Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Pope Secretly Met Kim Davis During His US Visit; Conveys Beloved "People's Pope" Has Sneaky Side

A Kentucky county clerk who had been jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples secretly met Pope Francis -- a move that disappointed many liberal Catholics and encouraged people who support her stance -- the Reuters website reports today (September 30, 2015).

An attorney for Davis revealed last night that Davis and her husband had a secret meeting with Francis in the Vatican Embassy in Washington, D.C. on September 24, and Francis told the defiant county clerk to "stay strong."

Many liberal Catholics and gay supporters have been critical of the pope for meeting with Davis.

Also, the revelation of the secret meeting by Davis's attorney -- five days after it occurred -- conveys that Pope Francis, who has brought a plethora of Catholic "dropouts" back to the Catholic Church because of his down-to-earth views on religious issues (as opposed to rigid Catholic doctrine), may indeed indicate that the pope has a "sneaky side." The fact that the pope on his flight back to Rome  told reporters that he supports Davis's conscientious objection as an innate human right -- while not telling them that he secretly met with her -- clearly portrays his insincerity, and this failure to tell the whole truth must not be ignored.

Palestinian Pres.Drops "Bombshell" in UN Today; Says He Is No Longer Bound by Pacts with Israel

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas dropped a "bombshell" today (September 30, 2015), when he declared before world leaders that he is no longer bound by agreements signed with Israel, and called on the United Nations to provide international protection for the Palestinian people, according to the Washington Post website.

Abbas, 80, said that Israel's refusal to commit to agreements signed "render us an authority without real powers." Israel did not comment on Abbas's shocking declaration.

"As long as Israel refuses to cease settlement activities [on land it seized from Palestinians in a 1967 war] and to the release of the fourth group of Palestinian prisoners in accordance to our agreements, they leave us no choice but to insist that we will remain the only ones committed to the implementation of those agreements, while Israel continuously violates them," Abbas said.

"We therefore declare that we cannot continue to be bound by these agreements and that Israel must assume all of its responsibilities as an occupying power," he concluded.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Refugees Could Sue Czech Republic in EU Court; Due to Their Kids Being Boxed in Detention Ctrs.

The Czech Republic may be sued at the Court of Justice of the EU (European Union) for placing refugees' children in detention facilities, Eliska Wagnerova, a senator and former Constitutional Court judge, told the public broadcaster Czech Television, the Prague Monitor website reports today (September 29, 2015).

Interior Minister Milan Chovanec took issue with her and argued that the Czech Republic fully observed the EU law.

Wagnerova said she had been appalled by the conditions in which refugees had to stay in the state-run facilities in the Czech Republic.

"I think the Czech Republic can easily face the charges of cruel, inhuman treatment that may be seen in the relationship by the children who should not be in the detention facilities at all," Wagnerova said.

Thousands in Poland Protest Immigration Policy; Protests Due to PM's Decision to Assist Refugees

The political far-right in Poland has organized several anti-immigration protests across the country, the Euro News website reports today (September 29, 2015).

Thousands of people took part in the rallies in several major cities -- including Warsaw, Poland's capital -- during the past few days.

The protests were organized in response to a decision by Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz for Poland to join other EU (European Union) countries in providing financial assistance for refugees.

Poland has agreed to accept 7,000 refugees between 2016 and 2017. In response, Prime Minister Kopacz joined campaigners busy painting over racist graffiti daubed on walls in Warsaw.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Taliban Troops Seize Major Northern Afghan City; Defeat Stunned Security Forces in Seizing Kunduz

Taliban insurgents fought their way into a major city in northern Afghanistan today (September 28, 2015), driving back stunned security forces in a multi-pronged attack that also sent Afghan officials and United Nations personnel fleeing for safety, according to the Washington Post website.

The fall of Kunduz would be a huge blow to the Western-backed government in Kabul and would give Taliban militants a critical base of operations beyond their traditional strongholds in Afghanistan's south.

The assault began shortly before dawn today when hundreds of Taliban fighters advanced into the city from four directions. Although Afghan security units were backed by helicopter gunships, the Taliban took over a 200-bed hospital and overran the local prison, freeing hundreds of prisoners. From there they seized the office of the governor, though he was not in the city at the time.

The militant Islamist group posted triumphant pictures to Twitter, showing Taliban fighters hoisting their white and black flag throughout the city. This is the first time in 14 years that Taliban fighters have seized an Afghan city.

Ga. School Parents Incensed about Islam Lessons; Say Middle Schools Teach Islam,Snub Christianity

An outer suburb of Atlanta, Georgia is the latest locale in America where some parents are expressing alarm because their middle school-aged children are required to learn about Islam, while ignoring Christianity, the Daily Caller website reports today (September 28, 2015).

Ryan Breece, a Christian father of three who has a sixth-grade daughter at Youth Middle School in Loganville, Georgia, told a local Fox TV channel that his daughter recently came home with a social studies assignment all about the core teachings of Islam.

"We are seeing one page, five statements of Christian faith and we see five or 10 pages of Islamic faith," the mad dad told WAGA-TV. So we have no accountability to make sure that it's equal."

According to Breece, he was so alarmed about what his sixth-grade daughter was -- and was not -- learning that he scheduled a meeting with the principal at Youth Middle School (David Todd). As a result of the meeting, Breece and the principal arranged for his daughter to opt out of the coursework on Islam.

Pope Backs Davis's Refusal to Issue Gay Licenses; States Conscientious Objection Is a Human Right

Pope Francis said today (September 28, 2015) that government officials have a "human right" to refuse to discharge a duty -- such as issuing marriage licenses to homosexuals -- if they feel it violates their conscience, the Reuters website reports.

Speaking to reporters on a plane as he returned to Rome from a 10-day trip to the United States and Cuba, Francis said, "Conscientious objection must enter every juridical structure because it is right."

Earlier this month, a county official in the state of Kentucky, Kim Davis, went to jail because she refused to issue a marriage license to a gay couple, following a U.S. Supreme Court decision to make homosexual marriage legal.

