Religion Today Summaries - Apr. 21, 2008

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Apr. 21, 2008

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:

  • Penitent Pope Meets Victims of Sexual Abuse by Priests
  • Christian Bookstore Owner Re-Arrested in China
  • France Unable to Save Crumbling Churches
  • Christian Leaders Call 'Expelled' a Must-See Movie

Penitent Pope Meets Victims of Sexual Abuse by Priests

ASSIST News Service reports that Pope Benedict XVI met victims of sexual abuse by American clergy on April 17 in the most dramatic signal yet of his efforts to atone for the scandal that has inflicted heavy damage on the Catholic Church in the United States. According to a London Times story, the meeting took place in the chapel of the Vatican mission in Washington and came as he continued to place the issue of priestly abuse of minors over the past 30 years and the Church’s slow response to it at the forefront of his first visit to the US. Baker stated that a Vatican spokesman said that the pontiff spent time with a group of victims. “They prayed with the Holy Father, who afterward listened to their personal accounts and offered them words of encouragement and hope,” he said. “His Holiness assured them of his prayers for their intentions, for their families and for all victims of sexual abuse.” Baker’s story went on to say, “Chief Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said there was a lot of emotion in the room and some victims cried. Each one then spoke personally with the Pope.

Christian Bookstore Owner Re-Arrested in China

According to Compass Direct News, a bookstore owner in Beijing has been re-arrested for publishing Bibles and Christian literature after he had been released in January due to “insufficient evidence.” Shi Weihan, a 37-year-old father of two, was re-arrested on March 19 and has been held without any family visits allowed, according to his wife Zhang Jing. Shi was first arrested on November 28, 2007, and held until January 4. His wife said she had received no word on her husband’s condition, and she has been prohibited from bringing him any food or change of clothing since his re-arrest. Zhang said she is “very concerned” about her husband’s health, as he has diabetes. Another bookstore owner, Zhou Heng, was arrested and detained in Xinjiang province on August 3, 2007 for receiving a shipment of Bibles. Zhou revealed last week that he had been cleared of charges and released from prison on February 19.

France Unable to Save Crumbling Churches

An Associated Press story states that the dilemma of what to do with tens of thousands of churches that have fallen out of favor — and into disrepair — is facing towns and villages across France and other European countries. Some have converted old churches into housing, while other churches deemed too expensive to maintain were torn down. In France, fewer than 5 percent of the nation's 62 million people attend Mass every week, down from 27 percent a half-century ago. One village, at a cost of $2.13 million — less than half the cost of a restoration — is building a new church built around the bell tower of the existing structure. Even in communities where there is still a church-going presence, the old cathedrals are too large and lack intimacy. "It's five times too big for the congregation that usually comes. People prefer a more modern church, that's more cheerful and warm, instead of a huge one where they get lost in all the space," said one mayor. Famous cathedrals that are viewed as jewels of religious architecture are not in danger, as they have funding from the national government.

Christian Leaders Call 'Expelled' a Must-See Movie

According to Baptist Press, the Ben Stein documentary "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" explores the ongoing academic, legal and cultural battle between supporters of Darwinian evolution and Intelligent Design. During the 90-minute, PG-rated film, Stein talks to people on both sides of the debate, and in a climactic scene, interviews noted atheist and evolutionist Richard Dawkins. The movie's premise is simple: Supporters of Intelligent Design are being "expelled" – fired, shunned or ridiculed (or all three) – from institutions for their beliefs. Pro-family leaders, including Focus on the Family's James Dobson and the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission's Richard Land, have given the film thumbs up. "Expelled is a wonderful movie," Land said on the April 17 broadcast of "For Faith and Family" in which he interviewed Stein. "I think it should be required viewing for anyone who wants to understand what is going on and what is at stake in the debate over worldviews in this society."