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'National emergency' message on Oregon church sign goes viral

A photograph of a church marquee in Oregon commenting about a national emergency has been shared more than 40,000 times since it was posted Wednesday on FacebookThe Oregonian reported.

>> Read more trending news 

The sign, outside the Clackamas United Church of Christ in Milwaukie, reads, in all capital letters, “National Emergency: 44 million people without health insurance,” the newspaper reported.

Rev. Adam Ericksen, the church’s pastor since 2017, said the reason for the the marquee was to “get our message about God’s love for all people into the neighborhood.”

“I think it’s important to have a sign like this because during the last few years in particular, I have noticed that progressive Christians need to be bold with our message,” Ericksen told the Oregonian. “That message is this: God loves all people and God works for a more just and inclusive world. Jesus always sought to include into his community those who were marginalized by the religious authorities of his day.”

“As for the national emergency message, the sick came to Jesus in search of healing,” Ericksen told the newspaper. “He saw they were in an emergency and he provided them with free health care. We seek to follow Jesus. For us, that means working for a world where everyone is cared for and included in a community of love and justice.”

There are two parts to the sign, however, although the health insurance message is getting the most attention, according to the Oregonian. 

“National Emergency: 553,700 are homeless,” the marquee reads. “Sunday 10:30.”

Pope Francis defrocks former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick over sex abuse charges

Pope Francis defrocked former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick on Saturday after Vatican officials found him guilty of sexually abusing minors and adults over several decades, several media outlets reported.

>> Read more trending news 

McCarrick, 88, was the former cardinal and archbishop of Washington, D.C. It is believed to be the first time that a cardinal or bishop in the United States has been expelled from the Roman Catholic Church, The New York Times reported.

Defrocking, or laicizing, means that McCarrick won’t be allowed to celebrate Mass or other sacraments, the newspaper reported.

The Vatican has laicized hundreds of priests for sexual abuse of minors, but few of the church higher-ranking priests have faced such severe punishment, according to the Times.

“Now you will see that bishops are also treated like their priests,” Kurt Martens, a professor of canon law at the Catholic University of America, told the newspaper in a telephone interview. “Bishops and former cardinals are no longer immune to punishment. The reverence that was shown in the past to bishops no longer applies.”

According to the Vatican’s press office, the Congregation of the Doctrine of Holy Faith found McCarrick guilty of “solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.”

McCarrick appealed the penalty, but officials rejected it, the newspaper reported. He was notified of the decision on Friday. The pontiff accepted McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals in July and suspended him from all priestly duties. In June, a church panel confirmed a claim that McCarrick had abused an altar boy nearly 50 years ago, the Times reported.

'Heaven has a wall,' Arkansas grocery store ad mailer suggests

A family owned Christian grocery store chain in southeastern Arkansas caused a stir with a weekly ad mailer that included the message, “Heaven has a wall,” KARK reported.

>> Read more trending news 

The mailer was distributed to four Mac’s Cashsaver store in the Arkansas cities of Camden, Magnolia and El Dorado, the television station reported. It also was sent to several stores in northern Louisiana.

The full message in the mailer references the controversy over President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall between the United States and Mexico. It reads, “Heaven has a wall, a gate and a strict immigration policy. Hell has open borders. Let that sink in,” KARK reported.

Reactions were mixed among shoppers.

“It just doesn’t make any sense," Tyler Reede, of Camden, told KARK. ““Why would they put that on there?"

"I didn’t have a problem with it,” Logan Reede told the television station. “If they want to come here, they can come here legally.”

The phrase in the mailer is a variation of a biblical passage in Revelation 21:12, according to the King James Bible website: “And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel:” 

Employees at the Mac’s store in Camden said they have been approached by “dozens” of customers, KARK reported.

“They’re just making a political spin out of it and getting the wrong idea of what it really means," store manager Jack Digby told the television station. “I am for the company and I am for God. There’s nothing wrong with what that statement says.”

The company said it will continue to include the message in its weekly mailers, KARK reported.

Pope announces Click to Pray app

Pope Francis is bringing the Catholic Church into the 21st Century when it comes to technology.

The pope has launched his own user profile in Click To Pray app. The program is part of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, according to Vatican News.

ABC News reported that the app will give 1 billion Catholics the ability to pray with the pope.

He announced it Sunday during his public noontime prayer, according to ABC News.

Pope Francis says the internet allows people “to stay in touch with others, to share values and projects and to express the desire to form a community,” the BBC reported.

>> Read more trending news 

It allows the faithful to join Pope Francis on his worldwide mission of compassion and includes not only the app, but also a website. 

It offers three sections: 

Pray with the Pope, sharing the pontiff’s prayers for humanity and the mission of the church.

Pray every day, with prayers in three daily moments.

Pray with the network, where users, including Pope Francis, can pray with others. 

Click to Pray is the online prayer interface for World Youth Day 2019 being held in Panama until Jan. 27. There’s a special multimedia section to pray the Rosary for Peace tied to the event, according to Vatican News.

Georgia church gives members affected by government shutdown nearly $300 each

The partial government shutdown continues and many federal workers haven't been paid in weeks, so a Georgia church stepped in to help its members who have been impacted.

