Pope changes church rules, opens foot-washing rite to women

Pope Francis has changed church regulations to explicitly allow women and girls to participate in the Easter Week foot-washing ritual, after having shocked many Catholics by performing the rite on women and Muslims just weeks after he was elected. Proponents of women’s ordination hailed Francis’ decree, while traditionalist Catholics warned that it would weaken the […]

The graffiti masterpiece that covers 50 buildings in Cairo

Franco-Tunisian artist eL Seed and his team have been working on a giant urban graffiti in Cairo over the past few months. Photos of the finished project, called “Perception”, just debuted on social media. The photos show the poor neighbourhood of Manshiyat Naser transformed into a giant piece of swirling calligraphy, spelled out over 50 […]

Jailed poet Muhammad al-Ajami pardoned by Qatari Amir

A Qatari poet imprisoned since 2011 over verses he wrote that apparently offended the government of the nation’s former ruler has received a royal pardon and been freed, the United Nations said Wednesday. Muhammad ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami’s 15-year sentence, roundly criticized by rights groups and U.N. special rapporteurs, had exposed the limits of free speech […]

Saudis pursue love through social media

Saudi Arabia goes to notorious lengths to prevent unsanctioned romance. So citizens of this conservative kingdom are increasingly turning to social-media networks to pursue relationships and plan forbidden rendezvous, people here say. In a country with strict ­gender-segregation rules, unmarried men and women who mingle can face harassment or worse from religious police. Although Saudis […]

American Reform rabbis warn from alienation from Israel

BY TIA GOLDENBERG A recent gathering of American Reform rabbis in Jerusalem was meant to celebrate the small gains the liberal Jewish movement has made in Israel in recent years. But a series of comments by Israeli officials denigrating the group marred the event, reflecting an awkward relationship that many fear is alienating the world’s […]

Iran, Indonesia, Pakistan ban Valentine’s Day celebrations

Iran and Indonesia have cracked down on Valentine’s Day celebrations, arguing that the commercial observance of February 14 promotes the spreading of “decadent” western culture. The rising popularity of the annual homage to romance, which tradition says is named after an early Christian martyr, has in recent years become an irritation for some Muslim clerics […]

Tony Robbins saves nuns’ humble Tenderloin soup kitchen

The French nuns who were in danger of being evicted from their dingy little Tenderloin soup kitchen have won a reprieve, thanks to an unlikely benefactor — business coach and media star Tony Robbins. Under a deal struck Friday, the nuns of the Fraternite Notre Dame Mary of Nazareth Soup Kitchen at 54 Turk St. […]