Update on the latest religion news


At Selma, MLK III recalls his father’s struggles

SELMA, Ala. (AP) — Martin Luther King III says his father wouldn’t want to be idolized.

Speaking at the Alabama church that was the starting point of Selma’s voting rights marches, King said his father “would want us to embrace his ideals of truth, freedom, justice and equality and righteousness.”

The son of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was joined by the Rev. Al Sharpton and Attorney General Eric Holder at a Sunday service marking the 50th anniversary of the clashes between police and marchers that led to passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

King said those rights are threatened today by voter ID requirements, but “God Almighty is still on the throne.”

Sharpton said, God “heard the cry of our parents, and we’re not going to let our parents and God down now.”


214-w-34-(Steve Coleman, AP religion editor, with Martin Luther King III and the Reverend Al Sharpton)–Martin Luther King III has told worshippers in Selma, Alabama, that his father wouldn’t want to be idolized. AP Religion Editor Steve Coleman reports. (8 Mar 2015)


211-a-11-(Martin Luther King III, in Sunday service at Brown Chapel AME Church)-“equality and righteousness”-Martin Luther King III says his father’s fight for civil rights isn’t over. (8 Mar 2015)


212-a-13-(Martin Luther King III, in Sunday service at Brown Chapel AME Church)-“not there yet (applause fades)”-Martin Luther King III says he’s confident that the continuing fight for civil rights will succeed. (8 Mar 2015)


213-a-12-(The Reverend Al Sharpton, in Sunday serice at Brown Chapel AME Church)-“right to vote”-The Reverend Al Sharpton says the voting rights marches began with prayers in that church. (8 Mar 2015)



Church says abducted Seattle missionary released

SEATTLE (AP) — The Free Methodist Church USA says a Seattle missionary who was abducted last month from a school in Nigeria has been released and is safe.

In a statement on the church website, Bishop David Kendall said 71-year-old Phyllis Sortor was turned over Friday to “authorities and Free Methodist Church leaders.” He declined to provide details about how the release was arranged.

Armed men had abducted Sortor Feb. 23 from the Hope Academy compound in Emiworo, Kogi State. Kogi State police said shortly after the abduction that the men who took Sortor had initially demanded a ransom of nearly $300,000.

In his statement, Kendall thanked “all who prayed for Phyllis’ safe return,” but added that the church “will have no comment concerning the efforts that were undertaken to secure her release.”


Cardinal Egan’s funeral will be Tuesday at St Patrick’s

NEW YORK (AP) — Funeral services will be held Tuesday afternoon at St. Patrick’s Cathedral for the former archbishop of New York, Cardinal Edward Egan.

Public visitation will begin Monday afternoon along with a vigil Mass. Visitation continues Tuesday morning at the Manhattan cathedral.

The Archdiocese of New York said Friday that in lieu of flowers, donations can be made to The Inner-City Scholarship Fund or for cathedral restoration work.

Egan died Thursday at the age of 82.

He will be entombed beneath the cathedral’s high altar.


273-v-30-(Julie Walker, AP correspondent)–Edward Cardinal Egan, the former Archbishop of New York, will be laid to rest this week. He died Thursday at the age of 82. AP correspondent Julie Walker reports. (8 Mar 2015)



Chicago’s retired Cardinal George released from hospital

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago’s retired Cardinal Francis George is back at home after several days of evaluation at a hospital.

The Archdiocese of Chicago confirmed Sunday that George was released a day earlier from Loyola University Medical Center.

George stopped treatment for cancer over a month ago. He said in January that doctors had run out of options for treatment and he was focusing on quality of life versus a cure. He stopped receiving an experimental drug treatment in December because it wasn’t working.

Archdiocese officials had said he would be hospitalized while tests were done. They didn’t say what prompted the hospital stay or give an update on his condition.

George stepped down in November as leader of Chicago’s roughly 2 million Roman Catholics. Blase Cupich (blayz SOO’-pich) then became Chicago’s archbishop.


Protesting parishioners say they won’t leave closed church

SCITUATE, Mass. (AP) — Roman Catholic parishioners holding a 10-year vigil at a closed church south of Boston say they aren’t leaving despite a deadline from the Boston Archdiocese.

The archdiocese has told the Friends of St. Francis Xavier Cabrini that they must leave the church building today (Monday). The Friends say they hired an attorney after getting the archdiocese’s notice last month.

Their lawyer, Mary Elizabeth Carmody, told the Patriot-Ledger of Quincy that they notified the archdiocese Friday that they intend to defend any civil legal action.

The archdiocese says it doesn’t want a confrontation, but the group has exhausted its appeals. The group says it still has one pending in Rome.

The church was among dozens closed in a 2004 restructuring to address the Boston archdiocese’s debt. Some parishioners said they were unfairly being made to pay for clergy abuse settlements.


Vatican seeks to recover stolen Michelangelo letter

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican spokesman says authorities are working on recovering a letter written by Michelangelo that was stolen from an archive in 1997.

The Rev. Federico Lombardi said the Vatican has recently been offered the return of the letter in exchange for a payment, but that officials have refused. Instead, the spokesman said the matter has been turned over to the Vatican gendarmerie for further investigation.

Lombardi was responding to a report in the Rome daily il Messaggero that said a former employee of a Vatican archive has asked a ransom of $108,000 to return the letter.

According to il Messaggero, the letter is a rare example of Michelangelo’s handwriting, and contains his signature.


