COMMENTARY: A Spiritual Experience at Arlington National Cemetery

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Each funeral service I conduct fills me with sadness. Especially poignant is the inescapable journey to the cemetery for the recitation of prayers as the casket is lowered into the ground. But that sorrow becomes acute when I visit my parents’ shared grave in America’s most sacred space: Arlington National Cemetery. My father, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, died in March 1988 and my mother followed him in death 16 months later.

Holocaust Survivor Elie Wiesel Laments Indifference to Suffering

c. 2006 Religion News Service SHORT HILLS, N.J. _ With 1,300 people before him _ most of them fellow Jews _ Elie Wiesel, the world-renowned author and Holocaust survivor, challenged his audience to resist the lure of indifference when it comes to the suffering of others. “You study the history of the 20th century, and the tragedy of all tragedies, and what hurt us was (not just) the cruelty of the killer, but really the indifference of the good people,” Wiesel, 77, said Wednesday night (March 29) at Temple B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills. Wiesel said he has known five American presidents and asked each why the United States did not bomb the railroad tracks the Germans used to ship millions of Jews to concentration camps. “If they (Americans) bombed, it would have slowed down the process,” Wiesel said.

Christian Doctor Works in Her Home on Her Terms at Her Pace

c. 2006 Religion News Service DAMASCUS, Ore. _ Sixteen short steps tell you worlds about what matters most to Beverly De La Bruere. Pass through the double doors of her sky blue ranch-style home, and you’re standing next to a poster-sized 90-day planner that tracks a busy family life. A few steps to the right and through another door, you enter a clinic with patient charts stored under an old kitchen stove hood and a single exam room.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service U.S. Bookstores Refuse to Sell Magazine With Cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (RNS) Borders bookstores and Waldenbooks, both part of the Borders Group Inc., have pulled the April-May issue of Free Inquiry from magazine racks because it includes cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. The satiric cartoons, first published in Denmark, have set off worldwide protests, some of them violent, by Muslims because Islam forbids any images of its prophet. “Borders absolutely supports the customers’ right to choose what to read and what to buy, and Free Inquiry has the right to publish the cartoons,” Borders Group spokeswoman Anne Roman wrote in a Thursday (March 30) e-mail. “We made the decision not to carry this particular issue of Free Inquiry because of the fact that we place a priority on customer and employee safety and security.” Free Inquiry is a publication of the Council for Secular Humanism, which published four of the cartoons.

Church Spending on Catholic Sex Abuse Scandal Tops $1 Billion

c. 2006 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ U.S. Catholic leaders received 783 allegations of clergy sexual abuse last year, which pushed the price tag of the scandal past $1 billion since 1950, church officials said Thursday (March 30). In addition, researchers analyzed data from previous years to try to craft a profile of abusive priests. They found no clear warning signs about which priests might be prone to abuse. “There are no identifiable pathologies,” said Karen Terry, a researcher at New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, which conducted the study.

Torah Cover:  The Return

Torah Cover That Survived Nazis Returns to New York Family
Marilyn Henry reports on a Torah cover returned to its rightful owners after being lost in Nazi-era Austria in this week’s RNS full text article, linked above. Quote:
The Wesel Torah cover is the second prominent Jewish ritual object to be returned in five years. Much attention has been focused on the recovery of artworks that were looted from Jewish families during the Nazi era, but more needs to be devoted to ceremonial and ritual objects….

Torah Cover:  The Return

Torah Cover That Survived Nazis Returns to New York Family Marilyn Henry reports on a Torah cover returned to its rightful owners after being lost in Nazi-era Austria in this week’s RNS full text article, linked above. Quote: The Wesel Torah cover is the second prominent Jewish ritual object to be returned in five years. Much attention has been focused on the recovery of artworks that were looted from Jewish families during the Nazi era, but more needs to be devoted to ceremonial and ritual objectsâÂ?¦.

