Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ukrainian Patriarch Visits Centinje, Montenegro; Calls for Autocephaly of Montenegrin Church

Patriarch Filaret of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyivan Patriarchate last week asserted his support for the autocephaly of the Montenegrin Church which seeks international recognition, as does the Ukrainian Church, according to the Religious Information Service of Ukraine website.

The press service of the UOC-KP reports that on October 24, 2010, the heads of the Ukrainian and Montenegrin Churches conducted a liturgy with the concelebration of the bishops and clergymen of the two Orthodox Churches at the Square of King Nikola in the ancient capital of Montenegro, Cetinje.

The heads of the Ukrainian and Montenegrin Orthodox Churches stated that they will cooperate with each other and will not pay attention to the negation of their autocephaly by the Moscow and Serbian Orthodox Churches, because the Montenegrin and Ukrainian Orthodox Churches have historic bases.

The head of the Ukrainian Church pointed to the "absurdity of the situation" when the Ukrainian Orthodox Church -- the church with the third largest number of the faithful after the Moscow and Romanian Patriarchates -- still cannot obtain autocephaly after 20 years of independence of Ukraine from the Soviet Union.

Patriarch Filaret emphasized that the Ukrainian and Montenegrin Orthodox Churches have "historic foundations" and the "believers of the two churches live according to the Orthodox canons, dogmas, and rules and want to be together with all the Orthodox Churches, but this is opposed by some Orthodox Churches," meaning the Moscow and Serbian Churches.

Obama Urged to Seek Release of Pastor in Iran; Objected to Forcing Christians to Read the Koran

The Christian Today website reports today (October 31, 2010) that a U.S. government body -- responsible for monitoring religious freedom in the world -- is urging the Obama administration to demand that Iran release a Christian pastor who is facing execution for apostasy.

"The Obama administration should press Iran to release Youcef Nadarkhani, who has been jailed for over one year," expressed the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in a statement on October 29.

"This case is further evidence that there is no transparency or justice in Iran's so-called legal system for religious minorities," said USCIRF Chair Leonard Leo.

Nadarkhani, leader of a church network in Rasht, Iran, was arrested on October 13, 2009, after he objected to the practice of forcing Christian school students -- including his own children -- to read the Koran. He argued that the Iranian constitution gives parents the right to raise children in their own faith.

Most Bribes in Serbia Given to Traffic Policemen; Corruption Worse in Bosnia/Herzegovina, Albania

A recent poll organized by the Blic website indicates that citizens of Serbia most often give bribes to traffic policemen.

A total of 5,686 citizens took part in the poll, and more than half of them (2,940) replied that they had given a bribe to a traffic police officer.

Doctors came in second place for the number of bribes they received, as 30.7 percent of Serbian citizens mentioned them. Doctors are followed by priests, clerks, and professors respectively.

The poll concludes that lawyers are the least corrupt of all professions in Serbia.

Recent research conducted by "Transparency International," indicates that corruption in Serbia is most common in the areas of public purchases, the judicial system, education, healthcare, taxes and finances.

This research also indicates that only Bosnia/Herzegovina and Albania are with a higher corruption index than Serbia, insofar as countries in the region are concerned.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

COMMENTARY: Jehovah's Witnesses Must Not Be Unyielding Regarding Blood Transfusions

It was reported this week that the refusal of Jehovah's Witnesses to receive blood transfusions recently killed 18 people in Russia -- people whose lives could have been saved, according to doctors.

Just how many Jehovah's Witnesses die worldwide because they refuse to have blood transfusions is not known, since these deaths go unreported due to confidentiality rules. What we do know is that most -- if not all -- Jehovah's Witnesses would prefer to die rather than receive a blood transfusion that could extend their lives.

Jehovah's Witnesses refuse to have blood transfusions -- or to allow their children to have them -- because they believe blood transfusions are a violation of God's law.

They base this belief on several passages in the Bible which they claim forbid this practice. For example, one such Bible passage states: "Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood" (Genesis 9:4).

Critics of this Jehovah's Witnesses belief argue that there is a difference between eating blood, which mistreats the life of the animal, and receiving a life-giving blood transfusion. In fact, even ultra-Orthodox Jews, who observe the Old Testament kosher laws, recognize that blood transfusions are not prohibited by the command not to eat blood.

On the other hand, some blood transfusions have resulted in death, usually due to infections or transfusion reactions. Unfortunately, reliable statistics on the number of deaths caused by blood transfusions do not exist.

Faced with this dilemma, what should Jehovah's Witnesses do when a blood transfusion could mean the difference between life and death? Should they accept death because blood transfusions are forbidden by their religion? Or can they accept a blood transfusion, because they believe that it is not prohibited by their interpretation of the command not to eat blood?

The answers to these questions must be determined by each individual Jehovah's Witness -- based on his conscience and on his own interpretation of the Bible passages relating to this practice.

Judge Rules in Favor of National Day of Prayer; FFRF Sued Colo. for Violating First Amendment

The Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (October 30, 2010) that a Denver district court judge ruled this week that Colorado's governor's support for the National Day of Prayer does not violate the U.S. Constitution.

In 2008, the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) sued Gov. Bill Ritter and Colorado, arguing the governor's National Day of Prayer proclamations violate the First Amendment.

Judge Michael Mullins dismissed the case, saying the proclamations do not encourage Coloradans to pray or not to pray, but merely assert their right to practice religion.

Governors across the U.S. issue proclamations for the National Day of Prayer -- established in 1988 by a federal law -- on the first Thursday each May.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Bin Laden Tape Targets France for First Time; Claims Burqa Ban Justifies French Killings

In an audio tape aired on Al Jazeera television on October 27, 2010, al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden targeted French interests, claiming the country's burqa ban and the presence of French troops in Afghanistan justified the killing of French nationals.

"As you wrongly have decided that you have the right to ban Muslim women from wearing the veil, is it not our right to expel your invading men by attacking them?" bin Laden asked, according to the France 24 website.

The latest message marked the first time bin Laden specifically targeted his message at the French people.

French officials said the tape appeared to be authentic.

Jehovah's Witnesses Refuse Blood Transfusions; Eighteen Die in Russia, Could Have Been Saved

The Interfax-Religion website reports today (October 29, 2010) that refusal of the Jehovah's Witnesses to receive blood transfusions has killed 18 people -- including eight children -- in Russia.

Two criminal cases on children's deaths have already been initiated -- one in Kogalym and one in Moscow.

The mother of the child who died in Kogalym told doctors, "Blood is not a medicine. People only get infected from blood."

This woman could be sentenced to a year in prison, but most likely will be fined instead.

Germany's Council of Jews Blasts Frankfurt; City Plans to Honor Anti-Semitic Author Grosser

Germany's main Jewish body attacked the city of Frankfurt today (October 29, 2010) for inviting a French author, Alfred Grosser, to speak next month at ceremonies remembering the 1938 start of organized Nazi violence against Jews.

Grosser, 85, is Jewish and deplores the actions of Israel against the Palestinians, according to the Earth Times website.

The Central Council of Jews in Germany demanded that Frankfurt reverse an invitation to Grosser to be guest of honor at a ceremony on November 9 marking the initial orgy of violence by Nazis against Jewish shops, homes, and synagogues in 1938.

Stephan Kramer -- general secretary of the council -- wrote a letter to the mayor of Frankfurt, Petra Roth, demanding Grosser's invitation be canceled because he was "unfit to be guest speaker."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ecumenical Patriarch Visits Patriarch of Romania; Visit Strengthens Churches' Brotherly Communion

The Patriarch of Romania met Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Henri Coanda Airport in Bucharest, Romania yesterday (October 27, 2010), accompanied by a group of Eastern Orthodox hierarchs, according to the Orthodox Church Info blog.

His Beatitude Daniel, Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, said, "We receive you with great joy because the presence of Your Holiness here is an honor for us, for the Romanian people, and contributes, at the same time to the strengthening of the brotherly communion between our sister Orthodox Churches."

The Ecumenical Patriarch's visit to Romania was planned to coincide with Romania's celebration of Saint Great Martyr Dimitrie, the Myrrh Bearer, Protector of Bucharest.

Pope: Science Must Not Be Worshiped or Feared; Its Task Is to Search for Truth about the Cosmos

Pope Benedict XVI today (October 28, 2010) cautioned against two extreme attitudes toward science -- that it holds all the answers to life's problems and that it is to be feared -- in an audience with participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

He noted that science "is not defined by either of these two extremes," according to the Zenit website.

Rather, the Pope states, "Its task was and remains a patient yet passionate search for the truth about the cosmos, about nature, and about the constitution of the human being."

"In the last century," the Pope continued, "man certainly made more progress than in the entire previous history of humanity."

Tennessee Students Keep Up Prayer Despite Ban; FFRF Says Prayer at School Functions Is Illegal

The Christian Post website reports today that Tennessee athletes, students, and community members have been rallying together in prayer, despite the efforts of Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) and the Hamilton County superintendent to shut down prayer before football games and during graduation.

Soddy Daisy High School students and a crowd of community members met in Veterans Park yesterday (October 27, 2010) to pray about recent orders to eliminate prayer at school functions.

Hamilton County Superintendent Jim Scales informed all county principals that prayer at school events was unconstitutional after receiving a letter from FFRF denouncing loudspeaker prayers at school events.

