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Reporting and analysis of the religious forces that drive and influence global news. 

American nuns congregate as standoff with Vatican officials continues

Two years after the nuns were accused of "radical feminism" and assigned a male minder, will either side finally blink?
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Nuns kneel in prayer at the end of Easter Mass service at Cathedral of the Holy Cross, on April 20, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Andrew Burton/AFP/Getty Images)

When Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the superiors who represent 80 percent of American nuns, open their four-day summer convention Tuesday in Nashville, key members of the US Catholic hierarchy will be on hand, notably the Vatican-assigned overseer of the sisters’ group, Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain.

The big question will be whether one side blinks.

Vatican officials and certain US bishops are in a standoff with the liberal leadership of the mainstream communities of American religious sisters.

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Duplicity’s Child: How British promises sowed the seeds of today’s Israel-Palestine bloodshed

Gaza and Jerusalem were promised to both the Arabs and the Jews. They're still fighting nearly a century later.
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Israeli soldiers stand in front of a banner with a copy of a letter from the British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to Baron Rothschild (a leader of the British Jewish community) known as the Balfour Declaration of 1917, as Palestinians, Israeli and foreign protesters demonstrate near the Karmi Tsor Jewish settlement not far from the Palestinian village of Beit Omar in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on November 6, 2010. (Hazem Bader/AFP/Getty Images)

In October 1917, British forces finally drove the Ottoman army from Gaza, in recent weeks the site of Israeli-Palestinian fighting but then a dusty garrison town that had stubbornly held out against British attacks.

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Why Israel and the West need to change their approach to negotiating with Hamas

Analysis: Much of Hamas' leadership lives outside of Palestine, and an enduring ceasefire cannot happen without engaging those leaders.
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Palestinian children look up at an Israeli plane in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on August 4, 2014. Israel will hold its fire in most of the Gaza Strip for a seven-hour 'humanitarian window,' the military said, four weeks into its bloody conflict with Hamas. (Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)

After a 72-hour ceasefire took effect on August 5, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will meet in Cairo to begin talks to end the Gaza conflict. But the most influential Palestinian figure will not be in the room: Khaled Meshaal, the political leader of Hamas, will remain at his base in exile in Qatar. Ultimately, he will decide whether Hamas would accept a longterm ceasefire.

The last ceasefire collapsed within hours on August 1, partly because of rivalries within Hamas and struggles over command-and-control between the group’s military and political leaders.

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Looking at Argentina's Catholic women of worship

In Pope Francis' former spiritual home, women hold a paradoxical role.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Sitting in the first pew before the altar at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Buenos Aires — the former church of Pope Francis, then-Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio — I waited for noon Mass to begin.

The Catholic Church had been at the center of many of our interviews and exchanges over coffee, and it seemed like we’d spent most of our time in this cathedral. But this was the first time on the trip — for me, the first time in maybe 20 years — that we’d sat for Mass. Our first interview had confirmed that, in Argentina, you could not look at the issue of abortion without also looking at the church, and the paradoxical relationship women have within it.

“The Catholic Church is a very patriarchal institution that, historically, has been opposed to women’s rights,” Victoria Tesoriero, a member of Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir, or Catholics for the Right to Decide, had said in that first interview. “It has bound women to subaltern or domestic roles that are lower in rank — in the hierarchy. This is a place of inequality.”

And yet the Virgin Mary holds great power in the Latin American church.

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A constitutional monarchy may be a realistic option for stability in Libya

Commentary: The US ideal of democracy is fading as rival warlords and rogue militias wreak havoc across the Libya.
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Libyans condemn and urge for an end of war during a protest at the Algeria Square July 26, 2014 in Tripoli, Libya. (MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images)

BRUSSELS — It has been over three years since the NATO-led military intervention that overturned what was left of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime. The optimism of that moment of political transformation in Libya and across the Arab world now feels decades away. Such is the disenchantment with what was expectantly heralded as the Arab Spring in 2011.

Egypt seems to have substituted one military strongman for another with the election of General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. In Syria, there seems to be no end in sight for the bloodbath the revolution has become, and Libya is perched on the edge of a precipice, one move from anarchy.

One has to look no further than Libya’s recent parliamentary elections to understand how bleak the situation has become. With voter turnout hovering around 18.5 percent — only 44 percent of eligible Libyans registered to vote — little hope exists that any of the country’s new “representatives” can gain much legitimacy. Fathi al-Gabasi from the Eastern community of Aoudjila, for example, was elected to parliament with only three votes.

