Monday, October 31, 2016

Pope, Lutheran Head Sign Joint Unity Declaration; Pope: Cath.,Lutherans Can Accept a Common Path

Pope Francis began a two-day visit to Sweden today (October 31, 2016) to help celebrate 12 months of events leading to the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Church, the Euro News website reports.

In the city of Lund's cathedral, the Pope told worshipers that both Catholics and Lutherans had a "new opportunity to accept a common path."

He and Reverend Martin Junge -- the General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation -- signed a joint declaration stating that the two traditions have more uniting them than dividing them.

Lutheranism began in Wittenberg in eastern Germany in the 16th century. In his address to worshipers today, Pope Francis acknowledged that Rev. Martin Luther was an "intelligent man," who was rightly upset by the corruption, greed, worldliness, and lust for power that existed in the Catholic Church, when Luther sparked the Protestant Reformation in 1517.

PA Policeman Shoots 3 IDF Soldiers in Ramallah; One Soldier in Serious Condition, Gunman Killed

A Palestinian Authority police officer wounded three IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) soldiers at around 5 p.m. today (October 31, 2016) in a shooting terror attack at the "Focus" checkpoint that secures the entrance to Ramallah, the capital city of the Palestinian Authority (PA), according to the Jewish Press website.

"A Palestinian gunman arrived at an IDF crossing at the entrance to Ramallah and opened fire at forces at the scene, injuring three IDF soldiers." the IDF said.

One soldier was listed in serious condition at a Jerusalem hospital with a gunshot wound to the hip. The other two soldiers were listed in good condition, both having sustained shrapnel wounds.

The terrorist was shot and killed by other forces at the scene. He was identified as Mahmoud Turkeman.

Australia Plans to Ban Illegal Migrants for Life; Law Hits"Criminal Gangs of People Smugglers"

Australia is expected to pass a law soon that bans illegal asylum-seekers for life, the Newsy website reports today (October 31, 2016).

The country already has a firm policy that bars migrants who illegally come by boat from settling in Australia.

But this new law would keep them from ever entering again -- even if they were a tourist, were conducting business, or were married to an Australian citizen.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said: "You need the clearest of clear messages. This is a battle of will between the Australian people, represented by government, and these criminal gangs of people smugglers."

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Pope Flies to Sweden,Tweets for Christian Unity; Hopes Journey Promotes Unity of All Christians

Pope Francis hopes his visit to Sweden during the next two days -- as a prelude to the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation of 1517 -- will help in uniting Christians, the ABC News website reports today (October 30, 2016).

The pontiff -- on his flight to the largely Lutheran country in Scandinavia -- tweeted: "I ask you to please pray that my journey to Sweden might contribute to the unity of all Christians."

After his arrival on October 31, Pope Francis will meet with the Swedish prime minister, members of the royal family, and will participate in an ecumenical prayer service at the Lutheran cathedral in Lund, southern Sweden.

Joining him will be the head of the Lutheran World Federation, Bishop Munib Younan.

Italian Earthquake Destroys St. Benedict Basilica; Was Built on Site of St. Benedict's Birth in Norcia

The centuries-old Basilica of St. Benedict in Norcia in central Italy was destroyed early today (October 30, 2016) by an earthquake, the NY Daily News website reports.

The monastery was among dozens of buildings in town scattered throughout the mountainous region of Perugia province to collapse during the 6.6-magnitude quake that struck around 7:40 a.m. today.

There were no reports of fatalities, but officials with Italy's protection agency said several persons were injured.

Nuns in Norcia prayed as grieved monks assessed the historic church "flattened" by the quake. The historic monastery was constructed in the 14th century on the site of St. Benedict's birth in Norcia.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Russia Is Ousted from UN Human Rights Council; Due to Its Uncivilized Bombings in Syria's Aleppo

Russia lost its seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council yesterday, the UPI website reports today (October 29, 2016).

A vote taken at the UN represented the first time a permanent member had lost its seat on the 47-member UN Security Council since it was established in 2006.

The United States, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, and China were all re-elected to their seats on the council, essentially unopposed.

Russia's recent inhumane action in Syria -- including its massive aerial bombing assault on civilians, hospitals, and schools in the rebel-controlled city of Aleppo -- is believed to be the major reason for its Human Rights Council ousting.

Pope Stresses Urgency of Prayer for Christians; Asserts Jesus Always Prayed for His Followers

Jesus is the cornerstone of our life, Pope Francis said yesterday during Mass at Casa Santa Marta, the Independent Catholic News website reports today (October 29. 2016).

Reflecting on the Gospel recounting how Jesus spent the night in prayer before choosing His disciples, the Pope's homily reflected on the fundamental importance of prayer for Christians.

The Pope said, "Jesus went up to the mountain to pray and He spent the night in prayer to God. And then the rest followed, the crowds, the choosing of His disciples, the healings, the casting out of demons..."

Pope Francis went on to describe how Jesus always prayed for His followers, be it at the Last Supper or before performing a miracle such as when He prayed to the Father before raising Lazarus from the dead. "Jesus prayed on the Mount of Olives. On the Cross, He ended praying: His life ended in prayer."

Friday, October 28, 2016

IS Abducts 8K Families as Mosul Human Shields; Families Balking to Be Human Shields Shot Dead

The United Nations human rights office revealed today (October 28, 2016) that ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) fighters have abducted more than 8,000 families to use as human shields in the upcoming battle with Iraqi forces in Mosul, the Euro News website reports.

Iraqi forces are closing in on Mosul -- Iraq's second largest city -- recapturing several nearby villages from ISIS militants.

As the jihadists retreat from Mosul, they have been taking the residents with them to be used as human shields; those residents who refused to be human shields were shot on the spot and killed by by ISIS.

"ISIS's depraved cowardly strategy is to attempt to use the presence of civilian hostages to render certain points, areas, or military forces immune from military operations, effectively using tens of thousands of women, men and children as human shields," UN Human Rights Spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani told reporters.

Stone Bench Used for Jesus' Body Is Discovered; Found by Those Redoing Holy Sepulchre Church

Renovations at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem have uncovered what many believe to be the stone bench on which the body of Jesus Christ was laid after His death, the Newser website reports today (October 28, 2016).

