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.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1999 Religion News Service TenPoint is CQ in item on black clergy Southern Baptist president predicts eventual division (RNS) Southern Baptist Convention President Paige Patterson has predicted that some kind of division is in the offing for the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, but he expects less than a tenth of SBC churches will actually depart.”Inevitably, there will come a divide in what is today known as the Southern Baptist Convention,”Patterson predicted in an article he wrote for the millennial issue of the Biblical Recorder, the news journal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.”No one know exactly what form that will take.” Patterson said a possible result could be an entity composed of churches affiliated with the moderate Cooperative Baptist Fellowship or”churches desiring greater allowance for diversity in doctrinal and ethical matters and reacting in part out of disenchantment with certain conservative leadership.” Despite his declaration that a division is”inevitable,”Patterson’s estimate of the size of a split is wide-ranging.”That breaking away of churches will take between 600, at the least, and 3,500 at the most, of the denomination’s 40,000 churches,”he predicted.”Several new entities and relationships will evolve as a result of this action.” His article, titled”The SBC on the Brink of the New Millennium,”was submitted after the newspaper requested that he and others forecast the denomination’s future for its Jan.

NEWS STORY: Pope visits site of the Annunciation, Gethsemane, holds ecumenical meeting

c. 2000 Religion News Service JERUSALEM, March 25 (RNS) – Pope John Paul II took his spiritual pilgrimage Saturday (March 25) to Nazareth to celebrate the Annunciation of Jesus’ birth and to the garden of Gethsemane to mourn his betrayal. Later, he appealed to leaders of other Christian churches to end “scandalous squabbling over holy sites and make 2000 “a year of grace for the ecumenical movement.” “Fraternal cooperation among Christians of this holy city is no mere option,” the Roman Catholic pontiff told Diodoros I, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, and prelates an ecumenical meeting in the Greek Orthodox Patriarcate. “In the Holy Land, where Christians live side-by-side with the followers of Judaism and Islam, where there are almost daily tensions and conflicts, it is essential to overcome the scandalous impression given by our disagreements and arguments,” he said. “In this city, it should be eminently possible for Christians, Jews and Muslims to live together in brotherhood and freedom, in dignity, justice and peace.” John Paul urged Christian churches to adopt the spirit of the Old Testament jubilees and “ask forgiveness for the wounds which the members of our churches have inflicted upon one another down the years.” “With God’s grace,” he said, “the 2,000th anniversary of the incarnation of the word will be a favorable time, a year of grace for the ecumenical movement.” Earlier in the day, the 79-year-old pontiff flew to Nazareth to celebrate the Annunciation in the place where the Bible says it took place.

NEWS STORY: Pope Makes it Official: Egan Will Succeed O’Connor

c. 2000 Religion News Service NEW YORK _ Pope John Paul II made official Thursday (May 11) what has been speculation for the past week _ Bishop Edward Egan of Bridgeport, Conn., a scholar, linguist and accomplished pianist, will succeed the late Cardinal John J. O’Connor as head of the Archdiocese of New York. Egan, who will be installed June 19 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, addressed reporters at a news conference Thursday at the New York Catholic Center, the location of the archdiocese’s headquarters. “To be invited to serve this splendid archdiocese as its shepherd is quite humbling,” he said.

NEWS STORY: Church bells, drums to mark millennium in Canada

c. 1999 Religion News Service VANCOUVER, British Columbia _ A sound wave of church bells will begin on the Atlantic coast at noon on Jan. 1, 2000, and roll across Canada’s time zones to conclude with a crescendo of Haida drumming on the Pacific Coast. The cross-country “joyful noise” is one of the special ways that the broadest coalition of Canadian Christians in history will try to put Jesus Christ back into the country’s millennial celebrations, which symbolically mark the 2,000th birthday of Jesus. The Rev. Lilly Bell, a Haida native and Anglican priest on British Columbia’s rugged Queen Charlotte Islands, says she’ll lead roughly 100 Haida drummers into an open meadow near the ocean at noon Pacific Standard Time to drum “whatever comes to our heart _ a sound of new beginnings.”

NEWS FEATURE: A Contemporary Craftsman Renews an Ancient Art

c. 2000 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Alexander Sokolov was 17 years-old when he stumbled upon a crossroads for his love of art and Orthodox Christianity, his newly adopted religion: painting religious icons. “When I first started making them, they were for me an image of another world, a spiritually rich world,” said Sokolov. “When I began to paint icons I understood that painting sacred art is a method of building your soul.” Twenty-three years and hundreds of icons later, the passion still blazes, and his new exhibit at the new Russian Cultural Center bears testament to that fact. “I love to do this,” said Sokolov, now a veteran iconographer whose works command as much as $5,000 and grace private homes and cathedrals in Japan, England, and his native Russia.

