A notable side attraction at the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 was the Parliament of Religions, gotten up by the Rev. John Henry Barrows of Chicago. Opened with a prayer by the late great James Cardinal Gibbons, the Parliament brought to the U. S. for the first time such exotic foreign religionists as the Swami Vivekananda. To the U. S. popular mind it gave the first smatterings of an esoteric subject, Comparative Religions, and the first inklings that Oriental faiths, after all, had their points.
For the 1933 World's Fair in Chicago there was some talk of duplicating the original Parliament. Nothing came of it. Piety at the Fair is represented by Christian Scientist and Roman Catholic exhibits, and a long, L-shaped Hall of Religions with a Gothic tower, containing such churchly wares as Protestants have cared to show (notably the silver Chalice of Antioch which may have been the Holy Grail, and Col. Henry Stanley Todd's virile portrait of ChristTIME, April 17). Nearest thing to a Parliament is a corollary to the Fair which opened last week at the Hotel Morrison-the World Fellowship of Faiths.
Fathered by a bushy-haired, oldtime social worker named Charles Frederick Weller and a chubby little Hindu named Kedernath Das Gupta, the World Fellowship has for chairman famed Methodist Bishop Francis John McConnell, for honorary presidents Jane Addams and Herbert Hoover (who let his name be used "if anyone thought it would be of any help").
Last week in the Cameo Ballroom of the Hotel Morrison, speakers of all creeds and colors, many of them world-famed, arose one by one. Before the sessions ended there were to have been 263 of them.
A distinguished visitor was "the seventh richest man in the world," the temporal and spiritual head of nearly 2,500,000 Hindus and MoslemsHis Highness Sir Sayaji Rao III, the Maharaja Gaekwar of Baroda. In his Who's Who paragraph the bulky, 70-year-old Gaekwar notes that he "receives a salute of 21 guns." When he visited the World's Fair last week, to his and its immense delight he got his salute. Fair President Rufus Dawes had soldiers drawn up along Michigan Avenue and marched with the Gaekwar in pomp befitting the Fair's first visiting chief-of- state.
Reputed the most progressive of Indian potentates, first (40 years ago) to make universal education compulsory, and lately to permit divorces, the Gaekwar has amazed his Hindus by building a mosque for Mohammedans, amazed both sects by sitting down with Untouchables. Last week in Chicago, having told the World Fellowship that any religion needs first ''decodingthat the modern man may understand it, and then 'debunking' that the modern man may respect it," the Gaekwar received the Press in his bungalow atop the Hotel Morrison.