World Media Watch

‘Oldest Church in the World’ Unearthed?

HA'ARETZ, Nov. 7 — A mosaic and the remains of a building uncovered recently in excavations on the Megiddo prison grounds may belong to the earliest Christian church in the world, Ha'aretz reported

Photographs of three Greek inscriptions in the mosaic were sent to Hebrew University expert professor Leah Di Segni. “I was told these were Byzantine,” Di Segni said, “but they seem much earlier than anything I have seen so far from the Byzantine period. It could be from the third or the beginning of the fourth century.”

Christian rituals were prohibited in the Roman Empire prior to the year 313 A.D., and Christians had to pray in secret in catacombs or private homes. The earliest churches, dating from around 330 A.D., are the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, the Nativity in Bethlehem, and Alonei Mamre near Hebron, which were built by Emperor Constantine I.

A pottery vessel discovered at the site confirmed Di Segni's dating; she said, however, that the church's age can only be determined with certainty after excavators reach the level below the floor. She said, “The problem is that in Israel we have no mosaic inscriptions from this period, and they will have to be compared with inscriptions from Antioch or Rome.”

Democracy Movement Seeks New Showdown

THE NEW YORK TIMES, Nov. 7 — Bishop Joseph Zen and a group of local Protestant leaders called for citizens to join a protest march on Dec. 4 against plans by Hong Kong's chief executive, Donald Tsang, to expand the security legislature and make other constitutional changes, The New York Times reported.

Bishop Zen and the Protestant leaders also urged lawmakers to block the plan in the legislature, saying that the government's proposal would not bring Hong Kong any closer to electing its leaders through a fully democratic process.

The government's proposal calls for expanding the Legislative Council to 70 members, with five of the new members to be chosen by general elections and the other five to be selected by the city's 529 district councilors. Tsang, a daily communicant, appoints 102 of these district councilors, and the rest are chosen in neighborhood elections.

Bishop Zen's criticism represents his most public opposition to Tsang, a personal friend, since Tsang became acting chief executive in March and then chief executive in July. But that didn't stop the bishop for calling for a democratic vote.

Universal suffrage “is just like climbing up a mountain — our goal is to reach the peak,” Bishop Zen told The Times. “This proposal is just guiding us round and round making pleasure jaunts rather than moving towards the peak. It is a waste of time.”

Czech Bishops Protest Stem-Cell Legislation

PRAVDA, Nov. 9 — The Czech Republic's Catholic bishops condemned legislation that would allow the use of embryonic stem cells for research purposes currently debated in the parliament, Pravda reported.

“We express our serious worries over the currently debated draft concerning the use of human embryonic stem cells in research,” the Czech Bishops’ Conference said in a statement placed on its Web site. Last month, the lower chamber of the parliament agreed to discuss the legislation, sending the draft bill for a second reading.

The Czech Republic currently has no laws addressing the issue.

If approved by both chambers of the Czech parliament and by the president, the bill would allow the use of embryonic stem cells for research purposes, but would ban cloning. Violations would be punishable by up to eight years in prison.

In their statement, the bishops also called on all Czech citizens to closely watch “the work of their elected representatives … and to remind them of their moral obligations.”

The Earth is Not Our Mother

“The main point of Christianity was this: that Nature is not our mother: Nature is our sister. We can be proud of her beauty, since we have the same father; but she has no authority over us; we have to admire, but not to imitate.”—G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy