Update on the latest religion news


Pastors preach calm as Ferguson waits on grand jury

FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — Parishioners in the St. Louis area are praying for peace and justice as a grand jury considers whether to indict a white police officer in last summer’s fatal shooting of a black teenager in the suburb of Ferguson.

The Rev. Freddy Clark of Shalom Church assured his mostly black congregation Sunday that “justice will be served” whichever way the decision goes, because God will take care of it.

That message was echoed at the predominantly black Greater Grace Church, where Bishop L.O. Jones told worshippers not to fear because “God is still in control.”

Shepherdess Theresa Holt of Jennings Mason Temple Church declared that “looting, rioting, fighting, tearing up the city, is not the answer.” She told her flock that this is a time for believers to “do good” and “seek peace.”

At the Roman Catholic Shrine of St. Joseph, Father Dale Wunderlich said whites and African-Americans all belong to “one race: the human race.”


164-a-09-(Father Dale Wunderlich, priest at the Shrine of St. Joseph, in AP interview)-“and so forth”-Father Dale Wunderlich, priest at the Shrine of St. Joseph, says the media are presenting a distorted view of race relations in the region. (23 Nov 2014)


165-a-06-(Mary Ann Chibnal-Wetzel, parishioner at the Shrine of St. Joseph, in AP interview)-“to be peaceful”-Mary Ann Chibnal-Wetzel, a parishioner at the Shrine of St. Joseph, says she’s praying that there won’t be trouble following the Ferguson grand jury announcement. (23 Nov 2014)


163-a-05-(Father Dale Wunderlich, priest at the Shrine of St. Joseph, in AP interview)-“children of God”-Father Dale Wunderlich, priest at the Shrine of St. Joseph, says blacks and whites in the St. Louis area are emphasizing their common humanity. (23 Nov 2014)



New 10 Commandments monument being built

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma legislator whose family paid $10,000 for a Ten Commandments monument says he has ordered a new one after someone drove a car across the statehouse lawn and smashed it into pieces.

Republican state Rep. Mike Ritze (rihts) says he has ordered an identical Ten Commandments monument that is currently under construction and, like the first one, will be built entirely with private funds.

The 6-foot-tall granite monument was erected in 2012 on the north side of the state Capitol after a bill authorizing it was passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature in 2009 and signed into law by then-Gov. Brad Henry, a Democrat.

The original monument was challenged by a minister who sued to have it removed, but a judge ruled in September that the monument serves a secular purpose and does not violate the state constitution. The American Civil Liberties Union has appealed to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.


Hundreds attend memorial for Indiana aid worker

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A memorial service that included readings from the Bible and the Quran has been held in Indianapolis for an aid worker who was beheaded by Islamic State militants in Syria.

Peter Kassig, who took the first name Abdul-Rahman after converting to Islam during captivity, was praised for his humanitarian work during Sunday’s memorial service, which was attended by hundreds.

The 26-year-old Kassig was captured last year in eastern Syria while delivering relief supplies to refugees of Syria’s civil war.

Hazem Bata, executive director of the Islamic Society of North America in suburban Plainfield, praised Kassig for his selfless service.

The Kassig family’s Methodist pastor, the Rev. Bill Hoopes, said: “Our hearts broke with the news of not only his death, but the brutal and barbaric way in which it occurred.”


Pope canonizes 2 Indians, 4 Italians

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has canonized six new saints, including a priest and a nun from the Indian state of Kerala, in a packed ceremony in St. Peter’s Square.

The pope offered prayers Sunday for the saints: four Italians from disparate regions and two Indians from the Syro-Malabar Church, one of 22 Eastern rite churches that is in full communion with Rome.

Francis said they had given their all to serve “the least and assisting the destitute, sick, elderly and pilgrims.”

Some 5,000 faithful traveled from Kerala state for the event, which was also streamed live onto screens set up outside churches in the southern region of India.


094-r-25-(Sound of Pope Francis speaking Italian, at canonizing ceremony in St. Peter’s Square)–Sound of Pope Francis canonizing six new saints, four Italians and two Indians in a packed ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. (23 Nov 2014)



Vatican prosecutor didn’t report abusive priest

BOSTON (AP) — Legal documents show an American priest named by Pope Francis as the Vatican’s sex crimes prosecutor was among church officials who failed to report an abusive priest to law enforcement before the now-jailed man committed other acts of sexual abuse.

