By Eric Marrapodi and Miguel Marquez, CNN
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Rio de Janeiro (CNN) - Pope Francis closed out World Youth Day with a final Mass before a giant crowd of millions on Copacabana Beach.
"Go, do not be afraid, and serve," the pope told the crowd Sunday.
Catholic pilgrims from around the world traveled to Brazil for the weeklong celebration and a chance to see the pontiff, whose visit was a shot in the arm for a church that has seen its share of scandal and troubles.
Massive crowds followed Francis at every stop on the trip. Organizers and local officials said 1.5 million people came out for the Way of the Cross observance on Friday.
The mayor's office in Rio said final estimates for a prayer vigil on Saturday could reach up to 3 million. On Sunday, the Vatican citing civil authorizes put the crowd for the final Mass over 3 million.
Rio De Janiero (CNN)– The papal visit is now classified as the highest level of security after an incident involving his motorcade.
The Pope's visit has been raised to "high risk" from "medium risk" after his car got stuck in a crowd of enthusiastic followers on Monday, a Brazilian Federal official told CNN.
The source says the problem in part stemmed from the Pope himself instructing drivers not to avoid the crowds.
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN)–It was a shipwreck of African migrants off the coast of Lampedusa, a small island in the Mediterranean, that spurred Pope Francis into action.
In the past 18 months more than 500 people have died, or gone missing at sea, trying to escape Africa. The world barely noticed.
Standing on Lampedusa on Monday, Francis prayed for the victims and cast a wreath in the water to commemorate the dead. More importantly, he drew attention to the desperate plight of migrants, in his country and around the world.
“We have fallen into a globalization of indifference,” Francis said, as he stood near an altar made from the salvage of shipwrecks.
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Editor
(CNN) –The Obama administration will not label Westboro Baptist Church a hate group, saying it's not the government's practice to apply the designation.
More than 367,000 petitioners had called on the White House to "Legally recognize Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group." For months the Westboro petition was the top petition on the White House's "We The People" website.
Four related petitions, including one calling for the Internal Revenue Service to revoke Westboro's tax exemption, also garnered more than 300,000 signatures.
A White House official, speaking on background, told CNN that petitions that cross the threshold of 100,000 signatures are reviewed by policy staff and receive a response.
On Tuesday, the White House posted its response to the Westboro petitions.
Officially, the response to the requested hate group designation was "no comment."
"As a matter of practice, the federal government doesn't maintain a list of hate groups," the White House said.
Instead, labeling hate groups is the job of private groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League, the White House said.
But the administration did comment on other aspects of the petitions, agreeing that protesting at military funerals - one of Westboro's favorite practices - is "reprehensible." An animated map posted online shows what the White House says is opposition to the church spreading across the country.
By Eric Marrapodi, Co-Editor CNN Belief Blog
Baltimore, Maryland (CNN) - As the new Superman movie takes flight this weekend, filmmakers are hoping the Man of Steel lands not only in theaters, but also in pulpits.
Warner Bros. Studios is aggressively marketing "Man of Steel" to Christian pastors, inviting them to early screenings, creating Father’s Day discussion guides and producing special film trailers that focus on the faith-friendly angles of the movie.
The movie studio even asked a theologian to provide sermon notes for pastors who want to preach about Superman on Sunday. Titled “Jesus: The Original Superhero,” the notes run nine pages.
“How might the story of Superman awaken our passion for the greatest hero who ever lived and died and rose again?” the sermon notes ask.
(CNN) - The Christian Broadcasting Network regrets the misunderstanding. Again.
Pat Robertson, the network's 83-year-old founder, was not condoning adultery when he answered a viewer's quesion on "The 700 Club" this week, the network said.
The viewer said she was having difficulty forgiving her husband for cheating. Robertson said the “secret” was to “stop talking about the cheating. He cheated on you. Well, he’s a man. OK.” FULL POST
By Greg Botelho and Paula Newton, CNN
(CNN) – The body of one of the two men accused of pulling off the Boston Marathon attack has been buried in rural Virginia - a development that local officials said caught them totally "off guard."
Tamerlan Tsarnaev's remains were accepted "by an interfaith coalition in that community - they responded to our calls," his uncle Ruslan Tsarni, of Maryland, told CNN. The body was buried in an unmarked grave in a Muslim cemetery in Doswell, Virginia, according to Tsarni.
"My tradition was that of a Muslim, and I have that tradition of burial, and people helped me with that," he said in a phone interview.
The death certificate released by Massachusetts authorities indicates that Tsarnaev, whose cause of death was listed as gunshot wounds and "blunt trauma to (his) head and torso," was interred at Al-Barzakh Muslim Cemetery in Doswell, which is about 25 minutes north of Richmond in a rural county of about 30,000 people.
While the news came out Friday, Bukhari Abdel-Alim from the Islamic Funeral Services of Richmond said Tsarnaev was actually buried the previous morning.
Speaking Friday from the cemetery, which his organization owns, Abdel-Alim said there was "no intention to ... make anybody angry," but that he and others felt obligated to do what "God says to do" by putting Tsarnaev's "body back into the earth."
Read the full story
(CNN) - Dwight K. Schrute was many things: paper salesman, beet farmer, lovable dork. Though he came from Amish stock, Schrute showed more interest in martial arts than Bibles and buggies.
But the man who played Schrute for nine years calls religion central to his life, and as Rainn Wilson transitions to life after “The Office,” his Baha’i faith is taking center stage.
Wilson is on the forefront of a campaign called “Five Years Too Many” that calls for the release of seven Baha’i volunteer leaders who have been imprisoned in Iran for the past five years.
“People need to know that this has happened and that this is happening and they don't,” Wilson said. “There are Baha'is rotting in jail on a 20-year sentence on trumped up charges simply because they have a certain set of faith beliefs that run against the theocracy in Iran."
The move from actor to advocate for a world religion is a big shift for Wilson. After a failed movie career and a lot of soul searching he is at peace with his television success and knows that his career might have peaked with “The Office,” which ends next Thursday after nine years on the air. FULL POST
By Eric Marrapodi and Hada Messia, CNN
Rome (CNN) –Pope Francis welcomed his predecessor Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI back to the Vatican on Thursday afternoon.
The now retired Pope Benedict had been living at the papal retreat in Castel Gandolfo since he formally stepped down as head of 1.2 billion Catholics around the world and left Vatican City on February 28.
Benedict was the first pope in nearly 600 years to resign.
Benedict traveled back to the Vatican on Thursday by helicopter. He will live on the Vatican grounds at a newly renovated convent called Mater Ecclesiae. He was driven from the Vatican heliport to his new residence where he was greeted by his successor. Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told reporters that Francis greeted Benedict, "with great fraternal cordiality. Together they went to the monastery chapel for a brief moment of prayer."
Washington (CNN) - Muslim leaders in Boston and elsewhere have distanced themselves from the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing, condemning the deadly terror attack and saying they feared reprisals against their communities.
"I don't care who or what these criminals claim to be, but I can never recognize these criminals as part of my city or my faith community," said Yusufi Vali, executive director for the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, the largest mosque in the Boston area.
"All of us Bostonians want these criminals to be brought to justice immediately. I am infuriated at the criminals of these bombings for trying to rip our city apart. We will remain united and not let them change who we are as Bostonians." FULL POST
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.