"And if someone does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right," the pope added.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Pope Francis Celebrates Mass Before 1M in Philly; Homily:Love Thrives in Acts through Family,God

With a simple message of love and family, Pope Francis celebrated Mass in front of nearly a million people in Philadelphia today (September 27, 2015) and wrapped up his historic six-day journey to meet the American people, the New Jersey website reports.

On a massive stage capped by a golden arc, the pope used his homily to remind the crowd that love is born from the simplest of actions, family embodies the core of that love, and God is revealed through it.

The pontiff packed several events into his final day in the United States, including a visit with inmates in a local prison and a private meeting with victims of clergy sex abuse. He also announced a new Vatican tribunal to prosecute bishops who failed to protect victims of abuse.

The majority of the people who endured long lines and heavy security to line a mile-long stretch of Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin Parkway were focused on the opportunity to go to a Mass celebrated by the leader of the Catholic Church. Pope Francis flew back to Rome this evening.

Teens Arrested for Igniting London Mosque Blaze; Two Boys, 16 and 14, Being Held in a London Jail

Two teenagers were arrested today (September 27, 2015) over a blaze at a London mosque, which claims to be the largest in western Europe, according to the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website.

Two  boys -- aged 16 and 14 -- have been arrested on suspicion of arson and remain in custody at a south London police station, Scotland Yard police headquarters said.

Ten fire trucks were sent to fight the blaze which broke out yesterday at the Baitul Futuh Mosque in southwest London.

One man -- believed to be in his 40s -- was taken to a hospital after suffering from smoke inhalation. The fire affected around half of the ground floor, part of the first floor, and a section of the mosque's roof.

Pope Meets with Group of Clergy Abuse Victims; Vows Cath.Church to Provide "Careful Oversight"

Pope Francis today (September 27, 2015) said that he met privately with a group of clergy sex abuse victims and vowed that the Catholic Church would provide "careful oversight" to protect young believers in the future, the USA Today website reports.

In unscripted remarks at the beginning of an address to bishops from around the globe, Francis said "great harm" was caused by the clergy sex abuse scandal that has marred the church for more than a decade. He promised to hold those responsible for such offenses accountable.

"Those who have survived have become true heralds of mercy," Francis said. "Humbly, we owe each of them our gratitude for their courage."

"I remain overwhelmed with shame that [hundreds of] men entrusted with the tender care of children violated these little ones and caused grievous harm," he added. "I am profoundly sorry. God weeps."

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Pope in Philly Calls for Defense of Rel.Freedom; Must Promote Peace, Tolerance, Human Rights

Pope Francis today (September 26, 2015) called for a vigorous defense of religious freedom and urged Catholics to help fortify the Church, as hundreds of thousands celebrated his visit to Philadelphia, according to the Global Post website.

Francis is wrapping up a historic visit to Cuba and the United States this weekend in Philadelphia.

At Independence Hall -- where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were debated and signed -- Francis told a crowd of tens of thousands that religious freedom must be protected, and be used for the greater good.

"In a world where various forms of modern tyranny seek to suppress religious freedom... it is imperative that the followers of the various religions join their voices in calling for peace, tolerance, and respect for the dignity and rights of others," the pope asserted.

Bulgaria's Orth.Church Opposes Islam Migrants; Calls on End Entry to Prevent "Invasion"

Bulgaria's Greek Orthodox Church has called on its government not to let any more Muslim refugees into the country in order to prevent an "invasion," the Yahoo News website reports today (September 26, 2015).

The Balkan EU (European Union) member has largely been bypassed by hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing conflict and poverty, many of whom set off from Greece through neighboring Macedonia and Serbia towards northern Europe.

But Bulgaria -- which was under Islamic Ottoman rule for five centuries -- has still seen Syrians, Afghans, and Iraqis cross its southeastern border from Turkey.

"We help refugees who have already arrived in our motherland, but the government must absolutely not let more refugees in," the Orthodox Church -- which has 80 percent of the Bulgarian population as its followers -- said on its website. "This is a wave that looks like an invasion."

Friday, September 25, 2015

Many New Migrants in Finland Return to Sweden; Disappointed in Finland Because It's Cold, Boring

Hundreds of predominantly Iraq migrants who have traveled through Europe to reach Finland are turning back, saying they don't want to stay in the sparsely-populated country on Europe's northern frontier because it's too cold and boring, the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website reports today (September 25, 2015).

Migrants have in recent weeks been crossing back into Sweden at the Haparanda-Tomio border just an hour's drive south of the Arctic Circle, and Finnish authorities have seen a rise in the number of canceled asylum applications.

"You can tell the world I hate Finland. It's too cold. there's no tea, no restaurants, no bars, nobody on the streets, only cars," 22-year-old Muhammed told AFP in Tomio, as the mercury struggled to reach 50 degrees on a recent blustery grey day.

He had already traveled from Tomio to Helsinki -- the capital of Finland -- almost 465 miles south, and then back up to the Tomio border again to return to Sweden.

Pope at UN:Greed Destroying Earth's Resources; Slams Selfish Mania for Wealth, Neglect of Poor

Pope Francis today (September 25, 2015) condemned the craving for material gains and power that is currently debasing society, telling an annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations that greed is destroying the earth's resources and aggravating poverty, according to the Reuters website.

The spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics condemned the "grave offense" of economic and social exclusion, in his first speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

"A selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged," he said.

The Argentine-born pontiff, 78, called on government leaders to ensure their people enjoy the minimum material means needed to live. "In practical terms, this absolute minimum has three names: lodging, labor, and land," Francis said to applause.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Pope Lauding Bishops on Abuse Rages Victims; Victims Feel Pope Won't End Clergy Sex Abuse

Pope Francis praised U.S. Catholic bishops for their responses to the clergy sex abuse crisis yesterday during an address in Washington, D.C. -- comments that victims called "insulting" and "hurtful" -- the Huffington Post website reports today (September 24, 2015).

The pope applauded what he said was bishops' "generous commitment to bring healing to victims." He also praised them for courage in facing "difficult moments in the recent history of the church in this country without fear of self-criticism and at the cost of mortification and great sacrifice."

