Century Marks

Century Marks

Least of these

The Vatican is opening up recently renovated restrooms and showers for use by what it calls “homeless pilgrims.” The facility, just off St. Peter’s Square, will offer free haircuts on Mondays given by volunteer barbers and students from a local beauty school. The homeless are also given kits containing underwear, soap, deodor­ant, and other toiletries. These services are funded by donations and through the sale of papal parchments (AP).

Church on ice

Once again a church made totally of ice has been built in the mountains of Romania. The structure, patterned after a church in Transylvania, is a very ecumenical undertaking in a country that has known much strife between Christian traditions. Orthodox, Catholics, and Protestants all participated in a service of consecration. Until it melts, the church can be used for baptisms and weddings. The structure—20 feet tall, 46 feet long, and 23 feet wide—can be reached only by cable car (Elkhart Truth, February 14).

Dry future

There is an 80 percent chance that later in this century a megadrought will plague the American Southwest for decades, according to a study released by researchers at NASA and at Columbia and Cornell universities. The drought will be caused by reduced precipitation and changes in evaporation rates. The researchers say other factors, such as the El Niño weather pattern, could interrupt long periods of severe drought. The researchers say there is time to reduce the factors contributing to climate change (Washington Post, February 12).

Common good

Calling for a new kind of politics, the Church of England has issued a 52-page letter in anticipation of the May general election in the United Kingdom. Exhorting Christians to engage in politics, it says the chief motivation should be to address the question, “Who is my neighbor?” Calling for an end to “retail politics” and a renewed focus on the common good, the letter suggests that voters should challenge political candidates on such issues as the accumulation of wealth by the few, the need for the participation of diverse communities, and the value of the weak, dependent, sick, and aging (Guardian, February 17).

Frosh world

College freshman are increasingly distancing themselves from religion, according to the annual survey, The American Freshman. Nearly 28 percent of those surveyed didn’t identify themselves with any religion, an increase of 12 percent since 1971. The survey indicates that 43 percent of first-year students anticipate pursuing a master’s degree, compared to 28 percent in 1974. The increased interest in graduate work indicates that students are concerned about the competitive nature of the job market (RNS).