- The Washington Times - Friday, January 5, 2007

Pope Benedict lauds persecuted Christians

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI paid tribute to Christians who are persecuted for their faith, including Roman Catholics who suffer because of their loyalty to the pontiff, an apparent reference to the underground church in China.

To the Virgin Mary, “we entrust all those who are persecuted and suffer, in various ways, for paying witness to, and being in service to, the Gospel,” Benedict told pilgrims Dec. 26, marking the feast day of St. Stephen, a Jewish convert who became the first Christian martyr.

“With special spiritual closeness, I am thinking as well of those Catholics who keep their own loyalty to Peter’s Seat without yielding to compromise, sometimes at the price of grave suffering,” the pope said, speaking from his studio window overlooking St. Peter’s square. The mention of St. Peter represents papal authority in Rome.

Benedict has been leading a Vatican campaign for religious liberty, with particular attention to the plight of Catholics loyal to him in China. The faithful in China are only allowed to worship in a state-sanctioned church, and Beijing views papal appointments of bishops there as an interference in its internal affairs.

Seminary to build high-tech center

PASADENA, Calif. — Fuller Theological Seminary plans to build a new high-tech worship center in a nod to the contemporary worship styles that are popular in evangelical churches.

The prominent evangelical seminary, one of the nation’s largest, will build a 35,000-square-foot complex that will house two chapels, classrooms, offices and performance facilities.

The complex’s centerpiece will be a 500-seat main chapel with 63 ranks of organ pipes, a grand piano and the latest in digital electronics to control house and stage lights.

The worship center is part of a multimillion-dollar, 20-year development plan for the campus.

Fuller officials say the sound and light focus in the new worship center reflect broader trends in American worship that emphasize performance and varied expressions of faith.

“Many people who come to church browse YouTube for two hours in the morning,” said Richard Mouw, the seminary’s president. “How can we preach the Gospel to people who are getting their news, getting their entertainment, in totally new ways from the 20th century?”

Smoking banned in church buildings

EVANSVILLE, Ind. — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Evansville is banning smoking at most buildings at its parishes in 12 southwestern Indiana counties.

The policy, which took effect Jan. 2, forbids smoking within all diocesan-owned, publicly used buildings.

Bishop Gerald A. Gettelfinger said the decision was accelerated by a new Vanderburgh County ban and a Dec. 5 fire at Good Shepherd School caused by a discarded cigarette.

But he said the policy is health- and safety-based and that it would have been implemented, regardless of those factors.

“This is not about bingo,” Bishop Gettelfinger said. “This is about two things — first of all personal safety and then, obviously, public safety.”

Bishop Gettelfinger, who said he was a smoker for more than two decades before quitting 35 years ago, said the policy will shed light on the dangers of smoking and eliminate the threat of secondhand smoke.

He said it would also help prevent fires such as the one at Good Shepherd.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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