NEWS STORY: Physicist Freeman Dyson Named Templeton Prize Winner

c. 2000 Religion News Service NEW YORK _ Freeman Dyson, a world-renowned physicist and author who for more than 50 years has worked to make science a tool for social justice, on Wednesday (March 22) was awarded the 2000 Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. Dyson, 76, a professor emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., has long supported the idea that if science and religion work together, “the gross inequalities of the world could be abolished.” The Templeton Prize, valued at $948,000 this year and funded in such a way that it will always be worth more than the Nobel Prizes, was named for its founder, John Templeton. The global financier created the award in 1973 to recognize living individuals for their contributions to advancing the world’s understanding of God and spirituality because he felt the Nobel Prizes overlooked spirituality as a human discipline. Dyson is the fifth scientist to be awarded the prize.

NEWS STORY: Pope’s Apology for Past Errors Greeted with Applause, Perplexity

c. 2000 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ Pope John Paul II’s unprecedented public apology for sins committed in the name of the Roman Catholic Church over the past two millenniums was greeted Monday (March 13) with applause and with perplexity. “To recognize the deviations of the past serves to reawaken our consciences to the compromises of the present,” the pontiff had declared during a special Mass on Sunday in St. Peter’s Basilica. “We pardon and we ask pardon.” The 7,000 church officials, diplomats, dignitaries and pilgrims attending the Mass listened in absolute silence as five cardinals and two archbishops, dressed like the pope in the deep purple vestments of Lent, rose one by one in a ceremony of “confession of sins and asking for forgiveness.” Each man kissed a towering 15th century, carved wooden crucifix and lit a candle in a candelabra in front of the crucifix.

NEWS STORY: Did Bishops Muddy Water on Unions and Catholic Healthcare?

c. 2000 Religion News Service ST. LOUIS _ A panel of experts on Roman Catholic healthcare issues say the U.S.Catholiuc Conference _ the social action arm of the U.S. bishops _ say the bishops may have muddied the waters with a recent statment on the relationship of unions and the church’s healthcare system. “The impression they (the Catholioc conference) made was the Catholic church must support unions,” said Dr. Gerard Magill, Director of the Center for Health Care Ethics at St. Louis University Health Sciences Center.

NEWS STORY: Religious Leaders Join Rock Star to Urge Debt Relief for Poor Nations

c. 2000 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ A day after one of the world’s major global lending institutions promised to speed up debt relief for the world’s poorest nations,religious leaders, politicians and rock musician Bono gathered at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday (Sept. 21) to urge Congress to do the same. “Congress now holds the fate of debt relief for poor countries in its hands,” Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers told a news conference organized by Jubilee 2000 USA, a coalition of church groups and non-governmental organizations. “The richest, most powerful country should not stand for collecting debts in a country where 1/5 of the population has only $5 per person to live on.” Summers joined such speakers as Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and the Rev. David Beckman, president of Bread for the World, in calling on Congress to fulfill its commitment to an agreement made last year among wealthy countries to provide debt relief for some two dozen of the world’s poorest nations.

NEWS FEATURE: New Bibles Reclaiming Heritage of African Biblical Characters

c. 2000 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Biblical characters are a familiar part of the lexicon of American pop culture, surfacing in everything from catch phrases (“What Would Jesus Do”) to animation (Moses in DreamWorks’ “The Prince of Egypt”) to band names (Jesus Jones). Less well known are some other characters from the Bible. African characters. Like Rahab, who hid the spies Joshua sent into Canaan.

NEWS STORY: Pope will lead unprecedented “Day of Pardon’’ for past faults

c. 2000 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ Pope John Paul II will mark the beginning of the Lenten season in the Jubilee year 2000 on Sunday by personally asking pardon for the sins committed by Roman Catholics over the past two millenniums, the Vatican said Tuesday (March 7). The Rev. Georges Cottier, a leading Vatican theologian, told a news conference the sweeping gesture of repentance John Paul will make during a mass in St. Peter’s Basilica has “no precedent” in church history. An international panel of theologians, who prepared a document on the rationale behind the pope’s decision to make an act of “purification of memory,” acknowledged it has proved controversial.

NEWS FEATURE: Study into Religious Melancholy Turns Into an Adventure

c. 2000 Religion News Service HARTFORD, Conn. _ Julius Rubin is joyful these days, a welcome change for a sociologist whose research into “religious melancholy” led to some depressing consequences. He has had to endure a federal lawsuit, threatened legal action against his English publisher and harrassing telephone calls from persons known and unknown _ all for writing a book about what makes religious people depressed. For some mysterious reason _ maybe related to his research and maybe not _ someone even broke into his tiny, cluttered office on the campus of St.

NEWS STORY: `Pennies a Day’ Could Sharply Cut Hunger in America

c. 2000 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ One in 10 U.S. households cannot afford food, and in the last 50 years more people around the world have died of hunger and poor sanitation than were killed in all the wars of the 20th century, according to a new report issued by Bread for the World Institute. “In the United States, hunger does not manifest itself dramatically like famine and starvation,” said the Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. “The face of hunger is much different in our country than it is overseas. But although it’s easier for us to ignore, it is still a widespread problem.” For “just pennies a day,” the United States within two years could reduce by half the number of people in the nation suffering from hunger, and could eliminate hunger worldwide within 20 years, the report said.