March 16th, 2013
10:00 PM ET

The pope's four biggest challenges

By John L. Allen, Jr., CNN

Editor's note: John L. Allen Jr. is CNN’s senior Vatican analyst and a senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter.

Rome (CNN) - Every new leader gets a honeymoon period, and Pope Francis is smack dab in the middle of his. His gestures of simplicity and humility, set against the traditional grandeur of the papacy, have captured the imagination of the world.

Frankly, a whole team of PR wizards couldn’t have scripted a better start to his papacy.

At some point, however, charm alone won’t be enough, because Francis will have to turn to the heavy lifting of actually governing the world’s largest and most centrally organized religious body. Taking stock of where Catholicism stands today, he’s got his work cut out for him.

Four challenges loom especially large for the new pope.

First, two-thirds of the 1.2 billion Catholics on the planet today live in the Southern Hemisphere, a share projected to reach three-quarters by mid-century. If Catholicism was once a Western faith, associated with institutional power and privilege, its center of gravity is now in the developing world and its membership is strongest among the poor.

As the first pope from Latin America, and the first pope from outside Europe in more than 1,000 years, Francis carries the aspirations and expectations of all those non-Western Catholics with him into the papacy. They will expect him to be a tribune for their concerns: the inequities of a globalized economy, the carnage of war and violence, environmental degradation, and the perception that international affairs are stacked against the interests of smaller and poorer nations.

Sooner or later, a heart that's in the right place won’t be enough for those folks. They’ll expect Pope Francis to revive the diplomatic and political capital of the papacy, perceived to have diminished during the Benedict XVI years, in order to move the ball on their agenda.

It remains to be seen whether a 76-year-old intellectual, perceived to have had a rocky relationship with Argentina’s President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her late husband, Néstor Kirchner, will be able to fulfill those expectations. It’s obviously unreasonable to expect one man, even a pope, to solve deep-seated maladies such as poverty and violence by himself, but the growing share of Catholics suffering the burden of these inequities at least expect him to try.

5 things to know about the new pope

Second, the most harrowing Christian storyline of the early 21st century is the rising tide of anti-Christian violence and persecution in various global hotspots. From the Middle East to Sub-Saharan Africa, from India to Eritrea, Christians today often find themselves in the firing line, and they’ll expect the new pope to have their backs.

The statistics are staggering. According to the International Society for Human Rights in Frankfurt, Germany, fully 80 percent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed at Christians. According to the Pew Forum in Washington, Christians face some form of harassment in 137 nations, two-thirds of all countries on earth.

In the most bone-chilling assertion of all, the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary claims that an average of 100,000 Christians have been killed for the faith each year for the past 10 years. That works out to 11 new Christian martyrs every hour of every day for the past decade.

Some experts believe that estimate to be inflated, but no one disputes the big picture. In Europe and the United States, a threat to your religious freedom means you might get sued. For scores of Christians in other parts of the world, it means you might get shot, which obviously rates higher on the urgency meter.

Christians under threat will expect Pope Francis to act on their behalf. Many believe that Benedict said the right things but never mobilized the resources of the Catholic Church to make an effective difference on the ground.

The first test for the new pope is likely to come in Syria, where Christian leaders are terrified that they’ll be the next Iraq, meaning the next country where Christians are the primary victims of the chaos and rising Islamic militancy that follows the collapse of a police state. Last fall Benedict XVI tried to dispatch a high-level delegation of five cardinals to Syria to appeal for peace, but it fell apart amid confusion about its mission.

A complete outsider to the world of the Vatican, Francis will be challenged to get his hands around its diplomatic apparatus quickly and to use it effectively.

Third, Francis inherits the unfinished business of the clerical sexual abuse scandals, which represent the greatest blow to the moral authority of the Catholic Church in centuries. In many ways, Benedict XVI was a reformer on the scandals, meeting with victims, apologizing for their suffering and embracing a “zero tolerance” policy for abuser priests.

Bergoglio's journey to the top of the Church

Critics, however, believe the process of reform has a long way to go, beginning with accountability not just for the priests who abuse but for the bishops who cover it up. The world will be waiting for a clear signal from Francis that his legendary “closeness to the people” includes compassion for abuse victims, and that prelates who mishandle abuse complaints will pay a price.

