Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"Today" Show to Broadcast from Vatican on June 2; Pope, Abp. Dolan to Appear in Hour-Long Show

The Huffington Post website reports today (May 31, 2011) that NBC's "Today" show will broadcast live from Vatican City on Thursday, June 2nd, in an hour-long show that will include behind-the-scenes footage of Pope Benedict XVI and a wide-ranging interview with New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan.

Archbishop Dolan -- who is also the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops -- will discuss several topics, including the church's sexual abuse scandals, the decline in church attendance in Europe, and changes in church demographics in the U.S.

Dolan arrived at the Vatican over the weekend.

Thursday's episode of "Today" will not include an interview with the pope, but camera crews have taped the pontiff in more private moments at his Apostolic Palace home.

Ukrainian Muslim Woman Murdered by Muslims; Was Stoned to Death for Entering Beauty Contest

The body of a 19-year-old Ukrainian Muslim woman -- who entered and won 7th place in a beauty contest a week ago -- has been found by police in the Crimea region of Ukraine where she lived, the Examiner website reports today (May 31, 2011).

Katya Koren had been stoned to death by Muslim men for having entered the beauty contest. Her killers believe she violated Sharia Law by participating in the beauty contest.

The Koran states that violence against disobedient women is acceptable.

Police have arrested one Muslim youth for Koren's murder. He admitted to stoning her to death, claiming it was justified under Sharia Law. Police are searching for two other Muslim youths suspected of her murder.

MLK's Daughter Leaves Eddie Long's Church; Bernice King Quits Her Position as a Church Elder

The Christian Post website reports today (May 31, 2011) that Bernice King -- daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. -- has left her position as an elder of Bishop Eddie Long's church, just a few days after a settlement had been reached in the sexual misconduct case against the pastor.

King served her last day as an elder of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia -- a suburb of Atlanta -- on Sunday, May 29.

King's resignation may have been related to the settlement and dismissal of the sexual misconduct lawsuits against Bishop Long. Four young men -- all in their 20s -- had accused Long of using his position and lavish gifts to lure them into sexual relationships.

Bernice King is an ordained minister and she had preached regularly at New Birth Church.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Greek Embassy in Holland Blasts Dutch Article; Photo of Church Had Turkish Flag Instead of Cross

The Greek embassy in Holland quickly responded today (May 30, 2011) to a Dutch newspaper article, which said that due to Greece's poor economic condition, Turkish investors find investments in Greece more attractive.

The article was accompanied by a picture of the Greek island of Santorini, in which the cross was replaced by a Turkish flag on top of a Greek Orthodox Church.

Greek ambassador in The Hague, Ioannis Oikonomidis, expressed the Greek government's discontent over the article, and sent a letter to the newspaper's manager saying the article is a great offense to both Greece and Turkey.

He added that every opinion on Greece is welcome, as long as it does not become an offense to the state.

Rockford, IL Diocese Ends Adoption, Foster Care; Due to Law Granting Same-Sex Couples Child Care

The Catholic News website reports today (May 30, 2011) that the Diocese of Rockford, Illinois has decided that its Catholic Charities offices will no longer offer state-funded adoptions and foster-care services when the new Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Unions Act takes effect on June 1.

Because the law did not include an exemption allowing religious organizations to refer adoptions or foster-care arrangements involving same-sex or unmarried cohabitating couples to other agencies, "the Diocese of Rockford is forced to permanently discontinue all state-funded adoption and foster-care operations as of June 1," said Penny Wiegert, diocesan director of communications.

There has been no word from the other five diocese in Illinois about whether they would continue state-funded adoption and foster-care services after June 1.

Anti-Christian Violence Continues in Pakistan; Woman Is Gang-Raped, Cemetery Desecrated

Anti-Christian violence continues to prevail in Pakistan -- and police are not taking any action against the perpetrators, the Cybercast News Service website reports today (May 30, 2011).

Last week, a 29-year-old Christian woman -- and mother of three children -- was gang-raped, and Christian tombs were desecrated in the Pakistani city of Faisalabad.

Muslim landowners used tractors to desecrate the Christian graveyard. Buried caskets were broken and bones of the dead were brought to the surface.

The Rev. Joseph Jamil condemned the violence and said the Pakistani government should "take charge of the situation and defend the minority."

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Mladic: Called "Hero" by Serbs, "Butcher" by Muslims; 10,000 Serbs Protest in Belgrade to Support Him

The Euro News website reports today (May 29, 2011) that a candlelit vigil has been held for Ratko Mladic in the village of Lazarevo in Serbia. The Bosnian Serb wartime general -- indicted for the massacre of 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica during the Bosnian War -- was found at a house in the village on May 26. For the people living there, Mladic is a hero who fought for Serbia.

Tomorrow, Mladic's lawyer plans to appeal against plans to extradite his client to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Holland. Milos Saljic says Mladic's health is deteriorating -- he has had several strokes.

Mladic, 69 -- who has been nicknamed "the Butcher of the Balkans" -- is being charged with war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the 1992-95 war in Bosnia.

About 10,000 protesters -- Serbian nationalists in support of Mladic -- attacked police in Belgrade today, and demanded that Serbian President Boris Tadic and his government quit because of Mladic's arrest.

Mormon Church with 800 Singles Opens in VA; Mormonism Emphasizes Need for Singles to Marry

The Washington Post website reports today (May 29, 2011) that a newly opened Mormon chapel in Crystal City, Virginia is made up entirely of singles -- 800 of them.

The "23rd Street chapel" is unique in the American Mormon Church: It is the only worship space in the United States devoted solely to unmarried people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s.

The chapel represents Mormonism's exalted view of marriage and its particular strategy for getting singles wed as quickly as possible: by separating them from people who are married.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints -- the formal name of the Mormon religion -- teaches that all people have an afterlife, but one must be married to reach its highest parts.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

COMMENTARY: Government of Egypt Is Correct in Restoring Church

The military regime in Egypt -- which replaced Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in early February -- acted correctly this week in its decision to restore a destroyed church.

St. Mary Coptic Orthodox Church in Imbaba -- a suburb of Cairo -- suffered heavy damage earlier this month, as a result of a fire started by Islamic militants.

In an effort to improve Christian-Muslim relations, the new Egyptian regime has assigned a group of craftsmen to restore this church. In fact, these workers are going "the extra mile," as they hope to complete their work on the church in just three weeks -- work that would usually take three months to complete.

It is this kind of government understanding and support -- for Christians as well as Muslims -- that can bring love, peace, and harmony to a nation that has experienced much senseless hatred and violence between different religious groups in recent years.

We hope and pray that this action by the new Egyptian government serves as a prelude for future actions, because the government can have a significant impact in resolving disputes between religious groups, in addition to preventing these kinds of situations from ever occurring.

Moscow Police Enforce a City Ban of Gay Parade; Arrest Over 30 Supporters, Opponents in Moscow

The RIA Novosti (Russian) website reports that more than 30 gay parade supporters and opponents were arrested today (May 28, 2011) in Moscow.

Police in Moscow said yesterday that they would enforce the city's gay ban on a protest by gay rights campaigners in the Russian capital.

Eighteen activists of the gay movement and 16 opponents of holding a minority's parade were arrested.

The city received complaints from religious groups, ultra-nationalists, and the Moscow City Parent Committee over the parade, and warned that such a protest could trigger violence.

Monastery That Attracted a Dancing Nun Is Closed; Vatican: Behavior Not in Sync with Monastic Living

The Ethics Daily website reports today (May 28, 2011) that the Vatican has closed the monastery of a fourth-century Roman basilica on account of "liturgical and financial irregularities" that included performances by a nun who had once been a lap dancer.

The Vatican cited "behavior not consonant with the monastic life" at the monastery attached to the Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, which houses some of the Catholic Church's most venerated relics.

The monastery had become well-known in recent years for its links to Rome's high society, and for sponsoring a televised Bible-reading marathon by celebrities, including Pope Benedict XVI in 2008.

The monastery also hosted shows by Sister Anna Nobili -- a former lap dancer.

Many Top Israelis Support a Palestinian Ind. State; Call on European Leaders to Recognize It in Sept.