According to local reports, it was a student group that led the prayer effort yesterday. They plan to lead prayers again on Friday on the football field.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

COMMENTARY: German Government and Jewish Groups Must Act Now to Curtail Neo-Nazism

Neo-Nazism is flourishing today -- some 65 years after the end of World War II -- in Germany.

A recent report revealed the frightening fact that one out of every twenty 15-year-old German boys belongs to a neo-Nazi group. No other political group in Germany can claim such a large number of young members.

This is a frightening situation, because it could very well lead to a second wave of Nazism and Nazi control -- either by democratic means or by revolution -- of Germany with a fascist government similar to Adolf Hitler's.

One German youth -- a former neo-Nazi -- compared the movement of neo-Nazism to a cult. He said that he had been convinced that Jews were an evil force that controlled the world. Moreover, he revealed that neo-Nazi groups have hidden weapons caches throughout Germany.

So what does the resurgence of Nazism in Germany today mean? It means that the current government of Germany -- as well as Jewish organizations in Germany and elsewhere -- must take preventive measures to curtail or even eliminate this situation before it is too late.

The German government needs to pass laws that will restrict neo-Nazi activities -- or even better, prohibit neo-Nazism in Germany altogether. At the same time, Jewish organizations need to keep a watchful eye on neo-Nazi occurrences to ensure they are "nipped in the bud" if they appear to be the least bit prejudicial toward Jews or Judaism.

The most important lesson that Jews learned from Hitler's dictatorship is that there is no room for any complacency with respect to Nazism or any other anti-Semitic government. Indeed, the Jewish slogan "Never Again" must be taken very seriously in situations like the current one that prevails in Germany.

Hitler's Nazi ruling of Germany in the 1930s and 1940s proved to be a nightmare for the entire world, but especially for Jewish people. Hitler was responsible for the murder of some six million innocent Jews -- the largest genocide in history -- during World War II.

Germany must not have another Hitler-type ruler again. To ensure that a repetition of Nazi leadership of Germany -- along with its mass murders -- does not occur again, the current German government and Jewish organizations must be cognizant of any neo-Nazi activities that are a threat to that nation, and take whatever steps are necessary to eliminate them.

Christian-Muslim Leaders to Meet November 1-4; "Building a Common Future" Theme of Gathering

High-ranking Christian and Muslim leaders -- as well as scholars and interfaith practitioners -- will gather from November 1-4, 2010 for an international consultation on Christian and Muslim concerns, according to the Ekklesia website.

The meeting will take place at the Ecumenical Center in Geneva, Switzerland, home of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and several other internationally-focused organizations.

The international consultation -- titled "Transforming Communities: Christians and Muslims Building a Common Future" -- will seek to identify and address issues of common concern.

"Christians and Muslims have a joint responsibility to contribute the very best of their theological, spiritual, and ethical resources for the common good of humanity," the organizers said.

JPII Center in DC to Be Sold to Religious Order; Ann Arbor's Dominican Sisters to Buy $75M Bldg.

The National Catholic Register (NCR) website reports today (October 27, 2010) that the John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C. is being sold to Ann Arbor's Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist order.

In an email to the NCR, the order states it is in the "inspection phase of purchase and sale agreement... It is our hope to use this building as a House of Studies for the continuing education and formation of our Sisters."

The John Paul II Cultural Center has been suffering financially almost from its very beginnings. Built at a cost of $75 million -- largely through funding from the Archdiocese of Detroit -- the museum was never able to attract the number of visitors it hoped to attain.

The Sisters see the property as a means to handling their growth and the education of candidates for their order -- an order devoted to the apostolate of teaching.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Serbia Clears Crucial Hurdle for Joining EU; Bloc Agrees to Examine Belgrade's Candidacy

Serbia cleared a crucial hurdle in its bid to join the European Union (EU) last night (October 25, 2010) when the bloc agreed to examine Belgrade's candidacy, the Australian website reports today.

This was seen as a reward for Serbia's softened stance on Kosovo.

But the deal demanded stepped-up co-operation from Belgrade with the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia, and specified renewed efforts to arrest Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic and Serb Croat rebel leader Goran Hadzic.

"It's the start of the process," to joining the 27-nation bloc, said Belgian Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere, after counterparts rubber-stamped a deal worked out after weeks of wrangling.

Belgrade applied for EU membership last December, but won support for its bid only after agreeing last month to start a dialogue with Kosovo.

Kosovo was a province that seceded from Serbia in February 2008. Belgrade does not recognize Kosovo as an independent nation, but has agreed to an EU-brokered dialogue with Pristina.

Neo-Nazism Now Being Revived in Germany; One Out of Twenty 15-Year-Old Boys Are Neo-Nazis

Some 65 years after the fall of Nazi Germany, there is growing concern that the spirit of Adolf Hitler still lives in the country, the Christian Broadcast Network reports today (October 26, 2010).

"Young men are attracted because there are no alternatives in the village except this group who are aggressive, who are male, chauvinist, and dominating the scene," explained Hajo Funke, a neo-Nazi expert at the Free University of Berlin.

A recent report revealed one out of twenty 15-year-old German boys belongs to a neo-Nazi group -- a number no other political party can claim.

Matthias Adrian -- a former neo-Nazi -- compared the movement to a cult. He said he was convinced that Jews were an evil force that controlled the world. He added that neo-Nazi groups have hidden weapons caches throughout Germany.

US Archbp: Jews Have No Special Right to Israel; Says All People Have Become God's Chosen People

The Ethics Daily website reports today (October 26, 2010) that a special Vatican meeting on the Middle East ended on October 23 with a dispute in Catholic-Jewish relations, after an American archbishop declared the Bible does not give Jews privileged rights to the land of Israel.

"We Christians cannot speak of the 'promised land' as an exclusive right for a privileged Jewish people," said Archbishop Cyril Bustros, a native of Lebanon who is currently a Melkite Greek Catholic bishop in Newton, Massachusetts.

"This promise was nullified by Christ," Bustros said at a Vatican press conference marking the end of a two-week session of the Synod of Bishops. He added, "There is no longer a chosen people -- all men and women of all countries have become the chosen people."

Rabbi David Rosen -- director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee and an adviser to Israel's Chief Rabbinate -- said Archbishop Bustros' comments "reflect either shocking ignorance or insubordination in relation to the Catholic Church's teaching on Jews and Judaism."

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mass. Bishops Urge Catholics to Vote Next Week; Urge They Vote so as to "Enhance Human Dignity"

Massachusetts' four Roman Catholic bishops are urging Catholics to vote in next week's elections in a way that will "enhance human dignity," the Boston Herald website reports today (October 25, 2010).

The bishops issued a joint statement today, one week before citizens go to the polls to vote in all 10 of the state's congressional districts, for governor, and other statewide offices.

The statement -- while not endorsing any candidate or party -- calls on Catholics to "share their vision of a better society" at the polls.

It also urges voters to weigh abortion, same-sex marriage, religious freedom, and the well-being of the poor in their decisions.

Turkish Official: Open Hagia Sofia for Worship; Let It Be a Mosque Weekdays, a Church on Sundays

The Ekklesia website reports today (October 25, 2010) that a Turkish government adviser says Christians and Muslims should be allowed to worship again in Istanbul's Hagia Sophia basilica, eight decades after it was turned into a museum by the country's secularist authorities.

"Hagia Sofia was built as a place of worship. It served people this way as a church and mosque for more than a thousand years," said Mehmet Akif Ayd'n, an expert with the Presidency of Religious Affairs, which monitors religious sites in Turkey, including more than 80,000 mosques.

"As a Muslim, I'd like it to become a mosque. But if Hagia Sofia were opened to Muslim worshipers on weekdays, it should also be opened to Christians on Sundays," Ayd'n said.

The religious expert was commenting on calls for the sixth century landmark to be reopened for religious events.

Pope: Urgent Need for Peace in the Middle East; Urges Religious Freedom by Muslim Nations

Pope Benedict XVI yesterday (October 24, 2010) called for the prompt resolution of the Middle East conflict, and urged Middle East countries to guarantee total religious freedom, according to the Earth Times website.

Peace is needed urgently in the volatile region -- and is an essential prerequisite for dignified life -- the pontiff said at a mass at St. Peter's Basilica to mark the formal closing of the Vatican's two-week synod on the future of the Middle East's dwindling Christian communities.

"The conflict in the Middle East has gone on for too long -- the wars, the violence, the terrorism," Benedict said.

Several Muslim countries in the Middle East tightly curtail the practice of Christianity.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Report: WW II Foreign Ministry for Genocide; German Diplomats Involved in Holocaust

A report to be published later this week reveals that German diplomats actively assisted the Nazis in their campaign of genocide against the Jews, contradicting post-World War II attempts to portray Germany's wartime Foreign Ministry in a positive light.

"The Foreign Ministry was actively involved in every operation to persecute, strip away the rights of, expel, and exterminate the Jews from the very beginning," said Eckart Conze, one of four historians asked to investigate the role played by the German Foreign Ministry in the Holocaust.

The panel of historians is due to present its full findings later this week, the DW-World (German) website reports today (October 24, 2010).

Highest UAE Court Allows Wife-Beating; Human Rights Groups Condemn Ruling

The highest court in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) ruled on October 20, 2010 that a Muslim man has the right to beat his wife and children, according to the CNS News website.

