Alessandro Speciale

Alessandro Speciale writes for Religion News Service.

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Did Pope Francis Change Church Teaching on Homosexuality?

Photo by Paul Haring/Catholic News Service

Pope Francis addresses journalists on his flight from Rio de Janeiro to Rome July 29. Photo by Paul Haring/Catholic News Service

With his open and easygoing manner, Pope Francis charmed the media as much as the faithful during his successful visit to Brazil, the first international pilgrimage of his pontificate.

But it was the pope’s remarks about gay priests, made during a free-wheeling press conference on the return trip to Rome, that drew the most headlines, raising questions about whether the pontiff was signaling a change in the church’s approach to this volatile issue.

When asked by reporters about rumors of a “gay lobby” of clergy in the Vatican who were exposing the Holy See to blackmail schemes and scandal, Francis at first joked that while there’s a lot of talk about such a lobby, “I have yet to find on a Vatican identity card the word ‘gay.’”

Then, in a more serious vein, he added:

“I think that when we encounter a gay person, we must make the distinction between the fact of a person being gay and the fact of a lobby, because lobbies are not good. … If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge that person?”

Pope Francis to Encounter a Church in Crisis in Brazil

by Alessandro Speciale 07-19-2013
Photo courtesy RNS.

Cardinal Jorge M. Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, celebrating mass at the XX Exposición del Libro Católico. Photo courtesy RNS.

Six years ago, then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires attended a gathering of Latin American bishops at the Marian shrine of Aparecida in Rio de Janeiro and called for the Roman Catholic Church to go toward the “outskirts, not only geographically but … existentially.”

Two years after the 2005 papal conclave where Bergoglio was the runner-up to Pope Benedict XVI, the speech helped raise his profile as a man to watch.

Next week, Bergoglio will return to Aparecida and Rio, this time as Pope Francis. Though he won’t visit his native Argentina, the visit will draw attention to Latin America’s first pope and his appeal for a poor church that eschews worldly power.

Are Miracles Really Needed to Become a Saint?

by Alessandro Speciale 07-15-2013
Photo courtesy RNS.

Pope John XXIII, 76 when he was elected in 1958. Photo courtesy RNS.

When the Vatican announced this month that Pope Francis would formally elevate Popes John Paul II and John XXIII to sainthood, two things stood out.

For John Paul, it was the record speed that he reached sainthood, just eight years after his death. The only other saint to be canonized so quickly in modern times was Opus Dei founder Josemaria Escriva, whose sainthood bid took 27 years.

But for John XXIII, Francis decided to waive the church law that requires a second miracle in order to be named a saint. Asked how John XXIII could be named a saint without the required second miracle, the Vatican’s chief spokesman said “no one doubts his virtues.”

Vatican’s New Legal Guide Adds Offenses for Abuse, Leaking Documents

by Alessandro Speciale 07-12-2013
Photo courtesy RNS.

Newly elected Pope Francis appears on the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Photo courtesy RNS.

Pope Francis on Thursday approved a major overhaul of the Vatican’s criminal laws, introducing specific offenses for child sexual abuse and leaking confidential documents.

Vatican laws against money laundering, corruption, and the financing of terrorism were updated to respond to the recommendations of the European financial transparency watchdog Moneyval. The Vatican submitted to Moneyval oversight as part of its bid to use the euro as its currency.

Under the new norms, which will go into effect on Sept. 1, the Vatican also abolished life imprisonment, substituting a maximum jail term of 30 to 35 years.

UN Panel Questions Vatican Record on Child Sex Abuse

by Alessandro Speciale 07-10-2013
RNS photo by Andrea Sabbadini

Priests and nuns arrive at St. Peter’s square on Tuesday at the Vatican. RNS photo by Andrea Sabbadini

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican has been called to give detailed information on its record on child sexual abuse to a United Nations panel, a move that will show how Pope Francis wants to handle an issue that has deeply scarred the Catholic Church’s image in the past decade.

The Geneva-based U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child has asked the Vatican to “provide detailed information on all cases of child sexual abuse committed by members of the clergy, brothers and nuns.”