The Asia News website reports today (May 28, 2011) that a dozen prominent Israelis have signed an appeal to European leaders to support its request to recognize an independent Palestinian state -- based on the 1967 borders -- when it is presented in September at the United Nations.

Among the signatories are the former chairman of the Knesset, Avraham Burg; a former director general of the Foreign Ministry, Alon Liel; former head of the Civil Service Commission, Itzhak Galnoor; and Ilan Baruch, former ambassador to the U.S., South Africa, and the Philippines.

Among the intellectuals are Nobel laureate Professor Daniel Kahneman; former president of the Israeli Academy of Sciences Menahem Yaari; and other authors and scholars of international renown.

The petitioners state that the recognition of a Palestinian state "is not only a right but also a positive step and constructively for the benefit of both nations."

Friday, May 27, 2011

Bishop Eddie Long Lawsuit Is Settled Out of Court; Four Men Had Accused Long of Sexual Misconduct

The Huffington Post website reports today (May 27, 2011) that Bishop Eddie Long -- an Atlanta-area megachurch pastor -- has settled suits out of court with four young men who had accused him of sexual misconduct.

"After a series of discussions, all parties involved have decided to resolve the civil cases out of court," Long's New Birth Missionary Baptist Church -- one of the largest Afro-American churches in the US -- said in a statement.

The brief statement from the church in suburban Lithonia (Georgia) described the resolution of the cases as "the most reasonable road for everyone to travel."

The suits filed last September by four men -- all in their 20s -- alleged that Long plied them with presents and trips abroad, and seduced them into sexual acts.

Federal Judge Rules Pastor Can Say "Jesus Christ;" VA Had Rejected Saying It at Memorial Day Prayer

A federal judge in Texas ruled yesterday (May 26, 2011) that the US Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) cannot stop a pastor from invoking the name of "Jesus Christ" in his Memorial Day prayer at Houston National Cemetery, according to the Christian Post website.

Scott Rainey -- lead pastor at the Living Word Church of the Nazarene -- filed a lawsuit requesting a temporary restraining order against the VA and its director of the Houston National Cemetery from censoring his prayer reference to Jesus.

The suit argued that the government is unconstitutionally censoring his speech and engaging in religious viewpoint discrimination.

The judge hearing the case agreed with Rainey by granting his motion for the court to intercede.

Iraqi Cleric Wants US Troops Gone by End of Year; Thousands of His Followers Protest for US to Leave

The Big News Network website reports today (May 27, 2011) that Iraqi cleric and leader of his own militia, Moqtada al-Sadr, said yesterday that he expects to see US troops out of Iraq by the end of the year.

He has threatened to rally his own army if the remaining 46,000 US troops in Iraq are not gone within seven months.

He said he believed US forces would not stick to an agreement to withdraw from Iraq by January 2012.

Thousands of Moqtada al-Sadr's supporters -- mostly members of his army -- rallied in Baghdad yesterday, calling for Americans to get out.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Egypt Regime Tries to Ease Interfaith Relations; Decides to Restore Church Destroyed by Muslims

The Christian Post website reports today (May 26, 2011) that the military regime in Egypt -- in an attempt to ease interfaith relations -- has ordered the restoration of an Egyptian church destroyed by Islamist extremists earlier this month.

A group of craftsmen have been dispatched and are working to restore St. Mary Coptic Orthodox Church in Imbaba -- a suburb of Egyptian capital Cairo.

Workers have quickly moved in and are hoping to complete work in just three weeks, although such work normally would be completed in about three months.

The church in question suffered heavy damage through the fire started by Islamic militants, with the entire ground floor of the church left in ruin.

Top War Crimes Suspect Mladic Arrested in Serbia; Hid for Years from International Genocide Charges

The Euro News website reports that Bosnian Serb wartime general Ratko Mladic was arrested in Serbia today (May 26, 2011), after years on the run from international genocide charges.

The general -- accused of orchestrating the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the town of Srebrenica and a brutal 43-month siege of Sarajevo during Bosnia's 1992-1995 war -- was found in a farmhouse owned by a relative, a police official said.

"On behalf of the Republic of Serbia, I can announce the arrest of Ratko Mladic. The extradition process is under way," Serbian President Boris Tadic told reporters in Belgrade today.

Mladic, 69, was arrested in the village of Lazarevo, near the northeastern town of Zrenjanin about 60 miles from the capital of Belgrade in the early hours, a police official said.

Mladic's arrest is expected to speed up Serbia's acceptance for membership in the European Union (EU), as EU officials had stipulated on several occasions that the arrest of the wartime general was a critical prerequisite for Serbia's membership.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

COMMENTARY: IEPC Initiative for World Peace Deserves Praise

From May 18 through May 25, 2011, some 1,000 convocation participants explored world peace among people in Kingston, Jamaica at the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC).

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew -- leader of some 300 million Orthodox Christians around the world -- told the participants in a video-recorded message, "As faithful disciples of the Lord of peace, we must constantly pursue and persistently proclaim alternative ways that reject violence and war. Human conflict may well be inevitable in our world, but war and violence are not."

Patriarch Bartholomew is correct in asserting that war and violence are not inevitable. They could be prevented if man were not so arrogant, and sought power over his fellowman, primarily by means of territorial conquest.

The IEPC ultimate goal of achieving peace throughout the world will not be an easy goal to accomplish. Nonetheless, the Christian Church has initiated an important harbinger to end violence and war among nations, thus allowing mankind to live in a more civilized and harmonious world order.

Whether or not this call for world peace is adhered to by the nations of the world remains to be seen. In any event, the IEPC's action to achieve peace is a critical first step in a sincere endeavor to end man's inhumanity to man, once and for all.

Pope Offers Missouri Tornado Victims His Prayers; At Least 122 People Killed in Joplin, MO Tornado

Pope Benedict XVI today (May 25, 2011) assured survivors of the deadliest tornado in the United States since 1950 that he was close to them spiritually and praying for hope and strength for the homeless, according to the Huffington Post website.

"The Holy Father has followed with deep concern the aftermath of the catastrophic tornado which struck Joplin on Sunday," read a text of a telegram of solidarity sent to the local bishop in Missouri and made public by the Vatican.

In the telegram, Benedict asks Bishop James Johnston to "convey to the entire community the assurance of his closeness in prayer, conscious of the tragic loss of life, and the immensity of the work of rebuilding that lies ahead."

At least 122 people were killed and some 750 wounded by the deadliest twister since 1950.

France Detains Several Women Enforcing Veil Ban; Ban Ensures Separation of Church and State

The Voice of America (VOA) website reports today (May 25, 2011) that since the ban against face veils -- or niqabs -- was enacted in France last month, police have stopped about 50 women who have worn them in public.

About 27 of the women stopped have been given the option of a fine or taking a course on French citizenship.

Before the ban went into effect, the French government estimated only about 2,000 women wore the face veil in France.

Nonetheless, the French government argued the legislation was important to ensure conservative Muslims abided by the country's staunch separation of church and state -- as well as for security reasons and to defend women's rights.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Patriarch Bartholomew in Peace Message for IEPC; Says We Must Constantly Reject Violence and War

The Ekklesia website reports today (May 24, 2011) that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew -- leader of some 300 million Orthodox Christians around the world -- said, "As faithful disciples of the Lord of peace, we must constantly pursue and persistently proclaim alternative ways that reject violence and war."

Patriarch Bartholomew shared this video-recorded message of peace at an ecumenical prayer service and celebration in Kingston, Jamaica last Sunday for participants of the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC).

The IEPC is co-sponsored by the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Caribbean Conference of Churches (CCC), and the Jamaica Council of Churches (JCC). The convocation -- which opened on May 18 and ends on May 25 -- is being held on the grounds of the University of the West Indies.

The ecumenical service offered the opportunity for the participants to join as one voice, both in their praise to God and their hope for the church to be united in peacemaking.

Priest: "Pakistan Is in the Hands of the Taliban;" Taliban Becomes Popular Due to Bin Laden's Death

A prominent Pakistani priest said today (May 24, 2011) that since the death of Bin Laden, the Taliban has grown in popularity in Pakistan, the Catholic Culture website reports.

"Pakistan is now in the hands of the Taliban," said Fr. Bonnie Mendes, who is ending his term as head of the Asian section of Caritas Internationalis.

