RNS Weekly Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Irish Bishops: Put Down `The Drink’ During Lent LONDON (RNS) Roman Catholic bishops in Ireland have branded their country’s abuse of alcohol a “national tragedy” and urged citizens to cut alcohol consumption by one-third during Lent. The bishops’ pastoral letter, titled “Alcohol: The Challenge of Moderation,” was announced ahead of Ash Wednesday (Feb. 21), which marks the start of the 40-day season of Lent. The bishops also urged a serious discussion with the Dublin government about Ireland’s worrisome drinking habits.

Oscar Winner Jennifer Hudson

Quote of the Day: Oscar Winner Jennifer Hudson “Oh my God, I have to just take this moment in. I cannot believe this. Look what God can do. I didn’t think I was going to win.” -Jennifer Hudson, reacting to her Oscar win for best supporting actress in “Dreamgirls” on Sunday (Feb.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Gay Bishop Says U.S. Church Should Reject Anglican Ultimatum (RNS) The openly gay Episcopal bishop at the center of the Anglican debate over homosexuality said his church should reject demands to ban any more gay bishops and same-sex unions even if it leads to a break with the worldwide Anglican Communion. “Does anyone believe that our full compliance with the … demands, our complete denunciation of our gay and lesbian members, or my removal as bishop would make all of this go away?!” Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire said in statement. On Feb.

Hartford Mosque Mirrors Evolution of American Islam

c. 2007 Religion News Service HARTFORD, Conn. _ More than a half century ago, Malcolm X traveled regularly through the Northeast while working for the New Haven Railroad, using his trips to plant temples for the Nation of Islam. As he passed though Hartford during the 1950s, he saw the African-American community as fertile ground for the group’s black nationalist message. In 1955, Malcolm X founded the Nation of Islam’s 14th mosque here, with early followers meeting in members’ homes.

Second-Generation Black Muslims Face New Challenges

c. 2007 Religion News Service BOSTON _ As the tribute to Malcolm X wound down, Aaliyah Turner surveyed the scene at Roxbury Community College and gave herself a mixed review. The crowd was diverse _ black Muslims, Jewish peaceniks, white leftists, Arab Muslims, Harvard students, even a representative from the Nation of Islam. But Turner, 28, had hoped for double the 200 people who turned out. “Maybe we’ll try it again next year,” said Turner, who organized the tribute with peers from Masjid Al-Quran, a nearby mosque where Malcolm X often preached when he visited Boston.

COMMENTARY: The Unnoticed Heroes of Faith

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Last summer, a neighbor and I watched a woman back her boat and trailer into a ditch. We went over immediately to help. My neighbor is a retired firefighter. He diagnosed the problem, identified a solution, and initiated a response.

Some N.J. Catholics Conflicted Over New Civil Unions Law

c. 2007 Religion News Service NEWARK, N.J. _ Helen Guididas is a devout Catholic, but when it comes to same-sex civil unions, the 84-year-old is conflicted. Just before attending Mass Sunday morning (Feb. 25) at St. Helen’s Roman Catholic Church in Westfield, Guididas said she couldn’t fully support the state’s new law that gives same-sex couples the benefits and obligations of marriage.

Lenten Fish Snacker

Quote of the Day: A KFC Press Release “KFC’s new Fish Snacker Sandwich, a tender, flaky filet of 100 percent Alaskan Pollack topped with tangy tartar sauce and served on a warm sesame bun, extends KFC’s popular Snacker line-up and is ideal for American Catholics who want to observe Lenten season traditions while still leading their busy, modern lives.” -KFC (the chain formerly known as Kentucky Fried Chicken) in a Feb. 21 press release promoting their new fish sandwich. KFC President Gregg Dedrick has sent a letter to the Vatican asking Pope Benedict XVI for his blessing.

Groups Use Wilberforce Film to Combat Modern Slavery

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Slavery is not dead, and neither is the campaign to kill it. A new generation of abolitionists hopes that a sweeping historical epic now in theaters will help boost their ranks. The U.S. State Department estimates that 17,500 new slaves are brought to the United States every year. Worldwide, the number of people pressed into service and denied the freedom to walk away is probably at least 4 million, perhaps as many as 27 million, the agency says.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Farrakhan Uses Last Major Speech to Call for Unity (RNS) Louis Farrakhan, the controversial leader of the Nation of Islam, used what was billed as possibly his last major address to urge followers to unite and cooperate with other faiths, but also used it to reshape the organization’s theology. “My time is up,” Farrakhan told tens of thousands of people on Sunday (Feb. 25) at Ford Field in Detroit, where the Nation of Islam was holding its annual Saviour’s Day convention. Farrakhan, who turns 74 on May 11, checked-out of a Washington, D.C., hospital Jan.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali; Sunday celebrations; Wilberforce combats modern slavery

In Monday’s RNS report, Katherine Boyle talks to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who has been called an “infidel,” and doesn’t mind a bit: Controversial author and Islam critic Ayaan Hirsi Ali is not afraid to say what she thinks. But, after receiving a number of death threats, the slender, soft-spoken Somali native decided to travel with two bodyguards, just in case. The men stand outside the door as Hirsi Ali discusses her recently released book, “Infidel,” which details her escape from an arranged marriage in Somalia, election to the Dutch Parliament and her women’s rights advocacy. Hirsi Ali’s criticism of Islam in public statements and in the autobiography has caused many devout Muslims to condemn her, making the bodyguards a necessity. “People kept telling me, `You’re an infidel, you’re an infidel, you’re an infidel,”‘ Hirsi Ali says.

Author Is Called an `Infidel,’ and She Doesn’t Mind a Bit

c. 2007 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ For the past three years, bodyguards have shadowed Ayaan Hirsi Ali after the controversial author and critic of Islam received repeated death threats. But that hasn’t stopped the slender, soft-spoken Somali native from saying what she thinks. Two burly bodyguards stand outside her office door as Hirsi Ali discusses her recently released book, “Infidel,” which details her escape from an arranged marriage in Somalia, election to the Dutch Parliament and role as a women’s rights advocate. The book has soared to the No.

COMMENTARY: Taking Chances

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) I wonder if God considered alternatives to Jesus. I suppose there are other ways that Almighty God could have dealt with this whole issue of who gets into paradise. Some people would probably be more comfortable with a roll of the dice, a cut of the deck or a ka-chunk of the slot machine _ let Lady Luck decide who’s in. But some people spend too much time in casinos.

Book Explores Sports, Sabbath and Shopping on Sunday

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) From the church pews to the living-room Superbowl game watch, Sunday celebrations vary greatly across America _ although, for some, church services and sporting events are observed with nearly equal fervor. Craig Harline, an author and professor at Brigham Young University, explores the origins and current state of the first day of the week in his new book, “Sunday: A History of the First Day from Babylonia to the Superbowl,” which will be released in March. “The topic resonated with me right away,” Harline said in an interview. “There’s a constant debate, implicit and explicit, on whether (people are) to rest (on Sunday) or whether that rest includes play.” And, Harline discovered, Sunday may have been influenced more by European colonizers than many Americans realize.


John Allen, the widely respected Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, takes his British colleagues to task for a story that got some notice earlier this week. Seems that The Times of London reported -erroneously, Allen says-that an Anglican-Catholic ecumenical commission was close to saying that Anglicans would soon answer to Rome and the pope. Before the ink had dried on the page, the commission put out a statement saying the Times report was wildly inaccurate. What Allen is saying-and mincing no words while he’s at it-is that this is not unusual for the tabloid culture of the British press. It’s not only irresponsible, he says, but dangerous.