He’ll also have to make hard decisions on other unresolved questions about the abuse scandals, such as whether to impose a “mandatory reporter” policy on all bishops worldwide, requiring them to relay all allegations to civil police and prosecutors, and whether to order dioceses to release their files on accused priests.

There may well be good reasons for not taking those steps, at least as a matter of binding global policy. There are some corners of the world, for instance, where police and prosecutors don’t always have the best interests of justice at heart, and a policy of automatic cooperation could be tantamount to a suicide pact. At minimum, however, Pope Francis will have to explain the logic for his choices in a transparent fashion, in order to convince the world that the Catholic Church has turned a corner.

As history’s first Latin American pope, Francis is especially conscious that so far the sex abuse crisis really hasn’t exploded across the developing world as it has in Europe and North America. That may impose extra pressure to get ahead of the curve, sparing the Church in his part of the world the painful experiences of Catholics in the West.

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Fourth, Pope Francis also inherits a Church in Europe and North America that appears to be increasingly at odds with the surrounding secular culture.

In the United States, the Catholic bishops and other Christian leaders are still wrestling with the Obama administration over contraception mandates issued as part of health care reform, with the specter of prolonged litigation and nasty public fights. In the United Kingdom, several Catholic adoption agencies have been shut down after the 2010 “Equality Act” made it illegal for them to refuse to place children with same-sex couples.

Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, considered the leading intellectual light among the American bishops, issued an ominous forecast in 2010: “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.”

These tensions with the broader culture are exacerbated by divisions within the Church. A Pew Forum poll taken shortly after Benedict XVI announced his resignation found that 46 percent of American Catholics wanted the next pope to move Catholicism in a more progressive direction, while 51 percent wanted him to maintain its traditional teachings. That’s a fair reflection of the deep left/right divide within the Church.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus famously says that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” In many ways, the Catholic Church across the West is just such a house divided, plagued by tensions among competing tribes – pro-life Catholics versus the peace-and-justice crowd, liturgical traditionalists against innovators, dissident theologians against hard-line bishops, not to mention the free-for-all of the Catholic blogosphere, where no spleen ever goes unvented.

Francis will be expected to reach across those fault lines, reminding Catholics of what they have in common rather than what divides them, and working out a modus vivendi with an increasingly skeptical secular world.

Despite being a staunch theological conservative, Francis has a lifetime of experience within the Jesuit religious order, where the center of gravity tends to be more to the left. Perhaps that background will give him a leg up on trying to heal fractures within the Church, and in its relationships with the wider world.

So far, Pope Francis hasn’t made many substantive moves to address these challenges, but he has gone some distance towards reframing the debate.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

Traditionally, critics accuse the Catholic leadership of being out of touch and drunk on its own power. That’s likely to be a harder case to make against a pontiff who shuns his limousine in favor of taking the bus, who packs his own bags and pays his own bills, and who makes his own phone calls.

Those may be small touches, but popes teach as much with their deeds as with their words, and so far Francis’ gestures have spoken to a humbler, simpler style of leadership.

Gestures alone won’t spare the pope tough choices. They may, however, incline the world to give the pope making them a greater benefit of the doubt. For a Church that’s long had an image problem, this alone can’t help but seem an awfully promising start.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • Pope Francis • Vatican

soundoff (684 Responses)
  1. leah1026

    Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, considered the leading intellectual light among the American bishops, issued an ominous forecast in 2010: “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.”

    The persecutor claiming to be the persecuted. If the Church respected the rights of ALL people they wouldn't be in the decline they are. Instead they chose to prey on children and cover it up. They chose and continue to Crusade against women's rights and the LGBT community. The sad part is the Church was modernizing user Vatican 2. But then Pope John Paul II put the Church in reverse. The Church needs to wake up, it isn't the 1950's anymore and no amount of whining by them is going to change that. They must either adapt or their organization will continue to whither and die.

    March 17, 2013 at 8:13 am |
    • ForReal

      One word: Inquisition.

      March 17, 2013 at 8:58 am |
  2. palintwit

    Tea Party Patriots typically like to get all their bagging and birthing done by Friday. This leaves the weekend free to watch nascar , have incestuous relations with their sisters or their cousins and then maybe even brush their tooth.

    March 17, 2013 at 8:08 am |
    • reality check

      Because, clearly in your mind, demanding fiscal responsibility requires incest. Egads, you are a dim bulb.