The Rev. Robert Geisinger was a leader of the Chicago Jesuits in the 1990s. The Boston Globe reported in Sunday editions that legal documents show he knew as early as 1995 about abuse complaints against the Rev. Donald McGuire.

Court documents show complaints against McGuire date back to the 1960s, but the Jesuits failed for years to tell police.

Geisinger referred questions to the Vatican press office. That office said Geisinger led the effort to get McGuire dismissed from ministry.

McGuire is serving a 25-year federal prison sentence.

Geisinger was named to the Vatican post in September.


Israeli Cabinet approves nationality bill

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s Cabinet has approved a contentious bill that officially defines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

The bill still needs to be passed in parliament to become a law, but Sunday’s vote looks to further inflame tensions with Arab Israelis and Palestinians. It could also shake up Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government due to the fierce opposition of two of his more centrist partners.

The bill calls for recognizing Israel’s Jewish character, institutionalizing Jewish law as an inspiration for legislation, and delisting Arabic as an official language. Opponents say the bill undermines Israel’s democratic character, and rights groups have called it racist.

Arabs make up about 20 percent of Israel’s population and strongly oppose the bill.


123-c-17-(Aron Heller, AP correspondent)-“the Jewish people”-AP correspondent Aron Heller reports Israeli lawmakers have approved a nationality bill that calls for recognizing Israel’s Jewish character. (23 Nov 2014)


125-c-15-(Aron Heller, AP correspondent)-“state of Israel”-AP correspondent Aron Heller reports the nationality bill is likely to further inflame tensions with Arab Israelis and Palestinians. (23 Nov 2014)


124-c-16-(Aron Heller, AP correspondent)-“its Jewish nature”-AP correspondent Aron Heller reports Israel’s prime minister says the nationality bill is to help Israel deliver on its official definition as a Jewish and democratic state. (23 Nov 2014)



Kenya’s deputy president condemns extremist attack

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenya’s deputy president has denounced the killing of 28 bus passengers by Islamic extremists and said the nation’s military responded by killing more than 100 militants in Somalia.

William Ruto, speaking on national broadcasting Sunday, said Kenya is a target of international terrorist groups, including Somalia’s al-Shabab, which is linked to al-Qaida. He said Kenya’s security forces will protect citizens including by raiding mosques.

Al-Shabab said the bus attack, in which 28 non-Muslims were singled out and killed Saturday, was in retaliation for the closure of four mosques by Kenyan authorities last week.

Ruto defended the raids on the mosques, saying the houses of worship had been converted into armories and centers for plotting terrorism.

Kenyan authorities said they found explosives and a pistol when they searched the mosques.


Nigeria: Dozens dead in suspected extremist attack

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — Witnesses say dozens of fishermen were killed in an attack by suspected Islamic extremists in a northeastern Nigerian village close to Chad.

Fisherman Usman Abubakar said that the suspected Islamic militants of Boko Haram drove into the town of Doron Baga on Thursday and shot people on sight. He said he counted 60 bodies.

A spokesman for Borno state police said he had not received any official confirmation of the attack.

Communications in the area are difficult because Boko Haram has destroyed mobile phone masts, which means attacks often go unreported for days.

An attack on Wednesday in Borno left at least 45 people dead when Boko Haram members surged through the village of Azaya Kura raiding homes and stealing livestock.


Muslim clerics meet in Iran to counter extremists

QOM, Iran (AP) — Shiite and Sunni clerics from about 80 countries are meeting in Iran’s holy city of Qom to develop a strategy to combat extremists including the Islamic State group that has captured large parts of Iraq and Syria.

Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi, the chief organizer of the conference, appealed for consensus among Islam’s two main branches, urging them to expose extremist ideology as absurd and to discredit groups espousing it.

Other speakers at the two-day conference blamed the U.S. and Israel for the creation of IS, saying it was formed to position “Islam against Islam.”

IS is widely seen as a threat to Islam because it resorts to barbarism and brutal massacres in the name of the religion.