American nuns face Vatican over rogue charges
Sisters Pat Farrell and Janet Mock met with Vatican officials over claims their group had gone rogue.
June 12th, 2012
12:05 PM ET

American nuns face Vatican over rogue charges

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - After weeks of anticipation, the leaders of American's largest umbrella group of nuns met Tuesday with the Vatican to address charges the nuns had gone rogue.

At the Vatican, Sisters Pat Farrell and Janet Mock, president and executive director respectively of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, sat down with Cardinal William Levada, head of Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - the church's doctrinal watchdog group, and Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle, who is charged with bringing the nuns back in line with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Vatican.

The sisters and church officials met to discuss a doctrinal assessment finding the influential group of American nuns had strayed too far from the church's teachings.

In a statement afterward, the nuns said, "The meeting had been requested by the LCWR to address what the conference considered deficiencies in the process and the results of the doctrinal assessment of the organization released by the CDF in April."

“It was an open meeting and we were able to directly express our concerns to Cardinal Levada and Archbishop Sartain,” Farrell said in a statement from the nuns' group.

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In a statement, the Vatican said, "The meeting provided the opportunity for the Congregation and the LCWR officers to discuss the issues and concerns raised by the doctrinal assessment in an atmosphere of openness and cordiality."

The Vatican reiterated that under canon law, which dictates how the church operates, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious "remains under the supreme direction of the Holy See in order to promote common efforts among the individual member institutes and cooperation with the Holy See and the local Conference of Bishops."

Cardinal William Levada, head of the Catholic Church's doctrinal watchdog group, had called the face-to-face meeting critical

"The purpose of the doctrinal assessment is to assist the LCWR in this important mission by promoting a vision of ecclesial communion founded on faith in Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Church as faithfully taught through the ages under the guidance of the Magisterium," the statement continued.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious is a group of 1,500 nuns who lead more than 300 religious orders. Together, its members represent 80% of the 57,000 nuns across the United States.

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The group's board met two weeks ago in Washington for the first time to discuss the assessment, saying it “was based on unsubstantiated accusations and (was) the result of a flawed process that lacked transparency.”

“Moreover, the sanctions imposed were disproportionate to the concerns raised and could compromise (the nuns’) ability to fulfill their mission,” the group said in a statement.

The lengthy doctrinal assessment, released in April, listed a number of concerns church officials had with the sisters.

It said that at an annual gathering of the group, guest speakers who preached "radical feminism" went unchallenged. The report also alleged sins of omission, saying the nuns were focused too heavily on social justice and not enough on opposing abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage.

Levada, an American who was formerly archbishop of San Francisco, earlier had called the face-to-face meeting in Rome critical.  "Such a personal encounter allows for the opportunity to review the document together in a spirit of mutual respect and collaboration, hopefully thereby avoiding possible misunderstandings of the document’s intent and scope," he said in a statement at the time of the assessment.

"As the issues evidenced in the doctrinal assessment involve essential questions of faith, the Holy Father has given the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith a special mandate to collaborate with the (Leadership Conference of Women Religious) in a renewal of their work through a concentrated reflection on the doctrinal foundations of that work," Levada said.

The nuns' group said their leaders will return to the United States and discuss its options with members at their annual meeting in August.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious was formed at the behest of the Vatican and is still under the auspices of the Holy See. One approach the nuns are said to be considering is the "nuclear option," with the sisters resigning en masse and forming a nonprofit group outside the Vatican's reach.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Bishops • Catholic Church • Pope Benedict XVI • Vatican

soundoff (702 Responses)
  1. flip1

    The Inquisition begins anew.

    June 12, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • celeste

      Nuns Rock and have always done so. To be criticized for spending too much time on social justice by men who have damaged beyond repair – the Catholic Church? What would JC say? He would be pretty angry at these 'leaders'. Nuns should run the Catholic Church- it would not be in the mess it is in.

      June 12, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • Judy

      I agree ... nuns should run the vatican...it wouldn't be such a mess. Haven't been to church in years-ever since my mother was in the hospital and found out she had luekemia and the monsignor visiting asked her for a check! I can pray on my own time in my own privacy....to the god that I wish to pray to...

      June 12, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  2. flip1

    I would pat them down before letting them in.

