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Saturday, August 7, 2004; Page B07

U.S. Ousts Theologian

A renowned Finnish theologian and tenured professor at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., has been forced to leave the United States because he did not qualify under new visa regulations for religious professionals.

In what may be one of the stranger cases involving stricter visa regulations in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Veli-Matti Karkkainen was unable to appeal government decisions that denied him an extension of a visa and a work permit, prompting a July 31 deadline for him, his wife and two daughters to leave the country.

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"If a theology professor from Finland can't stay here, there is something wrong with the administrative process," Karkkainen, a professor at Fuller since 2000, said in a telephone interview just before his departure.

The case of Karkkainen, first reported in the July 27 issue of the Christian Century magazine, is ironic in part because the order to leave the United States affects a man who, like Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, is a Pentecostal.

Howard Louwen, a Fuller dean, said new rules for visas for religious professionals appear to be the cause of the problem. Also a factor, he said, were new rules under which a seminary is strictly defined as an institution with ties to a single denominational body.

Fuller is one of the nation's most prominent evangelical, interdenominational seminaries, with about 4,300 students from 67 countries and 108 denominations attending on seven campuses.

"I suspect that Fuller looks to [the government] more like a multidenominational university rather than a training ground for ministers," Louwen told the Century.

-- Religion News Service

Vatican Sports Office

Just in time for the Athens Olympics, the Vatican has opened an office to promote ethical values in sports.

The Pontifical Council for the Laity said it had established a Church and Sports section to tackle problems that have alienated sports from its original ideals.

Pope John Paul II, an enthusiastic athlete who continued to ski and hike in the mountains after his election as Roman Catholic pontiff, has deplored the commercialization of sports and doping by athletes.

"The upcoming Athens Olympics and the millions of people who from all over the world will follow its course are yet another clear sign of how much sports are an important element in the life of our society," the council said.

But, the council said, "tendencies that are increasingly alienating the practice of the different disciplines from the original ideals of sports make it urgent to recall fundamental values in this field too."

The new Vatican office will encourage church participation in sports at the parish, national and international levels to encourage athletics "as a means of integral growth of the person and as an instrument of service to peace and the brotherhood of peoples," the council said. It will also support the "witness of Christian life among athletes."

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