Rome

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Pope Francis used his traditional Easter Sunday message to call the bombing of a refugee convoy near Aleppo, Syria, a “despicable attack”, and urged world leaders to “prevent the spread of conflicts” despite mounting tensions in Syria and North Korea.

In his Easter blessing, known as “Urbi et Orbi” (“to the city and the world”), the pope urged the faithful to remember “all those forced to leave their homelands as a result of armed conflicts, terrorist attacks, famine, and oppressive regimes.”

Pope Francis washes the feet of some inmates at the Paliano prison, south of Rome, Italy April 13, 2017. Osservatore Romano/Handout via REUTERS

"We are all sinners. We all have defects," the pope told the inmates, in an improvised sermon broadcast by Vatican Radio.

By washing their feet, Francis told them, he was willing to do "the work of a slave in order to sow love among us". He urged them to help each other.

Two of the 12 are serving life sentences, and the others are due to be released between 2019 and 2073.

Image via RNS/Vatican Elemosineria Apostolica

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.

Image via RNS/Tom Gallagher

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.

Image via RNS/Rome's Archaeological Superintendency

Italian archaeologists have discovered the remains of 38 skeletons buried in a Jewish cemetery in Rome more than 500 years ago, offering further evidence of their ubiquity and persecution under papal rule.

The well-preserved skeletons were found during excavations beneath a building, in an area identified on ancient maps as “Campus Iudeorum” — Latin for “Field of Jews” — in the Trastevere quarter of Rome, just across the Tiber River from the Italian capital.

Image via RNS/Reuters/Max Rossi

During our nearly 40 years of friendship, I led several interreligious missions with Keeler, including meetings with then-Pope John Paul II at the Vatican. We co-led trips to Israel, including a visit to a civilian bomb shelter, and a poignant painful pilgrimage to the infamous death camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Sometimes public figures can seem distant and impersonal, but that was never the case with the always gracious and welcoming Keeler.

Image via RNS/Reuters/Andreas Solaro/Pool

As Pope Francis marks the fourth anniversary of his revolutionary papacy, the pontiff apparently finds himself besieged on all sides by crises of his own making: an open “civil war” in the Catholic Church and fears of schism, mounting opposition from the faithful, and a Roman Curia so furious with his reforms that some cardinals are plotting a coup to topple him.

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President Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico raises serious questions about America’s moral standing, as the poor would bear the brunt of the suffering, a leading Catholic theologian says.

The Rev. Daniel G. Groody, an associate professor of theology at Notre Dame University in Indiana, said the wall would lead to a loss of life, as migrants are forced to find other ways to escape poverty across the border.

“What Trump fails to see is that state sovereignty is not an absolute privilege, but a moral responsibility,” said Groody.

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“Pope Francis has a lot of explaining to do by approving the newest Vatican instruction,” said Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, which campaigns for LGBT rights in the church.

“Francis’ famous ‘Who am I to judge?’ statement in 2013 was made in response to a question about gay men in the priesthood,” DeBernardo said. “That response indicated very plainly that he did not have a problem with a gay priest’s sexual orientation.

Image via RNS/Reuters/Andres Stapff

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.

Image via RNS/Reuters/Tony Gentile

Pope Francis on [Nov. 11] made a surprise visit to meet several men who took the controversial step of leaving the priesthood and starting a family.

A Vatican statement said the pope left his residence in the afternoon and traveled to an apartment on the outskirts of Rome, where he met seven men who had left the priesthood in recent years. The pontiff also met their families.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

In the summer of 430, the great Christian writer and bishop Augustine of Hippo lay dying as barbarians besieged his North African city – basically a mop-up operation in the slow-motion fall of the Roman Empire.

Today, in the fall of the year 2016, a lot of Christians can relate.

Image via RNS/Reuters/Osservatore Romano

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.

Image via RNS/Reuters/Remo Casilli

The strongest earthquake to strike Italy in more than three decades claimed no lives, but struck at the heart of the country’s vast religious and cultural heritage.

The Oct. 30 quake, which measured 6.6 magnitude according to the U.S. Geological Survey, was stronger than the one that killed almost 300 people on Aug. 24, and it struck a region already shaken by tremors last week.

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Some Protestant churches mark the day as Reformation Sunday, and celebrate it on the Sunday just before, or just after, Oct. 31. More often than not, the hymns sung in church that day include “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” with words and music composed by Luther himself. But most members of Lutheran churches — the direct descendants of Luther’s movement — wait until Oct. 31. And that, as we know, is also Halloween, and has led to some creative celebrations for kids.

Image via RNS/Reuters/Luca Zennaro/Pool

Pope Francis leaves on Monday, Oct. 31 for an overnight trip to Sweden, a historically Protestant country that today is one of the most secular in the world.

The visit is to mark the start of observances of next year’s 500th anniversary of the Reformation, which traditionally dates from Oct. 31, 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of a German cathedral.

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In 2013, Francis provoked an outcry from economic conservatives with the release of his apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel),” which was widely seen as his personal manifesto. In it, Francis said the world could no longer trust “the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market,” and called for ecclesiastical renewal and compassion for the poor.

Cox, who taught at Harvard for 50 years, dedicated his latest book to the pope because they share a concern about what Francis called a “deified market” that’s creating “new idols.”

Image via RNS/Yoli Shwartz/Israel Antiquities Authority

The site where, nearly 2,000 years ago, the Roman army breached the outer walls of ancient Jerusalem, before capturing the city and destroying the Second Jewish Temple, has been discovered, the Israel Antiquities Authority says.

Archaeologists made the discovery last winter, during an exploratory survey at a future construction site, the IAA said on Oct. 20.

Image via RNS/Reuters/Leonhard Foeger

Italian Cardinal Elio Sgreccia was the first to publicly sound the alarm, saying the proposal to open an outlet of the global fast-food chain, below a Vatican-owned building where several cardinals live, was a “controversial, perverse decision.”

In an interview published over the weekend in La Repubblica, Sgreccia said the proposal was “not at all respectful of the architectural and urban traditions” of a destination — just a block from St. Peter’s Square — that draws thousands of pilgrims and tourists a day from around the world.

He also said serving burgers and fries in the neighborhood was unacceptable because McDonald’s cuisine breached Italian taste.

Pope Francis with Lizzy Meyers. Image via REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/RNS

Pope Francis blessed the eyes of an American girl who suffers from a genetic condition that will make her blind, in a visit to the Vatican described as a “miracle” by her father.

“We came here hoping for some amazing memories for Lizzy … but what we got, we’ve seen several miracles,” said her father, Steve Myers, after Francis’ blessing with 5-year-old Lizzy on April 6.

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