      March 17, 2013 at 8:14 am |
    • BajaDelMar

      Fiscal responsibility is just a lie you people tell everyone to try to make your dwindling movement seem credible. Where were the tea baggers when DUHbya was in power??? You people are all hypocritical bigots, you just can't stand the fact that a BLACK Democrat is our President.

      March 17, 2013 at 9:23 am |
  3. Pokydoke

    Much hullabaloo over the new leader of a religion founded on myth, fantasy and fiction.

    March 17, 2013 at 7:59 am |
  4. Blah

    Hail Satan!

    March 17, 2013 at 7:35 am |
    • deez


      March 17, 2013 at 7:49 am |
    • reality check

      Beetlejuice Beetlejuice Beetlejuice

      March 17, 2013 at 8:15 am |
  5. aurelius

    Has CNN been taken over by the Vatican. It seems to be an obsession with that media.

    March 17, 2013 at 7:32 am |
    • tomnikoly

      I think you're right. I got four "breaking news" emails this morning and three were about the pope and mass.

      March 17, 2013 at 7:58 am |
    • Science

      tomnikoly as the mass gathers for mass maybe?

      Why the Higgs boson 'God particle' matters

      First theorized 50 years ago, Higgs boson explains why particles have mass



      March 17, 2013 at 8:35 am |
    • JJ

      A massive world-wide cult that rapes millions of children throughout the cnturies with impunity should be watched closely and reported upon like any major criminal empire.

      March 17, 2013 at 8:40 am |
  6. Jim

    If 51% of American Catholics stopped believing in Jesus, should the church change?

    March 17, 2013 at 7:27 am |
  7. chrissy hitchens

    Not many of the lying, self deceived, so called atheists are sober enough to be on line this morning. It is "SAINT" Patrick you're celebrating you losers.

    March 17, 2013 at 6:56 am |
    • Prehistoric shark captured on film

      Just woundering .......................


      March 17, 2013 at 7:11 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Such a pleasant portrayal of christianity...thankfully we're not as belligerent and obnoxious as this one. Shouldn't you be on your knee's praying to your imaginary friend before attending Sunday school?

      March 17, 2013 at 7:14 am |
    • captain america

      All done bowing to the porcelain bowl liar prefails, the better part of you was just flushed away, only the stench remains and after you're gone there won't even be that to show you were ever here and lest you think you're so important ... you won't be missed. There's your sign

      March 17, 2013 at 7:23 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      CA: They let you out of the asylum for the weekend I see. This is an article about the Pope, he is not from the USA nor is the Vatican in the USA, so if you wish to argue about this one being pertinent to your country, you're a bigger fool than ever thought. Your opinion on the matter of who posts doesn't matter...we're still here Captain Ass and as always we will remain. You're simply a poor loser who can't handle reality. Get back on your meds quickly before they come and take you away again loser!!!

      March 17, 2013 at 7:29 am |
    • Blah

      No, just beer loser

      March 17, 2013 at 7:36 am |
    • Saving the earth,one pithy comment at a time

      ..and you get up early to take pot-shots at atheists while they're still sleeping?Typical.Wait a couple of hours,then you can start to trot out your bible verses in defence of-pretending to know what you do not know.

      March 17, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • JJ

      And just anotther typical Sunday morning for Christians as they trott off to church with the usual hangover and bloodshot eyes.

      March 17, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • chrissy hitchens

      I know God personally. Does that count as knowledge?

      March 17, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      chrissy/captain ass: Wow, does your imaginary friend approve of lying?? All your claim does is further prove how much of a weak-minded, gullible fool you are.

      March 17, 2013 at 9:07 am |
    • bethany

      they, she, lives here, unemployed, better than everyone, bound for hell, hoping someone will rescue her

      March 17, 2013 at 9:16 am |
    • Nunez

      Paedophile enabler.

      March 17, 2013 at 11:36 am |

    Only when/if you clearly see and truly verify that "The Son of Man" has already come,

    as Jesus clearly and unmistakably prophesied here (=John 6/27, 40-45)

    in the beginning of this THIRD and LAST DAY/MILLENNIUM now,


    March 17, 2013 at 6:54 am |
  9. chrissy hitchens

    The popes four biggest problems are stupid people, people interfering with the progress of mankind, unrepentant sinners and so called atheists. Oops that's only one problem.