Barbara Blaine of Chicago -- president of Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) -- released a statement decrying the many years of clergy abuse that the church tolerated, as bishops tended to "look the other way" or to transfer a sexually abusive priest to a different community.

"His [Pope Francis's] remarks today confirm what we've long said and suspected: This pope, like his predecessors, is doing and will do little if anything to bring real reform to this continuing crisis," Blaine said. "Those who care about kids must focus on secular authorities, not church figures."

Israel Will Pay $2M for Church Arson Damages; Two Jewish Youths Indicted for the Church Fire

Israel's Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has overruled a decision by the nation's tax authority that denied payment of damages to a Catholic church on the Sea of Galilee for an arson attack last June, the Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (September 24, 2015).

Weinstein decided this week that Israel will compensate the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes in the town of Tabgha, after arsonists set fire to the church, destroying much of the roof and damaging large portions of the interior.

Damages were estimated at just under $2 million.

In July, police indicted two Jewish youths from a nearby community in connection with the attack.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Huckabee: Pres.Obama Pretends to Be Christian; Obama Woos Cath.Sinners,Pope to White House

Republican presidential candidate and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee said yesterday that he is concerned about the authenticity of President Barack Obama's Christian faith, the Christian Post website reports today (September 23, 2015).

"I am concerned about a guy that believes he is a Christian and pretends to be, and says he is, and then does things that makes it very difficult for people to practice their Christian faith," Huckabee said.

Huckabee -- a former Southern Baptist pastor --  continued by bringing up Obama's guest list for Pope Francis' first-ever White House visit today, which included many individuals who oppose components of Catholic teachings, such as an openly gay Episcopal bishop, a pro-abortion nun, a fired Catholic school lesbian teacher and her female partner, and a transgender individual.

"I am disappointed if a person says 'I am Christian,' but you invite the pope into your home and then you invite a whole bunch of people who are at odds with the Catholic Church policy," Huckabee added. "I think there is something very unseemly about that."

Nigeria Frees 12 Women, Kids from Boko Haram; 219 Kidnapped Schoolgirls Linger on as Captives

At least a dozen women and children -- who were kidnapped by the Islamic militant group Boko Haram -- have been freed, the Christian Headlines website reports today (September 23, 2015).

The women and children were being held captive in Nigeria where Boko Haram has been carrying out suicide bombings.

Hundreds of women and children have been freed by the Nigerian army during the past year, but Boko Haram fighters continue to use many more kidnapped victims in their attacks.

None of the recently freed victims accounted for any of the 219 schoolgirls who were abducted in April 2014, most of whom Boko Haram continues to use as sex slaves.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Pope Comes to U.S., Is Greeted by Obama, Biden; Will Be 1st Pope to Address Congress Joint Session

Pope Francis arrived in the United States today (September 22, 2015) for the first official visit of his papacy, as he landed at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland around 4 p.m., the UPI website reports.

U.S. leaders literally rolled out a red carpet for the historic visit. As Francis stepped off the Alitalia jet, he was greeted by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

After exchanging greetings, the pope and Obama returned to Washington in separate vehicles.

The pope arrived after spending four days in Cuba. His U.S. plans will take him from Washington, D.C. to New York City to Philadelphia, before he returns to Rome on September 27. On September 24, Francis will become the first pope to ever address a joint session of Congress.

Woman Is Shot Trying to Stab Israeli Soldier; Arab Terrorist Tried to Stab Soldier in Hebron

A female Arab terrorist was shot at around 8 a.m. today (September 22, 2015) while trying to attack an Israeli soldier at the security checkpoint between Jewish and Arab parts of Hebron, according to the Jewish Press website.

As she lifted her knife to stab the soldier, his fellow troops opened fire, shooting the attacker in the leg.

An Israeli soldier also shot the woman's bag to ensure there were no explosives hidden in it.

The woman was treated at the scene by an Israeli medic and then taken to a nearby medical facility, where she is listed in serious condition.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Germany Arrests IS Recruiter Posing as Migrant; German Govt. Seizes 10K Bogus Syrian Passports

A 21-year-old man from Morocco has been arrested by German authorities at a refugee center near Stuttgart of being an Islamic State (IS) recruiter. He used a false identity to pose as an asylum seeker, the Clarion Project website reports today (September 21, 2015).

This is the first time German authorities have arrested a terror suspect masquerading as an asylum seeker.

At the same time, it was reported the German government seized 10,000 fake Syrian passports, which are being sold to those seeking to gain entry to the European Union (EU) for around $1,500 each. Possession of a Syrian passport makes claiming asylum much easier.

The Islamic State has said it is importing fighters into Europe disguised as refugees. These numbers will be compounded by the threat from returning European citizens who fought as jihadists in Syria.

Many Harvard Females Are Sexually Assaulted; Univ.Pres. Faust Calls Acts "Deeply Disturbing"

Thirty-one percent of senior undergraduate females at Harvard College who responded to a sexual conduct climate survey last spring said they had experienced some form of "nonconsensual sexual contact" during their time at the College, The Harvard Crimson website reports today (September 21, 2015).

Sixteen percent -- 90 women -- reported that they had experienced sexual penetration or attempted penetration without their consent during that time.

Results of the survey -- which were released today by the Association of American Universities -- offer an in-depth look at the climate surrounding sexual assault at Harvard, an atmosphere University President Drew Faust called "deeply disturbing" in an email to students, faculty, and other Harvard affiliates today.

More than 75 percent of the sexual assaults on Harvard female students occurred in dorm rooms. Harvard has had coed dormitories -- and has allowed men and women students to share the same bathrooms --  for the past 45 years.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Dr. Ben Carson Says Muslim Should Not Be Pres.; Sees Islam as Being Incompatible with US Const.

Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson says he would not support a Muslim as President of the United States, the NBC News website reports today (September 20, 2015).

Responding to a question on the TV program "Meet the Press," the retired neurosurgeon said, "I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that."

He also said that Islam -- as a religion -- is incompatible with the U.S. Constitution.

