Saturday, July 31, 2010

Jerusalem Threatens Church of Holy Sepulchre; City Wants Payment for Water Dating to 1967

The Catholic Culture website reports today (July 31, 2010) that city officials in Jerusalem are threatening to cut off the supply of water for the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The city has provided free water service to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for nearly a century, as a service to pilgrims and a courtesy to clerics who administer the shrine.

Church officials say that the city is now asking for payment not only for the current water usage, but for usage dating back to the Israeli takeover of Jerusalem in 1967.

The administration of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is governed by an agreement of the various Christian denominations that work there: Greek Orthodox, Catholic, Armenian, Coptic, Syrian, and Ethiopian.

Senator: Military Chaplains Can Serve Gays; Gays Should Be Allowed to Serve in Military

A Michigan senator -- who believes gays should be allowed to serve openly in the armed forces -- said she has little doubt that the Pentagon will prepare military chaplains to minister to gays in the armed forces, in the event the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy is repealed.

Sen Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said she's confident the U.S. Defense Department will work through any conflicts "in a respectful way with members of the clergy," the Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (July 31, 2010).

Some military chaplains have expressed concern that repealing the policy would hinder their ability to counsel or preach that gay sex is a sin, according to the Bible.

A Pentagon review of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy is due this December.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Report Gives Methodist Church Poor Grades; Church Lacks Mission Clarity, Accountability

As United Methodists in the U.S. continue to count losses in worship attendance and membership, the denomination is re-evaluating its structure and making efforts to identify and address the challenges it faces, the Christian Post website reports today.

A new report by the denomination gave "below average" grades to the body's governance and agencies as it cited a lack of mission clarity and accountability -- among other things -- within The United Methodist Church.

"The agencies are a cacaphony of voices," the report -- titled "Operational Assessment Project" -- cited one Methodist as saying. "Their 'brands and communications compete with one another' and result in confusion and dilution of impact at the Annual Conference and Local Church levels."

Annual conferences are the denomination's regional bodies.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

British Vicar Conducted 360 Sham Marriages; Ukrainian Also Convicted in Residency Scheme

A British vicar was found guilty today (July 29, 2010) of conducting hundreds of sham marriages between African nationals and cash-strapped eastern Europeans to allow illegal immigrants to gain residency in Britain.

Rev. Alex Brown, 61, presided over 360 fake ceremonies over four years, including one case in which a person was registered to marry two people on the same day, according to the Reuters website.

Brown's co-defendant, Vladymyr Burchak, 33, was also found guilty of conspiring to breach immigration laws by paying Eastern Europeans $4,700 to marry Africans -- mostly from Nigeria -- to allow them to obtain the documents they needed to live and work in Britain.

The court heard Burchak -- a Ukrainian national who had himself been living illegally in Britain since 2004 -- was responsible for "cajoling and persuading" the Eastern Europeans into the marriages of convenience, preying on migrant workers in the area who were desperate to earn money.

Bomb Explodes in Ukrainian Church Killing a Nun; Was Orthodox Church in Moscow Patriarchate

A bomb that exploded inside the Intercession Church in Zaporozhye, Ukraine yesterday (July 28, 2010) -- killing a nun -- was a homemade device, the Interfax-Religion website reports today.

The device was a metal saucepan 18 centimeters in diameter filled with aluminum powder and saltpeter, Vyacheslav Pavlov, the prosecutor, said. Pavlov added that the bomb had been equivalent in powder to 200 grams of TNT.

The bomb had been placed near the bench on which nun Lyudmila -- who worked at the church -- was sitting when it went off.

The cathedral belongs to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church that comes under the Moscow Patriarchate.

Christian Population in Lebanon Is Declining; Muslims Urged to "Nurture Christian Presence"

The head of the Sunni political movement in Lebanon has expressed concern over the decline of Christians in the region, allegedly due to growing Shiite influence.

Ahmad Hariri, secretary-general of the Lebanese Future Movement, urged Muslims in Lebanon to "nurture Christian presence" in the region, saying it was an "Arab and Islamic responsibility as much as it is a Christian one."

According to the Jerusalem Post, Hariri is worried about the repercussions of Christian emigration for some Middle East countries.

While Christians used to be a majority in Lebanon, the country has recently witnessed decline, due to emigration and the increase in Muslims.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

COMMENTARY: Moscow and Kiev Patriarchates Must Stop Bickering and Focus on Christ

It was a very joyful and spiritual time in Kiev in 988 when Prince Vladimir -- later to become St. Vladimir -- embraced Byzantine Orthodoxy and ordered the baptism of his population. By the 14th century, the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Russia was residing in Moscow.

Unfortunately, the Russian Orthodox Church was stripped of its legal rights and practically suppressed between 1917 and 1991 when communism prevailed in Soviet Russia. However, a great resurgence of the Orthodox Church occurred in Russia -- and in much of Eastern Europe -- in 1991, following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

After receiving their political independence from Russia in 1991, many Ukrainians decided they also wanted their religious independence from Russia. Consequently, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church became divided in 1992 with a Kiev Patriarchate as well as a Moscow Patriarchate.

On his visit to Ukraine this week, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All of Russia called on the Kiev Patriarchate to repent and return to the Moscow Patriarchate.

On the other hand, the Kiev Patriarchate Synod met this week -- after Patriarch Kirill's expressed desire -- and said that the leaders of the Moscow Patriarchate are trying to destroy the Kiev Patriarchate. They also made it perfectly clear that they have no intention of returning to the Moscow Patriarchate, and that the only way to overcome church division in Ukraine is by recognizing the autocephaly (independence) of the Kiev Patriarchate.

This bickering between the Moscow and Kiev Patriarchates must stop immediately. It is un-Christian -- especially for Christian leaders -- to resort to such fighting over autonomy. If some Ukrainians want to have their own autonomous church, so be it. Actually, Patriarch Kirill should be pleased that an estimated 42 percent of Orthodox Ukrainians are under the Moscow Patriarchate, while only 27 percent are under the Kiev Patriarchate.

Indeed, Patriarch Kirill has spent enough of his valuable time on this endeavor. The fact is that Ukrainians who are independent of the Moscow Patriarchate are adamant about remaining independent -- even to the extent of ignoring Patriarch Kirill's pleas.

Patriarch Kirill has accomplished an incredible number of achievements that have enhanced the Orthodox Church during his brief tenure as Moscow Patriarch. For example, he has been responsible for the construction of many Orthodox Churches in foreign countries, as well as in Russia. He has also established new Orthodox Seminaries in foreign countries, including predominantly-Catholic France. His friendly communication with Pope Benedict XVI has resulted in a heretofore unseen Roman Catholic-Eastern Orthodox rapprochement, which may well serve as the harbinger of Christian unity.

In the final analysis, it would behoove Patriarch Kirill to focus even more on this kind of Christian love, spirituality, and unity, and to forget about trying to persuade all Ukrainian Orthodox Christians to come under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Oliver Stone Apologizes for Insulting Jews; Said Jewish Lobby Governs U.S. Foreign Policy

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) website reports today (July 28, 2010) that Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone has apologized for saying in a recent interview that the Jewish lobby controls Washington's foreign policy, and that Hitler's actions should be put "into context."

Stone -- in an interview with the (British newspaper) Sunday Times -- also said that "Jewish domination of the media" has prevented an honest discussion about the Holocaust.

During the interview, Stone said that Jews were dictating U.S. foreign policy and that the Jewish lobby "are hard workers." "They are the most powerful lobby in Washington," he said, and added that Israel has messed up U.S. foreign policy for years.

Stone -- the winner of three Academy Awards -- has a Jewish father. In sociology, there is a term used to describe someone who severely criticizes his own ethnic or religious group. It's called "self-hatred."

Kiev Patriarchate Will Not Unite with Moscow; Says Moscow Patriarchate Trying to Destroy It

The self-proclaimed "Kiev Patriarchate" in Ukraine has rejected a call by the Moscow Patriarchate to repent and return to the Russian Orthodox Church, the Orthodox Church Info blog reports today (July 28, 2010).

