St Paul’s tomb unearthed in Rome

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Archaeologists working for the Vatican have unearthed a sarcophagus containing what they believe are the remains of St Paul the Apostle.
The tomb dates back to at least AD390 and was found in a crypt under a basilica in Rome.

It has long been thought that the crypt contained the tomb of St Paul but the altar had hidden it.

St Paul was an influential early Christian who travelled widely in the Mediterranean area in the 1st Century.

Excavations at the site began in 2002 and were completed last month.

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Ancient pilgrims

The basilica of St Paul’s Outside the Walls is the largest church in Rome after St Peter’s.

For the past three years, archaeologists have been excavating underneath the altar to remove two huge slabs of marble and now, for the first time in almost 1,700 years, the sarcophagus of St Paul is on public view.

The original inscription on the top reads: Paulo Apostolo Mart – Latin for “Paul Apostle Martyr”.

The holes through which the ancient pilgrims would have pushed pieces of cloth to touch the relic are clearly visible.

“What we can see at the moment through a grating, a new grating that’s been put there, is the side of the sarcophagus of Paul which seems to be white marble-like material,” said Father Edmund Power, abbot of the nearby Benedictine monastery.

St Paul travelled widely through Asia Minor, Greece and Rome in the 1st Century.

His letters to the early churches, found in the Bible’s New Testament, are arguably some of the most influential on Christian thinking.

St Paul is said to have been beheaded in AD65 by the Roman Emperor Nero.

His sarcophagus will be on public view for the foreseeable future but the church is yet to rule out the possibility that one day the interior itself will be opened and examined.

in: BBC News

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Wallpaper – Break of Dawn

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God speaks loudest when we’re quiet

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You’ve heard it said that God gave us two ears and only one mouth for a reason. Logically, it should be easier for us to speak half as much and listen two times more, right?

It is an unfortunate tendency of our human nature to use prayer time as an opportunity to purge all our transgressions, frustrations, and desires. While this is certainly the time to vent, plead, and praise, remember to let God get a word in edgewise. “Be still and know that I am God…” Psalm 46:10

God is not Santa. Yes, your Heavenly Father wants to know the desires of your heart. He wants you to talk to him, and there’s no matter or need too trivial for Him. But if we think of God only as the postal delivery man bringing us our order, we miss out on the spiritual closeness that comes from listening to God, rather than simply hoping He’ll fulfill our shopping list of wants.

Picture an adolescent girl on a cell phone. She rattles off rumors at the speed of several sentences per breath, completely unaware that her conversation is entirely one-sided. Similarly, God doesn’t always want to be on the receiving end of a one-sided conversation with us.

As much as we want to be heard, our Divine Teacher wants us to hear Him even more. It’s a well-known fact in academia that the more senses a student uses to learn new ideas, a higher percentage of those concepts will be absorbed. During prayer, we have the opportunity to use hearing as well as speaking. If we choose only to use one of those senses, we short-change ourselves. When we’re quiet, we can pay closer attention to God’s instruction and internalize the directions He’s giving us.

Contemplative prayer is the buzz-word given to a habit of praying in silence. You may be thinking: I’m usually silent when I pray. Are you really? Are you maintaining an inward silence long enough to hear God speaking to you?

At first, this is easier said than done. Utter silence is often a difficult notion to embrace. But, with practice, it becomes easier to close your eyes and meditate upon the will of the Lord. This is not the time to tell Him your will. This is the time to be still and listen for Him to direct your path. “…when you are in your beds, search your hearts and be silent.” Psalm 4:4

Here’s a little challenge: For one week, when you pray, make an honest effort to speak less and hear God more. Begin each of the next seven days by entering into God’s presence and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide your path. “In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” Psalm 5:3

By: G. I. A. Devotions

Israeli PM backs holy site dig

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Israeli PM Ehud Olmert has rejected calls by his defence minister to halt excavations at a contentious Jerusalem holy site, Israeli media has reported.
Amir Peretz urged Mr Olmert to stop the digging near the al-Aqsa mosque for fear it will antagonise the Arab world.

Mr Olmert declined, saying the works were causing no harm, the prime minister’s office told the BBC.

The excavation has provoked outrage among Muslims, who say it could damage the foundations of the mosque.

There have been widespread protests among Palestinians and the wider Muslim world since the excavations began on Tuesday.

The work is a prelude to the construction of a new walkway leading to the compound containing the mosque – Islam’s third holiest site.
The compound is also revered by Jews as the site of their biblical temples.