    June 12, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  3. Freedom524

    To Jeff from Columbus:

    Keep dreaming bud, it is a scam, half the crap the preech is a joke! Lent, not in the bible, transtibulation, joke not in the bible, heck even Christmas is made up!

    It is scam to keep the people down, Vatican and Penn State....go hand in hand! Pediofiles!

    June 12, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • flip1

      Actually its the Vatican and the Taliban.

      June 12, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • pat

      If it is in the bible or just church doctrine makes no difference. It is all just made up by man.

      June 12, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • owl96

      The season of Lent is not in the Bible. But a period of group penance is. After the Resurrection, the Disciples gather for a time of group prayer. After Jonah arrived in Nineveh, the entire population of the city covered themselves in ashes and sack cloth and repented and prayed for deliverance. The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years to cleans their nation from their sins. Lent is nothing more than the Church gathering together to pray and do penance for a period of time because they choose to do so, as a group.

      June 12, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  4. Rick James

    LOL at the Catholic Church bring anyone else up over charges for disagreement of all thing. The church has basically done what Penn State did, only many times worse.

    June 12, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • The Contentious Otter

      Especially interesting is the choice of the Church to have the nuns scolded by a priest that was relocated to Rome. Given the recent history of the Church it seems a little odd to have someone who by all appearances is a member of the Church's Pedophile Protection Program lecturing the nuns.

      Personally I think the nuns should tell the bishops to go s**t in their funny pointed hats and then those nuns should form their own Protestant sect where the nuns take over the pulpit and are free to pursue issues like women's equality and social justice. That's a Church that I would be very glad to attend.

      June 12, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Rick James

      Agreed. I wouldn't join any chruch, but my respect for religion would increase by leaps and bounds if that were to happen.

      June 12, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  5. trex

    ....Nuns live in OUR world................High end religion lives somewhere else.....................

    June 12, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  6. Kindness

    For you.
    A thought to consider without an ego response

    Accept Jesus christ as your lord and saviour. You never know how soon is too late. Transcend the worldly illusion of enslavement.
    The world denounces truth....

    Accepting Jesus Christ (for me) resulted in something like seeng a new colour. You will see it .....but will not be able to clearly explain it to anyone else..... Its meant to be that way to transend any selfism within you.

    Also... much the world arranges "surrounding dark matter into something to be debated" in such a way that protects/inflates the ego.

    The key is be present and transcend our own desire to physically see evidence. We don't know anyways by defending our own perception of dark matter.

    Currently.... most of us are constructing our own path that suits our sin lifestyle. Were all sinners. Knowing that we are is often an issue. But both christians and non are sinners.

    We don't like to Let go and let god. We want control to some degree. This is what Jesus asks us to do. "Follow me".
    It's the hardest thing to do... but is done by letting the truth of scripture lead you (redemptive revelation)... as I said .

    Try reading corinthians and see if it makes sense to you. Try it without a pre conceived notion of it being a fairy tale.
    See the truth...
    do we do what it says in todays society... is it relevant... so many have not recently read and only hinge their philosophy on what they have heard from som other person...which may have been full of arogance pride or vanity..

    Look closely at the economy ponzi, look at how society idolizes Lust , greed , envy, sloth, pride of life, desire for knowledge, desire for power, desire for revencge,gluttony with food etc .

    Trancsend the temporal world.

    Just think if you can find any truth you can take with you ....in any of these things. When you die your riches go to someone who will spend away your life..... You will be forgotten.... history will repeat iteslf.... the greatest minds knowledge fade or are eventually plagerzed..... your good deeds will be forgotten and only give you a fleeting temporary reward . your learned teachings are forgotten or mutated..... your gold is transfered back to the rullers that rule you through deception. Your grave will grow over . This is truth .

    Trancsend your egoism and free yourself from this dominion of satan. Understand you are a sinner and part of the collective problem of this worldly matrix... Repent.... Repent means knowing (to change) The Holy spirit (within) will convict you beyond what you think you can do by yourself. Grace is given to those who renounce the world. That are" in" the world but not "of " the world.

    Evidence follows faith. Faith does not follow evidence..... Faith above reason in Jesus Christ.

    Faith comes by Reading or Hearing the word of god from the bible . Ask Jesus in faith for dicernment and start reading the new testament... You will be shocked when you lay down your preconceived notions and ....see and hear truth ... see how christ sets an example ... feel the truth....

    Read Ecclesiastes. Read corinthians.