Carson -- who is near the top of several early presidential polls -- said a president's faith should matter depending on what that faith is. "If it's inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter," he added.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Statue of Billy Graham to Appear in US Capitol; Renowned Evangelist Conducted 400 Crusades

A North Carolina proposal to place a statue of the Reverend Billy Graham in the U.S. Capitol, has gained the approval from the state's House of Representatives and Senate, the Christian Headlines website reports today (September 19, 2015).

The proposal passed the House in April and recently passed the Senate with a unanimous vote. The proposal is now being passed along to North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory.

The statue of Graham would replace a statue of former North Carolina governor Charles Aycock,  who was governor from 1901 to 1905 and is remembered for his white supremacist links.

The famed evangelist Graham has conducted more than 400 evangelistic Crusades and led many to Christ. Graham, 96, still remains active in the public arena; however, his son, Franklin Graham -- also a pastor -- now leads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Kiev's Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Is Set Ablaze; Memorial to Kiev's 34K Jews Shot by Nazi Troops

On the first night of Rosh Hashanah in Kiev, Ukraine this week, the brass menorah erected over the slope of the Babi Yar ravine was torched by unknown assailants, the Tablet Magazine website reports today (September 18, 2015). This is another incident of anti-Semitism, which has been plaguing most of Europe during the past year.

It serves as a memorial to Kiev's 34,000 Jews who were shot dead by German Nazi troops over two days in September of 1941, in what was one of the largest single massacres of the Holocaust.

The menorah was installed in 1991, one month after Ukraine declared its independence from the Soviet Union.

On the night of September 13, unidentified assailants threw old tires doused in flammable liquid around the monument before lighting the conflagration. The blaze was so intense that it charred and even melted parts of the menorah's bronze and stone facade.

Pope Takes In Syrian Refugee Family in Vatican; Conveys His Support for Europe's Migrant Crisis

Pope Francis is putting up a Syrian refugee family from Damascus in a Vatican apartment, the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website reports today (September 18, 2015).

The Christian family is the first of two that the Catholic leader has promised to find space for as part of a broader Church effort to help shape Europe's response to the ongoing migration crisis, caused partly by the conflict in Syria.

The family being housed in the Vatican is to remain anonymous until Italian authorities have ruled on their asylum request.

As Christians who have fled a Syria wracked by a deadly civil war and the persecution of minorities, they are highly likely to be quickly granted leave to remain in Italy.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Pope Urges More Care for Street Women,Children; Views Them as "Shameful Reality in Our Societies"

Abandoned children and exploited sex workers are a "shameful reality in our societies." That was Pope Francis's message today (September 17, 2015) to participants at an international symposium on the pastoral care of street people that has been taking place in the Vatican this week, the Independent Catholic News website reports.

The five-day meeting -- organized by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People -- has focused especially on the plight of women and children living on the streets.

Pope Francis praised the commitment of the many different organizations that care for street children and for girls or women who are sexually exploited by criminal gangs, or even by their own family members.

He said, "Every child abandoned or forced to live on the streets, at the mercy of criminal organizations, is a cry rising up to God, who created man and woman in His own image. It is an indictment of a social system which we have criticized for decades, but which we find hard to change in conformity with criteria of justice."

Israel Clamps Down on Palestinian Stone Hurlers; Increases Security Personnel Power,Fines Hurlers

After several days of clashes between Israelis and Palestinians at Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque compound, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to clamp down on Palestinian stone throwers and impose harsher measures to restore calm, the Washington Post website reports today (September 17, 2015).

Netanyahu said new steps would include giving security personnel wider powers to deal with stone throwers, imposing tougher legal penalties, and introducing fines for perpetrators and their families.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat called the stone throwing "terrorism" and said it would not be tolerated in other cities around the world.

Saeb Erekat -- secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization -- said Israel had inflamed the situation by attempting to "turn Jerusalem into an exclusively Jewish city" and erase Palestinian history. He added that this week's clashes at the al-Aqsa mosque were the worst since 1969.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Abp.of Canterbury to Meet with Anglican Leaders; Seeks to Cement Global Fellowship Despite Splits

The Archbishop of Canterbury has summoned Anglican leaders from throughout the world for a vital meeting early next year, as he struggles to keep the global fellowship together despite severe internal splits, the Newsmax website reports today (September 16, 2015).

Justin Welby announced on his website today that he had summoned all 37 Primates to a special meeting to be held in Canterbury from January 11 to January 16, 2016. The Anglican Communion is a global fellowship with more than 80 million members that trace their roots to the Church of England. In the United States, the Anglican Church is called the Episcopal Church.

Welby said the meeting would deal with a number of issues, including a review of the organizational  structure of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Some of the issues that have divided the Anglican Church include its acceptance of women pastors and bishops, as well as gay and lesbian clergy.

"A 21st-century Anglican family must have space for deep disagreement, and even mutual criticism, so long as we are faithful to the revelation of Jesus Christ, together," Welby said.

UNESCO: IS Loots,Ruins Historical Sites in Syria; More Than 900 Sites Looted,Damaged, Destroyed

The head of UNESCO (United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization) warned today (September 16, 2015) that archaeological sites in Syria are being looted "on an industrial scale" and the proceeds from the plunder are funding Islamic State (IS) extremists, according to The Guardian website.

"Satellite imagery shows that archaeological sites in Syria are dotted by thousands of illegal excavations... that show there is looting on an industrial scale," Irina Bokova said in Sofia, Bulgaria.

She added, "The world expects from us to undertake decisive and uncompromising actions... to stop this source of funding for the extremists."

Syria is considered a cradle of human civilization and is home to some of the world's most precious monuments of antiquity, including six UNESCO world heritage sites. Unfortunately, in four and one-half years of civil war -- and with IS militants controlling large regions of the country -- the Association for the Protection of Syrian Archaeology (APSA) says that more than 900 monuments and archaeological sites have been looted, damaged or destroyed.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Russia's Mil. Buildup in Syria Is 1st Since WW II; Critics See It as Major Blunder by Obama Admin.

