Thursday, September 30, 2010

Number of Marriages Last Year at Record Low; May Be Due to Recession, Rise in Cohabitation

With high uncertainty in terms of longevity of careers and pay, fewer people got married last year than any point in the last century, the Everyday Christian website reports today (September 30, 2010). The findings are from a broad range of U.S. Census Bureau data released this week.

The number of Americans who are married has been steadily declining for decades, as divorce and cohabitation rates have risen.

Today, only 52 percent of adults over 18 years old reported they were married -- down from 57 percent in 2000.

Also, among adults between 25 and 34 years old, 46.3 percent reported they had never been wed -- the highest recorded number ever for that age range.

Serb Patriarch Irinej to Be Enthroned October 3; Ceremony to Be at the Pec Patriarchate in Kosmet

Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej will be enthroned in the Pec Patriarchate on Sunday, October 3, 2010, and the liturgy will begin at 10 a.m.

The Patriarch said he was praying to God for problems in Kosovo-Metohija to be resolved in the fairest possible manner, which is to honor the centuries-long presence of Serbs in the Province.

He told the daily Blic that the enthronement of patriarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the Pec Patriarchate in Kosmet was a very significant event for the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Serbian people.

Patriarch Irinej said the most important thing is that -- with this ceremony -- we continue the tradition of enthronement of patriarchs and the role of the Pec Patriarchate for our church. He added the Pec Patriarchate is and will remain our spiritual administrative center.

The Patriarch emphasized that his only wish was that everything should take place peacefully, without any problems or incidents.

Kosovo, which is primarily comprised of Muslims, seceded as a province in Serbia in 2008, and declared itself an independent nation.

Opponents of Women Bishops Form Society in UK; "To Protect and Preserve Anglican Tradition"

Anglo-Catholics have established a new society as the Church of England moves closer to consecration of women bishops in the United Kingdom (UK), the Christian Post website reports today (September 30, 2010).

The Mission Society of St. Wilfrid and St. Hilda was launched this week by nine Anglo-Catholic bishops, as draft legislation on women in the episcopate was sent out for consideration to dioceses this week.

The new society was founded as an alternative to leaving the Church of England and joining the Catholic Church under the auspices of an Ordinariate offered by Pope Benedict.

The bishops said they were rallying "to protect and preserve Anglican tradition" as they spoke of the "unanimous condemnation" among Anglo-Catholics of the draft legislation of women bishops.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Israeli Warships Intercept Aid Ship to Gaza Strip; Drag Aid Ship in Mid-Ocean to Israeli Seaport

Israeli naval warships intercepted an aid ship in international waters yesterday (September 28, 2010) that was carrying Jewish activists trying to get assistance through to the blockaded Gaza Strip.

The boat "Irene" -- carrying the British flag -- was charted by Jewish NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) from Europe, acting in solidarity with Palestinians, according to the Ekklesia website.

The shipment organizers said they were bringing gifts to Gaza children -- including toys and musical instruments -- as well as fishing nets and medical goods.

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) dragged "Irene" to the Israeli seaport of Ashdod, and those on board said they were treated "aggressively."

Under intense international humanitarian pressure, the Israeli government has eased the blockade of Gaza, but has refused to remove it or to allow non-land deliveries of a highly restricted list of goods.

COMMENTARY: Turkey Must End Its Control of Northern Cyprus for Its Entry into EU

For the first time since Turkey invaded the island of Cyprus in 1974, it was revealed by a former Turkish general this week that Turks secretly and intentionally burned down at least one mosque on the island at that time, in order to encourage Turks to be more aggressive in fighting Greeks.

Retired Turkish General Sabri Yirmibesoglu -- speaking in an interview about military strategy on Turkey's Haberturk TV channel -- admitted that Turks burned (at least) a mosque to increase animosity toward Greeks in Cyprus. The retired general added that for Turkey it was "a rule of war to engage in acts of sabotage made to look as if they were carried out by the enemy."

I find this military tactic to be barbaric, sacrilegious, and disgusting. I could never picture Greeks intentionally burning down a Greek Orthodox Church, so that Greeks would think that Turks did it, and thus would become more aggressive in fighting Turks. Moreover, burning down a mosque conveys sinful disrespect for Islam.

The war in Cyprus in 1974 was a result of the government of Greece -- at that time a junta dictatorship -- sending additional troops to the island. Archbishop Makarios, President of Cyprus in 1974, had asked Greece for Greek troops, because he believed they would help to protect the island from Turkish violence.

However, the Greek junta had secretly ordered the leaders of these troops to overthrow the Cypriot government itself, so that Cyprus -- an independent nation -- could become a part of Greece. The attempted rebellion failed to accomplish its mission, and Turkey took advantage of this situation by sending thousands of its troops to the island.

Turkey bombed parts of Cyprus and managed to take control of the northern third of the island. Turkey has continued to control this area of Cyprus to the present time -- more than 35 years since its illegal seizure.

At the time of Turkey's invasion of Cyprus, the United States "looked the other way," because of Turkey's strategic geographical proximity with respect to Russia. In 1974, the Cold War between the United States and Russia was at its peak, and the U.S. felt it needed Turkey as an ally much more than it needed Greece, in the event of a major war between the two superpowers.

Although Turkey continues to illegally control the northern third of Cyprus, there are indications that it may soon relinquish this control. The fact is that Turkey wants to join the European Union (EU), but the EU has said it will not approve Turkey's membership until Turkey ends its illegal control of Northern Cyprus. Greek and Turkish leaders in Cyprus have been conducting talks in recent months designed to establish an agreeable exit plan for Turkey.

Indeed, it would behoove Turkey to relinquish its control of Northern Cyprus and become a member of the European Union -- and the sooner the better -- for its own prosperity, and for a more harmonious interrelationship of the world community.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ontario Court Strikes Down Prostitution Laws; Rules Criminal Code Provisions Unconstitutional

The CBC (Canadian) website reports today (September 28, 2010) that an Ontario court has thrown out key provisions of Canada's anti-prostitution laws in response to a constitutional challenge by a Toronto dominatrix and two prostitutes in 2009.

Ontario's Superior Court of Justice ruled today the Criminal Code provisions relating to prostitution contribute to the danger faced by sex-trade workers.

In her ruling, Justice Susan Himel said it now falls to Parliament to "fashion corrective action."

Himel wrote, "It is my view these unconstitutional provisions should be of no force and effect, particularly given the seriousness of the charter violations."

Obama Calls Himself a "Christian by Choice;" "Precepts of Jesus" Helped to Sway His Decision

U.S. President Barack Obama -- in a rare discussion about his religious beliefs -- today (September 28, 2010) described himself as a "Christian by choice" who arrived at his faith in adulthood because "the precepts of Jesus Christ" helped him envision the kind of life he wanted to lead.

According to the Huffington Post website, Obama talked about his beliefs when he was asked, "Why are you a Christian?" The question was posed by a woman at a backyard conversation in Albuquerque, New Mexico -- part of a series of meetings Obama is holding to talk informally with Americans.

Obama said, "I came to my Christian faith later in life, and it was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I want to lead -- being my brothers' and sisters' keeper, treating others as they would treat me."

Obama is the son of a Muslim father from Kenya. His mother was from Kansas. As a boy, he lived for several years in predominantly Muslim Indonesia with his mother and Indonesian stepfather.

Americans Do Poorly on New Survey on Religion; Atheists, Agnostics, Jews Outperform Christians

The Yahoo News website reports today (September 28, 2010) that a new survey of Americans' knowledge of religion found that atheists, agnostics, Jews, and Mormons outperformed Protestants and Roman Catholics in answering questions about major religions.

Forty-five percent of Roman Catholics who participated in the study did not know that -- according to church teaching -- the bread and wine used in Holy Communion is not just a symbol, but becomes the body and blood of Christ.

More than half of Protestants could not identify Martin Luther as the person who inspired the Protestant Reformation. Also, about 40 percent of Jews did not know that Maimonides -- one of the greatest rabbis and intellectuals in history -- was Jewish.

The survey -- released today (September 28) by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life -- aimed to test a broad range of religious knowledge, including understanding the Bible, core teachings of different faiths, and major figures in religious history.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Texas School Board Reduces Islam in Textbooks; Says Social Studies Texts Have Been Pro-Islamic

The Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (September 27, 2010) that the Texas State School Board passed a resolution on September 24, asking textbook publishers to limit references to Islam.

"Diverse reviewers have repeatedly documented gross pro-Islamic, anti-Christian distortions in social studies texts," read a preliminary draft of the resolution.

