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Items of interest from various sources of religious news and opinion, in print and on the web.

The Pope Thinks Hell Is Empty. It’s become fashionable in recent years—even among some nominal Christians—to question the existence of hell. Pope Francis, for his part, does believe in the existence of hell, as his past statements from the Vatican have shown. However, in January, when he was questioned again on this subject by an Italian talk show host, he shocked even Catholic theologians by saying, “I like to think of hell as empty; I hope it is.” Provocative statements have become routine with the current Pope who, in December, declared it permissible for priests to bless same-sex marriages. Mares, Courtney. “Pope Francis: ‘I like to think of hell as empty.’ News., 15 Jan., 2024. Web. 21 Jan., 2024.

Americans’ Opinion of Pastors Hits the Skids. According to a recent Gallup poll, fewer than one-third of Americans rate members of the clergy as “highly honest and ethical.” In the widely-cited survey, people said that they trust nurses, police officers and chiropractors more than they do pastors. Cheer up, though, pastors – you still rank above politicians, lawyers and journalists. Shellnutt, Kate. “Above Reproach? Fewer Americans See Pastors as Ethical.” News and Reporting., 25 Jan., 2024. Web. 25 Jan., 2024.

Most Pastors See Gambling as a Sin, But Are Afraid to Say So. Online gambling has exploded in recent years, especially sports gambling. February’s Superbowl game between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco Forty-Niners set a new record for sports gambling – over fifty million Americans bet a total of sixteen billion dollars on the game. A recent Lifeway Research study revealed an interesting anomaly about the attitude of Protestant pastors toward gambling. A majority of pastors surveyed (55%) said that gambling is morally wrong, and over 86% of pastors were opposed to legalized gambling. But when it comes to speaking out against gambling, the pastors surveyed didn’t seem to have the courage of their convictions. Over half of Protestant pastors say they “have not felt the need to address the issue.” 2% of pastors admitted to gambling on sports themselves. Earls, Aaron. “Super Bowl Gambling Grows, But Pastors Are on the Sidelines.” Wire Story., 8 Feb., 2024. Web. 20 Feb., 2024.

Lutheran Spokesman