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By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
Washington (CNN) - "You've got something on your forehead."
Every year on Ash Wednesday it's how the awkward conversation begins. A well meaning co-worker points out a black smudge on someone's forehead, not knowing it's supposed to be there.
The smudge is the imposition of ashes, often on the forehead in the shape of a cross. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lenten season, when Christians take time to prepare for Easter through a time of fasting and prayer. The imposition of ashes nears a holy obligation for many Catholics, although technically it is not.
As two prominent Catholic presidential candidates take to the debate stage for the CNN Republican Presidential Debate in Mesa, Arizona, lots of people are asking will they or won't they wear ashes?
By Steve Almasy, CNN
(CNN) – When Jeremy Lin was a sophomore at Harvard, he was struggling emotionally. A good guard on an awful basketball team – the Crimson finished the season with an 8-22 record – he needed something more than hoops.
Lin, who had been baptized into an evangelical Chinese church near San Francisco in ninth grade and had come to value Christian fellowship through his youth group, was part of the Harvard-Radcliffe Asian American Christian Fellowship group, regularly attending Bible study.
But most of his life was spent with his basketball teammates and other athletes, he later told the Student Soul, a website of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.
“It’s a tough environment and if you don’t have appropriate boundaries, you’ll compromise your faith,” he told the website, run by a major Christian college ministry, in 2010.
Washington (CNN) – A 2008 speech by Rick Santorum at Ave Maria University is making waves this week, in large part because Santorum said Satan had his sights set on America and the country was facing spiritual warfare.
The speech came at the beginning of the academic year at the Catholic university in Florida. At that point, the 2008 presidential campaign was in full swing. Then-candidate Barack Obama had recently made a statement about abortion and the issue of deciding when life began, which he said was above his pay grade.
Santorum was using the devil-tinged language after explaining Obama's position on abortion. He quoted Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo, North Dakota, who said at the time, “Catholics who support so-called ‘abortion rights’ support a false right, promote a culture of death and are guarded by the father of lies."
"This is not a political war at all, this is not a culture war at all, this is a spiritual war," Santorum said, according to a recording of the speech on the university's website. "And the father of lies has his sights on what you think the father of lies, Satan, would have his sights on. A good, decent, powerful, influential country, the United States of America."
(CNN) – Franklin Graham, son of famed evangelist Billy Graham, on Tuesday questioned whether Mitt Romney's Mormon faith qualified as Christianity.
He also raised concerns about President Barack Obama's dedication to Christianity, as well as to Christians living in Muslim countries.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons as members are colloquially known, identify themselves as Christians.
By Richard Allen Greene, CNN
(CNN) – Muslims believe the Quran is the word of God, so holy that people should wash their hands before even touching the sacred book, which is why Quran burning incites such fury.
But with angry demonstrations against Quran burning taking place in Afghanistan, one leading Islamic scholar urged Muslims not to react violently to desecration of the book.
"What is captured on the pages can be printed again. If they burn 1,000, we can print 10,000. What's the big deal?" Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra asked Tuesday after hundreds of demonstrators protested reports of the burning of Qurans and other religious material by NATO troops.
CNN Belief Blog contributor Stephen Prothero unpacks Rick Santorum's remarks and qualifications about what the presidential candidate calls Barack Obama's "phony theology."
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the Baghram Airfield in Afghanistan on Tuesday, spurred by reports that soldiers had burned a copy of the Quran at the base.
NATO officials acknowledged that Islamic religious materials, including copies of the Quran, had been improperly disposed at the base, but could not definitely say whether any was burned.
"We think very little was disposed (of)," said Col. Gary Kolb. "We don't think any was burned because we were able to recover most of the materials."
The commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan quickly apologized and said he had launched an investigation.
By Dan Merica, CNN
Here's the Belief Blog’s morning rundown of the top faith-angle stories from around the United States and around the world. Click the headlines for the full stories.
From the Blog:
The author argues there is not one Catholic vote, but three discreet Catholic votes.
CNN: My Take: The myth and reality of the Catholic vote
It’s easy to see why Catholics are sometimes seen as the swing voters whose shifting political preferences swing elections. Nevertheless, the idea of a Catholic bloc is patently ridiculous. As voters, American Catholics mirror the electorate as a whole, divided into Democrats, independents, and Republicans at about the same percentages as all Americans. And it’s hard to trace such political complexity to religious allegiance.
CNN: Pope appoints 22 new cardinals
Pope Benedict appointed 22 new cardinals at the Vatican on Saturday, with his choices for the lofty role likely to influence who will be appointed as the next pontiff.
By The CNN Wire Staff
PHILADELPHIA (CNN) – Jury selection begins Tuesday in the Philadelphia Catholic Archdiocese trial, a case experts have called one of the most sweeping sex abuse scandals in America.
The Philadelphia scandal could open a historic chapter in the abuse crisis, church watchers say, changing the way the American criminal justice system deals with such alleged cases.
A grand jury last year charged four priests and a parochial school teacher with raping and assaulting boys in their care.
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.