nation and world

U.S. urged to be more vigorous in protecting religious freedom globally

WASHINGTON — A U.S. congressman told attendees at a Washington summit on Christian persecution that "more than ever before, vigorous U.S. leadership and diplomacy are needed to address religious freedom violations globally."

"Religious persecution is festering and exploding around the world. What has been unconscionable for decades, centuries, has gotten worse," Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, said May 12 in remarks at the World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians.

Supreme Court seems to lean toward church in Lutheran playground case

WASHINGTON — Supreme Court justices seemed to side with the church in a separation of church and state case argued April 19 about a Missouri Lutheran preschool barred from receiving state funds for playground resurfacing using recycled tires because it is a church property.

In his first minutes before the court, David Cortman, arguing for the church in Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, said: "The question is why would someone's religious status matter in the first place to receiving a government benefit?"

An empty tomb and a bodily resurrection: why it matters

A life-size depiction of Jesus being laid in the tomb is seen April 9 in the Stations of the Cross on the grounds of the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass.

WASHINGTON — Catholics and other Christians have grown up believing in the Resurrection, but the apostles themselves were among the first who were skeptical that Jesus arose from the dead.

They didn't believe it at first when they were told by the women who had come to anoint the crucified Jesus' body but instead found an empty tomb.

‘Who is waiting for you?’ | Filipino Catholics celebrate Simbang Gabi

Filipinos celebrated Simbang Gabi Dec. 15 at Holy Rosary Cathedral in Vancouver, British Columbia. Simbang Gabi is a Filipino tradition of nine Masses typically celebrated at dawn on the days leading up to Christmas Eve.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Two figures dressed as Mary and Joseph made their way down the center aisle of Vancouver's Holy Rosary Cathedral. At various points, they stopped and asked a parishioner playing the part of an innkeeper for a place to stay. Invariably the reply was negative. Finally, the two figures reached the foot of the altar and asked the congregation if they had any room for Christ. The congregation said they did have room for Christ, and only then did the entrance procession for the first Simbang Gabi Mass of the year begin.

Despite distance, Iraqi Christians keep the spirit of Christmas alive

ISTANBUL — Sami Dankha, his three brothers and their families used to kick off Christmas celebrations by attending a packed Christmas Eve Mass at St. Thomas Church in Baghdad. Wearing brand new clothes and sporting fresh haircuts, they spent the night chatting, singing and eating pacha, a dish made from sheep's head that Iraqis consider a delicacy and a staple of Christmas.

Philippine bishops urge All Souls' Day prayers for drug war victims

Men carry the coffin of Vicente Batiancila Oct. 23, who police say was among five victims of recent drug-related killings, during his funeral in Manila, Philippines. As Filipinos remembered their departed on All Souls’ Day, the country’s church leaders called on the faithful to also pray for those who fell victim in the government’s all-out war against illegal drugs.

MANILA, Philippines (CNS) — As Filipinos remembered their departed on All Souls' Day, the country's church leaders called on the faithful to also pray for those who fell victim in the government's all-out war against illegal drugs.

Father Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the public affairs office of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, said that praying for the dead on All Souls' Day is a "Christian obligation."

"More so, for those who died in violent circumstances," the priest added.

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