Saturday, February 13, 2016

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia found dead in Texas


Last Updated Feb 13, 2016 5:38 PM EST


U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead Saturday, CBS News has confirmed. A spokesperson for the U.S. Marshals said he appeared to die of natural causes.

According to the San Antonio News-Express, which was first to report his death, Scalia was found dead in his room at a West Texas resort.

Scalia, 79, was one of the staunchest conservative members of the court. He was nominated in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan and is the longest-serving member on the court.

He championed the philosophy of "orginalism," meaning he interprets the Constitution according to what he believes the original authors intended over 200 years ago.

In a 2008 interview with "60 Minutes," he told correspondent Lesley Stahl that he believes the Constitution is an "enduring" document he wants to defend.


Justice Scalia, part 1

"It's what did the words mean to the people who ratified the Bill of Rights or who ratified the Constitution," Scalia said.

"But you do admit that values change? We do adapt. We move," Stahl asked.

"That's fine," he answered. "And so do laws change. Because values change, legislatures abolish the death penalty, permit same-sex marriage if they want, abolish laws against homosexual conduct. That's how the change in a society occurs. Society doesn't change through a Constitution."

In a statement on behalf of the Supreme Court and retired Justices, Chief Justice John Roberts called Scalia, "an extraordinary individual and jurist, admired and treasured by his colleagues."

"His passing is a great loss to the Court and the country he so loyally served. We extend our deepest condolences to his wife Maureen and his family," he added.


Justice Scalia, part 2

Scalia's replacement to the court would be President Obama's third nomination. He previously nominated Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. But CBS News Chief Legal Correspondent Jan Crawford said it is unclear whether the Republican-held Senate will entertain a nomination from Mr. Obama or wait for a new president to be elected this November.

"It could be very unlikely that President Obama that will get that nomination," Crawford said. "This court could remain with eight justices until the next president takes office. I think that's very unclear what will happen."

"This vote will change the balance of the Supreme Court if a liberal is nominated," she added.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, one of the 2016 presidential candidates, said the responsibility should fall to the next president.

Justice Scalia was an American hero. We owe it to him, & the Nation, for the Senate to ensure that the next President names his replacement.— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz)February 13, 2016

Scalia, the son of Italian immigrants, was born in Trenton, New Jersey and raised in the Queens neighborhood of Manhattan. He attended at Georgetown University and Harvard Law School.

Pope urges Mexico to work toward 'common good'

Daniel González and Rafael Carranza, The Arizona Republic2:07 p.m. EST February 13, 2016

Tens of thousands of cheering Mexicans gathered outside the residence where Pope Francis is staying to send him off on his first full day in Mexico. (Feb. 13) AP

(Photo: Julio Cesar Aguilar Fuentes, AFP/Getty Images)

MEXICO CITY — Pope Francis called on Mexico’s elected leaders to provide basic rights to their citizens and blamed individualism as the root of the country’s most pressing challenges, including rampant corruption and ongoing drug violence.

Flanked by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, the pope addressed congressmen and women, governors and the civil and diplomatic corps in the first of three major events Saturday, the second day of his visit to Mexico.

In his introduction, the president welcomed the pontiff and said his visit meant a lot to the people. He also listed off the challenges the country faced — but notably, made no mention of the violence and drug trafficking that has ravaged the nation.

That wasn’t the case for Francis. During his speech, he pleaded with leaders to shun individualism and work toward the “common good."

“Each time we seek the path of privileges and benefits for the few to the detriment of the good of all, sooner or later the life of society becomes a fertile soil for corruption, drug trade, exclusion of different cultures, violence and also human trafficking, kidnapping and death, bringing suffering and slowing down development,” he said.


2 million expected to greet Pope Francis in Mexico City

The pope, referring to himself as a “missionary of mercy and peace,” also called on elected leaders to guarantee access to basic necessities for all citizens, such as affordable housing, dignified jobs, food security and safety.

After his speech ended, Francis boarded his popemobile and weaved his way through crowds at the Zocalo, Mexico City’s main square, toward the Metropolitan Cathedral to meet with Mexican bishops. His day will conclude with a hallmark Mass at one of the Catholicism's largest pilgrimage sites.

Pope Francis, center, is welcomed by Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto, center right, and his wife Angelica Rivera, center left, at the Presidential palace in Mexico City, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. Gregorio Borgia, AP

Crowds in Mexico City to see pope

Though the pope wouldn't arrive at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe for five more hours, thousands of people already lined the main road leading into the basilica's grounds Saturday morning. Some had been there since 5 a.m. or earlier.

As police officers strolled by and soldiers stood guard, the pilgrims sat on stools or stood under umbrellas offering protection from the increasingly hot sun. The atmosphere was increasingly festive and generous. One woman offered pieces of bread from a bag and spoon full of homemade potato salad with peas.

Reporters with television crews combed the crowds, spurring people to break out singing, "Se ve. Se siente. Papa esta presente." Translation: He is seen. He is felt. The pope has arrived.

In the crowd were people from all over Mexico as well as many Latinos who traveled from the United States.

One camera crew from Chicago came prepared with a sign: "Usted Es Chicago."

The rest of the pope's day

Following his audience with bishops, Francis will travel to the nunciature, or Vatican embassy, for a rare two-hour "break," before he continues his packed schedule with one of the highlights of his visit.

At 5 p.m. local time, the pontiff will celebrate Holy Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico's beloved and deeply venerated patron saint.

It will be the pope's first time at the basilica. He has previously spoken of his great desire to visit. The Mass is expected to last about two and a half hours and could draw as many as 2 million people, according to organizers.

During the ceremony, the pope will bless the crown that sits atop the tilma, or cloth, at the altar of the basilica as a symbol of veneration.

Tradition states the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe ended up on that same tilma, dating back to the 16th century, when the local bishop demanded proof from an indigenous convert who claimed he had seen the apparition of the Virgin Mary, but with dark skin and dressed in traditional Aztec attire.

Worshipers and onlookers are expected to line the route, including the area near the basilica, to catch a glimpse of the pope as he travels. After the Mass, he will travel back to the nunciature for the night.



From Crete to Malta - Part 2 - Walter Veith

"From Crete to Malta" (Part 2) - by Walter Veith

Published on Oct 8, 2015

Playlist -

Walter Veith presents his latest series, From Crete to Malta!
at the northern Maine camp meeting. (August 25-29 2015)



Nevada's Saturday Democratic Caucuses Excludes Observant Jews and Seventh Day Adventists


02/09/2016 02:32 pm ET | Updated 3 days ago

Laura Goldman

Currently freelances for ABC and the Daily Mail

It seems that the Nevada State Democrat Party did not get the memo that Democrats are the inclusive, big tent party. The Nevada Democrat caucuses will be held on Saturday, February 20, 2016 at 11:00 am PST. Holding the caucuses on Saturday during the day makes it problematic for religious Jews and 7th Day Adventists to exercise their democratic rights and participate in the caucuses. Nevada electoral law requires in person attendance to participate in the caucuses. There are no absentee ballot provisions for caucuses.

