Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Iraq's Christian Leaders Want New Government to Promote Stability, Protect Christians

Iraq's Christian leaders are expressing hope that the new government will promote stability and protect the Christian minority, according to the Catholic Culture website.

"The Christians have hopes for a stable and strong government," said Archbishop Avak Asadourian, primate of the Armenian Orthodox Church of Iraq and secretary general of the Iraqi Council of Christian Church Leaders.

Syrian Catholic Archbishop George Casmoussa of Mosul agreed.

Archbishop Casmoussa said, "There are now five Christians in Parliament and this is a step forward from the previous Parliament, where there was only one. But it's not enough. We encourage lay Christians to become involved in social life and engage in good politics, to support Christian values, such as respect for human dignity and fundamental human freedoms."

Serbian Parliament Passes Resolution Condemning the 1995 Massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims

The Serbian Parliament passed a resolution yesterday (March 30, 2010) condemning the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica, according to the Serbianna website.

The resolution states, "The parliament of Serbia strongly condemns the crime committed against the Bosnian Muslim population of Srebrenica in July 1995, as determined by the International Court of Justice ruling."

Prior to suffering the military defeat, Bosnian Muslims exterminated all ethnic Serbs in and around Srebrenica. No Bosnian Muslim was convicted nor have they apologized for murdering Serbs.

Boris Tadic, Serbia's president, said today that this "historic" parliamentary resolution "clearly shows that Serbs are distancing themselves from that monstrous crime." He added, its adoption "brings encouragement to the state to continue to work to eventually arrest Mladic."

Ratko Mladic, who led Serb troops during the 1995 massacre, is Europe's most-wanted war crimes fugitive. He has been on the run since 1995.

California City Rescinds Order to Shut Down Home Bible Study Group with No Permit

Officials of a city in greater Los Angeles area confirmed yesterday (March 30, 2010) that they have rescinded the order for a home Bible study group to either obtain a permit or shut down, according to the Christian Post website.

After talking to the pastor of Shiloh Tabernacle Church, the city officials of Rancho Cucamonga determined that the Friday meetings are only Bible studies, and that the group is not operating as a church in a home.

In an earlier letter, the city had ordered the Bible study group -- which the city referred to as a "church" -- obtain an expensive Conditional Use Permit (CUP) by Good Friday, April 2, or shut down.

Pacific Justice Institute -- the Bible group's legal representative -- threatened to take the city to court if it did not rescind its letter.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Three Jews Brutally Attacked in Berlin Subway; Attacks on Jews By Immigrant Youths Increasing

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) website reports that a man and two women were brutally attacked in Berlin, Germany on March 26, 2010, after an assailant demanded to know whether they were Jewish.

According to a statement from the Jewish community in Berlin, after the three said they were Jewish, the man went to get some friends who then beat the three -- all in their mid-20s -- in an underground train and on the platform in the Wilmersdorf section of Berlin.

Police are investigating the incident as an anti-Semitic and racist attack, as it began with the attackers cursing the victims. The youths then beat and kicked the two women and one attacker smashed a bottle over the man's head.

Levi Solomon, head of the Jewish community's department for combating anti-Semitism, said in a statement that "violent attacks on Jews or presumed Jews were increasingly committed by youths from immigrant circles.... especially among young Turks and Arabs."

Heads of Russia's Main Religious Faiths Condemn Two Moscow Subways Blasts That Killed 39

The heads of Russia's main religious faiths condemned the two Moscow subway blasts that killed at least 39 people yesterday (March 29, 2010) and injured dozens, according to the RIA Novosti (Russian) website.

Russia's chief rabbi, Berl Lazar, said he was sure the masterminds of the terrorist attack would get the punishment they deserved.

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, who heads the Russian Orthodox Church, called for solidarity in the face of the tragedy and condemned the terrorists.

Federal Security Service Director Alexander Bortnikov said terrorists from Russia's volatile North Caucasus may have been responsible for the blasts. He added that the bodies of "two female suicide bombers who were residing in the North Caucasus had been found at the explosion sites."

Monday, March 29, 2010

Palm Sunday Protest Outside D.C. Cathedral Calls on Archbishop to Excommunicate Rep. Pelosi

A Palm Sunday demonstration was held on March 28, 2010 in Washington, D.C. in front of St. Matthew's Cathedral on Rhode Island Avenue, calling on Archbishop Wuerl to excommunicate "Catholic" Nancy Pelosi for the scandal caused by her support of child-killing by abortion and her defiance of church teaching.

The demonstration was organized by pro-life advocates from a Nex and the Vanguard of St. Catherine of Sienna, and was held from 9:15 AM to 1:15 PM.

It included a street theater scene with Pelosi stabbing baby dolls (abortion), and a man dressed up Like Archbishop Wuerl serving her Holy Communion while her hands are covered with stage blood, according to the Christian News Wire website.

The protest group said, "Nancy Pelosi has betrayed the Catholic faith, voted to shed the innocent blood of babies, and voted to take money from Americans to pay for the murder of the unborn. Meanwhile, Washington, D.C. Archbishop Donald Wuerl has refused to rebuke her for this evil, and also continues to serve her Holy Communion."

Israel Closes Jerusalem Border for Nine Days, Denies Christian Entry for Holy Week, Easter

The Asia News website reports today that the Israeli government decided yesterday (March 28, 2010) to close the border with the West Bank for nine days, and is only allowing access for humanitarian reasons or to Christians who have permission to celebrate Easter in Jerusalem.

It is almost impossible for Christians in Gaza to obtain permission. Because of the presence of many Jewish pilgrims -- and the fear of possible attacks -- the entrance to the Temple Mount is forbidden to men under 50 years of age.

This year, Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants will celebrate Easter on the same date (April 4, 2010).

The Council of Arab Orthodox has invited all Christians to come to Jerusalem, despite the prohibitions and restrictions of the occupying power. It has asked all the heads of Churches in Jerusalem to "uphold the rights and aspirations of their communities and to oppose Israel's discriminatory policy toward freedom of worship."

Yugoslav Alliance Formed with Aim of Having Yugoslav Nationality Recognized in All States

A Yugoslav alliance has been formed in Zagreb, Croatia with the aim of having the Yugoslav nationality be recognized once again as a nationality in all the Yugoslav successor states, according to the Balkan Insight website.

The Association Nasa Jugoslavija (Our Yugoslavia Alliance) established the Savez Jugoslovena on March 21, 2010. In a press statement, it said that the people of Yugoslav nationality have the right to protect their identity and cultural, artistic, linguistic, literary, and religious inheritance.

The press statement said, "The Alliance is determined that it is necessary to work actively and directly on erasing all the national divisions and bringing together all the people who were separated by the wars that took place in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY), as the country dissolved."

The Alliance also wrote, "Special attention should be given to the open reconsideration of the causes of the previous wars, with the goal to analyze the causes and allow disagreements to be overcome and confidence to be established."

Sunday, March 28, 2010

COMMENTARY: Statues Commemorating Joseph Stalin Are a Disgrace to Humanity

A monument to commemorate Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin will be erected in the Ukrainian city of Zaporozhie ahead of the May 9, 2010 Victory Day celebrations, according to the head of the city's Communist Party. Oleksandr Zubchevskyi, who made the announcement last week, also said that a second statue of Stalin would be erected in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine.

Stalin (1879-1953) was baptized in the Russian Orthodox Church and studied at a seminary, but was expelled for revolutionary activity in 1899. In 1924 Stalin took control of the Soviet Union -- a dictatorship he held until his death in 1953.

Considered to be paranoid by many historians, Stalin ordered the deaths of millions of innocent people across the Soviet Union on false charges of espionage, sabotage, and anti-Soviet propaganda.

It was, in fact, the armed forces of the United States and England -- not the Soviet Union -- that brought about the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II. In an effort to avoid an attack by Nazi Germany, Stalin signed the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact in 1939 during World War II. Nonetheless, Hitler's Germany invaded Russia in 1941 -- probably because Hitler was confident that Russian forces had been weakened and lacked motivation for victory, since Stalin ordered millions of Russian troops killed before the beginning of World War II.

Stalin continued his deceitfulness not only with Germany, but also with his allies -- the United States and England -- at the end of World War II, and for many years thereafter. Stalin met with U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill at the Yalta Conference in 1945 to establish the terms for ending the war.

Stalin violated the Yalta Treaty by retaining Russian troops in many countries -- Ukraine, Poland, East Germany, Hungary, and Romania among others -- for many years after World War II, making them, in effect, satellites or puppet nations controlled by the Soviet Union. Under Stalin's dictatorship, protests for freedom in these satellite nations were met with Russian tanks. The Soviet satellite nations finally attained their freedom in 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

With this kind of a legacy of Stalin, statues designed to commemorate his "greatness" as leader of the Soviet Union, can only be considered a disgrace to humanity.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Chancellor Merkel Rejects PM Erdogan's Calls to Set Up Turkish Language Schools in Germany

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has rejected calls by Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan to set up Turkish schools in Germany. The proposal has also been criticized by politicians and Turkish groups in Germany, according to the Deutsche Welle (German) website.

"This will not get us ahead," Merkel said in her weekly video blog on Saturday (March 27, 2010). "We want that people who over many generations live in Germany will integrate. And that means that of course they have to learn the German language and live by German laws," she added.

The Turkish Prime Minister said many of the 2.7 million people of Turkish origin in Germany had problems learning German.

Politicians, teachers, and representatives of Germany's large Turkish community in Germany have also dismissed Erdogan's proposal, saying it would hinder integration rather than help it.

CSW Welcomes United Kingdom Support of UN Probe Into Crimes Against Humanity in Burma

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has welcomed the United Kingdom Government's support of a United Nations investigation into crimes against humanity in Burma, according to the Christian Today website.

