Nation and World Religion News in Brief


Church shooting suspect's friend to plead

COLUMBIA, S.C. >> A friend of the white man accused of fatally shooting nine black church members in South Carolina last year is set to plead guilty to two federal charges, according to an agreement signed by federal prosecutors and filed online Monday.

Joey Meek, 21, has agreed to plead guilty to lying to authorities and failure to report a crime, according to the agreement, with a hearing set for Friday in Charleston. He could face up to eight years in prison on those charges, although prosecutors note in the agreement that they will argue he deserves less time if he's helpful in their ongoing case.

Authorities have said that Meek failed to tell investigators all he knew about Dylann Roof's plans to shoot members of Emanuel AME Church last June.

Roof, 22, is charged with nine counts of murder in state court and with hate crimes and other charges in federal court. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in his state trial, which has been delayed until next year, and federal authorities haven't said if they will also seek a death sentence for Roof. No trial date has been set on those charges.

Archbishop of Havana, key figure in US detente, steps down

HAVANA >> The Vatican says Cardinal Jaime Ortega, who oversaw a warming of relations with the Communist government and played a role in the secret negotiations that led to U.S.-Cuba detente, has stepped down.

He is being replaced as archbishop of Havana by Juan de la Caridad Garcia Rodriguez, the archbishop of the eastern city of Camaguey. Church statements Tuesday did not say if Garcia will be appointed cardinal.

The church said Pope Francis accepted Ortega's resignation, which was presented in 2011 under a church rule requiring archbishops to offer their resignation when they are 75. Ortega was named Archbishop of Havana in 1981 and oversaw three papal trips to Communist Cuba. He was so trusted by Cuba that he ferried messages between Presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama during detente negotiations.

Seattle police investigating racist graffiti found at church

SEATTLE >> Seattle police are investigating after vandals broke into a church and spray painted racist messages on the walls.

KOMO-TV reports the Curry Temple Christian Methodist Episcopal Church was preparing to celebrate its 66th anniversary when church members discovered the vandalism Sunday morning.

Church members found a Swastika and racist insults in black spray paint on the walls inside the church. One message told the congregation to "go back" to Africa.

Church elder Charles Eakers says he doesn't understand who would want to harm a church.

Colorado court: Ruling stands that baker can't cite religion

DENVER >> Colorado's Supreme Court has refused to take up the case of a suburban Denver baker who would not make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, letting stand a lower court's ruling that the Masterpiece Cakeshop owner cannot cite his Christian beliefs in refusing service.

The American Civil Liberties Union applauded today's development, saying it affirmed that no one should be turned away from a business serving the public because of who they are or who they love.

Baker Jack Phillips has said he has no problem serving gay people at his store, but that making a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding would violate his Christian beliefs.

His attorney, Nicolle Martin, says Phillips should have the same conscience rights as artists like Bruce Springsteen who has refused to perform in North Carolina to protest a law limiting LGBT rights.

3rd man charged in Christmas Eve slaying of musician

DETROIT >> A third man has been charged in the fatal shooting of a Detroit musician who was killed after performing at a Christmas Eve church service.

An ex-convict, 28-year-old Devan Williams, was arraigned Monday on charges of murder and carjacking, among other crimes. He was returned to jail without bond. A lawyer will be assigned.

Police say Anthony Tolson was ordered out of his Chevy Trailblazer on Dec. 24 and was shot on Detroit's east side. He had played bass guitar at a Christmas Eve service and was heading to his mother's home with gifts for his three children.

Police say the 33-year-old Tolson was killed over the expensive rims on his car.

Indians take to Buddhist chanting to alleviate urban stress

NEW DELHI >> A growing number of executives and professionals in India's hectic capital of New Delhi are chanting Buddhist mantras in search of calm.

Most of those picking up the practice are Hindu, but say they see no conflict between their religion and Buddhist chanting. Some say it is soothing, others invigorating.

While Buddhism began on the Indian subcontinent around the 5th century BC, it has waned in both India and Nepal while flourishing in different forms in Japan, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and other countries. With its easy rituals and lack of dogma, Buddhism has also drawn supporters from afar, including agnostics and Hollywood celebrities.

The practice of repeating a mantra is not exclusive to Buddhism. Many across Hindu-dominated India include chanting as part of their yoga.

But New Delhi-based sociologist Abhilasha Kumari says Buddhist chanting is seen as less dogmatic, aimed at calming the nerves or creating a sense of wellbeing.


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