Kimberly Winston, Religion News Service

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The Spiritual Roots of the Olympic Games

Leaders pray next to the Olympic Flag in front of "Christ the Redeemer" statue during a blessing ceremony in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 19, 2012. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

The XXXI Olympic Games, the 16-day athletic love-fest that kicked off to a samba beat in Rio de Janeiro on Friday, are a secular endeavor featuring more fanfare than faith, more spectacle than spirit.

But it was not always so.

The Olympics — both the long-gone ancient version and the modern version unspooling this month — have deep religious and spiritual roots, which, some scholars say, are in jeopardy as every host city tries to go bigger, better, and more memorable than the last.

Simone Biles Brings Prayer to Rio

Gymnast Simone Biles

Gymnast Simone Biles laughs as she poses for a portrait at the U.S. Olympic Committee media summit in Beverly Hills, Calif., on March 7, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

On the seventh day, Simone Biles rests.

That’s the day the world gymnastics champion, who has a clear shot at the medal podium in Rio, goes to church with her family.

Biles, a first-time Olympian, is a Catholic. She has said she routinely lights a candle to St. Sebastian, the patron saint of athletes and of Rio, before each meet.

How Well Does the DNC Platform Appeal to People of Faith?

Image via REUTERS / Mike Segar / RNS

The 2016 Democratic National Convention party platform includes much that religious progressives from multiple faith backgrounds might like. Approved July 25, it calls for expanding LGBT rights, combating climate change, and narrowing the income gap. Here are some of the hot-button social proposals.

5 Faith Facts About Tim Kaine: ‘I Do What I Do for Spiritual Reasons’

Courtesy of REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) wave to the crowd during a campaign rally at Ernst Community Cultural Center in Annandale, Va., on July 14, 2016. Courtesy of REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton announced Tim Kaine, the junior Democratic senator from Virginia and former governor of that state, as her vice presidential running mate Friday.

Kaine, a Roman Catholic, will appear with Clinton, a Methodist, at next week’s Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

5 Faith Facts on Mike Pence, a ‘Born-Again, Evangelical Catholic’

Pence's unusual faith mix has shaped him as a politician.

GOP Platform: Plenty for Conservative Evangelicals to Love

Image via REUTERS/Mike Segar/RNS

In a section titled “Defending Marriage Against an Activist Judiciary,” Republicans say they “condemn” the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which made same-sex marriage the law of the land. Religious conservatives from several denominations also have opposed this ruling as the work of “activist judges,” a charge and a term echoed in the platform.

US Churches to Russia: 'We're Not Leaving'

Image via REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev/RNS

Several American-based religious denominations remain defiant in the face of new laws that would ban them from proselytizing in Russia.

The so-called “Yarovaya laws” make it illegal to preach, proselytize, or hand out religious materials outside of specially designated places. The laws also give the Russian government wide scope to monitor and record electronic messages and phone calls.

New Film Explores Long-Ignored War Crimes of World War II

Image via Les Innocentes / RNS

A new film opening July 8 focuses attention on a long-ignored war crime — the sanctioned and systematic rape of Polish nuns during World War II.

The Innocents (Les Innocentes) tells the story of a young French doctor who is called to a Polish convent to aid a young novice in a breech labor. She discovers that Soviet soldiers, with the approval of their officers, raped dozens of the nuns during the occupation, leaving five of them pregnant.

California Bill Would Limit College's Religious Exemptions

Image via REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/RNS

A bill wending its way through the California Legislature would limit religious colleges’ ability to claim an exemption from federal Title IX regulations that bar discrimination against LGBT students and faculty.

Only schools that prepare students for pastoral ministry would be allowed the religious exemption under California Senate Bill 1146 — which passed the state Senate in May and is scheduled for a hearing in the state Assembly on June 30.

What Does Pope Francis Mean When He Says 'Apologize'?

Image via REUTERS/Tiziana Fabi/Pool/RNS

While Francis’ comments on the plane were not officially sanctioned by the Catholic Church, they are another indication that the new boss ain’t the same as the old boss.

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