Update on the latest religion news


Former NBA star lashes out about missionary held by North Korea

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is denouncing an angry outburst by former NBA star Dennis Rodman in North Korea.

Rodman is in North Korea for a basketball exhibition honoring the regime's leader, Kim Jong Un (kim jawng oon). The former Chicago Bull didn't like being asked during a CNN satellite interview if he would bring up the detention of American Kenneth Bae (BAY). The missionary, who is in poor health, is being held on charges of "anti-state" crimes. Bae has been held for more than a year.

White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters he wouldn't dignify Rodman's outburst. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki (SAH'-kee) says the U.S. remains very committed to securing Bae's release and is gravely concerned about his health. She said those listening to Rodman's comments should remember that he's not representing the U.S.


159-r-07-(Sound of squeaking basketball shoes on wooden surface with bouncing ball, at the former NBA players' practice with North Korean players)--Sound of squeaking basketball shoes and a bouncing basketball on a wooden court surface at the former NBA players' practice and teaching session with North Korean athletes. (7 Jan 2014)

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158-a-12-(Doug Christie, former NBA player, with reporters)-"trying to improve"-Former NBA player Doug Christie says he enjoyed being part of the practice and teaching session for North Korean basketball players. (7 Jan 2014)

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157-a-12-(Dennis Rodman, former NBA player, with reporters)-"is it, guys"-Former NBA player Dennis Rodman says the purpose of this trip by former NBA players to North Korea has been misunderstood by critics in the U.S. and other parts of the world. (7 Jan 2014)

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Legion of Christ opens critical meeting on future

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The troubled Legion of Christ religious order is electing new leadership for the first time since its founder was revealed to have been a pedophile and a fraud.

The process starting Wednesday will formally end the Vatican's three-year rehabilitation of the movement. The Legion is calling the reform a success, but critics have dismissed it as a sham.

The Legion was once held up as a model by the Vatican, which turned a blind eye to the Rev. Marcial Maciel's (mars-YAHL' mahs-YEL') misdeeds as the order became one of the fastest-growing congregations in the Catholic Church and brought in millions in donations. After three years of Vatican-imposed reform though, questions still remain as to how the Legion can exist when its founder was a fraud and its core mission remains unclear.


Pope strikes 'monsignor' title for most priests in keeping with humble aims

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis has done away with the honorific title "monsignor" for all but a few priests, further evidence of his desire for priests to be simple, humble servants.

The Vatican's Secretary of State sent a letter to its embassies asking them to inform bishops' conferences of the change. From now on, the Vatican says only diocesan priests who are "chaplains of the Holy Father," can use the honorific, and then only after they turn 65.

Bishops, vicars and archbishops still get to be called "monsignor" and Holy See officials will have the title if their office warrants it.


2nd gay worker at Catholic school to marry

SEATTLE (AP) — A part-time musical coach at a Catholic school in Washington says she is engaged to her same-sex partner and is nervous about how school leaders will handle the news after they forced out a vice principal who married his partner.

Stephanie Merrow was hired for a second time to choreograph this year's spring musical at Eastside Catholic School in Sammamish. She says she got engaged shortly after the departure of vice principal Mark Zmuda.

Students at Eastside Catholic have led protests in recent weeks over the departure of Zmuda.


Tulsa man arrested in alleged hate crime

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A Muslim advocacy group has called on federal authorities to file hate crime charges against a Tulsa, Ok., man accused of attacking a woman he assumed to be a Muslim.

The Tulsa World reports Stuart Manning is accused of hitting the woman in the forehead and sticking a knife in a tire on her vehicle while repeatedly using profanity in reference to her faith.

Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) Oklahoma chapter chairman Saad (SAHD) Mohammed says the alleged attack should be considered a hate crime, not just a violation of state law. Saad says any attacks against people because of their faith, race or ethnicity have no place in society.

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Coroner: Priest beaten to death with stake, pipe

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — An autopsy shows a priest who was killed on New Year's Day in the Northern California city of Eureka was beaten to death with a wooden stake and a metal gutter pipe.

A coroner declined to release further details about the beating death of Rev. Eric Freed because the investigation has not concluded.

But at his arraignment, Gary Lee Bullock, was charged with murder with a special allegation of torture. He is also charged with burglary, arson and auto theft. Bullock pleaded not guilty and bail was set at $1.2 million.


Pastor of suburban Phoenix church resigns over affairs

GILBERT, Ariz. (AP) — A large church in the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert says its married lead pastor has resigned after confessing to engaging in extramarital affairs with more than one woman from the congregation.

Interim pastor Gary Sutliff says Mark Connelly was confronted about the affairs and submitted his resignation as lead pastor of Mission Community Church after it was requested. Sutliff says the church is concerned about all of those involved and is providing them with counseling and other resources.

The congregation will pick a new permanent lead pastor from its leadership. More than 6,000 people attend services of the church.


Catholic bishops ask people to pray for rain to break California's third year of dry weather

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Catholic bishops are asking for divine intervention as California endures what appears to be its third straight dry winter.

The California Conference of Catholic Bishops is calling on people of all faiths to join in prayers for rain.

Reservoirs are at historic lows after the state completed one of the driest calendar years on record. Some cities already are restricting water use, while prospects for another dry summer have raised alarm about agriculture and wildfires.

Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto, president of the bishops' conference, suggested a prayer for God to "open the heavens and let His mercy rain down upon our fields and mountains."

The National Weather Service says a strong high pressure system is preventing Pacific storms from moving across California. Little precipitation is expected before late January.