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Peter Smith

Peter Smith is an author at Religion News Service.

All Stories by Peter Smith

‘Felt like a year’: Worshipper describes fear during gunman’s deadly attack on Pittsburgh synagogue

By Peter Smith — June 1, 2023
Robert Bowers, a truck driver from the Pittsburgh suburbs, could face the death penalty if he’s convicted of some of the 63 counts he faces in the Oct. 27, 2018, attack, which claimed the lives of worshippers from three congregations using the city's Tree of Life synagogue.

Lawyers for Pittsburgh synagogue defendant admit he carried out deadliest US antisemitic attack

By Peter Smith — May 31, 2023
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Bowers’ defense acknowledged at the outset of his federal trial that he was the gunman, but hope to spare the suburban truck driver a possible death sentence over the Oct. 27, 2018, massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue.

Jury selection begins over 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue attack

By Peter Smith and Mark Scolforo — April 24, 2023
PITTSBURGH (AP) — The families of those killed were divided over whether the government should pursue the death penalty, but most were in favor.

Charges put focus on Jehovah’s Witnesses’ handling of abuse

By Mark Scolforo and Peter Smith — April 19, 2023
YORK HAVEN, Pa. (AP) — In the charges against nine Pennsylvania men, court records state that all the defendants have ties to the Jehovah’s Witnesses faith, though in some cases it’s unclear how their faith might relate to the criminal allegations.

Black church, NHL’s Penguins reach historic land-use accord

By Peter Smith — April 17, 2023
PITTSBURGH (AP) — The battle is a microcosm of a larger one over the legacy of the 1950s project, in which leaders in the Black community have long sought redress from the powers that be in Pittsburgh’s political, business and sports realms.

Grassroots faith leaders navigate a Northern Ireland in flux

By Peter Smith — April 4, 2023
(AP) — The peace that came with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement 25 years ago has periodically threatened as Catholic and Protestants remain segregated in many ways.

Saddleback Church doubles down on support for female pastors

By Deepa Bharath and Peter Smith — March 1, 2023
(AP) — “I’m serving Jesus under the authority and in alignment with my spiritual leaders,” said Stacie Wood, teaching pastor at Saddleback Church.

Shapiro’s big win is a high note amid antisemitism surge

By Peter Smith — December 27, 2022
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Josh Shapiro will be taking office as Pennsylvania's next governor in January after running a campaign in which he spoke early and often about his Jewish religious heritage.

At 50, ‘Immaculate Reception’ still lifts a region’s spirits

By Peter Smith and Jessie Wardarski — December 19, 2022
PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Immaculate Reception crystallized the rise of the Steelers — even as their namesake industry was on the decline, as was the Pittsburgh of compact immigrant neighborhoods with multiple ethnic Catholic parishes.

With searches, Ukraine focuses suspicions on Orthodox clergy

By Hanna Arhirova and Peter Smith — November 24, 2022
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — An investigation of a centuries-old monastic complex in Ukraine’s capital has underscored Ukrainian authorities' suspicions about some Orthodox Christian clergymen they see as loyal to Russia.

New cemetery chapel honors victims of synagogue attack

By Peter Smith — November 17, 2022
SHALER, Pa. (AP) — What had been an outbuilding at the cemetery of New Light Congregation has been transformed into a chapel with stained glass windows and other mementos honoring victims of the 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue massacre.

US Catholic bishops worry about abortion views in the pews

By Peter Smith — November 17, 2022
BALTIMORE (AP) — Even as they signaled a continued hardline stance on opposing abortion and same-sex marriage, the nation’s Catholic bishops acknowledged Wednesday that they’re struggling to reach a key audience: their own flock. The members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops rounded out their leadership bench during the last day of public sessions […]

In Pa. governor’s race, faith surfaces in contrasting ways

By Peter Smith — October 28, 2022
CARMICHAELS, Pennsylvania (AP) — The two candidates are appealing to the contrasting religious and ethnic demographics that have supported each side in recent campaigns, with a majority of white Catholics and white evangelicals voting and Democrats drawing on support from Black Christians, Latino Catholics, Jews, Muslims and people of no religion.

Antisemitism decried four years after Pa. synagogue attack

By Peter Smith — October 27, 2022
PITTSBURGH (AP) — For many community leaders, their grief is mixed with dismay over the continued and growing incidents of antisemitism in the United States and beyond.

Moscow patriarch: Russian war dead have their sins forgiven

By Peter Smith — September 27, 2022
(AP) — The assertion, made on Sunday, ratchets up Moscow Patriarch Kirill's already staunch support for Russia's war on Ukraine.
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