Jolie Brislin, Nevada regional director of the ADL, said, "We are dismayed to learn that no religious accommodation will be made for those Democratic caucus members who celebrate the Sabbath on Saturday and, therefore, are unable to participate in this key component of the election process. As an organization committed to safe-guarding religious freedom, we feel it is patently unfair to exclude someone from the caucus process because they are religiously observant. We urge the party leadership to reconsider this decision."

The Nevada State Democratic Party justified the choice of a Saturday date by saying it was the most convenient time for the majority of Nevadans. Stewart Boss, the Nevada State Democratic Party spokesman, told the Las Vegas Review- Journal, "Saturday at 11 a.m. is the best time to increase access as much as possible for Democrats across Nevada to participate in our First in the West caucuses. Keeping this date is critical to preserving our early-state status in the presidential nominating calendar." The Review-Journal, owned by Sheldon Adelson, was the first to report the problematic Saturday date this election cycle.

Rabbi Shea Harlig, executive director of the Chabad of Southern Nevada, found it strange that the Democratic party chose a Saturday date after the Nevada Republican Party received similar complaints when the 2012 caucuses were held on a Saturday. Harlig said, "I am disappointed in the Democratic Party for their lack of sensitivity in scheduling their caucus on a Saturday which will exclude Sabbath observant people from participating. Four years ago when the Republican Party scheduled their caucus for a Saturday, after realizing their mistake, they scheduled a special caucus for Saturday night for all Sabbath observant people. I hope the Democratic Party will do it as well."

Harlig estimated that 300-400 people participated in the 2012 evening Republican caucus. Two registered Democrats in Nevada, Amy Henry and Tracy Banner, told me that they would have caucused if the caucuses were not held during the Jewish Sabbath. When Henry was called by the Clinton campaign about going to the caucuses, she explained to them that she couldn't because of the Sabbath. As of press time, neither the state party nor the office of the senior US Senator from Nevada, Harry Reid, would answer my questions about the possibility of any accommodations for observant persons. Reid's office referred all questions to the state party.

However, someone from Bernie Sander's campaign, Taimus Werner-Gibbings did contact Rabbi Harlig. He told the rabbi that he will see what he can do to have a caucus on Saturday night. Sanders, being Jewish, might be more sensitive to this issue than the others.

My questions caught the attention of Jon Ralston, the dean of the Nevada political press corps, probably because Nevada zealously guards its first in the West status. He mistakenly thought I was working for a well known Israel supporter. No matter what happens the national party has to think long and hard about front loading the future electoral calendar with the Iowa and Nevada caucuses. Democracy is not achieved by settling votes with coin tosses or disfranchising religious groups.

Two registered Democrats in Nevada, Amy Henry and Tracy Banner, told me that they would have caucused if the caucuses were not held during the Jewish Sabbath. When Henry was called by the Clinton campaign about going to the caucuses, she explained to them that she couldn't because of the Sabbath.


Pope Builds Bridge...With Orthodox Churches. Vows To Fight Those Who Protest (Pastor Andrew Henriques)

Pope Builds Bridge To Clasp Hands With Orthodox Churches. Vows To Fight Those Who Protest

Published on Feb 12, 2016

“The time has come for much aggressive work to be done in the cities, and in all neglected, unworked fields. There are those who think it is their duty to preach the truth, but they dare not venture from the shore, and they catch no fish. They will choose to go among the churches, over and over the same ground. They report a good time, a pleasant visit, but we look in vain for the souls that are converted to the truth through their instrumentality. These ministers hug the shore too closely. Let them launch out into the deep, and cast their net where the fish are. There is no lack of work to be done. There could be hundreds employed in the vineyard of the Lord where there is now one.” {Ev 59.3}
“Let us remember that as a people entrusted with sacred truth, we have been neglectful and positively unfaithful. The work has been confined to a few centers, until the people in them have become gospel hardened. It is difficult to make an impression on those who have heard so much truth and yet have rejected it. In a few places too much has been expended, while many, many cities have been left unwarned and unworked.” {Ev 60.3}

John Kerry takes aim at Russia over Ukraine and Syria at security conference

U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, gestures during his speech at the Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader) (Matthias Schrader)

By The Associated Press | Wire reports
on February 13, 2016 at 8:06 AM, updated February 13, 2016 at 8:10 AM

MUNICH (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday sharply criticized Russia for its actions in Ukraine and Syria, accusing Moscow of "repeated aggression" in both places.

In a speech at the Munich Security Conference, Kerry said Russia is defying the will of the international community with its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine and its military intervention in Syria on behalf of President Bashar Assad.

His comments came just after Russia's prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, told the conference that the West is rekindling the Cold War with sanctions imposed on Russia over Ukraine and with new NATO moves.

Kerry praised European nations for holding firm on the Ukraine penalties. He urged Moscow to act in good faith in forging a truce in Syria and to allow a political transition that would end the civil war.

He repeated allegations that Russian airstrikes in Syria have not been directed at terrorists but rather at moderate opposition groups supported by the U.S. and its European and Arab partners. Kerry also said that Russia would have to change tactics if an agreement Friday for a temporary truce in Syria is to actually take effect in a week.

"To date, the vast majority, in our opinion, of Russia's attacks have been against legitimate opposition groups and to adhere to the agreement it made, we think it is critical that Russia's targeting change," Kerry said. "If people who want to be part of the conversation are being bombed, we're not going to have much of a process."

Kerry added that the only way to end the Syrian conflict and ultimately defeat the Islamic State group is a political transition that removes Assad from power.

"Some argue that the reason humanitarian access has been denied and indiscriminate bombing continues is because Assad and his allies, including Russia, might believe that by defying the will of the international community, they can win the war," he said. "If that is what Russia and Assad think, then I believe they would have been missing the lessons of the last five years."

The opposition "may be pushed back here and there but they are not going to surrender," Kerry said.

On Ukraine, Kerry said Russia would continue to be subject to sanctions until it and the rebels it supports in the east come into full compliance with a political agreement reached last year in Minsk, the capital of Belarus.

"Russia has a simple choice: fully implement Minsk or continue to face economically damaging sanctions," he said.


Russian Orthodox Patriarch Meets With Pope Francis

February 13, 2016

Viaggio in Messico – Incontro con S.S. Kirill 12-02-2016 @Servizio Fotografico – L’Osservatore Romano

The historic meeting between Pope 

Francis and Patriarch Kirill on the 12th Feb 2016 has been cleverly coordinated to appear casual as they met for coffee during transit at Havana’s José Martí International Airport.

