May 12 - May 18, 2008 
 Weekly News In Review
 Vol 3, Issue 16
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 May 9 - Iran: A Hate Note on Israel's Birthday
 Article: .Israel And The Last Days

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called Israel a "stinking corpse" that was doomed to fail, and warned countries that they would "burn in the fire of their people's hatred" if they helped Israel, the news agency IRNA reported. "Today the reason for Zionist regime's existence is questioned, and this regime is on its way to annihilation," he said in a speech on the 60th anniversary of the Jewish state.

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 May 9 - God can miraculously restore Christian unity if we are open, Pope Benedict urges
 Article: Roman Catholic Chruch And The Last Days

.- The Holy Father and His Holiness Karekin II, the leader of the Armenian Apostolic Church, met privately at the Vatican this morning and then went on to pray the Midday Liturgy of the Hours with the Armenians delegation. The Holy Spirit, the Pope encouraged in his remarks to the group, can work miracles to bring about unity between Christians if we are open to Him.

Recalling that Sunday is the Solemnity of Pentecost, Benedict XVI said that, on this day, "we will pray in a particular way for the unity of the Church. (...) If our hearts and minds are open to the Spirit of communion, God can work miracles again in the Church, restoring the bonds of unity. Striving for Christian unity is an act of obedient trust in the work of the Holy Spirit, who leads the Church to the full realization of the Father's plan, in conformity with the will of Christ."

Despite these obstacles, the Holy Father applauded the progress made over the last five years of ecumenical dialogue with the Armenian Church, saying, "important progress has been made in clarifying the doctrinal controversies that have traditionally divided us."

Pope Benedict finished his address on a note of hope, praying that ecumenical dialogue "will bring us closer to full and visible communion, and that the day will come when our unity in faith makes possible a common celebration of the Eucharist. (...) Only when sustained by prayer and supported by effective cooperation, can theological dialogue lead to the unity that the Lord wishes for his disciples."

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 May 13 - Massive quake kills thousands in China
 Article: Signs Of The Last Times

CHENGDU, China - A powerful earthquake toppled buildings, schools and a chemical plant Monday in central China, killing more than 8,700 people and trapping untold numbers in mounds of concrete, steel and earth in the worst quake in three decades.

The 7.9-magnitude quake devastated a region of small cities and towns set amid steep hills north of Sichuan's provincial capital of Chengdu. Striking in midafternoon, it emptied office buildings across the country in Beijing and could be felt as far away as Vietnam.

In the town of Juyuan, south of the epicenter, a three-story high school collapsed, burying as many as 900 students and killing at least 50, Xinhua said. Photos showed people using cranes, mechanical hoists and their hands to remove slabs of concrete and steel.

In Beichuan county, northeast of the epicenter, 80 percent of the buildings fell, and 10,000 people were injured, Xinhua said. Men younger than 50 were ordered to bring tools to the area to help dig out any survivors.

Xinhua reported 8,533 people died in Sichuan alone and 216 others in three other provinces and the mega-city of Chongqing.

Premier Wen Jiabao, a geologist by training, called the quake "a major geological disaster," and traveled to the disaster area to oversee rescue and relief operations.

Some 660 miles to the east in Anhui province, chandeliers swayed in the lobby of the Buckingham Palace Hotel. "We've never felt anything like this our whole lives," said a hotel employee surnamed Zhu.

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 May 10 - Former Jordanian minister insists Islam will conquer Rome
 Article: Wars And Rumors Of Wars

.- A former Jordanian minister has seized upon commentary about the decline of Western power, saying on Arabic-language television that Islam will conquer Rome.  He went on to say that Spain is an Islamic land that should be retaken and that America has begun to realize its "end is near."

According to a transcript prepared by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Al-Faqir said Palestine from the Jordan to the Mediterranean is an Islamic land.  "Spain - Andalusia - is also the land of Islam," he said.

