ASSOCIATED PRESS COVERAGE

Jun 24, 12:58 PM EDT

Religion news in brief

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AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

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Mass. Catholics hold vigil in endangered churches
Convent shuts after helping generations 'overcome'
Inside a Voodoo Gede ceremony
Religion News
Pope in US to meet with homeless, prisoners and immigrants

Benedict XVI escapes heat wave, heads to Castel Gandolfo

Federal officials investigate recent fires at black churches

Religious liberty is rallying cry after gay marriage ruling

Conservative churches confront new reality on gay marriage

Report: World Jewish population nears pre-Holocaust level

Pope applauds ecology advocates in Rome from many religions

Authorities investigate fire that destroyed black SC church

Episcopal Church elects first black presiding bishop

Vatican signs treaty with "State of Palestine"

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Obama to go to Charleston to mourn shooting victims

WASHINGTON (AP) - The White House says President Barack Obama will travel to Charleston, South Carolina, to memorialize the victims of last week's shootings at a historic black church.

Obama will deliver the eulogy on Friday at the funeral services of Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the pastor of the Emanuel AME church where the shootings that killed nine people occurred.

Obama and first lady Michelle got to know the slain pastor, who also was state senator, during the 2008 presidential campaign. Pinckney was an early Obama supporter.

Obama last week said the shootings show the need for a national reckoning on gun violence.

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Clinton says Confederate flag has no place in US

FLORISSANT, Mo. (AP) - Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton says last week's slaughter of nine black church members in Charleston, South Carolina, was "an act of racist terrorism perpetrated in a house of God."

In the wake of those shootings, she said the Confederate battle flag is a "symbol of our nation's racist past" that "shouldn't fly anywhere."

Clinton met Tuesday with church members in the St. Louis suburbs, near the violent protests touched off last year in nearby Ferguson after the death of Michael Brown, a young black man who was shot by a white police officer. She urged church members to find ways to turn their grief, anger and despair into purpose and action.

Quoting Scripture, she said, "Do not be overcome with evil but overcome evil with good."

Clinton noted that relatives of those slain in Charleston publicly forgave the accused gunman in obedience to Jesus Christ's command to forgive "70 times 7."

She said the families' "act of mercy was as stunning as his act of cruelty."

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Vatican sets stage for family debate with working document

VATICAN CITY (AP) - The Vatican has set the stage for another round of debate on hot-button issues like gays, divorced Catholics and unmarried couples living together by publishing the working document for its upcoming October synod on family issues.

The document released Tuesday says there's "common agreement" among a broad array of Catholics about the need to offer divorced and civilly remarried Catholics a path of reconciliation to better integrate them into the life of the church, but stresses they can only receive Communion if they refrain from sex. It considers couples who live together not as sinners but as potential candidates for church marriage. The document says gays should be respected and welcomed, as church teaching requires, but goes no further.

On the issue of contraception, the document says "natural" family planning should be taught to ensure "responsible procreation." But it adds that the conscience of each believer also should be taken into account.

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Billy Graham grandson out as pastor in Florida after affair

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) - A Florida megachurch says a grandson of the Rev. Billy Graham has stepped down as its pastor after a "moral failure."

Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church says the Rev. Tullian Tchividjian (chuh-VIHD'-juhn) resigned for actions that "disqualify him from continuing to serve as senior pastor."

The Fort Lauderdale church offered no details, but in a statement to The Washington Post, Tchividjian acknowledged having an affair.

Tchividjian, the son of Billy Graham's daughter Gigi, entered the ministry after years of youthful transgressions.

He became senior pastor of Coral Ridge in 2009 after the death of its founding pastor, the Rev. D. James Kennedy, an evangelical luminary. The much younger Tchividjian's leadership soon divided the church, prompting some members to leave and start a new church.

After the announcement of his resignation, Tchividjian said on Twitter, "Welcome to the valley of the shadow of death...thank God grace reigns here."

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Springfield council tables talk of `In God We Trust' motto

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) - The City Council of Springfield, Missouri, has tabled a proposal to post the national motto "In God We Trust" inside City Hall.

With dozens of people waiting to testify, the council voted Monday night to instead send the issue to the plans and policies committee.

Councilman Justin Burnett proposed posting the motto as a way to recognize the nation's heritage and not to promote a specific religion. Mayor Bob Stephens had suggested "E Pluribus Unum" as an alternative. That phrase means "Out of many, one."

Opponents of "In God We Trust" said posting the national motto in a public government building would violate separation of church and state.

Burnett opposed tabling the issue, saying he wanted to hear audience members' opinions. But other council members voted to delay action and consult with legal advisers.

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