Since World War II, a major U.S. strategic objective has been to keep the Russian military out of the Middle East. But now the Russians are moving into Syria, the Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (September 15, 2015).

With an old ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, on the ropes in his fight against ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) and other rebel groups, the Russian military is building a strong military presence near the Syrian naval port of Latakia, an airbase protected by tanks and heavy armor.

U.S. officials say Russia is building a forward operating base that will host Russian combat aircraft and housing for as many as 1,500 Russian military personnel -- advisers, instructors, logistics personnel, technical personnel, and pilots -- along with the sophisticated weapons systems.

Unidentified Pentagon officials have said that Russia has already sent artillery and seven T-90 tanks to the Syrian airfield near Latakia. Critics call Russia's military buildup in Syria another major strategic blunder by the Obama administration, as Russia tends to view President Obama as a "pushover."

Pope Says He Feels Being "Used" by Fake Friends; Slams Those Seeking Advantage by Being Friends

Pope Francis says he has felt "used" by people claiming to be his friend since he became pontiff, in a radio interview touching on the personal side of his papacy, the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website reports today (September 15, 2015).

"I never had so many quote-unquote 'friends' as now. Everyone is the pope's friend," Francis said in a telephone interview with radio station Milenium in his native Argentina.

"I have felt used by people who presented themselves as my friends and whom I hadn't seen more than once or twice in my life. They have used that to their own benefit. But it's an experience we all go through," he told Argentine journalist Marcelo Gallardo -- a real-life friend since the days when the pope was bishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires.

"Friendship in the utilitarian sense -- let's see what advantage I can gain by getting close to this person and becoming friends -- that pains me," he told Gallardo in the interview, which was broadcast on September 13.

Hungary in State of Emergency on Migrant Crisis; Uses Army on Border, Arrests Entering Migrants

Hungary declared a state of emergency today (September 15, 2015) in two southern counties, as new laws to prevent migrants and refugees from illegally entering the country went into effect, according to the USA Today website.

Government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said the decision -- which gives special powers to police and other authorities -- was made at a Cabinet meeting today.

The state of emergency allows the army to be deployed to patrol the borders and assist police in dealing with refugees.

From midnight today, it became a criminal offense to cross or damage a 13-foot razor-wire fence on Hungary's border with Serbia. Police also sealed a key crossing on a railway track that was used by tens of thousands of refugees -- most of them from war-torn Syria.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Pope: IS Mil. May Sneak in Europe with Migrants; Warns There Is a Cruel Terrorist Group Near Sicily

Pope Francis warned today (September 14, 2015) that precautions must be taken, as Islamic State (IS) militants could slip into Europe under cover of the huge wave of asylum seekers fleeing war in Syria, according to the Catholic News website.

But the Pope also said the humanitarian crisis could help reawaken the continent's conscience.

Francis referred to the real risk that the Islamic State -- which has killed many Christians and other minorities in the Middle East -- could also launch attacks in Europe.

"It's true, I also want to recognize that, nowadays, territorial security conditions are not the same as they were in other periods [of mass migration]," he said. "The truth is that just 400 kilometers from Sicily there is an incredibly cruel terrorist group. So there is a danger of infiltration, this is true."

Israeli Man Feasts New Year, Dies in Car Crash; Lost Control of Car Struck with Stones, Hit Pole

An Israeli man died today (September 14, 2015) hours after he was seriously wounded when a car he was driving came under an attack by rock-throwers in Jerusalem late last night, the Times of Israel website reports.

Two other people traveling in the car were lightly injured in the incident in the Arnona neighborhood of southeast Jerusalem.

Unknown assailants -- believed to be Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem -- reportedly attacked the car with stones, causing the driver to lose control, run into a ditch, and crash into a pole.

The three individuals were returning from a family dinner celebrating Rosh Hoshanah (the Jewish New Year), which began at sundown yesterday.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

UK MPs Vote against Allowing Assisted Dying; Abp. Praises Parliament for Rejecting the Bill

In a vote in Britain's House of Commons, 330 MPs (Members of Parliament) were against the private members bill, while 118 MPs voted in favor of allowing doctors to assist terminally-ill patients to take their own lives. There were 202 MPs who were absent from the vote, the Catholic News website reports today (September 13, 2015).

The Archbishop of Southwark, Peter Smith, said he hoped the result meant this would be an end to the debate on assisted dying.

"I welcome Parliament's recognition of the grave risks that this bill posed to the lives of our society's most vulnerable people," he said.

He added, "There is much excellent practice in palliative care which we need to celebrate and promote, and I hope now the debate on assisted suicide is behind us, that this will become a focus for political action."

Russia Warns US Must Cooperate with It on Syria; Says US Risks Serious Consequences If It Doesn't

Russia warned there could be "unintended consequences" if the US does not engage in military-to-military cooperation with Moscow, as the Kremlin is now conducting navy exercises off the coast of Syria, the Washington Times website reports today (September 13, 2015).

Russia's military buildup in the region has drawn concern from the US and NATO. Moscow says their goal is to help end terrorism in Syria, but the US has warned that Russia's involvement could exacerbate Syria's civil war, and is concerned over Russia's support for Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Speaking at a news conference in Moscow, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov blamed Washington for cutting off direct military-to-military communication between Russia and NATO after the crisis in Ukraine last year.

"We are always in favor of military people talking to each other in a professional way. They understand each other very well," Lavrov said. "If, as [US Secretary of State] John Kerry has said many times, the United States wants those channels frozen, then be our guest."

Germany Imposes Border Block of Migrants; Flooded with Migrants after Unlimited Policy

Germany announced today (September 13, 2015) that it was invoking emergency powers to start protecting its borders, as it reached a point of overload after greeting with open arms tens of thousands of migrants pouring into Europe, according to the NY Times website.

At a news conference, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said that Germany would reinstate controls at its southern border with Austria, after thousands of migrants entered the country in recent weeks.

The announcement followed a meeting to discuss the refugee crisis, after the flood of people from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other troubled areas into Munich and other Eastern German cities continued unabated for the second weekend in a row.

