Josephine McKenna

Josephine McKenna writes for Religion News Service.

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Pope Francis on Free Speech: ‘You Cannot Insult the Faith of Others’

by Josephine McKenna 01-15-2015
Photo courtesy of Valentina Calà via Flickr / RNS

A memorial for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack. Photo courtesy of Valentina Calà via Flickr / RNS

Pope Francis on Jan. 15 condemned last week’s terrorist attack on the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo but warned there were limits on freedom of expression.

Speaking to journalists as he flew from Sri Lanka to the Philippines on a weeklong visit to Asia, the pope said freedom of expression was a “fundamental human right” and stressed that killing in the name of God was an unacceptable “aberration.”

“You don’t kill in God’s name,” Francis said.

However the pope, who has made a point of reaching out to Muslims, Jews, and other faiths, said there were limits to self-expression when it involved insulting or ridiculing people’s faith.

“You cannot provoke, you cannot insult the faith of others,” he said. “You cannot make fun of the faith of others.”

Pope Francis to Moms: It’s OK to Breast-Feed in Public

by Josephine McKenna 01-12-2015
Photo via Elena Stepanova / Shutterstock / RNS

A mother and baby breast-feeding. Photo via Elena Stepanova / Shutterstock / RNS

While baptizing 33 babies in the Sistine Chapel on Jan. 11, Pope urged mothers to breast-feed their infants if they were hungry.

“Mothers, give your children milk — even now,” Francis said. “If they cry because they are hungry, breast-feed them, don’t worry.”

The pope departed from his prepared text, which included the phrase “give them milk,” and inserted the Italian term “allattateli,” which means “breast-feed them.”

The celebration took place to mark the day Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the waters of the Jordan River.

Francis also asked the parents gathered to remember the poor mothers around the world.

“Let us thank the Lord for the gift of milk, and we pray for those mothers — there are so many, unfortunately — who are not able to give their children food to eat,” he said.

Oscar Romero Declared a Martyr as Vatican Inches Him Toward Sainthood

by Josephine McKenna 01-09-2015
Photo of mural via Franco Folini / Flickr / RNS

Mural of slain Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero by Juana Alicia. Photo of mural via Franco Folini / Flickr / RNS

Archbishop Oscar Romero, the hero of the Catholic left who was assassinated in 1980 while celebrating Mass in El Salvador, is inching one step closer to sainthood after his case languished in bureaucratic limbo for decades.

According to the Italian Catholic bishops daily, Avvenire, a panel of theologians at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints has ruled unanimously that Romero should be considered a martyr, or murdered “in odium fidei” (Latin for “hatred of faith”).

The paper reported the ruling was made on Jan. 7. The move is considered a decisive step on Romero’s path to sainthood.

Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador, was shot dead by right-wing death squads while celebrating Mass in March 1980. His murder came a day after he delivered a homily calling for soldiers to lay down their guns and end government repression in the country’s bloody civil war.

Want to See Pope Francis’ Vision for the Church? Look at His New Cardinals

by Josephine McKenna 01-05-2015
Photo via neneo / Shutterstock.com

Photo via neneo / Shutterstock.com

Pope Francis reinforced his radical reshaping of the Catholic Church by naming 20 new cardinals from countries as far afield as Ethiopia, Tonga, Thailand, and Panama.

The clerics – who come from 18 different countries – include 15 who are eligible to vote for the pope’s successor in a future conclave, and five retired bishops and archbishops “distinguished for their pastoral charity” who are over age 80 and ineligible to select the next pontiff.

Dissatisfied with the slow pace of change in Rome, Francis’ appointments reflect his desire for “pastors on the front line of difficult situations,” one Vatican observer said, who can bring a new perspective from the often overlooked outposts of global Christianity.

The Vatican’s chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the choices showed the pope’s most important criteria was “universality,” and indicated he was not “chained to tradition” as he moves the balance of power at the highest levels of the church closer to the developing world.

It is the first time ever that cardinals have been selected from Tonga, Myanmar, and Cape Verde to become “princes of the church.” There are only five Europeans included among the 15 new electors – two from Italy and three others from Corsica, Spain, and Portugal. The United States was shut out for the second time in a row.

Would-Be Papal Assassin Mehmet Ali Agca Expelled From Italy

by Josephine McKenna 12-30-2014
A scan of a negative of Pope John Paul II meeting his would-be assassin, Mehmet

A scan of a negative of Pope John Paul II meeting his would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca. Image via RNS.

Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish man who tried to assassinate St. John Paul II in 1981, was expelled from Italy on December 29 after paying a visit to the tomb of the Polish pontiff.

An Italian judge on Monday approved the expulsion of the former terrorist — he was scheduled to be sent back to Istanbul on a Turkish Airlines flight from Rome Monday night, police sources told the Italian news agency, ANSA.

Agca’s expulsion came two days after he placed flowers on the late pope’s tomb in St. Peter’s Basilica on Saturday.

Agca, 56, served 19 years for his crime in Italy, where John Paul famously visited him in prison. He was then deported to his native Turkey, where he served further time for the murder of left-wing journalist Abdi Ipekci, who was killed in 1979.

