FaithWorld

Science meets voodoo in a New Orleans festival of water

(Four voodoo altars)

(Four voodoo altars in Sallie Glassman’s voodoo temple in New Orleans, 30 October 2009/Charlotte))

Perhaps no other city in the United States is as well-suited as New Orleans to wed a scientific discussion of environment with a celebration of the occult.

That’s exactly what unfolded on Saturday at “Anba Dlo,” an annual New Orleans festival where prominent scientists joined with practitioners of the voodoo religion to look for answers to the challenges of dealing with water.

In “The Big Easy,” a low-lying Louisiana city devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and threatened by the BP oil spill of 2010, water is a subject nearly impossible to ignore.

Four representatives of Rand Corp, the global consultancy that helped develop the state’s master plan for coastal restoration, joined a dozen environmentalists, architects and policy specialists who took part in Anba Dlo, which translates from a Haitian dialect as “beneath the waters.”

Catholic Church should not fear change, Pope Francis says at synod close

(Pope Francis greets cardinals at the end of a mass for the beatification of former pope Paul VI in St. Peter's square at the Vatican October 19, 2014. Former pope Paul VI who led the Roman Catholic Church during one of its most turbulent modern periods and enshrined its opposition to contraception, will be beatified by Pope Francis at the Vatican. Beatification is the last step before sainthood. The late pope's move towards canonization was made possible when the Vatican recognised a miracle concerning a pregnant woman in California whose child was at risk of dying. After praying to Paul VI, the child survived. REUTERS/Tony Gentile)

(Pope Francis greets cardinals at the end of a mass for the beatification of former pope Paul VI in St. Peter’s square at the Vatican October 19, 2014. REUTERS/Tony Gentile)

Pope Francis has closed an assembly of Catholic bishops that revealed deep divisions on how to respond to homosexuality and divorce, saying on Sunday the Church should not be afraid of change and new challenges.

Francis, who has said he wants a more merciful and less rigid Church, made his comments in a sermon to some 70,000 people in St. Peter’s Square for the ceremonial closing of a two-week assembly, known as a synod.

Guestview: Opus Dei pulls few strings in Spanish business

(Catholics attend the beatification ceremony of Opus Dei Bishop Alvaro del Portillo in Madrid September 27, 2014. Thousands of Opus Dei followers from around the world attended the open air beatification mass of the former Opus Dei leader. REUTERS/Susana Vera)

(Catholics attend the beatification ceremony of Opus Dei Bishop Alvaro del Portillo in Madrid September 27, 2014. Thousands of Opus Dei followers from around the world attended the open air beatification mass of the former Opus Dei leader. REUTERS/Susana Vera) (Fiona Maharg-Bravo is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.)

By Fiona Maharg-Bravo in Madrid

On Sept. 27, over 200,000 people gathered outside Madrid for the beatification of Alvaro del Portillo, a Spanish priest who led Opus Dei 20 years ago. It was a rare public gathering in the homeland of a Catholic organisation which typically shuns publicity. The service was attended by Spain’s Minister of the Interior and the Economy Minister. High-powered sponsors helped foot the bill. Conspiracy theorists sometimes suggest that Opus Dei is a secret powerhouse inside the economy.

Pakistani Christian loses appeal against death sentence for blasphemy

(Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman who has been sentenced to death for blasphemy, sits next to Governor of the Punjab Province Salman Taseer as he talks to media after visiting her inside the central jail in Sheikhupura, located in Pakistan's Punjab Province November 20, 2010. Bibi, 36, who was handed down the death sentence by a court in Nankana district in central Punjab earlier this month, appealed President Asif Ali Zardari on Saturday to pardon her, saying she was wrongly implicated in the case. REUTERS/Asad Karim)

(Asia Bibi sits next to Punjab Province Governor Salman Taseer as he talks to media after visiting her inside the jail in Sheikhupura, Punjab Province November 20, 2010. Taseer was assassinated two months later by his own security guard  for defending her. REUTERS/Asad Karim)

A Pakistani court upheld the death penalty on Thursday against a Christian woman accused of blasphemy, her lawyer said, in a case that drew global headlines after two prominent politicians who tried to help her were assassinated.

In 2010, Asia Bibi, a mother of four, became the first woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law.

Day of the Dead comes alive in colorful Mexican tale ‘Book of Life’

(A costumed character from the film "Book of Life" walks the red carpet in Los Angeles, California October 12, 2014. REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian)

(A costumed character from the film “Book of Life” walks the red carpet in Los Angeles, California October 12, 2014. REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian)

Growing up in the Mexican border town of Tijuana, animator Jorge Gutierrez waited to see his people appear in Hollywood’s animated fare.

