– Tej Francis





(Crux) Bishop Paul McAleenan said he was “shocked” by what he saw during a recent trip to northern Iraq to visit with Christians returning to their homes four years after being driven out by the Islamic State.

The Westminster auxiliary is the Lead Bishop for Migrants and Asylum Seekers at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. During his visit to Iraq’s Nineveh Plains – the heartland of the country’s Christian population – he witnessed first-hand the reconstruction efforts in the predominantly Christian towns that were overrun by the Islamic State forces and spoke to many returning Christians who were displaced by the violence.

He saw projects sponsored by Aid to the Church in Need and the Knights of Columbus to help the returning population to rebuild their lives.

“The Church is leading the reconstruction and ostensibly because there is no obvious civic structure, so someone has to lead and the Church has stepped into the opening, and it is leading the redevelopment and the reconstruction and is making plans for the future, not only in terms of dwelling homes but also in needs like universities and hospitals,” he said.

Despite the devastation brought by the Islamic State onslaught, and the threats of future persecution, McAleenan told Crux the Christians of Iraq don’t want to leave.




(CNA/EWTN News) While religious leaders marked the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights this week by saying that more should be done to preserve human rights, both Iran and China detained upwards of 100 Christians.

The United Nations declaration, which was proclaimed Dec. 10, 1948, affirms that “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom … to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

Pope Francis told a conference meeting on human rights Monday that everyone is “called to contribute with courage and determination, in the specificity of their role, to the respect of the fundamental rights of every person.”

And ahead of the declaration’s anniversary, the Holy See’s representative to the United Nations said the occasion presented an opportunity to “reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights,” while also warning that parts of the world are experiencing the consequences of failing to uphold those rights.

Thus, according to Open Doors UK, 114 Christians were arrested last week in Iran. And the New York Times reports that in China’s Sichuan province, a Protestant pastor and more than 100 members of his congregation were detained Dec. 9. Some members were released Dec. 10, but were then put under house arrest.

Religious freedom is officially guaranteed by the Chinese constitution, but religious groups must register with the government, and are overseen by the Chinese Communist Party. President Xi Jinping has in recent years pushed for the Sinicization of religion and strengthened government oversight.





(CNA) A gunman killed at least four people people Tuesday, inside the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Conception in Campinas, Brazil. After opening fire inside the cathedral, the gunman took his own life.

The man entered the cathedral at the conclusion of a midday Mass on Dec. 11 and began firing, according to the Military Police of Campinas. In addition to those killed, at least four people were injured during the attack.

According to local fire department officials, the man was carrying two handguns, at least one of which was a .38 caliber revolver.

He reportedly committed suicide directly in front of the cathedral’s altar. Father Amauri Thomazzi, who celebrated Tuesday’s 12:15 Mass in the cathedral, published a video on his Facebook page, in which he requested prayer. “At the end of the Mass, a person came in firing and took lives. Nobody could do anything,” the priest said.

“To you, friends, I ask only that you pray for the [attacker]. He killed himself after the situation. He shot people and there were over 20 shots in here, then he killed himself. So we pray for him and for those who have been injured, there are some fatalities,” he said.

The names of the victims and the attacker have not yet been disclosed. On its Facebook page, the Archdiocese of Campinas also urged Catholics to pray. The wounded were taken to local hospitals; their condition has not been disclosed. “Let us ask Our Lady Immaculate to intercede for this cathedral, for these people and for these families,” Thomazzi urged.