A Vatican official has expressed displeasure over criticism from the head of the World Council of Churches for the Vatican's censure of Brazilian liberation theologian Leonardo Boff.

In his report to the WCC's Central Committee meeting in Buenos Aires last month, WCC General Secretary Emilio Castro commented on the Vatican's silencing of Boff. Castro, from Uruguay, called the Vatican's steps against Boff disturbing and indicative of "a hardening of theological positions within the Catholic Church, which has negative repercussions on the preaching of the gospel in Latin America."

Castro said he had "no wish to interfere in the internal affairs of a sister church," but called it "difficult, from an ecumenical point of view" to reconcile the restrictions on Boff with "the emphasis on collegiality, on respect for the national church and on the enculturation" reflected in Pope John Paul II's recent encyclical on Saints Cyral and Methodius.

Msgr. Basil Meeking, official Vatican observer to the WCC meeting, responding "in love" to Castro's criticism, said that it was "hard not to see this as an interference in the internal affairs" of the Catholic Church and a potential threat to Vatican/WCC relations.

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has urged its members to give political and financial support to hard-pressed farmers.

At its general assembly in Des Moines, in the heart of the U.S. farm belt, the church asked congregations to help individual farmers in distress, to invest funds in the rural banks on which farmers depend for credit and to support government policies that aid family farms.

The assembly elected the Rev. John O. Humbert as general secretary of the 1.1 million-member denomination and approved an "ecumenical partnership" with the 1.7 million-member United Church of Christ.

Islamic leaders say there are 25,000 to 40,000 Muslims in Maryland and their numbers are increasing.

The growth of the state's Muslim population is due, in part, to an influx of students and professionals from Asia and the Middle East. But many believe that the greater proportion are Baltimore-born followers of Islam who left the Black Muslim movement 10 years ago, said Ronald Shakir, a city schoolteacher and the leader of a Muslim community in Baltimore.

"In the last 10 years, I think we have become some of the best Muslims on the planet Earth, bar none," he said.

The assimilation of Black Muslims into orthodox Islam began in 1975 under the urging of the Nation of Islam's national leader, Imam W.D. Muhammad of Chicago. In April, Muhammad announced he was stepping down from his position of leadership and his followers were considered independent practitioners of Islam.

The massive shift away from the Black Muslim movement has been criticized by a number of followers of the Nation of Islam, including Minister Louis Farrakhan, who said that he opposed the changes in religion and policy.

The Church Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines said that at least six clergy have been killed there in the last year, and another cleric is missing in "an increasingly systematic campaign of terror against segments of the Philippine church."

The victims include three Roman Catholic priests, an Episcopal priest, a United Methodist minister and a minister of the United Church of Christ. A Roman Catholic priest has been listed as missing since July 11.

Episcopal Bishop William H. Folwell of Central Florida has lost a $200,000 lawsuit that he filed against the U.S. government for injuries he suffered in November 1982 when he was playing tennis at the Naval Training Center in Orlando, Fla.

U.S. District Judge G. Kendall Sharp of Orlando ruled that the bishop should not have been using the tennis court, even though he was a guest of a retired Naval officer. The judge said the retired officer had no authority to invite nonmilitary friends to use the facilities.

In dismissing Folwell's suit, Sharp also dismissed a counterclaim by the Navy that the bishop had been trespassing and that he owed $5,200 for use of the courts over five years.

The 60-year-old bishop said he had suffered severe and permanent damage to his left knee when he slipped on a patch of algae during a tennis game on the Navy courts. But the judge said the bishop had been alerted by other players to the potential dangers of the court.

In California, an Episcopal woman whose rector turned her in to the police when she told him she had stolen money from the church women's guild is suing the priest for $5 million for breaking her confidentiality.

Sheridan Ann Edwards, 38, was working as a volunteer bookkeeper for St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Belvedere, Calif., when she stole $28,000 from the women's guild. She said she told the Rev. William Rankin, the church's rector, about it "hoping to gain absolution and forgiveness."

Instead, the rector reported the theft to the police, contending that her admission did not constitute a formal confession. At her trial, the judge agreed with the priest. Edwards was sentenced to perform at least 200 hours of volunteer work and spend seven months in jail.

Evangelist Billy Graham has accepted an invitation from 14 religious bodies that are officially recognized by the Romanian government to preach next month in six or seven cities of that Soviet-bloc nation.