Board members said they want all religions to be covered equally and promised to reject submissions from publishers if their textbook favors one religion.

Critics say the board's resolution discriminates against Islam.

General Admits Turkey Burned Mosque in Cyprus; Did It to Increase Anger of Turks against Greeks

Retired Turkish General Sabri Yirmibesoglu said Turkish authorities intentionally burned a mosque in Cyprus when Turkey invaded the island in 1974, the Greek News website reports today (September 27, 2010).

Speaking about military strategy during a Haberturk interview, the general said Turks burned (at least) a mosque to increase animosity toward Greeks in Cyprus.

Turkey invaded the island of Cyprus in 1974, and to this day occupies 36 percent of its land.

Yirmibesoglu, who was in charge of civil resistance during the Cyprus community conflict, said it was "a rule of war to engage in acts of sabotage made to look as if they were carried out by the enemy."

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Christians Ready to Pray for Peace of Jerusalem; Largest Israel-Focused Prayer Event in History

An estimated 300 million Christians from more than 175 nations are expected to unite in prayer on Sunday, October 3, 2010, to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, according to today's Christian Broadcast Network website.

"It is a new day in the Christian Church," said Rev. Robert Stearns, founder and executive director of the United States-based Eagles' Wings ministry, which sponsors the annual Day of Prayer for Peace of Jerusalem.

Organizers say it has become the "largest Israel-focused prayer event in history" since it began in 2002 drawing Israeli political and religious leaders, as well as Christians from around the world.

According to the Day of Prayer website, the day is intended to "raise global awareness and intercession for God's purposes in Israel."

COMMENTARY: Catholic and Orthodox Churches Should Unite Using Guidelines of Commission

It was the year 1054 in which Christianity became divided -- and it has remained divided to the present day -- as a result of the Great Schism. Christianity at that time was split into two major branches -- Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.

Although this split of Christianity has lasted nearly a thousand years, there were signs of optimism this past week that the Catholic and Orthodox Churches might soon unite, following several days of meetings in Vienna, Austria of the Joint Theological Commission for Dialogue Between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

The major topic discussed on the first day of the meetings by the members of the Commission dealt with the primacy of the Bishop of Rome (the Pope)in the first millenium. The Commission members have agreed that for Christian unity to occur, both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches must recognize the Roman Pope as their titular head, while, at the same time, retaining their individual church structures, liturgy, and customs that developed since the Great Schism. Indeed, this is good news for the establishment of Christian unity.

When I think about it, I find the implementation of this agreement to be very similar to the rules governing the Greek Catholic Church, as it currently exists in several Eastern European nations. The Greek Catholic Church permits its worshipers -- often referred to as Catholics of the Eastern Rite -- to attend church services that are contingent on the Eastern Orthodox faith, even though these worshipers come under the jurisdiction of the Pope in Rome. In fact, priests of the Greek Catholic Church are allowed to be married, but priests of the Roman Catholic Church must remain celibate.

In the final analysis, the Commission for Dialogue has established a reasonable and solid foundation -- one that seems to be fair for both Catholic and Orthodox Churches -- but it will undoubtedly take some time for the Pope, the Patriarch of Constantinople, the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, and other ecclesiastical hierarchs to scrutinize it and refine it before it will be implemented.

For the first time in nearly 1,000 years, almost miraculously, Catholic and Orthodox Christians can see the light at the end of the tunnel -- the light of Christ that will indeed unite them into one Christian Church.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Progress Is Made On Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue; Participants Say "Sister Churches" Could Unite

The Star website reports today (September 25, 2010) that Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theologians reported promising progress in their current dialogue on overcoming the Great Schism of 1054 -- which split Christianity into the two largest Christian denominations -- and bring the two denominations back to full communion.

Theologians meeting in Vienna, Austria this week agreed the two could eventually become "sister churches" that recognize the Roman pope as their titular head but retain many church structures, liturgy, and customs that developed over the past millenium.

"There are no clouds of mistrust between our two churches," Orthodox Metropolitan John Zizoulas of Pergamon told a news conference. "If we continue like that, God will find a way to overcome all the difficulties that remain."

Archbishop Kurt Koch -- the top Vatican official for Christian unity -- said the joint dialogue must continue "intensively" so that "we see each other fully as sister churches."

Archbishop of Canterbury Endorses Gay Bishops; He Sees "No Problem" If Bishops Remain Celibate

The Archbishop of Canterbury has given his strongest endorsement of gay bishops yet in an interview with The Times (British) Magazine today (September 25, 2010).

Dr. Rowan Williams spoke of his personal support for bishops who are gay, but said they must remain celibate, according to the Christian Today website.

"There is no problem about a gay person who's a bishop. It's about the fact that there are traditionally, historically, standards that the clergy are expected to observe," he said.

When asked what was wrong with a gay bishop having a partner, the Archbishop said the scriptural and traditional approach "doesn't give much ground for being positive about it."

In spite of disagreements over homosexuality -- which have threatened to tear the worldwide Anglican Communion apart -- the Archbishop insisted that traditional and liberal Anglicans should stick together. Thousands of traditional Anglicans have converted to Roman Catholicism recently -- Pope Benedict XVI eased the process for them to convert a year ago -- because they opposed the Anglican Church's acceptance of gay clergy and other liberal policies.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Bulgarian Church Fights for Religion in Schools; Even Muslim Head Backs Teaching Christianity

The Ecumenical News International website reports today (September 24, 2010) that the head of Bulgaria's Muslim community has announced his backing for a campaign by the country's Orthodox Church to make religious education compulsory in public schools.

The church held a mass march in Bulgaria's capital of Sofia today in support of its aim, as protesters shouted against "60 years of atheism," introduced during the communist era.

The office of the Chief Mufti, who is spiritual leader of Bulgaria's Muslims -- the second largest religious group in the country -- presented a statement supporting the church's effort that was reported in the Bulgarian daily newspaper Klassa.

The statement said, "The mufti calls on Bulgarian citizens professing the religion of Islam to support the expression of solidarity with the campaign by Christians."

Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue Being Held in Vienna; Commission Analyzes Primacy of Bishop of Rome

The 12th session of the Joint Theological Commission for Dialogue Between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches began its work on September 22, 2010 in Vienna, Austria, according to the Moscow Patriarchate website.

The commission is co-chaired by Metropolitan John of Pergamon, Patriarchate of Constantinople, and Archbishop Kurt Koch, president of Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

The first day was mainly devoted to the methods of further work on the theme "The Primacy of the Bishop of Rome in the First Millenium." Participants exchanged views on the status to be given to the document on this theme.

The 12th session of the commission will continue its dialogue until September 26.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Orthodox Center in Chambesy, Switz. May Close; Greece Ends Financing It Due to Poor Economy

The Doors of Orthodoxy (Bulgarian) website reports today (September 23, 2010) that the economic crisis in Greece has caused the Greek government to stop financing the Orthodox Center of the Constantinople Patriarchate in Chambesy, Switzerland.

Consequently, the patriarchal center is on the verge of closing down. It formally continues its work, but in reality, it no longer functions as it previously did, and its staff has been reduced.

The Chambesy Center has a theological institute and its faculties in Lausanne and Geneva prepared specialists in Orthodox theology. Prominent church figures were among its graduates.

The Chambesy Center included three churches, a chapel, and five Orthodox parishes: Georgian, Arabic, Greek, Romanian, and French-speaking.

Human Rights Group Seeks UN Inquiry on Burma; Accuses Burma of Torture, Rape, Killings, Etc.

The Ekklesia website reports today (September 23, 2010) that a human rights Non Governmental Organization (NGO) says international support is growing for the establishment of a United Nations Commission of Inquiry to investigate crimes against humanity in Burma.

A total of ten governments -- the United States, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Australia, Hungary, France, Canada, the Netherlands, and New Zealand -- are now calling for an inquiry.

The NGO has been campaigning for the establishment of a UN Commission of Inquiry for several years.

Benedict Rogers, Christian Solidarity Worldwide's East Asia Team Leader, said: "A full international legal investigation into the regime's widespread use of rape as a weapon of war, forcible conscription of child soldiers, use of forced labor, torture, destruction of villages, and killings is much needed and long overdue."

