Pope Benedict in Spain; Catholic Charities and Adoptions; Noah's Ark Park in Kentucky;


Pope beginning visit to World Youth Day in Spain

MADRID (AP) - Pope Benedict is beginning a four-day visit to

Madrid, joining a million or more young pilgrims from 193 countries

for the Catholic Church's World Youth Day.

It's Benedict's third papal visit to Spain, which has departed

sharply from its Catholic traditions and embraced hedonism and


World Youth Day's main events are a prayer vigil with the

84-year-old pope, an outdoor sleepover for pilgrims Saturday night

at a sprawling air base and a papal Mass there the next morning.

The Knights of Columbus are hosting an estimated 100,000

English-speaking pilgrims at a sports stadium in Madrid.



Catholic charity says it's exempt from civil unions law

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - A Catholic adoption and foster care

charity that has worked as a state contractor for 40 years has told

an Illinois judge that it shouldn't be forced to place children in

homes of unmarried couples, as state officials say is required by a

new law recognizing civil unions.

But attorneys for the state said it's appropriate to cancel

contracts totaling $30.6 million to Catholic Charities because the

nonprofit is violating gay couples' rights by refusing to assist

them and referring them to other agencies. The contracts are

renewed each year.

Judge John Schmidt did not make a ruling in the case Wednesday.

The Department of Children and Family Services canceled this year's

contract after the fiscal year began July 1 but Schmidt issued a

temporary order that keeps the contracts in place until he decides.


New Noah's Ark in Ky. aims to prove truth of Bible

HEBRON, Ky. (AP) - A full-size replica of Noah's Ark will soon

be built in Kentucky.

The wooden ship built to survive a worldwide flood was 500 feet

long and about 80 feet high, according to Answers in Genesis, a

Christian ministry devoted to a literal reading of the Bible.

Construction on the new ark is expected to begin in the spring

with the help of Amish builders.

It will be the centerpiece of a proposed $155 million religious

theme park, called the Ark Encounter, which will include other

biblical icons like the Tower of Babel.

It's an expansion of the ministry's first major public

attraction, the Creation Museum. It opened in 2007 and has

attracted worldwide attention for presenting stories from the Bible

as historical fact, challenging evolution and asserting that the

earth was created about 6,000 years ago.



Threat to Letterman on Muslim forum

NEW YORK (AP) - A frequent contributor to a jihadist website has

threatened David Letterman, urging Muslims to "cut the tongue" of

the late-night host because of a joke the comic made on his CBS


The Site Monitoring Service, a private intelligence organization

that watches online activity, said Wednesday that the threat was

posted a day earlier on a popular website for radical Muslims.

The contributor, who identified himself as Umar al-Basrawi, said

Letterman "put his hand on his neck and demonstrated the way of

slaughter" after the U.S. military announced on June 5 that a

drone strike in Pakistan had killed an al Qaida leader.


Vanderbilt includes pagan holidays in calendar

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Pagan and Wiccan holy days, which follow

the changing seasons, are now included among Vanderbilt

University's list of religious holy days alongside other religious

events like Ramadan and Passover.

University officials say the holy days are not part of the

academic calendar, but students may ask faculty for accommodations

due to their religious beliefs. The Tennessean reports that the

pagan days were included in a calendar sent to faculty by the

Office of Religious Life.

Elizabeth Latt, a university spokeswoman, said the pagan and

Wiccan holidays were added last year and the dates are based on an

international calendar of holy days, which also includes guidance

on which days restrict work or labor due to religious tradition.

Only Christmas and Christmas Eve are paid university holidays.


Barbershop closed amid animal sacrifice allegations

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (AP) - A Massachusetts barbershop has been

closed after New Bedford city officials found evidence of

ritualistic animal sacrifice at the site.

The owner said the shutdown violates his religious rights.

Animal control officers removed two chickens and four roosters,

one dead, from the shop's basement Tuesday, after fire and building

inspectors found the birds during a routine safety inspection.

Emanuel Maciel, the animal control officer, said the chickens

and roosters were kept in two pens next to a religious altar of

candles, saint statues and hand-drawn religious symbols.

The barbershop's owner, William Camacho, faces animal cruelty


Camacho said he practices Palo Mayombe, an Afro-Caribbean

religion. He said he does not sacrifice animals at the barbershop

but only at religious ceremonies in rural settings.


School district won't sell land to religious groups

DRAPER, Utah (AP) - A Utah school district won't be selling land

next to a new high school to either the Mormon church or the

religious group Summum.

The Canyons School Board met behind closed doors Tuesday to

discuss offers from both groups.

A school district spokeswoman said the town of Draper is growing

quickly and the district wants to save the space for future

expansion. The school is set to open in fall 2013.

The school's site plan had labeled a one-acre plot next to the

campus for a seminary. District officials said the Mormon church

had planned to use it for released-time religious instruction.

Summum is a religious organization that practices meditation and



Vatican releases internal files on alleged abuser

VATICAN CITY (AP) - The Vatican has released internal files

about a priest who was removed from the priesthood in the 1960s

after allegedly molesting minors in the U.S. and Ireland.

The files are part of documentation the Holy See plans to turn

over to U.S. lawyers representing a man who says he was abused by

the late Rev. Andrew Ronan. The man, who has not been identified,

is seeking to hold the Vatican liable for the abuse.

Vatican attorney Jeffrey Lena says the Vatican's own files show

that the Holy See didn't know about the accusations against Ronan

until 1966, after the abuse occurred.

A federal judge in Portland, Ore., ordered the Vatican to

respond to requests for information in the case by Friday, the

first time the Holy See has been forced to turn over documents in a

sex abuse case.


Iman charged with sexual assault

TORONTO (AP) - Canadian police have charged an imam at a Toronto

mosque with 13 counts of sexual assault and say there may be more

victims in other countries.

Detective Karen Armstrong says Mohammad Masroor abused his

position of authority when he taught the Quran to students at the

Baitul Mukarram Islamic Society and in private homes in Toronto.

She says the charges involve five victims, both male and female.

Armstrong says the 48-year-old Masroor arrived in Canada in

2008, but also worked and lived in France, Germany, Bangladesh,

Hungary, Singapore, Sri Lanka and most recently in Florida and


Armstrong says they're asking the public to assist in finding

other victims.


(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


AP-NY-08-18-11 0330EDT


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