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Pope Francis condemns sexual abuse in letter to Catholics

Pope Francis has written a letter to Catholics condemning sexual abuse by priests.

>> On WPXI.com: Report names 300 alleged ‘predator priests’

>> Read more trending news 

“Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient,” said the letter, which the Vatican released Monday. “Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated.”

>> On WPXI.com: Report: Ring of 'predatory priests' shared, photographed victims

He added: “We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.”

>> Read the full letter here

The letter came less than a week after a grand jury report identified more than 300 priests accused of abuse in six dioceses in Pennsylvania. According to WPXI, a ring of predatory priests with the Pittsburgh Diocese allegedly shared information on victims and exchanged the victims among themselves, as well as made child pornography on Diocesan property.

>> On WPXI.com: Cardinal Wuerl moves monthly meeting with council of priests

In his letter, Pope Francis said Catholics must “acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by consecrated persons, clerics, and all those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for those most vulnerable.”

He wrote: “Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others. An awareness of sin helps us to acknowledge the errors, the crimes and the wounds caused in the past and allows us, in the present, to be more open and committed along a journey of renewed conversion.”

Read more here.

Pope Francis criticizes Trump administration for migrant family separations

Pope Francis criticized the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border in an interview published Wednesday by Reuters.

>> Read more trending news

“It’s not easy, but populism is not the answer,” he said.

The pope told Reuters that he agreed with statements made last week by Catholic bishops in America who called the family separation policy “immoral.” 

>> Clergy group brings church charges of child abuse, immorality against Jeff Sessions over zero-tolerance policy

“While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety,” Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a statement released at the conference’s spring assembly. “Separating babies from their mothers is not the answers and is immoral.”

Francis told Reuters that he is “on the side of the bishops’ conference.”

>> Recording of crying immigrant children separated from parents at border sparks outrage

“I believe that you cannot reject people who arrive,” he said, speaking about the migrant crisis that has sent hundreds of thousands of people into Europe. “You have to receive them, help them, look after them, accompany them and then see where to put them, but throughout Europe.”

He said that populists have been “creating psychosis” around the issue of immigration.

“Populism does not resolve things,” he said. “What resolves things is acceptance, study, prudence.”

>> Immigration: Babies and children held in 'tender age' shelters according to report

The Trump administration in April directed prosecutors to pursue cases against all people suspected of crossing the border illegally as part of a “zero tolerance” immigration enforcement policy. Parents have been separated from their children as they face prosecution.

Nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families over a six-week period in April and May, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed that Democrats are to blame for laws that mandate the family separations, however, no law requiring the separations exists.

GQ magazine calls Bible 'foolish,' lists it among books 'you don't have to read'

The Bible’s been around for centuries, but GQ magazine is like, eh? What’s so great about it? 

>> Rev. Billy Graham chose John 14:6 to be placed on his grave marker

The Good Book makes the mag’s list of “21 Books You Don’t Have to Read.” While allowing “there are some good parts,” the post calls the Bible “repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish and even at times ill-intentioned.”

Instead, GQ suggests, how about “The Notebook" by Agota Kristof? It’s billed as “a marvelous tale of two brothers who have to get along when things get rough.”

>> Read more trending news 

The Bible finds itself in the company of works by J.D. Salinger, Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway on the list of books that GQ is just not that into. “Catcher in the Rye” is dinged as being “without any literary merit whatsoever.” “Huckleberry Finn” is tedious, meandering and hamfisted, GQ says. Hemingway’s sentences? Too short. Even Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” makes the roster of books to skip.

Here’s the entire list, which includes contributions by various writers.

Photos: Pope Francis leads Easter Mass at the Vatican

Tens of thousands of faithful entered St. Peter’s Square to participate in Easter Sunday Mass celebrated by Pope Francis on April 1, 2018.

WATCH: Pope Francis delivers Easter message after Mass at the Vatican

Pope Francis delivered his annual Easter message Sunday after leading Mass at St. Peter's Square in Vatican City.

>> Watch the Mass here

>> PHOTOS: Pope Francis leads Easter Mass at the Vatican

In his “Urbi et Orbi” (“to the city and the world”) message, the pope asked for prayers for Syria; the Holy Land, Yemen and the Middle East; Africa; North and South Korea; Ukraine; and Venezuela.

>> Click here to watch

>> What is Easter Monday and how is it celebrated?

