Religion Briefs

Published 9:54 pm Friday, February 13, 2009

Officials eye converting Catholic schools

NEW YORK — Four Roman Catholic schools in Brooklyn that are in danger of closing due to declining enrollment might instead be converted into publicly funded charter schools under an unusual church-state partnership.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city and the Diocese of Brooklyn are exploring a pilot program that would keep the schools open with taxpayer dollars, but also bring management and curriculum changes, including an end to religious instruction.

The idea is modeled on a similar conversion of seven Washington area parochial schools last year.

Bishops join condemnation of schismatic bishop

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The state’s Roman Catholic bishops affirmed their commitment to strong Catholic-Jewish ties after the Vatican rehabilitated a bishop who denied the Holocaust.

The Vatican caused an uproar last month when it lifted the excommunication of four bishops from the schismatic Society of St. Pius X, a traditionalist group opposed to the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. One of the bishops, British-born Richard Williamson, had said in a TV interview that he did not believe any Jews were gassed during the Holocaust.

Cardinal defends ‘Katrina’ bishop

VIENNA (AP) — Austria’s top Roman Catholic official is defending a newly appointed bishop who touched off criticism for suggesting that God used Hurricane Katrina to punish New Orleans.

Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn says he thinks the Rev. Gerhard Maria Wagner has done an “outstanding” job leading his flock in the western Austrian city of Linz.

Pope Benedict XVI promoted Wagner to the post of auxiliary bishop in Linz. But church groups and fellow priests have criticized that decision and taken issue with Wagner’s belief that sin in New Orleans brought on the 2005 killer storm.

‘Jonah’ leaves Nineveh in Iraq to preach Gospel in Michigan

BAY CITY, Mich. — The Hebrew Bible tells the story of Jonah, who receives God’s call to travel to Nineveh and warn its people to give up their evil ways. Now a new Jonah from Nineveh has come to Michigan to preach the Christian Gospel.

The Rev. Jonah Salim is a 33-year-old political refugee from Iraq. Nineveh province in northern Iraq includes the city of Mosul, also known as Nineveh.

Presbyterian leaders from around the area came to Saginaw to be on hand as he became a minister this month in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

“Today, your action confirms that we are all equals in God’s eyes,” Salim told more than 100 representatives from the Presbytery of Lake Huron, gathered to decide whether to accept a transfer of record of Salim’s ordination from an Egyptian seminary.

The Louisville, Ky.-based Presbyterian Church has 2.3 million members, about 14,000 ordained ministers and about 10,000 congregations nationwide.

Over the past year, Salim took five ordination exams and had to show his knowledge of the Bible and understanding of faith issues, said the Rev. Doug Tracy.

“He wrote a biblical exegesis demonstrating his knowledge of biblical languages, and part of the fun for those of us who got to read it was we saw interpretations of the text presented in English, in Hebrew and in Aramaic,” Tracy said.

Salim fled to the U.S. two years ago, citing fear of persecution from Muslim extremists. He arrived in Bay City in 2007 and received asylum to stay in the U.S. in June.

Fire destroys landmark Mormon church in rural Nevada farming town

LAS VEGAS — A pre-dawn fire reduced a landmark Mormon church to rubble, destroying one of the oldest buildings in the Moapa Valley.

No one was injured in the Feb. 4 blaze that destroyed Logandale’s Mormon church in the small southern Nevada farming town about 55 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

Clark County fire spokesman Scott Allison said FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents joined county fire investigators probing the cause of the fire, but said there was no immediate evidence of foul play.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stake President Asahel Robison said nothing was reported amiss when a women’s group left the church after a meeting the night before. But he noted that electric fans were running overnight to help dry carpets after a cleaning.

The building had opened in 1951.

“Some older folks who helped build that building watched, helpless, as a large piece of their lives went up in flames,” Robison said of the worship center for almost 350 families and more than 1,000 members.

Allison called the cement block and wood building a total loss, but no damage estimate was available.