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COMMENTARY: Lent isn’t just a second chance at New Year’s resolutions

(RNS) So here we go again. It's that time of year _ Lent, when many Christians give something up. Often it's food, although my mom told me when I was a kid that giving up vegetables doesn't count.     A few years ago, as we approached Lent, a few of my friends (who during the rest of the year rejected religion), announced they, too, were giving something up. W...
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Black churches are no longer ground zero for civil rights activism

(RNS) The Rev. Delman Coates approached his pulpit on Sunday (Dec. 14) with a straightforward sermon: “Black Lives Matter.” The Facebook page of his Mount Ennon Baptist Church featured photos of a congregation of thousands, dressed in black, with their hands held up. And the Clint...
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Sarah Silverman attends Western Wall Hanukkah menorah lighting in support of women’s rights

JERUSALEM (RNS) Comedian Sarah Silverman made a rare appearance in the middle of a hot political dispute Thursday (Dec. 18) when she attended a Hanukkah menorah lighting alongside a group of Jewish feminists at the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site. It was the first time women...
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What to say when your Muslim child asks about Peshawar

(RNS) The massacre of 145 people, nearly all of them children, at a Pakistani school on Tuesday (Dec. 16)  is almost too horrible for adults to talk about, much less children. But what if your Muslim child brings it up? What if you want to open the discussion? Does the fact that...
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First showers, now sleeping bags: Pope Francis’ birthday gift to the homeless

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis marked his 78th birthday by giving hundreds of sleeping bags to the homeless in Rome, Vatican officials said Thursday (Dec. 18). Just one month after announcing plans to build showers for the homeless in St. Peter’s Square, the pope called for 400 s...
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Pope Francis takes a victory lap after brokering US-Cuba breakthrough

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis welcomed the renewal of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba on Thursday (Dec. 18), saying he was happy to see an end to a half-century standoff between the two nations. But it was left to others at the Vatican to explain what a crucial ro...
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How Pope Francis’ diplomacy may change everything, not just US-Cuba relations

(RNS) Pope Francis is being hailed around the world — and criticized by some in the U.S. — for his pivotal role in brokering the historic breakthrough in relations between Washington and Havana, a role attributed to his background as the first Latin American pope and to the special...
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Church of England names its first woman bishop; Libby Lane to assume historic role

CANTERBURY, England (RNS) The Church of England announced on Wednesday (Dec. 17) that Libby Lane, a parish priest from Hale, a small village outside Manchester, would become its first woman bishop, ending centuries of all-male leadership in this country’s established church. The a...
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2014 in review: An unsettling year, with religion in a starring role

(RNS) For most of recorded history, Isis was an Egyptian goddess, a benevolent type who cared for widows and orphans, cured the sick and even brought the dead back to life. This year, the world met the other ISIS. The rise of the so-called Islamic State, variously known as ISIS...
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Pope Francis appoints new members to child abuse panel

VATICAN CITY (RNS) A British survivor of clerical sexual abuse and a longtime aide to Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley are among nine new members appointed by Pope Francis to the Vatican’s sex abuse commission. The Vatican on Wednesday (Dec. 17) announced the additions to the commiss...
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8 factoids about Hanukkah to impress your friends and family

(RNS) The late Jewish sociologist Marshall Sklare remarked that certain Jewish holidays were destined for American Jewish success. They had to be infrequently observed, child- and family-oriented, and translatable into an American context. Hanukkah, with its focus on religious freed...
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