VATICAN CITY (AP) – The Vatican is endorsing new technology that brings the book of daily prayers used by priests straight onto iPhones.

The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Social Communications is embracing the iBreviary, an iTunes application created by a technologically savvy Italian priest, the Rev. Paolo Padrini, and an Italian Web designer.

The application includes the Breviary prayer book – in Italian, English, Spanish, French and Latin and, in the near future, Portuguese and German. Another section includes the prayers of the daily Mass, and a third contains various other prayers.

After a free trial period in which the iBreviary was downloaded approximately 10,000 times in Italy, an official version was released earlier this month, Padrini said.

The application costs $1.10, while upgrades will be free. Padrini’s proceeds are going to charity.

Monsignor Paul Tighe, secretary of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Social Communications, praised the new application, saying the church “is learning to use the new technologies primarily as a tool or as a means of evangelizing, as a way of being able to share its own message with the world.”

Polish president makes historic synagogue visit for Hanukkah

WARSAW, Poland (AP) – Poland’s president celebrated Hanukkah by visiting Warsaw’s main synagogue, a gesture the Jewish community considered a historic step in its revival.

Lech Kaczynski’s visit marked the first time the head of state has attended a religious service at a synagogue in Poland, whose Jewish population was nearly wiped out in the Holocaust and later suffered from communist-era repression.

The visit “means we’re in a normal country … a country that treasures that it has citizens of different religions and of different backgrounds,” said Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich.

Kaczynski, a Roman Catholic, entered Warsaw’s century-old Nozyk synagogue just after sundown Dec. 21, when the eight-day holiday began. The congregation rose and a group of Jewish children sang “Shalom Aleichem” – “peace be upon you.”

Wearing a yarmulke, Kaczynski strode to the front of the synagogue, where he sat as a choir sang the Polish national anthem and a song in Yiddish – the language spoken by many of the nearly 3.5 million Jews who lived in Poland before World War II.

Poland was a haven for Jews for nearly 1,000 years, and was home to Europe’s largest community before the war. Most were killed in the ghettos and death camps that Nazi Germany set up after it invaded Poland in 1939, at the war’s start. In the nearly 20 years since communism fell, the community has enjoyed new vitality, with Jews returning to their roots.

Reason for the season: Kansas City-area pastor urges flock to dress like Jesus at Christmas

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – Hundreds of people in the Kansas City area dressed like Jesus in the days leading up to Christmas to emphasize the religious significance of the holiday.

Members of Praise Chapel Christian Fellowship began showing up at their jobs, shopping malls and restaurants wearing flowing robes and crowns of thorns.

“We are just showing people on the outside what we are on the inside,” said pastor Kelly Lohrke, whose church holds services at two sites in Kansas City, Kan., and Lee’s Summit, Mo.

At services on Dec. 14, Lohrke told his evangelical congregation of his plan to dress like Jesus. He then asked church members to come forward if they could participate. About 400 did.

Lohrke has since dressed like Jesus at a Starbucks, a Target store and a post office.

A video of shoppers dressed like Jesus was posted on YouTube. In response, Lohrke said a few churches in the Los Angeles and Portland, Ore., areas called and said they planned to ask members to dress like Jesus, too.

Catholic diocese, in bankruptcy, faces 288 sex abuse claims

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) – The Diocese of Fairbanks, which is under bankruptcy protection, received 288 claims from people who said they had been molested by Roman Catholic clergy.

A Dec. 2 deadline for claims was imposed when the diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this year. The number of claims was reported by Catholic News Service.

The diocese said it sought bankruptcy protection this past February because it could not reach a financial settlement over the 150 or so abuse claims it had received at the time. The claims related to cases largely dating between the 1950s and 1980s.

In 2007, the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits, agreed to pay $50 million to more than 100 Alaska Natives who said they had been molested as children by Jesuit priests.

However, the cases did not include claims of negligence against the Fairbanks diocese, which owned and managed the parishes in the rural Alaska villages where the Jesuit priests worked.

Fairbanks was the sixth U.S. diocese to seek bankruptcy protection in the face of sex abuse claims. The Fairbanks diocese oversees 47 parishes and 14,500 parishioners in what is – geographically – the largest diocese in the U.S. It spans more than 400,000 square miles.

Coroner: Performer’s clothing kept harness from locking before her fatal fall at Ohio church

CINCINNATI (AP) – The coroner in Cincinnati said that a flying performer’s safety harness wasn’t completely fastened when she suffered a fatal fall during a Christmas pageant.

Hamilton County Coroner O’dell Owens said Tuesday that a small piece of tape and part of Keri Shryock’s costume got in the way and kept the clasp on the harness from locking.

Owens indicated that Shryock hooked herself in while the lights were down and apparently didn’t realize there was a problem.

The coroner said the harness came undone after the 23-year-old Xavier University graduate student was lifted into the air during the show the week before the holiday at a Cincinnati megachurch. Shryock, a native of the Toledo area, fell about 25 feet to a concrete floor and died at a hospital the next day.

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