pope

50 Prison Inmates Tour Vatican Gardens, Sistine Chapel

Image via Wikimedia Commons/RNS

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.

Majority of U.S. Catholics Accept 'Non-Traditional' Families

new survey released from Pew Research Center, conducted in the lead-up to the pontiff’s visit, examined U.S. Catholics’ attitudes on family, marriage, and sexuality, as well as on issues close to the pope’s heart — concern for the poor, care for the environment, and forgiveness of sins. The results found Catholics “remarkably accepting of a wide variety of non-traditional families.”

This is not to say longstanding church teaching on marriage has changed — the church very much still upholds lifelong heterosexual monogamous marriage with children as the divine plan for coupleship, and nine-in-ten U.S. Catholics say this is the ideal arrangement. But large majorities now say other familial arrangements are acceptable, too.  

According to the survey of U.S. Catholics, 85 percent say it is acceptable for a man and woman to live together as a couple outside of marriage, and 84 percent say it is acceptable for raise children in this arrangement. Two-thirds say it is acceptable for same-sex couples to raise children. And 70 percent say married couples who choose to not have children are choosing a lifestyle that is just as good as any other.

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.

Cardinal Peter Turkson: Bishops Need to Speak Up on the Environment

REUTERS / Max Rossi / RNS
Cardinal Peter Turkson poses as he holds Pope Francis’ new encyclical titled “Laudato Si’ (Be Praised): On Care of Our Common Home” during the presentation news conference at the Vatican on June 18, 2015. Photo via REUTERS / Max Rossi / RNS

The Vatican is calling on bishops globally to act on the pope’s groundbreaking environmental encyclical, Cardinal Peter Turkson said in an interview.

Last week, bishops’ conferences across the world were sent a message urging them to speak up about the message of the papal letter, which called for greater action on the environment, said Turkson, who is president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Thousands March in Rome to Show Support for Pope Francis’ Call for Climate Action

Rosie Scammell / RNS
Thousands march in Rome to show support for Pope Francis’ call for climate action. Photo by Rosie Scammell / RNS

The interfaith element of the pope’s environmental message was reflected in the diverse range of religious leaders present.The interfaith element of the pope’s environmental message was reflected in the diverse range of religious leaders present.Religious leaders from across the globe led a “Many Faiths – One Planet” march to the Vatican on June 28, to show their support of Pope Francis’ groundbreaking environmental encyclical.

Organizers estimated a crowd of 5,000 people reached St. Peter’s Square to celebrate the pontiff’s tough stance on climate change, after parading through Rome under a canopy of painted banners.

Children Need Mother and Father, Says Pope After Gay Pride March

Photo via REUTERS / Max Rossi / RNS
A lesbian couple kiss during the annual gay pride parade in downtown Rome on June 15, 2013. Photo via REUTERS / Max Rossi / RNS

Pope Francis on June 14 stressed the importance of children having heterosexual parents, just a day after Rome’s gay pride march demonstrated the changing attitudes about same-sex couples outside the Vatican walls.

Addressing around 25,000 followers from the Diocese of Rome, the pope said the differences between men and women are fundamental and “an integral part of being human.”

The pontiff likened a long-lasting marriage to a good wine, in which a husband and wife make the most of their gender differences.

Vatican: Pope Francis Not Under Threat from Islamic State Militants

Pope Francis is scheduled to travel to Tirana, Albania. Creative Commons image by Catholic Church England and Wales/RNS.

Pope Francis faces no specific threat from Islamic State militants and will not be adding extra security measures on his one-day trip to Albania next week, the Vatican said Sept 15.

The Vatican’s chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said despite recent “worrying” events that had shocked the world, there was no specific threat to the 77-year-old pontiff as he prepared for his official visit to the majority Muslim country on Sept. 21.

Lombardi said Francis would use the same open-topped vehicle he uses to greet crowds in St. Peter’s Square when he travels to the Albanian capital, Tirana.

“There is no reason to change the pope’s itinerary,” Lombardi said. “We are obviously paying attention but there is no need for concern or a change to his program in Albania.”

Pope Francis Asks Forgiveness for Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal

Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy of Catholic News Service
A Swiss Guard salutes as Pope Francis. Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy of Catholic News Service

In his strongest personal remarks yet on the clergy sex abuse scandal, Pope Francis on Friday asked forgiveness “for the damage” that abusive priests have inflicted on children and pledged that the Catholic Church “will not take one step backward” in efforts to address the crisis.

“I feel compelled to personally take on all the evil that some priests — quite a few in number, though not compared to the total number — and to ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done by sexually abusing children,” Francis said.

“The church is aware of this damage,” he said. “It is personal and moral damage, but carried out by men of the church. And we do not want to take one step backward in dealing with this problem and the sanctions that must be imposed. On the contrary, I believe that we have to be very firm. Because you cannot take chances with children!”

Hobby Lobby's Green Family Meets with Pope Francis

Pope Francis greets the pilgrims.

Days after discussing the U.S. Catholic bishops’ fight over contraception with President Obama, Pope Francis met Monday with members of the Green family, the Oklahoma billionaires whose company, Hobby Lobby, took their challenge to Obama’s contraception mandate to the Supreme Court last week.

The pope met with Obama on Thursday for the first time, touching on some hot-button disputes between the White House and U.S. Catholic bishops.

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