Bishop Zoltan Kaldy of Hungary, the first East European to preside over the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), said in New York this week that he would like to build bridges between Eastern and Western churches by getting their theologians talking to one another.

Proposing a gathering of "famous Lutheran theologians from West and East," Bishop Kaldy, head of Hungary's 430,000-member Lutheran Church, said that "we could speak openly and brotherly about sharp questions."

The 66-year-old church leader spoke with reporters at the close of his first visit to North America since his election in August to head the worldwide Lutheran body.

He said he believes that his 40 years of experience "living in a Marxist-Leninist revolution, and my wonderful experience of God and Jesus and the gospel," would enhance his role as bridge-builder.

A member of the Hungarian parliament, he defended his participation in the country's socialist government as that of independent critic.

Dialogue has helped Marxists and Christians understand one another, abolishing the Christians' idea that all communists are "evil," and the Marxist notion that Christians are "naive people living in clouds" and "not clever," Bishop Kaldy said.

A bill that would let the state of Oregon cut off basic school support to the Rajneeshpuram school district has been approved by the Oregon House by a vote of 51 to 0.

Although sponsors said the bill is aimed at the Rajneesh school, it would streamline the way the state superintendent of schools may withdraw state aid to schools that foster religious activity. The bill now goes to the State Senate.

Under the measure, a citizen could complain that a school fostered religion. If the state found reason for the complaint, state school help could be withheld and the money put into an interest-bearing account.

If the superintendent decided the complaint was not valid or that religious activity had stopped, the money would be paid with interest. Otherwise, it would go to the state school support fund.

A sponsor, Rep. Bill Bellamy (R-Culver), said he believes the Rajneeshpuram school is a "totally religious private school." It is attended by followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, a guru from India who has settled in central Oregon.

Controversies over public-school prayer for special occasions have arisen in the Michigan cities of Lansing and Kalamazoo.

Prayer was eliminated from Memorial Day ceremonies at two Lansing elementary schools after officials said it violates U.S. Supreme Court rulings banning religious observances in public schools.

Although prayer has been part of the annual Memorial Day ceremonies in the two schools for about a decade, officials said this year that it would be unconstitutional. Some parents said they will file suit in federal court, saying their right to free speech and freedom of religion had been violated.

In Grand Rapids, U.S. District Judge Benjamin Gibson rejected a request for an injunction to bar invocations and benedictions at two Kalamazoo high schools.

He said that graduation is not part of the educational program of schools, and that commencement prayers would not impose religious views on graduating seniors.

Delegates to the general chapter of Franciscan friars minor in Rome demonstrated support for their order's current orientation by re-electing their American minister general to a second term in office.

The 135 delegates, who represented the order's 20,000 members at the meeting in Assisi, voted 110 to 25 to reelect the Rev. John Vaughan as minister general for another six-year term.

"The reelection of Father Vaughan constitutes a confirmation of the policies followed by the order in these past six years" since he was first elected, one observer said.

Catholic University announced Thursday the appointment of a new dean for the School of Religious Studies.

The Rev. William Cenkner, chairman of the Department of Religion and Religious Studies, will succeed the current dean, the Rev. Carl Peter, effective Sept. 1.