Work began in June to restore certain areas of the church, including the structure that encloses Jesus' tomb.

After removing a marble covering, researchers found what they believe to be the stone slab on which Jesus' body was interred.

Christian faith holds that three days after His burial, Jesus was resurrected, and when women returned to anoint Christ's remains, the body had vanished.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

School Students in Germany Learn Islamic Prayer; More Muslim Migrants Than Christians in Schools

An appalled father has revealed that students at a primary school in Germany were forced to chant "Allahu Akhbar" and "there is no God but Allah," the Express (British) website reports today (October 27, 2016).

The father discovered that his daughter  -- who attended the Bavarian school in the German ski resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen -- had been forced to learn the Islamic prayer when he looked over a handout she had been given.

The handout read: "Oh Allah, how perfect you are and praise be to you. Blessed is your name, and exalted is your majesty. There is no God but you."

Muslim migrants now outnumber native Christian children at many schools in Germany, as the country has been inundated with migrants in recent years. In fact, more than a million migrants -- most of them Muslims -- settled in Germany last year alone.

Transfiguration Church in Holy Land Desecrated; Burglars Destroyed the Tabernacle, Stole Chalices

Suspected burglars' desecration of the Church of the Transfiguration in Jerusalem has prompted outcry from leading Christians in the Holy Land, the National Catholic Register website reports today (October 27, 2016).

"The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, together with all churches and the Custody of the Holy Land, condemn this desecration as a heinous crime and an act that violates the sanctity of the Holy Sites," the patriarchate said.

The Church of the Transfiguration is on Mount Tabor, near the Sea of Galilee in Israel. In the care of the Franciscans, it is considered the site of the Tansfiguration of Christ.

Burglars desecrated and robbed the church October 24. They destroyed the tabernacle, desecrated the Hosts, damaged icons, stole chalices, and robbed the donation box.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Biggest NATO-Russia Mil.Buildup Since Cold War; US Sends Troops,Tanks to Poland, Readies WWIII

With Russia making military moves in recent weeks to prepare for an imminent world war, NATO has completed its biggest military buildup on Russia's borders since the end of the cold war in 1991, while the U.S. announced today (October 26, 2016) that it will send troops and tanks to Poland, and the UK promised to send planes to Romania, the Vox website reports.

Russia -- which recently placed nuclear-equipped missiles on its borders with Poland and Lithuania -- is now sending ships armed with long-range missiles to patrol the Baltic Sea.

The Baltic region has been the sight of U.S.-Russian tensions over the past few years, and is probably the most likely place to spark World War III.

Some U.S. international affairs experts are concerned that Russia plans to soon take control of the Baltic states -- Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia -- just like it easily seized Ukraine's Crimean peninsula with no NATO or U.S. military response over a year ago. Also, Syria could become a U.S.-Russian battleground; some experts worry that Hillary Clinton's plan for a no-fly zone, for example, could provoke a major war.

Philippine Pres.Wants US Troops Out by Two Yrs.; Says Troop Presence Fuels Feuds with Islamic Mil.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said today (October 26, 2016) he wants U.S. troops out of his country within two years, and is willing to scrap defense pacts with longtime ally Washington, according to the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website.

The remarks -- made during a visit to Japan -- follow a series of antit-American tirades by the Philippine leader, including calling President Barack Obama a "son of a whore."

"I want them [U.S. troops] out and if I have to revise or abrogate agreements, executive agreements, I will," Duterte said.

The U.S. has a small number of Special Forces on the southern island of Mindanao to aid counter-terrorism operations. But Duterte said he wants them out of Mindanao because their presence fuels tensions on the island where Islamic militants have waged a decades-long separatist insurgency.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Russia Conducts Emergency Drills for World War; Most Russians Sure WWIII Cold Phase Has Begun

Across Russia, 40 million civilians and military personnel just finished up emergency drills -- the largest to be conducted since the end of the cold war in 1991 -- aimed at preparing the general population for a world war, the Business Insider website reports today (October 25, 2016).

Since the breakdown of U.S.-Russian talks on the fate of  Syria earlier this month, Russia has pulled out of a nuclear-nonproliferation agreement with the U.S., citing "unfriendly acts" by America.

Also, Russia recently moved nuclear-equipped missiles to its European enclave of Kaliningrad -- near its borders with Poland and Lithuania -- and has threatened "painful" retaliation against the U.S., should it decide to impose sanctions on Russia over Syria. And Russia is now building a permanent naval base on Syria's coast.

Lev Gudkov, head of the Russian polling group Levada-Center, said in Russia "most people believe that the Third World War has begun, but right now we are still in the cold phase of the war..."

Vatican Issues New Rules for Cath. on Cremation; Remains Must Be Left in Location OKd by Church

The Vatican today (October 25, 2016) released new rules for Catholics who plan to be cremated, mandating that remains cannot be scattered or separated and must be stored in a church-approved location, according to The Daily Beast website.

The new guidelines also prevent storing cremated ashes at home.

The Vatican for many years only allowed burial, but in 1963 the Catholic Church amended that regulation to allow cremation.

Burial remains the preferred choice because of the Church's belief in resurrection.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Fifty-Nine Killed at a Police Academy in Pakistan; 2 Attackers Blew Themselves Up,Third Shot Dead

At least 59 people were killed and more than 100 wounded today (October 24, 2016) when gunmen wearing suicide vests stormed a Pakistani police training academy in the southwestern city of Quetta and took hostages, the Reuters website reports.

Some cadets were taken hostage during the attack, which lasted five hours. No group claimed responsibility for the attack.

The gunmen attacked a dormitory inside the training facility while cadets rested or slept.

Two attackers blew themselves up while a third was shot in the head by security men. Officials said there were five to six gunmen.

Weary Migrants Set Fire to Their Camp on Lesbos; Protest Delays on Asylum Claims to Reach Greece

Frustrated protesters denouncing delays in dealing with their asylum claims today (October 24, 2016) set fire to facilities used by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) on the Greek island of  Lesbos, according to the Euro News website.

About 70 people -- most of them from Pakistan and Bangladesh -- threw rocks and burning blankets at containers inside the Moria camp, damaging several of them. The protesters are upset that it is taking so many days for them to be transported to Greece.

