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The journalist dies after setting herself on fire in front of the Russian Interior Ministry

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A Russian journalist died on Friday after setting herself on fire in front of the local branch of the interior ministry in the city of Nizhny Novgorod, a day after her apartment was searched by police, her news outlet said.

Prior to her self-immolation, Irina Slavina wrote on her Facebook page: “I ask you to blame the Russian Federation for my death.”

She worked as editor-in-chief at Koza Press, a small local news outlet that advertised itself as having “no censorship, no orders ‘from above’”.

A day before her death, she wrote on Facebook that police officers and investigators had searched her flat, writing that they were looking for “brochures, leaflets and accounts” from the Open Russia opposition group, which is financed by Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

She said they seized notebooks, her laptop and other electronics, as well as her daughter’s laptop and her husband’s mobile phone.

Russia’s Investigative Committee said it was opening a preliminary inquiry after a woman self-immolated in Nizhny Novgorod, a city of 1.3 million around 400 kilometres (250 miles) east of Moscow. It did not name Slavina in its statement.

The committee’s local branch in the Nizhny Novgorod region later said that Slavina’s self-immolation had nothing to do with the searches carried out at her flat on the previous day.

It said she was only a witness in the criminal case for which the searches were being carried out.

Members of Russia’s opposition said Slavina had been under pressure from the authorities.

“Over the past years security officials have subjected her to endless persecution because of her opposition (activities),” opposition politician Dmitry Gudkov wrote on Instagram.

“What a nightmare,” Ilya Yashin, another Kremlin critic, wrote on Twitter. “All of these cases of police amusing themselves, these shows of men in masks – these are not games. The government is truly breaking people psychologically.”

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Pope Francis endorses same-sex civil unions for the first time as pontiff

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Pope Francis became the first pontiff to endorse same-sex civil unions on Wednesday, sparking cheers from gay Catholics and demands for clarification from conservatives given the Vatican’s official teaching on the issue.

The papal thumbs-up to same-sex civil unions came midway through the feature-length documentary ‘Francesco’ that had its debut screening at the Rome Film Festival on Wednesday.

The film, which includes fresh interviews with the pontiff, looks into the issues that mean the most to Pope Francis, including the environment, poverty, migration, racial and income inequality, and the people most affected by discrimination.

“Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God,” Francis said in one of his sit-down interviews for the film. “What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered.”

ILGA Europe, an association that promotes the interests of LGBTI people, gave the pontiff’s words a cautious welcome.

“In the context where there is so much polarisation and scapegoating of LGBTI people, often endorsed and stoked by religious leaders, Pope Francis’ statement on same-sex unions is to be welcomed and should be carefully listened to,” the organisation said on Twitter. “We will monitor closely to see in how far the statement will be picked up by the churches and will lead to real change for LGBTI people and their families.”

The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit who has sought to build bridges with gays in the church, praised the comments as “a major step forward in the church’s support for LGBT people.”

“The pope’s speaking positively about civil unions also sends a strong message to places where the church has opposed such laws,” Martin said in a statement.

However, US conservative Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, called for clarification. “The pope’s statement clearly contradicts what has been the long-standing teaching of the church about same-sex unions,” he said in a statement. “The church cannot support the acceptance of objectively immoral relationships.”

Catholic teaching holds that gays must be treated with dignity and respect but that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered.” A 2003 document from the Vatican’s doctrine office stated the church’s respect for gays “cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.”

Doing so, the Vatican reasoned, would not only condone “deviant behavior,” but create an equivalence to marriage, which the church holds is an indissoluble union between man and woman.

That document was signed by the then-prefect of the office, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI and Francis’ predecessor.

While serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis endorsed civil unions for gay couples as an alternative to same-sex marriages. However, he had never come out publicly in favour of civil unions as pope.

Director Evgeny Afineevsky had remarkable access to cardinals, the Vatican television archives and the pope himself. He said he negotiated his way in through persistence, and deliveries of Argentine mate tea and Alfajores cookies that he got to the pope via some well-connected Argentines in Rome.

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The liberation of America is only in the hands of Jesus; Franklin Graham announced the fasting prayer on October 25th

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Evangelist Franklin Graham is calling on Christians to participate in a day of fasting and prayer for our nation on Sunday, Oct. 25.

Graham, the president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and of Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief organization, believes the church needs to call upon the name of God and ask for Him to move in this country. He stressed that our nation is facing multiple crises – from a pandemic to a turbulent presidential election, and widespread racial unrest.

“I am urging followers of Jesus Christ to fast and to pray for our nation next SUNDAY, OCTOBER 25. Mark it on your calendars and prepare now. I hope individuals, families, and churches will join me in asking for the Lord’s help and for His will to be done in this critical election. Will you?” Graham wrote on Facebook.

“We need to call out to God for His help, His intervention, and His mercy. It is only by His hand that America will survive and be able to thrive again. We have an election coming up with so much at stake – two vastly different directions for the future of this country. This not only affects us but our children and our grandchildren,” he added.

Graham led a Prayer March last month in Washington, D.C. where thousands of prayer warriors showed up to bless our nation.

“Prayer is our most important weapon. It allows us to go directly to the King of Kings, directly to stand before the throne of grace and make our petitions known directly to God,” Graham said.

Several worship events have taken place across the country at various venues this year, all for the same purpose: to bring America back to its first love and repent before a holy God.

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