Islamic scholars cite the Quran itself in defending wife-beating.

Islamic law (sharia) gives a Muslim man the right to "discipline" his wife and children, provided he does not leave physical marks on them.

Reports on the court decision drew condemnation from human rights groups, with Human Rights Watch calling the ruling "evidence that the authorities consider violence against women and children to be completely acceptable."

Saturday, October 23, 2010

World Vision Blasts Jews for Girls School Attack; Says Girls Should Feel Secure, Be Free to Learn

The Christian Post website reports today (October 23, 2010) that a girls' school in northern West Bank was found damaged by fire and vandalized on October 20 with Hebrew graffiti reading "regards from the hills."

Palestinians have accused Jewish settlers for the attack, as they live on hilly outposts nearby.

While Israeli police are investigating, World Vision -- which has ties to the school -- released a statement condemning the attack on the Essawieh Girls Secondary School in Nablus.

World Vision said that the attack -- which is not the first -- "contributes to a sense of fear and uncertainty for the girls in an environment where they should feel secure and be free to learn."

COMMENTARY: Icon of Stalin in an Orthodox Church Is Not Appropriate

In a news story that shocked Christians throughout the world this week, it was revealed that Joseph Stalin -- the Russian tyrant responsible for murdering millions of innocent people -- was pictured on an icon at an Orthodox Church in Moscow.

The icon appeared in the Church of Saint Nicholas, and depicts Stalin with Matriona, the blind saint, in an alleged meeting between her and the Russian tyrant. Apparently this icon, whose author is unknown, had been donated to the church by a parishioner.

According to a legend -- one that has been rejected by the Orthodox Church -- Stalin visited Matriona in 1941, and she predicted victory over the Nazi Germans who had attacked Russia. Her prediction turned out to be correct, and this made Stalin more religious at that time, but he died as an atheist.

Although he was a student at an Orthodox seminary in neighboring Georgia, Stalin was expelled at the age of 20 in 1899, because of his revolutionary activities.

After the death of Lenin in 1924, Stalin took over as head of the Soviet Union and remained its dictator until he died in 1953. He eliminated threats to his power by means of purges and widespread secret executions. Indeed, Stalin was responsible for the murder of millions of innocent people during his dictatorship.

So why in the world would Russians today want to praise this "butcher of millions of people," and include his image on a church icon?

The answer is that many Russians today are still impressed -- even mesmerized -- with Stalin's military acumen that resulted in Nazi Germany's defeat in World War II.
On the other hand, this victory also proved to be very costly, because more than 20 million Russians were killed in defending their nation.

Another major reason that some Russians still revere Stalin is the fact that he did manage to make the Soviet Union into a world superpower -- the most powerful nation in the world, after the United States.

But what about Stalin's murders of millions of innocent people? Also, what about the repression and fear he instilled in all of the Russian people? Should these critical aspects of Stalin's dictatorship be ignored, in order to justify his image on an icon and displaying that icon in an Orthodox Church?

Of course not! In fact, painting an image of Stalin on an icon, and displaying that icon in a church is a sacrilegious tragedy -- a tragedy that contradicts the teachings of Christ and everything that Christianity represents.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Plans Established to Manage Athens' First Mosque; Greek Government Will Have Control over Mosque

Ekathimerini (Greek) website reports today (October 22, 2010) that the construction of Athens' first contemporary mosque will go ahead as planned -- but the state will retain the rights to the land on which it will be built.

Deputy Defense Minister Panos Beglitis emphasized yesterday that the Greek government would have control over the mosque. The Athens mosque would be run by a nonprofit organization staffed by Greek state officials and members of the capital's Muslim communities.

The head imam of the new mosque would be appointed by a government-backed committee and be paid by the ministry.

At present, the only mosques in Greece are located in the northeastern region of Thrace, home to some 100,000 Muslims.

Mormon Parents Removed as Cub Scout Leaders; Not "Real Christians" in the Presbyterian Church

The Worldwide Religious News website reports today (October 22, 2010) that a Presbyterian church in North Carolina was happy to have Jeremy and Jodi Stokes as Cub Scout leaders -- at least until officials there found out they are Mormons and told them they had to step down, because the Presbyterian church does not consider them "real Christians."

The Stokeses enrolled their sons as Scouts at Christ Covenant Church -- a Presbyterian congregation about 10 miles from Charlotte -- then expressed interest in volunteering as leaders. Church leaders were thrilled, until they saw on the application forms that they belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

After two Scout meetings, the Stokeses were told their sons -- 6 and 8 Years old -- could remain in their packs, but their parents could not serve as leaders. The parents removed their sons from their Scout packs.

Icon of Soviet Tyrant Stalin Revered in Moscow; Located in a Church with Blind Saint Matriona

An icon of the late Russian dictator Joseph Stalin appears in Moscow in Saint Nicholas Church, apparently the donation of a parishioner. The icon depicts the life of Matriona, the blind saint, in an alleged meeting between her and Stalin, the Asia News website reports today (October 22, 2010).

What makes this icon even more grotesque, is that Matriona (1885-1952) was forced to live in hiding to avoid arrest by Stalin's communist regime.

According to legend -- which has been rejected by the Orthodox Church -- Stalin visited Matriona in 1941, and she predicted a Russian victory over the German Nazis in World War II. Of course, her prediction was correct.

Nevertheless, a church is a strange place to find an icon of Stalin, who -- despite studying at a seminary before being expelled in 1899 for revolutionary activities -- was responsible for a brutal religious repression in the Soviet Union during his dictatorship, which began in 1924 and lasted until his death in 1953.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Poland Building World's Largest Jesus Statue; To Be Finished Next Month in Town of Swiebodzin

The small Polish town of Swiebodzin -- located near the German border -- will soon be home to a 33-meter statue of Christ, which will be the largest Jesus statue in the world, according to the Telegraph (British) website.

Due to be completed in November 2010, the statue is being erected to show gratitude to God.

The massive statue is also expected to encourage many tourists to visit Swiebodzin year-round.

With construction nearing the end, engineers face the hazardous task of lifting the figure's huge head and shoulders into place. This may require the use of a helicopter.

NPR Fires Juan Williams over Muslim Remarks; He Said There Is a "Muslim Problem in the World"

The Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (October 21, 2010) that National Public Radio (NPR) has fired analyst Juan Williams because of recent comments he made about Muslims on the Fox News Channel.

The incident happened when Williams appeared on Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor" earlier this week and defended host Bill O'Reilly's claim that there is a "Muslim problem in the world."

Williams also said he gets nervous on commercial flights when he sees "people who are in Muslim garb" who are "identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims."

Although Williams was quick to point out that not all Muslims are "extremists," NPR found his comments to be "unacceptable" and terminated his contract.

DC Archdiocese to Open New Seminary in 2011; Swayed by Young Men's Interest in Evangelization

A new seminary will open in Washington, DC in August 2011 for men preparing to become priests, the Archdiocese of Washington website reports today (October 21, 2010).

The seminary -- for men in college and pre-theology studies -- will be located near The Catholic University of America on Taylor Street.

"At a time when the teachings of the Catholic faith seem counter-cultural, we are seeing an increased interest in the priesthood, particularly among younger men who want to be a part of a new evangelization in society," said Archbishop Donald Wuerl.

The Archdiocese of Washington has 67 seminarians, up from 44 ten years ago.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Anglican Head: "Very Taken Aback" by Benedict; Pope Set Up Ordinariates without Consulting Him

The Catholic Culture website reports today (October 20, 2010) that the Archbishop of Canterbury said that Anglican leaders should be involved in the planning for ordinariates that are established to accommodate the pastoral needs of Anglicans converting to Roman Catholicism.

Dr. Rowan Williams said he was "very taken aback" when Pope Benedict moved to establish the ordinariates "without any real consultation" with the Anglican leadership.

Now that the move has been made, he said, "we are trying to make sure that there is a joint group which will keep an eye on how it's going to happen."

Dr. Williams added, "In England, relations between the Church of England and Roman Catholic bishops are very warm and very close. I think we are able to work together on this and not find it a difficulty."

New Calvinism Seen Sweeping Young Christians; Preachers Call It Upsurge in Reformed Theology

Several Reformed preachers recently sat down together to talk about the New Calvinism that has been sweeping the younger generation of Christians, the Christian Post website reports today (October 20, 2010).

"You've got a generation of Christians who've grown up in an overwhelmingly secular culture and they're not part of a churched culture," said Dr. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in an informal discussion hosted by The Gospel Coalition.

In recent years, pastors have pondered the upsurge of interest in Reformed theology -- which includes holding to the authority of Scripture, the sovereignty of God, and the sovereignty of grace -- with some proposing that it is blossoming from a restlessness and dissatisfaction with contemporary evangelicalism.

"I think it is a wonderful thing that this younger generation is deeply biblical, deeply passionate, deeply convictional, increasingly confessional, and ready to do something great for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ," Mohler said.

COMMENTARY: Government of Portugal Needs to Show Compassion for the Body of Christ

The federal government of Portugal needs to change its indifferent attitude -- and be more compassionate -- with respect to a dilapidated church building it owns in Lisbon.