    March 17, 2013 at 6:17 am |
    • crazyvermont

      Not Catholic Chrissy but love your response:)

      March 17, 2013 at 6:33 am |
    • Science

      How about splat goes the fairy ............gravity wins chrissy hitchens......................... Education works !

      Curtains Down for the Black Hole Firewall Paradox: Making Gravity Safe for Einstein Again

      Mar. 6, 2013 — Research by scientists at the University of York has revealed new insights into the life and death of black holes. Their findings dispel the so-called firewall paradox which shocked the physics community when it was announced in 2012 since its predictions about large black holes contradicted Einstein's crowning achievement - the theory of general relativity. Those results suggested that anyone falling into a black hole would be burned up as they crossed its edge - the so-called event horizon.

      March 17, 2013 at 6:35 am |
    • chrissy hitchens

      science ???
      Science was given to man by God. Man took science and gave us a flat earth theory, eugenics, bleeding and a million other false propositions that have hurt and killed innocents.
      You follow science? I'll follow God !

      March 17, 2013 at 6:42 am |
    • Holy Hallucinations 37

      chrissy hitchens for your enjoyment


      March 17, 2013 at 7:07 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      chrissy: You're quite delusional. Science and your imaginary friend are in way compatible. Without good Atheists, you would have a computer or the internet to enable you to spread your ignorant lies. In order for your claim to be true, you need to provide evidence for your imaginary friend. You did say we can have science, you'll take god (or something moronic to that effect)...so the next time you get sick please stay clear of Dr's and hospital's and all that might heal you in this world, pray to your imaginary friend instead and see how quickly you're healed.

      March 17, 2013 at 7:26 am |
      • Polycarp

        WMD is a delusion given to us by science ( science didn't invent, discover, the military wouldn't have it, boy genius ), I can sleep at night knowing that your a genius.

        October 13, 2013 at 8:23 pm |
    • chrissy hitchens

      Liar prefails you are already described in the first example cited as a problem. Thanks for adding proof.

      March 17, 2013 at 7:31 am |
    • Complete and total moron

      Thanks for saying what I was thinking Chrissy.

      March 17, 2013 at 8:00 am |
    • tomnikoly

      Nothing, I repeat...NOTHING has interfered with the "progress of mankind" more than religion. You don't know history very well do you?

      March 17, 2013 at 8:04 am |
      • Polycarp

        What science didn't??? WMD oh great thinker of wisdom.

        October 13, 2013 at 8:25 pm |
    • .

      Nothing not even the murderous rampages of atheist dictators that have brutally tortured and murdered well over a billion people? Nothing not even the millions of falsehoods and outright mistakes atheistic mans abuses of science that have been perpetuated for centuries?Nothing not even the disgusting atheistic sins that have spread incurable diseases over the face of the earth?Nothing not even the devastation of the environment wrought by the sins of atheists?

      March 17, 2013 at 8:18 am |
    • reality check

      The Bible, written by your sky fairy, is quoted as "angels came from the four corners of the earth" Sky fairy 0 Science 1. The belief that the sun revolved around the earth is biblical but I will let you figure the placement of that one, ah but google can help you.

      March 17, 2013 at 8:19 am |
    • .

      No where in the Bible is it stated that the sun revolves around the earth.

      March 17, 2013 at 8:25 am |
    • Saving the earth,one pithy comment at a time

      YOU were born an atheist-you remain a heretic in the eyes of billions of people.YOU know that ,right?How does it feel to NOT believe the Koran is the true word of god?You can get killed for that-you do know that ,right?Sorry to say,the world is getting tired of you and your muslim brothers putting humanity at risk.Cling to your religion,as a child clings to her mommy,and GO with your desperate beliefs.

      March 17, 2013 at 8:44 am |
    • Saving the earth,one pithy comment at a time

      @ . the bible does say the stars and sun WERE created after the earth.Is THAT true?The RCC imprisoned Galileo for believing the earth rotated around the sun.Now why would they go and do a thing like that?

      March 17, 2013 at 8:50 am |
    • chrissy hitchens

      Atheists infest and infect various inst itutions at various times. A wolf in sheeps clothing, a self deceived so called atheist in the rcc, rare but not impossible.

      March 17, 2013 at 8:56 am |
    • chrissy hitchens

      A child is born direct from the throne of God with an intimate inner knowledge of God. We are all born with an inner knowledge of God and given the opportunity in life to choose God in love and thus return to God for all eternity. Only a fool misses the hope of heaven and eternal life through Jesus Christ.

