I am back today from visiting relatives in lovely Rochester, N.Y., which sits next to Greece, N.Y., which, religion buffs know, is where Greece v. Galloway — the Supreme Court case about sectarian prayer — got its start. “STOP THE CAR!” I demanded as we passed the exit for Greece. I don’t know what I thought I would see there. But my husband would not stop. The kids backed him up. I did not get to see Greece. I am redirecting our attention to Rome:
Vatican bank profits . . . not
Last year the Holy See bank enjoyed profits in the $118 million range. This past year: $3.9 million. Blame the shakeup at the troubled bank, fluctuations in the price of gold and losses related to externally managed investment funds. Pope Francis has taken several steps in the past year to improve management and transparency at what is officially known as the Institute for Religious Works. In the interests of better bank branding, maybe they should change the name to the “Institute for More Careful Adding and Subtracting.”
Instant Muslim cred?
You think President Obama had trouble convincing America that he is not Muslim but Christian? (Actually, some people are still intent on disbelieving him.) Joko Widodo, who could well win Indonesia’s presidential election today, just took a quickie trip to Mecca to prove to voters in this 90 percent Muslim country that he is actually not Christian but Muslim. Reuters reports that the pilgrimage “could mean the difference between winning and losing the presidency after a smear campaign suggesting Jokowi (as he is known) was an ethnic-Chinese Christian hurt his popularity.”
Tweet of the Day
If World Cup final is Germany and Argentina, then it’s Pope against Pope. Awaiting Benedict-Francis shootout. — Mo Rocca (@MoRocca) July 9, 2014
Catholic schools fighting for life
Neil Haggerty profiles Immaculate high school in Montclair, N.J., as it struggles to fill its seats and keep the lights on. It’s a profile of one Catholic school that pulls back to paint us a picture of Catholic schools facing similar challenges nationwide.
Obama, border crisis, Texas faith leaders
The president heads to Texas today for fundraisers, but also to talk about the border crisis with former presidential candidate and Gov. Rick Perry, who had wanted Obama to meet him at the border. Instead, the two will meet to discuss the crisis with faith leaders in Dallas.
Obama’s faith advisors split on anti-gay discrimination
None of them say they are for it. But more than 100 of them Tuesday (July 8) sent a letter asking that the soon-to-be signed executive order forbidding federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation exclude an exemption for those who claim the order would conflict with their religion. But there’s another letter on his desk from a smaller group of evangelical advisors pressing for a religious exemption, our own Adelle Banks writes.
A drone’s-eye view of an LDS church
We have so much beautiful church architecture around RNS’ Washington, D.C. headquarters. But I have to admit, I never took a shine to the Mormon Temple in Kensington, Maryland. From the Beltway, you can clearly see the enormous castle-like church. With its stark white towers and soaring gold spires, it just looks a little out of place, like it should be in Utah, or, I don’t know, Heaven. But one of our local TV stations here has broadcast video taken by a drone. And well, I’m changing my mind. The soundtrack might have something to do with it.
Rocket fire: Jerusalem and Gaza
Life in the Holy Land is terrifying today as rockets from Israel seek out Hamas targets in Gaza and rockets from Gaza have reached the outskirts of Jerusalem. The death count is 24 so far, with no serious injuries on the Israeli side as rockets are intercepted or miss their targets and Israelis gather in bomb shelters.
Target: St. Joseph’s Cathedral
At least 17 are dead in the Central African Republican after the Catholic cathedral in Bambari came under attack Monday (July 7) afternoon. Muslim fighters have accused church officials of helping Christian militiamen operating in the area. Three days earlier, grenades thrown into a CAR mosque injured 34 people.
More Hobby Lobby fallout
The March for Life becomes the latest plaintiff to file a lawsuit against the contraception mandate. Eden Foods, maker of soy milk and other organic foods, feels it has prevailed in its challenge to the mandate.
In case you’re feeling at all sorry for yourself today
The Rev. Dawn Gikandi is a disabled, female pastor in a country where disability is often looked upon as a curse. But Gikandi, from her Presbyterian church in Nairobi, is teaching through texts that “disabled” can mean something very different. She told Fredrick Nzili, our man in Africa:
God can use anything or anybody for his work.
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