A long history of religious and political tensions between Rome and Moscow has been one of the stumbling blocks to reunification of the Christian churches. Vatican spokesman Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi said “that the meeting comes after ‘long preparation,’ adding that it was always understood the first meeting would take place on ‘neutral’ territory, neither Moscow nor Rome.

A diplomatic representative of the Russian Patriarch suggested persecution of Christians in the Middle East and Africa provided the necessary momentum to bring about a meeting the Vatican had sought for years. Although persecution of Christians in the Middle East and Africa by Muslims is relevant, it would be highly unlikely to be the paramount reason for the meeting but rather a front.

Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill have signed a joint declaration on religious unity after their historic meeting in Havana. The declaration calls for peace in Syria, Iraq and Ukraine and urges Europe to “maintain its faithfulness to its Christian roots.”

The two religious leaders can best be described as representing two different religious-political alliances. The Vatican/US alliance and the Russian Orthodox/Putin alliance.

“When the United States rules the world, the Catholic Church will rule the world… Nothing can stand against the Church.” 
~ Archbishop Quigley, 1903, The Chicago Tribune

When Putin visited Pope Francis on the 11th June 2015 the antagonistic attitude toward the Russian President by Pope Francis was revealed. Pope Francis psychologically harassed Putin tapping his fingers while giving a rather impatient stare from across the table.

United States leaders would be well pleased with the antics of Pope Francis, because of Putin’s geopolitical non-compliance of the American New World Order model. Putin has also been shunned and harassed at G20 meetings and had to dine alone because none of the other leaders would eat with him, tensions at the G20 in Australia arose from the accusation of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, though mainstream media neglect the fact that the people of Crimea voted to seperate from Ukraine in a democratic referendum.

Putin has often praised the Russian Orthodox church for boosting patriotism while Patriarch Kirill has condemned persecution of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. The Kiev government is simply a vassal of the United States, so the dispute of religious-political alliances is irrefutable though ignored by mainstream media.

After Russia was slapped with sanctions, Putin pulled off one of the most politically savvy moves in history and has out-manoeuvred NATO and the United States in what became “Putin’s war on ISIS” conducted out of Russian military bases in Syria, authorised by Assad. Putin’s actions left the pentagon and the Obama administration embarrassed showing the West not to be serious about eradicating ISIS.

ISIS is simply a geopolitical tool to reshape the Middle East. Those complicit in this covert war supporting and facilitating ISIS are the United States, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, Israel, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

Since Putin’s proven acumen, Pope Francis has had to eat some ‘humble pie’ and reverse his harsh stance making this statement:
“It’s important to join efforts [with Russia] to save Christianity in all regions [of the world] where it’s oppressed,”

Historic relations between the Vatican and Orthodox Church

The Great Schism is the break of communion between what are now the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches, which began in the 11th century.  Although there are some theological differences between the Catholic Church and Orthodox Church, the two denominations are almost identical.

The Catholic Pope will be the supreme  of the New World Order, inclusive of all subservient religions. Ecumenism is gaining ground on every side. It could be said that Putin’s rhetoric has stated he is not totally against a New world Order, but he has made it clear that Russia will not be a subordinate to the United States but rather an equal.

There are growing tensions between Russia and NATO and perhaps if there is not resolution between the US/Vatican alliance and the Putin/Russian Orthodox alliance there could be war. It is highly probable that Pope Francis has reached out to Patriarch Krill in an effort of reconciliation, and perhaps in the near future Pope Francis might influence Patriarch Krill to sacrifice Russian nationalist goals for Christian unity and peace.

Pope Francis belongs to the Jesuit Order who are politically astute. The Jesuits have caused revolutions, deposed and poisoned kings and have were banned in many countries for their subversive activities in past history. There was also a time of Jesuit suppression.

The official reporting on the historic visit by mainstream media has been portrayed in an ecumenical light, publicising the plight Christians in Syrian and the Middle East. Naturally the geopolitics about the United States, European Union, Ukraine, NATO and other controversial themes if they are discussed will be kept private. The Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church are twins though not identical. It is only a matter of time before the rift is mended.


Friday, February 12, 2016

Joint Declaration of Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill

Pope Francis \ Activities

Pope Francis meets with Patriarch Kirill in Havana, Cuba. - EPA
12/02/2016 22:19

Joint Declaration
of Pope Francis
and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the holy Spirit be with all of you” (2 Cor 13:13).

1. By God the Father’s will, from which all gifts come, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the help of the Holy Spirit Consolator, we, Pope Francis and Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, have met today in Havana. We give thanks to God, glorified in the Trinity, for this meeting, the first in history.

It is with joy that we have met like brothers in the Christian faith who encounter one another “to speak face to face” (2 Jn 12), from heart to heart, to discuss the mutual relations between the Churches, the crucial problems of our faithful, and the outlook for the progress of human civilization.

2. Our fraternal meeting has taken place in Cuba, at the crossroads of North and South, East and West. It is from this island, the symbol of the hopes of the “New World” and the dramatic events of the history of the twentieth century, that we address our words to all the peoples of Latin America and of the other continents.

It is a source of joy that the Christian faith is growing here in a dynamic way. The powerful religious potential of Latin America, its centuries–old Christian tradition, grounded in the personal experience of millions of people, are the pledge of a great future for this region.

3. By meeting far from the longstanding disputes of the “Old World”, we experience with a particular sense of urgency the need for the shared labour of Catholics and Orthodox, who are called, with gentleness and respect, to give an explanation to the world of the hope in us (cf. 1 Pet 3:15).

4. We thank God for the gifts received from the coming into the world of His only Son. We share the same spiritual Tradition of the first millennium of Christianity. The witnesses of this Tradition are the Most Holy Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, and the saints we venerate. Among them are innumerable martyrs who have given witness to their faithfulness to Christ and have become the “seed of Christians”.

5. Notwithstanding this shared Tradition of the first ten centuries, for nearly one thousand years Catholics and Orthodox have been deprived of communion in the Eucharist. We have been divided by wounds caused by old and recent conflicts, by differences inherited from our ancestors, in the understanding and expression of our faith in God, one in three Persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are pained by the loss of unity, the outcome of human weakness and of sin, which has occurred despite the priestly prayer of Christ the Saviour: “So that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you … so that they may be one, as we are one” (Jn 17:21).

6. Mindful of the permanence of many obstacles, it is our hope that our meeting may contribute to the re–establishment of this unity willed by God, for which Christ prayed. May our meeting inspire Christians throughout the world to pray to the Lord with renewed fervour for the full unity of all His disciples. In a world which yearns not only for our words but also for tangible gestures, may this meeting be a sign of hope for all people of goodwill!

7. In our determination to undertake all that is necessary to overcome the historical divergences we have inherited, we wish to combine our efforts to give witness to the Gospel of Christ and to the shared heritage of the Church of the first millennium, responding together to the challenges of the contemporary world. Orthodox and Catholics must learn to give unanimously witness in those spheres in which this is possible and necessary. Human civilization has entered into a period of epochal change. Our Christian conscience and our pastoral responsibility compel us not to remain passive in the face of challenges requiring a shared response.