On March 25, 2010, British ambassador to the UN, Mark Lyell, backed the recommendation by the UN's Special Rapporteur to Burma earlier in the month for a commission of inquiry to be set up.

He said the UK Government would support the referral of a case to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

CSW's East Asia Team Leader Benedict Rogers said: "It is vital that in the run-up to the regime's fake elections, its crimes against humanity, and the prevailing culture of the impunity in Burma are addressed by the United Nations, and action is taken to end the regime's campaign of rape, forced labor, torture, destruction, killing, and terror."

NATO Head Stavridis Meets with Bishop Teodosije, Promises to Protect Serbian Shrines in Kosovo

His Grace Vicar Bishop Teodosije of Lipljan, Kosovo on March 26, 2010 received in Visoki Decani Monastery NATO's Supreme Allied Commander of Europe (SACEUR), U.S. Admiral James Stavridis, according to the Eparhija-Prizren (Serbian) website. Admiral Stavridis, who is of Greek and Orthodox descent, showed great interest in Visoki Decani Monastery and the preservation of Serbian Orthodox holy shrines in Kosovo.

In a conversation with Admiral Stavridis, Bishop Teodosije emphasized the importance of the presence of the international peacekeeping forces in Kosovo and Metohija, and added that it is especially important for the Serbian Orthodox Church that KFOR (Kosovo Peacekeeping Forces) forces continue to provide security for eight of the most important Serbian holy shrines in the Province.

Admiral Stavridis assured Bishop Teodosije that NATO will not take any further steps related to the protection of Serbian holy shrines without dialogue with the Serbian Orthodox Church and that the concern of the SOC for security issues will be seriously taken into account.

Bishop Teodosije thanked Admiral Stavridis for the effort KFOR is investing in the protection of Serbian Orthodox holy shrines, adding that the Church appreciates the contribution of KFOR in the process of returns -- especially in the Metohija enclaves -- and the support troops regularly provide while protecting religious ceremonies in parts of Kosovo and Metohija where security is a problem.

Friday, March 26, 2010

President of Sudan Warns People of Whipping: "Anybody Who Drinks Alcohol, We Lash Them"

The Worldwide Religion News website reports today (March 26, 2010) that the president of Sudan, Omer Hassan Al-Bashir, warned that his government will have zero tolerance for those who drink or deal in alcohol drinks, saying they will be whipped under the Islamic Shari'a law.

"Anybody who drinks alcohol, we lash them. Anybody who makes alcohol, we lash them. Anybody who sells alcohol, we lash them. I don't care about the UN or human rights organizations," Bashir told a gathering of Sufi sect in the capital's suburb of Um Dawaban.

North Sudan is currently ruled under Islamic law which prohibits drinking, even though a local homemade brand of alcohol is widely consumed privately.

During most of Sudan's post-independence history, drinking was socially acceptable.

Lebanese Christians and Muslims Celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation National Holiday

For the first time yesterday (March 25, 2010), Lebanon celebrated a national Christian-Muslim holiday. Schools, banks, and public buildings were closed, according to the Asia News website.

It was the Feast of the Annunciation that Lebanese Christians and Muslims celebrated -- an official national holiday sanctioned by the Government of Lebanon.

The Feast of the Annunciation commemorates the moment when the Archangel Gabriel revealed to the Virgin Mary that she would become the mother of Jesus, the Savior.

Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri extended his warmest greetings to the nation, saying that it was the responsibility of clergymen to make this day a spiritual and national occasion for all Lebanese.

Pope Faces Claims He Covered up German Sex Abuse Case While Munich Cardinal in 1980s

The Telegraph (British) website reports today (March 26, 2010) that Pope Benedict XVI allegedly covered up a German sex abuse case -- dating back to his time as Archbishop of Munich -- as it emerged that he was present at a meeting where Church officials decided to allow a pedophile priest to continue working.

As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in the 1980s, he led a meeting that approved the transfer of Father Peter Hullermann to a new diocese, despite the fact that he was known to be a pedophile.

His office also received a copy of a memo explaining that Hullermann would return to pastoral work days after starting therapy. Hullermann went on to attack more children and was convicted of sexual abuse in 1986.

Church officials transferred Father Hullermann to new parishes and allowed him to work with children -- even after his 1986 conviction. He was finally suspended earlier this month (March 2010), when sex abuse allegations surfaced in Germany.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Ukraine to Erect Two Statues in Honor of Stalin; Russian Dictator Executed Millions of Innocent People

A monument to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin will be up in the new southeast Ukrainian city of Zaporozhie ahead of the May 9, 2010 Victory Day celebrations, the head of the city's Communist Party said today (March 25, 2010).

"A monument to Joseph Stalin....whose leadership led to the great victory over the Nazi invaders, will be put up in Zaporozhie at the request of World War II veterans," Oleksandr Zubchevskyi said. The statue will be guarded -- both day and night -- to prevent attacks on it, he added.

He also said that a second statue of Stalin would be erected in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine; however, he did not give further details, according to today's Ria Novosti (Russian) website.

Communist Party members and many veteran organizations insist that it was Stalin's leadership that pulled the Soviet Union through its darkest hour and freed Europe from Nazi tyranny.

On the other hand, analysts and others say that Stalin's mass purges of the army in the years before World War II left the country exposed to an attack by Germany. In attacking Russia, Adolph Hitler violated the Russian-German non-aggression pact, because of his belief that Germany would defeat Russia.

During Stalin's reign, millions of innocent people across the Soviet Union were executed on false charges of espionage, sabotage and anti-Soviet propaganda, or died of starvation or disease in labor camps.

Although Stalin had been baptized as a Christian in the Russian Orthodox Church, he renounced religion and was an atheist, as is customary for leaders of communist nations.

Jordan King Says Israel "Playing with Fire;" Israeli Housing Plans Mar Relations with U.S.

Israel is "playing with fire" in expanding Jewish settlements in annexed Arab east Jerusalem and attempting to alter the Holy City's identity, Jordan's King Abdullah II said today (March 25, 2010), according to the Drudge Report website.

"Jerusalem belongs to the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel in 1967 and -- like the other occupied territories -- it is subject to unilateral Israeli actions that are illegal and illegitimate and will lead to further conflict," the king added.

In addition to derailing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has enraged the White House -- and its efforts for peace in the Middle East -- by insisting that Israel will continue with its plans to build 1600 housing units in East Jerusalem. Netanyahu met with U.S. President Barack Obama this week, but the President could not convince Netanyahu to forgo the Israeli housing plans.

Disappointed with Netanyahu's failure to promote peace in the Middle East, White House staff denied Netanyahu the usual photo opportunities afforded to a visiting leader, and did not issue a joint statement on the Obama-Netanyahu meetings. Moreover, President Obama withdrew a private dinner invitation for Netanyahu at the White House -- something that is almost never done.

Consequently, Netanyahu's stubbornness on the issue of Israel's housing plans in East Jerusalem has resulted in the worst state of U.S.-Israeli relations since Israel became and independent nation in 1948.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

USCCB: Abuse Scandal Cost Some $2.2 Billion; Dioceses Spent $28.7 Million on Attorney Fees

The Catholic Culture website reports that the clerical abuse scandal cost American dioceses $104,439,629 in 2009, as indicated in an annual report released on March 23, 2010 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

Only 59 percent of those funds were allotted to settlements ($55.0 million) and therapy for abuse victims ($6.5 million); the rest was spent on attorneys' fees ($28.7 million), support for offenders ($10.9 million), and other costs ($3.3 million).

The clerical abuse scandal cost religious institutes an additional $15,648,367 in 2009.These expenses brought the total cost of the clerical abuse scandal to American dioceses and religious institutes between 2004 and 2009 to $2,194,729,859: $1,897,599,482 for dioceses and eparchies, and $297,130,377 for religious institutes.

In addition, American dioceses spent more than $21 million in 2009 on safe environment programs and background checks.

Bishop Atanasije Celebrates Memorial Service Honoring Serb Victims from Kosovo and Metohija

The Eparhija-Prizren (Serbian) website reports that in Gracanica, Kosovo today (March 24, 2010), the 11-year anniversary of the beginning of the NATO bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was marked with the consecration and placing of a cross brought from Herzegovina by monks from Tyrdos Monastery. More than 2,500 civilians died and some 200,000 more were displaced as a result of NATO's air strikes.

Before some 1,000 people, Bishop Atanasije celebrated the memorial service with the con-celebration of Vicar Bishop Teodosije of Lipljan and the clergy of the Orthodox Diocese of Raska and Prizren.

Bishop Atanasije said the Serbs had gone through centuries with a cross on their hearts, none more so than the Serbs from Kosovo and Metohija.

He added, "That is why on this cross that has been placed here -- sent by St. Sava's Herzegovina -- it is written that the Serbs from Kosovo and Metohija lived and died for the Holy Cross and golden freedom, and today they are in heaven in bliss and for eternity -- because God created man for eternity."

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Canadian Anglican Group Can Keep Many of Its Traditions After It Joins the Roman Catholic Church

About 2,000 Canadian members of a breakaway Anglican group in Toronto have accepted the Vatican's invitation to join the Roman Catholic Church, the Ethics Daily website reports today (March 23, 2010).

The agreement will allow members of the Anglican Church of Canada to keep their liturgy and have their own bishops, but acknowledge the pope's supremacy.

The Canadian announcement comes weeks after a similar move by traditional Anglicans in the United States.

Meeting in Orlando, Florida earlier this month, the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church in America (ACA) voted to take up the offer made by Pope Benedict XVI in October 2009 that permits disaffected congregations to defect to Rome, while keeping many of their Anglican traditions, including married priests.

Orthodox Archbishop Lashes Out at Greek PM, Rips Plan for Tax on Church Real Estate Income

Greek Orthodox Archbishop Hieronymos has lashed out at Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, criticizing a new draft bill to be tabled in Parliament next week that will impose a 20 percent tax on the Orthodox Church's real estate income, which is reportedly worth over 10 million euros ($14.8 million) a year.

