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Australian priest reacts to Parkland shooting with swipe at US on church marquee 

A rector at a church in Australia sent a pointed message to the United States this week in the wake of the shooting deaths at a high school in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, The Washington Post reported.

On the marquee outside the Gosford Anglican Church, the Rev. Rod Bower posted the message, “When will they love their kids more than their guns.”

In a Facebook post of a photo of the billboard, Bower called the United States “a society destroying itself from within,” and “an empire in decline.” 

“A culture that loves guns more than children has no future other than corruption, decline and death,” Bower wrote.

Australia’s gun laws are among the toughest in the world. The country’s Parliament passed strict gun control legislation in 1996, banning the possession, manufacture and sale of semi-automatic weapons except in “exceptional circumstances,” the Post reported.

There has not been a mass shooting in Australia since its gun control laws were passed, the Post reported.

In an interview last week with Radio New Zealand, Bower said the church should make statements about politics.

“Politics is simply the way we human beings organize each other. So yeah, I think everybody ought to be involved in politics,” Bower said. “Religious leaders have a responsibility, I think ethically and morally, to speak into the life of the nation.” 

Bower did say, however, that while he believes the church “always should be involved in politics,” he added that it “should never be involved in government.”

Indiana church posts sign: ‘Stop sexual harassment. Wear clothes’

A sign posted on the marquee outside an Indiana church referencing a solution to sexual harassment has sparked outrage, according to reports.

>> Read more trending news

“Stop Sexual Harassment. Wear Clothes,” was posted outside Emmanuel Baptist Church in Jeffersonville on Sunday, WLKY reported. 

“Pretty much any female regardless of shape, size, color, race, what they look like, what they dress like, have been a victim of some type of sexual harassment in the past,” Opal Lavon, a Jeffersonville resident, told WHAS. “So it's just completely inappropriate and out of line for anybody or any entity to put that message out there.”

The church has been a part of the Jeffersonville community since 1908, according to its Facebook page. The sentiments expressed on the sign, however, angered residents.

“As a mom of two daughters, this infuriated me. As a female myself, this infuriated me. As a human being, this infuriated me," Jeffersonville resident Allyson Condra told WLKY.

"I mean, would you say that to a 6-year-old girl who has been assaulted when they wear overalls and pigtails?" Jeffersonville resident Madilyn Shipman told WLKY.

A neighbor said the message was removed by the pastor just after 9:30 p.m., WLKY reported.

The pastor told WHAS he does not know who put the message up and said he did not approve it.

Pope Francis jokes with cloistered nuns in Peru

Pope Francis drew appreciative laughter Sunday when he addressed cloistered nuns in a Peruvian church, Reuters reported. The nuns were given special permission to leave their convents to see the pontiff speak in Lima.

>> Read more trending news

Francis spoke to the 500 nuns, known as “contemplatives” because they rarely venture away from their convents, on his final day in Peru.

“Seeing you all here an unkind thought comes to my mind, that you took advantage (of me) to get out of the convent a bit to take a stroll,” he said at the Cathedral San Juan Apostol y Evangelista in Lima, drawing roars of laughter from the nuns, Reuters reported.

Francis also urged the nuns to avoid gossiping in their convents, likening it to “terrorism.”

“You know what a gossiping nun is?” he asked. “A terrorist.”

The nuns laughed again, Reuters reported.

“Because gossip is like a bomb. One throws it, it causes destruction and you walk away tranquilly.” Francis said. “No terrorist nuns! No gossip, and know that the best remedy against gossip is to bite your tongue.”

With Pence in audience, Maryland pastor denounces vulgarity attributed to Trump

During Sunday’s service attended by Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, a pastor at a predominantly black church in Maryland denounced racially charged comments that were allegedly made in reference to Haiti and African nations last week by President Donald Trump, WUSA reported Monday.

>> Read more trending news

Dr. Maurice Watson is pastor at the predominantly black Metropolitan Baptist Church in Prince George’s County, a congregation that was founded in 1864.  On Sunday, during his sermon, Watson criticized “a hurtful, dehumanizing, visceral, guttural, ugly adjective, that I care not to repeat in church.”

“I stand today as your pastor to vehemently denounce and reject any such characterizations of the nations of Africa and of our brothers and sisters in Haiti,” Watson said. “And I further say: Whoever made such a statement, and whoever used such a visceral, disrespectful, dehumanizing adjective to characterize the nations of Africa … whoever said it, is wrong. And they ought to be held accountable.”

Members of the congregation stood and cheered, WUSA reported.

Pence did not comment about the sermon. Trump has denied using an expletive during his discussions with members of Congress.

Watson, who has been at Metropolitan since 2014, earned his doctorate in ministry from Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama, according to the pastor’s biography on the church’s website.

Pope to moms during baptisms: ‘Feel free’ to breastfeed at Sistine Chapel

Pope Francis baptized 34 infants during a ceremony in the Sistine Chapel on Sunday, telling their mothers that if the babies became hungry during the two-hour-long ceremony, it was OK to breastfeed them, Reuters reported.