Staff and migrants were safely evacuated. No injuries were reported, but a number of arrests were made.

A spokesman for EASO said, "We have to evaluate security issues and in our view we need more presence of Greece police to be in place."

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Churches Worldwide Ring Bells Daily for Aleppo; Tribute to Thousands Slaughtered in Syrian City

More than 500 churches around the world are ringing their bells each day in tribute to the thousands of civilians being slaughtered in Aleppo, the Christian Today website reports today (October 23, 2016).

The Syrian city has been under brutal siege for weeks, intensified by Russian and Syrian bombing of rebel-held areas that began last month.

The Lutheran Kallio Church in Helsinki, Finland began the bell tolling on October 12. It has now been joined by hundreds of churches across the globe, including congregations in Britain, America, and Australia.

Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein -- the UN commissioner for human rights -- accused the Russian and Syrian government bombings of civilians in Aleppo as being "war crimes" that "constitute crimes against humanity."

Pope Calls for Safety of People Trapped in Mosul; Saddened by Killing of Many, Especially Children

Pope Francis today (October 23, 2016) made an appeal for the safety of citizens trapped inside the embattled Iraqi city of Mosul, according to the Independent Catholic News website.

Speaking to the crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square for the Angelus, Pope Francis said, "I was saddened to hear news of the killing, in cold blood, of many sons and daughters of that beloved land, including many children: This cruelty makes us weep, leaving us without words."

The Holy Father concluded his appeal saying, "Along with this word of solidarity goes assurance of my remembrance in prayer so that Iraq, while gravely stricken, might be both strong and firm in the hope of moving toward a future of security, reconciliation, and peace."

The Pope then invited all those gathered to join him in a moment of silent prayer, before leading the worshipers in the recitation of the Ave Maria.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Muslims Protest against Mosque Closings in Italy; Govt.Refuses to Allow "Mini Mosques in Garages"

Hundreds of Muslims prayed next to Rome's Colosseum yesterday to protest against the closure of makeshift mosques, calling on city officials to protect their religious rights, the Reuters website reports today (October 22, 2016).

At least 1.6 million Muslims live in Italy, but there are only a handful of mosques officially registered with the government.

Most worship takes place in houses and Islamic cultural centers -- a development that some politicians have said makes them difficult to monitor, raising the risk of radicalization, particularly in the wake of terror attacks across Europe.

Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said in August that "mini mosques in garages" should not be allowed.

IS Now Uses Humans as Shields in Mosul Battle; Iraqi Troops Face Booby Traps,Bombs,Ablaze Oil

The massive battle to liberate Mosul -- Iraq's second largest city -- from ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) entered its sixth day today (October 22, 2016) amid reports that the terrorist group has taken hundreds of civilians captive to use as human shields, according to the ABC News website.

As Iraqi-led forces advance toward Mosul -- the last major stronghold of ISIS in Iraq -- the United Nations said it is "gravely worried" that the Islamic State group is holding some 550 families in and around the northern city for use as human shields.

The Iraqi-led coalition moving toward Mosul has encountered booby traps, roadside bombs, and trenches filled with oil that ISIS set ablaze to provide smoke cover for its fighters.

At least 200,000 people are expected to be displaced in the first two weeks of the operation to free Mosul, and as many as 1.5 million civilians are estimated to remain in the city. Of the one million who could become displaced, about half are children.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Russia Places Nuclear Missiles Next to Lithuania; Flies Nuclear Bombers on US Airspace in Europe

In what is being seen by international affairs experts as a re-commitment to a cold war-like military strategy, reports indicate that Russia not only has placed nuclear missiles close to its border with Lithuania and Poland, but Russian President Vladimir Putin has also signed off on a division of nuclear bombers to fly patrols over American airspace in Eastern Europe, the Inquisitr website reports today (October 21, 2016).

The military moves -- which have increased fears among NATO countries of an imminent invasion that could lead to World War III -- come as tensions mount between the United States and Russia.

This tension includes the continued economic sanctions being levied against Russia for seizing Ukraine territory and the recent break-off of negotiations concerning the Syrian civil war.

Russia's placement of nuclear missiles in Kaliningrad -- which borders Lithuania -- was followed by the creation of a new division of nuclear bombers to patrol airspace that has not been patrolled since the end of the cold war in 1991.

IS Militants Attack Iraqi City of Kirkuk, Kill 22; Attack 3 Separate Police Bldgs.and Power Plant

Taking advantage of most Iraqi forces now being used to retake the city of Mosul, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants launched an attack on the Iraqi city of Kirkuk today (October 21, 2016), killing at least six police officers and 16 civilians, The Daily Beast website reports.

Twelve ISIS fighters were killed during the battle, which was mostly focused on government buildings.

Kirkuk is located 105 miles southeast of Mosul, the ISIS stronghold currently under siege by pro-government forces.

According to officials, the jihadis attacked three separate police buildings with suicide bombings, and also stormed a Kirkuk power plant, killing several employees.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Free 24-Hr.Wine Fountain Opens in Ortona,Italy; Rel. Pilgrims Use It,Near Disciple Thomas' Tomb

In Italy, a vineyard in the Abruzzo region is now home to a fountain that dispenses locally-made wine to the public for free, 24 hours a day, the Religion News website reports today (October 20, 2016).

The fontana del vino -- as Italians refer to it -- is located at the Dora Sarchese Vineyard in the town of Caldari di Ortona.

The fountain -- which poured its first glasses of red wine on October 16 for a huge crowd -- is not a hangout for cheap drunks, but rather a roadside attraction where religious pilgrims can quench their thirst.

The wine fountain is located along a popular pilgrimage route -- the Cammino di San Tommaso -- where thousands of Italians travel about 150 miles east from Rome to visit Ortona, where the body of the disciple Thomas is kept.

Turkish Planes Bomb US-Backed Kurds in N.Syria; Action Is Likely to Worsen Turkey-NATO Tensions

Turkish warplanes today (October 20, 2016) carried out deadly strikes on U.S.-backed militias in northern Syria -- including Syrian Kurdish fighters -- in action that is likely to increase tensions between the NATO allies, according to the Yahoo News website.

