pope francis

Pope Francis Holds Sign Urging Falkland Islands Dialogue, Causes Stir in Argentina

Image via @CFKArgentina/RNS

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’

Image via RNS.

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.

8 Things About Pope Francis’ Upcoming Visit That Would Make Him Facepalm

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Look, we all know it — Pope Francis is a pretty unflappable guy. Anyone who earned a diploma in chemical technology, worked as a nightclub bouncer, and then emerged blinking into the sunlight as the world’s foremost religious leader only to politely ask the world to “pray for me” has got to be cool. (Seriously cool. In January he held an outdoor mass during a typhoon.)

But one thing Pope Francis won’t suffer is treating God’s commandments lightly. He is deeply serious about religion — its immense power to heal, shelter, and reconcile; and its limitless power, if abused, to degrade, divide, and injure.

So we’re willing to bet he’s got mixed feelings about coming to the U.S. in September. His visit will take him from a school in Harlem and interfaith services near the site of the September 11 attacks, to visiting Catholic Charities in Washington, D.C., and a prison in Philadelphia — a trip with, as TIME writes, a “liturgy” of a schedule.

Naturally, we in the U.S. have gone all out to show just how excited we are for his visit. But that’s where things are getting a little screwy.

Here are eight things happening right now in the lead up to the papal visit that we’re betting would make #FrancisFacepalm.

The Economy Kills

SINCE HIS ELECTION IN 2013, Pope Francis has been widely praised. But in this interview, conducted by Italian journalists Andrea Tornielli and Giacomo Galeazzi before the release of the encyclical “Laudato Si’,” Pope Francis speaks about the environment and economic justice; his perspectives on these topics have elicited harsh criticism from some.

How important is it for Christians to recover a sense of care for creation and sustainable development? And how do we ensure that this is not confused with a certain environmentalist ideology that considers humanity the real threat for the well-being of our planet?

Pope Francis: For the protection of creation we must overcome the culture of waste. Creation is the gift that God has given to humanity so it can be protected, cultivated, used for our livelihood, and handed over to future generations. The vocation to take care of someone or something is human, before being Christian, and affects all; we are called to care for creation, its beauty, and to respect all creatures of God and the environment in which we live. If we fail in this responsibility, if we do not take care of our brothers and sisters and of all creation, destruction will advance. Unfortunately, we must remember that every period of history has its own “Herods” who destroy, plot schemes of death, disfigure the face of man and woman, destroying creation.

But when humanity, instead of being custodian, considers itself to be the master, it ... moves toward destruction.

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Pope Francis: Protestant?

Pope Francis in 2014

Pope Francis in 2014, giulio napolitano / Shutterstock.com

Someone has said that Pope Francis is really a Protestant. He is, if Protestant is defined as someone who protests. His recent encyclical Laudato si' is a protest against the often irresponsible industries as they pollute the environment.

Pope Francis especially protests the ways in which coal is burned in the production of electricity. He is right to protest. What comes out of the smoke stacks of coal-fed electric power plants is linked to 50,000 deaths a year, according to Physicians for Social Responsibility. Because children and the elderly among the poor are the most vulnerable, the pope, following his namesake, St. Francis, has a special concern for those that Jesus calls "the least of these."

Pope Declares Sept. 1 ‘World Day of Prayer’ for Environment

REUTERS / Giorgio Perottino / RNS

Pope Francis waves as he leaves at the end of his two-day pastoral visit in Turin, Italy, on June 22, 2015. Photo via REUTERS / Giorgio Perottino / RNS

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’

REUTERS / Tony Gentile / RNS

Pope Francis waves as he leads the Angelus prayer from the window of the Apostolic Palace in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican August 9, 2015. Photo courtesy REUTERS / Tony Gentile / RNS

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.

The Pope's Divisions

Sun

Jenny Zhang / Shutterstock

THE POPE'S “climate change encyclical,” Laudato Si’ (“Praise Be to You”), is actually far more than that: It is the most remarkable religious document in a generation, offering a powerful and comprehensive worldview that is consonant with the Bible and hence profoundly countercultural. You owe it to yourself to take a few hours and read it slowly and carefully; you’ll be enlightened, but mostly, if you’re like me, you’ll be reassured. Reassured that someone powerful in this world actually sees our time for what it is, and understands the crises facing our planet for what they are.

Near the beginning, for instance, the pope discusses the “rapidification” of life, the sense that “the speed with which human activity has developed contrasts with the naturally slow pace of biological evolution. Moreover, the goals of this rapid and constant change are not necessarily geared to the common good or to integral and sustainable human development. Change is something desirable, yet it becomes a source of anxiety when it causes harm to the world and to the quality of life of much of humanity.”

That’s as useful a description of the last 100 years as we’re likely to get, that sense of life out of balance. It affects the poor, yes, and the pope is always most mindful of the poor—but it also affects everyone. The ever-more-technologized world we inhabit no longer makes us happier. It makes us stressed.

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Time to End the Papal Bull

Franck Boston/Shutterstock

Franck Boston/Shutterstock

POPE FRANCIS arrives in the U.S. this September to great acclaim. The popular pontiff will speak truth to power in Congress and at the United Nations and preach the necessity of stewarding creation, promoting an economy for life, and defending human dignity.

He also will canonize Junípero Serra, the Spanish Franciscan missionary who founded the first nine of 21 Spanish missions in California in the 18th century—many say on the backs of Indigenous people. While some call Serra a “shepherd and protector,” others argue he symbolizes the colonial conquest of North America through genocide.

Serra was a human being—sometimes noble, sometimes not. However, his conquest operated under a body of Christian law and policy called the Doctrine of Discovery, a series of papal documents (“bulls”) that granted legal right of ownership to whichever European Christian nation arrived first in the new territory. Since 1823 it has also been enshrined in U.S. law. As recently as 2005, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg cited it as the basis for denying a land claim by the Oneida people, one of the five founding nations of the Iroquois Confederacy.

The Doctrine of Discovery is based on a principle of Roman law called terra nullius (“nobody’s land”) and grew out of the church’s conviction that “discovered” lands were devoid of human beings if the original people who lived there (defined as “heathens, pagans, and infidels”) were not ruled by a Christian ruler. “The Doctrine mandated Christian European countries to attack, enslave, and kill the Indigenous Peoples they encountered and to acquire all of their assets,” wrote the World Council of Churches in a 2012 statement.

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Pope Francis Says the Church Must Welcome Divorced and Remarried Catholics

Philip Chidell / Shutterstock.com

Pope Francis. Photo via Philip Chidell / Shutterstock.com

Speaking out on one of the most contentious issues of his papacy, Pope Francis on Aug. 5 issued a powerful call for the church to embrace Catholics who have divorced and remarried, telling a gathering at the Vatican that such couples “are not excommunicated, and they absolutely must not be treated that way!”

“The church is called to be always the open house of the Father … no closed doors! No closed doors!” Francis told the crowd at his weekly public audience, which resumed after a month-long summer break.

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