"By considering the Kiev Patriarchate to be a schism, the leaders of the Russian Church are manipulating the minds of believers by misleading them and the entire public. There is no church schism in Ukraine, but only the division of jurisdiction (subordination)," the Kiev Patriarchate Synod said in a statement yesterday.

The only way of overcoming the church division in Ukraine is "by forgetting the current disputes and recognizing the autocephaly (independence) of the local Ukrainian Orthodox Church," the authors said.

The current leaders of the Moscow Patriarchate are trying to involve the Ukrainian authorities in destroying the "Kiev Patriarchate," the statement said.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Jimmy Carter Credits Preacher for His Victory; Says Texas Baptist Preacher Support Crucial

Jimmy Carter said July 23, 2010 that he doubts he would have been elected 39th president of the United States without the aid of Jimmy Allen, a Texas Baptist preacher who endorsed him at a time when his 1976 presidential campaign was floundering.

Carter credited Allen's help in an address to some 260 guests at a Georgia event, according to the Everyday Christian website.

"He was reluctant to get involved in politics," Carter said of Allen, "but he remembered that I said I was a born-again Christian."

Although Allen was not an official spokesman for Texas Baptist, Carter said, "because of the introduction and endorsement I got in San Antonio, Texas turned around."

Dog Given Holy Communion at Anglican Church; More Proof Anglican Church "Gone to the Dogs"

A dog has received Holy Communion at an Anglican church in Toronto, Canada, according to the Catholic Culture website.

"The minister welcomed me and said to come up and take communion, and Trapper (the dog) came up with me and the minister gave him communion as well," said Donald Keith, the dog's owner. "Then he bent his head and said a little prayer."

"I thought it was a nice way to welcome me into the church," said Mr. Keith, a new member.

Following a parishioner's complaint, the local Anglican bishop decided Trapper would not receive communion again, although he will continue to be welcome at the church.

This is just one more example of the Anglican Church -- and its Episcopal branch in the United States -- making a mockery of Christianity. Indeed, the local Anglican bishop should have terminated -- or at least suspended -- the minister for committing such an un-Christian act.

Serbia Vows to Pursue Kosovo Status at UN; EU Also Offers to Mediate Serbia-Kosovo Talks

Serbia's parliament yesterday (July 26, 2010) adopted a motion seeking new talks on Kosovo at the United Nations. The motion passed with 192 votes for and 26 against, according to the Radio Free Europe website.

Serbian lawmakers held the extraordinary session, as a result of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling on July 22 that Kosovo's 2008 secession and declaration of independence from Serbia did not violate international law.

On July 26, the European Union (EU) offered to mediate talks between Serbia and Kosovo -- as future EU members -- in Brussels.

Serbia has vowed to pursue its fight at the UN General Assembly to reopen negotiations on the status of Kosovo, despite the ICJ verdict.

Sixty-nine countries -- including the United States and 22 of the 27 member states of the EU -- have recognized Kosovo as an independent nation. Russia, China, Greece, and Cyprus are among the nations that have said they will not recognize Kosovo.

Monday, July 26, 2010

19 People Die in Stampede at Music Festival; Head of EKD Prays for Those Killed in Germany

The head of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) has spoken of his grief over the deaths of 19 people at a music festival in Duisburg, Germany on July 24, 2010.

The revelers were killed in a stampede at Love Parade. More than 300 people were injured in the tragedy, which has been blamed on poor access to the site and the inadequate response of police and security personnel, according to the Christian Today website.

The head of the EKD, Nikolaus Schneider, said, "We are devastated by the catastrophe in Duisburg and our thoughts are with those who wanted to enjoy the festival, but who lost their lives in such a tragic way."

He added, "We trust in God's promise to us in the Bible, that He is close to the broken-hearted and helps those who are low in spirits."

Kiev, Ukraine Police Detain Eight Protesters; Held Rally Protesting Patriarch Kirill's Visit

Police in Kiev detained eight Ukrainian ultranationalists who took part in an unauthorized rally today (July 26, 2010) to protest a visit to the city by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia arrived in Ukraine on a pastor's visit on July 20, and will be in Kiev until July 28, according to the RIA Novosti (Russian) website.

Kiev's district administrative court banned the ultranationalist Svoboda (Freedom) Party from holding a protest rally in front of St. Sofia Cathedral, where Patriarch Kirill held a prayer service today, but several dozen members defied the ban.

The Orthodox Church in Ukraine split in 1992, following the breakup of the Soviet Union into followers of the Moscow Patriarchate and those seeking an independent church. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate is recognized worldwide, while the independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate is not.

In his sermon today at St. Sofia Cathedral, Patriarch Kirill called on the independent Ukrainian Church to unite with the Ukrainian Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Famous Mosque in Jaffa Survives Arson Attempt; Palestinians Blame Jewish Extremists for Fire

Palestinian sources have accused Jewish extremists of attempting to set fire to the world-famous Hassan Bek mosque in the Israeli city of Jaffa, according to the Middle East Monitor website.

Eyewitnesses said that three persons, who are believed to be Jewish, tried to set fire to the mosque in the pre-dawn hours of July 20, 2010.

The plastic cover they tried to burn only ignited for a short time and -- with the aid of worshipers -- the fire was extinguished, and the mosque survived the arson attempt.

Mohammed Ashkar, a member of the Al-Aqsa Foundation and its representative in the city of Jaffa, said, "Such abuse is a clear sign to target mosques in the city of Jaffa, but we assure everyone that Jaffa's minarets will continue to persevere loudly in their calls to prayers and its mosques will continue to be full of worshipers."

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Saudi Cleric: Women Can Uncover Face in Europe; Will Allow Muslim Women to Avoid Harassment

Sheik Aedh al-Garni, a popular Saudi cleric, said yesterday (July 24, 2010) it is permissible for Muslim women to reveal their faces in countries where the Islamic veil is banned to avoid harassment, the Jerusalem Post website reports today.

Saudi Arabia -- the birthplace of Islam -- is one of the few Muslim countries where women are forced by custom to cover their hair with head scarves and their bodies with cloaks called abayas in most parts of the country. It is also common to see Saudi women wearing full-face veils.

Several European countries are currently debating legislation that would ban the veil.

Since Christianity is the predominant religion in most European nations, many Europeans have been struggling in recent years with growing Muslim populations having cultural practices that clash with their own.

Police Demolish Church House in Indonesia; Lack of Permit for Church Use "Forced" Ruin

Police officers demolished a house where a church regularly met in Bogor Regency, West Java, Indonesia on July 19, 2010, according to the Compass Direct website.

Clashes broke out with church members and others as police tore down the Narogong Pentecostal Church building, and officers arrested 10 people.

Eddy Hidayat, head of Bogor police operations, said officials were forced to destroy the building because it lacked a permit for church use.

The Rev. Rekson Sitorus said the more than 200 people who attended the church -- which has existed since 2006 -- have lost their place of worship. The church is in the process of applying for a permit for a church building, he said.

Vandals Deface Jewish Museum of Greece; Latest in a Chain of Anti-Semitic Events

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) website reports today (July 25, 2010) that vandals painted red swastikas on the walls of the Jewish Museum of Greece in Athens.

The attack on July 22 marked the first time that the museum has been the target of anti-Semitic expression, according to the Athens community news.

Greece has been beset by a chain of anti-Semitic events this year, including two arson attacks on the Synagogue of Hania in Crete, vandalism against Jewish cemeteries in the cities of Ioannina and Thessaloniki, and the attack against the Holocaust Memorial on the island of Rhodes.

Security cameras recorded the eight perpetrators during the museum attack in Athens.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Vatican Blasts Priests Who Lead Double Life; Urges Them to Come Out of Closet, Quit Jobs

The Associated Press website reports today (July 24, 2010) that the Catholic Church in Italy lashed out yesterday at gay priests who are leading a double life, urging them to come out of the closet and leave the priesthood.

The Diocese of Rome issued the strongly worded statement after the conservative "Panorama" newsweekly said in a cover story and accompanying video that it had interviewed three gay priests in Rome and accompanied them to gay clubs and bars and to sexual encounters with strangers.

In a statement yesterday, the Rome diocese denounced those priests who were leading a "double life," said they should not have been ordained, and promised that the church would rigorously pursue anyone who is behaving in a way that was not dignified for a priest.

