April 11th, 2014
09:27 AM ET
By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor
(CNN) - Pope Francis made his strongest condemnation of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy on Friday, asking for forgiveness and pledging to impose penalties on "men of the church" who harm children.
“I feel compelled to personally take on all the evil which some priests, quite a few in number, obviously not compared to the number of all the priests, to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children," the Pope said in remarks quoted by Vatican Radio.
"The Church is aware of this damage, it is personal, moral damage carried out by men of the Church, and we will not take one step backward with regards to how we will deal with this problem, and the sanctions that must be imposed," Francis continued. "On the contrary, we have to be even stronger. Because you cannot interfere with children."
The Pope's new comments, made to a Catholic NGO on Friday, represent a shift from his previous statements on sexual abuse.FULL STORY
April 5th, 2014
04:48 PM ET
By Chandrika Narayan, CNN, and Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) - After coming under sharp criticism and issuing an apology earlier this week, the Archbishop of Atlanta announced Saturday that he would vacate his $2.2 million mansion in early May.
The decision came after a meeting with members of several church councils and parishioners in Archbishop Wilton Gregory's headquarters north of Atlanta.
"I want to thank those parishioners whose prayers, counsel and concern brought this issue to light and ensured that their Archbishop was properly attuned to the important symbolism of simple actions and the challenges faced by many of the faithful in the Archdiocese of Atlanta," Gregory said in a statement.
There were nearly 60 people present at the closed-door meeting, said Pat Chivers, communications director for the Archdiocese of Atlanta. They included members of the Archdiocesan Pastoral and Finance Council, the Council of Priests and parishioners of differing points of view,
April 2nd, 2014
11:17 AM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) - Facing sharp criticism for falling out of step with Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Atlanta has apologized for building a $2.2 million mansion on land bequeathed by the family of a famed Southern writer.
Atlanta's Archbishop Wilton Gregory said he approved construction of the 6,000-square-foot home after agreeing to leave the traditional archbishop's residence to make way for priests who serve the cathedral next door.
Gregory moved into the mansion in January.
"What we didn’t stop to consider, and that oversight rests with me and me alone, was that the world and the Church have changed," Gregory wrote Monday in the archdiocesan newspaper.
The archbishop's apology began by citing an e-mail from a Catholic woman who chided Gregory for failing to follow "the example of a simple life as Pope Francis calls for."
Gregory said he agrees and will consult church leaders about selling the mansion, which sits in Atlanta's upscale Buckhead neighborhood.
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.
By Wolf Blitzer and Sean Kennedy, CNN
(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 9th, 2014
09:40 AM ET
Boston (CNN) - In some ways, the "Pope Francis effect" doesn't seem very effective at all.
Despite the immense popularity the aged Argentine has won since his election last year, not a jot of doctrine has changed, nor has the Catholic Church swelled with American converts.
But there's more than one way to measure a pontiff's influence on his far-flung flock.
Start asking around - here in Boston and beyond, Catholics and atheists alike - and it's easy to find people eager to share how one man, in just one year, has changed their lives.
There's the gay man who finally feels welcome in his church.
The woman who weeps when headlines deliver good news at last.
The former priest who no longer clenches his fist during Mass.
The Latinos who waited forever for a Pope who speaks their language.
"I'm telling you, brother, if you focus on the numbers, you're missing the story," says the Rev. John Unni, a Boston pastor with an accent as thick as clam chowda.
"There's an energy, a feeling, a spirit here. It's like a healing balm."
If anyplace needed healing, it's Boston - the country's most Catholic city.FULL STORY
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.
February 19th, 2014
11:35 AM ET
Opinion by Laurence England, special to CNN
(CNN) - In the year since Francis was elected Pope, the media have told us a certain story about this man “from the ends of the Earth,” as he once described himself.
Francis, we are told, is warm and friendly, gentle and compassionate. He embraces the poor, the disfigured, the outcast.
These attributes pose a sharp contrast, we are informed, to his mean-spirited, judgmental and arrogant predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who was known for his fancy vestments and aloof, academic attitude.
If Francis has the common touch, the story goes, Benedict was firmly out of touch, perched on an ivory tower far inside the Vatican.
To many Catholics this media-driven contrast between the two Popes is laughable.
January 27th, 2014
12:40 PM ET
By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor
(CNN) Talk about your angry birds.
A crow and a seagull attacked two white doves released by children standing next to Pope Francis on Sunday at St. Peter's Square. The birds of prey swooped down after the "peace" doves flew from the open window in the Apostolic Palace.
One dove broke free from the gull, after losing a few feathers in the fray. A crow pecked the other before both doves escaped and flew away. Their ultimate fate is unknown.
Thankfully, the Pope and children had walked away before the fly-by birding.
Doves as Judeo-Christian symbols of peace date back to biblical times. In the Book of Genesis, a dove returns to the ark-maker Noah with an olive branch, letting him know that the flood had receded.
In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit descends "like a dove" on Jesus after his baptism, according to the Gospel of Matthew. Centuries of Christian art thereafter have use doves to symbolize the third member of the Holy Trinity, along with God and Jesus.
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.