>> Read more trending news

“If they start performing a concert (by crying), or if they are uncomfortable or too warm or don’t feel at ease or are hungry ... breastfeed them, don’t be afraid, feed them, because this too is the language of love,” the pontiff said while baptizing 18 girls and 16 boys.

Women still face harassment for breastfeeding in public in some countries even though attitudes are changing.

The pope has made similar comments in past ceremonies, Reuters reported. Television pictures showed at least one mother bottle-feeding her child.

The papal baptism is a yearly event restricted to children of employees of the Vatican or the diocese of Rome, Reuters reported. 

Tennessee megachurch pastor accused of sexual assault

A pastor of a Memphis, Tennessee, megachurch has been accused of sexual assault.

>> Watch the news report here

Andy Savage, of Highpoint Church, released a response to the accusations on social media platforms. Savage said he “had a sexual incident with a female high school senior" 20 years ago when he was a college student on staff at a Texas church.

>> From Weinstein to Lauer: A timeline of 2017’s sexual harassment scandals

He said he apologized immediately and asked for forgiveness from the victim, who was 17 at the time. Savage is coming forward after the woman shared her story on a blog, which is graphically detailed.

>> Read more trending news 

In the blog, the alleged victim detailed what happened and said she felt manipulated and used. She claimed she took her accusations to the church's leaders, but police were never called.

The blog also states she has recently filed a report with law enforcement, saying what happened to her was sexual assault.

>> Here's what to do if you are sexually harassed at work

Savage, who helped found Highpoint Church, said in his statement that he informed current church leaders of the incident before he was hired. 

The lead pastor of Highpoint, Chris Conlee, also released a statement saying the church did know about the incident in 1997 and the church is 100 percent committed to Savage and his family.

Topless protester tries to steal baby Jesus figure at Vatican

A topless protester who attempted to steal the baby Jesus doll from the Vatican’s Nativity scene was detained Monday, CNN reported.

>> Read more trending news

The incident occurred as thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square to hear Pope Francis’ Christmas Day message.

The woman, who was wearing pants and shoes, was a member of the international feminist organization Femen, CNN reported. She was identified as Ukrainian “sextremist” Alisa Vinogradova and had “God is Woman” written on her torso.

Vinogradova was stopped by Vatican police before she could flee with the doll.

Femen said the act was a protest against the Vatican’s “infringement of the rights of women to their own bodies,” CNN reported. Those alleged infringements included the pope’s “promotion of the ban on abortion” and “sacred condemnation” of contraception.

This is not the first time Femen has tried to steal the baby Jesus from the Vatican Nativity scene. An attempt in 2014 also failed. CNN reported.

Pope Francis criticizes journalists for reporting old scandals

Pope Francis rebuked journalists that report old scandals and sensationalize the news, calling it “a very serious sin” that hurts the involved parties, CBS News reported, citing an Associated Press story.

>> Read more trending news

On the eve of his 81st birthday Saturday, the pontiff said journalists should remember to provide precise, complete and correct information while avoiding one-sided reports.

Francis told Catholic media on Saturday that journalists perform a mission that is among the most “fundamental” to democratic societies. 

“You shouldn't fall into the ‘sins of communication’: disinformation, or giving just one side, calumny that is sensationalized, or defamation, looking for things that are old news and have been dealt with and bringing them to light today,” he said.

He called those actions a "grave sin that hurts the heart of the journalist and hurts others."

On Sunday, tens of thousands of people, many of them children, serenaded the pope on his birthday, Reuters reported. Francis meanwhile, appealed for the release of Catholic nuns kidnapped last month in Nigeria.

The crowd sang “Happy Birthday” in Italian as Francis appeared at the window of the Apostolic Palace overlooking St. Peter’s Square for his weekly message and blessing.

The first Latin American pope was born Jorge Mario Bergoglio on Dec. 17, 1936 in Buenos Aires. He was elected the 266th pope on March 13, 2013. He replaced Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned on Feb. 28, 2013.

Texas church shooting: Sutherland Springs sanctuary reopens as solemn memorial

One week after a gunman killed more than two dozen people at a Texas church, the sanctuary reopened to the public Sunday as a solemn tribute to the victims.

>> PHOTOS: Texas church where deadly mass shooting took place opens as memorial

>> Texas church where mass shooting took place will be demolished, pastor says

>> Texas church shooting: 8 relatives, pastor's daughter among victims of shooting

According to The Associated Press, the inside of First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs was emptied and painted white. Roses were placed on 26 chairs that bore the name of each victim, including an unborn baby. A cross and Bible opened to the passage planned for last week also were on display as recordings of the victims played, CNN reported.

>> See photos from the memorial here

Photos: Texas church where deadly mass shooting took place opens as memorial

Hundreds of people gathered in the tiny town of Sutherland Springs for the first Sunday service since a gunman stormed the First Baptist Church and killed more than two dozen people in the worst mass shooting in Texas history.

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