Hundreds of people attended Mass at Santo Antonio Church last Sunday (October 17, 2010) wearing construction helmets to protest the building's run-down condition. Some worshipers even believe that the helmets are necessary for protection, since part of the church's roof has already collapsed once.

The church's pastor, Fr. Joao -- also wearing a helmut at the Mass -- said that the government wants to sell the church building to the congregation, so that it will not have to provide financial support to correct the building's deficiencies.

The fact is that the government has a responsibility -- one that is moral as well as financial -- to improve this church structure quickly. Failure to do so indicates that the Portuguese government sees nothing wrong with being a "slumlord" -- even when it is dealing with the Body of Christ.

The Portuguese government, then, is more concerned with holding onto its money than it is with providing for the safety and well-being of its worshipers. This is a sad priority. Moreover, it is a priority that conveys disgrace, disrespect, and indifference on the part of the Portuguese government.

Indeed, it would behoove the Portuguese government to take immediate action to remedy this horrendous situation as soon as possible. To neglect it any longer, will only increase the anger and negative feelings of the church parishioners -- as well as the general population in Portugal -- toward a disgraceful government.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

US Military Accepts Court Ruling Allowing Gays; Recruiters Directed to Accept Gay Applicants

The US military is accepting -- for the first time in the nation's history -- openly gay recruits, even as it tries in the courts to slow the movement to abolish its "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

The Associated Press website reports that at least two service members -- discharged for being gay -- began the process to re-enlist after the Pentagon's announcement today (October 19, 2010).

The movement to overturn the 1993 Clinton-era law gained speed when President Barack Obama campaigned on its repeal. Last month, US District Judge Virginia Phillips declared the law unconstitutional.

The Defense Department said it will comply with Judge Phillips' order. In fact, Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said recruiters had been given top-level guidance to accept applicants who say they are gay.

Crystal Cathedral in Calif. Files for Bankruptcy; 10,000-Member Church Debt Exceeds $43 Million

The Huffington Post website reports today that Crystal Cathedral -- the megachurch birthplace of the televangelist show "Hour of Power" -- filed for bankruptcy yesterday (October 18, 2010) in Southern California after struggling to emerge from debt that exceeds $43 million.

In addition to a $36 million mortgage, the Orange County-based church owes $7.5 million to several hundred vendors for services ranging from advertising to the use of live animals in Easter and Christmas services.

"Tough times never last, every storm comes to an end," Sheila Schuller Coleman, the Cathedral's senior pastor and daughter of the founder, told reporters outside the church.

The 10,000-member church -- founded in the mid-1950s by the Rev. Robert Schuller, Sr. -- has already ordered major layoffs, cut the number of stations airing the "Hour of Power," and sold property to stay afloat.

Serbian Bishop Warns of Possible Church Schism; "Division Will Not Follow Boundary of Kosovo"

A schism in the Serbian Orthodox Church is a possibility, says one of its bishops based in Bosnia, the Orthodox Church Info blog reports today (October 19, 2010).

Zahumlje and Herzegovina Bishop Grigorije told Belgrade's Politika daily that he had warned the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) ranks of this possibility in a letter he sent them two years ago.

In discussing a new organizational structure of the Serbian Church's eparchies, he said, "If there is a division of the Raska-Prizren Eparchy, it will not follow the administrative boundary of Kosovo."

The Raska-Prizren Eparchy has been under temporary administration since the removal of Bishop Artemije. Bishop Grigorije said he was not certain as to whether he would take over Bishop Artemije's former position.

Insofar as the Serbian Church's relations with other religious communities is concerned, Bishop Grigorije considered them good, although he did say that the leader of one of Serbia's rival Islamic communities, Muamer Zukorlic, was viewed as "an exception, an isolated case." He added that he believed the Islamic community also felt the same way about this mufti.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Worshipers in Portuguese Church Wear Hardhats; Say Shabby Building Needs Govt. Funds, Repairs

Hundreds of people attended Mass at the Santo Antonio Church in the Portuguese capital of Lisbon wearing white construction helmets on Sunday, October 17, 2010, to protest the building's dilapidated state, according to the Earth Times website.

The congregation is demanding funds from the country's Finance Ministry to launch the "most pressing repair work" as soon as possible.

Some participants argued that the symbolic hardhats have become truly necessary in the church. A part of the roof has already collapsed once, and when it rains many worshipers get wet.

Father Joao -- also wearing a helmet -- complained that the government wants to sell the building to the congregation instead of providing financial support.

Synod Seeks One Common Christian Easter Date; Easter Dates Coincide Only Once Every 4 Years

At a synod concerned primarily about peace and the continued presence of Christians in the Holy Land, one of the suggestions made repeatedly was that Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants celebrate Easter together each year, according to the Catholic News website.

"We truly hope for the unification of the Easter holiday with the Orthodox churches," Latin-rite Auxiliary Bishop William H. Shomali of Jerusalem told the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East on October 14, 2010.

Celebrating Easter on the same day also would mean observing Lent together.

Most Protestants and Catholics celebrate Easter on one day -- based on the calendar of Pope Gregory XIII -- while most Orthodox observe the feast day according to the Julian calendar. The dates of Easter coincide every four years.

Theologian: Atheism Becoming the New Religion; Says Christians Must Preach the Gospel of Christ

The Christian Today website reports on October 18, 2010 that Carver Yu, President of the China Graduate School of Theology in Hong Kong, believes that "confusing ideologies" are creating emptiness and alienation among people, while indifference to religion is "tightening its grip."

He said the recent advertising campaign by Richard Dawkins and other atheists on London buses was a perfect example of the "enthusiastic zeal" with which atheists were campaigning against Christianity and religion.

"Atheism is about to become the new religion," he said. "Christians must preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ fearlessly because He is the way, the truth and the life. Only He can lead us away from the present state of Godlessness."

Yu was addressing more than 4,000 evangelical leaders from around the world at Capetown 2010, the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization taking place this week in the South African city.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Russian Church Opens Its Channel on YouTube; Designed to Make Church Closer to Young People

The RIA Novosti (Russian) website reports today that the Russian Orthodox Church officially opened its "channel" on the YouTube video content service at a presentation on October 11, 2010.

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia blessed the "channel" and said it is called upon to make the Church closer to young people.

The "channel" will offer the Church's opinion on urgent issues, cover the patriarch's services, and inform the viewers of the key events in church life.

The "channel" has over 200 subscribers now. Its programs will include broadcasting of divine services, sermons, and interviews.

Calif. School District Disciplines a Principal; Says His Prayer Breakfast Violated Constitution

A California elementary school principal -- given disciplinary action for holding a teachers' prayer breakfast -- is suing his school district, claiming he did "absolutely nothing wrong," the Christian Post website reports today (October 17, 2010).

Craig Richter, principal of Foot Hill School and a Christian, appeared in a short video promoting the Santa Barbara Community Prayer Breakfast, which was organized to honor educators.

A member of the school district, Goleta Union, viewed the video, and the district later deemed that Richter had violated the separation of church and state, threatened to end his contract, and placed him on a disciplinary performance plan.

Alliance Defense Fund Senior Counsel Joseph Infranco said that the district's contention that Richter had violated the Constitution is unfounded and absurd.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Pope Urges Rich Countries to Do More for Hungry; More Money Needed to Feed 925 Million People

The Life in Italy website reports today that Pope Benedict XVI appealed yesterday (October 15, 2010) to the world's rich nations to contribute more aid to help the 925 million people estimated to suffer chronic hunger.

"Everyone -- from individuals to the organizations of civil society, States and international institutions -- needs to make a priority of one of the most urgent goals for the human family: freedom from hunger," the Pope said in a message to mark World Food Day at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) Rome headquarters.

Pope Benedict also praised FAO's "One Billion Hungry" project, saying it "has highlighted the need for an adequate response both from individual countries and from the international community."

Root of Islamic Terrorist Attacks Lies in Sharia; Islamic Law Degrades Women and Non-Muslims

The Synod of Bishops for the Middle East -- meeting in Vatican City this week -- has been called together to address the drastic decline of Christians in the Muslim world in recent years. But just why has there been such a large decrease of Christians in the Middle East?

Christians in the Middle East are a minority in a Muslim region. Even the more moderate Muslim countries -- such as Egypt -- marginalize Christians and deprive them of basic civil rights, according to the Persecution website.

The rising tide of Islamization has made it more dangerous than ever to be a non-Muslim in a Muslim country, in ways that range from everyday discrimination to terrorist attacks.

The root of this problem lies in Sharia -- that is, Islamic law -- which treats non-Muslims and all women as second-class citizens. Consequently, it is very difficult to change this Islamic religious and legal tradition, which has become more assertive and violent in recent years, primarily due to Muslim extremists.

COMMENTARY: Israel Sabotages Mideast Peace Talks in Deciding to Build Housing

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has done it again. He has angered the United States, the United Nations, and most countries of the world by announcing yesterday (October 15, 2010) that Israel plans to build 328 Housing units in East Jerusalem.

Last March, Netanyahu announced plans for 1,600 units to be built in Jerusalem, thus infuriating President Obama. In fact, President Obama was so angry that he canceled a White House dinner he had planned for Netanyahu -- believed to be the first time in American history that a president has canceled a White House dinner because of his extreme anger toward a foreign chief of state.

