Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Russia Allocates $2M to Restore Kosovo Shrines; Gracanica Monastery Among Four to Be Restored

Russia will allocate two million dollars in order to restore Kosovo's Orthodox shrines, the Orthodox Church Info blog reports today (November 30, 2010).

An agreement on this matter was signed today in UNESCO's Paris headquarters by Director General of UNESCO Irina Bokova and Russia's permanent representative Eleonora Mitrofanova.

Four churches will be restored, including the Monastery of the Patriarchate of Pec, Visoki Decani Monastery, Gracanica Monastery, and the Church of Our Lady of Ljevis.

Israel Has Tourism Record Despite Safety Fears; Over Three Million People Visited Israel in 2010

Israel is celebrating a new tourism record. For the first time ever, more than three million people have visited the Promised Land in 2010, according to the Christian Broadcast Network website.

Israel has set this record despite a worldwide economic recession and a common fear that the country is unsafe.

"For us, it shows that people trust coming to Israel," said Rafi Ben-Hur, deputy director general of the ministry of tourism. "That Israel is safe."

Evangelical Christians represent a substantial number of those visiting the Mideast nation. In fact, Christians make up more than 60 percent of all the tourists coming to Israel.

Women's Group Calls Angelina Jolie "Ignorant;" Say Her Rapist Love Story Film Demeans Bosnians

Angelina Jolie, who is directing a love story film set during the Bosnian War, was called "ignorant" yesterday (November 29, 2010) by a group of women who were victims of sexual violence during the 1990s war, according to the AFP website.

In a letter to the United Nations Refugee Agency -- in which Jolie is a goodwill ambassador -- the Women Victims of War said its members are "deeply concerned about the movie."

"Angelina Jolie's ignorant attitude toward victims says enough about the scenario and gives us the right to continue having doubts about it," the letter read. "We believe that she has no more credibility to remain the ambassador," the letter concluded.

After rumors of the rapist love story line surfaced in October, a group of Bosnian War rape victims pressured city officials to withdraw Jolie's filming permit.

The rumors proved to be untrue, and after the country's minister of culture read the script -- about a Bosnian woman who falls in love with a Serb man -- the permit was reinstated.

Nonetheless, Jolie earlier this month cut the shooting schedule from 10 days to three days, and decided to film some of the scenes originally planned for Bosnia in Hungary instead.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Okla. Judge Issues Injunction on Referendum; Sought to Ban Using Islamic Law in Okla. Courts

The Huffington Post website reports that a federal judge today (November 29, 2010) issued a temporary injunction against an Oklahoma referendum that sought to ban the use of shariah -- that is, Islamic law -- in state courts.

U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange's ruling indicates that the referendum on November 2 -- which voters approved by a 70 to 30 percent margin -- is probably unconstitutional.

Muneer Awad, executive director of the Oklahoma City chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, filed suit to block the law from taking effect.

Cardinal in Austria Denies Being "Anti-Polish;" Donated a RC Church to Orthodox Serbs

The Ecumenical News International website reports today (November 29, 2010) that the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Austria has denied being "anti-Polish" after members of Polish congregations in Vienna protested against his decision to offer one of the city's Catholic churches to Serbian Orthodox Christians.

"In recent weeks, many stormy events have taken place around a church in the Neulerchenfeld district," said Cardinal Christopher Schonborn, the chairperson of the Austrian Catholic Bishops Conference.

"Untruths and simplifications have been spread, filling me with great sadness," the cardinal said.

He added, "It has gone so far that I have been accused of deliberately acting against Polish Catholics, and this information has even circulated in southern Poland. I must assure you the truth is quite different."

Pakistani Govt. Barred from Pardoning Asia Bibi; Mother of Five Sentenced to Death for Blasphemy

The Christian Today website reports that the Pakistani government was barred today (November 29, 2010) by the country's high court from pardoning a Christian woman sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy.

"Since the matter is in the high court, the government cannot now make any move to pardon Bibi," lawyer Allah Bakhsh Leghari said.

Asia Bibi was sentenced early this month to death by hanging for allegedly speaking against the Prophet Muhammad.

The Christian mother of five is the first woman to receive a death sentence for blasphemy in Pakistan.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Serbia Asks U.S. to Extradite Accused WW II Nazi; Peter Egner Allegedly Took Part in Serb Murders

Serbia has requested the extradition of an American citizen accused of committing genocide and other crimes as a Nazi officer during World War II, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency website.

Serbia's justice minister on November 26, 2010 formally requested the extradition of Peter Egner, 86, who lives in a retirement community outside of Seattle, Washington.

Egner, a native of Yugoslavia, is accused of joining in April 1941 the Nazi-controlled Security Police and Security Service in German-occupied Belgrade, a Nazi mobile killing unit that participated in the mass murder of more than 17,000 Serbian civilians during World War II.

Egner came to the United States in 1960 and became a citizen in 1966. The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit in 2008 attempting to stop Egner of his citizenship, saying he lied about his Nazi past on his citizenship application.

Serbia's war crimes prosecutor has said that he wants to try Egner in Serbia.

COMMENTARY: Why Do Muslims Carry Out Terrorist Attacks Against Americans?

Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, a Somali-born Muslim, was arrested on November 26, 2010 in downtown Portland, Oregon, after he used a cell phone to try to detonate what he thought were explosives in a van. He did this in an area where thousands of people had assembled -- including many children -- to see a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony.

Fortunately, it turned out to be a fake bomb put together by FBI agents, who had learned about Mohamud's terrorist plan several months earlier.

This case is the latest in a string of terrorist planning by United States residents, including the Times Square plot in which a Pakistani-born Muslim pleaded guilty earlier this year to trying to set off a car bomb on a busy street corner.

The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks -- again carried out by Muslims -- are considered to be the worst attacks on the United States in its history.

Just why are Muslims so anti-American that they continue to carry out -- or try unsuccessfully to carry out -- terrorist attacks against Americans? There are three major reasons for Islamic terrorism.

First, many Muslims believe that the United States has no business "interfering" in the affairs of Iraq and Afghanistan. They sincerely believe that Americans are killing Muslims in these two war-torn predominantly Muslim nations because they don't care about Muslims. Consequently, they see a need to retaliate by killing Americans.

Israeli "violence" against Palestinians -- most of whom are Muslims -- is a second reason for Muslim terrorism in the United States. The fact is that the United States is Israel's closest ally, and for many years has supplied Israel with a plethora of modern weapons -- weapons that Israelis use to kill Palestinian Muslims.

A third reason for Islamic terrorism in America relates to America's arrest and long-term imprisonment of Muslims without a trial -- as is the case of many Muslims in Guantanamo, Cuba -- which contradicts American constitutional law. Muslims, then, feel that they are being discriminated against by Americans who see nothing wrong with violating the United States Constitution when it applies to Muslims.

The above situations indicate why Muslims are opposed to American foreign policy which includes invading and bombing Muslim nations, supporting Israeli violence against Muslims, and imprisoning Muslims without due process of law.

These situations cause anger in Muslims. This anger leads to a quid pro quo reaction by Muslims who feel it is all right for them to commit terrorist acts against Americans, because Americans are committing aggressive acts against Muslims.

The end product is a vicious cycle of Muslim terrorism and American militarism. When will this cycle end? We don't know.

What we do know is that Islamic terrorism against Americans is a phenomenon that we can expect to live with for many years, since we can see no end to it in the foreseeable future.

Swiss Approve New Mandate on Foreign Criminals; Requires Automatic Expulsion of Those Convicted

Switzerland today (November 28, 2010) endorsed a far-right push to automatically expel foreign residents convicted of certain crimes, according to the France 24 website.

Some 52.9 percent of those who voted were in favor, while 47.1 percent were against, with the country's German-speaking majority largely backing the proposal.

The move came exactly one year after Switzerland shocked the world by agreeing to ban the construction of new minarets -- another proposal backed by the far-right Swiss People's Party (SVP).

"It's very simple: We think that people we welcome in Switzerland should respect the rules of this country," Fabrice Moscheni, president of the SVP in the canton (Swiss state) of Vaud said. "If they don't respect these rules, they should be expelled from our territory," he added.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Greek Holocaust Survivors to Obtain Citizenship; Will Be Holders of Greek ID Cards by Early 2011

The Athens News website reports today (November 27, 2010) that Holocaust survivors of Greek extraction will soon have their Greek citizenship restored in an expedited process, according to Greece's Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitrios Dollis.

There are approximately 100 survivors in Israel who will be granted citizenship. Dollis said that the papers would be processed within months, and the survivors would be holders of Greek ID cards by early 2011.

The Jewish community in Greece numbers a mere 5,000 people today -- down from 77,000 before World War II.

In fact, the Jewish community in Thessaloniki -- the second largest city in Greece -- flourished so much before World War II that it came to be known as the "Jerusalem of the Balkans."

Federal Agents Arrest Muslim in Sting Operation; Tried to Blow Up Van at Portland, OR Ceremony

U.S. federal agents -- in a sting operation -- arrested a Somali-born Muslim just as he tried blowing up a van he believed was loaded with explosives at a crowded Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon, the World Net Daily website reports today (November 27, 2010).

The bomb he tried to explode was a fake supplied by the federal agents.