"Islamic lands that were occupied by the enemies will once again become Islamic. Furthermore, we will reach beyond these countries, which are lost at one point. We proclaim that we will conquer Rome, like Constantinople was conquered once, and as it will be conquered again.

"America has occupied, thundered, and foamed with rage, and proclaimed, like Pharaoh, 'I am your supreme God,' but it will come to its end, and they have begun to realize that their end is near," he said.

"This morning on Al-Jazeera TV, I saw American scientists and strategic theoreticians, who said that America would soon come to its end. They said it before about the USSR, and, indeed, it has come to its end, and we say now that America and the EU will come to an end, and only the rising force of Islam will prevail."

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 May 11 - Pope Invites a Rediscovery of Baptism's Beauty
 Article: Roman Catholic Church And The Last Days

VATICAN CITY, MAY 11, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is encouraging the faithful to rediscover the beauty of being baptized in the Holy Spirit.

The Pontiff first noted that Pentecost was an ancient Hebrew feast that became a Christian feast on account of the Holy Spirit's descent upon Mary and the disciples in the Upper Room that day, 50 days after the Resurrection.

"In effect, Jesus' whole mission was aimed at giving the Spirit of God to men and baptizing them in the 'bath' of regeneration," the Pope said. "This was realized through his glorification, that is, through his death and resurrection: Then the Spirit of God was poured out in a super-abundant way, like a waterfall able to purify every heart, to extinguish the flames of evil and ignite the fire of divine love in the world.

Benedict XVI said that Pentecost is thus, "in a special way, the baptism of the Church who undertakes her universal mission beginning from the streets of Jerusalem with prodigious preaching in the different languages of humanity."

"In this baptism of the Holy Spirit," the Pope continued, "the personal and communal dimensions -- the 'I' of the disciple and the 'we' of the Church -- are inseparable.

"Let us ask the Virgin Mary to obtain a renewed Pentecost for the Church again today, a Pentecost that will spread in everyone the joy of living and witnessing to the Gospel."

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 May 12 - Plenary indulgence announced for anniversary of the Apostle to the Gentiles
 Article: Roman Catholic Church And The Last Days

.- On Saturday a decree from the Vatican stated that Benedict XVI will grant the faithful plenary indulgence for the occasion of the two-thousandth anniversary of the birth of St. Paul. The gift of indulgences, states the document, assist in the attainment of purification and honor the great saint.

Plenary indulgences, if all the conditions are fulfilled, remove all temporal punishments that afflict people as a result of their sins. The scriptural roots of indulgences are found in Matthew 16. The decree states that the Holy Father is granting the indulgences to provide the faithful with "spiritual treasures for their own sanctification" in honor of St. Paul.
The faithful must "undertake a pious visit in the form of a pilgrimage to the papal basilica of St. Paul on Rome's Via Ostiense and pray in accordance with the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff" to be "granted and imparted Plenary Indulgence for the temporal punishment of their sins.

Each person may obtain an indulgence for themselves or for anyone who is deceased "as many times as the aforementioned acts are undertaken; it remains the case, however, that Plenary Indulgence may be obtained only once a day."

"In order that the prayers pronounced on these holy visits may lead and draw the souls of the faithful to a more intense veneration of the memory of St. Paul, the following conditions are laid down: the faithful, apart from pronouncing their own prayers before the altar of the Blessed Sacrament, ... must go to the altar of the Confession and pray the 'Our Father' and the 'Creed', adding pious invocations in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Paul; and such acts of devotion must remain closely linked to the memory of the Prince of the Apostles St. Peter."

While striving to refrain from sin, the person must "spiritually unite themselves to a Jubilee celebration in honor of St. Paul, offering their prayers and suffering to God for the unity of Christians."

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 May 13 - Believing in aliens not opposed to Christianity, Vatican's top astronomer says
 Article: Creation / Evolution - Misc.

.- The Director of the Vatican's Observatory, Fr. José Gabriel Funes, said in an interview with the Vatican daily, L'Osservatore Romano, that believing in the possible existence of extraterrestrial  life is not opposed to Catholic doctrine.

