- The Washington Times - Friday, September 15, 2006

Greek Church angry over school ban

ATHENS — State schools reopened in Greece with the country’s Orthodox church barred for the first time from hearing students’ confessions on school premises.

Senior clergy in the powerful institution angrily oppose the new regulation, which the conservative government says was introduced partly in recognition of Greece’s emergence as a multicultural society.

Nearly a million immigrants — including tens of thousands of Muslims from Pakistan and Albania — are estimated to live in Greece, a country of about 11 million.

The church’s governing Holy Synod said in a statement just ahead of the new school year, which began Monday, that the decision “hurts the children themselves, depriving them of the unique opportunity to convey to a priest their most difficult and, at times, explosive problems.” Students’ interests “must be placed above any other concern,” church leaders said.

Slovak Catholic bishops lobby against Mormons

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Roman Catholic bishops are fighting efforts by the Mormon Church to earn official recognition as a religious group in Slovakia.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is urging Slovaks “who care about religious liberty” to sign a petition that would allow the denomination to be officially recognized. Slovak law requires 20,000 signatures for a church to be registered.

But the Catholic bishops are telling parishioners that signing the document would “betray” Catholicism. The bishops said in a statement that Mormon doctrine “is not in line with the doctrine of the Catholic Church.”

“We call on all Catholics … not to sign this petition,” the bishops said.

The Mormon Church said this week it is not seeking to convert Catholics.

Judge rules officials can pray to Jesus

ATLANTA — Cobb County commissioners can pray in the name of Jesus Christ at their meetings under a new federal court ruling.

U.S. District Judge Richard Story ruled Sept. 8 that clergy who say an invocation at the meetings could “identify the deity to whom they direct their prayer.” But Judge Story also took issue with the way commissioners choose the clergy who appear at the meetings because it was clear that certain faiths “were categorically excluded from the list.”

The case was filed in August 2005 by the Georgia Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of seven persons who argued that the references to Jesus were an unconstitutional government endorsement of Christianity.

Thousands gather for extended revival

CANE RIVER, N.C. — For six weeks, thousands of people have been coming to a river baptism in this tiny town near Asheville.

The Cane River Tent Revival started July 31 and was supposed to end two weeks later, but people — sometimes 4,000 a night — kept coming. They waded with purpose into the rain-chilled waters, meeting with the pastors who submerged and lifted them.

“I’ve had opportunities in the past to be involved in areawide meetings,” said the Rev. Ralph Sexton Jr. “But this exceeds all expectations.”

On Sept. 10, Diane O’Shields of Burnsville wiped tears from her eyes and waved at loved ones along the riverbank. She and her husband of 21 years, John, held hands, closed their eyes and mouths and briefly disappeared under the water.

“It’s our baptism and wedding at the same time,” she said, her dress soaked. “We weren’t married in a church, so this is our marriage ceremony, too.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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