Indian bishops draft 'zero tolerance' abuse policy

CHENNAI, India -- Reacting to the Catholic church's spreading sex abuse scandal, bishops in India have drafted new guidelines that include a zero-tolerance policy for guilty priests.

The draft guidelines emerged from the Catholic Bishops Conference of India's meeting in Bangalore which ended April 28. The draft will be sent to the Vatican for approval before being finalized in June.

Dalai Lama talks of complete retirement

Chennai, India -- The Dalai Lama said Dec. 17 that the movement he has led for nearly five decades should now be guided by the prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

"I have grown old and already taken semi-retirement. It is better if I retire completely and get out of the way of the Tibetan movement," he told reporters in Dharamsala, India, where he has lived since fleeing Tibet in 1959.

"The future course of the Tibetan movement will be decided by the elected government under Prime Minister Samdhong Rinpoche," the 73-year-old Buddhist leader added. His complete retirement would strengthen democracy in Tibet, the Dalai Lama said.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner's remarks came a month after a key conclave of nearly 600 exiled Tibetan leaders. The Tibetan exiles reaffirmed the Dalai Lama's "middle way" of seeking greater cultural autonomy for Tibet while remaining under Chinese rule. China calls the Buddhist leader a "splittist" and says the Himalayan region has historically been part of China.

Girl named by Nepal's Mao government 'living goddess'

A 6-year-old girl has been named by Nepal's new Maoist-led government as a "living goddess," or Kumari, in a town near the capital of Kathmandu.

For centuries, the chief priest of the Nepali monarchy appointed the Kumaris in several towns in the Kathmandu valley. However, with the abolition of the monarchy and the country becoming a republic last May, that position has also disappeared.

Officials at the state-run trust overseeing cultural affairs appointed 6-year-old Shreeya Bajracharya as the new Kumari of the temple town of Bhaktapur. "The government authorized us to appoint the Kumari, and we have done that for the first time," said Deepak Bahadur Pandey, a senior official of the trust.

Shreeya, who is described as "pretty and nice," was "enthroned" Sunday (Sept. 28) amid prayers by Buddhist priests, and will be worshipped by Hindus and Buddhists alike until she reaches puberty.

Devotees worship a Kumari for protection; they also believe that her blessings can cure illness. The Kumaris, who are regarded as incarnations of the goddess Kali, always wear red and have a "third eye" on their foreheads.