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Senior Islamic Scholar Reported to Prosecutor; Said Egyptian Churches Have Arms Arsenal

The Orthodox Church Info blog reports today (September 22, 2010) that Egyptian lawyer Nagub Gabriel has filed a report at the General Prosecutor's office against Mohamed Salim al-Awwa, a renowned Islamic scholar who alleges in an interview with al-Jazeera's Ahmed Mansour that Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Churches have large quantities of arms and are impenetrable to Egyptian security.

Gabriel demanded that legal measures be taken against al-Awwa and Mansour, saying the remarks are abusive to the Coptic community as a whole, and an attempt to propagate false claims that harm the position of Egypt's Christian population.

"My God, forgive those who abuse the church," said Pope Shenouda III, the head of Egypt's Orthodox Church, commenting on the remarks during his monthly sermon at the Coptic Orthodox cathedral in Alexandria.

The Pope added, "Those are baseless allegations. The state keeps a close watch on our foreign relations, and I seek strength from God alone."

Mass. Church Holds "Preach at the Beach" Mass; Service Interrupted When Hunter Shoots a Goose

The rector of a Hingham, Massachusetts church says parishioners trying to hold a post-Mass picnic at the town's beach were interrupted by a Canadian goose being shot in front of them, the Boston Herald website reports today (September 22, 2010).

The Rev. Timothy Schenk of St. John the Evangelist Church said that the church was holding its "preach at the beach" Mass last week when parishioners saw two hunters open fire on a small flock of geese. He said one goose was shot and fell into the water, but did not die immediately.

Schenk said parents and children at the picnic were upset about the shooting. He added that the Mass was designed for children, and to remind them that God isn't just found at the pulpit and in the pews.

A Hingham regulation prohibits discharging firearms on town property. No charges have been filed.

COMMENTARY: Time for Majority Rule to Return to America

Because a former Jewish city employee felt uncomfortable that the Lord's Prayer was recited by the Point Pleasant Beach (New Jersey) City Council before beginning its meetings, a lawsuit was filed on her behalf recently by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) against the city council.

The ACLU is basing its lawsuit on the premise that reciting the Lord's Prayer unconstitutionally shows preference to a particular religion; namely, Christianity.

The Jewish woman who initiated the lawsuit said, "No member of the community should feel that their beliefs exclude them from public life."

The fact is that this woman's beliefs did not exclude her from public life, since she was allowed to attend all council meetings. If she felt uncomfortable because she heard the Lord's Prayer before a council meeting, then she has a personal problem -- such as a fear of Christianity -- that she should attempt to resolve, perhaps with therapy.

It is imperative that Americans -- regardless of their religious background -- keep in mind that America is a predominantly Christian nation. Approximately 77 percent of Americans identify themselves as Christians today, while only 19 percent consider themselves as being Jewish.

America's public schools are closed on Christmas in order to observe the Birth of Christ, and on Good Friday to observe Christ's Crucifixion. Very few of American public schools are closed on Jewish Holy Days because -- compared to American Christians -- Jews are a minority in the United States.

Consequently, we must focus on the rights of the majority in America, rather than the minority. In the city council case in New Jersey, for example, one Jewish woman is uncomfortable in hearing the Lord's Prayer being recited. What about the multitude of people who want to hear the Lord's Prayer? Do we just deny them their rights, in order to please one discontented person? Doing so would indeed make a mockery of the American democratic process.

This is just one example in which the minority in America is attempting to derail the rights of the majority. It is a problem that has pervaded America for at least the past two decades. Unfortunately, it has been rooted in America's judicial system in which many ultra-liberal and minority-oriented judges have made a plethora of destructive rulings that are in total contrast to America's democratic tradition.

This minority-favored trend must end -- and fast -- if America wants to remain the great nation that it was destined to be. If a Jewish woman is uncomfortable when she hears the Lord's Prayer being recited before a public meeting in the United States, she can move to Israel where she can feel much more comfortable hearing Judaic prayers. No one is forcing her to remain in the United States. Unequivocally, however, as long as she lives in the United States, she should expect to live in a society that encompasses a Christian tradition.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

ACLU Sues NJ City Council Over Lord's Prayer; Former Jewish City Employee Felt Uncomfortable

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Jersey filed a lawsuit today (September 21, 2010) against the Point Pleasant Beach City Council for reciting the Lord's Prayer before its meetings begin, according to the Christian Broadcast Network website.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of a former Jewish city employee who said she felt uncomfortable hearing the Christian prayer. The suit says the prayer unconstitutionally shows preference to a particular religion.

"People of all faiths and beliefs should feel welcome at public meetings," Sharon Cadalzo said. "It's a matter of fairness. No member of the community should feel that their beliefs exclude them from public life."

The city council has opened its meetings with the Lord's Prayer since the mid-1990s.

Muslims in Moscow May Be Praying in Churches; Moscow Has One Million Muslims, Four Mosques

The Asia News website reports today (September 21, 2010) that Muslims in Moscow may be forced to pray in Russian Orthodox Churches because of a lack of mosques.

The warning comes from Ildar Ayautdinov, the imam of the main mosque in the Russian capital.

The Orthodox Church says it is ready to accept the Muslim faithful.

"Moscow is the only place in the world where over one million Muslims are served in only four mosques. We lack premises for praying. Muslims are allowed to conduct their religious ceremonies in Orthodox Churches, but we would rather avoid this 'extreme measure'" Ayautdinov said.

MA School Apologizes for Field Trip Incident; Students Participated in Midday Muslim Prayers

The Fox News website reports today (September 21, 2010) that an attorney has been hired by a parent who is considering filing a lawsuit against a Massachusetts school district, which allowed schoolchildren to participate in midday Muslim prayers during a field trip to a Boston-area mosque.

The incident occurred in May when a social studies class from Wellesley (Massachusetts) Middle School toured the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center -- one of the largest mosques in the Northeast.

Parents were told their children would be learning about the architecture of the mosque and observe prayer service. But the students were given a lecture on the Prophet Muhammad, and several boys participated in a midday prayer service. None of the teachers made an effort to stop the boys from praying.

The field trip was videotaped by a parent whose child was on the trip. At one point, the video shows a spokeswoman for the mosque telling students, "You have to believe in Allah, and Allah is the one God, the only one worthy of worship, all forgiving, all merciful."

On September 16, 2010 -- four months after the incident -- the Wellesley School District sent a letter to parents apologizing for what happened.

Attorney Rob Meltzer represents the unidentified parent who is considering filing a lawsuit against the school district. He said he was surprised that the students were allowed to pray at the mosque.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Archaeologists Uncover 1500 Year-Old Synagogue; Samaritan Synagogue Located in Northern Israel

Israeli archaeologists have uncovered the ruins of a 1500 year-old synagogue near the northern Israeli city of Beit Shean, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced today (September 20, 2010).

The synagogue consists of a 5-meter by 8-meter rectangular wall facing Mount Gerizim, which is sacred to the Samaritans, according to the Earth Times website.

On the floor, the archaeologists found a mosaic decorated with a geometric pattern, in the center of which was a Greek inscription whose last line was revealed to proclaim "This is the Temple."

According to Leah Di Segni, of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, who translated the inscription, the plan of the building -- based on the orientation and the content of the inscription -- fit a Samaritan synagogue.

Indonesian Church Holds Service with Blockade; Christians Cross Police Barrier to Enter Church

The Persecution website reports that members of an Indonesian church held Sunday service yesterday (September 19, 2010) inside their boarded-up building, despite police efforts to stop them.

About 100 members of the Batak Christian Protestant Church in Jakarta -- the capital of Indonesia -- gathered to worship while hundreds of police and security guards stood outside.

Church members argued that they have the right to freedom of worship, like other citizens in Indonesia -- the world's most populous Muslim country.

"We just want to carry out our obligations as Christians, but authorities are treating us like terrorists," said Advent Tambunan, a church member. He added, "There is no justice for us (Christians) in this country."

Russia's Orthodox Priests May Become Chaplains; Patriarch Kirill Believes Spiritual Support Is Vital

The RIA Novosti (Russian) website reports today (September 20, 2010) that Russia's Orthodox Church priests will soon appear in the Russian army and navy to serve as military chaplains.

"By decision of the Russian president, the institution of military clergy is beginning to develop in Russia," Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia said yesterday.

He added, "Servicemen need spiritual support, This is because risks linked with military service are so great that they cannot be compensated by any material benefits."

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, two-thirds of the country's servicemen consider themselves religious. Some 83 percent of them are Orthodox Christians, about 8 percent are Muslims, and 9 percent represent other confessions.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Romanian Bishop Rips France's Roma Expulsions; Says Roma Just Return to France, Other Nations

A Catholic bishop in Romania has deplored the mass expulsion of Roma from France, and has urged European governments to do more to integrate the continent's Gypsy minorities, the Huffington Post website reports today (September 19,2010).

