- The Washington Times - Friday, August 18, 2006

Pope hopes to visit peaceful Holy Land

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI says he does not feel strong enough to take many long trips, but that he would like to travel to a peaceful Holy Land.

In a wide-ranging interview aired Aug. 13 on German television, the pontiff spoke of Europe’s role in Christianity and secularization in the Western world.

The pontiff also offered some insight into his own personality and ministry, saying being pope is “really tiring” and that it is important to “see the funny side of life.”

“I have to say that I’ve never felt strong enough to plan many long trips,” the pontiff said in the 35-minute interview. “But where such a trip allows me to communicate a message or where, shall I say, it’s in response to a sincere request, I’d like to go.”

The 79-year-old pope has made three foreign trips since assuming the papacy in April 2005. So far all have been within Europe, with a pilgrimage to his native Bavaria, Germany, scheduled in September.

But the pope said he is planning to travel to Brazil to take part in the closing sessions of the Fifth Latin American Bishops’ Conference, which takes place May 13-31.

“Then I’d like to visit the Holy Land, and I hope to visit it in a time of peace,” said the pontiff, who had repeatedly appealed for a cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah militias during fighting in southern Lebanon over the past month.

The pope said he has also promised to travel to Austria, and he has scheduled a trip in November to Turkey.

Gay Lutheran cleric could be defrocked

ATLANTA — A pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America could be defrocked after revealing he was in a long-term relationship with another man.

The Rev. Bradley Schmeling of St. John’s Lutheran Church in America, had revealed he is homosexual when he became pastor six years ago, but he was single at the time.

The church bans sexually active homosexuals from becoming ministers.

Mr. Schmeling said he had promised Bishop Ronald Warren that he would come forward if he entered into a relationship, which he did after spending two years with his boyfriend, whom Mr. Schmeling now considers his life partner.

“It was an issue of conscience and integrity,” Mr. Schmeling said. “I was fulfilling my promise to him, knowing full well the consequences.”

Bishop Warren asked the pastor to resign, which he refused to do, so the bishop asked a disciplinary committee to decide whether they should revoke Mr. Schmeling’s clergy credentials.

Group organizes prayers for Bryson

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A prayer group is hoping to provide Republican gubernatorial nominee Jim Bryson with some divine assistance during his campaign.

The “Bryson Prayer Force” is inviting others to join its 80 members in praying regularly for Mr. Bryson, his family and campaign staff.

An e-mail sent by the group included some suggested prayers, as the campaign visits all 95 Tennessee counties in what Mr. Bryson’s team has dubbed the “Big Tennessee” bus tour.

“Pray for an open heaven over Jim and his team in each Tennessee county they visit, that the gates of each county would open to him and his team, and that the Lord’s divine favor will be granted to him everywhere he goes,” reads one example.

Will Pinkston, spokesman for Gov. Phil Bredesen’s campaign, said the incumbent Democrat has no equivalent organization and he had not seen such an approach in campaigning.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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