The Adventist Review shares the following world news from Religion News Service as a service to readers. Opinions expressed in these reports do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Review or the Seventh-day Adventist Church. -- Editors
Obama and Pope to Meet on July 10
ope Benedict XVI has agreed to meet President Obama at the Vatican on July 10, the pope's spokesman said on June 24, for what would be a rare afternoon encounter arranged to accommodate Obama's travel schedule.
The Rev. Federico Lombardi, head of the Vatican press office, stopped short of officially confirming the news of a meeting, which was first reported by Catholic News Service, but told media outlets that the pope was "willing" to meet the president on the "afternoon of July 10."
Obama will be in Italy July 8-10 to participate in a meeting of leaders of the world's eight richest nations. The Group of Eight (G8) summit will take place in the city of L'Aquila, 75 miles northeast of Rome, where an April earthquake killed nearly 300 and left some 50,000 homeless.
Although the pope ordinarily receives heads of state or government only in the mornings, Benedict will meet with Obama at 4 p.m. on the 10th, according to the CNS report, so that the president can leave for Ghana the same day.
The meeting is likely to take place shortly after the publication of a long-awaited papal encyclical on the economy, which Benedict has recently suggested will address the global financial crisis and the need for new "economic-financial paradigms" to promote "solidarity" and "human dignity."
Unitarians, UCC Elect Minorities as Presidents
The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and the United Church of Christ (UCC) both made history this week by selecting minority presidents at their annual meetings.
The Boston-based UUA elected its first Latino president, the Rev. Peter Morales; the Cleveland-based UCC nominated its first African-American president, the Rev. Geoffrey Black, as its next general minister and president.
"I believe this says that Unitarian Universalists are eager to open our doors wider and to welcome the changes that becoming more diverse will bring to us," said UUA spokeswoman Janet Hayes by phone from the General Assembly in Salt Lake City.
Both leaders will be the second minorities to helm their faith traditions. The Rev. William Sinkford, an African-American, preceded Morales in the UUA's top post. Black is the second African-American leader of the UCC; the first, Joseph H. Evans, served only a partial term after the death of an acting president.
Black, as the only presidential nominee at the 27th General Synod in Grand Rapids, Michigan, was scheduled to be officially elected during the evening plenary on June 29.
The Rev. J. Bennett Guess, a UCC spokesman, said Black, leader of the UCC's New York conference, is a "charismatic leader" with plenty of experience. "He has a depth of pastoral skills and understanding that will help him to work with the broad constituency of racial ethnic groups and theological perspectives that make up United Church of Christ," said Guess.
Both of the liberal denominations have overwhelmingly white constituencies. The UCC estimates that 9 percent of its membership is made up of minority racial and ethnic groups. The UUA said roughly 7.2 percent of its membership identifies as people of color.
In his election, Morales, of Jefferson Unitarian Church in Golden, Colorado, defeated the Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman by a vote of 2,061 to 1,481. There have been no female presidents of either denomination.
Pope Says Relics are Those of St. Paul
The Catholic Church's Year of St. Paul ended with a flourish on June 28, as Pope Benedict XVI announced that scientists had authenticated the first-century saint's earthly remains under a church in Rome.
Carbon testing of bone fragments in a sarcophagus beneath the Basilica of St. Paul's Outside the Walls, along with the presence of incense grains and purple linen laminated with pure gold, "seems to confirm the unanimous and undisputed tradition according to which these are the mortal remains of the Apostle Paul," Benedict said.
"All this fills our soul with profound emotion," he added.
The pope spoke at a vespers service to mark the end of a year-long celebration honoring the "Apostle of the Gentiles," who was martyred in Rome around the year 65 A.D.
Archeologists excavated the fourth-century sarcophagus, which had been covered up after an 1823 fire, in response to demand from the many pilgrims who flocked there during the millennium year 2000.
The pope's statement came a day after the official Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano reported the discovery of the earliest known image of Paul, a fourth-century fresco in the Tomb of Tecla, also in Rome.