Huge Cross Erected at Russian-Chinese Border

UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL, Nov. 27 — A 19-foot-tall Orthodox cross has been placed at the junction of Russia’s border with China and Mongolia in the Baikal region of Eastern Siberia, reported UPI.
The metal structure, weighing more than a ton, carries the inscription “Save, O God, Thy People,” the official Russian news agency Itar-Tass reported.

The head of Russia’s Federal Security Service’s border department said the cross is intended to be an inspiration to guards patrolling the 1,800-mile border. It is also designed to mark the revival of spirituality of the population on the Russian border, said Maj.-Gen. Nikolai Volkov, head of the border department. Border guards in the Baikal region face winter temperatures of 40 degrees below zero and summer temperatures that rarely reach above 40 degrees.

China Appoints Bishop Without Vatican Approval 

ASSOCIATED PRESS, Nov. 28 — China has appointed a new bishop without Vatican approval and ordained him Nov. 30, in a move likely to further set back efforts to forge better relations between Beijing and the Vatican, The Associated Press reported.

China and the Vatican do not have diplomatic relations. A major stumbling block to better ties has been China’s refusal to recognize the sole authority of the Holy See to appoint bishops.

Liu Bainian, deputy chairman of the government-backed Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, said that Wang Renlei had been appointed as a bishop in Xuzhou, Jiangsu province, in eastern China. Wang is currently vicar-general of the Xuzhou Diocese.

“Because China and the Vatican do not have diplomatic relations, China has elected its own bishops over many years,” Liu said. “We cannot wait until China and the Vatican establish relations to select a bishop.”

Father Bernardo Cervellera, head of Asia News, a Vatican-affiliated news agency, said the appointment was a “violent gesture against freedom of religion.” He said in an e-mail, “It is a sign of the weakness of the Chinese government and tension in the Chinese society.”

Couples in France Prefer Love Without Marriage

THE WASHINGTON POST, Nov. 21 — In France, the country that evokes more images of romance than perhaps any other, marriage has increasingly fallen out of favor, The Post reported.

Growing numbers of couples are choosing to raise children, buy homes and build family lives without religious or civil approval of their partnerships. In the past generation, the French marriage rate has plunged more than 30%, even as population and birthrates have been rising.

France’s two highest-profile female politicians live with well-known partners they have not married. Ségolène Royal, who last month won the Socialist Party nomination for president in next year’s election, and Francois Hollande, the party’s leader, have had four children during their 25 years of cohabitation. French Defense Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie, another possible presidential contender, has spent nearly 22 unmarried years living with Patrick Ollier, a member of the National Assembly.

French marriage rates are 45% below U.S. figures. In 2004, the most recent year for which figures are available, the marriage rate in France was 4.3 per 1,000 people, compared with 5.1 in the United Kingdom and 7.8 in the United States. The only European countries with rates lower than France’s were Belgium, at 4.1, and Slovenia, with 3.3. Last year, 59% of all first-born French children were born to unwed parents.