Friday, April 30, 2010

Lutheran Bishop Urges Catholic and Lutheran Churches to Draw Up Joint View of Eucharist

A German Protestant bishop today (April 30, 2010) urged Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches to draw up a joint declaration on their shared beliefs about the Eucharist -- one of the issues that has divided them for hundreds of years since the Reformation.

"Our understandings of the Eucharist of Lord's Supper are no longer that far apart," said Lutheran Bishop Friedrich Weber, who deals with relations between the Catholic Church and the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany (VELKD), a grouping of eight German regional Protestant churches.

This follows a separate initiative of a group set up by Lutheran and Catholic churches in Sweden and Finland.

This group has been discussing ways in which the two church traditions might advance the results of a 1999 joint Lutheran-Catholic declaration on the doctrine of justification, according to the Ecumenical News International (ENI) website.

German Court Ruling Paves Way for Release of Nazi War Criminal Eichmann's Secret Files

The Deutsche Welle (German) website reports that a German court today (April 30, 2010) found no legal basis for keeping the files on infamous Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann secret. Chancellor Angela Merkel's office had argued the files could hinder Germany's foreign policy.

"After examining the files, the Federal Administrative Court has decided that the decision of the chancellor's office to block them is unlawful," the court said in a statement.

Chancellor Merkel's office had also argued that publishing the 3,400-page files could endanger relations with foreign intelligence agencies.

The court said it would give Merkel's office a chance to present further arguments against the publishing of the files, which were compiled during the 1950s and 1960s.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Russia to Return Icons, Other Art to Church; Had Been Seized After Bolshevik Revolution

Legislation is being drafted in Russia to return icons and other religious art seized after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution to churches and convents.

The proposal has the backing of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, The Moscow Times reports.

Last month, the Russian Orthodox Church regained control of the Novodevichy Convent -- a 16th century Russian regent, and the sister and estranged first wife of Peter the Great. Because the convent is a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site, Putin ordered the property to be managed by the Orthodox Church with the government retaining formal ownership.

Church leaders say religious property and art should not be state-controlled. "A temple must be a temple, not a museum. An icon has its place -- not in a museum, but in a functioning temple," Archbishop Hilarion, who is in charge of external relations for the Russian Orthodox Church, told The Moscow Times.

Christian Relationship Counselor Loses Appeal; Fired for Refusal to Advise Same-Sex Couples

A Christian relationship counselor in England has lost his bid to bring his dismissal before the Court of Appeal, according to the Christian Today website.

Gary McFarlane was dismissed by Relate Avon in October 2007, after telling his employers that he felt he could not advise same-sex couples because of his Christian beliefs.

He later lost his claim of unfair dismissal and discrimination at an employment tribunal, as well as a subsequent employment appeal tribunal.

Lord Justice Laws today (April 29, 2010) refused to grant McFarlane permission to have his case heard before the Court of Appeal on the grounds that doing so would be "divisive, capricious, and arbitrary."

Catholic Pressure Persuades Foreign Office to Suspend Diplomat for Memo Mocking Pope

The Telegraph (British) website reports today (April 29, 2010) that Anjoum Noonan, 31 --the diplomat who authorized a memo mocking the Pope -- has been suspended by the British Foreign Office, as a result of Catholics reacting with fury to its contents.

The offending memo -- titled "The Ideal Visit Would See..." -- suggested the Pope could launch his own range of condoms during his state visit in September, open an abortion clinic, bless a homosexual marriage, and announce the sacking of "dodgy" bishops in the wake of the child abuse scandal within the Catholic Church.

Noonan's suspension is reported in today's edition of the Catholic journal, "The Tablet."

Many high-ranking Catholics -- both in England and in the Vatican -- had put the Foreign Office under immense pressure in recent days to take severe disciplinary action against Noonan.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

PACE Finds Stalin Regime Guilty of Holodomor; Three Million Ukrainians Starved to Death

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) today (April 28, 2010) adopted a resolution saying that the regime of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin was responsible for the Great Famine (Holodomor) in the Soviet Union in the 1930s.

PACE rejected several radical amendments to the resolution, which proposed the Holodomor be recognized as an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people, today's RIA Novosti (Russian) website reports.

Ukrainian nationalists say Russia -- as the legal successor of the Soviet Union -- should bear responsibility for the famine in which more than three million people perished in Ukraine.

Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko called for international recognition of the famine as an act of genocide.

The Holodomor -- which lasted from 1932 to 1933 in Ukraine -- was part of a wider famine in large parts of the Soviet Union. It is believed to have been caused by Stalin's poor economic and trade policies.

Bosnian Serb PM "Will Never Accept Genocide" Label for Srebrenica Massacre of 8,000 Muslims

Bosnian Serbs will never accept that the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of some 8,000 Muslims was genocide, Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik told a Belgrade daily in an interview published yesterday (April 27, 2010).

"We cannot and will never accept qualifying that event as genocide," Dodik -- who heads the Bosnian Serb entity in Bosnia, Republika Srpska -- told the Vecernje Novosti newspaper.

The Srebrenica massacre is the only episode of Bosnia's 1992-95 war to have been ruled a genocide by two international courts -- the International Court of Justice and the UN War Crimes Tribunal.

In a report in 2004, the Republika Srpska government acknowledged the scale of the killing and apologized to the relatives of Muslims killed in Srebrenica.

In his interview, Dodik dismissed the 2004 report, saying it was adopted "under pressure" from the international community's powerful high representative to Bosnia, and that it contained "inexact numbers."

Sermon of Hindu Governor in India Praises Christian Missionaries' "Love, Trust and Peace"

The Hindu governor of India's Meghalaya state has at a mass gathering of Presbyterians hailed the role of Christian missionaries in spreading a message of "love, trust, and peace in the turbulent tribal societies" of the country's northeast.

The presence of Governor Ranjit Mooshahary and his sermon last Sunday excited many delegates at the 39th general assembly of the Presbyterian Church in India.

On the other hand, some church leaders were angry because a non-Christian had been allowed to address a solemn worship service.

However, Rev. S.S. Majaw -- who heads Communication for the Presbyterian Church in India -- told the Ecumenical News International (ENI) website that, "It should have been treated as an honor that the head of the government came to our worship service and addressed us."

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Israel Freezes Construction in E. Jerusalem; Decision Expected to Mend Relations with U.S.

The Israeli government has imposed a de facto freeze on new construction in the disputed east section of Jerusalem, city officials announced yesterday (April 26, 2010).

The decision comes after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's insistence that construction would not stop, despite pressure from the U.S.

Some have speculated that yesterday's move is part of an effort by the Netanyahu government to mend fences with the U.S., according to the Christian Broadcast Network website.

Palestinians want to claim part of Jerusalem as the capital for their future state. As a result of yesterday's decision, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas indicated a willingness to start peace talks with Israel.

Scotland Refuses to Cancel Israel Exhibition Despite Activists' Petition, Planned Protests

The Jerusalem Post website reports today that activists in Scotland are planning a three-day protest outside the Scottish Parliament on May 4, 2010, after failing to persuade authorities to cancel an Israel exhibition in the parliament building.

The three-day exhibition looks at Israel's achievements in medicine, science, and technology. Organizers said the exhibition is entirely non-political.

Last week the parliament's Public Petitions Committee (PPC) rejected a petition calling for the exhibition -- which runs until May 6 -- to be canceled.

The petition said, "Hosting this exhibition in the Scottish Parliament potentially implicates all of us in a whitewashing of Israeli crimes. Cancellation will send a clear message that Scots oppose the heinous crimes of Israel."

Atheist Group Calls on Obama to Endorse "National Day of Reason" Instead of Prayer

The Cybercast News Service website reports today that an atheist group is calling on President Obama to ditch the National Day of Prayer, and formally recognize its own "non-theist" version called "The National Day of Reason."

Although a federal judge in Madison, Wisconsin ruled last week that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional, President Obama will still formally recognize the National Day of Prayer on May 6, 2010 with a proclamation. The judge's order barring the observance does not take effect until the appeals process has been exhausted.

"The National Day of Reason includes all Americans and calls attention to a value that is essential to effective democracy," said David Noise, president of the American Humanist Association.