8. Our gaze must firstly turn to those regions of the world where Christians are victims of persecution. In many countries of the Middle East and North Africa whole families, villages and cities of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being completely exterminated. Their churches are being barbarously ravaged and looted, their sacred objects profaned, their monuments destroyed. It is with pain that we call to mind the situation in Syria, Iraq and other countries of the Middle East, and the massive exodus of Christians from the land in which our faith was first disseminated and in which they have lived since the time of the Apostles, together with other religious communities.

9. We call upon the international community to act urgently in order to prevent the further expulsion of Christians from the Middle East. In raising our voice in defence of persecuted Christians, we wish to express our compassion for the suffering experienced by the faithful of other religious traditions who have also become victims of civil war, chaos and terrorist violence.

10. Thousands of victims have already been claimed in the violence in Syria and Iraq, which has left many other millions without a home or means of sustenance. We urge the international community to seek an end to the violence and terrorism and, at the same time, to contribute through dialogue to a swift return to civil peace. Large–scale humanitarian aid must be assured to the afflicted populations and to the many refugees seeking safety in neighbouring lands.

We call upon all those whose influence can be brought to bear upon the destiny of those kidnapped, including the Metropolitans of Aleppo, Paul and John Ibrahim, who were taken in April 2013, to make every effort to ensure their prompt liberation.

11. We lift our prayers to Christ, the Saviour of the world, asking for the return of peace in the Middle East, “the fruit of justice” (Is 32:17), so that fraternal co–existence among the various populations, Churches and religions may be strengthened, enabling refugees to return to their homes, wounds to be healed, and the souls of the slain innocent to rest in peace.

We address, in a fervent appeal, all the parts that may be involved in the conflicts to demonstrate good will and to take part in the negotiating table. At the same time, the international community must undertake every possible effort to end terrorism through common, joint and coordinated action. We call on all the countries involved in the struggle against terrorism to responsible and prudent action. We exhort all Christians and all believers of God to pray fervently to the providential Creator of the world to protect His creation from destruction and not permit a new world war. In order to ensure a solid and enduring peace, specific efforts must be undertaken to rediscover the common values uniting us, based on the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

12. We bow before the martyrdom of those who, at the cost of their own lives, have given witness to the truth of the Gospel, preferring death to the denial of Christ. We believe that these martyrs of our times, who belong to various Churches but who are united by their shared suffering, are a pledge of the unity of Christians. It is to you who suffer for Christ’s sake that the word of the Apostle is directed: “Beloved … rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly” (1 Pet 4:12–13).

13. Interreligious dialogue is indispensable in our disturbing times. Differences in the understanding of religious truths must not impede people of different faiths to live in peace and harmony. In our current context, religious leaders have the particular responsibility to educate their faithful in a spirit which is respectful of the convictions of those belonging to other religious traditions. Attempts to justify criminal acts with religious slogans are altogether unacceptable. No crime may be committed in God’s name, “since God is not the God of disorder but of peace” (1 Cor 14:33).

14. In affirming the foremost value of religious freedom, we give thanks to God for the current unprecedented renewal of the Christian faith in Russia, as well as in many other countries of Eastern Europe, formerly dominated for decades by atheist regimes. Today, the chains of militant atheism have been broken and in many places Christians can now freely confess their faith. Thousands of new churches have been built over the last quarter of a century, as well as hundreds of monasteries and theological institutions. Christian communities undertake notable works in the fields of charitable aid and social development, providing diversified forms of assistance to the needy. Orthodox and Catholics often work side by side. Giving witness to the values of the Gospel they attest to the existence of the shared spiritual foundations of human co–existence.

15. At the same time, we are concerned about the situation in many countries in which Christians are increasingly confronted by restrictions to religious freedom, to the right to witness to one’s convictions and to live in conformity with them. In particular, we observe that the transformation of some countries into secularized societies, estranged from all reference to God and to His truth, constitutes a grave threat to religious freedom. It is a source of concern for us that there is a current curtailment of the rights of Christians, if not their outright discrimination, when certain political forces, guided by an often very aggressive secularist ideology, seek to relegate them to the margins of public life.

16. The process of European integration, which began after centuries of blood–soaked conflicts, was welcomed by many with hope, as a guarantee of peace and security. Nonetheless, we invite vigilance against an integration that is devoid of respect for religious identities. While remaining open to the contribution of other religions to our civilization, it is our conviction that Europe must remain faithful to its Christian roots. We call upon Christians of Eastern and Western Europe to unite in their shared witness to Christ and the Gospel, so that Europe may preserve its soul, shaped by two thousand years of Christian tradition.

17. Our gaze is also directed to those facing serious difficulties, who live in extreme need and poverty while the material wealth of humanity increases. We cannot remain indifferent to the destinies of millions of migrants and refugees knocking on the doors of wealthy nations. The unrelenting consumerism of some more developed countries is gradually depleting the resources of our planet. The growing inequality in the distribution of material goods increases the feeling of the injustice of the international order that has emerged.

18. The Christian churches are called to defend the demands of justice, the respect for peoples’ traditions, and an authentic solidarity towards all those who suffer. We Christians cannot forget that “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, that no human being might boast before God” (1 Cor 1:27–29).

19. The family is the natural centre of human life and society. We are concerned about the crisis in the family in many countries. Orthodox and Catholics share the same conception of the family, and are called to witness that it is a path of holiness, testifying to the faithfulness of the spouses in their mutual interaction, to their openness to the procreation and rearing of their children, to solidarity between the generations and to respect for the weakest.

20. The family is based on marriage, an act of freely given and faithful love between a man and a woman. It is love that seals their union and teaches them to accept one another as a gift. Marriage is a school of love and faithfulness. We regret that other forms of cohabitation have been placed on the same level as this union, while the concept, consecrated in the biblical tradition, of paternity and maternity as the distinct vocation of man and woman in marriage is being banished from the public conscience.

21. We call on all to respect the inalienable right to life. Millions are denied the very right to be born into the world. The blood of the unborn cries out to God (cf. Gen 4:10).

The emergence of so-called euthanasia leads elderly people and the disabled begin to feel that they are a burden on their families and on society in general.

We are also concerned about the development of biomedical reproduction technology, as the manipulation of human life represents an attack on the foundations of human existence, created in the image of God. We believe that it is our duty to recall the immutability of Christian moral principles, based on respect for the dignity of the individual called into being according to the Creator’s plan.

22. Today, in a particular way, we address young Christians. You, young people, have the task of not hiding your talent in the ground (cf. Mt 25:25), but of using all the abilities God has given you to confirm Christ’s truth in the world, incarnating in your own lives the evangelical commandments of the love of God and of one’s neighbour. Do not be afraid of going against the current, defending God’s truth, to which contemporary secular norms are often far from conforming.

