This Week in Religion History - Feb. 17-23

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This week in religion history - Feb. 17-23

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Feb. 17

In 1858, the Waldensians, considered by many to be the first Protestants and who lived in the Italian Alps and survived through persecution for 800 years, were finally guaranteed civil and religious rights. They trace their beginnings back to the teachings of a wealthy merchant named Pater Waldo in the late 1100s, and thus are considered by many scholars to be `the oldest evangelical church.'

In 1989, Ottawa temporarily blocked the import of Salman Rushdie's novel, "The Satanic Verses," which Muslims felt was blasphemous.

In 2012, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Quebec's mandatory ethics and religious course did not violate freedom of religion. A Drummondville couple argued the class violated their freedom of religion by forcing their children to be exposed to religious beliefs that were different from the family's.

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Feb. 18

In 1546, Martin Luther, the leader of the Protestant Reformation in Germany, died.

In 1564, Michelangelo Buonarroti, an Italian Renaissance artist whose works include the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, died in Rome.

In 1678, Puritan preacher John Bunyan published "The Pilgrim's Progress," the bestselling book (apart from the Bible) in history.

In 1688, the Quaker community in Germantown, Pa., issued the first formal North American protest of slavery.

In 1984, Italy and the Vatican signed an agreement under which Roman Catholicism ceased to be the state religion of Italy.

In 2012, Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins was among 22 men elevated to the position of cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican. Collins became the 16th Canadian to reach that elite level.

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Feb. 19

In 1377, John Wycliffe went on trial in London's St. Paul's Cathedral after arguing against the sale of indulgences, the worship of saints and the veneration of relics. He was never convicted as a heretic.

In 1732, religious houses in New France were forbidden to shelter fugitives from justice.

In 2010, Pope Benedict approved the sainthood for Montreal's Brother Andre, the founder of St. Joseph's Oratory who was credited with miracle healings before his death in 1937. Formal canonization took place Oct. 17 in Rome.

In 2010, comments by music legend Elton John in an interview posted on the website of the U.S. magazine "Parade" caused consternation among many Christians. John said, "I think Jesus was a compassionate, super-intelligent gay man who understood human problems." The Catholic League condemned the comments, saying that to call Jesus a homosexual is to "label him a sexual deviant."

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Feb. 20

In 1790, Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II died. This left a leadership vacuum that eventually led to a series of revolutions that resulted in the end of the Christian empire.

In 1906, an appeal court upheld the conviction of a Woodstock, Ont. woman on a charge of practising voodoo.

In 2004, hard-line clerics in Iran won a majority in parliamentary elections boycotted by reformers to protest against the disqualification of more than 2,000 candidates and 87 sitting members of parliament. …