The court case involving the National Day of Prayer is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Police in France Fine Female $29 for Wearing Full Islamic Face Covering While Driving Car

A 31-year-old French woman was fined for wearing a niqab (Islamic face covering) while driving, according to France 24 website.

The unnamed woman told a French TV station that police stopped her last month (March 2010), while she was driving her car in the city of Nantes, near the French Atlantic coast.

Police handed her a 22-euro ($29) fine, saying her clothing posed a "safety risk" to her driving.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy supports legislation that is expected to become law next month to ban the face-covering veil in France. Sarkozy said the Islamic veil demeans women.

UN Secretary General: Serbia and Kosovo Should Resolve Kosovo Status through UN Mediation

Serbia and Kosovo should accept a solution to their sovereignty dispute through United Nations mediation, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on April 21, 2010 in a report to the Security Council.

Ban said the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) remains uniquely placed to work out a dialogue between the two sides, according to the Montenegro Sun website.

"The continuing support for UNMIK activities by the communities on the ground, by Pristina and by Belgrade -- as well as by the Security Council and the broader international community -- is of crucial importance," Ban said.

Kosovo seceded from Serbia in February 2008 and declared itself a sovereign state. Like most countries of the world, Serbia refuses to recognize Kosovo as an independent nation, and still regards it as a Serbian province.

Most Americans Believe Judges' Rulings More Anti-Religious Than Founding Fathers Wanted

The Christian Post website reports today that 64 percent of Americans believe rulings by judges in recent years have been more anti-religious than the Founding Fathers intended.

Only 21 percent of adults think the judges' rulings regarding religion in public life have correctly interpreted the U.S. Constitution, according to a national survey of 1,000 adults conducted April 21-22, 2010.

Among evangelical Christians, 87 percent say the rulings have been too anti-religious.Those who practice other religions are evenly divided on the question.

Meanwhile, 51 percent of those who rarely or never attend a religious service believe the courts have correctly interpreted the Constitution.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Another Orthodox Priest in Russia Is Shot Dead; Two Priests Were Killed in Moscow in Late 2009

A Russian Orthodox priest was shot dead before the evening services in Chuvashia, Russia on Saturday, April 24, 2010, the Pravmir (Russian) website reports today.

Archpriest Anatoly Sorokin, 46, of Chuvashia was shot before the evening services, says Bishop Savvatz of Buratia in his blog.

The Rector of St. Nicholas Church in Yantikovo and father of five children, Fr. Sorokin came from a very religious family and was always very cheerful, said Bishop Savvaty.

Fr. Sorokin's wife told Bishop Savvaty that her husband had been shot in the back, and the bullet went directly into his heart.

A 47-year-old villager, with a history of mental problems, is suspected of having committed the murder and has been taken into custody.

Two other Russian Orthodox priests were shot dead in Moscow within weeks of each other in late 2009.

COMMENTARY: Current Path of The Episcopal Church Can Only Lead to Its Demise

The current path of The Episcopal Church (TEC) -- the branch of the Anglican Church in the United States -- can only lead to its demise.

TEC has approved the consecration of Canon Mary Glasspool -- a partnered lesbian -- as a bishop suffragan in the Diocese of Los Angeles in a ceremony that will take place next month (May 2010). She will become the second openly gay bishop in TEC. The first, Gene Robinson, was elected bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire in 2003.

The Episcopal Church has made other liberal changes, in order to be more "relevant" and "cool" in today's society. These changes have had a negative -- rather than positive -- impact on TEC. For example, thousands of Episcopal Church members have broken away from TEC and have established more conservative Anglican churches.

The fact is that the liberal changes made by TEC -- including the approval of women priests and gay bishops -- are in direct contradiction to the teachings of Christ and the Holy Scripture.

While the sacrilegious changes recently implemented by TEC have pierced the Body of Christ, His Body will be completely healed, but the Episcopal Church -- in its current path -- is doomed to oblivion.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Anglican Leaders Rip U.S. Church's Gay Trend; Say It Rejects "Way of the Lord, Gospel"

The Christian Today website reports that some 130 Anglican leaders from the Global South have condemned The Episcopal Church (TEC) -- the Anglican branch in the U.S. -- over its plans to consecrate a second openly gay bishop, despite huge opposition from within the Anglican Communion.

Canon Mary Glasspool -- a partnered lesbian -- will be consecrated as a bishop suffragan in the Diocese of Los Angeles in a ceremony next month (May 2010).

Anglican leaders from 20 Global South provinces concluded a meeting in Singapore on April 23, 2010 with a statement declaring their intention to continue to speak out against TEC, the Anglican Church of Canada, and "all those churches that have rejected the way of the Lord as expressed in Holy Scripture."

Additionally, the statement says, "Such actions violate the integrity of the Gospel, the Communion, and our Christian witness to the rest of the world. In the face of this, we dare not remain silent and must respond with appropriate action."

Serbian President Warns More Effort Needed to Fight Nazi-Type Evil and Violent Ideologies

Commemorating the national day of remembrance of genocide victims of World War II, Serbian President Boris Tadic on April 22, 2010 said greater effort should be made to fight "ideologies that propagate evil and violence," the Serbianna website reports.

Tadic attended ceremonies at the memorial in Janjinci -- just outside Belgrade -- which marks the site where mass executions of Serbs, Jews, and Roma were carried out during Nazi occupation. The president warned of the possibility of renewal of such hateful ideologies in new forms.

"We are witnessing attempts of revision of World War II and endeavors to transform the ideology of fascism and Nazism into some new ideologies of evil and violence," Tadic stated.

According to the findings of a Yugoslav commission established after World War II, the number of dead at the Jasenovac concentration camp -- operated by the Nazi-backed Croatian state -- numbered 500,000 Serbs, 80,000 Roma, and 23,000 Jews. The Belgrade Museum of Genocide has compiled a list of 98,252 victims.

Franklin Graham Dropped as Pentagon Speaker; Called Islam "Very Evil and Wicked Religion"

The Army has rescinded its invitation to Franklin Graham -- son of the famed evangelist Billy Graham -- to speak at the Pentagon on May 6, 2010 for the National Day of Prayer over concerns of his remarks about Islam.

Army spokesman Col. Tom Collins said this week that Graham's comments about Islam were "not appropriate," the Christian Post website reports today.

Graham called Islam a "very evil and wicked religion" after the September 11, 2010 terrorist attacks, and more recently made disparaging remarks about the Muslim faith in an interview with CNN's Campbell Brown in December 2009.

"True Islam cannot be practiced in this country," Graham said to Brown. He added, "You cannot murder your children if you think they've committed adultery or something like that, which they do practice in these other countries."

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation -- on behalf of Muslim military personnel and defense department staff -- demanded in a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates that Graham be disinvited as a speaker at the Pentagon prayer event.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Lebanon Complains to UN on Israeli Monument Placed on Occupied Lebanese Territories

Lebanon sent a letter of complaint to the United Nations Security Council today (April 23, 2010), after Israel unveiled a monument in occupied Lebanese territories on April 21, according to the Earth Times website.

The Lebanese foreign ministry sent the letter through its mission in New York, complaining the monument was put in an area near al-Bakkar pond southwest of the town of Shebaa, which is located inside the Lebanese territories.

In the letter, Lebanese Foreign Minister Ali al-Shami urged the UN to ask Israel to remove the monument and withdraw its troops beyond the international border.

Shebaa Farms is located at the junction of southeast Lebanon, southwest Syria, and northern Israel.

Police Recover Six Stolen Church Bells ; Arrest Thief Who Sold Bells at RI Scrap Yards

The Orthodox Church in America (OCA) website reports that six brass and bronze bells -- stolen on April 16, 2010 from the Dormition of the Virgin Mary Orthodox Church in Cumberland, Rhode Island -- were recovered yesterday (April 22, 2010), after two scrap metal yards tipped off police.

The largest bell -- weighing between 1200 and 1500 pounds -- had been cut into several pieces, while the other bells' inscriptions had been defaced in an obvious effort to conceal their origins.

Police arrested James Haselton, 32, of Lincoln, Rhode Island, who allegedly sold the bells at scrap yards in Lincoln and Woonsocket. Police said another arrest is possible.

Cumberland Police Chief John Desmarais said, "Bronze scrap can sometimes fetch $1.75 per pound." He added that police believe the theft was motivated by money.

