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.

NEWS FEATURE: Christian Singer on the Verge of Stardom

c. 2000 Religion News Service ATHENS, Ala. _ Debbie White was ecstatic as she walked out of the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville after performing in front of a crowd of several thousand people and millions of television viewers for the Christian Country Music Association’s annual Awards Show in November. Out of the view of the cameras, lights and fans, however, she lost her composure. “I wasn’t that nervous when I was on stage, but it hit me after I finished singing and left the auditorium,” said White.

NEWS FEATURE: Fixed-hour Prayer Moving Out of the Monastery

c. 2000 Religion News Service UNDATED _ The admonition is a simple one: “Pray without ceasing,” Paul advises in the New Testament book of Thessalonians. For centuries, Christians have honored that call to prayer through the practice of fixed-hour prayer _ the recitation of psalms, hymns, scripture readings and prayer at specific times of the day. Though long a hallmark of monastic life, fixed-hour prayer has begun to move beyond monastery walls as the modern lay community revisits the ancient practice. “There is a move now away from generic spirituality to a more rooted spirituality that we’re seeing all over the country,” said Phyllis Tickle, a contributing religion editor at Publishers Weekly.

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.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1999 Religion News Service Religious groups react to passage of teen abortion bill (UNDATED)(RNS) Religious groups cheered and condemned the House of Representatives’ approval of a bill that aims to restrict the transportation of minors to other states to seek an abortion. The Child Custody Protection Act passed Wednesday (June 30) by a vote of 270-159 after several hours of debate. The bill makes it illegal for a person other than a parent, guardian or legal custodian to take a pregnant girl younger than 18 to another state for an abortion if such an act would violate parental involvement laws in the child’s home state. More than 30 states have such laws.

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.

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 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 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: Adults urged to keep sending the message on teen sex

c. 1999 Religion News Service NEW ORLEANS _ Amid falling teen pregnancy rates, a national advocacy group is telling religious organizations to stick with their message on teen sexuality, whether it’s condoms or abstinence _ because against all expectations, teens seem to be listening. Parents and pastors may feel overwhelmed by the celebration of early or casual sex in youth-oriented music, television and movies.”I think parents sometimes feel it’s a lost cause. Like, `What influence do I have over my 15-year-old son? He and his friends listen to MTV and their peers, not me,'”said Bill Albert of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.

RNS DAILY Digest

c. 1999 Religion News Service Presbyterians again pondering gay ordination issue (RNS) A key committee at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has voted to recommend striking the so-called”fidelity and chastity”amendment to the denomination’s rule book, the Book of Order. If approved by the full assembly, the action could open the way for the ordination of sexually active gays and lesbians to the church’s ordained ministry, according to some supporters of the proposal. But before such ordinations could take place, the denomination would have to also change a 1978 policy barring the ordination of”self-affirming, practicing homosexuals.” At issue before the General Assembly _ the highest legislative body in the 3.6 million-member church _ is a clause added to the Book of Order last year which requires clergy to live within standards that include”fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness.”

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 FEATURE: Priest fights School of the Americas on behalf of the poor

c. 1999 Religion News Service NEW ORLEANS _ Shortly after becoming a Catholic priest and missionary in 1972, the Rev. Roy Bourgeois shipped to La Paz, Bolivia, and took a room in a city slum to work with the poor. His quarters had no running water; light came from a single naked bulb. Yet, he came to think himself fortunate: The bulb made him better off than many of the people he worked with. The poor became his teachers, he said.

NEWS FEATURE: Vegas star Lola Falana shuns show business, embraces religion

c. 1999 Religion News Service NEW ORLEANS _ The big, doelike eyes are still long-lashed and beautiful. But the sleek Bob Mackie gowns that helped shape Lola Falana’s sexually charged Las Vegas stage persona 15 years ago have given way to a plain white cotton shift and sandals. A heavy crucifix around her neck has replaced the expensive jewelry. Indeed, the whole show business career is over, she says.

NEWS FEATURE: Israel’s non-Orthodox movements make a Jewish High Holy Days pitch

c. 1999 Religion News Service JERUSALEM _”There is more than one way to be a Jew”proclaim the billboards decorated with a multi-colored Star of David, which have appeared around central Israel in recent days. The slogan is the theme of a controversial new campaign by Israel’s tiny Masorti (Conservative) and Reform Jewish movements to draw secular Israelis into their synagogues during this weekend’s Rosh Hashanah (New Year) holiday. The campaign of radio spots, road and bus billboards and newspaper advertisements represents a new stage in the battle for legitimacy by the two movements among mainstream Israelis. But it has drawn fire from Israel’s Orthodox world and even encountered resistance within the bureaucracy of Israel’s state-owned Israel Radio network.