FaithWorld

Hollywood plays to the faithful and finds box-office hits with God

(Cast member Emma Watson arrives for the UK premiere of “Noah”, Leicester Square, London, March 31, 2014. REUTERS/Paul Hacket)

Hollywood has embraced God in a big – and lucrative – way.

The movie “Heaven is for Real,” which depicts the story of a young boy who claims to have visited heaven during a near death experience, is the fourth faith-based film this year to stir movie-going audiences with impressive box office numbers.

Made for $12 million, the film, which stars Greg Kinnear, collected $21.5 million over the Easter weekend in U.S. and Canadian theaters, finishing third at the box office behind bigger budget films “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” from Walt Disney and “Rio 2″ from Fox.

Two other Christian-based films also cracked the top 10. “Noah,” from Viacom’s Paramount Pictures, stars Russell Crowe as the biblical figure and was ninth. It has generated more than $93 million at domestic theaters since opening in March, according to the site Box Office Mojo.

“God’s Not Dead,” about a religious freshman college student who debates his professor over the existence of God, was tenth and has totaled $48 million over five weeks, despite playing in only about half the numbers of theaters of Hollywood’s larger films.

In Damascus, Christians briefly ignore war for Good Friday

(Debris lie inside a damaged church in Mar Bacchus Sarkis monastery, in Maloula village, northeast of Damascus, after soldiers loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad took control of it from rebel fighters, April 14, 2014. REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri )

The sound of battles echoes from the outskirts of the capital as Christians in Damascus celebrated the Easter weekend, briefly ignoring the conflict for the yearly ritual.

At the gates of Saint George Syrian Orthodox Church – just a few minutes walk from a school where a mortar attack killed several children and injured dozens earlier this week – incense was burning as several uniformed and armed men stood patrol before Good Friday evening services. They joked with each other and did not check ID cards or handbags as people entered.

Iraq’s draft child marriage law seen as political stunt – and sign of times

(Hussein Younis Ali, 14 walks with his bride Nada Ali Hussein, 17, during the wedding party at his home in Tikrit, 150 km (93 miles) north of Baghdad, October 8, 2013.REUTERS/Bakr al-Azzawi)

Proposals that would legalize the marriage of nine-year-old Iraqi girls are unlikely to become law, but indicate the growing role of religion in a country some fear is going down the path of neighboring theocracy Iran.

Based on Shi’ite Islamic jurisprudence, the Ja’afari Law’s advocates say it would bring regulation of personal status – comprising family law, wills and inheritance – into line with sharia religious law.

Filipinos nailed to cross in Good Friday ritual frowned on by Catholic Church

(A penitent grimaces as he hangs on a cross during the reenactment of the death of Jesus Christ on Good Friday in San Fernando, Pampanga in northern Philippines April 18, 2014. REUTERS/Erik De Castro )

Nearly 20 Filipinos and a Danish filmmaker were nailed to crosses to re-enact the crucifixion of Christ on Good Friday, a practice the Roman Catholic Church frowns upon as a distortion of the Easter message.

The annual Philippine ritual draws thousands of spectators to San Fernando, 80 km (50 miles) north of Manila, to see penitents flagellate themselves and a series of crucifixions in a recreation of Christ’s death on the cross.

Mega salaries are evil, papal preacher tells Vatican Good Friday service

(Pope Francis lies on the ground as he prays during the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion in Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican April 18, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer)

The Vatican’s official preacher, at a Good Friday service attended by Pope Francis, said huge salaries and the world financial crisis were modern evils caused by the “cursed hunger for gold”.

The pope presided at a “Passion of the Lord” service in St. Peter’s Basilica, the first of two papal events on the day Christians around the world commemorate Jesus’ death by crucifixion.

Greek Christians hold rare Good Friday liturgy in Turkish north Cyprus

(A Greek Orthodox bishop and an Islamic cleric attend a Good Friday liturgy at the Church of St. George Exorinos in Famagusta, northern Cyprus, April 18, 2014. REUTERS/Andreas Manolis )

Hundreds of Greek Orthodox pilgrims, some coming home after 40 years of forced exile, commemorated the crucifixion of Jesus in a rare Good Friday service in northern Cyprus on Friday.

Held in this medieval walled city in the Turkish part of the divided island, the ceremony at the 14th-century St. George Extorinos church was the idea of local authorities who invited the faithful from the Greek part of the island to visit. A local Muslim cleric joined the service in a sign of interfaith harmony.

from Photographers' Blog:

Pilgrims in the Holy Land

Jerusalem

By Ronen Zvulun

Walking through the narrow alleys of Jerusalem’s Old City and visiting its myriad holy sites at this time of year is an even more vibrant and colorful experience than usual.

Born and raised in Jerusalem, I know these streets by heart. But around the time of Holy Week and Easter they take on a different tone, as people from all over the world converge on the walled city to visit its many points of pilgrimage.

As the crowds pour through the streets, often moving in compact groups of regimented tour parties, I find myself observing the individuals. In this project, I wanted my photographs to reveal the separate people who can so easily get lost amongst the hordes that arrive in the run-up to Easter.

Time slips quietly by for Austrian nuns’ resort

(Sister Elisabeth provides a Kneipp hydrotherapy to a guest at the abbey retreat in Marienkron April 11, 2014. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger)

Being blasted with jets of hot and cold water by a 70-year-old nun may not be everyone’s idea of fun, but it has some firm fans. They return year after year to Marienkron, an Austrian health resort 3 km (2 miles) from the Hungarian border.

The regular guests relish the tranquil yet disciplined atmosphere fostered by the Cistercian nuns who run the Kneipp hydrotherapy centre, look after the visitors and offer opportunities for prayer and life-coaching.

Ground-breaking Good Friday mass signals thaw in Cyprus

(A church and a mosque are seen in a village near Famagusta, north Cyprus, February 3, 2008.  REUTERS/Fatih Saribas)

For the first time in more than half a century, a church in northern Cyprus will host Good Friday mass in a sign of a thaw in relations between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

Off limits to Greek Cypriots for 58 years, the Church of St. George Exorinos in the medieval city of Famagusta will host a liturgy on what is one of the most important religious dates in the Greek Orthodox calendar.

Pope Francis struggles to keep fellow Latin Americans in Catholic fold: poll

(Pope Francis (R) leaves at the end of his Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 16, 2014. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini )

Despite a high-profile first year as the head of the Vatican, Pope Francis has not been able to stem the tide of fellow Latin Americans turning away from Catholicism and toward Evangelicalism, or secularism in more prosperous countries.

The number of Roman Catholics in Latin America, a historical stronghold, dropped to 67 percent in 2013, from 80 percent in 1995, a survey by Chile-based pollster Latinobarometro showed on Wednesday.