It insisted that the vast majority of Rome's 1,300 Catholic priests are truthful to their vocations and are "models of morality for all."

Egypt Court Overturns Coptic Remarriage Law; Coptic Pope Had Urged Court to Overturn Law

The Christian Post website reports today (July 24, 2010) that Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court has overturned the ruling of the Supreme Administrative Court that would have forced the Coptic Orthodox Church to issue remarriage permits to divorcees despite the church body's stance on the issue.

Bishop Armia, secretary to Egypt's Coptic pope, expressed his thanks to Egypt's Minister of Justice, the pending judge and members of the constitutional court on behalf of the Coptic Church for overturning the administrative court's controversial decision.

Coptic Pope Shenouda III had urged Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court to reconsider its decision back in May -- arguing that marriage is "not a simple administrative act" but a sacred and religious one.

Although they only account for about 10 percent of the largely Muslim country's 80 million population, Coptic Christians make up the Middle East's largest Christian community.

COMMENTARY: July 22, 2010 "A Day of Infamy;" Date ICJ Approved Kosovo Secession

July 22, 2010 will be remembered for many decades as "a day of infamy" in international law, as a result of the International Court of Justice's (ICJ) mistaken ruling on that day that Kosovo was within its legal rights to secede from Serbia and declare its independence in February 2008.

What were the ICJ justices thinking when they ruled on this case? Or were they not thinking at all?

The ruling will have a critical impact on international law, because it establishes a precedent by authorizing the legality of a province or state to secede from a nation and declare its independence. Consequently, there will now be a multitude of provinces and states seceding from their nations and declaring themselves independent.

It is interesting to compare this ICJ ruling on Kosovo with the American Civil War in the 1860s. The primary cause of this war was the secession of several Southern states from the United States. America was determined that these states needed to rejoin the nation, even if it meant fighting a major war for them to do so.

Moreover, the American Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag states..."one nation, under God, INDIVISIBLE, with liberty and justice for all." Indeed, I find America's leaders to be hypocritical -- and even politically motivated -- as they strongly concur with the ICJ's ruling on Kosovo, and are so bold as to urge nations that have refused to recognize Kosovo to do so because of the ICJ ruling. Would America's leaders feel that way if the ruling involved an American state? No way!

Does the ICJ ruling on Kosovo mean that any one of the 50 American states now has the right to secede from America, and declare itself independent? This certainly seems to be the case, since the ICJ ruled it was perfectly legal for Kosovo to secede from Serbia and declare its independence.

Serbia will now most likely refer the Kosovo matter to the United Nations, where a compromise on the status of Kosovo may be agreed upon.

All in all, the International Court of Justice -- by its irrational ruling on Kosovo -- has opened a Pandora's Box, which will undoubtedly have a significant impact on international law for decades, and perhaps even centuries.

Friday, July 23, 2010

U.S. Bishops Agree to Send More Aid to Haiti; Total Amount of Aid Sent Now Over $1 Million

The Zenit (Catholic) website reports today (July 23, 2010) that U.S. bishops have approved funding for 10 more projects in quake-stricken Haiti, bringing the total amount of aid sent by the conference to more than $1 million.

After the 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit the island last January, a special collection in U.S. dioceses raised more than $80 million for Haiti -- a predominantly Catholic nation.

The projects of the funding include a grant to train religious personnel and seminarians and adult literacy programs in the Diocese of Port-de-Paix, as well as evangelization programs.

Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston and member of the advisory group, said that during visits to Haiti after the earthquake he "constantly assured the people of the Church that we will be with them in the long run."

Patriarch Kirill: Life Is Sad without Humor; Sense of Humor Gets People into a Good Mood

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia believes a sense of humor is a useful quality, the Interfax-Religion website reports today (July 23, 2010).

"Life becomes dangerous without humor," Patriarch Kirill said yesterday at his meeting with public figures in the Odessa National Opera and Ballet Theatre.

Residents of Odessa -- a city in Ukraine that the Patriarch was visiting -- hailed his words with a storm of applause.

Patriarch Kirill believes that "most of bad people are deprived of a sense of humor." According to him, humor "levels up human conflicts, takes the heat out of the situation, and gets people into a good mood."

Liberty University Theology Dean Loses Job; Lied about Birth in Turkey, Being a Jihadist

The Alter Net website reports that Ergun Caner, president and dean of the theological seminary at Liberty University, was stripped of his leadership positions at the conservative Christian school in Lynchburg, Virginia, founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell.

Caner -- a Baptist clergyman of Turkish descent -- claimed for years to have been a fervent jihadist until Jesus changed his heart. He said he was raised in Turkey, and did not speak English until he was a teenager.

In May 2010, Alter Net reported that Caner had lied about his past, in order to exploit popular sentiment after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

Several Christian and Muslim bloggers -- as well as others -- noted serious discrepancies with known facts about his life story. It turns out he did not grow up in Turkey, but in Ohio. Also, his stories about struggling to learn English after coming to the U.S. as a teenager were not true.

Jerry Falwell, Jr., Chancellor of Liberty University, initiated a formal inquiry as a result of the media articles on Caner, and this resulted in Caner's removal as president and dean.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Turkey Grants Citizenship to Foreign Abps.; Gesture to Ease Future Elections of Patriarch

Turkey has offered citizenship to foreign archbishops to help the next election of the ecumenical patriarch, spiritual leader of the world's 250 million Orthodox faithful, the Orthodox Church Info blog reports today (July 22, 2010).

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has quietly led the gesture to the Orthodox, who face a shortage of candidates to succeed Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, 70, and serve on the Holy Synod, which administers patriarchate affairs.

The Orthodox community in Turkey -- a country that is 98 percent Muslim -- has fallen to some 3,000 from 120,000 a half-century ago, drastically shrinking the pool of potential future patriarchs.

Ibrahim Kalin, Erdogan's chief foreign policy adviser, said the government's gesture demonstrates Turkey's commitment to conform with norms on human rights in its bid to join the European Union.

Florida Church to Host Burn Quran Day on 9/11; Designed to Give Muslims Chance to Convert

A Florida church -- which has "Islam is of the devil" signs on its front lawn -- plans to host an "International Burn A Quran Day" on the ninth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks this year, the Ethics Daily website reports today (July 22, 2010).

The Dove World Outreach Center, a non-denominational church in Gainesville, has marked the date in previous years with protests against Islam.

Pastor Terry Jones, who is author of the book titled "Islam is of the Devil," said protests are key to the mission of his church.

"The goal of these and other protests is to give Muslims an opportunity to convert," Rev. Jones said.

ICJ Validates Kosovo's Independence; Rejects Serbia's Argument of Illegal Secession

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands, today (July 22, 2010)validated Kosovo's declaration of independence, and rejected Belgrade's argument that the declaration had no legal basis, according to the Serbianna website.

The ICJ judged that Kosovo's independence from Serbia in 2008 was not illegal under international law.

The opinion also said that the Resolution 1244 and the Constitutional court in Kosovo are legal frames for resolution of Kosovo's status.

The ICJ did not approve a right to separation and has referred the matter to the United Nations for solution.

The vote was 9 in favor and 5 against.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Poles Feud on Location of Plane Crash Cross; Agree to Move It to Warsaw's St. Anna Church

The Moscow Times website reports today (July 21, 2010) that a wooden cross raised outside Poland's presidential palace -- after a Smolensk plane crash killed President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others -- will be moved to a nearby church in an attempt to end a dispute over who is responsible for the crash.

President-elect Bronislaw Komorowski, who won early elections in June forced by Kaczynski's death, wanted to move the cross earlier, but his bid sparked anger among supporters of the main opposition party -- Law and Justice -- led by Kaczynski's twin brother, Jaroslaw.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski told a recent news conference that removing the cross would be "moral abuse" until a proper memorial was erected on the site, which is one of Warsaw's most popular streets in the historic Old Town.

Details of a ceremony for moving the cross to the nearby Church of St. Anna will be released soon.

COMMENTARY: Ground Zero No Place for Mosque; Would Insult 9/11 Terrorist Victims

The Muslim desire of having a mosque near Ground Zero in New York City is one that should not become a reality.

