The National Council of Catholic Women has proposed that all factions of the church work for the ordination of women as permanent deacons.
As the official organization for women in the church, the council has previously adopted a traditional view of the role of women, including declining to endorse the Equal Rights Amendment. Its latest statement calls for "wider ministries for women" in the church.
The 1976 Vatican declaration barring women from the priesthood, which the council accepted, made no mention of ordaining women as deacons.
Permanent deacons may perform all the functions of priests except celebrate mass, give absolution and anoint the sick. The Vatican has not specifically barred women from the diaconate, but up to now has not ordained a woman.
The council's position paper also urges that more lay women be involved in decision-making roles in the church at all levels.
The American Jewish Committee has concluded that the 350-year-old Oberammergau Passion Play remains "structurally anti-Semitic," despite efforts to rewrite its script for next year.
The script for the historic reenactment of Christ's life, death and resurrection "retains an anti-Jewish impact despite the well-intentioned efforts of those who have revised it," says an analysis by the committee of the revised text.
The committee was considerably more critical of the script than was the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith earlier this year. Nat Kameny of the league said at that time that the modifications, made at the behest of Jewish leaders, had "significantly reduced the anti-Semitic potential" of the play.
The play, put on every 10 years by the citizens of Oberammergau, West Germany, is a major tourist attraction.
Multimillionaire financier John M. Templeton, who seven years ago created the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, has announced he will double the amount of the award next year to keep his prize bigger than the Nobel Peace Prize. Nobel laureates this year will receive $190,000. Templeton is increasing his award, given annually to persons who contribute "to the love of God" or who "increase man's knowledge of God," to $194,000.
Mother Teresa, the latest Nobel peace laureate, won the Templeton prize six years ago. Thus far, no American has won the Templeton prize.
The Rev. Gleb Yakunin, a Russian Orthodox priest and leading religious rights activist in the Soviet Union, has been arrested by security police in Moscow, according to a report by the Society of the Study of Religion and Communism.
The arrest came the same day as searches of the homes of five workers involved in the Christian Committee for the Defense of Believers' Rights.
A founder of the committee, Yakunin has run afoul of authorities for his criticism of the state-approved Russian Orthodox Church and his protests against state interference with the church.