The archbishop threatened to open a case against the country at the European Court of Human Rights, reports the International Orthodox Christian News website today (March 23, 2010).

"If necessary we will seek our rights at the Greek court as well as the European Court of Human Rights," said Archbishop Hieronymos.

He added, "I will meet with the prime minister and tell him our patience has run out."

Christian Burned to Death, Wife Raped in Pakistan for Refusing to Convert to Islam

The Asia News website reports today (March 23, 2010) that Arshed Masih died last night at a hospital in Rawalpindi, Punjab province, Pakistan from the serious injuries -- burns covering 80 percent of his body -- which the 38-year-old Pakistani Christian suffered when he was set on fire, because he refused to convert to Islam.

On March 19, a group of Islamic extremists burned alive Arshed, a driver employed by a wealthy Muslim businessman in Rawalpindi. His wife, Martha Arshed, worked as a maid in the same estate, situated in front of a police station.

His wife was raped by police when she tried to stop the violence inflicted on her husband. The couple's three children -- ages 7 to 12 years -- were forced to witness the torture inflicted on their parents.

Recently, disagreements had arisen between the employer, Sheikh Mohammad Sultan, and the couple, because the couple refused to convert to Islam.

Yesterday, the government of Punjab blocked a protest march of Christians, under the pretext of "terrorist threat." The local community wanted to demonstrate, due to the failure of police to arrest the perpetrators of the crimes.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Report: Anti-Semitism in Scandinavia Rising; Muslims Attacking, Bullying Jewish Pupils

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) reports today (March 22, 2010) that anti-Semitic attacks by Muslim extremists are on the rise in Scandinavia, as indicated by a report in Die Presse -- an Austrian Internet publication.

Fredrik Sieradzk of the Jewish community in Malmo, Sweden told Die Presse that Jews are being "harassed and physically attacked." He said the perpetrators are "people from the Middle East," but added that only a small number of Malmo's 40,000 Muslims "exhibit hatred of Jews."

In Norway, pupils have had yellow stars pasted on their backs by bullying classmates, and some have said "all Jews should be shot." Teachers often do not react.

In Copenhagen, Denmark, Jewish pupils hide their Stars of David and remove their yarmulkes on the way home from school -- especially if their routes take them through neighborhoods with many Muslim residents.

Pope Urges Catholics Not to Judge Sinners; Cites How Jesus Stopped Stoning of Adulterer

Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday, March 21, 2010 urged Catholics to refrain from judging sinners, a day after he rebuked Irish bishops for their handling of a half-century of sexual abuse of minors by clergy, according to the Christian Broadcast Network website.

The pontiff did not mention his letter chastising Ireland's church hierarchy as he made his weekly appearance Sunday from his studio window overlooking St. Peter's Square.

He cited the Gospel passage about Jesus' inviting those without sin to cast the first stone toward an adulterer.

"While acknowledging her sin, He does not condemn her, but urges her to sin no more," the Pope told English-speaking pilgrims in the square.

Gorbachev's Granddaughter Secretly Marries; His Reforms Sparked Rebirth of Russian Orthodox Church

Anastasia Virganskaya, granddaughter of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, secretly got married in Moscow over the weekend, the Ria Novosti (Russian) website reports today (March 22, 2010).

The 23-year-old Virganskaya married a 24-year-old postgraduate student at the Russian Academy of Public Administration. The wedding ceremony was held in secret at a Moscow restaurant, as the couple did not want any publicity.

Gorbachev arrived at the ceremony with a large bouquet of white and red roses, and left the restaurant shortly after the ceremony.

Gorbachev was the last leader of the Soviet Union and is well-known for his reforms which led to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, as well as the end of more than 70 years of godless communism. The Russian Orthodox Church -- which was not recognized and was even persecuted under communist rule -- has seen a remarkable "rebirth" since 1989 and is now thriving.

Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990. In 1997 he established the Gorbachev Foundation of North America -- under the auspices of Northeastern University in Boston -- with the goal of strengthening the spread of democracy through research, advocacy, and education.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

British Court Rules Catholic Adoption Agency Does Not Need to Deal with Same-Sex Couples

The Catholic News Service website reports today (March 21,2010) that a Catholic adoption agency prevailed in a legal battle to continue its policy assessing only married couples and single people as potential adopters and foster parents.

The ruling of the High Court in London means that the adoption agency, Catholic Care, is exempt from dealing with same-sex and cohabiting couples who present themselves as prospective parents.

COMMENTARY: To Build or Not to Build, That Is the Question .... That Israel Must Decide

Following two weeks of unprecedented tension between the United States and Israel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with United States President Barack Obama at the White House on March 23,2010, in an effort to reconcile this dilemma.

This tension is a by-product of Israel's announcement two weeks ago that it plans to build 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem. Israel's announcement has resulted in derailing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, in addition to enraging the Obama Administration.

Nonetheless, Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterated to the Israeli Cabinet today (March 21, 2010) that Israel will indeed build housing units in East Jerusalem. Apparently, Netanyahu prefers to have housing units built in East Jerusalem, rather than having a harmonious relationship with the United States and peace with the Palestinians.

Moreover, the fact that Israel captured this part of Jerusalem in the Six-Day War with its Arab neighbors in 1967 does not seem to be of any concern to Netanyahu. Nor does it bother him that the majority of the United Nations members voted in 1980 -- and several times thereafter -- that actions taken by Israel to impose its laws, jurisdictions, and administration on Jerusalem are illegal and have no validity.

The United States has been Israel's most important ally since Israel became an independent nation in 1948. The United States has provided Israel with a plethora of the most modern military paraphernalia, as well as ample foreign aid, despite the hostile ramifications that this favored Israeli treatment has had on the United States from many Arab countries.

For Netanyahu to have no empathy about betraying the United States -- and America's persistent efforts to attain a permanent peace in the Middle East -- because he would rather have Israel build housing in East Jerusalem, can indeed be compared to Judas's betrayal of Jesus for 30 pieces of silver!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Russian Representative Office in the Vatican Changes Status, Becomes Full-Fledged Embassy

The Russian representative office in the Vatican will change its diplomatic status and become a full-fledged embassy, the RIA Novosti (Russian) website reports today.

The Holy See officially confirmed the establishment of full-fledged diplomatic relations with Russia in early January 2010.

The move was hailed by both the Russian Orthodox Church and the Vatican as a sign of further improvement in relations between the two Christian churches.

Since 1990, Russia and the Vatican had maintained diplomatic relations below the level of ambassador.

Florida Church's Request to Leave the ELCA Is Rejected by the Florida-Bahamas Synod

A Lutheran congregation in Fort Pierce, Florida was recently denied permission to end its affiliation with the denomination, according to the Christian Post website.

Although members of St. Peter Lutheran Church voted unanimously to leave Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), they were informed last week that their request for dismissal was rejected by the Florida-Bahamas Synod.

The Rev. Edward Benoway -- bishop of the Florida-Bahamas Synod -- explained that the request was denied because of the potential for mission in the area.

He said, "Fort Pierce is an important mission field for us, and we want to maintain our witness to this community."

Pelosi Calls on St. Joseph the Worker to Help Pass Abortion Bill, Confuses Feast Day

The Life News website reports that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on a Catholic saint yesterday to help her and her pro-abortion colleagues pass a Senate health care bill that contains massive abortion funding. Not only did Pelosi upset pro-life Catholics in so doing, but she got the date wrong concerning the saint she mentioned.

"Today is the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, particularly important to Italian-Americans," Pelosi said. "It's a day where we remember and pray to St. Joseph to benefit the workers of America, and that's exactly what our health-care bill will do," she added.

Pelosi needs to check her calendar more closely, because the feast of St. Joseph the Worker is on May 1.

David Freddoso, a writer for the Washington Examiner, said, "Saint Joseph the Worker would not consider the killing of unborn babies to be health care, and I'm pretty sure he wouldn't have appreciated working hard all day only to see the fruits of his labor taken through taxes to subsidize abortions."

When Pelosi -- an Italian-American Catholic -- had a private audience with Pope Benedict XVI last year, the Pope told her that, as a Catholic, she should be opposed to abortion. Unfortunately, Pelosi does not agree with the Pope's stance on abortion -- or with the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Romanian Orthodox Church Begins New Policy; Will Now Defrock Priests Who Get a Divorce

The International Orthodox Christian News website reports today (March 19, 2010) that the Romanian Orthodox Church has decided to strip clergymen who divorce, of their priestly duties.

Church spokesman Constantin Stoica said the decision to defrock priests who divorce will apply to all. He also said that those priests whose marriages break up because their wives committed adultery will find other employment within the church.

Stoica said today that the decision was triggered after the number of divorced Romanian Orthodox priests reached 500 out of a total of 16,000.

Priests who are already divorced or remarried will not be defrocked. However, they will not be promoted to high positions and they will not be able to teach at theological schools and universities.

Top Rabbi Calls on Israel to Freeze Building in East Jerusalem; "Not Wise" to Do So

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) -- the largest synagogue movement in the United States -- is calling on Israel to enact a construction freeze in Eastern Jerusalem.

He expressed his views during remarks to rabbis and members of URJ's board of trustees yesterday (March 18, 2010).

Rabbi Yoffie said, "We believe housing units constructed in Jerusalem by Israel are not settlements and they are not illegal. But a great many things that are legal are not prudent or wise -- and building in Arab sections of Jerusalem in the current political climate is one of those things."

He continued, "The decision to build in eastern Jerusalem is one that is not supported by any Israeli ally, including the United States and Canada. I see no reason why Israel should renounce her claim to all of Jerusalem as Israel's eternal capital, or her right to build anywhere within Jerusalem's borders."

