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, and a prominent Catholic monk privately predicted his assassination. 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.
January 30th, 2012
06:49 PM ET
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
Washington (CNN) – Catholics around the country got an earful on Sunday from the pulpit over a new health insurance policy by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that forces employers to cover contraception and abortion as part of preventative care regardless of religious beliefs. The use of abortion and contraceptives violates Catholic teachings.
In Green Bay, Wisconsin, Bishop David Ricken denounced the policy at Mass in St. Francis Xavier Cathedral on Sunday and received a standing ovation, CNN affiliate WLUK reported.
"If we pay for those services for people who work for us, we are in effect saying don't do it, but then giving the money to pay for it," said Ricken.
November 26th, 2011
01:40 PM ET
By Jim Roope, CNN Radio National Correspondent
(CNN)–If you’re Catholic, mass this Sunday will sound different for the first time in nearly half a century.
You’ll hear it in the prayers of both the people and the priests.
“We have come back to a more accurate translation of the Latin from the Roman Missal,” said Fr. Rick Hilgartner, executive director of the Divine Office of Worship for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “The language of prayer should be evocative, speaking in terms of imagery and metaphor.”
The changes are enormous, said Fr. Richard Albarano, of St. Francis Xavier Church in Burbank, California, and should help the 280 million English-speaking Catholics grow in their love for the mass. “The mass is the center of our lives,” said Albarano.
Not since the Second Vatican Council in 1965 have such sweeping changes been made.
The Vatican II changes were radical – the priest spoke in English instead of Latin and he faced the people instead of having his back to them. An Old Testament reading was also added to the mass, a surprise to many who thought of the Catholic Church as a New Testament only church.
Other changes, large and small, were designed by Pope John XXIII to get the people (and not just the priest) involved in the mass. But the changes were not communicated in advance. People showed up one Sunday morning, and it was all changed.
“They wondered if they were even in a Catholic church,” said Albarano.
This time, the Catholic Church has been talking about the changes, and communicating them to parishes, since 2000. For the past three months, many parishes have been working to ready their followers for the changes in the wording of the prayers.
That doesn’t mean some won’t be caught by surprise. “It’s going to be like Vatican II all over again,” Albarano said. “I haven’t heard much about catechizing across the Los Angeles Archdiocese at all. We said we were going to do it. I hope we did.”
To hear the complete story, click the audio player.
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 and frequent posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero.