Eric J. Lyman writes for Religion News Service.
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Pope Francis Lays Out a Blueprint for His Papacy in 'Evangelii Gaudium'
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.”
Religious Groups Rally Around U.N. Climate Talks in Warsaw
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.
Expectations High for Summit between Pope Francis and Vladimir Putin
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.
Vatican to Display Bones of St. Peter for First Time
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.
Rise in Italian Catholic Church Attendance Attributed to "Francis Effect"
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.
Vatican: Female Cardinals Aren't 'Even Remotely Realistic'
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.
Report Says U.S. Tapped Cardinals’ Phones Ahead of Conclave
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.
Pope Francis still lives in the guesthouse, but the magazine did not speculate whether the phones there were still tapped.
Record Crowds Expected for John Paul II, John XXIII Canonizations
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.
The Pope Francis Effect: ‘Francesco’ Now Italy’s Most Popular Baby Name
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.
Pope Francis Holds ‘Encouraging’ Reform Talks with Cardinals
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.
Pope to Canonize John Paul II and John XXIII in April
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.
Are the Media Giving Pope Francis a Pass?
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.
Pope Francis Tells the Poor: ‘Don’t Let Yourselves Be Robbed of Hope’
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.”
Pope Francis: A ‘Good Christian’ Prays for Bad Politicians
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.”