Madonna’s Adoption Ruling Delayed Until Friday

A Malawian judge held a closed-door hearing Monday on Madonna's application to adopt a second child from this southern African nation but delayed ruling on the matter until Friday, a court official said.

The 50-year-old pop star spent about an hour in court Monday in the Malawi capital of Lilongwe. Court official Thomson Ligowe confirmed that Madonna's adoption application was adjourned until Friday but said he could not reveal any more details.

Monday's court docket listed only the child's name — Chifundo James, which means "Mercy" in a local language. It was not immediately known whether any of the girl's relatives were present at the courthouse Monday.

A Malawian welfare official and another person involved in the adoption proceedings say the girl is about 4 years old and her unmarried mother died soon after she was born. The girl's father is believed to be alive but no other details were available. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the case is considered sensitive.

Madonna has not commented on the adoption application and did not speak to reporters Monday morning.

The adoption of her 3-year-old son, David, whom she had met at a Malawian orphanage in October 2006, was finalized last year.

Children's advocacy groups have accused Madonna of wielding her immense wealth and influence to circumvent Malawian law requiring an 18- to 24-month assessment period before adoption. David's adoption was a trying process for the singer, who has said the storm of criticism hurt.

More criticism erupted over the weekend, with the Save the Children UK charity saying the recently divorced superstar risked sending the wrong message by going through with the second adoption. It said adoptions from orphanages encourages poor parents "to abandon children in the hope that they will have a better life."

Some Malawians have said, though, that they support Madonna in her effort to adopt the little girl.

"We are blessed for what Madonna is doing here," said E. Ngulinga, who was among the onlookers gathered outside the courthouse Monday.

"That baby is going to have the advantages of going to school and of becoming someone," he said. "Here it is very difficult."

Ngulinga said he hoped the girl and Madonna's adopted son, David, would return when they were older to help Malawi, an impoverished country where 14 percent of adults are infected with the virus that causes AIDS. The U.N. estimates that half of the 1 million Malawian children who have lost one or both parents have been orphaned by AIDS.

If the latest adoption goes through, Madonna would become a single mother of four. She also has an 8-year-old son, Rocco, with ex-husband and British film director Guy Ritchie and a 12-year-old daughter, Lourdes, from a previous relationship.

Madonna brought both David and Lourdes to Malawi this time, arriving Sunday. David later spent 2½ hours with his biological father at an exclusive lodge where the pop star is staying.

"I was very happy to see him," the father, Yohane Banda, told The Associated Press, adding that David did not recognize him. "He asked me who I was."

David's mother died when he was a month old. His father has said he believed he could not care for him alone, and that placing him in an orphanage was the best way to ensure David's survival.

On Sunday, Madonna and Lourdes visited the Malawi village of Chinkhota and Madonna spoke to residents and looked over drawings for a new school there.

Madonna first traveled to Malawi in 2006 while doing charity work and filming a documentary on the devastating poverty and AIDS crisis here. Her Raising Malawi organization, founded in 2006, raises funds to fight poverty by providing food, shelter, education and health care for children here.

Last year Madonna was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, passed Elvis Presley as the star with the most top ten hits in Billboard history and staged an immensely successful "Sticky & Sweet" world concert tour.

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