From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Episcopal News Service Briefs

Date Tue, 18 Dec 2001 11:47:01 -0500 (EST)


News Briefs

Pope denounces 'extremisms' of Israeli and Palestinian violence 

      (AFP) Pope John Paul II on December 13 denounced the "two extremisms" of 
Israeli and Palestinian violence which he said was "disfiguring the face of the 
Holy Land."

     The 81-year-old pontiff told a gathering of Middle Eastern Catholic leaders 
that people were being crushed by "the two extremisms which, independent of the 
reasons that inspire them, are disfiguring the face of the Holy Land." 

     "The weight of these extremisms seem to crush our brothers in faith," he 
told the gathering of prelates and patriarchs of different Catholic rites he had 
summoned to discuss the future of Christianity in the Holy Land. 

     The pope, who visited the Middle East last year, described the current 
situation in the Middle East as "dramatic." 

     He was speaking after Israel severed its ties with Palestinian leader Yasser 
Arafat and said it would hunt down Palestinian "terrorists" itself. 

     The Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, said at the opening 
of the meeting that the Holy See would work ceaselessly "to reestablish a climate 
of peace between Israelis and Palestinians." Sodano said there were only 117,000 
Catholics in Israel and the Palestinian territories out of a population of 6.1 
million people. Catholic and Orthodox Christians together make up only three 
percent of the population, a problem the cardinal said was "inseparable from the 
more vast problem of peace in the Holy Land." 

     NCC general secretary joins Muslim Iftar, interfaith dialogue

      (NCC/CWS News) National Council of Churches general secretary Robert W. 
Edgar was among some 70 Muslims, Christians and Jews who shared a traditional 
Muslim "Iftar" meal and a time of dialogue on December 6 at Union Theological 
Seminary in New York.

     The unusual event took place during Ramadan, the holy month in the Islamic 
lunar calendar when Muslims fast during daylight hours. The Iftar meal breaks the 
day's fast after sunset prayers.

     "If September 11 had not happened, would we be here together, breaking 
bread, listening to each other?" Edgar asked in a panel discussion following the 
vegetarian meal.

     "In my theology, God did not cause this tragic event, but God helps us use 
tragic events to heal wounds," Edgar said. "God is opening some doors for us in 
the shadow of September 11," he said, calling on participants of all faiths "to 
learn together, to walk together, pray together, be seen together, and model 
better behavior to the world."

     Panelist Aisha Ad-Dawiyya of Women in Islam affirmed that in her 15 years of 
interfaith work, the shared Iftar meal stands out "as a special gathering for 
me." "As a result of Sept. 11, we have forged some new kinds of relationships," 
she said. "This is an incredible opportunity the Creator has put before us. I 
trust we will not let it slip by."

     Edgar expressed the hope that churches, synagogues and mosques would use the 
months ahead to learn about each other's faith traditions. "This is a teaching 
moment," he said, "a time to open the eyes of people who have been blinded by 

      NCC's Friendship Press will offer the second edition of "God is One: The 
Way of Islam" in January 2002. Written especially to help North American 
Christians understand Islam, the book responds to a surge of interest in what 
Muslims really believe and how Christians can relate to their Muslim neighbors. 
Dr. R. Marston Speight's original 1989 text won acclaim from both Christians and 
Muslims for its accurate portrayal of Islam and helpful introduction to 
Christian-Muslim relations. Speight, a committed Christian and former missionary, 
spent 23 years living among Muslims in northern Africa.

      The second edition includes a new six-session study guide and a new 
resource section listing books, videos and other resources for further study of 
Islam. It adds a substantial "Afterword" that places the material within the 
context of more recent developments in the Islamic world and provides up-to-date 
statistical information.

Episcopal bishop launches 2002 series of 'The Protestant Hour'

     (EMC) The Rt. Rev. J. Neil Alexander, ninth bishop of the Diocese of 
Atlanta, is the first Episcopal speaker of 2002 for three installments of "The 
Protestant Hour," a nationally broadcast radio program also accessible via 
streaming audio on the Internet. Alexander will be heard January 6, the Feast of 
the Epiphany, and on the February 3 and March 3 broadcasts on participating radio 
stations and at Each program features a five-minute 
interview with the bishop.

     Before his ordination as bishop last July, Alexander was professor of 
homiletics and liturgics at the University of the South School of Theology in 
Sewanee, Tennessee, and priest in charge of St. Agnes's Episcopal Church in 
Cowan, Tennessee. Prior to that he taught preaching at the General Theological 
Seminary in New York City, where he earned a doctor of theology degree, and 
served as priest associate at All Saints' in Manhattan.

     Alexander began his vocation as a Lutheran minister. He earned a master of 
divinity from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Georgia and was ordained 
in North Carolina in 1980, later serving in Murray Hill, New Jersey, and in 
Ontario, Canada. He has a bachelor's degree in music from Moravian College and a 
master's degree in organ performance and choral conducting from the University of 
South Carolina.

     "The Protestant Hour" has been broadcast every week for more than 57 years, 
winning numerous awards in the process, including the George Foster Peabody Award 
for broadcast excellence. It is produced cooperatively by the Episcopal Media 
Center, the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church  (USA), and the 
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

     The executive producer for "The Protestant Hour," Peter Wallace, will 
consult with churches that want to have the program broadcast in their community. 
For more information, call 404-815-9110 or check the program's Web site,

Atlanta cathedral broadcasts live on Christmas Eve

     (EMC) A special Christmas Eve church service from the Cathedral of St. 
Philip, Atlanta, will be broadcast live on the north Georgia ABC affiliate, WSB-
TV, beginning at 11:35 p.m. Monday, Dec. 24.

     The 55-minute broadcast has been an Atlanta tradition for more than two 
decades. The award-winning program is produced by the Episcopal Media Center 
under the direction of the Rev. Louis C. Schueddig.

     The Rt. Rev. J. Neil Alexander, the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta's new bishop, 
will celebrate the Holy Eucharist. The cathedral's dean, the Very Rev. Samuel G. 
Candler, will preach.

     Accompanied by the Peachtree Brass, the Cathedral Choir will perform classical 
Christmas anthems, including works by John Gardner, Giovanni Gabrielli, Andrew 
Carter and Peter Wishart. Hymns will include a variety of traditional Christmas carols.

     Directing the evening's music will be the Cathedral's new canon musician, Bruce 
Neswick. He was with the National Cathedral and the National Cathedral 's School 
for Girls in Washington, D.C., before coming to St. Philip's last spring.

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