Russia is on a high security alert in preparation for the upcoming Olympic Winter Games after six bodies and bombs were discovered in the country's southern Stavropol region on Wednesday.
The six bodies were discovered in four separate vehicles in two districts in the Pyatigorsk area of Stavropol. Each body had gunshot wounds, and unidentified explosive devices were found near three of the vehicles. The Stavropol region sits as a gateway to the country's volatile North Caucasus region where unpredictable Islamic terrorist groups reside.
Vladimir Markin, the spokesman for Russia's main investigative agency, said in a statement Thursday that no motive had been uncovered in the mysterious shootings, and Federal Security Service officers had been added to research the investigation, which is now being described as a counter-terrorist operation. The Associated Press notes that the shootings of the six men, some of whom were taxi drivers, are more typical of criminal or gang activity, but the discovery of the bombs led investigators to think Islamic insurgents may be involved. more >>
Scottish police arrested Tony Milano, a U.S. preacher and former Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff, for breach of the peace and for using "homophobic" language in the condemnation of sin.
"It is indicative of the suppression of the freedom to speak and live out the words of Jesus Christ in public and present the teachings of the Bible," Andrea Minichiello Williams, chief executive of the British organization Christian Concern's Christian Legal Centre, said about the arrest Wednesday night.
Milano's colleague, Pastor Josh Williamson of the Craigie Reformed Baptist Church in Perth, pointed out, "Tony wasn't focusing just on homosexual practice – it was about all sin." more >>
A Christian dating website in London is taking a unique approach to advertising through a new campaign dotting the London Underground, telling commuters that believing in Jesus will make them "better lovers."
The posters, which will adorn the outside panels of the city's Tube carriers, include vivid colors and fonts reminiscent of retro advertisements for anti-impotence drugs. One advertisement reads: "Christians Make Better Lovers," making many commuters assume that the message is directed toward sex, instead of relationships. The message is clarified by smaller print below that reads: "Christians believe in love. 'Love one another' is written into their code. So if you are a single Christian, why not give our award-winning dating site a try?"
Another advertisement reads "Another dating site? Thank God! No seriously. That's because we're not just another dating site, we're dedicated to matching single Christians in the UK." more >>
The Church of England recently clarified its move to offer alternatives to phrases such as "repent" of one's sins and "reject the devil" in baptism services after it was accused of "dumbing down" the official text.
The church body said in a statement Saturday that a 2011 motion requesting for additional materials with "culturally appropriate and accessible language" "would not replace or revise the current Baptism service but would be available for use as alternatives to three parts of the service."
The motion had been proposed by a group of clergy from the Diocese of Liverpool who felt "they were losing touch with congregations at important moments," such as baptisms. They felt a "tension between understandability and historic theological reference in our rites" especially when unchurched persons, such as godparents, were involved. more >>
Extracts of a Pope Francis speech have recently been published in Italian websites, where the Vatican leader warns educators that they need to be careful when engaging with children of gay couples and those living in complex family situations, and make sure they are not administering "a vaccine against faith to them."
A Vatican spokesman has moved to clarify, however, that the pope's remarks are not political and do not serve as a recognition of gay civil unions.
"On an educational level, gay unions raise challenges for us today which for us are sometimes difficult to understand," Francis said in a speech to the Catholic Union of Superiors General in November, according to reports in Italian media websites on Saturday. more >>
Pope Francis announced Sunday he plans to visit Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territories on May 24-26, and meet with the leader of the Orthodox Christian Church. He will be the fourth pontiff to visit the Christian Holy Land in the modern era.
The pope made the announcement Sunday, which was the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI's first trip to Jerusalem six months into his papacy to meet the leader of the Orthodox Christian Church.
Francis told the crowd in St. Peter's Square that he was announcing his three-day visit to Amman, Bethlehem and Jerusalem "in the climate of joy that is typical of the Christmas season," according to The Associated Press. more >>