Vatican takes first spot in Internet top level domain name draw

(The Vatican Christmas tree is lit up after a ceremony in Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican December 14, 2012. REUTERS/Max Rossi)

The Vatican has come out in first place in a long-awaited draw to expand the Internet address system with new domain names that go beyond the usual .com, .org or .net endings.

ICANN, the corporation that oversees the Internet address system, announced this week the domain name .catholic written in Chinese characters will be the first bid it considers in a drive to expand and reorganise sites on the World Wide Web.

The same extension in Arabic letters ranked 25th in the random draw and the Vatican’s application for a version in Cyrillic for Russian and other Slavic languages came in 96th.

Ranking high means the applicant could get approval early next year to operate the new domain and approve addresses using it. In the Vatican’s case, Rome could then ensure only genuine Roman Catholic institutions get to use that domain name.

“No religion” is the third-largest world group after Christians, Muslims

(Chinese pay respects at tombstones of their ancestors the Qingming (tomb-sweeping) festival in Xiangfan, Hubei province April 4, 2010. Although 52 percent of Chinese say they have no religious affiliation, 44 percent of them say they have worshipped at a tomb in the past year. REUTERS/Stringer)

People with no religious affiliation make up the third-largest global group in a new study of the size of the world’s faiths, placing after Christians and Muslims and just before Hindus.

The study, based on extensive data for the year 2010, also showed Islam and Hinduism are the faiths mostly likely to expand in the future while Jews have the weakest growth prospects.

French march for gay marriage, but fewer than those opposing the law

(General view as some 60,000 people, according to numbers given by Paris police, take part in a march for same-sex marriage and in support of the government’s draft law to legalise marriage and adoption for same-sex couples in Paris December 16, 2012 REUTERS/Julien Muguet )

Supporters of same-sex marriage and adoption marched through Paris on Sunday to back the French government’s planned reform and counter unexpectedly strong opposition from conservative and religious groups.

Police said about 60,000 demonstrators turned out, fewer than the 100,000 who protested last month against the law due to be passed by mid-2013. Paris’s gay mayor Bertrand Delanoe joined the march along with several other left-wing politicians. The organisers’ estimate, usually higher than that of the police, was 150,000.

British gay marriage safeguards may not ringfence Church of England

(Jenny Taylor adjusts a wedding cake figurine of a couple made up of two men at the Gay Wedding show at the Town Hall in Manchester, November 6, 2005/Ian Hodgson.)

Britain looks set to legalize same-sex marriages in the next year or two but legal safeguards it will add to protect the Church of England from having to conduct them may not survive the expected court challenges to them.

Presenting the government’s proposals on Tuesday, Culture Secretary Maria Miller promised that a “quadruple lock” of legal safeguards would bar any judge from forcing the Church to perform the gay nuptials that its leadership opposes.

France steps up struggle against religious radicals, including hardline Catholics

(France’s Interior Minister Manuel Valls delivers a speech during a visit to Ajaccio on the French Mediterranean Island of Corsica, November 25, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer )

France will deport foreign-born imams and disband radical faith-based groups, including hardline traditionalist Catholics, if a new surveillance policy signals they suffer a “religious pathology” and could become violent.

A French Islamist shooting spree last March that killed three soldiers and four Jews showed how quickly religiously radicalized people could turn to force, Interior Minister Manuel Valls told a conference on the official policy of secularism.

German Catholic Church says most sex abuser priests psychologically normal

(Munich’s Catholic cathedral Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), 30 September 2012/Dguendel)

A German Catholic Church study showed most priests found guilty of sexually abusing minors were psychologically normal, according to survey results.

Only 12 percent of those surveyed were diagnosed as paedophiles, said the report released by Trier Bishop Stephan Ackermann, the church’s spokesman on abuse cases.

European Union sees faith bias problem, but isn’t sure of a solution

(Should Muslim teachers be allowed to wear full face veils in European schools? They can at this Palestinian school in the village of Hawara near Nablus. Picture taken on September 1, 2009. REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini)

Europe’s growing religious diversity is creating social and legal tensions that cry out for reform, but even a European Union seeking solutions may not have the political will to implement them.

That was the impression given this week when researchers for a three-year EU-funded study of discrimination and other problems faced by minority faiths in member countries presented some of their proposals to European Commission officials.

Anglican Communion must not drift apart, Archbishop Williams says in farewell letter

(Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, addresses the theology think tank Theos in London October 1, 2012. REUTERS/Paul Hackett )

The outgoing leader of the world’s 80 million Anglicans has said their national churches must live with some religious diversity but not become like “distant relatives who sometimes send Christmas cards to each other”.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams told the primates of the worldwide Anglican Communion that their loose association of 38 member churches “has endured much suffering and confusion and still lives with this in many ways.”

Dutch blasphemy law to fall and Irish one may follow

(Protesters from Hizb ut-Tahrir demonstrate against insults to Islam at the American Embassy in London September 16, 2012. A wave of furious anti-Western protests against a film mocking the Prophet Mohammad abated over the weekend, but U.S. policy in the Muslim world remained overshadowed by 13 minutes of amateurish video on the Internet. REUTERS/Neil Hall)

Laws criminalising blasphemy are set to be struck down soon in the Netherlands and may disappear in Ireland, but rising tensions in economically battered Greece seem to be reviving pressure to prosecute offences against God.

Blasphemy appears more frequently in headlines from the Muslim world, where countries such as Pakistan or Saudi Arabia readily punish perceived critics of Islam, but a lesser known trend is a general movement in Europe away from such laws.

German film producers plan Pope Benedict biopic

(A CTV (Central Television Vatican) cameraman stands near Pope Benedict XVI during a weekly general audience in the Vatican in this August 27, 2008 file photo.  REUTERS/Chris Helgren)

Two German producers have bought the film rights to an upcoming biography of Pope Benedict by the Bavarian author of three best-selling interview books with the pontiff.

The Odeon Film company said producers Marcus Mende and Peter Weckert planned a film for international release based on a biography by journalist Peter Seewald due to be published in early 2014.