Hundreds of innocent Americans lost their lives at Ground Zero on September 11, 2001, when several Muslims intentionally crashed two airplanes into two towers of the World Trade Center.

To allow a mosque in this area would be an insult to the murdered victims of Muslim terrorism.

Moreover, such a mosque could be used as a training center -- in the heart of New York City -- to prepare Muslims for future terrorist attacks on the United States.

Americans need to realize that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were not a one-time event for Muslims in America. Rather, these attacks should be viewed as a prelude to future attacks, in an effort by Muslims to achieve their fanatical desire to replace Christianity with Islam as the primary religion in the United States.

Many Muslims are determined to achieve this goal at any cost -- even if it means giving up their lives in their efforts to do so, as many already have.

Consequently, Americans must take every precaution possible to prevent Muslims from achieving their ultimate goal. Indeed, being complacent with respect to Muslim activities -- and the expansion of their institutions -- in the United States could result in Islam predominating over Christianity as America's primary religion.

Boston Archdiocese to Initiate PR Campaign; Will Urge Inactive Catholics Return to Church

The Boston Globe website reports today (July 21, 2010) that the Archdiocese of Boston -- in an effort to bring lapsed Catholics back to the church -- is planning a major public relations campaign in the coming year that will use television ads, parish events, and personal invitations to urge inactive Catholics to "come home" to their faith.

Nationally, 10 percent of all American adults are former Catholics, according to a recent study.

In the Boston Archdiocese, weekly Mass attendance has plunged from 376,383 in 2000 to 286,951 in 2009, according to the church's annual count.

"Each time we go to Mass, the pews seem emptier and emptier," said Janet Benestad, secretary for faith formation and evangelization at the archdiocese. The goal of the campaign, she said, "is to say to folks, 'We are diminished by your absence...and we want to issue a genuine invitation to return to the practice of the faith.'"

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

U.S. Food Co-op Boycotts All Israeli Products; Movement Presses for Other Boycotts on Israel

The Forward (Israeli) website reports today (July 20, 2010) that the board of directors of the Olympia Food Co-op in Washington state has decided that no more Israeli products will be sold at its two grocery stores in the city.

The board met on July 15, and the boycott went into effect the next day.

Olympia is the hometown of the International Solidarity Movement activist Rachel Corrie, who was killed in 2003 in Gaza, when a bulldozer ran her over as she tried to prevent demolition of a Palestinian house.

The Olympia Food Co-op boycott is only a tiny part of an effort that the BDS (boycotts, divestment, and sanctions) movement is mounting on U.S. companies. The Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) activists have collected thousands of signatures calling on firms and institutions to divest their money from companies that "profit from the violation of international law through home demolitions, the destruction of life sustaining orchards, the construction of roads and transits that only Israelis can use, the killing of civilians by drones, and many other injustices."

Argentina Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage; Christians Are Now "Crying for Argentina"

Argentina has become the first country in Latin America to legalize same-sex marriage, the PBS website reports today (July 20, 2010).

The Catholic Church in Argentina -- as well as evangelical Christians and Mormons -- protested the new law.

It grants gay married couples all of the same legal protections as heterosexual couples, including the right to adopt children and to inherit wealth.

You may recall seeing the popular play and movie titled "Evita," with its famous song -- "Don't Cry for Me Argentina." Indeed, many Christians are now crying for Argentina, because of that nation's violation of the Christian interpretation of marriage.

Patriarch Kirill Backs Pope on Moral Issues; Rips Protestant O.K. of Women, Gay Priests

The Life in Italy website reports today (July 20, 2010) that Patriarch Kirill of Russia yesterday said he backed Pope Benedict XVI on a range of "pressing" moral issues, siding with the pope on warding off the kind of "secular" outlook that had impinged on Protestant thinking.

Kirill said the pope's stance on many moral issues "coincided totally with that of the Russian Orthodox Church."

He said Protestants' allowing "sinful elements from secular society to enter their interior world, justifying them," was "a very dangerous phenomenon."

Kirill's thoughts were published in the July 19, 2010 edition of the Vatican daily, l'Osservatore Romano, which said he was "referring, in particular, to women priests and homosexuality."

Monday, July 19, 2010

Syria Bans Full Islam Face Veils in Schools; Ban Aims to Protect Syria's Secular Identity

The Seattle Times website reports today (July 19, 2010) that Syria has forbidden the country's students and teachers from wearing the niqab -- the full Islamic veil that reveals only a woman's eyes -- taking aim at a garment many see as political.

"We have given directives to all universities to ban niqab-wearing women from registering," a government official in Damascus said.

The order affects both public and private universities, and aims to protect Syria's secular identity.

The ban -- issued on July 18 by the Education Ministry -- does not affect the hijab, or headscarf, which is far more common in Syria than the niqab's billowing black robes.

Islam Expert Warns of Ground Zero Mosque; Predicts Increase in Recruiting Terrorists

The Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (July 19, 2010) that the plan to build a mosque near New York City's Ground Zero has drawn criticism from an esteemed U.S. military veteran who has battled radical Islam firsthand.

Retired Lt. General Willian Boykin said that the seeds that will be planted at the proposed Ground Zero mosque may be deadly.

"When Mohammed conquered Mecca, he built a mosque on their most holy and prominent site," Boykin noted. "The message was 'Islam reigns supreme.'"

"Now, we are going to build a mosque at Ground Zero, where once the Twin Towers were a great monument to America. This will increase the recruiting to the jihadist cause exponentially," Boykin predicted.

Orthodox Women: Leadership Not about Power; Commitment to Love of Christ Must Prevail

The need for a "theology of healing" was the central theme of a recent international encounter between Orthodox women and Christians of both sexes from other traditions, the Ekklesia website reports.

Female leadership in the life of the church -- be it in the area of worship, education, administration, or social care -- should not be "understood as seeking power and prestige but as a deeper commitment to love and service that responds to the sacrificing love of Christ," stated the women and men who took part in the July 8-12, 2010 meeting at the St. Vlash Theological Academy in Albania.

A theology of healing rests on the fact that "healing is a gift from the incarnate, crucified, and risen Lord to all creation."

The women and men in the church need to commit themselves "to be agents of the resurrected Lord and instruments of healing in a broken and needy world."

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hindu Governor Praises Christians in India; "Bring Dignity of Life, Knowledge to Poor"

The governor of Southern India's Karnataka state -- where most of the recent atrocities on Christians have been committed -- has paid tribute to the Christian contribution to national life, according to the Ecumenical News International website.

"we are privileged to have so many Christian institutions to bring dignity of life and knowledge to the poor," said Hansray Bhardwai in a July 8, 2010 address at the concluding celebration of the centenary of the United Theological College in Bangalore -- Karnataka's state capital.

He also noted that Christians run nearly 20 percent of the educational, primary healthcare, and social welfare centers in India.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

COMMENTARY: Anglican Church Now Secular; Pierces Body of Christ with Selfish Rules

The Anglican Church -- or the Church of England as it is also called -- has decided to allow women to become bishops. The General Synod -- the Anglican Church's governing body -- voted on July 12, 2010 to pave the way to allow women to become bishops with full authority.

This was done despite the fact that the Archbishop of Canterbury -- the spiritual head of the Anglican Church -- urged the General Synod not to allow women to become bishops.

For the Anglican Church -- which is usually called the Episcopal Church in its United States branch -- to allow women to become bishops is just one of several anti-Christian actions it has taken in recent years.

For example, the Episcopal Church has elected an openly homosexual priest to become a bishop in New Hampshire, and an open lesbian priest to become a bishop in California.

It is now wonder that this kind of anti-Christian policy has resulted in tens of thousands of Anglicans leaving the church, and joining other Protestant denominations, or converting to Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy. It is expected that an additional plethora of Anglicans will be leaving the church, because of its recent approval of women bishops.

The recent arrogant policies of the Anglican Church have indeed pierced the Body of Christ (that is, the Christian Church), because they clearly contradict the teachings of Jesus.

By their recent actions, it has become perfectly clear that the majority of leaders of the Anglican Church is more concerned with making rules to satisfy its own selfish desires than being interested in promoting Christian doctrine and ideals.

