COMMENTARY: The Mystery of Pain

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Does pain serve a purpose? It is a classic question in pragmatic America in which many feel that everything, including art and religion, should have a purpose or be discarded or recycled. On the national pragmatic level, pain is not filed under “mystery” but under cost/benefit ratios. The culture has glorified playing through pain; ignoring it, macho-style; or courting it, as in traditional fasting or in the fad that has revived walking over burning coals in order to rise above the world and grow spiritually.

Hindu Holy Place Altered by Technology, Development, Pollution

c. 2005 Religion News Service VRINDAVAN, India _ For centuries, this 27-square-mile town on the road from Delhi to Agra has been the holiest of holy places for devotional Hindus. Drums, brass hand cymbals and the chanting of ancient prayers echo out each morning from Vrindavan’s 5,000 temples. Yet recent changes such as satellite television, digital phone service and real estate development have brought this medieval site on the banks of the Yamuna River into the 21st century. Not everyone is happy with the transition.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Best Buy to Curb Violent Video Games, to Applause of Catholic Investors (RNS) Christian Brothers Investment Services announced Thursday (May 19) that it has withdrawn a shareholder resolution on violent video games that it filed with Best Buy Co. Inc. because the retailer has established a policy to restrict the sales of such games to youths. The New York-based consulting company, which fosters responsible Catholic financial decisions, said it was encouraged by the developments by the Minneapolis-based company to address video sales. “We are pleased with the progress to date at the company and commend Best Buy for improving its business practices in this area,” said Julie Tanner, corporate advocacy director for Christian Brothers Investment Services, in a statement.

On What Would Be His 85th Birthday, Italian Peak Named After John Paul II

c. 2005 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ Italy named a mountain peak for Pope John Paul II on Wednesday (May 18) on what would have been his 85th birthday, and his successor, Pope Benedict XVI, told pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square that John Paul “sees us from on high.” At the same time, some 12,285 people have signed an online petition to call the late pope “John Paul the Great,” even as his potential sainthood has been approved for fast track status by the new pope. John Paul died April 2 at age 84. His 26-year reign was the third-longest in church history.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Terri Schiavo’s Parents Meet Pope Benedict XVI, Other Vatican Officials VATICAN CITY (RNS) Robert and Mary Schindler, the parents of the late Terri Schiavo, met with Pope Benedict XVI and other Vatican officials to thank them for the church’s support in their fight to keep their daughter alive. The Schindlers met the new pope Wednesday (May 18) during a general audience at the Vatican. The couple carried a picture of their brain-damaged daughter, who died March 31 after her husband won a long legal fight to remove her feeding tube. The Schindlers did not have a private audience with Benedict, but television showed Mary Schindler kissing the pope’s ring.

Bishop Refuses to Change Communion for Girl Allergic to Wheat Wafers

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) A New Jersey woman whose 9-year-old daughter is allergic to wheat, which is used in Communion wafers, has failed to persuade her Roman Catholic bishop to let the girl use a non-wheat substitute for the church sacrament. In an hourlong meeting Tuesday (May 17) with Trenton Bishop John Smith at the diocese headquarters, the bishop told Elizabeth Pelly-Waldman of Brielle, N.J. that because of Vatican rules his decision from last summer to not allow the rice substitute would stand. He also declined her request to intercede on her behalf with church authorities at the Vatican. Pelly-Waldman’s daughter Haley suffers from celiac-sprue disease, which prevents her from digesting any gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, but not in rice.

COMMENTARY: Newsweek Has Only Itself to Blame for Quran Story

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Did no one at Newsweek consider the difficulty of flushing a book down the toilet? Perhaps the editors assumed American technical ingenuity had developed a commode capable of consuming a Tom Clancy paperback in six seconds. Heck, when they fire that thing up, the suction makes cots in detention cells screech along the floor toward the bars. Was this the toilet for which that famous $700 seat was invented?

Catholicism Current King of Religious Pop Culture

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) The ratings for the televised daily miniseries that attended the death of the last pope and the investiture of Benedict XVI were pretty good _ better than day-to-day church attendance. But then, you don’t have to be Catholic to be entranced by spectacle. Apparently we need something mysterious and ornate amid the mass-produced drabness of modern life. For the past several years, Roman Catholic symbolism and end-of-days theology has been pervasive in American pop culture.

RNS Weekly Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Vatican Says Dialogue With Anglicans Back on Track VATICAN CITY (RNS) Actions by the Anglican Communion to distance itself from U.S. and Canadian church endorsements of homosexuality will permit Anglican-Catholic dialogue to go forward, the Vatican said. The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity made the statement Thursday (May 12), as part of an announcement of a new joint document on the role of the Virgin May “in the doctrine and life of the church.” “Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ” will be issued Monday (May 16) in Seattle by the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC). The council said it had been “concerned” over the ordination of openly gay Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson in New Hampshire, as well as the introduction of same-sex blessing rites in the Anglican diocese of New Westminster, Canada. Both happened in 2003.