The pope also prayed for children who “grow up without hope, lacking education and health care” and elderly people “who are cast off by a selfish culture,” according to Catholic news site Crux.

>> Read more trending news 

See more at the Vatican's website here.

No joke: Easter falls on April 1 for the first time since 1956

For the first time since 1956, Easter Sunday falls on April 1. Will pranksters show some religious restraint because it’s also April Fools’ Day?

>> Read more trending news

That’s open to debate, but that’s because Easter and April Fools’ Day rarely coincide. During the 20th century, Easter Sunday fell on April 1 in 1923, 1934, 1945 and 1956.

Religious officials pick the date of Easter based upon astronomical events. The holiday occurs on the Sunday following the first full moon of spring, Newsweek reported.

>> Easter: Why isn’t it on the same date every year?

This year, the vernal equinox fell on March 20 and the next full moon was projected for Saturday, the magazine reported.

There will not be a 62-year-gap for the next time Easter Sunday falls on April 1. The next two occurrences will be in 2029 and 2040, Newsweek reported.

Pope Francis tells youths to 'keep shouting'

Pope Francis kicked off Holy Week with a solemn service on Palm Sunday in St. Peter’s Square, urging young people to keep shouting, the New York Post reported.

>> Read more trending news

The pontiff spoke in front of a crowd that included young people who were in attendance for the Catholic Church’s World Day of Youth.

Francis told youths not to allow the older generations to silence them, the Post reported.

“The temptation to silence young people has always existed,” the pope said in the homily of a Mass.

“There are many ways to silence young people and make them invisible. Many ways to anesthetize them, to make them keep quiet, ask nothing, question nothing. There are many ways to sedate them, to keep them from getting involved, to make their dreams flat and dreary, petty and plaintive,” he said. “Dear young people, you have it in you to shout. It is up to you not to keep quiet. Even if others keep quiet, if we older people and leaders, some corrupt, keep quiet, if the whole world keeps quiet and loses its joy, I ask you: Will you cry out?”

The young people in the crowd shouted, “Yes!”

>> March for Our Lives: Emma Gonzalez stands in silence for Parkland victims

Francis, 81, spoke a day after the March for Our Lives worldwide rally, in which hundreds of thousands of supporters called for tighter gun laws. The pontiff did not mention the rally by name, the Post reported.

Easter 2018: When is it; what is it; why isn't it on the same date every year?

“Hey, do you have any idea when Christmas is?” is not a question you usually hear in late November or early December.

Major holidays are stamped on our calendars, often with little symbols, in case you didn’t realize that a cartoon turkey means Thanksgiving. 

Easter, however, is different. The date of Easter, when Christians celebrate the risen Christ, is different every year. 

>> Read more trending news

Many factors have contributed to keeping the date a guessing game, but the rolling calendar on Easter is due mainly to astronomy and a group of men who got together in the ancient city of Nicaea to come up with a system of deciding when to celebrate the holiest day in the Christian calendar.

Here is a look at the origins of the remembrance, the reason for the floating date and when Easter will be celebrated this year.

What is Easter?On Easter, Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus of Nazareth was a carpenter who became an itinerant preacher at the age of 30. For the next three years, he drew thousands of followers in the relatively small area where he preached. 

When Jewish leaders and Roman officials began to feel threatened by his growing popularity, he was arrested as he came into Jerusalem for the Jewish festival of Passover. He stood trial, was found guilty by a crowd and was mocked, beaten and eventually crucified. Followers believe that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion.

The Old Testament prophecy of a messiah being persecuted, then executed, then resurrected – all for the sins of his followers -- is believed by many to have been fulfilled with Jesus’ death.

>>How did crucifixion kill Jesus?

Where in the Bible is the story of Jesus’ execution?The story of Jesus’ death appears in all four of the Gospels of the New Testament. You’ll find them in Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24 and John 18.

When is Easter this year?Easter is on April 1 in 2018.

Why is it on different dates every year?

The answer is not a simple one. In 325 CE,  the Council of Nicaea, a gathering of Christian bishops, decided that there should be a more organized and universal way to decide when Easter would be celebrated. The council decided that the remembrance would be held the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox.

The date for the vernal equinox was based on the ecclesiastical approximation of March 21. If the full moon falls on a Sunday, Easter is delayed a week.

How early and how late can Easter be celebrated?Easter can come as early as March 22, and as late as April 25 in the Gregorian calendar.