"There are substantial Roma communities in all European countries, not just Romania and Bulgaria," said Virgil Bercea, the Greek Catholic bishop of Oradea, whose church combines the Eastern Orthodox Rite with loyalty to Rome.

He added, "When the French drive them out, all they do is return to visit their families and then travel somewhere else, whether back to France, or to Italy, Spain, or Germany."

At least 1,000 Roma -- mostly from Romania and Bulgaria -- have been expelled from unauthorized camps in France since early August, 2010. Some 400,000 Gypsies are now citizens of France.

Vatican Says Pope's UK Visit a "Great Success;" Challenged Whole Country to Sit Up and Think

The Vatican declared today (September 19, 2010) that Pope Benedict XVI's four-day visit to the United Kingdom (UK) was a "great success," saying the pontiff was able to reach out to a nation wary of his message and angry at his church's sex-abuse scandal, according to the Christian Broadcast Network website.

Today -- on his final day in Britain -- Benedict praised British heroics against the Nazis to mark the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said the important thing was not so much the turnout -- crowds were much smaller than when Pope John Paul II visited Britain in 1982 -- but that Benedict's warning about the dangers of increasingly secularized society had been received "with profound interest" from Britons.

Prime Minister David Cameron said the Pope had "challenged the whole country to sit up and think, and that can only be a good thing."

ADL Demands Apology for Time Magazine Cover; Implies Jews Care about Money, Not Peace

The Newsmax website reports today (September 19, 2010) that the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has called on Time magazine to apologize for a cover story the ADL asserts was predicated on the "isidious subtext" of Jews being obsessed with money.

The cover of Time's September 13 issue features a Star of David with these words inside it: "Why Israel Doesn't Care About Peace."

ADL National Director Abraham Foxman said, "The Jewish community and others are outraged at the implication that Israelis care more about money than a future of peace and security."

In a letter to Managing Editor Richard Stengel, the ADL called on the magazine's editors to issue an apology to readers both for the timing of the article and its evocation of anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews and money. (The timing refers to the Jewish Holidays currently being observed, as well as the current peace talks being held between Israel and the Palestinians.)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

COMMENTARY: "Aggressive Secularism" Pervades the UK and the Entire Western World

While visiting the United Kingdom this week, Pope Benedict XVI compared modern UK atheism with the rise of Nazi Germany and warned the British people of the "aggressive secularism" that is occurring.

The fact is that secularism has pervaded the UK -- as well as the U.S. and the entire Western world -- for the past 50 years. It was in the 1960s when many Americans and Western Europeans began this "trend;" that is, putting themselves before God -- a trend that unfortunately has continued to the present day.

This trend was probably caused by the post World War II generation of young people being extremely spoiled by their parents, since their parents tended to give them anything they wanted. These young people felt that everything revolved around themselves.

We can recall the plethora of college riots in the 1960s when college students occupied administration buildings and were allowed to remain in them until their demands were met.

We may also recall the multitude of protests that occurred in the 1960s and early 1970s against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. These protests resulted in the U.S. pulling out of Vietnam -- in effect, losing the Vietnam War -- and ending the draft shortly thereafter. Again, the post World War II generation's demands were met -- even though it meant that the U.S. would lose the first war in its history.

These are just a few examples of how American and Western European trends have changed during the past 50 years. Young people became used to getting anything they wanted. This "me generation" has continued to the present day, as many people now tend to focus on themselves and materialism rather than God. Selfish secularism, then, has replaced spirituality and the worship of God, for the most part, in Christian society.

Just how long this selfish trend will continue remains to be seen. Hopefully, we will live to see the day when this individual selfishness is transcended with a genuine spiritual love of God.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Pope in UK Compares Atheism with Nazi Germany; Warns Against "Aggressive Secularism" in the UK

Pope Benedict XVI -- in his current visit to the United Kingdom -- compared modern UK atheism with the rise of Nazi Germany, and warned against "aggressive secularism," according to the Newsmax website.

In his opening address to the British Queen in Edinburgh yesterday (September 16, 2010), the Pope spoke of "a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society."

"Even in our own lifetimes, we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many -- especially the Jews -- who were thought unfit to live," he said.

The Pontiff added, "As we reflect on the sobering lessons of atheist extremism of the 20th century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion, and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society, and thus a reductive vision of a person and his destiny."

Jews in Israel and Worldwide Observe Yom Kippur; Holiest Day of Jewish Calendar Began at Sundown

The Worldwide Religious News website reports that Israel came to a virtual standstill at sundown today (Friday, September 17, 2010), as Jews began observing the start of the holiest day of the Jewish calendar -- the 25 hours of fasting and contemplation known as Yom Kippur.

Although most Israelis are not religious, Israel all but shuts down for the duration of the fast day. There are no TV or radio broadcasts, businesses are shuttered, and the streets are devoid of cars.

Most Israeli Jews fast on Yom Kippur -- also known as the Day of Atonement -- and a typical fast may include an egg for breakfast, 10 cups of water during the day, and lots of carbohydrates.

The fast ends and normal life resumes at sundown on Saturday (September 18) with a blast of the shofar -- a traditional ram's horn -- in synagogues across the country.

Six Men Arrested on Terrorist Charges in London; Worked as Street Cleaners, Planned to Kill Pope

The Telegraph (British) website reports that British police today (September 17, 2010) arrested six men on terrorist charges over an alleged plan to assassinate Pope Benedict XVI.

Police had first arrested five suspected Islamist terrorists -- working as street cleaners -- in London, during raids at 5:45 a.m. at a rubbish depot, based on an intelligence tip received overnight. The men -- aged from 26 to 50 -- are said to be from several nationalities including a number of Algerian origin.

The sixth man, aged 29, was arrested at 1:45 p.m. at a house in London.

The Pope continued with his engagements, unaffected by the developments. The Pope is protected by British police and by members of the Swiss Guard. He often travels in the Popemobile -- a bullet-proof glass enclosure vehicle.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

EU Commissioner Apologizes for Insulting France; Compared France's Expulsions of Roma to WW II

French President Nicolas Sarkozy -- angered by remarks insulting to France by a European Union (EU) official -- said he has "taken note" of an apology from the European commissioner who compared France's current expulsions of Roma people to the Holocaust during World War II.

"This is a situation I thought Europe would not have to witness again since the Second World War," EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said on September 14, 2010 at a Brussels press conference, according to the Bloomberg website.

On September 15, Reding said that in "no way did I want to establish parallels between the Second World War and the actions of the French government today."

In July 2010 Sarkozy called for illegal Roma camps to be dismantled and their inhabitants expelled to Romania and Bulgaria. About 1,000 Roma have already been deported from France since Sarkozy's order.

Building 200 Churches in Moscow Begins Nov. 4; Additional Churches Needed to Ease Overcrowding

The first foundation of 200 fast-built Orthodox Churches that are to be constructed in Moscow within three to four years will take place on the Feast of the Kazan Mother of God, November 4, 2010, head of the Moscow Patriarchate Financial and Economic Administration Bishop Tikhon of Podolsk said today (September 16, 2010).

He said that Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia initiated this project, since Moscow has only one Orthodox Church for about every 3,000 worshipers, according to the Interfax-Religion website.

Bishop Tikhon said that engineering organizations would work out architecture of the churches in correspondence with surrounding buildings.

He emphasized that taxpayers' fees would not be used in constructing the 200 churches.

Pope Meets with Queen Elizabeth II in Scotland; Says Top Priority Is to Help Abuse Victims Heal

Pope Benedict XVI began a visit to Britain today (September 16, 2010) by acknowledging the Catholic Church had not acted decisively or quickly enough against priests who molested children. He said the church's top priority now was to help abuse victims heal, according to the Associated Press website.

Benedict's four-day state visit has been overshadowed by disgust over the abuse scandal and indifference in highly secular Britain, where Catholics are a minority at 10 percent, and endured centuries of bloody persecution until the early 1800s.

The pope's first meeting was with Queen Elizabeth II -- both head of state and head of Church of England -- at The Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The queen told Benedict that his visit reminded all Britons of their common Christian heritage, and said she hopes relations between the Anglican Church and the Catholic Church would be deepened as a result.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Buddhists Denied Permit for a Center in Calif.; U.S. Justice Dept. Files Discrimination Lawsuit

The Buddhist Channel website reports today (September 15,2010) that the U.S. Department of Justice has filed a religious discrimination lawsuit against the Southern California city of Walnut, claiming it unfairly denied a permit to a group seeking to build and run a Buddhist center.

