Pope to Offer Support for Turkey’s Beleaguered Orthodox

c. 2006 Religion News Service ISTANBUL, Turkey _ Fifteen hundred years ago, Constantinople was home to the world’s largest church and one of the five original patriarchates, or spiritual centers, of Christianity. Today the patriarchate is still there, but Constantinople is now Istanbul, the church is a museum and the patriarch, Bartholomew I, is at the mercy of the Turkish government. Pope Benedict XVI will visit Bartholomew on Nov. 29 during his trip to Turkey as part of a larger plan to bring Catholics and Orthodox closer together.

East Will Meet West in Pope’s Delicate Visit to Turkey

c. 2006 Religion News Service ISTANBUL, Turkey _ In the courtyard of the Church of the Holy Spirit here, a bronze statue stands in honor of a Roman Catholic pontiff by the name of Benedict: “The benefactor of all people, irrespective of nationality or religion,” a placard near the statue reads. Apart from the name, the statue bears no resemblance to Pope Benedict XVI, who enraged devout Muslims around the world with his remarks on Islam during a September speech in Germany. The statue was erected, rather, as a tribute to Pope Benedict XV, a renowned peacemaker who failed to prevent Europe from sliding into the chaos of World War I. Like his predecessor, however, Benedict finds himself at the center of a potentially epochal clash _ an ideological struggle that pits East against West, Muslim against Christian. Next week (Nov.

COMMENTARY: Glimpses of the Emerging Center

c. 2006 Religion News Service RICHMOND, Va. _ “Your generation will have to die before we can move on,” a 20-something told a 60-something at a national church convention last summer. “He could be right,” the 60-something said last week, but maybe not. Veterans of religious wars are highly invested in seeking control of the Titanic, rather than rethinking the Christian enterprise for challenging, post-modern times.

GUEST COMMENTARY: Who Will Judge the Judges?

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Once upon a time, Monsignor Charles M. Kavanagh was the sort of New York priest who performed weddings between a Tiffany employee and a Lehman Brothers mortgage analyst in the Lady Chapel of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. That was then, when he was pastor of a large Bronx parish and chief fundraiser for New York’s late Cardinal John O’Connor. These days, Kavanagh, 69, is living on Long Island with relatives.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Massachusetts Bishops Critical of Legislators’ Moves on Gay Marriage SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (RNS) Massachusetts’ Catholic bishops, who opposed lawmakers’ decision to avoid taking up a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, say the legislators’ action was “deeply disturbing” and violated the people’s right to be heard. “The effort to silence the people through inaction and delay has no place in a democracy,” the four bishops wrote in a statement released Nov. 14.

From Fire Came Forgiveness, and a New Sikh Temple

c. 2006 Religion News Service PALERMO, N.Y. _ When their leader in India gave them cryptic instructions to find a new spiritual home, a community of Sikhs in central New York followed their faith to a farmhouse. There, on the back roads of Palermo, they found the simple wooden dwelling they would make into a temple called Gobind Sadan _ “God’s house without walls.” They worshipped there for 15 years until, in an act of ignorance and intolerance, four teens burned the temple in the months after 9/11, mistakenly linking it to Muslim terrorists. From fire came forgiveness. The Sikh religion calls on its followers to practice tolerance and devote themselves to the will of God.

Jews Create New Torah Scroll, One Letter at a Time

c. 2006 Religion News Service GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. _ Jeanne Moss put her tentative hand to the quill pen, just above the surer hand of Neil Yerman. Then Yerman gently guided her as she wrote the Hebrew letter resch _ her contribution to a new Torah. “OK now, to the right, gently,” Yerman said, as the Grand Rapids woman delicately traced the ancient letter with him.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Lutherans Apologize for Persecution of Anabaptists (RNS) The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has expressed “deep and abiding sorrow” for the persecution of Anabaptists nearly five centuries ago in Europe. The ELCA’s church council, which issued the apology at its biennial meeting Nov. 11-13, hopes it will soothe relations between the ELCA and present-day Anabaptists, including the Mennonite Church USA. “The council acted because past statements have become problematic for the ELCA’s present-day relationships with” Mennonites “and other Christians who trace their heritage to the 16th century Anabaptist reformers,” the ELCA said in a news release.

