- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 5, 2008

Cardinal wants to meet R. Castro

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican’s No. 2 official said he hopes to meet with Raul Castro, Cuba’s acting president, when he visits the island early next year.

The trip by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Holy See’s secretary of state, will be the highest level visit by a Vatican official to Cuba during Pope Benedict XVI’s tenure. It will mark the 10th anniversary of the historic pilgrimage there by the late Pope John Paul II.

“I really hope to meet Fidel Castro’s brother, Raul, who runs the country today,” Cardinal Bertone told the Italian religious affairs weekly Famiglia Cristiana. Excerpts of the interview were released Dec. 29, ahead of publication.

It was not clear whether he planned to visit with the ailing Fidel Castro, who welcomed John Paul in Havana in January 1998.

The trip will be made in February, Cardinal Bertone said, but no date has been announced. The cardinal said he will attend the inauguration in the central city of Santa Clara of a monument dedicated to John Paul that marks the pope’s visit.

Malaysia drops newspaper ban

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — A Roman Catholic newspaper said Monday the government has reversed its decision to ban the publication over its use of the word Allah, easing tensions that had strained racial harmony in the multiethnic country.

In a surprising turnabout, the government renewed the Herald weekly’s 2008 permit without any conditions, said its editor, the Rev. Lawrence Andrew. “There are no conditions, there was no mention of the Allah ban,” he told the Associated Press.

Internal security officials declined to comment. All publications in Malaysia require a government permit, which is renewed annually.

The government had said that Allah, an Arabic word for God, can only be used by Muslims. Officials feared that using Allah in Christian literature would confuse the Malays and draw them to Christianity.

Officials oppose ‘Amish taxis’

LUTHERSBURG, Pa. — The state Public Utility Commission is cracking down on operators of “Amish taxis” who regularly serve as drivers for members of the religious group but are not certified to carry passengers.

The PUC this fall began targeting the unlicensed “English” or non-Amish taxis serving more than 350 Amish families in Clearfield, Indiana and Jefferson counties. Amish religious beliefs bar owning or operating motor vehicles, so they rely on outsiders to drive them long distances or along roads that are too dangerous for horse-drawn buggies.

The commission is responding to complaints, including some from drivers who paid to become state-certified to carry passengers, PUC spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher said.

“It’s different than something occasional, like taking a neighbor to a grocery store,” Mr. Kocher said. “We’re targeting routine trips where people who are [certified] and are following the rules are saying, ‘Wait a minute here.’ ”

Drivers must pay a one-time fee of $350 to be state certified to carry passengers, and submit proof of insurance annually after that. Vehicles must also be certified, either as metered taxis or as paratransit vehicles. Commercial insurance fees vary for paratransit vehicles but can cost up to $6,000 annually, Mr. Kocher said.

Six persons have obtained the required certificates from the PUC’s Altoona office, which covers Clearfield, Indiana and Jefferson counties. Since the enforcement campaign, another 13 persons have applied for certification, Mr. Kocher said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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