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Today's Top Five

1. Lent: It's not just for Catholics and mainliners anymore

Yes, the "Happy Ash Wednesday" title is supposed to be ironic. But it may represent a way in which the holy day and the Lenten season are changing as they're adopted by happy evangelical Protestants who once rejected the church calendar as "too Catholic." The Tennessean subtly notes the parallels between the imposition of ashes and evangelical altar calls: "There is something about coming forward, walking down the aisle with a purpose," Thomas Kleinert, senior minister at Vine Street Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), tells the paper. "On Ash Wednesday, that purpose is very much about a person acknowledging that they want to concentrate on God and reduce whatever is keeping them from God." Roman Catholics would agree, but they probably wouldn't describe Ash Wednesday in quite those same terms.

2. Pope Benedict XVI relinquishes a title
In other church unity news, the Italian news agency ANSA takes note of a quiet story that may have long-term significance. Pope Benedict XVI has ordered that one of his nine official titles—Patriarch of the West—be dropped in the new edition of the Vatican yearbook. He took the move to ease tensions with Eastern Orthodox churches, but at least one observer worries that the move could signal "indirect affirmation of himself as 'universal patriarch.'" Indeed: it's the titles like "Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church" and "Vicar of Jesus Christ" that are more problematic for church unity.

3. Dirty laundry in Orthodox Church in America?The Washington Post reported Sunday that the OCA's former treasurer says top church officials "misappropriated millions of dollars in donations … to cover personal credit ...

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Happy Ash Wednesday!
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