Latest Religious Messages 

More than 5,000 Christians have joined the Hollywood Prayer Network to pray anonymously for the spiritual transformation of certain troubled celebrities, according to a November Chicago Sun-Times report. Also, an "Incognito Prayer Network," whose members wear "90028" bracelets with Hollywood's ZIP code, will assign celebrities to members who are touched by a particular star. Even in the face of criticism, members stand firm. Said one, "I don't know if I could turn off this compassion that I feel (for a particular celebrity). I'm called to do this, so I do."

In Russia, at least two eccentric Christian sects are in the news: Thirty members of a cult devoted to the mesmerizing, diagnosed-schizophrenic Pyotr Kuznetsov have holed up in a cave in the Penza region since Nov. 7, awaiting the end of the world in May 2008 (though Kuznetsov has asked them publicly to come out).

And a group in the city of Nizhny Novgorod worships outgoing president Vladimir Putin as the incarnation of the Apostle Paul and King Solomon. "We didn't choose Putin," said one devotee. "... God himself has chosen him!"

Writer David Farley said he is investigating the 1983 disappearance of the "Holy Prepuce," which is a patch of the foreskin of Jesus and supposedly was the only body part he might have left on Earth. Until it went missing, it was the centerpiece of each January's Feast of the Holy Circumcision at the Church of the Most Holy Name of Jesus in Calcata, Italy. Several theories persist about its disappearance, the most enduring of which is that it was swiped on orders from the Vatican, which was troubled by the attention it had historically received, according to a December Religion News Service dispatch.

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