Car rams through wall of Long Island church; driver sought

BALDWIN, N.Y. (AP) — In New York, police are looking for the driver of a car that smashed through the wall of a Long Island church hours before Sunday services.

Nassau County police say the driver lost control of the car around 4:30 a.m. Sunday. The car hit a tree, a fence and ultimately the Second Baptist Church in Baldwin.

Police say the driver fled, and there was no immediate word on injuries.

News photos showed the car tilted on its side at a roughly 45-degree angle and resting with its front wedged in the church’s wall. The car was later removed, leaving a jagged hole in the wall.

There was no immediate response to a message left on the church’s phone line Sunday.


Sheriff’s letter says sex offenders can’t attend church

ROBBINSVILLE, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina sheriff has written sex offenders in his county saying they may not attend church services because state law requires them to stay away from day care centers and schools.

The Asheville Citizen-Times reports that it acquired a copy of the Feb. 17 letter written by Graham County Sheriff Danny Millsaps

The sheriff later told the newspaper he made a mistake in wording of the letter, which invited sex offenders to attend services at the county jail.

Millsaps told the newspaper that he stands by his take on the state law blocking offenders from places where children are present but has no immediate plans to arrest a sex offender should one attend church.

It’s not the first time the issue has come up in North Carolina. Chatham County deputies arrested a sex offender for attending church in 2009, but a judge later ruled the state law as applied to churches was unconstitutional.


Nigeria’s Boko Haram pledges allegiance to Islamic State

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria’s home-grown Boko Haram Islamic extremists have pledged formal allegiance to the Islamic State group in a message purportedly from the Nigerian insurgent leader posted on Twitter and reported by the SITE Intelligence monitoring service.

In the unverified pledge posted Saturday, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau makes the oath in Arabic saying: “We announce our allegiance to the Caliph of the Muslims.” Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has declared himself the caliph.

Boko Haram militants reportedly are massing in northeastern Nigeria for a showdown with a multinational force that dislodged them from a score of towns in recent weeks.

Police say four suicide bomb attacks hit the city of Maiduguri (my-DOO’-goo-ree) on Saturday, killing at least 54 people and wounding 143.


171-a-19-(Abubakar Shekau (ah-boo-BAH’-kar SHAY’-koh’), Boko Haram leader, through interpreter, from audio message with English subtitles, purportedly from Boko Haram and posted on Twitter, but not verified by Associated Press)-“clear-cut infidelity”-A man purported to be Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau says through an interpreter that his group pledges allegiance to the Islamic State group. COURTESY: Sky News ((mandatory on-air credit)) ((note length)) (8 Mar 2015)


210-a-16-(George Readings (REH’-deengs), counter-extremism analyst, in interview)-“reinforces that image”-Extremism analyst George Readings says the head of Islamic State is intent on supplanting the head of al-Qaida as a global jihadist leader. COURTESY: Sky News ((mandatory on-air credit)) (8 Mar 2015)


207-a-16-(George Readings (REH’-deengs), extremism analyst, in interview)-“of their activities”-Extremism analyst George Readings says the pledge to Islamic State militants may not have much practical effect, but it’s a propaganda move. COURTESY: Sky News ((mandatory on-air credit)) (8 Mar 2015)


209-a-15-(George Readings (REH’-deengs), counter-extremism analyst, in interview)-“and Boko Haram”-Extremism analyst George Readings says the practical effect of the pledge by Boko Haram leadership will be limited. COURTESY: Sky News ((mandatory on-air credit)) (8 Mar 2015)


208-a-07-(George Readings (REH’-deengs), counter-extremism analyst, in interview)-“allegiance to I.S.”-Extremism analyst George Readings says Boko Haram has been emulating the tactics of Islamic State militants, including use of social media, for many months. COURTESY: Sky News ((mandatory on-air credit)) (8 Mar 2015)


077-a-17-(John Alterman, director, Middle East Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies, in AP interview)-“be holding territory”-John Alterman, a Middle East expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says Boko Haram’s declaration of allegiance to the group the Islamic State is more of a recruitment effort. (8 Mar 2015)



Finland’s national radio airs readings of complete Quran

HELSINKI (AP) — Finland’s state radio channel YLE is broadcasting readings of the entire Quran in Finnish.

The 60 half-hour readings are accompanied by comments from the translator of the Islamic holy book and Imam Anas Hajjar of Finland’s Islamic Society.

The chairman of the organization, Mohammad Hussein Omar, says the readings are a good way to help people understand Islam and Muslim customs.

There are an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 Muslims in Finland, which has an overall population of 5.5 million. The country has only one building constructed as a mosque, in the early 1940s. Other Muslim prayer rooms or mosques are former schools, cinemas or municipal halls.


Merkel deputy: Badawi case straining Saudi-German relations

BERLIN (AP) — German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has criticized the sentence against Saudi blogger Raif Badawi before meeting with Saudi King Salman in Riyadh.

The German news agency dpa quoted Gabriel as saying “the harshness of this sentence, especially the corporal punishment, is something unimaginable for us, and of course it weighs on our relations (with Saudi Arabia).”

Badawi was sentenced last year to 10 years in prison, a hefty fine and 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam. He had urged Saudis to share opinions about the role of religion in the country on his Free Saudi Liberals website. The case has prompted harsh criticism from human rights groups.

Gabriel, who is Germany’s economy minister, also met with three female human rights activists during his Saudi stop on a tour of Gulf states.