The raids hit 18 targets north of the battered Syrian city of Aleppo, areas recently recaptured by the People's Protection Units (YPG) from the Islamic State (IS) group.

The army said the raids killed between 160 and 200 YPG militants.

Tensions between the U.S. and its NATO ally Turkey have heightened in recent months over Ankara's actions against YPG, which Washington views as an effective force against IS in Syria. Turkey's hostility toward the YPG and the Kurds stems from the Kurds' attempt to establish their own independent Kurdish state in Turkey, which has resulted in many Kurdish terrorist attacks in Turkey

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Afghan Troop Kills 2 Americans,Wounds 3 More; NATO Troops Respond,Kill Gunman Near Kabul

Two Americans were killed and another three were injured today (October 19, 2016) in an attack on foreign troops by an Afghan soldier in the Afghan capital of the predominantly Islamic country, according to the Washington Post website.

An Afghan troop fired on international advisers at an ammunition depot near Camp Morehead -- a training site for Afghan commandos -- about six miles south of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan.

The attack killed one U.S. service member and injured another. One U.S. civilian was also killed, and two more were wounded in the assault, a statement from the NATO-led coalition said.

The gunman -- who was wearing an Afghan army uniform -- was killed after international troops responded with gunfire. The injured Americans remained in stable condition, NATO said.

Iraqis Dance as Forces Free Mosul-Area Town; "Thank God,Jesus Christ,and the Virgin Mary"

Hundreds of displaced Iraqi Christians danced and sang yesterday to celebrate an Iraqi military operation to retake their community's main hub of Qaraqosh from jihadists, the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website reports today (October 19, 2016).

Iraqi Christian men, women, and children -- some of them holding candles -- gathered at Mar Shimon Church in the Kurdish capital of Arbil to pray and celebrate.

Iraqi federal forces yesterday moved deep into Qaraqosh, a town that lies around 10 miles southeast of Mosul -- Iraq's second largest city --  that was seized by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) jihadist group in August 2014.

"Today is a happy moment. There is no doubt our land will be liberated and we thank God, Jesus Christ, and the Virgin Mary," said Hazem Djedjou Cardomi, a journalist among the crowd.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Russian Orth.Patriarch Visits Abp.of Canterbury; Celebrates Russian Orth.Church's 300 UK

The Archbishop of Canterbury today (October 18, 2016) met for the first time with His Holiness Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, amid "tensions" between Russia and the United Kingdom that have intensified by Syria's ongoing civil war, according to the Christian Today website.

Justin Welby welcomed Patriarch Kirill for a private meeting at Lambeth Palace along with the two men's respective delegations. The two discussed the persecution of Christians around the world -- especially in the Middle East.

They provided a statement on their meeting that said, "It was acknowledged that tensions currently exist between the Governments of their two countries," but that "Archbishop Justin and Patriarch Kirill agreed that the first loyalty of the Christian Church is to the Lord Jesus Christ..."

Kirill is in the UK at the invitation of the Russian Diocese of Sourozh in Great Britain, which is celebrating 300 years of the Russian Orthodox Church in England.

Iraqi Raid to Retake Mosul from IS Gains Ground; Obama: Mosul Will Be a Difficult Fight, We'll Win

Iraqi and Kurdish forces say they have retaken a dozen villages outside Mosul, as they press to reclaim Iraq's second largest city from IS (Islamic State) militants, the VOA (Voice of America) website reports today (October 18, 2016).

The long-awaited offensive -- backed by airstrikes from a U.S.-led coalition, and involving Sunni tribal forces and Shi'ite militias -- continued on its second day today.

Fighting remains on the outskirts of Mosul, and the advances on three fronts are moving forward with the objective of retaking the city from IS.

U.S. President Barack Obama -- speaking in Washington today -- said Mosul will be a "difficult fight" but expressed confidence that IS will be defeated in the city. He added that since a million civilians still live in Mosul, we must also focus on the safety and humanitarian aid for these civilians.

Monday, October 17, 2016

EU Urges Russia, Syria to End Bombing Aleppo; Warns Hospital, School Strikes Are War Crimes

EU (European Union) foreign ministers today (October 17, 2016) urged Russia and Syria to end their bombing of rebel-controlled Aleppo, warning the attacks "may amount to war crimes," according to the Euro News website.

Meeting in Luxembourg, the 28 EU ministers hit out at the "clearly disproportionate" violence in the besieged Syrian city, pointing to the deliberate targeting of hospitals and schools.

But they made no decision on whether to slap sanctions on Moscow over its conduct in Syria.

Those decisions are only taken by heads of state and government.

Austrian Govt. Will Demolish Hitler's First Home; Feared Bldg. Would Become Neo-Nazi Pilgrimage

The home where Nazi leader Adolf Hitler was born in 1889 is to be demolished, pending passage of a law to legally ensure its destruction because the owner of the house has refused to sell or demolish it, the Jewish Press website reports today (October 17, 2016).

Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said a committee of experts has ruled in favor of the demolition of the former guest house.

The structure -- located in the western town of Braunau -- will be replaced with a new building to be used for administrative or charitable purposes.

The Austrian government wants to block the building -- which has been empty since 2011 -- from becoming a pilgrimage destination for neo-Nazis.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Israeli Stats: ISIS Lost One-Third of Its Fighters; Had 25,000 Fighters in 2015, Now Has Only 15K

Various Israeli assessments say the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has lost more than one-third of its fighting members over the past 18 months, the Times of Israel website reports today (October 16, 2016).

Israeli officials estimated the number of ISIS combat fighters at about 25,000 in early 2015. The current estimate stands at approximately 15,000.

The decline of ISIS combat fighters has several causes, perhaps the most important being the American and Russian effort against ISIS. The drastic drop in volunteers is another major cause for the decline, which has occurred since Turkey began blocking ISIS volunteers from using its territory to enter Syria.

While the Islamic State's commanders already have admitted online that ISIS might lose its caliphates in Iraq and Syria, they are now calling for ongoing worldwide terror attacks against non-Muslims.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Pope Urges Christians Tell Truth, Avoid Hypocrisy; Don't Worship Jesus But Distance Heart from Him

During Mass today (October 15, 2016) at Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis urged Christians to always tell the truth, to avoid succumbing to hypocrisy, which he described as a kind of "spiritual schizophrenia" that makes us say many things without putting them into practice, according to the Independent Catholic News website.

