For the past few weeks a small church located among new apartment blocks on the outskirts of St. Petersburg has been visited by thousands of Orthodox Christians eager to see what many have proclaimed as a miracle.

The bones of a 16th-century Russian saint, Alexander of Svira, are, according to the pilgrims, giving off an aromatic resin resembling honey.The Russian Orthodox Church has recognized as authentic the remains of St. Alexander, despite the doubts of some scientists. On Monday, Patriarch Alexei II, the church's leader, visited the small church to see the relics, which were found late last year in the Anatomical Museum of Russia's Military Medical Academy.

Natalya Khmilyova, who works part-time at the church, said the recovery of the relics, 80 years after the church thought they had been lost forever, strengthened faith in the face of difficulties.

"These are very difficult times," she said. "But, all the same, God has not abandoned us and now the relics of St. Alexander of Svira have appeared. This is an amazing event that we have waited a long time for, so glory be to God!"

Patriarch Alexei appeared on television saying that the miracle of the resin flowing from the saint's relics was "the verification of our faith."

Zambia church leaders call

for cancellation of debt

Ecumenical News International

LUSAKA, Zambia - Three major church organizations - the Zambia (Roman Catholic) Episcopal Conference, the Christian Council of Zambia and the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia - have launched a campaign calling for the cancellation of Zambia's foreign debt of $7.1 billion.

A joint pastoral letter, signed by Ignatius Mwebe, secretary general of ZEC, Violet Sampa-Bredt, general secretary of CCZ, and Thomas Lumba, executive director of EFZ, declares: "Zambia's total debt is unpayable. Zambia cannot pay back because the debt burden is economically exhausting. Zambia will not pay back because the debt burden is politically destabilizing, ethically unacceptable and hurts the poorest in our midst."

Mwebe told journalists that "more money is being spent on debt servicing than all education and health expenditures combined. In a country where 70 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, the fact that money is spent on debt servicing, instead of meeting the needs of the people has tragic consequences."

Catholic school can refuse

to admit Buddhist student

Associated Press

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. - A Roman Catholic school doesn't have to admit a 14-year-old Buddhist girl who says her religious beliefs prevent her from receiving immunizations, a judge ruled.

Sarah Metler was accepted to the St. John Vianney school in Holmdel in January but later was denied admission when the Diocese of Trenton discovered she had not had the shots.

Her religious beliefs prevent her from ingesting animal products, including vaccines grown in chicken eggs, she said.

Sarah sought a court order directing the school to admit her, but Superior Court Judge Jack Lintner declined to issue one Tuesday, said lawyer, Edward R. Weinstein.

Weinstein said he did not know whether the girl wants to appeal the ruling or whether she is looking for another school.

A lawyer for the diocese did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

Gay man can keep position

as elder, church court says

Associated Press

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A church court has decided that a gay man may remain in his position as elder.

The decision Tuesday by the highest court of the 2.6 million-member Presbyterian Church ended a legal battle over Ray Whetstone's homosexuality.

Fellow church member Ronald Wier filed a complaint against Whetstone after his ordination in January 1996. Wier cited a church law that banned gays from ordained ministry.

The Permanent Judicial Commission ruled that while the ordination was "irregular," the panel lacked the authority to annul the position.