Mohamed Orman Mohamud, 19, was arrested today just after he dialed a cell phone that he thought would set off the blast, but instead brought federal agents and police swooping down on him.

Mohamud, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. A court appearance was set for November 29.

Muslim Woman Banned from CT Skating Rink; Posted Rules at Entry Stated "No Headwear"

The Europe News website reports today (November 27, 2010) that a Muslim woman was banned from entering a roller-skating rink because her headscarf breached the "no hoods" rule.

Marisol Rodriguez-Colon, 40, was "mortified" when she turned up to the Ron-A-Roll rink in Vernon, Connecticut, only to be refused entry.

When she asked why, security staff referred her to the venue's rules which were posted at the entrance and read: "No Hats. No Headwear. No Exceptions."

Mrs. Colon left in disgust, missing the birthday party of her niece which was taking place inside.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Pope Starts Foundation for Research on Theology; Hopes to Award Nobel Prize in Theology in 2011

The Life in Italy website reports today (November 26, 2010) that Pope Benedict XVI has set up a foundation aimed at fostering research on theology and encouraging studies on his own thinking.

The new foundation will be headed by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, who said today that the pope's thought could be "understood and enjoyed even by those who are not theologians."

The body will also assign prizes to those who distinguish themselves in theological studies.

"In 2011 we are hoping to award what might be called a Nobel Prize in theology," Ruini said.

Unmarried Women Can't Use Cellphones in India; Ban Is Designed to Prevent Inter-Caste Weddings

The Earth Times website reports today (November 26, 2010) that a powerful caste council in India's northern state of Uttar Pradesh has banned unmarried women from using mobile phones, in order to prevent marriages across caste divides.

The Bailyan council made the decision this week, because 23 young couples eloped and got married against their parents' wishes over the past year.

There have been several cases in recent years in which young men and women have been ostracized -- or even killed -- for marrying against rules regarding inter-caste weddings.

All parents have been told to ensure that their unmarried daughters do not use any cellphones. Their unmarried sons can still do so, but only under their parents' monitoring.

Lebanese Prime Minister Blasts Israeli Premier; Says PM Netanyahu "Does Not Believe in Peace"

The Jerusalem Post website reports today (November 26, 2010) that in a Washington Post interview, Lebanese Prime Minister Sa'ad Hariri has blasted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by saying he "does not believe in peace."

"There is no leadership in Israel," Hariri said. "At one point you had (Prime Minister Yitzhak) Rabin who wanted peace... but Netanyahu doesn't believe in peace."

Hariri accused Netanyahu of being "somebody who is not willing to talk about real peace in the region."

"Netanyahu takes the issue of security as the basis of his whole political platform, but you only have security if you have peace," Hariri concluded.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Archaeologists Find Church in Jamestown, VA; Believed to Be First Protestant Church in U.S.

The Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (November 25, 2010) that archaeologists in Jamestown, Virginia have found what appears to be the remains of the original 1608 church at James Fort, where Pocahontas was married.

Pocahontas is legendary best known for saving the life of Capt. John Smith, who helped establish Jamestown in 1607.

Jamestown archaeologist Bill Kelso said he's 99 percent sure he and his team have discovered the first substantial Protestant church in America -- the 1608 church.

"The fort was supposed to have been lost to the river, to erosion. No one could find it," Kelso said.

COMMENTARY: Iran Needs to Treat Its Women Respectfully

A 22-year-old Iranian athlete, Khadyeh Azadpour, who won a gold medal at the Asian Games in China on November 17, revealed that Iranian officials told her that she would only be given the apartment she was promised as a reward for winning, if she got married.

Azadpour said Iranian officials had not kept their promise, and that men athletes are not required to be married to receive a reward for winning a gold medal. Azadpour's situation clearly portrays how the Iranian government discriminates against women today.

To be sure, Iran does have a double standard when it comes to treating men and women. The fact is that in Iran women suffer from discrimination and oppression simply because of their gender.

Iranians -- using Islamic dogma for their justification -- regard the male as superior, and the female as a slave at his service.

For the most part, Iranian officials believe that it is the sacred responsibility of a woman to serve her husband and take care of the household. Married women are not expected to hold a job.

The laws in Iran state that the husband is the head of the family. Moreover, a woman does not have the right to leave her home -- even for her father's funeral -- unless she has her husband's permission to do so.

Iran also has inequalities in its punishment of similar crimes, with harsher punishments issued for women. Recently, a woman in Iran was sentenced to being stoned to death for committing adultery. On the other hand, a man who commits adultery is just flogged.

Girls suffer a great deal in Iran. Under Iranian laws, a girl can be bought and sold with the consent of her father or male guardian. According to the Iranian penal code, a nine-year-old girl can be punished as an adult by flogging and even stoning to death.

The above situations are just a few examples of Iran's double standard with respect to its treatment of men and women. Unfortunately, the current government in Iran has no intention whatsoever of ending its inequities toward women.

It is now time for the United Nations -- especially its human rights divisions -- to investigate the treatment of women in Iran, and do whatever is necessary to put pressure on that country, so it will treat women with the respect to which they are entitled.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Russian Council's Ruling Enrages Catholic Abp.; Ruling Gives Orthodox Church 15 More Churches

The Ecumenical News International website reports today (November 24, 2010) that the Russian Orthodox Church has rejected protests by the country's Roman Catholic Archbishop, after government authorities in the Kaliningrad enclave gave the local Orthodox diocese ownership of a Soviet-confiscated Catholic Church.

"The way the Catholic Church is dealing with this challenge today reveals its many inherent contradictions," said Dmitri Sizonenko, the Moscow Patriarchate's acting secretary for inter-Christian relations.

The Orthodox Church official was reacting to a statement by Archbishop Paolo Pezzi, the Italian head of Russia's Moscow-based Catholic Mother of God archdiocese.

Pezzi had condemned the ruling by Kalincngrad's district duma (Russian council), that 15 non-Orthodox places of worship in the Baltic port city should be handed over to the Orthodox Church.

What Does the Church Teach about Cremation?; Scattering of Cremated Remains Is Not Permitted

The National Catholic Register website reports today (November 24, 2010) that while cremation is not prohibited by the Catholic Church, it prefers that the body of a deceased person be buried in accord with church custom, according to statements issued by two U.S. archdioceses.

Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia and Archbishop Michael Sheehan of Santa Fe, NM said that cremated remains may only be buried in a cemetery or entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium.

Both prelates said scattering cremated remains is not permitted under Church teaching.

"Especially to be condemned are the practices of scattering the ashes, enclosing them in jewelry, dividing them among relatives as keepsakes, or doing other bizarre things with them," Archbishop Sheehan said.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tadic Calls on Richest Serbs to Share Their Wealth; Says They Should Give Part of Wealth to State

Serbian President Boris Tadic said today (November 23, 2010) he believes the richest people in Serbia should think about a way in which they would give part of their wealth away to the state and citizens, according to the b92 website.

"If that applies to the United States and European Union, it also applies to Serbia," Tadic said in his response to a statement by businessman Milan Beko.

Tadic also called on the government to think about introducing new taxes in order to make sure that the rich carry the burden of the crisis as well.

The Serbian president said that those who had acquired major capital during the 1990s should now demonstrate the same responsibility that rich people in the world demonstrate.

During his visit on November 22 to the Raska District, Tadic said he had requested the Serbian government to find a possibility to have the richest people in Serbia carry the burden of the economic crisis, and to have part of their riches included in creating new opportunities for citizens by opening new jobs and for the education and health systems.

Iranian Officials Stun Female Gold Medal Winner; Can Receive Promised Award Only If She's Married

The Spero Forum website reports today (November 23, 2010) that Iranian athlete Khadyeh Azadpour, who won a gold medal at the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, says that officials told her she would only be given the apartment she was promised as a reward for winning a gold medal if she got married.

Azadpour, 22, who won the gold medal in Sanshou 60kg Wushu (a Chinese martial art) at the Asian games on November 17, said that the Iranian authorities had not kept their promise.

"They said that the conditions had changed and only if you get married will the reward by yours," Azadpour added.

She also said that Iranian authorities should treat female and male athletes equally.

Bishop Suspended for Insulting New Royal Couple; Called Them "Shallow Celebrities" on the Internet

Bishop Peter Broadbent, 58, who made offensive comments on the Internet about Prince William and Kate Middleton, has been suspended, the New York Daily News website reports today (November 23, 2010).

Broadbent posted his remarks last weekend on Twitter and Facebook in which he compared the royal couple to "shallow celebrities" whose marriage would last only "seven years."

"I was appalled by the Bishop of Willesden's comments about the forthcoming royal marriage," said the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, who is Broadbent's immediate superior.

"I have asked him to withdraw from public ministry until further notice," he added.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Montana Supreme Court Ruling Favors Student; Was Denied Valedictory Speech Containing "God"

The Christian Post website reports today that the Montana Supreme Court on November 19, 2010 ruled 6-1 in favor of a high school valedictorian who was barred from mentioning God or Christ in her graduation speech.

The school district in Yellowstone County violated Renee Griffith's constitutional rights to free speech, the high court ruled.

The decision reverses a lower court's ruling that the school district's practice of excluding expression of personal religious views in student speeches was a reasonable basis for its action against Griffith.