The astronomer began the interview titled, "The Alien is my Brother," by saying that, "Astronomy has a profound human value. It is a science that opens the heart and the mind. It helps us to put our lives, our hopes, our problems in the right perspective. In this regard, and here I speak as a priest and a Jesuit, it is an apostolic instrument that can bring us closer to God", said Fr. Funes in the interview. 

Regarding the beginning of the universe, Fr. Funes says that he personally believes that the "big bang" theory seems to him the most plausible, and that it does not contradict the Bible. "We cannot ask the Bible for a scientific answer here. At the same time, we don't know if in a near future the 'Big Bang' theory will be superseded by a more complete and precise explanation of the origin of the universe."

When he was asked about the possibility of extraterrestrial life, the Director of the Vatican Observatory responded that "it is possible, even if until now, we have no proof. But certainly in such a big universe this hypothesis cannot be excluded."

Asked is he sees a contradiction between the Catholic faith and believing in aliens, he said, "I think there isn't (a contradiction). Just as there is a multiplicity of creatures over the earth, so there could be other beings, even intelligent (beings), created by God. This is not in contradiction with our faith, because we cannot establish limits to God's creative freedom. To say it with St. Francis, if we can consider some earthly creatures as 'brothers' or 'sisters', why could we not speak of a 'brother alien'? He would also belong to the creation."

In that way, assuming that there would be other intelligent beings, we could not say that they need redemption. They could have remained in full friendship with the Creator. Jesus became man once and for all. The Incarnation is a single and unique event. So I am sure that also they, in some way, would have the chance to enjoy God's mercy, just as it has happened with us human beings."

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 May 14 - Pseudo-Dionysius helps Christianity dialogue with Eastern religions
 Article: Ecumenical Movement - Other Religions Uniting With Roman Catholics

.- Pope Benedict dedicated his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square to the teachings of the figure Pseudo-Dionysius the Aeropagite, who is "a greater mediator in the modern dialogue between Christianity and the mystical theologies of Asia."

Pseudo-Dionysius used Greek polytheism "to show the truth of Christ and transform the polytheistic world into a cosmos created by God" in which "all creatures together reflect the truth of God. Because the creature is a glorification of God, the Pseudo-Dionysius' theology becomes a theological liturgy. God is found, above all, by praising Him and not just through reflection."

The Holy Father explained that Pseudo-Dionysius' "two principal works, the Divine Name and Mystical Theology strive to present a knowledge of God which surpasses rational understanding and culminates in spiritual perfection and transforming contemplation."

This Father of the Church created the first "great mystical theology. ... With him the word 'mystical' took on a more personal and intimate meaning: it expresses the soul's journey towards God. ... The Pseudo- Dionysius shows that at the end of the road to God is God Himself, Who comes close to us in Jesus Christ."

"Today Pseudo- Dionysius the Areopagite assumes fresh relevance", said the Holy Father. "He appears as a greater mediator in the modern dialogue between Christianity and the mystical theologies of Asia, the well-known characteristic of which lies in their conviction that it cannot be said who God is, that He can be spoken of only in negative terms, ... and that only by entering this experience of 'no' can He be reached."

"His vision of a great cosmic harmony reflecting the beauty of the Creator and the love freely bestowed on us in Christ, can also inspire our efforts to work for unity, reconciliation and peace in our world."

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 May 13 - Bishops to Study Spirit's New Gifts
 Article: Roman Catholic Church And The Last Days

VATICAN CITY, MAY 13, 2008 (Zenit.or g).- With the encouragement of Benedict XVI, the Pontifical Council for the Laity is gathering bishops to reflect on "the ecclesial movements and new communities as a gift of the Holy Spirit."

The Thursday-Saturday seminar will bring about 100 bishops to Rocca di Papa, near Rome, to study the movements and consider the Pope's Nov. 18, 2006, exhortation addressed to bishops of Germany: "I ask you to go out and meet the movements with much love."

