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 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.
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.
February 11th, 2013
02:26 PM ET
By Eric Marrapodi CNN Belief Blog Editor
(CNN)–The questions reverberated from the Vatican to every corner of the Catholic world and left a billion members scratching their heads over something not seen since 1415 - why is the pope resigning now?
Pope Benedict XVI, 85, said Monday that it was because of his age.
"I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry," he read in Latin to a group of cardinals gathered to examine causes for canonization.
The pressures may well have been too much for him to bear. As pope he was the bishop of Rome, the head of a tiny country, and spiritual shepherd to a billion people.
'[I]n today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me," he continued in his statement.
October 31st, 2012
07:28 AM ET
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN)– Michelangelo's fresco on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, one of the world's most iconic pieces of art, celebrated its 500th anniversary on Wednesday in Vatican City. Pope Benedict XVI marked the occasion with the celebration of Vespers in the chapel on Wednesday evening.
Nine centered panels in the ceiling fresco show stories from the book of Genesis, fanning out from the center of the ceiling with the iconic "Creation of Adam" that shows God reaching down from heaven and touching the finger of Adam. The vaulted ceiling also features images of biblical prophets and ancestors of Jesus.
Work on the ceiling began in 1508 when Pope Julius II della Rovere decided to make some changes to the room including the ceiling alteration. He commissioned Michelangelo Buonarroti to paint the ceiling and the lunettes, which are the upper parts of the room. According to the Vatican, Julius dedicated the newly decorated space with a Mass on the Feast of All Saints Day, which falls on November 1.
May 30th, 2012
11:42 AM ET
By Richard Allen Greene, CNN
(CNN)–The Vatican expressed rare public anger Wednesday in blasting the leaking of private papers from the pope's apartment, a scandal that observers say lifts the lid on a secret power struggle going on behind the closed doors of the Catholic Church.
A top Roman Catholic Church official called the theft of the documents "an immoral act of unprecedented gravity" and "despicable abuse of the relationship of trust that exists between Benedict XVI and those who turn to him."
Archbishop Angelo Becciu made the remarks to the Vatican's official newspaper six days after the pope's butler was arrested for leaking the papers.
Paolo Gabriele, 46, was arrested Wednesday on accusations of illegal possession of confidential documents, the Vatican said in a statement issued three days after the arrest.
May 29th, 2012
01:51 PM ET
By Richard Allen Greene, CNN
(CNN) – Bad luck comes in threes, even for the pope.
The past week has seen his butler arrested, accused of leaking secret papers from the papal apartment; the head of his bank sacked for incompetence; and a demonstration on his front doorstep by protesters demanding that he reveal what he knows about Italy's most famous missing-person case.
It's bad PR for the Vatican, but it may be more than that, experts say. It could affect who becomes the next pope.
November 4th, 2011
03:43 PM ET
By Gabe LaMonica, CNN
Washington (CNN) - The Roman Catholic Mass is undergoing a major overhaul. In an effort to unify how the global church prays, the English translation of the church's worship service is being modified in order to more accurately reflect the Latin from which the Roman Missal is translated.
The Catholic Church is known by some as a bastion of permanence that has not often yielded to the forces of change in the modern era. In many ways the changes harken back to the Mass spoken in Latin, as it was in the United States prior to the 1960s.
“There is an Italian proverb,” said the Rev. Msgr. Kevin W. Irwin, a professor of liturgical studies at the Catholic University of America, “that ‘every translator is a traitor.' "
“Every translation is less than the original,” he said.
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.