FaithWorld

Russian Church: Ditch beer for books in nightclubs

(A man walks across Red Square near the GUM state department store (L) and St Basil's Cathedral on a rainy day in Moscow, November 26, 2007/Oksana Yushko)

Russian revelers can now swap vodka and dancing for tea and reading at new “spiritual nightclubs” being set up by Orthodox Church, media said quoting a top religious official. In the latest suggestion by the increasingly powerful Church, youths will be able to “have the opportunity for serious dialogue, reading, unhurried conversation so they can have a cup of tea,” said Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin.

“A nightclub does not have to be a place where debauchery, boozing and drug addiction reign,” said Chaplin, who added that the Church-inspired clubs will stay open till 5 a.m. like most of Russia’s drinking holes.

Endorsed by Russia’s leaders as the country’s main faith, the Orthodox Church has grown increasingly powerful since the collapse of the officially atheist Soviet Union in 1991.

Its efforts to influence education and secular life have drawn criticism from rights groups and members of minority faiths. Russia’s 20 million Muslims make up a seventh of the country’s population. Chaplin outraged feminists earlier this year when he said women should dress more modestly and refrain from walking down the street “painted like a clown.”

Belgium looks to Pope Benedict to help end its clerical sexual abuse crisis

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(Grand Place, Brussels, 14 April 2009/Kiban)

Belgium’s politicians and prelates are looking to Pope Benedict to help end a clerical sexual abuse crisis that is crippling the local Catholic Church and frustrating judicial authorities unable to resolve it.

Calls to punish former Bruges Bishop Roger Vangheluwe, who shocked Belgium last week by publicly excusing abuse cases that caused his downfall last year, have come from the Belgian prime minister, justice and foreign ministers and several senior politicians. Belgian bishops have denounced Vangheluwe, 74, who quit as bishop of Bruges after admitting to molesting his nephew, and several bishops have made clear they want swift punitive action from the Vatican, which took control of his case this month.

But there is no consensus on what Benedict, who has the final say on Vangheluwe’s fate, should do. He has shied away from stiff punishments for bishops caught in the abuse crisis plaguing the Church in Europe and the United States.

Belgium urges Vatican to impose harsh punishment on sex abuse bishop

(Belgium's Justice Minister Stefaan De Clerck addresses the Justice Committee hearing on child sexual abuse in the Belgian Catholic Church, at the Belgian Parliament in Brussels September 17, 2010. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir )

(Justice Minister Stefaan De Clerck addresses the Justice Committee hearing on child sexual abuse in the Belgian Catholic Church, September 17, 2010/Francois Lenoir )

Belgium’s justice minister urged the Vatican on Friday to impose stiff punishment on a disgraced Catholic bishop who denies being a paedophile despite admitting to sexually abusing two of his own nephews. Stefaan de Clerck spoke out amid a media uproar after former Bruges Bishop Roger Vangheluwe defended himself on television by saying the abuse he committed was only “superficial.”

Vangheluwe, who quit his post and went into hiding a year ago after admitting to molesting a nephew, confessed in the interview on Thursday evening that he had molested a second one. He left Belgium last week under Vatican orders to seek “spiritual and psychological treatment” abroad and Belgian media say he is now in a French monastery. The Vatican has said the final decision on disciplining him lies with Pope Benedict.

Over 800 complaints to Austrian Catholic Church sexual abuse commission

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(The towers of Votivkirche church in Vienna August 10, 2010/Heinz-Peter Bader)

An Austrian commission investigating sexual abuse cases in the Roman Catholic Church said on Wednesday over 800 people had come forward to register as victims in the past year. Over a third of the cases have been settled, the head of the commission, Waltraud Klasnic, told a news conference. She said the number of complaints showed that the church must screen priests more carefully and look into their mental state before allowing them to qualify.

Klasnic said the commission, which was set up a year ago, was also looking into the structures that allowed such abuse and violence to occur, according to remarks carried by the Austria Press Agency (APA). Around three-quarters of the 837 complaints involved male victims. The commission does not pass legal judgment but hands over plausible cases to the authorities and most have the cases processed so far have involved compensation.

