1. Can Iraq’s Christians Finally Go Home?, As ISIS loses ground near Mosul, Turkey stands in the way of the exiles’ return, By Mindy Belz, The Wall Street Journal, October 28, 2016, Pg. A11, Houses of Worship.

As coalition forces—Iraqi government forces, allied militias and Kurdish soldiers, backed by U.S. air and on-the-ground support—advance toward Mosul and retake villages like Batnaya, Noura’s family hopes to return home soon. Yet even success on the battlefield won’t guarantee a safe return for exiled Christians and other religious minorities.

ISIS fighters dug in at Noura’s town and came under heavy fire on Oct. 20. They used rocket launchers and suicide bombers against coalition ground troops, but the village was retaken earlier this week. Coalition forces, aided by U.S. airstrikes and mortar rounds, covered significant ground and retook dozens of other villages controlled by ISIS. Nearing Mosul’s city limits, the armies face intense resistance.

For Noura and thousands of others, these are days of waiting, only now with the possibility of returning home. “A military defeat of Daesh [ISIS] is only the first step,” says Father Emanuel Youkhana, an Assyrian priest who heads an Iraqi relief organization. “We must deal with root causes that allowed Daesh to arise and take this territory, in order to permit all Iraqi people to return home.”

“I believe we stand at a crossroads for the future of Christianity—and pluralism—in the Middle East,” said Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus at an event this month in New York City. “Either Christianity will survive and offer a witness of forgiveness, charity and mercy, or it will disappear, impoverishing the region religiously, ethnically and culturally.”

Mr. Anderson’s organization compiled a 300-page report at the request of the State Department documenting ISIS genocide of Christians in Iraq. Besides the toxic level of displacement, the report contains graphic detail confirming that at least 1,100 Christians have been murdered by Islamic militants in Iraq since 2003, though the number is almost certainly higher now. Yet U.S. officials seem to be ignoring these findings, even though the report pushed Washington to legally declare ISIS’s actions a “genocide.”


2. Pope’s Sweden trip a lab experiment in Catholic-Lutheran cooperation, By Austen Ivereigh, Contributing Editor, Crux, October 28, 2016.

Because Pope Francis’s Sweden visit on Monday and Tuesday will be mainly focused on the joint global Catholic-Lutheran commemoration of the Protestant Reformation in Lund, it is all too possible to overlook the country’s tiny but growing Catholic community, and its relationship to the majority Lutherans.

(Just how tiny can be pictured: If all Sweden’s 115,000 Catholics, less than one percent of its population, turned up in Rome, they’d struggle to fill St. Peter’s Square.)

It’s so easy to forget the Catholic footprint in Sweden, in fact, that for months after the papal visit was announced- the first in 30 years – the pope wasn’t even scheduled to say Mass with the country’s Catholics.

He had been due to go for one day only, in order to lead, jointly with the general secretary of the worldwide Lutheran World Federation, Rev. Martin Junge, two ecumenical events on Sweden’s southern tip: a prayer service in the Lund cathedral, and a justice-and-peace celebration with young people in Malmö arena.

But after local Catholics objected, Francis agreed to stay overnight and celebrate Mass with them on Tuesday morning at another stadium in Malmö which holds 26,000.  The event is now close to being sold-out.


3. The Holy Weapons in the Revolution of Mercy, By Fr. Roger J. Landry, The Anchor, October 28, 2016.

Fr. Roger J. Landry is the National Chaplain of Catholic Voices USA.

If there’s one part of the extraordinary Jubilee for Mercy that we wouldn’t expect to be controversial, it would be the practice of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

Pope Francis, who has been summoning the Church to live these, has just started a new series of Wednesday catecheses on each of them that will run past the formal end of the Jubilee and extend into the ordinary life of the Church.

The corporal and spiritual works of mercy are concrete ways, Pope Francis said, to live out mercy. “In a world that, unfortunately, has been damaged by the virus of indifference, the works of mercy are the best antidote.” Adding that the words of mercy “are the features of the face of Jesus Christ,” he encouraged us not only to “learn the corporal and spiritual works of mercy by heart,” but to “ask the Lord to help us to put them into practice every day.”

In doing so the Holy Father was trying not just to inspire a few more good deeds among fellow Catholics in the world but to catalyze a true moral insurgency.


4. Experts Uncover Hidden Layers of Jesus’ Tomb Site, By The Associated Press, October 27, 2016, 2:28 PM.

In the innermost chamber of the site said to be the tomb of Jesus, a restoration team has peeled away a marble layer for the first time in centuries in an effort to reach what it believes is the original rock surface where Jesus’ body was laid.

Many historians have long believed that the original cave, identified a few centuries after Jesus’ death as his tomb, was obliterated ages ago.

But an archaeologist accompanying the restoration team said ground penetrating radar tests determined that cave walls are in fact standing — at a height of six feet and connected to bedrock — behind the marbled panels of the chamber at the center of Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

“What was found,” said National Geographic archaeologist Fredrik Hiebert, “is astonishing.”