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c. 2005 Religion News Service

Cardinal’s Death Increases Likelihood of New Conclave

VATICAN CITY (RNS) The death of Belgian Cardinal Jan Schotte has reduced the number of cardinals eligible to vote for the next pope to 120 _ increasing the likelihood that Pope John Paul II will create new cardinals in the coming months.

Schotte, 76, died Monday (Jan. 10), reportedly of cancer.

With the death, membership in the College of Cardinal fell to 184, with 120 of the cardinals under the age of 80 and thus eligible to vote in the conclave that will elect John Paul’s successor after his death.

Pope Paul VI barred cardinals aged 80 and above from voting and set a ceiling of 120 electors. John Paul has respected the age rule but set aside the ceiling on the number of cardinal-electors at the last two consistories he called, in 2001 and 2003, to create new cardinals.

At the most recent consistory, held on Oct. 21, 2003, as part of the celebrations of the 25th anniversary of his own election as pope, John Paul gave red hats to 30 new cardinals, raising the total to a record 194, including 135 electors. The number of cardinals eligible to vote for a new pope has been reduced by deaths, retirements and age.

John Paul has held nine consistories in his more than 26 years as pope, and all but three of the cardinals eligible to elect his successor are his appointees.

Among electors, only Cardinals William Baum, the former archbishop of Washington; Joseph Ratzinger, the German prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and Jaime Sin, former archbishop of Manila, were elevated by Paul VI.

Schotte, a member of the missionary Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, had served from 1985 to 2004 as secretary general of the Synod of Bishops and was president of the Vatican’s labor relations office.

_ Peggy Polk

Poll: Poor Americans Most Concerned About Jobs, Health Care

WASHINGTON (RNS) While the general public worries about the economy, war and terrorism, the nation’s poor say that things like unemployment and health care are the biggest problems facing the United States, according to a new survey released Tuesday (Jan. 11).

The Poverty Pulse poll by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development found that the top five concerns for low income people are unemployment, health care, education, discrimination and poverty. In contrast, the general public’s top concerns are the economy, war, government, immorality and terrorism.

CCHD released two surveys that monitor public opinions on poverty among the general public and low-income people. Under the researchers’ guidelines, a family of four earning no more than $30,000 a year would be considered low income.

“We’re trying to raise awareness about poverty in the United States among all Americans,” said the Rev. Robert Vitillo, executive director of the office, which coordinates anti-poverty programs for Catholic bishops.

Fewer Americans believe that poverty is increasing in the United States, although the number of people living in poverty in the United States has grown to 36 million, which is larger than the population of California, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In the general public, 64 percent think poverty is growing, compared with 70 percent who thought that in 2003.

The general public thinks increased poverty causes more crime. The second biggest impact cited by respondents is damage to the economy, higher taxes and more homelessness.

Since the campaign started its poll in 2001, awareness of poverty has grown, and 90 percent of Americans are concerned, according to Vitillo.

“We’ve watched as a lot of interest grew in the situation of poverty in America,” Vitillo said. “It gives me some encouragement that people are becoming more concerned about poverty in the United States.”

Most Americans, about 84 percent, did something to help the poor in the past year. The most popular ways to help are donating money, food or clothing, the survey found.

The general public thinks the top three causes of poverty are lack of jobs, lack of education and personal laziness. Among low-income respondents, lack of education is the largest cause of poverty, followed by the minimum wage level, and “unjust laws or social policies.” Personal laziness is ranked last as a cause for poverty among low-income respondents.

Increasingly, people believe that the government is responsible for addressing poverty, with 54 percent thinking that in 2004 compared with 38 percent in 2000. Among low-income respondents, 78 percent believe the government is most responsible for addressing poverty.

“At the same time we see the gap between the rich and the poor growing more and more,” Vitillo said. “Americans have to have a collective will to do something about poverty, not just think it’s the government’s will or private citizens alone. Together we need to do something about poverty.”

The Washington, D.C.-based Market Research Bureau, a private market research firm, conducted the survey for CCHD. The low-income survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points; the general public survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 points.

