October 13th, 2014
03:07 PM ET
Opinion by Francis DeBernardo, special to CNN
(CNN) - I could hardly believe what I was reading as I saw the news Monday morning that Catholic clergy meeting in Rome said gay and lesbian people should be welcomed into the church more warmly.
After decades of hearing messages from high church officials that lesbian and gay people were a threat to humanity and a danger to children, I had to rub my eyes a few times to make sure that I was reading this new, more positive language correctly.
Was this really coming from the Catholic Church?
Most significantly, the document calls on Catholic communities to be “accepting and valuing” of lesbian and gay people's sexual orientation, and to recognize that lesbian and gay people “have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community.'”
Quite simply, this is a total reversal of earlier church statements that labelled such an orientation as "objectively disordered," and which viewed gay and lesbian people in faith communities as problems and suspect persons.
The new language recognizes for the first time the reality that I have witnessed in more than 20 years of ministry with lesbian and gay Catholics: “they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home.”
October 13th, 2014
11:09 AM ET
By Delia Gallagher, CNN
ROME (CNN) – Using strikingly open language, a new Vatican report says the church should welcome and appreciate gays, and offers a solution for divorced and remarried Catholics who want to receive Communion.
At a press conference on Monday to present the report, Cardinal Louis Antonio Tagle of the Philippines said Catholic clergy meeting here have largely focused on the impact of poverty, war and immigration on families.
But the newly proposed language on gays and civil marriages represents a “pastoral earthquake,” said one veteran Vatican journalist.
“Regarding homosexuals, it went so far as to pose the question whether the church could accept and value their sexual orientation without compromising Catholic doctrine,” said John Thavis, a former Rome bureau chief for Catholic News Service.
The Rev. James Martin, an author and Jesuit priest, called the report's language on gays and lesbians "revolutionary."
“This is a stunning change in the way that the Catholic Church speaks about gay people.”
"The synod said that gay people have 'gifts and talents to offer the Christian community.' This is something that even a few years ago would have been unthinkable," Martin added.
September 23rd, 2014
05:35 PM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Editor
(CNN) - The Vatican announced on Tuesday that it has placed a former ambassador under house arrest while he faces charges for "serious acts of abuse of minors."
Jozef Wesolowski is accused of molesting young boys during his stint as the pope's official representative in the Dominican Republic. Wesolowski had been appointed to the post in 2008 by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
The former envoy, who was defrocked by the Vatican in June, is one of the highest-ranking church officials to be accused of abusing children during the Catholic Church's widespread and costly sexual abuse scandal. It is the first time a top Vatican ambassador has faced such charges.
Wesolowski's arrest, the Vatican said Tuesday, "is a result of the express desire of the Pope, so that a case so serious and delicate would be addressed without delay."
Francis has pledged to maintain a policy of "zero tolerance" for Catholic clergy who abuse children.
Wesolowski's case provides a high-profile chance for the Pope, who has been accused by some victims' groups of downplaying the sexual abuse scandal, to take concrete action against one of the Vatican's own.
The Vatican said that Wesolowski suffers from an unnamed but medically documented health condition, and will be placed under house arrest in Vatican City, which is a sovereign state.
Pressure had been building on the Vatican to proceed with criminal charges against Wesolowski, a Polish native ordained by Saint John Paul II, since the accusations against him became public.
That pressure intensified when The New York Times reported last month that Wesolowski had been seen walking freely about Rome.
The United Nations Committee Against Torture has also urged the Vatican to move swiftly on Wesolowski. A report by the committee in May noted that Poland had reportedly asked for the archbishop's extradition.
Under Vatican law, Wesolowski, if found guilty, could face a maximum sentence of 12 years in prison.
August 3rd, 2014
09:49 AM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Editor
(CNN) - Clearly, “lifestyles of the rich and religious” doesn’t cut it for Pope Francis.
The pontiff has said it “breaks my heart” to see priests and nuns driving the “latest model of car.”
He’s blasted “airport bishops” who spend more time jet-setting then tending to their flock.
And he’s warned against church leaders who bear the “psychology of princes.”
The Vatican fired one such “prince” last year: German Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst - aka, “The Bishop of Bling” - who spent $43 million to remodel his opulent pad.
(Bronze window frames? $2.4 million. Getting on the wrong side of the Pope? Far more pricy.)
“God save us from a worldly Church with superficial spiritual and pastoral trappings!” Francis said in his book-length blueprint for the church.
Say what you will, this Pope puts his preaching into practice.
But are American archbishops following his example?FULL STORY
June 18th, 2014
12:37 PM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Editor
(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."
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.
April 25th, 2014
11:41 AM ET
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.
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
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.
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.