The Common Good

Blog Posts By Eric J. Lyman

Posted by Eric J. Lyman 18 weeks 2 days ago
An Irish woman who was a victim of sexual abuse as a child is among eight members of a special commission appointed by Pope Francis on Saturday to start the long and arduous process of confronting the church’s chronic sexual abuse problems.Francis appointed four women and four men — a mix of clergy and laypeople — from eight different countries to a panel that will advise the church on the best ways to protect children, identify and punish abusers, and train church personnel. Plans for the panel first emerged in December.The creation of the commission is one of the strongest steps Francis has taken to confront the problem that has severely stained the church’s reputation and cost it billions in court settlements and legal fees. The pontiff has called the issue of sexual abuse “the shame of the church” and vowed to take strong steps to confront the issue.
Posted by Eric J. Lyman 19 weeks 1 day ago
The Vatican said Monday that Pope Francis will preside over a prayer vigil dedicated to victims of mob violence in Italy and their families.It’s a sensitive issue for Francis after a famed anti-mob prosecutor last year said the pope’s financial reforms were making mob bosses “very nervous” and could expose the pope to assassination plots.The special service, to be held Friday, is expected to include at least 700 Italians who lost a family member to violence connected to Italy’s various organized crime organizations.
Posted by Eric J. Lyman 20 weeks 5 days ago
Pope John Paul II won’t officially become a saint until a special high-profile ceremony next month at the Vatican. But the man who succeeded him says he has seen him in that light for years.“The reality that John Paul II was a saint became increasingly apparent to me in the years I worked together with him,” Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said in an interview published Friday in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera.The Polish pontiff “did not ask for applause and never looked troubled when he was making difficult decisions,” Benedict said. “He acted in accord with his faith and beliefs, and he was willing to endure blows against him. I could and should not imitate him, but I did try to continue his legacy and his mission the best way I could.”
Posted by Eric J. Lyman 21 weeks 1 day ago
Il Mio Papa, a new weekly magazine that will focus entirely on Pope Francis — complete with a weekly centerfold poster of the pontiff — is scheduled to hit Italian newsstands on Wednesday.The magazine, whose name translates to “My Pope,” will go heavy on photography and colorful layouts, according to a news release from publisher Mondadori. It’s the first magazine entirely devoted to just one pontiff.The magazine will include stories about people and events that inspire the pope; background information on papal remarks; a “saints of the week” column; a collection of international cartoons about the pope; and a list of that week’s television programs dedicated to issues related to faith and Christianity.
Posted by Eric J. Lyman 21 weeks 6 days ago
Vatican theologians have given their approval to a miracle attributed to the intercession of Pope Paul VI, moving him a step closer to sainthood.The team of medical professionals and doctors that advise the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints already had approved the same miracle in December. Now that a panel of theologians has signed off, the miracle only requires a review by Pope Francis to be considered official.When that happens, Paul will be beatified — the final step before sainthood. A second miracle is typically required for canonization.
Posted by Eric J. Lyman 22 weeks 1 day ago
Actor Russell Crowe is using social media to try to cajole Pope Francis into seeing his latest film, the controversial “Noah,” which stars Crowe as the waterlogged biblical patriarch.The $125 million film, which will go into wide release next month, already has some religious groups upset over a story line they say takes too many liberties in director Darren Aronofsky’s adaptation to the silver screen. Crowe says he’d like Francis to see the film to make up his own mind.Crowe — who won an Oscar 14 years ago for “Gladiator,” which was set in ancient Rome — tweeted an invitation to the pope, reading in part, “The message of the film is powerful, fascinating, resonant.”
