The death of Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI to succeed him were the top religion stories of 2005, according to rankings by a group of American journalists who cover religion. Other top stories in a survey of members of the Religion Newswriters Association released in mid-December included the controversy around the life and death of Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman who died amid a national controversy surrounding the removal of her feeding tube. Also cited were the religious-based response to Hurricane Katrina in the United States and the tsunami of late 2004 that affected a huge area of southeast Asia, as well as the ongoing controversies and debate within Protestant churches over the ordination of homosexuals as clergy. In order, the top stories selected by the RNA are:
- Pope John Paul’s death.
- The election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI.
- The Terri Schiavo case.
- The religious response to natural disasters, including to Hurricane Katrina and the late 2004 tsunami.
- The continuing debate over homosexuality within the church.
- Debate within the U.S. on the merits of evolution and the theory of “intelligent design.”
- The U.S. Supreme Court’s approval of the posting of the Ten Commandments outside the state capitol in Texas and disapproval of their posting inside Kentucky courthouses.
- Religious reaction to President Bush’s nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court, including evangelical opposition to the nomination, later withdrawn, of Harriet Miers.
- The Vatican’s release of a statement on homosexuality.
- Billy Graham’s last crusade in New York City.