What does the word Easter mean?It could be from the name of the fertility goddess Eostre. It could be from the Norse "eostur" or "eastur," meaning “the season of the growing sun,” or some combination of those terms and others from pagan festivals and ceremonies.

When was Easter first celebrated?It’s not known when the first remembrance of Jesus’ death took place, but there are records of ceremonies beginning in the 2nd century. The celebrations were held around the Jewish Passover each year, a date that was dependent on the vernal equinox.

What are Good Friday and Maundy Thursday?Good Friday commemorates the day on which Jesus was crucified. Maundy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper, the final meal that Jesus had with his disciples.

How did a bunny become a symbol?No one is really sure about how the Easter Bunny came into being, but, he/she likely is a combination of several ancient harvest festival symbols. History.com says the bunny could have come from the pagan festival of Eostre. Eostre is a goddess of fertility and, because of the rabbit’s reputation for, shall we say, productivity, the animal became the symbol for Eostre.

Historians believe it is likely that the festival with its bunny symbol made its way through Europe and gave birth to the Osterhase, or Oschter Haws – an egg-laying rabbit popular in German fiction. German immigrants brought with them to America the tradition of laying colored eggs as gifts in nests built by children during a spring festival. 

Eventually, the bunny started to bring candy and other gifts with the eggs on Easter morning as a sign of the celebration of new life.

Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt:  5 things to know

It’s hard to call Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt an overnight sensation. After all, she’s been following basketball at Loyola University-Chicago for more than a half century and said she saw the Ramblers win the NCAA title in 1963. But thanks to television, the internet and social media, the 98-year-old nun has become a media darling.

>> Read more trending news

With victories against Miami and Tennessee in the NCAA Tournament, the Ramblers are hoping for more spiritual guidance when they face the winner of the Cincinnati-Nevada game in next week’s Sweet 16.

Here are some things you might not have known about Loyola-Chicago’s inspirational leader.

Praying for victory: As the basketball team’s chaplain since 1994, Sister Jean begins every prayer the same way: “Good and gracious God.” But if you’re thinking she does not invoke the deity for a little help to win, think again. “I ask God to be especially good to Loyola so that, at the end of the game, the scoreboard indicates a big ‘W’ for us,” she told The New York Times. She ends every prayer with an emphatic “Go Ramblers.” Judging from some of the shots Loyola-Chicago has been burying during this tournament -- Clayton Custer’s game-winner against Tennessee comes to mind -- these prayers have been answered so far.

She’s a Hall of Famer: Loyola-Chicago inducted Sister Jean into the athletic department’s Hall of Fame in 2017, making her the 173rd member to be enshrined. Born in San Francisco in 1919, Sister Jean played basketball in high school.

Good scouting: Every season, Sister Jean researches the boxscores of upcoming opponents, using her sharp eye for detail to point out flaws in the Ramblers’ next foe. Coach Porter Moser found a manila folder on his desk on his first day as coach, according to NCAA.com. Sister Jean had compiled a scouting report on the Ramblers to help the new coach.

“She lights up every room she goes into.” Moser told the Times. “She’s always smiling. She has an energy about herself. I connect with that.”

She has her own bobblehead: Loyola-Chicago held a bobblehead promotion night for Sister Jean in 2011.

Super sneakers: Sister Jean has a pair of maroon-and-gold Nike sneakers that she wears during each game. Two names are stitched on the sneaker’s heels: “Sister” on the left heel, and “Jean” on the right.

It’s been quite a ride for Loyola-Chicago, which has knocked off two highly touted program. Now, the Ramblers will have to go against Sister Jean in the Sweet 16: She picked the Ramblers to lose in that round.

Son of the late Rev. Billy Graham shares photo of his father's grave marker

The son of the late Rev. Billy Graham shared a picture of his father’s grave marker Saturday, one day after the reverend was laid to rest at the library that bears his name.

>> Read more trending news

Franklin Graham posted the photo on Twitter. It shows the reverend’s grave marker etched with the words, “Preacher of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

The grave marker also references scripture -- John 14:6 -- a verse central to Graham's preaching.

The scripture reads, “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”

>> Thousands from around the world to attend Rev. Graham’s ‘last crusade’

Graham was laid to rest Friday beside the grave of his beloved wife, Ruth. His celebration of life was held under a tent -- a symbol of how he conducted his crusades.

Thousands came to pay their final respects, including President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump and dignitaries from around the world.

All five of the reverend's children spoke about their father at the emotional service.

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