Griffith was pulled from delivering her valedictory speech for the class of 2008 at Butte High School, because she refused to omit references to "God" and "Christ" in her speech.

Patriarch Kirill: Church Backs Flock in Ukraine; Tells Kiev Crowd That Ukraine Is Indispensable

The Russian Orthodox Church is determined to spare no effort for supporting its flock in Ukraine.

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia told this to clergy, monks, nuns, and pilgrims assembled in a historic Orthodox monastery in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, the Voice of Russia website reports today (November 22, 2010).

His Holiness is in Ukraine to attend events for the 75th birthday of his Church's primate in that country, Metropolitan Vladimir.

Patriarch Kirill is touring Ukraine with a revered icon once prayed before by the 19th century Russian saint, Father Seraphim of Sarov.

State Lutheran Church of Finland to Accept Gays; Will Create a "Prayer Moment" for Partnerships

The Swedish Wire website reports today that Finland's state church took a step towards accepting gay relationships with an announcement on November 19, 2010 that it would create a "prayer moment" for registered partnerships.

"The proposal offers a positive opportunity to minister to church members who are sexual minorities," the General Synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Church's highest administrative body, said in a statement.

Lutheran ministers will have the choice of performing the prayer with gay couples in a church, but it will not constitute a church's blessing of the union itself, synod spokesman Mark Kailasmaa said.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

NJ Pastor's Edict: "Thou Shalt Not Use Facebook;" Orders Church Leaders to End Facebook or Resign

Thou shalt not commit adultery. And thou also shalt not use Facebook.

That's the edict from a New Jersey pastor who feels the two often go together, according to the Worldwide Religious News website.

The Rev. Cedric Miller said 20 couples among the 1,100 members of his Living Word Christian Fellowship Church have run into marital trouble over the last six months, after a spouse connected with an ex-flame over Facebook.

Because of the problems, he has ordered about 50 married church officials to delete their accounts with the social networking site or resign from their leadership positions.

Israel to Build 240-KM Fence on Egyptian Border; To Stop Terrorists, Illegal Migrants, Smuggling

The Earth Times website reports today (November 21, 2010) that tomorrow Israel will start building a 240-kilometer fence along its southwest border with Egypt to stop terrorists, illegal migrants, and smuggling.

Engineers and bulldozers will start working November 22 on the plan that includes a fence and surveillance equipment, such as sensors to detect human movement.

The security measures are expected to cost $358 million, according to the Israeli Defense Ministry.

More than 10,000 people have illegally entered Israel so far this year.

COMMENTARY: Greeks in Athens Must Show Respect toward Its Muslims

Scores of activists in Athens last week taunted hundreds of Muslims, as they gathered to pray. There is no Muslim mosque in Athens, so Muslims tend to hold their prayer services at cultural centers or community halls, private apartments, or outdoors.

While Muslims prayed in Athens, some Greeks shouted obscenities, threw eggs at them, and waved Greek flags.

Greeks should know better than to take part in these hateful child-like activities, which show a disrespect toward Islam. Because some Muslim extremists in predominantly Muslim countries perform barbaric acts against Christians does not give Greeks the right to perform hateful acts against Muslims.

There are an estimated one million Muslims living in Greece. Most of them live in the northeastern part of the nation in the Greek region of Thrace, near the Turkish border. About 200,000 Muslims live in Athens.

With a significant increase in the number of Muslim immigrants living in Greece during the past decade, anti-Muslim sentiments have also increased. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the European Union, Greece has a higher negative attitude toward Muslims than any other country in Europe.

Greece's extremely negative attitude toward Muslims is generally encouraged in the rhetoric of Orthodox clergy -- thus making it an ongoing problem -- due to the power of the Greek Orthodox Church.

The Greek Orthodox Church has argued that the people of Athens are not ready for accepting the site of a minaret in the center of a Christian Orthodox country. Moreover, the predominance of the Greek Orthodox Church makes many Greeks consider non-Orthodox individuals as fundamentally non-Greek.

The only Muslim cemeteries -- as well as mosques -- in Greece are in Thrace. Muslims are discouraged from using municipal cemeteries, and only a few have done so. Muslims in Greece usually have burials in Thrace or in other countries.

Although attempts by Muslims to build a mosque in Athens have been met with opposition by local residents and some Greek Orthodox priests in the past, the present Archbishop of Athens supports the construction of a mosque. At the same time, the Greek government has approved its construction and has set aside a site close to the center of the city where the mosque will be built.

Construction of the mosque in Athens has not yet begun, but will probably begin within the next few months.

Once construction of the Athens mosque is completed, it would behoove the people of Athens to view this mosque as a godsend -- a capstone structure that will enhance Christian-Islamic relations and assimilation in the city that gave birth to democracy.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Artemije Refuses to Accept Synodal Retirement; Defies SPC Synod by Celebrating Liturgy in Kosovo

Retired Bishop Artemije celebrated liturgy at a Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) monastery in Kosovo today (November 20, 2010), despite the Holy Synod's decision to prohibit him from performing his priestly duties, according to the NFTU blogspot.

About 50 monks and believers who support him arrived at the Duboki Potok monastery last night and this morning.

Yesterday, Artemije's followers also occupied the Devine Vode monastery in northern Kosovo. Artemije's replacement, Teodosije -- appointed yesterday in Belgrade -- is believed to have urgently returned to Kosovo.

The Holy Assembly of Bishops of the SPC appointed Bishop Teodosije as new administrator of the Raska-Prizren Eparchy instead of Bishop Artemije. Bishop Artemije refuses to accept the decision and claims that it is not canonical.

Artemije was forced to retire because of allegations that one of his advisers defrauded the Eparchy.

The administrations of the Raska-Prizren Eparchy and the Kosovo-Metohija Eparchy have issued an announcement, stating that retired Bishop Artemije's intent to serve today at the Duboki Potok monastery represents "usurpation."

Pope: Condoms Can Be Justified in Some Cases; Justification Runs Contrary to Catholic Tradition

The Associated Press website reports today (November 20, 2010) that Pope Benedict XVI says in a new book that condoms can be justified for male prostitutes seeking to stop the spread of HIV -- a stunning comment for a church criticized for its opposition to condoms and for a pontiff who has blamed them for making the AIDS crisis worse.

The pope made the comments in a book-length interview with a German journalist, "Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times," which is being released on November 23. The Vatican newspaper ran excerpts of the book today.

Catholic Church teaching has long opposed condoms, because they are a form of artificial contraception, which is forbidden by the Church.

Benedict said that condoms are not a moral solution. But he said in some cases -- such as for male prostitutes -- they could be justified "in the intention of reducing the risk of infection."

Four in 10 Americans Say Marriage Is Obsolete; New Survey Shows More Now Accept Cohabitation

The Ethics Daily website reports today (November 20, 2010) that marriage is on the decline in American society, with nearly four in 10 people claiming the institution is obsolete, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center.

The Pew survey shows a shifting definition of marriage and an increasing acceptance of cohabitation beyond traditional boundaries of matrimony.

Since 1990, cohabitation has nearly doubled, according to the Census Bureau, and the Pew survey -- released on November 18 -- shows that 44 percent of adults have lived with an unmarried partner at some point during their lives.

The survey also indicates that younger people are hesitant to get married. In 1960, 68 percent of people in their 20s got married, but today only 25 percent of them have gotten married.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Activists in Athens Torment Muslims as They Pray; Shout Obscenities, Throw Eggs, Wave Greek Flags

The Reuters website reports today (November 19, 2010) that dozens of far-right activists and local residents in Athens threw eggs and taunted hundreds of Muslim immigrants this week, as they gathered to pray in a central square for Eid al-Adha, surrounded by a protective cordon of riot police.

Greece has a growing Muslim community, and tensions between locals and incomers have run high in some Athens areas such as Attiki Square, the scene of an incident on November 16.

Athens' Muslim community is without an official mosque, and prayers are usually held at cultural centers or community halls or private apartments around the city. The Muslim community in Greece is estimated at about one million, in a country where most people are Greek Orthodox Christians.

While the Muslims prayed, some Greeks shouted obscenities from their balconies and waved Greek flags. Leaflets that depicted pigs -- an animal Muslims consider unclean -- were scattered across the square.

The only mosques in Greece are located in the northeastern region of Xanthi in the province of Thrace near the European border of Turkey, where most of Greece's Muslims live.

TSA Chief: "No Exceptions" to Body Pat Downs; Declining Passengers Will Not Be Allowed to Fly

The Cybercast News Service website reports today (November 19, 2010) that Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Chief John Pistole told a Senate Committee this week that air passengers selected by the TSA for enhanced screening who decline to undergo either a full body scan or a full body pat down will not be allowed to board planes in the United States.

There will be no exceptions -- even for people who cite religious reasons for refusing the scan or pat down -- Pistole emphasized.

The question became an issue after the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) last week recommended that Muslim women who wear the hijab not submit to full body pat downs when going through pre-boarding security checks at airports.

EU Rejects Poland's Church Bar of Gay Teachers; Polish Official: Catholic Schools Can Bar Gays

The Ekklesia website reports today (November 19, 2010) that a European Union (EU) commissioner has rejected claims by a Polish government minister that her country's Roman Catholic schools can refuse to employ gay and lesbian teachers.