The lawsuit -- filed this week in Los Angeles -- seeks a court order saying the city violated federal law and an injunction to prohibit Walnut officials from discriminating against the Chung Tai Zen Center and other religious organizations.

Federal officials say Walnut denied the center's application in January 2008.

They added that Walnut had not denied any other religious group a permit that had sought one since at least 1980.

Pope: Religion Is Losing Favor in Society; "There Is No Strong Attachment to Religion"

The Zenit website reports that Pope Benedict XVI believes that religion is losing favor in society, which is a threat to the basic foundations of marriage and respect for the person from conception to natural death.

The Pope made these feelings known on September 13, 2010 upon receiving the letters of credence of Walter Schmid, the new German ambassador to the Holy See.

In his address, the Pope lamented that "there is no strong attachment to religion" in society in general.

Pope Benedict also reflected on the concept of marriage, stating that it is "manifested as a lasting union of love between a man and a woman, which is also directed to the transmission of human life."

COMMENTARY: Muslims Living in France Should Obey Laws, Integrate into French Society

The French Senate this week passed a bill banning the burqa-style Islamic veil on public streets and other places. The measure -- supported by President Nicolas Sarkozy's conservative party -- was passed by France's lower house of parliament in July.

This new law in France is considered a symbolic defense of French values. Its passage can also be viewed as a safety measure, since some of these veils cover a woman's entire face -- except for her eyes -- thus increasing the chances of a vehicular accident for women who drive while wearing them.

The new law is designed to ensure gender equality, women's dignity, and security, as well as upholding France's secular values.

Many Muslims feel that the law will stigmatize the French Muslim population. With an estimated 5 million Muslims, France has the largest Muslim population in western Europe.

The fact is that 98 percent of France's population is Christian. As immigrants in France, Muslims need to realize that they must live by the values and laws of French society.

Muslim women who want to wear their veils are free to wear them by returning to predominantly Islamic nations, but as long as they reside in France, they must live according to French values, customs, and laws.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Russian Orthodox Prelate Rips New Anglicanism; Blasts Anglican Liberal Ideas, Female Episcopate

The Catholic Culture website reports today (September 14, 2010) that the Russian Orthodox prelate in charge of ecumenical relations minced no words while speaking in England on September 9, 2010, when he blasted developments in contemporary Anglicanism.

In the presence of Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk criticized "the unrestrained liberalization of Christian values that continues in many communities of the Anglican world," as well as the Church of England's moves towards a female episcopate.

He added, "It is impossible to pass silently by the liberalism and relativism which have become so characteristic of today's Anglican theology."

The Russian prelate warned that if the Anglican communion continues to embrace liberal ideas, Orthodox-Anglican dialogue may come to an end. He argued that the most important dividing line in the Christian world today separates those who accept the authority of Church traditions and those who do not.

French Senate Passes Ban on Full Muslim Veils; Bill Was Passed by Lower House in July, Now Law

The French Senate today (September 14, 2010) overwhelmingly passed a bill banning the burqa-style Islamic veil on public streets and other places -- a measure that is seen as a symbolic defense of French values, according to the Associated Press website.

The Senate voted 246 to 1 in favor of the bill in a final step toward making the ban a law. The measure -- introduced by President Nicolas Sarkozy's conservative party -- was passed by France's lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, on July 13, 2010.

Many Muslims believe that the law is one more blow to France's 2nd largest religion, and risks raising the level of Islamophobia in a country where mosques -- like synagogues -- are sporadic targets of hate.

On the other hand, the law's supporters say it will preserve France's values, including its secular foundation and a notion of fraternity that is contrary to those who hide their faces.

Catholics to Debate Priestly Celibacy Tonight; Will Focus on Eliminating Celibacy for RC Priests

The Ekklesia website reports that a major debate about the Catholic Church and enforced priestly celibacy will take place in Central London tonight (September 14, 2010), ahead of the Pope's visit to the United Kingdom.

The motion for the debate is that "Celibacy should no longer be a compulsory requirement for the Roman Catholic priesthood."

One speaker for the motion, Professor Tina Beattie -- a leading Catholic theologian, writer, and broadcaster from Roehampton University -- said, "When celibacy is imposed rather than freely chosen, the struggle to conform to what may seem like an almost impossible demand creates a clerical culture which is obsessed with sex."

The debate will take place at the Odeon West End Cinema, located in London's Leicester Square.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Texas Pastor: Point of Worship Is about Christ; Not about Impressing Crowds with Our Creativity

Mike Harland, LifeWay Worship Director and a Southern Baptist pastor, has told a group of pastors that the point during worship is not about better bands or advanced technology, according to the Christian Post website.

Rather, it's about revealing the person of Jesus Christ and giving Him the adoration that He deserves.

"We don't want to gather trying to impress crowds with our technology, our innovation, or creativity, but to passionately worship the God who saves," he said last week at a one-day conference on "Transformational Small Churches."

Harland, who is a pastor of music in Corrollton, Texas, stressed to pastors that "worship starts where the people are, not where you want them to be."

Indonesian Christians Beaten Going to Church; Muslim Extremists Believed to Be the Attackers

The Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (September 13, 2010) that Indonesia's president has ordered law enforcement authorities in the Islamic country to arrest the attackers who stabbed a Christian on his way to church and beat a female minister in the head with a wooden plank after she tried to help him.

Islamic hardliners are under suspicion, because of previous attacks.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been widely criticized for failing to crack down on Muslim Extremists. He called on police to investigate those responsible for yesterday's attacks.

"We've questioned nine witnesses and have already identified the perpetrators," said local detective, Capt. Ade Arie. The two Christians' injuries were not considered to be life-threatening.

Female Lutheran Bishop Consecrated in Finland; Says Both Church and Society Need Stronger Trust

The Ecumenical News International website reports today that Finland's first female Lutheran bishop has been consecrated at a service in Helsinki Cathedral at which she said that both church and society need to strengthen trust.

"People long for trust," Bishop Irja Askola said in a sermon at her September 12, 2010 consecration.

She added, "If we cannot get into good terms in order to be able to communicate with those with different opinions, backgrounds, or ways of life, we are on the way to destruction."

"Different opinions will not destroy us," she concluded.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Pope Sends Holiday Telegram to Rabbi of Rome; Hopes Jewish Festivities Bring God's Blessings

Pope Benedict XVI has sent a telegram to Riccardo DiSegni, chief rabbi of Rome, for the Jewish festivities of Rosh Hashanah 5771 (New Year), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles), all of which fall in the month of September, according to the Vatican Information Service (VIS) blog.

The Pope writes, "It is my pleasure to express the most cordial and sincere best wishes to you and the entire Jewish community of Rome, together with the hope that these festivities may bring copious blessings from the Eternal One and be a source of intimate joy."

He added, "May we feel a growing desire to promote justice and peace, of which the world today has such need."

The Pope concluded, "May God, in His goodness, protect the entire community and enable it to develop in shared friendship, both in Rome and in the world."

Halki Seminary Hosts Its First Event in 40 Years; Official: Turkey Is Striving to Reopen Seminary

The Orthodox Church Info blog reports today (September 12, 2010) that the seminary near Istanbul on the island of Halki -- closed by Turkey since 1971 -- is currently hosting its first public event in 40 years, thus raising hopes it may shortly be reopened by Turkey and once again educate priests for the Greek Orthodox community.

"Tracing Istanbul," an exhibition of works by Greek artists inspired by the city, has filled the school's abandoned classrooms with paintings, and brought life back to the corridors.

"This exhibition sends an invitation -- come and see the classrooms which need students and the blackboards which need teachers" -- said Anastasia Manou, one of the Greek organizers of the show, which is due to move to Athens in a month. The paintings show scenes of Istanbul -- including the Hagia Sophia -- the most important church of the Byzantine Empire.

The European Union (EU) -- which Turkey has been trying to join for several years -- has said that the closing of Halki's seminary undermines freedom of religion, and Turkey must expand its non-Muslim minorities' rights before it can be eligible for EU membership. Turkey's EU chief negotiator, Egemen Bagis, said, "The opening of the school (Halki Seminary) is something we are working on in a very determined manner."