Yesterday's Israeli announcement came as a shock and a disappointment to the international community, because peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders were progressing in a positive and harmonious course. It is now almost certain that the Palestinians will end the peace talks.

The fact is that Palestinians want East Jerusalem as their future capital. Moreover, almost all the nations of the world view it as land conquered by Israel -- land on which there should be no construction.

It seems to me that Netanyahu has in reality decided to sabotage the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks as a ploy, so that Israel will not have to relinquish any land to Palestinians that it conquered in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. In other words, no peace talks will prevent the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian nation.

Netanyahu's decision to build housing units in East Jerusalem will undoubtedly have a critical negative impact on Israel's Arab neighbors. Once the Palestinians have left the peace talks, it would not surprise me one iota to see Arab rocket attacks on Israel and other aggressive actions taken by Arab nations. To be sure, the end of the peace talks will incite Palestinian militant groups -- which have been exceptionally dormant in recent months -- to increase their aggressive attacks against Israel.

This being the case, many Palestinians -- as well as Israelis -- will be killed and wounded in the ensuing months, and perhaps even years. Sadly, both sides will unnecessarily shed much blood.

For Netanyahu, then, maintaining more conquered land for Israel prevails over the loss of Israeli lives. Unfortunately, land is more important to him than human lives.

This attitude of Netanyahu conveys an arrogant, indifferent, and even inhumane individual who in the final analysis is really a detriment for a nation's people. Indeed -- for the benefit of the world as well as for Israel itself -- it would behoove Israelis to elect a more humane prime minister the next time they vote for one.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Pastor Who Canceled Quran-Burning Wins Car; NJ Car Dealer Offered Him a Car to Cancel Plan

The Yahoo News website reports today (October 15, 2010) that the antics of Terry Jones -- the Christian fundamentalist preacher in Florida who threatened to hold a Quran-burning ceremony on 9/11/10 -- are beginning to look more like a real-life episode of "Let's Make a Deal."

In the days leading to this year's 9/11 anniversary, a New Jersey car dealer named Brad Benson made Jones a peculiar offer: Call off the Quran-burning in exchange for a new car.

Although Jones eventually canceled his plan, Benson did not really expect the minister to take him up on the offer.

After some deliberation, Benson decided to stay true to his word and hand over a 2011 Hyundai Accent, which retails for $14,200. The pastor will have to travel to South Brunswick, NJ to claim it at the dealership.

Jones said he plans to donate the car to an organization that helps abused Muslim women.

Clinton Presses Kosovo for Talks with Serbia; Stresses Dialogue Needs to Produce Real Results

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pressed Kosovo on October 13, 2010 to start talks with Serbia as soon as possible, despite a political crisis in Pristina over the president's resignation.

Clinton said, "We think the dialogue should start as soon as it is ready because even though there will be elections here and then in the following years elections in Serbia, we believe that it is in Kosovo's interest for this dialogue to begin and conclude in as expeditious a manner as possible," according to Reuters.

Speaking after meeting Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, she said the U.S. would play a supportive role in the European Union-brokered talks and that she will discuss the path to take with European leaders at meetings in Brussels on October 14 on the final stop of her European tour.

Clinton stressed that the dialogue "cannot go on for a long time. It needs to be focused and produce results."

Last month, Belgrade and Pristina agreed to move ahead with talks about the practical issues in the region. These range from technical questions such as transport, telecommunications and energy to more sensitive issues as returning of refugees, wartime missing persons, the status of the Serbian Orthodox monasteries and the majority Serbs living in northern Kosovo.

But just weeks after the agreement, Kosovo was shaken by the sudden resignation of President Fatmir Sejdiu for internal political reasons.

After meeting Clinton, Thaci said Pristina was ready to heal the long-running rift with Belgrade. "Time has come for finishing a century-old conflict between Kosovo and Serbia. Kosovo is ready," the prime minister said.

Kosovo was a province of Serbia, but seceded from Serbia in 2008, and declared itself an independent nation. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled this past summer that Kosovo's secession was legal. The ICJ ruling was criticized by many scholars of international law.

Israel Defies US, Other Nations on Peace Talks; Says It Will Build 238 Homes in East Jerusalem

Israel said today (October 15, 2010) that it will construct another 238 homes in Jerusalem neighborhoods that sit atop territory seized during the 1967 Middle East War, thus defying U.S. and international calls to restrain home-building on disputed land.

According to the Los Angeles Times website, the decision threw U.S.-sponsored peace talks into further doubt and ended a construction freeze in East Jerusalem that had been observed since last March.

In the past, Israel has defended its construction in disputed parts of Jerusalem, saying Israel annexed this land. On the other hand, Palestinians claim that East Jerusalem will be the capital of their future state.

Today's decision by Israel is expected to derail the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that have been taking place for the past several weeks, in addition to souring Israel's relations with the United States and the United Nations.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pope: "Carla Sarkozy Is Not Welcome in Vatican;" Feared Press Would Show Her Nude Photos

The Telegraph (British) website reports today (October 14, 2010) that Pope Benedict XVI told President Nicolas Sarkozy of France that his wife, Carla (Bruni) Sarkozy, was not welcome on his recent visit to the Vatican, because the Italian media might publish racy photos of the French first lady.

Vatican officials sent the French ambassador a message concerning the Italian-born supermodel's presence during her husband's 30-minute audience with the Pontiff earlier this month which stated: "Carla Sarkozy is not welcome in the Vatican."

The French press indicated that the Pope was concerned that her visit would spark a rash of nude and scantily-clad photos from her modeling career being published in Italian newspapers.

Several photos of France's first lady -- wearing little or no clothing -- date back to her catwalk model days and have appeared in the French and international press.

Polish Catholic Leaders Defend School Policies; Favor Dismissal of Gay and Lesbian School Staff

The Ethics Daily website reports today (October 14, 2010) that Polish Catholic leaders have defended the right of Catholic schools not to hire gay or lesbian teachers, after human rights groups called for a government minister who supports the policy to resign.

"We must defend someone's rights to declare their views and convictions publicly," Archbishop Kazmierz Nycz of Warsaw said.

The archbishop was reacting to criticism of Elzbieta Radziszewska -- the government representative for equal treatment -- after she confirmed that Catholic schools are free to dismiss gay or lesbian staff members.

Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow -- a former secretary to Polish-born Pope John Paul II -- praised the minister for defending the rights of Catholics.

Albanian Church's "Resurrection" Praised by WCC; Church Nearly Perished under Communist Rule

The Ekklesia website reports today (October 14, 2010) that a meeting of the Commission of the Churches in International Affairs (CCIA)was held this week at the St. Vlash Monastery in Durres, Albania.

The meeting's host -- the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania -- was highly praised by the World Council of Churches'(WCC) General Secretary, the Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, in his address to the CCIA.

Rev. Tveit said, "The Church of Albania has become an example of the power of the cross and the resurrection, a sign of political relevance of hope and of worship, and how important it is to worship God and not humans' self-made gods."

The Albanian Orthodox Church was "resurrected" in 1991, when the Soviet Union -- as well as Albania's totalitarian regime -- came to an end. The Albanian Church was practically eliminated by the communist regime that had ruled Albania since 1944, and had declared Albania to be an atheist nation in 1967.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Patriarch Kirill Recalls Atheism in Soviet Russia; Says Secular Trend in Europe Makes Same Mistake

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia said today (October 13, 2010) that the situation with religion in some European countries reminds him of the times of militant atheism in the communist Soviet Union, according to the Interfax-Religion website.

"I am deeply convinced that modern civilization is making the same mistake as the Soviet Union," the Patriarch said while meeting with German President Christian Wulff in Moscow today.

The Russian Church has lived for decades in a country where the official ideology was the ideology of atheism, Patriarch Kirill added.

He concluded that philosophies come and go, but the Christian faith has existed for 2,000 years and it "formed the spiritual and cultural foundation of Europe."

Italy's Tax Breaks for Vatican Seen as Illegal; EU Warns Some Vatican Properties Make a Profit

The Worldwide Religious News website reports today (October 13, 2010) that the European Union (EU) warned yesterday that Italian tax provisions that allow the Catholic Church to avoid paying taxes on its property may run afoul of EU rules against state aid.

Vatican-owned properties on Italian soil currently are all exempt from the municipal tax on property because they are classified as non-commercial -- even in the case of religious hostels and hospitals that actually make a profit.

In a statement, the EU said its "preliminary view is that the relevant provisions could provide a selective advantage to their beneficiaries' commercial activities and therefore constitute illegal state aid under EU rules."

The EU added that so far, "Italian authorities have not provided sufficient evidence to enable the commission to consider that the measures at issue could be justified."

COMMENTARY: Islamophobia Will End in U.S. After Terrorism Ends

This past week, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) decided to establish a branch to deal with Islamophobia (the fear of Islam and Muslims).

There is no denying that many Americans have had a negative attitude toward Islam and Muslims since September 11, 2001, when about two dozen Muslim men were responsible for crashing four airplanes, which resulted in the deaths of over 1,000 innocent people.

The barbarous acts of 9/11 also resulted in the loss of respect for Muslims and the Islamic religion by a plethora of Americans. Precautions were implemented very soon after 9/11 to prevent similar senseless tragedies from reoccurring.