"The commission fails to see how a teacher's sexual orientation could reasonably constitute a genuine and determining occupational requirement," said Viviane Reding, who is EU's justice commissioner and comes from Luxembourg.

Reding's statement came after Elzbieta Radziszewska, a senior Polish official dealing with Issues of Equal Treatment, said that Poland's Catholic schools are entitled to bar gay or lesbian staffers.

The head of Poland's Anti-Discrimination Rights Association, Krzyztof Smiszek, rejected Radziszewska's claim. He said that her "hurtful statements" conflict with EU norms, and risk creating "a climate allowing homophobia in workplaces."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fox News Chief Apologizes for Nazi Comment; Roger Ailes Called Radio Executives "Nazis"

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency website reports today (November 18, 2010) that Fox News Chief Roger Ailes apologized to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for calling National Public Radio executives "Nazis."

Ailes made the comment in an interview with the Daily Beast's Howard Kurtz, who was canvassing recent controversies about the right-leaning news channel. Ailes also said in the interview that "left-wing rabbis" make it difficult to use the term "Holocaust" on the air.

Today, Ailes issued an apology to the ADL, saying he was sorry for using the term Nazi.

Abraham Foxman, ADL's national director and a Holocaust survivor, accepted the apology. "I welcome Roger Ailes' apology, which is as sincere as it is heartfelt," Foxman said in a statement.

Harvard to Resume ROTC If Gays Can Serve; Federal Judges Doom "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Law

Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust said yesterday (November 17, 2010) that the school will resume a long-banned Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program when federal law allows gays to serve openly in the military, according to the Associated Press website.

She emphasized her position upon introducing Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who spoke at the University yesterday.

Faust said Harvard is prepared to "fully and formally" recognize ROTC when all students have "the privilege and honor of military service" without having to lie.

The 1993 law known as "don't ask, don't tell" was ruled unconstitutional last month by two federal judges in separate court cases; however, the federal government appealed these cases, and was allowed to retain its "don't ask, don't tell" policy pending the ruling of the appeals court.

Council for Christian Unity Meets at the Vatican; Pope: Dialogue with Orthodox Churches Is Vital

Pope Benedict XVI underlined the importance of ecumenical work in an address today (November 18, 2010) to members of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, according to the Catholic Culture website.

The Pontifical Council for Christian Unity -- founded by Pope John XXIII in 1960 -- is marking its 50th anniversary.

Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, and Orthodox Metropolitan John Zizioulas of Pergamon (Asia Minor) -- a top ecumenical representative for the Ecumenical Patriarchate -- are in Rome this week to attend the anniversary celebrations.

The Pope said that the top priority in ecumenical work for the Catholic Church is dialogue with the "Orthodox churches and the ancient Eastern churches, with which bonds of the closest intimacy exist." He reminded his audience that in talks with the Orthodox world, "we have reached a crucial point of confrontation and reflection: the role of the Bishop of Rome is the communion of the Church."

GA Baptist Convention Discharges Atlanta Church; Druid Hills Church Ousted Due to Woman Pastor

Delegates at the annual Georgia Baptist Convention (GBC) voted on November 16, 2010 to oust one of its historic member churches for having a woman as a co-pastor, according to the Christian Post website.

The majority of messengers at this year's GBC annual session agreed that the Druid Hills Baptist Church in Atlanta is "not a cooperating church" based on the denomination's articles of faith.

According to the Southern Baptist Convention's 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, women can hold teaching or ministry positions, but not that of a pastor.

The document states that "while both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Russian Church May Resolve Middle East Conflict; Lebanese Premier Asks Patriarch Kirill for Help

Lebanese Prime Minister Sa'ad al-Dinal-Hariri has called on the Russian Orthodox Church to assist with the establishment of a Palestinian state, the Orthodox Church Info blog reports today (November 17, 2010).

"We would like your church to help solve the conflict over the Holy Land and Palestine. Palestinians must be able to return home and have a state with the capital in Jerusalem," al-Hariri told Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia in Moscow on November 15.

If that happens, "a lot of factors giving rise to terrorism, extremism, and bad relations between religions will be gone," he said.

The Middle East conflict is the central problem of the region for everyone, "including Muslims, Christians, and Judaists," al-Hariri said.

COMMENTARY: America's Schools Must Take Action to Minimize Bullying

Bullying has become a serious problem in the United States in recent years.

Bullying can be defined as repeated negative acts committed by one or more persons against another person. These acts can be physical or verbal -- such as hitting, teasing, and taunting -- or they can involve indirect actions, such as manipulating friendships or excluding a person from an activity.

Bullying occurs most frequently among students -- from kindergarten through high school -- since many students enjoy bullying other students. Students who bully others tend to have a need to display the power they possess -- either their physical strength or their social status.

Bullying usually has a negative impact on students, and has even resulted in suicide by bullying victims. Some of the reasons bullies use to "justify" their bullying include race, religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation of their victims.

As a result of this pervading nationwide bullying, several states in America have passed -- or are in the process of passing -- ant-bullying laws. For example, New Jersey is in the process of passing an anti-bullying law that would require teachers, administrators, and school staff to receive bullying training.

The fact that more than a third of all U.S. students were bullied in 2009, indicates the severity of America's bullying crisis.

All the states in America should take the steps necessary to prevent -- or at least minimize -- bullying in our schools.

Principals should designate a staff member to whom students can report bullying. School administrators should be required to contact the parents or guardians of bullying students. Schools should take punitive action against students who bully other students.

By implementing the above and other pertinent rules, bullying can be reduced to a minimum -- perhaps even becoming a phenomenon of the past -- in America's schools.

NJ Legislature Will Soon Pass Anti-Bullying Law; Will Be Most Inclusive Anti-Bully Law in Nation

The Christian Post website reports today (November 17, 2010) that the New Jersey legislature is close to passing an amendment that will create an Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights.

Provisions that expand the definition of bullying to include inflicting emotional harm, add additional criminal charges for bullying, and institute an annual "Week of Respect" will make this law the most comprehensive anti-bully law in the nation.

The bill mandates that teachers, administrators, and school staff receive bullying training, in addition to the suicide training already mandated.

According to statistics in the bill, more than a third of all U.S. students were bullied in 2009. Of those students, half reported that bullying was a weekly or daily problem.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

American Experts Blast Vatican Communications; Say Church Leaders Unwilling to Criticize Peers

The Catholic Culture website reports today (November 16, 2010) that two leading American Vatican-watchers offered frank criticism of Vatican public relations and management policies, at a November 15 forum in Washington, DC.

"The Vatican communications debacle has to end," said author George Weigel. He added that the question of how to remove incompetent bishops from their diocesan leadership posts is "the single biggest management problem in the Church today."

John Allen of the "National Catholic Reporter" struck a similar note in his discussion of the sex-abuse crisis, noting the unwillingness of Church leaders to criticize their peers.

Yesterday's discussion took place at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, where Weigel is a senior fellow.

PA School Is Sued Over "Boobies" Bracelet Ban; ACLU Says Ban Violates Students' Const. Rights

The Cybercast News Service website reports today (November 16, 2010) that a free-speech lawsuit has been filed against a Pennsylvania school district that bans the popular "I (Heart) Boobies" bracelets.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says the Easton Area School District ban violates students' First Amendment rights.

The suit -- filed yesterday -- says two middle school students received in-school suspensions last month for wearing bracelets that say, "I (Heart) Boobies. Keep a Breast." The bracelets are sold by a nonprofit organization to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer organizations.

School districts across the country have been running into similar disputes.

UNESCO: Biblical Sites in Israel Are Mosques; Sites Are Rachel's Tomb and Cave of Patriarchs

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has released a statement declaring two Biblical sites in Israel to be mosques, the Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (November 16, 2010).

Rachel's Tomb near Bethlehem and the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron were an "integral" part of what UNESCO calls "occupied Palestine."

The declaration comes despite historic evidence that Biblical forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were buried in the Cave of the Patriarchs along with their wives.

The site of Rachel's Tomb is believed to be the burial place of the Biblical matriarch Rachel, the favored wife of Jacob. About 750,000 pilgrims -- mostly Jewish and Christian -- visit and pray at the tomb every year.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Iraqi Gunmen Kill Seven People in Mosul Today; Two Christians Killed -- One Syrian, One Armenian

The Telegraph (British ) website reports that Christians have again been targeted in Iraq in an attack that killed seven people today (November 15, 2010) -- including two Christians -- in the latest in a spate of violence against the minority community.

The gunmen escaped after the evening attack in an eastern neighborhood of the main northern city of Mosul, police said.

One of the victims was a Syrian Catholic employed in the provincial anti-corruption office.

The other victim was a joiner of Armenian origin, police said.

High School in Virginia Eliminates "F" Grades; Students Instead Receive an "I" for Incomplete

Students at West Potomac High School in Alexandria, Virginia do not have to worry about getting an F, the Washington Post reports today (November 15, 2010).

Earlier this year, the school eradicated the standard mark for failure, instead supplying student with the letter "I" for incomplete.

Students with an "I" on their report cards can learn their lesson and catch up over the year, at which point they will be given a grade for their mastery of the material just like any other student.

World's Oldest Copper Tools Found in Serbia; Archaeologists Say Tools Made 75 Centuries Ago

An incredible discovery of 75-century-old copper tools in Serbia is compelling scientists to reconsider existing theories about where and when man began using metal, the Earth Times website reports today (November 15, 2010).

