Religion news in brief

Philly judge defends church official’s trial, landmark conviction for child endangerment

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A judge is defending her decisions in the trial of the first Catholic Church official in the United States to be charged and convicted in the cover-up of the priest abuse scandal.

Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina concluded in a recent opinion that Monsignor William Lynn lied to perpetuate a church cover-up of child sexual abuse.

“The defendant learned that his predecessors handled clergy sex abuse in a way that prioritized shielding the church from scandal and … perpetuated the same system during his tenure,” she wrote in the 243-page decision, which summarized much of the trial testimony.

Lynn, the longtime secretary for clergy, was convicted of child endangerment and is serving a three- to six-year prison term. The document responds to trial decisions that Lynn is challenging on appeal. The appeal now goes to the state Superior Court.

Defense lawyers argued during and after the three-month trial that the judge unfairly let jurors hear about priest sexual-abuse complaints filed long before Lynn worked at the Philadelphia archdiocese. Lynn served as secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004, acting, in the judge’s words, as the point person for abuse complaints and a “funnel” for information going up the church’s chain of command to the archbishop.


Minaret of famed 12th century Sunni mosque in Syrian city of Aleppo destroyed

BEIRUT (AP) — The minaret of a landmark 12th-century mosque in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo has been destroyed, leaving the once-soaring stone tower a pile of rubble and twisted metal scattered in the tiled courtyard.

President Bashar Assad’s regime and anti-government activists traded blame for Wednesday’s destruction to the Umayyad Mosque, which occurred in the heart Aleppo’s walled Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

It was the second time in just over a week that a historic Sunni mosque in Syria has been seriously damaged. Mosques served as a launching pad for anti-government protests in the early days of the country’s 2-year-old uprising, and many have been targeted.

Syrian’s state news agency SANA said rebels from the al-Qaida-linked Jabhat al-Nusra group blew it up, while Aleppo-based activist Mohammed al-Khatib said a Syrian army tank fired a shell that “totally destroyed” the minaret.

The mosque fell into rebel hands earlier this year after heavy fighting that damaged the historic compound. The area around it, however, remains contested. Syrian troops are about 200 meters (yards) away.


Reports: 2 Tibetan monks, 1 woman, self-immolate in protest against Chinese rule

BEIJING (AP) — Three Tibetans have died after setting themselves on fire to protest Chinese rule in a western region where authorities have imposed a heavy security presence, exiled Buddhist monks and reports said Thursday.

More than 100 Tibetans have self-immolated since 2011 to protest Chinese policies in the region and call for the return of their beloved spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, from exile.

Two of the three latest protesters were monks at a monastery in Ruo’ergai county of Aba prefecture, according to exiled monks and the Free Tibet group. The two monks, aged 20 and 23, set themselves on fire in a corner of an assembly hall of the Taktsang Lhamo Kirti monastery, wrote Losang Yeshe and Kanyag Tsering, monks living in exile in Dharmsala, India.

U.S. broadcaster Radio Free Asia reported that a Tibetan woman in Rangtang county in the same prefecture also died after self-immolating Wednesday. The broadcaster said the woman was 23 years old, but that other personal details were not known.

Police and propaganda officials in both counties were either unreachable by phone or said they were unaware of the self-immolations.


Escapee from psychiatric hospital slashes rabbi, son with box-cutter outside Paris synagogue

PARIS (AP) — An escapee from a psychiatric institution slashed a rabbi and his son with a box-cutter, prompting witnesses to tackle and subdue the attacker after a chase through a Paris synagogue.

The rabbi, who is in his late 40s, was recovering from surgery for a neck injury and his 18-year-old son sustained lesser injuries in the Tuesday attack north of a touristic shopping area near Paris’ gilded Opera Garnier, according to police and judicial officials and Richard Prasquier, who heads CRIF, France’s largest umbrella organization of Jewish groups.

The assailant was of Iranian origin, and an official investigation was underway to determine a possible motive, Prasquier said. The attacker, now in police custody, had escaped from a psychiatric hospital near southeastern Lyon last week, said a police official on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre, a spokeswoman for the Paris prosecutor’s office, said the two victims had been wearing Jewish skullcaps, and the attacker was detained after a chase through the synagogue. The Simon Wiesenthal Center, which monitors anti-Semitic incidents worldwide, said in a statement that the assailant screamed “Allah-u-Akbar” — or “God is great” — during the attack.

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