Posted by Eric J. Lyman 22 weeks 2 days ago
Tiny Vatican City consumes more wine per capita than any other country in the world, according to information from the California-based Wine Institute.According to the Wine Institute’s latest statistics, the Vatican consumed 74 liters of wine per person, around double the per-capita consumption of Italy as a whole. A standard bottle of wine is about .75 liters.And while some of that consumption is clearly related to ceremonial Communion wine, Italian press reports say it’s more likely because Vatican residents are older (the lack of children are figured into the statistics), are overwhelmingly male, are highly educated, and tend to eat communally — all factors that tend to lead toward higher wine consumption.
Posted by Eric J. Lyman 22 weeks 5 days ago
In an unusually informal video made on a smartphone held by a Pentecostal pastor, Pope Francis called on all Christians to set aside their differences, explaining his “longing” for Christian unity.The seven-minute video, which was posted on YouTube, was made during a Jan. 14 meeting with Anthony Palmer, a bishop and international ecumenical officer with the independent Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches. Italian news reports say that the pope and Palmer knew each other when Francis served as the archbishop of Buenos Aires.In his remarks, part of a 45-minute video, Francis said, in Italian, that all Christians are to blame for their divisions and that he prays to the Lord “that he will unite us all.”
Posted by Eric J. Lyman 24 weeks 1 day ago
After a tumultuous year that saw the first papal resignation in nearly six centuries, the election of Pope Francis, and a dramatic reshaping of the church’s style and tone, the man who set those wheels in motion has no regrets.Indeed, Pope Benedict XVI, now retired and living in seclusion inside the Vatican, is at peace in his new role and believes history will vindicate his difficult eight-year papacy, his closest aide said in a rare interview.“It is clear that humanly speaking, many times, it is painful to see that what is written about someone does not correspond concretely to what was done,” Archbishop Georg Ganswein said in an interview with the Reuters news agency on the anniversary of Benedict’s surprise announcement on Feb. 11, 2013, that he would resign.
Posted by Eric J. Lyman 24 weeks 6 days ago
As investments go, this was a good one.A Harley-Davidson motorcycle briefly owned by Pope Francis sold Thursday for $325,000, more than 25 times the Kelley Blue Book resale value for a similar bike.Chalk it up to the so-called Francis Effect — credited for everything from increased church attendance in Italy to a surge of tourists arriving in Rome from the pope’s native Argentina. Now, evidently, it dramatically changes the value of objects the pope once owned.
Posted by Eric J. Lyman 25 weeks 11 hours ago
A United Nations panel on Wednesday blasted the Vatican for protecting itself rather than victims of sexual abuse, and it called on the Holy See to create what it called an “independent mechanism” to investigate new charges of abuse.The 16-page report from the Committee on the Rights of the Child accused the Vatican of “systematically” adopting policies that allowed priests to rape and molest thousands of young people over a span of decades. It also calls on the church to remove known or suspected abusers from its ranks immediately.“The Committee is gravely concerned that the Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators,” the report said.
Posted by Eric J. Lyman 25 weeks 1 day ago
Did you hear that Pope Francis plans to call a Third Vatican Council? Or that he uncovered previously unknown Bible verses? Or that he sees the story of Adam and Eve as just a fable?Here’s the problem: None of it is true.Still, that didn’t stop these and other stories from ricocheting around the Internet and, in some cases, even in traditional news sources. Among the dozens of other fake pope stories are claims that he called hell a literary device and that he believes all religions are equally true.The tide of fake pope stories has risen so fast in recent months that the Pontifical Council for Culture issued a stern warning on its Facebook page.
Posted by Eric J. Lyman 26 weeks 1 day ago
After two doves released by Pope Francis and two young children were attacked by aggressive predator birds, a leading animal rights group called on the pontiff to stop what they called “outdated traditions.”The Vatican regularly releases doves as a symbol of peace, and in multiple instances they have been chased and sometimes captured and killed by more aggressive fowl in the area. But Sunday’s events were more noteworthy because the scene of a seagull and a crow swooping in to attack the doves was captured by several of the photographers in St. Peter’s Square as a crowd of tens of thousands — including several thousand children — looked on.Both white doves managed to escape their predators after a brief tussle, but it’s unclear what ultimately happened to them.
