Federal judge sets July 18 hearing in church shooting case
COLUMBIA, S.C. >> A hearing has been set for next month to sort out jury selection details for the federal trial of a white man accused of gunning down nine black parishioners at a historic South Carolina church.
U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel on Thursday set a July 18 hearing in the federal case against 22-year-old Dylann Roof.
Attorneys disagree about some juror selection details, such as whether they should come from across South Carolina or only from the Charleston area. Roof faces charges including hate crimes in the shooting deaths at Charleston's Emanuel AME Church.
Both state and federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, and Roof's federal trial is set for November. The state case is not scheduled until January, although state prosecutors have said their case should be tried first.
Retired pope thanks reigning pope for his focus on mercy
VATICAN CITY >> Retired Pope Benedict XVI endorsed Pope Francis' mercy-filled ministry Tuesday during an unprecedented Vatican ceremony featuring a reigning pope honoring a retired one on the 65th anniversary of his ordination as a priest.
The ceremony in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace served in part to show continuity from Benedict to Francis amid continued nostalgia from some conservatives for Benedict's tradition-minded papacy.
Francis had invited the entire Vatican Curia, or bureaucracy, to celebrate Benedict's anniversary, and prelates turned out in force for the rare occasion of being able to greet each man in white.
While Francis presided, it was Benedict who stole the show with an off-the-cuff, mini-theology lesson sprinkled with Greek and Latin that showed that the mind of the German theologian is still going strong at 89. In it, Benedict thanked Francis for letting him live out his final years in the beauty of the Vatican gardens, where he said he felt "protected."
Amish growth extended to South American settlements last year
HARRISBURG, PA. >> The Amish are branching out, setting up settlements in Bolivia, Argentina and Canada as their numbers continue to grow.
A new study by the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Pennsylvania's Elizabethtown College reports the Christian religious sect's total current population is about 308,000 and has grown about 18 percent over the past five years.
The two small South American settlements were both founded last fall after longstanding Mennonite communities in those countries reached out to North American Amish to explore affiliation.
Nearly two-thirds of all Amish live in three states — Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana. There are currently settlements in 31 states and three Canadian provinces.
Two new settlements with about 30 people were established this year in Prince Edward Island, Canada, a first for that province.
Orthodox Christian leaders end historic meeting
CAIRO >> The leaders of the world's Orthodox Christian churches ended a historic gathering on the Greek island of Crete on Sunday hoping to repeat the meeting within a decade, despite a boycott by the Russian church — the most populous in a religion of some 300 million people — and three other churches.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I led prayers attended by the 10 Orthodox church leaders who attended to mark the end of the weeklong Holy and Great Council — the first of its kind in more than 1,200 years.
Despite decades of preparation, Orthodox leaders failed ahead of the meeting to overcome differences on efforts to reconcile with the Vatican and some doctrinal issues.
Patriarch Kirill of Moscow did not attend, arguing that preparation had been inadequate. The Georgian, Bulgarian and Syria-based Antioch patriarchates also did not take part.
Kirill described the Crete meeting as a preparatory one and called for a new full meeting at a later date.
Largest US Presbyterian denomination picks 1st African-American leader
PORTLAND, ORE. >> The largest Presbyterian denomination in the U.S. has elected its first African-American top executive.
The Rev. Herbert Nelson won an overwhelming majority of votes Friday during the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in Portland, Oregon.
Nelson succeeds the Rev. Gradye Parsons, who served two terms in the position and declined to seek re-election.
Nelson previously directed the church's public policy office in Washington. He's a graduate of Johnson C. Smith University and holds a doctorate from the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
Like other denominations, the Louisville, Kentucky-based Presbyterian church has been shrinking. It now has 1.6 million members and is overwhelmingly white.
Nelson urged Presbyterians to look beyond preserving the church toward reaching out more broadly and diversifying their membership.