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Issue Date:  April 4, 2008


Poll: Pope unknown to most

WASHINGTON -- Most Americans hold a favorable opinion of Pope Benedict XVI, but the vast majority confess they don’t know much about him, according to a new poll.

Just weeks before Benedict’s first trip to the United States as leader of the Roman Catholic church, 58 percent of Americans say they have a favorable or “very favorable” opinion of him.

But when asked how much they know about the 80-year-old German, 52 percent said “not very much,” and nearly 30 percent said “nothing at all.”

Benedict is to visit Washington and New York April 15-20.

Forty-two percent of Americans said they would like to attend one of Benedict’s public appearances, according to the survey, which was conducted by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion and financed by the Knights of Columbus. Sixty-six percent of Catholics said the same.

More than 70 percent of Americans look forward to hearing Benedict talk about spiritual matters such as God’s presence in daily life, spiritual fulfillment and how to positively affect the world.

-- CNS/Reuters/Erin Siegal

4,000 U.S. troops killed in Iraq
San Francisco residents and Veterans for Peace gather in San Francisco March 24 for a candlelight vigil to honor the 4,000 Americans killed in the Iraq war. Bishop Gabino Zavala, the bishop president of Pax Christi USA, issued a statement March 19 marking the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. The statement reads in part: “Nothing can restore the precious lives which have been lost and damaged on all sides in this war, nor quickly repair the ripped apart social fabric of an ancient nation. But a change in U.S. policy to support a multilateral and diplomatic peace process offers the best hope for beginning to heal the divisions created by five years of war and occupation. Coupled with redoubling our economic support for Iraqi-led reconstruction, such policy changes are more likely to lead to stability and, in the long run, strengthen international cooperation and the global common good.” Zavala is an auxiliary bishop of the Los Angeles archdiocese.

Faith-healing law to be tested

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The case of a 15-month-old girl who died for lack of medical treatment could become the first test of a state law that disallows faith healing at the expense of a child’s life.

Ava Worthington died March 2 at home in Oregon City from bacterial bronchial pneumonia and infection, according to Dr. Christopher Young, a deputy state medical examiner. Both conditions could have been prevented or treated with antibiotics, he said.

The child’s breathing was further compromised by a benign cyst that had never been medically addressed and could have been removed from her neck, Young said.

Child-abuse detectives recently referred investigative findings to prosecutors, who are evaluating the case in light of a 1999 law that was passed after several faith-healing deaths of children.

If prosecuted, Ava’s parents would be the first members of the Followers of Christ, a fundamentalist Christian denomination, to face criminal charges for failing to seek medical treatment for a gravely ill child.

-- CNS/Catholic Courier/Mike Crupi

Hair to share
Kindergartner Ashley Brown gets her hair measured to find out if she’s eligible to donate it to Locks of Love March 19 at All Saints Academy in Corning, N.Y. Locks of Love is a nonprofit organization that provides wigs for children who lose their hair for medical reasons. Four students and one teacher had their hair cut in front of the entire school.


Archbishop admits to affair

CAPE TOWN, South Africa -- Zimbabwean Archbishop Pius Ncube, who resigned as archbishop of Bulawayo last year after a sex scandal, has admitted he had an affair with a woman.

The archbishop, one of the most outspoken critics of Zimbabwe’s political leadership, made the admission to an independent film production company in Zimbabwe before he boarded a plane for Rome in November 2007. The archbishop’s remarks from the interview appeared in a March 23 story in the Scottish newspaper The Sunday Herald.

In the piece, Ncube apologized to the people of Zimbabwe, saying that “so many of you were praying for me” and “that so many of you standing with me in fact suffered so much.”

Alouis Chaumba, head of Zimbabwe’s Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, said news of Ncube’s admission “is very depressing, to say the least. ... Everything about it -- that this is what took place, that he is not here anymore.” Chaumba spoke by phone March 25 from the Zimbabwean capital, Harare.

Ncube is thought to be living secretly in Great Britain.

Chinese Catholics acknowledged

ROME -- Pope Benedict XVI made a prominent though indirect reference to the plight of Chinese Catholics during Holy Week by choosing Hong Kong’s Cardinal Joseph Zen to write the meditations for the traditional Good Friday Stations of the Cross service in Rome’s Coliseum.

Chinese Catholics, who are estimated to number between 12 million and 15 million, have been divided for half a century between an “official” church controlled by Beijing and an “underground” church loyal to Rome, many of whose leaders have been imprisoned by the government.

Zen, a prominent critic of the Chinese government, told the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano that he thought the pope had chosen him for the task in order to “bring to the Coliseum the voice of the church in China.”

“As we walk behind Jesus on the Via Dolorosa,” Zen said, “we feel close to our Chinese brothers, in a prelude to the resurrection.”

Muslims to outnumber Catholics

LONDON -- New research indicates that within the next 12 years, the number of Muslims worshiping at mosques in Britain will outstrip that of Roman Catholics attending traditional church services.

The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported March 25 on the study by Britain’s Christian Research organization that estimates, based on present trends, the number of Catholics attending Sunday Mass will have dropped to 679,000 by 2020. At the same time, the number of Muslims in attendance at mosques will have climbed to 683,000.

The Christian Research report is based on British government and academic information as well as the firm’s own Religious Trends study. The Telegraph says the report shows that if Catholic and Protestant churches “do not reverse their historical decline, there will be more active Muslims than Christians in Sunday services across Britain before the end of the middle of the [21st] century.”

Saudis deny building request

VATICAN CITY -- Saudi Arabia will deny a request by the Vatican to build that Muslim country’s first Christian church, according to a report broadcast March 25 by a television channel owned by the Saudi royal family.

The report came the same day that Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah announced plans to host a conference of monotheistic religions, including Islam, Christianity and Judaism, a project that he said he had discussed with Pope Benedict XVI on a visit to the Vatican last November.

The conference would be the first such interreligious event in Saudi Arabia, which forbids public observance of any faith but Islam.

The two events epitomize the ambivalent and volatile nature of recent relations between the Holy See and the Islamic world.

Earlier this month, a delegation of Muslim scholars and clerics met with Vatican officials in Rome to plan a Christian-Muslim summit in November. Also this month, Catholics were permitted to open the first Christian church in the Persian Gulf country of Qatar. Some 15,000 people attended the inaugural Mass.

National Catholic Reporter uses the following news services: AsiaNews, Catholic News Service, Latinamerica Press, New America Media, Religion News Service, and UCA News.

National Catholic Reporter, April 4, 2008

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