New transformational Roman Catholic pontiff voted winner in survey of Top 10 Religion News Stories of the Year
RELEASE | Dec. 16, 2013
Columbia (MO): The selection of a reform-minded
Argentinian as the new leader of the world’s largest religious institution was
voted the Top Religion Story of the Year by the nation’s religion journalists.
Members of Religion Newswriters Association chose as the
No. 1 Religion Story of the Year the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who
took the name Pope Francis. Pope Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, was
in the No. 2 spot because of his historic resignation.
Pope Francis also was named Religion Newsmaker of the
Year, beating out Pope Benedict XVI and Billy Graham, who turned 95 this
The online ballot was conducted Friday, Dec. 12 through
Sunday, Dec. 15. Only RNA members were eligible to vote.
The ballot items are listed here, in order. All 20 news
items on the ballot are ranked.
Mario Bergoglio of Argentina is a surprise choice to succeed Benedict, becoming
the first Latin American and first Jesuit pope, and the first to take the name
of Francis. He immediately launches a series of stunning and generally popular
forays—meeting with the poor in Brazil, embracing the ill, issuing conciliatory
words toward gays and calling for a poorer and more pastoral church.
Benedict XVI, citing age and strength issues, becomes first pope to resign in almost
U.S. Supreme Court, in 5-4 votes, clears the way for gay marriage in California
and voids the ban on federal benefits to same-sex couples. Gay marriage
continues to make inroads within the states, with Illinois and Hawaii becoming the
15th and 16th states to approve same-sex marriage.
Obama administration makes concessions to faith-based groups and businesses
opposed to the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, but not enough to
satisfy many of them. The disagreement continues as the U.S. Supreme Court
accepts a case brought by Hobby Lobby challenging the mandate, although
faith-based and private employers had mixed results in the lower-courts.
plays a central role in the post-Arab Spring Middle East as the Egyptian
military ousts the elected, Muslim Brotherhood-led government and violently
cracks down on its supporters; meanwhile, Sunni Islamist fighters increase
their role in Syria's opposition.
of reconciliation and nonviolence Nelson Mandela dies at age 95 and is
remembered as a modern-day Moses who led his people out of racial captivity.
attacks claim scores of lives, with extremist Buddhist monks fomenting attacks
on Muslims in Myanmar and Muslim extremists targeting Christians at churches in
Egypt, an upscale mall in Nairobi, Kenya, and a church in Peshawar, Pakistan.
Moderate religious leaders condemn the attacks, and a Somali Muslim emerges as
a hero for rescuing a young American girl in the Nairobi mall.
than 1 in 5 Jews in America now report having no religion, according to a
landmark survey from the Pew Research Center. The number of professing Jewish
adults is now less than 2 percent of the U.S. population, although Jewish
identity remains strong.
Boy Scouts of America, after much debate, votes to accept openly gay Scouts but
not Scoutmasters. Several Catholic leaders endorse the move; some evangelical
leaders oppose it.
10. Muslims join those across the
country who condemn a devastating bombing at the Boston Marathon by two young
Muslim men who attended college in the area. People of many faiths were among
the many who showed an outpouring of support for the bombing victims.
The rest of the list follows, in ranked order. Note the
list includes two ties.
11. Faith-based groups seeking immigration reform,
especially Nuns on the Bus, rejoice when a comprehensive bill passes the
Senate. But immigration reform languishes in the House.
12. The 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s "I Have
a Dream” speech is marked by sermons, speeches and articles noting how far we
have come in race relations—yet, how far we still have to go.
(Three-way tie for
13. The Kumbh Mela, a Hindu religious festival that
occurs every 12 years and is believed to be the largest religious gathering on
earth, began in January 2013 in Allahabad, India, at the confluence of the
Ganges, Yamuna and the mythic Saraswati rivers. It lasted 55 days and drew
approximately 80 million pilgrims.
13. The number of professing Christians in England and
Wales drops by more than four million in 10 years, to 33 million; atheists
total 6 million, Muslims 2.7 million. Meanwhile, Canadians of no religion are
up to 25 percent, from 16.5 a decade ago.
13. The son of megachurch pastor and best-selling author
Rick Warren commits suicide at age 27 after living with depression. Matthew
Warren's death prompts a national conversation about mental health faith
(Two-way tie for 14th
14. The ELCA leadership Changes. Elizabeth Eaton, bishop
of Northeast Ohio, becomes the first female head bishop of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America after defeating the incumbent by 2-1. Earlier, Guy
Erwin of the Southwest California Synod became the first openly gay ELCA
14. Presbyterian Church (USA) follows a trend among
Mainline Protestant churches of losing members to conservative groups. In
2012, 110 churches left the denomination—more than five times the number that
left in 2011.
15. Exodus International, a Florida-based agency that
tried to change the sexual orientation of gays and lesbians, closes down after
leaders admitted the tactic was impractical and apologized to the LGBT
16. Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah coincided
in what was dubbed "Thanksgivukkah," an event that had not occurred
since the 1800s and won't happen again for an estimated more than 75,000 years.
17. A frail, 95-year-old Billy Graham urges repentance
and faith in Jesus, via "My Hope America," a widely circulated
half-hour TV show. Earlier, his long-time song leader, George Beverly Shea,
dies at 104.
Results are based on an online survey of
more then 300 journalists with a response rate over 30 percent. The Religion
Newswriters Association is the world’s premier association dedicated to helping
journalists write about religion with balance, accuracy and insight.
Founded in 1949, the association is headquartered at the Missouri School of
Journalism. The association has conducted its Top 10 Religion News Stories of
the Year for more than 30 years.