NEWS STORY: New Pope Prepares to Emerge from John Paul’s Shadow

c. 2005 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ In death and in life, John Paul II and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger have been inseparable. It took the death of his friend to show the world the human side of the longtime guardian of church orthodoxy, who moved to the forefront of papal contenders after giving an emotional sermon at John Paul’s funeral, choking up as he invoked images of the late pope. And now the legacy of John Paul II looms large as Ratzinger prepares to be formally installed Sunday (April 24) as Pope Benedict XVI, the 264th successor of St. Peter.

COMMENTARY: New Pope Can Unite Christian and Muslim Souls by Pointing to Jesus

c. 2005 Beliefnet (UNDATED) If he opens the door to Islam, Benedict XVI will foster the love for Jesus already within the Muslim soul. At the time of his death, Pope John Paul II was in the process of constructing a new global religious architecture that made space for the Roman Catholic Church to build productive relationships with people of all faiths. The challenge for the new pope, Benedict XVI, is what to do with that unfinished project. He has three choices.

NEWS ANALYSIS: Under Benedict, the New Buzzword Is “Relativism’’

c. 2005 Beliefnet (UNDATED) Just before he led the cardinals into sequester in the Sistine Chapel on Monday, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger laid down the theological gauntlet, calling upon the church to wield Jesus Christ as a shield against a “dictatorship of relativism.” He depicted the church as a “little boat of Christian thought” tossed by waves of “extreme” schools of modern thought, identified as Marxism, liberalism, libertinism, collectivism and “radical individualism.” Two days later, he emerged Pope Benedict XVI _ and that term, relativism, suddenly became an important key to understanding the direction the new pope will take his church. So what does it mean? In a nutshell, relativism is the idea that moral principles are based on your culture (such as where and when you live, your education, your age and your level of wealth) and therefore subject to individual choice. Taken to an extreme, a moral relativist believes there are no rules governing right and wrong.

NEWS STORY: New Pope Electrifies Conservative U.S. Catholics

c. 2005 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ If conservative American Catholics had any reservations about who the next pope might be, those fears were largely put to rest when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday (April 19). Ratzinger, who policed Catholic doctrine for a quarter-century, is as orthodox as they come, and many conservatives are thrilled to have a kindred spirit sitting in the chair of St. Peter. After last year’s tumultuous presidential election in which the left and right battled over what it means to be a “faithful” Catholic, conservatives expect his papacy to answer those questions in stark black and white.

NEWS PROFILE: Another Jackson Becomes a Voice for Black Churches

c. 2005 Religion News Service BELTSVILLE, Md. _ Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr. has found himself in a wide range of settings across church and state since he unveiled his “Black Contract With America on Moral Values.” One day, the conservative minister is on stage with some of the nation’s top African-American thought leaders at an Atlanta church. Less than two weeks later, he’s at a U.S. Senate office building in Washington addressing a room filled predominantly with white evangelical leaders. Despite criticism from some African-American ministers that he’s the black equivalent of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Jackson says he is comfortable in both places.

COMMENTARY: The Right Wages Religious War Over Judiciary

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) It’s a great convenience that judges wear black robes. For many GOP leaders and right-wing allies, it makes them really stand out as targets. The most enthusiastic sniper, of course, has been House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, who may yet meet judges in their professional capacity. Ever since the entire judicial system, state and federal, refused DeLay’s direct orders on the Terri Schiavo issue, he’s been demanding to know just who judges think they are.

COMMENTARY: A Former Hitler Youth Member Is Poised to Advance Catholic-Jewish Dialogue

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) When he came to the Vatican from his native Germany in 1981, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, soon became John Paul II’s closest theological colleague. But their elections to the papacy could not have been more different. When his fellow cardinals chose Karol Wojtyla of Poland in October 1978, much of the world, including the Jewish community, knew little about the 58-year-old archbishop of Krakow. Back then, Poland was a Soviet satellite located behind the Iron Curtain.

NEWS STORY: New Pope Maintains Vatican Hierarchy, at Least for Now

c. 2005 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ Pope Benedict XVI got down to Vatican business on Thursday (April 21) morning and did some personal business in the afternoon, returning to his old apartment to have photographs taken with friends and neighbors. Benedict returned Cardinal Angelo Sodano, secretary of state, and his two top deputies to their posts, the Vatican announced. The secretary of state is the second-highest position in the hierarchy. Benedict also confirmed the heads of all other Vatican offices for the time being, and asked their assistants to serve out their present five-year terms. In doing so, Benedict allowed the Vatican to resume normal operations, which were suspended with the death of Pope John Paul II on April 2, but kept his options open.