The pontifical council announced in a communiqué that it "wishes to continue the reflection on the ecclesial movements and new communities as a gift of the Holy Spirit for the Church of our times with the pastors coming from every part of the world."

The council recalled a similar meeting in 1999, saying the time that has passed since then has proven "fruitful for a deeper reciprocal knowledge and a greater awareness of the role that these various realities have in the work of the new evangelization."  The dicastery also noted the "perfect continuation of the magisterium of the Servant of God John Paul II in the thought of Benedict XVI."

The prelates will be accompanied by representatives from 20 movements and ecclesial realities. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope's secretary of state, will inaugurate the seminar Thursday.

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 May 14 - Ahmadinejad says Israel doomed
 Article: Israel And The Last Days

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday that Israel is dying and that its 60th anniversary celebrations are an attempt to prevent its "annihilation."

He spoke hours after President Bush arrived in Israel for the anniversary celebrations.

"The Zionist (Israeli) regime is dying," said Ahmadinejad during a speech in northern Iran. "The criminals assume that by holding celebrations ... they can save the sinister Zionist regime from death and annihilation."

Ahmadinejad used an Arabic word, ismihlal, that can also be translated as destruction, death and collapse.

Iran doesn't recognize Israel, and Ahmadinejad has repeatedly called for Israel's destruction. Threatening exchanges between Iran and Israel have intensified since 2005, when Ahmadinejad said in a speech that Israel will one day be "wiped off the map." The Iranian leader has also described the Holocaust as a "myth."

"Nations of the region hate this criminal fabricated regime (Israel) and will uproot this fabricated regime if the smallest and shortest opportunity is given to them," Ahmadinejad said Wednesday in an address broadcast live on state television.

Israel considers Iran a serious threat because of its support for Hamas and Hezbollah militants, its nuclear program and its arsenal of long-range missiles, which can be fitted with nuclear warheads and are capable of striking the Jewish state.

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 May 13 - Global Summit comes to Orange County
 Article: Emerging Church

Saddleback's founding pastor, Rick Warren author of America's best-selling hardback in history "A Purpose Driven Life" has a persona and reputation to match his church. By the looks of the third annual Global Summit on AIDS and the Church, he intends to make its size its greatest asset in fulfilling his "Purpose-Driven" teaching.

This isn't just a sermon. It's an industry and a way of life, but that's the idea. "Ordinary people empowered by mankind making a difference wherever they are," is what Warren says is the underlying idea behind the global plan.

"God gets the most glory when he tackles the biggest problems," Warren said, addressing the thousands in attendance for the plenary session of global leaders. "The church has the widest distribution in the world."

This year, he called for a "reformation of the church." The goal: to attract one billion people to tackle the five biggest global problems in the next 50 years.

Over and over again, one verse continued to show up in the talks of speakers and religious leaders. The verse was James 2:20, "But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead."

"Don't even pray," said Warren, echoing the verse from James.
"Just go."

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 May 15 - Calif. Court Says 'Yes' to Gay 'Marriage'
 Article: Perilous Times

SAN FRANCISCO - In what was a day of shame for pro-family groups everywhere, the California Supreme Court ruled 4- 3 Thursday morning to join Massachusetts as the second state to recognize same- sex "marriage."
In the court's opinion, Chief Justice Ron George ruled that the ban on same-sex "marriage" was "discriminatory" and that "domestic partnerships are not a good enough substitute for marriage." The court's decision overturns state laws prohibiting same-sex nuptials.

If a majority of state residents vote positively on the ban, the amendment will overturn and nullify the decision by the California Supreme Court.

"We have not been able to count on the legislature or the courts of California to adhere to the will of the people," Prentice told the Los Angeles Times. "This is yet another example why the people need to go to the polls in November to defend the historic and natural definition of marriage."

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 May 16 - Pope composes prayer to Our Lady of Sheshan
 Article: Roman Catholic Church And Teh Last Days

.- Pope Benedict has composed a prayer to Our Lady of Sheshan to celebrate the Day of Prayer for the Church in China, which will be observed on May 24.

