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World Cup final: It's Pope versus Pope
Pope Francis looks pretty confident, don't ya think?
July 9th, 2014
12:51 PM ET

World Cup final: It's Pope versus Pope

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Editor

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(CNN)– Will the World Cup final become a "Holy War"?

At the very least, Sunday's match could put millions of Catholics - not to mention Vatican employees - in a bit of a bind.

Will they root for Argentina, the homeland of Pope Francis, who is known to be an ardent soccer aficionado? Or will they back Germany, the native country of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, also a football fan?

And what about the Big Referee Upstairs? Whose prayers will he heed when the game is on the line?

Germany reached the final match on Tuesday by blowing out Brazil, the host country. Argentina beat the Netherlands on Wednesday afternoon.

Of course, both Popes (not to mention God) have more important things on their minds. But the pontiffs have also said that sports can be more than fun and games.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Argentina • Brazil • Catholic Church • Church and state • Pope Benedict XVI • Pope Francis • Social media • Sports • Vatican

June 21st, 2014
02:04 PM ET

Pope excommunicates Italian mobsters

By Delia Gallagher, CNN

(CNN) - Using his strongest language to date, Pope Francis told Italian Mafia members Saturday that they are excommunicated from the Catholic Church.

“Those who in their life have gone along the evil ways, as in the case of the Mafia, they are not with God, they are excommunicated," Francis said.

It is the first time a Pope has spoken of excommunication for the Mafia.

Excommunication, which excludes Catholics from the church, can be imposed by church authorities or incurred automatically for certain grave offenses.

The Pope’s remarks will resonate strongly in this part of southern Italy, where the Mafia attempt to portray themselves as upstanding religious men in good rapport with the Catholic Church, in order to maintain local credibility.

During a one-day visit to Calabria, in southern Italy, the Pope denounced the local mafia, called ‘Ndrangheta, as an example of “the adoration of evil and contempt for the common good.”

FULL POST

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Pope Francis

June 18th, 2014
12:37 PM ET

Vatican denies reports that Pope Francis is ill

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Editor

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(CNN) A Vatican spokesman denied reports on Wednesday that Pope Francis is ill, saying that the curtailment of his public summer schedule is common for popes.

"There is no sickness whatsoever," said the Rev. Thomas Rosica, a consultant to the Vatican press office. "If there was, we would be open about that and asking people to pray for him."

Francis made his usual public appearance in St. Peter's Square on Wednesday morning and is planning a trip to South Korea from August 13 to 18.

But the Pope will curtail public appearances in St. Peter's Square during July, as he did last year, and will scale back his daily celebration of Masses at Casa Santa Marta for the summer.

It is customary for popes to vacation during the summers months. Francis, 77, will continue working, Rosica said, while limiting public appearances.

FULL POST

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Asia • Catholic Church • Pope Francis • South Korea

May 26th, 2014
08:27 AM ET

Pope: Come to the Vatican for peace talks

By Laura Smith-Spark, Ivan Watson and Delia Gallagher, CNN

Bethlehem, West Bank (CNN) - Pope Francis extended an invitation Sunday to the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to travel to the Vatican for a "peace initiative," after earlier calling for a two-state solution to the intractable conflict.

The pontiff's remarks came at the end of an outdoor Mass in Bethlehem's Manger Square on the second day of his three-day trip to the Middle East.

"In this, the birthplace of the Prince of Peace, I wish to invite you, President Mahmoud Abbas, together with Israeli President Shimon Peres, to join me in heartfelt prayer to God for the gift of peace," Francis said.

"I offer my home in the Vatican as a place for this encounter of prayer."

He added, "Building peace is difficult, but living without peace is a constant torment. The men and women of these lands, and of the entire world, all of them, ask us to bring before God their fervent hopes for peace."

The Palestinian side has accepted the invitation and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will go to the Vatican, a Palestinian Legislative Council member, Hanan Ashrawi, told CNN.

The Israeli President's office said that he welcomed the invitation. "President Peres has always supported, and will continue to support, any attempts to progress the cause of peace," his office said.