For example, the U.S. government required all large airplanes to have a solid locked door leading to the plane's cockpit to prevent passengers from entering the pilot's area. Moreover, plainclothes armed U.S. marshals were added to many airline flights as an additional precaution.

Screening passengers very closely before they can enter a flight and scrutinizing and limiting luggage by airline security officials are precautions that have continued to the present time.

These are just a few of the precautions that the U.S. government has implemented in order to prevent another 9/11-type of tragedy -- a tragedy that was planned and carried out by Muslim terrorists.

The fact is that Americans are correct in fearing terrorism by Muslims, or Islamophobia, as this phenomenon has come to be called. Indeed, it would be foolish for Americans to feel otherwise, not only because of 9/11, but also because of the savage terrorist activities that Muslims still practice throughout the world today.

Terrorism by Muslims, then, has not had a significant impact on the United States since September 11, 2001, because of the extensive precautions that the U.S. has put into place since that time. Terrorism is still prevalent today in nations that do not have the ingenuity or the intelligence resources to prevent it.

Consequently, Islamophobia in the United States will end only after there will have been no Muslim terrorist activities throughout the world for several years. For Americans to believe that Islamophobia in the U.S. will end any sooner, is a complacent denial that can only lead to additional terrorist-driven disasters.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Church Court Affirms Ordination of Gay Minister; He Says His Partnership Is Just Like a Marriage

The Christian Post website reports today (October 12, 2010) that a Presbyterian regional court has affirmed a Wisconsin church body's decision to ordain a partnered homosexual.

The Permanent Judicial Commission of the Synod of Lakes and Prairies ruled October 9 that the John Knox Presbytery "acted within its authority" when it approved the ordination of Scott Anderson in February.

A complaint was filed in March by Caledonia Presbyterian Church in Portage, Wisconsin, alleging that John Knox Presbytery committed irregularities by ordaining someone who is ineligible.

Anderson has stated that his relationship with his partner of some 19 years is exactly like a marriage, except for the procreation aspect.

Palestinians Reject Israeli Freeze on West Bank; Required Recognition of Israel as a Jewish State

The Telegraph (British) website reports today (October 12, 2010) that Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli prime minister, had offered to extend a partial freeze on Jewish building in the West Bank -- but only in exchange for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

Palestinian officials rejected the offer within minutes after it was made.

The Palestinian Authority -- while acknowledging Israel's right to exist -- has long resisted calls to recognize it as a Jewish state, saying such a move would discriminate against Israel's large Arab minority and prejudice negotiations over the fate of millions of Palestinian refugees.

The current impasse leaves the prospect of an Israeli-Palestinian peace resolution very unlikely in the near future.

CAIR Establishes New "Islamophobia" Division; Purpose Is to Combat Anti-Islam Hate Hysteria

The CNS News website reports today (October 12, 2010) that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) -- the most visible Islamic advocacy organization in the United States -- is establishing a department to deal with "Islamophobia" (the fear of Islam).

CAIR said in a statement yesterday that its executive director, Nihad Awad, announced the move at the group's annual banquet on October 9.

"We have seen a small but vocal group of bigots and hate-mongers manufacture an atmosphere of anti-Islam hysteria through smear campaigns that rely on distortions, misinformation, and outright falsehoods," Awad said.

He added, "It will take joint efforts by people of goodwill of all faiths to challenge this epidemic of hate."

Monday, October 11, 2010

Austria's Best Known Pilgrimage Site Is Defaced; Anti-Islamic Slogans Smeared on Styria Basilica

Police are investigating after the walls of Austria's most important pilgrimage site were defaced with anti-Islamic statements, according to the Austrian Times website.

Police in Mariazell, Styria said today (October 11, 2010) the graffiti on the outside wall of the Mariazell Basilica was 30 meters long and one meter high. The slogans read, "Koran is the bible of the devil" and , "The devil appears on the horizon."

The provincial department for the protection of the constitution and the fight against terrorism was heading the investigation.

The church is Austria's best known pilgrimage site and a major tourist attraction. Tens of thousands of people from all over the world visit it every year.

Cambridge, MA School Board Takes Bold Action; Votes to Cancel School on Two Muslim Holidays

The Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (October 11, 2010) that the Cambridge, Massachusetts school committee has voted in favor of officially recognizing two Muslim holidays, beginning next year.

The first holiday to be recognized marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan. The other is known as Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice.

Cambridge school committee member Marc McGovern, who advocated the new policy, said it's important to avoid stereotyping Muslims as terrorists.

The school board's decision comes after students from various religions made the request.

Pope: World Is Threatened by Destructive Powers; Cites Terrorism, Drug Abuse, Same-Sex Marriage

The Catholic Herald website reports that Pope Benedict XVI today (October 11, 2010) warned participants at the opening session of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East of the threat of "fake gods" that beset the modern world.

After leading prayers in the Synod Hall, the Pope spoke "off-the-cuff" for about 20 minutes about the meaning of psalms that were chanted by the 185 Synod fathers. He traced humanity's historical move away from polytheism and focused on the meaning of Christ's entry into human history.

But he said the modern world was still threatened by an array of destructive powers based on "false divinities that must be unmasked."

These include the ideology of terrorism that purports to act in the name of God, drug abuse that devours human lives like a beast, as well as widespread view of marriage that no longer values the virtue of chastity, he said.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

COMMENTARY: Serbia Must Embrace Christ's Teaching in Deciding Its Course on Gay Parade

Gay activists in Serbia are planning to hold a gay parade in Belgrade on Sunday, October 10, 2010. Russian Orthodox young believers have condemned the plan to hold the parade, and will hold a protest against it in front of the Serbian embassy in Moscow on Sunday.

It appears that Russians are more opposed to this gay parade in Belgrade than Serbians themselves. Why are Russians so adamant about it?

We need to keep in mind that Russia and Serbia have been close allies for many years -- and especially since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the breaking up of Yugoslavia into several nations -- including Serbia -- at about the same time. Moreover, Russia and Serbia share the same Eastern Orthodox faith -- more than 90 percent of their populations are Eastern Orthodox -- which has also led to a very close relationship between these two nations.

Serbian President Boris Tadic has allowed the gay parade to go on as planned in Belgrade, because he believes that it will enhance Serbia's chances of becoming a member of the European Union (EU). Allowing the parade, then, will send a clear message to the EU that Serbia believes in the freedom of all minorities -- gay, religious, ethnic, racial, etc.

At the same time, the Serbian Orthodox Church has condemned violence against gay activities, even though it is opposed to the gay parade in Belgrade. The Serbian Church has said, in effect, that resorting to violence is contrary to Christian values; therefore, it must be avoided.

Conservative extremists forced the cancellation of last year's scheduled gay parade. Serbian authorities have promised to ensure security for the gay gathering tomorrow.

Indeed, holding this gay parade leads to a serious dilemma -- especially from a theological perspective. On the one hand, resorting to violence against the gay parade is anti-Christian. On the other hand, gay activities themselves -- especially marriages of gays -- are also anti-Christian.

What is the appropriate Christian action for Serbia to take. I suggest that Serbia allow the parade to take place without violence; however, the vast majority of Serbs must make it perfectly clear that they are opposed to any kind of gay activities, because such activities are completely contrary to the teachings of Christ.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Judge Fines Elderly German Woman $1400; She Distributed Text to Children Denying Holocaust

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency website reports today (October 8, 2010) that an 81-year-old German woman was convicted this week of Holocaust denial, and fined nearly $1,400 by a Munich judge.

The woman -- identified only as Ursula H. -- admitted to distributing a text among schoolchildren that she had written in which she denied the Holocaust. Her 91-year-old co-defendant had allowed his name to be used on the pamphlet, and was fined more than $800.

In Germany -- as in Austria -- it is illegal to openly deny the Holocaust or disseminate Nazi propaganda. Doing so can result in a jail sentence of up to five years.

Judge Norbert Riedmann said he doubted that Ursula H. would change her views on the Holocaust, and that she had to be punished for expressing them.

U.S. Supreme Court Bans School Christmas Songs; Refuses to Hear Case, Agrees with Appeals Court

"Silent Night" and other religious songs will remain off the program at holiday concerts in one New Jersey school district -- and probably throughout the country -- since the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal of a school ban on religious holiday music.

By deciding on October 4, 2010 not to hear the case, the Supreme Court ended a six-year legal battle that started when parent Michael Stratechuk sued the School District of South Orange and Maplewood over a policy that barred religious songs at public concerts, according to the Religion News Service website.

The Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ban last year.

The Supreme Court's refusal to hear the case this week in effect upholds the decision of the Appeals Court.

Twenty People Are Killed in Afghan Mosque Blast; Taliban Suicide Bomber Believed Responsible

A provincial governor and at least 19 other people were killed today (October 8, 2010) by a massive bomb blast inside a packed mosque during Friday prayers in northern Afghanistan.

Thirty-five people were wounded in the explosion while praying at the Shirkat Mosque in Takhar province, according to the Associated Press website.

Gen. Shah Jahan Noori, the provincial police chief, said the governor of neighboring Kunduz province, Mohammad Omar, was killed along with 19 other people.

A survivor of the blast said he believed a suicide attacker sitting next to the governor detonated explosives.