Friday, July 16, 2010

"Nazi Sexy Mouse" Poster Allowed in Poland; Prosecutors Say It Is Art and Can Remain

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) website reports today (July 16, 2010) that a huge art poster that features Mickey Mouse's image with a swastika and a nude woman's body has outraged Jewish leaders in a Polish city.

The poster -- which went up in June in the western city of Poznan just steps from a synagogue -- is an Italian artist's take on what he calls the "horrors" of the American lifestyle.

"Nazi Sexy Mouse," by Max Papeschi, is one piece in a contemporary art exhibition opening this fall.

Prosecutors say the poster is art and does not violate Poland's laws against glorifying Nazism.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Many Icons Lost in Moscow Art Center; Two Firefighters Die in Fighting Flames

Several paintings and icons stored on the third floor of the Academician Grabar Russian Art Research and Restoration Center at 17 Radio Street in Moscow burned in a fire today (July 15, 2010), the Interfax-Religion website reports.

The fire fully destroyed the third floor.

The fire started in the attic and the roof and spread across an area exceeding 1,500 square meters.

The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry has confirmed the deaths of two firefighters who were putting out the blaze.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Church of England to Allow Women Bishops; Many Anglicans Expected to Leave Church

The Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (July 13, 2010) that the Church of England has decided to allow women to become bishops in the next few years.

On July 12, the church's governing body -- the General Synod -- voted to pave the way to allow women to become bishops with full authority.

It is unclear how many members will leave the church as a result of the vote. But some of those in the synod said such defections are inevitable.

Since the proposed measure must be approved by the diocesan synods, the first woman bishop could not be confirmed until at least 2014.

More than 5,000 women have been ordained as priests in England since they became eligible to be priests in 1992, and today women represent about 40 percent of all clergy.

COMMENTARY: Catholic Church Must End Its Celibacy Requirement of Priests

Catholicism is the only major branch of Christianity to require its priests to be unmarried in order to be ordained. Protestantism and Orthodoxy -- the other two major branches of Christianity -- allow their priests to be married before they are ordained.

Be that as it may, scores of Protestant priests who converted to Catholicism have been allowed to become Catholic priests and remain married. The same can be said of hundreds of Catholic priests of the Eastern Rite -- or Greek Catholic priests as they are often called -- since they are also allowed to remain married while serving as Catholic priests.

Consequently, there is an inconsistency -- a double standard, if you will -- with respect to priests being married in the Catholic Church. This being the case, it seems it would only be fair for the Catholic Church to give all its priests the choice of being married, and not just some priests.

Just why does the Catholic Church require its priests to be unmarried before they can be ordained? The major reason is that the Catholic Church believes a priest owes most -- and ideally all -- of his allegiance to God. In other words, having a wife and family would require a priest to devote much of his time to family life that would otherwise have been devoted to God.

On the other hand, Protestant and Orthodox religions encourage their priests to be married, because they believe that marriage provides priests with a first-hand experience of family life. The experience of marriage, then, will permit priests to counsel their parishioners more effectively than priests who are not married.

In any event, the Catholic Church needs to reconsider its celibacy policy as a prerequisite for a man to be ordained a priest. Indeed, giving prospective priests the option of being married before they are ordained is the correct course for the Catholic Church to follow.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Part of Cross Is Stolen at Boston Church; Believed to Be Cross of Jesus' Crucifixion

A small piece of wood venerated by Catholics as a fragment of the cross on which Jesus was crucified has been stolen from the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston, Massachusetts, according to the Boston Globe today (July 13, 2010).

The relic -- one of the oldest and most treasured possessions of the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston -- was stolen between June 30 and July 1, according to a police report.

"We are deeply troubled that this sacred relic was stolen, and we pray for those responsible," the Rev. Kevin O'Leary, rector of the cathedral, said yesterday.

The relic arrived in Boston in the late 18th century, a gift to a French missionary priest -- the Rev. Jean-Louis Lefebvre de Cheverus -- who later became the first bishop of Boston.

Archaeologists Find Document in Jerusalem; Oldest Document Ever Found in Holy City

A tiny clay fragment dating back to the 14th century BC -- discovered recently during excavations in Jerusalem -- contains the oldest written document ever found in the Holy City, the Earth Times website reports today (July 13, 2010).

The find -- uncovered outside Jerusalem's Old City walls -- is thought to be part of a tablet from a royal archive, and further testifies to the importance of Jerusalem as a major city in the Late Bronze Age.

It contains cuneiform symbols in ancient Akkadian -- the bridge language of that era.

The tablet is believed to be a contemporary of some 380 tablets discovered in the 19th century at Amarna in Egypt in the archives of Pharaoh Amenhotep (Akkenaten), who lived in the 14th century BC.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Swiss Justice Head: "Polanski Is a Free Man;" U. S. Would Not Provide Swiss with Vital Info

The New York Times website reports today (July 12, 2010) that Switzerland will not extradite Polish-born film director Roman Polanski to the United States to face charges of unlawful sex with a minor, because of a possible fault in the American application for his extradition, Justice Minister Evcline Widmer-Schlumpf told a news conference today. "He's a free man," she said.

Polanski was arrested on an international warrant issued by the U.S. on charges dating from 1977, when he was charged with having sex with a 13-year-old girl. The film director fled to France on the eve of sentencing in California to avoid a prison sentence.

Widmer-Schlumpf said the Swiss government had rejected the extradition request in part because American authorities declined to provide confidential testimony from a January 2010 hearing on Polanski's original sentence agreement.

Swiss authorities jailed Polanski in Zurich in September 2009 in response to the American warrant, but in December allowed him to move to his chalet in the ski resort of Gstaad under house arrest on bail of $4.5 million pending a decision on his extradition.

New Report on Terrorism: Experts Say U.S. Must Separate Muslim Faith from Extremism

The Associated Press website reports today (July 12, 2010) that the Obama Administration's recent move to drop rhetorical references to Islamic radicalism is drawing fire in a new report warning the decision ignores the role religion can play in motivating terrorists.

In the report -- scheduled to be officially released next week -- counterterrorism experts from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy argue that the U.S. could clearly articulate the threat from radical Islamic extremists "without denigrating the Islamic religion in any way."

The analysts of the report also warn that U.S. diplomacy must sharpen the distinction between the Muslim faith and violent Islamist extremism, identify radicalizers within Islamic communities, and empower voices that can contest the radical teachings.

The report acknowledges that the Obama administration has beefed up efforts to work with the Muslim community in the U.S. and abroad, and has also expanded counterterrorism operations and tried to erode and divide al-Qaida and its affiliated groups.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Highest Church Award for Ukrainian President; Yanukovich Given Badge of Merit, Jesus Icon

The Kyiv Post (Ukrainian) website reports today (July 11, 2010) that Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovich has received the highest award of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow patriarchate.

The Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine Vladimir decorated the president with the badge of Merit sign of the Primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

The metropolitan also presented Yanukovich with an icon of the Savior.

Yanukovich received the award on the occasion of his 60th birthday.

Turkey May End Diplomatic Ties with Israel; Demands Israel Apologize for Flotilla Deaths

Turkey's foreign minister has threatened to cut ties with Israel unless it apologizes for its deadly interception of a Gaza-bound flotilla, according to the Jewish Week website.

Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey's foreign minister, said Israel must apologize, "Otherwise, our diplomatic ties will be cut off."

Nine Turkish citizens were killed in violence that began when Israeli naval commandos boarded the Marmara in international waters on May 31 to divert the Turkish-flagged ship to Israel's Asholod port.

Turkey has already recalled its ambassador from Israel and canceled several joint military exercises, in addition to banning Israeli airplanes from using Turkish airspace.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel will not apologize to Turkey for the flotilla deaths.

Iran Says Woman Will Not Be Stoned to Death; Had Been Convicted of Adultery

The BBC website reports today (July 11, 2010) that authorities in Iran have announced that a woman convicted of adultery will not be stoned to death.

However, it is not clear whether they have lifted the death sentence against Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiana, who has been in prison in Tabriz since 2006.