The request comes ahead of the Vatican’s scheduled appearance in front of the committee in January 2014.

Pope Francis Decries ‘Globalization of Indifference’

by Alessandro Speciale 07-09-2013
Photo courtesy RNS.

Pope Francis waves from the pope-mobile during his inauguration Mass at St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. Photo courtesy RNS.

In his first official trip outside Rome since his election, Pope Francis visited the tiny island of Lampedusa off the coast of Sicily on Monday, hoping to show solidarity to African migrants who risk their lives trying to immigrate to Europe.

Set only 70 miles from Tunisia, the Italian island of Lampedusa is the first port of safety for the thousands of undocumented migrants and asylum seekers who risk their lives every summer trying to reach Europe on small, rickety boats.

Francis said the frequent news reports on the deaths of the people who were trying to make the crossing had been like “a thorn in the heart” for him, and called on society to overcome what he called “the globalization of indifference.”

Pope Francis Proclaims John Paul II, John XXIII as New Saints

by Alessandro Speciale 07-08-2013
Photo courtesy RNS.

Pope Francis declared on Friday that Popes John Paul II (right) and John XXIII (left) will be made saints. Photo courtesy RNS.

Pope Francis declared on Friday that Popes John Paul II and John XXIII will be made saints, elevating the two most decisive popes of the 20th century to the pantheon of Catholic life and worship.

In a sign of the worldwide devotion for John XXIII, known as “Good Pope John,” Francis waived the requirement for a second miracle credited to John XXIII’s intercession, with the Vatican’s spokesman saying, “no one doubts his virtues.”

Francis signed off on a decree recognizing the second miracle attributed to the Polish-born John Paul II, who reigned from 1978 to 2005 , and is credited with globalizing the papacy and playing a key role in the downfall of the communist regimes of Eastern Europe.

Pope Francis Cleans House at the Vatican Bank

by Alessandro Speciale 07-02-2013
Photo courtesy cesc_assawin / Shutterstock.com.

Saint Peter's Square in Vatican City, Vatican. Photo courtesy cesc_assawin / Shutterstock.com.

Two top managers of the Vatican Bank resigned on Monday, just five days after Pope Francis appointed an independent commission to conduct a top-to-bottom review of the scandal-plagued bank.

The surprise resignation of the bank’s director general, Paolo Cipriani, and of his deputy, Massimo Tulli, follows the arrest of a senior Vatican official with close ties to the bank who was charged on Friday with attempting to smuggle 20 million euros into Italy from Switzerland.

Cipriani, 58, served as the bank’s director general since 2007 and will be replaced on an interim basis by the bank’s president, German financier Ernst von Freyberg, who was appointed last February in one of Pope Benedict XVI’s last official acts.

Pope Francis: Christianity is Incompatible with Anti-Semitism

by Alessandro Speciale 06-25-2013
Photo courtesy RNS.

Pope Francis waves from the popemobile during his inauguration Mass at St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. Photo courtesy RNS.

In his first official meeting with a Jewish delegation, Pope Francis on Monday reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s condemnation of anti-Semitism and vowed to further deepen Catholic-Jewish relations.

“Due to our common roots, a Christian cannot be anti-Semitic!” he told a delegation of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations, the Vatican’s official partner for interfaith dialogue with the world’s Jews.

In his speech, Francis stated that the church condemns “hate, persecution, and all manifestations of antisemitism.”

Sicily Bishop Forbids Church Funerals for Mobsters

by Alessandro Speciale 06-24-2013
Photo courtesy RNS/Flickr.

Image of The Godfather-like stencil reading “The Church.” Photo courtesy RNS/Flickr.

A bishop in Sicily has issued an unprecedented decree that says convicted mobsters will be denied a church funeral.

The measure was announced on Saturday by Bishop Antonino Raspanti, during a meeting with Italy’s justice minister, Anna Maria Cancellieri.

Churches in the Diocese of Acireale will refuse to celebrate funerals for mobsters who have been convicted with a final sentence in Italy’s three-tier court system, and who have shown no sign of repentance before death, according to the decree.

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