    You cant trancend your own egoism by adapting a world philosophy to suit your needs. Seek the truth in Christ.

    Sell all your cleverness and purchase true bewilderment. You don't get what you want ....you get what you are in christ.

    I promise this has been the truth for me. In Jesus christ .

    Think of what you really have to lose. ...your ego?

    Break the Matrix of illusion that holds your senses captive.

    once you do . you too will have the wisdom of God that comes only through the Holy Spirit. Saved By grace through Faith. Just like seeing a new colour.... can't explain it to a transient caught in the matrix of worldly deception.
    You will also see how the world suppresses this information and distorts it

    You're all smart people . I tell the truth. Its hard to think out of the box when earthly thinking is the box.
    I'ts a personal free experience you can do it free anytime . Don't wait till you are about to die.. START PUTTING YOUR TREASURES WHERE THEY REALLY MATTER >
    Its awsome and It's just between you and Jesus

    my testimony

    Romans 10:9

    "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved."

    June 12, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • Andrew

      Where did you buy your weed???

      June 12, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • flip1

      I suggest taking a massive dose of Ativan.

      June 12, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      @Kindness – I read the crap you posted and my answer is "NO." I'd rather go to your non-existent hell, than hang out with christards like you...

      June 12, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Ryan

      "Evidence follows faith" - really? That clearly makes no logical sense at all. But, then again, that's the definition of faith - belief without evidence. If you did this in any other area of human life - work, finance, politics - you'd be considered gullible and easily led. For some reason, when it comes to matters of religion, this behavior is held up as a virtue.

      June 12, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  7. Rachelle

    Heaven forbid the nuns keep up with the times while the church refuses to accept the reality of where we are as human beings. You go girls!

    June 12, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • flip1

      Sister Mary DeSade now carries a Taser instead of a ruler.

      June 12, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  8. cyn507

    I hope these ladies tell them to go pound sand and start their own movement. there is certainly no benefit for them to be aligned w/the church. might as well jump off the sinking ship that is the church, now and go prosper on your own.

    June 12, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  9. Freedom524

    I am going to keep it simple, it has been a long day already.

    "Organized religion is a frigging joke!" The Vatican was build by promising people a good afterlife if they gave money, indulgences! What does that say! Crooked, child molesting fools there! 13 virgins after death, whatever! All of it is just plain stupid...simple not a lot of thought...who cares!

    June 12, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • Jeff from Columbus

      Catholic Church is a joke, right? Except its still the largest religion in the United States BY FAR, more than 2,000 years after the birth of Christ.

      2,000 years. Think about that. People continue to believe in Jesus, as the Messiah, for 2,000 years. People have died for Jesus consistently throughout those 2,000 years, too. They believe so fervently that they are willing to die for that belief.

      Now, I know it'd be nice for people who aren't Christian or Catholic to write this off as mere legend or myth. But, how many myths and legends persist for 2,000 years? The Catholic Church in the United States is bigger now than ever. Its not getting weaker – its getting stronger.

      Why? Because "the Vatican" has hoodwinked everyone? Really? Come on. How many scams do you know that could last for 2,000 years?

      June 12, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • Greg

      Hey Jeff from Columbus, using your logic one of the religons that has been around longer should be the true religion then. Longevity does not make something true or right.

      June 12, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • Andrew

      It's nice during that 2000 years when you've given yourself authority to kill others with opposing myths in order to perpetuate your own...

      June 12, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • DontTellMe

      @Jeff, In the words of P.T. Barnum, there's a sucker born every minute.

      June 12, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Shadowflash1522

      "How many myths have lasted for 2000 years..."
      Ever heard of Aesop's Fables? Zeus and the Olympian Gods? Hades and Persephone? Icarus and Daedelus? Thor and Mjolnir? Isis, Osiris, Anubis, and the whole Egyptian gang? The Mayan Long Count? All myths, all far older than your magic myth book. Just because it's old, doesn't make it correct.

      Oh, and I nearly forgot...shout out to copernicus, galileo, newton, and all the persecuted fathers of science.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  10. Sifleut

    Anyone for god's love, anyone?

    June 12, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • scoot

      Which god? The one that burns people in a lake of fire if they dont worship him? Sounds like an insecure god to me. No thanks.

      June 12, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Pat

      All you need to know about this situation is that the nuns went to Rome. Lavada and Sartain didn't go to the USA and meet with the nuns there. Why I am no longer a Catholic.

