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 13th, 2014
12:00 PM ET
By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor
(CNN) - Amid the iconic art in the Sistine Chapel on Sunday, Pope Francis told mothers that it's acceptable to breastfeed their children in public, even in holy sites like churches.
Children's voices, even when crying, make "the most beautiful choir of all," Francis said during a service in which he baptized 32 children.
"Some will cry because they are uncomfortable or because they are hungry," the Pope said. "If they are hungry, mothers, let them eat, no worries, because here, they are the main focus."
The Sistine Chapel, with its famous frescoes by Michelangelo, is the official chapel of the Apostolic Palace, traditionally the papal residence. Francis, though, lives in the Vatican guesthouse, Casa Santa Marta, saying it better suits his low-key style.
The Pope's remarks echo statements he made to an Italian newspaper in December in which he tied breastfeeding to the problem of global hunger.
November 23rd, 2013
07:13 AM ET
By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editorFollow @BurkeCNN
(CNN) – When John F. Kennedy was a boy, his mother counseled her children on Good Fridays to pray for a peaceful death.
Young Jack joked that he’d rather pray for two pet dogs.
If you’re looking for the CliffsNotes version of Kennedy’s Catholicism, that anecdote touches on the key themes: the pious Irish mother, the light-hearted irreverence, the ever-present prospect of death.
But there’s much more to the story.
In the words of one biographer, Kennedy was Mr. Saturday Night but also Mr. Sunday Morning, rarely missing a Mass.
He was famously unfaithful to his wife but fiercely loyal to his church, even when it threatened his quest for the presidency.
One scholar suggests that Kennedy was becoming more religious as the Cold War wore on. Another says that Kennedy’s public displays of piety were little more than political lip service.
As the country marks the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death – and it was far from peaceful, as we all know – almost every aspect of his life is again under the media microscope. But for all the ballyhoo about Kennedy being the first and only Catholic president, the topic of his faith remains largely untouched.
September 7th, 2013
08:33 AM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) – After morning Mass on most Saturdays, you’d find the Rev. Dan Atkins cutting into a thick stack of pancakes or digging into a plate of eggs. But this Saturday’s menu is a bit spartan.
“I’ll probably just have coffee and a piece of toast,” said Atkins, the pastor of Holy Family Catholic Church in New Albany, Indiana.
The Catholic priest isn’t on a diet. Rather, he’s one of many believers across the country - and throughout the world - heeding the call of Pope Francis to fast and pray for peace in Syria on Saturday.
“It’s a way to be in solidarity with people who are suffering terribly from war,” said Atkins, a native of southern Indiana. “I’m going to be thinking about the children, the kids, affected by this terrible conflict.”
August 23rd, 2013
10:12 AM ET
By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN)–With the goal of urging the House to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill, the Catholic Church is organizing a targeted effort to push immigration reform in the pews and target Catholic lawmakers – particularly Republicans – who may be on the fence over the politically tenuous bill.
The movement, which was first reported in The New York Times, will include coordinated immigration reform sermons on September 8, as well as targeted messaging of Catholic lawmakers, including House Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP’s 2012 vice presidential candidate.
July 25th, 2013
07:50 PM ET
By Helena Cavendish de Moura, for CNN
RIO DE JANEIRO (CNN) – With a blasting medley of bossa nova music as a prelude, Pope Francis addressed about a million worshippers in Copacabana beach on Thursday, lacing his message to a new generation of Catholics with Brazilian street jargon.
"Bota Fe" - put on faith - was the antidote to what he called growing materialism and discontent, the pontiff said.
"What can we do? Bota Fe," he said. "If we want to have real meaning and fulfillment, as you want and you deserve ... put on faith."
The thread of the pontiff's speech resonated with Brazil's youth, many of whom are expressing disenchantment with their government.
March 10th, 2013
11:51 AM ET
Rome (CNN) – Crowds lined the walls and spilled out the front door of the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Monte Mario on Sunday to catch a glimpse of the gregarious American Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, who smiled broadly as he came into the church, stopping to wave to photographers and kiss a baby whose parents were holding him up.
Dolan has made the short lists of some Vatican watchers as a likely choice to be elected as the next pope by the College of Cardinals, a designation called "papabili" in Italian.
A local officiant began the service by saying it was great to have Dolan at the church close to Easter.
"All these people are showing the power of the church," he said.
Dolan thanked the officiant in Italian.
February 15th, 2013
11:13 AM ET
By John Blake, CNN
They are the largest group in the Roman Catholic Church, and the next pope might even come from their midst. Yet few have heard how Latino Catholics regard the legacy of Pope Benedict XVI.
For many Latino Catholics, Benedict’s legacy is mixed. They will forever tie him to his fierce opposition to liberation theology, a controversial movement that sought to improve the impoverished lives of Latinos living under oppressive governments.
Benedict, who resigned Monday citing his advancing age, was one of the church’s most visible opponents of liberation theology, a movement that began in Latin America in the 1960s. It mingled Marxist critiques of poverty with an insistence that the church display a “preferential option” for the poor.
Benedict’s view created more distance between priests and the poor people they served, says Jennifer Hughes, a Catholic Church scholar at the University of California, Riverside.
October 8th, 2012
12:35 PM ET
(CNN)-Horses, dogs, and rabbits around the world headed to Mass on Sunday for the annual blessing of animals.
Catholic churches around the world hold the annual blessings of pets on the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals.
September 30th, 2012
02:48 PM ET
By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN)–Six of the nine Supreme Court justices attended the annual Red Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington on Sunday. The event’s speakers spoke about using faith in decision-making but largely stayed away from the controversial issues the court will face in the coming months.
Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Stephen Breyer, Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Anthony Kennedy and Justice Elena Kagan all attended the 60th annual Mass. This was Kagan’s first Red Mass.
Having six justices in attendance ties a record set in 2009. The only justices to not attend this year were Sonia Sotomayor and Samuel Alito, both of whom are Catholic, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is Jewish. Kagan and Breyer, both of whom were in attendance, are also Jewish.
The annual Mass is an event put on by the Archdiocese of Washington and the John Carroll Society and aims to bring people together to pray for the members of the judiciary before the court begins hearing cases each year. It’s called the Red Mass because of the color of the garment worn by clergy.
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.