23. God loves each of you and expects you to be His disciples and apostles. Be the light of the world so that those around you may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:14, 16). Raise your children in the Christian faith, transmitting to them the pearl of great price that is the faith (cf. Mt 13:46) you have received from your parents and forbears. Remember that “you have been purchased at a great price” (1 Cor 6:20), at the cost of the death on the cross of the Man–God Jesus Christ.

24. Orthodox and Catholics are united not only by the shared Tradition of the Church of the first millennium, but also by the mission to preach the Gospel of Christ in the world today. This mission entails mutual respect for members of the Christian communities and excludes any form of proselytism.

We are not competitors but brothers, and this concept must guide all our mutual actions as well as those directed to the outside world. We urge Catholics and Orthodox in all countries to learn to live together in peace and love, and to be “in harmony with one another” (Rm 15:5). Consequently, it cannot be accepted that disloyal means be used to incite believers to pass from one Church to another, denying them their religious freedom and their traditions. We are called upon to put into practice the precept of the apostle Paul: “Thus I aspire to proclaim the gospel not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on another's foundation” (Rm 15:20).

25. It is our hope that our meeting may also contribute to reconciliation wherever tensions exist between Greek Catholics and Orthodox. It is today clear that the past method of “uniatism”, understood as the union of one community to the other, separating it from its Church, is not the way to re–establish unity. Nonetheless, the ecclesial communities which emerged in these historical circumstances have the right to exist and to undertake all that is necessary to meet the spiritual needs of their faithful, while seeking to live in peace with their neighbours. Orthodox and Greek Catholics are in need of reconciliation and of mutually acceptable forms of co–existence.

26. We deplore the hostility in Ukraine that has already caused many victims, inflicted innumerable wounds on peaceful inhabitants and thrown society into a deep economic and humanitarian crisis. We invite all the parts involved in the conflict to prudence, to social solidarity and to action aimed at constructing peace. We invite our Churches in Ukraine to work towards social harmony, to refrain from taking part in the confrontation, and to not support any further development of the conflict.

27. It is our hope that the schism between the Orthodox faithful in Ukraine may be overcome through existing canonical norms, that all the Orthodox Christians of Ukraine may live in peace and harmony, and that the Catholic communities in the country may contribute to this, in such a way that our Christian brotherhood may become increasingly evident.

28. In the contemporary world, which is both multiform yet united by a shared destiny, Catholics and Orthodox are called to work together fraternally in proclaiming the Good News of salvation, to testify together to the moral dignity and authentic freedom of the person, “so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21). This world, in which the spiritual pillars of human existence are progressively disappearing, awaits from us a compelling Christian witness in all spheres of personal and social life. Much of the future of humanity will depend on our capacity to give shared witness to the Spirit of truth in these difficult times.

29. May our bold witness to God’s truth and to the Good News of salvation be sustained by the Man–God Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, who strengthens us with the unfailing promise: “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:32)!

Christ is the well–spring of joy and hope. Faith in Him transfigures human life, fills it with meaning. This is the conviction borne of the experience of all those to whom Peter refers in his words: “Once you were ‘no people’ but now you are God’s people; you ‘had not received mercy’ but now you have received mercy” (1 Pet 2:10).

30. With grace–filled gratitude for the gift of mutual understanding manifested during our meeting, let us with hope turn to the Most Holy Mother of God, invoking her with the words of this ancient prayer: “We seek refuge under the protection of your mercy, Holy Mother of God”. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, through her intercession, inspire fraternity in all those who venerate her, so that they may be reunited, in God’s own time, in the peace and harmony of the one people of God, for the glory of the Most Holy and indivisible Trinity!

Francis Kirill
Bishop of Rome Patriarch of Moscow
Pope of the Catholic Church and all Russia

Pope Francis
Catholic Church
Pope Francis in Mexico
Patriarch Kirill

12/02/2016 22:19



The final movements will be rapid ones

The final movements will be rapid ones

We are living in the time of the end. The fast-fulfilling signs of the times declare that the coming of Christ is near at hand. The days in which we live are solemn and important. The Spirit of God is gradually but surely being withdrawn from the earth. Plagues and judgments are already falling upon the despisers of the grace of God. The calamities by land and sea, the unsettled state of society, the alarms of war, are portentous. They forecast approaching events of the greatest magnitude.

The agencies of evil are combining their forces and consolidating. They are strengthening for the last great crisis. Great changes are soon to take place in our world, and the final movements will be rapid ones.

The condition of things in the world shows that troublous times are right upon us. The daily papers are full of indications of a terrible conflict in the near future. Bold robberies are of frequent occurrence. Strikes are common. Thefts and murders are committed on every hand. Men possessed of demons are taking the lives of men, women, and little children. Men have become infatuated with vice, and every species of evil prevails.

The enemy has succeeded in perverting justice and in filling men's hearts with the desire for selfish gain.

Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 11.


Pope, patriarch meet in Cuba nearly 1,000 years after split

23 Videos
Doug Stanglin, USA TODAY
56 minutes ago

Despite famine, religious wars, worldwide conflict and the spread of civilization, the heads of the Roman Catholic and the Russian Orthodox churches haven't spoken since the Great Schism of 1054 shattered Christendom, so they had a lot of catching up to do when they sat down for their historic meeting Friday afternoon in Cuba.

Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill embraced and kissed one another three times on the cheek as they met in the wood-paneled VIP room at Havana's José Martí International Airport. The two church leaders then proceeded to a pair of straight-backed chairs turned at angles.

Gabriel Bouys, AFP/Getty Images

Pope Francis meets with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch more

After another round of handshakes for the cameras and greetings with members of their entourages, the two men sat and began talking. Clasping their hands in their laps, both occasionally gestured and nodded as they spoke. They were scheduled to hold a two-hour "personal conversation" and then sign a joint declaration.

The split between the two churches nearly 1,000 years ago has festered over issues such as the primacy of the pope and accusations by the Russian Orthodox Church that the Catholic Church tries to poach converts in Russia.

No pope has ever visited Russia. En route to the historic visit Friday, journalists asked Francis if a visit to the nation is on his papal bucket list. “China and Russia, I have them here,” Francis said, pointing to his heart. “Pray.”

Few people expect Friday's meeting — which took two years of secret planning to pull off — will wipe away centuries of distrust and suspicion in a few hours, but it will be a groundbreaking step toward Catholic-Orthodox relations.

In announcing the visit last week, both sides issued a statement saying it “will mark an important stage in relations between the two churches."

Ecclesiastical and theological disputes, including issues such as the communion wafer and papal supremacy led to a break between the Greek East and Latin West, giving rise to two separate churches — Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic — after 1054.

