Thursday, February 28, 2019

Sen. Harris Wants to Decriminalize Prostitution; Says Cases of Consenting Adults Should Be Legal

Senator Kamala Harris of California recently shared that she is in favor of decriminalizing prostitution and sex work, the Christian Headlines website reports today (February 28, 2019).

The 2020 presidential hopeful said that despite her previous crackdown on sex work when she was California's Attorney General, she would like to see prostitution -- between two consenting adults -- decriminalized.

Harris said that when she was a District Attorney in California some 15 years ago, she was advocating for the prostitute and against the "johns" and "pimps."

Harris noted that there are distinct differences between which types of sex work should be legal and which types of sex work should not. She said that in the case of consenting adults she believes prostitution should be legal. In situations where prostitutes are being exploited by others, however, she believes that should be punishable.

Trump Had Officials Give Kushner Sec. Clearance; Did So After Son-in-Law Denied a CIA Clearance

President Donald Trump ordered his chief of staff to grant his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, a top-secret security clearance last year, overruling rejections for a clearance by intelligence officials and the White House's top lawyer, the NY Times website reports today (February 28, 2019).

Trump's decision in May so troubled senior administration officials that at least one, the White House chief of staff at the time, John F. Kelly, wrote a contemporaneous internal memo about how he had been "ordered" to give Kushner the top-secret clearance.

The White House counsel at the time, Donald F. McGahn II, also wrote an internal memo outlining the concerns that had been raised about Kushner -- including by the CIA -- and how McGahn had recommended that he not be given a top-secret clearance.

The disclosure of the memos contradicts statements made by President Trump, who told the New York Times in January in an Oval Office interview that he had no role in his son-in-law receiving his clearance.

Israel AG Indicts PM Netanyahu with Corruption; Charges Him with Bribery, Fraud, Breach of Trust

Israel's Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit today (February 28, 2019) indicted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a series of corruption charges, according to the CBN website.

The indictment comes after more than two years of investigations and will significantly affect Israel's national elections on April 9.

Israeli police have recommended charging Netanyahu for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in three separate cases -- Case 4000, Case 1000, and case 2000.

Case 4000 -- also known as the Bezeq-Walla Affair -- is considered the most serious of the three cases. Netanyahu is suspected of having a quid pro quo relationship from 2012 to 2017 with Shaul Elovitch, the main shareholder of Israel's leading telecommunications company "Bezeq." Netanyahu is accused of giving Elovitch favorable government policies in exchange for positive coverage of the Netanyahu family on Bezeq's "Walla!News."

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Vatican Wants Priests with Kids to Quit Ministry; Cath. Church Is Opposed to Parents Being Priests

The Vatican's top official for clergy said today (February 27, 2019) that with "very rare" exceptions leaving the priesthood to take up the duties of a parent is the right solution in such cases, the Crux website reports.

"Obviously, a child is always a gift from God, however he or she was generated," said Italian Cardinal Beniamino Stella, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for Clergy.

"The loss of the clerical state occurs because parental responsibilities create a series of permanent obligations which, in the legislation of the Latin church, do not allow for the exercise of priestly ministry," Stella said.

In general, Stella asserted, the good of the child requires the priest to devote himself full-time to being a parent.

Pope: Holiness of God Power Will Defeat All Evil; "Evil's Days Are Numbered and This Is Beautiful"

Pope Francis said today (February 27, 2019) that the holiness of God is a power that is constantly expanding and will defeat evil once and for all, according to the Crux website.

"Evil's days are numbered," the pope said today during his weekly general audience. "One thing is certain: It is evil that should be afraid, and this is beautiful."

The prayer, he said, has everything that is essential for a Christian prayer: contemplation of God in His mystery and goodness, and a "sincere and courageous request for what we need to live and live well."

"When we speak with God," he said, "we do not do it to reveal to Him what we have in our heart; He already knows that better than we do."

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Methodist Leaders Won't Ease Same-Sex Controls; Reject Vote to Ease Same-Sex Marriage,Gay Clergy

United Methodist Church leaders have rejected a measure that would have eased restrictions on gay clergy and same-sex marriages, the Newsmax website reports today (February 26, 2019).

Delegates voted twice this week against the "One Church" plan at a special session of the church's General Conference in St. Louis.

Speaking against the plan was Nancy Denardo, a laity delegate of western Pennsylvania, who cited the Bible's mention of marriage as being between a man and a woman.

