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Pope Francis’ chief alms-giver has announced new plans to install free showers in the public restrooms in Vatican City as a service to the homeless. Monsignor Konrad Krajewski explained that the new facilities in St. Peter’s Square were inspired by an encounter with a homeless man. The homeless gentleman declined Krajewski’s invitation to a fancy dinner on his 50th birthday because he said that he smelled bad, and there was no place for homeless individuals like him to wash. According to some reports, the facility will also provide members of the homeless community with fresh towels and clean undergarments ... Discuss

A 31-year-old pastor in Florida has set a new Guinness World Record for the Longest Speech Marathon ever made by preaching a single sermon for 53 hours and 18 minutes. The epic message—which started in Genesis and ended in Revelation—was heard by hundreds of people, who showed up in groups of 10 throughout the two-and-a-half day sermon. Cross Mount Dora pastor Zach Zehnder told Fox News,

I went back to my basics and when I normally write a sermon I come up with a goal. So the goal I came up with was to announce God’s ridiculous commitment to his people, even when we give up, he doesn’t give up on us.”

The feat was also tied to a fundraiser that brought in more than $100,000 for the nonprofit Powerhouse Recovery which helps individuals fighting addiction ... Discuss

According to a new Lifeway study, a lot of churches have some spending habits in need of curbing. Of the one thousand churches surveyed, two-thirds reported that they're meeting or exceeding their annual budget, and of that number, 22 percent say they're over budget. Only 29 percent of churches say they're under budget for their fiscal year. In the study's release, Lifeway Research Director Scott McConnell said, "The most recent of recession revealed poor habits among Americans in term of spending and lending. Surely churches have had to learn some of these same lessons."

Some of the budget woes are undoubtedly owing to the recession. Lifeway's previous studies indicated that church offerings declined sharply in 2008. However, in recent years, church giving has rebounded along with the economy—Lifeway says 74 percent of churches report that offerings are at or above 2013's totals ... Discuss

Just weeks after a group of Cardinals ended a contentious gathering to discuss the Catholic Church’s views on family issues like divorce, co-habitation and same-sex relationships, the Vatican will host another marriage-themed summit. Leaders from across the religious spectrum—including pastor Rick Warren, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission head Russell Moore, a senior leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the former chief rabbi of Great Britain, the Muslim president of the Tawasul Cultural Center in Egypt, World Sikh Council’s Manmohan Singh, Anglican Bishop N.T. Wright and about two dozen others—will meet for two days later this month at the “International Interreligious Colloquium on The Complementarity of Man and Woman.”

According to RNS, the idea is for the Vatican to “seek common ground with religious leaders” on the issues that have caused some division among Catholic officials. The meetings organizers say their goal is to "examine and propose anew the beauty of the relationship between the man and the woman, in order to support and reinvigorate marriage and family life for the flourishing of human society” ... Discuss

Very big, very unexpected news out of Mars Hill today. Following the sudden, surprise resignation of famously controversial pastor Mark Driscoll, the massive, multisite church he founded will dissolve over the next two months. Each of the 13 churches that comprised Mars Hills' empire will either go their own way, merge with another church or close their doors for good. As Mars Hills teaching pastor Dave Bruskas wrote in a letter to the church today:

"Rather than remaining a centralized multi-site church with video-led teaching distributed to multiple locations, the best future for each of our existing local churches is for them to become autonomous self-governed entities. This means that each of our locations has an opportunity to become a new church, rooted in the best of what Mars Hill has been in the past, and independently led and run by its own local elder teams."

In the meantime, Mars Hill will sell all their existing church properties or allow them to be assumed by the new, independent churches. Mars Hill will also fire all their existing staff and then dissolve entirely. "Ultimately, the success of this plan, and the future viability of each of these new local churches rest solely on all of us continuing to be faithful in supporting Jesus’ mission through our attendance and continued giving," wrote Bruskas ... Discuss

Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles and Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church today dropped his latest bomb on Christiandom when he said that the scientific theory of evolution was not at odds with the existence of God. Saying that, in fact, the Big Bang requires the existence of God. From The Independent:

"When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so," Francis said.

He added: "He created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfilment.

"The Big Bang, which today we hold to be the origin of the world, does not contradict the intervention of the divine creator but, rather, requires it.

It's a huge move for the Catholic Church, which has often been stereotyped as being "anti-science," but may not do much to win over many of the Pope's conservative detractors ... Discuss

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