Re­li­gion briefs Bei­jing de­nies Bibles banned from Olympics

Chi­nese or­ga­niz­ers say re­li­gious items for per­sona use will be wel­come

The Covington News - - RELIGION - By Anita Chang

BEI­JING — Bei­jing Olympic or­ga­niz­ers an­grily dis­puted al­le­ga­tions of re­li­gious in­tol­er­ance Thurs­day, say­ing Bibles and other re­li­gious items for per­sonal use will be wel­come at next sum­mer’s games — ex­cept for the banned Falun Gong spir­i­tual move­ment.

Re­cent re­ports by a re­li­gious news agency and Euro­pean me­dia say­ing Bibles would be banned at the Olympics touched off an out­cry that prompted a U.S. sen­a­tor to call the Chi­nese am­bas­sador for an ex­pla­na­tion and a Chris­tian ath­letes group to protest the “deep vi­o­la­tion.”

Bei­jing or­ga­niz­ers flatly de­nied the re­ports, and the For­eign Min­istry charged the al­le­ga­tions were likely the work of peo­ple who want to sabotage Bei­jing’s host­ing of the games.

“There is no such thing. This kind of re­port is an in­ten­tional dis­tor­tion of truth,” said Li Zhan­jun, di­rec­tor of the Bei­jing Olympics me­dia cen­ter.

He said texts and other items from ma­jor re­li­gious groups that are brought into China for per­sonal use by ath­letes and vis­i­tors are per­mit­ted. The Bei­jing Olympics Web site said “each trav­eler is rec­om­mended to take no more than one Bi­ble into China.”

Li also said re­li­gious ser­vices — Chris­tian, Mus­lim, Jewish, Hindu and Bud­dhist — will be avail­able to ath­letes in the Olympic Vil­lage.

How­ever, he said, the poli­cies do not ap­ply to Falun Gong, re­assert­ing China’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to erad­i­cate the move­ment. Falun Gong was banned eight years ago as an “evil cult” af­ter its mem­bers staged a mass protest out­side gov­ern­ment head­quar­ters to de­mand of­fi­cial recog­ni­tion. The State De­part­ment says Falun Gong prac­ti­tion­ers in China face ar­rest, de­ten­tion and pos­si­ble tor­ture as mem­bers over­seas main­tain a vig­or­ous cam­paign of protest against China’s gov­ern­ment.

“We don’t rec­og­nize it be­cause it’s a cult,” Li said. “So Falun Gong texts, Falun Gong ac­tiv­i­ties in China are for­bid­den. For­eign­ers who come to China must re­spect and abide by the laws of China.”

China’s lead­er­ship is us­ing the Sum­mer Olympics to project a pos­i­tive im­age of the coun­try. Venue con­struc­tion has hummed at a record pace, and Bei­jing is so ea­ger to host a flaw­less event that it en­acted cam­paigns to stomp out speak­ing poor English, spit­ting, lit­ter­ing and cut­ting in line.

Yet prepa­ra­tions have been tarred by com­plaints about China’s hu­man rights abuses and Bei­jing’s chok­ing smog. The regime also has drawn crit­i­cism over its sup­port for Su­dan’s Arab-dom­i­nated gov­ern­ment, an oil sup­plier ac­cused of atroc­i­ties against eth­nic Africans in Dar­fur.

The games have now cast a spot­light on re­li­gion, which is heav­ily reg­u­lated in China by the of­fi­cially athe­ist rul­ing Com­mu­nist party. Wor­ship is le­gal only in party-con­trolled churches, tem­ples and mosques, and those who at­tend oth­ers face ha­rass­ment, ar­rest and terms in la­bor camps or prison.

Bibles are printed un­der gov­ern­ment su­per­vi­sion and can be sold only in ap­proved churches, ac­cord­ing to the Web site of China’s State Ad­min­is­tra­tion for Re­li­gious Af­fairs. Vis­i­tors can bring in re­li­gious texts for per­sonal use, but no more than three copies of each, said an of­fi­cial at the agency’s reg­u­la­tion de­part­ment, who re­fused to give his name.

