- The Washington Times - Friday, May 8, 2009



Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to leave Friday for a visit to the Holy Land, stopping first in Jordan before visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories. In preparation, the Vatican released the following statistics.

• The Catholic Church administers 36 hospitals, clinics, orphanages, nurseries and other charitable institutions in the region.

• Catholics make up nearly 2 percent of the population in the countries that the pope will visit.

• In Jordan, there are 109,000 Catholics among the country’s 5.7 million people. Nearly 31,000 children are enrolled in 123 Catholic schools. There are four bishops, 103 priests and seven major seminarians.

• In Israel and the Palestinian territories, there are 130,000 Catholics among the population of 7.2 million people. Nearly 44,000 students are enrolled in 192 Catholic schools, which range from kindergarten to the university level.


The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has called on President Obama to designate 13 nations “countries of particular concern” because of their “egregious violations” of religious freedom.

The list is identical to the one in the 2008 report with the exception of the addition of Nigeria. The other 12 countries are Myanmar, North Korea, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

Also, the report released last week places several nations on its watch list: Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, Laos, Russia, Somalia, Tajikistan, Turkey and Venezuela.

“While not rising to the statutory level … requiring designation as a country of particular concern, these countries require close monitoring due to the nature and extent of violations of religious freedom engaged in or tolerated by the governments,” the commission said.


The media are itching to interview Joshua Dubois, President Obama’s point man on faith-based and neighborhood partnerships, but can’t seem to get close enough to toss questions his way.

Fortunately, Julia Duin of The Washington Times reports that Religion & Ethics Newsweekly caught up with him Monday at a panel on poverty.

“His response on whether government-funded faith organizations can hire people from their own religion was that basically the administration is going to take the matter ‘on a case-by-case basis,’ ” Miss Duin says in her Belief Blog at WashingtonTimes.com.

“Several of us have been trying to get interviews with Mr. Dubois but have had no luck,” she continues. “Actually he’s gotten kind of famous for his avoidance of the Fourth Estate. Rumors are that this is not his personal choice; that he’s been directed to not talk. So, after the Monday panel discussion, several reporters headed to a press room where they heard Mr. Dubois was going to finally take some questions. Turns out he slipped out. … Reporters do get weary of this cat-and-mouse stuff and when patience wears thin, don’t expect the most sympathetic treatment when we finally do pounce.”

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