Starting in the 15th century, the Russian Orthodox Church became an increasingly independent church that remains in communion with the Eastern Orthodox but does not report to it.

The Catholic Church claims 1.2 billion faithful worldwide. About two-thirds of the world’s Orthodox Christians belong to the Russian Orthodox Church, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said. About 75% of Russia’s 144 million citizens call themselves Russian Orthodox, according to the latest polls, although only a fraction say they are observant.

One important issue drawing the two churches closer is the rise of Christian persecution in the Middle East and Africa. Metropolitan Illarion, foreign policy chief of the Russian Orthodox Church, said recently that the treatment of Christians by extremists in the Middle East, in northern and central Africa and in other regions requires "immediate action."

“In this tragic situation, we need to put aside internal disagreements and pool efforts to save Christianity in the regions where it is subject to most severe persecution,” Illarion said.

Another factor changing the landscape is the rise of Russia on the world stage, and the growing influence of the Russian Orthodox Church in the country under President Vladimir Putin and since the fall of the Soviet Union and collapse of communist rule.

"To have the Roman pope, with his internationally recognized authority, not as a critic but as an ally or at least simply as a neutrally silent figure, is highly attractive to Putin and his associates," said Yury Avvakumov, assistant professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame.

"The Moscow Patriarchate has always been an instrument of Russian international policy. Today, the Moscow Patriarchate, with its established international ties, remains an effective transmitter worldwide of the political interests of the Russian rulers."

Yana Lapikova, AP

In a 2012 file photo, Russian Orthodox patriarch Kirill chats with Russian President in the St. Daniel Monastery in Moscow.

Under Francis, the Vatican has encouraged continuing ecumenical ties with the Orthodox as well as other Christian denominations. In November 2014, Francis said he told Kirill: “I’ll go wherever you want. You call me and I’ll go.”

The Vatican has been especially solicitous to Russia, especially in largely sidestepping criticism of Moscow's role in the Ukraine conflict.

The issue is particularly knotty for the Catholic Church, as it touches on the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the country’s second-largest, which follows eastern church rites but answers to the Holy See. The Russian Orthodox Church has considered western Ukraine its traditional territory and has resented papal influence there.

Cardinal Kurt Koch, the head of the Vatican office that deals with Orthodox relations, said the Ukrainian church will certainly come up in the two-hour private talk between Francis and Kirill, the Associated Press reported. “It would be impossible to meet without discussing such issues,” he told Vatican Radio. But he said the future significance of the meeting could not be overstated.

“It will certainly forge relations within Orthodoxy: We still don’t have contact with a lot of Orthodox patriarchs, and this meeting could help develop intra-Orthodox relations,” he said. “Improved understanding between Rome and Moscow will certainly have positive effects on the theological dialogue.”

For his part, Kirill, since taking the helm in 2009, has overseen closer ties between the church and Kremlin that critics dismiss as the de facto merging of the state and the church. Putin has openly courted the church, noting his mother baptized him in secret as a child, even allegedly keeping it from his father, a low-level Communist party member at the workshop level.

In a 2013 documentary, Putin said the baptism "affected me personally and our family." He has described the church as a vehicle for uniting the Russian people.

"In this sense, the meaning of the church goes beyond the boundaries of the Russian Federation, it helps us to establish good relations with the peoples of other countries, and especially the post-Soviet space, and, of course, the church is performing a very constructive, positive role here," Putin added.

The patriarch, who arrived in Cuba on a formal visit Thursday, also met with Cuban President Raul Castro on Friday. It was the fourth meeting between the pair, according to the Russian state-owned Tass news agency. Alexander Volkov, the patriarch’s spokesman, said relations between the two men has been "long and good."

Castro also greeted the Pope Friday on the tarmac at the airport.


Blessed Sabbath

University Of Texas Police Give Preacher Citation For Offending Students



10:27 PM 02/10/2016

The University of Texas at Austin police department issued a disorderly conduct citation to an outdoor preacher on Tuesday after students complained that his message had offended them. The preacher, who was standing just off campus, recorded his interaction with several university police officers, who explained that it was illegal for him to offend the students.

The preacher was an intern with Campus Ministry USA, an evangelical ministry organization that travels around college campuses loudly preaching their message. The ministry is headed by one Brother Jed Smock, who told The Daily Caller that his intern Joshua “was speaking out against STDs, warning against anal sex.”

The university told TheDC that the officer was responding to students who claimed to be “verbally harassed” by the intern-preacher. The video shows the officer explaining that the intern’s use of “anal” and “penis” offended students, before issuing a citation for disorderly conduct. “After a lawyer representing Joshua called the chief of police, the chief called Joshua and apologized. The citation was withdrawn.” Brother Jed told TheDC.

A university spokesperson confirmed that the citation was later “voided,” adding that the officer who originally responded to the complaint is currently in the training process.

Ari Cohn, a lawyer with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) told TheDC that he found the video “deeply disturbing.” “Speech that simply offends others is protected by the First Amendment, and contrary to the officer’s statements, it is not the job of police to ‘do something’ about it. Issuing a disorderly conduct citation based on the content of speech violates decades of clear Supreme Court precedent,” Cohn said.

“Even worse is that while Brother Jed is not a campus community member, and was not even on campus property, the officer justified his decision with the fact that students on campus across the way were offended. The implications for campus expression are dire,” Cohn went on to say. “If offending someone on campus is now grounds for criminal citations, students wishing to express themselves will much more likely censor themselves, or simply refrain from speaking at all. Such a result is unacceptable, legally and morally, at a state university bound by the First Amendment.”

Brother Jed has become somewhat infamous on many college campuses due to his inflammatory rhetoric and provocative style. It’s not uncommon for Brother Jed to hold signs with phrases such as “You Deserve Hell.” According to his website, he’s been preaching at campuses for more than 40 years.

Despite Tuesday’s events, Brother Jed told TheDC that he and his intern “are planning on returning to UT on Friday around noon and will be on campus most of the afternoon.”



Pope Francis to Meet Patriarch Kirill: What You Need to Know

FEB 12 2016, 5:07 AM ET


When the pope and the patriarch come together for the first time today, one of Christianity's most enduring divisions could edge closer to becoming ancient history.

The Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches have been at odds for over 1,000 years. Friday's meeting in Havana — where Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill will sign a joint accord — could be a critical step towards helping heal the rift.

But while the Vatican billed the religious rendezvous as an "important stage" and sign of hope, the event could be more about symbolism than substance.

Read more


Phoenix City Council Bans All Prayer At Meetings To Prevent A Satanic Prayer From Being Read

Published on Feb 4, 2016

February 03,, 2016 KING 5 News











Thursday, February 11, 2016

Obama's Pax Americana (Part II)




A Vatican official has told newly appointed bishops that they have no obligation to report instances of clerical sexual abuse, as it's the responsibility of the victims and their families. Pope Francis, left, leaves at the end of the Ash Wednesday Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, February 10.ALESSANDRO BIANCHI/REUTERS


Updated | The Vatican has told new Catholic bishops that they have no obligation to report clerical child abuse, according to reports.