In a letter written to the Catholic Church in China last year, the Holy Father expressed his hope that May 24, the memorial of Our Lady Help of Christians, who is venerated at the shrine of Seshan in Shanghai, would become a day of prayer for the Church in China.

The full text of the English-language version of the Holy Father's prayer is given below: "Virgin Most Holy, Mother of the Incarnate Word and our Mother, venerated in the Shrine of Sheshan under the title 'Help of Christians,' the entire Church in China looks to you with devout affection. We come before you today to implore your protection. Look upon the People of God and, with a mother's care, guide them along the paths of truth and love, so that they may always be a leaven of harmonious coexistence among all citizens.

"When you obediently said 'yes' in the house of Nazareth, you allowed God's eternal Son to take flesh in your virginal womb and thus to begin in history the work of our redemption. You willingly and generously co-operated in that work, allowing the sword of pain to pierce your soul, until the supreme hour of the Cross, when you kept watch on Calvary, standing beside your Son, who died that we might live.

"Our Lady of Sheshan, sustain all those in China, who, amid their daily trails, continue to believe, to hope, to love. In the statue overlooking the Shrine you lift your Son on high, offering him to the world with open arms in a gesture of love. Help Catholics always to be credible witnesses to this love, ever clinging to the rock of Peter on which the Church is built. Mother of China and all Asia, pray for us, now and for ever. Amen! "

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 May 16 - Ancestors had leg-up to trees
 Article: Creation /.Evoluition - Misc.

The ancestors of humans, apes and monkeys may have taken to the trees because of their small body size.

They say there was no difference in energy consumption for small primates, giving clues to how their ancestors entered the trees 65 million years ago.

Dr Jandy Hanna of Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, said the data suggested that the earliest primates were able to exploit a new environment without added cost if they remained small.

"The earliest primates differentiated from other mammals partly due to their exploitation of a new arboreal niche - that of the terminal branches of trees," she told BBC News. Early primates, which would have been about the size of large rats, then underwent a number of evolutionary changes as they adapted to their new environment. These changes included nails rather than claws and grasping hands and feet.

"The benefit/payoff of invading this new environment (and the appearance of these anatomical changes) was an insect- and fruit-rich environment," said Dr Hanna.

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 May 17 - Around-the-clock
 Article: Roman Catholic Church And The Last Days

Hundreds of local Catholics take part in perpetual adoration, one hour at a time. Inside the small adoration chapel at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, nine people sit or kneel before Jesus. Some bow their heads in prayer. Others read from the Bible or prayer books. One prays the rosary. They speak no words.

They are here to be in Christ's presence, to offer prayers, to draw closer to God and for spiritual nourishment.

They are among the hundreds of St. Elizabeth parishioners and thousands of Wichita-area Catholics who are part of a special devotion called Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration.

In adoration, the focus is on the Holy Eucharist -- a consecrated host that rests in a holder called a monstrance. In adoration, Catholics believe that Christ is present in body and blood, soul and divinity.

"So many want that quiet time with Jesus," she said, "and they know they're not going to have interruptions."

Conley said he sees several benefits of such devoted prayer. First, he said, is that it increases devotion among the faithful to the Eucharist. Second, he cited the number of prayers of all sorts that are being offered up. Third, he said, people have an opportunity to spend extended time in prayer, which then helps to nourish their spiritual lives.

"I know there are different places in the U.S., when this was a promoted practice, one of the almost immediate results was an increase of vocations to the priesthood," Jackels said in an interview last year.

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 May 17 - Myanmar death toll soars
 Article: Signs Of The Last Times

YANGON (Reuters) - Diplomats witnessed "huge" devastation in the Irrawaddy delta on Saturday and the toll of dead and missing from the cyclone rose above 133,000 people, making it one of the most damaging to hit Asia.
With about 2.5 million people clinging to survival in the delta, and the military government refusing to admit large-scale outside relief, disaster experts say the death toll from Cyclone Nargis which struck on May 2 could rise dramatically.

