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Billy Graham might preach again, in New Orleans


(RNS) Evangelist Billy Graham, at 87 still a dominant figure on the American religious landscape, has decided to join his son, Franklin, and perhaps even preach in New Orleans at an event in March.

The elder Graham has told members of his organization he was moved by the suffering of New Orleans and the surrounding region after Hurricane Katrina and wants to come ďto encourage pastors, churches and the peopleĒ of the area, said A. Larry Ross, a Graham spokesman. The event, called Celebration of Hope, is scheduled for the New Orleans Arena on March 11 and 12. Billy Graham may preach March 12.

The event is a product of Katrina. After the storm, New Orleans pastors and the Graham organization revived dormant plans to stage a gathering, said Jeff Anderson, coordinator of the event.

Debilitated by an array of ailments, most visibly Parkinsonís disease, Graham is no longer the robust figure who has held an open Bible aloft in pulpits in 185 countries. He has prostate cancer and hydrocephaly, or water on the brain, and must use a walker because of the effects of a broken pelvis and hip.

In recent years he has scaled back his preaching, turning over to his son, Franklin, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Grahamís last major public engagement was a three-day crusade in New York City in June before 230,000 people. Given his condition, the common wisdom was that last summerís public appearance might well be his last. But Graham himself left the door open, even as he acknowledged his infirmity.