Pope in US to meet with homeless, prisoners and immigrants
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis will meet with homeless people, immigrants and prisoners during his upcoming trip to Cuba and the U.S. He'll also preside over a meeting about religious liberty, a major topic for the U.S. Catholic Church in the wake of the Supreme Court's gay marriage decision.
The Vatican has published the pontiff's itinerary for the Sept. 19-28 visit.
Francis added the Cuba leg onto the U.S. trip at the last minute after helping contribute to the historic thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations.
In the U.S., he will meet with President Obama at the White House and become the first pope to address Congress. He will host an interfaith gathering at Ground Zero in New York and deliver a speech on sustainable development at the United Nations. The last days of the pope's visit he will be in Philadelphia to celebrates a Mass, visit a prison and Independence Mall, and greet organizers and volunteers connected with the World Meeting of Families.
Service honors last of 9 Charleston church shooting victims
CHARLESTON, South Carolina — There's been another service for a victim of the recent shooting at a predominantly black Charleston church.
Public officials paid tribute to longtime pastor Daniel L. Simmons Sr. yesterday at Greater St. Luke AME Church in the city. Gov. Nikki Haley said the pain of the shootings won't stop just because it's the final service. The Post and Courier of Charleston quotes Haley as telling the audience the Confederate flag will come down, adding that when it does, the families of the victims will be at peace.
Charleston Mayor Joe Riley suggested to the audience that a proposed International African American Museum will someday have an exhibit featuring the victims of the shootings at Emanuel AME Church.
Lawsuit challenges governor's religious objections order
BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — A lawsuit has been filed challenging Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal's executive order that aims to give special protections to people who oppose same-sex marriage. Gay rights advocates argue that it's unconstitutional and should be thrown out.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, the Forum for Equality Foundation and six New Orleans residents are challenging the governor's May 19 order in state court in Baton Rouge.
Jindal, who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, describes the legal challenge as a "left wing lawsuit." He says religious liberty is fundamental to "our freedom as Americans," and he won't back down from defending it.
Official: Fire at South Carolina black church wasn't arson
GREELEYVILLE, South Carolina — Local and regional authorities say they haven't ruled out any potential causes in a fire that destroyed a black church in South Carolina, but a federal official tells The Associated Press that preliminary indications show the blaze was not the work of an arsonist.
At a news conference Wednesday, Craig Chillcott of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives office that oversees North and South Carolina said officials "haven't ruled anything out or in at this point" in the Tuesday fire at the Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in Greeleyville.
But a federal official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the case publicly says preliminary indications are that the fire wasn't intentionally set and wasn't arson.
Steve Gardner of the Williamsburg County Sheriff's Office says he knows the community wants answers but asks for residents to bear with authorities as they work.
All three officials say the fire is still under investigation.
Poll asks young Catholics about their beliefs
WASHINGTON — A new poll asks Catholic members of the millennial generation about their beliefs and how they square with some major social issues.
The poll found that 82 percent of those surveyed believe abortion should be legal in at least some circumstances. Seventy-seven percent agreed that all women should have the same access to no-cost birth control no matter where they work.
As for gay rights, more than two-thirds of millennial Catholics supported making same-sex marriage legal. Sixty-nine percent said that.
The poll surveyed 819 Catholics ages 18-34 and was sponsored by Catholics For Choice. Spokeswoman Jen Girdish (GUR'-dihsh) says the poll shows that millennial Catholics have strong convictions about equality and individual freedom for all people.