- Hillsong United, Lecrae, Mandisa and Matt Maher lead the 45th annual Dove Awards nominations for artists with five apiece for gospel and Christian music excellence.

The nominations were announced last week at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, where the award show will be held Oct. 7. Producer and songwriter Wayne Haun leads all nominees with 12 nominations overall.

The Gospel Music Association awards show covers the broad range of Christian music with categories ranging from Southern gospel, rap/hip hop, rock, pop and inspirational.

Hillsong United, Lecrae and Mandisa are all up for artist of the year along with Needtobreathe, Casting Crowns and Switchfoot.

Maher, Hillsong United and Mandisa also are nominated for contemporary Christian performance of the year along with for King & Country and Natalie Grant.

- Workers are clearing land in northern Kentucky to build a long-stalled tourist attraction featuring Noah's Ark.

Ken Ham, head of the Christian ministry Answers in Genesis, posted video of the excavation work on his Facebook page this week.

It is the first sign of large-scale construction activity at the site in Grant County since plans for the 510-foot long biblical ark were announced by Answers in Genesis in 2010.

Ham has said the ark will be built to the dimensions described in the Old Testament story. The story is presented as a true historical event at the ministry's Creation Museum, which opened in 2007 in northern Kentucky near Cincinnati.

Zovath said the ark project calls for millions of feet of lumber to be delivered to the site by January, but a wood supplier has not yet been contracted for the project.

The attraction is scheduled to open by 2016.

- A Muslim rights group is asking the FBI and local police to investigate whether vandalism at a Virginia mosque was a hate crime.

The Manassas Mosque on Center Entrance Drive was vandalized some time between late Monday night and early Tuesday morning. Vandals sprayed orange paint on the windows and wrote an obscenity. A window and door also were damaged.

Prince William County Police say the damage itself does not indicate a hate crime, but that an investigation could uncover a hate crime if the intent of the vandals can be determined.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations asked police and the FBI to investigate whether a hate crime occurred.

ABOARD THE PAPAL AIRPLANE - Pope Francis has offered prayers for an Italian video journalist working for The Associated Press and his Palestinian translator who were killed in the Gaza Strip.

Francis held his head in his hands and stood for a minute of silent prayer before more than 70 journalists traveling with him to South Korea aboard the papal plane.

He said "these are the consequences of war."

Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, told Francis about the deaths of Simone Camilli and Ali Shehda Abu Afash, saying reporters take tremendous risks.

Francis, who came to the back of the plane to greet the press, was clearly moved.

He said: "I have to make a silent prayer for Simone Camilli, one of yours, who today left us in service. Let us pray in silence."

Associated Press