>> Watch the news report here

>> On WSBTV.com: Government shutdown becomes longest in U.S. history

Church members at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church were able to raise enough money to give fellow members affected by the government shutdown nearly $300 each in cash.

Pastor Dr. Jamal Bryant, who joined the church in December as the new senior pastor, said he felt he and his congregation had a responsibility to help those in need. He said 30 people went to the altar Sunday, Jan. 6, seeking aid.

>> On WSBTV.com: Jamal Bryant named as new senior pastor of New Birth

“When the government shuts down is when the church needs to be wide open,” Bryant said. "When I originally brought them down, I was just going to pray for them."

But the pastor said God spoke to him and asked him to do more.

>> Read more trending news 

"I ain't waiting on the Democrats or the Republicans," Bryant said.

The pastor asked members to dig in their pockets and give to those not getting paid.

"I was absolutely blown away. I've only been in here a month. I had no idea that compassion was this high in Atlanta," Bryant said.

>> Jamie Dupree: Coast Guard misses paychecks as partial shutdown reaches Day 25

Now the pastor is looking at other ways to help those affected by the shutdown.

"Whether or not we can do potluck dinners for families to be able to come – gift cards to grocery stores," Bryant said.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news 

He said there are more people in need based on the comments he got from those who missed the service.

"You can't imagine how many people said, 'Oh, I missed last Sunday. Are y'all going to do it again?'" Bryant said.

Bryant said his team is looking at ways to help members on an ongoing basis until the shutdown ends. He said it's the church's job to help those in need.

Proposed Florida bill would allow schools to offer Bible, religious study as elective

A proposed Florida bill would allow schools to offer Bible and religious studies as an elective.

Rep. Kimberly Daniels, a Democrat from District 14 in Jacksonville, filed House Bill 195: Study of the Bible and Religion, last week.

The bill would allow an objective study of religion, including the New and Old Testaments of the Bible and Hebrew Scriptures. 

>> Read more trending news 

The proposed bill stated that the schools must “follow all state and federal laws and guidelines in maintaining religious neutrality and accommodating the diverse religious views, traditions, and perspectives of all students in the school."  

Courses would be offered to students in grades nine through 12.

The proposed bill also continued to read: "A course offered pursuant to this section may not endorse, favor, or promote or disfavor or show hostility toward a particular religion, religious perspective, or nonreligious faith.” 

If passed, it would go into effect July 1.

Bible survives blaze that destroyed home

A fire destroyed almost everything a Texas man owned, except for one thing -- his Bible.

“He said that His word would not perish, and that Bible did not burn,” Charles House told KLTV.

House said he woke up Saturday morning to the smell of smoke and flames quickly spreading around his home, which was set up in a storage building that was converted into a home. 

He was living there, saving money for a larger home. 

>> Read more trending news 

The house was a total loss, but he did notice one thing as he rummaged through what was left, his Bible sat upon a charred side table, scorched but not destroyed, KLTV reported.

The cause of the house fire was “hazardous wiring” that caused the circuits to overload. The fire started inside the walls of the house and spread to the ceiling, KLTV reported.

U.S. priest charged with sexually abusing 10 boys in Philippines

An American Catholic priest has been charged with soliciting sex with underage boys while in the Philippines, according to federal prosecutors. 

Rev. Kenneth Bernard Hendricks, 77, of Cincinnati, is charged with engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places, according to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of Ohio. Hendricks was arrested Dec. 5 in the Philippines, where he was serving as a missionary priest. 

At least 10 alleged victims have been identified, according to NBC News. Hendricks is being held in a Manila jail. 

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati said in a statement following Hendricks’ arrest that the priest was ordained while overseas and has never been a priest under the archdiocese’s purview.

“Although not a priest of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Fr. Hendricks is listed on our website as a Catholic missionary serving in Asia,” the statement from the Archdiocese said. “He is one of around 75 missionaries from Southwest Ohio who receive some financial support from the Mission Office of the Archdiocese. None of these individuals work for, or take direction from, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.”

Archdiocese officials said they are cooperating fully with the Department of Justice and Homeland Security investigators. They urged anyone with information about the rogue priest to call Homeland Security at 513-246-1461.

“The abuse of children or any vulnerable person is abhorrent and needs to be prosecuted,” the statement said.

Hendricks came under suspicion Nov. 13, when Homeland Security officials received information regarding the sexual exploitation of several minor Filipino boys, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Benjamin C. Glassman. The information alleged that a Catholic priest, later identified as Hendricks, had been sexually assaulting the boys, several of whom had been identified and were cooperating with police in the Philippines. 

According to the boys, the abuse included anal and oral sex, as well as mutual masturbation, the news release said. The alleged abuse occurred dozens of times and involved boys as young as 7 years old. 

“Hendricks allegedly had a number of minor boys residing with him,” the news release said. “It is alleged he insisted they take baths together and would molest the victims alone or with other boys. The priest allegedly warned the victims that if they told anyone they would all go to prison.”

>> Read more trending news

Glassman said one conversation between Hendricks and a victim was recorded. 

