TOP STORY: RELIGION AND CULTURE: Scientists close in on Etruscan mysteries using DNA tests

c. 1996 Religion News Service MURLO, Italy (RNS)-In a country where a family’s lineage is often directly proportional to its status, the people of this Tuscan hamlet appear to take the top prize. A series of excavations, historical research and, most importantly, medical tests suggests that some of the families in this hilltop village may be direct descendants of the ancient Etruscans, a people rich in cultural tradition who are believed to have first settled here in the eighth century B.C.”We know we have a special group here that is different from the others in the region, and I believe Murlo represents the epicenter of the Etruscans,”said Alberto Piazza, a geneticist at the University of Turin. Piazza has been leading the most painstaking medical undertaking of his career-charting the DNA, or genetic molecular structure, of residents here and comparing it to some of the human skeletal remains that have been excavated from Murlo during the past 30 years.”We don’t have the complete results yet,”he said,”but I believe that by the beginning of next year the work will be done.” The relatively simple phase of his work started two years ago, when he and a team of researchers began choosing 150 people from Murlo to undergo blood tests from which their DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, could be identified.

COMMENTARY: From the ashes of hatred, we must rebuild the house of God

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Rabbi Rudin is the national interreligious affairs director of the American Jewish Committee.) (RNS)-“They have set your sanctuary on fire, and profanely demolished the dwelling place of God’s Name to the ground. … Determined to destroy us once and for all, they have burned down every meeting place of God in the country. …

NEWS STORY: White House, Senate seek stiffer measures on church fires

c. 1996 Religion News Service WASHINGTON (RNS)-The White House and Senate proposed new measures today (June 19) aimed at halting a rash of arsons that already have destroyed more than 30 black churches in the South. The moves come on the heels of a vote Tuesday (June 18) in the House of Representatives to stiffen penalties for those convicted of church arsons. At the conclusion of a White House summit between President Clinton and seven Southern governors, Vice President Al Gore announced a”national prevention initiative”that would combine government and private resources to provide churches with surveillance and security help, watch groups and other efforts, Gore said. Almost simultaneously, Sens.

NEWS STORY: White House, Senate seek stiffer measures on church fires

c. 1996 Religion News Service WASHINGTON (RNS)-The White House and Senate proposed new measures today (June 19) aimed at halting a rash of arsons that already have destroyed more than 30 black churches in the South. The moves come on the heels of a vote Tuesday (June 18) in the House of Representatives to stiffen penalties for those convicted of church arsons. At the conclusion of a White House summit between President Clinton and seven Southern governors, Vice President Al Gore announced a”national prevention initiative”that would combine government and private resources to provide churches with surveillance and security help, watch groups and other efforts, Gore said. Almost simultaneously, Sens.

Girls find comfort in teen magazines

c. 1996 Religion News Service (RNS)-For as long as there have been teen idols, there have been teen idol magazines, bridging the chasm between fame and obscurity, girlhood and womanhood. A 12-year-old may be unable to approach the cutest boy at school or the most popular girl in class, but she knows she will always be welcome in the pages of “Tigerbeat” “Superteen,” “16,” “Teen Machine” and “Right On,” all of which are owned by a New York company called the Sterling Macfadden Partnership. “When you’re in junior high school, everyone doesn’t always like you,” says Cynthia Horner, editor of “Right On,” which is targeted to black teens. “The cheerleaders might not want to hang out with you.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service Oregon judge denies church’s request to destroy tape of jailed suspect (RNS)-An Oregon judge has denied the Catholic Church’s request to destroy a tape recording made secretly during a jailed suspect’s confession meeting with a priest. Lane County Circuit Judge Jack Billings said in a June 13 letter that the church is not a party in a triple-murder case against Conan Wayne Hale and cannot intervene, the Associated Press reported. Hale has been charged with the Dec. 21 shooting deaths of three teen-agers.

