Religion news in brief

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Associated Press

Posted on December 5, 2012 at 4:04 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 5 at 4:07 PM

Hungarian foreign minister slams far-right lawmaker's call to register Jews as security risks

VIENNA (AP) — Hungary's foreign minister said Wednesday that calls by an extreme-right politician to register the country's Jews as potential security risks were "completely unacceptable" and the worst yet in a series attributed to the legislator's party.

Janos Martonyi also denied suggestions that his country was lenient with neo-Nazis and other right-wing extremists, telling reporters "Hungary does not put up with" actions by such groups and individuals.

Martonyi's comments reflect Hungary's attempts to deal with the fallout from the remarks by Marton Gyongyosi of the far-right Jobbik party, which generated headlines across Europe and outraged human rights activists.

Gyongyosi told the legislature last week that it was time "to assess ... how many people of Jewish origin there are here, and especially in the Hungarian parliament and the Hungarian government, who represent a certain national security risk."

Gyongyosi later apologized to "our Jewish compatriots" for his statement, but added that Hungary, a nation of about 10 million people, needs to be wary of "Zionist Israel and those serving it also from here."

Some 550,000 Hungarian Jews were killed in the Holocaust. Hungary's Jewish population is now estimated at 100,000.

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Virgin Mary loses her head in Senegal and president says probe has been launched

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — The Virgin Mary has lost her head and the president of Senegal says investigators are on the case.

The head is missing from a statue of the Virgin Mary at a church in a suburb of the capital, Dakar. Cardinal Theodore Adrien Sarr condemned the desecration Wednesday and called on Catholics to exercise restraint. He said someone removed the head late Saturday in the church courtyard.

President Macky Sall says security forces have launched an investigation.

Nearly 160 graves were damaged in the two largest Christian cemeteries in Dakar nearly two months ago, with crucifixes, statuettes and other pieces made of bronze removed.

Senegal is a predominantly Muslim country in west Africa where Muslims and Christians coexist peacefully.

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Patriarch of Syria-based Eastern Orthodox church, Ignatius Hazim, dies in Beirut at 91

BEIRUT (AP) — Syria's official news agency says the patriarch of a Damascus-based Eastern Orthodox Church, Ignatius Hazim, has died in a Beirut hospital. He was 91.

Hazim was named Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East for the Greek Orthodox in 1979. His church is known as the Greek Orthodox Church of the Antioch.

The SANA news agency says the cause of Hazim's death was a stroke. He died in Beirut's St. George's hospital on Wednesday.

Hazim hailed from the Syrian town of Mhardeh near Hama.

The agency says his remains will be brought from Lebanon to Syria for burial.

There are a number of Eastern Orthodox churches in the Middle East, including Greek Orthodox and Maronite church.

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Baby Jesus figure stolen last year from Pa. Nativity scene is returned; replacement taken

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. (AP) — A baby Jesus figure taken from a Pennsylvania church's Nativity scene last year was found cradled in the arms of a nearby statue, just hours before the replacement statue was swiped.

The vintage figurine was taken last year from outside Chambersburg's Central Presbyterian Church. It was found Sunday in the arms of a bronze Civil War soldier statue across the town square.

A local business had replaced the Jesus statue when the Nativity scene was set up a couple weeks ago. The Chambersburg Public Opinion reports that replacement statue was swiped sometime after services on Sunday.

Congregant Buffy Super calls the statue's return a "Christmas miracle." Another says the church will have to considering securing the statue to deter theft.

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Queen and country over God? Britain's scouts propose new oath to let atheists in

LONDON (AP) — Atheists could be allowed into Britain's boy and girl scouts after more than a century.

Although there have been alternative oaths for Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists for decades, there have been no such exceptions made for atheists. Wayne Bulpitt, the association's chief commissioner in the UK, said the proposed change is meant to keep the group relevant and to encourage membership.

But he said Tuesday the group plans to keep its oath to the queen.

The scouting movement began more than a century ago and now encompasses some 40 million members worldwide.

In October, a San Francisco Bay-area teenager was kicked out of the Boy Scouts because of the organization's national policy of excluding gay members.

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Tennessee governor rebukes critics of Muslim aide, says she has been 'unfairly maligned'

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has issued his strongest defense yet of a Muslim aide who has been criticized for once working in the field of Shariah-compliant finance.

The governor was asked after a speech to a Nashville Republican group on Wednesday whether he was incorporating elements of Islamic law into state government. Those allegations began to emerge after the Haslam administration earlier this year hired Samar Ali to work in the Department of Economic and Community Development.

Haslam said Tuesday that Ali has done nothing to deserve the criticism, and that she has been "incredibly unfairly maligned."

Haslam deputy Claude Ramsey in August wrote a letter to GOP leaders in an effort to dispel confusion over Ali's role and to underline the state's rejection of the promotion of any religion.

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