Religion news in brief

AP News
Posted: Feb 06, 2013 11:10 AM

AP Interview: Egypt's Coptic Christian pope says Islamist-backed constitution discriminatory

AL-MUHARRAQ MONASTERY, Egypt (AP) — Egypt's Coptic Christian pope sharply criticized the country's Islamist leadership in an interview with The Associated Press, saying the new constitution is discriminatory and Christians should not be treated as a minority.

The comments by Pope Tawadros II reflected the unusually vocal political activist stance he has taken since being enthroned in November as the spiritual leader of the Copts, the main community of Egypt's Christians. His papacy comes as Christians are increasingly worried over the power of Islamists in the country and the rule of President Mohammed Morsi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood.

Tawadros dismissed a national dialogue that Morsi has been holding, ostensibly as a way to broaden decision-making amid criticism that his government concentrates power in the Brotherhood. Most opposition parties have refused to join the dialogue, as has the Coptic Church, calling it mere window dressing

"We are a part of the soil of this nation and an extension of the pharaohs and their age before Christ. Yes, we are a minority in the numerical sense, but we are not a minority when it comes to value, history, interaction and love for our nation," he said, speaking during a visit to the historic al-Muharraq Monastery, a 4th century site 250 miles south of Cairo.


Utah Boy Scouts lead charge urging more time to discuss national policy change on gays

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah's Boy Scouts have brought aboard 33 other scouting groups from around country to join them in calling on the national organization to delay a decision on a reversal of its no-gays membership policy.

Boy Scouts in the Great Salt Lake Council have sent a letter to the national board of directors cautioning them against making a decision that cannot be undone. The council says it represents a coalition of 33 Boy Scout groups accounting for nearly 540,000 youth scouts.

The Boy Scouts of America's national executive board is expected to discuss a policy that would let troop sponsors make their own decisions about gay troop leaders and youth members this week during meetings in Dallas.

In Utah, most troops are sponsored by the Mormon church.


New Notre Dame bells make harmonious history in Paris' storied Cathedral

PARIS (AP) — The cathedral of Notre Dame — French for "our lady" — has finally got the prima donna worthy of its name.

Weighing in at six and a half tons or 6,000 kilograms of glistening bronze, this lady is no ordinary person: she's a bell named Mary.

Mary is in fact the largest — and loudest — of nine new, gargantuan Notre Dame bells being blessed Saturday in the cathedral's nave by Archbishop Andre Armand Vingt-Trois.

The nine casts were ordered for the cathedral's 850th birthday — to replace the discordant "ding dang" of the previous four 19th century chimes. After the originals bells — including the original Mary — were destroyed in the French Revolution, the replacements were widely said to be France's most out-of-tune church bells. There's some irony that in Victor Hugo's classic novel "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," the solitary bell-ringer Quasimodo was deaf.

Jean-Marie, Maurice, Benoit-Joseph, Steven, Marcel, Dennis, Anne-Genevieve, Gabriel will ring together with Mary to add a harmony to the French gothic landmark not heard since 1789. Travelers have come far and wide to catch a glimpse of the bronze giants — on public display until Feb. 25.


Imams visit Holocaust site in France to show the tolerance of Islam

DRANCY, France (AP) — Dozens of French imams have visited a Holocaust memorial in Drancy in an effort to show that Islam is a tolerant religion.

The Muslim leaders, who traveled from all over France, gathered Monday night at the site of the former detention camp where around 65,000 Jews were held before being deported to extermination camps, mainly to Auschwitz, during World War II.

The event, the first of its kind since the Drancy memorial opened last September, was attended by Interior Minister Manuel Valls who said it "shows that dialogue, tolerance and the understanding of other religions is indispensable in fighting against anti-Semitism and fanaticism."

Some imams present traveled to Israel last year to pray at the tomb of the Jewish children gunned down in Toulouse last March by Mohamed Merah.


Minnesota governor orders flags at half-staff for Immortal Four Chaplains Day

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has ordered state flags be flown at half-staff in honor of Immortal Four Chaplains Day.

Sunday is the 70th anniversary of the tragic sinking of the U.S. Army transport ship Dorchester off the coast of Greenland.

In 1957, Congress established a national observance of the event that honors the four chaplains of difference faiths whose heroic acts saved the lives of many men.

According to survivors, while the ship was sinking in 1943, the four chaplains went to each soldier to calm fears and hand out life jackets. When there were no more life jackets, the four chaplains removed their own life vests and gave them to soldiers. The chaplains — one Methodist, one Jewish, one Catholic and another Dutch Reformed — went down with the ship.


Group calls for removal of Auschwitz-inspired 'Work Makes Free' sign from Detroit building

DETROIT (AP) — A Jewish civil rights group is denouncing placards posted at a deteriorating former Detroit car plant that spell out words that were part of a metal gate at the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

The Anti-Defamation League said in a statement Tuesday that the posting of "Arbeit macht frei" (ahr-BYT' mahkht fry) at the defunct Packard plant is "an intentional and malicious act" and requested its quick removal.

The German phrase meaning "Work makes free" greeted Jews and other prisoners the Germans sent to Auschwitz during World War II. An estimated 1.1 million to 1.5 million people died there.

It's unknown who put up the signs, and the plant's ownership is in dispute.

Anti-Defamation League Regional Director Heidi Budaj says the message reflects the "cruel cynicism of Nazism."