Episcopal Church Confirms First Lesbian Bishop; Approval Contradicts Teachings of Christ

The Ekklesia website reports today (March 19, 2010) that the Anglican Communion will for the first time have a lesbian bishop. The Episcopal Church -- which is the Anglican body in the United States -- has confirmed the appointment of Mary Glasspool as suffragan bishop in the Diocese of Los Angeles.

She will be consecrated on May 15, 2010, along with another suffragan bishop, Diane Jardine Bruce.

Bishop Glasspool, 56, will be the second bishop in the Anglican Communion to be openly in a same-sex relationship, following the appointment of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003. She has been with her lesbian partner since 1988.

In recent years, thousands of Episcopalians -- opposed to the Episcopal Church's acceptance of gay priests and bishops, as well as other liberal policies -- have become disappointed with the Episcopal Church for making changes which contradict the teachings of Christ.

Realizing the occurrence of a significant schism within the Anglican Church, Pope Benedict XVI in October 2009 eased the process for Anglicans to convert to a more traditional Catholicism. Several thousand former Anglicans have already converted to Catholicism, while thousands of American Episcopalians have broken away from the Episcopal Church and have established more conservative Anglican churches.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Presbyterian Group Calls for Freezing All U.S. Aid to Israel Until It Makes Policy Changes

The Jewish Week website reports today (March 18, 2010) that a committee of the Presbyterian Church USA has recommended that the church call for freezing all U.S. aid to Israel until it halts building in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, withdraws from the Occupied Territories, and moves the separation barrier to the 1967 border.

The recommendations will be considered in July, 2010 by the church's General Assembly -- the leadership body of the nation's largest Presbyterian denomination -- which is comprised of some three million members.

Rev. Ron Shive of Burlington, North Carolina, chairman of the Church's Middle East Study Committee, said its report and recommendations are "for the most part a re-emphasis of things the church has said for decades, including believing in a shared Jerusalem."

Israel's announcement last week of plans to build 1,600 housing units in East Jerusalem has enraged the White House, and has resulted in the worst United States-Israeli relations during the past four decades.

British Think Tank Warns That Muzzling Religious Voices May "Undermine Democracy"

The Theos Think Tank website reports today that nearly a third of people believe that religious freedoms have been restricted in England over the past decade.

High-profile cases of believers being "persecuted" because of their Christian faith -- such as the British Airways worker banned from wearing a cross around her neck -- have led to many to question Britain's commitment to religious tolerance, the research indicates.

The results came as an influential think tank warned that keeping religious voices out of public life "undermines democracy."

In a paper for the public theology think tank Theos, Roger Trigg, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Warwick, wrote: "A free society should never be in the business of muzzling religious voices, let alone in the name of democracy or feigned neutrality."

Turkey's Prime Minister Threatens to Expel 100,000 Illegal Armenian Immigrants

The Reuters website reports that Turkey's prime minister has threatened to expel 100,000 illegal Armenian immigrants, after U.S. and Swedish lawmakers passed votes branding World War I-era killings of as many as one and one-half million Armenians by Ottoman Turks as genocide.

Asked about the votes in an interview with the BBC Turkish service that was broadcast on March 16, 2010, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said: "There are currently 170,000 Armenians living in our country. Only 70,000 of them are Turkish citizens, but we are tolerating the remaining 100,000."

Thousands of illegal Armenian immigrants -- mostly women from the impoverished countryside -- work as cleaning ladies and in other low-skilled jobs in Istanbul.

In the BBC interview, Erdogan said, "If necessary, I will tell them 'come on, back to your country' ... I'm not obliged to keep them in my country."

Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sarksyan said, "I agree with the assessment that when the Turkish prime minister allows himself to make such statements, the (genocide) events of 1915 immediately return to our memory."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Vatican Calls on Priests to Limit Sermons to Eight Minutes; Would Deter Sleeping in Church

In what will be welcomed by anyone who has found themselves dozing off in church, the Secretary for the Synod of Bishops, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, said last week that homilies -- that is, sermons -- should be kept short, pithy, and topical, according to the Telegraph (British) website.

"The homily in general should not go over eight minutes -- the average amount of time for a listener to concentrate," the Croatian-born archbishop said.

Clergy should read newspapers so they can make the Word of God more relevant and contemporary, he added.

"The preacher can write the homily, but at the time of delivery he should use an outline -- a special guide that will allow him to follow a logical line of thought while looking at the faithful," the archbishop said.

Jews Open New Synagogue in Herford, Germany; Last One Closed Down During Hitler's Rule

A new synagogue was opened to the public in the city of Herford in western Germany on March 14, 2010, according to the Deutsche Welle (German) website. The last synagogue in Herford closed during Adolph Hitler's rule of Germany.

The state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, Juergen Ruettgers, and the president of Germany's Central Council of Jews, Charlotte Knobloch, celebrated along with the congregation at the opening ceremony.

"We must, and we will, do everything to ensure there is never another Auschwitz," Ruettgers said.

Knobloch commented on how Jewish history in Herford stretches back seven centuries, although after the Holocaust only about 200 former inhabitants returned.

Knobloch said that the synagogue would act as a memorial for the former Jewish community, meaning worshipers might shed a few tears from time to time.

EU Court of Human Rights Condemns, Fines Croatia for Discriminating Against Roma Pupils

The European Court of Human Rights condemned Croatia yesterday (March 16, 2010) for discriminating against Roma schoolchildren by segregating them into Roma-only primary classes, according to Ekathimerini (Greek) website. The ruling is embarrassing for Croatia, because it hopes to join the European Union (EU) this year.

The court ordered Croatia to pay 4,500 euros ($6,167) in damages to each of 15 Roma students who claimed their rights were violated when -- as primary school students in the 1990s -- they were put in separate classes, supposedly to improve their Croatian language skills.

The segregation was based on ethnicity, the court found.

The court also found that Croatia had denied the pupils their right to a speedy trial.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

European Union Presses Turkey to Recognize Istanbul Patriarch as Ecumenical Patriarch

The Catholic Culture website reports today (March 16, 2010) that a European commission is pressing Turkey's government to recognize the status of Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I as the acknowledged "first among equals" of the world's Orthodox prelates.

The Islamic Turkish government has refused to recognize that status, instead treating the Ecumenical Patriarch as only the leader of Turkey's small Orthodox community.

This pressure from the European Union -- which Turkey has been unsuccessful in its many efforts to join -- might actually be welcomed by Turkey's government leaders, who now appear to be pushing for their own democratic reforms.

Krakow Monument Commemorating Jews Killed by Nazis Desecrated on Eve of Anniversary

The Poland News website reports that a monument in Krakow, Poland -- in memory of Jews who perished during Nazi occupation in World War II -- has been desecrated on the eve of the 67th anniversary of the liquidation of the Krakow ghetto.

Several Krakow city worker worked all night to remove phrases such as "Jews out" and "Hitler is good" scrawled in red paint on the monument at the site of the Plaszow concentration camp.

Police received notification of the vandalism from city guards on Saturday afternoon (March 13, 2010).

Vice President of the Auschwitz Council Stefan Wilkanowicz told Polskie Radio that the desecration on the eve of the anniversary was "no coincidence."

Israeli Forces Fire Rubber Bullets at Hundreds of Palestinian Protesters in East Jerusalem

The Middle East Online website reports that hundreds of Palestinians clashed with police in Israeli-occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem today (March 16, 2010), amid heightened tensions in the Holy City where Israel vowed to expand illegal Jewish settlements.

Israeli forces fired rubber bullets and stun grenades at protesters who hurled rocks at security forces in the Shuafat refugee camp.

A heavy security presence was evident around the Old City, and Israeli forces said they deployed 3,000 officers in Jerusalem.

Israel's announcement last week of plans to build 1,600 new illegal units for mainly radical Jewish settlers in Palestinian East Jerusalem infuriated not only the Palestinians, but also the Obama administration. In fact, Israel's housing plans for East Jerusalem have already resulted in the derailment of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, and the most hostile United States-Israeli relations in more than four decades.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Evangelist Predicts "Churchianity" Decline Will Lead to Genuine Christian Faith

In the latest edition of the magazine "Charisma," J John -- the popular evangelist and author -- mulls over the shape of the church in Britain by the year 2020.

He predicts that the continuing decline in "Churchianity" will lead to "a void in which a genuine Christian faith will stand out clearly," according to the Christian Today website.

J John believes that while hedonism, consumerism, and secularism will remain popular, there will be a growing realization that they do not satisfy.

He predicted that society would become "colder, more detached, and increasingly virtual." Moreover, the attraction of authentic, caring, Spirit-filled fellowships would be "compelling," the evangelist said.

Georgian TV Station's Prank Scares Viewers: "Russians Invaded Georgia, President Dead"

On March 13, 2010 "Imedi" TV company broadcast "news" in the nation of Georgia, announcing that Russians had invaded Georgia, bombed its airports and seaports, that three Georgian battalions had joined the Russians, and that Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili was dead.

The report -- which also contained a simulated address by the Russian president ordering intervention of Georgia -- was aired on the regular 8 p.m. bulletin, according to the Interfax-Religion website.

The report sparked panic in Georgia with "Imedi" not making it immediately clear that the report was "only a simulation of how events might unfold."

The Georgian emergency services received a plethora of calls in the ensuing minutes. Dozens of people gathered to protest the fictitious report in front of the "Imedi" building in Tbilisi.

I believe that the Federal Communications Commission -- or its equivalent in Georgia -- should suspend "Imedi" TV's license to broadcast for at least 30 days for carrying out this prank. The TV station should have known better than to have made a mockery of Russian aggression in Georgia, which could have been "deadly news" -- especially for Georgia's intensive care heart patients, as well as other people suffering from a life-threatening illness.

