Josephine McKenna, Religion News Service

Josephine McKenna writes for Religion News Service.

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Catholic Charity in India Says It Will Recruit Transgender People to Fight Bias

Image via RNS/Rosie Scammell

The Indian branch of the Catholic social welfare organization Caritas has announced plans to fight discrimination and recruit transgender people — a striking step for an official church organization.

Caritas India announced the decision earlier this month after holding internal talks about adopting a more inclusive policy. But officials stressed that doesn’t mean it supports gender change.

A McDonald's at the Vatican? Cardinals Aren't Lovin' It

Image via RNS/Reuters/Leonhard Foeger

Italian Cardinal Elio Sgreccia was the first to publicly sound the alarm, saying the proposal to open an outlet of the global fast-food chain, below a Vatican-owned building where several cardinals live, was a “controversial, perverse decision.”

In an interview published over the weekend in La Repubblica, Sgreccia said the proposal was “not at all respectful of the architectural and urban traditions” of a destination — just a block from St. Peter’s Square — that draws thousands of pilgrims and tourists a day from around the world.

He also said serving burgers and fries in the neighborhood was unacceptable because McDonald’s cuisine breached Italian taste.

Jesuits Elect Their First Latin American Leader

Image via RNS/Rev. Don Doll

The Rev. Arturo Sosa, 67, is Venezuelan and was chosen in a secret ballot by 212 electors at the 36th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus in Rome, after a lengthy four-day voting process.

The order’s vicar, the Rev. James E. Grummer, announced on Oct. 14 that Sosa had won a majority of votes and proclaimed him superior general of the order, the first Latin American to hold the post, much as Pope Francis, also a Jesuit, is the first Latin American elected to the papacy.

Who Holds the Keys to the Vatican? This Man.

Image via RNS/Chris Warde-Jones

There’s barely a sound and the corridors are still empty when the neatly dressed Crea suddenly flicks a switch to reveal walls lined with Renaissance frescoes and priceless tapestries.

It’s a stunning moment, and Crea, who holds the title of “clavigero,” or chief key keeper at the Vatican Museums, never tires of it. He manages a dedicated team that opens and closes some 300 rooms every day.

Pope Urges Protection of 'Invisible and Voiceless' Child Migrants

Image via RNS/Reuters/Stefano Rellandini

Pope Francis has made an impassioned plea to the international community to protect the world’s “invisible and voiceless” child migrants who fall prey to prostitution, human trafficking, and forced labor when they travel far from home.

In a strongly worded statement released ahead of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees [on Jan. 15], Francis said immigration is “growing into a tragic situation of global proportions" and children are being exploited by the “unscrupulous” as they flee violence and poverty.

Soccer Legend Maradona Credits Pope Francis for Renewing His Faith

Image via /

The 55-year-old Maradona is regarded as one of the greatest players of all time and is joining some of the world’s other top players, including Brazilians Ronaldinho and Felipe Anderson as well as Italian player Francesco Totti, at the pope’s benefit soccer match to be held in Rome on Oct. 12.

“I am with Pope Francis, for him I am always available,” Maradona told a news conference this week.

Pope Francis Warns Syria Aggressors They Will Face Divine Wrath

Image via RNS/Reuters/Remo Casilli

Pope Francis said those bombing civilians in the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo will be “accountable to God” for their actions as he renewed his appeals for peace amid an intensifying civil war in that country.

It also emerged on Sept. 28 that the pontiff has asked a Catholic charity to auction the cars used on a recent trip to Poland and use the proceeds to help Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

The pope’s emotional appeal for peace in Syria came during his weekly general audience in St Peter’s Square in which he voiced his heartfelt support and prayers for the people of Aleppo.

Pope Francis Lunches with World Refugees

Image via RNS/Reuters/Max Rossi

Pope Francis met with refugees and leaders of religious faiths including Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Hindus who joined him for a day of prayer for peace in Assisi, home of his namesake, the 12th-century friar St. Francis.

But it was the migrants he invited to join him for lunch on Sept. 20 who captured the headlines and illustrated the tangible impact of war and conflict.

Pope Francis to New Bishops: Don't Be 'Charming Liars'

Image via RNS/Reuters/Remo Casilli

Pope Francis told a group of recently appointed bishops that the world “is tired of charming liars” and that they should embody mercy in their dioceses and not be whiners who promote their own “vain crusades.”

The pontiff also told them to be wary of seminarians “who take refuge in rigidity” of practices. “There’s always something ugly behind it,” he said.

Francis made his remarks Sept. 16 in a speech to newly appointed bishops who have been taking part in an annual Vatican orientation course on their new job.

Mother Teresa Now Officially 'St. Teresa'

Image via RNS/Reuters/Stefano Rellandini

Mother Teresa, the tiny nun who devoted her life to the poor, was declared a saint by Pope Francis at the Vatican as he celebrated her “daring and courage,” and described her as a role model for all in his year of mercy.

At least 120,000 people crowded a sun-drenched St. Peter’s Square for the canonization of the acclaimed nun who may have worked in the slums of Kolkata but was a force to be reckoned with by political and religious leaders around the world.