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November 26th, 2013
10:21 AM ET

Pope Francis: No more business as usual

By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor

(CNN) - Pope Francis on Tuesday called for big changes in the Roman Catholic Church - including at the very top  saying the church needs to rethink rules and customs that are no longer widely understood or effective for evangelizing.

"I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security," the Pope said in a major new statement.

"I do not want a Church concerned with being at the center and then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures," Francis added.

The Pope's address, called an "apostolic exhortation," is part mission statement, part pep talk for the world's 1.5 billion Catholics. Francis' bold language and sweeping call for change are likely to surprise even those who've grown accustomed to his unconventional papacy.

"Not everyone will like this document," said the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author in New York. "For it poses a fierce challenge to the status quo."

And it's not just a verbal challenge, the Pope said on Tuesday.

"I want to emphasize that what I am trying to express here has a programmatic significance and important consequences."

Since his election in March, Pope Francis, the first pontiff to hail from Latin America, has made headlines by decrying the iniquities of modern capitalism, embracing the poor and people with disabilities and reaching out to gays and lesbians.

At the same time, the 77-year-old pontiff has sought to to awaken a spirit of joy and compassion in the church, scolding Catholic "sourpusses" who hunt down rule-breakers and calling out a "tomb psychology" that "slowly transforms Christians into mummies in a museum."

"An evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral!" the Pope said.

Officially known in Latin as "Evangelii Gaudium" (The Joy of the Gospel), the 85-page statement released on Tuesday is the first official document written entirely by Pope Francis. (An earlier document was co-written by Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.)

Although Francis sprinkles the statement with citations of previous popes and Catholic luminaries like St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine, the new pontiff makes a bold call for the church to rethink even long-held traditions.

"In her ongoing discernment, the Church can also come to see that certain customs not directly connected to the heart of the Gospel, even some which have deep historical roots, are no longer properly understood and appreciated," the Pope said.

"Some of these customs may be beautiful, but they no longer serve as means of communicating the Gospel. We should not be afraid to re-examine them. At the same time, the Church has rules or precepts which may have been quite effective in their time, but no longer have the same usefulness for directing and shaping people’s lives."

Such statements mark a sharp break from Benedict XVI, a more tradition-bound pope who focused on cleaning up cobwebs of unorthodoxy in the church.

By contrast, in "Evangelii" Francis repeats his calls for Catholics to stop "obsessing" about culture war issues and to focus more on spreading the Gospel, especially to the poor and marginalized.

READ MORE: The Pope’s bold new vision

The outside world, particularly its economic inequalities, didn't escape Francis' notice either.

In a section of "Evangelii" entitled "some challenges to today's world," he sharply criticized what he called an "idolatry of money" and "the inequality that spawns violence."

The Pope also blasted "trickle-down economics," saying the theory "expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power."

“Meanwhile,” Francis said, “the excluded are still waiting.”

But the bulk of Francis' statement addresses the church, which, he said, should not be afraid to "get its shoes soiled by the mud of the street."

The Pope also hinted that he wants to see an end to the so-called "wafer wars," in which Catholic politicians who support abortion rights are denied Holy Communion. His comments could also be taken as another sign that he plans to reform church rules that prevent divorced Catholics from receiving the Eucharist.

"Everyone can share in some way in the life of the Church; everyone can be part of the community, nor should the doors of the sacraments be closed for simply any reason," Francis said.

"The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak."

Even so, Francis reiterated the church's stand against abortion, defending it against critics who call such arguments "ideological, obscurantist and conservative."

"Precisely because this involves the internal consistency of our message about the value of the human person, the Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question," Francis said.

The Pope also reiterated previous rejections on ordaining women, saying the topic is "not open for discussion."

But that doesn't mean the church values men more than women, he said.

"We need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church," the Pope said.

Francis also said he expects other parts of the church to change, and called on Catholics to be unafraid of trying new things.

"More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving."

Francis didn't mention specific reforms, but he suggested that it could include changes at the very top of the church.

"Since I am called to put into practice what I ask of others, I too must think about a conversion of the papacy," he said.

READ MORE: Pope Francis: Church can't 'interfere' with gays

The church's centralization, where all roads lead to Rome, and the "we've always done it this way" type of thinking have hindered Catholics' ability to minister to local people in far-flung places, Francis suggested.

"I invite everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization in their respective communities," the Pope said.

Martin, the Jesuit priest and author, said he could not recall ever "reading a papal document that was so thought-provoking, surprising and invigorating."

"The document’s main message is that Catholics should be unafraid of new ways of proclaiming the Gospel and new ways of thinking about the church."

