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Religion news in brief

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Mass. Catholics hold vigil in endangered churches
Convent shuts after helping generations 'overcome'
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Religion News
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Priest in Guam removed over California allegations

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Lunch special: Pope lines up for self-serve meal

AP PHOTOS: Church a haven for Muslims in Gaza

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US condemns forced exile of Christians from Mosul

WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. is condemning Islamic militants who have made thousands of Christians flee for their lives from Iraq's second-largest city.

Last week, the message played over loudspeakers gave the Christians of Mosul until midday Saturday to make a choice: convert to Islam, pay a tax or face death. By the time the deadline expired, the vast majority of them had fled to the largely autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq or other areas protected by Kurdish security forces.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Monday that the U.S. condemns the Islamic State group's persecution of religious minorities, but is "particularly outraged" at the ultimatum it delivered to Mosul's Christians.

Their departure marks the latest - and perhaps final - exodus of Christians from the city, emptying out communities that date back to the first centuries of Christianity, including Chaldean, Assyrian and Armenian churches.

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Israeli leader thanks Christian supporters

WASHINGTON (AP) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel appreciates Christian support as it fights to stop rocket attacks from Gaza.

The Israeli leader spoke by video link to thousands of members of Christians United for Israel at their annual conference in Washington.

Netanyahu said, "You don't fall into the trap of saying, `Well of course we recognize Israel's right of self-defense,' as long as we don't exercise it."

Netanyahu said Hamas and other Islamic groups hate both Jews and Christians, and he told the group that Israel is the only place in the Middle East where Christians are free to practice their faith.

The founder of Christians United for Israel, the Rev. John Hagee, said they'll support the people of Israel "now and forever."

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Report finds Islamic plot to control UK schools

LONDON (AP) - A British government investigation has found evidence that Muslim fundamentalists successfully gained control of some schools to promote aggressive religious values.

The report published Tuesday said some young students in Birmingham, Britain's second-largest city, were encouraged to "adopt an unquestioning attitude to a particular hard-line strand of Sunni Islam."

It also criticized the Birmingham City Council for failing to alert authorities of practices that made teachers worry that pupils were learning to be intolerant of diversity. Investigators did not find any evidence of violent extremism.

The investigation followed an anonymous letter that triggered several inquiries, one of which found "a culture of fear and intimidation" in some Birmingham schools.

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Maryland church built in 1773 ravaged by fire

HEBRON, Md. (AP) - A 241-year-old church on the National Register of Historic Places has been ravaged by fire in Hebron, Maryland.

The state fire marshal's office says the fire was reported at St. Paul's Episcopal Church just before midday Tuesday. Officials say nearly 100 firefighters from Maryland and Delaware fought the flames. No injuries were reported.

The Rev. Ronald Knapp, St. Paul's pastor, told The Daily Times of Salisbury that the wood-frame building that burned had been in place since 1773. A church website says it has been used as a place of worship since before American independence.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

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Evangelical group meets opposition in secular Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - The arrival of an evangelical Christian group in heavily-secular Portland, Oregon, has raised the ire of some residents.

Child Evangelism Fellowship is hosting child-oriented gatherings called Good News Clubs throughout the city this week. The organizers hope to bring in children between the ages of 5 and 12.

Opponents of the group say it presents a fundamentalist view of Christianity that should be rejected. Protect Portland Children took out a full-page newspaper ad to oppose the outreach.

Child Evangelism Fellowship vice president Moises Esteves says the group is trying to engage with a younger audience that may not have heard the gospel message. He says opponents are part of an atheist effort to dismantle Christian outreach.

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