Fr. Mendes added, "The average Muslim Pakistani is very angry with the government, the United States, and NATO, and this is why they look favorably on the actions of the Taliban groups."

Although Christians and other religious minorities are still attacked and reduced to silence by Pakistani Muslims, the military, the government headquarters, and the NATO offices are now the main targets of Muslim attacks.

Dutch Salesian Head Fired for Pedophilia Remarks; Said Sexual Relations with Children Not Damaging

The Dutch News website reports today (May 24, 2011) that the head of the Catholic Salesian order in the Netherlands has been fired -- and it will be up to the pope to decide if he can remain a priest -- because of comments he made about pedophilia.

Herman Spronck said two days ago that sexual relationships between adults and children were not always damaging.

Thousands of past cases of alleged sexual abuse by Dutch priests are currently under investigation.

The Salesian order was set up at the end of the 19th century to carry out "works of charity to help the young, especially the poor, and to educate boys for the priesthood."

Monday, May 23, 2011

Seniors Hold Prayer Despite an Atheist's Threats; Graduates of La. High School Recite Lord's Prayer

The Christian Broadcast Network website reports that seniors in Louisiana's Bastrop High School went on with prayer during their graduation ceremony May 20, 2011, despite threats of a possible lawsuit.

Open atheist graduate Damon Fowler complained to the superintendent about the traditional prayer and threatened to contact the American Civil Liberties Union if it wasn't removed from the ceremony.

School administrators decided to eliminate the prayer, and instead have a "moment of silence."

But when graduating senior Laci Rae Mattice stood at the podium to lead a moment of silence, she instead asked graduating students to join her in reciting the Lord's Prayer.

Dutch Court Resumes Trial of Anti-Islam Solon; Compared Islam to Nazism, Sought Ban of Quran

Dutch appeals judges today (March 23, 2011) ordered the continuation of anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders' hate speech trial -- rejecting his claim that the court trying him is biased -- according to the Washington Post website.

Wilders is on trial on charges of "making statements insulting to Muslims as a group," and inciting hatred against Muslims.

Wilders argues that his remarks comparing Islam to Nazism and calling for a ban on the Quran are part of a legitimate public debate that is protected by freedom of speech.

A verdict of the trial is expected in mid-June.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Jehovah's Witness Head in Russia Is Arrested; Accused of Inciting Rel. Hatred in Volga Area

The RIA Novosti (Russian) website reports today (May 22, 2011) that investigations in the Volga region city of Yoshkar-Ola have charged the head of the local Jehovah's Witness (JW) branch with inciting religious hatred.

The coordinator of the city's Jehovah's Witness church -- which is estimated to have about 90 followers -- is accused of disseminating extremist materials and conducting public sermons on the superiority of the religion over others.

Investigators say a large volume of materials was seized during searches.

The Jehovah's Witnesses -- which has some 7 million followers worldwide and 300,000 in Russia -- are banned in Moscow and in a number of other Russian regions and in some former Soviet republics.

Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) Sues Montenegro; Says State of Montenegro Has Seized SPC Property

The Orthodox Church Info blog reports today (May 22, 2011) that the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) Metropolitanate of Montenegro is suing the state of Montenegro before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

The lawsuit was filed over the SPC property in Montenegro that was seized from the SPC by Montenegro.

The unrecognized Montenegrin Orthodox Church contests the SPC's ownership of some property -- especially of churches and monasteries -- including the Cetinje Monastery.

Montenegrin Prime Minister Igor Luksic has said that he would initiate a dialogue regarding assets of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

COMMENTARY: Netanyahu's Inflexibility Prevents Peace in the Middle East

U.S. President Barack Obama this week endorsed the Palestinians' demand that their future state be based on the borders that existed before the 1967 Middle East War, in which Israel seized much Palestinian territory. Some swapping of territories between Israelis and Palestinians could be included in implementing this proposal.

Unfortunately, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected President Obama's plan, saying it was unrealistic.

Consequently, Palestinian officials now agree that Israel's rejection of Obama's peace proposal proves there is not enough common ground for meaningful negotiations.

That being the case, it appears that the next major step to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dilemma will be taken up in the United Nations.

In September of this year, the Palestinians plan to seek UN recognition of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem -- the territories that Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast War. The UN does not recognize Israeli sovereignty of these territories.

Many nations of the world -- including about a dozen in Latin America -- have already recognized a Palestinian state.

Netanyahu's blunt rejection of Obama's peace proposal -- and his stubborn, pessimistic, and inflexible attitude toward peace in the Middle East -- has isolated Israel in world public opinion. The Quartet of Mideast negotiations -- comprised of the US, the UN, the European Union, and Russia -- said it supports Obama's parameters for a Mideast peace, and is in full agreement about the urgent need to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It is imperative that Netanyahu be more flexible for peace, and be willing to compromise at least some "Israeli" land; that is, land taken from the Palestinians by Israel in 1967.

If not, come September, Netanyahu may be sorry, as the UN may very well recognize a new Palestinian state -- a state that will include the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem!

GP Reprimanded for Talking about God to Patient; Patient's Mother Said GP "Pushed Religion" on Son

The Telegraph (British) website reports today (May 21, 2011) that Dr. Richard Scott -- a family doctor in England -- fears losing his job, after he was reprimanded by the General Medical Council for talking to a patient about God.

The Christian general practitioner (GP) was accused of "harassment" and told by the medical regulator that he risked bringing the profession into disrepute by discussing his religious beliefs.

Dr. Scott, 50 -- a married father of three children -- has decided to take legal action to fight the censure.

The complaint was filed by the patient's mother, who said the doctor had abused his position by "pushing religion" on her son.

Tennessee Mosque Gets Permit to Start Building; Follows 16 Months of Court Hearings to Block It

After 16 months of rallies and court hearings, construction will soon begin on a Tennessee mosque that sparked a fierce debate over religious beliefs, according to the Cybercast News Service website.

Leaders of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro (Tennessee) obtained a building permit yesterday (May 20, 2011) to start the first construction phase, and released renderings of the new building.

Imam Ossama Bahloul -- the religious leader of the congregation -- said the mosque will be a place for everyone, even those who opposed its construction.

Earlier this week, a Rutherford County judge ruled that the mosque construction does not harm the residents who sued the county over it.

Pope Blesses Astronauts in 1st Papal Space Call; Says Communication to Vatican "Extraordinary"

The 12 astronauts circling the earth received a blessing from Pope Benedict XVI today (May 21, 2011) in the first ever papal call to space, according to the Associated Press website.

The pope addressed the crews of the linked space shuttle Endeavor and International Space Station from the Vatican, making special mention of the U.S. commander's wounded congresswoman wife and the recently deceased mother of one of the two Italian astronauts on board.

The historic communication -- "extraordinary" in the pope's words -- took place in the next-to-last flight in NASA's 30-year shuttle program.

Seated at a table before a television set tuned to NASA's live broadcast from orbit, Benedict said the space fliers are "our representatives spearheading humanity's exploration of new spaces and possibilities for our future."

Friday, May 20, 2011

First Jewish Museum in Moscow Has Opened; Oldest Items in Exhibits Are from the 18th Century

The first Jewish Museum in Moscow has officially been opened, the Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) website reports today (May 20, 2011).

The museum -- which is privately funded -- is the first of its kind in Russia. It opened on May 18.

Museum founder Sergei Ustinov -- the vice president of Russia's Jewish Congress -- told RFE/RL that some of the exhibits were brought by individuals and some of them were donated to the museum.

The oldest items in the exhibits -- some of which were bought at auctions abroad -- are from the 18th century.

Italians Criticize New Sculpture of John Paul II; Say Statue Looks More Like Dictator Mussolini

The Yahoo News website reports today (May 20, 2011) that a new, modernist sculpture of Pope John Paul II --located outside Rome's Termini Train Station -- is turning into a monumental bust. The Vatican today slammed the artwork, saying it doesn't even resemble the late pontiff.

Some Romans and tourists say that the bronze statue looks more like Italy's World War II dictator Benito Mussolini than the widely beloved pope.

"How could they have given such a kind pope the head of a fascist?" asked 71-year-old Antonio Lamonica.