Copper tools -- axes, hammers, hooks, and needles -- were found interspersed with other artifacts from a settlement that burned down some 7,000 years ago at Plocnik, near Prokuplje and 200 kilometers south of Belgrade.

The village had been there for some eight centuries before its demise. After the big fire, its unknown inhabitants moved away. But what they left behind points to man's earliest known extraction and shaping of metal.

The tools discovered in southern Serbia were made some 75 centuries ago -- up to eight centuries older than what has been found to date.

It is unclear why a large quantity of copper tools were found in Plocnik. The head archaeologist on the site, Julka Kuzmanovic-Cvetkovic, said the village may have been a tool-making or trading center.

Court Upholds NH Law Allowing Pledge in Schools; FFRF Had Claimed Pledge Violates Students' Rights

The Salon website reports today (November 15, 2010) that a federal appeals court has upheld a New Hampshire law requiring schools to authorize a time each day for students to voluntarily recite the Pledge of Allegiance, finding the oath's reference to God does not violate the students' constitutional rights.

A three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston on November 12 affirmed a ruling by a federal judge who found students can use the phrase "under God" when reciting the pledge.

Parents and the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) had sued the Hanover School District in New Hampshire and the Dresden School District in New Hampshire and Vermont in 2007.

They said children's constitutional rights were being violated.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Head of Turkey's Religious Affairs Is Dismissed; May Be Due to His Failure to Implement Changes

The Worldwide Religious News website reports today (November 14, 2010) that the head of Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate has been abruptly dismissed -- perhaps because of his failure to implement radical changes.

Ali Bardakoglu ran the body for seven years. He will be replaced by his deputy, Mehmet Gormez.

Although secular, Turkey is deeply involved in religious life, with the directorate -- known as Diyanet -- responsible for managing some 78,000 mosques and a bureaucracy that is exceeded only by the military and the education system in terms of size and budget.

The Diyanet plays the most important role in shaping Turkish religious life.

Russian Prime Minister Putin Visits Bulgaria; Pays Respects to Relics of St. John the Baptist

The Sofia Morning News website reports today (November 14, 2010) that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin completed his state visit to Bulgaria yesterday by paying respect to the relics of St. John the Baptist and by meeting with His Holiness Maxim, Patriarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov accompanied Putin to the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in downtown Sofia -- the largest Bulgarian church named after the 13th century Russian prince St. Alexander Nevsky (1220-1263) honored as a defender of Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

Putin lit a candle and paid respects to the relics of St. John the Baptist, which had been discovered last July in the Bulgarian town of Sozopol on the coast of the Black Sea.

Patriarch Maxim, head of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, then received Putin, and thanked the Russian leader for his contribution to the development of the Russian Orthodox Church.

COMMENTARY: Glenn Beck Must Use Discretion in His News Analysis

Fox News commentator Glenn Beck angered many Jews this past week for broadcasting that billionaire George Soros helped Nazis exterminate Jews during World War II.

Soros, who is now an atheist, was born of Jewish parents in Hungary; however, Soros' father convinced a Christian in Hungary to make Soros his godson, so that Soros could pretend to be a Christian in Nazi Hungary, and thus avoid persecution.

Beck said on the Fox TV news channel that at the age of 13, "George Soros used to go around with this anti-Semite and deliver papers to the Jews and confiscate their property... Here's a Jewish boy helping send Jews to death camps."

Beck's comments drew condemnation from Holocaust survivors and Jewish groups, who described them as offensive and ignorant.

The fact is that Beck's comments are in poor taste and unprofessional for the responsible dissemination or even analysis of news. In the first place, Beck is describing the actions of a 13-year-old child, not an adult. At that age, Soros was only doing what he was told to do by his guardian.

Beck also described Soros as a "puppet master" who is "notorious for collapsing economies and regimes all around the world." Although it makes a strong accusation against Soros, this comment is not as offensive as Beck's Holocaust comment, since Beck is referring to an adult in this situation.

Nonetheless, Beck had better have substantial information to support this comment, or Fox News could be subject to a multimillion dollar slander lawsuit by Soros, since this statement appears to be defaming Soros' character.

Beck, then, needs to "fine tune" his news analysis. He must not criticize a child who is only doing what he has been told to do by his guardian. Moreover, Beck must have valid proof of truth if his comments may be defaming an individual.

In the final analysis, Beck must use discretion and ensure that he has concrete evidence to back up what he says when he criticizes an individual's actions. Otherwise, Beck would be doing an injustice to news broadcasting, in addition to subjecting the Fox News network to a Herculean slanderous lawsuit.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus Meet in Texas; Global Faith Forum Designed to Build Friendships

The Christian Post website reports today (November 13, 2010) that hundreds of Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and atheists have convened at a Texas church, in an effort to try to understand one another.

The Global Faith Forum began November 11 at North Wood Church in Keller, Texas, and Pastor Bob Roberts, Jr., is hoping the crowd will be open to listen to one another and even build friendships.

Within a pluralistic world where prejudice and stereotypes often hinder understanding, Roberts says "there is a better way than hate and fear."

"Everyone is saying that the tension between the U.S. and the rest of the world is bad, tension between faiths is bad, and things are spinning out of control," he said. "We can complain, gripe, fear, worry -- or we can act. This is an opportunity to gather and act."

Anglican Head to Meet with Pope Benedict Nov. 17; To Celebrate 50th Anniversary of Unity Council

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, will meet with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican next week for an anniversary celebration of a unity council, according to the Christian Today website.

Dr. Williams -- the spiritual leader of Anglicans worldwide -- will visit the Vatican on November 17, 2010 in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.

The Council's main goal is to develop dialogue and collaboration with other churches and world communions.

Metropolitan John Zizioulas of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and Archbishop Kurt Koch, president of the Council, will also attend.

Artemije Demands to Return as Eparch of Kosovo; Threatens to Start "New Church" If Not Returned

The disgraced Serbian Orthodox Bishop Artemije has demanded that he be reinstated as the Kosovo eparch, warning that he would otherwise start "a new church," the Blic website reports today (November 13, 2010).

The Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) stripped Artemije of authority over the Kosovo eparchy last February over his "inability to govern" and shortcomings in fiscal and material accounting.

A group of radical monks from two monasteries in the Kosovo eparchy -- which also includes part of southern Serbia -- rebelled against SPC after Artemije's ouster.

Now, Artemije -- in a letter to the SPC synod from his exile in the Sisatovac monastery in northern Serbia -- is claiming that he was "sentenced without court and sentence."

Artemije's threats come before a meeting of the SPC assembly scheduled for November 17. The SPC did not comment on Artemije's letter.

The turmoil sparked by Artemije could further strain the fragile relations between reformists and hardliners within the SPC leadership, who have been unable to agree on issues ranging from ties with the renegade Orthodox churches in Macedonia and Montenegro to the form of the liturgy.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Yemeni Cleric Tells Muslims to Kill Americans; For Americans and Muslims It Is "Either Us or Them"

The Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (November 12, 2010) that US-born radical Yemeni cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, is calling for Muslims around the world to kill Americans.

"Fighting the devil doesn't require consultation or prayers seeking divine guidance. They are the party of the devils," al-Awlaki said in a video.

He also said that for Americans and Muslims, it is "either us or them."

Al-Awlaki has ties to the 9/11 hijackers and previous US attacks.

Beck's Comments Scorning Soros Anger Jews; Was "A Jewish Boy Sending Jews to Death Camps"

Fox news reporter Glenn Beck has been criticized by many Jews for making Holocaust comments this week against George Soros -- a Hungarian-American financier -- who Beck said survived in Nazi-occupied Hungary as a 13-year-old Jewish boy by pretending to be a Christian.

Beck broadcast on radio on November 10, 2010 that Soros -- living apart from his parents in order to avoid apprehension by the Nazis -- "used to go around with this anti-Semite and deliver papers to the Jews and confiscate their property and then ship them off... Here's a Jewish boy helping send the Jews to the death camps."

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League and a Holocaust survivor, called Beck's comments "completely inappropriate, offensive, and over the top," according to the Associated Press website.

Some six million innocent Jews were killed by Nazis during World War II.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Patriarch Filaret of Ukrainian Church Visits US; Seeks Autocephaly of His Church from Russia

The Religious Information Service of Ukraine website reports today (November 11, 2010) that Patriarch Filaret -- head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate -- spoke on the Voice of America radio program today, urging Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia to meet with him.

"I would advise Patriarch Kirill to recognize the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church, give up the Ukrainian Church-Moscow Patriarchate, to promote unification," Patriarch Filaret said.

He also said that his church is open to dialogue, which should result in the unification and establishment of one national Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

The Ukrainian Patriarch is on a pastoral visit in the United States that began on October 29 and will end on November 16.

Christian Woman in Pakistan Sentenced to Death; Charged with Blasphemy, Did Not Convert to Islam

The Catholic Culture website reports today (November 11, 2010) the a Pakistani Christian mother has been sentenced to death for blaspheming the prophet Mohammed, after she refused to convert to Islam.

Asia Bibi, a resident of Ittanwali in the eastern province of Punjab, was working at a local farm when Muslim women with whom she worked urged her to convert to Islam. Bibi refused, saying that Christianity was the only true religion.

