September 24th, 2013
02:05 PM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-editor
(CNN) - Retired Pope Benedict XVI says he never tried to cover up the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests, breaking his post-retirement silence to address one of the greatest threats to his legacy as a church leader.
In a lengthy letter published in La Repubblica, an Italian newspaper, the former pope answered theological and moral arguments from Piergiorgio Odifreddi, an Italian atheist and mathematician who had written about Benedict in 2011.
Earlier this month, La Repubblica also published a letter to its atheist editor from Pope Francis, Benedict's successor.
September 19th, 2013
11:01 AM ET
By Eric Marrapodi and Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editors
(CNN) - Pope Francis said the church has the right to express its opinions but not to "interfere spiritually" in the lives of gays and lesbians, expanding on explosive comments he made in July about not judging homosexuals.
In a wide-ranging interview published Thursday, the pope also said that women must play a key role in church decisions and brushed off critics who say he should be more vocal about fighting abortion and gay marriage.
Moreover, if the church fails to find a "new balance" between its spiritual and political missions, the pope warned, its moral foundation will "fall like a house of cards."
The interview, released by Jesuit magazines in several different languages and 16 countries on Thursday, offers perhaps the most expansive and in-depth view of Francis' vision for the Roman Catholic Church.
The pope's comments don't break with Catholic doctrine or policy, but instead show a shift in approach, moving from censure to engagement.
September 19th, 2013
11:00 AM ET
Opinion by the Rev. James Martin, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Here at America magazine, we’ve been anticipating the exclusive interview with Pope Francis for Jesuit journals worldwide for weeks.
We’ve lived with the 12,000-word article we’ve titled “A Big Heart Open to God,” and, in a sense, with the pope over these last several days.
So let me suggest what I feel to be the most important parts of this remarkable interview. To focus, I’ll highlight a few quotes and unpack them.
September 1st, 2013
03:26 AM ET
Opinion by Jeffrey Weiss, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Pope Francis surprised Israeli and Palestinian leaders last month when he invited them to a special prayer ceremony at the Vatican this Sunday - not least because religion has often been the source, not the salve, of the region's conflicts.
Still, Pope Francis offered his "home" - the Vatican - as the perfect place to plea for some divine assistance, and Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas dutifully agreed to attend.
"The Pope has placed it in this perspective: Prayer is like a force for peace,” Vatican Secretary of State Archbishop Pietro Parolin told Vatican Radio.
"We hope that there, where human efforts have so far failed, the Lord offers to all the wisdom and fortitude to carry out a real peace plan."
But Sunday's special ceremony at the Vatican raises an interesting question: When Francis, Peres and Abbas bow their heads in prayer, will they be talking to the same God?
After all, Jews, Christians and Muslims all trace their faiths back to a fellow named Abraham, whom they all claim was chosen for special treatment by the Almighty.
August 30th, 2013
12:37 PM ET
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) - In another precedent-shattering moment for Pope Francis, the bishop of Rome, the Vicar of Christ, successor of St. Peter and the head of 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide has taken what may be the first papal selfie.
The pontiff posed for the photo with young Italian pilgrims Wednesday at St. Peter's Basilica.
The image of Francis mugging for a cell phone photo with the Italian teens charged through social media when the papal newspaper L'Osservatore Romano released the photo Thursday.
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 29th, 2013
08:48 AM ET
By John L. Allen Jr. and Hada Messia, CNN
Aboard the Papal Airplane (CNN) - Pope Francis said Monday that he will not "judge" gays and lesbians, including gay priests, signaling a shift from his predecessor and offering another sign that the new pope is committed to changing the church's approach to historically marginalized groups.
“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Francis said in a wide-ranging news conference aboard the papal plane.
Though he was answering a question about the so-called "gay lobby" at the Vatican, the pope indicated a change in tone, if not in teaching, in the church's stance towards gays and lesbians more generally. FULL POST
July 28th, 2013
10:17 AM ET
By Eric Marrapodi and Miguel Marquez, CNN
Rio de Janeiro (CNN) - Pope Francis closed out World Youth Day with a final Mass before a giant crowd of millions on Copacabana Beach.
"Go, do not be afraid, and serve," the pope told the crowd Sunday.
Catholic pilgrims from around the world traveled to Brazil for the weeklong celebration and a chance to see the pontiff, whose visit was a shot in the arm for a church that has seen its share of scandal and troubles.
Massive crowds followed Francis at every stop on the trip. Organizers and local officials said 1.5 million people came out for the Way of the Cross observance on Friday.
The mayor's office in Rio said final estimates for a prayer vigil on Saturday could reach up to 3 million. On Sunday, the Vatican citing civil authorizes put the crowd for the final Mass over 3 million.
July 27th, 2013
04:58 PM ET
By Shasta Darlington and Eric Marrapodi, CNN
Rio de Janeiro (CNN) - A massive crowd packed Copacabana Beach late Saturday for a prayer service with Pope Francis.
The pope addressed Catholic pilgrims who came for the weeklong World Youth Day celebration.
Organizers said 3 million attended the service. They cited the mayor's office and police for the crowd estimates, which nearly doubled the 1.6 million who came here for a 2006 Rolling Stones concert and matched the 3 million who came for the 2000 millennium celebration.
July 14th, 2013
12:25 AM ET
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN)–It was a shipwreck of African migrants off the coast of Lampedusa, a small island in the Mediterranean, that spurred Pope Francis into action.
In the past 18 months more than 500 people have died, or gone missing at sea, trying to escape Africa. The world barely noticed.
Standing on Lampedusa on Monday, Francis prayed for the victims and cast a wreath in the water to commemorate the dead. More importantly, he drew attention to the desperate plight of migrants, in his country and around the world.
“We have fallen into a globalization of indifference,” Francis said, as he stood near an altar made from the salvage of shipwrecks.
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.