Armenia Halts Talks on Peace Deal with Turkey; Says Turkey Requires Preconditions to Agree

Ekathimerini (Greek) website reports today (April 23, 2010) that Armenia's ruling coalition said yesterday that it had suspended the ratification in parliament of peace accords with Turkey.

Christian Armenia and Muslim Turkey signed accords in October 2009 to establish diplomatic relations and open their land border, bidding to overcome the legacy of the World War I mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks.

Turkey demanded that ethnic Armenian forces pull back from the front lines of Nagorno-Karabakh as a condition for ratifying the peace deal. Armenia said this is a totally separate issue.

The peace deal -- endorsed by the U.S., Russia, and the European Union -- is the closest Armenia and Turkey have come to addressing the legacy of last century's mass killings.

Armenia claims that Turkey was responsible for the killing of as many as one and one-half million Armenians during a World War I genocide. Turkey refuses to recognize the Armenian genocide, and denies that it occurred.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Some 30,000 People Cancel Membership in Austrian Catholic Church in First Quarter of 2010

The Austrian Times website reports today that more Austrians than ever in history are expected to leave the Catholic Church this year.

Official figures from today (April 22, 2010) show that 30,004 people left the Catholic Church in the first three months of this year, up by 42 percent compared to the same time span of 2009 when more people than ever canceled their membership.

These developments mean that between 70,000 and 80,000 Austrians are expected to leave the Church throughout this year, after last year's record of 53,216 people leaving the Church.

The image of the Austrian Catholic Church has suffered, as hundreds of people have come forward revealing how they were beaten or verbally or sexually abused by clergy and staff at Catholic boarding schools and other clerical institutions. A survey earlier this year found that 69 percent of Austrians thought the Catholic Church was lacking in credibility in its dealing with the revelations.

Long Island Woman, 92, Achieves Lifelong Dream; Becomes a Nun in NY Greek Orthodox Monastery

The Orthodox Beacon website reports today that Greek-born Chrystalla Petropoulou, of Long Island, NY, has fulfilled a lifelong dream by becoming a nun in the Greek Orthodox Church -- at the age of 92.

Petropoulou officially became a nun on April 17, 2010 at the new All Saints Greek Orthodox Monastery in Calverton, Long Island. Along with Elizabeth Brandenburg, 28, of St. Louis, and Maria Kallis, 27, of Detroit, Petropoulou received a new religious name and a new black habit. The three women had their hair in the shape of a cross ceremonially snipped from their heads.

In 1997, Petropoulou donated $13,000 to a fund-raising effort to get the monastery built. The monastery was completed in 2005.

Born in Cyprus, Petropoulou never married and has no children. She said, "I don't care about doctors. I don't care about medicine. I just want to die at the monastery."

Bulgarian King Honored with Posthumous Award; Refused to Surrender 50,000 Jews to Nazis

King Boris III of Bulgaria has received a posthumous award for saving his country's Jews during the Holocaust by refusing to surrender the 50,000 Jews in Bulgaria to the Nazi army, despite heavy pressure from Adolph Hitler.

The award was given to his grandson, Toronto banker Hermann Leiningen. Chabad organized the award ceremony, according to the Sofia News Agency.

The award itself was presented by a group of Bulgarian Jews whose lives were saved when the king refused to deport them.

King Boris III had been honored previously by the Anti-Defamation League.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Two U.S. Secular Groups Blast Sarah Palin for Declaring That America Has a Christian History

The Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (April 21, 2010) that two U.S. secular organizations -- Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Secular Coalition of America -- are criticizing former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin for her belief that America has a Christian history.

Palin told a Christian women's conference this week, "In Washington's Farewell Address, he wrote, 'Of all the dispositions and habits that lead to political prosperity, religion, faith, morality are indispensable supports.'"

Paul Fidalgo -- communications manager for the Secular Coalition of America -- said, "Our Constitution established a secular government and has no mention of Jesus, Christianity, or a god of any kind, despite the false message spread by figures such as Sarah Palin who claims that America was founded as a Christian nation."

Barry Lynn -- executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State -- said, "It's incredibly hypocritical that Sarah Palin now suddenly wants the government to help people be religious."

Human Rights Group Sues Swiss Newspaper for Its Denial of Serb Genocide of Bosniaks in 1995

A human rights group is suing a Swiss newspaper for denying there was a Serb genocide of Bosnian Muslims in the town of Srebrenica in 1995, according to the Serbianna website.

Fadila Memisevic -- a member of the Bosnian branch of the Germany-based Society for Threatened Peoples -- said her organization filed suit jointly on April 19, 2010 with the Swiss Association Against Impunity, TRIAL, in Lausanne. Swiss law prohibits genocide denial.

The semi-monthly, La Nation, recently published a series of articles claiming that 2,000 soldiers were killed in the "pseudo-massacre" in Srebrenica.

Bosnian Serb forces overran the Muslim Bosniak town in July 1995 and executed 8,000 men and boys in the worst massacre in Europe since World War II. In 2007, the International Court of Justice ruled the executions were genocide.

Archbishop of Canterbury Re New Lesbian Bishop: Only God Can Heal Wounds in "Body of Christ"

The Archbishop of Canterbury has told Anglicans in Singapore that it is only the work of God's Spirit that can heal tensions within the worldwide Anglican communion, the Christian Today website reports today.

Dr. Rowan Williams said in a video message to the Singapore meeting yesterday (April 20, 2010) that the recent actions of certain provinces had made the "confusion, brokenness, and tension" in the Anglican family "still more acute."

The Episcopal Church in the United States -- which is a branch of the Anglican Church -- voted last month to consecrate its second openly gay bishop -- Canon Mary Glasspool, a partnered lesbian -- as bishop suffragan in the Diocese of Los Angeles.

Dr. Williams said, "There are no quick solutions for the wounds of the Body of Christ (that is, the church). It is the work of the Spirit that heals the Body of Christ, not the plans or the statements of any group, or any person, or any instrument of communion."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pew Forum Survey Finds Sub-Saharan Africa to Be "The Most Religious Place on Earth"

Researchers say they have found the most religious place on earth -- between the southern border of the Sahara Desert and the tip of South Africa -- the Ecumenical News International (ENI) website reports today (April 20, 2010).

Religion is "very important" to more than three-quarters of the population in 17 of 19 sub-Saharan nations, according to a new survey.

In contrast, in the United States -- the world's most religious industrialized nation -- 57 percent of people say religion is very important.

"On a continent-wide basis, sub-Saharan Africa comes out as the most religious place on earth," said Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, which released its findings of the study on April 15, 2010.

Tens of Thousands of Hungarians March Against Anti-Semitism on the Banks of the Danube River

Tens of thousands of Hungarians -- mostly Jews -- marched against anti-Semitism in a torchlight procession on the banks of the Danube River in Budapest last Sunday evening (April 18, 2010), according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) website.

State, civic, and religious dignitaries -- as well as diplomats, academics, and artists -- were among those who participated in the rally.

The March of Life, which took place at the scene of the murder of thousands of Holocaust victims by the Fascist Arrow-Cross in the winter of 1944-45, was the largest of several commemorative events taking place over the weekend to mark the 66th anniversary of the incarceration of Hungarian Jews in ghettos.

The process launched the final and deadliest phase of the Final Solution involving the deportation and murder of more than a half-million Hungarian Jews in Auschwitz and elsewhere.

Association of Orthodox Experts Believes Iceland Volcano Eruption a Sign of God's Wrath

The Association of Orthodox Experts concluded today (April 20, 2010) that the eruption of the Iceland volcano is a display of God's wrath.

"It is possible that Europe further abandoning its Christian heritage does not see that eruption of the Iceland volcano with its ash cloud that paralyzed life of the 'most progressive' society is a menacing sign of God," the Association conveyed in a statement to the Interfax-Religion website.

The Association noted that Iceland "has recently become a center of European neo-paganism of Aryan occult kind, which has Nazi character," as Iceland has headquartered the Association of European Ethnic Religions that has recently worked out a draft of merger between the World Pagan Assembly and International Pagan Alliance.

Moreover, the Orthodox experts state that the World Pagan Assembly -- at its April session later this month -- plans to discuss rights of various minorities and that the "major part of European deputies propose that all states of the Council of Europe should introduce a subject on homosexual behavior in the school curriculum."

