Rosie Scammell is a British journalist with extensive experience reporting for leading international news organizations. She has been based in Italy since 2012 and covers the Vatican for RNS.
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Women Fear Their Voices Will Be Sidelined in Catholic Synod's Final Report
The rows of seats in the synod hall, where Catholic bishops are meeting to discuss family issues, are filled with bishops and cardinals — all male. To find any women, look to the back of the room.
The women’s distance from the heart of the synod hall reflects fears raised by women’s groups that their participation is a mere token on the Vatican’s part.
There are 270 bishops and cardinals participating in the synod and voting on its outcome. A number of other participants, including lay couples and representatives from other churches, have been invited to give their opinions but will not be able to make decisions on the final text. That includes more than two dozen women who have been called to present their views.
Bishops Admit: We Don't Know Much About Sex, Need Married Advisers
Bishops participating in the Vatican’s synod on the family have admitted they don’t know much about sex — and that they need the help of lay people to fully understand marital intimacy.
Lay people play an important part in the discussions at their Synod on the Family, the Rev. Thomas Rosica, English-language assistant to the Vatican press office, said on Oct. 16.
“At the heart of the synod is human sexuality. And oftentimes it’s muted and we don’t know how to talk about it, because most of us in the room are male celibates,” he said, citing comments of unnamed bishops.
Surprise! Pope Francis Stops by Vatican's New Homeless Shelter
Francis’ visit was said to have delighted around 30 homeless men hosted at the dormitory, who spoke to the pope, recounted their stories and asked to be blessed. The pontiff’s visit lasted around 20 minutes, Vatican Radio reported.
He was accompanied by his almoner (distributor of alms or charity), Archbishop Konrad Krajewski; the Jesuit superior general, the Rev. Adolfo Nicolas; and three nuns who work at the residence.
The “Gift of Mercy” (“Dono di Misericordia”) homeless shelter was inaugurated earlier this month and can host 34 people each night. The building, a former travel agency, was converted by Jesuits as a response to Francis’ call for more to be done to help poor people.
Pope Francis Asks Forgiveness for Scandals at the Vatican, Rome
Pope Francis on Oct. 14 asked forgiveness for a series of scandals that have befallen the Vatican and Rome.
Francis did not specify the scandalous events to which he was referring, although the departure of a gay cleric earlier this month may well have been on the pontiff’s mind.
“I ask you for forgiveness for the scandals that have occurred recently either in Rome or in the Vatican,” the pope said during his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.
African Archbishop: We're Not Blocking Progress in the Church
Ghanaian Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle on Oct. 8 defended African bishops’ role in the Vatican’s meeting on family issues, stating they were not in Rome to block progress but to present their own views.
As bishops get to work discussing key issues affecting family life at the meeting, known as a synod, they have broken into small language-based groups. Palmer-Buckle was responding to a question at a press conference suggesting that African bishops were trying to stop “progress.”
“If someone thinks Africa is blocking something, it’s only proposing what we feel,” he told journalists at the Vatican.
“We’re not here to block anybody.”
At Vatican Synod, Bishops Want an Open Discussion on Divorce, Gays
The Vatican’s high-level meeting on the family continued Oct. 6, with bishops emphasizing the need for open discussion on divorced and remarried Catholics.
The 62 bishops who have so far spoken at the gathering, called a synod, appeared to push back strongly against remarks Monday by Hungary’s Cardinal Peter Erdo, who defended the church’s exclusion of divorced and remarried couples from receiving Communion unless they’ve been granted an annulment and remarried in the church.
Speaking to journalists on Tuesday, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, said there would be an open discussion on the topic.
“The synod has a wide vision … of the universal church,” Celli said.
Women Hope Their Voices Are Heard at Bishops' Family Synod
Divorce, cohabitation, and gay relationships are just some of the issues up for discussion at the Vatican synod, which continues through Oct. 24. It follows a questionnaire consultation with Catholic groups after a meeting on family issues a year ago.
