Today is set to be the most depressing day of the year (according to British tweets, at least). At least you’re not jumping into an icy river (see below).
Chilly Epiphany: Today is Epiphany, a celebration for many Christians marking the day when the magi visited Jesus. Think you’re cold? Thousands of young men dove into rivers and lakes across Bulgaria earlier today to retrieve crucifixes cast by priests in a traditional ritual marking Epiphany. Speaking of cold, as the country plunges into below-zero temperatures, Tobin Grant reminds us that Dante envisioned cold as a torment worthy of hell.
A family’s ‘divine intervention': Such cold temperatures can provoke conversations about those out on the streets. An AP photographer on break from usual White House duty captured photos of the cold impacting D.C., including a man warming himself on a grate. After one of the photos ran in the (Rochester, N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle, family members of Nicholas Simmons, missing since New Year’s Day, recognized him. “Nick is alive and obviously not well,” read a Facebook post by Simmons’ mother, Michelle Simmons. “(We) are going to get him home safe and this is by far the greatest example of God’s love and divine intervention I have ever experienced.”
A pope for all: Pope Francis’ messages of economic justice and tolerance have been seized upon by Democrats and Republicans alike. Meanwhile, more details have been released about the pope’s visit to Amman, Bethlehem and Jerusalem on May 24-26.
Utah’s family unit: Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor is considering Utah’s request to put an immediate halt on gay marriages in the state. Legal arguments regarding the overturned ban have focused on whether gays and lesbians can be suitable parents, provoking a debate on family values in the heavily Mormon populated state.
A sinless christening? The Church of England is introducing a christening ceremony that removes the requirement on parents and godparents to “repent sins” and “reject the devil.” In 2011, a group of clergy brought forward a motion to the General Synod requesting materials to be used as an alternative in the baptism service “in culturally appropriate and accessible language.”
Religious relations in Egypt: Egypt’s interim president made a rare visit to the Coptic pope ahead of this week’s Orthodox Christmas celebrations, the first in 40 years of such a visit to occur. Meanwhile, members of the Muslim Brotherhood, now outlawed and underground, say they are trying to bolster their ranks for a long struggle against Egypt’s military-backed government.
Peace talks for Sudan: Representatives from two warring factions from South Sudan held direct peace talks on Sunday for the first time since conflict began last month. The United Nations has said at least 1,000 people have died and some 200,000 people have been displaced, according to the AP.
Want even more news? Head on over to Brian Pellot’s religious freedom recap.