Christians Celebrate Exaltation of the Holy Cross; St. Helen Found Christ's Cross on Sept. 14, 326

On September 14 each year, Christians around the world celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. This feast day originated from the miraculous discovery of the true cross of Christ on September 14,326 by St. Helen, the mother of Emperor Constantine, while she was on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

Actually, St. Helen discovered three crosses buried on Golgotha, where Jesus Christ was buried. The true cross was identified because it was found between the two others (those of the two thieves), because it bore the inscription (Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews), and because it was the source of numerous miracles.

Beginning with September 14, 347, there was an annual ceremony in the Basilica of the Holy Resurrection, which Constantine had ordered built in Jerusalem. At this annual observance, a relic considered to be the wood of the true cross would be venerated. The bishop "exalted" the cross; that is, he raised it solemnly before the people.

It is from this tradition of exalting the cross that this feast received its name -- the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, or literally, its elevation.

The Exaltation of the Cross, then, is a solemn commemoration of the cross and its meaning, as well as an affirmation of the victory of the cross.

Christians today continue to recognize the cross as the source of peace with God and the life and joy which flow from this reconciliation.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

U.S. Judge Stops "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Policy; Rules Policy Violates First, Fifth Amendments

The Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (September 11, 2010) that a California judge says the military's ban of openly gay service members is unconstitutional, and she will issue a court order to stop it.

U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips ruled September 9 that the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy violates a homosexual's First and Fifth Amendment rights.

A group known as The Log Cabin Republicans filed a lawsuit in 2004. The group said over 13,500 service members have been fired since 1994.

Phillips will write the order with input from the group within a week, and the federal government will have one week to respond.

COMMENTARY: German Natives Must End Beliefs That They Are Superior to Other People

It was more than 70 years ago -- on September 1, 1939 -- when Adolf Hitler ordered the German Nazi Army to invade Poland, thus beginning World War II.

Hitler believed that the German people comprised a master race. In other words, Hitler believed that Germans were more intelligent and stronger than other ethnic groups.

This type of thinking led Hitler to believe that Germany could conquer the world, but of course, he was wrong. In fact, Germany lost World War II in 1945, and Hitler was either killed or committed suicide toward the end of the war.

Despite Germany's defeat in World War II, some Germans today still believe that natives of Germany are superior to other ethnic groups. One such German is Thilo Sarrazin who recently published a book titled "Germany Does Away with Itself."

In this book, Sarrazin claims that Muslims have been undermining German society in recent years by failing to integrate, by having too many children, and by underachieving in German schools. In fact, he said Muslims were making Germany "more stupid."

Sarrazin also said that all Jews share a gene that makes them different from other people. As we know, Hitler was responsible for ordering the deaths of some six million Jews during World War II.

I must say that this kind of thinking makes Sarrazin a bigot. Moreover, the fact that he thinks Muslims and Jews are inferior to Germans means that Sarrazin can be described as a "first cousin" of Adolf Hitler.

It is time for Germans to put an end -- once and for all -- to this kind of "German superiority" beliefs. One Adolf Hitler is enough -- too much, in fact -- for human beings to have to tolerate during a lifetime.

I would think that because the Germans suffered so much during World War II -- mainly because of Hitler's fanaticism -- that they would not want to consider themselves a superior society.

In the final analysis, Germans must not consider themselves superior -- or inferior -- to other ethnic groups, because all human beings are equal in the eyes of God.

Catholic Church in Ukraine Appeals to President; Says Orthodox Church Acts to Prevent New Church

The Religious Information Service of Ukraine (RISU) website reports today (September 11, 2010) that the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has appealed to the president of Ukraine to stop interdenominational enmity by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow patriarchate.

The enmity relates to the Odesa eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church which -- in a statement to the press on September 1, 2010 -- called upon the authorities not to allow construction of a Greek Catholic Church in Odesa.

The Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church -- in meetings held from September 2 to 9 -- passed an address to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, in which they appealed to him to disallow the provocation of religious enmity in Ukraine, interdenominational intolerance, and limitation of citizens' constitutional rights upon signs of religious beliefs.

The Christian Church in Ukraine is divided into three major branches: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow patriarchate, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev patriarchate, and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which comes under the Pope in Rome.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Israeli Bill Gives Orthodox Rabbis More Control; Reform, Conservative Jews Oppose Its Approval

Liberal Jewish groups were angered last month (August 2010), after a parliamentary committee in Israel approved a bill that would give Orthodox rabbis more control over the sensitive issue of conversions to Judaism, according to the Worldwide Religious News website.

The Reform and Conservative movements -- which are the largest Jewish denominations outside Israel but wield little clout inside the Jewish nation -- fear the new bill could increase the influence of Orthodox rabbis, while undermining their own legitimacy and connection to Israel.

Of the world's roughly 13 million Jews, half live in Israel, with most of the rest concentrated in North America. Each Jewish denomination has its own requirements for people who want to convert to Judaism.

The liberal Jewish denominations are concerned that the new bill could mean that immigrants who converted to Judaism with non-Orthodox groups abroad would be denied Israeli citizenship.

Commission Unhappy with Family Life in Poland; Dignified Life Sought 30 Years Ago Unachieved

The Ecumenical News International website reports today (September 10, 2010) that a commission in Poland -- made up of government and church members -- has charged that the Slavic nation has failed to honor the legacy of the Solidarity movement, which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary.

"Those who demanded free trade unions and struggled for our freedom also wanted a dignified life for Polish families," said the Family Team of the Joint Government-Polish Bishops Conference Commission.

The Commission added, "Assurances that we are remembering the call of August 1980 are not credible if we forget how strong were the demands for an improvement in Polish family life, especially when these questions are still not resolved."

The statement was issued for the August 30 anniversary of the Gdansk Accords, under which the communist regime in Poland legally recognized the newly formed Solidarity Union, after a wave of strikes in Poland's Baltic ports.

Kirill Seeks Changing Church Status in Ireland; Wants Russian Church Registered as a Church

The Interfax-Religion website reports today (September 10, 2010) that Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia at a meeting in Moscow with President of Ireland Mary McAlleese discussed the question of changing the status of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ireland and registering it as a Church -- as is the case with the Catholic Church -- and not as a charitable organization.

Fr. Georgy Zavershinsky, head of the Synodal Department for External Church Relations, explained that parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church in several Western European countries are registered as charitable communities along with other religious or sectarian communities.

The President of Ireland offered to conduct bilateral consultations for discussing this topic at the level of ministries, or if needed, prime ministers.

The Russian Orthodox Church currently has five parishes and about 1500 parishioners in Ireland.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Banker Quits Due to Negative Remarks; Claimed Muslims, Jews Impaired German Society

The Deutsche Welle (German) website reports today (September 9, 2010) that controversial German central bank board member Thilo Sarrazin has decided to step down from his position at the end of this month, as a result of a series of controversial comments he made about race and religion.

In his recently-published book -- titled "Germany Does Away with Itself" -- Sarrazin claims that Muslims were undermining German society by failing to integrate, having too many children, and underachieving in education.

Sarrazin also caused concern with comments that all Jews shared a gene that made them different from other people.

Earlier this year, Sarrazin caused controversy by claiming that immigration from Muslim countries was making Germany "more stupid."

Runaway Ohio Convert Becomes a U.S. Resident; Teenager Converted to Christianity from Islam

A teenage Christian convert, who fled her Muslim parents' home last year in fear for her life, has gained legal U.S. residency, her attorney, Kort Gatterdam, told the Christian Broadcast Network today (September 9, 2010).

Rifqa Bary, now 18, obtained her green card last week and will be able to apply for American citizenship in 2015.

Gatterdam said the Sri Lanka native can also get a Social Security number, apply to colleges, and apply for a driver's license.

The teenager ran away from her parents in July 2009, alleging they would harm her for leaving Islam for the Christian faith.

Serbia Drops UN Protest of Kosovo Independence; Change in Policy to Promote Serbia-Kosovo Talks

Serbia -- scheduled to challenge Kosovo's independence at the United Nations today (September 9, 2010) -- bowed to intense European and U.S. pressure at the last minute, and dropped its UN resolution, thus clearing the way for settlement talks between Belgrade and the Kosovo Albanian leadership, according to the Guardian website.

President Boris Tadic of Serbia announced the reversal last night, just hours before the UN General Assembly had been due to debate a demand from Belgrade seeking to invalidate Kosovo's independence. Tadic emphasized that the shift in policy did not mean Serbian recognition of Kosovan statehood.

