NEWS STORY: Pope Breathing and Eating Well After Surgery, but Won’t Speak for Days

c. 2005 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ Pope John Paul II is breathing and eating well after surgery on his windpipe, but doctors have told him not to speak for several days, the Vatican said Friday (Feb. 25). Despite a second trip to the hospital in less than a month that had Catholics worrying that their beloved pope might die soon, the 84-year-old pontiff appeared to be in good spirits as he ate a breakfast of yogurt and biscuits. He displayed characteristic good humor and optimism in a hand-written note.

NEWS STORY: Seminary Leader: No Regrets About Presiding at Daughter’s Same-Sex Wedding

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) When the Rev. Norman J. Kansfield learned his daughter was planning to marry her female partner, he wanted to preside at the wedding, even if it cost him his job. Kansfield said he knew his decision would create a stir and might hurt the New Brunswick Theological Seminary in New Jersey, where he has been president since 1993. The Reformed Church in America, which is associated with the school, opposes gay marriage. But being there for his daughter Ann was more important to Kansfield.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Falwell Fighting Pneumonia in Virginia Hospital (RNS) The Rev. Jerry Falwell, fighting pneumonia in a Virginia hospital, expects to be released the week of Feb. 27, his son said. “He developed a case of pneumonia through the week,” said Jonathan Falwell, executive pastor of his father’s Thomas Road Baptist Church, in an interview Friday (Feb. 25).

NEWS ANALYSIS: In Anglican Report, There’s Something for Everyone, Once Again

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Almost more than any other Christian group, Anglicans are notoriously _ and proudly _ hard to pin down. They are not fully Protestant yet not quite Catholic; hierarchical yet independent; scripturally literate but not literal; equal parts New York and Nairobi. So, too, was the response on Thursday (Feb. 24) from the 38 primates, or top national bishops, of the Anglican Communion to Episcopalians’ and Canadians’ defiant embrace of homosexuality.

COMMENTARY: What This Clash of Civilizations Needs is a Muslim Pocahantas

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) In the Disney film “Pocahontas,” the Native American princess falls in love with John Smith, and their love helps avert needless bloodshed between the Jamestown settlers and Pocahontas’ tribe. While the Disney version varies a bit from the real story, its message is noble nonetheless: If we take a step back and see the true nature of the “other,” we will realize that they are more like us than we originally thought. Watching the film (obviously, I have kids) made me think of America and the Muslim world. Some of my fellow Americans tell me that Islam is a “wicked, violent religion.” They tell me, “All we ever hear about Muslims is blood, bombs and burkas.

NEWS STORY: Anglicans Sanction Episcopalians Over Gay Bishop, Gay Unions

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) In an ongoing rift over homosexuality, the Episcopal Church and its Canadian counterpart were asked Thursday (Feb. 24) to “voluntarily withdraw” from a global panel that helps set policy for the worldwide Anglican Communion. The admonition from the primates, or senior bishops, of the 38 national branches of the communion was a nuanced nod to conservative complaints that the North American churches were pushing the Anglican family toward permanent schism. Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, however, the primates have no direct power to discipline the autonomous national churches, leaving the future in the hands of an American church that has shown an independent _ conservatives might say rebellious _ streak.

COMMENTARY: Should the Pope or His Aides and Observers Retire?

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Pope John Paul II’s return to the hospital has set off all the alarms in the firehouse of speculation about how he really is, who might succeed him and, of course, whether he should resign from his office. Can a good case be made that Pope John Paul II, who has never hidden his illness from the world, should step down before the vivid colors of his personality and accomplishments fade, much as his vigor has, before our very eyes? A better case can be made for allowing the gallant pope to stay and for forcing the retirement of many of his aides, possible successors and those who report on and speculate about his every hitch, limp and hiccup and would inspect the array of tea leaves in his cup and the contents of his wastebasket if they could. John Paul is not diminished by his brave endurance of illness, but he is diminished by all those who are ever ready to give an opinion about or observe him, often as awkwardly as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau, to find clues about his well-being, his intentions, his handlers or his possible successor.

NEWS STORY: Pope Has Tracheotomy After Relapse of Flu

c. 2005 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ Doctors performed a successful tracheotomy on Pope John Paul II Thursday to help the ailing pontiff recover from breathing problems related to a relapse of the flu, the Vatican said. A tracheotomy is an urgent procedure in which a hole is made in the throat and a tube is inserted to assist breathing. The surgery comes with risks, including unintended effects of anesthesia and the possibility of a lung infection. But Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls told reporters that the operation was a success and that the pope will be spending the night in his hospital room.

COMMENTARY: Call for Divesting From Israel Misguided at Best

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Remember “Thelma and Louise,” the 1991 film starring Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis? In the movie’s final scene, the two women commit suicide by driving their car over a cliff. In a case of life imitating art, leaders of several mainline Protestant churches and the Geneva-based World Council of Churches seem intent on similar destructive behavior for their organizations. They are calling for divestment from Israel, the world’s only Jewish state and a 57-year-old functioning democracy currently engaged in a peace process with new Palestinian leadership.

NEWS FEATURE: Churches Attract Immigrants by Teaching Them English

c. 2005 Religion News Service NASHVILLE, Tenn. _ Junjun Huong arrived at West End Church of Christ knowing enough English to read it, but he barely could speak it. He had immigrated with his family from China, where he says he couldn’t find a Bible. Today Huong is proud to speak _ though with a very heavy accent _ about the Bible, having improved his English and two years ago become a Christian.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Christian Groups Pray for Brain-Damaged Woman (RNS) Christian groups are calling for prayers and collecting signatures to urge continued life support for Terri Schiavo, an incapacitated Florida woman at the center of an ongoing legal battle. Her husband, Michael Schiavo, and her parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, have battled in court for 12 years over whether to remove the tube feeding Terri _ who suffered a severe brain injury in 1990. A Florida judge ruled Wednesday (Feb. 23) that Schiavo’s tube should be kept in place while he considers new legal challenges presented by the Schindlers.

Oregon Prostate Cancer Patient Wants to Keep Death Options Open

c. 2005 Religion News Service PORTLAND, Ore. _ With prostate cancer spreading to his liver and bones, Don James knows he is unlikely to be around when the U.S. Supreme Court rules on his right to a doctor’s help in ending his life. He plans to follow through soon on his request for doctor-assisted suicide under Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act. Whether he ultimately chooses to take a lethal dose of barbiturates, he wants a bottle of them in his medicine cabinet.

RNS Weekly Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service U.S. Supreme Court to Review Oregon’s Doctor-Assisted Suicide Law WASHINGTON _ The U.S. Supreme Court announced Tuesday (Feb. 22) that it will take a case examining Oregon’s doctor-assisted suicide law. The court agreed to hear the federal government’s appeal of a lower court ruling that prevented the Drug Enforcement Administration from punishing doctors who prescribe lethal doses of drugs to terminally ill patients under Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act. It will hear the case in October at the beginning of its 2005-2006 term.

NEWS STORY: Church Electioneering Ban Re-examined

c. 2005 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ The half-century-old tax laws that forbid churches from directly engaging in partisan political activities are fraying. Some say they should be discarded. Others think that would be a sin. Acting on complaints, the Internal Revenue Service is conducting inquiries into political activities at churches and other tax-exempt institutions across the country, even as Congress considers legislation to ease legal restrictions and encourage preachers to peel off the kid gloves.