FaithWorld

Reported Christian ‘martyr’ deaths double in 2013, Open Doors survey says

Bishop-General Macarius, a Coptic Orthodox leader, walks around the burnt and damaged Evangelical Church in Egypt’s Minya governorate, about 245 km (152 miles) south of Cairo, August 26, 2013.  REUTERS/Louafi Larbi

Reported cases of Christians killed for their faith around the world doubled in 2013 from the year before, with Syria accounting for more than the whole global total in 2012, according to an annual survey.

Open Doors, a non-denominational group supporting persecuted Christians worldwide, said on Wednesday it had documented 2,123 “martyr” killings, compared with 1,201 in 2012. There were 1,213 such deaths in Syria alone last year, it said.

“This is a very minimal count based on what has been reported in the media and we can confirm,” said Frans Veerman, head of research for Open Doors. Estimates by other Christian groups put the annual figure as high as 8,000.

The Open Doors report placed North Korea at the top of its list of 50 most dangerous countries for Christians, a position it has held since the annual survey began 12 years ago. Somalia, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan were the next four in line.

Pope Francis set to name new cardinals to reflect his vision of the Catholic Church

Cardinals attend the Consistory ceremony in Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican November 24, 2007. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

Pope Francis is set to make the most important decisions of his young papacy in the next few weeks by naming new cardinals – the “princes of the Church” who will help him set its future course and one day elect his successor from their number.

A pope’s choice of cardinals is one of the clearest signals of the direction in which he wants the 1.2 billion-strong Roman Catholic Church to go, and what type of man he wants to succeed him.

Remaining Armenians pray for peace at Orthodox Christmas in Damascus

Armenian Orthodox Christians gather at their church of St Sarkis in Old Damascus for Christmas service January 6, 2014, in this handout photograph released by Syria’s national news agency SANA. A small congregation of Armenian Orthodox Christians prayed for peace at a Christmas service in Old Damascus on Monday and reflected on the hardships of living in an uneasy middle ground in Syria’s increasingly sectarian conflict. They lamented a low turnout compared to previous years – many have fled Syria and others were unable to get through a maze of checkpoints and traffic bottlenecks to reach the church of St. Sarkis for Armenian Christmas, celebrated on Jan. 6. REUTERS/SANA/Handout via Reuters

A small congregation of Armenian Orthodox Christians prayed for peace at a Christmas service in Old Damascus on Monday and reflected on the hardships of living in an uneasy middle ground in Syria’s increasingly sectarian conflict.

They lamented a low turnout compared to previous years – many have fled Syria and others were unable to get through a maze of checkpoints and traffic bottlenecks to reach the church of St. Sarkis for Armenian Christmas, celebrated on January 6.

Death threats against secular MPs disrupt Tunisian constitution debate

A general view of Tunisia’s Constituent Assemblyat the beginning of voting on the country’s draft constitution in Tunis January 3, 2014. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

Death threats against Tunisian secular lawmakers on Sunday disrupted voting on a new constitution, underscoring tensions over the role of Islam and the transition to democracy three years after the nation’s revolution.

Tunisia’s parliament started voting last week on the new charter, which is meant to put democracy back on track after deadlock between ruling Islamists and secular parties since the 2011 fall of autocratic leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

Vatican denies Pope Francis is open to recognition of gay civil unions

Two bride figurines adorn the top of a wedding cake during an illegal same-sex wedding ceremony in central Melbourne August 1, 2009. REUTERS/Mick Tsikas

The Vatican  has denied Italian media reports that recent comments by Pope Francis signaled his openness to the legal recognition of same-sex unions in Italy.

Francis, in a conversation with leaders of religious orders published by a Jesuit journal on Friday, said the Catholic Church had to try not to scare away children who live in complex family situations, such as those whose parents were separated and those living with gay couples.

Malaysia’s Islamic authorities seize Bibles as “Allah” row deepens

(Two copies of the Bible in Malay (L) and the Iban dialect (R) are seen in this picture illustration taken in Kuala Lumpur January 2, 2014. The words on the books read, “Good News Bible” (L) and “New Holy Book” (R). REUTERS/Samsul Said)

Islamic authorities in Malaysia on Thursday seized 321 Bibles from a Christian group because they used the word Allah to refer to God, signalling growing intolerance that may inflame ethnic and religious tension in the Southeast Asian country.

The raid comes after a Malaysian court in October ruled that the Arabic word was exclusive to Muslims, most of whom are ethnic Malays, the largest ethnic group in the country alongside sizeable Christian, Hindu and Buddhist minorities.

Pope Francis drew 6.6 million to Vatican in 2013, three times more than Benedict

(A general view of Saint Peter’s Square is seen as the faithful gather during Pope Francis’ Palm Sunday mass at the Vatican March 24, 2013. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi)

More than 6.6 million people attended events with Pope Francis at the Vatican from his election in March to the end of 2013, figures released on Thursday showed, compared to 2.3 million for former Pope Benedict in all of 2012.

The Vatican said the figures were based on the number of tickets issued for papal events where they are needed, such as general audiences, Masses and private audiences. They were also based on estimates of the number of people at events where tickets are not needed, such as his weekly appearance from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square.

India’s Modi says he was shaken to the core by Gujarat’s 2002 religious riots

(Smoke pours from the carriage of a train on fire in Godhra, in the Indian state of Gujarat, February 27, 2002, during the riots there that claimed at least 1,000 lives. REUTERS/Str)

Indian prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi has said he was deeply pained by religious violence during his time as chief minister of Gujarat state, seeking closure on a deeply divisive issue that has dogged him for more than a decade.

Modi’s remarks on his blog were the furthest the powerful Hindi nationalist has gone to commiserate with the victims of the 2002 religious bloodshed, one of India’s worst since the 1947 partition of the subcontinent.

Jewish Congress offers soccer organisations help to fight anti-Semitism

(Nicolas Anelka runs during a training session in Shanghai July 24, 2012. REUTERS/Aly Song)

The European Jewish Congress (EJC) offered on Tuesday to help European soccer’s governing body UEFA and the English FA to fight anti-Semitism in the sport following Nicolas Anelka’s “quenelle” salute.

It has also called on the soccer authorities to ban Anelka, 34, who is being investigated by the English FA, for the gesture.

It’s official: Vatican says Pope Francis has not abolished sin

(A panel depicting the sin of gluttony in “The Seven Mortal Sins and the Four Last Things” by Hieronymus Bosch, around 1500, now in the Prado Museum in Madrid)

The Vatican felt compelled on Tuesday to deny that Pope Francis had “abolished sin”, after a well-known Italian intellectual wrote that he had effectively done so through his words and gestures.

The singular exchange began on Sunday when Eugenio Scalfari, an atheist who writes opinion pieces for the left-leaning La Repubblica newspaper, published an article titled “Francis’ Revolution: He has abolished sin”.