January 17th, 2014
04:29 PM ET
(CNN) The Vatican acknowledged on Friday that close to 400 priests left the priesthood in 2011 and 2012 because of accusations that they had sexually abused children.
That acknowledgment followed a report by the Associated Press that nearly 400 priests had been defrocked during those two years. The Vatican initially disputed that report.
Bishop Charles Scicluna, formerly the Vatican's top prosecutor of sexually abusive clergy, said 384 priests left the priesthood - either voluntarily or not - in 2011 and 2012, the last two years of Pope Benedict XVI's papacy.
In 2011, 125 priests were dismissed from ministry by the Vatican because of accusations they had sexually abused children, Scicluna told CNN on Friday, citing the "Activity of the Holy See," a kind of Vatican yearbook. The same year, 135 priests were "dispensed," meaning they voluntarily resigned, Scicluna said.
In 2012, 57 priests were removed from the priesthood and 67 resigned, Scicluna said. Scicluna, who is now an auxiliary bishop in Malta, was the Vatican's top prosecutor of sexually abusive clergy for a decade.
Scicluna said he did not know why the number of defrocked priests spiked in 2011. "2011 was exceptionally high for dismissals," he said. "We don't really know why."
The AP reported on Friday that nearly 400 priests had been defrocked in 2011 and 2012, citing a document the Vatican prepared to defend its record on sexual abuse before a United Nations committee this week in Geneva.
The Vatican had rebutted that report, a denial previously reported by CNN. However, later on Friday, Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi told CNN the AP report was correct.
January 13th, 2014
09:19 AM ET
Opinion by the Rev. James Martin, special to CNN
(CNN) - Pope Francis' selection on Sunday of 19 new cardinals, the men who will select the next pope, seems aimed to help rebalance the church in important ways, passing over at least three influential American archbishops and naming several from the Southern Hemisphere.
First, there is a decided emphasis on Africa and Latin America, including poorer countries like Haiti and Burkina Faso.
Remember that the cardinals' most important duty is to elect the next pope. Francis is making sure that all parts of the world are adequately represented - and today the majority of Catholics are in the Southern Hemisphere.
Sixteen of the 19 new cardinals named by Francis on Sunday are younger than 80, which means they would be eligible to vote to the next pope. Of those 16, four are from the curia, or Vatican bureaucracy; two are from Europe; three are from North and Central America; three are from South America, including the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis' position before his papal election; two are from Africa and two from Asia.
The Pope's picks show that he wants the voice of the poor represented in the next conclave. Archbishop Chibly Langlois, 55, for example, will be the first-ever cardinal from Haiti. The Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, echoed this: “The choice of Cardinals of Burkina Faso and Haiti shows concern for people struck by poverty.”
December 24th, 2013
06:00 AM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) - As Pope Francis prepares to celebrate his first Christmas at the Vatican, Americans' opinions of the pontiff appear to be as high as the dome on St. Peter's Basilica, according to a new survey.
A CNN/ORC International poll released Tuesday found that 88% of American Catholics approve of how Francis is handling his role as head of the 1.2 billion-member church.
The popular pontiff has also made a positive impression among Americans in general: Nearly three in four view Francis favorably. The new survey suggests that the Pope is arguably the most well-regarded religious figure among the American public today, said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
December 17th, 2013
10:32 AM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) - Pope Francis marked his 77th birthday on Tuesday by welcoming three homeless men to a Mass and a meal at the Vatican, according to Catholic officials.
The Pope wanted a "family" environment, with just a few top aides, the staff of Casa Santa Marta - the Vatican guesthouse - and the homeless men, one of whom brought his dog, the Vatican said.
(The Vatican originally said four homeless men joined the Pope's birthday celebration before revising the number late Tuesday.)
Afterward, the group sang "Happy Birthday" to Francis, and he invited everyone to eat breakfast with him at the hotel's dining room, according to the Vatican.
The homeless men were brought by the Pope's aide in charge of charity, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, who has been taking Francis' concern for the poor directly to the streets of Rome.
November 26th, 2013
10:21 AM ET
By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor
(CNN) - Pope Francis on Tuesday called for big changes in the Roman Catholic Church - including at the very top - saying the church needs to rethink rules and customs that are no longer widely understood or effective for evangelizing.
"I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security," the Pope said in a major new statement.
"I do not want a Church concerned with being at the center and then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures," Francis added.
The Pope's address, called an "apostolic exhortation," is part mission statement, part pep talk for the world's 1.5 billion Catholics. Francis' bold language and sweeping call for change are likely to surprise even those who've grown accustomed to his unconventional papacy.
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 7th, 2013
10:59 AM ET
Opinion by the Rev. James Martin, Special to CNN
(CNN) - I could barely look at the photos, but I knew that I must.
Wednesday in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis met, embraced and kissed a man suffering from a rare disease called neurofibromatosis, a painful and disfiguring skin condition.
Photos of the Pope hugging a man whose face was blanketed with tumors struck a deep chord in people across the world. When I posted them to my public Facebook page, I received almost 300 comments in the space of a day.
Why do these photos speak to so many people so profoundly? Let me suggest three reasons. FULL POST
October 30th, 2013
08:49 AM ET
October 11th, 2013
11:18 AM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-editor
(CNN) - For the love of "Lesus," the Vatican needs a copy editor - preferably an infallible one.
In honor of the first year of Pope Francis' papacy, the Vatican issued a commemorative medal Tuesday. The coin-size medals are sold in Vatican City and usually provide a steady stream of revenue for the church.
Just one problem: The Vatican misspelled the name of Jesus on the medal.
September 5th, 2013
08:39 AM ET
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (CNN) - Prosecutors began a criminal investigation Wednesday into the Vatican's former ambassador to the Dominican Republic, a day after a local church representative said the pope had recalled the envoy because of child abuse allegations.
"We have formally opened an investigation," Dominican Attorney General Francisco Dominguez Brito told reporters.
"Here we have to work with two legal aspects, first national laws and also international laws in his status as a diplomat, which implies other mechanisms of investigation and judgment."
The Vatican confirmed Wednesday that Jozef Wesolowski had been removed from his post and that an investigation is under way but did not say what allegations were made.
Wesolowski had been an apostolic nuncio, the Vatican's official representative in the Dominican Republic.
But the pope pulled him from the post last month after an internal church report connected him with child abuse and pedophilia, according to Monsignor Agripino Nunez Collado, the rector of a Catholic university and spokesman for the church in the country.FULL STORY
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.