FaithWorld

At prayer breakfast, Obama talks faith and foreign policy

(U.S. President Barack Obama bows his head in prayer during the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington February 6, 2014. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

President Barack Obama pressed for greater religious freedom in China and offered prayers for U.S. prisoners in North Korea and Iran on Thursday during remarks at an annual prayer breakfast that highlighted his Christian faith.

Obama, who attended the breakfast at a Washington hotel with his wife, Michelle, used the high profile event to renew calls for the release of two men held by U.S. adversaries in Asia and the Middle East.

“We pray for Kenneth Bae, a Christian missionary who’s been held in North Korea for 15 months … His family wants him home. And the United States will continue to do everything in our power to secure his release,” Obama said.

“We pray for Pastor Saeed Abedini. He’s been held in Iran for more than 18 months, sentenced to eight years in prison on charges relating to his Christian beliefs.”

Pope’s Harley Davidson auctioned in Paris for almost 20 times its price

(Pope Francis signature is seen on the tank of his 1,585 cc Harley Davidson Dyna Super Glide  auctioned for charity in Paris on February 6. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier)

A Harley-Davidson motorbike sold at auction on Thursday for almost 20 times its estimated value – because its previous owner was the pope.

Signed “Francesco” on its tank, the Dyna Super Glide sold for 241,500 euros ($328,300), with a Harley-Davidson leather jacket, also signed by the pope, going for 57,500 euros, both to anonymous bidders, auction house Bonhams said.

Disgraced Catholic order denounces founder Maciel, apologises to victims

(Pope John Paul II blesses Father Marcial Maciel during a special audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican on November 30, 2004. REUTERS/Tony Gentile)

A disgraced Catholic religious order whose late founder lived a double life as a paedophile, womanizer and drug addict officially denounced him on Thursday and apologized to his “many victims”.

The Legionaries of Christ, which former members said was run like a cult rooted in secrecy, accused Father Marcial Maciel of “reprehensible and objectively immoral behavior” as head of the order from 1941 until former Pope Benedict removed him in 2006.

The real-life Philomena meets Pope Francis and says all is forgiven

(Philomena Lee poses following a news conference in downtown Rome, February 6, 2014. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi)

Philomena Lee, whose long search for the son she was forced to give up as an unwed teenager in Catholic Ireland inspired the Oscar-nominated film bearing her name, says that after meeting Pope Francis she feels forgiven and has forgiven.

“He really made me feel so good inside because I carried the guilt inside me for 50 years, without telling anybody,” Lee, 80, said on Thursday, a day after a brief meeting with the pope.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews protest after funds cut in Israel conscription row

(Israeli border policemen scuffle with ultra-Orthodox Jewish protesters during a demonstration in Jerusalem February 6, 2014. REUTERS/Baz Ratner)

Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel blocked highways and clashed with police on Thursday in protest at a government decision to cut funds to seminary students who avoid military service.

Police arrested about three dozen demonstrators at a number of hot spots, including eight who threw stones at officers, and used water cannon to disperse a crowd blocking the main road to Jerusalem, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

Reclusive cleric Gülen’s followers pose biggest threat to Turkey’s Erdogan

(Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen is pictured at his residence in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania September 26, 2013.  REUTERS/Selahattin Sevi/Zaman Daily via Cihan News Agency)

At the FEM University Preparation School in Uskudar, a conservative district on the Asian side of Istanbul, young men are quietly receiving specialized coaching in how to pass the exams that give access to the most important jobs in Turkey.

To a casual eye, nothing seems remarkable. As in nearly all Turkish schools, a portrait of modern Turkey’s secular founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk hangs in every classroom. Ataturk’s address to youth hangs on the wall at the school’s entrance.

In private diaries published in Poland, Pope John Paul asked: Am I serving God?

(A man browses a copy of “John Paul II: I am very much in God’s hands. Personal notes 1962-2003″ at a bookstore in the centre of Warsaw February 5, 2014. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel)

Pope John Paul II spent decades constantly questioning whether he was worthy of the role he was called to carry out, according to private diaries published on Wednesday in defiance of his request that they be destroyed.

John Paul, who led the Roman Catholic Church from 1978 until his death in 2005, will be made a saint in April and remains for many Catholics a towering model of faith and commitment.

U.N report puts pressure on Catholic orders in Ireland over Magdalene laundries

(Spokesman Steven O’Riordan (C) speaks as he sits with, Marina Gambold (L-R), Mary Smyth, Maureen Sullivan and Diane Croghan, at a “Magdalene Survivors Together” news conference in Dublin February 5, 2013. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton)

Advocacy groups for women forced to work at the Catholic Church’s notorious Magdalene laundries in Ireland backed calls from the United Nations for religious orders to pay compensation and face prosecution for decades of abuse.

In an unprecedented report on Wednesday, the U.N. demanded that the Vatican “immediately remove” all clergy who are known or suspected child abusers. It also urged the Holy See to conduct an investigation into the laundries.

Scathing U.N. report demands Vatican act against clerical sex abuse of children

(Abuse victim Joe Iacono looks on during a news conference where thousands of documents on victims of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy from the Chicago Archdiocese were released in Chicago, Illinois, January 21, 2014. REUTERS/Jim Young

The United Nations on Wednesday accused the Vatican of systematically turning a blind eye to decades of sexual abuse of children by priests, and demanded it immediately turn over known or suspected offenders to civil justice.

In a scathingly blunt report, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child said Church officials had imposed a “code of silence” on clerics and moved abusers from parish to parish “in an attempt to cover up such crimes”.

French government retreats on family policy reforms after big protests

(People protest in support of traditional family and education values, in Paris February 2, 2014.  REUTERS/Benoit Tessier)

France’s Socialist government dropped plans on Monday to update family law this year after huge weekend protests by conservatives against gay-friendly reforms they say harm traditional families.

The government tried on Monday to reassure the protesters, who numbered over 100,000 in Paris and Lyon on Sunday, that the new law would not legalise assisted procreation for lesbian couples or surrogate motherhood for gay men who wanted children.