NEWS FEATURE: CSI Jerusalem: Death on an Old Rugged Cross

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) More than 2 billion Christians commemorate the most famous public execution in history Friday (March 25). Most believers choose to reflect on the lessons their faith draws from the death of Jesus Christ. But a very few with a curious bent have for years sought a more clinical enlightenment. How, exactly, did he die?

NEWS FEATURE: Easter Hope: Monks in Northern Ireland Pray, Work for Reconciliation

c. 2005 Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly ROSTREVOR, Northern Ireland _ In the tranquil foothills of the Mourne Mountains south of Belfast, spring’s signs of new life can be seen at every turn _ signs that can belie the deep-seated bitterness of “the Troubles,” as locals call the sectarian strife that has wracked the six counties of Northern Ireland for decades. “There has been so much pain and suffering,” said Father Mark-Ephrem Nolan, abbot of Holy Cross Benedictine Monastery in the heart of the foothills. “I think it is sometimes very hard for people from outside this country to measure to what extent people’s lives have been deeply, deeply affected by the Troubles.” Nolan’s modern monastery was dedicated just over a year ago. Its primary mission is to work for peace and reconciliation between warring Protestant and Roman Catholic communities who violently disagree on whether the counties should be part of Catholic Ireland or Protestant Britain.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Progressive Religious Groups to Go on Tour Against Bush Policies (RNS) Progressive religious leaders and lay people will embark next month on a 27-city bus tour to spread a message of what they call “beloved community” in opposition to President Bush’s policies. A coalition of 30 religious organizations said they are launching a national campaign, “The Beloved Community: Building a Responsible Society,” to build awareness on Social Security reform, health care, judicial nominees, the Iraq war and education. The 15-day bus tour will take off April 4 with a service at Riverside Church in New York, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a sermon on “beloved community,” a nation upholding human dignity, on April 4, 1967. During that speech, King expressed opposition to the Vietnam War, a message that can be applied to Iraq, said the Washington-based Clergy and Laity Network, which is coordinating the bus tour.

COMMENTARY: In Terri’s Eyes, We See Ourselves

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Terri Schiavo is our spring moon, silent and pale, fragile but not barren, circling us as we circle around her bedside. Her eyes hold us even when we want to lower our heads and look away. Do they disturb us because they are glossily vacant, or do they arrest us like a light bobbing on the dark and distant sea, sending a signal so unmistakably human that it breaks free of the entrapping television screen? Terri does not allow us to change the subject even though many others are trying to do that very thing.

NEWS FEATURE: Armageddon Is Bad for the Earth, Good for Publishing

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Tim LaHaye believes it is yet to come. Hank Hanegraaff thinks some of it may have already happened during Christianity’s first century. Their ongoing debate over the proper understanding of the fearsome prophecies in the biblical Book of Revelation is fueling interest in the end times at a moment when wars and disasters already have many people terrified. And while Armageddon may be bad for life itself, it’s proven good for the publishing industry.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Ailing Pope Watches Holy Thursday Masses on Television VATICAN CITY (RNS) Unable to preside over the Vatican’s Holy Thursday (March 24) Masses himself, an ailing Pope John Paul II watched them on television and sent written messages saying he was “spiritually” present. The 84-year-old Roman Catholic pontiff, who was hospitalized twice last month and underwent surgery to ease severe breathing problems, obeyed doctors’ orders and remained in his private quarters in the Apostolic Palace. The pope now breathes through a tube that surgeons inserted in his throat on Feb. 24.

NEWS FEATURE: Orthodox Jews Create Music and Comedy by Women, for Women

c. 2005 Religion News Service JERUSALEM _ “Welcome to Glatt Kosher Airways,” says the tall, dark-haired female comedian, standing in a corner of an intimate Jerusalem cafe. “Our pilot and co-pilot will be taking time to pray Mincha and Ma’ariv,” the afternoon and evening prayers. “You’re asked to pray with extra devotion at this time since no one will be flying the airplane. “If any of you has a religious question, we have a rabbi sitting in first class.

