COMMENTARY: Pope-Theologian Well Prepared to Travel With the Real Church, the People

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Pope Benedict XVI may be the most sophisticated theologian ever chosen to head the Roman Catholic Church. As an expert adviser at Vatican Council II he helped the church regain its ancient sense of being “a people of God” on pilgrimage through history rather than a vast, multilayered institution anchored in one port of time. He understands that as pope he is the servant rather than the master of this people. Politically minded commentators characterize him as a figure of power, the cardinal-electors embrace him as a stable commander, and anxious analysts fear him as an uncompromising authoritarian.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service `Justice Sunday’ Event On Judicial Nominees Called `Just-Us’ Sunday (RNS) A “Justice Sunday” simulcast event Sunday (April 24) featuring prominent religious conservatives has drawn criticism from liberal groups. The national simulcast is organized by the Family Research Council to draw attention to Democratic filibusters of judicial nominees, or as the Washington-based group calls it, “the filibuster against people of faith.” The event is expected to involve more than 100 churches across the country. It will feature such speakers as Focus on the Family founder James Dobson and Prison Fellowship founder Chuck Colson and will be picked up by Christian broadcast outlets across the country. The inclusion of Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., who is to appear via video, has boosted the level of opposition to the event.

NEWS ANALYSIS: Cardinals Make a Daring Choice in Pope Benedict XVI

Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ In electing the 265th pope of the Roman Catholic Church, the College of Cardinals made a daring choice of a man who, despite his 78 years of age, seems destined to lead a strong, consequential pontificate: Joseph Ratzinger, the intellectual architect of John Paul II’s papacy as the prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Ratzinger is that rare individual among Vatican officials, a celebrity among men who normally move in the shadows. He had a run-away bestseller in 1986 with “The Ratzinger Report,” a book-length interview with Italian journalist Vittorio Messori. He is probably the lone official of the Roman Curia that a significant number of Catholics could actually identify, and a man about whom many of them hold strong opinions. He is a hero to the conservative wing of the Catholic Church, a man who had the toughness to articulate the traditional truths of the faith in a time of dissent and doubt.

COMMENTARY: What Should Liberal Catholics Do Now?

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) As the cardinal on the balcony meticulously spoke greetings in several languages and then the ceremonial “Habemus … ,” my stomach muscles tightened. With the word “Josephus,” my heart sank a bit. Not in anger or resentment, but in resignation.

COMMENTARY: Are Christian Colleges Racist?

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) When Bob Jones III steps down next month as president of the university his grandfather founded, he will leave behind a difficult legacy. Despite the lifting of the interracial dating ban a few years back, the reputation of Bob Jones University will probably be tarnished for some years to come. But the problems of the school have spread beyond its gates in Greenville, S.C. Indeed, there is a tacit assumption now that most Christian colleges, particularly evangelical ones, also have a streak of racism running through them. But are evangelical schools really the bastions of racial prejudice that people believe?

NEWS ANALYSIS: New Pope’s First Challenge May Be a Charm Offensive

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Pope Benedict XVI is, depending on whom you talk to, the “Panzerkardinal,” “God’s Rottweiler” or an unassuming and misunderstood man of deep, quiet faith. Before his election as pope Tuesday (April 19), Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was known as a stern disciplinarian, a sort of ecclesial Dr. No who toiled in a thankless job of keeping the theological troops in line. In the wake of John Paul II’s energetic and charismatic papacy, Ratzinger faces a particular challenge of winning over the hearts of the faithful. Those who know him say the charm offensive will start by debunking the public persona that doesn’t fit the man behind it.

NEWS STORY: Theologians Predict Conservative, Activist Papacy

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) At Pope John Paul II’s funeral earlier this month, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger choked back tears as he delivered a deeply personal sermon about his old friend. Ten days later, the German cardinal stood at the pulpit again, to deliver a stern speech about maintaining Roman Catholic tradition as the cardinals convened the conclave that would choose a new pontiff. Those two high-profile homilies, with their blend of emotion and staunch conservatism, may be a sign of things to come as the new Pope Benedict XVI takes the helm of the church, theologians say. Though many church watchers believe the 115 cardinals chose the 78-year-old Ratzinger as a short-term transitional pope, few expect him to sit quietly.

NEWS STORY: What Does the Name Benedict Portend? Perhaps a Focus on Europe

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) In trying to predict the intentions of a new pope, many religious leaders and scholars agree: Look to his name. When Germany’s Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger stood on the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square on Tuesday (April 19), he became Benedict XVI, a name that evokes a legacy of defending the faith in Europe. It was last chosen by a pope who labored in vain to end World War I. “It is significant that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger chose the name Benedict.

