May 15, 2005

Vatican's focus falls on U.S., Europe

San Francisco Chronicle

Don Lattin, Angela Frucci, Chronicle Staff Writers

Sunday, May 15, 2005

When Pope John Paul II died early last month, papal pundits were consumed with the idea that the world's cardinals might replace him with an African or Latin American pope -- someone from a part of the world where the Catholic Church finds its greatest growth, and perhaps, its future.

Instead, they elected German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, a longtime Vatican insider, as Pope Benedict XVI.

On Friday, Benedict named an American, San Francisco Archbishop William Levada, as his chief doctrinal watchdog for the 1.1 billion Catholics around the world.

To some observers, the election of a German pope and the appointment of an American archbishop show that Catholic leaders are focusing attention on solving problems they see in churches across Europe and the United States. For years, Cardinal Ratzinger bemoaned the steep decline of the church's influence in Italy, France, Germany -- the historic cradle of Catholicism. And while church attendance in the United States is relatively high and stable, the moral and financial fallout of the clergy sexual abuse scandal continues to haunt American bishops accused of covering up the crimes of pedophile priests.

Posted by kshaw at May 15, 2005 07:52 AM