      June 12, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  11. CMH

    If Jesus wanted his followers to help the poor then I think he would have mentioned it at some point. I've not read the Jesus Book, but I'm guessing it was mostly about hating other people and making sure they don't have rights. That and probably about how to make fun 'false idols' of saints and peoples mothers that we can all pray to.

    June 12, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • mthomas

      It was mentioned repeatedly throughout the New Testament. He commissioned his followers to help those who were less fortunate, the orphans and the widows.

      June 12, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • say what??

      Matthew 25 >>
      New American Standard Bible
      35‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 37“Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

      June 12, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
  12. Mathematically challenged

    "The Leadership Conference of Women Religious is a group of 1,500 nuns who lead more than 300 religious orders. Together, its members represent 80% of the 57,000 nuns across the United States." Let's see... 1,500 divided by 57,000, times 100 equals...26%?! What am I doing wrong here? Oh. I get it. Some nuns are in a group that leads some other nuns who represent all the other nuns. Oh, and by that logic... doesn't the Pope represent 100% of the nuns? Or does he represent only 80%? Let's see...100%- 80%, ah fugeddabowdit.

    June 12, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  13. Pope Curious George III

    The Lives today. His lair is the Vatican and he disguises himself as the pope. He always has. Jesus lived a humble life. The Pope, in his robes of gold living in his own city state spends more on himself in one day than is needed to help feed and teach the people in all of Africa for a week.

    Think about how much it costs a day to just pay for electricity for the vatican alone.

    June 12, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  14. Norm

    Rogue Nuns....sounds like a great name for a new Xbox game.
    Nuns with big machine guns and ammunition belts and grenades and junk.....
    Awesome..........or a new marvel super hero...."Rogue Nun"............

    June 12, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  15. ChrissyinFL

    If the religions of the world were matriarchal instead of patriarchal, we wouldn't have nearly the screwed up world that we do now. The women are more concerned wiht helping people and spreading love on earth. The men are too concerned with petty rules of engagement, what is or isn't MORE sinful, what should be secular politics, and of course the $ & power.

    June 12, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  16. palintwit

    "New Rule: Stop comparing Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann just because they're both Republican women. And crazy. And know-nothings. And Jesus freaks, who claim to receive messages from God. Who both get their historical facts wrong all the time. Who both give off a sound that only animals can hear and makes microwaves explode. Seriously, stop comparing them." —Bill Maher

    June 12, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • Pope Curious George III

      Don't forget the last Prez G. Bush, he told people God talked to him and told him what to do. He thinks of himself as one of Gods mercenaries, just like Palin, Bachmann and Osama bin Laden. They all think/thought of themselves as justice warriors of God.
      And look where the world is because of them all.

      June 12, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • FajitaBob

      "Anyone who quotes Bill Maher to support their position should be immediately dispatched." -FajitaBob

      June 12, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • FajitaBob

      George: and how has your ilk done any good for this world? All I EVER hear from the anti-religious far-left loonies like you is anger and hatred. Not once have I seen an atheist group out helping others, or running hospitals, soup kitchens, or other charities. Not once have I seen an atheist post, "to each his own." Nope. All you people do is spew evil. Maybe if you stopped b itching about everybody else and try to do something good for a change, you might be happier. But I bet you won't. To be clear, I am only judging your actions. But your actions tell a pretty sad story. Of course I am not without a great deal of fault also, but think about how much time you spend slamming others just because they have a difference of opinion. Now BE COOL.

      June 12, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  17. Someone

    Heaven sent, why do we have to fear God. that makes him a monster that I don't want to know. I would prefer a god that is friendly and not someone to fear.

    June 12, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Bill


      June 12, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • Jeff from Columbus

      Um...this is an article about Catholicism. Catholics aren't taught to fear God.

      Not sure what religion you're talking about but it sure isn't Catholicism.

      June 12, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • Norm

      God is within you..
      Those who fear God...fear themselves.

      June 12, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • Pope Curious George III

      Fear the Pope. He can excommunicate you with a bat of an eye and you'll be damned for eternity. Be a good sheeple and be saved. Only saved from what?