COMMENTARY: The Disciplined Path to Freedom During Passover

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) In his riveting autobiography, “Fear No Evil,” Natan Sharansky recalled one of the many Passovers he spent in a Soviet prison. When his captors took away the small piece of matzah a fellow prisoner tried to slip him in his punishment cell, Sharansky simply used salted herring as his bitter herb, a cup of hot water in place of the sweet wine-apple-nut mixture known as charoset. After his jailers confiscated the book of Psalms he had smuggled in, Sharansky recited those comforting Psalms that he could remember. “I tried to recall everything I could from the Passover haggadah,” he wrote, “starting with my favorite lines: `In every generation a person should feel as though he, personally, went out of Egypt …

RNS Weekly Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Oregon Supreme Court Invalidates Same-Sex Marriages (RNS) The Oregon Supreme Court on Thursday (April 14) invalidated the marriages of 3,000 same-sex couples and refused to decide whether gays and lesbians should have the same rights and benefits as married couples. The decision was a victory for social conservatives who backed Measure 36, the 2004 initiative that defined marriage as being between one man and one woman. “The people have preserved marriage, and the court has recognized that the licenses issued contrary to state law are invalid,” said Jordan Lorence, senior counsel of the Alliance Defense Fund, which had lawyers arguing that side of the case. “It’s a great day for Oregon.” Gay rights advocates can file a new lawsuit to seek to obtain equal benefits, but the process could take several years.

NEWS ANALYSIS: Ratzinger’s View of Non-Catholics Likely to Set Tone for Papacy

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Five years ago, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger lobbed a theological hand grenade at Christians around the world in a document that said non-Catholic churches “suffer from defects” and are “not churches in the proper sense.” Broadening his critique, Ratzinger, the longtime prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, also asserted that only Catholics have “the fullness of the means of salvation.” With Ratzinger’s election Tuesday (April 19) as Pope Benedict XVI, some church observers say the document, “Dominus Iesus,” is one of the themes that will set the tenor of his papacy. It may not, however, portend a doomsday scenario for Catholics’ relations with other churches or the broader world, veterans of the ecumenical movement said. “I’m not going to measure this pope’s commitment to deeper unity in the Body of Christ solely on the basis of that document,” said the Rev. Mark Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and president of the Lutheran World Federation. In the same way that Nazi-occupied Poland shaped the outlook of the late Pope John Paul II, Ratzinger’s roots in Germany _ birthplace of the Protestant Reformation _ have shaped his.

Liberation Theology Supporters Fear Strife With Pope Benedict XVI

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) The crowds cheering the new Pope Benedict XVI do not include supporters of the liberation theology movement in Latin America. The pope, formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, has sharply criticized liberation theology _ a movement advocating the role of the poor in the church’s faith and life _ as Marxist. As prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger authored two Vatican instructions _ “Instruction on Certain Aspects of the `Theology of Liberation”’ in 1984 and “Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation” in 1986 _ upbraiding some liberation theologians for what he saw as reducing salvation to freedom from political and economic oppression. In 1984, Ratzinger censured Leonardo Boff, a Franciscan priest considered by many supporters to be the father of liberation theology, forbidding him to speak publicly or to publish his ideas.

NEWS STORY: Liberal Catholics Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst With Ratzinger

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) With the election of a cardinal known as “God’s Rottweiler,” liberal American Catholics are bracing for the worst. Nonetheless, they’re hoping Pope Benedict XVI won’t be as doctrinaire and conservative as advertised, particularly toward women and gays. “We would be very pleased if the new pope would tone down the virulence of the anti-GLBT (gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgendered) rhetoric, and give the tones of love and inclusion a chance to be heard,” said Sam Sinnett, president of the gay Catholic group Dignity USA. But, given German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s statement that gay marriage is “destructive for the family and for society,” and his pronouncement that homosexual behavior is an “intrinsic moral evil,” others aren’t holding their breath.

NEWS STORY: Conservative Evangelicals Say New Pope Speaks Their Moral Language

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) The day before Roman Catholic Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI, he declared in a public Mass that a “dictatorship of relativism” threatens the absolute truth claims of the church. That statement could easily have been made by conservative evangelical leaders in the United States. Despite theological differences, they’re cheering the choice of a pontiff who seems to speak the same moral language they do. “Relativism, pluralism and naturalism are the three main foes of evangelicalism today and they’re the main foes of conservative Roman Catholics,” said Norman Geisler, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, N.C., and co-author of “Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences.” “We rejoice in the choice because he’s going to hold the line and he’s not going to allow the liberal element in the Catholic Church to reverse any of those things.” Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said Ratzinger will be an ally of U.S. religious conservatives on a litany of moral issues such as abortion, gay rights, cloning and physician-assisted suicide.

NEWS STORY: Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, a German, Is Pope Benedict XVI

c. 2005 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected the first German pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church in almost five centuries on Tuesday (April 19). Describing himself as “a simple and humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord,” he chose to be called Benedict XVI. Ratzinger, who turned 78 on Saturday, was one of Pope John Paul II’s closest aides. A conservative who served as head of the Vatican office that enforces church doctrine, he was dubbed “the great inquisitor” by his critics.