Far Rightist Lehava Organization Urges Israeli Model Not to Marry Non-Jewish DiCaprio

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency website reports today (March 15, 2010) that members of a Jewish nationalist group have written to Israeli supermodel Bar Rafaeli, urging her not to marry her non-Jewish boyfriend, actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

"Your grandmother and her grandmother did not dream that one of their descendants would one day remove the family's future generations from the Jewish people," read a letter from the far-rightist Baruch Marzel on behalf of the Lehava organization, which is dedicated to preventing assimilation.

"Come to your senses, look forward and back too -- and not only the present. Don't marry Leonardo DiCaprio, don't harm the future generations," the letter concluded.

The letter comes after DiCaprio said in an interview earlier this month that he was thinking of getting married and starting a family. DiCaprio became a popular Hollywood actor after he starred in the movie "Titanic," along with his lover in that movie, actress Kate Winslet.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Glenn Beck Upsets Christian Groups in Saying "Social Justice" Leads to Nazism, Communism

The Christian Post website reports that many Christian groups are up in arms, after popular political commentator Glenn Beck urged Christians to leave their church if it talks about social justice.

In a radio and television show last week on Fox News, Beck urged Christian viewers to talk to their pastor or priest about the term social justice. If the church leader refuses to change the church's commitment to social justice, then they should leave the church, Beck said.

Beck, a Mormon, said "social justice" is a code for communism and Nazism.

Later in the show, Beck held up cards with a hammer and a sickle in one hand and a swastika in the other. He said communists and Nazis both have the same philosophy, and in America "social justice" is the code word for both.

COMMENTARY: Muslims Must Stop Attacking, Killing Christians in Islamic Nations

There have been several attacks -- some of which have been deadly -- by fanatic Muslims against innocent Christians living in predominantly Islamic nations in recent months, and these barbaric attacks must be laid to rest immediately.

On March 12, 2010, a mob of Muslims -- estimated to be between 2,000 and 3,000 -- hurled stones at a Coptic Christian Church in Egypt during prayer services. The Muslims then went inside the church and assaulted people. At least 25 Christians were seriously injured and required hospital treatment. The reason for the Muslim attack was that a wall had been built around the church, without asking the Muslims for permission to do so.

On the evening of January 6, 2010 -- following a Christmas service at a Coptic Christian Church in Egypt -- three Muslims drove by the church and fired at the parishioners with machine guns as they were leaving the church. Seven people were killed, and several more were injured.

Also in Egypt, a court in the city of Assuit earlier this month acquitted four Muslims accused of killing a 61-year-old Coptic Christian on October 19, 2009. The Muslims fired 31 bullets into the man's head and then beheaded him, according to several witnesses. Christians were enraged over the acquittal, which brought back memories of O.J. Simpson's acquittal of a double murder by a predominantly black jury some 15 years earlier.

I can continue with more examples of Muslim barbarism and the failure of the courts to punish these barbarians accordingly, but I believe that I have already made my point clear.

Egypt is the worst Islamic nation with respect to its treatment -- or more precisely mistreatment -- of Christians. Pakistan can be considered a close second to Egypt. I remember a case last month of a girl in her early teens being a house cleaner for a Pakistani doctor who killed her for eating some food from the refrigerator. The Pakistani doctor was not the least bit sorry for murdering a Christian girl.

Other predominantly Islamic countries have treated Christians as "second-class citizens" and think nothing of doing so. For example, last month Turkey was ordered by the high court of the European Union to remove its listing of religion on identification cards of Turkish citizens. Turkey had been using this religion listing in an effort to discriminate against its Christians.

It is now time for this barbaric treatment of Christians to end. Moreover, the courts in predominantly Islamic nations must take this barbaric treatment of Christians more seriously by punishing these barbarians to the full extent of the law.

Monasteries in Ex-Soviet Republic of Georgia Agree to House Prisoners

The BBC website reports today that officials in the ex-Soviet Republic of Georgia have announced a scheme to let prisoners shorten their jail terms by spending time in a monastery.

The scheme for petty criminals has been proposed by the country's Orthodox Church and government officials.

It comes at a time when the number of prisoners in Georgia continues to rise significantly, and the Georgian Orthodox Church begins to have a greater impact on the government.

It is unclear -- at this time -- how many prisoners will be allowed to become monks, or if they will have any choice in the matter.

Some 80 percent of Georgia's population is comprised of Orthodox Christians.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Russian President Decorates Archbishop of Canterbury for Enhancing Russian-British Relations

On March 12, 2010, the Russian Embassy in London held a ceremony of decorating the Most Rev. Rowan Williams of Canterbury with the Order of Friendship.

In compliance with the Russian President's decree, the Anglican spiritual leader is awarded for great contribution in strengthening and developing Russian-British relations. Ambassador Yury Fedorov handed over the order, the BBC Russian service reported.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is famous for his works on Fyodor Dostoevsky and theologian Vladimir Lossky and is known as a brilliant expert in Russian culture.

"I'm very glad and touched," Williams said after the ceremony. He added, "I've been keen on Russian culture, its philosophy, and religious thought from my very young age. Great Britain and Russia are situated in opposite parts of Europe, Anglo-Saxon temper is almost contrary to Russian, but Christian faith unites us."

Court Upholds Disciplining of Registrar Who Refused to Conduct Same-Sex Registrations

The Persecution website reports that the Supreme Court in England this week rejected the appeal application of a Christian registrar disciplined because of her opposition to civil partnerships.

The court refused to grant Lillian Ladele permission to challenge a previous ruling, which found she had not been discriminated against by Islington Council in north London when it had disciplined her for refusing to conduct same-sex civil partnership registrations.

Ms. Ladele, who worked as a registrar for the council for 16 years, refused to conduct the ceremonies for same-sex couples because she felt doing so went against her "religious conscience."

An Appeal Court had ruled in December, 2009 that it was Ms. Ladele who had broken the law by refusing to serve someone because of their sexuality -- illegal under Labor's 2007 Sexual Orientation Regulations.

State Department Report Indicates Anti-Semitism Increasing Worldwide, Fueled by Some Nations

The Telegraph website reports that traditional and new forms of anti-Semitism continue to increase worldwide -- much of it resulting from the Gaza conflict -- based on the findings of a State Department study.

"Often despite official efforts to combat the problem, societal anti-Semitism persisted across Europe, South America, and beyond, and manifested itself in classic forms," the State Department said in its annual report released March 11, 2010.

Such incidents -- the report states -- involved attacks on Jews or places of worship, as well as desecration of cemeteries and accusations of undue Jewish influence on government policy and media.

The report also accused some governments -- including those of Egypt and Iran -- of fueling anti-Semitism rather than combating it.

Muslim Mob Attacks Coptic Church During Prayers in Egypt, Seriously Injuring 25 Christians

A Muslim mob attacked a Coptic Christian Church during prayers yesterday (March 12, 2010), near the Egyptian seaport of Mersa Matrouh. The mob -- estimated to be 2,000-3,000 Muslims -- hurled stones at the building. Four priests, the deacons, and some 400 parishioners were trapped inside the building, according to the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) website.

Rev. Matta Zakarya said that after the mob hurled stones at the building, they went inside and assaulted the people. Witnesses said the number of security forces was not large enough to contain the Muslims.

According to Rev. Matta, 25 persons were seriously wounded, including women and children. The injured were treated at Matrouh Hospital.

The reason used by the Muslims for the attack was the construction -- without permission -- of a wall surrounding a plot of land acquired by the Church.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Pope: Priest Who Sees Himself as a "Social Agent" Runs Risk of Betraying Priesthood Itself

Pope Benedict XVI said today (March 12, 2010) that when a priest sees himself as nothing more than a "social agent," he runs the risk of betraying the priesthood itself, according to the Zenit website.

The Pope said this today upon receiving in audience the participants in the International Theological Conference "Fidelity of Christ, Fidelity of the Priest," organized by the Congregation for Clergy.

The two-day event -- which was attended by more than 50 bishops and over 500 priests -- was organized around the theme of the Year for Priests.

The Pontiff broached the topic of priestly identity, which he said is important to have clear, so as to not "yield to the temptation to reduce it to the prevailing cultural categories."

The Pope then called for an hermeneutic "of priestly continuity," that would show the uninterruptedness of the priesthood, beginning with Jesus Christ and leading up through modern times.

Turkey Condemns Swedish Resolution Recognizing WWI Killings of Armenians as "Genocide"

Turkey recalled its ambassador to Sweden yesterday (March 11,2010) and canceled an upcoming summit between the two countries, after the Swedish parliament branded the World War I killings of some one and one-half million Anatolian Armenians as "genocide."

The move comes just one week after Ankara called home its ambassador to the United States because a U.S. congressional committee approved a similar resolution.

The issue of the Armenian massacres is deeply sensitive in Turkey, which vehemently denies the Armenian genocide, according to Today's Zaman (Turkish) website.

"We strongly condemn this resolution, which is made for political calculations," Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said in a statement, referring to the Swedish parliament vote.

Greece Arrests Orthodox Priest from Kosovo, Wanted by Serbia for Embezzling Church Funds

The Serbianna (Serbian) website reports today that Greek police have arrested a priest who fled from Kosovo, and is wanted by Serbia on suspicion of embezzling state and church funds.

A police statement says Simeon Vilovski was taken into custody on an international warrant yesterday (March 11, 2010) in Peraia, about 315 miles north of Athens.

Belgrade's Higher Court has launched an investigation of the Orthodox Christian priest on suspicion that he embezzled money provided for reconstruction of churches in Kosovo.

Vilovski served in Kosovo under hardline Orthodox Bishop Artemije, who was recently replaced by the Church over similar allegations.

Hundreds of Serbian Orthodox Churches and monasteries are located in Kosovo, which declared its independence from Serbia in 2008.

Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Vows to Reopen Halki Seminary "As Quickly As Possible"

Today's Zaman (Turkish) website reports that Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey Bulent Arinc met yesterday (March 11, 2010) in his office in Istanbul with 21 leaders of Turkey's non-Muslim communities, including Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew, Chief Rabbi of Turkey Ishak Haleva, Armenian Archbishop Aram Atesyan, Syrian Orthodox Archbishop Yusuf Cetin, and Simon Zazadze, who represented the Catholic Georgian Church.