      March 17, 2013 at 9:00 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      chrissy: Please point out the lie...I'm not the one believing in something that can't be proven to exist and trying to impose it on society. You state that science was given to us by god but yet you can't provide any evidence that god exists....looks to me that you are the one lying. You're as much of an Atheist as every other believer out there, when you understand why you dismiss all of the other gods, you'll understand why I dismiss yours.

      March 17, 2013 at 9:01 am |
  10. No, silly.

    Atheists tend to live much longer because the have no god/jesus they are dying to meet.

    March 17, 2013 at 4:50 am |
    • Doug Cain

      They should have got a Pope from Rome it's self, and called him Peter the Roman. But he is from European decent. Just because he is not acutely from Rome today his past ancestors could be from Rome. Bur no way to know family history several hundred years back.

      March 17, 2013 at 6:02 am |
  11. Colin

    Dear Catholics:

    God here.

    First, let me tell you YOUR biggest challange. Coming to grips with the fact that I do not exist. The concept of a 13,700,00,000 year old being, capable of creating the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies, monitoring simultaneously the thoughts and actions of the 7 billion human beings on this planet is ludicrous. In the grand scheme of things, you are not that important.

    Second, if I did, I would have left you a book a little more consistent, timeless and independently verifiable than the collection of Iron Age Middle Eastern mythology you call the Bible. Hell, I bet you cannot tell me one thing about any of its authors or how and why it was edited over the Centuries, yet you cite them for the most extraordinary of claims. Think! What do you even know of how the Bible was compiled, what was included and what was excluded and who decided?

    Thirdly, when I sent my “son” (whatever that means, given that I am god and do not mate) to Earth, he would have visited the Chinese, Ja.panese, Europeans, Russians, sub-Saharan Africans, Australian Aboriginals, Mongolians, Polynesians, Micronesians, Indonesians and native Americans, not just a few Jews. He would also have exhibited a knowledge of something outside of the Greco-Roamn Middle East. Ever wondered why all 613 "laws" in the Bible are applicable to Greco-Roman Jewish life? Whay were the other 200 million people living on the planet at the time ignored? Did I make the Jews or did the Jews make me? Pretty obvious, isn't it?

    Fourthly, I would not spend my time hiding, refusing to give any tangible evidence of my existence, and then punish those who are smart enough to draw the natural conclusion that I do not exist by burning them forever. That would make no sense to me, given that I am the one who elected to withhold all evidence of my existence in the first place.

    Fifthly, in the same vein, I would not make about 5% of the human population gay, then punish them for being that way. In fact, I wouldn’t care about how humans have $ex at all, given that I created all of the millions of millions of species on the planet, all of whom are furiously reproducing all the time. Human $ex would be of no interest to me, given that I can create Universes. Has it ever occurred to you that your obsession with making rules around human $ex is an entirely human affair?

    Sixth, I would have smited all traditional Catholics, (and evangelicals and fundamentalists) long before this. You people drive me nuts. You are so small minded and yet you speak with such false authority. Many of you still believe in the talking snake nonsense from Genesis. You realize this is Iron Age mythology right? I would kill all of you for that alone and burn you for an afternoon (burning forever is way too barbaric even for me to contemplate).

    Seventh, the whole idea of members of one species on one planet surviving their own physical deaths to “be with me” is utter, mind-numbing nonsense. Grow up. You will die. Get over it. I did. Hell, at least you had a life. I never even existed in the first place.

    Eighth, I do not read your minds, or “hear your prayers” as you euphemistically call it. There are 7 billion of you. Even if only 10% prayed once a day, that is 700,000,000 prayers. This works out at 8,000 prayers a second – every second of every day. Meanwhile I have to process the 100,000 of you who die every day between heaven and hell. Dwell on the sheer absurdity of that for a moment.

    Ninthly, had I existed, do you really think my representation on Earth would have such a history of corruption, retardation of science, financial misdeeds, political intrigue, outright criminal behavior and $exual misconduct, including pedophilia, as the Vatican does. I mean, come on! As a CEO, I would be fired for allowing my organization to run amok century after century.