Reflecting on the day's readings, the Pope noted that there's a good leaven and a bad leaven. The former builds the kingdom of God, whereas the latter only creates the appearance of the Kingdom of God.

Good leaven always rises and grows in a consistent and substantial manner and becomes a good bread, a good pastry. But as he went on to warn, bad leaven does not grow well -- although it might appear to have grown well -- because it is empty inside.

The Pope went on to explain that hypocrisy is when we invoke the Lord with our lips, but our heart is distant from Him.

IS Terror Attacks in Iraq Kill 46 People Today; Occur as Iraqi Forces Get Set to Retake Mosul

Terror attacks in Baghdad killed at least 46 people today (October 15, 2016), including a suicide bombing claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group, the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website reports.

The violence -- the deadliest to hit Baghdad in several months -- comes as Iraqi forces prepare for an operation to retake Mosul, the last IS-held city in Iraq.

In today's deadliest attack, a suicide bomber targeted a funeral tent where mourners were gathered, killing at least 34 people and wounding at least 36. IS claimed responsibility for the attack.

Also today, IS terrorists attacked two areas north of Baghdad, killing 12 more people, according to police.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Two Wisc. Men Charged with Trying to Join ISIS; Nabbed in Tex.,Headed to Mexico for Documents

The U.S. Justice Department said today (October 14, 2016) that two Wisconsin men have been charged with attempting to travel overseas to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group, according to the Newsmax website.

Jason Michael Ludke, 35, and Yosvany Padylla-Conde, 30, both from Milwaukee, were arrested near San Angelo, Texas, while trying to travel to Mexico where they intended to acquire documents necessary to travel oversees to join the Islamic State, the Justice Department said.

The two men are among numerous people arrested in the United States during the past two years on accusations by authorities of planning to join ISIS, which controls large swaths of territory it seized in Iraq and Syria.

If convicted, the two men face up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000.

Israel Quits UNESCO Ties Due to Jerusalem Vote; Voted to Call Judaism Sites Only by Islam Names

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett said today (October 14, 2016) that Israel will suspend its cooperation with UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) because of the UN agency's decision to ignore Jewish ties to holy sites in Jerusalem, the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website reports.

Bennett's statement today followed passionate condemnations by Israel as well as international Jewish groups and communities of a vote yesterday in Paris by the executive board of UNESCO.

Through a majority of 24 to 6 votes, the board passed a preliminary version of a resolution that calls several sites holy to Judaism only by their Islamic names without mentioning their Jewish names in Hebrew or English. The sites include the Temple Mount, referred to as Al-Haram Al-Sharif.

Israeli officials will neither meet UNESCO representatives nor engage in cooperation in international conferences or professional cooperation with the organization, Bennet said, following the outpouring of condemnations by several nations, including the United States.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Pope to Lutherans:Let's Care for the Poor and Sick; Urges Them to Set Doctrine Aside,Work with Cath.

Pope Francis urged Lutherans to set aside doctrinal differences today (October 14, 2016) and work with Catholics to care for the poor, the sick and refugees, as he laid out his vision for greater communion before his visit to Sweden later this month, according to the VOA (Voice of America) website.

Francis greeted some 1,000 Lutherans who were visiting the Vatican on an ecumenical pilgrimage.

They had arrived in Rome from Germany, where Martin Luther sparked the Protestant Reformation in 1517 by nailing his 95 thesis to a church door to challenge the abuses of the Catholic Church.

Francis will mark the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation with his October 31-November 1 visit to Sweden, where he will participate in an ecumenical service with the Lutheran World Federation.

Boko Haram Frees 21 Girls It Kidnapped in 2014; Snagged 276 Schoolgirls,Used Most as Sex Slaves

Nigerian officials said today (October 13, 2016) that 21 Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram extremist Muslims more than two years ago have been freed, the Newser website reports.

The release is a result of negotiations between the Nigerian government and Boko Haram, brokered by the Swiss government and the International Red Cross.

The abduction of 276 schoolgirls in April 2014 brought international condemnation of Boko Haram, Nigeria's home-grown Islamic extremist group. Dozens of the girls managed to escape, but several gave birth to children, as most of them were used as sex slaves by the kidnappers.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has said girls would only be released if the government swaps them for detained extremist leaders.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Pope Francis Begs for Immediate Syrian Ceasefire; Calls for Truce Enabling Civilians to Be Evacuated

Pope Francis begged today (October 12, 2016) for an immediate ceasefire in Syria, calling for "at least" a truce enabling civilians -- especially children -- to be evacuated, after the rebel-controlled city of Aleppo came under fierce air assault, according to the France 24 website.

"I want to underline and reiterate my closeness to all the victims of the inhumane conflict in Syria. It is with a sense of urgency that I renew my appeal, begging those responsible, with all my strength, for an immediate ceasefire," the pope said at his weekly general audience at the Vatican.

The Syrian army said last week it would reduce its bombardment -- after days of attacks that killed hundreds of people and destroyed the largest remaining hospital in the east -- but it began heavy bombing again yesterday.

More than 300,000 people have been killed in Syria's civil war -- now in its sixth year -- as government forces, anti-government rebels, Islamic State (IS) radicals, Kurdish forces, Turkish forces, Russian airstrikes, and United States and coalition airstrikes continue to take part in Syria's deadly war action.

Pentagon Is Caught Unalert of ISIS' Killer Drones; Fears ISIS May Use Them in Coming Mosul Battle

In a development that some security experts say the Pentagon should have seen coming, ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) is now using drones (unpiloted aircraft) to kill people on the battlefield, the Newser website reports today (October 12, 2016).

According to French media, two Kurdish peshmerga fighters were killed and two French special forces soldiers badly injured in Iraq last week when a small drone rigged with explosives blew up after it was intercepted and brought down.

ISIS has been known to use drones of the kind easily bought online for surveillance, but this is believed to be the first time the group has successfully used a drone to attack its enemies.