"The One Church plan does not agree with the words of our Savior," Denardo said, warning it "deceives young persons into believing that same-gender marriage is OK with God -- when clearly it is not."

Australian Cardinal Pell Convicted of Sex Abuse; Most Senior Cath.Cleric Charged with Sex Abuse

The most senior Catholic cleric ever charged with child sex abuse has been convicted of molesting two choirboys moments after celebrating Mass, the Yahoo News website reports today (February 26, 2019).

Cardinal George Pell, Pope Francis' top financial adviser and the Vatican's economy minister, was present as the 12-member jury delivered unanimous verdicts in the Vatican state County Court on December 11.

Until today, the court had forbidden publication of any details about the trial.

Pell faces a maximum 50-year prison term after a sentencing hearing that begins tomorrow (February 27, 2019).

Monday, February 25, 2019

Many Swastikas,Anti-Semitic Notes Seen in NYC; "Heil Hitler," "No Jews Allowed" on Playground

Dozens of swastikas and anti-Semitic messages -- including "Heil Hitler" and "No Jews Allowed" -- were drawn on a school playground in New York City, the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website reports today (February 25, 2019).

The chalk drawings at a P.S. 139 in Rego Park, in the borough of Queens, were discovered by the custodian on February 22.

Meanwhile, two swastikas were discovered yesterday morning at Brighton Playground in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn, according to the New York Police Department.

The NYPD's Hate Crimes Unit is investigating both incidents. This year, 36 anti-Semitic crimes have been reported in the city compared to 21 at this time last year.

Trump Begins Abortion Obstacles,Bans Referrals; Women's Groups Expected to Sue Abortion Limits

The Trump administration on February 22 set up new obstacles for women seeking abortions, barring taxpayer-funded family planning clinics from making abortion referrals, the Religion News website reports today (February 25, 2019).

The final rule also would prohibit federally funded family planning clinics from being housed in the same locations as abortion providers, and require stricter financial separation.

Clinic staff would still be permitted to discuss abortion with clients.

Women's groups, organizations representing the clinics, and Democratic-led states are expected to sue to defeat the policy.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Netanyahu Causes Polish PM to Cancel Israel Trip; Israel PM Said Poland Responsible for Nazi Deaths

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has canceled a trip to Israel for a high-level summit slated to take place this week, as a diplomatic spat continues over comments made by  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Polish collaboration with the Nazis, the Times of Israel website reports today (February 24, 2019).

The Polish embassy in Tel Aviv confirmed that Morawiecki would not attend the summit of the so-called Visegrad Group of central European countries.

Poland had informed Netanyahu that the clarifications it had received regarding comments made by Netanyahu regarding the role of Poles in the Holocaust were not sufficient.

The crisis emerged after Netanyahu was asked by the Times of Israel in Warsaw about a controversial agreement between Israel and Poland to end a dispute over a law passed by Warsaw that criminalizes blaming the Polish nation for Holocaust crimes. Netanyahu said the Poles cooperated with the Nazis.

Pope Closes 4-Day Summit on Clergy Sex Abuse; Promises Justice for All Abused Victims of Clergy

Clerical sexual abuse is the work of the devil and Church personnel complicit in abuse become tools of Satan, Pope Francis said today (February 24, 2019), closing a four-day Vatican summit on the protection of children, during which he promised justice for all the victims of these crimes, according to the Crux website.

"I would state clearly: If in the Church there should emerge even a single case of abuse -- which already in itself represents an atrocity -- that case will be faced with the utmost seriousness," Francis said.

Indeed, in people's justified anger, the Church sees the reflection of the wrath of God, betrayed and insulted by these deceitful consecrated persons," he said. "It is our duty to pay close heed to this silent, choked cry."

There is no explanation for abuses involving children, the pontiff said, and hence it's important to "recognize with humility" that the Church stands "face to face with the mystery of evil."

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Pentagon to Send 1K Troops to Mexico Border; Personnel Will Apply Barbed Wire onto Fences

The Defense Department said today (February 23, 2019) that the Pentagon plans to deploy about 1,000 troops to the U.S.-Mexico border by the start of March, according to the UPI website.

Those additional personnel will be tasked with applying barbed wiring to existing border fences, Defense Department officials said.

It will bring the number of troops at the border to about 6,000.

Military personnel at the border have already installed about 70 miles of wiring, in addition to reinforcing ports of entry and medically treating migrants, a senior defense official said.

