Anti-Catholic Irish Leader Invited to White House

NEW YORK POST, March 14 — President Bush invited an array of Irish leaders on St. Patrick's Day, including Northern Ireland Protestant preacher and political activist the Rev. Ian Paisley, the New York daily reported.

It was Paisley's first White House invitation. He has called the Catholic Church “an instrument of the devil,” among other epithets.

The meeting was an attempt to strengthen Irish peace talks. New York State Rep. Peter King, who has been involved in the peace process, said, “I have nothing but contempt for Ian Paisley.” However, King added, “I have no problem with him being invited to the White House” for peace negotiations, “only because I think all the parties should be invited.”

How Americans Worship

THE WASHINGTON POST, March 14 — The largest study ever taken of American congregations has found some surprising results, the Washington daily reported.

Smaller U.S. religions, including Islam, Judaism and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are growing fast. Evangelical Protestant congregations are also surging, unlike the declining mainline Protestant groups. Catholic and Eastern Orthodox congregations have built few new churches, although the survey found that Catholic churches tended to house the biggest congregations of any faith.

Nearly two-thirds of the congregations maintained strong ties to their religious denominations, debunking claims that people are unwilling to affiliate themselves with established religious groups.

Congregations that take “strong public stands on morality” tend to grow, and to have financial stability, the survey found. Social ministries and use of contemporary music styles in worship also drew high memberships.

Chinese Hymns Get Rare Public Hearing in Pa.

THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, March 18 — Americans got a rare chance to hear the hymns of China's underground Protestant “house church movement” at the Westminster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia daily reported.

Accompanied by piano and violin, ten Chinese students at the seminary sang in Mandarin lyrics such as, “O God, my God, have mercy on the church of China!” The term “house church” refers to the underground Protestant fellowships that operate out of members' houses because they are forbidden to set up public churches.

The students performed as part of Westminster's 10th annual Contemporary Issues Conference, “The Transforming Word: The Bible in World Cultures.” One of the singers was arrested in 1996 for evangelizing in China.

The Chinese government operates official churches of its own, including a “Catholic Church” that is not in communion with Rome. Many priests and bishops loyal to Rome have been jailed in the government's “laogai reform camps for saying Mass.