"We should have been ready for this, and we weren't," a robotic weaponry expert at the New America think tank told the New York Times. With the battle of Mosul -- Iraq's second largest city -- nearing, U.S. military experts fear that ISIS plans to deploy more explosive-laden drones against coalition troops.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Greek Police Nab 18 Refugees on Way to Albania; Arrest Two Greek Women Smuggling Them North

Police in northern Greece today (October 11, 2016) arrested two Greek women suspected of trying to smuggle a group of Syrian refugees over the rugged border with Albania, according to the Newsmax website.

The suspects were discovered early today, driving two cars carrying a total of 18 Syrians -- including six children -- to the border in the northern Kastoria region.

Police said the refugees had been planning to continue their journey from Albania toward an unspecified more affluent northern European country.

Many refugees pay gangs to smuggle them northward through FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) or Bulgaria, with Albania a rarer option.

Some 1500 Refugee Kids Start School in Greece; Attend 4-Hour Afternoons after Regular Classes

Around 1500 migrant and refugee children living in camps in Greece began attending school yesterday, for four hours in the afternoon, taking place after regular classes by Greek children, the Euro News website reports today (October 11, 2016).

Lessons include Greek, English, math, art, gym, and computer programming. The scheme is being funded by the EU (European Union) and supported by aid agencies.

The migrant children will eventually be integrated into Greek children's classrooms when they have learned the Greek language and can comfortably follow lessons.

The first day ran smoothly except for Thessaloniki in northern Greece's Macedonia province, where some parents protested over health fears. However, the government reassured parents that the refugee children must be vaccinated before attending classes.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Russia Is Building Permanent Navy Base in Syria; Part of Plan to Expand Mil. Power Around World

As a generous reward for helping Syria fight his enemies in its ongoing six-year civil war, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is now letting Russia build a permanent naval base on its land to help it expand its military influence in the Middle East and around the world, the Reuters website reports today (October 10, 2016).

The move -- announced by Russian Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov -- is further evidence Russia is building up its capabilities in Syria despite a partial drawdown last March.

"By doing this, Russia is not only increasing its military potential in Syria, but in the entire Middle East," Senator Igor Morozov, a member of the upper house of parliament's International Affairs Committee, said.

The navy base plan -- which will involve upgrading and expanding an existing naval facility at the port of Tartus that Moscow leases from Syria -- is part of a push to expand a new military presence abroad, as U.S.-Russian relations are currently the most hostile they have been since the end of the cold war in 1991.  Last week, Russia said it is planning to reopen Soviet-era bases it once had in Cuba and Vietnam.

Man Seized in Germany Planned Bomb Attack; Refugees Snag IS-Linked Muslim,Notify Police

German Chancellor Angela Merkel today (October 10, 2016) praised three Syrian refugees who guided police to a Muslim man with suspected links to Islamic State (IS), who was planning to blow himself up at a German airport, according to The Guardian website.

Jaber al-Bakr, 22, from Syria, was found by police at a high-rise block of flats in the eastern German city of Leipzig early this morning after a 48-hour manhunt.

A police spokesman said three refugees had recognized Bakr from wanted posters, and two had bound and held him at the flat while the third brought a mobile phone photo to a local police station.

After praising the security officers who carried out the arrest, the German chancellor said via her deputy spokesman: "Gratitude and recognition is also due to the [men] from Syria who informed police about the terror suspect's whereabouts, which led to his arrest."

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Most of Paris Killers Entered Europe as Refugees; Seven Were IS Jihadis, Killed 130 in Paris in Nov.

Seven of the nine ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) jihadis who launched a series of coordinated attacks in Paris last November entered Europe by posing as refugees, the Foreign Desk News website reports today (October 9, 2016).

The attackers were part of a group of 14 who plotted their way into Western Europe by riding the wave of the migrant crisis last year, according to Hungarian security officials.

By using fake Syrian passports, many of the attackers -- already on European terror watch-lists -- were able to slip back into Europe undetected, along with thousands of other refugees.

One hundred and thirty people were killed last November when a group of gunmen and suicide bombers launched a wave of attacks across Paris, targeting the Bataclan concert hall, the Stade De France, and several restaurants and bars. Three hundred sixty-eight people were also injured in the attacks, almost 100 of them seriously.

Two Killed in Jerusalem Terror Shooting Attack; Five Bystanders Injured, Police Kill the Attacker

Two people were killed and five more were injured today (October 9, 2016) in a shooting near Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem, according to the Times of Israel website.

Police described the incident -- which saw an East Jerusalem gunman open fire at pedestrians and police over a several hundred meter swath on the capital -- as a terror attack. Police shot and killed the attacker.

One woman -- approximately 60 years old -- was shot in the upper body and critically wounded in the attack. A police officer -- approximately 30 years old -- was also critically wounded in a shootout with the assailant.

Both were later declared dead, after being rushed to Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus, a spokesperson said.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Afghanistan Still at War 15 Years after US Attack; Began after 9/11/2001 to Prevent Terrror Attacks

Nearly one month after the September 11 terror attacks that killed some 3,000 people, the U.S. launched its first major salvo in the "war on terror" by invading Afghanistan -- where 15 years on, thousands continue to die each year -- the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website reports today (October 8, 2016).

Afghanistan -- which the U.S. invaded on October 7, 2001 in a bid to topple Al-Qaeda hosts the Taliban -- has become Washington's longest military intervention since Vietnam, and the most costly, now costing over $100 billion.

The Taliban continues to launch repeated attacks on urban centers -- including an attack this week on the strategic northern city of Kunduz -- while the capital Kabul is often rocked by bomb blasts.

The Taliban threat forced President Barack Obama to slow plans to draw down U.S. troop numbers at the end of this year. Some 8,400 will remain in the war-torn country in 2017, compared with 5,500 initially planned.

Oktoberfest Attenders at Lowest Level in 15 Yrs.; Due to Fear of Rapes,Terror Attacks by Refugees

The amount of people who attended this year's Oktoberfest -- the world's largest beer festival in Munich -- dropped to its lowest level in 15 years, amid growing fears about rampant rapes and other sex crimes often linked to Germany's burgeoning Muslim migrant population, the Fox News website reports today (October 8, 2016).

Oktoberfest 2016 had around 5.6 million visitors, which is some 300,000 fewer than last year. However, even with heightened security, the number of reported sex crimes increased by 31 cases, according to police reports.

