Dobson, Colson, meet Pope John Paul II
James Dobson and Charles Colson were two participants in a conference at the Vatican last week on the global economy's impact on families. During the conference, the two Protestants met with the pope. Dobson later told Catholic News Service that though he has theological differences with Roman Catholicism, "when it comes to the family, there is far more agreement than disagreement, and with regard to moral issues from abortion to premarital sex, safe-sex ideology and homosexuality, I find more in common with Catholics than with some of my evangelical brothers and sisters."

Clinton administration hasn't done enough on religious persecution, says federal commission
"The State Department has done a highly commendable job in its second annual report of telling the tragic story of religious persecution around the globe," the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) says in a report on the International Religious Freedom Act. But much of the report isn't as cheery. As Commission Chairman Elliott Abrams summarizes in the Los Angles Times, "The problem is what the State Department and the administration do with the information they have so carefully cataloged." For example, the USCIRF says it is "very disappointed that the Secretary did not name Laos, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Turkmenistan as CPCs [countries of particular concern]." The report is also harshly critical of the administration's actions toward China: "Judging from the 2000 Annual Report and the Secretary's failure to take further action against China under IRFA this year, it is not at all apparent that the Executive Branch has vigorously pursued 'all … available means' of altering Chinese behavior toward religious freedom."

Billy Graham back at Mayo Clinic
A shunt inserted into the skull of evangelist and Christianity Today founder Billy Graham was apparently malfunctioning last week. Graham returned to the Mayo Clinic, where he spent June to September being treated for Parkinson's and hydrocephalus. Doctors "found that the shunt wasn't working at 100 percent and modified it," A. Larry Ross, Graham's publicist, tells the Reuters news service. Ross also told the Associated Press that Graham has "been walking and eating, and he's in good spirits. … The doctors anticipate he'll be out in a few days and he's looking forward to being home for the holidays."

Christmas isn't canceled, says Bethlehem mayor
"We call upon pilgrims to come on this date because all the rumours about the cancellation of Christmas in Bethlehem are ridiculous," Bethlehem Mayor Hanna Nasser tells the Reuters news service. Those "rumors" were actually statements from municipality officials—and Nasser himself. Apparently most of the festive Bethlehem 2000 activities are still off, but churches (including Church of the Nativity) and other pilgrimage spots will still hold services. Hmmm. Sounds like someone's worried that the last few tourists not scared away by violence in the area wouldn't show. (See also the BBC's coverage of Christmas's return.)

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