“I never saw myself or my family or my friends up on the screen in animation,” Gutierrez said. “I kept waiting for the Latina princess to show up, and she never did.”

California atheist jailed over objections to faith-based recovery gets $2 million settlement

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(U.S. Court of Appeals building in San Francisco, 4 May 2008/Sanfranman59)

A California atheist convicted of drug possession who was found in violation of his parole and sent back to prison after he objected to a treatment program centered on belief in a higher power has won a nearly $2 million legal settlement, his attorney said on Wednesday.

Barry Hazle Jr., 46, had sued parole officials accusing them of breaching the constitutional separation of church and state, and won the payout after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found last year he was entitled to compensation for time he was unjustly held in prison.

Months of negotiations by his lawyers resulted in a settlement of $1 million from the state and $925,000 from Westcare, a company hired by parole officials to provide drug treatment for convicts. Hazle dropped his suit this week because of the settlement.

Vatican to limit Sistine Chapel visitors to protect fragile frescoes

(DATE IMPORTED:November 21, 2009Pope Benedict XVI leads a special meeting with artists in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican November 21, 2009. Pope Benedict meets up to 500 artists from around the world, as part of efforts to turn the page on the Vatican's sometimes conflicted relationship with the contemporary art world. Picture taken with fish-eye lens. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano)

(The Sistine Chapel, as former Pope Benedict XVI met with artists on November 21, 2009. Picture taken with fish-eye lens. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano)

The Vatican will restrict the number of visitors to the Sistine Chapel to 6 million a year to protect Michelangelo’s delicate frescoes from damage caused by ever-growing crowds of tourists, an official said on Thursday.

Visitors to the chapel – where popes are elected in secret conclaves – can reach 20,000 a day in summer, with up to 2,000 people inside at a time.

Vatican waters down gay references in English translation of divisive text

(Bishops and cardinals attend a synod of bishops lead by Pope Francis in Paul VI's hall at the Vatican October 6, 2014. Pope Francis on Monday opened the Roman Catholic assembly that will discuss marriage, gay couples, birth control and other moral issues, telling his bishops to speak frankly and not be afraid of upsetting him. REUTERS/Max Rossi)

(Bishops and cardinals attend a synod of bishops at the Vatican October 6, 2014. REUTERS/Max Rossi)

The Vatican made key changes to an English translation of passages about homosexuality in a divisive document on Thursday, watering down a message that had been seen as a major shift in its tone on gay people.

The alterations pointed to continued tensions between conservatives and progressive bishops at the closed-door assembly, known as a synod, which is discussing family issues such as homosexuality, divorce and birth control.

China broadcaster says Xinjiang attack mastermind sought an Islamic state

(A Uighur man looks on as a truck carrying paramilitary policemen travel along a street during an anti-terrorism oath-taking rally in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region May 23, 2014. China launched a one-year campaign against terrorist violence in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region on Friday, after 39 people were killed and 94 injured in a terrorist attack on Thursday, Xinhua News Agency reported. The Chinese characters on the banner read, "Willingness to spill blood for the people. Countering terrorism and fighting the enemies is part of the police spirit." Picture taken May 23, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer)

(A Uighur man looks on as a truck carrying paramilitary policemen travel along a street in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region May 23, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer)

A mastermind of violence in China’s Xinjiang region in which almost 100 people were killed sought to establish an Islamic state, official media said on Wednesday, reinforcing government warnings about an Islamist threat.

A court in the far western region sentenced 12 people to death on Monday for an attack in Xinjiang’s southern Yarkant county on July 28, in which the government said 59 “terrorists” were gunned down by security forces, while 37 civilians were killed.

Saudi Arabia sentences outspoken Shi’ite cleric to death: brother

(A protester holds up a picture of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr during a rally at the coastal town of Qatif, against Sheikh Nimr's arrest July 8, 2012. Sheikh Nimr, a prominent Shi'ite Muslim cleric who was wanted by the police, was detained in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province on Sunday over calls for more rights for the minority Muslim sect in the Sunni monarchy, his brother and an activist said. REUTERS/Stringer)

(A protester holds up a picture of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr during a rally at the coastal town of Qatif, against Sheikh Nimr’s arrest July 8, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer)

A Saudi judge sentenced to death a prominent cleric on Wednesday who has called for greater rights for the kingdom’s Shi’ites, the cleric’s brother said, two years after his arrest prompted deadly protests in the oil-producing east of the country.

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was detained in July 2012 following demonstrations that erupted in February 2011 in Qatif district, home to many of the Sunni-ruled country’s Shi’ite minority.