Oliviero Rainaldi -- the artist -- depicted the pontiff as if he is opening his cloak to embrace the faithful. But the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano said the effect of the 16-foot statue bears "only a distant resemblance to the pope."

Man Sets Priest on Fire During Mass in Church; Fr. Kuprys of Jonava, Lithuania Suffered Facial Burns

An assailant has sprayed a Roman Catholic priest with flammable liquid and set him on fire during mass in a church in Lithuania, the Herald Sun (Australian) website reports today (May 20, 2011).

Father Remigijus Kuprys, 46, managed to extinguish the flames with the help of worshipers, but suffered facial burns.

The attack occurred yesterday in the central Lithuanian town of Jonava, when a 42-year-old local resident sprayed Kuprys with the flammable liquid and set it ablaze with a cigarette lighter.

The motives of the assailant -- identified by police only by his initials JD -- were unknown. He risks up to 10 years in jail for the assault.

Police said the priest has been released from the hospital after receiving treatment for his burns.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Israel Removes Mines from Site of Jesus' Baptism; Visitors to Jordan River Site Tripled Since 2004

Pilgrims are flowing back to the traditional site of Jesus' baptism on the Jordan River, as Israel removes 40-year-old land mines and makes improvements to the area, the Ethics Daily website reports today (May 19, 2011).

Located on the West Bank near Jericho, the site has been revered since the fourth century as the place where John the Baptist recognized Jesus as the Messiah.

Jewish tradition holds this also is where the ancient Israelites crossed into the Promised Land following their flight from Egypt.

Visitors have tripled since 2004 -- reaching some 60,000 last year and about 44,000 in the first four months of 2011 -- said site manager Saar Kfir, who works in the Civil Administration.

Obama Wants Palestine Based on 1967 Borders; Endorsing 1967 Borders Likely to Infuriate Israel

The Associated Press website reports that President Barack Obama today (May 19, 2011) endorsed the Palestinians' demand for their future state to be based on the borders that existed before the 1967 Middle East war, in which Israel seized much Palestinian territory.

Obama's endorsement of the Palestinians' demand is likely to infuriate Israel -- America's closest ally in the Middle East. Israel has said in the past that the borders of a Palestinian state have to be determined through negotiations.

In his speech today at the U.S. State Department, Obama sided with the Palestinians' opening position one day before a visit to Washington by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu is vehemently opposed to even referring to the 1967 Middle East borders.

Hellenic College to Offer "Semester of Faith;" Fall Application Deadline to Register Is June 1, 2011

The Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) website has announced that Hellenic College in Brookline, Massachusetts -- the only fully accredited four-year Orthodox Christian college in the Western Hemisphere -- is offering a "Semester of Faith" to college students and those interested in an educational semester.

Hellenic College says that this is "an opportunity for short term, collegiate level study at Hellenic College... Students take college level courses that enrich their spiritual lives and help them complete their Bachelor's degree, while living in an Orthodox Christian community, at whose center is Christ."

Some of the courses being offered this fall are: Introduction to Orthodoxy, Byzantine Music 1, and Introduction to Great Religious Ideas. Scholarships are available.

The fall application deadline for exchange students is June 1, 2011. For more information, contact Gregory Floor, Director of Admissions, at (617) 850-1285.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

COMMENTARY: Vatican Letter on Abusive Priests Is Ineffective

A Vatican letter this week informed all Roman Catholic bishops that it is important that they cooperate with police in reporting priests who abuse children; however, the letter only suggests -- and does not require -- that bishops report cases of abuse to police.

Moreover, the suggestions in the letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith are vague and nonbinding, in that they contain no enforcement mechanisms to ensure that bishops follow the recommended guidelines.

The letter is the latest effort of the Vatican to root out pedophile priests and prevent priestly child abuse. Last year, thousands of victims abused by priests came forward, and the Catholic Church paid many millions of dollars to these victims.

Unfortunately, the Vatican letter will have little -- if any -- effect in diminishing the sexual abuse problem that has been pervading the Catholic Church. Why? Because it does not change the bishops' exclusive authority in dealing with abuse cases.

In the past, Catholic bishops tended to quietly transfer priests accused of sexual abuse of children to another parish, in order to "resolve" this abuse. Retaining the bishops' authority to deal with accusations against abusive priests does not change this modus operandi. Thus, bishops transferring priests -- instead of preventing them from performing pastoral duties -- will probably continue to prevail.

To add fuel to the fire in this situation, the Vatican letter says that independent lay review boards -- which have been established in some countries to oversee the church's child protection policies and ensure compliance -- cannot substitute for bishops' judgment and authority.

By denying lay review boards any authority in dealing with abusive priests, the Vatican has, in effect, conveyed that it is more concerned with maintaining the authoritative powers of its bishops than it is with resolving the child abuse by its priests.

In the final analysis, the Vatican's handling of the sexual abuse scandal by Catholic priests indicates that the Vatican is its own worst enemy.

Lawsuit Filed on Obama's Abandonment of DOMA; Watchdog Says Radical Pressure Convinced Obama

The World Net Daily website reports today (May 18, 2011) that the government watchdog Judicial Watch is suing the Obama administration to uncover details of any influences on the executive decision not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court.

"The institution of marriage is under vicious attack not only by President Obama and the (U.S. Attorney General Eric) Holder Justice Department, but also by liberal politicians and activist courts at the state level," said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

Fitton said these "radicals" in the Obama administration apparently convinced the president and Holder to do their part by refusing to defend the federal marriage law. DOMA defines marriage for federal purposes as the union of a man and a woman.

Judicial Watch, Fitton said, "took these strong actions in court not only to help defend traditional marriage but to uphold the rule of law that is under assault" in Washington from the White House.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Catholic Church Beatifies a WWII German Priest; Died in Concentration Camp for Defying the Nazis

The Deutsche Welle (German) website reports today (May 17, 2011) that Georg Hafner -- a priest who died at a concentration camp for defying the Nazi regime -- was beatified by the Catholic Church in a ceremony in Bavaria on May 15.

Cardinal Angelo Amato came from the Vatican to carry out the beatification ceremony at the Wurzburg Cathedral, in a service attended by about 2,000 people.

Hafner was honored by the church for his resistance to Nazi rule. Despite a ban on continuing to practice his religious duties as a priest in Oberschwarzach -- which is near Wurzburg -- Hafner carried on and was arrested by the Nazis in 1941.

He was taken to the Dachau concentration camp near Munich, where he died of starvation and disease in 1942. He was 42 when he died.

Billy Graham Returns Home from N.C. Hospital; Had Difficulty Breathing, Treated for Pneumonia

Billy Graham has returned to his home in Montreat, North Carolina, after being treated for pneumonia at a hospital, the Christian Post website reports today (May 17, 2011).

The 92-year-old evangelist was admitted to Mission Hospital in nearby Asheville on May 11 after having difficulty breathing. His physician, Dr. Lucian Rice, said he was delighted with the the pace of Graham's recovery.

Graham -- one of the world's best known evangelists -- has met or ministered every U.S. president since 1950. Moreover, he has reached more than two billion people with the message of the Gospel through crusades and radio and TV broadcasts.

His son, Franklin Graham, has followed in his footsteps -- conducting evangelistic crusades attended by tens of thousands of people -- and running the ministry founded by his father, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Two Czech Suspects of Church Box Thefts Nabbed; Said It Was Tough Making Ends Meet In Austria

The Austrian Times website reports today (May 16, 2011) that two Czechs have been accused of nicking coins from offertory boxes at a dozen churches.

The 43-year-old woman and her accomplice -- a 22-year-old man -- were arrested in Linz, Austria.

They are suspected of emptying collection boxes of at least 12 parishes in the Upper Austrian district of Freistadt.

Police said today that the pair claimed they have been struggling to make ends meet living in Austria.

High Court Won't Hear "So Help Me God" Case; Atheist Argued Govt. Referal to God Is Unconst.

The Supreme Court today (May 16, 2011) refused to hear an atheist's challenge to religion in government, relating to President Barack Obama adding "so help me God" to his inaugural oath of office, according to the Cybercast News Service website.