Cardinal: Cath. Church Trashed Sex Abuse Info; Did So to Cover Up Sexual Abuse by Priests

A German Roman Catholic cardinal said today (February 23, 2019) that the church destroyed documents in an effort to cover up sexual abuse that has engulfed it in scandal, according to the Euro News website.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx spoke at a Vatican summit today, telling 190 church leaders that the harms inflicted on children were the result of  "abuse of power in the area of administration."

The four-day summit, convened by Pope Francis, aims to address the worldwide issue of sex abuse within the church.

Today's discussions focused on issues of transparency and breaking the code of silence that has kept abuse in the church hidden.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Trump Picks US Ambas. to Canada for UN Job; Nominates Kelly Knight Craft New UN Ambas.

President Donald Trump today (February 22, 2019) said he intends to nominate the current American ambassador to Canada to be the new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, according to the CNN website.

Trump tweeted this evening that he plans to nominate Kelly Knight Craft for the position following former Ambassador Nikki Haley's resignation last year.

"I am pleased to announce that Kelly Knight Craft, our current Ambassador to Canada, is being nominated to be the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations," Trump wrote on Twitter.

He followed up in a second tweet, saying, "Kelly has done an outstanding job representing our Nation and I have no doubt that under her leadership, our Country will be represented at the highest level..."

US to Retain 200 Troops in Syria after Pullout; Troops to Protect Kurds Who Helped Defeat IS

The U.S. will leave "a small peacekeeping group" of 200 American troops in Syria for a period of time after a U.S. pullout, the White House said today (February 22, 2019), according to the Reuters website.

President Donald Trump had ordered a complete withdrawal of the 2,000 American troops in Syria in December.

However, Trump has been under much pressure from several advisers to adjust his pullout policy to ensure the protection of Kurdish forces, who played a major role in defeating the Islamic State (IS) militants. Turkey has said it plans to attack the the Kurds -- whom it considers a terrorist group -- after the U.S. withdraws from Syria.

It is unclear how long the 200 American troops would be expected to remain in Syria, or where exactly they would be deployed.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Allies Won't Stay in Syria after US Troops Leave; Reject Trump's Request to Stay, Keep Eye on IS

U.S. and foreign officials have revealed that as the deadline approaches for the withdrawal of U.S. forces fighting the Islamic State (IS) in Syria, America's closest European allies have rejected a Trump administration request to fill the gap with their own troops, The Washington Post website reports today (February 21, 2019).

Allies have "unanimously" told the U.S. that they "won't stay if you pull out," a senior administration official said. France and Britain are the only other countries with troops on the ground in the U.S.-led coalition battling the Islamic State.

Along with the U.S., they have provided training, supplies, logistics, and intelligence for the Syrian Democratic Forces -- the Kurdish-dominated group that has done most of the fighting against the IS.

European refusal to stay in Syria unless President Trump reverses at least part of his troop withdrawal order is one of several factors that U.S. military officials, lawmakers, and senior administration officials have said should make Trump think again.

Pope Vows to Tackle Clerical Child Sex Abuse; Abuse Survivors Call for Zero Tolerance Policy

Pope Francis says the world wants "concrete measures" to tackle child sexual abuse by priests -- and not just "simple and obvious condemnations," the Euro News website reports today (February 21, 2019).

Speaking at a four-day summit at the Vatican, he said "the cry of the little ones seeking justice" had to be heard.

He's under pressure to provide leadership and generate workable solutions after details of sexual abuse emerged across the world -- with the Church accused of covering up crimes.

Survivors of abuse are calling for greater transparency and accountability over past abuse, and for a zero tolerance policy to be adopted.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Ala.Woman Who Joined IS Won't Return to US; Admits She Made Mistake in Joining IS in Syria

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said today (February 20, 2019) that an Alabama woman who left home to join the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria is not a U.S. citizen and will not be allowed to return to the U.S., according to the AP website.

Pompeo said Hoda Muthana, who says she made a mistake in joining the group and now wants to return with her 18-month-old son, has no "legal basis" to claim American citizenship.

"Ms. Hoda Muthana is not a U.S. citizen and will not be admitted into the United States," Pompeo said.

He added, "She does not have any legal basis, no valid U.S. passport, no right to a passport, nor any visa to travel to the United States."

Thousands Rally against Anti-Semitism in France; Vandals Desecrate 96 Graves at Jewish Cemetery

Thousands of people rallied across France today (February 20, 2019) after a surge of anti-Semitic attacks in recent weeks that culminated with vandals daubing swastikas and anti-Jewish slogans on dozens of graves in a Jewish cemetery, according to the Euro News website.

