Religion News in Brief

AP News
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Posted: Jul 06, 2011 12:33 PM
Religion News in Brief

Chapman University offers to buy Crystal Cathedral's properties in Chapter 11 bankruptcy

GARDEN GROVE, Calif. (AP) _ An Orange County university has offered to buy property belonging to the famous Crystal Cathedral Ministries, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last year.

Chapman University has offered $46 million to use two buildings on the sprawling campus in Garden Grove, possibly for a new medical school, university president Jim Doti said Tuesday.

Other possibilities include exploring the option of building a pharmacy or dental program on half of the property, with the remaining 35 acres leased back to the megachurch, he said.

"It is hard to find buildable land in a dynamic community like Garden Grove," Doti told The Associated Press, noting the church property is near several major hospitals. "To dream big dreams, it helps to have the wherewithal to do it _ and the space."

But there are other potential offers in the works and it is too soon to say what will happen to the sprawling church property, said Marc Winthrop, the church's bankruptcy attorney.

The church aims to sell off its property _ and lease portions back for use for services _ to help erase its $36 million mortgage and wipe out almost all of the $10 million in unsecured debt that has plagued the institution for several years after a disastrous leadership transition and slump in donations.

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Court orders curator to protect and preserve Indian temple's newly revealed treasures

NEW DELHI (AP) _ India's top court has ordered a curator to be appointed to protect and preserve the vast treasures newly revealed in a Hindu temple in southern India.

The gold coins, jewels and gem-encrusted statues were found recently in an inventory of underground vaults of the 16th-century Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Kerala. Initial estimates put the value at $22 billion but the inventory is not yet finished.

The Supreme Court also Wednesday directed that the entire trove be photographed and filmed. The court previously ordered the inspection of the vaults after a lawyer petitioned a local court asking the state government to take over the temple. The lawyer cited security concerns.

The temple, dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, was built by the maharajas who ruled the then-kingdom of Travancore and was controlled by the erstwhile royal family after India's independence in 1947. So far five of the six vaults of the temple have been opened.

The unforeseen riches instantly have turned the temple into one of India's wealthiest religious institutions.

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Philippine Senate probes illegal donations to Catholic bishops friendly to ex-President Arroyo

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Philippine lawmakers are investigating allegations that some Roman Catholic bishops may have illegally received donations from the government's lottery operator in exchange for political favors.

The chairman of the state-run Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, Margie Juico, told senators in a hearing Wednesday that an audit showed that at least $158,600 in charity funds were used to buy five vehicles upon the request of several bishops.

Juico said one bishop asked former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for a brand new car on his 66th birthday in 2009 and received a $39,000 sport utility vehicle.

Such donations would violate a law prohibiting the use of state funds for religious purposes.

Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos of southern Butuan city wrote Arroyo saying he won't organize a birthday party in consideration of the "existing (economic) crisis." Instead, he asked her for "a brand new car, possibly a 4 x 4," to help him reach remote areas to promote peace on the main southern island of Mindanao, which is wracked by insurgency.

In a follow-up letter, he said the vehicle was for "spiritual and social services programs."

His letters were addressed to both Arroyo and the charity agency, which indicated that he expected the money for the car will come from the government's lotto operator.

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Hutchison asks VA to investigate alleged ban on use of religious words from soldiers' funerals

HOUSTON (AP) _ U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison asked a Veterans Affairs Secretary Erik Shinseki to investigate allegations of religious discrimination by Houston VA officials.

Several Houston veterans groups have filed a lawsuit accusing officials of banning such religious words as "God" and censoring their prayers at soldiers' funerals.

In a letter to the VA secretary, the Texas Republican wrote that she was "greatly concerned by the complaints." She asserted, "Our veterans swore to uphold the Constitution with their lives, and they and their families religious freedom should be honored, not prohibited."

VA spokesman Josh Taylor said families decide whether a religious service occurs and what type. He says "the name of God or Jesus is not only allowed at burial services, it is common and freely spoken" at national cemeteries nationwide.

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Vatican opens archives for unprecedented exhibit

VATICAN CITY (AP) _ The Vatican will display 100 select documents from its Secret Archives at an unprecedented exhibit next year that includes previously unpublished papers from its World War II papacy.

"Lux in Arcana: The Vatican Secret Archives Revealed" opens in February at Rome's Capitoline Museums and marks the first time such precious documents, manuscripts and parchments have been allowed out of the Vatican vaults for view by the general public.

The occasion is the archive's 400th anniversary.

On view will be the acts of Galileo's trial for heresy as well as the letter from members of the British Parliament asking Pope Clement XII to annul the marriage of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon _ one of the key events that led to England's break with the Roman Catholic Church.

Organizers said some of the previously unseen documents concern the papacy of Pope Pius XII, accused by some of failing to do enough to stop the Holocaust. Those documents normally wouldn't have been released for another three or four years since Vatican librarians slowly catalog the archives in chronological order and are still working on Pius' papacy.