      June 12, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  18. Bob

    HeavenSent, I'm going to push this comment to the top again, since all you have done so far is dodge my questions. You've never been able to respond with any substance to my posts. Here we go again. This time, show some courage and try to respond with substance for a change. I doubt that you can:

    Now, since we have HeavenSent dumping bible quotes on us here ad nauseum, let's have a look at the really nasty stuff that Christian god is really stated as demanding of Christians in the Christian book of horrors AKA the bible. Awful horrors like these, just as a few of many, many examples:

    Numbers 31:17-18
    17 Now kiII all the boys. And kiII every woman who has slept with a man,
    18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

    Deuteronomy 13:6 – “If your brother, your mother’s son or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul entice you secretly, saying, let us go and serve other gods … you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death”

    Note that the bible is also very clear that you should sacrifice and burn an animal today because the smell makes sicko Christian sky fairy happy. No, you don't get to use the parts for food. You burn them, a complete waste of the poor animal.

    Yes, the bible really says that, everyone. Yes, it's in Leviticus, look it up. Yes, Jesus purportedly said that the OT commands still apply. No exceptions. But even if you think the OT was god's mistaken first go around, you have to ask why a perfect, loving enti-ty would ever put such horrid instructions in there. If you think rationally at all, that is.

    And then, if you disagree with my interpretation, ask yourself how it is that your "god" couldn't come up with a better way to communicate than a book that is so readily subject to so many interpretations and to being taken "out of context", and has so many mistakes in it. Pretty pathetic god that you've made for yourself.

    So get out your sacrificial knife or your nasty sky creature will torture you eternally. Or just take a closer look at your foolish supersti-tions, understand that they are just silly, and toss them into the dustbin with all the rest of the gods that man has created.

    Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement. Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.

    June 12, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Norm

      Trying to recruit people against God is just as annoying as people who try to convert you to their religion.
      Why do you care if someone believes in God.
      We sure don't care that you don't...............
      Go away pest.....

      June 12, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Lazarus

      I totally agree w/ Norm. Well put mang.

      June 12, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Bob, get off your lazy duff and do your own homework going back about a year for the articles that Christians answered your post when you used another handle.

      Other than that ... I'm not jumping through your hoops of starting this debate over again each time your side looses ...knowing that all of you refuse to listen when given His truth.

      June 12, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • FajitaBob

      Bob: There is a hell of a lot more good than bad in the Bible. There is a lot more good than bad done by Christians. Comparatively, I would stick with the Christians over your ilk in any case. You are a hateful, arrogant, person. And you think based on ypour comments that people are going to flock to your website to join you? If so, I have little hope for our future. God bless!

      June 12, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • pat

      norm – he isn't recruting against god because he doesn't believe in it, you do. He is encouraging people to think for themselves rationally and if that results in them not believing the bible, then they become free of all that.

      June 12, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • CathEngineer-2

      My, how smart you are. ........NOT!
      You spout off bible verses which have NOTHING to do with Christianity. The term Christianity refers to Christ (Jesus), which only appears in the NEW TESTAMENT. The verses you refer to are from the Old Testament (Jewish).

      Read the true bible cover to cover, with some sense of understanding.

      June 12, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • Paul

      Yep! the Bible says that. If God told me to go into the next village and slay every living creature, I would say "Thank you god for talking to me, but I ain't gonna do that!" Or maybe, that is not really God talking. Every Christian (and Jew, as that is old testament) needs to be aware of those passages and renounce terrorism. Religion need not preclude spirituality....as it seems to do. One can have a relationship with a book, the bible, and read it as a lawyer would read a law book and use it to judge others, or one can have a relationship to God.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  19. Ashley from Ohio

    Stand Your Ground, girls!

    June 12, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
  20. Lazarus

    lol at Colin... this troll posts the same thing in every story CNN does on Christianity and/or Catholicism... Get a new schtick guy.

    June 12, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • SBSTR

      Well, somebody's got to do it sooner or later. The religious fanatics have a 2000 year head start.

      June 12, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Lazarus

      I'm just laughing cause its the same washed up material. wow he's so smart he can pretend to be God speaking to us saying "don't believe in Me. haha. It's just funny. I think the last time CNN did a story he posted it 2 different times. One time as "God" and another as himself... IN THE SAME STORY! It's just funny to me. Guy has too much time on his hands.

      June 12, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • The "Real" God

      Yes....don't listen to that guy.
      He doesn't speak for me.
      If I want to contact you, I'll do it directly.....like this.

      June 12, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.