Church

Crematorium Cross Removed to Avoid Offending Non-religious Visitors

Critics have described the decision to remove the cross from view at the crematorium in Lancashire as ‘political correctness gone mad’…

Political correctness gone mad indeed:

The replacement cross at Accrington Crematorium

A parish is in uproar after a crematorium’s cross was taken down and stuffed in a cupboard to avoid offending non-religious visitors.

Around 40 per cent of funeral services held the crematorium are non-Christian so it was decided that the cross should be kept in a storage cupboard rather than behind the alter.

It will be brought out of the cupboard and put up on the wall for services at Accrington Crematorium in Burnley, Lancashire, only when requested…

Read on here.

Truly:

The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.

– 1 Cor. 1:18 (NLT)

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Church

Will Russia’s ‘holy war’ save Syria’s Christians?

In the Catholic Herald:

Vladimir Putin has outfoxed the West in the Middle East
(AP)

The war in Syria has taken a significant turn these past few months, with the migrant crisis and the intervention of Russia. Even a few months ago one might have expected Bashar al-Assad’s downfall, and two years ago one would have bet the house on it.

Now, with the refugee crisis seriously threatening Europe’s governments and the almost comic ineffectiveness of American-trained Syrian rebels, Western leaders seem resigned to accepting Russian’s involvement and some sort of truce that allows Assad to stay.

Whatever one thinks of Vladimir Putin, he has certainly outplayed Barack Obama in Syria…

Read on here.

Biblical Archaeology

Why Study Biblical Geography?

Exploring Bible Lands

The question is looked at in three posts over at Exploring Bible Lands blog:

Sometimes people ask me, “Why do you study Biblical geography so much?” Generally, I study Biblical geography because it helps me to understand the Bible more.

But, to answer answer the question specifically, I can think of three reasons…

Read them:

Biblical Archaeology

Seal from Time of David Discovered in Temple Mount Debris

A rare cone-shaped stone seal dating to the 10th century BCE – the time of the Biblical kings, David & Solomon. This is the first seal of its kind found in Jerusalem

This is a fine discovery. As reported over on the Bible Places Blog:

Archaeologists have been sifting debris discarded from illegal excavations on the Temple Mount for more than a decade now. Yesterday they announced the discovery of a seal dating to the 10th century BC. From a press release from the Temple Mount Sifting Project:

“The seal is the first of its kind to be found in Jerusalem,” stated Dr. Gabriel Barkay, the co-founder and director of the Temple Mount Sifting Project. “The dating of the seal corresponds to the historical period of the Jebusites and the conquest of Jerusalem by King David, as well as the construction of the Temple and the royal official compound by his son, King Solomon… What makes this discovery particularly significant is that it originated from upon the Temple Mount itself.”

The seal was discovered by Matvei Tcepliaev, a ten year old boy, visiting the Temple Mount Sifting Project from Russia, and was only recently deciphered by archeologists. Since the project’s inception in 2004, more than 170,000 volunteers from Israel and around the world have taken part in the sifting, representing an unprecedented phenomenon in the realm of archaeological research.

[…]

“The discovery of the seal testifies to the administrative activity which took place upon the Temple Mount during those times,” said Barkay. “All the parallel seals with similar stylistic designs have been found at sites in Israel, among them Tel Beit Shemesh, Tel Gezer, and Tel Rehov, and were dated to the 11th – 10th centuries BCE,” asserted Barkay.

“Upon the base of the seal appear the images of two animals, one on top of the other, perhaps representing a predator and its prey. Additionally, the seal is perforated, thus enabling one to hang it from a string,” said Barkay.

Aside from the seal, which was likely used to seal documents, hundreds of pottery sherds dating to the 10th century BCE have been discovered within the soil removed from the Temple Mount. Additionally, a rare arrowhead made of bronze and ascribed to the same period by its features, has been discovered.

The press release includes photos of the seal and other finds from the same period. The organization recently released a video which documents the success of the project in a bid to raise additional funds.

It’s so sad that this archaeological destruction has taken place on the Temple Mount, and that systematic archaeological excavations are simply not possible. Instead, archaeologist are forced to sift through the rubble for finds such as these.

Church

Pope Francis Addressed the U.S. Congress Today

And you can read or listen to his full address here.

Yours is a work which makes me reflect in two ways on the figure of Moses. On the one hand, the patriarch and lawgiver of the people of Israel symbolizes the need of peoples to keep alive their sense of unity by means of just legislation. On the other, the figure of Moses leads us directly to God and thus to the transcendent dignity of the human being. Moses provides us with a good synthesis of your work: you are asked to protect, by means of the law, the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face…

Pope Francis addressing the U.S. Congress - AP

Archaeology

Mona Lisa’s Bones Found?

It’s on Discovery News, so don’t get your hopes up…

Italian archaeologists trying to solve the mystery behind the identity of one of the world’s most famous models said Wednesday that they had found shards of bone which could have belonged to Mona Lisa.

The team is certain that Florentine Lisa Gherardini was the mysterious woman who sat for Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait, but after years of research on skeletons unearthed in the Tuscan city, they have just one bit of femur that might match — and even that is too damaged for DNA testing.

Shards of bone? They could belong to anyone. No, they’re grabbing at straws here, I’m afraid.