Arabic Music Turning Heads in Tel Aviv’s Trendy Nightclubs

c. 2005 Religion News Service TEL AVIV, Israel _ The name of this central Tel Aviv bar comes from an American war hero in Iraq. The decor is punctuated with photographs of bearded Taliban men. The music fuses aggressive club rhythms with lilting Arabic melodies from the canon of Egyptian diva Umm Kulthum. Awkward concept?

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Conservative Groups Drop Boycott of Procter & Gamble (RNS) The American Family Association and other conservative Christian groups have dropped their boycott of Procter & Gamble, saying they believe the company is “backing off its support for the homosexual agenda.” The boycott began last fall and garnered almost 400,000 pledges to halt purchases of the Cincinnati manufacturer’s products, especially Crest toothpaste and Tide laundry detergent. “Judging by all we found in our research, it appears that our concerns have been addressed,” said Donald Wildmon, chairman of the Tupelo, Miss.-based American Family Association, in a statement. “Insofar as we can tell by our monitoring, P&G has stopped their sponsorship of TV programs promoting the homosexual lifestyle, such as `Will and Grace,’ and they have stopped their sponsorships of homosexual Internet sites.” The boycott came at a time when Procter & Gamble had donated $10,000 to a campaign for the repeal of a city ordinance barring the enactment of gay rights laws. Company spokesman Doug Shelton said he was pleased to learn of the boycott’s suspension.

NEWS STORY: U.S. Cardinals Urge Catholics to Give Pope a Chance

c. 2005 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ Clearly concerned that some U.S. Catholics have been cool to the election of Pope Benedict XVI, seven American cardinals say Catholics back home should give his papacy time rather than judge him negatively. “Look at this Holy Father, don’t make judgments (from) what you hear on the television,” said Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington. “Make a judgment based on what you read of his writings and what you see of his talks. “I think they (American Catholics) will find that in this Holy Father they have someone who is going to be very, very open to the needs and the cries of others,” said McCarrick in a Wednesday (April 20) news conference held with other cardinals.

COMMENTARY: Pope Benedict XVI, a Very Sad Pope

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) St. Peter’s Square, where the throng mourned only days ago, was transformed Tuesday (April 19) into a place of hope and joy. As white smoke billowed from the Sistine Chapel’s chimney and bells pealed, the crowd swelled again. The people overflowed the square for the public funeral Mass of John Paul II, desperate to be a part of the long, reluctant goodbye to a man who loved them and whom they loved in return.

COMMENTARY: And the New Pope Is … Rats!

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) As soon as the smoke cleared, a crowd gathered under three television sets in the newsroom. We stared at the red velvet curtains, the threshold of hope. When the drapes moved, someone let out a yelp. False alarm.

NEWS STORY: New Pope Promises to Carry on Mission of John Paul II

c. 2005 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ Returning to the Sistine Chapel to celebrate his first Mass as pope, Benedict XVI pledged Wednesday (April 20) to continue the mission of Pope John Paul II and to actively seek dialogue within the Catholic Church and with other religions. Invoking the name and accomplishments of his predecessor 14 times, the new pope made clear his desire for continuity in the church during his homily addressed to the 114 cardinals who had elected him pope less than 24 hours earlier. “Pope John Paul II,” he said, “left a church that is more courageous, freer and younger, a church that, according to his teaching and example, looks with serenity to the past and does not fear the future.” Dressed in gold and white vestments, Benedict presided over the Mass below Michelangelo’s fresco of “The Last Judgment,” in the same chapel where the cardinals’ two-day conclave was held Monday and Tuesday. The pope spoke in Latin, the traditional lingua franca of the church.

NEWS SIDEBAR: Reactions to Choice of New Pope

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Following are excerpts of reactions to the selection Tuesday (April 19) of German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as the world’s 265th pope, Benedict XVI. “As a global leader in a global age, his voice will be important in framing some of the great challenges of the 21st century. The higher he lifts our moral horizons, the more he will be admired.” _ Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of Great Britain “He is a theologian of great stature, who has written some profound reflections on the nature of God and the church. His choice of the name Benedict suggests that he wants to connect his vision of the church to the monastic spirit of service and contemplation.” _ The Rev. Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury “Today ushers in a new era for the Catholic Church.