Police step up mosque patrols after discovery of pig's head
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Philadelphia police will step up patrols around worship sites as they look for the person who left a severed pig's head outside a city mosque.
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey says investigators hope to enhance security video that shows someone throwing the animal's head out the passenger door of a red pickup truck. No arrests have been made in the Sunday night incident outside the Al Aqsa Islamic Society in west Philadelphia.
The Quran, the holy book of Islam, prohibits Muslims from eating pork, and pigs have sometimes been used to taunt or offend Muslims.
A caretaker told Philadelphia police that he found the head near the door of the mosque when he arrived for work Monday morning. A day later, Mayor Michael Nutter pledged a $2,000 reward for information leading to a conviction in any hate crime case.
Officer backs use of female guards at Guantanamo's Camp 7
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (AP) — A U.S. Army officer has defended her decision to use female guards at Guantanamo Bay's top-secret Camp 7, where Muslim prisoners say contact with unrelated women violates their religion.
The officer told a court at the base in Cuba that she started to use women to transport prisoners in 2014 due to a shortage of guards. She said that a Muslim cultural adviser said it would be OK because guards were touching male prisoners as part of their duties.
The officer's name was not disclosed as she testified in a pretrial hearing for five men charged in the Sept. 11 attacks. Defense lawyers say the prisoners won't attend legal meetings to avoid being handled by women. A judge has issued a temporary ban the military is seeking to lift.
Pope: Mercy trumps moralizing as he opens Vatican Holy Door
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has pushed open the great bronze doors of St. Peter's Basilica to launch his Holy Year of Mercy, declaring that mercy trumps moralizing in his Catholic Church.
Francis stood in prayer on the threshold of the basilica's Holy Door and then walked through it, the first of an estimated 10 million faithful who will pass through over the course of the next year in a rite of pilgrimage dating back centuries.
A thin and frail Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI walked through the doorway right after Francis. It was a rare outing for the 88-year-old Benedict, whose historic resignation led to Francis' election and a papacy dedicated to showing the merciful side of the church.
Some 5,000 extra police and soldiers have been deployed around Rome to protect the pilgrims flocking to Rome to participate in the yearlong celebration.
Security was heightened after the Vatican was listed as a possible target following the Paris attacks.
New Testament red letter edition published in Cherokee
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) — The Cherokee Nation is for the first time publishing a red letter edition of the New Testament in the Cherokee language.
The tribe announced Tuesday that its language program translated and published the Bible and sought to correct translation errors made by missionaries to the Cherokee Nation in the 1860s.
The red letter edition includes the words of Jesus printed in red lettering and is the first time the Cherokee language Bible has included the lettering.
Plans for an official Cherokee Nation published Old Testament are also in the works. The complete Old Testament has never been fully translated into Cherokee.
Some of the first copies of the New Testament have been presented to local Cherokee ministers in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, and are to be available soon to the public.
Girl collects thousands of shoebox gifts for Christian charity
SUWANEE, Ga. (AP) — A Georgia girl is helping thousands of poor children overseas receive Christmas presents this year.
Nine-year-old Jordyn McNeal used social media to collect 38,000 toys and toiletries that she and her family packed into more than 5,000 shoeboxes for distribution by the Christian charity Samaritan's Purse.
The fourth-grader says, "It's been really hard but really fun."
The charity led by the Rev. Franklin Graham is sending an estimated 8-million shoeboxes to children in more than 100 countries this Christmas season.
Samaritan's Purse regional director Phil Barks says, "This is an opportunity to provide them with a simple gift to let them know someone cares."