COMMENTARY: Big Answers to the Big Questions of Our Time

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Irving “Yitz” Greenberg is one of America’s most prominent religious thinkers. His recently published book, “For the Sake of Heaven and Earth: The New Encounter Between Judaism and Christianity,” represents the mature culmination of more than 40 years of intense grappling with the big theological questions of our generation: the Holocaust, the meaning of a covenant with God on a planet filled with monstrous evil and unspeakable suffering, the future of Jewish-Christian relations, a Jewish perspective of Jesus, the meaning of the reborn state of Israel, religious pluralism, and the role of traditional religion in a modern secular society. But unlike many theologians throughout history who wrote inside cloistered academies or within isolated religious communities, Greenberg has been an active and visible participant in contemporary society. Currently president of the Jewish Life Network/Steinhart Foundation in New York City, Greenberg has done it all as a rabbi.

NEWS STORY: Middle Ground Elusive on Gun-Control Issue

c. 2005 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ In the wake of another spate of gun mayhem _ this time in Red Lake, Minn., just nine days after a church shooting in Brookfield, Wis. _ the question resurfaces: Why can’t a gun-control compromise be found to prevent such incidents? The answer is complex, both politically and morally, say advocates on both sides. Gun control measures are being debated in state legislatures from California to Florida, but the topic has largely vanished from the national political agenda.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service California Bishop Apologizes for Denying Funeral to Gay Man (RNS) Gay rights groups thanked the Roman Catholic bishop of San Diego for his apology to the family of a gay man who was barred from having a Catholic funeral because he owned two gay nightclubs. Bishop Robert Brom said he made the wrong decision in denying a church funeral for John McCusker, 31, and offered to preside at a Mass in his memory, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. “I deeply regret that denying a Catholic funeral for John McCusker … has resulted in his unjust condemnation, and I apologize to the family for the anguish this has caused them,” Brom said in a statement, according to the family.

NEWS FEATURE: There’s No Brass Pole in this Strip Club-Turned-Church

c. 2005 Religion News Service TORONTO _ One of the first questions the Rev. Ken Davis has had to fend off, mainly from prurient reporters, is what his new church would do with the brass stripper’s pole and the nine disco balls that came with the building. Finally, he can answer. “Well, I’m happy to say the brass pole was auctioned off for $30 ($24 U.S.), and we’re keeping the disco balls,” says Davis with a smile. “We’ll use them for the kids.” In the meantime, renovations are coming along at the Olive Branch Community Church, where member volunteers have joined contractors to gut the building, install pews and generally rid the place of the stench of sin.

RNS Weekly Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Cardinal Urges Catholics to Boycott “The Da Vinci Code” VATICAN CITY (RNS) Denouncing “The Da Vinci Code” as a “castle of lies” that play on anti-Catholic sentiment, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone of Genoa has urged Catholics to boycott the best-selling thriller about the life of Jesus. “Don’t read it and don’t buy it,” Bertone said in an interview with Vatican Radio on Tuesday (March 15). The cardinal’s view carried additional weight because for seven years he held the No. 2 post of secretary in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s highest authority on matters of faith and morals.

COMMENTARY: Helping Others Is What It’s All About

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Goodwill Industries, it turns out, will be happy to accept the free-standing basketball goal that my son no longer needs. Three of us _ neighbor, son and self _ load it into a pickup truck and carry it to Goodwill. This is what “help” is about. Something I cannot do alone becomes possible when others pitch in.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Pope Cancels General Audience Amid Rising Fears for His Health VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope John Paul II has canceled his weekly general audience scheduled for Wednesday (March 23) amid rising fears that his health, undermined by severe breathing problems and the progress of Parkinson’s disease, is not improving as expected. “Pray for the pope because his condition is worsening,” the Rome newspaper Il Messaggero quoted his secretary, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, as telling an unidentified fellow Polish priest. Vatican technicians ran lines into the Apostolic Palace to permit John Paul to take part in Holy Week ceremonies by a television hookup without leaving his private apartments. “John Paul II must let himself be seen.


c. 2005 Religion News Service (RNS) John Paul II’s 27-year tenure is studded with firsts: the first pope to enter a mosque, the first to visit Rome’s main synagogue, the first to emphasize his personal past as a foundation for his present vision, and the first to not only utilize but fully embrace popular books as a tool for evangelization. The pope’s fifth book, “Memory and Identity,” was released Tuesday (March 22) in the United States, further cementing his legacy as an author. “He thinks that all media should be used in the cause of spreading the Gospel,” said Robert George, professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University. “And for him the Gospel is not the narrowly conceived four books (in the Bible).