Update on the latest religion news

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Updated: Tue, 24 Dec 2013 04:16:08 EST


Apollo 8 astronaut marks 1968 broadcast to earth

CHICAGO (AP) — An astronaut who was aboard the first manned spacecraft to orbit the moon has marked the mission's 45th anniversary in front of the actual spacecraft.

Retired Captain James Lovell Jr. re-enacted the Apollo 8's live Christmas Eve broadcast from 1968. During that broadcast, astronauts read the first ten verses of the book of Genesis from the Bible.

On Monday, Lovell and several high school students took turns reading in front of an Apollo 8 module that's housed at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. Lovell says they chose Genesis because it's central to three major world religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

According to NASA, millions tuned in during the original broadcast.

Lovell was a command module pilot on Apollo 8 and went on to be commander of Apollo 13.


223-w-33-(Steve Coleman, AP religion editor, with Apollo 8 astronaut Jim Lovell)--An astronaut who was aboard the first manned spacecraft to orbit the moon has marked the 45th anniversary of the crew's Christmas Eve reading from the Bible. AP Religion Editor Steve Coleman reports. (23 Dec 2013)

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203-a-04-(Apollo 8 astronaut James Lovell, in AP interview)-"Judaism and Islam"-Apollo 8 astronaut James Lovell says the crew read the Genesis creation account because it's the basis of three world religions. (23 Dec 2013)

<<CUT *203 (12/23/13)££ 00:04 "Judaism and Islam"

204-a-05-(Apollo 8 astronaut James Lovell, in AP interview)-"would hear it"-Apollo 8 astronaut James Lovell says the crew didn't know their Bible reading would be heard by millions of people. (23 Dec 2013)

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205-a-03-(Apollo 8 astronaut James Lovell, in AP interview)-"are very appropriate"-Apollo 8 astronaut James Lovell says he believes the crew was right to read the opening verses of the Bible from space on Christmas Eve 45 years ago. (23 Dec 2013)

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202-a-03-(Apollo 8 astronaut James Lovell, in AP interview)-"it came around"-Apollo 8 astronaut James Lovell says he and the other crew members read the first ten verses of the Bible as they orbited the moon on Christmas Eve 1968. (23 Dec 2013)

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Notre Dame's request for injunction rejected

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — A federal judge has rejected a request by the University of Notre Dame for a preliminary injunction against enforcement of portions of the federal health care law that force it to provide health insurance for students and employees that includes birth control.

U.S. District Judge Philip Simon denied the request Friday, saying he doesn't believe Notre Dame's lawsuit is likely to succeed.

University spokesman Paul Browne said Notre Dame was disappointed in the ruling because it believes the mandate is an impermissible infringement on its religious rights. The university on Monday filed an appeal to the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.

The lawsuit challenges a compromise that attempted to create a buffer for religiously affiliated hospitals, universities and social service groups that oppose birth control.


Ho Ho Holy: 2 popes exchange Christmas greetings

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has visited his predecessor, Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, to exchange Christmas greetings.

Photos released by the Vatican newspaper show the two men, dressed in identical white robes save for Francis' cape, chatting in a sitting room inside Benedict's retirement home during the visit Monday. They also prayed together in the adjoining chapel. Benedict was looking well, using a cane for support while they stood in prayer.

It is the first time the interior of Benedict's home has been shown publicly: The sitting room and furniture were all white. An Advent wreath decorated the coffee table.

Since Benedict's retirement in February, the two men have met only once publicly, for an official Vatican ceremony in July. They also have met privately and occasionally have spoken by telephone.


Abbas says Jesus was a 'Palestinian messenger'

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) — In a Christmas message, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has referred to Jesus as a "Palestinian" messenger of hope.

Few scholars dispute that Jesus was Jewish. But Palestinian officials said Abbas used the term in a historic context, applying to all those in the Holy Land at the time, regardless of religion.

Abbas' emailed comments Monday appeared to be part of an effort to reach global public opinion and strengthen links between the Palestinian and Christian narratives.

Abbas said Jesus was a "Palestinian messenger who would become a guiding light for millions."

A majority of Palestinians including Abbas are Muslims, but he and his predecessor Yasser Arafat have called for unity of Palestinian Christians and Muslims.

Bethlehem, the traditional birthplace of Jesus, is a Palestinian town in the West Bank.


Israel's parliament bans Christmas tree display

JERUSALEM (AP) — The office of the speaker of Israel's parliament says he has rejected a Christian lawmaker's request to publicly display a Christmas tree in the building.

But Eran Sidis, a spokesman for Speaker Yuli Edelstein, said Monday that the parliamentarian can display a Christmas tree in his office and his party's conference room.

