March 9th, 2014
09:40 AM ET
Boston (CNN) – In some ways, the "Pope Francis effect" doesn't seem very effective at all.
Despite the immense popularity the aged Argentine has won since his election last year, not a jot of doctrine has changed, nor has the Catholic Church swelled with American converts.
But there's more than one way to measure a pontiff's influence on his far-flung flock.
Start asking around - here in Boston and beyond, Catholics and atheists alike - and it's easy to find people eager to share how one man, in just one year, has changed their lives.
There's the gay man who finally feels welcome in his church.
The woman who weeps when headlines deliver good news at last.
The former priest who no longer clenches his fist during Mass.
The Latinos who waited forever for a Pope who speaks their language.
"I'm telling you, brother, if you focus on the numbers, you're missing the story," says the Rev. John Unni, a Boston pastor with an accent as thick as clam chowda.
"There's an energy, a feeling, a spirit here. It's like a healing balm."
If anyplace needed healing, it's Boston - the country's most Catholic city.FULL STORY
March 5th, 2014
10:04 AM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) - Pope Francis reaffirmed the Catholic Church's opposition to gay marriage on Wednesday, but suggested in a newspaper interview that it could support some types of civil unions.
The Pope reiterated the church's longstanding teaching that "marriage is between a man and a woman." However, he said, "We have to look at different cases and evaluate them in their variety."
States, for instance, justify civil unions as a way to provide economic security to cohabitating couples, the Pope said in a wide-ranging interview published Wednesday in Corriere della Sera, an Italian daily. State-sanctioned unions are thus driven by the need to ensure rights like access to health care, Francis added.
A number of Catholic bishops have supported civil unions for same-sex couples, including Pope Francis when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 2010, according to reports in National Catholic Reporter and The New York Times.
March 1st, 2014
06:00 AM ET
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
Lampedusa, Italy (CNN) – Abdel clung to his pregnant wife, 4-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter as they sailed across an open stretch of the Mediterranean Sea.
They were in a dilapidated fishing boat with limited provisions and almost no sanitation, sharing a cramped space with some 400 other Syrians.
Abdel prayed quietly and recited verses from the Quran for two days and two nights as the boat swayed and motored precariously along the 180-mile route from Libya to the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa.
If they could make it, his young family would be one step closer to freedom.
He knew thousands had died making the same voyage.
February 19th, 2014
11:35 AM ET
Opinion by Laurence England, special to CNN
(CNN) - In the year since Francis was elected Pope, the media have told us a certain story about this man “from the ends of the Earth,” as he once described himself.
Francis, we are told, is warm and friendly, gentle and compassionate. He embraces the poor, the disfigured, the outcast.
These attributes pose a sharp contrast, we are informed, to his mean-spirited, judgmental and arrogant predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who was known for his fancy vestments and aloof, academic attitude.
If Francis has the common touch, the story goes, Benedict was firmly out of touch, perched on an ivory tower far inside the Vatican.
To many Catholics this media-driven contrast between the two Popes is laughable.
February 6th, 2014
04:07 PM ET
Opinion by Greg Kandra, special to CNN
(CNN) – When the news broke the other day that Philip Seymour Hoffman would receive a Catholic funeral on Friday, a few people on social media expressed surprise.
One commenter on my Facebook page questioned whether it was appropriate for the church to provide a high-profile Catholic funeral to someone whom she described as "a public sinner."
As you probably know, Hoffman, one of this generation’s most celebrated actors, died last weekend of an apparent heroin overdose.
The Facebook critic recanted her comment when I explained that the funeral will not be high-profile. Instead, the Hoffman family is holding a private ceremony Friday at St. Ignatius Loyola Church in New York.
Although Hoffman was nominated for Oscars twice for playing religious figures - a Catholic priest in “Doubt” in 2009, a cult leader in “The Master" in 2012 - his own faith wasn’t widely known.
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.
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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.