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 January 23, 2006VOL. 44, NO. 2Oakland, CA
News in Brief

Concern about

Pope Benedict XVI is presented a gift by Rome’s chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni during a private audience at the Vatican, Jan. 16. The pope told the chief rabbi that he was worried and pained by signs of renewed anti-Semitism in the world. Naby

RNS PHOTO/REUTERS/Osservatore Romano


Chelli McKinley receives communion from the Rev. Deborah Gorman, left, and the Rev. Sharon Seyfarth-Garner at First United Methodist Church in Cleveland. Lutherans and United Methodists joined at the church, Jan. 8, to celebrate a national agreement on shared communion between the two Protestant denominations.


Pope warns of rise of Islamic terrorism
VATICAN CITY (RNS)-- Pope Benedict XVI has warned that the rise of Islamic terrorism, countered by the use of unchecked military force, was leading the world toward a “clash of civilizations.”
In a foreign policy address to the Vatican’s diplomatic corps, Benedict said the “temptation to use overpowering violence” to deal with religious and ethnic disputes was fueling extremism around the world.

“Those who are committed to truth cannot fail to reject the law of might, which is based on a lie and has so frequently marked human history, nationally and internationally, with tragedy.”

Christian Scientists say prayer will defeat bird flu
LOS ANGELES (RNS) -- While the U.S. government stockpiles antiviral medications, scientists work on developing new treatments and vaccines, and infectious disease experts try to detect and contain a virus, Christian Scientists are taking their own line of defense: They are praying.

Christian Scientists believe in spiritual, rather than medical, healing. They believe in the power of prayer to both prevent a bird flu pandemic and heal those who are sick should an outbreak occur.

Mary Baker Eddy, who founded the Church of Christ, Scientist in 1879, after recovering from injuries sustained from a fall on an icy sidewalk, taught that God is infinitely good and that sin, disease and death are illusions.

Christian Scientists’ belief in spiritual rather than medical treatment has led to charges against Christian Scientists whose children died of curable ailments.

Vatican rejects appeals of 10 closed parishes
BOSTON (AP) – The Congregation for the Clergy in Rome has rejected the appeals of 10 parishes that had been slated for closure by the Archdiocese of Boston.

The parishes had appealed to Rome after Archbishop Sean P. O’Malley announced in January 2004 plans to close more than 80 parishes in response to a decline in the number of priests, changing demographics, and financial troubles brought on in part by the clergy sex abuse scandal. Sixty-two eventually closed, and the archdiocese went from 357 to 303 parishes.

U.S. Muslims seek Hajj probe
LOS ANGELES(RNS) -- U.S. Muslim leaders are urging Saudi Arabia to allow an independent investigation into the Jan. 12 stampede near Mecca that killed at least 363 people performing an annual pilgrimage that is required of all Muslims.

Since 1990, more than 2,200 pilgrims have been killed in six stampedes, almost all of them at a pedestrian bridge where pilgrims throw pebbles at three pillars representing the devil.

Member governments from the 52-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference would be ideally suited to carry out such an investigation, said Edina Lekovic, a spokeswoman for the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles. However, she complained that the Saudis are not open about how they handle crowd control, security and other logistics during the Hajj.

Sayyid M. Syeed, secretary-general of the Islamic Society of North America, said that given the large crowds, Saudi Arabia should consider capping the number of pilgrimages a Muslim can make.

Religious groups applaud new anti-trafficking law
WASHINGTON (RNS) – Religious activists say a new law signed by President Bush could be the best weapon yet in reducing the commercial trading of humans for sex and labor.

The bill was signed Jan. 10, after it was unanimously approved by the House and Senate.

More than $360 million will be appropriated over two years for programs such as the rehabilitation of victims, enhancement of state and local efforts to combat trafficking, and studies examining ways to fight the problem.

The bill says an estimated “600,000 to 800,000 individuals are trafficked across international borders each year and exploited through forced labor and commercial sex exploitation.” About 80 percent of them are women and girls.

AmeriCorps staff stay in religious schools
WASHINGTON (RNS) -- On Jan. 9, the Supreme Court let stand a lower court ruling that said allowing AmeriCorps volunteers to work in religious schools did not violate the Constitution’s First Amendment.

“With this action, there is clear judicial support for continuing to allow AmeriCorps members to teach secular subjects in religious schools,” said Stephen Goldsmith, board chairman of AmeriCorps, a network of local, state and national service programs established in 1993 by President Clinton.

More than 70,000 volunteers participate annually, receiving scholarships and sometimes a living allowance for their service, with some working in religious schools.

Rights groups condemn Egyptian police raid
WASHINGTON D.C. (RNS) -- U.S. religious and human rights groups are condemning a recent raid by Egyptian police on a camp of Sudanese migrants in Cairo that resulted in at least 20 deaths, although activists say the death toll was far higher.

The Dec. 30 assault was called an “extraordinarily underreported incident” by the Washington-based Institute on Religion and Democracy. The Washington office of Human Rights Watch has called for an independent commission to investigate the matter.

The incident occurred at a squatter camp outside the Cairo office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Some 2,500 Sudanese migrants had been encamped outside the office since September, protesting poor living conditions and seeking resettlement to a third country.

Police said the deaths were caused by a stampede of protesters, while migrants said the deaths were the result of police brutality. UNHCR officials condemned the action.

Counseling offered to bishop who was abused
DETROIT(RNS)-- Catholic leaders in Detroit have offered counseling to a 75-year-old bishop who recently disclosed that he had been abused by a priest 60 years ago at a high school seminary.
Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, an auxiliary bishop of Detroit and one of the nation’s longest-serving bishops, revealed the abuse when he testified before Ohio lawmakers in favor of a bill that would allow alleged victims to sue the Church during a one-year window.

Bishop Gumbleton said the priest involved died more than a decade ago, and declined to release his name.

“The Detroit Archdiocese was never made aware of this,” Detroit Cardinal Adam Maida said in a statement.

Texas governor supports intelligent design
AUSTIN(RNS)-- A letter from Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s office advocates the teaching of intelligent design in public school classrooms, but Perry’s office and the state school board chairwoman say there are no plans to push for curriculum changes.

Kathy Walt, the governor’s press secretary, said Perry supports the teaching of intelligent design “much as the theory of evolution is now taught” in Texas schools.

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