At a news conference following the meeting, Arinc described Patriarch Bartholomew's demand for reopening of the Greek Orthodox Halki Seminary as "appropriate and just," vowing to clear the obstacles before the reopening of the seminary as quickly as possible.

The Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey said previous rulings of the Constitutional Court in Turkey have created restrictions on the reopening of the seminary. He added, "I should note that I and the government are determined to restart education at the Halki Seminary in line with our laws. I hope we will be able to make this possible in line with Turkey's laws before it is too late."

Established on October 1, 1844 on Halki Island -- located in the Sea of Marmara near Istanbul -- the Halki Seminary was the main school of theology of the Eastern Orthodox Church's patriarchate in Istanbul until Turkish authorities closed it down in 1971.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Greece and FYROM Resolve Name Dispute; "Northern Macedonia" May Be Accepted as New Name

Ekathimerini (Greek) website reports today (March 11, 2010) that Washington has informed Greek prime Minister George Papandreou that it will back an effort by Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to settle their name dispute by agreeing on "Northern Macedonia" as the name of the former Yugoslav province.

Papandreou, who is wrapping up a visit to the USA, was told by White House officials that if Athens and Skopje (the capital of FYROM) can agree to Northern Macedonia as a resolution to their disagreement, then Washington will immediately adopt this name in dealing with Greece's neighbor.

As is the case with Greece, most of FYROM's population (about 65 percent) is Eastern Orthodox; however, there has been much friction between these two countries since 1991, when FYROM became an independent nation following the breakup of Yugoslavia.

Greece has been very opposed to the name FYROM because FYROM borders on the northern Greek province of Macedonia. By using the name FYROM, many Greeks believe that it may want to take control of the Greek province by the same name, in addition to taking credit for Macedonia's historical prominence. Consequently, Greece has blocked FYROM's admission into the European Union and NATO.

The fact is that Macedonia in northern Greece was the birthplace of Alexander the Great (356-323BC) who conquered all of the known world during the Golden Age of Greece. Several months ago, FYROM agreed to build a huge statue of Alexander the Great that will be located in the center of Skopje, FYROM's capital. To many people, this seems strange, since Alexander the Great was of Greek descent, not Yugoslavian.

Hopefully, the name Northern Macedonia will be agreed upon quickly by Greece and FYROM, so that these neighbors will maintain a long harmonious Christian-loving relationship.

Two-Thirds of Danes for Gay Church Marriages; 60 Percent of Bishops Support Gay Weddings

Nearly two-thirds of Danes support a call to allow gay and lesbian couples to be married by the Church, a poll showed on March 10, 2010, according to the Worldview Weekend website.

Denmark was the world's first country to allow a civil union for homosexuals, in 1989, but its parliament is now split over a move by the center-left opposition to amend the law to allow religious weddings also.

A quarter of respondents said they would oppose the move, while 12 percent gave no opinion, according to the Capacent Research poll of 1,304 people. In a separate poll, six out of 10 bishops with the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church would agree to see gay couples make their vows in Church.

Denmark's civil partnership -- emulated across much of the Western world -- grants homosexual couples most of the same rights as heterosexuals, but gay Christians have continued to lobby for the right to a Church marriage.

Denver Archdiocese: Child of Lesbian Parents Cannot Attend Catholic School Next Year

The National Catholic Register website reports today (March 11, 2010) that after administrators of Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic School in Boulder, Colorado discovered that a schoolchild's parents were lesbians, they declared that the child would not be able to continue in the school.

The lesbian couple was informed that the child would only be permitted to complete kindergarten, but not advance to first grade at the school.

"Parents living in open discord with Catholic teaching in areas of faith and morals unfortunately choose by their actions to disqualify their children from enrollment," said a statement issued by the Archdiocese of Denver.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver -- in an effort to clarify his policy for parochial school admissions -- noted that the Church teachings on marriage and sexual morality are "central to a Catholic understanding of human nature, family and happiness, and the organization of society."

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ecumenical and Evangelical World Leaders Meet, Discuss Unison, Code of Conduct on Conversion

The general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, and the international director of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), the Rev. Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, met last week to discuss their common concerns about efforts toward Christian unity.

The meeting was held at the Ecumenical Center in Geneva, Switzerland, where the WCC's headquarters are located, according to the Christian Today website.

The two leaders discussed areas of common interest and collaboration -- including mission and evangelism -- and the ongoing work on a code of conduct on conversion, which also involves the Roman Catholic Church.

Both leaders affirmed the continued support of the WCC and WEA for the relatively new Global Christian Forum as a platform providing opportunities for encounters and dialogue between Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, Protestant, Evangelical, Pentecostal, and the African Instituted Churches.

Prince Albert of Monaco Honors Patriarch Bartholomew for Environmental Leadership

Prince Albert II, current ruler of the Principality of Monaco and high patron of the Cardinal Paul Poupard Foundation, chose His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on March 3, 2010 to become the first recipient of the Cardinal Poupard Prize.

Prince Albert honored and recognized the Ecumenical Patriarch for his "engagement in favor of safeguarding creation" and environmental leadership, according to the International Orthodox Christian News website.

His Eminence Paul Cardinal Poupard is the President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Culture and President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue for the Holy See.

The award was given to His All Holiness in a ceremony at the Hotel de Paris in the Principality of Monaco.

White House, Palestinians Condemn Israel for Its Plan to Build 1600 Homes in East Jerusalem

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought to alleviate new tensions with the U.S. today (March 10, 2010), after an announcement that Israel will build 1,600 new homes in an ultra-Orthodox East Jerusalem neighborhood drew strong condemnation from the White House, and visiting U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

Biden arrived in Israel on March 8, 2010 in an attempt to kick-start long-stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, which had been expected to resume in the current days, but appeared to be in danger yesterday after a furious response from the Palestinians to the construction plan.

According to the Forward (Jewish) website, a high-ranking official in Jerusalem said Netanyahu has "no problem" with construction in Jerusalem, and has no intention of apologizing to the U.S. for building there.

The Palestinian Authority issued a strong rebuke of the Israeli announcement, with Nabil Abu Rudeineh -- a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas -- warning the move would derail negotiations before they had even begun.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Metropolitan Hilarion: Russian Orthodox Church Must Continue to Have Major Role in Society

The Russian Orthodox Church should exert a stronger influence on national culture to prevent it from turning into a destructive force, a senior hierarch said today (March 9, 2010).

"If the Church does not take part in the country's cultural life, culture is running the risk of turning into an anti-culture, as has repeatedly happened in the past," Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, who oversees the Church's external relations, said in an interview with the RIA Novosti (Russian) website.

He added that critics' fears that the increasingly authoritative Church had too large a role in society were unfounded, declaring that it would not turn into a censor.

The influence of the Russian Orthodox Church has been on the rise since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, becoming one of the key institutions in Russian society.

Hilarion said there should be no return to the times of the atheist Soviet Union, where people were told that "culture and art serve progress and the church is a cesspool for losers and old women 'seeking consolation in religion.'"

Pope's Brother Asks for Forgiveness from Victims of Abuse at Cathedral Choir in Regensburg

The Pope's brother, Georg Ratzinger, has asked for forgiveness after reports of the abuse which went on at the boarding school of the Cathedral choir in Regensburg, Germany, according to today's Bild (German) website.

Victims were forced to endure excessive force -- including violence, whipping, and perverse sex games -- from teachers and even headmasters.

Ratzinger -- brother of Pope Benedict XVI and former leader of the choir -- has spoken up and apologized. "I have also done this. At the same time, I ask the victims for forgiveness," he told the "Passauer Neuen Presse."

Ratzinger, 86, who was Regensburg choir master between 1964 and 1994, said he "gave out slaps repeatedly at the beginning, but actually had a guilty conscience for it." He added that he was pleased when physical punishment became illegal in Germany in 1980.

Tens of Thousands Protest New Abortion Law in Spain, Would Allow Abortion on Demand

The Christian Post website reports today that tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Madrid and several other cities in Spain last Sunday (March 7, 2010) to protest a new law that would allow abortion on demand.

Carrying banners and balloons and chanting, "No to abortion! Yes to life!," pro-lifers demonstrated against the law that would allow a woman to have an abortion up to 14 weeks into her pregnancy.

Prior to this legislation -- which passed in late February -- women could only legally have an abortion in the cases of rape, fetal abnormality, or when the mother's physical or mental health is at risk. The new law is scheduled to take effect in July 2010.

Spain is an overwhelmingly Catholic nation, with about 94 percent of its population being Catholic. The Roman Catholic Church is opposed to any Catholic having an abortion.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Stampede for Free Food, Clothing at Temple in India Kills 63 People; Police Charge Negligence

The Worldwide Religious News website reports today that hundreds of grieving relatives buried and cremated their wives, mothers, and children in India during the past few days, and police opened a criminal negligence case into a stampede at a Hindu temple that killed 63 people.

The tragedy erupted on March 4, 2010 when poor villagers -- mainly women and children -- scrambled for free food and clothing being given away at a ceremony at the temple in the town of Kunda, on the northern plains of India's Uttar Pradesh state.

The handouts in Kunda are an annual tradition arranged by local religious leader Kripalu Maharaj to mark the anniversary of his wife's death -- a common practice in India.

Authorities accused the organizers of failing to take adequate security measures, and opened a criminal negligence case against the temple management.

Iranian Pastor Arrested, Tortured; "Awaits Death Sentence" for Christian Conversion of Muslims

An Iranian evangelical pastor, who was suddenly arrested and then imprisoned, has visible marks of torture, his wife said after she visited him.

