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Religion News Briefs

Mormon leader excommunicated

SALT LAKE CITY — A Mormon church leader was removed from his post and excommunicated Tuesday for the first time in nearly three decades.

James J. Hamula was released from a midlevel leadership council based on disciplinary action by the religion’s highest leaders, said Eric Hawkins, a spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Hawkins didn’t say why Hamula was ousted, but the Utahbased church said it was not for apostasy, which refers to teaching inaccurate doctrine or publicly defying guidance from church leaders.

Efforts to reach Hamula, 59, were not successful.

The last leader to be excommunicated was the late George Lee in 1989 after Lee, an American Indian, called Mormon leaders racist. The church said then that Lee was removed for “apostasy and other conduct unbecoming a member of the church.”

The last church leader removed before Lee was Richard Lyman, who was excommunicated in 1943 for adultery but baptized again 11 years later.

In 2008 Hamula became a member of the General Authority Seventy, a group of nearly 90 leaders who sit below the church president, his two counselors and two other levels of leaders.

Hamula was considered as a candidate to join the high-level Quorum of the Twelve Apostles when the church was filling three vacancies in 2015, said Matthew Bowman, a Mormon scholar and history professor at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia. In recent years, Hamula served in important roles as assistant executive director of church history and executive director of a department that reviews all documents published by the church.

“He had a promising future,” Bowman said.

— The Associated Press

U.S. concerts set for Vatican choir

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican’s Sistine Chapel Choir is embarking on its first U.S. tour in 30 years in September, hoping to show audiences in New York, Washington and Detroit that it has abandoned the habits that earned it a reputation as the “Sistine Screamers.”

The Pontifical Musical Chapel Sistina, colloquially known as the “Pope’s Choir,” bills itself as the world’s oldest choir, part of the tradition of liturgical choirs that have sung for pontiffs since the first centuries of the Roman Catholic Church.

Today, the group of 20 adults and 30 boys performs regularly in the Sistine Chapel below Michelangelo’s masterpieces, at Masses the pope celebrates in St. Peter’s Basilica and for international concert appearances.

Hearing the singers today, it’s hard to imagine that they earned the nickname the “Sistine Screamers” a few years back for their habit of belting out their numbers operatically, relying on volume instead of technique.

“Truly, they were singing in a manner that had no relation to the old music,” choir master Monsignor Massimo Palombella said.

To return the choir to its early glory in the 16th century, when the group attracted the best singers in Europe, Palombella did extensive research. He sifted through the Vatican archives, studying music manuscripts and analyzing the handwriting of Renaissance composers.

These days, the choir once again is drawing talent. Its current members include singers from Poland, Britain, Brazil and Argentina.

— The Associated Press

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