WASHINGTON — In the first ever papal address issued to a joint session of the U.S. Congress on Thursday, Pope Francis urged Americans to share their wealth, stand up against religious and minority persecution, defend life at every stage of development, welcome immigrants seeking better lives, abolish the death penalty and protect the planet.
After meeting with Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, in his office around 9:15 a.m., the leader of the Catholic Church addressed members of the House and Senate with a 50-minute speech that was broadcasted and shown to approximately 50,000 adoring fans who gathered on the front lawn of the Capitol building to hear his historic remarks.
"Each son or daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility," Pope Francis, who hails from Argentina, asserted. "A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always based on care for the people. To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you." more >>
Sandy Phan-Gillis, an American businesswoman from Houston, Texas, has formerly been arrested by the government of China, which has accused her of "activities harmful to Chinese national security," and has held her for the past six months. Her husband has spoken out and said Phan-Gillis is neither a spy nor a thief.
"I know my wife is not a spy, is not a thief," Jeff Gillis told the Guardian.
"She is a hard-working businesswoman who has done a tremendous amount for China-Houston relations, and I'm tremendously disappointed that we haven't had more help in getting her out. She's been left in the control of the Chinese spy agency for over six months now, and I think we ought to bring her home." more >>
The Islamic State terror group has reportedly executed a 15-year-old boy accused of homosexuality, along with nine other men, which it shot on two separate instances.
While seven of the suspects were executed in Rastan, the Homs province of central Syria, the teenager and two other men were killed in the town of Hreitan in northern Aleppo, as reported by Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Founder and Director Rami Abdel Rahman.
WASHINGTON — With over 11,000 ticketed guests gathered on the South Lawn, Pope Francis made his first-ever visit to the White House Wednesday morning, and called on the world to defend religious liberties and take better care of the environment before going to the Oval Office for a private meeting with President Barack Obama.
The leader of the Catholic Church was welcomed to the White House by the president and first lady Michelle Obama. After the playing of the Holy See's national anthem, the U.S. national anthem, and a short speech by Obama, the pope made his first direct address to the American people and challenged all Americans to be "vigilant" defenders of religious liberty.
"Mr. President, together with their fellow citizens, American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination," the pontiff asserted. "With countless other people of goodwill, they are likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and the right to religious liberty." more >>
Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of imprisoned American pastor Saeed Abedini, has met with over 100 Parliamentarians from nearly 50 countries to urge them to sign a letter calling for her husband's release. This week marks Abedini's third anniversary in prison, as well as the 70th session of the General Assembly of the U.N. in New York, which Iran's President Hassan Rouhani will attend.
"We are alarmed by ongoing reports of violations of this fundamental freedom for religious minorities, including Christians and the Bahá'ís. We respectfully ask you to ensure that all individuals in Iran, be they Muslim, Christian, Bahá'í, Atheist, Zoroastrian, Jew or from another faith, can fully enjoy freedom of religion or belief without fear of violence or discrimination," states the letter, which was signed by 67 Parliamentarians following Abedini's speech.
"We are particularly concerned about Pastor Saeed Abedini, who has been jailed for nearly three years. We understand he has been held in intolerable conditions for merely peacefully exercising his faith in private homes. We specifically request the release of Mr. Abedini, as well as other Christians," it continues. more >>
A devoted Christian from the village of Huey in Savannakhet province, Laos, has died after his release from prison, where authorities denied him vital diabetes medication and watched him visibly deteriorate without helping. Human rights groups have said that the man, Tiang Kwentianthong, was arrested nine months ago after he was caught praying for a sick woman.
"Mr. Tiang Kwentianthong, a Christian believer of Huey village in Atsaphangthong district of Savannakhet province ... died on Sept. 17 from his diabetic condition that had become very severe," Human Rights Watcher for Lao Religious Freedom said in a statement, as reported by BosNewsLife.
The 61-year-old Tiang, who needed but was denied his diabetes medication on a regular basis, "continued to suffer severe diabetes. During his imprisonment ... he requested permission to be treated for his worsening diabetic condition but the prison officials denied his request," the group added. more >>