Sudanese Christians Find `Promised Land’ in America

c. 2006 Religion News Service WYOMING Mich. _ The worship at Sudanese Christ Lutheran Church looks a lot like many other Sunday services, but when a rhythmic beat drums out on a laar, the praise starts to sound different. Then, the Word is spoken: in Arabic, in English and, mostly, in Dinka. The Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and the sermon.

COMMENTARY: Breaking Up Is the Right Thing to Do

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) In the wake of the midterm elections, here’s one American who’s ready for a divorce. Not for myself, but for the modern-day alliance between politics and religion. As with a couple who never belonged together in the first place, it’s past time these two separated. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact date of their union, although certainly we can say that their passion has reached an all-time high in recent years.

Some Worry Bishops’ Cutback Will Impact Influence, Advocacy

c. 2006 Religion News Service BALTIMORE _ The U.S. Catholic bishops grabbed headlines at their national meeting this week (Nov. 13-16) with controversial documents on homosexuality, contraceptives and Communion. But it was the bishops’ decision to drastically reduce the size and scope of their national office that will have more consequential _ if somewhat less controversial _ effects, according to some church analysts. For more than a decade, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has enabled the nation’s 300-odd bishops to adopt national policies, such as guidelines for clergy sexual abuse, and to speak with one voice on issues such as abortion and immigration.

Vatican Reaffirms Celibacy After Milingo Summit

c. 2006 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ Pope Benedict XVI met with his top advisers on Thursday (Nov. 16) to reaffirm the Vatican’s requirement of celibacy for priests in the wake of controversy surrounding the excommunication of a married African archbishop. A brief statement from the Vatican at the close of the three-hour meeting signaled that the pontiff and top Vatican officials are strongly standing by the celibacy requirement despite increasing pressure to at least consider allowing priests to marry. “The value of the choice of priestly celibacy, according to Catholic tradition, has been reaffirmed,” the statement said.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Ohio Bishops Give $3 Million to Sex-Abuse Counseling Fund CLEVELAND (RNS) Ohio’s Catholic bishops are reaching out to survivors of childhood sexual abuse with a new program that will allow victims to get counseling independent of the church. In what appears to be the first voluntary program of its kind in the country, eight dioceses and an Eastern Rite jurisdiction have contributed $3 million to a fund for victims of childhood sexual abuse who no longer trust the church to help them. “It’s the right thing to do,” Timothy Luckhaupt, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Ohio, said Wednesday (Nov. 15).

Evangelicals Press Bush, Congress on Environment

c. 2006 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Evangelical leaders, including a new corps of young activists, called Thursday (Nov. 16) for President Bush and the new Democratic leaders of Congress to pay greater attention to concerns over climate change. “Our allegiance to Jesus Christ demands that the threat of climate change no longer be ignored,” states a letter to Bush, incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that was read at a news conference at a Baptist church here. “We implore you to collaboratively pass and sign strong laws to combat change _ soon.

Orthodox Jews Find East Meets West in Meditation

c. 2006 Religion News Service JERUSALEM _ Natan Ophir, an Orthodox rabbi with a doctorate in Jewish philosophy, takes off his shoes and settles into the lotus position on the floor. Wearing a gray pinstriped suit, oval wire-rimmed glasses and a knitted skullcap over his graying brown hair, he closes his eyes and leads a meditation session on mindful eating. “Now think of the meaning of the food that we put into our bodies, and we’ll begin with the bracha (blessing) before we eat,” Ophir said. “Think about what it means to eat a grape, to eat an apricot or a nut.