FaithWorld

Iran-born writer “kills” ayatollah in novel

A general view of Iran's late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's shrine with pictures of him and Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran

GIJON, Spain – Nairi Nahapetian gets her own back on the Iranian regime which forced her into exile by writing a novel about the murder of a powerful religious leader.

Nahapetian returned to Iran as a journalist in 2005 but says that she had to turn to fiction to fully describe the complexities of the homeland she fled when she was nine.

“Thanks to fiction I can, for example, kill an ayatollah, which is something you cannot do in real life,” Nahapetian said at the “Semana Negra” crime-writing festival, attended by a million people every year in Gijon, northern Spain.

In “Qui a tue l’Ayatollah Kanuni” (Who killed Ayatollah Kanuni), Narek, an exiled journalist who returns to Iran, is in the wrong place at the wrong time when a religious leader is found dead. 

Police send “holy” Roman robber to Queen of Heaven jail

(A prisoner stares out of a window at Regina Coeli jail in Rome August 4, 2006/Dario Pignatelli )

Italian police have found a fitting temporary home for an accused jewellery robber whose priestly disguise failed to help him slip past their dragnet.

Police said they tracked down and arrested the 37-year-old male suspect by reviewing closed circuit television footage around Via del Corso and Via Condotti, the swanky shopping district near the Spanish Steps, after a July 4th hold-up at one of Rome’s most prestigious jewellery shops.

Russian extremism law targets religious minorities, dissenters

jehovah (Photo: Alexander Kalistratov leaves a court building in Gorno-Altaysk, December 16, 2010/Alexandr Tyryshkin)

When armed Russian security officers forced their way into Alexander Kalistratov’s home, he hardly imagined they were after his books. The local leader of a congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Siberia now faces up to two years in prison if found guilty this week of inciting religious hatred for distributing literature about his beliefs.

“They swept everything from my shelves without even bothering to sort it, even my Bible,” Kalistratov, a street sweeper, said by telephone from the Siberian town of Gorno-Altaysk, 3,600 km (2,200 miles) east of Moscow. His trial is the first of a dozen pending against Jehovah’s Witnesses and scores of others caught up in the widening net of criminal prosecutions brought under Russia’s anti-extremism law.

Rights activists say the vaguely worded legislation, first passed in 2002, is increasingly being exploited by the authorities to persecute religious minorities, intimidate the media and clamp down on opposition activists.

Canadian police charge senior Orthodox prelate with sex crimes

Canadian police have charged a senior Orthodox  prelate with sexually assaulting two boys during the 1980s, the latest in a tide of such charges worldwide involving church officials. Winnipeg police said on Thursday that Archbishop Kenneth William Storheim, 64, flew from Edmonton, Alberta, to Winnipeg to turn himself in and was charged with two counts of sexual assault.

Storheim is the archibishop of the Archdiocese of Canada of the Orthodox Church in America but has been on a leave of absence since October 1, according to a statement on the church’s website. Storheim, who was raised a Lutheran and was an Anglican rector before being received in the Orthodox Church in 1978, worked at a church in a poor Winnipeg neighborhood from 1984 to 1987 and later moved to Edmonton and Ottawa.

According to his biography on the church’s website, Archbishop Seraphim (as he is known in the Orthodox Church) “serves in a number of administrative capacities in the Orthodox Church in America. He is secretary of the Holy Synod of Bishops, chairman of the Department of External Affairs and Interchurch Relations and chairman of the Board of Theological Education. As chair of the Department of External Affairs and Interchurch Relations, he has represented the OCA at numerous events in Russia, Ukraine, the Middle East, and throughout Europe. He also is co-chairman of the Bishops’ Dialogue (North America) between the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas [SCOBA] and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. Most recently, he was appointed Administrator of the Metropolitan See of the Orthodox Church in America upon the retirement of Metropolitan Herman on September 4, 2008.”

Catholic bishops must take more action on sexual abuse – Vatican

vatican 2The Vatican has told Roman Catholic bishops around the world that they will have to take more responsibility to prevent sexual abuse of children by priests. It also said in a statement issued after a day-long meeting of cardinals on Friday that it was preparing new guidelines for bishops on how to deal with the sexual abuse, including cooperation with local authorities. (Photo: A picture of a clergy abuse victim at a news conference by SNAP (Survivors Networks of those Abused by Priests) in Rome November 19, 2010/Alessia Pierdomenico)

Roman Catholic cardinals from around the world held a rare gathering to discuss religious freedom, sexual abuse of children by priests and accepting converts from the Anglican church.