During a presentation for newly appointed bishops, French Monsignor Tony Anatrella said they don’t have a duty to report abuse because it should be the responsibility of victims and their families to go to the police. The comments were first reported by John L. Allen at the Catholic news site earlier this week.

Anatrella, a psychtherapist and consultant to the Pontifical Council for the Family and the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, is known for his controversial views on homosexuality, including that the acceptance of homosexuality in the West is creating “serious problems” for children. He also helped to write a training document for newly appointed bishops that further spells out the church’s stance on clerical sexual abuse.

“According to the state of civil laws of each country where reporting is obligatory, it is not necessarily the duty of the bishop to report suspects to authorities, the police or state prosecutors in the moment when they are made aware of crimes or sinful deeds,” the training document, which was released by the Vatican earlier this month, reads. The document says bishops are required only to report the suspected abuse internally.

When reached for comment, a Vatican receptionist told Newsweek that Thursday is a holiday, so no one in the Vatican press office would be readily available. Newsweek also left a voicemail message at the Vatican’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations and emailed every person listed as the Mission’s permanent staff to seek confirmation and clarification of the comments, but has not yet received a response.

Anatrella’s comments appear to be at odds with efforts made by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which held a week-long meeting earlier this month. The proposals from the commission, which will be sent to Pope Francis for his consideration, include “a request for him to remind all authorities in the Church of the importance of responding directly to victims and survivors who approach him,” the Vatican said in a press release.

Allen notes that the commission was not involved in the training session given by Anatrella amd wonders why the commission is “not entrusted with making such a presentation to new bishops.” The next course for new bishops will be held in September, Allen reports.

"In one sense, this isn’t surprising. As has pointed out, 'zero tolerance,' while often uttered by Catholic officials, isn’t even the official policy of the global church," Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said in a statement emailed to Newsweek.

"But it’s infuriating—and dangerous—that so many believe the myth that bishops are changing how they deal with abuse and that so little attention is paid when evidence to the contrary—like this disclosure by Allen—emerges," she said.

The commission was set up in March 2014 with the explicit goal of proposing initiatives for “protecting minors and vulnerable adults, in order that we may do everything possible to ensure that crimes such as those which have occurred are no longer repeated in the Church." Futhermore, the commission "is to promote local responsibility in the particular Churches, uniting their efforts to those of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for the protection of all children and vulnerable adults.”

This story has been updated to include comments from SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests​.


Is Sunday no longer a day of rest?

By Plymouth Herald | Posted: February 11, 2016

ASK people what they think of the modern day Sunday and, if they are of a certain age, they might look a bit wistful and talk about how much they miss the change of pace that the day of rest used to signify.

But visit any high street, Drake Circus or an out-of-town store on a Sunday and you will see aisles packed with people. Sunday has becoming one of the busiest shopping days of the week and however much folk like to hark back to what can seem like a better, gentler age, it is clear most relish the chance to do their shopping on a Sunday when, for the most part, they are spared the pressures of work.

So further relaxation of the Sunday trading laws, due to be introduced very soon, are unlikely to signal any kind of angry backlash by the majority. Devout Christians aside, the average man or woman in the street has only a vague feeling that Sunday should be 'special.'

And it generally doesn't take long for those same individuals with a wistful look in their eye to also recall that Sunday could in day's gone by be the dreariest day of the week, with nothing open and little to do.

Yet still some restrictions remain and it is those that the Enterprise Bill, which went through its committee stage in the House of Commons yesterday won't impose longer Sunday opening hours on every community, but it will let councils decide if they want to relax the current regulations.

Like much of modern life, individuals are now free to decide if they want to opt in or opt out. No one is compelled to shop on a Sunday and there are plenty of other, non-commercial things that families can do with their day of rest – including going to church – if they want to.

Strict Sunday trading laws belong to a different era and their gradual relaxation has, for the most part, been a positive move.

The fact that the changes now coming in are essentially in the hands of local politicians is a good thing. It puts control back to where it belongs – with the community affected and local people, including retailers large and small.

There are measures in place to protect employees and customers can vote with their feet. If you still want a lazy shopping-free Sunday, have one. But that doesn't mean everyone else has to have one too.


Russian patriarch in Cuba before pope meeting

By Carlos Batista
1 hour ago


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Havana (AFP) - Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill arrived on Thursday in Cuba, where he will sit down with Pope Francis in the first meeting of its kind since the historic 11th-century church schism.

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The 69-year-old Kirill, in black robes and white headdress, was greeted by Cuba's communist President Raul Castro at Havana airport, where the Russian church leader was due to meet with Francis on Friday.

That meeting, set for Friday afternoon, will be the first of its kind since Christianity split into Western and Eastern branches in 1054.

It is Kirill's fourth visit to Russia's Cold War Latin American ally Cuba, but his first as patriarch, overall head of the powerful Russian Orthodox church.

"I am visiting Cuba for the fourth time with very warm feelings. I have come here on a visit of friendship," the white-bearded patriarch said in a short speech after arriving on a Russian government plane.

"The Russian and Cuban people are united by many years of collaboration, cooperation and friendship," he added.

"I wish the Cuban people well."

Francis makes a short stopover in Havana on Friday on his way to Mexico for an official visit.

Pope Francis on February 10, 2016 at the Vatican (AFP Photo/Alberto Pizzoli)

Kirill's 11-day trip will also take him to Paraguay and Brazil.

"This will be a long and difficult journey," the patriarch said in Moscow before leaving. "It requires spiritual and physical strength."

- Historic Orthodox-Catholic meeting -

The Russian church said their meeting would focus on the persecution of Christians around the world and that a joint declaration would be issued.

"This historic meeting clearly marks a new stage in our relations," the Orthodox Church's spokesman Alexander Volkov said Tuesday.

He said it was not political and could open "new prospects" for cooperation between the two branches of the church.

A meeting between the two religious leaders has been on the cards for some time, with Francis saying in 2014 he was willing to meet Kirill "wherever you want. You call me and I'll come."

Cuban president Raul Castro (L) welcomes Patriarch Kirill (C), upon his arrival at Jose Marti Intern …

Relations between the two churches have been frosty for centuries because of the legacy of the Great Schism of 1054 and the recriminations and mutual excommunications that followed.

The Orthodox Church's refusal to accept the primacy of the Roman pontiff has long been the primary barrier to a rapprochement. But more recently, relations have been strained by the fallout from the conflict in Ukraine.

A close ally of President Vladimir Putin, the patriarch has fervently backed Moscow's military action abroad.

