Pilgrims going to Rome for the Jubilee Year 2000 celebrations can earn a "plenary indulgence" for their sins even before they get out of the airport. An airport room about the size of an office cubicle contains a few benches, candles, a crucifix and an icon of the Virgin Mary. According to The Wall Street Journal, a sign on the door says, "Oh, you who are entering here, gain all hope!"--an adaptation of the sign that , according to Dante, greets those destined for the inferno. "Why endure all the chaos and the cars going to the center of Rome if you can gain exactly the same thing with us, without leaving the airport?" said Rev. Alberico Papi, the airport's deputy chaplain.

There's no business
like show business, grasshopper

Shaolin monks from central China are gambling that an entertaining display of martial arts in Las Vegas can help refurbish their 1,500-year-old monastery. The monks--who actually don't gamble--went to "sin city" not only to raise money but to act as a cultural exchange, with the blessing of the Communist Chinese government. "As a monk, you take every corner of the globe as your home," Jian Wang, the monks' manager and interpreter, told the Associated Press. Shaolin monks were the inspiration of the 1970s TV program King Fu, and their show at the MGM Grand hotel-casino features breaking granite with their hands, walking on knives and snapping iron bars over their heads.

From the 'I thought sports
builds character' dept.
  Minnesota Vikings quarterback Randall Cunningham is a backup on the field but insists that in the recording studio, he was the main man.  Cunningham could face a lawsuit that accuses him of wrongly taking credit for producing and writing songs on a gospel CD he volunteered to work on during the offseason. New Jersey record executive Phil Hurtt says he produced the CD and that Teddy Johnson an artist Hurtt manages helped write several songs.

When the CD came out, according to a story from The Associated Press, Cunningham was listed as the sole producer and songwriter. The 36-year-old Pro Bowl veteran denies the allegations made by Hurtt, and said Hurtt has never complained to him. Hurtt also says Cunningham interfered with Johnson's contract by luring him to move to Las Vegas, where Cunningham is building a recording studio, and join in Cunningham's music ventures. Hurtt says he plans to sue.

In 1999, Cunningham made a CD for Christian Athletes United for Spiritual Empowerment, an outreach ministry of professional athletes headed by the Rev. Keith Johnson, chaplain for the Vikings. Keith Johnson said that the CD was Cunningham's idea and that Cunningham wrote all of the songs for which he was given credit. He said Cunningham hoped the CD, "Experience the Power of God,'' would inspire athletes in their faith.

"It was a ministry tool, not a moneymaking venture,'' Johnson said of the CD, which cost $70,000 to produce.

Cunningham acknowledges that he didn't have any studio experience before the project, but he said that "God showed me what to do.'' He said Hurtt mixed the music, per their agreement, but "as producer'' he told Hurtt what he wanted.

"There's no deception,'' Cunningham said. "I was sent to produce the CD, and I produced the CD. The music was meant to be a blessing to people. And now this.''

Speed Demon
"The devil made me do it" was one excuse that didn't work for French priest Father Laguerie. He is reported to have claimed that he had been driving along innocently on his way to give a lecture on the evils of alcohol, sex and drugs, when the car suddenly picked up speed. The father is quoted in The Scotsman newspaper as saying the car was possessed, and he could only assume "some evil force took over". He was still fined for speeding.

Put it on a barge in the channel
and let 'em walk out to get it

When Jesus returns at his second coming, He'll have enough money for a sports car and a condo in Palm Springs, thanks to an admirer in Portsmouth, England, Ernest Digweed died 16 years ago and left his entire estate to Jesus Christ. He instructed the State Trustee Office to invest his money in government bonds, guaranteeing Jesus a current total yield of $615,820. Digweed's heirs are contesting the will, and have offered an unusual solution: an insurance policy in the same amount payable to Jesus upon his return. Since then, another problem has cropped up. Two individuals, each insisting that he is Jesus reincarnated, have filed claims for the money.

It must be in the parable of
the rich young investment banker...

Tennessee Congressman Zach Wamp, who has been asked to develop a draft of the Republican Party's national prosperity platform, said the formula should be based on "biblical truths." One of the main points in the platform, he said, is that competition is the "fuel of prosperity. "We must have more competitive markets, not less," Wamp said.

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