Update on the latest in religion news:


Associated Press

Posted on March 29, 2010 at 4:02 AM

Updated Monday, Mar 29 at 4:02 AM


Christian pilgrims celebrate Palm Sunday in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (AP) — Christians from around the world have opened Holy Week by celebrating Palm Sunday in Jerusalem -- singing hymns and bearing palm fronds to commemorate Jesus Christ's triumphal entry into the holy city 2,000 years ago.

Pilgrims and local Christians flocked to Jerusalem's Old City to attend mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which is traditionally held to be the site of Jesus' crucifixion.

Others celebrated at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem -- the town of Jesus' birth -- and in the Gaza Strip, which is home to a small Palestinian Christian population.

This year, the Holy Week leading up to Easter is being celebrated at the same time by Roman Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Christians.


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Singing as worshipers waved palms in a procession from Mount of Olives to the heart of Old Jerusalem

Worshipers singing during outdoor Palm Sunday procession from Mount of Olives to heart of Old Jerusalem. People waved palm fronds in the air, re-enacting the scene that met Jesus on his entrance to Jerusalem.

<<CUT …136 (03/28/10)>> 00:13 "peaceful this time"

Mark Lavie (lah-VEE')

AP Correspondent Mark Lavie reports pilgrims have marked Palm Sunday with a procession in Jerusalem.

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Mark Lavie (lah-VEE')

Christian pilgrims have brought in Holy Week with a march in Jerusalem. More from AP Correspondent Mark Lavie.

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This is the sound of bells ringing at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

This is the sound of bells ringing at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

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Owen Anderson

Owen Anderson explains why he came from Washington, D.C. to be on hand for Palm Sunday in Jerusalem.


Pope opens solemn Holy Week amid sex abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict has opened Holy Week without mentioning the pedophile priest scandal that's roiling the church in Europe.

But one of the prayers during Palm Sunday Mass at the Vatican, recited in Portuguese, was "for the young and for those charged with educating them and protecting them."

Addressing young people in his homily, the pope said Christian life is a pilgrimage with Christ, "a walk in the direction that he has chosen and shows us."

This year, the solemn week before Easter has been stained by a clergy abuse scandal that's spread to Benedict's native Germany. The Vatican has defended the pope's handling of sex abuse cases both when he was archbishop of Munich and when he headed the Vatican's doctrinal office as a cardinal.


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sound of bells ringing as the pope passes through the crowd in his popemobile

This is sound of bells ringing as the pope passes through the crowd in his popemobile after Palm Sunday Mass.

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this is singing at the end of Palm Sunday Mass

This is singing at the end of Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square.

<<CUT …059 (03/28/10)>> 00:07 "and our families"

Pope Benedict

Pope Benedict says this is the beginning of Holy Week, which commemorates Jesus Christ's entry into Jerusalem.

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Pope Benedict

Pope Benedict says today not only is Palm Sunday.

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This is Pope Benedict XVI at Palm Sunday services in Vatican City.

This is Pope Benedict XVI speaking in Italian at Palm Sunday services in Vatican City.


NY archbishop defends pope against sex abuse furor

NEW YORK (AP) — New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan has received applause for his remarks at a Palm Sunday Mass defending Pope Benedict against suggestions he aided cover-ups of reports of child abuse.

Dolan read a statement calling the pope the "leader in purification, reform and renewal that the church so very much needs."

Dolan acknowledged that reports of abuse of minors by priests in Europe and Wisconsin had shocked and shamed faithful priests and all sincere Catholics.

The archbishop also denounced what he called "this horror, this vicious sin, this nauseating crime."

But he added: "What deepens the sadness now is the unrelenting insinuations against the Holy Father himself, as certain sources seem almost frenzied to implicate the man."


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Julie Walker, correspondent

New York's Roman Catholic archbishop defends Pope Benedict's handling of the church sex abuse scandal at Palm Sunday Mass. Correspondent Julie Walker reports.

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New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, in Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral

New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan says much of the criticism of Pope Benedict is unfair. ((cut used in wrap))

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New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, in Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral

New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan defended Pope Benedict's handling of the sex abuse scandal and is asking churchgoers at St. Patrick's Cathedral to pray for him.

<<CUT …171 (03/28/10)>> 00:14 "long past? Yes"

New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, in Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral

New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan says the questioning of the church is warranted in the sex abuse scandal, but defends how Pope Benedict is handling the situation.

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Sound of protesters

This is the sound of protesters chanting outside St. Patrick's Cathedral Sunday to call attention to the sex scandal rocking the Catholic church.