In a state­ment, the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee said the news ar­ti­cles re­port­ing a Bi­ble ban stemmed from a mis­un­der­stand­ing of what was said at an Oc­to­ber brief­ing in Bei­jing dur­ing which items banned from im­port into China were dis­cussed.

“It is clear that ath­letes com­ing to the games are able to bring with them re­li­gious items for per­sonal use, as in pre­vi­ous games, to the Olympic venues,” the state­ment said.

Speak­ing at a reg­u­larly sched­uled news con­fer­ence, For­eign Min­istry spokesman Liu Jian­chao said the me­dia re­ports pointed to at­tempts to un­der­mine China’s Olympic glory.

“There are some peo­ple out there who do not want to see China hold a suc­cess­ful games,” Liu said.

Catholic Church may ex­com­mu­ni­cate over fe­male priests

ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Arch­dio­cese has warned two Ro­man Catholic women that they will be ex­com­mu­ni­cated if they are or­dained as priests on Sun­day.

Rose Marie Dunn Hud­son, 67, and Elsie Hainz McGrath, 69, are set to be or­dained by a for­mer nun as part of the Ro­man Catholic Women­priests move­ment that be­gan in 2002.

Only men are or­dained as priests and dea­cons in the Catholic Church. The Women­priests and the ad­vo­cacy group, the Women’s Or­di­na­tion Con­fer­ence, are among Catholics press­ing to change that tra­di­tion.

Both women said they will ig­nore Arch­bishop Ray­mond Burke’s warn­ing.

“It’s a typ­i­cally hi­er­ar­chi­cal form of in­tim­i­da­tion, and we will not be in­tim­i­dated,” McGrath said.

The arch­dio­cese de­clined to com­ment about the let­ters, de­liv­ered by courier to the women’s homes Mon­day evening. In them, Burke warned the women they would be com­mit­ting a “grave er­ror” and “act of schism” by try­ing to re­ceive priestly or­di­na­tion.

He re­minded them that the pope has stated in­fal­li­bly that only men can re­ceive a valid or­di­na­tion, and wrote that “in or­der to pro­tect the faith­ful from grave spir­i­tual de­cep­tion” if they go for­ward, they would “in­cur au­to­mat­i­cally ... the cen­sure of ex­com­mu­ni­ca­tion.”

Fur­ther, Burke wrote, “ad­di­tional dis­ci­plinary mea­sures will also have to be im­posed.”

“What is he go­ing to do, burn us at the stake, or what?” Hud­son asked. “We’re go­ing to just to­tally ig­nore it. This is not un­ex­pected. We won­dered why it took so long.”

Both women have grad­u­ate de­grees in re­li­gious stud­ies and have been ac­tive in min­istry for years.

Hud­son is a re­tired teacher who has done prison min­istry for the past 15 years. McGrath is the widow of a Ro­man Catholic dea­con and has worked for the arch­dio­cese, for the the­ol­ogy de­part­ment at St. Louis Univer­sity and as a cam­pus min­is­ter.

Of the roughly 100 women who have been or­dained as priests or dea­cons world­wide in the Women­priests move­ment, in­clud­ing 37 in the U.S., only the first seven were of­fi­cially ex­com­mu­ni­cated by the Vat­i­can, said spokes­woman Brid­get Mary Mee­han. Oth­ers have re­ceived let­ters from their bishop like that sent by Burke, she said.

A for­mer nun from South Africa who now lives in Ger­many is sched­uled to or­dain the women at a syn­a­gogue in St. Louis. Pa­tri­cia Fre­sen, who has or­dained other women, says she was or­dained as a bishop in Ger­many in 2005 by an un­named male bishop in good stand­ing with the pope. She isn’t rec­og­nized as a bishop by the church hi­er­ar­chy.

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