“This will probably be the scenario is, there will be a meeting and then it will be decided, you know, what your parents want to do about anything,” Hendricks said in the recording. “Do they want to try … want to press charges, uh, whatever see, but that’s between them and the Bishop. I have nothing to do with that. I just get the fallout afterwards.”

He further said in the conversation that the boy’s parents would ask him if he wanted a case to move forward of if he preferred a settlement. 

“But as far as after that, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I really will have to probably really resign, retire now,” Hendricks said, according to the news release

Read the affidavit in support of charges against Cincinnati priest Kenneth Hendricks below. Warning: Details of the allegations against the 77-year-old are graphic.

The criminal complaint has been sealed by a federal judge, but a redacted affidavit in support of the complaint provides further detail of the allegations against Hendricks, who was the parish priest in Naval, the capital of the province of Biliran. 

The affidavit, which often grows graphic with details of repeated sexual assaults, states that two of Hendricks’ alleged victims gave sworn statements Nov. 6 to the Philippine National Police. One young man said the abuse began in 2009, when he was 12 and serving as a sacristan at the church. 

The victim, who is now 22, said the abuse began when Hendricks kissed him on the lips one day as he cleaned the church. He said he also witnessed Hendricks inappropriately touching other young boys who lived with the priest. 

The man, who said he felt he had no choice, ended up moving in with the priest, who financed his education and helped his family. All the while, Hendricks was secretly molesting him, both alone and with other boys, the affidavit says. 

Hendricks often insisted the boy take a bath with him, the document reads. 

The young man told investigators that, at 15, he contracted a sexually transmitted disease from Hendricks. After being treated for it, he refused to have any additional sexual contact with the priest, the affidavit says. 

The affidavit goes over statements made by multiple other victims, whose names are redacted. It also reveals that the recorded conversation mentioned in Glassman’s news release was between Hendricks and the man whose abuse began in 2009.

The recording was made in November, once the allegations against Hendricks were taken to law enforcement.  

During that conversation, Hendricks admitted sexually abusing several boys, the affidavit says. At one point, he tells his alleged victim that “happy days are gone, it’s all over.”

“But the kids, but the kids Father is telling the truth? They are telling everything about you, Father?” the man says. 

“Well, that’s, it’s true. I’m not saying it’s not. Did I say it’s not? It happened,” Hendricks says. 

The alleged victim again asks Hendricks if he admits to having sex with boys.

“It’s already blottered, you put it on a blotter,” Hendricks responds. “Will I lie? It was a mistake on my part. Should have known better than trying to just have a life.

“That’s why you make mistakes. You have to learn from them, so I have to learn.”

NBC News reported that, along with the U.S. charges, Hendricks is also being charged by authorities in the Philippines.

“Our reach in this case is global,” Glassman told the news network. “If someone commits a crime with any connection to the Southern District of Ohio, we can work with other agents for a global reach.”

Hendricks faces 30 years in prison if convicted of the U.S. charges. 

Legal battle looms over painting of Virgin Mary at Florida mobile home park

Lawyers representing a Florida mobile home park have threatened to sue an 85-year-old woman over a painting of the Virgin Mary outside her home, the Bradenton Herald reported.

>> Read more trending news 

Millie Francis said she received a notice from lawyers for the Bradenton Tropical Farms mobile home park on Nov. 9 that she had 30 days to remove the painting.

“It’s not going anywhere,” Francis told the Herald.

Francis received permission from the park to have the front window of her mobile home removed in April when she said security personnel officers were shining lights into her home at night, the newspaper reported. She replaced it with the painting, which is mounted on a piece of plywood.

However, property manager Janet Nowakowski told Francis to remove the painting, the Herald reported.

Nowakowski told the newspaper that she had no issue with the content of Francis’ painting, but said the woman did not follow proper procedure in getting it approved by the park’s architectural review committee.

Francis told the Herald she was inspired to have the painting done while attending church, adding there was nothing in the park’s rules prohibiting decorating after the fact. Francis claims she is being discriminated against because of her Catholic faith, the newspaper reported.

“I’m feeling weak,” Francis told the Herald. “This is bothering me so much, it’s making me ill that they are still determined to tear it down. 

“If I have to go to court, then I have to go. I don’t know what to do. I can’t take this anymore but I can’t see it coming down. It’s not hurting anyone. They don’t have to look at it if they don’t like it so I don’t understand why they are against me, but it’s going to stay.”

Sinead O'Connor converts to Islam, changes name

Irish singer Sinead O’Connor announced she has converted to Islam and has changed her name, the BBC reported.

>> Read more trending news 

The artist, best known for her 1990 hit version of the Prince song “Nothing Compares 2 U,” announced on Twitter that she had changed her name to Shuhada'.

She converted to Catholicism last year and changed her name to Magda Davitt, Metro reported.

“This is to announce that I am proud to have become a Muslim,” she wrote on Twitter. “This is the natural conclusion of any intelligent theologian’s journey. All scripture study leads to Islam. Which makes all other scriptures redundant. I will be given (another) new name. It will be Shuhada.”

Irish Imam Shaykh Dr Umar al-Qadri posted a video on Twitter of the singer giving the Islamic declaration of faith.

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