    Finally, the only reason you even consider believing in me is because of where you were born. Had you been born in India, you would likely believe in the Hindu gods, if born in Tibet, you would be a Buddhist. Every culture that has ever existed has had its own god(s) and they always seem to favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams and prejudices. What, do you think we all exist? If not, why only yours?

    Look, let’s be honest with ourselves. There is no god. Believing in me was fine when you thought the World was young, flat and simple. Now we know how enormous, old and complex the Universe is.

    Move on – get over me. I did.


    March 17, 2013 at 4:35 am |
    • Gerry from Bayonne

      Reads more like someone trying to channel George Carlin than God.

      Get some original material!

      March 17, 2013 at 6:05 am |
    • Greenstefka

      THis is a reply to Colin's post, claiming he is God. In some scientific circles, this is considered a sign of a certain mental illness or personality disorder. My deepest question for you is why put forth so much energy and thought towards something you do not believe exists? Also, who are you to suggest a body of people believe the way you do? Why bother at all? It does not matter how Catholic or Christians believe, they have no secular power these days, and if what they believe according to you is false, what does it matter? Atheism is a belief system. For those of us who find solace, meaning and goodness through our faith, when we look out to the night sky, witness the beauty of spring, bask in the love of family and friends, and witness endurance and kindness of the majority of the worlds Christians towards one another and to people of other faiths, and find context through suffering, and hope of transformation, we can only be sorrowful that you do not want these things in your life. We do respect your right to your beliefs, and your right to express them, I for one have enough to worry about in my own life to be concerned with Atheists, mainly because Christ Jesus said I must clean up my own life before I can be worried about another's problems, but in no way want to instruct you on the correctness of your system. Your beliefs work for you, why not give it a rest? Your life is but a mere speck of time in the vastness of creation and the universe, to think you have it all figured out in your life time, is well, a bit arrogant. Why not study astronomy or something, or some of histories greatest atheists and look at their legacy and leave the Pope and his flock to their own devices?

      March 17, 2013 at 6:21 am |
      • Polycarp

        Why not study astronomy or something, or some of histories greatest atheists and look at their legacy.
        WMD, surely will boy genius. Thank you so very much for the enlightenment.

        October 13, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
    • crazyvermont

      Besides lacking originality, it is filled with so much that can be factually be disputed if my faith was worth arguing, but it isn't. My Bible simply commands me to love God with all my heart soul strength and might and my neighbor as myself.....period.

      March 17, 2013 at 6:37 am |
    • Paul

      What a long winded epistle! You would do well to work at the Vatican providing believers with nonsensical information they cannot understand. Please take Latin and Italian. It will help you immensely in getting a position there.

      March 17, 2013 at 7:05 am |
  12. SAAB

    Pope is a rock and a hard place.

    March 17, 2013 at 1:18 am |
    • Zingo

      The pope is not a rock and a hard place, but he's hoping the stronger dosage of viagra will change that.

      March 17, 2013 at 4:05 am |
  13. AB

    Can someone remind me again why we care about who the old fool in the pointy hat is?

    March 17, 2013 at 12:53 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Because he's the nominal spiritual leader of 1.2 billion people on the planet?

      March 17, 2013 at 7:28 am |
  14. AB

    That photograph of the old white lady in her blue hat is actually stock footage from Getty images. She is not praying in church. It is the last game of bingo at the senior center and she can't afford her medication if she doesn't bingo hit one.

    March 17, 2013 at 12:25 am |
  15. gtslevin

    Given the new Pope's prior record, his secret election by morally challenged Cardinals and his hesitancy in mentioning convening a general church council, his prospects for success are slim, regardless of his media attractiveness.

    For an explanation, please see my remarks as a lifelong Catholic and retired Harvard trained international lawyer, "Pope Francis Will Fail With Reform As Did Assisi" at: http://wp.me/P2YEZ3-IC

    March 16, 2013 at 11:40 pm |
    • Mrs. Pepperpot

      Spam spam spam spam spam spam spam spam spam spam spam spam spam spam spam spam spam spam

      March 16, 2013 at 11:59 pm |
    • Damocles

      Yes, I would imagine bloody spam would be far worse than normal spam.

      March 17, 2013 at 12:00 am |
    • AB

      There is nothing normal about Spam.

      March 17, 2013 at 12:14 am |
    • Viking in a diner

      Lovely spam! Wonderful spam!

      March 17, 2013 at 12:42 am |
    • clarity

      Well, it's a step up from Scrapple.