Pope Blasts Vatican Administration, Accuses Some of Spiritual ‘Alzheimer’s’

by Josephine McKenna 12-22-2014
giulio napolitano / Shutterstock.com

Pope Francis greets his general audience on Sept. 10. giulio napolitano / Shutterstock.com

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis launched a blistering attack on the Vatican bureaucracy on Monday, outlining a “catalog of illnesses” that plague the church’s central administration, including “spiritual Alzheimer’s” and gossipy cliques.

The pope’s traditional Christmas greeting to the cardinals, bishops and priests who run the Holy See was more “Bah! Humbug!” than holiday cheer as he ticked off a laundry list of “ailments of the Curia” that he wants to cure.

In a critique that left many of the assembled clerics clearly uncomfortable, the 15 ailments in Francis’ “catalog of illnesses” reflected the take-no-prisoners approach he promised when he was elected nearly two years ago as an outsider with little direct experience in Rome.

“The Curia is called upon to improve itself, always improve itself and grow in communion, holiness and knowledge to fully realize its mission,” the pope said.

“Yet like every body, like every human body, it is exposed to illnesses, malfunctioning, infirmity. They are illnesses and temptations that weaken our service to God.”

In a separate address to Vatican staff later, Francis begged pardon for the “shortcomings” of senior church leaders, as well as the “several scandals” that had “caused so much harm,” without specifying which scandals he had in mind.

If Rome Wins 2024 Summer Olympics, Vatican Could Host Competitions

by Josephine McKenna 12-17-2014
Photo via Francis X. Rocca / RNS

The Clericus Cup, a competition between Roman Colleges, took place at the Vatican in 2007. Photo via Francis X. Rocca / RNS

Major sporting events could be held at the Vatican if Rome wins its bid to host the Summer Olympics in 2024.

Pope Francis, a keen soccer fan, is reported to be enthusiastic about the idea. He is expected to meet the head of Italy’s National Olympic Committee, Giovanni Malago, and other officials at the Vatican on Dec. 19 after a Mass to commemorate the committee’s 100th anniversary

Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, former head of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, said he believed Francis would back plans to hold events such as archery in the Vatican gardens.

He told the Florence daily La Nazione that events could also be staged at the pope’s summer palace at Castel Gandolfo outside Rome.

“It seems like a good idea, I think the pope will approve,” Saraiva Martins said.

Australians Suggest Celibacy Played a Role in Clergy Abuse Scandal

by Josephine McKenna 12-15-2014
Photo courtesy Gregory Dean / Shutterstock

Photo courtesy Gregory Dean / Shutterstock

The Roman Catholic Church in Australia acknowledged that “obligatory celibacy” may have contributed to decades of clerical sexual abuse of children in what may be the first such admission by church officials around the world.

A church advisory group called the Truth, Justice and Healing Council made the startling admission Dec. 12 in a report to the government’s Royal Commission, which is examining thousands of cases of abuse in Australia.

The 44-page report by the council attacked church culture and the impact of what it called “obedience and closed environments” in some religious orders and institutions.

“Church institutions and their leaders, over many decades, seemed to turn a blind eye, either instinctively or deliberately, to the abuse happening within their diocese or religious order, protecting the institution rather than caring for the child,” the report said.

Dalai Lama Says Pope Francis' Unwillingness to Meet 'Could Cause Problems'

by Josephine McKenna 12-12-2014
The Dalai Lama speaks to supporters in Berlin. Image courtesy vipflash/shutterst

The Dalai Lama speaks to supporters in Berlin. Image courtesy vipflash/shutterstock.com.

The Dalai Lama said Dec. 11 that he would not meet Pope Francis while in Rome for a summit of Nobel Peace Prize winners.

“The Vatican administration says it is not possible because it could cause problems,” the Dalai Lama said, hinting that the Vatican may be unwilling to irk China, a country with which it wants to engage and perhaps re-establish diplomatic relations.

But the Vatican’s chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, declined to say whether the pope had personally turned down a request for a meeting with the spiritual leader of the Tibetan Buddhists.

“Pope Francis obviously holds the Dalai Lama in very high regard, but he will not be meeting any of the Nobel laureates,” Lombardi told journalists.

Synod on the Family: Dialogue or Clash Between Factions?

by Josephine McKenna 12-10-2014
Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy of Catholic News Service / RNS.

Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican on Oct. 9, 2014. Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy of Catholic News Service / RNS.

Pope Francis used his weekly audience Dec. 10 to challenge media reports of “clashes between factions” at the recent bishops’ synod on family issues.

“Some of you have asked me if the synod fathers fought,” Francis said. “I don’t know if they ‘fought,’ but they spoke forcefully. This is freedom. This is just the kind of freedom that there is in the church.”

In a bid to set the record straight, the pope acknowledged the extensive media coverage of the global gathering in October and likened it to “sports or political coverage.”

“They often spoke of two teams, pro and con, conservatives and liberals,” the pope told thousands of pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square.

“There was no clash between factions … but a dialogue between the bishops, which came after a long process of preparation and now continues, for the good of the family, the church, and society. It’s a process.”

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