Some critics say that more women should have been included in the process. Only bishops can vote at a synod, but about 30 women have been invited as auditors.
Mary McAleese, former president of Ireland, said she was skeptical that any real change would come from the synod. “If I wanted expertise on the family, I honestly cannot say that the first thing that would come into my mind would be to call together 300 celibate males, who between them, that we know of, have never raised a child,” she said on Saturday, speaking at an event hosted by gay Catholics.
Vatican on Pope Francis and Kim Davis: Meeting 'No Support' for Her Case
The Vatican is downplaying Pope Francis’ controversial meeting with Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk jailed for refusing to grant marriage licenses to gay couples, saying their encounter “should not be considered a form of support of her position.”
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, also said in a statement issued Oct. 2 that Davis was one of “several dozen” people Francis met at the Vatican Embassy in Washington on Sept. 24 as he prepared to leave for New York, the second-leg of his U.S. trip.
“Such brief greetings occur on all papal visits and are due to the pope’s characteristic kindness and availability,” the statement said. It added that the “only real audience granted by the pope” at the embassy that day “was with one of his former students and his family.”
Pope: Those Who Covered Up Sexual Abuse ‘Are Guilty’
People who cover up clerical sexual abuse should be considered guilty, and God will judge priests who are unrepentant about committing such crimes, Pope Francis told journalists at the end of his U.S. tour.
Speaking aboard the papal plane from Philadelphia to Rome, where the pontiff arrived on the morning of Sept. 28, Francis said clerical abuse is “nearly a sacrilege” and the Catholic Church must take a tough line.
“For this reason the Church is strong on this and one must not cover these things up. Those who covered this up are guilty. Even some bishops who covered this up, it is a terrible thing,” the pope said, quoted by Vatican Radio.
50 Prison Inmates Tour Vatican Gardens, Sistine Chapel
Fifty inmates from a Rome jail were given a private tour of the Vatican Museums on Sept. 13, setting the tone for Pope Francis’ visit to a U.S. prison later this month and emphasizing his concern for people on the margins.
The group from the Rebibbia prison visited the Vatican Gardens and St. Peter’s Basilica, before being given a private tour through the Vatican Museums by Museums Director Antonio Paolucci.
Once the inmates reached the Sistine Chapel, best known for its world-famous Michelangelo’s fresco, the Vatican allowed the prisoners to listen in to the pope’s midday Angelus prayer.
Pope Francis to City Dwellers: 'Come Down From the Towers'
Pope Francis on Sept. 2 told his followers to clamber down from their lofty skyscrapers, reclaim public spaces, and rejoin communities.
Speaking at his weekly public audience at the Vatican, the pope said it was up to families to rejuvenate cities.
There may be a lot of ways to spend one’s free time in a city, but love is missing, Francis said.
Pope Francis Asks Priests to Forgive the Sin of Abortion
Pope Francis on Sept. 1 told priests to forgive repentant women who had had an abortion, specifically during the yearlong jubilee celebration of Catholic faith, which begins in December.
In a letter to the president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, the pontiff urges priests to express “words of genuine welcome” to repentant women who have undergone abortions, “combined with a reflection that explains the gravity of the sin committed.”
Jozef Wesolowski, Former Vatican Diplomat Accused of Child Sex Abuse, Is Dead
The Polish ex-nuncio — as Vatican ambassadors are called — had been due to stand trial on charges he paid for sex with children during his time in the Dominican Republic. Criminal proceedings were expected to get underway on July 11 but were halted after Wesolowski was hospitalized.
A lawyer for the former bishop said at the time he was unaware of Wesolowski’s suffering from health problems.
“I saw him two or three days ago, and, given his age and his state of mind, he was fine,” said Antonello Blasi, according to The Associated Press. The lawyer told the court that Wesolowski had been “willing and able” to come to court.