"It was useful to catch the magnitude of the devastation. It's huge," Bernard Delpuech, head of the European Commission Humanitarian Office in Yangon, said of the trip. "For the recovery you can't expect it to be six months or a year. It will take longer," he told Reuters from Yangon, the former Rangoon.

However, near the town of Kunyangon this week columns of men, women and children stretched for miles alongside the road, begging in the mud and rain for scraps of food or clothing from the occasional passing aid vehicle.

In a rare sign of agreement with international aid agencies, the junta on Friday night sharply raised the official toll from the disaster to 77,738 dead and 55,917 missing.

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 May 16 - Pope: Globalized World Needs Interreligious Cooperation
 Article: Ecumenical Movement - Other Religions Uniting With Roman Catholics

VATICAN CITY, MAY 16, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The negative effects of globalization on culture, such as the marginalization of what is transcendent and sacred, point to the need for interreligious cooperation, says Benedict XVI.

Speaking to them in English, the Holy Father pointed out that the mission of their country's small Catholic community "is undertaken within a context of relationships, most especially with Buddhists. In fact, you have readily expressed to me your great respect for the Buddhist monasteries and the esteem you have for the contribution they make to the social and cultural life of the Thai people."

"The coexistence of different religious communities today unfolds against the backdrop of globalization," he added, noting how "on the one hand there is the growing multitude of economic and cultural bonds which usually enhance a sense of global solidarity and shared responsibility for the well-being of humanity, on the other there are disturbing signs of a fragmentation and a certain individualism, [...] pushing the transcendent and the sense of the sacred to the margins and eclipsing the very source of harmony and unity within the universe."

Benedict XVI called on the prelates to promote, "mutual understanding concerning the transmission of traditions to succeeding generations, the articulation of ethical values discernible to reason, reverence for the transcendent, prayer and contemplation."

"The outpouring of the Spirit is both a gift and a task, [...] the presentation of Christ and His love to the world," the Pope said.

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 May 17 - Qatar Commended for Rare Interfaith Meeting
 Article: Ecumenical Movement - Misc.

DOHA, Qatar (AP) - More than a dozen rabbis, including two from Israel, were in attendance this week as this conservative Muslim sheikdom opened one of the Gulf's first scholarly centers dedicated to interfaith dialogue.

The rare meeting of Muslim, Christian and Jewish scholars in the heartland of conservative Islam is another sign of Qatar's efforts to present a moderate image as it bids for the 2016 summer Olympic Games. It's also part of a broader push by Arab governments for interfaith dialogue, even though most still do not recognize Israel.

Two months ago, the country also allowed the opening of its first-ever Catholic church. It has had low-level ties with Israel through a trade office for 12 years although it does not recognize Israel, and recently also invited Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to speak at a conference on democracy.

Ibrahim al- Nuaimi, the director of the interfaith center sponsored by the ruling family, said the goal is to "promote joint studies of academics from three faiths to foster understanding and peace."

Cardinal Jean- Louis Tauran, who heads Vatican's council for inter-religious dialogue and attended the conference, praised Qatar's efforts to include Jews. "As religious leaders, let us promote a sound pedagogy of peace, which is taught in the family, mosques, synagogues and churches," Tauran said.

"My challenge to him was, let us meet together ... and together we'll look at our textbooks, the Jewish textbooks, the Muslim textbooks and the Christian textbooks in Palestine and Israel _ and together we'll find if they're educating children toward hate," he said.

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 May 15 - Interview: Brian McLaren on Change and the Emerging Church
 Article: Emerging Church

NEW YORK (AP) - Author Brian McLaren is among the most influential American religious thinkers of the last decade. His break with rigid orthodoxy and embrace of new worship styles is at the center of what is called the emerging church - a movement that has gone viral. The emerging church reclaims ancient practices and prayers and creates new ones, while re-examining Scripture to learn how modern-day Christians should live.

