‘Super-hero’ in Spider-Man outfit meets pope at Vatican

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VATICAN CITY (AP) — While Pope Francis is usually the star at Vatican gatherings, Spider-Man, or at least an Italian who dresses up like the character, was the attention-grabber among the public lined up in rows during the pontiff’s weekly Wednesday audience. Matteo Villardita, 28, dons the comic-book and movie super-hero outfit to cheer up … Read more

Newly sanctified Tunisian cemetery for migrants filling fast

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ZARZIS, Tunisia (AP) — Most of the headstones have dates but no names. Row after row of palest white, practically gleaming in the Mediterranean sun. The cemetery in Zarzis is nearly exactly as Rachid Koraïchi pictured it when he sketched his vision of the “Garden of Africa” that would be the final resting place for … Read more

Germany gets 1st military rabbi in over a century

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BERLIN (AP) — The German military got its first rabbi in over a century Monday, with the inauguration to the post of Hungarian-born Zsolt Balla at a synagogue in Leipzig. The German government in 2019 approved a proposal by the Central Council of Jews to restore religious counseling for Jews serving in the armed forces. … Read more

Indian Hindus turn to honoring ‘corona goddess’ to quell pandemic

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MUMBAI (RNS) — As the first wave of COVID-19 spread through India last June, Anilan Namboothiri, a resident of the southern state of Kerala, set up a new idol in his home shrine that he honors as “corona devi,” or corona goddess: The unusual polystyrene figure, resembling the spiky COVID-19 protein, found its place alongside … Read more

How Pope Francis and Vatican activists helped rein in Big Oil on climate change

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VATICAN CITY (RNS) — Big oil companies in the United States and Europe were forced to come to terms with their role in climate change last month after shareholders, including large mutual funds and private equity firms, pressured the companies to shift their long-criticized environmental policies. The shareholder rebellions at Chevron and Exxon made front-page … Read more

Pope on Myanmar: Houses of worship serve as neutral refuge

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VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Sunday decried the suffering of refugees in Myanmar and pleaded that houses of worship be respected as neutral places to take shelter. He told the public gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his customary Sunday noon remarks that he was joining his voice to that of the Asian … Read more

Israel launches official probe into deadly festival stampede

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JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s government approved Sunday the establishment of an independent state commission of inquiry into a deadly disaster at a Jewish holy site in April that left 45 people dead. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the commission would investigate major safety shortcomings that led to a deadly stampede at Lag Baomer celebrations on … Read more

An architect of European unity moves ahead on sainthood path

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VATICAN CITY (AP) — Robert Schuman, a French statesman who paved the way for the bloc that eventually evolved into European Union, has moved ahead on the Catholic church’s path toward possible sainthood. The Vatican said Pope Francis on Saturday approved a decree declaring the “heroic virtues″ of Schuman, a former prime minister, finance minister … Read more

Boris Johnson and Britain are having their own Catholic crisis

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LONDON (RNS) — As the American Catholic bishops debate whether President Joe Biden should receive Holy Communion given his support for abortion rights, outrage has been building in the United Kingdom since the country’s chief executive, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, recently came out as Catholic, to the concern of British Catholics, some parish priests and parliamentarians. … Read more

How Israel’s missing constitution deepens divisions between Jews and with Arabs

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(The Conversation) — Renewed fighting has erupted again between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, endangering a ceasefire instituted after an 11-day war in May. The conflict in Gaza is an early test of Israel’s new coalition government. Recently, parties across the political spectrum united to remove Israel’s scandal-plagued prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu from power, … Read more