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Religion Today Summaries - Apr. 30, 2009

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Apr. 30, 2009

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

  • Pope Visits Italian Quake Victims in Tent City
  • Robertson to Retire as Regent University President
  • Christians Rally against Alleged 'Genocide' in Sri Lanka
  • Southern Baptists' Baptisms Dip to Lowest in Two Decades

Pope Visits Italian Quake Victims in Tent City

Religion News Service reports that Pope Benedict XVI visited homeless earthquake victims and damaged buildings in central Italy on Tuesday (Apr. 28). "The whole church is here with me, beside your suffering, a participant in your pain," Benedict told tent-dwelling survivors outside the city of L'Aquila, about 70 miles east of Rome. A 6.3-magnitude earthquake, which struck in the early morning hours of April 6, killed almost 300, left more than 65,000 homeless, and damaged historic churches and artwork in medieval L'Aquila and nearby. The destruction of the 44-year old residence and other relatively new structures in L'Aquila has provoked suspicions that their construction fell short of anti-seismic norms. Benedict seemed to allude to such concerns in a speech to rescue workers, when he called on the "civil community" to make an "examination of conscience, so that at every moment responsibilities never fall short.

Robertson to Retire as Regent University President

The Associated Press reports that evangelical leader and broadcaster Pat Robertson has announced plans to step down as president of Regent University in July 2010, but he won't be going far. Robertson, who founded the Christian college in 1978, will continue as Regent's chancellor and as a member of the board of trustees. The Christian Broadcast Network Robertson began is adjacent to the Regent campus in Virginia Beach, Va., and Robertson will continue hosting the network's flagship "700 Club" talk show. Robertson reportedly stepped down from the daily responsibilities as president to focus on implementing a strategic plan for the school. "Our mission remains steadfast: to train Christian leaders who serve with excellence in every area of their lives," he said. "I have seen that excellence firsthand and I know that we have only just begun to see the fruits of our labor."

Christians Rally against Alleged 'Genocide' in Sri Lanka

The Christian Post reports that although heavy combat is over in Sri Lanka, the human rights campaign may be only beginning. Christian leaders from the National Council of Churches in India, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, accused the government of "genocide" at a Wednesday protest organized by the Ecumenical Christian Forum for Human Rights (ECFHR). Human rights activists and other Tamil supporters joined them in accusing the government of mowing down innocent Lankan Tamil civilians trapped between the rebel Tamil Tigers and government forces. Fr. Jebamalai Raja S.J., coordinator of the event, said, "It's a deliberate genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka for which churches all over India have united to condemn and express solidarity." He added, "Civilians are drastically affected by the lack of food, water and medicine. The international community should step in to halt the mass killings."

Southern Baptists' Baptisms Dip to Lowest in Two Decades

Religion News Service reports that the number of baptisms by Southern Baptists has dropped to the lowest rate in two decades. The denomination, which also saw a slight decrease in membership numbers, recorded 342,198 baptisms in 2008, a decrease of 1.1 percent from the previous year, according to LifeWay Christian Resources, a division of the Southern Baptist Convention that compiles annual statistics. This is the fourth consecutive year the numbers have declines. "The numbers simply tell us that Southern Baptists are not reaching as many people for Christ as they once did," said Thom S. Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay, in an April 23 announcement. Rick Land, executive director with the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, wrote in Baptist Press, "When we have a true sense renewal in our relationship with the Lord, the numbers will take care of themselves."