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c. 1999 Religion News Service Atheist’s Bible sells for $2,000 (RNS) More than three years after the mysterious disappearance of Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the nation’s most famous atheist, her personal belongings, including a Bible and a defaced coin, fetched substantial amounts at an auction Saturday (Jan. 23). The Internal Revenue Service seized the personal possessions of O’Hair to pay back taxes and creditor fees since the woman Life Magazine once dubbed,”the most-hated woman in America,”disappeared in September 1995, along with her son and granddaughter. O’Hair founded several atheist organizations, including the Austin, Texas- based American Atheists Inc. Her battle against religion led to the landmark 1963 Supreme Court ruling banning organized prayer in the public schools.

NEWS STORY: Pope leaves St. Louis, calls millennium a time for “spiritual renewal’’

c. 1999 Religion News Service ST. LOUIS Pope John Paul II said goodbye to this city and perhaps for the last time to the United States returning to Rome Wednesday (Jan. 27) after telling 100,000 Catholics gathered for the largest indoor Mass ever to look toward the millennium as a time for spiritual rejuvenation. “Living in the Holy Spirit, the church looks forward to the millennium as a time of far-reaching spiritual renewal,” the pope said.

NEWS STORY: Pope leaves St. Louis, calls millennium a time for”spiritual renewal”

c. 1999 Religion News Service ST. LOUIS _ Pope John Paul II said goodbye to this city _ and perhaps for the last time to the United States _ returning to Rome Wednesday (Jan. 27) after telling 100,000 Catholics gathered for the largest indoor Mass ever to look toward the millennium as a time for spiritual rejuvenation.”Living in the Holy Spirit, the church looks forward to the millennium as a time of far-reaching spiritual renewal,”the pope said.”The spirit will truly bring about a new springtime of faith if Christian hearts are filled with attitudes of humility, generosity and openness to this purifying grace.” John Paul’s millennial message was in line with his often-repeated hope that the 2,000th anniversary of Jesus’ birth _ the Great Jubilee, as he calls it _ will unleash a wave of religious fervor throughout the global church.

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c. 1999 Religion News Service Study recommends U.S. consider European models of teen sex education (RNS) A study by the Advocates for Youth reports that U.S. teens experience sex sooner than teens in European countries that use”matter of fact”approaches to teen sexuality.”Open, honest dialogue about sexuality and sexual development can help U.S. teens, like their European counterparts, better prepare to create committed relationships and to protect themselves and their partners from unintended pregnancy and (sexually transmitted diseases),”states the report,”European Approaches to Adolescent Sexual Behavior and Responsibility.” Citing a worldwide survey, the Advocates for Youth report said U.S. teens experience sexual intercourse for the first time at an average age of 15.8, compared to 17.7 in the Netherlands, 16.8 in France and 16.2 in Germany. The report, released Tuesday (Jan. 26), states that attitudes about sexual health in those foreign countries are influenced by public media campaigns, sex education in schools, access to contraceptives and condoms and nonjudgmental attitudes from adults.

NEWS STORY: Pope arrives in United States warning nation faces “time of testing’’

c. 1999 Religion News Service ST. LOUIS _ Saying the United States faces a “time of testing,” Pope John Paul II began his 30-hour whirlwind visit to this Midwestern river city Tuesday (Jan. 26) by urging Americans to “resist the culture of death” and instead “stand steadfastly on the side of life.” During the first of his two half-days in St. Louis, John Paul met with President Bill Clinton, was seen by thousands as his motorcade made its way from Lambert Field International Airport to downtown, and spoke at a Christian rock-charged youth rally at Kiel Center, where more than 21,000 screamed with glee as he entered.

NEWS STORY: Pope arrives in United States warning nation faces “time of testing’’

c. 1999 Religion News Service ST. LOUIS-Saying the United States faces a “time of testing,” Pope John Paul II began his 30-hour whirlwind visit to this Midwestern river city Tuesday (Jan. 26) by urging Americans to “resist the culture of death” and instead “stand steadfastly on the side of life.” During the first of his two half-days in St. Louis, John Paul met with President Bill Clinton, was seen by thousands as his motorcade made its way from Lambert Field International Airport to downtown, and spoke at a Christian rock-charged youth rally at Kiel Center, where more than 21,000 screamed with glee as he entered.

COMMENTARY: Puritan impeachers and the clash of worldviews

c. 1999 Religion News Service UNDATED _ A friend loaned me a book called”Blur,”about living and working in the”connected economy.”It helps me understand the clash of world-views going on in Washington and in the tortured world of religion. The authors, Stan Davis and Christopher Meyer, point to vehicles such as e-mail, e-commerce on the Internet and vast computer networks, which make it possible for people to do productive work from anywhere they choose to live. They talk about rapid change, the shortening of product life-cycles, new relationships between seller and buyer. They talk about”Intangibles”and what I think they mean as the final collapse of the hierarchical world-views of modern Western thought.

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c. 1999 Religion News Service Falwell: the Antichrist _ a male Jew _ may be alive (RNS) Television evangelist Jerry Falwell has told a conference on the millennium that the Antichrist may well be alive and, as a”counterfeit”of Jesus, will be a male Jew. Falwell made his remarks Thursday (Jan. 14) before a crowd of some 1,500 people in Kingsport, Tenn., the Associated Press reported.”Who will the Antichrist be? I don’t know.