      March 17, 2013 at 12:44 am |
    • AB

      There is something icky on the side of my fork.

      March 17, 2013 at 12:45 am |
    • Damocles

      Shall we go with Bloodless Spam then?

      March 17, 2013 at 12:45 am |
    • clarity

      Actually I have had blood sausage in Ireland and it is delicious. Happy SP's day everyone by the way.

      March 17, 2013 at 12:48 am |
    • clarity

      (although I'm kinda sorta trying to become a vegetarian)

      March 17, 2013 at 12:49 am |
    • Damocles

      And to you as well, clarity. I tried blood sausage, couldn't get into it.

      March 17, 2013 at 12:51 am |
  16. Your god is a myth

    God our Holy Father sent his Son our savior so that he could be tortured and excuted so that he could be a scape goat so we could be forgiven for a crime that someone else committed. I think that's right? Oh yeah. That's right! Makes perfect sense.

    March 16, 2013 at 11:36 pm |
    • crazyvermont

      If being sarcastic, you at least need to get it right.....died for our sins, not for sins someone else committed. Bong....just been booted off the show:)

      March 17, 2013 at 6:41 am |
    • reality check

      Why did God send himself to the earth and let us murder him just to impress himself?

      March 17, 2013 at 8:24 am |
  17. Roger that

    The Belief Blog's biggest challenge: Finding something to write about other than the Pope.

    March 16, 2013 at 11:15 pm |
    • SAAB

      I don't mind Pope stories, they are quite entertaining, and doesn't require much thinking.

      March 16, 2013 at 11:31 pm |
  18. Reality

    Only for the new members. All others please scroll to the next commentary:

    Why Francis will be one of the last popes unless he can somehow get JC to reappear soon:

    Putting the kibosh/”google” on all religion in less than ten seconds: Priceless !!!

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    "The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother's womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. "

    March 16, 2013 at 11:02 pm |
    • crazyvermont

      I'm guessing you don't want any normal posters reading as a number of your claims can be proven false just by doing some simple reading of history ie whether believing in Jesus as a deity, there was a man by that name that was executed by Roe during the time period coinciding with Biblical story etc etc. Better go back to something you actually know than mindless copy and paste......these supposed facts have been posted countless times on different sights from different authors

      March 17, 2013 at 6:48 am |
    • Reality

      Only for the those interested in a religious update:

      1. origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482

      “New Torah For Modern Minds

      Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

      Such startling propositions – the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years – have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity – until now.

      The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine docu-ment. “
      Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell.

      2. Jesus was an illiterate Jewish peasant/carpenter/simple preacher man who suffered from hallucinations (or “mythicizing” from P, M, M, L and J) and who has been characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth to a ma-mzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in his book Rabbi Jesus). An-alyses of Jesus’ life by many contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Ludemann, Crossan, Borg and Fredriksen, ) via the NT and related doc-uments have concluded that only about 30% of Jesus' sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan sects.

      The 30% of the NT that is "authentic Jesus" like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus' case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hitt-ites, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics.


      For added "pizzazz", Catholic theologians divided god the singularity into three persons and invented atonement as an added guilt trip for the "pew people" to go along with this trinity of overseers. By doing so, they made god the padre into god the "filicider".

      Current RCC problems:

      Pedophiliac priests, an all-male, mostly white hierarchy, atonement theology and original sin!!!!

      2 b., Luther, Calvin, Joe Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley, Roger Williams, the Great “Babs” et al, founders of Christian-based religions or combination religions also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of "pretty wingie thingie" visits and "prophecies" for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immacu-late co-nceptions).

      Current problems:
      Adulterous preachers, pedophiliac clerics, "propheteering/ profiteering" evangelicals and atonement theology,

      3. Mohammed was an illiterate, womanizing, lust and greed-driven, warmongering, hallucinating Arab, who also had embellishing/hallucinating/plagiarizing scribal biographers who not only added "angels" and flying chariots to the koran but also a militaristic agenda to support the plundering and looting of the lands of non-believers.

      This agenda continues as shown by the ma-ssacre in Mumbai, the as-sas-sinations of Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh, the conduct of the seven Muslim doctors in the UK, the 9/11 terrorists, the 24/7 Sunni suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the 24/7 Shiite suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the Islamic bombers of the trains in the UK and Spain, the Bali crazies, the Kenya crazies, the Pakistani “koranics”, the Palestine suicide bombers/rocketeers, the Lebanese nutcases, the Taliban nut jobs, the Ft. Hood follower of the koran, and the Filipino “koranics”.

