Pope Francis Praying for Iraqi Christians Trapped in the Ongoing Conflict

After the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS had invaded the northern regions of Iraq, Christians from Mosul were forced to flee. Iraq’s second largest city is home to many Christians, and Pope Francis had expressed them in his prayers during his Angelus blessing on Sunday. The Iraqi Christians “were persecuted and chased away” by the Muslims, who never took any possessions with them.

The semi-autonomous Kurdistan in Iraq had also chased away Christians in Iraq. According to reports, they were issued an ultimatum to convert to Islam, pay a high tax or be killed and executed. The Iraqi Christians were forced out of the community.

The Pope had also called for negotiations to finally end the conflict all over the world. He said that violence is not overcame with violence, but peace.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had also condemned ISIS for targeting Iraq’s Christians. He had compared them to the Daesh Terorrist Gang in Iraq’s Ninevah Province. He expressed that the terrorist group’s activities reveal the true nature of the ISIS.

Meanwhile, ISIS had issued complete control over Mosul, and exporters from Turkey and Germany express their concern regarding the invasion of the Turkish Consulate General with its staff taken as hostage.

The Turkish border trade with Iraq, amounted to $12 billion in the previous year is threatened, had 30% lower exports to Iraq from June 15 to July 15.


Pope Francis Leads Hectic Schedule

Pope Francis had cancelled his hospital appointment to say mass after an ‘unexpected disposition’. He cancelled to make way for his ‘intense schedule, as mentioned by the Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi.

He elaborated that the Pope’s schedule begins at five in the morning, local Roman time, and has a full schedule for religious and diplomatic meetings.

Roman media had said that the Pope had a smile on his face despite looking tired. They verified that the pope was suffering a headache due to the heat wave in Rome this season.

He had received the President of Madagascar with a 10-minute audience and had delivered a speech to a Orthodox church delegation flawlessly. Therafter, his schedule was to meet two more Vatican cardinals.

Lombardi made it clear that the Pope has no health troubles and that his hospital appointment was routinary. The Pope is 77 years old and only has one full lung, which explains the concern over his health. Being one of the most important figure for the Catholic Church, the concern also increased after he was unable to complete his schedule in the previous weeks due to a stomach problem and extreme fatigue from his engagements.

The staff of the Gemell Hospital in Rome had banners prepared for Pope Francis should he had attended his appointment.


Sectarian Divisions May Make it Difficult for US to Support Iraq

US Secretary of State John Kerry will need to ensure that the US’ intention of supporting Iraq against the swiftly-progressing insurgency of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria does not clash with the Middle East’s sectarian divisions, including its ethnic and tribal components.

The Iraq crisis had also seen the US draw closer to Iran. The intention of Iran and the United States to create a security cooperative for Iraq has disappointed Saudi Arabia, who still fears that the latter may develop nuclear weapons technology, which could harm the entire region.

US President Barack Obama had said on US news media that the militant group ISIS may evolve into a global scale terrorism act. The Obama administration had ensured that Iraq will have the support of 250 military advisers and supplementary military supplies such as communication equipment. However, the US does not intend to directly involve itself in any military attack in Iraq.

John Kerry had travelled to Cairo and other areas of the Middle East to help stabilise the situation in Iraq. However, Sunni Arab leaders that Kerry met told him that the situation was not only about ISIS, but about the Sunni Muslims, which the ISIS is a part of, fighting back against the injustice of Shia Muslims, which many are political figures.

According to political analysts, if the US does not consider the possible impact of a military manoeuvre could do in Iraq carefully, then it could mean the overpowering of another side in the sectarian divide in the area.


Pope Francis Declares “Zero Tolerance” Against Paedophile Priests

Pope Francis said he will visit a group of Clergy sex abuse victims at the Vatican next month. He also said that three bishops are currently under investigation by the Vatican for sex-abuse related cases.

According to Pope Francis, he and the Catholic church will not give privileges to the Clergy in terms of committing crimes. He said the Church must go forward with “zero tolerance” against paedophile priests.

Francis will be celebrating with the half-dozen clergy victims a mass at the Vatican hotel he resides in. Sources said that the Pope has not yet confirmed any final date or the details of his meeting with the abuse victims.

However, support groups for Clergy abuses, including Survivor’s Network of Those Abused by Priests Executive Director David Clohessy, said that the Pope’s meeting with abuse victims was very meaningless. He pointed out that it was only another gesture, a public relations improvement act, but it will bring no real reform to the Church or change its tolerance against paedophile priests.

Attorney Mitchell Garabedian sees otherwise and said that the Pope’s meeting directly with the victims can be powerful because the Pope himself has the power to authorize changes in the clergy. Seeing firsthand the effects of these scandals can definitely help show the horrors faced by victims.


Prince Harry Surprises Colosseum Tourists as He Joins the Tour

His Royal Highness Prince Harry, in Rome for royal duties for two days, had many tourists surprised as he appeared in a casual outfit wearing a pale blue checked shirt and normal jeans. The young royalty arrived for a tour of the Colosseum’s amphitheatre in Rome.

He asked tour guide Barbara Nazaro if the Coloseeum’s tours were also open at night. Tourists were surprised to see the young prince among them in the crowd. Along with them, he listened to the guide, who told the story of the Colosseum and Rome’s emperors who watched gladiator battles, dramas and animal hunts.

A Canadian tourist, Wanda Quenneville, said that she was in shock and was excited at the same time. She considered it a highlight of their visit in Rome. The tourist, who came with her middle aged husband and children, said that she was jittery. Her children said that it was crazy and unbelievable that it was better than the Colosseum visit itself.

According to Royal Aides, Prince Harry requested to see the sights of Rome and do some tourism after his duties were over. He visited the Cassino Commonwealth War Cemetery and met veterans at a reception before he went on the tour.