Angry Muslim men went to Bibi's home and started beating her. They also tortured her children, but someone informed police.

Police arrested Bibi on blasphemy charges. Following a trial, she was sentenced to death.

COMMENTARY: Decay of Catholicism in Spain Must Be Reversed by RC Church

While visiting Spain last Sunday (November 7, 2010), Pope Benedict XVI defended traditional families and the rights of the unborn. He also attacked Spanish laws that allow gay marriages, divorce, and abortions.

Although 73 percent of Spaniards are Roman Catholic today -- Spain had been 97 percent Catholic not too long ago -- 22 percent of Spaniards say they have "no religion." For some Spaniards -- incredible as it may seem to Christians -- atheism is a sign of prestige.

The younger generation in Spain especially has tended to ignore the Roman Catholic Church's conservative moral doctrines on issues such as pre-marital sex, contraception, and traditional marriage.

In fact, the Spanish legislature passed a bill in 2005 that legalized same-sex marriage. Moreover, there is no real separation of church and state in Spain, as the church is economically sustained by the state.

So what must be done to reverse this secular trend that is decaying Christianity in Spain?

One option is for the Catholic Church to establish more youth activities that instill the values of the Church in young people. Plays, films, discussion groups, trips to religious sights are some of these activities that could be implemented. The Church might also set up Catholic TV channels -- such as EWTN in the United States -- to promote its doctrine and values. Other creative ideas can also be implemented.

Although promoting the values of the Catholic Church to attain worshipers is not an easy task in today's secular-oriented society, it is a task in which the Catholic Church must be patient and perseverant -- just as the early Christians were in promoting Christianity.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hillary Clinton Blasts Israeli Settlement Plans; Calls Them "Counterproductive, Peace Obstacle"

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton today (Novemeber 10, 2010) criticized Israel's latest building plans in East Jerusalem -- an issue that has divided the two governments and imperiled efforts to revive Middle East peace talks -- the Huffington Post website reports.

Clinton called the construction of 1,300 apartments "counterproductive" and an obstacle to restarting peace talks with the Palestinians.

"The United States was deeply disappointed by the announcement of advance planning for new housing units in sensitive areas of east Jerusalem," Clinton told reporters at the State Department.

Her remarks come one day before she was scheduled to meet in New York with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who earlier rejected President Barack Obama's criticism of the construction project.

Netanyahu's inflexible and self-centered decision to build housing units in east Jerusalem is seen by many diplomats as an obstruction to peace in the Middle East. Moreover, it has resulted in U.S.-Israeli relations being at their worst state since Israel became a nation in 1948.

Russian Archeologists Find Building in Jericho; Believed to Be a Monastery Built 700 Years Ago

The Interfax-Religion website reports today (November 10, 2010) that Russian archeologists have discovered what appears to be a former monastery in Jericho.

"Here we have discovered a complex of Byzantium buildings that dates back six or seven centuries. Perhaps it is remains of a monastery with multicolored mosaics," director of the Archeology Institute and corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences Nikolay Makarov said at a press conference today.

Excavations in Jericho were organized by the Russian Presidential Administration in connection with building a Russian museum and park complex and yard face-lift.

As Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia had said earlier, the Russian Cultural Center in Jericho will become "the first major project in the Holy Land in the third millennium that was actively taken up by the Russian state."

Strict Smoking Ban Goes into Effect in Serbia; People Can Be fined $65, Businesses Much More

A strict law against smoking in the workplace and public places goes into effect in Serbia today (November 10, 2010) at midnight, according to the Earth Times website.

The law was passed six months ago, but allowed for a six-month grace period.

Accustomed to an almost unrestricted enjoyment of tobacco, many Serbian smokers have voiced outrage over what they say is a limitation of their rights.

The law does allow for separate spaces for smoking, provided they are isolated from non-smoking areas and have proper ventilation.

According to the Serbian Health Ministry, a third of the population in Serbia smokes regularly. The figures may really be higher, as many minors also smoke, but covertly.

The new law provides steep fines for violations. A smoker caught breaking the law faces a fine of 5,000 dinars (65 dollars) -- roughly one-sixth of an average Serbian wage. A business can be fined from 500,000 to one million dinars.

UN Report Says Norway Has Best Quality of Life; Followed by Australia, New Zealand, US, Ireland

The Swedish Wire website reports that Norway was named by the United Nations on November 4, 2010 as the country with the best quality of life for the eighth time.

The UN's annual A-to-Z global wealth, poverty, health, and education highlighted in its 20th anniversary edition that it is becoming more difficult to break into the rich club of nations.

Oil-rich Norway -- with its 81.0 years of life expectancy, average annual income of $58,810, and 12.6 years of schooling -- has now topped the Human Development Index (HDI) of the UN for all but two years since 2001.

Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and Ireland respectively took the following places in the top five nations.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

US Charges 17 with $42M Holocaust Funds Theft; Defendants Could Face up to 20 Years in Prison

The BBC website reports today (November 9, 2010) that 17 people have been charged in the U.S. with the theft of $42 million of Holocaust compensation funds provided by the German government.

Prosecutors alleged the 17 fooled a non-profit-making group that distributes the funds into making 5,500 false payments.

Six of those charged work for the group -- the Conference of Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.

The chairman of the group said it was "outraged" at the alleged thefts. It had detected the matter itself and contacted the FBI.

If convicted, the defendants could face up to 20 years in prison.

Chairman of the claims conference, Julius Berman, said, "We are outraged that individuals would steal money intended for survivors of history's worst crime to enrich themselves."

"Christians Are on the Verge of Extinction in Iraq;" Muslim Leader Calls on Govt. to Protect Christians

A Muslim leader is calling on the Iraqi government and US-led forces to step up their efforts to protect the Christian minority in Iraq from extinction, the Christian Post website reports today (November 9, 2010).

Nevaid Hamid, Secretary of the South Asian Council for Minorities (SACM) and a Muslim, said the deadly attack a week ago on a church in Baghdad was a heinous crime that should be strongly condemned by the international community.

About 58 people died when al-Qaida-linked militants stormed the Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad and opened fire on the congregation.

Hamid said, "It is a fact that Christians are on the verge of extinction in Iraq."

Austrian Dogfight Ringleader Arrested In Serbia; Serbian Police Get Tough on Dogfight Attendees

A 34-year-old man from Vienna has been arrested after attending an illegal dogfight event in Serbia, according to the Austrian Times website.

The man, identified only as Andreas B., was placed in custody in a prison in Cuprija after Serbian police raided backyard dogfight tournaments in the nearby towns of Kolare and Glavinci on November 7, 2010.

The Austrian and two other suspects of other nationalities face animal cruelty charges. The alleged animal torturers could be fined or jailed for up to three years.

Austrian Crime Office official Helmut Greiner announced today (November 9) that the juridical decision-makers in Serbia were known for their strict policies towards dogfight attendees, after the sickening events have become immensely popular.

Reports in Serbian newspapers state that around 50 people from Serbia, Germany, and Greece attended the backyard tournament. They also stated that Andreas B. was the ringleader of the criminal activities.

Owners of canines winning such tournaments are rewarded up to 10,000 Euros in prize money. Dogs participating in tournaments are usually put to sleep afterwards, because of their injuries.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Holocaust-Era Jewish Grave Found in Romania; About 100 Bodies of Adults, Children in Forest

A Holocaust-era mass grave containing the bodies of some 100 Jews killed by Romanian troops was discovered last week in a forest, according to the Cybercast News Service website.

The find in a forest near the town of Popricani -- some 350 kilometers northeast of Bucharest -- contains the bodies of men, women, and children who were shot dead in 1941, the Elie Wiesel National Institute for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania said in a statement.

Some 280,000 Jews were killed during the pro-fascist regime of dictator Marshal Ion Antonescu, who was Romanian prime minister from 1940 to 1944.

Romania today has only 6,000 Jews.

Pope Attacks Spain's Law Allowing Gay Marriage; Gay Activists Stage "Kiss-In" to Protest Visit

Pope Benedict XVI defended traditional families and the rights of the unborn yesterday (November 7, 2010), directly attacking Spanish laws that allow gay marriage, fast-track divorce, and easier access to abortions, as he dedicated Barcelona's iconic basilica, the Sagrada Familia.

As he headed to the basilica, about 200 gays and lesbians staged a "kiss-in" to protest his visit and church policies that consider homosexual acts "intrinsically disordered," according to the Huffington Post website.

On the other hand, some 250,000 people came out to cheer the pope and watch as he formally inaugurated Barcelona's newest basilica -- an architectural marvel still unfinished after more than 100 years of construction.

Five Anglican Bishops to Convert to Catholicism; Opposed to Ordination of Women Priests, Bishops

The Earth Times website reports that five bishops of the Church of England announced their decision today (November 8, 2010) to convert to the Roman Catholic Church.

The three serving and two retired bishops plan to join the Catholic Church by the end of this year through a scheme known as the personal ordinariate, offered by Pope Benedict XVI last year to Anglicans opposed to new non-Christian policies being adopted by the Anglican Church.

The scheme allows Anglicans to join the Roman Catholic Church, while maintaining aspects of their spiritual heritage.