Posted by Eric J. Lyman 26 weeks 2 days ago
A vial containing the blood of the late Pope John Paul II was stolen from a village church in a mountainous area east of Rome, sparking a regionwide manhunt that includes more than 50 police and a team of dogs specialized in tracking.It is not clear when the break-in at the small Church of San Pietro della Lenca in the region of Abruzzo took place, but it was discovered by a church custodian on Sunday. The thief or thieves made off with a large crucifix and a gold reliquary containing the vial of the blood of John Paul, who will be proclaimed a saint in April.Once John Paul is elevated to sainthood, artifacts from his life will increase in value.
Posted by Eric J. Lyman 26 weeks 5 days ago
French President Francois Hollande, embroiled in a controversy surrounding an alleged affair with an actress, met Friday with Pope Francis, who was unusually somber in his public appearance with the scandal-scarred French leader.There was no official comment about what the two men discussed in their private 35-minute meeting, but the pontiff — known for his friendly and informal style — appeared more stern and serious than usual as he sat across an ornate desk from Hollande.Hollande has earned headlines across France and beyond for his alleged affair with actress Julie Gayet. The allegations sparked so much fury that French first lady Valerie Trierweiler had to be admitted to the hospital.The jury is still out on whether the audience with the popular pontiff would help repair Hollande’s tarnished image at home.
Posted by Eric J. Lyman 32 weeks 1 day ago
As part of Pope Francis’ pastoral reforms, all 44 senior members of the Roman Curia, or governing body, must take turns hearing confession at a church near the Vatican.There is even speculation that Francis himself could hear confessions at the Church of the Santo Spirito in Sassia, just outside the Vatican walls, where his bishops and cardinals have been directed to perform the sacrament of penance and reconciliation.“I think it’s likely the pope will discreetly hear confessions at some point,” said Giacomo Galeazzi, a veteran Vatican watcher from Italy’s La Stampa newspaper. “The pope has long been an advocate of the pastoral aspects of the ministry and now the Curia will as well.”
Posted by Eric J. Lyman 33 weeks 9 hours ago
ROME — It’s official, but no big surprise: Pope Francis is now the most-talked-about person on Facebook, according to information released Dec. 10 by the social media giant.Pope Francis took the top spot, followed closely by Royal Baby George.
Posted by Eric J. Lyman 33 weeks 5 days ago
At the heart of the Vatican’s new “Metamorphosis of Space” exhibit featuring the works of Spanish architect and artist Santiago Calatrava is the first-ever public display for the model of New York’s St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church.The exhibit’s curator, Micol Forti, said the relationship between the project and the Vatican is casual — “It’s not even a Catholic Church,” she said of St. Nicholas — yet the magnetism of the model is immediately apparent.“This exhibit is part of a dialogue with contemporary culture, and this particular piece is a large part of it,” Forti said. She pointed out an adjacent series of watercolor paintings Calatrava made to show a kind of evolution between the design of the church and a classic portrait of the Madonna and Child.
Posted by Eric J. Lyman 33 weeks 6 days ago
When Pope Francis cradled the small box said to contain nine bone fragments believed to be the mortal remains of St. Peter, the first pope, he fanned the flames of a long-standing debate over the authenticity of ancient church relics.Most old churches in Italy contain some ancient relic, ranging from a glass tube said to hold the blood of St. Gennaro in Naples to a section of what is believed to be Jesus’ umbilical cord in the Basilica of St. John of Lateran in Rome. Perhaps the most famous religious relic in Italy — the Shroud of Turin, believed by many to be Jesus’ burial cloth — will go on display again in early 2015, and Turin Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia this week invited Pope Francis to attend its public debut.But St. Peter’s bones are of particular importance, since they are the very basis — both architecturally and spiritually — for Catholicism’s most important church. And yet the bones were only discovered during a series of excavations in the 1940s, almost 1,900 years after Peter died, in either 64 or 67 A.D.