Mr Olmert rejected Mr Peretz’s appeal to stop the excavations, about 60m (200ft) from the mosque.

“A thorough examination of the matter would reveal that nothing about the work under way will harm anyone, and there is no truth in the contentions against the work,” Mr Olmert’s office said.

The Israeli Antiquity Authority, which is conducting the excavations, says it is considering installing a 24-hour live video feed from the site to allay Muslim fears.

The Islamic authorities in charge of the compound say two underground rooms lie under the mound which is being levelled.

The work is intended to secure the area and protect archaeological artefacts that have not yet been uncovered, Israeli officials say.

The compound area has been a flashpoint for violence since Israel captured it during the 1967 Middle East war.

In 1996, Israel’s opening of an exit to a tunnel near the site triggered riots in which 80 people died in clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli troops.

And in 2000, the Palestinian uprising began at the mosque following a controversial tour of the site by Israel’s then opposition leader, Ariel Sharon.

Since 1967, the compound has remained under Muslim jurisdiction in conjunction with neighbouring Jordan.

in: BBC News

Kaliningrad Wants Its Castle Back

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For years Kaliningrad has been allowed to decay as a forgotten Russian enclave surrounded by Europe. But now a movement is afoot to rebuild the city center. The castle too may soon dominate the skyline once again.

When 39-year-old architect Alexander Bazhin looks out the window of his fourth-floor office, it’s a bleak sight he sees: Shoddy concrete housing blocks constructed by the late communist regime stand next to rusted water fountains and apartment blocks from the Third Reich. A 20-story Communist Party fortress — the “House of the Soviets” — rises up in the center. The building is a ruin.

The city center of Kaliningrad is not a pretty site.

It’s not uncommon for elderly East Prussians — having arrived in a tour boat in the nearby port of Pillau — to break into tears when they see to what architectural depths their city of birth has sunk to. The destruction visited on the former pearl on the Pregel River by the bombs of World War II was immense — matched by hardly any other European city. Indeed, Kaliningrad, once known by its German name Königsberg, became a symbol not just of loss, but also of the destruction, of homeland.

Some 30 divisions and two air fleets of the Red Army attacked the surrounded city during the final battle in April 1945, remembers Otto Lasch, the German Wehrmacht’s commander in Königsberg at the time. They fired at the city “from thousands of barrels including Stalin organs for days, without interruption,” he says.

What remained was Immanuel Kant’s transcendental philosophy — and meatballs.

Bazhin, who wears a pinstripe suit and light blue tie, thinks it’s time to turn the tide. For one year now, he’s been the chief city planner in Kaliningrad, now an oblast, or region, of Russia separated from the motherland by Lithuania and surrounded by European Union countries. A friendly man, he receives visitors in his granite-decorated studio in the heart of the old city. Thirty employees also grace the office, all of them young.

No one here wants to run from the city’s Prussian German legacy. On the contrary. To restore a sense of urbanity to the ravaged city center — further wrecked by the Soviets — Bazhin is going retro.

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Israel allows minaret over Temple Mount

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Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has given permission for Jordan to build a large minaret adjacent to a mosque on the Temple Mount to call Muslims to prayer at the holy site.

The minaret will stand at a site on the Mount where Jewish groups here had petitioned to build a synagogue.

A minaret is a tower usually attached to a mosque from which Muslims are called to the five Islamic daily prayers.

There are four minarets on the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism. The new minaret will be the largest one yet. It will be the first built on the Temple Mount in over 600 years and is slated to tower over the walls of Jerusalem’s old city. It will reside next to the Al-Marwani Mosque, located at the site of Solomon’s Stables.

Aryeh Eldad, a Knesset member from Israel’s National Union party, last year drew up plans with Jewish groups to build a synagogue near the Marwani Mosque. The synagogue was to be built in accordance with rulings from several prominent rabbis, who said Jews can ascend the Mount at certain areas.

A top leader of the Waqf – the Islamic custodians of the Mount – told reporters Olmert’s granting of permission to build the minaret in the synagogue’s place “confirms 100-percent the Haram al-Sharif (Temple Mount) belongs to Muslims.”

“This proves Jewish conspiracies for a synagogue will never succeed and solidifies our presence here. It will make Muslims worldwide more secure that the Jews will never take over the Haram al-Sharif,” the Waqf official said.