No group has claimed responsibility for the blast, but the Taliban has targeted Omar previously.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Youth Plan Protest at Moscow's Serbian Embassy; Oppose Belgrade's Gay Parade Set for Oct.10

On Sunday, October 10, 2010, Orthodox young believers will voice their protest at the Serbian embassy in Moscow against the permission to hold the gay parade in Belgrade on that day.

"Demonstrations and rallies of perverts with no other aim but public propaganda of impudence and 'alternative morals' have become a customary symptom of the Western society disease," the picket organizers' statement reported today (October 7) to the Interfax-Religion website.

The statement goes on to say that Serbian government President Tadic -- in an effort to join the European Union (EU) -- believes that holding such a parade "is an essential feature of the 'civilized European society.'"

Tadic plans to march in Belgrade's gay parade.

Court in France Approves Law Banning Full Veil; Amends Law, Will Not Apply to Houses of Worship

The BBC website reports today (October 7, 2010) that France's constitutional court has approved the law that bans wearing the Islamic full veil in public.

The court approved the law almost in its entirety, making one small change: The law will not apply to public places of worship where it may violate religious freedom.

The new law makes it illegal to wear certain garments -- such as the niqab or burka -- which incorporate a full-face veil, anywhere in public.

Under the law, women wearing the full veil in public in France will face a fine of 150 euros.

NC High School Suspends Girl for Nose Piercing; ACLU Sues School, Says It's Part of Her Faith

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing on behalf of a 14-year-old North Carolina student suspended from high school over her nose piercing, according to the CNS News website.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit in federal court in Raleigh, NC yesterday (October 6, 2010). The lawsuit seeks a court order allowing Ariana Iacono to return to Clayton High School immediately.

Iacono and her mother belong to a small religious group called the Church of Body Modification.

The group believes that piercings, tattoos, and other adornments are a way of expressing their religious faith.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

U.S. Bishops' Facebook Contest Runs Oct. 11-15; Questions Will Be on Pope Benedict's Teachings

Facebook users who view the profile page of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will get a chance to show off what they know about Pope Benedict XVI and win a prize.

The USCCB is sponsoring "Pope Culture Week on Facebook," starting next Monday, October 11, and running through Friday, October 15, according to the Zenit website.

Each day, there will be a question about the life and teachings of the Pope. The first to provide the correct answer as a comment will receive a free copy of the book titled "Benedict XVI: Essays and Reflections on His Papacy."

Mercy Sister Mary Ann Walsh, director of media relations for the USCCB and editor of the book, reflected: "We think this is a great opportunity to engage our Facebook fans while promoting literacy about the Pope by asking questions about his life."

Russian Church Official Calls for Trips to Kosovo; Says Kosovo Shrines Will Transform All Visitors

Deputy head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department of External Church Relations, Archpriest Nikolay Balashov, today (October 6, 2010) suggested organizing Orthodox pilgrimages from around the world to shrines in Kosovo.

He told the Interfax-Religion website that every person who has visited Pec Patriarchate, the Gracanica, in Monastery Visoki Decani "will never forget this visit and will be transformed."

Father Nikolay urged to "seriously think about the future of these shrines of universal importance, about what should be done to preserve them, and provide access for Orthodox pilgrims from various parts of the world."

The priest also said that monks who stay in Kosovo monasteries were leading concentrated prayerful life there, despite "the great difficulties and constant fears for their security."

COMMENTARY: Firefighters Show Their Inhumanity by Letting Man's Home Burn Down

The fire department in a rural town of Obion County, Tennessee last week allowed a house to burn to the ground, because its owner did not pay a $75 annual fee to the county for fire protection.

To add fuel to the fire (no pun intended), the mayor of the Tennessee town said, "If owners don't pay, they're out of luck."

I find the attitude of the firefighters and the mayor to be repulsive and inhumane in this situation.

How can man be so cruel and heartless to his fellow man to allow his home to burn down? The owner even agreed to pay the firefighters whatever was necessary to extinguish the flames, but they still refused to do so. As for the mayor, he was about as empathetic as a hungry lion.

What has become of our Christian values? One of Christ's most important teachings -- perhaps even His most important teaching -- was to love our neighbors. What kind of neighborly love are these firefighters and this mayor conveying? The fact is that they are really not conveying love, but rather hatred and indifference.

Unfortunately, our Christian values have been lost for several decades, dating as far back as the early 1960s. If you are old enough, you may recall the hippie anti-establishment generation that became so popular in the 1960s.

The teenage and early-twenty generation of that era was allowed to do just about anything that it wanted. It would take over college administration buildings and remain in them -- sometimes for several weeks -- until its demands were met. It protested against the Vietnam War so vehemently, that the United States pulled its troops out of Vietnam, thus resulting in America losing the first war in its history.

This self-centered "me generation" has had a significant impact on American society right up to the present time. Today, many Americans couldn't care less about their fellow man, but only care about themselves. Their attitude is, if someone's house is burning down, I don't care -- as long as it isn't my house.

Moreover, many Americans have replaced the worship of Christ with self-worship. Materialism, wealth, status, influence, power are some of the things that these people prefer to "worship" today.

As for worshiping and loving Christ, most of these people claim that they just "don't have time." The fact is that they are so focused on enhancing their riches and status that they have falsely convinced themselves -- mainly through self-justifying rationalization -- that they do not need to worship Jesus, because Jesus has been good to them, and He will continue to take good care of them throughout their lives.

This is a sad attitude for Christians to have, but unfortunately it is pervading not only the United States, but also a large part of Christendom.

Perhaps one day -- especially when he acknowledges that everything he has comes from God -- man will redeem himself by showing a genuine love of Christ, a love which transcends man's own selfish interests and his indifference toward his fellow man.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

UN Voices Shock by Mosque Burning in West Bank; Tells Israeli Govt. to Prosecute Extremists

The United Nations has voiced its shock following the burning of a mosque in the West Bank that is suspected to be an act of arson.

The incident took place yesterday morning in the village of Beit Fajjar near Bethlehem, the Ekklesia website reports today (October 5, 2010).

The Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) said the attack is completely unacceptable.

UNSCO told the Israeli Government that the extremists responsible for such attacks must be brought to justice and the rule of law upheld.

Firefighters Allow Family's House to Burn Down; Homeowner Failed to Pay $75 Fee, "Out of Luck"

The Alter Net website reports today (October 5, 2010) that firefighters in a rural town in Obion County, Tennessee intentionally let a family's house burn to the ground last week, because the owner did not pay a $75 fee.

Gene Cranick, owner of the burned home, had not paid the $75 fee for fire protection service offered to the county's residents.

Consequently, when firefighters came to the scene, they just stood there -- with their equipment on the trucks -- while Cranick's house burned to the ground.

Cranick offered to pay whatever it would take firefighters to put out the flames, but was told it was too late.

Mayor David Crocker said, "If owners don't pay, they're out of luck."

I find this situation incredible. Where are the Christian -- or even human -- values of these firefighters and the mayor? If people were trapped in the burning house, would the firefighters still just stand there?

Indeed, these firefighters and the mayor are a disgrace to humanity!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Mormon Head Seeks More Church Missionaries; Expects Two-Year Mission of Able Young Men

Despite a large number of men and women preaching the Mormon gospel across the globe, the Utah-based Church of Latter-day Saints (LDS) needs even more missionaries, LDS President Thomas Monson told the Religion News Service website.

A two-year mission is a universal expectation for every "worthy, able young man," Monson said October 2,2010, speaking to more than 20,000 Mormons in the LDS Conference Center, and millions more watching the church's 180th General Conference via satellite.

Young women don't have the same obligation to serve full-time, but can make "a valuable contribution as missionaries," Monson said.

As for retired couples, the LDS leader said, "we need many, many more senior couples."

German President: Islam Is Now Part of Germany; Chose First Muslim Cabinet Member in Germany

Islam is now a part of modern Germany, the country's president, Christian Wulff, told the nation in an address on the 20th anniversary of the reunification of the once-divided nation, according to the Ecumenical News International website.

"Christianity is, of course, part of Germany. Judaism is, of course, part of Germany. This is our Judeo-Christian history," Wulff said.

"But, now, Islam is also part of Germany," Wulff told the assembled dignitaries -- including Chancellor Angela Merkel -- in the northern city of Bremen on October 3, 2010.

Before his appointment as president in July 2010, Wulff -- as minister of Lower Saxony -- appointed the first Muslim state cabinet minister in Germany.

Five Supreme Court Justices Attend "Red Mass;" Preacher Says Church Aware of Complex Law

The Roman Catholic Church blessed lawmakers, attorneys, judges, and other legal professionals yesterday, during the annual Red Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C., according to the Christian Post website.

Among those in attendance were four of the U.S. Supreme Court's six Catholic justices and one of the court's three Jewish justices.

In anticipation of the official opening of the Supreme Court's fall term on October 4, 2010, Archbishop Augustine Di Noia continued the 700-year-old tradition of this year's homily by praying for "consolation, peace, and solace" among other blessings to be upon those in the legal profession today.

"The Church." he said, "understands the nearly overwhelming complexity of the climate which envelops the practice of law and the administration of justice today."

"It was precisely such complexity that gave rise to the legal profession in the 13th century, as popes, kings, and bishops found it impossible to carry out their duties without expert legal advice," the Vatican cleric recalled in his Sunday homily.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Pope Denounces the " Evil" of the Sicilian Mafia; Tells Sicilians to "Testify to Christian Values"

The Telegraph (British) website reports today (October 3, 2010) that Pope Benedict XVI denounced the "evil" of Italy's organized crime, as he celebrated an open-air mass before tens of thousands of pilgrims in the heartland of Sicily's Mafia.