Monday, April 19, 2010

Greek Police Discover Terrorist Hideout; Group Linked to Rocket Attack on U.S. Embassy

Greek police today (April 19, 2010) uncovered the hideout of members of a terrorist group linked to a rocket attack on the U.S. embassy in Athens three years ago, the Earth Times website reports.

Greek prosecutors have already charged six people for participating in the nation's most active terrorist organization -- Revolutionary Struggle.

The five men and one woman have also been charged with arms offenses, carrying out explosions, and attempted homicide, and face up to 25 years in prison if found guilty.

During the raids in the central Athens suburb of Kypseli, police found eight rocket launchers -- similar to the ones used in the attack against the U.S. embassy -- and dozens of Kalashnikovs and MP5 submachine guns.

Editor of American Muslim Magazine Says U.S. School Books Portray Muslims as Terrorists

Since September 11, 2001, demonizing Muslims and Islam in the United States is not only more widespread, but also more mainstream and respectable. In short, Muslim-bashing has become socially acceptable in the United States, says Abdus Sattar Ghazali, Executive Editor of "American Muslim Perspective" magazine.

Ghazali said that a series of children's books -- titled "World of Islam" -- portrays Muslims as inherently violent and deserving suspicion.

He also claims that the 10-book series encourages young readers to believe Muslims are terrorists, who seek to undermine U.S. society, according to the Middle East Online website.

Nevertheless, the Foreign Policy Research Institute suggests that the books should be a mandatory purchase for all public libraries that support middle and high school curriculum on Islam.

Somalia's Islamist Militants Ban School Bells; Claim They Sound Like Christian Church Bells

Islamist militants al-Shabab have banned teachers from using bells to signal the end of class in Jowhar, Somalia, because they sound too much like Christian church bells.

A previous order was declared this month (April 2010) by the Hizbul-Islam group that forbids radios from playing music, because music is un-Islamic.

According to the BBC website, teachers in Somalia are now using hand-claps -- instead of bells -- to bring classes to an end.

In recent months, the Islamist militants have also carried out hand-amputations and lashings for theft, and stonings for adultery.

Somalia has not had a functioning central government since 1991; consequently, the Islamist militants control most of its territory.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Britain's Decision to Ban Israeli Tourism Ad on Disputed Land Angers Israel's Supporters

The Ethics Daily website reports today (April 18, 2010) that a British decision to ban an Israeli tourism ad -- because it includes holy sites in disputed territory -- has angered Israel's supporters.

Britain's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) nixed the ad sponsored by Israel's tourist agency, after it received a complaint that the photograph featured the Western Wall in East Jerusalem.

The complainant "challenged whether the ad misleadingly implied that East Jerusalem was part of the state of Israel," the ASA said.

Israel captured East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East War. The international community has never recognized Israel's control over this part of the city, although visiting heads of state often visit the wall during official trips to Israel.

Six Bells Worth Some $100,000 Are Stolen from Orthodox Church in Cumberland, R.I.

The Orthodox Church in America (OCA) website reports today that thieves made off with six bronze and brass bells -- one of which weighed some 1500 pounds -- from Holy Dormition Orthodox Church in Cumberland, Rhode Island on April 16, 2010.

The theft was discovered by Archpriest Vasily Lickwar, rector, that morning, after he observed a man quickly getting into a van parked in the church's driveway. When questioned, the man told Father Vasily, "I just love to come here with my girlfriend and pray."

The bells were installed at different times during the parish's 102-year existence. One bell originally hung on the Queen Mary, while others came from schools, factories, other churches, and public markets.

Father Vasily said -- based on the value of the metal alone -- the bells were worth about $100,000.

Rhode Island police are investigating the theft.

COMMENTARY: Christians and Other Worshipers in U.S. Must Not Be Muzzled by Atheists

On April 15, 2010, a federal district court in Wisconsin ruled that the National Day of Prayer -- which has been observed annually since it became a law in 1952 -- is unconstitutional.

The law was challenged by the Freedom From Religion Foundation -- a Madison, Wisconsin-based atheistic organization -- which claimed that the law made atheists feel "excluded, disenfranchised, and deeply insulted" by the day, because they do not believe in God or prayer.

The law gives the president authority to designate the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb decided that the law violates the First Amendment section which states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."

Fortunately, her ruling does not bar the event until the case is decided on appeal. This year's National Day of Prayer is set for May 6.

Many Christian and other religious groups are furious with the judge's decision, and promise to appeal the case -- even to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary. Moreover, the Congressional Prayer Caucus promises it will fight to preserve the law.

The fact is that Judge Crabb's ruling discriminates against the very democratic roots and values upon which this nation was founded, and which it has cherished since its birth. Americans must have the right to worship God, if they so desire; they must not be muzzled by the efforts of any atheistic or other group.

If atheists do not want to pray, so be it, but they must not deny people who believe in God the right to worship or to observe a National Day of Prayer. To quote one law school professor's view of Judge Crabb's decision: "If the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional, then the U.S. Constitution itself is unconstitutional."

Saturday, April 17, 2010

President of Croatia Apologizes for His Nation's Role in the Bloody 1992-1995 War in Bosnia

Ivo Josipovic this week became the first Croatian president to apologize publicly for his country's role in the bloody 1992-1995 conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), warfare in which some 100,000 people -- mostly Bosniaks -- were killed.

Josipovic made the apology on April 14, 2010 in an address to the BiH parliament, according to the SETimes (Southeast Europe) website.

"I deeply regret that Croatian politics contributed to the suffering of people and to divisions that are still tormenting us," Josipovic said at the start of his first official visit to the neighboring nation, a two-day trip.

Josipovic added that countries in the region should put the past behind and focus on their shared goal of Euro-Atlantic integration.

Gen. Petraeus Praises Jews Who Built Israel; Says They Made "Our Country and World Better"

United States General David Petraeus -- whose military expertise changed America's course in the Iraq War from one of defeat to victory -- said this week that the Holocaust survivors who helped build Israel "made our world better." Israel became an independent nation in 1948.

"The men and women who walked or were carried out of the death camps, and their descendants," said Petraeus -- the keynote speaker at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum commemoration in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C. on April 15, 2010.

He added, "They have made extraordinary contributions in academia, in business, and in government. And, they have, of course, helped build a nation that stands as one of our great allies. The survivors have, in short, made our country and our world better, leaving lasting achievements wherever they settled."

According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) website, Petraeus' speech comes just days after the Commander of Central Command -- who directs U.S. deployments in the Middle East -- said, "Israel is, has been, and will be an important strategic ally of the United States."

New Survey Finds 78 Percent of Americans Believe Jesus Was Resurrected from the Dead

The Orthodox Beacon website reports today (April 17, 2010) that 78 percent of Americans share the belief that Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 10 percent do not believe Christ rose from the dead, and another 11 percent are not sure.

Eighty-five percent also think that the person known to history as Jesus Christ actually walked the earth 2,000 years ago. Six percent disagree. Eight percent are not sure.

Nearly as many adults -- 81 percent -- believe that Jesus was the Son of God who came to earth and died for our sins. Ten percent do not think that is true, and nine percent are not sure.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Vatican Creates New Website with Resources to Explain Its Handling of Sex-Abuse Problems

The Catholic Culture website reports today (April 16, 2010) that the Vatican has just created a new website offering resources to explain the Catholic Church's handling of sex-abuse problems.

The site provides links to the Pope's pastoral letter to the Irish Church about the sex-abuse scandal there, and other papal letters and documents.

Also included are links to official Vatican documents, statements from the press office, interviews with Vatican officials responsible for sex-abuse issues, and other relevant resources.

To view the Vatican's new website -- which is titled "Abuse of Minors. The Church's Response" -- log onto the Catholic Culture website, and click on the source at the end of the article on the new Vatican website.

Federal Judge Kills National Day of Prayer; Law Was Signed by President Truman in 1952

The World Net Daily website reports today that a federal district court in Wisconsin yesterday (April 15, 2010) ruled the National Day of Prayer to be unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb issued the decision in a case filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation -- a Wisconsin-based atheist and agnostic group that challenged the constitutionality of the federal law.

The law gives the president the authority to designate the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer.

Crabb -- appointed to the court in 1979 by President Carter -- determined the statute violates the First Amendment's establishing clause, which says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."

