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Concerns raised at Ontario court ruling on prayer

A recent Ontario court ruling banning the Lord's Prayer at the beginning of municipal council meetings in Penetanguishene could change the moral tone of local politics, a priest said.

An injunction by the Ontario Court of Appeal Sept. 24 prevents councilors from reciting the Lord's Prayer at the opening of meetings because a non-Christian resident felt intimidated by it. The court agreed with the individual's concern that recitation of the prayer "imposes a Christian moral tone on the deliberations of the council," reported the National Post.

Fr. Jeffrey Masterson, pastor of St. Margaret's Parish in Midland, Ontario, a neighboring town in the northern reaches of the Toronto archdiocese, expressed disappointment at the injunction. "I think it's unfortunate that our Christian traditions are being eroded by a small minority of people," he told the Catholic Register, newspaper of the Toronto archdiocese. "I think in this case it was one man who complained about it." Masterson said he feared the impact the ruling could have on the rest of Canada if other municipal councils take heed.

Pope's Iraq trip unlikely this year, Vatican says

Diplomatic problems have temporarily sidelined Pope John Paul II's hoped-for visit to Iraq later this year, Vatican sources said.

Iraqi bishops were expecting the pope to visit in early December, but Vatican trip organizers have not yet traveled to Baghdad to make logistical preparations. The longer the delay, the more likely the trip will be postponed indefinitely, the sources said Oct. 6.

The sources said diplomatic negotiations on the visit between Vatican and Iraqi representatives were at a virtual impasse.

The negative church assessment came a week after several Iraqi scholars criticized the proposed papal visit in a letter published by the official Iraqi News Agency.

The scholars said they feared the pope could use the trip to excuse Western actions against Arabs and to ask forgiveness of Jewish "atrocities." They said that if the pope does come, he should condemn U.N. economic sanctions against Iraq and the civilian suffering they have caused.

Iraqi officials said the pope would be welcome to visit the country. But agreement on such a trip involves delicate negotiations on details that could have a global impact, such as whether the pontiff would visit Baghdad and shake hands with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Human rights reports says India fails to protect Christians

A recent human rights report criticized the government of India for failing to protect the country's Christian minority against increasing violence.

A report on anti-Christian violence released Sept. 30 by the New York-based Human Rights Watch reviewed attacks against Christian churches and personnel, including the murder of pastors, the rape of nuns and the destruction of places of worship and religious institutions.

It said India's central and state governments have not ensured that Christian communities enjoy "the full protection of their constitutional rights to freedom of religion and equal protection under the law."

"The government has failed to prosecute offending individuals and organizations; instead, it has in many cases offered tacit support and indirect justification for the attacks," said the report.

It identified a pattern behind the more than 100 anti-Christian attacks in India over the last two years: Anti-Christian propaganda conducted by right-wing Hindu groups and local media, the exploitation of communal differences to mask political and economic motives underlying the attacks, state and local government complicity in the attacks, and the failure of the central government to meet its obligations to protect religious minorities.

Meanwhile, without explanation, Indian authorities expelled a U. …