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August 19th, 2014
11:32 AM ET

Pope 'profoundly saddened' by death of relatives in car crash

(CNN) - Pope Francis is deeply hurt by the news that a car crash killed three of his relatives in Argentina, the Vatican said on Tuesday.

On his return flight from South Korea on Monday, the Pope spoke movingly of meeting with the families of last April's ferry disaster, which killed about 300 people, many of whom were young students.

Here's what Francis said:

When you find yourself in front of human suffering, you have to do what your heart brings you to do. Then later they might say, he did this because he had a political intention, or something else. They can say everything. But when you think of these men, these women, fathers and mothers who have lost their children, brothers and sisters who have lost brothers and sisters, and the very great pain of such a catastrophe...my heart. I am a priest, I feel that I have to come close to them, I feel that way. That’s first. I know that the consolation that I can give, my words, are not a remedy. I cannot give new life to those that are dead. But human closeness in these moments gives us strength, solidarity.

I remember when I was archbishop of Buenos Aires, I experienced two catastrophes of this kind. One was a fire in a dance hall, a pop-music concert, and 194 people died in it. That was in 1993. And then there was another catastrophe with trains, and I think 120 died in that. At those times I felt the same thing, to draw close to them. Human pain is strong and if we draw close in those sad moments we help a lot.

And I want to say something more. I took this ribbon (from relatives of the Sewold ferry disaster, which I am wearing) out of solidarity with them, and after half a day someone came close to me and said, “It is better remove it, you should be neutral." But listen, one cannot be neutral about human pain. I responded in that way. That’s how I felt.

CNN's Delia Gallagher has more in the video above.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • Pope Francis

August 18th, 2014
01:35 PM ET

Pope says ISIS must be stopped. But how?

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Editor

(CNN) – Nearly everyone agrees that the militant Muslim group marauding through northern Iraq must be stopped. The question is, how?

Asked if he approved of the American airstrikes against ISIS, Pope Francis withheld his moral imprimatur on Monday, refusing to fully support or denounce the military campaign.

"I can only say this: It is licit to stop the unjust aggressor," the pontiff said during a press conference on the plane back to Rome from South Korea.  "I underline the verb: stop. I do not say bomb, make war, I say stop by some means."

In an apparent reference to the United States, Francis said "one nation alone cannot judge" the best means of stopping groups like ISIS, which calls itself the Islamic State.

Those decisions should be made collectively by the United Nations, the pontiff said.

"It is there that this should be discussed. Is there an unjust aggressor? It would seem there is. How do we stop him?" the Pope asked, without answering his own question.

Already, Francis' cautious comments about American airstrikes and the use of force have fostered a welter of interpretations, from "tacit approval" to a "yellow light" to outright endorsement.

The Pope who was returning to Rome after a five day trip to South Korea, may soon have the chance to clarify his moral argument personally to U.S. and UN officials.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christianity • Ethics • Foreign policy • Iraq • Middle East • Pope Francis • Violence

August 14th, 2014
10:05 AM ET

Pope Francis is tougher than you think – just ask the mafia

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Editor

(CNN) – He's embraced a severely disfigured man, declined to judge gay priests, sought common ground with atheists and focused the world's attention on the poor and marginalized.

Yes, in the 18 months since his election as pontiff, Pope Francis has earned a reputation as one of the nicest guys on the planet.

According to a CNN poll, nearly 90% of American Catholics approve of the way he's running the church, and even atheists speak fondly of this Pope. 

But, if you watch him closely, you'll see a steely spine behind Francis's friendly smile. Just ask the Italian mafia.

In the video above, I explain 5 ways Pope Francis is tougher than you think.

By the way, be sure to check out our ongoing coverage of the Pope's trip to South Korea this week. 

 

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • Pope Francis

5 reasons South Korea could be the church of future
Catholics attend Mass in Seoul, South Korea. When Pope Francis visits the country this week, he will find a thriving Catholic community .
August 12th, 2014
05:08 PM ET

5 reasons South Korea could be the church of future

Opinion by Candida Moss, special to CNN

(CNN) – When Pope Francis arrives in South Korea on Wednesday for a five-day visit, he’ll get a look at just the kind of church he’s been trying to create worldwide.

