March 26th, 2014
04:17 PM ET
CNN's Ben Wedeman gloats over what President Barack Obama likely won't get a chance to see on his visit to the Vatican on Thursday. Take a look inside the Sistine Chapel - and gaze up at its famous ceiling.
March 25th, 2014
11:53 PM ET
Programing Note: Don't miss Wolf Blitzer Reports: Popes and Presidents on Easter Sunday, April 20 at 2 p.m. ET. The 30-minute special explores the long and sometimes troubled history between the White House and the Vatican.
(CNN) - President Barack Obama will meet with Pope Francis on Thursday at the Vatican, opening a new chapter in the centuries-long relationships between the United States and the Holy See.
While Obama has praised Francis’ focus on the poor, popes and American presidents haven’t always seen eye to eye.
With that in mind, here are five surprising encounters between the Commander in Chief and the Successor to St. Peter.
1. George Washington banned the burning of papal effigies
On the anniversary of Guy Fawkes’ Day, when a Catholic plot to assassinate the Protestant King of England was disrupted, American soldiers would often mark the day by torching a straw pope.
But just five months after George Washington took command of the Continental Congress’ army in 1775, he issued an order prohibiting the violent expression of anti-Catholic bigotry.
December 24th, 2013
06:00 AM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) – As Pope Francis prepares to celebrate his first Christmas at the Vatican, Americans' opinions of the pontiff appear to be as high as the dome on St. Peter's Basilica, according to a new survey.
A CNN/ORC International poll released Tuesday found that 88% of American Catholics approve of how Francis is handling his role as head of the 1.2 billion-member church.
The popular pontiff has also made a positive impression among Americans in general: Nearly three in four view Francis favorably. The new survey suggests that the Pope is arguably the most well-regarded religious figure among the American public today, said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
September 30th, 2013
08:55 AM ET
From Ben Wedeman, CNN
(CNN) - Popes John XXIII and John Paul II will be declared saints in April, the Vatican said Monday.
The announcement came after Pope Francis met with cardinals to discuss the planned canonizations of two of his predecessors. The ceremony will take place on April 27.
It will be the first time two popes will be canonized at the same time.
To be named a saint involves a series of steps, but the qualifications are straightforward, according to the veteran Vatican analyst John Allen.
"You put a holy life and two miracles together, according to the Catholic system, you've got a saint," he said.FULL STORY
August 21st, 2013
08:46 AM ET
By Jason Hanna and Hada Messia, CNN
(CNN) - The Roman Catholic Church will announce next month the date when the late popes John Paul II and John XXIII will be canonized, Vatican Radio reported Wednesday.
The canonization dates for the two former pontiffs will be announced on September 30, the radio service reported, citing Cardinal Angelo Amato.
Pope Francis announced last month that his two 20th century predecessors would be declared saints.
John Paul was pope from 1978 until his death in 2005, drawing vast crowds as he crisscrossed the globe. The third-longest-serving pope in history, died at the age of 84 after suffering from Parkinson's disease, arthritis and other ailments for several years.
Pope John XXIII was famed for calling the Second Vatican Council in 1962, which ushered in great changes in the Roman Catholic Church's relationship with the modern world. He was pope from 1958 to 1963.
July 5th, 2013
08:57 AM ET
By Hada Messia, CNN
Rome (CNN) – The Roman Catholic Church will declare the late Pope John Paul II a saint, the Vatican announced Friday.
Pope Francis signed the decree Friday morning, the Vatican said. John Paul was pope from 1978 until his death in 2005, and was in a way the first rock star pontiff, drawing vast crowds as he criss-crossed the globe.
At his funeral, thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square and chanted "Santo Subito" - Sainthood Now! The Polish-born pope was fast-tracked to beatification and became "the blessed" John Paul II barely six years after his death, the fastest beatification in centuries.
Pope John XXIII, who convened the Vatican II council in the 1960s, will also be declared a saint, the Vatican said.
No date has been announced for the canonization ceremony.FULL STORY
March 28th, 2013
01:25 PM ET
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Editor
(CNN) — In ancient times, when roads were bad and footwear was worse, the washing of a guest's feet was a required sign of hospitality. Today when someone comes to your home, you’re more likely to offer to take their coat and bring them a beverage rather then have the help fetch a basin to refresh their worn feet.
The gesture of a servant's washing a newly arrived guest’s feet is sprinkled throughout the Jewish and Christian scriptures. That the characters in question were respectable, hospitable, and well off would have been culturally recognizable to earlier readers. In the Christian tradition, one story of feet washing entirely changed the paradigm.
In the Biblical accounts of the Easter story, Jesus rides into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday on a donkey to adoring crowds. Just a few days later he gathers his 12 disciples for what would be their Last Supper before he was crucified.
March 12th, 2013
04:38 AM ET
Rome (CNN) - The conclave in numbers:
115: Number of cardinal electors in the conclave to elect the new pope
67: Number of cardinal electors appointed by Benedict XVI
48: Number of cardinal electors appointed by John Paul II
77: Number of votes to be elected pope (2/3 of 115, rounded up)
February 28th, 2013
09:31 PM ET
By Dugald McConnell and Brian Todd, CNN
(CNN) – Andreas Widmer knew two men - one who was pope and one who would succeed him - who despite their immense responsibilities were keen to the spiritual needs of the people around them. The sort of people others might hardly notice.
Widmer was one of those the clerics noticed.
He saw the inner workings of the Vatican as a member of the Swiss Guard when John Paul II was head of the Roman Catholic Church. The experience left him with an appreciation for what a pope sacrifices.
"Nobody wants to be pope," he said. To become pope is "to give up all privacy," Widmer said. "You're basically locked in; you have to go where you have to go. You lose your friends, you lose your family - you're a prisoner.
"Not one cardinal wants to be pope."
February 26th, 2013
01:30 PM ET
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Editor
(CNN) - Don't expect a lot of shuffleboard games for the soon-to-be former Bishop of Rome, Successor of St. Peter, Head of the College of Bishops, Vicar of Christ and Pastor of the Universal Church: Pope Benedict XVI.
On Thursday, at 8 p.m. in Rome, Benedict will become the first retired pontiff in 600 years. And with no modern guides, everything he does will be pioneering for a 21st century papal retiree.
The leader of 1.2 billion Catholics around the globe will leave his seat at the ornate Apostolic Palace and retire to a former gardener's house at the Vatican to lead a life of prayer, likely removed entirely from public life.
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.