Israel halts Nazareth mosque
The Israeli government yesterday ordered a stop to construction of a mosque next to Nazareth's Church of the Annunciation. Christian leaders have been opposing the mosque for years, and stepped up their criticism around the holidays as construction began. Pope John Paul II and President George Bush were among those criticizing Israel for agreeing to the construction. Some Christians—including Vatican leaders—even wondered if Israel approved the mosque work to foment division between the country's Christians and Muslims. Now Israel's Construction and Housing Minister Natan Sharansky says the construction is illegal, and promised, "We will examine everything that has happened within the past year and a half." Muslim leaders say they will continue with construction anyway. "The pope won't dictate to us, Bush won't dictate to us, and Sharon won't dictate to us," Islamic Movement leader Salman Abu Ahmad tells The New York Times. "We will not give up our holy places." He also called the order to stop construction a "declaration of war" on Muslims.

Into and out of the shadowlands

  • Lisa Beamer, widow of United Flight 93 hero Todd Beamer, gave birth to Morgan Kay Beamer yesterday morning. "My sons will be told their whole lives that their father was a hero, that he saved lives," she said earlier. "It's a great legacy for a father to leave his children." (The Beamer Foundation Web site will have more information, but it's very busy right now.)

  • W.A. Criswell, pastor emeritus of First Baptist Church of Dallas, died this morning at age 92. He was one of the most famous preachers of the last century (Billy Graham said he's "the best preacher I ever heard anywhere"), and probably the best-known pastor of the last 50 years. He had said he wanted to die in the pulpit, but he has been declining in health over the last year or so. The Dallas Morning News already has a lengthy obituary.

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