Faith in brief

Bishops to publish Quinceanera blessing

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is publishing a ritual blessing for the Quinceanera, the coming-of-age celebration for Hispanic girls on their 15th birthday. The Rev. Allan Deck, head of the bishops' cultural diversity office, said the ritual aims to help "Latino Catholics celebrate their cultural heritage and build new bridges to other Catholics."

About one-third of U.S. Catholics are Latino, and the percentage of Hispanic Catholics in the country is expected to increase, according to surveys. The ritual can include a Mass and a presentation of religious articles to the teenager from her baptismal godparents or others. The teenager will also be asked to make a commitment to God and the Virgin Mary to live out the rest of her life according to Catholic teaching.

Many dioceses already mark the Quinceanera with a blessing. Bishops had requested an approved ritual for use in all U.S. dioceses, leading to the new booklet. It will be published Sept. 19.

Bosnian imams protest gay festival

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Posters condemning gays have appeared in Sarajevo ahead of this month's first-ever gay festival in Bosnia. Two Muslim imams have been quoted as criticizing the timing of the five-day festival, which opens Sept. 24 and will occur during the holy month of Ramadan.

Islam prohibits gay relationships, and Sarajevo is at least 85 percent Muslim. Neither the head of the Islamic Community in Bosnia, Mustafa Ceric, nor his institution has officially reacted to the festival, which will include films and art exhibitions. But two local imams in Bosnia have condemned it.

"We will not grab them by the neck on the street, but we have to say: This is immoral ... a promotion of ideas that are in violation with religion," Seid Smajkic, an imam from the southern city of Mostar, told Dnevni Avaz, a daily newspaper.

Spike in enrollment at Catholic seminary

ROME — The Rome seminary considered the West Point for U.S. priests has its largest incoming class in 40 years.

The Pontifical North American College is welcoming 61 seminarians in its fall classes beginning in mid-October, according to Catholic News Service.

The school, on a hill overlooking the Vatican, opened in 1954 with room for more than 200 students, but has not been full in recent years. Monsignor Robert Gruss, vice rector for student life, told CNS that the college, which is sponsored by the U.S. bishops, will have 208 seminarians total this year.

Evangelical document condemned

NEW YORK, NY — The Anti-Defamation League has called an evangelical move to promote evangelizing Jews in Europe an "affront to the Jewish people."

The Jewish civil rights group urged the World Evangelical Alliance to withdraw the statement issued last month. The ADL wants the alliance to talk with Jewish groups about the issue.

The document, called "The Berlin Declaration on the Uniqueness of Christ and Jewish Evangelism in Europe Today," urged "renewed commitment to the task of Jewish evangelism" and recognition that only Christ "can save from death and bring eternal life."

The statement, released last month by a theology task force of the World Evangelical Alliance, also condemns anti-Semitism and all religious discrimination. The Anti-Defamation League said issuing the statement from Berlin was especially insensitive.

"Promoting a campaign to convert Jews away from their faith is a serious affront to the Jewish people and disrespectful to Judaism's own teachings," the New York-based group said in a statement last Friday. "As long as the WEA teaches that Judaism is incomplete or misguided, anti-Semitism will continue."

— The Associated Press

The World Evangelical Alliance is a network of churches in 128 nations representing millions of Christians.

W.Va. justices refuse to hear case of inmate who says Native American religious rights denied

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia's Supreme Court justices have declined to take up a case filed by an inmate who says he's being denied the right to freely practice his Native American religion.

Among other things, Bobby Eugene Roddy wanted the court to order the Division of Corrections to provide him with a sweat lodge to use one day a week for a ceremony.

The Mount Olive Correctional Complex inmate also wanted two prayer pipe ceremonies per week and to be allowed to grow his hair long.

The 42-year-old Roddy goes by the spiritual name "Running Cougar."

Corrections Commissioner Jim Rubenstein says no inmate is prohibited from practicing religion. But he says some requests must be denied for security concerns.

Justices voted against hearing the case last week.

Green Bay mayor preparing holiday display policy before federal case begins

GREEN BAY, Wis. — The city of Green Bay could have a policy in place for Christmas displays even before a federal judge rules on whether the city violated the Constitution.

Mayor Jim Schmitt has met with clergy to get their ideas on a city policy. They agreed that the city should stick with secular decorations and leave the religious displays to area churches and synagogues.

Schmitt said he hopes to present a policy to the city council in October.

That means new rules could be in place before U.S. Judge William Griesbach rules on a lawsuit filed against the city by the Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation over the city nativity scene installed last Christmas.

Oral arguments in the lawsuit are set to begin Sept. 15.

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