      And who funds this muck and stench of terror? The warmongering, Islamic, Shiite terror and torture theocracy of Iran aka the Third Axis of Evil and also the Sunni "Wannabees" of Saudi Arabia.

      Current crises:

      The Sunni-Shiite blood feud and the warmongering, womanizing (11 wives), hallucinating founder.

      4. Hinduism (from an online Hindu site) – "Hinduism cannot be described as an organized religion. It is not founded by any individual. Hinduism is God centered and therefore one can call Hinduism as founded by God, because the answer to the question ‘Who is behind the eternal principles and who makes them work?’ will have to be ‘Cosmic power, Divine power, God’."

      The caste/laborer system, reincarnation and cow worship/reverence are problems when saying a fair and rational God founded Hinduism."

      Current problems:

      The caste system, reincarnation and cow worship/reverence.

      5. Buddhism- "Buddhism began in India about 500 years before the birth of Christ. The people living at that time had become disillusioned with certain beliefs of Hinduism including the caste system, which had grown extremely complex. The number of outcasts (those who did not belong to any particular caste) was continuing to grow."

      "However, in Buddhism, like so many other religions, fanciful stories arose concerning events in the life of the founder, Siddhartha Gautama (fifth century B.C.):"

      Archaeological discoveries have proved, beyond a doubt, his historical character, but apart from the legends we know very little about the circu-mstances of his life. e.g. Buddha by one legend was supposedly talking when he came out of his mother's womb.

      Bottom line: There are many good ways of living but be aware of the hallucinations, embellishments, lies, and myths surrounding the founders and foundations of said rules of life.

      Then, apply the Five F rule: "First Find the Flaws, then Fix the Foundations". And finally there will be religious peace and religious awareness in the world!!!!!

      March 17, 2013 at 8:37 am |
  19. End Religion

    4 Biggest Challenges:
    • Getting the best clothing and shoes lined up from the world's top designers
    • Continuing to find new ways to cover up pedophilia scandals
    • Finding new planets with intelligent life so the Church can continue to grow now that most intelligent life on this planet has become smart enough to understand religion is a fraud
    • Arranging the best apartment above the Europa Multi Club

    March 16, 2013 at 10:42 pm |
    • SAAB

      world's top designers !!!! Nooooo, these Popes are getting their costumes done by a Mexican Taylor, I saw the poor guy on Spanish channel, running a small shop in some small town, using still old fashioned foot pedal singer sewing machine.

      March 16, 2013 at 10:58 pm |
    • Akira

      The guy didn't even have an electric sewing machine? Whoa.

      March 16, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
    • mark

      End what are you going to do for the poor today?

      March 17, 2013 at 8:09 am |
  20. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    March 16, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
    • HeavenSense

      Hi Prayerbot.

      March 17, 2013 at 12:17 am |
    • No, silly.

      Atheists tend to live much longer because they have no god/jesus they are dying to meet.

      March 17, 2013 at 4:52 am |
    • chrissy hitchens

      Like the "long" life of atheist chris hitchens whose blasphemous drunken throat rotted out of him in his early 60's?

      March 17, 2013 at 6:13 am |
    • bobk52

      Christy, I hope u don't choke on the host(body of Christ) in church this morning. POS.

      March 17, 2013 at 6:26 am |
    • chrissy hitchens

      And what do you put in your mouth to choke on bobby?

      March 17, 2013 at 6:32 am |
    • reality check

      Name one thing prayer changes

      March 17, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • chrissy hitchens

      and whats in your mouth to choke on bobby?

      March 17, 2013 at 8:29 am |
    • .

      answer to reality check

      March 17, 2013 at 8:30 am |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!.

      March 17, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • Really?

      "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things"

      That's why the data; has shown that atheists have happier and healthier lives than conservative Christians. Your post is built on a lie!

      March 17, 2013 at 10:27 am |
      • Polycarp

        After discovering, creating WMD, I hope you do live a healthier life.

        October 13, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
        • HotAirAce

          Are you really trying to say atheists invented all WMDs? I wonder what all the Jews on the Manhattan Project were doing?

          October 13, 2013 at 8:36 pm |
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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.