Sidis said the rejection was not connected to Israel's Jewish character. He said displaying the tree until Orthodox Christmas January 7 would be too long.

Hanna Swaid, a Christian opposition lawmaker from Israel's Arab minority, said a Christmas tree would promote multiculturalism and freedom of religion.

There have been previous bans on public Christmas tree displays in Israel. The mayor of a Jewish town bordering Nazareth has previously refused them, though some Christians live there.


Ringing the bells of Bethlehem a fading tradition

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) — A Palestinian college student is one of the last keepers of a fading tradition — ringing the bells of Bethlehem.

Twice a week, Khadir Jaraiseh climbs to the roof of the Church of the Nativity, built over the grotto where tradition says Jesus was born. He pulls the ropes of four bells in a rooftop tower 33 times to symbolize the number of years Jesus was believed to have lived.

Jaraiseh rings the bells for prayer services of the Armenian Apostolic Church, one of three denominations that administer the basilica, one of Christianity's holiest shrines. The Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox denominations at the Nativity church — each of which has its own set of bells — have switched to automatic bell-ringing.

But there's something special about the traditional approach, says Jaraiseh, who uses both hands and a floor pedal to pull the ropes. The 22-year-old says, "I feel like I'm making music and talking to God." Jaraiseh rings the bells two days a week and an older colleague covers the remaining five days.


A Mideast crossroads gets the Christmas spirit

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The city of Dubai is embracing the trappings of Christmas in a way that would be unthinkable in more conservative parts of the Muslim world. Christmas trees adorn shopping centers and residential neighborhoods, and high-end hotels try to outdo one another with extravagant and boozy holiday dinners.

An outdoor Christmas festival now in its second year broke its own attendance record by wooing more than 27,000 visitors over three days with caroling children's choirs, gingerbread houses and an area for snowball fights with artificial snow.

Santa Claus is on hand to hear wishes in at least three Dubai malls, naturally including the one housing an indoor ski slope and its contingent of snow penguins.

But Non-Muslims in Dubai are expected to respect the city's Islamic roots, meaning organizers of Christmas celebrations walk a fine line in how they present the holiday. Nativity scenes and overtly religious carols celebrating the birth of Christ are rare.


Mormon-centric Utah epicenter for food storage

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Storing away food and water in case of disaster, job loss or something worse is part of the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but non-Mormons also are increasingly buying survival kits of packaged foods.

Matthew Bowman, assistant professor of religion at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, says the Mormon emphasis on self-reliance dates back to the mid-1800s when food storage began as a pragmatic way to ensure survival as church members trekked across the country to Salt Lake City.

Bowman says by the mid-1900s, church leaders worried about nuclear war and encouraged members to have a two-year supply of food.

In the last two decades, the focus on food storage has shifted back to practicality.

Rick Foster, manager of North America Humanitarian Services with the LDS church, says storing away food is now "about helping all of us individually to get through these bumps that occur in our lives." He says if Mormons are prepared, they can help themselves and others in times of need.


199-a-08-(Rick Foster, manager of North America Humanitarian Services with the LDS church, in AP interview)-"those challenging moments"-Rick Foster, manager of North America Humanitarian Services with the LDS church, says the Mormon church has more than 100 food storage centers. (23 Dec 2013)

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198-a-16-(Rick Foster, manager of North America Humanitarian Services with the LDS church, in AP interview)-"in our life"-Rick Foster, manager of North America Humanitarian Services with the LDS church, says Mormons are taught to be prepared. (23 Dec 2013)

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200-a-14-(Mormon housewife Jodi Rutter, in AP interview)-"a rainy day"-Mormon housewife Jodi Rutter says her family has a closet for long-term food storage. (23 Dec 2013)

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201-a-09-(Mormon housewife Jodi Rutter, in AP interview)-"anywhere for help"-Mormon housewife Jodi Rutter says her husband was out of work for two years after being laid off. (23 Dec 2013)

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Crackdown stymies China church's Christmas meeting

BEIJING (AP) — Lawyers and Christian churchgoers say they were dived from holding a gathering in a central Chinese county to celebrate Christmas and draw attention to the detention of a pastor and his aides.

Rights attorney Xia Jun (zee-AH joon) said Monday that he and several other lawyers were on their way to a prayer meeting at a church in Nanle county when they were dived by about two dozen middle-aged women he believes were hired by local authorities.

A Christian woman named Shi Ping says she and several others from Shanghai who had traveled to Nanle were escorted to a police station by plainclothes officers who guarded the church entrance.

The monthlong crackdown on the state-sanctioned church started with a land dispute that has pitted its popular preacher against the county government.

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