- Associated Press - Friday, February 13, 2015

More Alabama counties start granting gay marriage licenses

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - More Alabama counties are issuing marriage licenses to gay couples after a federal judge’s latest order.

Probate courts in at least two counties - Tuscaloosa and Lee - reversed course and began issuing gay marriage licenses Friday.

In January, U.S. District Judge Callie Granade overturned the state’s gay marriage ban. A few counties began issuing licenses this week when a hold on the ruling expired.

But Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore told state probate judges that the federal ruling didn’t apply to them and that it was an intrusion on Alabama’s sovereignty.

Some judges refused to grant gay marriage licenses or to open licensing offices at all.

On Thursday, Granade ruled that Mobile County had to issue the licenses, signaling to counties statewide that they should follow suit.

So far, about a third of the state’s 67 counties have issued same-sex marriage licenses.


Services, prayers for 3 fatally shot in North Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - A funeral service has been held for three young Muslims who were shot in North Carolina in what police call a parking dispute but many Muslims believe was a hate crime.

Services were planned at one of Raleigh’s largest mosques, where the families are longtime members. But, with a crowd estimated at 5,500, the service was moved to athletic fields across from the mosque. The fields are owned by North Carolina State University, where two victims had graduated and one was a student.

That service began after midday prayers, with the father of the two female victims praising all three as “angels who never had a fight in their lives.” Mohammad Abu-Salha said they were the true face of Islam, not the “American Sniper movie.”

At the service’s conclusion, about a dozen people carried each of the three caskets away to hearses, which headed to an Islamic cemetery outside Raleigh.

Craig Stephen Hicks, who’s charged with murder in the killings, has described himself as a “gun toting” atheist.


Demolition begins to clear ground for Bible Museum

WASHINGTON (AP) - Demolition is underway just off the National Mall in Washington, where a $400 million Museum of the Bible is to be built.

The museum’s president, Cary Summers, says it’s scheduled to open in November of 2017, with separate floors dedicated to the history, impact and narratives of the Bible.

Unlike the nearby Smithsonian museums, the Bible Museum will likely have an admission charge. Summers says it could range from $12 to $15 dollars for adults, and less for children. He says the three main exhibit floors will each cover 55,000 square feet, and there will also be a theater, ballroom, lecture halls and children’s area.

Summers says the Bible Museum won’t seek to convert visitors, but will offer a non-sectarian, academically sound and entertaining overview of the world’s best-selling and most influential book.


Pope urges cooperation with Vatican reform from cardinals

VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope Francis is urging the church’s cardinals to cooperate with his reform of the outdated and dysfunctional Vatican bureaucracy, saying the overhaul will help him govern the 1.2-billion-strong Catholic Church better and spread the faith more effectively.

Francis summoned cardinals from around the world to hear proposals for revamping the church’s central government. The proposals include merging offices and reducing waste. Opening the meetings Thursday, Francis said the aim is to encourage greater harmony and collaboration in “absolute transparency,” to help the church spread the faith and reach out to others.

Francis, who was elected on a reform mandate, made clear what he felt was wrong with the Vatican Curia last December, when he ticked off 15 ailments that can afflict its members, including what he called “spiritual Alzheimer’s” and the “terrorism of gossip.”


Pacific island of Tonga celebrates its 1st Catholic cardinal

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) - Churches dot the heavily Christian island of Tonga everywhere and choirs can be heard singing on any day of the week.

Now, the Catholic Church is making a resident of the Pacific island a cardinal for the first time even though a majority of Tongans are Protestant. The island’s king, a Methodist, is hoping to attend the ceremony Saturday at the Vatican and later has a private meeting scheduled with the pope.

Bishop Soane Patita Paini Mafi is one of 20 cardinals being elevated by the pope. At the age of 53, he will be the youngest member of the College of Cardinals.

Mafi represents a church and region grappling with climate change, which is one of the major concerns of Pope Francis. In a recent interview with the Jesuit magazine America, Mafi spoke about the “permanent vulnerability” low-lying Pacific islands such as Tonga face from global warming.

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