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Maria Lombardo

Maria Lombardo says, as a Catholic, she's surprised but glad that New York's Archbishop Timothy Dolan spoke about the sex abuse scandal.

<<CUT …159 (03/28/10)>> 00:05 "very very good"

Marie Walsh

Marie Walsh, who is visiting from Ireland says she's grateful that New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan spoke out about the sex scandal in the Catholic Church. ((note "today" in cut refers to Sunday))

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Joel Lemp

Parishioner Joel Lemp says he's heartened that New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan spoke out about the church's sex abuse scandal.

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Julie Walker, correspondent

New York's Archbishop speaks out about the sex abuse scandal rocking the Catholic church and the Pope, much to the surprise of some Sunday worshipers. Correspondent Julie Walker reports.


Jews begin Passover today at sundown

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israelis and Jews around the world begin observing Passover Monday evening.

The weeklong holiday commemorates the exodus of Biblical Israelites from slavery in Egypt.

In their haste, the Bible says, they could not let their bread rise. So Jews celebrate the holiday by getting rid of all bread and its derivatives. They eat matzah instead -- simple flat squares baked from flour and water. That's the centerpiece of the seder (SAY'-dur) meal on the first night of Passover -- a traditional family gathering.

Christian tradition views Jesus' Last Supper with his apostles as a seder meal before he became what John the Baptist had prophesied: "the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world."


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Mark Lavie (lah-VEE'), AP correspondent

Israelis and Jews around the world are getting ready for Passover, which begins Monday evening. More from AP Correspondent Mark Lavie.

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Steve Coleman

A Closer Look: The Jewish Passover holiday starts this evening. AP Religion Editor Steve Coleman reports.


Pelosi receives warm greeting at San Fran. church

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has celebrated the passage of a national health care bill with a Palm Sunday appearance at a San Francisco church.

Speaking at the Glide Memorial United Methodist Church, Pelosi said passage of the legislation will make health care affordable for the middle class and provide coverage for millions of uninsured Americans.

Congregants filled Glide Memorial to capacity and cheered and applauded throughout her address.

The church was featured in the Will Smith film "The Pursuit of Happyness" and is known for providing meals, health care and other social services to the jobless or homeless.

Pelosi's comments came after congressional Democrats on Friday sent the final piece of legislation to President Barack Obama. He plans to sign it on Tuesday.


Voodooists pray for souls of Haiti earthquake victims

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Hundreds of Voodoo practitioners have chanted, pounded drums and prayed for the souls of the estimated 230,000 people killed in Haiti's earthquake.

The Voodooists walked from a plaza in downtown Port-au-Prince to the shoreline, where they asked for the spirits of the dead to be cleansed in the ocean and sent on their way to reincarnation.

The Jan. 12 earthquake has stirred tensions among Haiti's religions as some of the outpouring of aid has been funneled through Christian groups. A ceremony in a seaside slum last month was disrupted by angry crowds that threw rocks at Voodoo practitioners.

Voodoo followers believe in reincarnation, one God and a pantheon of spirits. Voodoo leaders say that although they do not believe in evil spirits, some followers pray for the spirits to do evil.


Ex-Scientology lawsuits allege labor violations

SAN JACINTO, California (AP) — Inside a gated campus in California, hundreds of Scientology followers work long hours for almost no pay reproducing the works of founder L. Ron Hubbard and creating the church's teaching and promotional materials.

The church says its 5,000 so-called Sea Organization members are religious devotees akin to monks who are exempt from wage requirements and overtime. But two lawsuits filed by two former Sea Org members, as they are known, allege the workers are little more than slave laborers, forced to work 100-hour weeks for pennies and threatened with manual labor if they cause trouble.

The Church of Scientology vehemently denies the allegations and claims the plaintiffs are liars looking for money.


Independent probe sought in mosque leader's death

DETROIT (AP) — Political and civil rights activists are renewing their call for an independent investigation into the fatal shooting of a Michigan mosque leader during an FBI raid.

About 200 people gathered Saturday for a town hall meeting at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit to discuss the October death of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah.

He was shot at least 21 times during a raid on a Dearborn warehouse by FBI agents who said they were investigating Abdullah and several other men in connection with a theft operation.

Abdullah's supporters say it was an act of police brutality aimed at a black Muslim.

One of Abdullah's sons says one of his father's legs was broken.

The Rev. Robert Smith of New Bethel likened Abdullah's killing to those committed by police during the civil rights movement and Detroit riots.