Vatican Backs Plan to Name Rome Square for Martin Luther
Despite Luther being thrown out of the Catholic Church during his lifetime, the Vatican reacted positively to news of the square’s upcoming inauguration.
“It’s a decision taken by Rome city hall which is favorable to Catholics in that it’s in line with the path of dialogue started with the ecumenical council,” said the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, deputy director of the Vatican press office, referring to a gathering of churchmen to rule on faith matters.
Italian Catholic Church Scrambles to Explain Its Role in Lavish Mafia Boss Funeral
Italy reacted with disgust last week to the lavish funeral procession held for alleged Mafia boss Vittorio Casamonica, including a gilded horse-drawn carriage procession, rose petals dropped from a helicopter, and the “Godfather” movie soundtrack.
Now the Roman Catholic Church is grappling with its role in the extravagant funeral as it wrestles with how it might continue to offer the sacraments to members of crime syndicates without appearing to condone their lifestyles.
During the Aug. 20 funeral, the walls of Rome’s San Giovanni Bosco Catholic Church were adorned with posters, reading “King of Rome” and “You have conquered Rome, now you will conquer heaven.”
Pope Francis Holds Sign Urging Falkland Islands Dialogue, Causes Stir in Argentina
Francis’ inadvertent gesture of support for renewed talks between the two countries inevitably caused a stir in his home city, Buenos Aires, with Argentine President Cristina Kirchner posting the pope photograph on Twitter. So too did Argentina’s foreign ministry, writing: “Pope Francis receives the Argentina-UK pro-dialogue message.”
But the Vatican played down the significance of the moment, saying the pope had no idea what was written on the sign. “The Holy Father did not even realize he had taken this object in his hands. He has discovered this just now after seeing the photograph,” the Vatican said in a statement.
Pope Francis: Unemployment ‘Damages the Spirit’
Pope Francis on Aug. 19 reflected on the "serious social damage" caused by unemployment and praised governments for their efforts to create jobs.
Speaking during his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square, Francis said one’s working life and spiritual life are closely linked.
"The lack of work also damages the spirit, like a lack of prayer also damages practical activity," he said.
The pontiff focused on the dignity of work and the responsibility of employers.
"The management of employment is a great human and social responsibility, that cannot be left in the hands of the few," he said.
Want to be a Patron of Vatican Art? 'Patrum' App Lets You Tour, Help Restore Famous Works
The free English-language Patrum app showcases a selection of works at the Vatican Museums, featuring everything from an Etruscan tomb to 13th-century Chinese scrolls. The brief descriptions are accompanied by other articles detailing daily life at the Vatican Museums. App users are invited to join the conversation through the comment and chat sections.
Art lovers can also tailor their own profiles by picking out their favorite works, allowing them to receive specific updates and chat with others who express interest in the same pieces. While there are other apps that serve as virtual tour guides to Vatican treasures, that is not Patrum’s intent — its layout does not correspond to the museums’ vast network of corridors.
Pope Declares Sept. 1 ‘World Day of Prayer’ for Environment
The Vatican on Aug. 10 announced a World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, the latest move by Pope Francis to push environmental issues up the global agenda.
The World Day will be celebrated annually on Sept. 1, in line with the Orthodox Church’s day for the protection of the environment, the pope said in the newly-released letter.
“As Christians we wish to offer our contribution towards overcoming the ecological crisis which humanity is living through,” Francis wrote in the letter, addressed to Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.
Pope Francis on the Anniversary of the Bomb: ‘A Lasting Warning to Humanity’
Seventy years after the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Nagasaki, Pope Francis on Aug. 9 described the bomb as a “lasting warning to humanity.”
Speaking to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Francis recalled the “horror and repulsion” aroused by the twin bombings of Nagasaki on Aug. 9 1945, and Hiroshima, three days earlier.
“This (event) has become the symbol of mankind’s enormous destructive power when it makes a distorted use of scientific and technical progress,” he said.