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.
January 21st, 2014
02:24 PM ET
By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor
(CNN) - For decades, the March for Life has followed a familiar formula: Bus in thousands of abortion opponents. Protest in front of the Supreme Court. Go home.
But this year, in addition to braving snow and bone-chilling wind, the March will move in a different direction, says Jeanne Monahan, president of the anti-abortion group.
Long-winded political speeches? See ya.
An exclusive focus on Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that lifted restrictions on abortion? Gone.
A hipster Catholic musician, evangelical leaders and March for Life app? Welcome to the protest.
And those changes just skim the surface.
The March for Life, billed as the world’s largest anti-abortion event, is remaking itself in deeper ways as well, says Monahan.
January 19th, 2014
11:10 AM ET
January 17th, 2014
04:29 PM ET
(CNN) The Vatican acknowledged on Friday that close to 400 priests left the priesthood in 2011 and 2012 because of accusations that they had sexually abused children.
That acknowledgment followed a report by the Associated Press that nearly 400 priests had been defrocked during those two years. The Vatican initially disputed that report.
Bishop Charles Scicluna, formerly the Vatican's top prosecutor of sexually abusive clergy, said 384 priests left the priesthood – either voluntarily or not - in 2011 and 2012, the last two years of Pope Benedict XVI's papacy.
In 2011, 125 priests were dismissed from ministry by the Vatican because of accusations they had sexually abused children, Scicluna told CNN on Friday, citing the "Activity of the Holy See," a kind of Vatican yearbook. The same year, 135 priests were "dispensed," meaning they voluntarily resigned, Scicluna said.
In 2012, 57 priests were removed from the priesthood and 67 resigned, Scicluna said. Scicluna, who is now an auxiliary bishop in Malta, was the Vatican's top prosecutor of sexually abusive clergy for a decade.
Scicluna said he did not know why the number of defrocked priests spiked in 2011. "2011 was exceptionally high for dismissals," he said. "We don't really know why."
The AP reported on Friday that nearly 400 priests had been defrocked in 2011 and 2012, citing a document the Vatican prepared to defend its record on sexual abuse before a United Nations committee this week in Geneva.
The Vatican had rebutted that report, a denial previously reported by CNN. However, later on Friday, Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi told CNN the AP report was correct.
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.