'Transnational' Talks

On Mideast Peace Set

Linked by the Internet, an unlikely group of neighbors will come together tomorrow for a demonstration of their commitment to Middle East peace.

The gathering, which organizers are calling a "transnational town meeting," will be based at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, but it will bring together Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders from 40 U.S. cities plus Jerusalem, Egypt and Jordan.

The participants will communicate by videoconference and via the Internet, and they will discuss how to capitalize on the fragile "window of opportunity" for peace that they observe between Israelis and Palestinians.

The meeting will be moderated by former CBS News anchor Dan Rather, and its U.S. participants will include Rabbi Paul Menitoff, executive director of the Central Conference of American Rabbis; Imam Yahya Hendi, Georgetown University chaplain; and Serge Duss, vice president and director of public policy and advocacy for the Christian peace group World Vision.

From Jerusalem, Palestinian and Israeli leaders will participate, including Knesset member Yossi Beilin; Jerusalem's Anglican bishop, the Rev. Riah Abu El Assal; and Sheikh Imad Falouji, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council who represents Gaza.

Organizers say the gathering reflects a mutual depth of commitment to peace.

"The convening of prominent Israeli and Palestinian leaders from the three faiths is an expression of mutual respect for the humanity of the 'other' and demonstrates a rejection of violence and support for negotiations as the necessary means to peace," said Bruce Wexler, a professor of psychiatry at Yale University and founder and president of A Different Future, one of two sponsoring organizations for the meeting.

-- Religion News Service

Pope's Talks Published

In his first book to be published since he became leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI challenges nonbelieving Europeans of the 21st century to live as though God does exist.

"Even he who does not succeed in finding the way to the acceptance of God must try, however, to live and to address his life 'veluti si Deus daretur,' as if God were," Benedict writes.

The book, "The Europe of Benedict in the Crisis of Cultures," is a collection of three talks by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, before he was elected pope April 19.

Laying out his views on the clash between religion and secularism in Europe, the cleric who became pontiff warns that carried to their logical extremes, the freedoms embodied in European secularism threaten church teaching on abortion, homosexuality and women's ordination.

The Italian edition will appear Tuesday, published by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Editions in English and other languages are planned in coming months.

The Benedict of the book's title is not the current pope but rather the 6th-century saint and founder of the Benedictine order whose name the pope assumed.

-- Religion News Service

Gay Soldiers Marry

Canada's military has confirmed that two soldiers exchanged vows in May in the first gay marriage to be recognized by the country's armed forces. The two unnamed men, one a sergeant, the other a warrant officer, were married at Canadian Forces Base Greenwood in Nova Scotia on May 3.

It was the first time the military has presided over a same-sex wedding, legal in almost all of Canada after a series of court rulings over the past two years.

A United Church of Canada minister presided after the base's chaplain, an Anglican, refused to perform the ceremony. Canada's Anglican church declared a two-year moratorium last month on the blessing of same-sex marriages.

Lt. Cmdr. David Greenwood, the base's head chaplain, helped arrange the ceremony and said it might encourage other gay soldiers to step forward.

"I think there was a sense that many people thought they would never have seen something like this in their lifetimes -- and not in a negative way, but in a positive way," Greenwood told Canadian Press.

-- Religion News Service