The 43-year-old woman had already been punished with flogging for an "illicit relationship" outside marriage when another court tried her for adultery.

Under Islamic law in Iran, sex before marriage is punishable by 100 lashes, but married offenders are sentenced to death by stoning.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Married Father Ordained as Catholic Priest; Had Been Protestant Pastor before Converting

The Worldwide Religion News website reports today (July 10, 2010) that a married man was ordained as a Catholic priest in the southern German city of Regensburg this week, in a rare exception to the church's rules of celibacy for men of the cloth.

Peter Kemmether, a 62-year-old father of four children, took part in the ceremony led by Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller on July 6 in the Bavarian city.

He had been a Protestant pastor, but converted to Catholicism.

The Catholic Church in Bavaria has ordained several former Protestants into the priesthood in the last decade. These men have papal permission to carry on with their family lives as usual, and are not required to become celibate.

Serbian President Tadic in Warning to Kosovo: Units on Serb Border an "Open Threat of War"

Plans by the government of Kosovo to deploy special police units to the northern -- mostly Serbian -- part of the country amount to an "open threat of war" for Belgrade, Serbian President Boris Tadic said today (July 10, 2010).

Tadic said, "These war-mongering statements and other provocations are a threat to a fragile peace and stability in Northern Kosovo," according to the Earth Times website.

He added that the government in Pristina -- the capital of Kosovo -- will be responsible for the "possible catastrophic consequences of this threat."

Kosovo -- primarily a Muslim former province in Serbia -- illegally seceded and declared its independence from Serbia in 2008. Serbia -- comprised mainly of Eastern Orthodox worshipers -- has asked the International Court of Justice to decide on the legality of Kosovo's independence. The court is expected to reach a decision on Kosovo's status within the next three months.

COMMENTARY: Jennifer Lopez Is Correct in Canceling Birthday Show in North Cyprus

Jennifer Lopez must be commended for canceling her birthday show in North Cyprus. She had been scheduled to perform there at a luxury hotel inauguration on her birthday, July 24, 2010.

The fact is that Turkish troops invaded and seized control of North Cyprus in 1974, and have illegally controlled that territory to the present day. No nation -- except Turkey -- recognizes Northern Cyprus as a sovereign state, and the United Nations and the European Union refuse to recognize it.

Greeks in Cyprus -- as well as freedom-loving people from many other nations -- flooded the Internet during the past week or so, recommending that Lopez cancel her performance in Northern Cyprus, because of Turkey's illegal seizure of that area. Yesterday (July 9), Lopez -- now realizing that an autocratic and illegal government exists in Northern Cyprus -- decided to cancel her performance there.

She canceled her performance in Northern Cyprus, despite the fact that she would have received a $3 million appearance fee. On her website, Lopez stated yesterday, "Jennifer Lopez would never knowingly support any state, country, institution, or regime that was associated with any form of human rights abuse."

In other words, once Lopez learned that Northern Cyprus was being illegally ruled by Turkey, she wanted to have nothing to do with it -- even if that meant denying herself $3 million.

How many people would sacrifice $3 million because receiving that money would be contrary to their beliefs of human rights? The answer, sad to say, is not many.

Jennifer Lopez, then, must be commended for her belief that human rights should transcend one's desire for money. Indeed, money is important for one's existence, but human rights and freedom command a higher calling -- a calling that can never be bought with money.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Pope Names Church Law Expert to Key Position; Abp. DePaolis to Head Legionaries of Christ

The Catholic News website reports that Pope Benedict XVI today (July 9, 2010) named Italian Archbishop Velasio DePaolis -- an expert in church law who specializes in religious institutes -- to be his personal delegate with authority over the Legionaries of Christ.

The 74-year-old cannon lawyer will act as the interim leader while the Vatican investigation of the Legionaries proceeds.

The papal appointment was one of a number of steps Pope Benedict has taken in the reform of the Legionaries of Christ after revelations that their founder -- the late Mexican Father Marciel Degollado -- had fathered children and sexually abused seminarians.

Archbishop DePaolis is president of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See and is a member of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature. Born in Sonnino, Italy in 1935, he holds a doctorate in cannon law, a master's degree in theology, and a bachelor of laws degree.

Lopez Cancels Birthday Show in North Cyprus; "Human Rights Abuse" Prevails Over $3M Fee

The Christian Science Monitor website reports today (July 9, 2010) that Jennifer Lopez has canceled a controversial birthday show in the north of Cyprus, provoking celebrations by Greek Orthodox Cypriots and condemnations from Turkish Muslim Cypriots.

Reports that Lopez would perform at a luxury hotel inauguration in the illegally-seized Turkish north on her 41st birthday this month triggered a Greek Cypriot online campaign pushing for cancellation.

Greek Cypriots viewed Lopez's July 24 appearance as helping to legitimize the Mediterranean island's violent division. Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and illegally took control of the northern third of the island. Turkey continues to control northern Cyprus, but may soon relinquish its control, since it must do so before it will be allowed to join the European Union -- which Turkey would like to do.

Reports said Lopez would have earned a $3 million appearance fee for performing in northern Cyprus. A statement on Lopez's website today said, "Jennifer Lopez would never knowingly support any state, country, institution, or regime that was associated with any form of human rights abuse."

Patriarch Kirill to New President of Poland: Russian, Polish Churches Enrich Relations

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia congratulated Bronislaw Komorowski on his election as President of Poland, the Interfax-Religion website reports today (July 9, 2010).

The Primate said that the recent presidential elections in Poland are connected with the Smolensk tragedy when Polish elite -- headed by President Lech Kachinski -- were killed in the air crash. The Russian Orthodox Church with its flock mourned and sympathized with the Polish people, Patriarch Kirill wrote.

According to the Patriarch, Russia, Ukraine, Byelorussia, and Poland have much in common -- "shared Christian and Slavic roots and also shared pain for the tragedies of Katyn, Mednoye, and other places where innocent blood of sons and daughters of our nations was shed."

"Today the Russian Orthodox Church jointly with the Roman Catholic Church in Poland work to strengthen relations between Russian and Polish people," Patriarch Kirill wrote.

Canadian Man Charged with Promoting Genocide; Sought the "Extermination" of Jews in Canada

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) website reports today (July 9, 2010) that a Canadian man -- who called for the "extermination" of Jews in Canada -- has been charged under a rarely-used hate crimes law.

Salman Hossain, 25, accused of "willfully promoting and advocating genocide of the Jewish community," was charged yesterday afternoon by Ontario Provincial Police, following an investigation into his website and blog, which feature hundreds of racist comments.

Hossain was charged with three counts of willfully promoting hatred against an identifiable group and two counts of advocating and promoting genocide against an identifiable group, according to police.

Last week, Hossain wrote, "We must never cease in our efforts to eliminate the Jewish people from the face of the earth. Their permanent liquidation and destruction is the only solution."

Thursday, July 8, 2010

U.S. Govt. Blasts Arizona's Immigration Law; Claims State Law Hampers Federal Enforcement

The Christian Post website reports today that the Justice Department filed a lawsuit on July 6, 2010 challenging Arizona's new immigration law. The department argues that the state law unconstitutionally interferes with the federal government's authority to set and enforce immigration policy.

Warren Stewart, Sr., pastor of the First Institutional Baptist Church in Phoenix -- along with a group of Arizona lawmakers and Latino communities -- welcomed the move.

Since the law was passed in April 2010, some religious leaders have protested the legislation, arguing that it is "mean-spirited."

The law -- which takes effect late this month (July 2010) -- requires immigrants to carry their alien registration documents at all times, gives police officers the power to question someone's legal residency if they suspect the person to be an illegal immigrant, and allows officers to arrest persons who cannot prove their legal residency.

CNN Fires Middle East Affairs News Analyst; Posted a Tweet Praising Lebanese Terrorist

The Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (July 8, 2010) that Cable News Network (CNN) has fired Middle East affairs correspondent Octavia Nasr -- a 20-year CNN veteran -- after she posted a "Tweet" expressing her admiration for a late Lebanese Muslim cleric who was also a terrorist.

"Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadallah," Nasr wrote. "He was one of Hezbollah's giants I respect a lot."