The act was signed into law in 1952 by President Harry Truman.

German Court Fines Catholic Bishop Williamson 10,000 Euros for Denying WWII Holocaust

The Christian Today website reports that a dissident Catholic bishop was fined 10,000 euros today (April 16, 2010) by a German court for denying the Holocaust.

The court in the Bavarian city of Regensburg found 70-year-old British bishop Richard Williamson guilty of inciting racial hatred after he stated in a 2009 television interview in Germany that he did not believe Jews were killed in gas chambers in World War II.

He suggested in the interview that no more than 300,000 Jews had died at the hands of Nazis in concentration camps.

Holocaust denial is a criminal offense in Germany. Some six million Jews were killed by Nazi Germany under Adolph Hitler during World War II.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

First Woman Leader of Asian Christian Group Vows to Help Heal Wounds in Society, Church

The first woman elected as general secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia has vowed to help heal wounds "not only in our societies, but also within our churches" in the world's most populous continent, the Ecumenical News International website reports today (April 15, 2010).

"As brothers and sisters in such a time as this, we are called to prophesy, reconcile, and heal," said the Rev. Henriette Tabita Hutabarat-Lebang, referring to the theme of the church grouping's 13th general assembly, meeting from April 14 to 21 in Kuala Lumpur -- the capital of Malaysia.

She was addressing the gathering after being presented on April 15 to the applause of more than 300 delegates and guests at the meeting.

A pastor's daughter, Hutabarat-Lebang hails from Sulawesi (also called Celebes) -- one of the four larger islands of Indonesia.

Muslims Attack Philippine Cathedral; Christians of City Fear for Their Lives

The Catholic Culture website reports today that following an April 13, 2010 Islamist terrorist attack that destroyed 70 percent of his cathedral, a Philippine bishop and the other Christians of the city fear for their lives.

"It is the first time we are attacked so directly and with such force," said Bishop Martin Jumoad of the Territorial Prelature of Isabella. "I seriously fear for my life and the lives of the faithful."

He added, "I have prepared a pastoral letter calling on Catholics to stay in Basilan, which is our home, and asking them to remain calm, not to react to violence, and to pray for peace."

Although 81 percent of the Philippines' 88.7 million people are Catholic, the territory in which Bishop Jumoad ministers is predominantly Muslim, with only 27 percent of residents being Catholic.

Coptic Pope to Women: "Poor You! You Can't Go to Man's Family to Demand Him in Marriage"

Millions of Egyptians live below the poverty line and their salaries do not cover their daily needs, according to a sermon on Sunday, April 11, 2010, by Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III at the Alexandria Monastery.

Because of the many protests that have been staged, the state has been prompted to take action to set a minimum wage, he added.

Pope Shenouda also said Egypt should provide alternative housing to those whose homes have demolition orders on them and are on the verge of collapse, according to the Orthodox Church Info website.

As usual, the Pope's sermon included a few jokes with his audience. Addressing the female attendees, the Pope said, "Poor you! You can't go to a man's family to demand him in marriage."

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Massachusetts Priest Whose Sermons Called on Pope to Resign Is Rebuked by His Bishop

Less than 24 hours after calling for Pope Benedict XVI to step down, a priest of an East Longmeadow, Massachusetts church has been rebuked by his local bishop, according to the Ethics Daily website.

The Rev. James Scahill delivered four sermons over the April 10-11 weekend suggesting that the pope should take greater responsibility for solving the Catholic Church's clergy abuse problems or resign.

The sermons -- delivered from the pulpit at St. Michael's Catholic Church -- made Scahill one of the first priests in the nation to call for the pope's resignation.

In a response issued on April 12, 2010, Bishop Timothy McDonnell of Springfield criticized Scahill for raising the issue -- especially on a Sunday meant to foster reconciliation and forgiveness in the church.

"There is a sad irony in that Father Scahill's remarks were delivered on Divine Mercy Sunday," said McDonnell, adding the church has expressed "tremendous sorrow, sadness, and shame" about clergy abuse cases.

Greece to Repeal Law So It May Prosecute Nazis; 50,000 Jews from Salonika Killed in WWII

The Greek Reporter website reports today (April 14, 2010) that Greece is about to repeal a law that stops it from prosecuting Nazi war criminals, which could allow Jews from Thessaloniki (Salonika) to try to extradite a former Nazi SS (storm trooper) soldier from Syria.

Sources said yesterday that an amendment to the current law -- in which Greece in 1959 gave up its right to prosecute Nazis -- will be attached to another bill being submitted to Parliament this week.

David Saltiel, the chairman of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, said that when the amendment is voted through, the Jewish community will seek to extradite camp commander Alois Brunner from Syria, where he is believed to be living.

Brunner was responsible for sending some 50,000 Jews from Thessaloniki to their deaths during the Nazi Holocaust in the 1940s.

Many Young Muslims in Europe Restrict Islamic Traditions; Seek to Assimilate in Society

Yassmine el Ksaihi, 24, is the administrator of a large mosque -- an unusual position of Islamic authority for a young woman -- in Amsterdam.

In a first for the Netherlands, men and women pray together in the Polder Mosque, although they are segregated, with women praying in the back of the red-carpeted prayer hall.

Sermons are in Dutch rather than Arabic. Non-Muslims are welcome, according to the USA Today website.

Theological experts say this is part of a trend, since many young Muslims in Europe are staying away from traditional mosques, and meeting in more casual settings for prayer and study groups.

Fitting into European society -- while at the same time remaining rooted in Islam -- is no easy task, as native Europeans often resent the growing number of Muslims, and sometimes discriminate against them in jobs and education.

Moreover, politicians in many European nations are seeking to limit further immigration, and to compel Muslims to abandon foreign customs, such as the Muslim face veil.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pope's Birthplace in Germany Vandalized with Grafitti on Catholic Sex Abuse Scandal

Blue grafitti on the birthplace of Pope Benedict XVI in Marktl, Germany was quickly painted over today (April 13, 2010), according to the Worldwide Religious News website.

A police spokesman in nearby Rosenheim confirmed the overnight vandalism, but declined to say what had been written on the building -- a former police station where Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) was born in 1927.

"It was insulting," the police spokesman said, and conceded that it referred to the scandal over sex abuse by Catholic priests in Europe and North America. A woman passerby discovered the blue paint on the building at dawn today and informed police.

Pope Benedict turns 83 this Friday, April 16, 2010.

Gaza Islamist Group Threatens to Slit Abbas' Throat If He Collaborates with Jews

The Jerusalem Post website reports today that an Islamic fundamentalist group in the Gaza Strip on April 11, 2010 threatened to "slaughter" Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for "collaboration with the Jews."

The commander of the group Jaish al-Umma (Army of the Nation) said, "If it is proven that Abbu Mazen (Abbas) is helping Jews, we will slit his throat."

The commander, Abu Abdallah Ghazzi, said that his group was also planning to launch an attack on Israel from southern Lebanon.

Jaish al-Umma is just one of several Islamic fundamentalist groups that have emerged in the Gaza Strip in recent years. The groups are believed to be inspired by al-Qaida.

Cardinal Says Vatican Does Not Recognize Kosovo's Independence Out of Respect for Serbia

Cardinal Walter Kasper, who is a member of the Pontifical Council, said the Vatican has not recognized Kosovo's independence out of consideration for the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC).

In an interview this week with the Catholic News Agency, Kathpress, Kasper said that "We, of course, know that Kosovo is a heavy wound and pain for the SPC. We also know that Kosovo is the cradle and center of Serbian Orthodoxy. We understand that and wish to have consideration for it."

Kosovo's ethnic Albanians -- who are mostly Muslims -- unilaterally declared independence when it seceded from Serbia on February 17, 2008. Belgrade opposes Kosovo's secession and has taken the case to the International Court of Justice, where a decision is expected to be made this summer.

Kasper said, "In Kosovo, significant historical, cultural, and religious monuments have been destroyed. This must not be so. One cannot erase history in this way."

Monday, April 12, 2010

Patriarch Kirill Visits Alexandrian Patriarch; Plans to Build Orthodox Churches in Africa

The Interfax-Religion website reports today (April 12, 2010) that Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia promises to develop Russian church mission on the African continent together with the Alexandrian Orthodox Church.