The bishops are strong opponents of moves in the Anglican Church to allow the ordination of women bishops -- expected by 2012 -- and the wider acceptance of women as priests in the Church of England.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Episcopal Gay Bishop Robinson Plans to Retire; Cites Death Threats, Strain on Family and Church

Bishop V. Gene Robinson -- the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church -- yesterday (November 6, 2010) announced at the annual convention of the New Hampshire diocese that he plans to retire in January 2013.

The 63-year-old bishop cited death threats and the strain that the worldwide rift has placed on him, his family, and the church, according to the Boston Globe website.

Robinson told the convention, "Death threats, and now worldwide controversy surrounding your election of me as a bishop, have been a constant strain, not just on me, but on my beloved husband, Mark, who has faithfully stood with me every minute of the last seven years."

Robinson's consecration in 2003 as an openly gay bishop in America's Episcopal Church -- a branch of the Anglican Church -- was a critical factor in dividing the Anglican Communion worldwide. Several other modern changes adopted by the Anglican Church in recent years -- and considered to be contrary to Christ's teachings by many Christians -- also played a major role in convincing thousands of Anglicans to convert to Roman Catholicism during the past few years.

Hundreds in Toronto Protest Iraqi Church Killings; Was Deadliest Iraqi Attack against Christians

Hundreds of people took to Toronto streets yesterday (November 6, 2010) to draw attention to the killings of Christians in Iraq, according to the Assyrian International News Agency website.

Fadi Naami, 28, a youth leader with St. Joseph Syriac Catholic Church in Mississauga (Canada), said the demonstration was intended to commemorate the deaths of 58 hostages after militants seized a Baghdad church on October 31.

The attack -- claimed by an Al Qaeda-linked organization -- was the deadliest ever recorded against Iraq's Christians.

Similar demonstrations are planned in cities across the United States and Europe for tomorrow, November 8.

COMMENTARY: Barbarous Acts against Serbs in Kosovo Must Stop Now

A group of Serbs who visited a Serbian cemetery in Decani, Kosovo on November 6, 2010 -- marking the autumn All Souls' Day -- found several Orthodox tombstones damaged and human remains scattered throughout the cemetery.

Moreover, a Kosovo Police Service (KPS) was notified in advance about the organized visit, but the police were nowhere to be seen at the cemetery.

Apparently, many people in Kosovo -- which is primarily a Muslim country -- believe it is all right for them to carry out these disgusting acts against Serbs who are mainly Eastern Orthodox Christians. Needless to say, it is not all right.

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

In the summer of 2010, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Kosovo's secession from Serbia was not illegal. The ICJ's ruling was baffling to many scholars of international law -- as well as people in general -- who believed that Kosovo's secession was illegal.

Kosovo is inhabited by a plethora of Albanian Muslims. Many of these Albanians believe that they were mistreated by Serbs, when Kosovo was a province of Serbia.

Albanians recall Serbia's former president, Slobodan Milosevic, and the war he waged against Kosovo in 1998 and 1999. Many Albanians in Kosovo consider Milosevic's actions to be genocode against them.

In fact, Milosevic was indicted in 1999 for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Kosovo. His trial was being held at the International Criminal Tribunal, but Milosevic died in his Hague prison cell on March 11, 2006, before his trial ended.

To be sure, the late Slobodan Milosevic used unnecessary deadly force against Albanians in Kosovo. But does that mean that Albanians in Kosovo today have "a right" to damage Serbian tombstones, scatter human remains throughout a cemetery, and commit other savage and devilish acts against Serbs?

Absolutely not! These are barbarous, inhumane, and unchristian acts that must not be tolerated. Moreover, the Kosovo police have a responsibility to protect Serbian lives that may be in danger in Kosovo, as well as Serbia's many spiritually beautiful Christian monuments that pervade the former Serbian province.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Serbian Cemetery in Decani, Kosovo in Ruins; Serbs Find Tombs Damaged, Human Remains Scattered

Serbs who visited the cemetery in Decani, western Kosovo, to mark the autumn All Souls' Day today (November 6, 2010) found that the Orthodox graves had been desecrated, according to the Tanjug (Serbian) website.

Snezana Paunovic, an official in the Decani municipal assembly, stated, "We found tombs violated and human remains scattered around the cemetery."

She also noted that today a problem occurred with regard to organizing the Kosovo Police Service (KPS) escort, although the KPS was notified in advance about the organized visit to the cemetery.

Kosovo had been a province in Serbia until it seceded from Serbia in 2008 and declared itself an independent nation. In a decision that shocked public officials and scholars of international law, the International Court of Justice last summer ruled that Kosovo's secession from Serbia was not illegal.

About 85 percent of Serbia's population is comprised of Eastern Orthodox Christians, while Kosovo's population is about 90 percent Muslim.

Methodist Court Rules Pastor Can Bar Members; Pastor Had Denied Gay Man Church Membership

The Christian Post website reports today (November 6, 2010) that the United Methodist Church's highest court has denied requests to reconsider a 2005 decision that granted a pastor the right to bar a gay man from becoming a church member.

The Judicial Council ruled last weekend to leave the decision alone.

"Let the decision rest where it may. There is no need to reconsider, abandon, overturn, or withdraw the decision," wrote Ruben Reyes in a concurring opinion.

In 2005, the Rev. Ed Johnson, senior pastor at South Hill United Methodist Church in Virginia, refused to receive a gay man into membership in the church. Later that year, the Judicial Council ruled that United Methodist ministers have the right to determine "a person's readiness to affirm the vows of membership."

Pope Ranked Fifth Most Powerful Person; Forbes Ranks Persons by Their Influence

Pope Benedict XVI won the No. 5 spot in the list of the world's most powerful people -- one of only two religious leaders -- in Forbes, the U.S. business magazine's list of 68 influential men and women, according to the Ecumenical News International website.

Benedict was ranked between Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The only other religious leader on the list was the Dalai Lama, who ranked at No. 39.

Forbes -- which released the list on November 3, 2010 -- scored the rankings by the person's influence over people, which for religious leaders meant counting the followers in their flocks.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Suicide Bomber Kills 67 In Pakistan Mosque; Grenades Kill Three More in Another Mosque

A suicide bomber struck a mosque frequented by anti-Taliban tribal elders in northwestern Pakistan during afternoon prayers today (November 5, 2010), killing at least 67 people, according to the Associated Press website.

Later in the day, three grenade blasts killed three people at a mosque in another northwest area where an anti-Taliban militia was active.

In the first attack -- which occurred in Darra Adam Khel -- the Sunni mosque's roof collapsed, as hundreds of worshipers were gathered inside, and many victims were trapped in the debris.

In the second incident, three hand grenades exploded during evening prayers at a Sunni mosque in the Badhber area near Peshawar, Pakistan. Along with three dead, the blasts wounded 24 others, said police official Ejaz Khan.

Cardinal Rips Austrian Govt. on Iraqi Refugees; Says Govt. Refuses to Accept Iraqi Christians

The Austrian Independent website reports that Christoph Cardinal Schonborn attacked the Austrian government today (November 5, 2010) for its failure to have accepted Iraqi refugees who are members of the country's Christian minorities.

The cardinal added that such refugees were often well-educated and worldly-oriented people who could easily integrate themselves into Austrian society.

Catholic press agency Kathpress has quoted Schonborn as claiming that religious minorities in Iraq are in serious danger, and that hardly a day goes by without attacks on them.

The agency also quoted him as noting that 300,000 Iraqi Christians who have had to flee to Syria and Jordan are living miserable lives without any hope of returning home.

Evangelist Billy Graham Turns 92 on November 7; Still Broadcasts "Hour of Decision" Radio Show

Evangelist Billy Graham turns 92 on Sunday, November 7, 2010. He will celebrate the occasion with close friends and family, according to the Christian Broadcast Network website.

"I am amazed every time I think of how many years the Lord has given me on this earth," Graham said in a statement. "I am grateful for His blessing on our ministry for more than six decades, but wonder if there is something more He has for me to accomplish."

Graham's grandson Will says the evangelist has trouble seeing and hearing, but enjoys visiting and praying with his friends.

"The Hour of Decision" with Billy Graham -- one of Christian radio's longest running programs -- turned 60 this week, and continues to be broadcast in five languages in 55 countries on six continents.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Christian, Muslim Leaders End Geneva Meetings; Agree to Form a Mobilized Joint Crisis Group

Global Christian and Muslim leaders -- meeting in Switzerland for the past four days -- have jointly called for the formation of a group which can be mobilized whenever a crisis threatens to arise in which Christians and Muslims find themselves in conflict, the Ecumenical News International website reports today (November 4, 2010).

In a closing statement from their November 1-4 meetings at Geneva's Ecumenical Center, the leaders of the two faiths said, "Religion is often invoked in conflict creation, even when other factors, such as unfair resources allocation, oppression, occupation, and injustice are the real roots of the conflict."

They also said, "The basis of our faiths, as expressed in the call to get to know each other and the two commandments to love God and to love the neighbor provide a solid ground for our common responsibility to act and address common concerns."

On November 3, the Christian-Muslim participants illustrated their joint effort for peace by issuing a statement in which they condemned an attack by an armed group on a Baghdad church in which 58 people were killed on October 31.

Pope: Siege of Church in Baghdad a "Savage" Act; "Hit Defenseless People Gathered in God's House"

A deadly militant siege of the Syrian Catholic cathedral in Baghdad was a "savage" act of "absurd violence," Pope Benedict said.