COMMENTARY: Young and Prosperous Turning to Hard-Edged and Fearful Religious Orthodoxy

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Picture a prosperous suburban congregation, set among big houses and private schools, populated by professionals and young families, once known for its intellectual vitality, now caught up in stick-to-the-Bible orthodoxy. Preaching there, says a member, rarely strays from a word-by-word explication of assigned texts. Adult education classes tend to be “led by people who regard the Bible as inerrant” and allow no questioning. “We never hear an open, honest exploration of what it means to live as a Christian in today’s world.” One adult class was “subjected to visits by (clergy and lay leaders) to make sure we were not discussing some kind of unorthodoxy or apostasy.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Religious Groups to Swarm Capitol Hill to Lobby Against Hunger WASHINGTON (RNS) Frustrated with what they decry as government inaction, religious leaders from many faiths plan to invade Capitol Hill in June to demand a commitment to end hunger in America. Organized by Christian hunger advocacy group Bread for the World, “Hunger No More: An Interfaith Convocation” will unite dozens of religious leaders at the Washington National Cathedral on June 6, the eve of its all-day lobbying effort on the Hill. “What’s mainly needed to reduce hunger is stronger commitment, especially from our government,” said the Rev. David Beckmann, a Lutheran minister who is president of Bread for the World, in a telephone press conference Tuesday (May 17). “We are all scandalized by the persistence of mass hunger.” Beckmann said the effort is needed because President Bush and Congress have shown they “have other priorities” than ending world hunger through their failure to maintain budget commitments to hunger and poverty programs. Beckmann said more than 1,000 people would be participating in the lobbying effort on National Hunger Awareness Day, and that a request had also been made for a meeting with the White House.

In Greece, Hundreds of Christian Leaders See New Unity, Focus on AIDS

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) A broad range of more than 600 Christian leaders ended an eight-day missions conference Monday (May 16) after hearing a plea from the Rev. Samuel Kobia, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, to be a “moral compass” for contemporary society. The May 9-16 Conference on World Mission and Evangelism held at a military recreation center outside Athens was the 12th such meeting since 1910, when the modern ecumenical movement began in Edinburgh, but the first held in a predominantly Orthodox country. Unlike some other WCC-sponsored meetings in the past, the mission conference was short on political declarations but long on prayer, Bible study and workshops on a potpourri of challenges to issues that confront the Christian movement in the new century. They include economic globalization, violence, such as the war in Iraq, AIDS and Christian and interreligious reconciliation and dialogue.

Quran Desecration Tantamount to `Spiritual Torture’ to Muslims

c. 2005 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ If a Quran is accidentally dropped on the floor, the person who dropped it makes a contribution to charity in atonement. Copies are never placed at the bottom of a pile of books, and because the toilet is considered an impure place, the Quran is never taken into the bathroom. This reverence for the Islamic holy text helps explain the explosive international reaction to a Newsweek report _ since retracted because it was erroneous _ that copies of the Quran had been flushed down the toilet in the course of interrogating detainees at an American prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. “This is the ultimate spiritual torture,” said Muqtedar Khan, a non-resident fellow at the Washington-based Brookings Institution who studies Islam and world politics.

TV Movie on Catholic Abuse Isn’t Anti-Catholic, Actors Say

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Ted Danson is no newcomer to TV movies that tackle difficult subjects. He won a Golden Globe award for his work in “Something About Amelia,” the landmark 1984 film about incest. The Emmy-winning “Cheers” star has top billing in “Our Fathers,” Showtime’s movie about the sexual-abuse scandal that rocked the Roman Catholic Church. It premieres at 8 p.m. EDT Saturday, and Danson knows that the very topic makes this drama controversial.

American Nun Now One Step Closer to Sainthood

c. 2005 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ Mother Marianne Cope, a German-born nun who was raised in Utica, N.Y., and worked with lepers in Hawaii, is one step closer to sainthood after she was beatified by the Catholic Church on Saturday (May 14). At the end of the formal Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, about 300 people waved scarves of red, white and blue in honor of the latest American the Roman Catholic Church has honored with the title “blessed.” The gesture, which accompanied a Hawaiian and English rendition of the familiar hymn “How Great Thou Art,” was also a sign of victory for the long journey that brought Cope to a place of honor at the heart of the church. “We got it done,” Sister Mary Laurence Hanley told Bishop James Moynihan of Syracuse, N.Y., after the nearly two-hour Mass.