Patriarch Kirill said the Russian Orthodox Church is ready to send clerics to Africa and bear financial responsibility for building Russian churches, following a meeting in Alexandria with Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria and All Africa.

The Russian Patriarch also offered Theodore II to send young students from both Greek diaspora and local natives to get education in Russian theological schools.

The Alexandrian Patriarch unites many nations in Africa under his patriarchal jurisdiction.

Shroud of Turin Hidden in Italy During WWII; Church Leaders Feared Hitler Would Steal It

The Shroud of Turin was hidden in an Italian Benedictine abbey during World War II, because church authorities feared Adolph Hitler might want to steal it, according to an official at the monastery.

The Shroud -- which many believe to have been the burial cloth of Christ -- was transferred secretly from the Turin cathedral in 1939 to the abbey of Montevergine in southern Italy, and returned to Turin in 1946, after the war had ended.

Benedictine Father Andrea Cardin, director of the Montevergine library that holds the relevant documents, said church officials seemed to fear that the Nazis wanted to take possession of the Shroud, according to the Cybercast News Service website.

Father Cardin said that during a visit by Hitler to Italy in 1938, church leaders were alarmed when Nazi officials asked unusual and persistent questions about the Shroud and its custody.

Shroud Believed to Be Burial Cloth of Jesus on Display in Turin, Italy for Six Weeks

From April 10 to May 23, 2010, both the curious and those convinced that the Turin Shroud is the burial cloth of Jesus Christ can have a brief look at it, according to the Associated Press website.

Some 1.5 million people have already reserved their three- to five-minute chance to gaze at the cloth, which is kept in a bulletproof, climate-controlled case.

Organizers said they expect some two million pilgrims and tourists to see the linen during its six-week viewing. The shroud is 14 feet long and three and one-half feet wide.

Pope Benedict XVI will fly to Turin -- Piedmont's capital in northwest Italy -- on May 2 for a day trip to pray before the shroud.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Serbian Parliament's Chair of Foreign Policy Suggests Dividing Kosovo to Solve Its Problem

Dragoljub Micunovic, chair of the Foreign Policy Committee in the Serbian Parliament, said last week that giving up part of Kosovo is one of the possible solutions to the Kosovo problem.

This represents a significant twist in Serbian politics toward Kosovo, since Serbia had never considered this as an option previously, according to the Balkan Insight website.

After Kosovo's ethnic Albanians broke away from Serbia and declared the province of Kosovo to be an independent nation in February 2008, Serbia -- rejecting Kosovo's declaration of independence and considering it to be illegal -- referred the matter to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Judges of the ICA are expected to deliver their opinion on Kosovo in early summer this year.

Micunovic expressed his hope that the ICJ would propose an international conference on Kosovo, along with its opinion on the legality of Kosovo's declaration of independence.

The United Nations, the European Union, and most nations in the world -- including Serbia -- do not recognize Kosovo as an independent nation.

Israeli Rights Groups Fight Orders to Allow Army to Jail West Bank Residents without Permit

The Guardian (British) website reports today that Israel's leading human rights groups are trying to stop two new Israeli military orders, which will make any resident of the occupied West Bank who does not have an Israeli-issued permit liable for deportation or jail.

The new Order Regarding Prevention of Infiltration and the Order Regarding Security Provisions -- which go into effect on April 13, 2010 -- have "severe ramifications," the rights groups say.

Palestinians and others living in the West Bank could be called infiltrators and deported within 72 hours or jailed for seven years, if they are found without the correct permit. Israel has not defined what it considers to be a valid permit.

"The orders are worded so broadly such as theoretically allowing the military to empty the West Bank of almost all its Palestinian inhabitants," said the 10 rights groups, which include Ha-Moked, the Association of Civil Rights in Israel, and Rabbis for Human Rights.

COMMENTARY: Catholic Church Must Reprimand Speaker Pelosi for Her Support of Abortion

Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, holds the highest political position of any woman in the United States. Her position entitles her to be President of the United States, if President Obama and Vice President Biden were to die.

Pelosi, 70, is also a Roman Catholic, but one would never know it by her actions in the U.S. House of Representatives. Her voting record shows that she strongly supports abortion. In addition to approving the killing of unborn babies, Pelosi also has voted to take money from American taxpayers to pay for abortions -- both in the United States and abroad.

The Catholic Church emphatically forbids abortion, but it has taken no action against Pelosi for her defiance of Catholic doctrine. When Pelosi had a private audience with Pope Benedict XVI last year, the Pope told her that -- as a true Catholic Christian -- she must be opposed to abortion. Unfortunately, the Pope's advice went in one of Pelosi's ears, and out the other, as she has stubbornly refused to change her abortion stance.

It is now time for the Catholic Church to take action against Pelosi. Archbishop Donald Wuerl, whose Catholic Diocese includes Washington, D.C., has the responsibility to tell Pelosi that she cannot receive Holy Communion -- and perhaps even have her excommunicated -- for her defiance of Catholic Christian doctrine.

A few months ago, Bishop Thomas Tobin, whose Catholic Diocese includes Rhode Island, told U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island that he must abstain from receiving Holy Communion, because of his support of abortion.

Archbishop Wuerl now must take similar action against Pelosi, who holds the highest position in the House of Representatives, as its Speaker. Failure by Archbishop Wuerl to take action against Pelosi for her betrayal of the Catholic faith will make a mockery of Catholicism, because it will clearly illustrate that the Catholic Church is not serious in upholding its doctrine, and that it is all right for Catholics to take a stance that is clearly contrary to the teachings of Christ.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Former Scientologists Sue the Organization; Claim Being Paid Slave Wages, Brainwashed

In a test case against the United States-based Church of Scientology, Marc Headley and his wife, Claire, have told how they were treated like slaves and forced to work 20-hour days almost continually through the year, the Telegraph (British) website reports today (April 10, 2010).

Mrs. Headley claims she was coerced into having an abortion, while Mr. Headley has spoken about how he was subjected to strange mind-control practice by the actor Tom Cruise.

Both were members of Sea Org -- the Scientologists' "religious order" and a supposedly elite vanguard made up of its most dedicated recruits -- and signed up to the religion when they were teenagers.

Members of the order sign a billion-year pledge of loyalty, promise not to have children, and live and work communally.

Mr. Headley, 36, said in 15 years, he earned just $29,000. Now, the couple is seeking back pay and overtime that their lawyer says could amount to one million dollars each from the organization, which was founded in 1953 by sci-fi writer L. Ron Hubbard.

Polish Plane Crashes in Thick Fog in Russia; All 97 Passengers Killed, Including Clerics

A plane carrying Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife, and dozens of the country's top political, military, and religious leaders to the site of the Soviet massacre of Polish officers in World War II, crashed in Western Russia today (April 10, 2010), killing all 97 people on board, according to the New York Times website.

The plane tried to land in a thick fog, missing the runway and snagging treetops about half a mile from the airport in Smolensk, Russia, scattering chunks of flaming fuselage across a forest.

The crash occurred when Russia and Poland were beginning to come to terms with the killing of more than 20,000 members of Poland's elite officer corps in the same area in 1940 during World War II.

Among the 97 people killed in the crash were at least two Christian clerics: Orthodox Archbishop Miron Chodakowski of the Polish Military Vicariate, and Catholic Bishop Tadeusz Ploski, a chaplain for the Polish Army.

Russia Builds Museum Park Complex in Holy Land; Will Be Visited by Millions of Tourists

Russia has started building a museum park complex in a Jericho land lot which was earlier returned to the Russian government by the Palestinian National Authority, according to the Interfax-Religion website.

"Russian museum in Jericho proves that Russia returns to the Holy Land after a long period of absence, and contributes into cultural life of people living there, and numerous tourists from all over the world who come to visit these places," head of the Presidential Property Management Department of the Russian Federation Vladimir Kozhin said on April 8, 2010 at the festival ceremony of laying the foundation stone to future building of the complex.

Kozhin believes this project will give more dynamics to Jericho's further development as the future museum will display a fig tree, which is a living witness to the life of Christ.

Once construction is completed, the museum park complex will be visited by millions of pilgrims and tourists from all over the world.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Lebanese PM: Conflict between Palestinians and Israel More Explosive Than Nuclear Iran

The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is "much more explosive" than the Iranian nuclear crisis, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri told the Spanish newspaper "El Mundo" on April 7, 2010 during an official visit to Spain.