BODY & SOUL: Soundbites from a talk-show moralist

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Body & Soul is a regular column exploring the interplay between spirituality and psychology. Pythia Peay is the author of”Putting America on the Couch,”to be published by Riverhead Books in 1997.) (RNS)-Her manner is rude. She belittles those who turn to her for help. She lectures against the perils of morally bankrupt behavior.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service Reproductive rights issue snarls U.N. city summit (RNS)-A United Nations’ international conference on urban problems stalled on the thorny issue of women’s reproductive rights Thursday (June 13), in a dispute that threatened the signing of a global agreement aimed at making cities more livable in the coming century. The 113-page agreement is to be the capstone of Habitat II, a 12-day United Nations-sponsored summit that ends Friday (June 14). Negotiators worked through the night to break the abortion impasse. It aims to create a blueprint for slowing the growth of so-called mega-cities in the developing world and to highlight ways of bringing improved housing and social services to towns and cities in poor nations.

COMMENTARY: In America’s spiritual marketplace, Baptists and Jews collide

c. 1996 Religion News Service (RNS)-We Jews have a hard time with Jesus, and for good reason. For 2,000 years, Christians have been trying to convert us, at times with much bloodshed, usually ours. Still, I see no reason to get worked up over the Southern Baptist Convention’s recent decision to appoint a missionary whose task is to oversee the denomination’s efforts to convert Jews. Winning converts is exactly what evangelical Christians who take their faith seriously are supposed to do.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service Summit held on church arsons in wake of more fires (RNS)-As the Christian Coalition held a summit Tuesday (June 18) to address potential solutions to arsons that have plagued black churches across the South, authorities were investigating fires that destroyed two rural black churches in northeastern Mississippi late Monday (June 17). The two fires were reported 17 minutes apart on Monday night. Mount Pleasant and Central Grove Missionary Baptist churches, both in Kossuth, Miss., were destroyed, the Associated Press reported. Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms met behind closed doors with local and state investigators to discuss the two fires.”This is getting disturbing,”said ATF agent James Cavanaugh.”It is getting disgusting.”

NEWS FEATURE: PBS special focuses on search for God in America

c. 1996 Religion News Service (RNS)-Whenever Hugh Hewitt interviewed religious leaders on his California-based PBS television program, the phone switchboard lit up with responses from viewers. He knew he was on to something.”The people who move the world are the people who believe,”said Hewitt, co-host of”Life & Times,”a public affairs show on KCET-TV, the PBS affiliate in Los Angeles. Hewitt, a Catholic-turned-Presbyterian, recommended that PBS air a similar offering on a national scale. The result:”Searching for God in America,”a four-part series of one-on-one interviews by Hewitt with religious luminaries ranging from African Methodist Episcopal pastor Cecil Murray to Eastern College President Roberta Hestenes to the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader.

NEWS FEATURE: PBS special focuses on search for God in America

c. 1996 Religion News Service (RNS)-Whenever Hugh Hewitt interviewed religious leaders on his California-based PBS television program, the phone switchboard lit up with responses from viewers. He knew he was on to something.”The people who move the world are the people who believe,”said Hewitt, co-host of”Life & Times,”a public affairs show on KCET-TV, the PBS affiliate in Los Angeles. Hewitt, a Catholic-turned-Presbyterian, recommended that PBS air a similar offering on a national scale. The result:”Searching for God in America,”a four-part series of one-on-one interviews by Hewitt with religious luminaries ranging from African Methodist Episcopal pastor Cecil Murray to Eastern College President Roberta Hestenes to the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader.

TOP STORY: THE CATHOLIC CHURCH: Fractured German Catholic community awaits historic papal visit

c. 1996 Religion News Service BERLIN (RNS)-On the eve of a historic visit by Pope John Paul II to Berlin, pope-mania is breaking out. Commemorative memorabilia is on sale, TV talk-shows are filled with debates about religion, and city officials are still trying to figure out where to park the buses that will bring an estimated 130,000 Catholics from all over Germany and Poland to Berlin’s Olympic Stadium. Yet for all the frenzied activity surrounding the pope’s June 23 visit, his first to a unified Berlin, the German Catholic Church is facing one of its most profound crises since the Reformation. Record numbers of Catholics are leaving the church, and many of those who remain are leaving the pews empty.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service Organizers of Million Man March say event is more than $66,000 in debt (RNS)-Million Man March organizers say they have more than $66,000 in unpaid bills from the Oct. 16 march led by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. The Rev. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. and other leaders instrumental in the march released information from an audit on Friday (June 14), The Washington Post reported. The audit showed that organizers raised $1.9 million before and during the march and incurred expenses of $2 million.