Pastor Wilson Issavi of the Assyrian Evangelical Church in Kermanshah -- a remote city in western Iran -- is living in dreadful condition and appears to have been tortured while in prison, his wife Medline Nazanin told reporters and human right activists in Iran, according to the Farsi Christian News Network (FCNN).

Nazanin also said intelligence officials told her that her husband is "awaiting his trial and his death sentence."

Issavi is accused of converting Muslims to Christianity and baptizing them.

Custodian of Mosques in America Urges Muslims to Kill Anyone Hindering Spread of Islam

The custodian of most of the major mosques in America acts as a front for the radical Muslim Brotherhood in America, and publishes and distributes Islamic literature that exhorts Muslims to kill any Westerners who get in the way of spreading Islam, the World Net Daily website reports today (March 8, 2010).

"No political system or material power should put hindrances in the way of preaching Islam. If someone does this, then it is the duty of Islam to fight him until either he is killed or until he declares his submission," asserts an Islamic publication distributed by the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT).

NAIT holds title to more than 300 mosques in America -- including the large Islamic center outside Washington, D.C. where the Fort Hood terrorist and some of the 9/11 hijackers worshiped.

The U.S. Justice Department recently blacklisted NAIT as an unindicted co-conspirator in a scheme to funnel millions of dollars to Palestinian terrorists.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Church Takes City to Court for Barring Its Saturday Outdoor Breakfasts for the Homeless

On Saturday mornings, crowds of homeless gather with other needy people at picnic tables outside a church in an upscale Phoenix, Arizona neighborhood, listen to sermons, and settle in for sausage, pancakes, and eggs.

According to the USA Today website, residents say the homeless create blight. A complaint prompted city officials to order the year-long breakfast halted, saying it violated zoning laws.

Now, the dispute is in federal court, with the church saying the city is violating its treasured American rights to freedom of religion, as well as a federal law passed in 2000 that protects religious groups from city zoning rules.

"This is what it means to be a church," says the Rev. Dottie Escobedo-Frank of the Cross Roads United Methodist Church. "We are just trying to take care of some people who are hungry and trying to reach out to our neighborhood."

NY Rabbi Weiss Ends Ordination of Women Rabbis Due to Pressure from Orthodox Community and RCA

Rabbi Avi Weiss has backed away from the idea of ordaining women as Orthodox rabbis under the term "rabba."

Weiss -- a prominent Modern Orthodox rabbi who guides the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale in the Bronx -- had taken heat from the Orthodox community since he made the announcement in January, 2010 that he would use the feminized version of rabbi for his student, Sara Hurwitz, who now has the title "maharat."

The Rabbinical Council of America (RCA)-- an umbrella organization consisting mostly of Modern Orthodox rabbis -- considered revoking Weiss's ordination, according to the New York Jewish Week.

Consequently, Weiss -- the founder and leader of the Yeshivat Chovevei Torah rabbinical school -- and the RCA have now reached a harmonious agreement.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Pope John Paul's Path to Sainthood May Be Set Back As Woman He Cured Did Not Have Parkinson's

The Telegraph website in England reports today (March 6, 2010) that Pope John Paul II's path to sainthood could be delayed, after a Polish newspaper claimed that the woman he cured of Parkinson's in fact did not suffer from the disease.

The Polish-born Pope was credited with the miraculous recovery of a French nun, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, who had been suffering from Parkinson's disease, which medical science regards as incurable.

The Polish daily newspaper "Rzeczpospolita" states that a doctor who scrutinized the 49-year-old nun's case concluded that she may have been suffering not from Parkinson's but from a nervous disorder from which temporary recovery is medically possible.

A validated miracle is required for John Paul to be beatified, with a second miracle required for his full sainthood. Pope John Paul II himself suffered from Parkinson's disease during the last several years of his papacy.

Christians in Egypt Enraged as Court Acquits Four Muslims Accused of Beheading Copt

An Egyptian court in the southern city of Assuit this week acquitted four Muslims accused of killing 61-year-old Farouk Attallah, a Coptic Christian, on October 19, 2009.

In broad daylight -- and in full view of witnesses -- the killers fired 31 bullets to Attallah's head before beheading him, according to the Assyrian International News Agency.

The judge presiding over the court on February 22, 2010, said that he was not satisfied that the testimony of the witnesses established that the imprisoned men were the killers.

Christians were enraged over the acquittal, since similar cases would result in life imprisonment or execution for a Coptic Orthodox Christian if the victim was a Muslim.

This court case reminds me of O.J. Simpson's court case and his acquittal of murdering two people. Remember Simpson's lawyer, Johnnie Cochran, and his famous statement regarding a glove found near the murder scene: "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit." Why do I detect a double standard of the law in both of these cases?

COMMENTARY: U.S. Must Recognize Armenian Genocide Despite Denial, Threats by Turkey

On March 4, 2010, the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee voted in favor of recognizing Armenian claims of genocide by Ottoman Turks during World War I. Some one and one-half million Armenians were murdered by Ottoman Turks between 1914 and 1918.

To the present day, Turkey has denied that this genocide ever occurred. On the other hand, most historians agree that the Armenian genocide did indeed occur.

Although the Armenian genocide occurred nearly 100 years ago, the U.S. has still not recognized its occurrence. The vote by the House Foreign Affairs Committee this week is a positive first step that may well lead to U.S. recognition.

The next crucial step is for the full House of Representatives to vote in favor of U.S. recognition of the Armenian genocide. Yet, the opposition continues to put pressure on House members by various means -- some of which are unethical -- in order to defeat this resolution. For example, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is diligently using her influence in an effort to prevent the subcommittee agreement on the Armenian genocide from even reaching discussion by the full House of Representatives, thus automatically defeating it.

Legally, this is not a decision that Clinton can make, and she should not be pressuring House members to make. When or if the full House votes on this matter is a decision that must be made by Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House. In fact, Rep. Pelosi is in favor of U.S. recognition of the Armenian genocide.

You may be asking yourself, Why has the U.S. failed to recognize the Armenian genocide for nearly 100 years? The answer is simple: Fear of retaliation from Turkey.

When the House subcommittee voted to recognize the Armenian genocide this week, Turkey became so furious that it immediately called its U.S. ambassador to return to Turkey. Obviously, this was a ploy by Turkey, in order to incite fear of ending Turkish-American diplomatic relations, so that the full U.S. House would vote not to recognize the Armenian genocide.

Turkey has warned the U.S. of dire consequences if the full House of Representatives votes to recognize the Armenian genocide. Needless to say, some of these threats by Turkey border on being blackmail.

Turkey's strategic location in the Middle East has made it an important ally of the United States -- currently in fighting its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. On the other hand, Armenia is a much smaller country with very little strategic value as far as the U.S. is concerned.

This is a sad situation, because it clearly illustrates how geopolitics has prevailed over human values for nearly a century, insofar as the U.S. is concerned. The U.S. is considered by many people to be the moral leader of the world, but this situation certainly contradicts that view.

At least 20 countries have officially recognized the Armenian genocide. These include Russia, Germany, Italy, Greece, Poland, Argentina, and Lebanon, among others. Several International organizations -- such as the World Council of Churches and the Council of Europe -- have also recognized it.

As a result of the U.S. House subcommittee vote to recognize the Armenian genocide, America now has an ideal opportunity to correct its international priorities by placing humanity before politics. We hope and pray that America's recognition of the Armenian genocide will indeed become a reality in the very near future.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Three Pregnant Muslim Women in Malaysia Are Caned for Having Sex Out of Wedlock

Prison authorities in Malaysia caned three unmarried Muslim women in February 2010, after a Shariah -- or Islamic court -- in Kuala Lumpur found them guilty of having "sex out of wedlock."

The three women who were caned reportedly had turned themselves in to Islamic authorities after becoming pregnant by their boyfriends. They defended their punishment, saying it gave them a chance to repent for their sins, according to the Worldwide Religious News website.

Women's Minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil said that she would seek Cabinet approval to hold an international conference on the issue of caning, and whether it is appropriate punishment for women under Islamic law.

This inhuman situation reminds me of a similar one in which a woman is being stoned to death by several people for having committed adultery during the early Christian era. It was then that Jesus appeared, and saved the woman's life with His Christian message: "Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone."

Traditionalist Anglican Church in America Agrees to Seek Entry into Roman Catholic Church

Leaders of the traditionalist Anglican Church in America have announced their decision to make a formal request for entry into the Roman Catholic Church under the provisions of the Pope's apostolic constitution "Anglicanorum Coetibus."

The group -- which claims 99 parishes in the United States -- is asking the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to implement the Pope's plan, forming an Anglican ordinariate in the United States, according to the Catholic Culture website.

Archbishop Urges Christians to Support Uniqueness of Christ, Be Open to Learn from Others

The Archbishop of Canterbury has urged Christians to approach inter-faith dialogue with confidence in their own beliefs about the uniqueness of Christ, while retaining a desire to learn from others, according to the Christian Today website.

In an address exploring the finality of Christ in a pluralist world on March 2, 2010, Dr. Rowan Williams said people who believed in absolute truth were liable to be branded bigots or intolerant by those who felt that what was right for some was not necessarily right for others.

"Belief in uniqueness or finality of Christ is something that sits very badly indeed, not just with a plural society but with a society that regards itself as liberal or democratic," he said.

The Archbishop added that affirming the uniqueness and finality of Christ -- rather than being unfair to those who had not heard of Him -- made possible the universal reconcilability and fellowship of human beings.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Malaysian Government Decides Not to Prosecute Muslim Reporters Who Spat Out Holy Communion

The Catholic Culture website reports today that the Malaysian government has decided not to prosecute journalists who desecrated the Eucharist recently.

The attorney general of Malaysia, Abdul Gani Patail, said that the government saw no reason to take action against two reporters from the journal "Al Islam," who had attended Mass and received Communion as part of their investigation into complaints that Catholics were seeking to convert Muslims.