The trip, planned to coincide with Asia Youth Day, marks the first time a pope has visited the country since 1989, and is part of a new papal focus on globalization in general and on Asia in particular. (Francis plans to visit Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Japan in January.)

The time has long passed that the Catholic Church is elderly white men and women in European enclaves.

The last papal conclave and the election of the first Latin American Pope raised awareness of the Catholic Church’s growing presence in Africa, but Asian Christianity was hardly mentioned at all.

Even if it is rarely discussed in the media, Korean Catholicism is among the most vibrant in the world.

Here are five reasons South Korea might be the future of Catholic Church.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Asia • Catholic Church • Christianity • North Korea • Opinion • Pope Francis • South Korea

August 12th, 2014
12:27 PM ET

Dramatic rescue as Yazidis flee ISIS

CNN's Ivan Watson describes a dramatic rescue by the Iraqi military as desperate Yazidi civilians flee ISIS fighters.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Uncategorized

August 9th, 2014
06:01 PM ET

Why missionaries put their lives on the line

By Daniel Burke and Ashley Fantz, CNN

(CNN) – It wasn’t as if God's voice boomed through sun-parted clouds, telling Kent Brantly to move his family to Liberia.

Still, the young doctor said, the call was clear.

It echoed through the congregation where he was raised, Southeastern Church of Christ in Indianapolis.

Standing before the church community in July 2013, months before he left for Africa, Brantly said he heard the call in the teachers who urged him to memorize Scripture and the neighbors who funded his first mission trip years ago.

He saw it in the aunts and uncles who spent their vacations running Bible camps, organizing youth groups and serving missions themselves in Africa.

“It may not seem like much,” Brantly said in an emotional address to the Southeastern congregation, “but when you connect the dots you see a grand design that God has used to draw my life in a certain direction.”

For Brantly, that meant serving a two-year medical mission in Liberia with Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian relief organization. But in a grim twist that garnered international headlines, the 33-year-old contracted Ebola while treating patients and was airlifted back to the United States.

Brantly and a fellow missionary, Nancy Writebol, who was serving with SIM, another Christian aid organization, are being treated for the disease at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

After Liberia's outbreak began in March 2013, Writebol volunteered at a hospital in Monrovia, where she disinfected doctors and nurses working with patients stricken by the disease.

Despite their weakened health, their trust in God remains strong, family members said.

“Mom is tired from her travel, but continues to fight the virus and strengthen her faith in her Redeemer, Jesus,” said Jeremy Writebol, Nancy’s son.

On Friday, Brantly said that he felt a spiritual serenity even after learning his diagnosis.

“I remember a deep sense of peace that was beyond all understanding,” he said. “God was reminding me of what he had taught me years ago, that he will give me everything I need to be faithful to him.

Though Brantly's wife and children had been in Liberia with him, they had returned to the United States when he became ill.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Africa • Catholic Church • Charity • Christianity • Ethics • evangelicals • Faith & Health • Foreign policy • Health • Health care • Liberia • Missionaries

August 8th, 2014
05:36 PM ET

Who are the Yazidis, and why does ISIS want to kill them?

By Joshua Berlinger, CNN

(CNN) – In a church in Irbil, 40-day-old Yeshua lies asleep in a crib, his sister playfully rocking him. It's a peaceful scene. Their mother watches over them, but her face shows the fear and despair many Iraqi minorities have felt over the past few days.

The Sunni militant group ISIS, which calls itself the Islamic State, has steamrolled into Iraq's north, forcing hundreds of thousands of minorities from their homes. The militants have beheaded some who won't bend to their will and are "putting people's heads on spikes" to terrorize others, a senior U.S. administration official said.

Nearly 40,000 Yazidis are trapped on the top of Mount Sinjar with few resources; many with just the clothes on their back, U.S. President Barack Obama said in an address late Thursday evening.

