Surprise! Pope Francis Stops by Vatican's New Homeless Shelter

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Francis’ visit was said to have delighted around 30 homeless men hosted at the dormitory, who spoke to the pope, recounted their stories and asked to be blessed. The pontiff’s visit lasted around 20 minutes, Vatican Radio reported.

He was accompanied by his almoner (distributor of alms or charity), Archbishop Konrad Krajewski; the Jesuit superior general, the Rev. Adolfo Nicolas; and three nuns who work at the residence.

The “Gift of Mercy” (“Dono di Misericordia”) homeless shelter was inaugurated earlier this month and can host 34 people each night. The building, a former travel agency, was converted by Jesuits as a response to Francis’ call for more to be done to help poor people.

Pope Francis Asks Forgiveness for Scandals at the Vatican, Rome

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Pope Francis on Oct. 14 asked forgiveness for a series of scandals that have befallen the Vatican and Rome.

Francis did not specify the scandalous events to which he was referring, although the departure of a gay cleric earlier this month may well have been on the pontiff’s mind.

“I ask you for forgiveness for the scandals that have occurred recently either in Rome or in the Vatican,” the pope said during his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

African Archbishop: We're Not Blocking Progress in the Church

Archbishop Charles G. Palmer-Buckle of Accra. Image via Nancy Wiechec / Catholic News Service / RNS

Ghanaian Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle on Oct. 8 defended African bishops’ role in the Vatican’s meeting on family issues, stating they were not in Rome to block progress but to present their own views.

As bishops get to work discussing key issues affecting family life at the meeting, known as a synod, they have broken into small language-based groups. Palmer-Buckle was responding to a question at a press conference suggesting that African bishops were trying to stop “progress.”

“If someone thinks Africa is blocking something, it’s only proposing what we feel,” he told journalists at the Vatican.

“We’re not here to block anybody.”

Ordain Women? Vatican Synod Gets an Unexpected Proposal

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The most controversial proposal floated so far at the high-level, high-stakes Vatican summit on church teachings on the family had nothing to do with gays or divorce, but instead ordaining women — not as priests, but as deacons.

Still, even that suggestion — made by a Canadian archbishop on Oct. 6, near the start of the closely watched, three-week synod called by Pope Francis — was considered eye-popping.

That’s because if the trial balloon floated by Quebec Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher flies, it would represent a historic breakthrough for the Catholic Church, and Catholic women, by giving them access to the kinds of offices that only priests and bishops can hold.

Why We (Still) Love Pope Francis

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“We do not remember days,” the Italian poet Cesare Pavese said, “we remember moments.”

Pavese’s words have come to mind often as I’ve thought about Pope Francis’ historic visit to the United States, particularly when people have asked me what the “best part” of covering the papal visit was for me.

My answer is always the same: hands down the best part was watching people see (and sometimes meet) Pope Francis in person for the first time.

At Vatican Synod, Bishops Want an Open Discussion on Divorce, Gays

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The Vatican’s high-level meeting on the family continued Oct. 6, with bishops emphasizing the need for open discussion on divorced and remarried Catholics.

The 62 bishops who have so far spoken at the gathering, called a synod, appeared to push back strongly against remarks Monday by Hungary’s Cardinal Peter Erdo, who defended the church’s exclusion of divorced and remarried couples from receiving Communion unless they’ve been granted an annulment and remarried in the church.

Speaking to journalists on Tuesday, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, said there would be an open discussion on the topic.

“The synod has a wide vision … of the universal church,” Celli said.

Vatican on Pope Francis and Kim Davis: Meeting 'No Support' for Her Case

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The Vatican is downplaying Pope Francis’ controversial meeting with Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk jailed for refusing to grant marriage licenses to gay couples, saying their encounter “should not be considered a form of support of her position.”

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, also said in a statement issued Oct. 2 that Davis was one of “several dozen” people Francis met at the Vatican Embassy in Washington on Sept. 24 as he prepared to leave for New York, the second-leg of his U.S. trip.

“Such brief greetings occur on all papal visits and are due to the pope’s characteristic kindness and availability,” the statement said. It added that the “only real audience granted by the pope” at the embassy that day “was with one of his former students and his family.”

50 Prison Inmates Tour Vatican Gardens, Sistine Chapel

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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.

Pope Francis to City Dwellers: 'Come Down From the Towers'

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Pope Francis on Sept. 2 told his followers to clamber down from their lofty skyscrapers, reclaim public spaces, and rejoin communities.

Speaking at his weekly public audience at the Vatican, the pope said it was up to families to rejuvenate cities.

There may be a lot of ways to spend one’s free time in a city, but love is missing, Francis said.

Vatican Backs Plan to Name Rome Square for Martin Luther

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Pope Francis leads the “Via Crucis” (Way of the Cross) procession, which commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, at the Colosseum in Rome on April 3, 2015. Photo via REUTERS / Alessandro Bianchi / RNS

Despite Luther being thrown out of the Catholic Church during his lifetime, the Vatican reacted positively to news of the square’s upcoming inauguration.

“It’s a decision taken by Rome city hall which is favorable to Catholics in that it’s in line with the path of dialogue started with the ecumenical council,” said the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, deputy director of the Vatican press office, referring to a gathering of churchmen to rule on faith matters.