St. Peter’s Square Crowded With Catholics Upon Canonization of Two Popes

Pope Francis’ canonization of two predecessors marks one of the biggest events in the Catholic Church. Hundreds of Catholic faithful from Rome and all over the world have gathered in St. Peter’s Square. Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII were canonized during the weekend.

International media had dubbed the event “the day of the four Popes” because Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who was the first Pope to resign from the position the previous year, had attended the canonization proceedings.

Thousands of pilgrims slept in St. Peter’s Square and they had surrounded the streets overnight to secure their ceremonial spots. The ceremony began at 0900 Saturday and lasted for about two hours.

Catholic faithful from Poland had worn their traditional national dress. Polish guides, priests and nuns were waving the red and white flag of Poland walking towards St. Peter’s Basilica. International media estimates that billions of Catholics have gathered for the ceremonies.

To ensure security during the ceremonies, 10,000 members of the security forces had been deployed for the event. Chilean priests had also carried two large cardboard cut-outs of the two Popes to be canonized to allow people to take pictures and post their photos on social media.


Presidential Election Will Push Through Despite Civil War in Syria

The Syrian Regime had announced that the June 3 Presidential Elections will push through despite the increasing violence and chaos in the country. According to Parliament Speaker Mohammad Jihad al-Laham, the constitutional court will begin accepting presidential nominations on Wednesday. However, political analysts said that the elections will do nothing but change the name of the Syrian regimes leader, but make no new political improvements for the country.

Over 100,000 people have died in the Syrian civil war from 2011 up to present. Many of the casualties were civilians, who were victims of bombing and covert chemical attacks denied by both the Syrian Regime and Rebels. Upon the announcement of the election date, Syrian opposition activists reported barrel bombs raining all over neighbourhoods across Syria.

The elections may also prove troublesome given that millions of Syria’s population had taken refuge in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Some of them had also migrated illegally to Europe.

Recently, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had visited a Christian village, which political analysts see as a campaign to help improve his chances of winning the upcoming elections on June 3. According to local media, Assad had promised the small Christian population of 10% will be defended by the Syrian military against foreign fighters joining he Syrian Rebels, namely Islam extremists.


Roman Archaeologists Receive £1.6m To Restore Augustus Monument Site

Rome’s first emperor’s ashes, along with successors Tiberius and Claudius, will get the recognition it deserves through the efforts of Archaeologists, who had received £1.6 million to restore the Forum, the Colosseum and Augustus’ Mausoleum. A pedestrianized piazza worth £11.6 million will be built to handle more visitors into the site.

According to Culture Assessor Flavia Barca, the funding is timely for the 2,000 year anniversary of the site. He said that rome was once the world’s biggest and most beautiful city being a capital for business, culture and entertainment.
Emperor Augusts claimed on his deathbed that he found a Rome built of bricks, and he had left one made of marble.

However, the test of time is not kind to the infrastructure built two centuries ago. The Mausoleum’s upper floor is missing and the marble, which once shone proud, had been in terrible shape and had long been gone.

Archaeologist Elisabetta Carnabuci said that the architecture of the Mausoleum is incredible because it had stood the test of time, especially with a modernizing Rome. The Mausoleum was once a castle that was battered by warring families, a concert hall, and then Benito Mussolini’s bid to restore the honour of the Emperor during the Facist Regime.

The restoration efforts may take two years until its reopening. The positive public response to the project ensured that the Romans did not forget about its first emperor.


Pope Francis to Celebrate Anniversary In Spiritual Retreat

Pope Francis announced that he will celebrate the first year of being Pope of Roman Catholicism in spiritual retreat. The Roman Catholic Church does not mark Thursday’s celebration, which marks the day he was elected as Pope of the Church, in any official way.

Pope Francis will be celebrating his first year in a cabin in the woods in Castelli Romani, an area on the outskirts of Rome. He had left and travelled using a humble coach along with 83 members of the Church’s governing body, the Curia.

His retreat is part of the Vatican calendar’s Lenten season, which prepares the religious with sacrifices, self-denial, penance and renewing of their spirit.

The retreat celebration also allows Pope Francis the ability to shun away from the growing tensions between the Church officials and the media circus, which often pounce during the special public anniversary celebrations.

Church attendance had increased because of Pope Francis’ “modern” form of Papacy. He had related religious facts to logic, even if several Church officials vehemently reject the actual meaning of the terms of his statement. He also shunned and denounced the ‘cult of personality’ his popularity had brought him from the public.

Pope Francis is considered one of the most unique figures in Catholicism given that he does away with extravagance. He does not live in the Papal Palace; he lives in a humble, three-room apartment. According to local news, Pope Francis is not a fan of globalization, and is the perfect pope for today’s economically-uncertain and much-divided world.


Italian Prime Minister Comes Under Intense Pressure from Political Rivals

Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta continues to try to hold the support of his coalition after Matteo Renzi, the young and newly-elected leader of the Democratic Party that includes the Prime Minister, is locked in a power struggle against Letta. The young political leader said that the current government had done very little to help the country emerge from its recession.

In a bout of talks in a meeting between the Prime Minister and Renzi this week, the young politician did not mention if he would continue to support the policy agenda of the Prime Minister. Coalition members had called on the Prime Minister to set aside to allow a new government run by Matteo Renzi to flourish.

The Prime Minister did not respond to the calls to step down and instead published a 57-page plan that will allow them to deal with Italy’s high unemployment rates specifically in the youth and cuts in high taxes by taking certain cuts from public expenditures and other government savings.

Mayor of Florence Matteo Renzi had won great support within the Democratic Party in December, which pushed him to become the party’s head. Being in such a position, he had become continuously critical of Letta’s government. Coalition members are convinced he could shake up Italy’s struggling economic and political system.