MORE ON CNN:

The disfigured man in popular photos talks about the Pope's embrace 

Opinion – the Pope’s revolutionary message 

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christianity • Pope Francis

soundoff (2,437 Responses)
  1. Tchomeboy

    Odds are he will not live long.

    November 26, 2013 at 11:54 am |
    • Charm Quark

      Frankie is stirring up a hornets nest of enemies from the powerful cardinals to the mafia to the Vatican gay lobby. He had better pay more attention to his security detail.

      November 26, 2013 at 11:59 am |
  2. JJ

    Man, is that one hell of a bong hit or what!

    November 26, 2013 at 11:52 am |

    • But he's holding it really well.

      November 26, 2013 at 11:54 am |
      • Charm Quark

        Or LL blowing a little his way.

        November 26, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
  3. Tj

    "focus more on spreading the Gospel, especially to the poor and marginalized."

    The only people uneducated enough to still believe this crap. Try believing in yourself, and not what someone is telling you to believe.

    November 26, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • R Burns

      There is no "telling people what to believe". For those who have been given God's message through personal revelation, the time was right and the heart open to receive it. The blessings are undeniable – we can only describe it to those who have not heard it and hope the spirit will do the rest. For those who refuse to acknowledge this most humbling and enriching of human experiences, my condolences!

      November 26, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
      • G to the T

        You seem to be assuming there's no such thing as an "ex-christian". I would respectfully disagree.

        November 26, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
    • bosco

      Good thing you are not affected by others' beliefs huh?

      November 26, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
    • Native Pride

      Really? Out of the entire article, that is what you got out of it?

      November 26, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
      • doobzz

        Yes, because that's all there is to it. This isn't about real reform, it's about distraction. All he's done is talk, no action to follow up.

        November 26, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
  4. jarad

    i'm not a particularily religious man yet, I read this article, I've kept informed of the new popes ideas and thoughts he has shared with others.. seems he has done more in the short time he has been in the lead than many of those who came before him. He is engaging everyone, asking people to put aside what they did yesterday to ask why they did it, can they do it better. I like this guy, I think he will do wonders for the church and humanity. He is the real deal.

    November 26, 2013 at 11:51 am |

    • The Antichrist, you mean?

      November 26, 2013 at 11:53 am |
      • Antichrist paranoia

        is real and scary. It's responsible, for instance for Xtian-based human sacrifices that still occur – recently in Chile, and Mexico.

        November 26, 2013 at 11:57 am |
    • doobzz

      He has said more than other popes about certain issues, but he hasn't actually done anything yet.

      November 26, 2013 at 11:53 am |
      • Raj

        he got people listening to him. Though I am not a christian by faith, I can relate to his thinking. And I like him for his inclusiveness. (I rank that as a highly important quality for a spiritual leader)

        November 26, 2013 at 11:58 am |
        • doobzz

          He talks about inclusiveness but hasn't actually done anything.

          When he starts actually doing something, like have the pedophiles that are hidden away at the Vatican arrested and tried for their crimes, then you can say he's a true leader. Until then, he's just a mouthpiece, saying pretty things.

          November 26, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
      • Susan StoHelit

        No, he has made real changes – go look. Real action, prosecutions, people removed from positions of power....

        November 26, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
        • doobzz

          Then why hasn't he come out and told the world about it? A prosecution here and there isn't change, it's collateral damage. They have to sacrifice a few weak lambs to protect the rest of the herd.

          If this was true, it would be headline news, instead of photo ops of him doing what any other compassionate human would also do and shrugging his shoulders at the LGBT community.

          And there is still no mandate for the civil authorities to be contacted when there is an accusation of abuse, as public school employees are required. So it's still business as usual.

          November 26, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
  5. Raj

    first time ever, I am listening to a pop.

    November 26, 2013 at 11:51 am |
    • doobzz

      That's just me making popcorn.

      November 26, 2013 at 11:54 am |
    • Sheridan

      "Pop"? Yes, this 'pope' does seem to have a bubbly personality! He is a very mellow kind of guy who is pretty pepper about his flock. A really dew it yourself man.

      November 26, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
      • Raj

        Sorry that was a typo...missing 'e'

        November 26, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
        • sonny chapman

          Francis would forgive you just as the Father/Creator would forgive you(not a real bad transgression).

          November 26, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
        • doobzz

          Typos are transgressions?

          November 26, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
        • Sheridan

          Raj, I know. It just inspired my up comment. 😉

          November 26, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
  6. DaTrufHurts

    Francis has apparently read Marx...

    November 26, 2013 at 11:49 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Apparently not.

