Pope Francis on Sunday announced the names of 20 new cardinals from 18 countries, many of whom come from developing nations and small dioceses which have never before had a cardinal, to reflect the diversity of the church. None of them is from the United States or Canada.
The selection of Francis include bishops from the island nations of Cabo Verde and Tonga, archbishops from the Asian countries of Thailand, Burma, and Vietnam; and the leader of an Italian community dealing heavily with refugees and migrants from Africa, according to National Catholic Reporter.
Seven of the new cardinals are from Europe, five from Latin America, three from Asia, three from Africa and two from Oceania, while none from the United States or Canada. more >>
The Islamic government of Turkey has authorized the construction of a new church, for the country's tiny Syriac community, for the first time since the establishment of the modern republic in 1923.
The Syrian Christian church will be built on state-owned land not far from Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Catholic churches in the Istanbul suburb of Yesilkoy on the shores of the Sea of Marmara, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said at a meeting of religious representatives in Istanbul, according to Agence France Presse.
Of the 80 million people in Turkey, mostly Muslim, about 100,000 are Christian. While Turkey was the birthplace of numerous Christian Apostles and Saints, the country's government had thus far allowed only renovations of existing churches. more >>
Russia has awarded its largest scientific grant ever to Moscow State University that will allow the school to proceed with a project called "Noah's Ark, "which inspires to be the world's first DNA databank consisting of genetic material from every living and extinct creature, which they will house in a giant ark.
The approval of the approximate $194 million government grant was first reported last week by Russia's English outlet RT, and will require not only building a 430-square-kilometer ark, but also the daunting task of actually collecting DNA from every living creature and the ones that have long been extinct.
"I call the project 'Noah's Ark,'" MSU Rector Viktor Sadivnichy told journalists. "It will involve the creation of a depository — a databank for the storing of every living thing on Earth, including not only living, but disappearing and extinct organisms. This is the challenge we have set for ourselves." more >>
The man who attempted to assassinate former Pope John Paul II in 1981 visited the late pontiff's grave at the Vatican on Saturday, placed flowers on his tomb and also requested to meet with Pope Francis, Italian media outlets have reported.
Mehmet Ali Agca, now 56 years old, made an attempt ot the pope's life on May 13, 1981, by shooting the pope twice at close range while the pontiff was traveling in an open vehicle through St. Peter's Square in the Vatican City. Although the attack did not kill John Paul II, it left the pope critically wounded with one bullet going through his abdomen and another that just barely missed his heart.
Agca, who is originally from Turkey and was a member of the far-right neo-fascist group Grey Wolves, was initially given a life sentence for the assassination attempt. However, Agca only served 19 years in Italian prison before he was pardoned by Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi in 2000. more >>
A topless abortion activist with the words "God is Woman" written across her bare chest was arrested in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Thursday, after rushing the nativity scene and attempting to flee with a baby Jesus figurine.
Iana Zhdanova of FEMEN, a radical feminist organization from Ukraine that's based in Paris, stunned onlookers in Rome on Christmas Day when she stormed the nativity display wearing only jeans and sneakers. Video footage of the incident shows the blonde-haired activist proudly raising baby Jesus above her head and screaming an inaudible message to horrified onlookers before being apprehended by Vatican police.
The protest came shortly after Pope Francis unveiled the nativity while marking Christmas with a late-night mass in St Peter's Basilica. more >>
Pope Francis spent Christmas night on the telephone with persecuted refugees in Kurdistan who've been targeted by terror group ISIS, telling them that they're "like Jesus on the night of His birth" because of the dangers they face. The Vatican leader attempted to offer the people comfort, and told them that they're "close to his heart."
"You are like Jesus on the night of his birth when he had been forced to flee. You are like Jesus in this situation, and that means we are praying even harder for you," Francis told the refugees in a telephone call to Father Benoca, the head of the Christian community in the Ankawa Refugee Center near Erbil.
"Dear brothers, I am very, very close to you with all of my heart. May the Lord caress you with His tenderness." more >>