A total of 12,200 migrants came to Munich yesterday, according to German police.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Obama Blasts Russia for Sending Arms to Syria; Says Doing So Prolongs Civil War, Assad's Rule

President Obama said yesterday that recent Russian actions in Syria could prevent the United States and other members of the U.S.-led coalition from getting to a political solution of Syria's civil war, the VOA (Voice of America) News website reports today (September 12, 2015).

Obama said the U.S. would be engaging Russia about its strategy of providing increased military support to the Assad government in Syria.

"If they are willing to work with us, the 60-nation coalition that we put together, then there is the possibility of a settlement in which [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad] would be transitioned out and a new coalition of moderate secular and inclusive forces could come together and restore order in the country. That's our goal," he said.

A Pentagon official told VOA yesterday that Russia had sent 200 naval infantrymen to Syria, as well as modular housing for 1,500 troops. He added that Russia has also sent howitzers, a short-range guided missile controller, and a dozen armored vehicles to Syria.

Billy Graham: It's OK for Seniors to Skip Church; "God Knows Your Limitations,Won't Punish You"

Famed evangelist Billy Graham told seniors it is all right if physical limitations prevent them from attending church, the Christian Headlines website reports today (September 12, 2015).

Graham -- who is 96 himself -- understands firsthand the physical limitations that come with age. To that end, Graham said it is OK if seniors are unable to attend church services and instead watch them on TV or listen to a sermon on the radio.

"God knows your limitations and He doesn't look down on you because you can't do everything you once did," Graham said.

"Be thankful, however, that you aren't completely cut off from your church but that you're still able to worship with them through television and hear God's Word as it is preached. Remember, God's Word is not limited by distance or confined only to a building," Graham added.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Rabbi Freundel Sorry for Filming Naked Women; Jail Cell Apology Coincides with Jewish Holidays

Writing from his jail cell this week -- just days before the Jewish New Year -- Rabbi Barry Freundel said he was sorry for secretly filming more than 150 naked women during their mikvah ritual bath in his Washington, D.C. synagogue, the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website reports today (September 11, 2015).

It was the Orthodox rabbi's first public statement since his arrest almost a year ago and his subsequent sentencing to six and one-half years behind bars for his illegal filming.

The rabbi's letter -- dated September 8 -- comes on the eve of the High Holidays, the Jewish season of repentance and forgiveness, which Freundel is now trying to achieve.

But is repentance and forgiveness possible, or even the appropriate Jewish response to Freundel's actions?

Over 60 Die as Crane Crashes on Mecca Mosque; Winds Pushed Crane on World's Largest Mosque

A huge construction crane -- buffeted by strong winds -- collapsed and crashed through the roof of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia today (September 11, 2015), killing at least 62 worshipers in the city for the annual Muslim pilgrimage, the USA Today website reports.

Photos sent by Twitter from the scene show numerous blood-covered bodies strewn on a marble floor. The arm of a huge crane appears through a large hole in the roof of the mosque. Even before the crane accident, the Civil Defense was warning of thunderstorms, heavy rain and wind in the area.

The Grand Mosque -- or Great Mosque as it is also called -- is the largest mosque in the world. It surrounds Islam's holiest place, the Kaaba, in the city of Mecca, where the Islamic prophet Mohammad was born.

One of the five pillars of Islam requires all Muslims to perform the Haji pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime. The Haji is one of the largest annual gatherings of people in the world.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Woman Kills ISIS Officer Who Was Raping Her; Officer Used Her as His Sex Slave for 3 Months

An emir (high ranking officer) in the Islamic State in Mosul, Iraq has been killed by a woman who had been captured and used as his sex slave for three months, the Clarion Project website reports today (September 10, 2015).

The revenge was taken against the man named Abu Annas for all the rapes and abuse she suffered while in captivity.

Thousands of women -- mostly Yazidis --  have been captured by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group and forced into sex slavery. Often, the Yazidi women are forced to convert to Islam and then married to their captors.

Many Muslim women have also been forced into marriage with IS fighters, after the terror group offers payoffs for the girls to their families who are desperate for money.

Obama Says US to Accept 10K Syrian Refugees; Won't Relax Their Criminal Background Checks

President Obama -- under increasing pressure to demonstrate that the United States is joining European nations in the effort to resettle Syrian refugees -- has told his administration to take in at least 10,000 displaced Syrians over the next year, the NY Times website reports today (September 10, 2015).

He emphasized that the U.S. has no intention of relaxing the significant and lengthy criminal and terrorist background vetting procedures demanded of refugee applicants -- an expensive process that can take 18 to 24 months to complete -- in order to ensure that terrorists and supporters of  Islamic militants will be rejected as refugees in the U.S.

Since the beginning of the ongoing conflict in Syria more than four years ago, the U.S. has accepted only 1,300 refugees.

White House officials have had frequent meetings on the Syrian crisis, and the issue is likely to become central in the presidential campaign.

Pope:If You Don't Forgive,You Are Not Christian; Emphasizes Forgiveness Is a "Key Word" of Jesus

Pope Francis stressed the need for mercy and forgiveness inside the Catholic community, saying bluntly during his daily homily today (September 10, 2015) that "if you do not know how to forgive, you are not Christian," according to the National Catholic Reporter website.

Reflecting on continuing news of wars around the globe, the pontiff said in his homily that war is not only taking place in the political world but "also in our Christian communities, between us."

Forgiveness, the pope said, is a "key word" of Jesus. If you do not forgive, said Francis, "you do not do what the Lord did."

"The Lord, the Father, is so merciful," said the pontiff. "He always forgives us, always wants to make peace with us."

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Exclusive:Russian Troops Helping Mil. in Syria; Russia Sent Ships, Aircraft to Help Pres. Assad

Three Lebanese sources familiar with the political and military situation in Syria revealed that Russian forces have secretly begun participating in military operations in Syria in support of government troops, the Reuters website reports exclusively today (September 9, 2015).

The sources -- speaking to Reuters on condition they not be identified -- gave the most forthright account yet from the region of what the United States fears is a deepening Russian military role in Syria's civil war -- now in its fifth year.