The low turnout for Oktoberfest is also being blamed on the series of recent terror attacks to rock Western Europe.

Germany is one of Western Europe's top destinations for Muslim asylum-seeking refugees. Some 1.3 million migrants arrived in Germany in 2015, and nearly half of them were young males.

Friday, October 7, 2016

College Org. to Fire Staff Backing Gay Marriage; Says God's Intention Is between Husband, Wife

One of the largest evangelical Christian organizations on U.S. college campuses has told its staff -- around 1,300 of them -- that they will be fired if they support gay marriage, the Christian Today website reports today (October 7, 2016).

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship USA has branches in 667 U.S. colleges. It produced a position paper on human sexuality last March advocating a tradition view of same-sex relationships which saw them as contrary to Scripture.

The paper says: "Scripture is very clear that God's intention for sexual expression is to be between a husband and wife in marriage. Every other sexual practice is outside of God's plan and therefore is a distortion of God's loving design for humanity."

The organization said it will start a process for "involuntary terminations" for any staff member who disagrees with its positions on human sexuality.

Kerry Calls for War Crimes Probe of Russia, Syria; Says Bombing Hospitals,Civilians Are War Crimes

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry accused Russia and Syrian dictator Bashar Assad of committing war crimes in their assault on rebel-held territory in Syria -- including hospitals and aid workers -- and called for an investigation, the Washington Examiner website reports today (October 7, 2016).

"Russia and the regime owe the world more than an explanation about why they keep hitting hospitals, medical facilities, children and women," Kerry said.

He added, "These are acts that beg for an appropriate investigation of war crimes and those that commit these would and should be held accountable for these actions."

Kerry concluded, "This is a targeted strategy to terrorize civilians and to kill anybody and everybody who is in the way of their military objectives."

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Past Portuguese PM Guterres Gets Top UN Post; Nominated to Be Sec.Gen. by Entire Sec. Council

Former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres is about to officially become the next Secretary General of the United Nations, the Euro News website reports today (October 6, 2016).

The UN Security Council unanimously passed a resolution today formally recommending him to the organization's 193-member General Assembly for election as the next leader of the world peace body.

The General Assembly will hold a vote to officially invest Guterres as Secretary General in the coming days.

Guterres served as prime minister of Portugal in its socialist party from 1995 to 2002, and as UN High Commissioner for Refugees from 2005 to 2015. He succeeds Ban Ki.moon, whose term as UN Secretary General ends in December, 2016.

Russia Warns US Not to Hit Syrian Govt. Forces; Threatens to Wreck Aircraft Attempting to Strike

Russia warned the U.S. today (October 6, 2016) not to intervene militarily in Syria against forces loyal to President Basher al-Assad, threatening that it would down aircraft attempting to launch strikes, the Yahoo News website reports.

In a bluntly worded statement, a spokesman for Russia's defense ministry warned that Russia and the Syrian government had deployed sufficient air defenses to block any potential attacks.

The warning follows a Washington Post report earlier this week that the Pentagon was presenting the Obama administration with the option of strikes on Syrian government forces.

Besides air strikes, the United States is now considering providing rebels inside Syria with heavier weaponry, such as tanks and howitzers.

US Rips Israel's Settlement Plan as Peace Block; Says Israel Betrays US Friendship, Peres' Legacy

The Obama administration blasted Israel's plan to build 300 units deep inside the West Bank as a betrayal of U.S. friendship and of Shimon Peres' legacy, the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website reports today (October 6, 2016).

The statement yesterday by Mark Toner -- the Deputy State Department spokesman -- was unusually lengthy, harsh, and emotional in tone.

Toner cited a $38 billion defense assistance agreement with Israel reached last month -- the largest Israel has ever received from the United States -- and President Barack Obama's eulogy last week at the funeral for the late Israeli peace-loving president and prime minister, Shimon Peres.

"It is deeply troubling, in the wake of Israel and U.S. concluding an unprecedented agreement on military assistance designed to further strengthen Israel's security, that Israel would take a decision so contrary to its long-term security interest in a peaceful resolution of its conflict with the Palestinians," Toner said.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Pope,Anglican Head Meet, Honor 50-Yr. Dialogue; Pope Meets Soon with Orthodox,Lutheran Leaders

Pope Francis is pushing through with an unusually high-powered month of outreach to other Christians, celebrating 50 years of Catholic dialogue with the Anglican Church in between important visits to Greek Orthodox and Lutheran leaders, the Washington Post website reports today (October 5, 2016).

Francis joined the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, for a vigil prayer service today at Rome's church of St. Gregory.

The celebration comes just days after Francis returned from the country of Georgia in eastern Europe, where he tried to improve relations with the Georgian Orthodox Church, one of the most conservative and hostile toward Rome. Francis will also be traveling to Sweden in 2017 to mark the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

Catholic-Anglican relations have been strained in recent years by issues, including female bishops and same-sex marriage.

Thousands Protest against Poland's Abortion Plan; Women on Strike, Offices in 60 Cities Close Down

Thousands of Polish women dressed in black -- in an effort to convey their mourning -- have boycotted work and taken to the streets in protest against a plan to ban abortion, the Independent (British) website reports today (October 5, 2016).

Without half their workforce, government offices, universities, and schools in 60 cities across Poland closed their doors.

Poland already has one of Europe's most restrictive abortion laws and opinion surveys show very little support for an even stricter law, despite the nation's deep Catholicism and conservative political direction.

Under existing law -- in effect since 1993 -- abortion is banned except in cases where the woman's life is in danger, the fetus is irreparably damaged, or the pregnancy results from rape or incest. The new proposed law would make all abortions illegal.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Yahoo Let FBI,NSA See All Its Customers' Emails; Act Affirms Americans Have Lost Right to Privacy

Yahoo built software last year that allowed the U.S. government to search all of its customers' incoming emails, according to sources who spoke confidentially to Reuters, which calls this program the first of its kind, the Slate website reports today (October 4, 2016).

Yahoo complied with a classified U.S. government directive scanning hundreds of millions of Yahoo Mail accounts at the behest of the National Security Agency (NSA) or FBI, said two former employees and a third person apprised of the events.