The patriarch denounced the "anti-Russian" policies of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, an Eastern rite church that recognizes the pope and is a source of friction between Moscow and the Vatican.

- Meeting Fidel Castro -

Kirill was due to meet on Friday morning with Cuba's atheist president before the pope's arrival in the afternoon.

On Sunday, Kirill will hold a mass in the Our Lady of Kazan Orthodox cathedral, which he consecrated in 2008.

He was expected to meet with Cuba's former president Fidel Castro, 89, the revolutionary leader who handed the presidency to his brother Raul, 84, in 2008 due to ailing health.

The patriarch was also due to visit a school for children with disabilities, attend a concert and lay flowers at a Soviet memorial in Havana.

Cuba hosted Russian personnel during the Cold War and is currently home to some 3,000 Orthodox worshippers.

They are outnumbered in the former Spanish colony by Roman Catholics, Protestants and practitioners of African-rooted cults.

The Cuban state is officially secular.

Fidel Castro has said that Kirill "is not the enemy of socialism. He does not condemn to eternal fire those of us who use Leninist Marxism as a basis to fight for a just world."


World powers agree Syria ceasefire, says John Kerry

World powers agree Syria ceasefire, says John Kerry

7 minutes ago
From the section Middle East

World powers meeting on Syria have agreed to implement a nationwide ceasefire, US Secretary of State John Kerry has said.

Mr Kerry said the "cessation of hostilities" would not apply to jihadist groups Islamic State or al-Nusra Front.

He also said the powers had agreed to accelerate and expand the delivery of humanitarian aid.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016




Press Argus-Courier Staff

A local church pastor attended the recent National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., at the request of a state congressman.

Wes Hilliard, lead pastor at Heritage United Methodist Church in Van Buren, was a guest of Rep. Steve Womack at the 64th National Prayer Breakfast.

Hilliard was thrilled to be chosen by Womack to attend the national event, he said.

“I felt like all the congressmen must invite a pastor to come to this breakfast, but that’s apparently not so,” Hilliard said.

Most legislators attend the event with a spouse, but since Womack’s wife is unable to go he chooses a pastor from his district to attend each year.

This year Womack was looking to take someone from the southern part of his district, and Hilliard’s name came up, Hilliard said. Hilliard also served in the Army National Guard with Womack, he said.

Hilliard attended four meals during the week-long event, from dinner Wednesday, Feb. 3 to dinner Feb. 4.

“What I found to be interesting, the prayer breakfast itself is just the centerpiece of over 200 meetings that take place during this week that are sponsored by The Fellowship Foundation,” Hilliard said.

The goal of the foundation, Hilliard said, is to bring people from diverse backgrounds together around the “precepts, principles and person of Jesus.”

Originally called the Presidential Prayer Breakfast when it was officially founded in 1953, the series of meetings, luncheons and dinners are held on the first Thursday of every February.

Attending the 2016 bipartisan event were representatives from more than 130 countries, of all religious and political backgrounds, Hilliard said. About 3,500 people attended the actual breakfast, he said.

For instance, sitting at Hilliard’s breakfast table with Womack were a variety of people, including a nun from Uganda who Hilliard described as kind and interesting.

At lunch, she was introduced as the speaker. Hilliard had enjoyed breakfast with Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe, named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people for her work with women and girls who have been sexually exploited.

Event attendees enjoyed speakers and entertainment from around the world.

Hilliard listened to Italian classical singer Andrea Bocelli during breakfast, and Mark Burnett, president MGM Television and Digital Group, and his wife Roma Downey from the TV series Touched by an Angel, were the keynote speakers.

Hosts for the event alternate between the House and Senate; this year’s hosts were Rep. Juan Vargas (D) from California and Rep. Robert Aderholt (R) of Alabama.

Arkansas’ own Sen. John Boozman is set to be one of the hosts for the 2017 National Prayer Breakfast, Hilliard said.


Statement by the President on Ash Wednesday

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
February 10, 2016

Today, Michelle and I join our fellow Christians in marking Ash Wednesday. Lent is a season of reflection, repentance and renewal, a time to rededicate ourselves to God and one another. We remember the sacrifice and suffering of Jesus Christ. We pray for all those who suffer, including those Christians who are subjected to unspeakable violence and persecution for their faith. And we join millions here at home and around the world in giving thanks for this sacred and solemn season that guides us toward the Easter celebration.


FBI moves in on last four occupiers at Oregon wildlife refugeFBI moves in on last four occupiers at Oregon wildlife refuge.

Reuters By Steve Gorman 54 minutes ago

By Steve Gorman

(Reuters) - Federal agents on Wednesday closed in on the last four anti-government militants still holed up at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon after a 40-day-old armed occupation, the FBI said in a statement.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation said no shots have been fired and that negotiations to end the occupation without violence were continuing.

The four protesters were indicted last week along with 12 others previously arrested on charges of conspiring to impede federal officers during the standoff at the compound.

The takeover at Malheur, which began on Jan. 2, was sparked by the return to prison of two Oregon ranchers convicted of setting fires that spread to federal property in the vicinity of the refuge.

The occupation, led by Ammon Bundy, also was directed as a protest against federal control over millions of acres public land in the West.

Bundy and 10 others were arrested in January in Oregon, most of them during a confrontation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and state police on a snow-covered roadside where a spokesman for the group, Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, was shot dead. A 12th member of the group turned himself in to police in Arizona.

The FBI said its agents moved to contain the remaining four holdouts Wednesday evening after one of the occupiers drove an all-terrain vehicle outside the barricades previously set up by the self-styled militia members at the refuge.

FBI agents attempted to approach the driver, and he sped away back to the compound, after which federal agents "moved to contain the remaining occupiers by placing agents at barricades both immediately ahead of and behind" their encampment, the FBI said.

A number of the occupiers were relating their account of events as they were unfolding via an independent Internet broadcast, "Revolution Radio," that is known to be sympathetic to the occupation.

One woman said FBI agents had moved to within 50 yards (45 meters) of the occupiers' position in the compound. One protester identifying herself as Sandy Anderson reported seeing FBI snipers posted on a nearby hillside with high-beam vehicle lights trained on the compound.

"If they tear gas us, it's the same as firing on us," she said, adding, "Don't come in. Don't do it."

It was not immediately clear how much farther law enforcement officers would go in the latest confrontation. Until Wednesday, FBI and police had largely kept their distance from the buildings occupied by the militants, sealing off access to the refuge headquarters with roadblocks.

However, the standoff has reached a point where it became necessary to take action to ensure everyone's safety, Greg Bretzing, special agent in charge of the FBI in Oregon, said in a statement.

"It has never been the FBI's desire to engage these armed occupiers in any way other than through dialogue, and to that end, the FBI has negotiated with patience and restraint in an effort to resolve the situation peacefully," the statement said.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Mary Wisniewski in Chicago and Peter Henderson in San Francisco; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)