FaithWorld

Comic superhero Ultraman slain by Malaysian censors because of “Allah”

(Japanese children’s television heros Ultra Seven (L) and Ultraman (R) preview software created  from their television series in Tokyo February 15, 1999. REUTERS/Eriko Sugita)

Malaysia has banned a comic book starring the Japanese superhero Ultraman because it could disturb “public order”, sparking a torrent of online ridicule from those who saw it as the latest sign of excessive censorship in the Muslim-majority country.

The book, “Ultraman The Ultra Power”, was banned from Feb. 18 with a penalty of up to three years’ imprisonment for anyone who imported or published the comic, state news agency Bernama reported the home ministry as saying.

The book was on a list of banned publications on the ministry’s website on Friday.

Home ministry officials did not respond to a request for comment on the ban and on reports that it had been implemented because it contains a reference comparing Ultraman to “Allah”, the Malay and Arabic word for God.

U.S. personal trainer admits guilt in violent Jewish divorce scheme

(Orthodox Jewish wedding with chupah in Vienna’s first district, close to Judengasse, January 2007/Gryffindor)

A New York personal trainer pleaded guilty on Thursday to being part of a New Jersey ring that used violence to coerce Jewish husbands to agree to grant their wives religious divorces, federal prosecutors said.

David Hellman, 31, was one of 10 men, including two Orthodox Jewish rabbis, arrested last fall in the alleged scheme in which they hired themselves out to unhappy wives who wanted their husbands kidnapped and beaten until they agreed to divorce, the prosecutors in New Jersey said.

Russian Orthodox Church sings from Putin’s hymn sheet on Ukraine

(Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (L) and Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill arrive for the meeting with Russian Orthodox church bishops in Moscow February 1, 2013.REUTERS/Sergei Gunyeev/Ria Novosti)

As troops loyal to Russian President Vladimir Putin were seizing control of Crimea, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow deduced that an “internal political crisis” in Ukraine was threatening its territorial integrity.

Patriarch Kirill’s words echoed Putin’s argument – ridiculed in the West – that armed units in Ukraine’s southern region were not Russian soldiers but self-defense forces fearing for their safety under the new order in Kiev.

Pope Francis confesses to pilfering a cross from a dead priest

(Pope Francis at the Vatican June 17, 2013. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini )

Pope Francis revealed on Thursday he had succumbed to “that thief in all of us” and broke the seventh commandment by stealing a small cross from the coffin of a priest so he could remember the man.

In off-the-cuff comments to Roman priests (here in English and in Italian), Francis recalled when he was in his native Buenos Aires, he went to the funeral of an elderly priest he admired.

He noticed that there were no flowers in the coffin. He bought some and laid them out in the coffin where the dead priest was holding a rosary in his hand.

Singapore’s megachurches move to export lucrative religion

(Worshippers attend a church service at the City Harvest Church in Singapore March 1, 2014. REUTERS/Edgar Su )

“God is here, God is here,” croons Singapore church official Sun Ho as she struts across a neon-lit stage and thousands of people in the congregation pump their hands and sing along.

Kong Hee, the church’s founding pastor and Sun Ho’s husband, then takes the stage. In keeping with the electrifying mood, he invites his followers to speak “in tongues” and a pulsing murmur echoes through the auditorium of 8,000 people.

Popeis “immensely popular” with U.S. Catholics, but no ‘Francis effect’ seen in Pew poll

(Pope Francis blesses the altar during Ash Wednesday at Santa Sabina Basilica in Rome March 5, 2014. REUTERS/Max Rossi )

One year after his election, Pope Francis is “immensely popular among American Catholics,” a survey said on Thursday, but there is no sign of a “Francis effect” inspiring more to attend Mass or do volunteer work.

The Washington-based Pew Research Center said 85 percent of Catholics in the United States viewed the Argentine-born pontiff favourably, with 51 percent reporting a “very favourable” view of him, while only 4 percent expressed a negative opinion.

‘Jewish state’ recognition demand adds new Israeli-Palestinian trip wire

(Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington, March 4, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Theiler)

When peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians resumed last July, everyone assumed that the main sticking points would remain, as ever, security, borders, the status of Jerusalem and the plight of refugees.

It looks like everyone was wrong.

As the United States struggles to put together a framework deal that will allow negotiations to proceed beyond an initial April deadline, they have run into an unexpected roadblock – Israel’s firm demand to be recognised as a specifically Jewish state and the Palestinians’ adamant rejection of any such idea.

Italian publisher launches Pope fan magazine, including centerfold pictures

(Pope Francis waves as he arrives to lead the general audience in Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican March 5, 2014. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi )

An Italian publisher on Wednesday launched a fan magazine devoted exclusively to Pope Francis – including a centerfold – just as the pope said he did not want to be seen as a superstar.

Il Mio Papa (My Pope), hit the newsstands with a 69-page first edition full of photos of the pope, his life story, his appeals for peace and articles about what people think of him.

I’m not a superman, Pope Francis says in new interview

(Pope Francis waves as he arrives to lead the general audience in Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican March 5, 2014. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi )

Pope Francis has played down the notion that he is a “superman” who will bring sweeping reforms to the Roman Catholic Church, stressing that its ban on contraception and opposition to gay marriage will remain in place.

The pope, in an interview with Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper published on Wednesday, also said no institution had moved with more “transparency and responsibility” than the Church to protect children in the wake of its sexual abuse scandals.

from Edward Hadas:

The ongoing ethics struggle of banks

The Swiss Bank Employees Association has told an uncomfortable truth: it was “generally known” that for many years some of their employers profited from customers’ “tax evasion.” That is incontestable, as many of the banks’ managers concede. But the practice, supposedly now ended, raises an important question about ethics and business. Why were neither the managers of the Swiss banks nor their employees worried by this business model?

The hardly hidden truth was included in an Association press release which called on Brady Dougan, the chief executive of Credit Suisse, to apologize for insulting the Swiss bank’s employees.

Dougan, who was trying to explain to U.S. legislators how Credit Suisse had stopped helping Americans escape taxes, said that “some Swiss-based private bankers went to great lengths to disguise their bad conduct from Credit Suisse executive management.” The claim, said the employees’ group, slighted the professionalism of the workforce. Besides, it was “hardly credible.”