Religion news in brief

AP News
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Posted: Mar 17, 2016 2:22 PM
Religion news in brief

Kerry determines IS group committing genocide in Iraq, Syria

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. officials say Secretary of State John Kerry has determined that the Islamic State group is committing genocide against Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria.

The officials say Kerry will announce his finding on Thursday, meeting a congressional deadline just a day after the State Department said he would miss it.

The delay was sharply criticized by lawmakers and others who have advocated for the determination.

The finding will not obligate the United States to take additional action against IS militants, according to the officials. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to publicly preview Kerry's decision.

The officials say Kerry would specifically mention Christians, Yazidis and Shiite groups as victims of genocide.

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Pope urges nations to welcome migrants

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis is urging nations "to open their hearts and their doors" to migrants.

At his general audience Wednesday in St. Peter's Square, Francis said people wonder where God is when refugees are living "in a dramatic exile situation far away from their homeland, with the image of the rubble of their houses still in their eyes, fear in their heart, and often unfortunately the pain for the loss of their beloved ones."

The European Union has told member nations that they "urgently need to deliver" on commitments to settle refugees on the continent, as the number of arrivals in Greece alone reached the million mark since the start of 2015.

The EU's migration commissioner warned that the humanitarian situation in Greece is "getting more acute every day" after newly-built shelters there exceeded capacity.

The warning came on the eve of a summit of leaders from the EU and Turkey to try and limit the number of refugees and migrants entering Europe.

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Priest convicted of theft given more time to return money

WHEATON, Ill. (AP) — A Roman Catholic priest convicted of stealing his parish's money to support a gambling addiction has been given more time to pay back the money.

The Rev. John Regan had been scheduled for a probation revocation hearing in April because he has yet to repay the nearly $300,000 he stole from St. Walter Catholic Church in Roselle. He served there as the pastor until 2009.

Regan's attorney, Jack Donahue, told Judge John Kinsella during a DuPage County Circuit Court hearing that he met with prosecutors last week and they agreed to cancel the hearing. In return, Regan will have a final reporting date in 2019.

At his sentencing in 2011, Regan said he had struggled with a gambling addiction. He is currently assigned to a parish in the Joliet diocese.

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Justice Department probing town's denial to build mosque

BERNARDS TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) — Federal officials are investigating whether a New Jersey town violated religious freedom laws when it denied a group's plan to build a mosque.

News of the Justice Department's investigation comes a week after the group sued the town in federal court, alleging religious infringement.

Bernards Township Mayor Carol Bianchi told The Associated Press that planning board members were ethical and denied the mosque based solely on land-use considerations. She said the town will cooperate with the probe.

Adeel Magni, an attorney representing the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, declined comment on the investigation. The group's founder, Mohmmad Chaundry, is a longtime Bernards resident who once served on the town's school board.

Bernards is about an hour west of Manhattan.

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North Korea sentences US tourist to 15 years in prison

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Korea's highest court has sentenced an American tourist to 15 years in prison with hard labor for subversion, weeks after he confessed that he had tried to steal a propaganda banner.

Otto Warmbier, a 21-year-old University of Virginia undergraduate student, was convicted and sentenced in a one-hour trial in North Korea's Supreme Court.

In a tearful statement made before his trial, Warmbier told a gathering of reporters in Pyongyang he tried to take the banner as a trophy for the mother of a friend who said she wanted to put it up in her church. At his trial, Warmbier said he had been "used and manipulated."

In previous cases, people who have been detained in North Korea and made a public confession often recant those statements after their release.

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'Spotlight' company settles complaint over made-up dialogue

BOSTON (AP) — The distributor of the Oscar-winning film "Spotlight" has acknowledged that filmmakers fabricated dialogue that made it appear as if a Boston College spokesman downplayed the extent of the Catholic priest sex abuse scandal.

Jack Dunn, a top spokesman at the Catholic university, said he became physically ill when he saw the film and retained a lawyer to demand that the scene be removed.

Open Road Films said in a statement announcing the settlement Tuesday that "Spotlight" contains "fictionalized dialogue that was attributed to Mr. Dunn for dramatic effect." As part of the settlement, Open Road agreed to make donations in Dunn's name to Boston-area charities.

Dunn said Wednesday that he felt vindicated.

The movie is about The Boston Globe's investigation into the abuse scandal.

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