The Middle East conflict "is much more explosive, brimming over with 'uranium and extremism,' than any other regional issue," Hariri said.

Lebanon, Hariri added, was in favor of a "Middle East without nuclear weapons," which he said "includes Israel" and not only Iran, the Asia News website reported today.

Israel has never publicly acknowledged it has nuclear weapons, and has maintained a policy of deliberate ambiguity since it inaugurated its Dimona nuclear reactor in the Negev desert in 1965.

Police in Pakistan File False Charges of Alcohol Possession Against 47 Christians

Police in Vehari, Punjab Province, Pakistan filed false charges of alcohol possession against 47 Christians -- including women and children -- on March 28, 2010 in an attempt to intimidate and bribe them. the Compass Direct News website reports today.

Police broke into and ransacked the home of Shaukat Masih at 10:15 p.m. on Palm Sunday, manhandled his wife Parveen Bibi, and threatened to charge them and 45 other area Christians with alcohol possession if they did not pay a bribe, said Attorney Albert Patras. The Christians refused.

Patras said, "Police thought the Christians -- being a soft target -- would readily be bribed to save their families, particularly their girls and women."

Non-Muslims with a permit are allowed to possess and drink alcohol in Pakistan, while alcohol is forbidden to Muslims in Pakistan. Shaukat Masih has a government permit to keep and drink alcohol, Patras said, thus making the possession charge baseless.

Jews Ordered to Clean Up "Shaimos" Site by N.J. Department of Environmental Protection

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection this week ordered a "shaimos" site -- that is, a burial site for Jewish religious artifacts -- to be cleaned up, followwing complaints by area residents.

The Jewish religious texts and clothing -- called shaimos -- were collected from Jewish residents of Lakewood for burial in the days leading to passover, according to the Asbury Park Press.

Wolf Skacel -- the environmental department's assistant commissioner of compliance and enforcement -- told the newspaper that the burial is a temporary solution until the department finds a "more proper location."

Creating a landfill requires a public hearing, county planning, and a permit application to the Department of Environmental Protection.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Patriarch Filaret of Ukraine Says Russia Bars Creation of United Ukrainian Church

Patriarch Filaret of Kyiv and All Ukraine, who is head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyiv Patriarchate) said at a news conference today (April 8, 2010) that the position of Russia is obstructing creation of a unified Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Patriarch Filaret said the Russian Orthodox Church is not interested in creation of a unified Ukrainian Orthodox Church, because it is afraid of losing a significant number of parishioners and a significant reduction of its influence and the power of Russia.

"As you know, Russia sees a new empire in its sleep, a new state with Moscow at its head," he said. Patriarch Filaret believes that Russia can secure inclusion of Ukraine in such a state only by exerting influence through the church, according to the International Orthodox Christian News website.

The Orthodox Church in Ukraine is divided into three major denominations: The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate; the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate; and the Ukrainian Autocephalous (self-headed) Orthodox Church. Additionally, there is the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church which comes under the purview of the Pope.

Bosnian Serb Republic Parliament Seeks to Pass Law That Would Ban Female Cloaking Among Muslims

Prime Minister of the Bosnian Serb Republic. Milorad Dodik, said that the country will seek to pass a law that bans female cloaking prevalent among Muslim extreme believers, according to the Serbianna website. Dodik said that his political party will propose such a law today (April 8, 2010) in the Serb Republic parliament.

"Such a law has been adopted in several European countries, and we believe that we need to get closer to these European standards," Dodik said.

Earlier this year, France moved toward banning female cloaking, also known as burqa.

French President Sarkozy said the issue is one of woman's freedom and dignity, and does not have to do with religion.

Southern Catholic College to Close April 15 Due to Lack of Money; Its Future Uncertain

Father Shawn Aaron, president of Southern Catholic College, announced today that as of April 15, 2010, Southern Catholic College will be closing its doors for the semester.

Efforts to raise money for the new school have not met expectations, making it impossible for the school to continue through the end of the semester, May 13. Students will be able to retain the credits that they earned this semester, according to the National Catholic Register website.

The college -- located one hour north of Atlanta in Dawsonville, Georgia -- was founded in 2000 as the first Catholic college in Georgia.

There is no word yet on whether the closing will be temporary or permanent.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

ASEAN Sets Up Commission to Protect Rights of Women and Children in 10 Asian Nations

The 10-member countries of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) -- meeting at their summit in Hanoi, Vietnam -- inaugurated a commission for the rights of women and children today (April 7, 2010), according to the Earth Times website.

Summit host Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said women and children were "uniquely vulnerable to the adverse impacts of the development process."

The ASEAN Commission on Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children is the first regional body in South-East Asia to take a rights-based approach to women's and children's welfare in the region.

This approach looks at human welfare with reference to positive rights laid out in international treaties, rather than simply as a part of desirable development goals.

Christian Nurse Disappointed; Court Rules That She Cannot Wear Crucifix Necklace at Work

The Christian Today website reports today (April 7, 2010) that a Christian nurse in England says she is "disappointed" after a tribunal ruled she could not wear her crucifix necklace to work.

Shirley Chaplin, 54, had gone to court claiming religious discrimination by her employers, the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust, after they banned her from wearing the necklace during shifts.

Mrs. Chaplin told the tribunal that it was unfair that the trust allowed staff members of other faiths to wear religious and cultural symbols, including the hijab.

The tribunal ruled that Mrs. Chaplin had not been indirectly discriminated against, and that the claims of the NHS to ban the necklace on health and safety grounds were justified.

Latest Survey Shows Majority of Austrians Believe Islam Is a "Threat to the Western World"

The majority of Austrians say Islam is a "threat to the western world," a new survey shows.

Pollsters IMAS found that 54 percent of Austrians agreed with the statement "Islam poses a threat for the west and our familiar lifestyle," according to the Austrian Independent website.

IMAS officials said today (April 7, 2010) that only 19 percent disagreed, while 27 percent were undecided.

The agency interviewed 1,000 Austrians older than 16 for its representative survey.

The survey found that Austrians older than 50, people with lower education, and those living in the countryside feared Islam the most.

About 500,000 Muslims live in Austria.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Belgium Is on the Verge of Becoming the First European Country to Ban the Burka

Belgium is on the verge of becoming the first European nation to ban the burka, according to the Daily Mail (British) website.

A parliamentary committee agreed last week to outlaw the wearing of face-covering veils in public. The full Parliament will vote on this matter later this month.

Under the proposals, women could face a week in prison or a fine for wearing a veil in public.

There are an estimated 650,000 Muslims in Belgium -- six percent of the population.

Nazi Concentration Camps in WWII Poland Described as Being "Polish" by Washington Post

The Washington Post has described Nazi-created concentration camps and Jewish ghettoes in Poland as being "Polish," the Poland website reports today (April 6, 2010).

Parade magazine -- a weekly extra to the Washington Post -- describes John Demjanjuk, who is currently on trial for Nazi war crimes in Munich, as being stationed at a "Polish concentration camp" during World War II occupied Poland.

This week's Parade magazine also writes about thousands of Jews held in "Poland's Warsaw Ghetto."

The attributing of Nazi concentration camps as Polish is a mistake which has been made periodically by foreign journalists.

Pope's Preacher Sparks World Outrage; Compares Attacks on Catholic Church to Anti-Semitism

Father Raniero Cantalamessa -- the only preacher to Pope Benedict XVI -- sparked world outrage over the Easter weekend by comparing attacks on the Catholic Church over the pedophile priest furore to anti-Semitism, according to today's Telegraph (British) website.

Jewish groups and campaigners against child abuse both reacted angrily to his comments.

Ricardo De Segni, Rome's chief rabbi, said, "It's an inappropriate parallel and of dubious taste."

Rabbi Marvin Hier -- the founder of the anti-Semitic campaign group "The Simon Wiesenthal Center" in California -- demanded an apology from the Pope himself. Rabbi Hier said, "The remarks are shameful, inaccurate, and a complete distortion of history."

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) -- the largest and most active of such groups in the United States -- denounced the remarks, saying they insulted "both abuse victims and Jewish people."

