January 31st, 2014
05:49 PM ET
By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editorFollow @BurkeCNN
(CNN) - Before he watches his beloved Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl this Sunday, Kyle Herman has some important rituals to perform.
Just as he has for years, in the morning he will pick out the Broncos jersey to wear for the game. He will slip on his high-school ring, refashioned in Broncos blue and orange, and surround his television with team paraphernalia, from signed footballs to a pillow.
Herman has several Broncos jerseys, and if a certain player is stinking up the field, the 21-year-old from Beaver Falls, Wisconsin, will put on that player's jersey. You know, to give them a little more mojo.
“I don’t know why,” he says with a loud laugh, “but I feel like it really works for some reason.”
Herman may think his rituals are silly, but he’s far from alone in his sports superstitions.
According to a poll released in January by the Public Religion Research Institute, about half of all Americans believe that some element of the supernatural plays a role in sporting events.
January 28th, 2014
10:37 AM ET
Opinion by Joel Baden, Special to CNN
(CNN) - That faint humming sound you’ve heard recently is the scholarly world of the Bible and archaeology abuzz over the discovery of the oldest known Mesopotamian version of the famous Flood story.
A British scholar has found that a 4,000-year-old cuneiform tablet from what is now Iraq contains a story similar to the biblical account of Noah’s Ark.
The newly decoded cuneiform tells of a divinely sent flood and a sole survivor on an ark, who takes all the animals on board to preserve them. It even includes the famous phrase “two by two,” describing how the animals came onto the ark.
But there is one apparently major difference: The ark in this version is round.
We have known for well over a century that there are flood stories from the ancient Near East that long predate the biblical account (even the most conservative biblical scholars wouldn’t date any earlier than the ninth century B.C).
What’s really intriguing scholars is the description of the ark itself.
January 27th, 2014
12:40 PM ET
By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor
(CNN) Talk about your angry birds.
A crow and a seagull attacked two white doves released by children standing next to Pope Francis on Sunday at St. Peter's Square. The birds of prey swooped down after the "peace" doves flew from the open window in the Apostolic Palace.
One dove broke free from the gull, after losing a few feathers in the fray. A crow pecked the other before both doves escaped and flew away. Their ultimate fate is unknown.
Thankfully, the Pope and children had walked away before the fly-by birding.
Doves as Judeo-Christian symbols of peace date back to biblical times. In the Book of Genesis, a dove returns to the ark-maker Noah with an olive branch, letting him know that the flood had receded.
In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit descends "like a dove" on Jesus after his baptism, according to the Gospel of Matthew. Centuries of Christian art thereafter have use doves to symbolize the third member of the Holy Trinity, along with God and Jesus.
January 24th, 2014
01:42 PM ET
By Ray Sanchez and Daniel Burke, CNN
(CNN) - Pope Francis has expressed his intention to visit the United States next year for a major meeting of the Roman Catholic church, CNN Vatican analyst John Allen said Friday, citing Vatican sources.
The pope would attend the eighth World Meeting of Families, which has been held every three years since the late Pope John Paul II convened the first such gathering in 1994. The Vatican announced in February that the meeting will be held September 22-27, 2015, in Philadelphia.
A visit by Francis, the first pope from Latin America, would resonate with the nation's growing Latin American population.
Allen told CNN that the idea of the family has been a major concern for the church around the world, especially in light of the growing push for legal recognition of same-sex marriage.
The General Assembly of the United Nations generally meets in September, leading to speculation that Francis might combine the Philadelphia trip with a stop in New York to address the U.N., according to Allen, a correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter.FULL STORY
January 23rd, 2014
10:40 AM ET
By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor
(CNN) Careerist clergy. The super rich. And now we can add another pelt to Pope Francis' collection: Internet trolls.
In statement released on Thursday, the Pope said the Internet and social media are making people across the world "increasingly interdependent."
"The Internet, in particular, offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity," Francis said. "This is something truly good, a gift from God."
At the same time, though, all those tweets and texts and comment streams can cause people to "lose our bearings," said the 77-year-old pontiff.
"The speed with which information is communicated exceeds our capacity for reflection and judgement, and this does not make for more balanced and proper forms of self-expression," Francis said.
January 22nd, 2014
02:13 PM ET
(CNN) President Obama will meet with Pope Francis on March 27, the White House announced on Tuesday.
The POTUS/Pope summit is already generating lots of buzz, and Belief Blog co-editor Daniel Burke spoke to CNN's Brooke Baldwin on Tuesday the meeting's likely agenda.
January 21st, 2014
02:24 PM ET
By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor
(CNN) - For decades, the March for Life has followed a familiar formula: Bus in thousands of abortion opponents. Protest in front of the Supreme Court. Go home.
But this year, in addition to braving snow and bone-chilling wind, the March will move in a different direction, says Jeanne Monahan, president of the anti-abortion group.
Long-winded political speeches? See ya.
An exclusive focus on Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that lifted restrictions on abortion? Gone.
A hipster Catholic musician, evangelical leaders and March for Life app? Welcome to the protest.
And those changes just skim the surface.
The March for Life, billed as the world’s largest anti-abortion event, is remaking itself in deeper ways as well, says Monahan.
January 20th, 2014
08:24 AM ET
By John Blake, CNN
(CNN) - Here's a pop quiz for anyone who calls the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. an American hero.
Can you name any of his great speeches or written works without citing "I Have a Dream" or the "Letter from Birmingham Jail"?
Most Americans would likely flub this quiz. King may be a national hero whose birthday the country commemorates on Monday, but to many he remains a one-dimensional hero - the vast body of his work unknown. Though he wrote five books and delivered up to 450 speeches a year, he's defined by one speech and one letter.
What then are the great works by King that never get the attention they deserve?
That's the question CNN put to some members of King's inner circle as well as top King scholars. We asked them to pick their favorite overlooked gems from King, any extraordinary spoken or written words people don't typically hear during King commemorations.
Six entries made our final cut: three sermons and speeches, King's most radical book, an astonishing letter he wrote as a college student, and a "eulogy" he delivered for a friend that revealed a side of him the public rarely saw.FULL STORY
January 19th, 2014
11:10 AM ET
January 17th, 2014
04:29 PM ET
(CNN) The Vatican acknowledged on Friday that close to 400 priests left the priesthood in 2011 and 2012 because of accusations that they had sexually abused children.
That acknowledgment followed a report by the Associated Press that nearly 400 priests had been defrocked during those two years. The Vatican initially disputed that report.
Bishop Charles Scicluna, formerly the Vatican's top prosecutor of sexually abusive clergy, said 384 priests left the priesthood - either voluntarily or not - in 2011 and 2012, the last two years of Pope Benedict XVI's papacy.
In 2011, 125 priests were dismissed from ministry by the Vatican because of accusations they had sexually abused children, Scicluna told CNN on Friday, citing the "Activity of the Holy See," a kind of Vatican yearbook. The same year, 135 priests were "dispensed," meaning they voluntarily resigned, Scicluna said.
In 2012, 57 priests were removed from the priesthood and 67 resigned, Scicluna said. Scicluna, who is now an auxiliary bishop in Malta, was the Vatican's top prosecutor of sexually abusive clergy for a decade.
Scicluna said he did not know why the number of defrocked priests spiked in 2011. "2011 was exceptionally high for dismissals," he said. "We don't really know why."
The AP reported on Friday that nearly 400 priests had been defrocked in 2011 and 2012, citing a document the Vatican prepared to defend its record on sexual abuse before a United Nations committee this week in Geneva.
The Vatican had rebutted that report, a denial previously reported by CNN. However, later on Friday, Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi told CNN the AP report was correct.
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.