Cardinal: Church Isn't Called to Conform to Polls
NEW YORK - New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan says the church's mission isn't to conform to popular opinion, but to call people to conform to what God teaches.
Dolan told NBC's "Meet the Press" that while church teachings may not be popular, "our agenda is given us by the God who made us."
Dolan said lifelong marriage between a man and a woman isn't just a religious issue, but also is the bedrock of society and culture. And he expressed concern that tolerance of homosexuality in the U.S. is becoming legally obligatory at the expense of religious liberty.
When asked his view on openly gay Missouri football star Michael Sam, Dolan said "Bravo," noting that the same Bible that teaches morality tells us not to judge others.
Dolan also said he anticipates that Pope Francis will meet with sex abuse victims.
Family of Texas Man on Flight Comforted by Faith
KELLER, Texas - The brothers of a Texas man who was aboard the Malaysia Airlines flight that went missing over the South China Sea say their family is leaning on faith and holding out hope for good news about the man they last saw about a week ago.
Philip Wood, an IBM executive who had been working in Beijing over the past two years, had recently returned home from Asia before his next assignment in Malaysia.
He was one of three Americans who were aboard the Boeing 777 when it lost contact with air traffic control as it was cruising on its way from the Malaysian capital to Beijing with 227 passengers and 12 crew members.
James Wood says, "My brother, our family, we are Christians. Christ above else is what's keeping us together."
A second brother, Tom Wood, said the events have left "a real hole in our family," but he said they aren't giving up hope.
Syrian Rebels Release Nuns Held Since December
MASNA, Lebanon - Rebels in Syria have freed more than a dozen Greek Orthodox nuns, ending their four-month captivity in exchange for Syrian authorities releasing dozens of female prisoners.
The release of the nuns and their helpers, 16 women in all, is a rare successful prisoner exchange deal between Syrian government authorities and the rebels seeking to overthrow the rule of President Bashar Assad.
But it is unlikely to soothe the fears of many Syrian Christians that their ancient minority is in danger should rebels come to power.
A convoy of 30 cars delivered the nuns to a Syrian town near the Lebanese border.
Syrian rebels, including members of the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, seized the 13 nuns and their three helpers from the Mar Takla convent when fighters overran the Christian village of Maaloula, north of Damascus, in December. The nuns worked in the convent's orphanage.
Jesus Movie 5th at Weekend Box Office
NEW YORK - Moviegoers are still flocking to theaters to see Jesus on the big screen.
The film "Son of God" earned an estimated $10 million dollars at U.S. and Canadian theaters this past weekend according to Rentrak, making it the weekend's fifth most popular film. "Son of God" was second at the box office a week earlier, earning $25.6 million in its debut weekend.
The movie produced by actress Roma Downey and her husband Mark Burnett features parts of "The Bible" TV series shown a year ago on the History channel.
In an online news conference last week, Burnett said "Son of God" already has been translated into Spanish and Korean, and he envisions it being shown in 100 countries in 100 different languages.
Downey said she believes the movie will be shown "for decades to come" and will impact lives "for eternity."
NY Pastor to Raffle Rifle During Sunday Service
TROY, N.Y. - The pastor of an upstate New York church plans to raffle off a rifle during a Sunday service later this month.
The Rev. John Koletas of Grace Baptist Church in Troy told the Times Union of Albany that he's showing support for Second Amendment rights, gun owners and hunters by giving away the brand-new Smith & Wesson M&P semi-automatic rifle.
The $700 rifle that's being given away at the March 23 raffle has been modified - its pistol grip removed - so that it complies with New York's gun laws, according to Brian Olesen, a gun shop owner who's donating the weapon.
He says the raffle winner must be at least 18, undergo an FBI background check and meet all state and federal laws.
The rifle raffle has sparked outrage among some of the area's other clergy members, including a pastor who has worked to get guns off the streets of nearby Albany.
Most Young Americans Single, Not Religious
WASHINGTON - Most of America's young adults are single and don't go to church, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center.
The poll of adults, ages 18 to 33, found that almost two-thirds don't classify themselves as "religious," and only about 1 in 4 millennials is married. Almost half of baby boomers were married at that age.
The report also found that 68 percent of young adults favor allowing gay marriage, compared with 55 percent of Gen Xers, 48 percent of the boomers and 38 percent of those in the Silent Majority.
Pew describes Gen Xers as those from age 34-49, boomers as 50-68 and the Silent Generation as those 69-86.
The Pew study was based on interviews conducted by phone from Feb. 14-23. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.
Haiti's New Cardinal Celebrates First Mass
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Haiti's new Roman Catholic cardinal has celebrated his first Sunday Mass, telling an audience of several thousand people there is a need to show compassion for others.
Cardinal Chibly Langlois reminded the crowd that many would go hungry or wouldn't be able to survive were it not for the kindness of others.
The ceremony took place in a soccer stadium in downtown Port-au-Prince. Haiti's National Cathedral was destroyed in the 2010 earthquake and has yet to be rebuilt.
Langlois was little known outside his hometown in southern Haiti until Pope Francis made him the country's first cardinal last month.
Pope Departs on Bus for Weeklong Retreat
VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis has traveled to a retreat outside Rome aboard a bus with cardinals and bishops.
Francis and the heads of Vatican offices traveled to a retreat house in the hills outside Rome for spiritual exercises through Friday.
Jesuits typically do such Lenten retreats away from home, and Francis is breaking with recent papal tradition of prayers and meditation at the Vatican during the 40-day Lenten period preceding Easter.
Monsignor Mario Toso, a Vatican official, said the pope's decision to ride in the bus "is something nice. It is the proof of the family, the caravan of God, serving humanity."
Orthodox NYC Jews Protest Proposed Israeli Draft
NEW YORK - Ultra-Orthodox Jews have staged a mass prayer in New York City to protest Israel's proposal to draft strictly religious citizens into its army.
Sunday's gathering in Manhattan brought together some of New York's most Orthodox Jews. They're based in Brooklyn and in the village of Kiryas Joel in Orange County, north of the city.
Protester Yitz Farkas, an American citizen, says religious Jews should not be forced to join a secular army.
Protesters also say they're against Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. They believe Israel should exist only after the Jewish Messiah arrives.
On Sunday, organizers said Orthodox men and women who worship separately also were rallying separately.
'Book of Mormon' Musical Coming to Utah in 2015
SALT LAKE CITY - A popular satirical musical about Mormon missionaries will play next year in Salt Lake City, just down the street from the worldwide headquarters of the faith it's mocking.
The "Book of Mormon" musical has been scheduled for a run at the Capitol Theatre from July 28 to Aug. 9, 2015. This will be the first time the show has come to Salt Lake City since it debuted on Broadway in 2011.
The Capitol Theatre is less than a half mile from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' flagship temple and headquarters.
The LDS church reiterated its past statement about the show, saying it might entertain audiences for an evening, but the real Book of Mormon changes people's lives forever.
It's estimated that six in 10 Utah residents are Mormon.
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