Religion news in brief

Apollo 8 astronaut marks 1968 broadcast to earth

CHICAGO (AP) — An astronaut who was aboard the first manned spacecraft to orbit the moon has marked the mission's 45th anniversary in front of the actual spacecraft.

Retired Captain James Lovell Jr. re-enacted the Apollo 8's live Christmas Eve broadcast from 1968. During that broadcast, astronauts read the first ten verses of the book of Genesis from the Bible.

On Monday, Lovell and several high school students took turns reading in front of an Apollo 8 module that's housed at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. Lovell says they chose Genesis because it's central to three major world religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

According to NASA, millions tuned in during the original broadcast.

Lovell was a command module pilot on Apollo 8 and went on to be commander of Apollo 13.

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Huckabee supports "Duck Dynasty" patriarch

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee says "Duck Dynasty" patriarch Phil Robertson's suspension by the A&E network shows that "militant activist groups" want to silence the kind of biblical views that Barack Obama expressed when he was running for president in 2008.

On Fox News Sunday, Huckabee said that when Obama spoke in 2008 at Saddleback Church, he "made it very clear that he opposed same-sex marriage, and he said he did so because he was a Christian and because of his biblical views."

In that appearance, Obama told Pastor Rick Warren, "I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman," and added, "For me as a Christian, it's also a sacred union. You know, God's in the mix."

Huckabee has launched an online petition calling on A&E to reinstate Robertson to the hit reality series.

He said Christians don't consider homosexual acts worse than other sins, and believe that all people are sinners in need of God's forgiveness.

Huckabee sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 and has said that he may run again in 2016.

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Abbas says Jesus was a 'Palestinian messenger'

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) — In a Christmas message, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has referred to Jesus as a "Palestinian" messenger of hope.

Few scholars dispute that Jesus was Jewish. But Palestinian officials said Abbas used the term in a historic context, applying to all those in the Holy Land at the time, regardless of religion.

Abbas' emailed comments Monday appeared to be part of an effort to reach global public opinion and strengthen links between the Palestinian and Christian narratives.

Abbas said Jesus was a "Palestinian messenger who would become a guiding light for millions."

A majority of Palestinians including Abbas are Muslims, but he and his predecessor Yasser Arafat have called for unity of Palestinian Christians and Muslims.

Bethlehem, the traditional birthplace of Jesus, is a Palestinian town in the West Bank.

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Mormon-centric Utah epicenter for food storage

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Storing away food and water in case of disaster, job loss or something worse is part of the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but non-Mormons also are increasingly buying survival kits of packaged foods.

Matthew Bowman, assistant professor of religion at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, says the Mormon emphasis on self-reliance dates back to the mid-1800s when food storage began as a pragmatic way to ensure survival as church members trekked across the country to Salt Lake City.

Bowman says by the mid-1900s, church leaders worried about nuclear war and encouraged members to have a two-year supply of food.

In the last two decades, the focus on food storage has shifted back to practicality.

Rick Foster, manager of North America Humanitarian Services with the LDS church, says storing away food is now "about helping all of us individually to get through these bumps that occur in our lives." He says if Mormons are prepared, they can help themselves and others in times of need.

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Ho Ho Holy: 2 popes exchange Christmas greetings

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has visited his predecessor, Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, to exchange Christmas greetings.

Photos released by the Vatican newspaper show the two men, dressed in identical white robes save for Francis' cape, chatting in a sitting room inside Benedict's retirement home during the visit Monday. They also prayed together in the adjoining chapel. Benedict was looking well, using a cane for support while they stood in prayer.

It is the first time the interior of Benedict's home has been shown publicly: The sitting room and furniture were all white. An Advent wreath decorated the coffee table.

Since Benedict's retirement in February, the two men have met only once publicly, for an official Vatican ceremony in July. They also have met privately and occasionally have spoken by telephone.