- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 30, 2006

Roman Catholic, Orthodox bridge gap

BELGRADE, Serbia — Roman Catholic and Christian Orthodox leaders meeting for the first time in six years said they will continue their efforts to bridge the divide between their ancient branches of Christianity.

About 60 bishops, cardinals and metropolitans convened privately in the Serbian capital from Sept. 18 through Monday to restart the dialogue that broke off in 2000.

The previous talks were ended over issues including papal authority and Orthodox complaints that Catholics were trying to attract followers in historically Orthodox territory, notably Eastern Europe.

The latest meeting focused on writing a text that would serve as a basis to “seek the restoration of full communion” and close the nearly 1,000-year-old rift between the Catholic and the Orthodox, the leaders said in a joint statement.

“After many observations and comments made during the discussion on the text, a revised text will be discussed at the next meeting of the Joint Commission,” expected next year, they said.

Islamic cleric denied U.S. entry

An Islamic cleric from South Africa was denied entry into the United States, disrupting his trip to visit Northern Virginia Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan.

Ismail Mullah arrived at Washington Dulles International Airport on Sept. 22, but was detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Customs officers held him for several hours before he was allowed to board a flight back to South Africa.

Mr. Mullah has visited the Islamic Community Center of Northern Virginia for Ramadan for the past three years. He had been expected to lead prayers there following his arrival. Ramadan began in North America last Saturday.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Bill Anthony said Mr. Mullah “withdrew his application for admission after being talked to by our people.”

Mexican president to thank saint for job

MEXICO CITY — Outgoing President Vicente Fox, a Roman Catholic who has drawn criticism for publicly discussing his faith, plans to visit Mexico City’s basilica to thank the Virgin of Guadalupe for allowing him to govern the country for six years.

Mr. Fox said he would go to the Basilica of Guadalupe on Nov. 30 “to thank the Virgin of Guadalupe for giving me the opportunity to serve a country so marvelous, so full of values.”

The president has been criticized for talking about faith and relying on religious symbols in a country with strict laws separating church and state.

Evangelical seminary offers college credits

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — An evangelical seminary plans to open a small campus where Penn State students can take religion classes that would count toward graduation requirements.

Eastern University, a 3,700-student school based in the Philadelphia suburb of St. Davids, plans to offer four classes starting in January to coincide with the Penn State spring semester. The courses will be taught downtown in church buildings.

“It’s our intention to supplement what Penn State does, not compete,” said the Rev. Paul Grabill, who is leading the effort.

For evangelicals, college life can “present a great challenge” and young people attending secular universities like Penn State are more likely to stray from their faiths, said Grabill, pastor at State College Assembly of God.

The initial four classes will be capped at 20 students and will focus on the New Testament, the heritage of Western thought and civilization, faith and philosophy, and reason and justice.

From combined dispatches and wire reports

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