Sources in the Jordanian monarchy and the Waqf told the press Olmert earlier this month gave Jordan’s King Abdullah official permission to build the minaret. The sources said the minaret will rise 130 feet above the ancient walls of Jerusalem.

A senior Olmert adviser today confirmed that the Israeli prime minister told Abdullah he will allow the minaret’s construction.

The adviser said he could not speak on the record because Israel has been waiting for an “opportune time” to officially announce permission for the new minaret.

In October, King Abdullah announced plans to build the fifth minaret, although at the time the Jordanians reportedly did not have Israel’s permission to commence construction. Abdullah said the minaret would bear the symbol of the Jordanian monarchy.

The Temple Mount’s first minaret was constructed on the southwest corner in 1278; the second was built in 1297 by order of a Mameluke king; the third by a governor of Jerusalem in 1329; and the last in 1367.

Prominent Israeli archeologist Gabi Barkai of Tel Aviv University blasted the new minaret plans.

“I am against any change in the status quo on the Temple Mount. If the status quo is being changed, then it should not just be the addition of Muslim structures at the site,” Barkai said.

Rabbi Chaim Rechman, director of the international department at Israel’s Temple Institute , said Olmert’s decision to allow the minaret “is repugnant to anyone who knows what it is to be a Jew.”

“The decision and Israel’s general attitude toward the Temple Mount is the manifestation of spiritual bankruptcy in the country’s leadership. Olmert is turning his back on our Jewish heritage while the rest of the world looks at us with amazement at how we can be so insensitive to our own spiritual legacy.

Al Aqsa Mosque built by angels?

 The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism. For Muslims, it is Islam’s third holiest site.

The First Jewish Temple was built by King Solomon in the 10th century B.C. It was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. The Second Temple was rebuilt in 515 B.C. after Jerusalem was freed from Babylonian captivity. That temple was destroyed by the Roman Empire in A.D. 70. Each temple stood for a period of about four centuries.

The Jewish Temple was the center of religious Jewish worship. It housed the Holy of Holies, which contained the Ark of the Covenant and was said to be the area upon which God’s “presence” dwelt. The Al Aqsa Mosque now sits on the site.

The temple served as the primary location for the offering of sacrifices and was the main gathering place in Israel during Jewish holidays.

The Temple Mount compound has remained a focal point for Jewish services over the millennia. Prayers for a return to Jerusalem have been uttered by Jews since the Second Temple was destroyed, according to Jewish tradition. Jews worldwide pray facing toward the Western Wall, a portion of an outer courtyard of the Temple left intact.

The Al Aqsa Mosque was constructed around A.D. 709 to serve as a shrine near another shrine, the Dome of the Rock, which was built by an Islamic caliph. Al Aqsa was meant to mark the place where Muslims came to believe Muhammad, the founder of Islam, ascended to heaven.

Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Quran. Islamic tradition states Muhammad took a journey in a single night from “a sacred mosque” – believed to be in Mecca in southern Saudi Arabia – to “the farthest mosque,” and from a rock there ascended to heaven. The farthest mosque later became associated with Jerusalem.

Most Waqf officials deny the Jewish temples ever existed in spite of what many call overwhelming archaeological evidence, including the discovery of Temple-era artifacts linked to worship, tunnels that snake under the Temple Mount and over 100 ritual immersion pools believed to have been used by Jewish priests to cleanse themselves before services. The cleansing process is detailed in the Torah.

According to the website of the Palestinian Authority’s Office for Religious Affairs, the Temple Mount is Muslim property. The site claims the Western Wall, which it refers to as the Al-Boraq Wall, previously was a docking station for horses. It states Muhammed tied his horse, named Boraq, to the wall before ascending to heaven.

In an interview with WorldNetDaily, Kamal Hatib, vice-chairman of the Islamic Movement, which will take part in the podium installation ceremonies, claimed the Al-Aqsa Mosque was built by angels and that a Jewish Temple may have existed, but not in Jerusalem. The Movement, which works closely with the Waqf, is the Muslim group in Israel most identified with the Temple Mount.

“When the First Temple was built by Solomon – God bless him – Al Aqsa was already built. We don’t believe that a prophet like Solomon would have built the Temple at a place where a mosque existed,” said Hatib.

“And all the historical and archaeological facts deny any relation between the temples and the location of Al Aqsa,” he continued. “We must know that Jerusalem was occupied and that people left many things, coins and other things everywhere. This does not mean in any way that there is a link between the people who left these things and the place where these things were left.”

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