c. 2006 Religion News Service SOUTH BRUNSWICK, N.J. _ Whether at work, at home or in a mosque, Imtiaz Ahmed tries to block out the world around him five times a day and concentrate on God, bowing, kneeling and prostrating in prayer as all observant Muslims do. Ahmed, whose job in information technology takes him across his state, saves his most intense prayer for when his forehead and nose touch the ground. From that posture, he said, he asks God to forgive him and his parents so they can someday enter paradise. “In the prostrate position you’re the most humble, with your head on the floor,” he said, explaining why he chooses that prescribed prayer position to ask for what observant Muslims desire most.
c. 2006 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY (RNS) The Vatican is asking Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of a powerful movement of Roman Catholic priests, to refrain from public ministry as a result of accusations of sexual abuse made against him. The decision marks the end of a drawn-out investigation into Maciel that appeared, at times, to test the Holy See’s willingness to reprimand a cleric favored by the late Pope John Paul II. In a statement released Friday (May 19), the Vatican press office said Pope Benedict XVI approved a decision to request that Maciel, 86, limit himself to “life reserved to prayer and penitence, renouncing all public ministry.” The statement also declared that Maciel would not face a canonical trial _ a proceeding that might have resulted in Maciel’s “laicization” or permanent removal from the priesthood. The Holy See said American Cardinal William Levada, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which oversees the Vatican’s response to sex abuse, acted with Pope Benedict XVI’s approval and decided not to formally sanction Maciel because of his age.
c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Even my mother wanted to know. “Was Jesus was really married to Mary Magdalene?” she asked after reading “The Da Vinci Code,” and “Did Mary and her kids really move to France?” Since the book’s publication in 2003, those questions have been asked of me by people of every religious stripe, from devout Christians to skeptical agnostics. So I told my mother about the scholarly arguments behind the widely accepted position that Jesus was a lifelong bachelor. Being an unmarried male was an embarrassing anomaly in first-century Palestine, something that the Gospel writers would have been unlikely to invent _ especially if they wanted to paint Jesus in a positive light.
c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Mothers-in-law have a bad reputation. They are frequently the butt of comedians’ jokes, and are portrayed as constantly suspicious of the spouses their children have unwisely chosen. A mother-in-law worries her son’s shrewish wife will not adequately feed or take care of the “beloved young prince.” Or a mother-in-law may fear her brilliant beautiful princess-like daughter has chosen an undeserving lout for a husband. In the face of such hostility, what are kind generous mothers-in-law (they really do exist!) to do? Fortunately, the upcoming Jewish festival of Shavuot (the Hebrew word for “Weeks”), observed this year June 2-3, provides a positive response to this vexing question.
c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) The success of “The Da Vinci Code” has led pastors and church leaders to ask concerned questions in the weeks leading up to the release of the movie version of Dan Brown’s novel. It’s the answers that are making them nervous. A lack of substantive education on church history, theology and doctrine has some leaders concerned that “biblically illiterate” Christians will not be adequately informed to answer the questions the movie raises. Such as: Was Jesus really married to Mary Magdalene?
c. 2006 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ When Pope Benedict XVI travels to Poland next week (May 25-28), millions of Polish faithful will be watching his every move, measuring how intensely the German pontiff pays homage to their national hero, the late Pope John Paul II. A continent away, however, Benedict will have another, smaller audience, that does not admire Benedict’s faithfulness to his predecessor: China’s communist leadership. If John Paul is celebrated in Poland for sparking the country’s historic challenge to Soviet communism, his legacy haunts the government corridors of Beijing. By evoking John Paul’s stand against communism, Benedict’s trip to Poland could add further strain to Sino-Vatican ties that appeared to reach their breaking point after China’s recent consecration of bishops without papal approval.
c. 2006 Religion News Service BIRMINGHAM, Ala. _ This city may not have the downtown sports dome that has been proposed for years, but domes keep rising at Faith Chapel Christian Center. After building a $15 million, 3,000-seat sanctuary under a dome in 2000, Faith Chapel inflated the roof this week (May 16) on another dome _ and there are five more being built during a $16.5 million second phase of construction. That will give Faith Chapel a total of seven domes on the 137-acre church campus by next year.
c. 2006 Religion News Service SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. _ Damon Owens knew little about Opus Dei four years ago when a colleague invited him to a Catholic spiritual retreat. The weekend transformed his life. Owens, a mechanical engineer, said he was fascinated by Opus Dei’s focus on integrating one’s job and spiritual life, and by “the intensity of what they were calling us to do in order to live our faith authentically. It was the right message at the right time for me.” “I was questioning these things: How can I live my faith and still make a living?