The reversal in Serbian policy marked a success for Catherine Ashton, the European Union's (EU) foreign policy chief, who had spent the past two days pressing Tadic to agree on a "last-chance" formula acceptable to the rest of Europe. She told Tadic that a refusal would leave Serbia to a head-on dispute with the EU, which Serbia wants to join.

Kosovo seceded from Serbia in February 2008, and the International Court of Justice -- in a decision that has been criticized by scores of international law experts -- ruled in July 2010 that Kosovo's secession did not violate international law. Serbia is primarily comprised of Orthodox Christians, while the primary religion in Kosovo is Islam.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

EU Blasts Florida Pastor's Plan to Burn Korans; Declares "This Is Not the Right Way to Go"

The Novinite (Bulgarian) website reports today (September 8, 2010) that the European Union (EU) has condemned the plans of a Christian pastor from Florida to burn copies of the Muslims' holy book, the Koran.

"The High Representative respects all kinds of religious beliefs and this is not the right way to go," said Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy.

Pastor Terry Jones from an evangelical Christian Church in Gainesville, Florida has announced that by burning copies of the Koran, he would mark the 9th anniversary of the 9/11 Muslim terrorist attacks in the U.S.

The U.S. government has also publicly condemned Pastor Jones' Koran-burning plans; however, Pastor Jones reiterated today that he still intends to proceed with them.

Priest in Spain Slaps Young Man for Blasphemy; Parishioner Had Discarded a Communion Wafer

The Spero Forum website reports today that a Catholic priest in Spain's province of Valencia slapped a young man in a church in the town of Rotova during a local festival on the evening of September 5, 2010.

Because the young man had discarded a communion wafer -- which the Catholic faith teaches is truly the body and blood of Jesus Christ under the mere appearance of bread -- Rev. Victor Jimeno then threw him out of the church while denouncing him as a "blasphemer."

The victim, however, returned the blow.

Rev. Jimeno says he now wants to promote reconciliation and peace with the young man.

COMMENTARY: Vatican Call for Christians to Have More Children Is Unrealistic

For a senior Vatican official to suggest that European Christians should have more children to prevent the continent from becoming "Islamized" can best be described as an unnecessary case of "Islamophobia," or the fear of Islam.

Yet, Fr. Piero Gheddo said this week that the low birth rate of Europeans -- coupled with an increase of Muslim immigrants with large families -- would result in Islam replacing Christianity as the predominant religion of Europe.

This is a ridiculous thought, because 98 percent of Europe's population is comprised of Christians. Consequently, Islam's replacement of Christianity as Europe's predominant religion could not occur for several centuries -- and even then, it is unlikely that such a phenomenon would occur.

Fr. Gheddo also said that European Christians should "return to the practice of Christian life," which would "solve the problem of empty cradles." In other words, Fr. Gheddo is conveying -- without actually saying -- that Europeans should end the multitude of abortions that are currently occurring on the continent, because abortions are contrary to Catholic doctrine.

Perhaps Fr. Gheddo does not come right out and criticize abortions by Catholics, because he knows that his criticism will have little if any impact on Catholic lifestyles, based upon past experience.

Many Catholics -- perhaps even most of them -- have disregarded Catholic doctrine today, when it is in conflict with their own selfish ways of living. This includes not only a disregard of Catholic teachings on abortion, but also a disregard of several other Catholic values, including cohabitation, gay civil ceremonies and marriages, prostitution, immoral everyday living, etc.

Indeed, Fr. Gheddo's call for Christian values to solve the problem of "empty cradles" in Europe is a positive Christian idea that should not be taken lightly. Whether we want to admit it or not, the fact is that abortion is the murder of an unborn infant.

Unfortunately, secularism has overtaken the majority of Christians today -- not only in Europe but throughout the world -- and it does not appear that this selfish anti-Christian secularism will be transcended in the near future by Christian doctrine, values, and ideals.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Vatican Official Says Europe Is Being "Islamized;" Urges Europe's Christians to Have More Children

The Daily Mail (British) website reports today (September 7, 2010) that a senior Vatican official has suggested European Christians should have more children to stop the continent from becoming "Islamized."

Fr. Piero Gheddo said the low birth rate of native Europeans -- combined with a huge wave of Muslim migrants with large families -- would "sooner of later" see Europe dominated by Islam.

Italian Fr. Gheddo is a highly respected figure from the Vatican's Pontificial Institute for Foreign Missions -- a society of missionaries.

Referring to Italy, he said: "If we consider ourselves a Christian country, we should return to the practice of Christian life, which would also solve the problem of empty cradles."

Methodist Woman Leader to Meet Pope Benedict; Church Leaders to Celebrate Prayer in London

Pope Benedict XVI, who opposes the ordained ministry of women, will meet the President of the Methodist Conference, the Rev. Alison Tomlin, on his United Kingdom (UK) visit next week, according to the Ekklesia website.

On Friday, September 17, 2010, she will be presented to Pope Benedict at Westminster Abbey in London, where Church leaders will join the Archbishop of Canterbury in a celebration of Evening Prayer.

Ms. Tomlin commented: "It's great for the whole Church that Pope Benedict is coming to the UK. It's really important that the different parts of the Church talk to each other and I am glad other Church leaders have been invited to meet him."

The official position of the Catholic Church is that Free Church ministry has no priestly status and that Anglican orders -- including those of its most senior representatives -- are "utterly null and void."

Three Icons Stolen from Church North of Moscow; St. Sergiy of Radonezh Icon Contained His Relics

Three icons -- one of which contained relics of one of Russia's most venerated saints -- have been stolen from a church in a village north of Moscow, according to the RIA Novosti (Russian) website.

The theft was apparently committed on Saturday, September 4, 2010. Priests discovered that the icons of St. Sergiy of Radonezh, Elijah the Prophet, and St. Cyril and Mary of Radonezh were missing from the St. Trinity Church in Troitse-Seltso after a service.

St. Sergiy of Radonezh lived in the 14th century and is credited with consolidating the Russian Orthodox Church when it was threatened by Mongul rule. Fragments of his relics were contained in his icon.

Police suspect a local of stealing the icons and a search is under way.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Most Austrians Reject More Mosques, Minarets; Official Calls Them "Hotbeds of Radical Islam"

Most Austrians are opposed to the construction of additional mosques and minarets, according to a recent poll, the Austrian Times website reports today (September 6, 2010).

Viennese research agency Karmasin said today that 52 percent of Austrians opposed calls for further mosques and minarets. Thirty-five percent of Austrians questioned backed additional construction, while 13 percent did not want to express their opinion.

There are only three mosques with minarets in Austria, but Austrian Islamic Denomination head Anas Schakfeh's call for a "visible" mosque in all nine provincial capitals started a heated debate recently.

Freedom Party officials reacted furiously to the statement. The party's general secretary, Harald Vilimsky, branded mosques as "hotbeds of radical Islam."

Coptic Christians Protest Mubarak's U.S. Visit; Say He Supports Persecution of Copts in Egypt

The Assyrian International News Agency website reports today (September 6, 2010) that Coptic (Orthodox) Christians in the U.S. and Canada staged a peaceful rally on September 2nd outside the White House to protest the persecution of Copts in Egypt.

The motto of the rally was "President Mubarak Make Peace in Your Country First."

Mubarak, who is a Muslim, is in Washington, D.C. to attend the Arab-Israeli peace talks.

According to the rally organizer -- Coptic Solidarity, based in North America -- the Egyptian president is a key partner in the persecution of Copts. Coptic Solidarity also emphasized it must tell Mubarak to "stop persecuting the Copts...make peace in your own country first."

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Catholic Bishop in Russia Praises Orthodoxy; Says Catholic, Orthodox Churches Very Similar

The Interfax-Religion website reports today (September 4, 2010) that Secretary General of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Russia Igor Kovalevsky accepts that Catholics in Russia make a minority, and to further develop they need support of the strong Orthodox Church.

"Catholic community in Russia is small and it should cooperate with Orthodox community -- only then we'll be able to develop to the utmost. So let's say we are interested in strong Orthodoxy," Fr. Igor said.

He also emphasized that Catholic and Orthodox Churches are very close to each other. He said Catholics and Orthodox have "almost the same teaching on many questions," and "the only fundamental issue" that divides them "is the role of the Pope, Bishop of Rome."

He added the two churches have shared values which they should jointly protect before the challenges of the modern secular world.

COMMENTARY: India's Federal Govt. Must Pass Laws to End Hindu Persecution of Christians

The federal government of India needs to get involved immediately to put an end to the barbaric treatment of Christians living in India -- especially those living in the Indian state of Orissa -- by Hindu extremists.

