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 CNS Story:

YEAREND-VOTES Dec-14-2007 (830 words) With graphic. xxxn

Immigration, Iraq War named top stories of 2007, pope top newsmaker

By Nancy Frazier O'Brien
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The national debate over immigration issues was the top religious news story of 2007 and Pope Benedict XVI was the top newsmaker, according to the annual poll of client editors of Catholic News Service.

Catholic response to the war in Iraq took second place among the 30 news stories on the ballot, while developments in the stem-cell field came in third.

Pope Benedict dominated the newsmakers list, with 20 of the 24 first-place votes cast. U.S. President George W. Bush was a distant second, followed by Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

The poll was the 46th annual survey of CNS client newspapers. This year's ballots were distributed Dec. 4 and the deadline for returns was Dec. 13.

When the editors' poll was first conducted in 1962, the overwhelming choice for top story was the opening of the Second Vatican Council. Last year, editors chose Islam's relations with church and society as the top religious story of the year and Pope Benedict as the top newsmaker.

Editors were asked to vote for the top 10 news stories from a list of 30 selected by CNS staff, and the top five newsmakers from a list of 20. Votes were weighted by the rankings editors gave -- 10 points for a first-place vote, nine points for second, etc., and five points for top newsmaker, four for second, etc.

With 24 editors in the United States and Canada submitting ballots, the maximum points a story could have received was 240. The most a newsmaker could receive on the five-point scale was 120. Some editors' ballots included ties, resulting in half-points in some cases.

The year's immigration developments included multiple efforts -- all ultimately unsuccessful -- to bring federal legislation to a vote in Congress. The nation's Catholic bishops called for just treatment of immigrants and joined in protests against anti-immigrant sentiments.

At the local level, church charitable agencies were called to assist those caught up in Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids at workplaces, which often left families separated and without income.

On the war in Iraq, the bishops called the present situation "unacceptable and unsustainable" and urged a "responsible transition" leading to the end of the fighting. The flight of hundreds of thousands of Christians from Iraq could lead to the end of a Christian presence there, they said.

A pair of breakthrough studies later in the year that showed success in creating stem cells without destroying human embryos brought praise from Catholic and pro-life officials around the world, along with hope that embryonic stem-cell research will soon be abandoned. Bush vetoed legislation that would have expanded federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research, and New Jersey voters rejected a bond question that would have dedicated millions of state dollars for that purpose.

Rounding out the top five for religious news stories were developments in Catholic dialogue with Muslims and Jews and Pope Benedict's ruling allowing wider use of the Tridentine Mass.

That decision -- along with his landmark letter to Chinese Catholics, his travels and an upcoming trip to the United States, his naming of 23 new cardinals from 14 countries and a new encyclical and book -- earned Pope Benedict the top spot as 2007's religious newsmaker.

Bush was second for his vetoes of the embryonic stem-cell bill and legislation expanding the State Children's Health Insurance Program, his first meeting with Pope Benedict and the continued criticism directed at him over the war in Iraq.

Ten years after her death, Mother Teresa was the third top newsmaker of 2007 as a new book of her writings revealed her doubts about her faith, which Vatican officials said revealed her spiritual strength. She also moved closer to sainthood when an Indian priest said he experienced a miracle through her intercession.

Also in the top five newsmakers were Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, the first U.S. cardinal serving in the American Southwest, and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who often clashed with his nation's Catholic bishops.

Here is the editors' choice of top 10 stories and top five newsmakers of 2007, followed by points received in the weighted ballot count and, in parentheses, the number of first-place votes received.

STORIES

1. Immigration, 172 (6).

2. War in Iraq, 136 (8).

3. Stem cells, 123.

4. Interreligious dialogue, 86.

5. Tridentine Mass, 84 (2).

6. Abuse settlements, 82 (1).

7. Papal writings, 73 (3).

8. Politics, 72 (1).

9. Environment, 64 (2).

10. Cardinals, 49.

One first-place vote also went to the Virginia Tech shootings.

NEWSMAKERS

1. Pope Benedict, 113 (20).

2. President Bush, 60.

3. Blessed Mother Teresa, 37.

4. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, 23.5.

5. Hugo Chavez, 22.

Other first-place votes went to presidential candidates Rudy Giuliani and U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec, Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago and Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Wash.

END


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