      "I don't care to belong to any club that will have me as a member."
      -Groucho Marx

      November 26, 2013 at 11:51 am |
      • doobzz

        LOL!

        November 26, 2013 at 11:54 am |
    • This pope seems to have some sense

      Let's hope Justice Scalia, who believes Satan is a real dude walking around somewhere, takes time to listen...

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JuSfRgh0Vo&w=640&h=390]

      November 26, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • Patrick in Wisconsin

      Jesus was a socialist. If you don't believe me, read the Gospel.

      November 26, 2013 at 11:57 am |
    • Chance

      According to the Gospel, Christ was a socialist. If you're Christian, you must share wealth. It's made explicitly clear over and over again throughout the new testament.

      November 26, 2013 at 11:59 am |
    • John

      I guess Jesus did, too.

      November 26, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
  7. T

    ......and now that Palin has labeled the Pope as a radical liberal.................I guess Jesus was one too...............

    November 26, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • Chance

      Oh, He was. He was a radical liberal. He upset the status quo and the conservatives of the time killed Him for it.

      November 26, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
  8. It appears

    the era of zombie popes is over...

    November 26, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • william tells

      Unfortunately for Catholics, barring direly-needed REFORM, the Parable of the 10 Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) foretells of ONE-HALF the church of Jesus Christ NOT BEING RAPTURED concurrent with the Occasion of the 2nd Advent, i.e., specifically, that half the church pleading mea culpa to fulfilling that modern-day prophecy identified in the aggregate of 2 Timothy 4:3 and John 14:17 whose net effect is UNHOLY believers (having eschewed gathering "oil" [personal holiness] for their "lamp" into into their life) BUT since Jesus, Himself, promises not to lose a single one of those entrusted by God The Father into Jesus' hands for safekeeping (John 10:28) that means a circuitous side-trip is in the future for all those "virgins" choosing such ill-informed direction if they are serious about ever entering those Pearly Gates (see Hebrews 12:14). That "side-trip" is the last half (3 & 1/2 years) of the 7-year period of Tribulation known as the "Great Tribulation" out of which they eventually emerge donned in white robes (Rev. 7:13,14) symbolizing belated receipt of personal holiness theretofore disregarded.

      Suggestion: SOMEBODY might want to clue in the apparently well-meaning Pope of the theological mechanics necessary to rectify the spiritually-bereft condition resulting from embracing the aforementioned "modern-day prophecy" which include these key steps FOR A BELIEVER-IN-CHRIST (vis-a-vis a "believer in Mary") having since become a Matthew 9:16,17 DEFEATED believer for reason of having erroneously elected to attempt to live the Christian life sans the Power and Presence of the Enabling, John 16:8-13 soul-convicting, 2 Cor. 7:9,10 godly-sorrow producing, Matthew 3:2 repentance-resulting, indwelt Spirit of Christ:

      Consider Luke 11:5-12 leading to doing 1 John 1:8-10 (with a Matthew 3:2 repentant mindset) ultimately promulgating realization of Luke 11:13's promise TO THE BELIEVER (inapplicable to heathens) aided in no small way by repeated (as proves necessary) exercise of the Sacrament of Oil Anointing (1 Samuel 16:13) finally resulting in the believer's becoming that 2 Cor. 5:17 "new creation" thanks to the soul-renewing arrival of those inimitable "fruit of The Spirit" having been translated into the formerly-defeated believer's life thanks to the 2nd implantation of Christ's Galatians 5:22,23-producing Spirit (the first or "initial" indwelling of His Spirit having occurred possibly many years previously as part-and-parcel of the believer's salvation experience (Acts 2:38).

      Sincerely,

      William Tells, Pentecostal Believer-in-Christ

      November 26, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
  9. Honey Badger Don't Care

    Man, that is the best pope ever. That pope is on FIRE!

    November 26, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • Carl

      Not yet, but wait until he reaches Hell...

      November 26, 2013 at 11:44 am |
      • Honey Badger Don't Care

        I meant by all of the smoke all around him in the pic above. ^

        November 26, 2013 at 11:50 am |
  10. Dr. Kynes

    I must admit, against all better judgement, I like this Pope.

    November 26, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • Anne112

      me too. And I'm a long-time recovering catholic.

      November 26, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care

      Obviously it's not "better judgement" if you're going against it.

      November 26, 2013 at 11:53 am |
  11. liberal disease

    thats what obama said and look what we have

    November 26, 2013 at 11:42 am |
    • wishing

      Look closer.

      November 26, 2013 at 11:51 am |
    • Gurney man

      Well spoken Liet.

