pope

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Twelve Catholic priests and brothers live, work, and pray at the Vatican Observatory as they explore some of the universe’s biggest scientific questions, from the Big Bang theory to the structure of meteorites and stars.

“The observatory exists to show the world that the Catholic Church supports science,” says Brother Guy Consolmagno, an astronomer from Detroit who is also the observatory’s director.

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First came the showers and the haircuts. Now the washing machines.

In his latest bid to help the poor with practical actions, Pope Francis has opened a free laundromat for the homeless in the heart of Rome.

Since he became pope four years ago, Francis has made it a personal priority to provide them with showers, housing, medical care, and other services to help restore their dignity.

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With the blessing of Pope Francis, Cardinal Blase Cupich on April 4 unveiled an anti-violence initiative for this beleaguered city that will be underscored by a Good Friday procession, using the traditional stations of Jesus’ way to the cross to commemorate those who have lost their lives in street violence.

Cupich said he was inviting civic, education, and religious leaders, and “all people of good will,” to take part in the April 14 “Peace Walk” through the heart of the violence-scarred Englewood neighborhood.

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A New Jersey teen pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to terrorists, in what media called an ISIS-inspired effort to kill Pope Francis in 2015 during a public Mass in Philadelphia, according to a statement by federal prosecutors.

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“There is simply no justification in our day for failures to enact concrete safeguarding standards for our children, young men and women, and vulnerable adults,” O’Malley said.

“We are called to reform and renew all the institutions of our church. … And we certainly must address the evil of sexual abuse by priests.”

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Pope Francis has condemned clerical sex abuse as an “absolute monstrosity,” and asked victims and their families for forgiveness on behalf of the Catholic Church.

In an unusual move, the pontiff’s comments were published as a preface to a new book by Daniel Pittet, a Swiss victim who was sexually abused for four years by a priest when he was a child.

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Winter isn’t coming — it’s already here. With it comes the hope — if not the time — to curl up under the covers, or by the fire, and read a good book. Here are seven titles you won’t find on the religion shelf at the bookstore, or library, but that nonetheless use religion and spirituality themes to propel the story.

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As Pope Francis officially opened this year’s Christmas Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square, he said Jesus was a “migrant” who reminds us of the plight of today’s refugees.

Francis told donors who contributed both the Nativity set and an 82-foot tree that the story of Jesus’ birth echoes the “tragic reality of migrants, on boats, making their way toward Italy,” from the Middle East and Africa today.

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The Vatican has launched a website as part of its efforts to protect children from clerical sexual abuse and promote healing and reconciliation.

It’s the first time that the Vatican has published resources and documents on the issue, and the site is sponsored by the commission set up by Pope Francis to protect minors.

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If I’ve learned anything since my time in Rome, it’s that people — not just Catholics — are hungering to connect peace with justice. This is why those of us who traveled to Rome just before the election, accompanied by Stockton, Calif., Bishop Stephen Blaire, and Houma-Thibodaux, La., Bishop Shelton Fabre, are preparing for a regional WMPM meeting in Modesto, Calif., in February.

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An American missionary priest, killed in Guatemala in 1981, has moved a step closer to being named a Catholic saint, after Pope Francis declared him the first-ever American martyr.

The Rev. Stanley Rother, a priest from the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, served for nearly 15 years in Guatemala before being shot dead, during the country’s bloody civil war that divided the country from 1960 to 1996.

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Even by this pope’s standards it was a bold move.

Francis, the spiritual leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics across the globe, this week traveled to Sweden, one of the most secularized countries in Europe, to take part in events marking 500 years since Martin Luther kickstarted the Protestant Reformation.

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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.

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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.

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Pope Francis has welcomed a groundbreaking deal reached between the Colombian government and rebels that promises to end more than 50 years of violent conflict.

According to a statement released Aug. 31 by the secretariat of state, the pope was “pleased to learn that negotiations have been finalized” after intense discussions.

Ryan Hammill 2-18-2016

Pope Francis arrives at San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico, Feb. 15. Image via Aleteia Image Department/Flickr.

The social mission of the Catholic Church can be reduced to the following: God became poor in Jesus Christ to save humanity, and we must do likewise. The social mission of the Catholic Church is about becoming poor for the poor. It communicates who God is, who Jesus is, who we’re called to be. For politics, it reverses things. It turns the world upside down.

Rick Herron 2-17-2016

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Pope Francis conducted Mass in the Mexican state of Chiapas (home to more than 1 million indigenous people), with Bibles available in different indigenous languages in order to make the ceremony accessible to as many audience members as possible.

Pope Francis minced no words when it came to the environment: “The environmental challenge that we are experiencing and its human causes affects us all and demands our response ... we can no longer remain silent before one of the greatest environmental crises in world history.” 

Ed Spivey Jr. 11-02-2015
Ken Davis

Ken Davis

AS A FORMER Baptist child who often mocked Catholic school children for their outfits—which paled against my own fashionable ensemble of striped pants, checked shirt, and flannel hat (with flaps!)—I admit that as an adult I have warmed to the “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.” (Did I get that right?) Catholics have better steeples, usually with bells, and cool smoke during worship, and interesting stained glass windows to look at if the homilist lacks conviction, which he often does, compared to the preachers of my youth. They would sweat right through their white suits as they paced back and forth describing the Coming Judgment which—and they were very clear on this point—will not be pretty.

We didn’t have much to do with the Catholics in our small Indiana town, except to occasionally remark on their odd rituals, their odd prayers (sometimes to a woman!), and their great fish fries, which Baptists could attend, under cover. We also noticed the lack of American flags on their altars. How was that Christian?

But as I grew older and experimented with different church traditions, I became more open to Catholicism and frequently visited on Sundays, under cover.

Jim Wallis 10-28-2015
Volkova / Shutterstock

Volkova / Shutterstock 

THE MONTH of December brings with it the season of Advent and Christmas. It’s always been my favorite time of the year, because it shows us powerfully and practically how our Christian faith entered the world. The incarnation is unique among world religions. The way I like to say it: In Christ, God hits the streets. Christmas gives Christians the annual opportunity to remember the incarnation of God’s love breaking into the world—how it did and how it still can.

Advent is about waiting, and Christmas brings the newborn who announces a new order meant to turn the world upside down—and our lives with it. Christmas always renews my commitment to bring that revolutionary love into a world that so desperately needs it, and into my own life again.

In the bustle of our daily lives, with all of the distractions and struggles that come our way—even in Christian ministries—it is so easy for us to lose sight of the transforming love embodied in the person of Christ. So it’s vitally important that we have this season to remember and re-encounter and re-center ourselves on the heart of our faith: God breaking into history to transform it, and us, in the person of Jesus.

Christmas always reminds me that being a Christian means being a follower of Jesus, willing to allow that message of the reign of God, a new order of things, to break in again and again.

While that statement about following Jesus may seem obvious, how many of us really focus, on a daily basis, on living our lives as Jesus did? On saying what he said, doing what he did, behaving as he behaved? On treating people in the way Jesus treated people?

Stephen Seufert 10-27-2015

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At the conclusion of the most recent synod, Pope Francis encouraged bishops assembled to continue their journey. During this ongoing journey, Pope Francis warned against “hostile inflexibility” and to allow one’s self to “be surprised by God.”

Will seeking an understanding into the differences between civil and sacramental marriage help to diffuse church tension? Can religious and civil liberties peacefully coexist?

The words and actions of Pope Francis certainly indicate a desire to explore such a path. The question then becomes: will others follow him on this journey?

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