Congressional leaders agree to debt relief

Leaders of the U.S. Congress say they will okay $435 million to forgive the debts of the world's poorest countries. Congress appropriated $123 million for debt relief earlier this year. "The debt relief issue is now a speeding train," Rep. Sonny Callahan (R-Ala.) told The New York Times. "We've got the pope and every missionary in the world involved in this thing, and they persuaded just about everyone here that this is the noble thing to do." President Clinton agrees. "It's not often we have a chance to do something that economists tell us is a financial imperative and religious leaders say is a moral imperative," he said after a meeting with congressional leaders and Jubilee 2000 supporters—including Pat Robertson and Bono.

Orissa Christians under siege

"Around 100 villages in Orissa's Kandhamal district are in the grip of communal tension after miscreants torched four churches and assaulted a Christian priest over the past week," reports The Times of India.

First the Crusader, now this

In renaming itself De Sales University, Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales will also be changing its mascot. Its current symbol is the centaur, which characterizes as "wild, lawless, and inhospitable beings, the slaves of their animal passions." "It is, in fact, offensive to many of the women students," college spokeswoman Lina Barbieri tells Allentown newspaper The Morning Call. The Associated Press picked up the story.

Pope could be spokesman for Lutherans—but not as pope

Hans Christian Knuth, presiding bishop of the Union of Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Germany, says Lutherans could accept the pope as "spokesman for all Christianity worldwide"—but not under the Roman Catholic understanding of the papacy. "As far as we are concerned, he could perform this function only in his capacity as bishop of Rome," he said at the denomination's general synod. "He could not present himself as Christ's deputy nor pretend to be infallible in doctrinal matters."

Stop leaving teddy bears when famous people die, says Anglican bishop

The Right Rev Robert Hardy, Bishop of Lincoln, Lincolnshire, England, is criticizing the increasingly common trend of leaving flowers, poetry and stuffed animals as tributes when famous people die. "The bishop warned that the instant comfort of leaving a teddy bear risked a superficial response to death which was 'confused and hardly sustained by Christian belief,'" reports The Guardian. Of course, it wouldn't be news if it weren't controversial. Television personality and "agony aunt" (which I suppose is some kind of advice columnist. Correct me if I'm wrong) Claire Rayner is calling Hardy's comments "deeply, grossly unjust," "insulting," "condescending," and a bunch of other things. "He thinks his method of dealing with bereavement by having services of remembrance is the 'right' way. But in an increasingly secular society he really must stop thinking that his road is the only road."

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