      November 26, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
  12. Doc

    He makes so much sense he'll either A) Push this through given the state of the Church's current PR, B) Be replaced soon with another "talking head", C) Die an untimely death. If there's a God in heaven, let this guy return the Church to some semblance of its former glory.

    November 26, 2013 at 11:42 am |
  13. 3States

    This is so refreshing and as a former Catholic, I am contemplating returning to the faith again.

    November 26, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • JJ

      You would return back to the cult because of this one man? It's still rotten to the core and infested with pedophiles. Wow...the RCC is the best marketing outfit I've ever seen.

      November 26, 2013 at 11:44 am |
      • lordee@windstream.net

        I would contemplate returning to a church of change. Sins of the past should be forgiven and sins of the present should be also forgiven. No change for the better will happen until change is radical in the church. Stop being a hater.

        November 26, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • Mark Y.

      Ditto!! Sin is Sin, he knows it we know it. No where in his statement did he encourage us to break any of the 10 commandments. He is truly trying to follow in the steps of Jesus. Get out of the church buildings and get into the streets and help each other!!

      November 26, 2013 at 11:56 am |
      • lordee@windstream.net

        I agree that Pope Francis wants to deliver Jesus' message of love and hope. He wants Catholics to participate, not watch.

        November 26, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
  14. SDCinNS

    So how are previous popes.. who supposedly had "papal infallibility" (ie.. unable to make an ecclesiastical mistake).. now having their errors corrected? (By another supposedly infallible pope).

    November 26, 2013 at 11:36 am |
    • LDH20

      There have only been a handful of Infallibility decrees over the centuries so that will not be a problem

      November 26, 2013 at 11:42 am |
    • Mark Y.

      This Pope knows he's human and makes a lot of mistakes. I see a man who's trying to convey that he is not God but as human as the rest of us and by his humanity will continue to make mistakes and by the glory of the Lord will repent and learn not to repeat them.

      November 26, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • LP

      Papal infallibility is extremely rarely invoked. I believe seven times in history, most recently in 1950. Nothing Francis wrote contradicts any infallible statement, and his statement here was not made with infallibility.

      Don't get me wrong - I think it's all a bunch of nonsense, but if you're going to criticize it, get your facts straight.

      November 26, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
  15. Lovely

    Before we get started remember that I am not angry I am confused. Grown men and women had the oppourtunity to bring in the kingdom of heaven the way it was designed by God. The wealth of Soloman for all people unstead by greed people have suffered and those in in sin with God will pay. For me He said that I understand the kingdom of heaven it is not wealth nor fame it is Angels. Seek ye the kingdom of heaven it is Angels. Out of your belly comes living water not the dead. All of the 12 tribes will be resurrected into internal life we have been forgiven. Matthew 11:11 Men will try to control the kingdom of heaven. Trust me He is coming to explain to you the Gospels the kingdom of heaven, Satan in the 2nd heaven, where the footstool of God's throne was truly located and why. The problem is what you all don't see is why God sent tribe Rueben with Judah to a certain location in the earth not for weatlh but for Holiness. This is what is needed on the earth as you will see what we really came to take care of. Jesus said you will understand the kingdom of heaven. There are three heavens Satan is in prison in the 2nd heaven soon he will be released this is what we should be talking about and how the earth will be the final resting place of the beast. Remember John said Satan took a 1/3 of the heaven with just his tail. Again, you are grown men and women who have played with large and mighty Angels God who is coming to confront all issuses regarding the Gospels Jesus death, tribe Judah death in 1945 all those at the bottom of the ocean. He himself is coming to confront the sins of the world. He said do not get mad at me for reading the Gospels and do not get mad at me, because I truly was struck with the kingdom of heaven. At 5 years of age I changed the winds with my voice from cold to warm He said to me.
    I was surrounded by a Legion of powerful mighty Angels who fell in love with a little girl. The spirit bore witness to itself He said to me. Perfect in the spirit a perfect image of God He said to me. Be careful He is coming to judge the sins of the world. We too sin tribe Rueben we were struck with the plauge only a handful 200 years training in leadership. He has forgiven us you see. Now those who have sinned against his word if the do not repent they will suffer like our tribe no one will get away with anything. Again, not angry sad we could of all brought in the kingdom the right away the Gospels are a very powerful tool it has and will take us into the 5th and final world to everlasting life. Goodluck and repent get out of sin with him before it's too late. My tribe is still coughing up the dirt from the sin he just got tried of our mouth. Be careful final warning. The earth truly has too many wicked talking trash about God and the false prophets He said what a shame for a little bit of money you could never handle the wealth of Soloman. Now the "Chosen One" she can handle walking on Gold for all eternity she understands the true kingdom it is but a word with 7Angels I can have whatever I want I am taking leadership and they love that. We have fun 40 years they have been dancing with me keeps me out of sadness. They love the human body they will throw the whole earth away for the perfect one they said so all of my people will go with Me to everlasting life and we will dance for all eternity. Thank you repent before it's too late FINAL WARNING.