This represents the first case to surface of a U.S. Internet company agreeing to a spy agency's demand by searching all arriving messages, as opposed to examining stored messages or scanning a small number of accounts in real time. (Reuters did not indicate whether the government operation at Yahoo has ended or is ongoing.)

Yahoo has violated the privacy rights of millions of Americans by secretly collaborating with the National Security Agency and the FBI, thus compromising their personal information. Many lawsuits by individuals, groups, and human rights organizations -- such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) -- are expected to occur against Yahoo and the government as a result of these covert illegal acts.

Philippine Pres. Duterte to Obama: "Go to Hell;" Angry Obama Criticized Vast Killing of Druggies

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte -- who last month called President Obama a "son of a whore" -- said today (October 4, 2016) during a meeting that "President Obama can go to hell," according to The Daily Beast website.

Duterte was said to be upset that the U.S. has criticized his deadly anti-drug campaign in the Philippines.

He also lashed out at the European Union (EU), which has also denounced his controversial effort. The EU, he said, "better choose Purgatory. Hell is filled up."

Since taking office in June, Duterte's crackdown has resulted in the extrajudicial killings of some 3,000 drug suspects. He said last week that he wants to be like Adolf Hitler (who was responsible for killing some six million Jews during World War II), and kill millions of suspected drug addicts.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Poll:Most in US Back Ground Troops Fighting IS; Also Most Oppose Hailing More Syrian Refugees

A majority of likely US voters support sending American ground troops to the Middle East to fight ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), according to the latest Morning Consult/Politico poll, the Breitbart website reports today (October 3, 2016).

Fifty-five percent signaled support for ground troops to fight ISIS, while 36 percent opposed the idea.

Fifty-eight percent in the poll also signaled that they do not want the US to accept more Syrian refugees. Only 33 percent of voters supported the idea of letting in more refugees from Syria.

The numbers signal significant opposition to President Barack Obama's handling of the crisis in Syria and Iraq. Although he has launched thousands of airstrikes in the region for two years, Obama remains opposed to American ground combat troops directly fighting ISIS. Also, Obama has admitted 10,000 Syrian refugees to the US already in 2016, and said he wants 110,000 more by next year.

Pope:Treat Gays,Transsexuals with Reverence; Inspired Us with Phrase"Who Am I to Judge?"

Pope Francis said yesterday that homosexuals and transsexuals should be treated with respect, but that teaching gender theory is unacceptable "indoctrination" of young people, the Reuters website reports today (October 3, 2016).

"When a person [who is gay] arrives before Jesus, Jesus certainly will not say, "Go away because you are homosexual," Francis said.

The pope -- who made world headlines in 2013 when he uttered his now-famous phrase "Who am I to judge?" when he was asked if the Catholic Church should accept gay members -- said that as a priest, bishop, and even now pope, he had ministered to people with homosexual tendencies as well as some who were not able to remain chaste, as the Church asks them to be.

He added, "I accompanied them, I brought them closer to the Lord. I never abandoned one of them. That is a fact. People must be accompanied just like Jesus accompanies them."

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Muslim Man Slams Car into Driven Auto in Calif.; Told Police He Caused Crash in the Name of Allah

A California Muslim -- who slammed his car into a vehicle yesterday being driven by a veteran -- told police he intentionally caused the crash in the name of Allah, and because of Donald Trump's improper treatment of minorities, the Fox News website reports today (October 2, 2016).

Driver Ameer Abbaf Fakhraldin slammed into a car being driven by Scott Alcala -- a veteran of the Afghanistan War -- in Fresno, California.

"I saw the Suburban coming right at me about to T-bone right into the driver door and thought that was it. A second later I turned my head and just smashed into the barrier," Alcala told the police.

Alcala says he believes the collision constitutes a terrorist act and wants Fakhraldin off the streets.

Man Shoots Security Guard at Moscow Synagogue; Guard Hospitalized,Intruder under Criminal Probe

Russia's interior ministry said today (October 2, 2016) it had opened a criminal probe after an intruder shot a security guard at a Moscow synagogue with an air pistol, according to the Times of Israel website.

Police said a 40-year-old man was arrested last night after the incident at the central Moscow synagogue, which left the guard needing hospital treatment.

A law enforcement official said that the man had tried to force his way into the synagogue with a can of gasoline.

The incident came on the eve of the Jewish New Year holiday Rosh Hashanah, and Russia's Jewish community urged worshipers not to be discouraged from attending services on Sunday evening, as a result of the shooting. Russia has a long history of anti-Semitism, and racism and religious prejudice pervade its society.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Georgia Orth. Church Leaders Snub Pope's Visit; Orth. Church Told Followers Not to Attend Mass

Leaders from Georgia's Greek Orthodox Church did not attend Pope Francis' mass at a stadium in Tbilisi today (October 1, 2016) and ordered its followers not to take part, the UPI website reports.

With just 2.5 percent of Georgia identifying as Roman Catholic, the Mikheil Meskhi Stadium in the nation's capital filled less than 3,000 of its 27,000 seats for the pope's mass. Church leaders were expected to send delegates to the ceremony, but none of the Orthodox Church bishops attended.

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said Orthodox rules kept the bishops away.

Pope Francis said in his homily, "We should work together. We should respect each other and pray together." The Pope heads to Azerbaijan on October 2, where his three-day tour of the Caucasus region will end.

Pope Meets with Orthodox Patriarch of Georgia; Lauds Love of Christ as Basis of Christian Unity

Pope Francis spoke of the love of Christ as the foundation of Christian unity at a meeting today (October 1, 2016) with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of All Georgia, Ilia II, according to the Independent Catholic News website.

Addressing him as "Dear Brother," the Pope spoke of the ties between the Church in Georgia, founded on the preaching of St. Andrew, and that of Rome, founded by his brother, St. Peter.

He said, "Truly, the love of the Lord raises us up because it enables us to rise above the misunderstandings of the past, above the calculations of the present and fears for the future."

The Georgian people had witnessed to "the greatness of this love" through the centuries, said Pope Francis, who praised their "unique hospitality," and "true hope" even though they face "no shortage of difficulties." (After World War II, Georgia became a satellite of Soviet Russia until it regained its freedom in 1991.)