Political leaders from all parties gathered in Paris filling the Place de la Republique, a symbol of the nation, to decry anti-Semitic acts with one common slogan: "Enough!"

People also lined the streets of cities from Lille in the north to Toulouse and Marseille in the south.

President Emmanuel Macron paid respects at one of the 96 desecrated graves in the village of Quatzenheim, near the eastern city of Strasbourg.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

US-Backed Forces in "Final Battle" against IS; Attack IS to Oust It from Last Enclave in Syria

Fighters from the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have launched an assault to oust IS (Islamic State) from its last remaining enclave in Syria, the CNN website reports today (February 10, 2019).

At its peak, IS held large swaths of Iraq and Syria -- a "caliphate" about the size of Portugal.

Its territory has now shrunk to a tiny pocket in Syria's eastern Deir Ezzor province, with militants holed up in the village of Baghouz Al-Fawqani, near the Iraq border.

After pausing more than a week to allow tens of thousands of civilians to flee the town, the SDF yesterday renewed its push to wrest the last 1.5 square miles from the terrorists.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Sen. Elizabeth Warren Enters the 2020 Pres. Race; Mass. Democrat Backs Worker Rights, Fair Wages

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren launched her 2020 presidential campaign today (February 9, 2019), saying she is fighting for all Americans, according to the Euro News website.

The Massachusetts Democrat -- a leader of the party's progressive wing -- made her announcement from a historic site in Lawrence, northwest of Boston, that launched the first organized workers' movement in the U.S.

Warren, 69, has made worker rights, fair wages, and access to health care central to her campaign.

However, her controversial claim of describing her race as American Indian -- for which she has repeatedly apologized -- has had a negative impact on her popularity.

Ugandan Official:Curvy Women to Boost Tourism; Catholic Priest Calls Official "A Disciple of Satan"

Father Gaetano Batanyenda, a Catholic priest in Uganda, has called the country's tourism minister "a disciple of Satan" for promoting a new campaign highlighting the country's women, the Crux website reports today (February 9, 2019).

On February 5, Godfrey Kiwanda, Uganda's tourism minister, launched the "Miss Curvy Uganda" beauty pageant as part of his "let's tour" promotion to attract visitors. The winner will be announced in June.

"We have naturally endowed, nice-looking women that are amazing to look at. Why don't we use these people as a strategy to promote our tourism industry?" Kiwanda said.

He noted that the winner of the contest will be "part of our tourism campaign brand using beauty as one other product of tourism."

Friday, February 8, 2019

Trump Rips Abortion at National Prayer Meeting; Is Committed to Protect Unborn in God's Image

President Donald Trump began his speech at yesterday's annual National Prayer Breakfast assuring faith leaders, "I will never let you down... Never," the Christian Post website reports today (February 8, 2018).

The one action of Trump that received the most enthusiastic applause was his commitment to protect the unborn.

"All children, born and unborn, are made in the holy image of God," Trump said to a standing ovation.

"Every life is sacred and every soul is a precious gift from Heaven," Trump added.

Iran Builds a Precision Missile Factory in Syria; Built Where Israeli Jets Destroyed One Last Yr.

 An Israeli intelligence report reveals that Iran has constructed a new precision missile factory in Syria -- in the same location where Israeli  airstrikes destroyed another factory last year -- the Jewish Press website reports today (February 8, 2019).

Israel uncovered the factory, built just outside Latakia, a port city close to the Russian Khmeimim Air Force base.

Syria's government  and the terrorist group Hezbollah helped Iran in building the facility, according to the report.

Reportedly, the missile parts came from Italy, China, and other Asian nations through firms created by Syria's Scientific Studies and Research Center.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Greek PM Asks Turkey to Reopen Halki Seminary; Says Doing So Would Bring Greece,Turkey Closer

Greece's prime minister said today (February 7, 2019) that a potential move by Turkey to allow the reopening of a Greek Orthodox theology school on the island of Halki, off Constantinople, would help bring the two countries closer together, according to The National Herald website.

During a visit to the site, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras voiced hope that the seminary at Heybeli Island -- known as Halki in Greek -- can resume teaching after nearly half a century.

The Turkish government shut down the Theological School of Halki in 1971 under a law that brought religious schools under state control.

Tsipras, who is ending a two-day visit to Turkey, became the first serving Greek prime minister to visit the seminary.

Upstate NY Yeshiva Is Hit with Fire, Swastikas; Incident Is Being Treated as Jewish Hate Crime

A yeshiva located in upstate New York was set on fire and swastikas were spray painted on the building, the Times of Israel website reports today (February 7, 2019).

