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Friday Jan. 25, 2002



Pope denounces violence in name of religion as religious leaders pray for peace

Associated Press

Declaring that religious people must repudiate violence following the Sept. 11 attacks, Pope John Paul II led an extraordinary assembly of patriarchs and imams, rabbis and monks yesterday in this historic hilltop town in praying for peace.

Buddhist chants and Christian hymns resounded inside a huge plastic tent decorated with a single olive tree, a symbol of peace, in the home of St. Francis, the medieval monk associated with peace.

About 200 religious leaders accepted the pope's invitation to the daylong retreat and agreed on a joint, 10-point pledge proclaiming that religion must never be used to justify violence.

John Paul, looking down at a display of turbans, veils and yarmulkes from a red-carpeted stage, said religious leaders must fend off "the dark clouds of terrorism, hatred, armed conflict, which in these last few months have grown particularly ominous on humanity's horizon."

He called it "essential" that religious people "in the clearest and most radical way repudiate violence, all violence, starting with the violence that seeks to clothe itself in religion."

"There is no religious goal which can possibly justify the use of violence by man against man," the pope declared.

It was one of the largest gatherings ever of Christian groups, bringing together Catholics, Baptists, Lutherans, Quakers and Mennonites, among others, as well as Orthodox Christians led by the head of the Greek Orthodox Church, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.

They joined representatives of 11 other religions: Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Jianism, Confucianism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism and followers of Tenrikyo and African tribal religions.

The Christians prayed together in the frescoed Lower Basilica of St. Francis, restored after a 1997 earthquake. Others were accommodated in the brick cells of nearby convent near the tomb of St. Francis, with crosses and other religious objects removed for the occasion. Muslims knelt on rugs and prayed in Arabic in a room facing Mecca.


Mother accused of locking daughter in closet pleads guilty to causing serious bodily injury

Associated Press

A mother accused of locking her 8-year-old daughter in a dark, filthy closet for months at a time and starving the girl pleaded guilty yesterday to causing serious bodily injury to a child.

The charges against Barbara Atkinson, 30, carried five years to life in prison. The sentencing phase began in the afternoon.

The surprise plea came on the third day of her trial, shortly after arguments about whether some of the girl's five siblings would testify.

Prosecutors said the girl weighed 25 pounds - the size of a 2-year-old - and was nearly dead when she was found last summer. They showed the jury photos of the girl with a bloated stomach, bony limbs and sunken eyes.

The girl suffered brain atrophy, her muscles were wasting away and she was so malnourished her body could no longer metabolize food, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said the girl was kept in a lice-infested mobile home closet littered with human waste.

Atkinson and her former husband, 34-year-old Kenneth Atkinson, were arrested in June after neighbors alerted authorities. The ex-husband is awaiting trial on charges of serious bodily injury to a child and aggravated sexual assault of a child. He could get up to life in prison.


Pittsburgh man cited for transporting alligators, piranhas

Associated Press

Inspectors at an Interstate 40 agricultural inspection station near the Arizona-California border got quite a surprise when they checked out a vehicle.

They not only found four foot-long alligators, but also a 2 1/2-foot caiman and seven piranha.

Arizona Game and Fish officer David Boyd said Sidney Fellman, 47, of Pittsburgh drove back to Lake Havasu City after being told he couldn't enter California with his cargo.

Game and Fish officers were summoned and they confiscated the reptiles and fish.

Fellman was cited for two counts of possession and transportation of restricted wildlife, Boyd said.



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