The reporters said that they had later spat out the Blessed Sacrament, stirring outrage among Catholics.

The attorney general -- after studying the case -- concluded that the reporters "did not intend to offend anyone," but acted out of "sheer ignorance."

U.S. House Panel Endorses Armenian Genocide Resolution, Turkey Recalls Its U.S. Ambassador

The Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives today (March 4, 2010) endorsed a resolution calling for Washington's recognition of World War I-era killings of as many as one and one-half million Armenians during the last days of the Ottoman Empire as "genocide."

Turkey immediately condemned the U.S. congressional vote labeling the 1915 killings of Armenians as "genocide" and recalled its ambassador to Washington for consultations.

The resolution now heads to a floor vote at the House of Representatives. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- a Democrat who supports the resolution -- will decide if or when it will come to a floor vote.

Today's endorsement of the congressional resolution could jeopardize Turkey's ties with both the United States and Armenia, according to the Hurriyet Daily News (Turkish) website.

Patriarch Kirill: Internet Is Exam for Human Race, Can Protect Humanity or Cause Its Collapse

The Ria Novosti website reports today that Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia sees the Internet as an examination for the human race, as not only has the web become a laboratory forming an individual, but also constitutes a threat of destruction.

"Nowadays the Internet is a kind of laboratory where an individual should be formed and where a character should be sharpened," Patriarch Kirill said during his meeting with Moscow students.

"Just like a nuclear bomb, the Internet may lead the human race to collapse or protect it," Patriarch Kirill added.

In February 2010, Russian communication service providers agreed to protect Internet users from child pornography -- using all legal means -- as well as fighting against child pornography production, storage, and trafficking on the web.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Allowed Corruption Pervades Greece at Record Level, Current Financial Crisis Linked to Graft

Ekathimerini website reports today (March 3, 2010) that corruption is thriving at an all-time high in Greece's public and private sectors, with staff at hospitals, tax offices, and town-planning offices among the worst offenders, according to Transparency International's (TI) Greek office.

Bribes paid to Greek officials in 2009 rose by 50 million euros to 790 million euros, the corruption watchdog said, noting that the bulk of the increase was due to illicit transactions in the private sector.

According to a survey of 6,122 people carried out for TI's Greek office by polling firm Public Issue, hospitals accounted for 33.5 percent of bribes taken, with tax offices and local authority services accounting for 15.7 and 15.9 percent, respectively. Banks and lawyers are next on the list with 10.8 percent and 9 percent of cases.

In the state sector, the average bribe was 1,355 euros, and in the private sector1,671 euros, according to the survey.

Costas Bakouris, head of TI's Athens office, said the problem is not the lack of legal provisions for curbing corruption, but the non-implementation of existing ones. Bakouris and Public Issue Director, Yiannis Mavris, both said that Greece's current financial crisis is closely linked to graft. "It is a problem with very deep roots," Mavris said.

I believe that it is now critical for the Greek government to enforce Greece's anti-corruption laws, instead of ignoring them. This article portrays a sad image of life in Greece today, and it is even deplorable when one keeps in mind that Greece was the birthplace of democracy, which we cherish immensely in the United States. What has become of the spiritual-minded Christian and democratic values that used to prevail in Greece?

Vatican Archives Director: Pius XII Files Ready in Five Years, Nothing Surprising Is Expected

According to the prefect of the Vatican Secret Archives, the documents from Pope Pius XII's pontificate might be catalogued and ready for researchers in five years, the Zenit website reports.

There are some 16 million documents from the 1939-1958 pontificate. They have generated interest due to the polemics surrounding Pius XII's aid to Jews during the Nazi era.

Bishop Sergio Pagano, prefect of the Vatican Secret Archives, gave the projected date for catalogue completion in a speech on March 1, 2010.

Bishop Pagano said, "When Pius XII's pontificate is opened, nothing mysterious or surprising is expected. What will be seen is the great good that Pius XII did in relation to the Jews."

Today, many Jews still believe that Pius XII was not as forceful as he should have been in opposing Adolph Hitler and Nazi Germany's genocide policy during World War II. Some six million innocent Jews were murdered under Hitler's Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

Prosecutor: Crude Anti-Semitic Exhibit in Germany Can Remain, Does Not Violate Hate-Crime Law

A crude anti-Israeli exhibit in Cologne, Germany -- in the heart of a bustling pedestrian zone -- does not meet the criteria of inciting hate, Rainer Wolf, a spokesman for the public prosecutor of Cologne, told the Jerusalem Post on March 1, 2010.

Wolf said the public prosecutor plans to dismiss the complaint of Gerd Buurmann, a non-Jewish theater director, who filed a grievance last week, asserting a violation of Germany's hate-crime law.

Buurmann told the Jerusalem Post that he is "horrified" by the decision and now plans to participate in a civil legal action against Walter Herrmann, the exhibitor of the anti-Israel exhibit.

Buurmann initiated legal action because the exhibit -- titled "Cologne Wailing Wall" -- shows a cartoon of a man sporting a Star of David on his bib as he devours a young Palestinian boy with a fork draped in an American flag and a knife with the word "Gaza." A blood-filled glass next to the plate appears to symbolize the blood of the child.

Dr. Marcus Meier, Director of the Society for Christian-Jewish Relations in Cologne, has filed a complaint, because that organization believes the cartoon spreads anti-Semitism.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Montenegro Native Arrested in Spain, Charged with Genocide, Rape, Torture During War in Bosnia

The Reuters website reports that Spanish police today (March 2, 2010) arrested a man on charges of genocide, rape, and torture committed during the civil war in the former Yugoslavia between 1992 and 1995.

Veselin Vlahovic, who was born in Montenegro in 1969, had three international arrest warrants pending against him, and was also wanted in Spain on charges ranging from armed robbery to burglary.

Known by the nickname of "Batko," Vlahovic is accused of hundreds of murders during the war in Bosnia, and was jailed after the conflict for an armed robbery in Montenegro in 1998.

Vlahovic had been at large since he escaped from the jail in 2001. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison for killing a man in Serbia shortly after his escape.

EU Forms Group to Protect Christian Rights in Countries Where They Face Persecution

The European Union (EU) has formed an association to protect the rights of Christians in countries where they face persecution, according to the Christian Today website.

"We've set up a working group and are defining what bilateral action can be taken between Europe and the individual countries where Christians' rights are in danger," said Italy's Foreign Minister Franco Frattini.

"By the end of April we'll have a manual for European embassies in the rest of the world, focusing in particular on the treatment of Christian religious minorities," Frattini added.

Such a "common protocol," he noted, has never before been implemented and if brought out will help "closely monitor the treatment of religious minorities, especially Christian minorities, in the most sensitive countries."

Serbian Patriarch Irinej's Enthronement Ceremony Planned for April Is Postponed Until Autumn

The Interfax-Religion website reports today (March 2, 2010) that the ceremony of Serbian Patriarch Irinej's enthronement -- originally planned for April 25 -- will not be held until autumn.

The date of the enthronement has not been specified, and will be announced later.

The ceremony has been postponed due to the lack of time needed to prepare for the event, according to the Serbian Patriarchate.

Elections of the new Serbian Patriarch took place in January, 2010, at a session of the Assembly of Bishops in Belgrade. The previous Serbian Patriarch, His Holiness Pavle, died at the age of 96 on November 15, 2009, following a long illness with lung disease.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Pope Prays for Victims of Earthquake in Chile, Pledges Aid from Catholic Relief Organizations

Pope Benedict XVI prayed for the victims of the massive earthquake in Chile, and pledged the assistance of Catholic relief organizations, according to the Catholic News website.

The Pope made the remarks at his noon blessing February 28 -- the day after a magnitude 8.8 quake struck the South American country, triggering giant waves and leaving at least 700 dead.

"My thoughts are with Chile and with the populations stricken by the earthquake, which caused great loss of life and terrible damage," the pope said from his apartment window above St. Peter's Square.

"I am praying for the victims and am spiritually close to those affected by this serious catastrophe. For them, I ask God to grant relief of suffering and courage in this adversity. I am sure solidarity will be shown by many, in particular by church organizations," the pope concluded.

More than 90 percent of the population in Chile -- as in most Latin American countries -- is comprised of Roman Catholics.

"The Line of the Lord" Confession Phone Line in France Gets No Respect from Catholic Bishops

The Stockholm Post website reports today (March 1, 2010) that a pay telephone line for Roman Catholics in France to confess their sins has drawn criticism from French bishops.

"For advice on confessing, press one. To confess, press two. To listen to some confessions, press three," says a soothing male voice, welcoming the caller to "Le Fil du Seigneur," or "The Line of the Lord" service.

"In case of serious or mortal sins -- that is, sins that have cut you off from Christ our Lord -- it is indispensable to confide in a priest," says the 0.34 euros-a-minute service.

The Conference of French Bishops -- which groups France's Catholic leaders -- warned in a statement that the line had "no approval from the Catholic Church in France."

Karadzic Tells Court Serbian Cause Was "Just and Holy," Muslims' Course "Inevitably Led to War"

The RIA Novosti website reports that former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, 64, said at his trial in The Hague today (March 1, 2010) that the Serbian cause in the Bosnian War was "just and holy" and that the Bosnian Muslims took a course that "inevitably led to war."

"The Muslim leadership strictly stuck to this solution which could only lead to war. And this solution was sovereign and independent Bosnia 100 percent," Karadzic said addressing the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.

"I stand before you not to defend the mere mortal that I am, but to defend the greatness of a small nation in Bosnia and Herzegovina which for 500 years has had to suffer and has demonstrated a great deal of modesty and perseverance to survive in freedom," he said.

The trial of Karadzic -- known as the "Butcher of Bosnia" -- resumed on March 1, 2010, after a four-month suspension. Karadzic is accused of war crimes and genocide dating from the 1992-95 Bosnian War, but insists he is innocent of all charges brought against him.