#ShortNews: Holy Land tourism up 14% in 2018

Holy Land tourism, including religious tourism, has hit “unexpected levels” this year. The flow of pilgrims “has topped forecasts”, especially the many visitors “from Asia – in particular, China, South Korea, India – many of whom are Christians,” said Sobhy Makhoul, of the Maronite Church of Jerusalem and administrator of the Christian Media Center.

Some 3.8 million tourists visited Israel in the first 11 months of this year, 14 per cent more than in the corresponding period last year. The goal is to exceed four million. “In October alone, there were 483,000 tourists, 40 per cent over the same month in 2017,” Sobhy Makhoul said.

Bethlehem is one of the places that is benefitting from the tourist boom with hotel occupancy expected to exceed 95 per cent by the end of December. Bethlehem businesses also said they were benefiting from a surge of visitors to Israel for its 70th anniversary year.

Read full article here: http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Christian-leader:-Pilgrims-and-Asian-tourists-boost-Holy-Land-tourism-45722.html

#ShortNews: 250,000 Syrian refugees could return home next year: UNHCR

“As the situation in Syria improves some of these refugees are making the journey home,” Amin Awad, UNHCR director for the Middle East and North Africa, said. “We are forecasting, in what we call phase one, up to 250,000 Syrians go back in 2019. That figure can go up and down according to the pace with which we are working and removing these obstacles to return.”

The UNHCR appealed to donors for $5.5 billion on Tuesday to support neighboring countries in providing health, water, sanitation, food, education, and psycho-social support to Syrian refugees.

“Their living conditions have deteriorated as their existence in exile prolongs. They have been borrowing money, they are indebted and a lot of them are living below the poverty line, 70 to 80 percent of them are living below the poverty line in their host communities or countries,” Awad said.

Read full article here: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-us-gulen/turkey-says-trump-working-on-extraditing-wanted-cleric-gulen-idUSKBN1OF0BM

#ShortNews: 19 years after initial evangelization, Indian village builds parish for 2,000

In a small village in the district of Changlang, in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, north east India, the largest church in this Indian state was recently blessed and consecrated. Fides was told that in Neotan, a village in Arunachal Pradesh on the border with Myanmar, in the Catholic diocese of Miao, Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, Secretary general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, presided on December 5 a solemn Mass for the blessing and inauguration of the church dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The concelebrants included Bishop George Pallipparambil of the diocese of Miao, and other bishops with the participation of 2,000 faithful, all seated inside the spacious church building .

The village welcomed the first seed of the Christian faith 19 years ago and today the local Catholic community rejoices for a new church, which took two years to complete and was built thanks to the voluntary labour and sacrifices of the faithful.

Full story: http://www.fides.org/en/news/65223-ASIA_INDIA_A_remote_diocese_in_the_North_East_now_has_the_largest_church_in_the_whole_of_Arunachal_Pradesh

The Puzzle of Our Lives

Many of us received puzzles when we were young. Puzzles for very young children came with large pieces that, when put together, depicted farm animals or sailboats. Being able to see the relationship of the mixed-up pieces and then putting them together correctly was a significant step in perception—and our parents probably praised us when we completed them.

The image of a puzzle describes one major aspect of our lives. As we get older, the puzzles we face become more serious and complicated. We solve a good many of them, but I suspect that we all have life experiences/puzzles that continue to frustrate us. It helps to realize that our lives have been an adventure with the Lord, an adventure that will not stop after death.

With age and maturity, we understand more about the key influences of our past. Don’t we say that “with age comes wisdom”? Granted, our eyesight may weaken, but our “soul sight” improves.Read More »

Advent Week-3: Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)

Saint Paul believed that rejoicing was a basic disposition that we all should try to maintain, even when things don’t go our way. In his short Letter to the Philippians, in fact, he spoke about rejoicing fifteen times. And let’s not forget that Paul was in prison when he wrote the letter! He was not going to let his circumstances rob him of his joy.

So how did Paul maintain a joyful disposition? First, he rejoiced because he knew Jesus’ love. If you back up just two chapters in this letter, you’ll see him singing a hymn that extols Jesus’ willingness to empty himself, become a man, and die on the cross (Philippians 2:7-8). And then in the next chapter, he writes, “I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (3:8). The thought of Jesus’ love–a love that gives of itself freely–continually filled Paul with joy.

Second, Paul rejoiced in the Philippians themselves. They were his joy and his crown (Philippians 4:1). They were his dear friends who had joined him in a “partnership for the gospel” (1:5). He rejoiced because he knew he had brothers and sisters who loved him and supported him in his faith.Read More »

“A Letter to Home”, from Joseph

Dear Mom,

We’re still in Bethlehem–Mary and I and little Jesus.

There were lots of things I couldn’t talk to you about last summer. You wouldn’t have believed me then, but maybe I can tell you now. I hope you can understand.

You know, Mom, I’ve always loved Mary. You and dad used to tease me about her when she was still a girl. She and her brothers used to play on our street. Our families got together for supper. But the hardest day of my life came scarcely a year ago when I was in my twenties and she only fifteen. You remember that day, don’t you?

The trouble started after we were betrothed and signed the marriage agreement at our engagement. That same spring Mary had left abruptly to visit her old cousin Elizabeth in Judea. She was gone three whole months. After she got back, people started wondering out loud if she were pregnant.

It was cloudy the day when I finally confronted her with the gossip. “Mary,” I asked at last, “are you going to have a baby?”

Her clear brown eyes met mine. She nodded.

I didn’t know what to say. “Who?” I finally stammered.

Mom, Mary and I had never acted improperly–even after we were betrothed.

Mary looked down. “Joseph,” she said. “There’s no way I can explain. You couldn’t understand. But I want you to know I’ve never cared for anyone but you.” She got up, gently took my hands in hers, kissed each of them as if it were the last time she would ever do that again, and then turned towards home. She must have been dying inside. I know I was.Read More »