Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio

Record Crowds Expected for John Paul II, John XXIII Canonizations

Pope John Paul II participates in a procession in August, 2000. RNS file photo courtesy Universal Press Syndicate.

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.

Pope Francis Holds ‘Encouraging’ Reform Talks with Cardinals

Rome Papal Basilica of Saint Peter. Photo from Shutterstock, by LianeM

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.

Are the Media Giving Pope Francis a Pass?

#16 – Illustration by Neal Campbell, Vilonia, Ark. (Digital). Via RNS.

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.

5 Things We Learned About Pope Francis From His Blockbuster Interview

Pope Francis waving. RNS art by Barbara Weeks, Chicago, Ill. (Watercolor)

Pope Francis’ comments last week on everything from gays to abortion (less talk, more mercy), the hierarchy (be pastors, not bureaucrats), and religious faith (doubt is part of belief) continue to reverberate through the church and the media.

Here are five broader insights that this wide-ranging interview revealed about Francis — and why they will be keys to reading his pontificate, and perhaps the future of Catholicism.

Pope Francis to Encounter a Church in Crisis in Brazil

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.

Pope Francis on Celibacy, Feminism, and More in Two New Books

 RNS photo by Andrea Sabbadini

Pope Francis waves from the pope-mobile during his inauguration Mass. RNS photo by Andrea Sabbadini

In his two months as leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, Pope Francis has captured the imagination not only of his own flock, but that of the world at large.

Many of us, Catholic or not, seem to hang on his every word both for spiritual guidance and clues to the personality of the man we collectively are getting to know as perhaps the most recognizable Christian on the planet.

Two new books offer further insights into the heart and mind of the former Jorge Bergoglio through his own words. Both are fascinating reads for papal watchers and news junkies alike, painting a vivid portrait of the man, the leader, and the humble follower of Christ.

Honest Questions About the Argentine Pope

Pope Francis at his inauguration Mass at St. Peter’s Square on Tuesday at the Vatican. Photo courtesy RNS.

Even as a non-Catholic, I was filled with hope when an Argentine cardinal said to be passionate about serving the poor stepped onto the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square as Pope Francis.

By taking the name of a church reformer, the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio promised a better day for an ossified institution whose people beg for hope while hierarchs defend medieval power and pomp.

By standing in silence and bowing his head for the crowd’s blessing, Francis showed a humility that could inspire believers grown weary of Roman arrogance. In greeting the crowd, the new pope showed a common touch that could repurpose a global movement from being lost in scandal and self-serving.