Bethlehem Standoff Drags On ... According to the Associated Press, Israeli tanks today released clouds of white smoke and troops are firing stun grenades near the besieged Church of the Nativity. Meanwhile, the 200 Palestinians and three dozen clergy holed up inside the church are now "drinking tea brewed from stagnant water collected in an ancient cistern and are becoming weak from a lack of nutrition," two of their leaders said in interviews on their cell phones. But they also said they were unwilling to surrender or accept an Israeli proposal to go into exile.
On April 14, Israeli officials had attempted to make a deal with the Vatican: "We have approached the Vatican and told them that we want to respect the holiness of the place," Israel's Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said in an interview with CNN. He said the gunmen would have the choice between leaving unarmed to another country, or stand trial in Israel. The Palestinians refused.
Pope Supports Efforts to End Abuse, Cardinal Skips Mass ... Pope John Paul II is "solidly behind" efforts to prevent sexual abuse by priests and to "heal the wounds caused by such abuse in the past," the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said Sunday. Bishop Wilton D. Gregory of Belleville, Ill., told reporters that the Pope and other church officials have been discussing the scandal during their twice-yearly meeting at the Vatican. Gregory said the group had not discussed the case of Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, who is under mounting pressure to resign over his handling of cases of sexual abuse by priests.
On Sunday, Cardinal Law, who is the highest-ranking Catholic prelate in the U.S., did not celebrate Mass but instead remained in his chancery. Except for times of travel or illness, Law has not skipped Mass at his cathedral since 1984.
Episcopal Church Consecrates First Native American Woman to Episcopate ... The Episcopal Church "set another place at its table of inclusivity" April 6 when it ordained Carol Joy Gallagher as suffragan bishop in the Diocese of Southern Virginia---the first Cherokee woman to join the episcopate in the worldwide Anglican Communion.
According to the Episcopal News Service, the consecration service was held at St. Paul's College in Lawrenceville, Va., one of the three historically black colleges supported by the Episcopal Church. The liturgy of nearly three hours was a blend of traditional Anglican liturgy mixed with soul music and Native American elements--especially from Gallagher's Cherokee heritage that comes from her mother, Betty WalkingStick Theobald. The new bishop's great-great-great-grandmother walked the Trail of Tears from North Carolina to Oklahoma in the 1830s. Her father, a Presbyterian minister, is dead.
Other Top Religion Stories:
South Pushes to Post Ten Commandments ... The Washington Times
Chaplain Stretched Beyond Sermons ... The Washington Post
Officials Ask U.S. Cities to Snub Sect ... The Washington Times
Bill Introduced to Protect Clergy Housing Allowance ... Baptist Press
Argentina's Troubles Don't Stop Evangelism ... Mission Network News:
Celibacy Has Colorful History, Array of Adherents ... Fox News