‘Church of the Ark’ Found on West Bank

THE TELEGRAPH, Dec. 4 — Archaeologists claimed to have uncovered one of the world’s first churches, built on a site believed to have once housed the Ark of the Covenant, the London daily reported.

The site, emerging from the soil in a few acres in the hills of the Israeli occupied West Bank, is richly decorated with brightly colored mosaics and inscriptions referring to Jesus Christ. According to the team, led by Yitzhak Magen and Yevgeny Aharonovitch, the church dates to the late fourth century, making it one of Christianity’s first formal places of worship.

“I can’t say for sure at the moment that it’s the very first church,” said Aharonovitch, 38, as he oversaw a team carrying out the final excavations before winter. “But it’s certainly one of the first.” He said the site contained an extremely unusual inscription which referred to itself, Shiloh, by name.

David Rubin, a former mayor of Shiloh, said: “We believe that if they continue to dig they’ll reach back to the time of the Tabernacle,” referring to the portable place of worship where the Israelites housed the Ark.

Catholic Elected as Head of Australia’s Labor Party

THE UNIVERSE, Dec. 5 — Australian Labor Party members voted 49-39 to replace former leader Kim Beazley with 49-year-old Queenslander Kevin Rudd, reported the British newspaper.

Following his election, Rudd, who was educated at the Marist Brothers College in Brisbane, promised to bring “a new leadership style, with fresh ideas, fresh vision and fresh energy.”

Rudd entered Federal Parliament after the 1998 election. He is chairman of the Australian Labor Party’s Caucus Committee on Faith, Values and Politics.

“We have elected a new style of leadership for Australia’s future,” he said. “Our purpose through that is to deliver a new policy agenda for the nation and, in the weeks and months ahead, we will have our sleeves rolled up doing that.”

Christian and Islamic Leaders Agree to Collaborate

UCANEWS, Dec. 1 — Christian and Muslim religious leaders in the southern Philippines dedicated their 30th assembly to preparing common action on environmental concerns, reported the Asian news service.

About 120 Catholic and Protestant bishops, ulama (Islamic scholars), priests and government and diplomatic officials attended the Nov. 28-30 Bishops-Ulama Conference assembly, which had the theme In the Name of the Almighty God of Harmony, Care for the Earth.

Archbishop Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato and Hamid Aminoddin Barra, a professor at Mindanao State University’s King Faisal Center, presented religious bases for the ecological concerns of Christians and Muslims.

All creation is “God’s gift” and “manifests his power, wisdom and love,” the archbishop said, and as God’s gifts for the collective good of humanity, they are to be respected.

“We cooperate with God by restoring, preserving and fostering the harmonious relationship that was there at the beginning,” Archbishop Quevedo continued, citing passages from Genesis. “Sin has destroyed our relationship to creation and to God. It has to be restored.”