Benedict's first visit to the island since becoming pope in 2005 raised hopes among campaigners that he will help their struggle against the ever-pervasive Cosa Nostra.

"I am here to give you a strong incentive to not be afraid to testify clearly to human and Christian values, so deeply rooted in faith and in the history of this land and its people," he said.

He called on Sicilians -- dogged by Mafia extortion and intimidation -- to be "ashamed of evil, which offends God and man" and for the effects of organized crime which "injures the civil and religious community" to be brought into the open.

Organizers said around 250,000 people attended the mass in bright sunshine in Palermo's giant Foro Italico Square, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Palermo is considered to be the city in which the headquarters of Italy's Mafia is located.

Serb Pilgrims Gather in Kosovo for Enthronement; Patriarch Irinej Enthroned at Monastery in Pec

Thousands of Serb pilgrims gathered in a medieval monastery in western Kosovo today (October 3, 2010) amid tight security to attend the enthronement ceremony of the new Serbian Patriarch Irinej. No incidents were reported.

The ceremony in the Pec Patriarchate -- the spiritual seat of Serbian clergy -- took place just outside the ethnic Albanian-dominated town of Pec. Serbia's President, Boris Tadic, attended the ceremony, according to the Belgrade Post website.

Today, Serb faithful scrambled for space in the complex of churches that Serbs consider the seat of the medieval Serbian state and the Serbian Orthodox Church. Some were draped in the Serbian flag waiting to get a glimpse of their spiritual leader.

Irinej told the faithful after the ceremony, "From this holy place we plead the powerful actors of the world not to burden their souls with sin by finding a solution for this southern Serbian province that will deprive the Serbian nation of its heritage, prosperity, graves of ancestors and its sacred sites."

Kosovo was a province in Serbia from which it seceded in 2008, and declared itself an independent nation.

COMMENTARY: UN Needs to Act Fast against Islamic Extremist Killings in Pakistan

Islamic extremists in Pakistan killed a Christian lawyer, his wife, and their five children last week. The reason? Because the lawyer filed a lawsuit challenging a Muslim who was charging a Christian an exorbitant interest rate.

Atty Edwin Paul, his wife Ruby Paul, and their five children were shot to death, because Atty. Paul filed a lawsuit. I find it hard to believe that anyone -- let alone seven people -- would be killed for such a petty reason.

Apparently, the Islamic extremists had another reason for their killings; namely, their hatred of Christians. The day before the murders, a neighbor heard one extremist say, "We will not allow even a single Christian to live here" (in northern Pakistan).

This kind of barbaric and homicidal behavior in Pakistan -- which has existed there for some time now -- needs to end quickly. To add fuel to the fire, many Pakistanis who kill Christians are not even prosecuted for murder in Pakistani courts.

On the other hand, if a Christian killed a Muslim in Pakistan, he would be tried to the full extent of the law, and be severely punished. Indeed, Pakistan has a double standard in its justice system.

Consequently, it is time for the United Nations to scrutinize this mistreatment of Christians in Pakistan and to take punitive action against it.

Perhaps the UN could impose economic sanctions against Pakistan -- or implement another punitive action -- for that nation's inhumane treatment of Christians.

In any event, the UN needs to look into this Pakistani barbarism as soon as it can. Enough of innocent Christians -- in fact, too many of them -- have already been murdered in Pakistan, primarily because they are Christians instead of Muslims.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Polish Woman to Be Honored in Rome Next Week; Saved Many Jewish Babies from Nazis in WW II

The Spero Forum website reports today that a Polish woman, who saved hundreds of newborn babies from Nazis during World War II, will be honored during the 5th World Prayer Congress for Life, organized by Human Life International in Rome from October 5-10, 2010.

The late Polish midwife, Stanislawa Leszczynska, will be honored for her heroic efforts in saving newborn babies from a brutal end at Auschwitz, where concentration and extermination camps were built and operated in Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany.

Before she arrived at the camp in 1943, all newborns of prisoners in the infamous Nazi concentration camps were killed.

Leszczynska delivered over 3,000 babies at Auschwitz. Those with blond hair and blue eyes -- about 500 -- were sent to be raised as Germans, and another 30 survived the camp.

Rick Sanchez Fired by CNN for "Bigot" Comments; Said Jon Stewart Is a Bigot, CNN Is Run by Jews

On a radio program on September 30, 2010, Rick Sanchez -- the Cable News Network (CNN) anchor and host of Rick's List -- said he thought Comedy Central's Jon Stewart was a "bigot" and suggested that "everybody who runs CNN" is Jewish. CNN fired Sanchez for his comments, according to the CBS News website.

Sanchez -- in a 20-minute interview on comedian and CNN contributor Pete Dominick's Sirius XM radio show-- spoke about the discrimination he has felt as a Cuban-American over the course of his career. He denounced what he called "elite, Northeast establishment liberals" like Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

Sanchez said Stewart "grew up in a suburban middle class New Jersey home with everything you could ever imagine."

When asked by Pete Dominick against whom he thought Stewart was bigoted, Sanchez answered, "everybody else who's not like him."

Pakistani Muslims Murder Christian Family of 7; Resented Lawyer's Lawsuit on High Interest Rate

Islamic extremists killed a Christian lawyer, his wife, and their five children in northwestern Pakistan this week for mounting a legal challenge against a Muslim who was charging a Christian exorbitant interest, the Christian Post website reports today (October 2, 2010).

Police found the bodies of attorney and evangelist Edwin Paul and his family last Tuesday morning at their home in Haripur, a small town Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.

The victim and his wife, Ruby Paul -- along with their five children, ages 6 to 17 -- had been shot to death.

Paul's Muslim neighbor, Mushtaq Khan, said that last Monday, a group of armed men had threatened the lawyer. They told him, "Leave the town in 24 hours -- we know how to throw out Christians, we will not allow even a single Christian to live here. We will hang them in the streets, so that no Christian would ever dare to enter Hazara (northern Pakistan) land."

Friday, October 1, 2010

Religious Groups Join Progressives in D.C. March; "One Nation Working Together" Rally on Oct. 2

The Huffington Post website reports today (October 1, 2010) that faith-based organizations are teaming up with secular and progressive groups for this weekend's (October 2) One Nation Working Together rally.

Left-leaning groups ranging from Sojourners to Pax Christi USA to the Sikh Coalition will join the rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to help focus attention on jobs, civil rights, and education.

"All of these core principles are consistent with the core principles of the United Methodist Church," said Wayne Rhodes, spokesman for the church's Washington-based General Board of Church and Society.

Pax Christi USA -- a Catholic peace group -- wants to redirect funding from the military to jobs and education programs at home, said program associate Amy Watts. "At the core of this rally is a message of human dignity," Watts said.

Israeli Principal Faces Hearing over Textbook; Book Allows Space for Arab Thoughts on Israel

An Israeli high school principal has been summoned for a hearing by the country's Education Ministry for using a textbook that presents the Palestinian narrative about events surrounding Israel's creation in 1948, the Associated Press (AP) website reports today (October 1, 2010).

Israeli Jews celebrate 1948 as the year of their independence, while Palestinians and Israel's Arab citizens mourn what they call "al-naqba" -- the catastrophe -- the year of their defeat and mass exodus.

The principal of the Shaar Hanegev high school has been told to report next week to clarify with Education Ministry officials his school's use of an unapproved textbook, ministry spokesman Hagit Cohen told the AP.

The textbook gives the Israeli narrative of the country's founding next to that of the Palestinians, with blank space in the middle for students to insert their own thoughts.

Judge Dismisses Atheistic Lawsuit on Engravings; FFRF Challenged "In God We Trust," Flag Pledge

A federal court judge in Madison, Wisconsin today (October 1, 2010) dismissed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of engravings of the National Motto -- "In God We Trust" -- and the Pledge of Allegiance at the Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, D.C., according to the CNS News website.

U.S. District Judge William M. Conley ruled that atheist Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) did not have the legal standing to sue the Architect of the Capitol -- the office responsible for the Capitol building and grounds -- to remove the engravings, and that it was pointless to try to stop the engravings, since they have already been made.

The judge noted that under prior Supreme Court precedents, taxpayers can only bring legal challenges for perceived injuries if the injuries are directly tied to specific appropriations by Congress.

Chairman Probing Abuse: Pope Should Resign; Doing So Would Set an Example of Accountability

The Catholic Culture website reports today (October 1, 2010) that the psychologist who headed an independent commission investigating sex-abuse charges for the Belgian bishops has said that Pope Benedict XVI should resign to "set an example" of accountability in the Church.

Peter Adriaenssens told the daily "De Morgen" that the Pope "should not content himself with just expressing regret." It would be better, he said, if the Pope took dramatic action to show that "one person is taking responsibility."

Adriaenssens and the other members of the Belgian investigating commission -- which had been created by the Belgian bishops -- resigned after a police raid in which all their confidential files were seized by prosecutors.

After a court decision required authorities to return the files, the commission prepared its final report on September 10, revealing that almost 500 people had reported abuse by Catholic priests in Belgium.