Posted by Eric J. Lyman 35 weeks 1 day ago
Laying out a blueprint for the issues that are likely to define his papacy, Pope Francis on Tuesday issued a biting critique of capitalism, calling on world leaders to fight against poverty and for the rich to share their wealth, and urging the media to adjust its priorities.“How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?” Francis asked in an 84-page “apostolic exhortation” that is widely seen as a road map for his papacy akin to a presidential State of the Union address.“How can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving?” he asked. “Today, everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without possibilities, without any means of escape.”
Posted by Eric J. Lyman 35 weeks 5 days ago
The latest United Nations climate summit got off to an unusually emotional start when Yeb Sano, the head delegate from the Philippines, issued a tearful plea at the opening plenary.With his country ravaged by Typhoon Haiyan — the kind of extreme weather that experts say is becoming more common due to climate change — Sano choked back tears as he announced he would fast in solidarity for his countrymen left without food.Sano said on Nov. 11 he would refrain from eating during the conference unless important progress was made. Sano’s gesture has so far failed to trigger much of a change in the entrenched negotiations, and with talks expected to stretch into the weekend, he is still on his hunger strike.
Posted by Eric J. Lyman 36 weeks 8 hours ago
Next week’s summit between Pope Francis and Russian President Vladmir Putin may be the most important meeting between a pontiff and a visiting head of state in nearly a quarter of a century, with war-torn Syria expected to be the top priority.Francis has met with more than a dozen heads of state or government as pontiff, and Putin has met with both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II. But this meeting stands out.It’s been just four years since full diplomatic ties were re-established between Russia and the Holy See, set against a backdrop of centuries of tension between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church.
Posted by Eric J. Lyman 37 weeks 1 day ago
The Vatican said it would display for the first time bones believed to be the mortal remains of St. Peter, the leader of Jesus’ 12 apostles, to mark the end of the Year of Faith on Nov. 24.Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, wrote in Monday’s editions of L’Osservatore Romano, that the Catholic faithful making a pilgrimage to St. Peter’s tomb to mark the end of the Year of Faith will enjoy “the exposition … of the relics traditionally recognized as those of the apostle who gave his life for the Lord on this spot.”Fisichella was referring to the long-held belief that Peter was crucified upside down and died in either A.D. 64 or 67 on the spot now marked by the Clementine Chapel inside the basilica that bears his name.
Posted by Eric J. Lyman 37 weeks 2 days ago
First, the name “Francesco” leapfrogged to No. 1 on the list of the most popular baby names in Italy.Then, the city of Rome reported a tourism boom, mostly from Latin America.Now, there’s word Roman Catholic Church attendance is climbing throughout Italy.Blame it on “the Francis effect.”Italy’s Center for Studies on New Religions reported Sunday that around half of the 250 priests it surveyed reported a significant rise in church attendance since Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis in March.
Posted by Eric J. Lyman 38 weeks 2 days ago
The Vatican on Monday moved to quash speculation that at least two women would be among the cardinals that Pope Francis will name in February, saying such a move was “not a realistic possibility.”Over the weekend, Irish media reported that Francis could name Linda Hogan and Mary McAleese as cardinals. Both are associated with Trinity College in Dublin: Hogan as a professor of ecumenism, and McAleese, the former president of Ireland, as a former professor.Some Italian media that carried the story speculated that Cecile Kyenge, the Congo-born Italian minister of integration, could be a candidate as well. Kyenge is a devout Catholic and a graduate of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan.
Posted by Eric J. Lyman 39 weeks 8 hours ago
The National Security Agency spied on cardinals as they prepared to select the new pope — perhaps including even Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who emerged from last spring’s conclave as Pope Francis, a leading Italian news magazine reported in Wednesday’s editions.The news magazine Panorama said the same NSA eavesdropping program that angered leaders in Germany, France, Spain, and Mexico also listened in on calls to and from the Vatican, including the phones in the Santa Marta guesthouse that housed Bergoglio and the rest of the College of Cardinals.Pope Francis still lives in the guesthouse, but the magazine did not speculate whether the phones there were still tapped.