c. 2006 Religion News Service Ndungane, Ally of U.S. Church in Africa, to Retire in 2008 CAPE TOWN, South Africa (RNS) Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, 65, announced he will retire in 2008 from his position as leader of the 4 million- member Anglican Church in Southern Africa. “It is an extremely demanding position with many wide-ranging responsibilities, and although _ according to the canons of our church _ I could continue to fill it until I am 70, I have decided that the time is coming for me to step down,” Ndungane said in a statement Thursday (May 18). The successor to Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu, Ndungane has been the spiritual leader of an Anglican province stretching from South Africa to the northern limits of Angola and Mozambique. Before his retirement, Ndungane anticipates serving alongside his successor, who will be chosen next year.
McCarrick Retires; Pope Names Wuerl Archbishop of Washington Washington D.C.’s Cardinal Theodore McCarrick retires and Bishop Donald Wuerl is named as his successor, in this week’s full-text RNS article, by National Correspondent Dan Burke (linked above). Quote: Almost immediately, however, Wuerl was asked to wade into thorny thickets such as immigration, abortion and “The Da Vinci Code.” At first he fended off questions with humor and pleas for patience, saying he had “not been here long enough to know how to get back and forth to the cathedral.” When pressed, the soft-spoken new archbishop said his political philosophy is pragmatic rather than liberal or conservative, and said he prefers the role of pastor to that of political activist.
c. 2006 Religion News Service PLANO, Texas _ Holding a paint roller in one hand and steadying a ladder for another volunteer with the other, Heather Merchant joined 15 fellow members of a local megachurch in helping a widow turn her house back into more of a home. Merchant and others in her “life group” at Fellowship Bible Church North spent a recent Saturday putting their faith in action, a call that’s being answered throughout Merchant’s church, which draws about 3,200 people each weekend. Asked what she likes about the megachurch experience, Merchant listed “biblically based” teaching, youth programs for her kids, and fellowship with her small group. But the church’s focus on community outreach, for her, is also key.
c. 2006 Religion News Service Swiss Religious Leaders Launch Europe’s First Interfaith Council PARIS (RNS) Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders in Switzerland have inaugurated the country’s first interfaith council _ and possibly the first in Western Europe _ aimed at promoting dialogue, peace and understanding among the country’s three main religions. “The most important thing is not just the inter-religious dialogue _ this goes on all the time among churches and religious organizations on many levels,” said Thomas Wipf, president of the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches, and a member of the new council. “It’s also tackling the challenge of how to live together.” The new Swiss Council of Religions was launched Monday (May 15), and seeks to work together on thorny issues such as immigration and integration, and to try to understand religious sensitivities and priorities among its different members. It will also act as a representative body for the three faiths before the Swiss government.
c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) After trying to get pregnant for a number of years, Kelly Romenesko finally got lucky. Last year, she gave birth to twin daughters, Alexandria and Allison. But the twins _ conceived using in vitro fertilization _ cost Romenesko her job. Romenesko was a part-time French teacher at St.
c. 2006 Religion News Service NEW DELHI, India _ In a tight alleyway in East Delhi, Radhika Devi, a bashful mother of two girls, and Manjula Thomas, a health worker who cares for pregnant women, rush to an ultrasound clinic. Devi is five months pregnant and desperately wants to know the sex of her unborn child. “It’s better if it’s a boy,” she says, her hands shaking nervously. “If it’s a girl, we will get it aborted.” Radhika, her husband, Radheshyam, and their two daughters share a single room in the congested, mostly lower-class neighborhood of Khichripur.
c. 2006 Religion News Service Survey Finds Catholics Not Leaving Church Over Scandals WASHINGTON (RNS) A report by a Catholic research group shows that Catholics do not appear to be leaving the church in large numbers in response to accusations of sexual abuse among clergy. The working paper by the Center for Applied Research on the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University compared responses to surveys conducted by CARA between January 2001 and October 2005, as well as studies by other groups. CARA researchers identified early 2002 as the beginning of “widespread media coverage of abuse allegations.” They concluded the percentage of adult Americans who identify as Catholic remained constant at 23 percent before and after this point. The study also examined changes in Mass attendance, financial donations, confidence in church leaders and awareness of abuse scandals.