Cardinal William Levada, the American head of the doctrinal office headed by Pope Benedict before his election, spoke of “greater responsibility of bishops for the protection of faithful entrusted to them,” the statement said.

French “Satanic defenestration” story thrown out the window

devil 1Apart from the strikes against pension reform, one of the big stories in France that made headlines around the world these past few days has been about 12 people of African origin who reportedly jumped out of an apartment window in a Paris suburb to flee from a man they thought was the devil. A four-month old baby died in the incident. The initial stories spoke of satanic rituals, maybe something to do with voodoo, and a crazed collective leap into the dark. (Images: The Devil, by Polish sculptor Jan Graczyk, 2005/Michal Graczyk)

The drama was said to have begun when a woman awoke late at night to find her husband walking in the bedroom naked. As one report put it:

She began screaming ‘it’s the devil! it’s the devil!’, and the man ran into the other room where 11 others adults and children were watching television. One woman grabbed a knife and stabbed the man before other family members pushed him out through the front door.

Pope dismays anti-Mafia activists on Sicily visit with scant mention of crime mob

falconePope Benedict said on Sunday the Mafia represented “a path of death” that Sicily’s young should shun but he dismayed activists who said he was too timid and should have given the crime group a moral hammering.

Benedict, making his first visit to Sicily as pope, celebrated an open-air mass for more than 200,000 people near the Sicilian capital’s port and then later addressed a rally of tens of thousands of young people. (Photo: Pope Benedict at a memorial in Palermo commemorating Italian judge Giovanni Falcone, killed in 1992 by the Mafia, October 3, 2010/Osservatore Romano)

The pope mentioned the Mafia only in that sentence of his two-page speech to the young people, which was centered on family values, and in a speech to bishops in which he mentioned that a priest, Pino Puglisi, had been killed by the mob in 1993.

Pope apologizes for “unspeakable crimes” of sexual abuse

papal flag (Photo: Girl waves papal flag before a Mass with Pope Benedict in London September 18, 2010/Kevin Coombs)

Pope Benedict apologized to victims of sexual abuse on Saturday, saying pedophile priests had brought “shame and humiliation” on him and the entire Roman Catholic Church. It was the 83-year-old pontiff’s latest attempt to come to grips with the scandal that has rocked the 1.1 billion-member Church, particularly in Europe and the United States.

“I think of the immense suffering caused by the abuse of children, especially within the Church and by her ministers. Above all, I express my deep sorrow to the innocent victims of these unspeakable crimes …,” he said in his sermon in  Westminster Cathedral, the mother church for Roman Catholics in England and Wales and a symbol of the struggle of Catholics here in the late 19th century to assert their rights after the Reformation.

“I also acknowledge with you the shame and humiliation that all of us have suffered because of these sins,” he said, adding that he hoped “this chastisement” would contribute to the healing of the victims and the purification of the Church.

Iran tells world: don’t make woman’s stoning a human rights issue

stoningForeign countries should not interfere in Iran’s legal system and stop trying to turn the case of a woman sentenced to be stoned to death for adultery into a human rights issue, Tehran said on Tuesday. (Photo: Demonstrator against stoning in Trafalgar Square, London, August 28, 2010/Paul Hackett)

The case of the 43-year-old mother of two, condemned to death for illicit sex and charged with involvement in her husband’s murder, provoked an international outcry, with Brazil offering her asylum and the Vatican speaking out against the “brutal” punishment.

stoning 2A government spokesman said the furor was based on false information about Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s case.  “Unfortunately, (they are) defending a person who is being tried for murder and adultery, which are two major crimes of this lady and should not become a human rights issue,” Foreign Ministry Ramin Mehmanparast told a news conference.

Vatican toughens child sex abuse rules, says ordaining women is serious crime

The Vatican made sweeping revisions on Thursday it its laws on sexual abuse, doubling a statute of limitations for disciplinary action against priests and extending the use of fast-track procedures to defrock them.

In an unexpected move, the Vatican also codified the “attempted ordination of a woman” to the priesthood as one of the most serious crimes against Church law.

The changes, the first in nine years, affect Church procedures for defrocking abusive priests. They make some legal procedures which were so far allowed under an ad hoc basis, the global norms to confront the crisis.