A MAJORITY OF AMERI-CANS still backs Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, although support has softened in the last five years. Arecent poll conducted by Louis Harris and Associates of 1,008 adults found 52 percent support the decision and 41 percent oppose it. However, support has fallen from a high of 65 percent in 1991; it is at its lowest level in more than a decade.

FINANCIAL GIANT Merrill Lynch announced Sept. 11 that it will help finance a plan proposed by New York Cardinal John O'Connor and endorsed by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to send 1,000 of the city's public school students to Catholic schools. The plan has come under fire from some Jewish and Church-state separation groups because it is unclear whether public tax money would be used to fund the plan.

JUST DAYS BEFORE Senate action on a global chemical weapons ban was postponed indefinitely, Bishop Daniel Reilly of Worcester, Mass., chairman of the U.S. bishops' International Policy Committee, urged lawmakers to ratify it because such weapons “are unworthy of humanity and may not be justified on any ethical ground.” The Clinton administration Sept. 12 accepted the indefinite postponement of Senate action on the Chemical Weapons Convention, as the treaty is called.

POPE JOHN PAUL II'S inflamed appendix will be removed sometime after an Oct. 6 beatification ceremony, the Vatican announced. The Pope's personal physician and other medical consultants have recommended surgery, and the Pope has agreed to have the operation, according to a Sept. 14 statement from the Vatican.(See page 3)

THE VATICAN is relying on local bishops to get the word out about a four-day celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Pope's priestly ordination. Every diocesan or religious order priest ordained in 1946 is invited to participate in a Nov. 7-10 jubilee program of talks, Masses and prayer services, and celebrations. It is unclear how many men were ordained to the priesthood the same year as the then-26-year-old Karol Wojtyla who became Pope John Paul II.

CHURCH LEADERS in Nicaragua have expressed concern over preparation for the October elections, in particular the lack of voting cards. Less than half of the country's 2.7 million voters have obtained their voting cards and might not do so in time for the general elections scheduled for Oct. 20. Church sources said the problem is especially pronounced in remote areas of the countryside, where bitter combat was waged in the 1980s between the army and U.S.-backed counterrevolutionaries.

BISHOP HUBERT PATRICK O'CONNOR, former bishop of Prince George, British Columbia, was sentenced to two-and-one-half-years in prison Sept. 13 for raping a woman in the mid-1960s. Justice Wally Oppal of the British Columbia Supreme Court also sentenced the bishop to three months in prison for sexually assaulting another woman the year after the rape. The term is to be served concurrently with his other sentence.

ISRAEL'S SUPREME COURT ruled Sept. 12 that a childless woman estranged for her husband could have their frozen embryos implanted in a surrogate against the husband's wishes. An 11-member panel of judges voted 7-4 in the landmark decision that the right of the woman, Ruti Nahmani, to be a mother outweighed objections to fatherhood, made by Danny Nahmani, the husband from whom she is separated.