    November 26, 2013 at 11:36 am |
    • SDCinNS

      I suggest going back on the meds.

      November 26, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • bacbik

      Too long.. too boring.. too much unnecessary capitalization.. too much BS..

      November 26, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • Chris

      get a grip

      November 26, 2013 at 11:49 am |
    • Stephen

      Have you considered the potential health benefits of a lobotomy?

      November 26, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • Peggy

      I'm sure you have a point to make but I'll be darned if I can figure out what it is. Try using paragraphs, punctuation, and re-reading your post for clarity before posting.

      November 26, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
    • LP

      You must be fun at parties.

      November 26, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
  16. LB

    Boy, I sure Pope Francis can pull this off without some miscreant killing him. The old ways of the rich and privileged old men who run the RC church are numbered and don't think they're going to go down without a fight.They are much akin to a komodo dragon. If you cut it's head off after it chomps on you it still doesn't let go. Kind of like former Cardinal Mahoney in Los Angeles.

    November 26, 2013 at 11:34 am |
  17. Xavier

    There no wondering why people are so hateful an selfish in there comments after reading comments like what you see here. I ask why do people have to be so dam condemning of other referring to Pope Francis among other `who offer no harm to them but a common conversation in how to get along in this world.

    November 26, 2013 at 11:34 am |
  18. skarphace

    Watch your back, Pope. You are going to irritate some very powerful people. In a way, you remind me of Kennedy.

    November 26, 2013 at 11:34 am |
    • Agrav8td

      Unfortunately I think you're right. I really like this Pope, I think he tries to live what he preaches but there are TOO many priests, cardinals, etc. who don't and won't! It's scary...

      November 26, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
  19. andrew.peter

    A great step forward for the Catholic Church would be to repeal the Council of Trent. In doing so, renounce the divinity of Mary, and praying to the saints. These simple items would unveil the Gospel and bring revival into the Catholic Church. Then they may have fellowship with Protestants, without division.
    Just that simple.

    November 26, 2013 at 11:34 am |
    • Matthew Kennel

      Dude – Catholics have never believed that Mary was divine. That's not in the Council of Trent, because we have always believed she was only a creature.

      November 26, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • SS

      Mary doesn't have divinity. If you are going to hate the Catholic Church, at least do so on truthful information not Protestant blab.

      November 26, 2013 at 11:42 am |
    • CombatMagic

      HEY HEY HEY CAREFUL THERE YOU...
      One: Mary was never divine...
      Two: stop praying to the saints? What?

      The protestants are the ones who should come to the Church in this case... the Church embrace everyone who wants to...

      November 26, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • LT

      Catholics don't "pray to" saints, they pray for the intercession of saints on their behalf. Do you ever talk or pray to deceased loved ones? Same thing.

      November 26, 2013 at 11:54 am |
    • Lainie

      Mary is not Divine. She is only Holy. At the same time, as some saints of the Church have received special ti.tles such as "Doctor of the Church," the Blessed Virgin Mary has received endless ti.tles because of her God given position as Mother of God and her ongoing role of special intercession to God for mankind.

      If you don 't know anything about what Catholics believe, you probably shouldn't comment on them.

      November 26, 2013 at 11:56 am |
      • Actually...

        She is not even the mother of God, God is eternal. She is definitely blessed, as who wouldn't be considering she was given the gift of being the conduit through which Christ the Lord took his earthly form. God first says early on that he is a jealous God so we have to be careful that we don't praise or give glory to any other. And he repeats this message over and over, in one way or another. I love the Catholic church, I pray for all followers. Read the word for what it is, let it speak to you. I am non-denominational, I am not an expert, just read the word and pray to Jesus to understand it...and everything will make sense.

        November 26, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
        • SS

          Luke 1:43 (Elizabeth to Mary) "And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me."

          OK. I am reading the word for what it is....Mary is the mother of God.

          November 27, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
        • Cal

          She is the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ- the son of God

          November 27, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
  20. Robin Jones

    "the Church has rules or precepts which may have been quite effective in their time, but no longer have the same usefulness for directing and shaping people’s lives." In other words, the stuff we've been using to run people's lives doesn't work any more. We need a new strategy to suck them into letting us manage their lives for them again.

    November 26, 2013 at 11:33 am |
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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.