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Why Muslims in Alaska will fast nine hours more than Muslims in Cape Town

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When the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan begins later this week, some Muslims around the world will face bigger challenges than others. The Quran is clear that the fast should last from before dawn to after dusk but says nothing about how many hours that might be.

Since Islam has spread from its Arabian heartland to the far reaches of the Earth, Muslims who live farther north must fast several hours longer than those in Mecca. On the year's longest day, June 21, some could end up fasting for as long as 20 hours.

Children need heterosexual parents, Pope Francis says after gay pride march

Pope Francis on Sunday stressed the importance of children having heterosexual parents, just a day after Rome's gay pride march demonstrated the changing attitudes about same-sex couples outside the Vatican walls.

Addressing around 25,000 followers from the diocese of Rome, the pope said the differences between men and women are fundamental and "an integral part of being human."

The pope likened a long-lasting marriage to a good wine, in which a husband and wife make the most of their gender differences.

Archbishop from Iraq asks West to step up efforts to oust Islamic State

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Syriac Catholic Archbishop Yohanna Moshe of Mosul, Iraq, called on the world's government to oust Islamic State militants from northern parts of the country so thousands of displaced Christians can return home.

Speaking with the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need on the first anniversary of the Islamic State's takeover of Mosul, Archbishop Moshe said that forcing out Islamic State forces was the "best solution" for the 120,000 displaced Christians who fled the city June 10, 2014, and nearby towns and villages that were seized in early August.

Clergy help Ukrainian soldiers overcome physical, emotional wounds

The lives of many Ukrainians switched into emergency mode 18 months ago when riot police brutally beat a peaceful gathering of students protesting in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev against the government's refusal to cement closer ties with the European Union.

In those days, the golden-domed Orthodox St. Michael's Monastery became a shelter for students and that gesture of service became prophetic as the Ukrainian churches stood by the people in what became known among Ukrainians as the Revolution of Dignity.

Pope, Canadian prime minister discuss residential schools, Ukraine

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Religious freedom, the conflict in Ukraine and the environment were on the table as Pope Francis met briefly Thursday with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Vatican said.

The prime minister's office said their discussions also included reference to the findings, released June 2, of Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which detailed the treatment of aboriginal children in residential schools supported by the Canadian government but administered by religious organizations, including the Catholic church.

Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, visits China

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In other news, Aung San Suu Kyi, arrived in China yesterday for a five day visit. This is Suu Kyi's first trip to China. This is an important moment for the future of Burma, or commonly known as Myanmar, as the country will have general elections in the fall of this year. Suu Kyi's pro-Democracy party, National League for Democracy, is expected to win big.
 

German church official says plan for electing bishops follows tradition

The election of Bishop Heiner Koch of Dresden-Meissen, Germany, as archbishop of Berlin follows tradition and stems from good church-state relations, said a church official.

"One can never tell how well this system works, since the voting is secret and there's no public consultation like in Germany's Protestant churches," said Stefan Forner, spokesman for the Berlin archdiocese.

Ruling makes Guam first US territory to legalize same-sex marriage

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Guam's archbishop said a judge's June 5 decision legalizing same-sex marriage in the U.S. territory was "a defeat" not only "for Christian principles" but "for our island and the whole of humanity."

"The recognition of a same-sex union, as marriage, destroys the basic fabric of society, and will destroy human beings in the process," Archbishop Anthony Sablan Apuron of Agana said in a statement.

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