FULL STORY
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Christianity • Church and state • Interfaith issues • Israel • Mass • Middle East • Palestinians • Pope Francis

May 22nd, 2014
07:04 PM ET

Pope Francis in the Holy Land: 5 things to know

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Editor

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(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.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christianity • Foreign policy • Islam • Israel • Jerusalem • Judaism • Leaders • Mass • Middle East • Palestinians • Pope Benedict XVI • Pope Francis • Religious liberty • Religious violence • Vatican

May 12th, 2014
10:05 AM ET

Update: Harvard's satanic 'black Mass' cancelled

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Editor

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(CNN) - A Harvard club's plans to stage a satanic "black Mass" were abruptly cancelled Monday after drawing fire from the Archdiocese of Boston and condemnation from the president of the Ivy League school.

Lucien Greaves, a spokesman for the New York-based Satanic Temple, told the Boston Globe late Monday that the event was called off because no venue was available.

“Everyone involved, outside of the Satanic Temple, got really scared,” Greaves told the newspaper. “And I don’t necessarily blame them, because I understand that they were getting a lot of vitriolic hate mail, and I don’t think they expected it."

Greaves was not immediately available for further comment.

A petition to stop the black Mass had garnered 60,000 signatures, according to Aurora Griffin, president of the Harvard Student Catholic Association.

The Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club had planned host the two-hour ceremony at the Queens Head pub in Memorial Hall in on the school's campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is unclear why the building was no longer available.

The history of black Masses is murky, but Catholics say the intent of such ceremonies is obvious: to mock their rituals and beliefs. The Masses often parody Catholic sacraments, such as Communion, and liturgical vestments.

“Our purpose is not to denigrate any religion or faith, which would be repugnant to our educational purposes," the Harvard student group had said in a statement, "but instead to learn and experience the history of different cultural practices.”

The cultural club said it also plans to host a Shinto tea ceremony, a Shaker exhibit and a presentation on Buddhist meditation.

But Harvard University President Drew Faust called the plans to reenact a black Mass "abhorrent."

FULL POST

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christianity • Mass • Pope Francis • Satanism

April 25th, 2014
11:41 AM ET

How the Catholic Church makes saints

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.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christianity • Leaders • Miracles • Pope Benedict XVI • Pope Francis • Pope John Paul II • Vatican

April 25th, 2014
07:57 AM ET

Three popes, one brilliant move

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.

FULL POST

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christianity • Italy • Leaders • Opinion • Poland • Pope Francis • Pope John Paul II • Vatican

April 24th, 2014
10:21 AM ET

Vatican: Pope's phone calls don't change doctrine

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Editor
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(CNN) - It was just a phone call.

That's the message the Vatican sent to reporters on Thursday, a day after news broke about a private conversation between the pontiff and a woman in Argentina.

Pope Francis, who is from Argentina, reportedly called Jacqueline Sabetta Lisbona and told her it was OK to receive Communion, despite her civil marriage to a divorced man. 

"She spoke with the Pope, and he said she was absolved of all sins and she could go and get the Holy Communion because she was not doing anything wrong," the woman's husband, Julio Sabetta, told Channel 3 Rosario, a CNN affiliate in Argentina.

Does that mean the Pope was overturning centuries of church doctrine?

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • Pope Francis

April 23rd, 2014
03:46 PM ET

Pope stirs Communion debate with call to woman

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-editor 
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(CNN) - Pope Francis called an Argentine woman married to a divorced man and reportedly told her that she could receive the sacrament of Communion, according to the woman's husband, in an apparent contradiction of Catholic law.

Julio Sabetta, from San Lorenzo in the Pope's home country, said his wife, Jacqueline Sabetta Lisbona, spoke with Francis on Monday.

Jacqueline Sabetta Lisbona wrote to the pontiff in September to ask for clarification on the Communion issue, according to her husband, who said his divorced status had prevented her from receiving the sacrament.

"She spoke with the Pope, and he said she was absolved of all sins and she could go and get the Holy Communion because she was not doing anything wrong," Sabetta told Channel 3 Rosario, a CNN affiliate.

A Vatican spokesman confirmed the telephone call but would not comment on the conversation's content.

"It's between the Pope and the woman," said the Rev. Thomas Rosica, a consultant for the Vatican press office.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Argentina • Belief • Catholic Church • Christianity • Ethics • Pope Francis • South America

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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.

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