The Great Debate UK
(Photo: Pope Benedict at Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, November 6, 2010/Stefano Rellandini)
Pope Benedict, on a lightning trip to Spain, urged Europe on Saturday to re-discover God and its Christian heritage and also denounced the country's liberal abortion laws.
"Europe must open itself to God, must come to meet him without fear," he said in the sermon of a Mass for more than 20,000 people in the square of Santiago de Compostela, which has been a major pilgrimage destination since medieval times.
Spain's Roman Catholic Church, whose image was stained by its close relationship with Francisco Franco during his 36-year dictatorship, has clashed with the Socialist government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero over gay rights and abortion. Read the full story by Cristina Fuentes-Cantillana in English here and in Spanish here.
One of the main themes of Benedict's papacy -- and an aim of the Spanish trip -- has been what the Church calls the "re-evangelisation" of Europe, an attempt to urge people to return to their religious roots despite living in highly secularised societies.
A Kansas doctor reviled by anti-abortion groups for his work providing “late-term” abortions was shot and killed in his Wichita, Kansas church.
The murder of Kansas abortion doctor George Tiller has been condemned by prominent groups and activists on both sides of this divisive and emotive issue.
But the language used by some opponents of abortion rights who reviled Tiller for his work providing late-term abortions remained very strong.
There's been a lot of discussion over the past few months on this and other blogs about Barack Obama and religion. Looking back at it now that the campaign is over and he is starting to shape his administration, it's interesting to see how many of those discussions shed little light on what he would actually do. There were comments about him being a hidden Muslim, for example, or not a real Christian. That speculation seemed based on thin evidence and the assumption he was running for preacher and cleric-in-chief rather than president and commander-in-chief. As a journalist covering religion in public life, after learning whether a candidate professes a certain faith, I want to know how that faith will really influence his or her decisions in office. This is not necessarily the same as listing the soundbite positions used on the campaign trail. (Photo: Barack Obama at the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago, 15 June 2008/John Gress)
Seen from this point of view, probably the most interesting fact about Barack Obama's religious views is one that rarely gets mentioned. It's that he's an admirer of the late American Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971). The President-elect has clearly named "America's leading public theologian" as a major influence on his thinking. It comes out less in specific positions than in the way he looks at problems and discusses policies in terms with a "Niebuhrian" ring about them.