From CNN's Hada Messia in Rome:
Alleged victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy held a candlelight vigil of solidary at the Vatican on Sunday but were not allowed to deliver letters to a bronze door outside the pope's residence.
Several dozen marchers from the United States, Asia and Europe gathered to share their stories and say more needs to be done about the long-standing problem. The Vatican said it routinely disallows such protests in the square but did allow the group to congregate on a portion of the grounds.
Organizer Gary Bergeron of Boston, Massachusetts, called Sunday "Reformation Day" and launched a petition calling on the United Nations to include sexual abuse of children as a crime against humanity. He said he was abused by a priest while he served as an altar boy.
Iraqi security forces stormed a Catholic church Sunday where gunmen were holding worshippers hostage, ending the hours-long standoff, police officials said Sunday.
At least seven hostages were killed in the incident. Another 20 people were wounded, the officials said. Eight suspects were arrested.
Survivors of the ordeal said they were just about to begin Sunday night services when the gunmen entered the church, according to Martin Chulov, a journalist for the U.K.-based Guardian newspaper who was on the scene. About 50 people were inside the church at the time, and a priest ushered them into a back room.
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From CNN's Dan Gilgoff:
A Torah that was stolen from an Arizona synagogue on Monday has been returned after a Craigslist ad offered a $500 reward for the scrolls, the synagogue's rabbi said Saturday.
"The hardest thing to figure out is what this person was expecting to do with it," said Rabbi Reuven Mann, who leads the synagogue in Phoenix. "There is a market for people that buy and sell Torahs, but it has do be done legitimately."
A member of Mann's congregation, Young Israel of Phoenix, posted the Craigslist ad Tuesday, a day after the Torah - which the rabbi says is valued around $35,000 - was discovered missing in an apparent theft.
The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago says area synagogues began taking
A small Chicago synagogue dedicated to serving the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community may have been one of the intended destinations of two packages intercepted abroad that were packed with explosive material, a co-president for the congregation said Saturday.
Or Chadash, a congregation of about 100 people, held its Sabbath services Friday with security out in full force.
"It was unnerving, [but] we carried on as normal," Or Chadash's co-president, Lilli Kornblum, told CNN.
Editor's note: Aaron Mercer serves as director of the National Association of Evangelical’s sanctity of life efforts. Prior to joining the NAE, Mercer spent over seven years in the office of Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), where he was a leading voice among congressional staff for finding creative avenues to honor the sanctity of all human life, particularly in its most vulnerable stages, and to promote the development of healthy families.
By, Aaron Mercer, Special to CNN
With less than four days before Election Day, political campaigns are in full swing and their messages are all around us. One subject campaigns either passionately desire to engage or eagerly seek to avoid is abortion. The very word stirs deep feelings in many.
What is too often missed is that abortion is not only an idea; it is a very real, everyday problem in our communities. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy reports that approximately half of all pregnancies are unplanned, and more than 40 percent of these 3 million annual unplanned pregnancies are aborted.
This accounts for the vast majority of America’s million-plus abortions every year. And it’s not just a teen problem. According to the Guttmacher Institute, over 80 percent of women having abortions are adults.
Editor's Note: CNN National Security Producer Laurie Ure brings us this report from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Oklahoma voters are considering an unusual question that will appear on their ballots this Tuesday: whether Islamic law can be used in considering cases in state court.
The question is the doing of State Rep. Rex Duncan. The Republican is the main author of State Question 755, also known as the "Save our State" constitutional amendment, one of 11 questions on the state ballot.
The question might seem a befuddling one for a ballot in the heartland, but it stems from a New Jersey legal case in which a Muslim woman went to a family court asking for a restraining order against her spouse claiming he had raped her repeatedly. The judge ruled against her, saying that her husband was abiding by his Muslim beliefs regarding spousal duties. The decision was later overruled by an appellate court, but the case sparked a firestorm.
Duncan secured support for the proposal on the state's Senate side from fellow Republican Anthony Sykes, who co-authored the measure.
Read the full story here.
Editor's Note: CNN's John Blake brings us this story from Atlanta, Georgia.
Bishop Eddie Long, his face glistening with sweat, paces onstage before his cheering congregation.
He's preaching about the Bible, the role of a preacher, and "fresh sperm."
"The word of God is potent. The word of God is His sperm," Long thunders. "The job of the preacher is to bring fresh sperm and when he speaks it, the womb - the church - is to take it in and say, 'Sho' you're right.' "
The video of that sermon, delivered during the early days of Long's ministry in the 1990s, has gone viral. And now it is being discussed in the context of four lawsuits that claim the 57-year-old Long used his spiritual authority to coerce four young men into sexual relationships with him.
Long has denied the allegations, characterizing them as assaults against him and New Birth Missionary Church, his 25,000 member megachurch in suburban Atlanta, Georgia.
From CNN's John Blake:
Gary Jansen walked into his 3-year-old son Eddie’s bedroom one winter night and experienced a strange sensation.
Someone was standing behind him. The sensation was so strong that he jerked his head sideways to see who was there. He saw nothing except a night-light he'd installed in Eddie’s room.
Jansen shrugged it off, but when he grabbed the pair of socks he'd come for he felt something even more eerie.
“As I was walking to the doorway I experienced something quite out of the ordinary - sort of like an electric hand rubbing the length of my back,” he would write later.
A UN agency's decision to identify a Jewish holy site in the West Bank as a mosque has prompted cries of bias and distortion from Israel.
"It displays brazen political bias and stands in total contradiction to the organization's declared purposes of advancing education, science and culture" said Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor of a recent statement by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
In a statement released earlier this week regarding a vote of it's executive board of UNESCO said:
"The Palestinian sites of al-Haram, al-Ibrahimi/Tomb of the Patriarchs in al-Khalil/Hebron and the Bilal bin Rabah Mosque/Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem: the Board voted 44 to one (12 abstentions) to reaffirm that the two sites are an integral part of the occupied Palestinian Territories and that any unilateral action by the Israeli authorities is to be considered a violation of international law..."
Synagogues across metropolitan Chicago, Illinois, began taking "appropriate precautions" Friday after a warning by security officials to watch out for suspicious packages from abroad, according to a Jewish Federation spokeswoman.
While there were "no identifiable or specific threats," an FBI official in Chicago said suspicious packages addressed to U.S. destinations found on cargo planes abroad warranted the precautions.
"Since two of the suspicious packages that were intercepted were addressed to religious institutions in Chicago, all churches, synagogues and mosques in the Chicago area should be vigilant for any unsolicited or unexpected packages, especially those originating from overseas locations," said FBI Special Agent Ross Rice.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.