Michael Newdow -- the atheist -- argued that government references to God are unconstitutional and infringe on his religious beliefs.

Newdow sued to keep Obama from adding "so help me God" to the oath and lost in an appeals court ruling.

The Supreme Court's refusal to hear the case means that the appeals court ruling remains in effect.

Vatican Suggests Bishops Report Abuse to Police; Suggestions Are Weak, Give Bishops Total Control

The Vatican told bishops around the world today (May 16, 2011) that it is important to cooperate with police in reporting priests who rape and molest children, and said they should develop guidelines for preventing sex abuse by next year, according to the Associated Press website.

But the suggestions in the letter -- and that's all they are, suggestions -- from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith are vague and nonbinding, and they contain no enforcement mechanisms to ensure bishops actually draft the guidelines or follow them.

The document marks the latest effort by the Vatican to show it is serious about rooting out priestly pedophiles and preventing abuse, following the eruption on a global scale of the abuse scandal last year, with thousands of victims coming forward.

Today's Vatican letter was criticized by several theological scholars who said that it will not diminish the sexual abuse problem of priests, because it reinforces bishops' exclusive authority in dealing with abuse cases. Moreover, members of the lay review committees said some bishops "failed miserably" in following their own guidelines with respect to disciplining pedophile priests.

In the past, Catholic bishops had a tendency to simply transfer pedophile priests from one church to another as a means of "resolving" sexual abuse by priests.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

COMMENTARY: Marriage Will Remain a Viable Institution

American actress Cameron Diaz -- best known for her role in the 1998 movie comedy "There's Something About Mary" -- asserted last week that marriage is a "dying institution."

The 38-year-old actress said, "I don't think we should live our lives in relationships based off old traditions that don't suit our world any longer."

Our question to Diaz is, "Just why don't the traditions of marriage suit our world any longer?"

Does Diaz believe that a more suitable lifestyle for today's world should be cohabitation -- or couples living together -- rather than having a marital commitment?

Also, does she believe that cohabitation is more modern and convenient because it allows couples to easily separate and live with someone else without any need to go through the formality and legality of a divorce?

Diaz -- who has never been married -- has had close relationships with at least eight men since 1990, beginning when she was only 18 years old. These men include: Carlos De La Torre, Matt Dillon, Jared Leto, Justin Timberlake, Kelly Slater, Criss Angel, Paul Sculfor, and currently, baseball great Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod).

It appears that Diaz -- based upon the above list of male "partners" -- wants to enjoy a relationship for a couple of years with one man, and then leave him so she can hook up with another one.

While this kind of lifestyle may provide a lot of fun and happiness -- with little or no responsibility -- for Diaz at the present time, it lacks the commitment and stability that is essential to ensure a "life worth living" in her older years.

Moreover, the fact that she is not really interested in having any children may come back to haunt her, as it may well deprive her of the joys she could have had in her old age.

Indeed, it would behoove Diaz to seriously consider obeying the Bible with respect to marriage:

"But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.
"For this cause, shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife;
"And they twain shall be one flesh; so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.
"What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." --Mark 10:6-9

Marriage between a man and a woman, then, is an institution that has prevailed in society for thousands of years and -- in all likelihood -- will continue to remain a viable institution for thousands of years in the future.

Zurich Voters Agree to Retain Assisted Suicides; Defeat Measure of Rel. Groups to Ban the Practice

Voters in Zurich, Switzerland have overwhelmingly rejected calls to ban assisted suicide or to outlaw the practice for nonresidents, according to the Associated Press website.

Zurich's cantonal voters -- by about a 4-to-1 margin -- today (May 15, 2011) defeated both measures that had been sparked by political and religious conservatives.

Out of more than 278,000 ballots cast, the initiative to ban assisted suicide was opposed by 85 percent of voters, while the initiative to outlaw it for foreigners was turned down by 78 percent.

Assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland -- and has been since 1941 -- provided the helper is not a medical doctor and does not personally benefit from a patient's death. About 200 people a year commit suicide in Zurich.

Two Muslim Mothers Kill Their Daughters in India; Killed Them Because They Married Hindu Men

The News 24 website reports today (May 15, 2011) that two Muslim mothers in India have killed their daughters for dishonoring their families by eloping with Hindu men.

Amil Kumar Kusan, a police officer, said the two young women were strangled by their mothers when they returned home after getting married last week to men of their choice.

The girls were neighbors in Baghpat -- a small town in northern India -- when they fell in love with two construction workers.

The two mothers were unrepentant, saying the girls had brought shame and dishonor to their families.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

ACLU Wants Rel. Symbols Covered at Graduation; Officials in Ocean Grove, NJ Refuse to Cover Them

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says that religious symbols on a building that has hosted the graduating class of Neptune High School in Ocean Grove, NJ for the past six decades makes the ceremony unconstitutional, because it violates the separation of church and state, according to the Christian Post website.

The religious symbols include two signs inside the Great Auditorium -- a wooden, dome structure that was built in 1894 and hosted eight presidents -- one of which says, "Holiness to the Lord," and the other says, "So Be Ye Holy." A 20-foot high white cross also hangs from the front of the building.

The ACLU says it wants the cross and the religious symbols covered during the June 20th graduation.

The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association (OGCMA) Chief Administrative Officer Nancy Hoffman said the OGCMA will not agree to cover the cross or symbols.

Poll in Denmark: Allow Gay Church Marriages; Churches Cannot Wed Two People of Same Gender

While Denmark's bishops are equally divided in their opinion on church wedding ceremonies for homosexual couples, the public favors it, the Copenhagen Post website reports today (May 14, 2011).

A new poll shows 75.8 percent of Danes approve of same-sex marriage ceremonies in church.

According to Statistics Denmark, some 400 same-sex civil partnerships are registered every year.

Under current law in Denmark, religious communities may not wed two people of the same gender.

Bill Seeks Higher Priority for Religious Freedom; Would Move IRF Ambassador to State Dept. Office

The Persecution website reports today (May 14, 2011) that U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf -- author of the 1998 act that established the International Religious Freedom (IRF) office -- is now proposing an amendment that would give the IRF ambassador-at-large direct contact with the Secretary of State and greater access to the president's foreign policy decision-making.

Under the proposed bill, newly confirmed IRF Ambassador-at-Large Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook would be moved from the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor into Secretary of State Hilary Clinton's office.

Ambassador Cook would also be given oversight and management authority of the IRF Office and other religiously oriented positions and programs at the State Department.

Rep. Wolf, a Republican from Virginia, said he created the amendment because -- since its inception -- the IRF has not had the impact that it was intended to have.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Cameron Diaz: Marriage Is a "Dying Institution;" Says It's a Tradition, No Longer Suits Our World

The Christian Post website reports today (May 13, 2011) that American actress Cameron Diaz -- best known for her role in the 1998 film comedy "There's Something About Mary" -- asserts that marriage is a "dying institution."

Diaz's views of marriage appear in the June 2011 issue of Maxim -- a men's "girlie" magazine. The 38-year-old actress said, "I don't think we should live our lives in relationships based off old traditions that don't suit our world any longer."

Revs. Mike and Trisha Fox -- authors of "Marriage for Today: A Practical Guide for Couples" -- said Diaz's statement is outrageous, but it "actually brings up some very, very fundamental flaws in the way we, as Christians, view marriage."

They encouraged people not to be "affected by Cameron's silly statements" and to "create some new quotes of your own."

Diaz has never been married, but has had close relationships with several men, including her current romantic relationship -- which she has had since July 2010 -- with New York Yankees baseball superstar Alex Rodriguez, often referred to as A-Rod.

Muslim Is Arrested in Dublin for Obama Threats; Said Obama Would Be Killed in His Visit to Ireland

Police in Dublin arrested Ireland's most notorious Muslim convert yesterday (May 12, 2011) over his reported death threats against President Barack Obama, the Cybercast News Service website reports.

Police said Khalid Kelly -- a 44-year-old dubbed "Taliban Terry" by Dubliners -- was arrested at his Dublin residence on suspicion of threatening to kill the U.S. president.

The arrest came 10 days before Obama's scheduled arrival in Ireland.