Posted by Eric J. Lyman 40 weeks 14 hours ago
Vatican officials say they expect next year’s celebration for the canonizations of former popes John Paul II and John XXIII to be attended by as many as 100 heads of state in what is likely to be the biggest draw to the city since John Paul’s funeral in 2005.The crowd estimates were made Tuesday, the feast day for John Paul. This will be the last time he will be venerated as Blessed Pope John Paul II; after the canonization ceremony on April 27, 2014, he will be known as St. Pope John Paul II.John Paul’s 2005 funeral may have been the single largest gathering in Christian history, with estimates as high as 4 million mourners gathered in the Italian capital, along with at least 80 presidents, prime ministers, and monarchs.
Posted by Eric J. Lyman 40 weeks 5 days ago
Moved by the election of Pope Francis seven months ago, the name “Francesco” has leapfrogged to No. 1 on the list of the most popular baby names in Italy, according to a study.The study, conducted by Enzo Caffarelli, who researches the origins of names at Rome’s Tor Vergata University, along with telephone directory publisher Seat PG Italia, also showed a trend toward re-naming streets, town squares, and parks for St. Francis of Assisi, the pontiff’s namesake.
Posted by Eric J. Lyman 43 weeks 11 hours ago
The special committee of eight cardinals created by Pope Francis with the goal of dramatically reforming the Vatican’s governance got off to an “encouraging” start, the Vatican’s chief spokesman said Wednesday, with a warning not to expect regular updates.The Rev. Federico Lombardi said Francis met with the so-called Gang of Eight, or the Vatican G-8, on Tuesday and Wednesday to seek their counsel on possible reforms ranging from pastoral work with families and the role of the laity to the prickly issue of tackling the Vatican bureaucracy.
Posted by Eric J. Lyman 43 weeks 2 days ago
Popes John Paul II and John XXIII will be formally declared saints on April 27, 2014, the Vatican said Monday. Pope Francis made the announcement during a meeting with cardinals gathered in Rome.John Paul, who was pope from 1978 to 2005, and John, who reigned from 1958 to 1963, are considered two of the most influential religious leaders in the world in the last century, and they represent two poles in Roman Catholicism — John XXIII is a hero to liberals, while John Paul II is widely hailed by conservatives.
Posted by Eric J. Lyman 43 weeks 2 days ago
Are the media pulling their punches when it comes to Pope Francis?Whether it’s because he carries his own bags or cold-calls troubled Catholics who write to him, or because he so clearly loves interacting with crowds or drives a beat-up Renault around the Vatican, it’s hard to tell. But at some point, much of the world’s media fell for the new pope.Now an increasing number of Vatican insiders are asking whether the largely positive view of Francis affects the way the media cover the Holy See.
Posted by Eric J. Lyman 44 weeks 1 day ago
Pope Francis criticized what he called the “idolatry of money” on Sunday in a trip to one of the poorest regions of the European Union.The pontiff, visiting the island of Sardinia off Italy’s western coast, departed from his prepared remarks to talk about his own family’s struggles as Italian immigrants in Argentina. Speaking on an island where more than half of workers under 30 are unemployed, Francis told the masses: “Don’t let yourselves be robbed of hope.”
Posted by Eric J. Lyman 45 weeks 2 days ago
Wading into ongoing debates over religion and politics, Pope Francis on Sunday gently chided Christians to pray for politicians, saying “a Christian who does not pray for his leaders is not a good Christian.”The pope’s remarks during a two-hour closed-door meeting of Roman clergy did not touch on more controversial issues like the separation between church and state, abortion, or refusing Communion to Catholic politicians who are not in sync with church teachings.Instead, Francis quoted St. Paul, who urged prayer “for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life.”