Hindus continue to prevent Christians from participating in social life, including the use of public fountains and collecting wood in the forest. The Orissa State government has done nothing to protect Christians from this inhuman treatment.

This barbaric treatment of Christians has prevailed in India for at least the past three years. Hindus have been treating more than 4,000 Christians in Orissa as social outcasts, in addition to pressuring them with force to convert to Hinduism.

Between December 2007 and August 2008, Hindu extremists in India killed 93 Christians, sacked and torched more than 6,500 homes, destroyed 350 churches and 45 schools. The Hindu persecutions displaced more than 50,000 people.

Most of the perpetrators of these crimes are free. Moreover, witnesses scheduled to appear at trials have been silenced through threats.

Consequently, it is now time for India's federal government to take charge and to pass laws that will result in severe punishment against Hindus responsible for committing barbaric and discriminatory acts on Christians in India.

Friday, September 3, 2010

NY School Changes Policy on Religious Necklace; Had Ruled Rosary Beads Were "Gang-Related"

A New York school district has voted to amend a discriminatory policy that led to the repeated suspension of a Christian student over his rosary beads, according to the Christian Broadcast Network website.

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) filed suit on behalf of Raymond Hosier in an effort to change the dress code at Oneida Middle School, which labeled rosary beads as a prohibited "gang-related" item.

Hosier, a 7th grader, was suspended twice last May for wearing his Catholic rosary beads that include a crucifix.

A hearing for the case was set for September 8, but Schenectady School District officials voted on September 1 to amend the policy to remove the discriminatory language.

"This policy change represents a critical victory for religious freedom as well as our client and all students in the school district," ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow said.

Pope to Youth: Relationships with Jesus Vital; Look beyond the Business World for Challenges

The Catholic Culture website reports today (September 3, 2010) that Pope Benedict XVI -- in his message of World Youth Day 2010 -- told young people that their ultimate happiness will depend not on their career prospects, but on their relationships with Jesus Christ.

While young people devote a great amount of attention to their education and job prospects, the Pope said they should look beyond the business world, consider life's greater challenges, and pay attention to their spiritual lives.

He encouraged today's youth to pursue their ambitions, and to look beyond society's conventions for real answers to life's challenges.

The Pope emphasized that young people should not be constrained by the secular attitudes that "consider faith a purely private issue with no relevance for the life of society."

Hindus Abuse Over 4,000 Christians in India; Treat Them as Outcasts, Force Them to Convert

The Asia News website reports today (September 3, 2010) that Hindus in some 20 villages in the Indian state of Orissa have been treating more than 4,000 Christians as social outcasts, and pressuring them with force to convert to Hinduism.

In addition to fears, threats, and total banishment from the local economy, Christians are not allowed to use public fountains or collect wood in the forest.

"People are living in misery," said Mgr. Raphael Cheenath, SVD, Archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, this week. He added, "The Orissa State government has an obligation to do something about it and protect Christians from this inhuman treatment."

Between August 22 and 24, victims, human rights activists, and religious leaders organized a people's court in New Delhi to shed light on what happened and convince India's central government to intervene.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Hawking Says God Did Not Create the Universe; Claims Universe Came from Spontaneous Creation

The USA Today website reports today (September 2, 2010) that British physicist and mathematician Stephen Hawking argues in his new book that God did not create the universe.

The book -- titled "The Grand Design" -- was co-authored with Hawking's fellow physicist Leonard Mlodinow, and is scheduled to be published by Bantam Press on September 9.

The book challenges Isaac Newton's theory that God must have been involved in creation, because our solar system could not have come out of chaos simply through nature.

"The Grand Design" says, "Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to set the universe going."

Gaddafi Calls for Europe to Convert to Islam; Vatican Not Taking Gaddafi's Call Seriously

The Vatican said today it is not taking Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi's comments about Europe's conversion to Islam seriously, according to the Christian Today website.

Col. Gaddafi said Islam should "become the religion of all Europe" upon his arrival in Rome on August 29, 2010.

The secretary of the Vatican's Congregation for Evangelization, Archbishop Robert Sarah, said, "To speak of the European continent converting to Islam makes no sense, because it is the people alone who decide consciously to be Christian, Muslim, or to follow other religions."

Col. Gaddafi was in Rome on an official state visit to mark the second anniversary of a friendship treaty signed with Italy -- Libya's one-time colonizer.

Bartholomew Says Orthodox Church Will Survive; Turkey Offers Citizenship to Foreign Archbishops

Istanbul-based Fener Greek Patriarch Bartholomew said -- in a special CNN documentary on August 27, 2010 -- he is hopeful that he will not be the last Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, despite the problems surrounding his small and rapidly shrinking community.

Bartholomew, 70, dismissed rumors that he has no successors and said they trust in divine providence, and the guarantee given to them by the Lord Himself, "that the church can survive."

Turkey -- a country that is 99 percent Muslim -- rejects Bartholomew's use of the title "ecumenical" (universal), insisting instead that the patriarch is merely the spiritual leader of Istanbul's dwindling Orthodox community.

Bartholomew's optimism is not baseless, since recently Turkey has offered citizenship to foreign archbishops to help in the election of the next patriarch, according to the Orthodox Church Info blog.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Texas Court Rules Gay Couples Cannot Divorce; Only a Married Man and Woman Can Divorce

The Christian Post website reports that a Texas appeals court ruled today (September 1, 2010) that a same-sex couple cannot get a divorce, because the state does not recognize gay marriage.

"Texas law, as embodied in our constitution and statutes, requires that a valid marriage must be a union of one man and one woman, and only when a union comprises one man and one woman can there be a divorce under Texas law," Justice Kerry Fitzgerald wrote in the opinion for the 5th Texas Court of Appeals.

The ruling was handed down to a gay couple -- identified only as J.B. and H.B -- who married in Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage is legal, in September 2006.

The gay couple moved to Texas in 2008, and they stopped living together in November of that year.

Serbia Refuses to Withdraw Its UN Resolution; States Kosovo's Secession Is Not Acceptable

Serbia has rejected a request by British Foreign Minister William Hague to withdraw its Kosovo draft resolution submitted to the United Nations General Assembly, according to the Balkan Insight website.

Hague traveled to Belgrade yesterday (August 31, 2010) to urge Serbia to scrap the draft or reach an agreement on it with the rest of the European Union ahead of the UN meeting on September 9.

But after meeting Hague, Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said, "The option that is not on the table for the Serbian government is an option of withdrawal, and we cannot do that."

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) advised on July 22 that Kosovo's 2008 secession from Serbia and declaration of independence were not illegal.

Serbia's draft resolution to the UN states that unilateral secession of a province is not an acceptable means to solve territorial disputes, and calls for dialogue on "all open issues."

Serbia is primarily comprised of Orthodox Christians, while Kosovo is primarily comprised of Muslims.

COMMENTARY: Iranian Daily Crossed the Line Calling France's First Lady a Prostitute

The Iranian daily newspaper "Kayhan" crossed the line of professional journalism this week, when it published a nasty article in which it described France's first lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, "a prostitute." To add fuel to the fire, yesterday (August 31, 2010), the same newspaper also said that France's first lady "deserves to die" because of her extra-marital affairs that qualified as adultery.

These hateful articles were sparked by an open letter that Bruni-Sarkozy wrote to an Iranian woman, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, who was sentenced to being stoned to death because of her conviction of adultery. The open letter was printed in several French newspapers last week.

In the open letter, Bruni-Sarkozy wrote that she could not see what good would come out of Ashtiani being stoned to death, despite any Iranian judicial justification of this sentence for adultery.

Bruni-Sarkozy's open letter angered many Iranians, and the Kayhan newspaper responded by printing articles which described her as an adulteress with low morals, who also should be put to death for her infidelity.

I believe that this hateful and insulting form of journalism is libelous, because it clearly defames the character and integrity of France's first lady with no valid proof of its accusations. Moreover, I believe that Bruni-Sarkozy should sue the Kayhan newspaper, and that she should be awarded several million dollars for libel.

The fact is that the Kayhan newspaper should not have referred to Bruni-Sarkozy as "a prostitute." Nor should it have printed that she "deserves to die."

Rather, the newspaper -- if it wanted to criticize her -- should have said that Bruni-Sarkozy should mind her own affairs (no pun intended) in France, and let Iranians take care of their own affairs in Iran. Now, there is a professional example of journalism which even manages to convey a potent message!