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Speaking to an Italian women’s organization Saturday, Pope Francis expressed a desire for women to become more involved in the Roman Catholic Church.

Citing the “indispensable role” of women in society, Francis said he has been pleased to see women sharing pastoral responsibilities with priests and families, adding that he wants women to take on a role that is “more capillary and incisive” in the church. Pope Francis went further, complimenting women for their “gifts of delicacy,” including a “special sensitivity and tenderness.” He also  spoke of women in the workplace, noting their role should be expanded there as well.

“This is important, for without these attitudes, without these contributions of the woman, the human vocation would not be realized,” Francis said.

The pope was addressing the Centro Italiano Femminile (Italian Women’s Centre), a non-profit women’s association with a focus on core Christian values.


Most Americans believe there is a ‘war on Christmas’ going on.

In less than a week’s time, Americans all over the country will celebrate Christmas day. Though the exact meaning of Christmas has long been controversial, the modern debate over a war on Christmas began in 2004 when Bill O’Reilly presented a show on Fox News focusing on the increasingly secular nature of Christmas. This year the controversy over Christmas has centred on the efforts of atheist groups to erect ‘Festivus’ poles next to nativity scenes put in place by public authorities.

The latest research from YouGov shows that most Americans (51%) believe that there is a war on Christmas going on, while 32% do not. There is a noticeable partisan divide on this issue, with most Democrats (52%) saying that there is not a war on Christmas and most Independents (60%) and Republicans (70%) saying that there is.

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Traditionally, one of the major aspects of the war on Christmas controversy is the increasingly widespread usage of ‘Happy Holidays’ as a greeting instead of ‘Merry Christmas’. Supporters of ‘Happy Holidays’ have said that it is more inclusive, as it includes other religious holidays, such as Hannukah, which take place towards the end of the year. 72% of Americans prefer to use ‘Merry Christmas’ instead, but support for ‘Happy Holidays’ is highest in the Northeast (31%).

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The display of nativity scenes on public grounds is another major battleground, with secular groups and civil liberties groups supportive of the separation of church and state often seeking to prevent religious displays on public property or, alternatively, fighting to ensure that other religious displays can also be placed on public land. The vast majority of Americans (79%) think that nativity scenes should be allowed to be displayed on public grounds – 3% higher than the proportion of Americans who think that secular holiday scenes should be allowed.

 


Teenage Ms Marvel will deal with adolescence, religion and superpowers.

Marvel Comics is bringing Ms. Marvel back as a 16-year-old daughter of   Pakistani immigrants living in Jersey City named Kamala Khan.

The character – among the first to be a series protagonist who is both a woman   and Muslim – is part of Marvel Entertainment’s efforts to reflect a growing   diversity among its readers while keeping ahold of the contemporary   relevance that have underlined its foundation since the creation of   Spider-Man and the X-Men in the early 1960s.

Writer G. Willow Wilson and artist Adrian Alphona, working with editor Sana   Amanat, say the series reflects Khan’s vibrant but kinetic world, learning   to deal with superpowers, family expectations and adolescence.

Amanat calls the series a “desire to explore the Muslim-American diaspora   from an authentic perspective” and what it means to be young and lost   amid expectations by others while also telling the story of a teenager   coming to grips with having amazing powers.

“I wanted Ms. Marvel to be true-to-life, something real people could   relate to, particularly young women. High school was a very vivid time in my   life, so I drew heavily on those experiences – impending adulthood, dealing   with school, emotionally charged friendships that are such a huge part of   being a teenager,” said Willow, whose previous comics work includes   Vertigo’s “Cairo” and the series “Air.”

“It’s for all the geek girls out there and everybody else who’s ever   looked at life from the fringe.”

She can grow and shrink her limbs and her body and, Willow said, ultimately,   she’ll be able to shape shift into other forms.

The idea came after a discussion with senior editor Stephen Wacker as they   compared stories about growing up.

From there it germinated into a “character for all those little girls who   are growing up now the way you are growing up,” she recalled. Wilson   was brought on board to write the series and the team quickly got approval   from Marvel’s creative committee to move forward.

DC Comics last fall relaunched its “Green Lantern” series with Simon   Baz, an Arab American and Muslim. The character reflects writer Geoff Johns’   Lebanese ancestry and his upbringing in the Detroit area.

There have been a few others: Marvel Comics has Dust, a young Afghan woman   whose mutant ability to manipulate sand and dust has been part of the   popular X-Men books. DC Comics in late 2010 introduced Nightrunner, a young   Muslim hero of Algerian descent reared in Paris.

The creative team said that Khan’s backstory, growing up Muslim, is an element   of the story, but not the critical foundation, either.

“Kamala is not unlike Peter Parker,” said Marvel Editor-In-Chief   Axel Alonso of the teenager turned wall crawler. “She’s a 16-year-old   girl from the suburbs who is trying to figure out who she is and trying to   forge an identity when she suddenly bestows great power and learns the great   responsibility that comes with it.”