A British newspaper -- the Sunday Mirror -- quoted Kelly as saying in an interview that he expected al-Qaida to kill Obama during his visit to Ireland, in part because the country's police force is poorly armed.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Court Orders John Demjanjuk Freed from Prison; Helped Transport 27,900 Jews to Gas Chambers

The Deutsche Welle (German) website reports today (May 12, 2011) that a Munich court -- which found Ukrainian-born John Demjanjuk guilty of helping in the murder of 27,900 Jews during World War II -- has ordered that the 91-year-old be released from his five-year prison term due to his advanced age and ill health.

The German court also took into account the two years Demjanjuk spent in prison ahead of the lengthy trial, and added that he no longer posed a risk to society.

Prosecutors had called for Demjanjuk to serve six years for his role in the killings of 27,900 Jews at the Sobibor death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1943.

The prosecution said the defendant had participated willingly in transporting death camp victims to the gas chambers.

Americans Become Stingy with Church Donations; Recession Blamed for 24 Percent Giving Nothing

The Christian Post website reports that a new study has found that Americans have cut back on donations and tithing to churches, as a result of the economic recession.

The latest study -- released on May 10, 2011 by Barna Research -- shows three out of ten Americans are reducing their giving to churches.

Americans who were most likely to reduce donations to churches were Baby Boomers, lower income households, residents living in the northeast, and those who identify themselves as Christians but are only moderately involved with a church, according to the study.

About a quarter of Americans -- 24 percent -- shut their wallets altogether and stopped all giving to churches. Another 17 percent reduced their giving by half of what they had been giving before the current recession began.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

COMMENTARY: Putting a Nasty Sign on a Lawn Does Not Resolve Problems

Last weekend, a homeowner by the name of Michael Heick -- who lives next door to a newly opened mosque -- posted a sign on his front lawn that reads "Bomb Making Next Driveway."

The sign appears in Amherst, New York -- a Buffalo suburb -- on a heavily traveled road.

Heick said he put up the sign because he was frustrated with how mosque and town officials failed to take any action on his complaints that the mosque was built too close to his property and that its bright lights violate the town code.

Is this an appropriate way for Heick to resolve these problems? Of course not.

Instead of trying to insult the Muslims for building a mosque next to his property -- and making a fool of himself in so doing -- Heick needs to meet with the leaders of the mosque, in an effort to iron out the problems he is encountering.

He should also meet with town officials to try to have dimmer lights installed on the mosque property, since he claims the present lights violate the town code.

If he still receives no satisfaction from these meetings, Heick should hire an attorney and take this matter to court.

The court, in effect, will decide on resolving these matters with a just ruling that must be adhered to by both Heick and the leaders of the mosque.

Billy Graham Hospitalized in N.C. for Pneumonia; Physician Says Graham Alert, Resting Comfortably

Evangelist Billy Graham has been admitted to an Asheville, North Carolina hospital for treatment for pneumonia, the Associated Press website reports.

Doctors say the 92-year-old Graham came to Mission Hospital today (May 11, 2011) after suffering a health episode overnight.

Dr. Lucian Rice -- Graham's primary physician -- said no date has been set for Graham's release. He also said the evangelist is alert and resting comfortably.

Graham spokesman Larry Ross said age-related conditions -- such as macular degeneration and hearing loss -- have kept Graham at his home in nearby Montreat, North Carolina during the past few years. He added Graham has remained in good health overall.

Presbyterian Church Approves Openly Gay Clergy; Is Fourth Protestant Denomination in US to Do So

The Christian Post website reports today (May 11, 2011) that the Presbyterian Church USA has become the fourth Protestant denomination in the US to allow the ordination of gay and lesbian clergy.

It follows a majority vote by the 173 presbyteries -- that is, district governing bodies -- yesterday to change the body's constitution, in order to allow openly gay people in same-sex relationships to be ordained as ministers, elders, and deacons.

The move eliminates the constitutional requirement for clergy to live "in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness."

The United Church of Christ, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and The Episcopal Church already allow the ordination of openly gay candidates.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Orthodox Jewish Paper Erases Clinton from Photo; Rel. Custom Forbids Photos of Women in Papers

The Ethics Daily website reports today (May 10, 2011) that an Ultra-Orthodox Jewish newspaper in Brooklyn, NY deleted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from a White House photograph of top officials monitoring the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

The Yiddish-language "Der Zeitung" removed Clinton and Audrey Tomason -- a top counter-terrorism adviser -- from the photo, which is quickly becoming an iconic image.

The photo shows the White House's Situation Room during last week's raid on bin Laden's Pakistani compound.

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish newspapers believe that photos of women should not appear for reasons of modesty -- both for men and women. Moreover, Ultra-Orthodox Jews do not own televisions, read only their communities' newspapers, and rarely surf the Internet.

NY Mosque Leaders Upset by Neighbor's Vile Sign; Front Lawn Sign: "Bomb Making Next Driveway"

The Associated Press website reports today (May 10, 2011) that Muslim leaders are upset that a homeowner -- who lives next door to a newly opened mosque -- has posted a sign on his front lawn that reads "Bomb Making Next Driveway."

Michael Heick lives along a heavily traveled road in Amherst, New York -- a Buffalo suburb. The next driveway is the entrance to the Jaffarya Center.

Heick said that he put up the sign last weekend, because he was frustrated with how the mosque and town officials handled his complaints that the mosque was built too close to his property and that its bright lights violate town code.

Mubarak Abidi, mosque president, said he called Amherst police over the weekend about the sign, and was told that its posting was not illegal.

Pastor Shoots 13-Year-Old Boy in Atlanta, Georgia; Teen Threw Rock That Broke Pastor's Car Window

A 13-year-old boy is in stable condition in a hospital, as a result of being shot Saturday evening (May 7, 2011), while throwing rocks at cars in southwest Atlanta, Georgia, according to the Newsvine website.

Police said the teen was throwing rocks at about 7:30 p.m. near Stephens and McDaniel streets when a rock broke the rear windshield of a car driven by Rev. Alex Williams.

Rev. Williams allegedly pulled a gun and shot the boy in the hip, Atlanta police said. Rev. Williams was arrested and charged with aggravated assault, and the teen was taken to a local hospital.

Rev. Williams is the pastor of the Mechanicsville United Church of God in Christ on McDaniel Street in Atlanta.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Pope's Venice Gondola Ride Sparks Unholy Row; Rowers Competed Fiercely for Honor to Row Pope

The Telegraph (British) website reports today (May 9, 2011) that Pope Benedict XVI -- currently on a two-day visit to Venice -- was rowed across the city's spectacular Grand Canal in a luxury gondola yesterday, with his four "gondoliers" fighting off fierce competition for the honor.

The days leading up to the 84-year-old pope's visit have been fraught ones for the gondolier community, with one rower even invoking a vision of a Catholic saint Padre Pio in his bid for a coveted spot in the gondola.

Aldo Reato -- head of the gondoliers -- chose two rival pairs out of Venice's 425 gondoliers, rejecting the possibility of using the only woman gondolier.

Bruno and Francesco Del Rossi are brothers whose father Albino rowed late Pope John Paul II during his visit in 1985. Gianpaolo D'Este and Igor Vignotto -- the other pair -- are two famous participants in the Venice regattas.

MP Warns Canada to Ban Muslim Immigrants; Says Islam "Wants to Rule Every Aspect of Life"

The Big News Network website reports today (May 9, 2011) that Dutch Member of Parliament (MP) Geert Wilders -- Europe's openly anti-Islam parliamentarian -- riled many Canadians yesterday, when he said Canada should ban immigration from Muslim nations.

"What happened in Europe will also happen in Canada... Islamization means less freedom to us and our children," the Dutch Freedom Party MP said.

Wilders added that he doesn't hate Muslims, but hates the "ideology (of Islam) that wants to rule every aspect of life."

There are more than a million Muslims in Canada -- a country of 34 million people.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mastermind of Icon Thefts in Greece Is Identified; Sold Icons by Saying They Were Family Collection

The Ekathimerini (Greek) website reports today (May 8, 2011) that Scotland Yard has identified the alleged mastermind behind a ring that has been stealing hundreds of religious icons from churches and monasteries in Epirus and Thessaly, which ended up at European auction houses.

