May 26th, 2014
07:07 PM ET
(CNN) - Pope Francis spoke out against sexual abuse by Catholic clergy on Monday and said he plans to meet with victims in early June.
Stressing that such abuse constitutes a horrific crime, he told reporters aboard the papal plane that three bishops are under investigation.
It was not clear whether the bishops are under investigation for alleged abuse, or for purported involvement in some sort of cover-up.
A priest who abuses a child betrays the body of the Lord, the Pope said, according to pool reports. He called for zero tolerance.
Among the expected invitees to the meeting are abuse victims from Germany, England and Ireland, and Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston.FULL STORY
May 22nd, 2014
07:04 PM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog EditorFollow @BurkeCNN
(CNN) - So, a rabbi, a sheikh and a pope travel to the Holy Land…
It might sound like the start of a trite joke, but it’s actually the entourage for one of the most highly anticipated papal trips in recent history.
As Pope Francis heads to Jordan, Bethlehem and Jerusalem this weekend, he’s bringing along two old friends from Argentina: Rabbi Abraham Skorka, who co-wrote a book with the Pope, and Sheikh Omar Abboud, who leads Argentina’s Muslim community.
The Vatican says it’s the first time that a pope’s official entourage has included interfaith leaders.
In a region roiled by competing religious and political visions, Francis’ chosen companions communicate an unmistakable message, church officials said.
“It’s highly symbolic, of course,” said the Rev. Thomas Rosica, a consultant to the Vatican press office.
“But it also sends a pragmatic message to Muslims, Christians and Jews that it’s possible to work together - not as a system of checks and balances but as friends.”
The visit to the Holy Land is the first for Francis as leader of the Roman Catholic Church, and just the fourth for any pontiff in the modern era.
With so much at stake - the stalled negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, the plight of Christian refugees - the Pope’s every word, gesture and photo-op will be microscopically examined.
Already, some conservative Israelis are advocating against the Pope’s visit, scrawling anti-Christian graffiti on Catholic buildings in Jerusalem and planning protests outside papal events in Jerusalem.
While the protesters form a fringe minority, they underscore the tensions that simmer around the Pope’s short but substantial trip.
With those challenges in mind, here are five key things to pay particular attention to.
April 25th, 2014
11:41 AM ET
By John L. Allen, Jr. and Daniel Burke
(CNN) - On Sunday, for the first time in history, the Catholic Church will canonize two popes on the same day.
Pope Francis will preside over a special ceremony that is expected to draw upwards of a million pilgrims, who will gather in St. Peter's Square to witness Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII enter the celestial community of Catholic saints.
Here's a bit about the Catholic Church's canonization process.
What is a saint, and how many are there?
Catholics believe a saint is someone who lived a holy life and who’s already in heaven. Saints are considered role models for people still on Earth, and are capable of interceding with God on someone’s behalf when a request for help is made in prayer.
The actual number of saints is impossible to calculate. One well-known work called "Lives of the Saints" lists 2,565 Catholic saints, but that doesn’t count thousands of others celebrated in local regions all over the world. The Catholic Church has a feast, All Saints’ Day, on November 1 to honor the countless saints who aren’t formally canonized.
April 25th, 2014
07:57 AM ET
Opinion by John Carr, special to CNN
(CNN) - This Sunday, Pope Francis will canonize “Good” Pope John and Pope John Paul “the Great.”
These popular references to Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II recall the ancient practice of choosing saints by public acclaim.
Sunday's ceremony, on the other hand, is the result of a more elaborate process and a brilliant decision by their successor, Pope Francis.
Though they will be canonized together, in some ways these two popes were very different people.
Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was one of 14 children from an Italian peasant family who became a historian, diplomat, bishop and then Pope John XXIII.
Long before Pope Francis' off-script, populist touches led some to dub him the "people's pope," John broke precedent by escaping the Vatican to visit hospitals and prisons.
He left as a legacy his encyclical “Pacem in Terris,” which was addressed for the first time not just to Catholics, but to all those of “good will.” It reshaped Catholic teaching on human rights and made an impassioned call for peace amid the Cold War.
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.
March 5th, 2014
10:04 AM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) - Pope Francis reaffirmed the Catholic Church's opposition to gay marriage on Wednesday, but suggested in a newspaper interview that it could support some types of civil unions.
The Pope reiterated the church's longstanding teaching that "marriage is between a man and a woman." However, he said, "We have to look at different cases and evaluate them in their variety."
States, for instance, justify civil unions as a way to provide economic security to cohabitating couples, the Pope said in a wide-ranging interview published Wednesday in Corriere della Sera, an Italian daily. State-sanctioned unions are thus driven by the need to ensure rights like access to health care, Francis added.
A number of Catholic bishops have supported civil unions for same-sex couples as an alternative to marriage, including Pope Francis when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 2010, according to reports in National Catholic Reporter and The New York Times.
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.
January 13th, 2014
09:19 AM ET
Opinion by the Rev. James Martin, special to CNN
(CNN) – Pope Francis' selection on Sunday of 19 new cardinals, the men who will select the next pope, seems aimed to help rebalance the church in important ways, passing over at least three influential American archbishops and naming several from the Southern Hemisphere.
First, there is a decided emphasis on Africa and Latin America, including poorer countries like Haiti and Burkina Faso.
Remember that the cardinals' most important duty is to elect the next pope. Francis is making sure that all parts of the world are adequately represented – and today the majority of Catholics are in the Southern Hemisphere.
Sixteen of the 19 new cardinals named by Francis on Sunday are younger than 80, which means they would be eligible to vote to the next pope. Of those 16, four are from the curia, or Vatican bureaucracy; two are from Europe; three are from North and Central America; three are from South America, including the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis' position before his papal election; two are from Africa and two from Asia.
The Pope's picks show that he wants the voice of the poor represented in the next conclave. Archbishop Chibly Langlois, 55, for example, will be the first-ever cardinal from Haiti. The Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, echoed this: “The choice of Cardinals of Burkina Faso and Haiti shows concern for people struck by poverty.”
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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.