_ Andrea James

American Jews, Muslims Look With Hope to New Palestinian President

(RNS) As Mahmoud Abbas declared victory in his election as president of the Palestinian Authority, Jewish and Muslim groups in the United States reacted with hope for the future as well as awareness of the challenges that lie ahead.

Sunday’s (Jan. 9) election came after the death of longtime Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat last November, continuing violence in the region and a peace process that has been stalled in recent years.

“This is a very hopeful moment,” said Mark Pelavin, who is associate director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

Though Abbas “faces great challenges internally and in his relations with Israel,” Pelavin said, “there’s every reason to believe he can succeed.”

Other Jewish groups called the election “a positive first step toward reform and peace.”

“The true tests of change among the Palestinians are whether the election will lead to reform, especially the creation of a civil society in which moderate voices will have a place, and whether they will generate a commitment to stop terror and to engage in a serious peace process,” said Barbara Balser and Abraham H. Foxman, national chair and national director of the Anti-Defamation League.

Other Jewish groups called on Abbas to assert control over those Palestinian factions that employ violent tactics, including suicide bombings, something that Arafat did not successfully achieve.

“President Abbas must use his new mandate to rein in violence, respond to grassroots calls for greater reforms in the Palestinian system and work with Israel to make the disengagement plan successful,” said Debra DeLee, the president and CEO of Americans for Peace Now, a Jewish pro-Israel peace organization.

Muslim organizations also are looking ahead with hope. The Muslim Public Affairs Council expressed relief that the election was “authentic” and reflected the will of the Palestinian people, said communications director Edina Lekovic.

“It suggests a level of openness and transparency,” she said. “We are definitely looking forward to a more plausible sense of peace in the region.”

American Muslim organizations also say that in order for reform and peace to occur, Israel must show that it takes the Palestinian election seriously and is willing to follow through on commitments to dismantle settlements and negotiate for a Palestinian state.

“The ball is in the Israeli court right now,” said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “Let’s see if Israelis are willing to take steps further than they have to deliver on their commitment to the road map and help the Palestinians build their lives.”

_ Holly Lebowitz Rossi

Sex and Religion Not Compatible, French Believe

PARIS (RNS) Islam is the more repressive mainstream religion and Buddhism the most tolerant when it comes to sex _ or so many French believe.

A newly published survey found more than two-thirds of French believe Islam was “repressive” on sexual matters, and that pleasure had “no positive value” in the Muslim faith.

But Judaism and Catholicism are not exactly considered bastions of sensuality, according to the CSA survey published in the January-February edition of Le Monde des Religions, a Paris-based magazine.

Among 952 French surveyed about their views of sex and the major religions, some 43 percent believed the Roman Catholic church was repressive when it came to sexual matters. Those surveyed were split over whether the church considered sexual pleasure a “positive value.”

Some 45 percent of French also believe Judaism and sexual pleasure are a losing combination, although 31 percent said they did not consider the Jewish religion particularly repressive on sex and sensuality.

Protestant churches were given mixed reviews. While half of those surveyed said they believed it was tolerant on sex, 37 percent believed the Protestant hierarchy did not necessarily consider sex in a positive light.

The findings were part of a wide-ranging poll of French views on religion and sex _ never a dull topic in this Gallic country. Overall, more than three-fourths of those surveyed believed that organized religion had no business intervening in matters of the bedroom.

The survey also found that more than 40 percent of French did not exclude chances that Jesus might have been married. And a resounding 85 percent said their opinion of Christ would not change if he had been.

_ Elizabeth Bryant

Quote of the Day: Retired Cardinal Pio Laghi

(RNS) “When I went to Washington as the pope’s envoy just before the outbreak of the war, (President Bush) told me, `Don’t worry, your eminence. We’ll be quick and do well in Iraq.’ Unfortunately, the facts have demonstrated afterward that things took a different course _ not rapid and not favorable. Bush was wrong.”

_ Retired Cardinal Pio Laghi, recalling a conversation with President Bush on March 5, 2003. His remarks during a broadcast on the Vatican’s official Telepace service was quoted by The Washington Post.

KRE/JL END RNS

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