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In Bethlehem, no one is in the mood to celebrate Eid

Commentary: Death and body counts coming out of Gaza have become a part of the daily rhythm in the West Bank. It’s as if Eid is intruding upon this catastrophe, not the other way around.
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(Emily Judem/GlobalPost)

BETHLEHEM, Palestine — It is the last day of Eid Al-Fitr.

Monday, the first day of a three-day celebration to end Ramadan, the month where Muslims fast from sun-up to sun-down, was marked by eerie silence and glum faces in Bethlehem. There were no fireworks illuminating the evening sky as is the custom during the end of Ramadan. The only light that came during Eid was from the candles that Palestinians lit in Bethlehem’s Aida refugee camp in memory of the some 200 children that were killed by the Israeli army in Gaza during the now 23-day onslaught.

On Tuesday, the second day of Eid, I walked into a fruit market in BeitSahour, a suburb of Bethlehem, expecting to see people buying fruits and vegetables by the armload for the second day of feasting. Three people lingered, haphazardly picking vegetables, their eyes glued to the television set on the wall above them.

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Minnesota Public Radio report on church convulsions links to Louisiana, Rome

The complex story unveiled by MPR this week offers a clear look of Catholic clergy coverup of sex abuse.
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Pope Francis greets children at the end of his general audience at St Peter's Square on June 25, 2014 at the Vatican. (Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images)

As Pope Francis’s confessional apology to clergy abuse survivors in Rome made global headlines in early July, Minnesota Public Radio was reporting on a scandal surrounding St. Paul Archbishop John Nienstedt.

The pope’s remark, “All bishops must carry out their pastoral ministry with the utmost care in order to help foster the protection of minors, and they will be held accountable,” soon receded from the 24/7 news cycle.

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Why justice can't be a precondition for Israel-Palestine peace

Analysis: The rage and indignation on both sides of the conflict — many of us not directly involved — is largely missing a rational understanding of the situation.
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Israeli security forces arrest a Palestinian (C) during clashes following traditional Friday prayers near the Old City in East Jerusalem on July 25, 2014. Israeli security forces are on heightened alert after a Palestinian man was shot dead during a huge protest in the West Bank against Israel's military offensive in Gaza. Palestinian factions in the West Bank declared a 'Day of Rage' after the previous night's clashes around the West Bank and in some sectors of Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images)

The days of the Gaza operation drag on. The emotion on social networks is undiminished. Friends’ consciences on both sides of the conflict are boiling and they must share. The world must know!

The opening stanza from the poem, “Could Have,” by Poland’s Nobel Laureate Wislawa Szymborska, speaks to the situation:

“It could have happened.

It had to happen.

It happened earlier. Later.

Nearer. Farther off.

It happened, but not to you.”

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Underage Moroccan girls married off with judges' consent

The Moroccan legal code forbids girls under age 18 to marry, but exceptions are granted most of the time.
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The daughter of Rachida Diani, who helps her mom around the house in Rabat, Morocco. She is bubbly, but shy. Unlike her brothers, she rarely leaves the house to play outside. (William Matsuda/GlobalPost)
The Moroccan legal code forbids girls under age 18 to marry, but exceptions are granted most of the time.
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Legal restrictions lead to 'DIY abortions' in Texas and Argentina alike

As Texas limits access to abortion, it is walking down a road well-tread by Argentina, where abortion is illegal but half a million women still terminate their pregnancies each year.
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Supporters of Texas women's right to reproductive decisions rally at the Texas State Capitol on July 1, 2013 in Austin, Texas. It was the first day of a second legislative special session called by Texas Gov. Rick Perry to pass an restrictive abortion law through the Texas legislature. The first attempt was defeated after opponents of the law were able to stall the vote until after first special session had ended. (Erich Schlegel/AFP/Getty Images)

HOUSTON, Texas and BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — The plane descended and just beyond the city limits, the clouds gave way to a view of the expansive territory Texas is known for. We had landed, the flight attendant announced, in Houston — the most populous city in the Lone Star State.

We were on our way from Boston to Buenos Aires, where we will be reporting for the next two weeks on the country’s high abortion rate and the legal and religious institutions that surround it.

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