The incident at the Yeshiva Deah Yoreh, located on a former farm in White Sulphur Springs, occurred on January 28, but was first reported by the Rockland/Westchester Journal News on February 6.

Two barns on the property of the yeshiva, which combines education and farming, were damaged and numerous swastikas were painted on the walls.

The incident is being treated as a Jewish hate crime, state police spokesman Steven Nevel told the Journal News.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Pope Admits Clergy Kept Nuns as Sex Slaves; Church Roots View "Women as Second Class"

Pope Francis admitted yesterday that clerics have sexually abused nuns, and in at least one case nuns were kept as sex slaves, the BBC website reports today (February 6, 2019).

He said that his predecessor, Pope Benedict, was forced to shut down an entire congregation of nuns who were being abused by priests.

This is believed to be the first time that Pope Francis has acknowledged the sexual abuse of nuns by the clergy.

He said the Church was attempting to address the problem, but it is "still going on." He admitted that the Church had an issue, the roots of which lie in "seeing women as second class."

NC Man Sentenced to 15 Years for Supporting IS; Tried to Create a Terrorist Cell for Attacks in US

A U.S. District judge sentenced a North Carolina man to 15 years in prison for trying to create a terrorist cell to carry out attacks in the U.S., the Clarion Project website reports today (February 6, 2019).

Erick Jamal Hendricks, 38, of Charlotte, was convicted last March of conspiring to provide material support to ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) by trying to recruit and train fellow ISIS sympathizers through social media.

Attorneys for the government asked the judge for a 30-year sentence, the maximum for the crimes.

Although the judge declined, he did order Hendricks to be subject to probation for his entire life.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Pope Francis Leads Largest Mass Ever in UAE; Over 135K Cath. and 4K Muslims Attend Mass

Pope Francis made history today (February 5, 2019) when he celebrated Mass for more than 135,000 Catholics from many nations and cultures at the Zayed Sports Stadium in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), according to the America Magazine website.

It was the largest Christian act of worship ever celebrated on the Arabian Peninsula, in the heartland of the Muslim world, and the festive occasion gave powerful expression to the joy of the Gospel.

There were scenes of joy and excitement as Pope Francis was driven in a jeep around the stadium before Mass to greet these Catholics, migrant workers from India, the Philippines, Uganda, and many other countries of Asia and Africa, as well as expatriates from Western countries.

Francis also is greatly admired in the Muslim world and especially here in the United Arab Emirates. The country's minister for tolerance and other authorities of the UAE attended the celebration together with some 4,000 Muslims.

Dallas,Tex. Church Opens Campus in a Prison; Over 500 Men at Prison Vow to Follow Christ

Pastor Robert Morris of Gateway Church in Dallas, Texas announced this week that the state's largest prison is the location of the church's newest campus, the Christian Post website reports today (February 5, 2019).

Morris shared a video with his congregation on Sunday revealing that in November, the church launched a new campus at the Coffield Unit in Anderson County, which houses over 4,000 criminal offenders. More than 650 inmates attended the megachurch's first service, and over 500 men made decisions to follow Jesus.

Morris revealed that Stephen Wilson, an ex-offender who went to seminary school and has been ministering in prisons for years, will serve as the Gateway Coffield campus pastor.

"We welcome you guys and we love you. We are your brothers and sisters in Christ," Morris said amid applause. "We're excited that we have a campus there now."

Monday, February 4, 2019

Francis Is First Pope to Visit Arabian Peninsula; Criticizes His UAE Host for Its Yemen War Role

Pope Francis yesterday became the first pontiff to set foot on the Arabian peninsula, just hours after issuing his strongest condemnation yet of the war in Yemen, where his host the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has a leading military role, the Reuters website reports today (February 4, 2019).

Shortly before departing for Abu Dhabi on his three-day trip, Pope Francis said he was following the humanitarian crisis in Yemen with great concern, and urged all sides to implement a peace deal and help deliver aid to millions of hungry people.

"The cry of these children who are hungry, who are thirsty, they don't have medicine, and they are in danger of death," he said before boarding his flight.

The pope will meet Muslim leaders and celebrate an outdoor mass for some 135,000 Catholics -- an event with no precedent on the Arabian peninsula.

Greek PM Tsipras Going on 2-Day Visit to Turkey; Will Ask Turkish Pres. to Reopen Halki Seminary

The long-running international campaign to re-open a Greek Orthodox theological school in Turkey is set for a major boost this week, the Euro News website reports today (February 4, 2019).