Since no particular denomination is dominant in the view of McLaren and evangelical thinkers like him, their views have been embraced by a wide range of religious groups, including both conservative and liberal Protestants along with Roman Catholic congregations.

McLaren recently sat down with The Associated Press to talk about the book and the future of emerging churches. Here are his answers in condensed form:

Q: Are you trying to create heaven on earth?

A: As a Christian, I'm just trying to be faithful. I'm trying to live out what I pray when I pray the Lord's prayer, 'May your kingdom come. May your will be done on earth.' ... I'm not a utopian in any way.

Q: On the theology behind the emerging church, you reject the idea that there's an absolute truth. So what boundaries are there on theology that churches are teaching? Can any church just call itself an emerging church?

A: But what I do want to do is acknowledge first the ways we've already watered down the Gospel to accommodate modernity.' ... I think the naivete of some of those critics is that they're starting with a pure pristine understanding of the Gospel. It seems to me we're all in danger of screwing up.

Q: What comes next for emerging churches?

A: Now what's happened is all of these affiliated groups are forming - Presby-mergent, Anglo-mergent. ... A Catholic network is forming. .. It's breathtaking to hear all the creative thinking going on about the future.

Q: What are the weaknesses of the movement?

A: ... Among evangelicals you have people who are not doing any theological rethinking at all. The theology that they inherited, they're staying with 100 percent. They're trying to do sort of methodological innovation (in styles of worship). And my personal feeling is that's great. Those'll be steps in a good direction... I'm not a purist about anything. I think it's all good. We're all trying to stumble along and take some steps in the right direction. Others of us are asking theological questions and that's always messy.

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 May 18 - Pope tells young people to trust in Mary
 Article: Roman Catholic Church And The Last Days

.- At a meeting with young people in the northern Italian city of Savona, Pope Benedict XVI recited the Angelus prayer with the young people and invited them to trust in Mary. He recalled the words the Virgin Mary spoke to shepherd Benedict Pareto in the year 1400 urging him to build a shrine on Mount Figogna, the place where she appeared.

Benedict Pareto, according to tradition, was worried because he did not know how to respond to Mary's invitation to build a church in a place so remote from the city.  The Pope repeated the Virgin Mary's words: "trust in me! With me in your midst you will not fail. With my help everything will be easy. Only keep your will firm. Trust in me!"

"This, Mary repeats to us today," Pope Benedict said.  "An ancient prayer, very dear in popular tradition, makes us turn in confidence to You with these confident words, that today we make our own: 'Remember, O Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, sought your help or implored your intercession was left abandoned.'

"It is with this certainty that we invoke the motherly care of Our Lady of the Guard on your diocesan community, its pastors, consecrated persons, the lay faithful: young people, families, the elderly.  To Mary we entrust the entire city, with its diverse population, its cultural, social and economic problems and challenges of our times, and commitment of those who cooperate for the common good."

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 May 17 - Myanmar health system stretched to the limit
 Article: Signs Of The Last Times

Myanmar's ragged health system has been stretched to the limit after the cyclone two weeks ago left up to 2.5 million people homeless, exposed to pounding rains and potential disease.

Myanmar's paranoid military junta has been slow to accept outside aid, granting very few visas to relief workers desperate to help. No foreign experts from the World Health Organization have been given approval to enter the country. And because only local staff have been allowed into the worst areas, data collection has been slow.

Many children are suffering from diarrhea, and some foreign aid agencies have reported a few cholera cases, but no major outbreaks have been reported.

"With hundreds of thousands of people still not receiving aid many of these children will not survive much longer," the charity said in a statement. "Children may already be dying as a result of a lack of food."

Access to regular supplies of safe drinking water and proper sanitation is essential for preventing waterborne diseases like cholera, which spreads rapidly through water contaminated with feces. Malaria and dengue fever outbreaks also will be a major concern in the coming weeks after mosquitoes have time to breed in the stagnant water that flooded the low-lying delta region.

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Roger Oakland

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