Fadallah -- Lebanon's grand ayatollah -- died on Sunday (July 4) after a prolonged illness. He was linked to bombings that killed more than 260 Americans.

Criticism from media outlets and others -- including the Simon Weisenthal Center -- prompted an apology from Nasr. Despite her apology, CNN said, "We have decided that she will be leaving the company."

COMMENTARY: European Court Must Reverse Its Ruling That Crucifixes Violate Freedom

The European Court of Human Rights -- based in Strasbourg, France -- ruled in November 2009 that crucifixes in Italian schools violated religious and education freedoms.

This case dates back to 2002, when an Italian secular mother by the name of Soile Lautsi began to complain about crucifixes in classrooms. Lautsi, whose sons attended a state school in northern Italy at that time, took the case to Italian courts and eventually to the European Court of Human Rights, after school officials refused to take down the crosses.

On June 30, 2010, Italy began its appeal case to keep crucifixes in Italian classrooms. The outcome of the appeal -- which is expected before the end of 2010 -- could affect all 47 member states of the Council of Europe.

Although the European Court ruled that the crucifixes in Italian schools violate religious and educational freedoms, I believe this ruling is illogical. The fact is that crucifixes in classrooms have nothing to do with religious and educational freedoms of students, but rather are symbols representing Christ and His crucifixion.

Crucifixes, then, do not deny students in classrooms the freedom to worship as they please -- or not to worship at all if they are atheists -- but rather serve as a symbol of the predominant religion in Italy and most of Europe.

Moreover, for the European Court to rule in favor of one disgruntled woman -- and to disregard the priorities and values of the vast majority of parents and students -- is an insult to democracy and everything it represents.

In short, the European Court must rule in favor of Italy in its appeal to retain its crucifixes in its school classrooms.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

U.S. to Give $15 Million to Refine Auschwitz; Was Major Site in Nazi WWII Genocide of Jews

The Poland News website reports that the United States intends to contribute 15 million dollars to an international effort to preserve the Nazi German concentration camp of Auschwitz in southern Poland.

An announcement to this effect was made on July 4, 2010 by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Krakow, Poland, where she attended the celebrations of the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Community of Democracies.

Clinton said in a statement: "Our contribution will help preserve the camp so that future generations can see for themselves why the world must never again allow a place of such hatred to scar the soul of humankind."

The Auschwitz site comprises 115 camp buildings, 300 ruined facilities, and hundreds of thousands of personal belongings and documents scattered over 500 acres. It was the primary site used by Adolph Hitler's Nazi Germany to murder some six million innocent Jews during World War II.

Muslims Chop Off Professor's Hand in India; He Had Defamed Muhammad in an Exam Question

Professor T.J. Joseph is "a martyr for Islamic-Christian dialogue in Kerala (India) and around the world," said Sister Marie Stella Thenganakunnel. The nun, who is also the elder sister of the Catholic college lecturer, spoke to Asia News website about the attack in which her brother had his right hand -- and part of the right arm -- chopped off.

She said she hoped the attack on July 4, 2010 might "bear fruit and open channels of communication between Christianity and Islam."

After Mass last Sunday (July 4), Prof. T.J. Joseph was attacked in Kerala by a group of unknown assailants who chopped off his right hand and part of the arm. He had been accused of defaming the Prophet Muhammad a few months earlier in an exam question.

Joseph's sister said, "We live in a Muslim environment. Muslims are good people. Many have donated blood for him. Unfortunately, a small fringe carried out this attack. My brother, however, has only talked about forgiveness, forgiveness, and forgiveness."

Moscow to Restore Old Russik Monastery; Was Used by Founder of Serbian Orthodox Church

The Moscow government will help to restore the Old Russik -- the oldest Russian monastery on Mount Athos in northeastern Greece.

Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov -- at his recent meeting with Athonite monks -- assured his guests that all necessary works to restore the monastery would be completed shortly, according to the Interfax-Religion website.

A Moscow government delegation is visiting the Holy Mount today (July 7, 2010).

The Old Russik Monastery is notable, because St. Sava -- the founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church -- took his monastic vows in it.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Patriarch Tells Serbs Not to Forget Their Roots; Urges Harmony between Diaspora, Mother Country

The SPC (Serbian) website reports today that Serbian Patriarch Irinej spoke with representatives of diaspora in the parish house of the St. Sava Memorial Cathedral in Vracar on July 5, 2010, and told them not to forget their origin and roots -- and to revive, strengthen, and maintain the relationship with the mother country.

Minister of Diaspora, Srdjan Sreckovic, thanked Patriarch Irinej for blessing the work of the Assembly of the Diaspora and the Serbs in the region, and said that the state and church in the future would work together to preserve the cultural, linguistic, and religious identity.

He added that the church and state were separated -- yet together -- as they existed for the people.

According to Sreckovic, the Serbian Orthodox Church has long been a uniting factor and the primary foundation of the whole nation, including those times when the state did not regard the diaspora as a partner and ally -- but as an opponent.

Rector of Anglican Church in Canada Is Expelled; Refused to Accept Pope's Offer of Unity

The former Rector of St. John the Evangelist, Canon Stanley Sinclair, has been expelled from the cathedral and excommunicated from his parish and the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada -- based in Victoria, British Columbia -- because he refuses to accept Pope Benedict XVI's offer of unity being promoted by the Traditional Anglican Communion.

Canon Sinclair was dismissed from his post by the Very Rev. Shane Janzen, who accused Canon Sinclair of "sowing discord" and "going behind my back to spread false information, fear, and disunity," according to the Virtue Online website.

In his response to Janzen, Sinclair said the church he has known has been taken from him.

This scenario is a by-product of Pope Benedict's decision in the fall of 2009 to ease the process for Anglicans to convert to Catholicism. The Pope made this unusual decision, because there was a great amount of discontent among Anglican worshipers regarding the recent liberal policies the Anglican Church had adopted, such as allowing women and homosexuals to become Anglican bishops.

Indeed, these are critical issues. What do you -- the reader -- think about the Pope's unusual decision to convert Anglicans to Catholicism, and the Anglican Church's recent adoption of liberal policies? Feel free to comment on these issues.

Institute Launches Religion and Peace Program; Will Integrate Justice and Reconciliation

The Ekklesia website reports today (July 6, 2010) that Daniel Philpott of the University of Notre Dame's Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies is launching a new program on religion and peace.

"The idea of reconciliation has deep roots in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and other faiths," says Philpott, associate professor of political science and peace studies, who is directing the new research program on religion and reconciliation at the Kroc Institute.

He added, "Reconciliation has a strong affinity to religion, and many religious people are highly motivated to be peace-builders."

Philpott is working on this project with Jennifer Llewellyn of Dalhousie University Law School to develop the concepts of restorative justice and reconciliation and explore the meaning for forgiveness, amnesty, truth-telling, and reparations. A team of scholars has been commissioned to write papers on the concepts and present them at the Kroc Institute in the fall of 2010.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Protesters End Occupation of Catholic Church; 50 Cleveland Area Churches to Close Down

Six people who barricaded themselves inside St. Emeric Catholic Church in Cleveland, Ohio to protest its closing said they gave up only to prevent police from damaging the church with a battering ram, the Ethics Daily website reports today (July 5, 2010).

After the daylong standoff ended at 4 p.m. on July 1, Deacon Jim Armstrong of the Cleveland Catholic Diocese said Bishop Richard Lennon had agreed to meet with the protesters to discuss their concerns.

St. Emeric, a Hungarian parish on Cleveland's near West Side, is among 50 churches ordered to be closed as part of the diocese's downsizing. It was closed June 30.

Bishop Lennon said the downsizing plan was necessary, because of Catholics leaving the city, a shortage of priests, and dwindling collections.

Putin: Russian Church-State Enjoy Cordiality; Church Supports People, State in Hardships

The Interfax-Religion website reports today (July 5, 2010) that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin highly appreciates the role of the Church, as it backs up the state and each person.

"Today, the Russian Orthodox Church and the state go through a special period in their relations that are characterized with a special cordiality. We not only return to the Church what was illegally expropriated from it after 1917, but we are building new churches," Putin said at a new church complex in Usovo Village.

