columnist, The Wall Street Journal, December 19, 2017, Pg. A21, Opinion

A few nights from now the Chaldean archbishop of Erbil, Bashar Matti Warda, will celebrate Midnight Mass with his Iraqi flock. The faithful will walk into their cathedral through a passageway modeled on the Ishtar Gate that was the main entryway into ancient Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar II 2,600 years ago. Once inside they will celebrate their Christmas liturgy in a dialect of Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke.

This year, Erbil is a microcosm of the hopes and anxieties of Iraq’s dwindling Christian population. Once a small outpost about 50 miles east of Mosul, the city in recent years has become a sanctuary for Christians fleeing Islamic State. Archbishop Warda says the fears Mary and Joseph expressed for the safety of Jesus resonate with the fragile Iraqi Christian community, whose number has fallen from 1.4 million before the 2003 U.S. invasion to roughly 200,000 today.

Archbishop Warda is looking for the help his nation’s desperate Christian minority needs to rebuild its homes, churches, businesses and communities. That’s why he and other Iraqi Christians were cheered by Mike Pence’s October announcement that Uncle Sam would deliver more U.S. aid through religious associations on the ground rather than relying simply on unaccountable international organizations such as the U.N.

The archbishop highlights two groups he says have shown themselves adept at getting aid into the hands of those who need it—the Knights of Columbus(which takes no government money) and Aid to the Church in Need.

But Christmas is the season of hope, and the archbishop says he detects an encouraging change in his Muslim friends and neighbors: They know there is a problem within Islam and are willing to discuss it. More encouraging still, he says, has been the steadfastness of his fellow Iraqi Christians, who in the face of unspeakable threats proved willing to risk all they had, including their lives, rather than renounce their faith.

“There will always be Christians in Iraq,” he smiles. “All we wish is to be welcome in our own home.”


2. Ireland Moves Toward Legal Abortion: Voters may decide to repeal an amendment protecting ‘the right to life of the unborn.’

By John Aidan Byrne, Journalist, The Wall Street Journal, December 19, 2017, Pg. A21, Opinion

The Republic of Ireland moved a step closer to legalizing abortion last week when a special committee of the Oireachtas, or parliament, voted to recommend repealing a constitutional amendment protecting “the right to life of the unborn.” Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, leader of Ireland’s coalition government, has announced a national referendum will take place by early next summer. Repeal would allow the Oireachtas to write a new abortion law.

Abortion has been illegal in Ireland since 1861, and voters overwhelmingly approved adding the pro-life Eighth Amendment in 1983. A movement to liberalize the country’s abortion law has gained steam in recent years. The declining influence of the Catholic Church, which once dominated public and private life, has dovetailed with Ireland’s newfound prosperity stemming from the Celtic Tiger economy of the 1990s and 2000s. Together these forces unleashed a desire among Irish elites to shed the country’s international image as a God-bothered backwater. “Repeal the Eighth” has become their rallying cry.

With the media, the human-rights set, and even the United Nations bearing down on them, Ireland’s pro-life community will be hard-pressed to gain a fair hearing.

Ireland’s Eighth Amendment may survive the current effort to repeal it, but for how long? If it is repealed in 2018, what comes next will be an open question. Any new law is unlikely to satisfy abortion absolutists, and the profound moral question at the heart of the issue will never go away.


3. Pope moves “Rosary Priest,” JPII’s mentor toward sainthood.

By Nicole Winfield and Monika Scislowska, Associated Press, December 19, 2017, 6:45 AM

Pope Francis has moved two major 20th Century Catholic clergymen on the road to possible sainthood: The Rev. Patrick Peyton, the “Rosary Priest” who preached to millions on radio, TV and film; and Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, mentor to the future Pope John Paul II.

The Vatican said Tuesday that Francis had approved decrees asserting both men lived lives of heroic Christian virtue, some of the dozen such decrees approved the day before during an audience with the head of the Vatican’s saint-making office.

Peyton staged massive prayer rallies around the world and used radio, TV and film — and Hollywood stars including Bing Crosby and Lucille Ball — to spread his message of prayer. He was perhaps most famous for coining the term “the family that prays together stays together.”

Wyszynski, for his part, was Poland’s primate and leading moral authority before Cardinal Karol Wojtyla was elected pope in 1978.


4. Texas churches say FEMA is giving Scrooge ‘a run for his money,’ want relief.

By Christopher White, Crux, December 19, 2017

As Christmas approaches, three churches in Texas have filed an emergency appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit seeking relief funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) after their facilities were devastated by Hurricane Harvey earlier this year.

In September, the religious liberty law firm Becket filed suit on behalf of the three churches that are seeking federal funding to rebuild. FEMA had refused funding due to the fact that houses of worship are barred from federal relief. Three months later, Becket is arguing that these institutions are still in limbo and need relief in time for Christmas.

Becket argued that FEMA’s ban was discriminatory, particularly since religious institutions were often among the most active groups providing community relief following the hurricane.

On December 7, the district court for the Southern District of Texas denied the churches a temporary injunction, which would have allowed them to file for relief along with other nonprofits that have been deemed eligible for FEMA funding.

Until a determination is made on whether these churches can file for relief, no construction or demolition of the facilities can occur, as it will be necessary for a FEMA assessment of the property conditions.


5. Chicago Bears co-owner to speak at March for Life.

By Bradford Richardson, The Washington Times, December 19, 2017, Pg. B13

The co-owner of the NFL’s Chicago Bears will address tens of thousands of pro-life advocates at the March for Life in Chicago next month.

Patrick McCaskey, grandson of legendary Bears founder George Halas, is one of several high-profile speakers slated to address what is expected to be the largest pro-life rally ever held in the Midwest.

Other speakers include U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, Illinois Republican, former Planned Parenthood director Ramona Trevino and Sarah Storto, vice president of Loyola Students for Life.

Hundreds of thousands of participants regularly attend the flagship March for Life in D.C., which begins on the National Mall and ends at the U.S. Supreme Court.

The District march will be held on Jan. 19.