November 17th, 2013
06:00 AM ET
Opinion by Chris Lowney
(CNN) - Every day, millions of Americans perform a task that epitomizes Pope Francis’ leadership style: They do the laundry.
I came to that somewhat surprising conclusion while talking to Jesuit priests who lived with the future Pope, then known as the Rev. Jorge Bergoglio, during the early 1980s. At the time, they were young Jesuit seminarians, and he was their “boss,” the rector of their 100-member community.
“He was very demanding when it came to studies,” one of them told me. “Do what you’re doing and do it well,” he used to say.
But the rector wanted the budding Jesuits to learn from people, not just from books.
“He used to send us to the opera and also have us clean the seminary bathrooms, because he wanted us to be adaptable to all kinds of situations.”
The seminarians all did volunteer work in poor communities, and one of them remembers Bergoglio telling them that “closeness to the poor is important for the formation of a priest’s heart.”
His mantra at the time was: “You’re going to learn from these people before you teach them anything,” the young Jesuits recall.
November 15th, 2013
10:10 AM ET
By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor
(CNN) - The devil made them do it?
According to a Catholic bishop in Springfield, Illinois, Satan was behind his state's recent legalization of same-sex marriage.
So, next Wednesday, at about the same time Gov. Pat Quinn signs the gay marriage bill into law, Bishop Thomas Paprocki will hold an exorcism ceremony "in reparation for the sin of same-sex marriage."
Paprocki, who's something of an expert on exorcism, says he's just following the Pope's marching orders.
When Pope Francis, then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, was an archbishop in Argentina, he called that country's legalization of same-sex marriage "a 'move' of the father of lies who wishes to confuse and deceive the children of God."
November 14th, 2013
02:59 PM ET
By Daniel Burke and Livia Borghese, CNN
ROME (CNN) - Pope Francis' crusade against corruption in the Catholic Church, including an overhaul of the scandal-scarred Vatican Bank, has put the new pontiff in the Italian mafia's crosshairs, according to two organized crime experts.
"The strong will of Pope Francis, aiming to disrupt the gangrene power centers, puts him at risk. He disturbs the mafia very much," Nicola Gratteri, a top anti-mafia prosecutor in Italy, told CNN on Thursday.
"I don't have precise information about a plan of the mafia against Pope Francis," Gratteri continued. "But if I did, I wouldn't say."
November 13th, 2013
05:34 PM ET
By Jessica Ravitz, CNN
(CNN) - Of course Tevi Troy has heard the hubbub.
He knows full well that his onetime boss, former President George W. Bush, plans to speak Thursday at a Dallas fundraiser for the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute – a group dedicated to converting Jews to Christianity.
“I have yet to meet a Jewish person who hasn’t heard about this,” says Troy, who served as a Bush administration liaison to the Jewish community and was a former deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The topic of conversion can prompt a visceral reaction for Jews whose darker times have been marred by persecution, expulsion and forced conversions. Millions have died for and because of their faith.
“There’s good historical reason for the Jewish discomfort,” Troy says. FULL POST
November 13th, 2013
09:31 AM ET
(CNN) - A giant statue of Jesus apparently survived Typhoon Haiyan unscathed, even as the massive storm flattened many parts of Tanauan, a coastal town in the central Philippines.
It's not the first time religious statues have survived natural disasters in the heavily Catholic Philippines, according to local reports. Two statues of the Virgin Mary withstood a devastating earthquake last month.
Meanwhile, Haiyan has wiped entire towns off the map, and thousands are searching for family members, food and water.
So, what do you think, readers: Is the unscathed Jesus statue a miraculous sign of hope amid the ruins or just a random coincidence?
November 12th, 2013
03:49 PM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-editor
(CNN) - It's official: Pope Francis is the most talked-about person on the planet.
More folks have been chatting about the popular new pontiff online this year than Edward Snowden, Kate Middleton or even the Internet's favorite bad girl, Miley Cyrus.
That's according to the 14th annual survey from the Global Language Monitor, a Texas-based company that trackers top talkers on the web. The GLM says their rankings are based on an analysis of English-language blogs, social media and 275,000 electronic and online news media.
The GLM broke their research into three categories: top words, top phrases and top names.
Besides being the Internet's top name, the Pope's Twitter handle, @Pontifex, was the fourth most talked about word thus far in 2013.
November 11th, 2013
11:16 AM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-editor
(CNN) - The disasters are always different and often devastating. But the questions they raise are hauntingly familiar.
In the days since Super Typhoon Haiyan swept through the Philippines on Thursday, survivors are frantically searching for lost family members and international aid groups are springing into action.
Officials say the death toll may rise to 10,000 in the heavily Catholic country. Meanwhile, many people are asking: How should we make sense of such senseless death and destruction? Was God in the whirlwind itself, as the Bible hints, or present only in the aftermath, as people mobilize to provide food, water and shelter?
These questions may not be new, but we keep asking them, perhaps because the answers remain so elusive.
November 9th, 2013
08:00 AM ET
Opinion by Molly Worthen, special to CNN
(CNN) - Under ordinary circumstances, Donald Trump and Rupert Murdoch are probably not in the habit of attending the birthday parties of elderly Christian preachers in the North Carolina mountains.
But they were both among the hundreds of well-wishers at the party on Thursday marking Billy Graham’s 95th birthday.
Graham spent his career leading revivals around the globe, following a long tradition of evangelists who have traveled far and wide to urge sinners to accept Christ. But his birthday guest list shows that he is no ordinary preacher. He is a cultural icon, the most famous face of traditional Protestant Christianity.
“We need Billy Graham's message to be heard, I think, today more than ever," former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin told the crowd.
What, exactly, is that message—and what accounts for its mass appeal? Now that Billy is 95, I wonder: is there anyone who can fill his shoes?
November 8th, 2013
10:01 AM ET
By John Blake, CNN
(CNN) - The Rev. Timothy McDonald gripped the pulpit with both hands, locked eyes with the shouting worshippers, and decided to speak the unspeakable.
The bespectacled Baptist minister was not confessing to a scandalous love affair or the theft of church funds. He brought up another taboo: the millions of poor Americans who won’t get health insurance beginning in January because their states refused to accept Obamacare.
McDonald cited a New Testament passage in which Jesus gathered the 5,000 and fed them with five loaves and two fishes. Members of his congregation bolted to their feet and yelled, “C’mon preacher” and “Yessir” as his voice rose in righteous anger.
“What I like about our God is that he doesn’t throw people away,” McDonald told First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta during a recent Sunday service. “There will be health care for every American. Don’t you worry when they try to cast you aside. Just say I’m a leftover for God and leftovers just taste better the next day!”
November 7th, 2013
06:08 PM ET
By Phil Gast, CNN
(CNN) - The Rev. Billy Graham took people to church, perhaps for the last time, as hundreds joined the iconic evangelist Thursday evening for his 95th birthday.
A guest list that included former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Rev. Rick Warren and businessmen Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump came to pay tribute to a man beloved for his humility and faithfulness.
Because the frail Graham no longer has the strength to speak behind a lectern, his enduring message of salvation through Jesus Christ came in the form of "The Cross," a 30-minute DVD that made its debut at the celebration.
"He is my spiritual hero," said entertainer Ricky Skaggs shortly before the celebration began at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina. "He exemplifies brokenness and humility."
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.