We begin with the ongoing saga of The Pope and the Birds, take IX:
After his dove release went terribly awry, Francis blessed and held a green parrot named Amore that was offered to him by his owner. Yes, the bird parroted the word “Papa.”
More from the Vatican: One of the earliest Christian cemeteries near St. Peter’s Square has been painstakingly excavated and will open to the public offering glimpses of ancient burial traditions.
Elsewhere in Catholic news: Archbishop Joachim Meisner of Cologne, a German cardinal, was roundly criticized by Muslims when he was caught saying this to members of a conservative Catholic group: “I always say, one of your families to me makes up for three Muslim families.”
This is what you learn from reading RNS’ international news: More than 90 percent of Irish primary schools are run by the Roman Catholic Church in cooperation with the government. Now some atheists, and probably those of other faiths, want to change that.
In South Sudan, church leaders are urging all parties to the conflict to respect places of worship, after rebels attacked and looted church compounds in the town of Malakal.
Could Noah’s Ark have been round? A newly decoded cuneiform found in Iraq tells of a divinely sent flood and a sole survivor who takes all the animals onto an ark to preserve them. Except the ark is round.
Israelis in a lather: An affair between Yair Netanyahu, son of Prime Minister Benjamin, and Sandra Leikanger, a blond Norwegian, is giving rabbis heartburn because the girl is …gasp!… not Jewish. Self-appointed Tevyes are shouting, “Tradition! Tradition!”
But how bad can it be if French choreographer Benjamin Millepied, the husband of Jewish actress Natalie Portman, is converting to Judaism?
Also in Israel, at a time when prominent rabbis have voiced vehement objections to young Orthodox women enlisting in the army, the Israeli Defense Forces reports that the number of religious females electing to enlist is higher than ever.
Taiwan is leading a quiet, yet powerful movement that has turned traditional Buddhism on its head, converting many Buddhists into doers, not just believers. Going to temples is low priority. The focus now is on what the Taiwanese call “humanistic Buddhism” — caring for others and for society.
Back on these shores: In Scottsdale, Ariz., the Rev. Bob Larson is giving possessed people the option of having their demons banished from their bodies via Skype. A 60-minute Skype exorcism costs $295.
The nation’s top brass say they’re not aware of any bias against military chaplains, countering charges from some activists that chaplains have been muzzled or forced to follow policies they disagree with.
The Oscar nomination for original song from the movie “Alone Yet Not Alone,” performed by evangelical Christian author and singer Joni Eareckson Tada, was rescinded Wednesday. It seems that Bruce Broughton who wrote the music promoted the song giving “the appearance of an unfair advantage.”
And more on Oscar nominees: Actress Scarlett Johansson has quit her ambassador role with the humanitarian group Oxfam following criticism over her decision to star in an advertising campaign for SodaStream, the fizzy drinks company which owns a factory in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. Oxfam opposes all trade in goods produced by Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories.
Good reads: Pakistan’s blasphemy law is increasingly becoming a potent weapon in the arsenal of Muslim extremists. Although Pakistan has never executed anybody under the law, vigilantes frequently entrap and sometimes kill adherents of minority religions accused of blasphemy.
The New Yorker takes a look at the ongoing rebellion among United Methodist pastors over gay and lesbian inclusion.
Anne Lamott on her reading habits: The writer says she reads an excerpt from theologian Fred Buechner every day. “He has been a very important theologian in my life—so authentic, fresh, human, funny, honest, and so deeply in love with God. And every Thursday I rush to the grocery store for the new People magazine.”
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