Monday, April 5, 2010

Texas Church Gives Out 16 Cars at Easter Services in Effort to Attract Non-Churchgoers

Sixteen cars, 15 flat-screen televisions, furniture sets, laptops, bikes, and other prizes were given away at Bay Area Fellowship Church in Corpus Christi, Texas on Easter Sunday (April 4, 2010), in an effort to attract non-churchgoers.

Pastor Bil Cornelius, who compared the creative idea to the TV show "The Price is Right," admitted it was a bit "outrageous."

But he saw it as "an opportunity to share Christ with people who may never go to church for any reason," he told The Christian Post website.

The prizes were worth over $2 million, and were all donated items or sponsored by members of the church.

Christian Nurse in England Sues Hospital for Ordering Her to Remove Necklace with Crucifix

The Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (April 5, 2010) that Shirley Chaplin, a Christian nurse in England, was told to remove her crucifix. She refused to remove a necklace bearing a crucifix, saying it would "violate her faith."

Now she is suing the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Hospital.

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, says this is the latest example of a "strange mixture of contempt and fear" against Christianity.

"Is the God we see in the cross -- the God who lives through and beyond terrible dereliction and death and still promises mercy, renewal, life -- is that God too much of a menace to be mentioned or shown in the public life and the human interactions of society?" Williams asked while speaking at Canterbury Cathedral.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Some 200 Muslims Volunteer to Build Church in Southern Sudan as Symbol of Gratitude

Darfuri Muslims are working with Christians to build a church in Southern Sudan as a symbol of reconciliation and gratitude, the Christian Today website reported on April 4, 2010.

The Muslims -- members of the Darfur Students Association at the University of Juba -- say they want to express gratitude to Lopez Lomong, a Sudan-born American track and field athlete who has publicly urged China to pressure the Sudanese government to end the conflict in Darfur.

Rudwan Dawood, president of the Darfur Students Association at the University of Juba, said, "We are helping to build this church to show we never again want the people of Darfur to be used against their brothers in the South."

About 200 Darfuri Muslims have volunteered to build the Roman Catholic Church in Kimotong, Southern Sudan -- the home village of Lomong. The construction process began last January and is slated to be completed in the fall of 2010.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Christians Around the World Celebrate Easter; Hundreds of Thousands at Moscow Services

Christian Churches all around the world celebrate Christ's Resurrection, the main Christian feast proving the victory over sin and death.

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all of Russia chaired a midnight festival paschal Orthodox Divine Liturgy in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior tonight (April 4, 2010). Several thousands of believers -- including Russia's President and Prime Minister -- came to celebrate the feast with the Primate, while hundreds of thousands of Muscovites prayed at night services in other churches of the capital.

Orthodox Divine Liturgies were celebrated in 30,000 parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate all around the globe, according to the Interfax-Religion website.

According to sociological polls conducted on Easter eve, the number of those who are celebrating the feast has grown this year. About 90 percent of Russians -- including atheists -- will somehow celebrate Easter.

Anglican Leader Stuns Irish Archbishop; Says Catholic Church Has Lost All Credibility

The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland has lost all credibility because of its mishandling of abuse by priests, the leader of the Anglican Church said in remarks released today (April 3, 2010). A leading Catholic archbishop said he was "stunned" by the comments, according to the Associated Press website.

"I was speaking to an Irish friend recently who was saying that it's quite difficult in some parts of Ireland to go down the street wearing a clerical collar now," the Archbishop of Canterbury told the BBC. "And an institution so deeply bound into the life of society suddenly losing all credibility -- that's not just a problem for the church, it is a problem for everybody in Ireland, I think."

Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said he had "rarely felt personally so discouraged" as when he heard the Archbishop of Canterbury's opinions.

Archbishop Martin said, "I have been more than forthright in addressing the failures of the Catholic Church in Ireland. Those working for renewal in the Catholic Church in Ireland did not need this comment on this Easter weekend and do not deserve it."

Friday, April 2, 2010

Moscow Priest Says Humanity Will Remember Christ Much Longer Than Anyone Else

Head of the Synodal Department for Church and Society Relations Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin is convinced that humanity will remember Christ much longer than any of historic figures, the Interfax-Religion website reports today (April 2, 2010).

"Resurrection of Christ is the main event in human history. Neither Moses, nor Caesar, nor Sakharov, nor Solzhenitsyn could have redeemed man. Only God, only Christ is able to do it," Fr. Vsevolod told journalists of the Easter eve in Moscow.

"Humanity will remember Stalin, Roosevelt, Churchill -- even Hitler with his outrageous crimes -- for 150 to a maximum 200 years. All these people will only remain in history as its part," the Russian Orthodox priest said.

Humanity will always remember Christ, as "Christ is the reason why we don't die -- the reason of our bodily resurrection," the priest said.

Commentary: Good Friday and Easter Celebrate Jesus' Love, Salvation of Mankind

Today, April 2, 2010, all Christians of the world -- including Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant -- celebrate Good Friday. This is the day that Jesus died on the cross, and two days later He had risen from the dead.

Good Friday is observed on the Friday before Easter Sunday. Many Christians spend Good Friday in fasting, prayer, repentance, and meditation on the agony and suffering of Jesus on the cross.

Long before His crucifixion, Jesus knew it was His Father's will for Him to die. He proves His knowledge and understanding of His death in several passages of the Bible, including the following one:

"Then Jesus began to tell them that He, the Son of Man, would suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the leaders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed and three days later He would rise again."-Mark 8:31

Jesus offered His life in sacrifice for the remission of the sins of humanity. He was crucified -- the most cruel and humiliating death.

Jesus' death was not in vain; rather, His death was an act of love for mankind, and His Resurrection indicates that mankind will not die in vain, but will be saved in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Indeed, Easter can be considered the happiest day of the year, because it celebrates the Resurrection of Christ, and the Kingdom of Heaven that awaits mankind.

Christos Anesti! Christ has Risen! Alithos Anesti! He has Truly Risen!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Small Suburb of Moscow Was Center of Jewish Underground Activity in the Soviet Union

Before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the small town of Malakhovka -- less than 10 miles from Moscow -- was the center of Jewish underground activity. In 2005 its old wooden synagogue was burned down in a fire for the second time, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) website.

Five years later, the shared effort of local authorities and wealthy Moscow Jews have enabled the building of a new synagogue.

The synagogue was built with the financial backing of Moscow businessman Alexander Kaplan, who said he felt a break in tradition upon learning that the old synagogue had been burned down.

The synagogue sits in this Moscow suburb for two major reasons: Malakhovka has played host to the summerhouses of many famous artists, and historically it has been populated primarily by Jews.

Orthodox Church Spokesman: Russians Will Attend Easter Services Despite Terrorist Attacks

A senior Russian Orthodox Church spokesman said today (April 1, 2010) that church-goers should not be put off attending services this Easter by the terrorist attacks this week that have shocked the country, according to the RIA Novosti (Russian) website.

Twin blasts on the Moscow subway on Monday killed 39 people and injured more than 90. On Wednesday, two explosions in the town of Kizlyar, near Chechnya in Russia's North Caucasus, killed 12 people.

"I can hardly imagine an Orthodox Christian who would be too afraid to attend Easter services.... Of course, security measures and police presence near Moscow churches will be enhanced," archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, who is in charge of the Church's relations with society, told a press conference on Holy Thursday.

Holy Thursday -- known as Clean Thursday in Russia -- is a significant day in Holy Week. The Orthodox Church remembers the Last Supper of Jesus and the Apostles. On this day, bishops wash the feet of priests in commemoration of Christ washing the feet of His 12 disciples as a sign of humility.

Tombstones and Crosses Damaged as Hoodlums Attack Serb Cemetery Near Pristina, Kosovo

A Serb cemetery has been vandalized in a village near Pristina, Kosovo, the Balkan Insight website reports today.

The desecration of the cemetery in the village of Rabovce near Lipljan was discovered yesterday (March 31, 2010), and Kosovo police confirmed that they were investigating.

Several tombstones and crosses were damaged in the attack.

Fletcher Burton, deputy head of the International Civilian Office, and Kosovo's government have condemned "this act of vandalism."

Mr. Burton said, "Bringing the perpetrators to justice can support existing positive inter-ethnic relations in the village, and underline that Kosovo is making all efforts to become a homeland for all its citizens."