The pope urged international and national authorities and all people of goodwill to work together to end the "heinous episodes of violence that continue to ravage the people of the Middle East," according to the Catholic News website.

The attack occurred October 31, 2010 with over 100 people gathered for Sunday Mass.

"I pray for the victims of the absurd violence, which is even more savage because it struck defenseless people, gathered in God's house, which is a house of love and reconciliation," Pope Benedict said, after praying the Angelus with pilgrims in St. Peter's Square on November 1 -- the feast of All Saints.

Anglicans Launch Coalition against New Covenant; Say It Would Interfere in Churches' Authority

The Ekklesia website reports today (November 4, 2010) that an international coalition of Anglicans has been established to campaign against the proposed Anglican Covenant, which has been backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Campaigners from all sections of the Church argue that the proposed Covenant constitutes unwarranted interference in the internal life of the member churches of the Anglican Communion.

The proposed Covenant establishes mechanisms which would have the effect of forcing member churches to conform to the demands and expectations of their churches or risk exclusion from the Communion.

Critics of the proposed Anglican Covenant believe that it will fundamentally alter the nature of historic Anglicanism by concentrating its authority in a small number of bishops.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Oklahoma Is First US State to Veto Sharia Law; Will Prevent Its Use in Court Cases in State

The Worldwide Religious News website reports today (November 3, 2010) that Oklahoma has become the first state in America to outlaw Sharia law, as voters ruled it illegal for judges to rely on the Islamic code when ruling on cases.

Proponents of the ban said it was a "preemptive strike" to stop Oklahoma from suffering the same fate as European countries, such as Britain, where Sharia is routinely used in Muslim communities.

Although Oklahoma has a small proportion of Muslims -- about 15,000 out of a population of 3.7 million -- it wanted to stamp out the problem before it could begin.

Saad Mohammed of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City said, "There's no threat of sharia law coming to Oklahoma and America. It's just a scare tactic."

COMMENTARY: Clergy Must Abide by America's Tradition of Church-State Separation

This week former U.S. president Jimmy Carter said that religion in America has, by and large, become too involved in politics. He also warned of the dangers that could result if this trend continues.

For example, the fact that some pastors are now openly calling on their parishioners to vote a certain way is contrary to the established principle of separation of church and state in America.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." In other words, Americans are free to worship as they please, and there must be no government interference insofar as their worshiping is concerned.

On the other hand, the church in America has a similar responsibility; namely, to avoid getting involved in political affairs. More specifically, clergy should not urge their parishioners to vote for certain candidates who are running for state and federal offices.

A week ago, Massachusetts' four Roman Catholic bishops issued a joint statement urging Catholics to vote in the November 2 elections so as to "enhance human dignity."

Although the bishops' statement did not endorse any candidate or party, it can be considered an intrusion into state affairs, because the statement does try to influence the way Catholics vote. The bishops did urge Catholics to weigh abortion, same-sex marriage, religious freedom, and the well-being of the poor when voting.

The fact is that these bishops -- as well as all clergy in America -- must instill the church doctrine and ideals that they want to convey through their (non-political) spiritual sermons or in general conversations with their parishioners.

For clergy to urge their followers to vote for certain candidates, because they may be in favor of church doctrine or ideals, serves as an injustice to the historical American tradition of separation of church and state.

Consequently, using the church as a justification to convince worshipers to vote for certain candidates or issues must not occur in American society.

Arsonists Set Fires to Three Russian Churches; Burn One to Ground in Primarily Muslim Province

Three churches in a predominantly Muslim province in Russia were set on fire by arsonists between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. on November 1, 2010, according to the Christian Post website.

One of the buildings -- an Orthodox Church in the village of Ordzhonikidzevsky -- was totally destroyed. The other two -- an Orthodox and a Baptist Church in the nearby city of Karachaevsk -- sustained minimal damage, after the night guard of one put out the fire, and the night guard of the other called fire fighters.

All three fires were set when flammable objects were thrown through the churches' windows.

In the Karachayevo-Cherkessia province, violence has been scarce, although Muslim extremists consider this area to be Muslim territory occupied by Russia.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Jimmy Carter Says Religion Getting Too Political; Warns This Averts Separation of Church and State

The Huffington Post website reports today (November 2, 2010) that former U.S. president Jimmy Carter believes there has become an "excessive melding of religion and politics." He warned of the dangers of this trend yesterday during a visit in Salt Lake City, where he was promoting his new book, "White House Diary."

It began, Carter said, with the denomination he called home for more than seven decades -- the Southern Baptist Convention.

"There are pastors openly calling for members to vote a certain way," the 86-year-old ex-president said. "That's a serious breakdown in the principle of separation of church and state," he added.

Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, left the Southern Baptists in 2000, after the denomination's long shift toward conservative politics and new doctrinal statements. The couple, however, remain Baptists and worship at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia.

Three Men Found Guilty of Spying for Israel; Lebanese Military Court Sentences Them to Death

A Lebanese military court sentenced three of the country's citizens to death today (November 2, 2010) for spying for Isreal, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency website.

Two of the alleged spies had fled the country -- reportedly for Israel -- and were sentenced to death in absentia.

The third man, Jawdat el-Hakim, admitted to spying for Israel for 10 years, beginning in 1999.

The men can appeal the sentence to a higher court.

Pope Benedict XVI to Visit Croatia Next Spring; Will Visit Tomb of Cardinal Stepinac During Trip

The Vatican spokesperson, Fr. Federico Lombardi, said that Pope Benedict XVI has accepted an invitation by the Croatian government and the church to visit the Balkan nation, according to the Catholic News Service blog today (November 2, 2010).

Although no dates have been set, it is expected that the Pope will travel to the Croatian capital, Zagreb, in the spring of 2011.

Pope Benedict will visit the tomb of Blessed Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac during his visit to Croatia. Cardinal Stepinac served as archbishop of Zagreb and metropolitan of Croatia during World War II and Marshal Tito's term of dictatorship.

He opposed the communist regime and was convicted in 1946 by the Yugoslavian communist government on charges he was a Nazi supporter. He died in 1960 while under house arrest.

The Catholic Church has said that Cardinal Stepinac was persecuted because he refused to break the Yugoslavian church's allegiance to the Vatican by setting up a national Catholic Church.

Pope John Paul II declared Cardinal Stepinac a martyr and beatified him in 1998.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Poland's Lutheran Synod Rejects Women Priests; Church Spokesman Says Decision Not Irreversible

The Ecumenical News International website reports today (November 1, 2010) that a spokesman for Poland's Lutheran Church has said the issue of ordaining women as pastors is not closed, despite a recent vote by the church's main governing body not to allow women to be ordained.

"Once a new synod is elected in 2012, we can expect fresh calls for women to be ordained," said Wojciech Pracki of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland, which has 80,000 registered members -- mostly in southern Poland.

"The ordination of women is favored by a wide cross-section of women, but also by many men, and much will now depend on sitting down and working out how such a step might become possible," Pracki said.

Death Toll from Iraqi Church Siege Now Up to 52; 67 Churchgoers Wounded by Al Qaida Terrorists

The death toll from yesterday's (October 31, 2010) church hostage crisis in Iraq shot up to 52 today, while the number of people wounded rose to 67, according to the Christian Post website.

An explosion occurred at Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad as security officers stormed the church around 9 p.m. to bring an end to the four-hour standoff.

The 10 or so militants had stormed the church around 5 p.m. wearing suicide vests, after attacking the Baghdad Stock Market in the central part of the Iraqi capital earlier in the day.

About 120 churchgoers were taken hostage by the al Qaida-linked terrorists as they were holding service Sunday.

Across Iraq, security forces were alerted to new threats against Christians.

FYROM Adamant in Retaining Its Name, Identity; Macedonian Official to Greece: "Accept Reality"

Greece will have to recognize the existence of a Macedonian language and identity to settle its name dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), one of the neighboring country's top officials told the Kathimerini (Greek) website yesterday (October 31, 2010).

Speaking after Prime Minister George Papandreou and his FYROM counterpart Nikola Gruevski met on October 29 for inconclusive talks in Brussels, FYROM Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Vasko Naumovski said that Greece had to "accept reality."

He added, "The reality that the existence of a Macedonian identity, nation, language, and state cannot change."

Greeks want FYROM to change its name which it adopted in 1991 with the breakup of Yugoslavia, because a northern province in Greece -- where Alexander the Great was born -- is also called Macedonia and borders FYROM. Many Greeks believe that FYROM may someday try to annex the Greek province of Macedonia, because of the similarity of their names and their proximity to one another.

Mass. Man Gets Nine Years for Black Church Fire; Was Angry That America Elected a Black President

A man was sentenced to nine years in prison today (November 1, 2010) for torching a predominantly black church in the western Massachusetts city of Springfield hours after Barack Obama was elected president, according to the Associated Press website.

Benjamin Haskell of Springfield was sentenced in U.S. District Court, after pleading guilty to civil rights charges in June under a plea deal with prosecutors that called for the nine-year sentence.

The fire destroyed the Macedonia Church of God in Christ in the early morning hours of November 5, 2008, the day after Obama was elected America's first black president.

The church has about 300 members, most of whom are black.