UNDATED (AP) — Pope Francis has condemned the "blind violence" of the Brussels attacks and has offered prayers for the victims, their families and emergency responders.

Francis’ secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, sent a telegram of condolences to the archbishop of Brussels, Monsignor Jozef De Kesel.

In it, Francis said he "condemns once again the blind violence that breeds so much suffering and implores the gift of peace from God" for all Belgians.

Sponsor defends religious exemption bill after veto demands

ATLANTA (AP) — The sponsor of Georgia’s bill protecting opponents of same-sex marriage is defending the proposal after a wave of opposition from big-name corporations and sports organizations.

Republican Senator Greg Kirk said Governor Nathan Deal should sign the measure. Kirk says Deal needs to decide whether the state is "intolerant" of people who believe marriage should be between a man and a woman.

The changes sent to Deal’s desk would prevent government burden of religious belief and government penalty against faith-based organizations, including refusal to serve or hire someone. It also protects religious officials who decline to perform gay marriages and people who refuse to attend a wedding.

Deal has until May 3 to sign or veto the bill. He opposed earlier versions.

President Obama thanks religious leaders

HAVANA (AP) — President Obama is thanking religious leaders who played a part in urging talks that led the effort to achieve normalized relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

He specifically mentioned Pope Francis and Jaime Ortega, the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Havana. He says his visit to the Havana Cathedral was a reminder of their encouragement.

Obama has toured some sights, met with Cuban President Raul Castro and was honored at a state dinner. He will also join Castro at a baseball game between Cuba’s national team and the Tampa Bay Rays.

Valuable vessel taken from Michigan church

JACKSON, Mich. (AP) — Something valuable and sacred is missing from a church in Jackson, Michigan.

The Jackson Citizen Patriot reports St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church’s monstrance, a vessel that holds the Eucharist and is valued at $10,000, was taken when the building was broken into and ransacked. The robbery was reported last Thursday.

The Reverend Chas Canoy says thieves took the one thing in the church he hoped they wouldn’t.

Canoy says the item might date back to the early 1900s.

No arrests have been made.

Gospel singer Fortune serving jail term for assault on wife

RICHMOND, Texas (AP) — Grammy-nominated gospel singer James Fortune has started serving five days in a Texas jail for assaulting his wife during a 2014 argument. Fort Bend County jail records show the 38-year-old Fortune turned himself in Monday night in Richmond, about 20 miles southwest of Houston.

Fortune earlier this year month pleaded guilty to assault on a family member, in a plea deal. Fortune must also serve five years of probation, do community service and not have any contact with his estranged wife. Fortune’s hits include "Hold On" and "I Trust You."