Abuse scandals in Austrian Catholic institutions have badly damaged the religion’s image with a record 87,000 people quitting the church in 2010. Hundreds of reports of child sexual abuse in Austrian Catholic institutions were triggered by the resignation of an arch-abbot in Salzburg last April after he admitted to sexually abusing a boy 40 years ago.

Chinese police break up planned service by evicted Protestant church

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(Uniformed and plainclothes police surround a man at the site of a proposed church gathering at a shopping area in Beijing April 10, 2011/David Gray)

Hundreds of Chinese police scrambled to prevent a planned outdoor service by a “homeless” church on Sunday, shoving people into vans and buses in the latest show of the Communist Party’s determination to smother dissent and protests. The Shouwang Church, a Protestant group with about 1,000 members, had urged members to gather for the outdoor service after they said official pressure forced the church out of a place of worship it had been renting.

But hundreds of police officers covered the area in the Zhongguancun commercial district, where the Shouwang Church had planned to worship, deterring any effort by church members and supporters to gather for the morning service.

Guestview: “Trifecta” of bad news launched Catholics4Change blog

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(Protesters near the courthouse before a hearing on the Archdiocese of Philadelphia sexual abuse scandal in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, March 14, 2011/Tim Shaffer)

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Elizabeth E. Evans is a freelance writer, columnist and priest-in-charge at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Honey Brook, Pennsylvania.

By Elizabeth E. Evans

Three seemingly unrelated events – and Susan Matthews found herself at a crossroads.

400-year-old King James Bible found in English church

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(Frontispiece to the King James' Bible, 1611)

A printing error helped a 12th century English village church realise it owned a rare 400-year-old King James Bible, the book that changed the world. The edition that had been sitting on a ledge in the pretty Anglican church in Wiltshire, central England for the past 150 years, barely touched and much less read, is one of only a handful that still exists.

Although a sign above the book indicated it dated back to 1611, it was only after the parochial church council of St Laurence in Hilmarton decided to get it authenticated during the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible that they made their discovery.

“I noticed it like everyone who uses the church noticed it as an old Bible that was sort of there, but no one was sure about its origins until very recently,” council member Chris Mastin-Lee told Reuters.

UK to allow same-sex marriage in church – reports

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(Bride and groom figurines on wedding cakes at Cake and Art bakery in West Hollywood, California June 4, 2008/Mario Anzuoni)

Britain plans to allow same-sex unions to be celebrated in places of worship, removing a key legal distinction between homosexual civil partnerships and heterosexual marriage, newspapers reported on Sunday. The move would lift the ban on religious ceremonies for the registration of gay unions imposed when Britain legalised civil partnerships six years ago.

The government may also propose scrapping the legal definition of marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman, allowing gay men and women to call their partners husbands or wives, the Sunday Times said. Equalities minister Lynne Featherstone will launch a consultation on the issue next week, the Sunday Telegraph said.

Palestinians ask U.N. recognition for Bethlehem’s Nativity Church

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(An Armenian priest in the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, January 18, 2008/Nayef Hashlamoun)

Unlike the Sydney Opera House or the Statue of Liberty, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, one of the holiest places in Christendom, is not on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites. It lies inside the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where Palestinians, with no state of their own, do not enjoy the full U.N. membership to secure United Nations recognition.

On Monday, they announced plans to rectify what the U.N. cultural agency agrees is a glaring anomaly that has placed the church — built 1,700 years ago over the grotto where Jesus is believed to have been born — in international limbo.

Copts say Egypt regime change trumps Islamist fears

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(Egyptians rally at Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo February 1, 2011/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

For Rafik, a member of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority, the myth that President Hosni Mubarak is the community’s best defense against Islamist militants was shattered by an Alexandria church bombing on New Year’s Day. He and other Copts continued to demonstrate alongside at least 1 million Egyptians on Tuesday, saying their desire to end Mubarak’s three-decade rule was for now more pressing than any fears that a change of power might empower Islamist groups.

“After (the Alexandria) bombing the Copts for the first time started to demonstrate against Mubarak. He was telling us that ‘When I’m in power, you’re safe.’ Well, obviously, when he’s in power, we’re not safe,” the 33-year-old dentist said as he stood amid thousands of protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.