Eco-palms; Internet saint

Adelle M. Banks reports in Wednesday’s RNS report that churches are increasingly choosing “eco-palms” for their Palm Sunday services: Combining ecology and theology, a growing number of churches are choosing “eco-palms” for their Palm Sunday services. It’s an idea that’s resonating with congregations who previously had not given much thought to where palms come from and who often have interests in other justice causes, such as “fair trade coffee” supporting Third World coffee growers. “To have in our hand on Palm Sunday a palm that we know has been harvested in an ecologically friendly way, in a way that’s going to benefit the communities and the people who harvested them, adds that much more depth to our celebration of Palm Sunday,” says Brenda Meier, parish projects coordinator for Baltimore-based Lutheran World Relief, which has taken the lead in promoting palm fronds that preserve the environment and livelihood of Mexican and Guatemalan harvesters. Kristine M. Crane and Stacy Meichtry look at the role of the Internet in campaigns for and against the sainthood of John Paul II: The messages arriving in Monsignor Slawomir Oder’s inbox are multiplying. A mother writes from Bloomington, Ill., appealing to Pope John Paul II from beyond the grave to heal her daughter from a sudden brain injury.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Italy Grants Asylum to Afghan Christian Accused of Apostasy ROME (RNS) Abdul Rahman, the Afghan who faced the death penalty for converting to Christianity from Islam, arrived in Italy on Wednesday (March 29) where he received political asylum. Italy’s decision to grant Rahman, 41, asylum capped a week of intense lobbying by western governments for his release. Last month Afghan authorities arrested Rahman for converting to Christianity 16 years ago and tried him on charges of apostasy _ a crime punishable by death under Islamic laws that are recognized in Afghanistan. An afternoon statement from the Italian government, led by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, reported that Italy was acting on a request from the United Nations for western governments provide Rahman refuge.

Churches Buy More Expensive `Eco-Palms’ for Palm Sunday

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Combining ecology and theology, hundreds of churches are choosing “eco-palms” for their Palm Sunday services this year. It’s an idea resonating with congregations that had not previously given much thought to where palms come from, but have interests in other justice causes, such as “fair trade coffee,” that help support poor Third World coffee growers. “To have in our hand on Palm Sunday a palm that we know has been harvested in an ecologically friendly way, in a way that’s going to benefit the communities and the people who harvested them, adds that much more depth to our celebration of Palm Sunday,” said Brenda Meier, parish projects coordinator for Lutheran World Relief. The Baltimore-based relief agency has taken the lead in promoting palm fronds that preserve the environment and livelihood of Mexican and Guatemalan harvesters.

Worldwide Web Fuels Sainthood Campaign for Globe-trotting Pope

c. 2006 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ The messages arriving in Monsignor Slawomir Oder’s inbox are multiplying. A mother writes from Bloomington, Ill., appealing to John Paul II from beyond the grave to heal her daughter from a sudden brain injury. Another click away, a child has been conceived in Mexico, thanks, the e-mail says, to the late pope’s intercession. The centuries-old practice of making saints behind closed doors and beyond public scrutiny is getting a technological jolt. Barely a year has passed since John Paul’s death on April 2, 2005.

COMMENTARY: The (Easter) Mystery of Daylight Savings Time

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Everybody knows the longing that comes with the returning light of spring. We call it spring fever. It fills us with a yearning that we cannot quite name, and it inspires daydreaming about destinations so vague that even FedEx couldn’t find them. Easter usually roughly coincides with the arrival of Daylight Savings Time _ last year Easter was celebrated a week before, and this year it comes two weeks after.

How do you measure prayer?

Quote of the Day: Rev. Raymond J. Lawrence of New York-Presbyterian Hospital “I don’t see how you could quantify prayer-either the results of it or the substance of it. God is beyond the reach of science. It’s absurd to think you could use it to examine God’s play.” -The Rev. Raymond J. Lawrence of New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia Medical Center on attempts to study the link between prayer and healing. Lawrence was quoted by The Washington Post.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Archbishop of Canterbury: Bush’s Global Warming Stance Not Christian LONDON (RNS) Singling out President Bush, the archbishop of Canterbury warned Tuesday (March 28) that politicians who fail to prevent global warming face “a very heavy responsibility before God.” Rowan Williams, the spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, said Bush’s refusal to cut greenhouse gas emissions _ because it might compromise American jobs _ was not compatible with a Christian point of view. At the same time, Williams urged the British government to force people to cut the dangerous emissions and to take a hard line on drivers to get them to stick to a 70 mph speed limit on highways. Williams’ comments on British Broadcasting Corp. radio were timed to coincide with the announcement by British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government of how it intends to achieve its self-imposed 20 percent cut in carbon dioxide levels by 2010.

COMMENTARY: Good Friday Reminder: Jesus an Equal Opportunity Offender

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) “Ah, holy Jesus, how hast thou offended?” asks the Passion hymn “Herzliebster Jesu.” Amid the excitement of Palm Sunday and Easter, this Good Friday question is never easily answered. If Jesus was so manifestly good, why did his people kill him and his followers desert him? The “Hallelujah!” of Easter never makes sense without the “Why?” of the cross. In this season of bitter division within Christianity, with faithful people arguing relentlessly on a host of issues, it seems fitting to remember that Jesus offended virtually everyone, including people like us.