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No, really. Faced with aging congregations, the Unitarian-Universalist "church" is turning to advertising and some congregations are even encouraging their members to speak with others about faith. Story here.

Reminds me of the old joke: What do you get if you cross a Unitarian with a Jehovah's Witness? Someone who knocks on doors but has no idea why.
Posted by: an okie gardener
The story.

According to the Daily Mail, Pope Benedict XVI has ordered bishops to have in place trained priests in their dioceses ready to perform exorcisms.

Some time ago, I posted comments on the observation by Father Gabriele Amorth, the Vatican's Chief Exorcist, that Hitler and Stalin were possessed by demons. (The article commented on also contained the news that Pope Pius XII had attempted a "long-distance" exorcism of Hitler.)

The current Pope has encouraged exorcists in their work before, but now appears to be forcing action by all bishops. This move should please Father Amorth, who has complained of the foot-dragging bishops.

The Daily Mail article also reports that the pontiff wants to restore the prayer to St. Michael at the end of mass, dropped in the 1960s. Text here.

So what do I make of all this? As an historian, this news is consistent with the actions of Benedict XVI, and John Paul II, in giving a conservative direction to post-Vatican II Roman Catholicism. As a Christian, I think the Church needs to engage in the apostolic ministry of exorcism, with care and discernment.

But wait, the Vatican is apparently denying this story. We'll see what tomorrow's news brings.
Posted by: an okie gardener
Story here from Compass Direct News: some excerpts:

After the government destroyed its church building in 2001, a Church of the Brethren in Nigeria congregation bought the Bight of Benin Hotel for 5.5 million naira (US$46,610) as a place of worship. But the Rev. James Zoaka said his church’s 13-year-old struggle to survive is far from over. “We still have the fear that we may not survive this ordeal, as we are yet to get approval for us to continue to use this place as a place of worship,” said Rev. Zoaka. “The Kano state government may decide at any time to declare this place illegal and then demolish it.” The Kano government offered Rev. Zoaka no explanation for the previous demolition, much less compensation.
. . .
The sanctuary the state demolished had been rebuilt, Rev. Zoaka said, after Muslims burned it down – for the third time. “We first had our church building at the Brigade area of this city,” he told Compass. “But in the 10 years that religious conflicts have engulfed Kano state, our church has been burnt down three times by Muslims.” Barrister Haruna Isa Dederi, Kano state information commissioner, declined to comment on the onslaught on Rev. Zoaka’s church by the government and other Islamic agents. A Christian source in Nigeria told Compass that persecution “is becoming high” in all 44 local government areas of the state.
. . .
The anti-Christian policies in Kano state came atop the violence the church suffered in Muslim rioting that erupted in 2001. Emmanuel Bappah, a church elder, recalled how 11 members were killed defending the church on October 11 of that year. “We heard that Muslims in the city of Kano were rioting,” Bappah said, “and sensing that our church could be set on fire as they rioted, some of us in the church decided, ‘We should go and be on the premises of the church in case they come, then we can try to defend the building from being set on fire,’ as was done twice previously.” As soon as they entered in the building, he said, a crowd of Muslims came up against the church chanting, “Allahu Akbar [God is Great]” and wielding weapons such as guns, machetes and cudgels. “We remained quiet, and then suddenly they began to attack us,” he said. “We tried repelling them, but it became impossible to fight back with our bare hands. They set the church on fire while we were trapped inside.” Those who tried to escape were chased down like animals and killed, he said. Bappah said he received four machete cuts on his back, and one of his ears was cut off.

Religions of Peace, yeah, right.
Posted by: an okie gardener
In spite of the growth of secularism in the last hundred years, the human race remains a religious species, overall. One of the ways our thirst for the transcendent expresses itself, is in pilgrimage: travel to a sacred destination.

This article from MSNBC on the top religious travel destinations.

Top sites five sites in estimated order:

*Sensoji Temple, Tokyo, Japan
*Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine, Mexico City, Mexico
*The Vatican/St. Peter's Basilica, Rome, Italy
*Tomb of Imam Reza, Mashad, Iran
*Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain
Range, Japan

The website Sacred Destinations provides information on "religious travel."

Any readers ever go on pilgrimage, or visit a holy site?
Posted by: an okie gardener
The United States is not the only nation in which Christianity and politics mix. This report from the Pew Forum on the upcoming presidential election in South Korea highlights the growth and power of Christianity in ROK.
Posted by: an okie gardener
Time magazine, evidently anticipating a quiet Christmas season, has released its list of Top Ten Religion Stories in 2007.

Their list.

1. Release of Mother Teresa's letters.
2. Democrats embrace religion and Mitt Romney Channels JFK.
3. Jerry Falwell Dies
4. The Pope's Moto Proprio
5. The Episcopal Church at Odds over Gays
6. The Greening of Evangelicalism
7. The Roar of Atheist Books
8. The Trials of New Life Church
9. The Creation Museum Opens
10. South Korean Christian Missionaries Kidnapped in Afghanistan

As usual, I beg to disagree. I really do not think their number one story will matter much in 100 years, except to scholars. I think Falwell's death is rated too high: his national influence was highest in the 1980s. The papal permission to celebrate the Latin Mass without a bishop's permission is ranked too high. And, though indicative of the continuing strength of Fundamentalism in the U.S., the opening of the Creation Museum does not deserve a top ten.

My list.

1. The continuing Islamic jihad against the rest of the world. We are in another hot spell of the nearly 1400 year-long war between Islam and everyone else.
2. The continued decline of Christianity in Europe, and growth of Islam.
3. The continuing consolidation of power in Russia under Putin, a practicing Russian Orthodox Christianwho seems to be trying to bring back the situation of the Czars, including a close relationship between the Church and the State.
4. The issues of religion in the U.S. Presidential primaries.
5. Pope Benedict XVI's conservative pontificate, which coming after Pope John Paul II, moves the Roman Catholic Church away from any liberalizing trends Vatican II may have engendered.
6. Troubles in the Anglican Communion caused by the U.S. Episcopal Church's positions regarding same-sex practice.
7. Related to number 1, but deserving its own space, the moves into international power by Iran; the government of which is propeled by apocalyptic expectation.
8. The continuing suppression of Tibetan religion and culture by the Chinese government, as well as the continued persecution of Falun Gong.
9. The growth of underground Christianity in Iran.
10. The "Quiet Revival" of conservative Christianity in the Boston area.