For the past 30 years or more, I have unintentionally been disappointing Christian Scientists on a regular basis. Whenever I was in the United States and came across a Christian Science Reading Room, I walked in and asked for the latest copy of the Christian Science Monitor. Behind the desk was usually a kindly older man or woman, probably a retired volunteer, and they seemed happy to see a young (and then not so young) person dropping by. They seemed even more pleased when I also took copies from the day before or the day before that. They often asked how I knew the paper and I’d say I used to subscribe when I was a grad student in Boston. With a kindly smile, they would then inquire if I was a Christian Scientist or wanted to learn more about Christian Science. I would say no, thank you very much, and leave.
Sister Cecilia Gaudette is an American Catholic nun who is spunky despite her 106 years. She was born in Manchester, New Hampshire on March 25, 1902 — when Republican Teddy Roosevelt was president — and has been living (until recently) in obscurity in a convent in Rome. The last time she voted was in 1952, for Dwight Eisenhower, another Republican. Now she is voting for Barack Obama. Read the Reuters story here and watch the CBS video to find out why.
Some of Kosovo’s “crypto- Catholics” are slowly coming out of hiding. Pressured into accepting Islam centuries ago by the victorious Ottoman Turks, some families in this Balkan country maintained their Christian customs in private while passing as Muslims in public. Some of them returned to their ancestral faith in the late 19th century, after the Ottomans withdrew. Now, almost 10 years after Serbian rule ended, more have decided to go back to Roman Catholicism. The Church says the conversions now run into the thousands.
Anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish feelings are rising in several major European countries, according to a survey by the Washington- based Pew Research Center’s Global Attitude Survey. Mike Conlon in our Chicago bureau has summed up the report here.
During a Vatican briefing this week on Pope Benedict’s trip to France, a television producer got up and asked the question that surely was foremost in the minds of many photographers and television crews struggling to hold back yawns as subjects such as France’s secular history were discussed:
One and a half million euros ($2.1 million) for 24 hours in Paris? No, we’re not talking about some luxury visit, but the stopover that Pope Benedict will make on Friday and Saturday on his way to the shrine at Lourdes. The pontiff apparently did not even plan to visit the capital on his first trip to France, meant to mark the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary there. But the city’s archbishop, Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, argued for a stop in the City of Light and Benedict agreed.
The Ratzinger Schülerkreis, the group of Pope Benedict’s former theology students, plans to launch a foundation bearing his name this November in Munich. The group, which held its annual meeting with its former teacher at Castel Gandolfo last weekend, aims to promote theological studies “in the spirit of Joseph Ratzinger”. Reflecting the international character of the Schülerkreis, the Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI foundation has a board of trustees with former students from Germany, Portugal, Ireland, Benin and the United States.
Did Rick Warren’s Saddleback Civil Forum with John McCain and Barack Obama violate the separation of church and state? Was it right for a pastor to ask U.S. presidential candidates about their belief in Jesus Christ or their worst moral failures? Will the success of the Saddleback Civil Forum mean that major televised interviews or debates about faith will become a regular fixture in American political campaigns?
An announcement about the Common Word conference we’ve been following here (and will cover on Thursday):
FYI Yale Divinity School tells us there will be a live web stream of the final news conference of its Muslim-Christian dialogue conference on Thursday, July 31, at 11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. EST/1530 – 1700 GMT. The stream will be available at the conference web site at: http://www.yale.edu/divinity/commonword/index.shtml.
Yale Divinity School theologian Miroslav Volf and Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal of Jordan, chairman of the royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, will present a summary document from the conference and will take questions from the media. Members of the media unable to attend may submit questions to Volf and Ghazi via e-mail, beginning at 11:45 a.m. EST, to: email@example.com.
Videos of several of the conference sessions, including an opening address by Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts on Monday evening, are currently available online at:http://www.yale.edu/divinity/video/commonword/video.shtm