U.S. officials said Russia sent two tank landing ships and additional cargo aircraft to Syria in the past day or two, and deployed a small number of naval infantry forces.

The U.S. officials -- who also spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity -- said the intent of Russia's military moves in Syria was unclear. One suggested the focus of Russian activity may be on preparing an airfield near the port city of Latakia, a stronghold of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Hungary TV Worker Who Kicked Migrants Fired; Petra Laszlo Seen in Video Kicking,Tripping Kids

A Hungarian TV camerawoman was fired yesterday after footage appeared to show her kicking migrants -- including children -- as they ran from a police line during disturbances at Roszke, southern Hungary, the Times of Israel website reports today (September 9, 2015).

The woman, Petra Laszlo, can be seen in the footage tripping a man sprinting with a child in his arms, and kicking other running children in two separate incidents.

Footage of the incidents appeared on N1TV, an internet-based TV station closely linked to Hungary's far-right Jobbik party.

"An N1TV colleague today behaved in an unacceptable way at the Roszke collection point," said a statement from N1TV's editor-in-chief Szabolcs Kisberk. "The camerawoman's employment contract has been terminated with immediate effect as of today; we consider the matter closed," it read.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

UK Hate Crimes against Muslims Soar in a Yr.; 60% of Victims Were Women Wearing a Hijab

Hate crimes against Muslims in London have risen by nearly three quarters in the past year, the Christian Today website reports today (September 8, 2015).

Metropolitan Police figures show 816 Islamophobic offenses recorded across the UK capital from August 2014 to July 2015 compared to 478 for the previous 12 months.

About 60 percent of the victims were women who wore a headscarf or hijab, according to Fiyaz Mughal from Tell MAMA, an organization that monitors Islamophobic incidents.

Attacks rose by 70 percent overall, the Metropolitan Police said, but some boroughs reported twice as many as last year.

Muslim Migrants in Germany Become Christians; Baptized in Name of Jesus, Won't Reclaim Islam

Muslims seeking asylum in Germany are converting to Christianity at a high rate, and one Berlin church has seen its membership jump from 150 to 600 in a short time, with most of its new members being Muslim converts, the Christian Post website reports today (September 8, 2015).

These new believers have been baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, and wish to never return to their home country to the intense persecution from radical groups like Islamic State (IS).

Becoming a Christian also helps migrants' and refugees' chances of staying in Germany.

"I know there are -- again and again -- people coming here because they have some kind of  hope regarding asylum," said Pastor Gottfried Martens. "I am inviting them to join us because I know that whoever comes here will not be left unchanged."

Pope Eases Cath.Marriage Annulment Procedure; New Law Allows Bishops to Handle Annulments

Pope Francis announced reforms today (September 8, 2015) aimed at simplifying and speeding up the Roman Catholic Church's procedure for marriage annulments. The new law allows a fast-track process that will be handled directly by bishops, according to the USA Today website.

An annulment is a ruling that a marriage is not valid because certain conditions are not being met, such as free choice, psychological maturity, and willingness to have children. The ruling is based on a finding that the marriage contract was fundamentally flawed from the start, and hence invalid in the eyes of the church.

Without an annulment, a Catholic who remarries is considered an adulterer and may not participate in some sacraments, including Holy Communion.

In the document, Francis emphasizes that marriage remains an indissoluble union and that the new regulations are not meant to help to end it. Rather, he said, the reform is aimed at speeding up and simplifying the annulment process, especially for poorer people who cannot afford lawyers, so that the faithful can find justice.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Jewish Teen Seriously Assaulted at UK Train Stop; Three Other Jews Also Hurt in Anti-Semitic Attack

A 17-year-old Jewish teenager was beaten unconscious at a train stop in Manchester, England in a suspected anti-Semitic attack on September 5, the Times of Israel website reports today (September 7, 2015).

Three other Jews -- two 18-year-olds and a 20-year-old -- were also hurt in the assault. Police are treating the incident as an anti-Semitic attack.

The younger victim was still hospitalized today and was "suffering from a suspected bleed to the brain," according to the report.

Police said the group was approached by three men as they waited at the Bowker Vale Metrolink station in northern Manchester at around 11:30 p.m. The assailants hurled verbal abuse at the victims and then physically assaulted them. No suspects have been apprehended.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Thousands of Migrants Pour into Austria Today; Aust. Foreign Minister Calls It a "Wake Up Call"

Thousands of migrants streamed into Austria from buses in Hungary today (September 5, 2015) in what Vienna called a "wake up call" for Europe to get to grips with its biggest refugee influx since World War II, the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website reports.

"This has to be an eye opener how messed up the situation in Europe is now," Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said, as he arrived for talks in Luxembourg with his EU (European Union) peers dominated by the crisis.

He added, "I hope that this serves as a wake up call that [the situation] cannot continue."

Austrian police said that 4,000 people crossed the Hungarian border last night and this morning, with the number expected to rise by the end of the day to 10,000. Hungary is refusing to house the migrants from Africa and Asia.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Pope: A Person Who Gossips Is Like a Terrorist; Gossiper Is Like Serpent's Tongue Ruining Peace

Pope Francis said sowing divisions and discord is a sickness within the Church and a person who indulges in gossip is like a terrorist who throws bombs. His comments came during his homily at his Mass today (September 4, 2015) in the chapel at Santa Marta, according to the Independent Catholic News website.

Taking his inspiration from St. Paul's letter to the Colossians where the Apostle spoke of how Christ was sent by God to sow reconciliation and peace among humanity, Pope Francis's homily was a reflection on the need to sow peace rather than discord in our daily lives.

The Pope said, "We'd do well to ask ourselves: Do I sow peace? For example, when I speak, do I sow peace or do I sow discord? How many times have we heard this said about a person: He or she has a serpent's tongue! This is because that person is always doing what the serpent did with Adam and Eve, namely destroying peace. And this is an evil, this is a sickness within our Church: sowing divisions, sowing hatred, not sowing peace. So this is a question that we should ask ourselves every day: 'Did I sow peace or did I sow discord today?'"

