Religion Communication Association awarded 22 persons and organizations their annual Wilbur Awards for effective and timely religion coverage during 2018. Included with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for its treatment of the gun violence at the Tree of Life Synagogue, a feature on CBS Religion and Culture, and a 12-episode podcast series. Other Wilbur winners include Vanity Fair, Texas Observer, Religion in Life, Mitch Albom, Jonathan Merritt of the New York Times, a profile by WTWO TV in Terre Haute, and others. In addition, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the synagogue tragedy.
The famed Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, burst into flames this week, doing extensive damage to the 850-year-old edifice. The cathedral is the number one tourist attraction in Paris, drawing 12 million visitors a year, many of them Americans. The cause of the fire of unknown, but the structure was in the midst of extensive renovations at the time. Most of the precious art and artifacts, including relics some claim to date to the time of Jesus, were saved. Both the archbishop of Paris and the president of France promised a complete restoration, and within days as much as $1 billion had been pledged. This in turn inspired some American donors to contribute to the rebuilding of the three rural churches in Louisiana which were torched by an arsonist the week before.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend made it official this week: he is running for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States. His announcement was expected as he had formed a committee, collected money, and traveled the country to speak about his intentions. Buttigieg has drawn great interest—but not the most money—because of two actors: his unique assortment of experiences and gifts (youth, soldier, scholar, and pianist who speaks several languages and happens to be gay) and his openness to talk about his religious faith. He has been very critical of the Evangelical Christian efforts to “corner the market” of public religion and has accused Vice President Pence (and others) of denying his Christian identity. Buttigieg was raised Roman Catholic but is now active in the Episcopal Church.
Retired Pope Benedict XVI added his commentary to the decades-long sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church. The normally silent prelate issued a 11-page letter, published first in German, giving his interpretation of factors that led to the still-ongoing crisis in the Church. The American Catholic Church has been particularly struck by this crisis, causing numerous dioceses to declare bankruptcy due to damages awarded to victims. Pope Benedict, now 91 and frail, was the leader of the Church when the scandal broke into full public view, but he was, prior to that, the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and dealt with its first appearance on the international scene. Benedict blames the sexual revolution on the 1960’s, the rise of homosexuality as an accepted lifestyle, and the influence of liberal scholars in the Church for the crisis. The document has elicited a range of responses, both affirming and critical.
And from all over the country and the world….
The holiest Christian festival of the year began this week: Holy Week, beginning with Palm Sunday and concluding with Easter. The week commemorates a series of events: Jesus’ last journey into Jerusalem, his prophetic sermon about the fall of Jerusalem, the Last Supper, the betrayal by Judas, his arrest, incarceration, trial, conviction, execution, and burial. Easter celebrates the core tenet of the Christian faith: the assertion that God raised Jesus from the dead. This celebration follows the western, or Roman, or Catholic calendar; Eastern or Orthodox Christians will celebrate these things next week, during the Jewish festival of Passover.