Vatican liturgist says no return to past




VATICAN CITY &

A Vatican official says Pope Benedict XVI doesn't want to roll back the modernizing liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council.




The pope last year removed restrictions on celebrating the old Latin Mass, a rite that was all but swept away by the Second Vatican Council. But Monsignor Guido Marini told Vatican radio that Benedict only wants to maintain continuity with Roman Catholic tradition.




"This may also require, in some cases, the recovery of precious and important elements that along the way have been lost or forgotten," Marini said in a Jan. 19 interview.




On Jan. 13, the pontiff celebrated Mass in the Sistine Chapel using the original main altar, facing away from worshippers during parts of the prayer. Under the modernizing reforms, clergy generally celebrate Mass facing the altar.




Marini said special conditions of the church allowed the stance, which he said was in line with Vatican II, according to Catholic News Service.




Church splits from Pittsburgh Presbytery




PITTSBURGH &

Members of the largest church in the Pittsburgh Presbyterian district have voted to leave the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for a more biblically conservative denomination.




Members of the Memorial Park Presbyterian Church in McCandless Township voted 664-25 in favor of the move last weekend. The church has 1,675 members. Leaders said the number of voters reflects typical Sunday attendance. The congregation plans to join the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.




Like other mainline Protestant groups, Presbyterians have been debating for decades how they should interpret Scripture on salvation, truth, homosexuality and other issues.




More than two dozen of the nearly 11,000 congregations in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have voted to leave the national church since the denomination's national assembly in 2006.




Delegates at the gathering granted new leeway in some cases to sidestep a church requirement that clergy and lay officers limit sex to man-woman marriage.




The Rev. Doug Portz, acting pastor of the Pittsburgh Presbytery, called this past weekend's votes "unconstitutional." Memorial Park is seeking to hold onto its property despite the split.




It is the second Allegheny County church to recently leave the presbytery, following Beverly Heights Presbyterian Church.




Malaysia state to strictly separate genders




KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia &

Malaysia's only state run by the Islamic opposition party will more strictly enforce separate lines for men and women at supermarkets, an official says.




Authorities in the northern state of Kelantan &

governed by the opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party &

will fine supermarkets and shops if they let men and women use the same lines at checkout counters, said party spokesman Anual Bakri Haron.




Chief Minister Nik Aziz Nik Mat has called for stricter enforcement "to safeguard the ladies" from being harassed and to avoid close proximity between opposite sexes while lining up to buy groceries, Anual said.




Every state in Malaysia besides Kelantan is ruled by the National Front coalition, which is made up of various parties representing Malaysia's different ethnic groups. The coalition is dominated by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's United Malays National Organization party, which draws its support from ethnic Malay Muslims who account for 60 percent of the country's 27 million people. The Islamic opposition party, which has ruled Kelantan for more than 17 years, imposed the separate lineup rule as part of its agenda to promote Islamic values. In recent years, however, people ignored the regulation, and there was little enforcement.




Bishop apologizes for spending




BELLEVILLE, Ill. &

A Roman Catholic bishop accused of misusing money from two special funds apologized Tuesday and said he found a benefactor who will restore what he spent.




Bishop Edward Braxton, head of the Diocese of Belleville, said he bought a new table and chairs for a conference room and new vestments and altar linens for the Cathedral of St. Paul, believing he had "some discretionary power" over how money in the funds was spent.




Braxton spent about $8,000 on the ceremonial garments using money donated to a Vatican fund called the Propagation of the Faith, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. He used about $10,000 from a "Future Full of Hope" fund for children and adults to buy a new table and chairs for a conference room, the Belleville News-Democrat reported.




In the last few weeks, pastoral groups in the 104,000-member, 124-parish diocese had asked Braxton to address the claims of misspending. The 16-member diocesan finance council last month also voiced its concern in a letter to Braxton. It copied in the papal ambassador in Washington.




In his statement, Braxton didn't identify the donor or say how much he spent. Shortly after Braxton took the helm of the Belleville diocese in 2005, he ruffled some by pushing to renovate the bishop's three-story home beyond the $25,000 the diocese said it could afford.




Baptist, Jewish congregations gather




BALTIMORE &

Two very different congregations came together last Sunday in Baltimore for a joint service to honor the birth of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.




The Baltimore Hebrew Congregation held a communal celebration with the members of First Mount Olive Free Will Baptist Church, who have been meeting for Sunday services at the temple because their own church in West Baltimore was ruined by fire in July.




In recent years, local Reform synagogues and African-American churches have held joint activities around the King holiday to foster understanding between African-Americans and Jews.




"" The Associated Press