"The Russian Orthodox Church and all Russia's traditional confessions together with the state are building new shrines and restoring lost ones," the government head said.

He added, "It is the Church that supports every person and the state in the minute of hardships. It is the Church that shares our joy and losses."

Italy Appeals School Crucifix Ban; European Court Ruled Crucifixes Deny Pupils Freedom

The Christian Today website reports that Italy began its appeal case to keep crucifixes in Italian classrooms on June 30, 2010.

The European Court of Human Rights -- based in Strasbourg, France -- ruled in November 2009 that crucifixes in Italian schools violated religious and educational freedoms.

The court had said the crucifix "could easily be interpreted by pupils of all ages as a religious sign and they would feel that they were being educated in a school environment bearing the stamp of a given religion."

The appeal last week was heard before 17 judges who will issue a decision before the end of 2010.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

School Principals Lose Appeal on Candy Canes; Banned Kids from Handing Out Xmas Items

The Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (July 4, 2010) that a federal appeals court has ruled two Texas principals can be held personally liable in a lawsuit over students distributing candy canes with Christian Christmas messages.

Principals Lynn Swanson and Jackie Bomchill had asked to be dismissed from the suit. They said they qualified for immunity, but a lower court disagreed. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans affirmed that ruling last week.

Four Plano, Texas families filed the suit. The parents say their children were banned from handing out Christmas candy canes, pencils with the message "Jesus is the reason for the season," and other religious materials.

The principals' attorney, Tom Brandt, said his clients will appeal the court ruling.

PCA Adopts Plan to Increase Its Growth; "Strategic Plan" Includes Youth Involvement

The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) adopted a new plan last week to help the denomination deal with slowed growth and a changing culture, the Christian Post website reports today (July 4, 2010).

Delegates who convened for the PCA's General Assembly in Nashville voted on July 1 to approve the "Strategic Plan."

The plan consists of establishing places for civil conversations to allow for theological reflection as an evangelical confessional church in the 21st century; providing more seats at the table as a means of increasing youth involvement and creating routes for more ethnic minorities as well as women to be heard; and a funding plan to help support denominational services, and participating in God's global mission.

For a number of years, the PCA was one of the fastest growing denominations in America; however, over the last few years, growth has slowed, primarily because the denomination is aging.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

COMMENTARY: Muslim Suicide Bombings Fail to Sway U.S.; Serve as Stigma for Islam

Dozens of innocent people were killed -- and hundreds of others injured -- this week in Pakistan, after two suicide bombers detonated their explosive vests at Pakistan's most popular Sufi shrine.

Although Islam extremists were behind the slaughter at the shrine, many Pakistanis believe the root cause of the violence is America's war in neighboring Afghanistan, its missile strikes in Pakistan's tribal regions, and its alliance with Islamabad.

If Islam extremists think the suicide bombings will have an impact in intimidating America to leave Afghanistan, they are wrong.

Suicide bombings -- and other barbarous acts by extremist Muslims -- only reinforce America's determination to continue to fight in Afghanistan until it is certain that Afghanistan becomes a free and democratic country.

On the contrary, Islamic barbaric acts only have a negative impact -- rather than a positive one -- on Muslims, because these acts portray a hateful and savage image of Islam.

New Report of Minority Rights Group Shows Religious Intolerance Growing Worldwide

The London-based Minority Rights Group International -- in its 2010 report -- calls religious tolerance the "new racism" and says its impact is felt on religious minorities across the globe, according to the VOA News website.

It says discrimination against Muslims is on the rise in the United States and Western Europe, and cites increasing physical violence against religious minorities in Iraq and Pakistan.

In Asia and Africa, the report says religious affiliation is overtaking race and ethnicity as a key factor driving discrimination and violence against minorities.

The report -- issued on July 1, 2010 -- also notes an increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents against Jewish communities in Europe.

Opponents Protest Mosque Proposal in Tenn.; Some See It as Training Center for Terrorists

Opponents to the construction of an Islamic mosque in the central Tennessee town of Murfreesboro plan a protest march this month, the USA Today website reports today (July 3, 2010).

"The people have spoken clearly that they don't want this mosque proposal that is before them," march organizer Kevin Fisher said yesterday. The march down Murfreesboro's Main Street to the County Courthouse is planned for July 14.

The Rutherford County Regional Planning Commission approved plans for the Islamic center on May 24, 2010.

Fisher contends that planning officials failed to properly notify the public about the agenda issue well in advance and "in its zeal to rush this proposal through the process" made numerous mistakes.

Some opponents have said that Islam is a political movement -- not a religion -- and that the mosque could be used as a training center for terrorists.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Fifty Killed in Pakistani Suicide Bombings; 200 Injured in Two Blasts at Holy Shrine

At least 50 people were killed today (July 2, 2010) in Islamabad, Pakistan, after a pair of suicide bombers detonated their explosive vests at one of that nation's holiest shrines, the CNN website reports.

More than 200 people were injured in the blasts outside the Data Darbar -- a famous Sufi shrine complex.

One bomb detonated in the shrine's courtyard; the other, in the shrine's lower level, according to Chaudhry Shafiq Ahmed, Lahore's senior police superintendent.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan expressed alarm over the attacks and called on both the government and Muslim clerics to stand up to extremism.

Egyptian "Veil Martyr" Honored With Plaque; Was Stabbed to Death in German Court Last Year

The Europe News website reports today (July 2, 2010) that a plaque commemorating a pregnant head-scarved Egyptian woman, whose murder in a German court shocked the Muslim world, was unveiled yesterday in Dresden, in eastern Germany.

The memorial should serve not only to commemorate the 31-year-old Marwa El-Sherbini -- dubbed the "veil martyr" -- but also should serve as a warning against racism, said Juergen Martens, justice minister of the state of Saxony.

During a trial in July 2009, Alex Wiens, 28, plunged a seven-inch kitchen knife at least 16 times into Sherbini, who was three-months pregnant at the time.

Sherbini's husband, Egyptian geneticist Elwy Okaz, rushed to her aid, but was also stabbed repeatedly, and then shot in the leg by a police officer who was unsure who was the attacker.

Priest Abuse Victims in Italy Plan Sept. Rally; Many from Other Countries to Join Protest

The Life in Italy website reports today (July 2, 2010) that Italian victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests are preparing for the country's first-ever protest rally in September 2010.

Organizers said hundreds of persons who claim they were abused by priests have already agreed to take part in the rally in the northern Italian city of Verona on September 25. Victims' associations from several other nations -- including the United States -- have said they will send representatives to the event.

The Catholic Church has been rocked this year by a multitude of sex abuse scandals, and has had to fend off allegations that the Vatican covered up a number of cases.

Pedophile scandals have hit the Catholic Church in the United States, Australia, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Germany, and Italy.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Tveit: WCC Has No Stand on Same-Sex Marriage, Female Bishops; All WCC Members Must Agree

Head of the World Council of Churches (WCC) pastor Olav Fykse Tveit said today (July 1, 2010) that WCC does not have a joint position on blessing same-sex marriages and female bishops.

"The World Council of Churches does not have its own position on the questions. Various churches have different positions," Tveit said at a Moscow press conference, according to the Interfax-Religion website.

Tveit added, "The WCC does not have any stand on a question until all churches (that is, church members of WCC) reach consensus on it."

The WCC consists of more than 350 Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican, and other churches in more than 110 countries where 560 million Christians live.

Methodists Vote to Boycott Israeli Products; Goal Is to End Illegal Israeli Occupation

The Ekklesia (British) website reports today (July 1, 2010) that the Methodist Church voted yesterday to boycott all products from Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories and to encourage Methodists across Britain to do the same.

The decision is a response to a call from a group of Palestinian Christians, a growing number of Jewish organizations -- both inside Israel and worldwide -- and the World Council of Churches.

A majority of governments around the world consider the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories as illegitimate under international law.

Christine Elliott, the Methodists' Secretary for External Relationships, said, "This decision has not been taken lightly, but was made after months of research, careful consideration, and finally, today's debate at the Conference. The goal of the boycott is to put an end to the existing injustice. It reflects the challenge that settlements present a lasting peace in the region."