Media Watch

Number of Catholics in Ireland Dips Slightly

THE IRISH ECHO, April 14-20 — Though Ireland is still one of Europe's most religious countries, a recent census reported less than 90% of the population there call themselves Catholic.

For the first time in more than 80 years, the numbers of main Protestant denominations have grown, the newspaper reported. Catholics still account for more than 88% of the population, however.

The findings, based on a 2002 census, also found that after significant declines in the 19th and 20th centuries, the population of Ireland is on the rise. It now stands at more than 4 million.

Due to immigration from Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe during the last 10 years, membership in minority religions is also increasing. The number of people declaring no religion has more than doubled.

Australian Court Okays Teen's Sex-Change Operation

THE TIMES (U.K.), April 14 — Catholic leaders and medical experts in Australia on April 13 condemned a court decision allowing a 13-year-old to undergo a sex-change operation.

The Family Court in Melbourne heard testimony that the girl, known as Alex, became suicidal at the onset of puberty and believed she was a boy trapped in a girl's body, the newspaper reported. Despite arguments she was too young to make an informed decision, the court ruled in favor of allowing preliminary sex-change processes.

“There is no evidence of the benefits of the procedure in adults let alone a 13-year-old who is undergoing the changes of adolescence,” said Nick Tonti-Filippini, a bioethicist and member of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Melbourne. “The court is endorsing an experimental treatment for a psychiatric problem.”

A man who said he later regretted his sex-change operation also criticized the court's decision.

“How can someone who is suicidal, threatening self-harm,” asked Alan Finch, who became “Helen” at age 19, “be capable of making a stable decision about having irreversible therapy done?”

Muslims in Spain Ask to Pray in Cathedral

THE GUARDIAN (London), April 19 — Muslims in Spain are asking the Catholic Church in the city of Cordoba to allow them to pray in the local cathedral. They have also appealed to the Vatican with their request.

The cathedral actually sits in the center of an ancient mosque complex originally built in the eighth century, the newspaper reported. The most important part of the mosque for Muslims is the mihrab, a recess in the southeastern wall that indicates the direction of Mecca. In the Cordoba mosque, the recess is outside the cathedral itself, so Muslims there think it would be possible for them to pray without disturbing services in the cathedral.

Today Cordoba is a small provincial capital in one of the poorer regions of Spain, the paper noted, but 1,000 years ago it was a great city. As capital of Moorish Spain it was one of the centers of Islamic culture and art.

While noting some opposition among local Catholics to the Muslims' proposal, the newspaper did not mention any Vatican comment on it.