Police in Athens were informed of the identity of the mastermind -- who is from Thessaly -- by their British counterparts. The person has not yet been arrested, because his whereabouts are currently unknown.

The alleged ringleader had claimed that the icons were family heirlooms from his father's personal collection.

Police are confident that the information they have gathered will help them smash the ring behind the disappearance of hundreds of Byzantine icons, as well as the theft of pieces of icon screens and communion cups.

CUNY Trustees Block Hon. Degree for Playwright; Tony Kushner Posted an Anti-Israeli Note on Blog

The trustees of the City University of New York (CUNY) voted last week to block a planned honorary degree to playwright Tony Kushner, according to the Cybercast News website.

One CUNY trustee said the "Angels in America" playwright had made disparaging comments about Israel in the past. Kushner had written on an Internet blog that Israel should not have become an independent nation in 1948.

In an interview with the New York Times, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer said he is a strong supporter of Israel's right to exist.

Kushner -- who said the CUNY Board of Trustees owes him an apology -- now says he will not accept the honorary degree, even if the trustees change their mind.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

COMMENTARY: Retaliation for a Person's Anti-Semitic Beliefs Is Wrong

This week, Austrian National Council President Barbara Prammer canceled the performance of the song trilogy "Mathausen" by famed Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis for the commemoration of the 66th anniversary since the liberation of the Mauthausen extermination camp.

Why? Because of the Greek composer's repeated anti-Semitic statements during the past several years.

While we do not approve of anti-Semitic statements -- or statements insulting any ethnic, racial, or religious group for that matter -- we do believe that the decision by Austria to cancel Theodorakis' performance was a grave mistake.

Theodorakis is world-renowned for the music he has composed during the past 50 years. His music for the 1964 film "Zorba the Greek" remains popular to the present day, and is still danced to at Greek weddings, Grecian church festivals, and on other occasions.

But even more important than Theodorakis' peerless ability to compose music in this situation is his right to freedom of speech. If he believes that Jews are "the root of evil," he has a right to believe it -- and to express this belief in the mass media, if he feels comfortable in doing so.

On the other hand, by canceling the Greek composer's musical performance in Austria, Barbara Prammer -- who is obviously of Jewish background -- has illustrated that she herself is prejudiced by retaliating against Theodorakis for expressing his true beliefs with respect to Jews.

In other words, Prammer is "punishing" Theodorakis for his beliefs -- and expressing them with his freedom of speech -- by canceling his performance in Austria. How childish can she be?

We find it very interesting that Jews tend to see nothing wrong with defaming other groups, but if someone is critical of Jews, he is labeled anti-Semitic, and is punished whenever possible for doing so by rejection or other means.

Indeed, this kind of prejudice is far worse than anti-Semitism itself!

Christian-Muslim Fighting in Egypt Kills Five; Christian Woman Marrying Muslim Sparks Violence

The Reuters website reports that Christians and Muslims fought on the streets of Cairo today (May 7, 2011) in violence triggered by word of a mixed romance. At least five people were killed, and 54 were injured.

Today's violence broke out in the Imbaba neighborhood of Cairo, after word spread that a Christian woman had married a Muslim and was being held in a church against her will.

Hundreds of Muslims converged on the church and demanded the woman be released. Orthodox Coptic Christians stood outside the church to protect it. Gunfire was exchanged in the melee, including people shooting from rooftops.

Mixed relatonships are taboo in Egypt. If a Christian woman marries a Muslim, she is expelled from the church. A Muslim woman is not allowed to marry a Christian man, according to state law.

Austria Cancels Performance of Mikis Theodorakis; Says Greek Composer Makes Anti-Semitic Statements

The Greek Reporter website reports today (May 7, 2011) that Austrian National Council President Barbara Prammer has canceled the performance of the song trilogy "Mauthausen" by Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis in the framework of the commemoration of the 66th anniversary since the liberation of the Mauthausen extermination camp.

The reason for this sudden and unexpected decision was the repeated anti-Semitic statements made by the composer in past years.

Magazines and newspapers in Vienna maintained that the reaction of the Austrian government was rather insulting and humiliatng for Theodorakis -- a great symbol of eternal fight for Freedom and Democracy.

Theodorakis -- who gained world renown for his music on the 1964 film "Zorba the Greek" -- has repeatedly said that the Jews are "the root of evil" and that Jews are responsible for the current economic recession in Greece and in many other countries around the world.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Catholic Priest Is Named as Next House Chaplain; Speaker Boehner Selects Portland, Oregon Teacher

House Speaker John Boehner said today (May 6, 2011) that he will nominate Rev. Patrick Conroy -- a Catholic priest who now teaches at Jesuit High School in Portland, Oregon -- as the next House chaplain, according to the Huffington Post website.

Conroy -- a 60-year-old native of Washington state -- will succeed Father Daniel Coughlin, who retired last month after 11 years in the position, and was the first Roman Catholic priest to serve as House chaplain.

Conroy would be the 60th House chaplain, if approved by the full House as expected, later this month.

The duties include opening each session with a prayer, presiding over memorials and other ceremonies, and providing pastoral counseling to the House community.

Abp. of Canterbury Rips US for Killing Bin Laden; Says Killing Unarmed Bin Laden Was Not Justified

The Telegraph (British) website reports today (May 6, 2011) that the Archbishop of Canterbury -- spiritual head of the 80 million worldwide Anglican Community -- has criticized the White House for repeatedly changing its account of the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan.

Killing bin Laden -- when he was not carrying a weapon -- meant that justice could not be "seen to be done," the Archbishop said.

Lawyers and senior figures from politics and the military said the Archbishop of Canterbury -- whose comments on bin Laden's death are the harshest of any Christian clerical leader -- was not living in "the real world," while relatives of 9/11 victims expressed outrage at his remarks.

A senior government source described the Archbishop's comments as "very unwise," adding: "One has to give some thought for all the unarmed people that bin Laden killed. This was a very silly thing to say."

Thursday, May 5, 2011

State Dept. Won't Name Pakistan Anti-Christian; Has Rejected Commission's Opinion Since 2002

The U.S. State Department has rejected recommendations by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to name Pakistan a "Country of Particular Concern" -- despite the fact that Pakistan is responsible for "systematic, egregious and ongoing violations of religious belief and freedom," according to the ISCIRF's 2011 report to Congress and the State Department.

According to the Cybercast News Service website today (May 5, 2011), the report paints Pakistan as a nation where blasphemy against Islam is a state crime, underage Christian girls are raped with impunity, and religious extremism has led in the last year to assassinations, suicide bombings, and attacks on mosques and churches by extremist Muslims.

Since 2002, USCIRF has recommended Pakistan be named a Country of Particular Concern, but the U.S. State Department has not followed that recommendation.

The commission is a U.S. government body charged with monitoring religious freedom around the globe.

Polls: Russia Is the Most Pious Nation in Europe; Only Four Percent of Russians Are Muslims

Two polls -- released this week -- show that Russia is the most pious nation in Europe, most atheists are male, and Orthodox Christians outnumber Muslims overwhelmingly, according to the Orthodox Church Info Blog.

A record 82 percent of respondents acknowledged that they believe in God, according to the polls conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and an obscure religious research group called Sreda.Atheists accounted for 13 percent of the respondents, and 68 percent of atheists were men.

Only 50 percent said they belonged to the Russian Orthodox Church, according to the polls. The Orthodox Church usually puts the figure around 70 percent. Only 4 percent of Russians called themselves Muslims.

The polls indicated that Russia is the most religious nation in Europe, as it showed that 56 percent believed in "God or a Supreme Being," compared to 51 percent in Poland, 50 percent in Italy, and 18 percent in Sweden.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

COMMENTARY: Courts Must Fine School Systems That Promote Religious Activities

The Sumner County School System in Tennessee is the defendant in a lawsuit filed last week by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which claims that the system promotes religious activity.

The US Supreme Court -- in a historic decision in 1963 -- ruled that prayer and religious activities in American public schools are illegal, because they violate the separation of church and state.

Nonetheless, the Sumner County School System has been promoting religious activities in its schools since 2006, according to the ACLU.

The activities have included teachers leading students in prayer and Bible study; prayers over the loudspeaker; a cross displayed in a classroom; and a youth minister proselytizing at student lunch tables.