NEWS FEATURE: Protestant ecumenical effort looks for `holy rhythm’ of church union

c. 1999 Religion News Service UNDATED _ Leaders of nine Protestant denominations that have been part of a 37-year effort to forge Christian unity will gather later this month in St. Louis to map out how they can reinvigorate the movement and move forward into the next century. Initially, the Consultation on Church Union, as the effort is known, had hoped for a merger of several denominations, heeding Jesus’ call”that they may all be one.”But over the years, members shied away from the notion of”organic union”and supporters are now trying to figure out how they can work better together while still remaining as separate entities. Now, in its first plenary session in a decade the organization is faced with flagging interest in some quarters and a sense in others that the ecumenical movement has moved beyond it.”There’s a kind of holy rhythm to bringing the churches from division and alienation into communion and unity and that involves a lot of ups and downs,”said the Rev. Paul A. Crow Jr., who served as the first general secretary of COCU from 1968 to 1974.

NEWS FEATURE: Pope to deliver message for the millennium to Catholics of the Americas

c. 1999 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ Pope John Paul II will travel to Mexico City next week to deliver a message for the millennium to the more than 780 million Roman Catholics of the Americas. The Roman Catholic pontiff is expected to call on the Catholics of North, South and Central America to join in”a new evangelization”that will help to spread what John Paul has called a”much desired civilization of love.” The unity of north and south, poverty and human rights as well as the delicate relations between Catholics and Protestants are expected to figure as major themes in the pope’s public remarks. In attempting to unite a continent plagued by extreme poverty in much of the south and excessive consumerism in the north, the pope hopes also to counter the inroads religious sects _ as the Vatican calls Protestants, especially Pentecostals _ are making among Catholics.

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c. 1999 Religion News Service Update: Two more Christian chapels in India torched (RNS) Two more Christian chapels in western India have been attacked by mobs and set ablaze in a new round of the anti-Christian attacks that began over the Christmas holidays. A Roman Catholic prayer hall in Dhuda and a chapel in Lahan Chriya, both villages in the Dangs district of Gujarat state, were attacked Tuesday (Jan. 12) night, Reuters reported.”The pattern in the attacks was the same, with the mob reaching the place of worship at night, carrying out the attack and escaping from the scene within minutes,”a police official told Reuters. About 15 percent of the district’s 144,000 people are Christians.

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c. 1999 Religion News Service Israeli religious council size cuts will keep out non-Orthodox (RNS) Israel’s Orthodox-dominated Religious Affairs Ministry has cut the size of the nation’s local religious councils in a move that will keep more liberal Reform and Conservative Jews from joining the bodies. Spokesman Shimon Malka said Religious Affairs Minister Eli Suissa ordered the cuts in line with an eight-year-old plan to revamp the panels and not solely to keep non-Orthodox Jews from being included _ although Malka acknowledged that would be the effect because Reform and Conservative representatives receive fewer votes. But that explanation was rejected by Reform and Conservative leaders.”Every trick in the book is legitimate in (Suissa’s) eyes to discredit and de-legitimatize Reform and Conservative Judaism,”Israeli Reform leader Rabbi Uri Regev said Tuesday (Jan. 12).”It’s a major threat to the rule of law in Israel.”

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c. 1999 Religion News Service Erotic Web site with pope visit information ordered shut down (RNS) A federal judge has ordered the closing of a Web site that combines information about Pope John Paul II’s visit to St. Louis later this month with erotic pictures. The closing of the Web site by Internet Entertainment Group was sought by the Archdiocese of St. Louis, which said it was confusing Internet users seeking information on the Jan.

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c. 1999 Religion News Service Ashcroft out as religious conservatives’ top choice for GOP nod (RNS) Religious conservatives have lost one potential Republican presidential candidate while gaining another. Sen. John Ashcroft, R-Mo., announced Tuesday (Jan. 5) he would not seek the GOP nomination in 2000, while Gary Bauer said he was taking a leave of absence from his job as president of the Family Research Council to explore a presidential run. Bauer, 52, a one-time White House domestic-policy adviser to ex-President Ronald Reagan, said on CNN he would decide whether he will run by the end of January.

NEWS FEATURE: Book raises questions about Pope Pius XII’s wartime role

c. 1999 Religion News Services UNDATED _ In the two decades since his coronation, Pope John Paul II has ushered in an unprecedented thaw in relations between Catholics and Jews _ a nearly unbelievable mend, given the centuries of ugly and sometimes murderous behavior by the majority faith. The first pope to visit a synagogue or a concentration camp, John Paul recognized Israel and, in a groundbreaking document last year, apologized for centuries of anti-Semitism and Catholic failures during the Holocaust. But among many Catholics and Jews, tension lingers over John Paul’s stalwart defense of Pope Pius XII, born Eugenio Pacelli, who headed the church during World War II. Even the present pope’s comprehensive statement on the war _”We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah”_ dismisses criticism of the wartime pope’s silence during the Holocaust without serious discussion.