"These innocent families are faced with a horrible choice," Obama said. "Descend the mountain and be slaughtered, or stay and slowly die of thirst and hunger."

So who are these people being threatened by the Islamic State? And why do the militant Islamists have them in their cross hairs?

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Discrimination • Foreign policy • Iraq • Islam • Middle East • Persecution • Religious violence

'Dead Man Walking' nun: 'Botched' executions unmask a botched system
Sister Helen Prejean is a Roman Catholic nun and a leading advocate for the abolition of the death penalty.
August 6th, 2014
12:55 PM ET

'Dead Man Walking' nun: 'Botched' executions unmask a botched system

By Moni Basu, CNN

New Orleans, Louisiana (CNN) – Sister Helen Prejean blasts the air-conditioner in her champagne-colored Toyota Corolla, the back bumper held up with duct tape. It's clear why friends insist on driving when they are with her. She could rival NASCAR's Danica Patrick on the gas pedal. Age - she turned 75 this year - hasn't slowed her down.

She was weaving all over Interstate 10 when police stopped her one time. Turned out she was reading while driving. The officer let her go when he discovered who she was: "I'll go straight to hell if I ticket a nun," he said.

He made her promise she would never do that again. So now she depends on iPhone's Siri for driving directions and making phone calls. She also likes to play Plants vs. Zombies (not while in motion, of course) even though the violent nature of the game goes against her Christian principles.

"It's OK," she says. "The zombies are already dead."

On this day in late July, Prejean is nearing Louisiana State Penitentiary, otherwise known as Angola, for the post office that serves it. She's been here so many times the warden no longer subjects her to the protocol for visitors.

FULL STORY
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christianity • Death

August 6th, 2014
08:59 AM ET

Blood libel: the myth that fuels anti-Semitism

By Candida Moss and Joel Baden, special to CNN

(CNN) – Last week a video of Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan emerged in which he claimed that Jews use the blood of non-Jewish children to make matzo for Passover.

The translation of Hamdan’s interview with the Lebanese television station Al-Quds on July 28 reports him as saying:

We all remember how the Jews used to slaughter Christians, in order to mix their blood in their holy matzos. This is not a figment of imagination or something taken from a film. It is a fact, acknowledged by their own books and by historical evidence. It happened everywhere, here and there.

When confronted about his statements by CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Monday, Hamdan did not retract his claim or distance himself from the blood libel slur. His only defense was that he “has Jewish friends.”

Whatever “historical evidence” or “facts” Hamdan believes himself to be remembering, this is nothing more than the infamous blood libel: the most persistent and longest-lived anti-Semitic myth in history, aside from the claim that the Jews killed Jesus.

The blood libel originated in medieval England with the death of William of Norwich. William was a 12-year-old tanner’s apprentice who was killed in 1144. At the time of his death, his parents accused the local Jewish community of responsibility, but investigations revealed nothing.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Discrimination • Holocaust • Israel • Judaism • Middle East • Persecution • Prejudice • Religious violence • Violence

August 5th, 2014
12:13 PM ET

Learning to love the 'enemy' in Iraq

Opinion by Jeremy Courtney, special to CNN

(CNN) –We had no idea what we were doing, so we helped everyone.

My wife and I moved to Iraq in 2007 to assist in relief and development. We have since made friends on all sides, deep behind “enemy lines.”

Since the fall of Mosul to Sunni militants in June, the world has struggled to accept the failure of the American project in Iraq, the rise of “political Islam” and the marking of Iraqi Christians and other minorities for death or expropriation.

The world may watch from afar and denounce all Iraqi Muslims as militants bent on conquest. But up close, the reality is very different.

It was a Muslim cleric who may have saved this Christian's life. And I'm not the only one.

Even as jihadists justify their atrocities in the name of Islam, millions of Muslims are standing in solidarity with Christians who have been expelled from their homes.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Foreign policy • Iraq • Islam • Middle East • Missionaries • Opinion

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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.

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