It appears that the Sumner County School System is unaware that the religious activities in its schools are in violation of the Supreme Court's 1963 ruling banning prayer in public schools. More likely, however, is the School System's defiance of the Supreme Court ruling.

Consequently, the federal court in which the ACLU has filed its lawsuit in this case should not only rule that these religious practices are unconstitutional and must end immediately, but also impose a hefty fine -- about a million dollars or more -- on the School System for violating the federal law.

In addition to teaching the Sumner County School System a lesson, a hefty fine would also have a significant impact in discouraging other school systems from violating the federal law that bans prayer and religious activities in American public schools.

Christian Group Sues Hicksville NY School District; District Refused to Allow a School Christian Club

A Christian group is suing a New York school district for a spot on a local high school's list of student clubs, the Christian Post website reports today (May 4, 2011).

The Frontline Club (FLC) -- a discipleship program based in South Carolina -- has brought the legal challenge against the Hicksville Union Free School District Board of Education, alleging that it has denied access to the school because the club is Christian in nature.

Without official recognition, FLC is not allowed to hold meetings, make announcements, or post its flyer on the campus.

The lawsuit reveals that Hicksville High School Principal Brijinder Singh told students appealing for the club, "Other schools may have a Christian club, but I don't want this in my school."

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

ACLU Files Lawsuit Against Tenn. School System; Claims Religious Activities Conducted Since 2006

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a federal lawsuit in Nashville, Tennessee against the Sumner County School System -- claiming the system promotes religious activity -- the Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (May 3, 2011).

The ACLU said teachers have led students in prayer and Bible study.

It also said there have been prayers over the loudspeaker, a cross displayed in a classroom, and that a youth minister proselytized at student lunch tables.

The suit seeks a court order declaring these practices -- which date back to 2006 -- unconstitutional.

Muslims Furious about Bin Laden's Burial at Sea; It's Only Permitted When the Deceased Dies at Sea

The Examiner website reports today (May 3, 2011) that numerous Islamic scholars have implied that the decision to dump Osama bin Laden's body in the ocean is a slap in the face to the Muslim community.

Islamic tradition has it that Muslims be buried with their heads pointed towards Mecca and the Holy Land, putting bin Laden's burial in violation of that tradition.

Dubai's grand mufti Mohammed al-Qubaisi slammed U.S. officials for bin Laden's sea burial, terming it heresy that could further inflame anti-American passions among followers of Islam.

According to al-Qubaisi, the Muslim faith holds that such burials are only permissible when the deceased actually dies at sea.

New Seminary to Bear Name of Pope John Paul II; To Be Affiliated with The Catholic Univ. of America

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. has announced that the new archdiocesan seminary -- scheduled to open for this fall's semester -- will be named for Blessed Pope John Paul II, the National Catholic Register website reports today (May 3, 2011).

The seminary -- which will be located in Northeast Washington, D.C. -- will serve as a college-level pre-theology house of formation, with seminarians attending classes nearby at The Catholic University of America.

Cardinal Wuerl said the seminary will be blessed on October 22 -- the feast day of Blessed John Paul and the anniversary of his installation as pope in 1978.

Seminarians for the archdiocese will begin their formation through the new seminary in August, and renovation of the building is scheduled to be completed in October.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Australian Bishop Quits Over Dispute with Vatican; Wanted Church to Ordain Women, Married Men

An Australian Roman Catholic bishop has quit his post over a dispute with the Vatican about women priests and other liberal reforms, the Telegraph (British) website reports today (May 2, 2011).

William Morris -- who has been bishop of the vast Queensland diocese of Toowoomba since 1993 -- told parishioners on Sunday that he was taking an early retirement.

In a letter read at weekend mass services, Bishop Morris, 67, wrote: "It has been determined by Pope Benedict that the diocese would be better served by the leadership of a new bishop."

The dispute stems from Morris' comments five years ago that the Church should consider ordaining married men and women because of an expected shortage of priests. The Vatican confirmed Morris was quitting.

Thousands Take Part in March in Auschwitz; Honor Six Million Jews Killed by Nazis in WW II

The Jerusalem Post website reports that tens of thousands of people today (May 2, 2011) took part in the March of the Living -- the annual rally held in Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, honoring the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis and their allies during the Holocaust in World War II.

Participants included Israeli President Shimon Peres, former Israeli Chief Rabbi Meir Lau, Conference of Presidents head Malcolm Hoenlein, and thousands of Jewish and non-Jewish youths from Israel and around the world.

From Jerusalem, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called the March of Living an "ultimate reminder that evil does not triumph."

The ceremony was emceed by Haim Topol, who played the lead role of Tevye the Milkman, in the movie version of the musical "Fiddler on the Roof."

Vatican Issues a Statement on Bin Laden's Death; Spread Hatred, Caused Deaths, Exploited Religion

The National Catholic Register website reports today (May 2, 2011) that the Vatican released a statement this morning on the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed by American forces in Pakistan:

"This morning, following the killing of Osama Bin Laden, the Director of the Holy See Press, P. Federico Lombardi, issued the following statement to reporters:

"Osama Bin Laden -- as everyone knows -- has had the greatest responsibility for spreading hatred and division among people, causing the deaths of countless people, and exploiting religion for this purpose.

"Faced with the death of a man, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibility of everyone before God and man, and hopes and pledges that every event is not an opportunity for a further growth of hatred, but of peace."

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Bishop Delineates on Marriage at Royal Wedding; God Meant Marriage as Union of Man and Woman

The Cybercast News Service website reports today (May 1, 2011) that Richard Chartres -- the Lord Bishop of London -- spoke at the wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William on April 29, telling the couple and hundreds of invited guests that "marriage is intended to be a way in which a man and a woman help each other to become what God meant each one to be, their deepest and truest selves."

Bishop Chartres said that in 1999 the Church of England issued a statement on the church's position on marriage, which states, "Marriage is a pattern that God has given in creation, deeply rooted in our social instincts, through which a man and a woman may learn love together over the course of their lives."

The statement also refers to procreation as one of the three blessings of marriage.

"The three blessings that belong to marriage are traditionally described as the procreation and nurture of children, the hallowing and right direction of natural instincts and affections, and the mutual society, help, and comfort which each affords the other in prosperity and adversity," the statement says.

Pope Beatifies John Paul II Before 1.5M People; Credited with Accelerating Fall of Communism

The Associated Press website reports that some 1.5 million pilgrims flooded Rome today (May 1, 2011)to watch Pope John Paul II move a step closer to sainthood in one of the largest Vatican Masses in history -- an outpouring of adoration for a beloved and historic figure after years marred by church scandal.

The turnout for the beatification far exceeded even the most optimistic expectation of one million people, the number Rome city officials predicted.

For Catholics filling St. Peter's Square and streets -- and watching around the world -- the beatification was a welcome hearkening back to the days when the pope was almost universally beloved.

John Paul is credited with helping bring down communism in his native Poland with support for the Solidarity movement, thus accelerating the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of communism in Eastern Europe in 1989.

COMMENTARY: Massachusetts Must Stop Funding Sexual Website for Teens

Last week, Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley and the other three Roman Catholic bishops of Massachusetts called on the state to stop funding a sexual education website for teens.

This website uses graphic language to describe sex acts and downplays the physical and emotional risks of abortion.

The four Massachusetts bishops are correct in urging the state to end its $100,000 annual grant to fund this website. They are also correct in their position that this website be taken down altogether.

The website -- maintained by the independent AIDS Action Committee -- has the support of the Massachusetts Department Public Health, which claims that it provides important sexual health information for teens.

Nonetheless, Massachusetts must not fund a website that borders on pornography. Teens seeking answers to their questions on sexual health know how to log onto Google and other websites that provide answers to their specific questions.

The fact is that pornography -- with its hundreds of websites -- has become a billion dollar annual "business" on the Internet.

Consequently, not only should Massachusetts end its sexual education website for teens, but the federal government must also take action to eliminate the plethora of horrendous pornographic websites that have pervaded the Internet for the past several years, thus taking America on an immoral and anti-Christian path -- a path destined to lead to the decline and downfall of what had once been the greatest nation on earth.