Christians, the Pope continued, are called therefore to be like Jesus who came among us to bring peace and reconciliation.

Cath. Leader in Syria Begs Christians to Stay; Half-Million Christian Syrians Left Since 2011

Despite the everyday violence and deaths of hundreds of thousands of residents in Syria in its ongoing civil war -- now in its fifth year -- a Catholic leader in Syria is asking young Christians to remain in the country, the Christian Headlines website reports today (September 4, 2015).

"The almost communal wave of youth emigration, especially in Syria, but also in Lebanon and Iraq breaks my heart, wounding me deeply and dealing me a deadly blow," Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III said.

"Given this tsunami of emigration... what future is left for the Church? What will become of our homeland? What will become of our parishes and institutions?" Gregorios asked.

Christians in Syria have faced persecution and bombings that have destroyed neighborhoods and churches. The Islamic State terror group has kidnapped many people and sold abducted women as sex slaves. Nearly a half-million Christian Syrians have left the country since 2011.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Orth. Bishop Rips Hungary PM's Migrant Views; PM Says Muslim Migrants a Threat to Christians

A Greek Orthodox bishop today (September 3, 2015)  criticized the claims of Hungary's prime minister who said migrants pouring into Europe from Africa and Asia are mainly Muslims that threaten Europe's Christian roots, the Christian Today (British) website reports.

Bishop Angaelos -- the general bishop of the Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom -- said he rejected Viktor Orban's approach. Orban warned that the influx of Muslim migrants posed a serious threat to Europe's Christian identity, and indicated that Hungary is not willing to accept Muslim migrants.

"As a Christian, I could never justify a policy which only supported 'our own,'" Bishop Angaelos said.

He added, "The distinction should be based on people's need, not their religion."

Judge Sends Kent. County Clerk Kim Davis to Jail; She Refused to Issue Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

A Kentucky county clerk, Kim Davis, was taken into custody today (September 3, 2015) after a judge found her in contempt of court for her refusal to issue same-sex marriage licenses, according to the Yahoo News website.

U.S. District Judge David Bunning ruled against the Rowan County clerk before deputy marshals removed her from the courtroom.

Bunning said Davis could be released if she complies with the order to resume issuing licenses. She has refused to issue marriage licenses to anyone, arguing that such a move was a way around discriminating against same-sex couples.

The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) had asked that she be fined, but the judge said he didn't believe that was enough of a punishment to force her into action.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

John Kerry: Ground Forces Needed to Defeat ISIS; Says Using Them Now Being Discussed with Allies

Secretary of State John Kerry told CNN today (September 2, 2015) that ground troops will be needed in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in order for it to be defeated, the Newsmax website reports.

Kerry -- in an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour -- said ISIS "does need to be defeated." The fact is that using airstrikes against ISIS for the past year by the U.S. and its allies has been a fiasco, as ISIS has seized more land -- both in Iraq and Syria -- than it controlled before the airstrikes began.

Kerry said the terror group "has made that [it's need to be defeated]  more clear putting its exclamation point on that reality which we knew anyway." He referred to the recent beheading of former professor Hanna Al-Baghdadi while her children watched, and the destruction of antiquities in Syria.

"We need to increase the pressure on them [ISIS],"  Kerry said, adding that specific ways to do that in concert with other countries in the area are currently being discussed.

Obama Secures Nuclear Deal with 34 Senators; Pact Is a "Bitter Pill" for Israeli PM Netanyahu

In a major victory for U.S. President Barack Obama -- as well as a bitter defeat for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland today (September 2, 2015) announced support for the Iran nuclear deal, providing the White House the votes it needs to prevent Republicans from scuttling the agreement, according to the CNN website.

Mikulski's announcement means that at least 34 senators -- the number required by the Constitution to sustain a veto -- will back Obama's expected veto of a Republican resolution to disapprove the deal. Mikulski is retiring at the end of her senate term.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has fought incessantly in trying to convince the U.S. Congress -- in addition to many American Jewish organizations -- to reject the Iran deal, claiming it threatens Israel's existence.

His tireless hysterical efforts have not had the impact he had hoped for, as the Iran nuclear agreement is now, in effect, a "done deal."

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Exclusive:CIA Using Secret Drone Attacks on IS; Kills Head Terrorists in Syria Apart from US Mil.

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and U.S. Special Operations forces have launched a secret campaign to hunt terrorism suspects in Syria as part of a targeted killing program that is run separately from the broader U.S. military offensive against the Islamic State (IS), the Washington Post website reports exclusively today (September 1, 2015).

The CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) are flying drones over Syria in a collaboration responsible for several recent strikes against senior Islamic State operatives, U.S. officials said. A British militant, Junaid Hussain, and other high-level terrorists have been killed in recent weeks by means of this secret campaign.

The clandestine program represents a significant escalation of the CIA's involvement in the war in Syria, enlisting the agency's Counterterrorism Center (CTC) against a militant Islamic State group that many officials believe has eclipsed al-Qaeda as a threat.

Although the CTC has been given an expanded role in identifying and locating senior Islamic State figures, U.S. officials said the strikes are being carried out exclusively by JSOC. The officials added the program is aimed at terrorism suspects deemed "high-value targets."

Pope Allows Priests to Forgive Sin of Abortion; Women Previously Had Been Excommunicated

In a new set of guidelines today (September 1, 2015), Pope Francis has made significant moves for the upcoming Holy Year of Mercy, allowing all priests to forgive the sin of abortion and granting SSPX (Society of St. Pius X) priests the faculty to forgive sins, the National Catholic Register website reports.

"One of the serious problems of our time is clearly the changed relationship with respect to life," the Pope said in a September 1 letter addressed to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, charged with organizing the Jubilee.

In today's society "a widespread and insensitive mentality" has become an obstacle to welcoming new life, with many who don't fully understand the deep harm done by the "tragedy of abortion," the Pope said.

A woman who obtains an abortion automatically incurs a latae sententiae (automatic) excommunication, as well as those who assisted her in the process. Normally, the sin of committing an abortion can only be absolved by a bishop, or certain priests appointed by him.