Greece's prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, will visit Orthodox Halki seminary during a two-day diplomatic trip to the country.

The seminary was closed down by the Turkish state in 1971, and experts say Tsipras' presence there is expected to be mostly symbolic.

His visit will put the campaign to re-open the seminary -- considered the last stand for Christianity in  predominantly Islamic Turkey -- back on the map. That is important in the era of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which has moved Turkey away from its tradition of separating church and state.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Head of Ukraine's New Orth. Church Enthroned; Pres. Poroshenko: Church to Be Ind. of the State

The leader of the new independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church was enthroned in a ceremony in Kiev today (February 3, 2019), formalizing a break with the Russian Orthodox Church that has enraged Moscow, according to the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website.

During the three-hour ceremony in the gold-decked 11th-century Saint Sophia Cathedral, Metropolitan Yepifaniy became head of the Church, having been elected by bishops last year.

The 40-year-old is a critic of Moscow's religious influence in Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who attended the ceremony along with other top officials, said the new church would be independent of the state.

IS Using Women, Children as Shields in Syria; Coalition Suspends Attacks to Protect Civilians

The Islamic State (IS) terror group is using women and children as human shields, as U.S.-led coalition forces battle to rout the extremists from their final pocket of land in Syria, the Sky News website reports today (February 3, 2019).

Coalition soldiers have suspended attacks to try to encourage civilians inside the IS enclave to come out through a humanitarian corridor they have created in the desert.

Thousands have been streaming out in the last few weeks.

Many of the women and children are in poor physical condition after surviving freezing temperatures and a lack of food.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Persecution of Christians in India Hits New High; Hindu Nation Had 477 Violent Incidents in 2018

A new report has warned that persecution in India is at its highest level in 70 years, the Christian Today website reports today (February 2, 2019).

The report -- by U.S.-based Charity Persecution Relief -- said that persecution was spreading at a "rapid rate" across the majority-Hindu country, with 477 incidents of violence recorded in 2018, up 37 from the previous year.

Instances of persecution included disruptions of worship services, vandalism, churches being closed off by the authorities, churches and Bibles being set on fire, and local authorities refusing to grant permission for new church construction.

A total of 10 church buildings were set on fire across the country last year, the report said.

Cath. Magazine Discloses Nuns Abused by Priests; Vatican Had Known about Abuse But Did Nothing

The Vatican's women's magazine is denouncing the sexual abuse of nuns by priests and the resulting scandal of religious sisters having abortions or giving birth to children who are not recognized by their fathers, the Yahoo News website reports today (February 2, 2019).

The February issue of "Women Church World" -- a monthly magazine -- yesterday cited Pope Francis' own analysis of abuse, saying that unchecked clerical power was the root of the problem of priests preying on young children as well as adult nuns.

It said nuns have ben silenced for years by fear of retaliation against themselves or their orders if they report the priests who abused them.

The publication marks a significant public acknowledgement from inside the Vatican of the problem that the Holy See has long known about, but has done almost nothing to address.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Putin Slams Ukraine Orthodox Church Reform; Says Ending Ties with Russia May Lead to Clash

Russian President Vladimir Putin has criticized Ukraine's move to set up a new Orthodox Church independent from Moscow, and promised to defend religious freedom, the Religion News website reports today (February 1, 2019).

In January, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople granted independence to a new Orthodox Church of Ukraine, formally severing its centuries-long ties with the Russian Orthodox Church.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who runs for re-election in March, has spearheaded the move that forced clergy and believers to choose between belonging to the old Moscow-affiliated church or the new Ukrainian one.

Putin warned yesterday that "We reserve the right to react and will do everything to protect human rights, including freedom of conscience."

Survey:People Who Attend Church Are Happier; Also Tend to Be More Active in Social Activities

A new Pew Research Center survey has found that people who identify with a religious group and regularly attend worship services tend to be happier and more civically engaged than those who do not, the Christian Post website reports today (February 1, 2019).

The Pew Center report found that religious attendance -- rather than religious affiliation -- consistently linked to higher levels of happiness than for those around the world who claim no faith.

In the U.S. specifically, 36 percent of actively religious people said they were "very happy" compared to only 25 percent of "unaffiliated" or "inactive" churchgoers.

Also, Pew researchers found that when it comes to measuring civic participation, people who are actively religious are more likely to be active in voluntary and community groups.