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Pope Francis Meets Chilean President Amid Debate Over Easing Tough Abortion Law

Photo via REUTERS / Alberto Pizzoli / Reuters / RNS

Pope Francis talks with Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet on June 5, 2015. Photo via REUTERS / Alberto Pizzoli / Reuters / RNS

Pope Francis on June 5 met Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, while outside in St. Peter’s Square anti-abortion protesters drew attention to one of the most controversial topics up for discussion between the two leaders.

The meeting centered around “issues of common interest” such as education and “social peace,” as a Vatican statement put it. But the most contentious topic in play was “the protection of human life,” a nod to the traditionally Catholic country’s strict abortion law, which Bachelet is trying to modify.

Earlier this year, the Chilean leader proposed changes to allow abortions in cases of rape or if a woman’s life was in danger.

More Catholics, but Fewer Receiving Sacraments: New Report Maps Changing Church

Photo via beboy / Shutterstock.com

Photo via beboy / Shutterstock.com

A new report mapping the Catholic Church’s more than 1.2 billion souls — on track to reach 1.64 billion by 2050 — holds some surprises.

And not all bode well for the church’s future as it faces major demographic and social shifts.

Global Catholicism: Trends & Forecasts,” released June 1 by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, looks at seven regions of the world. It wraps the United States, Mexico, and Canada in with Central and South America as simply the Americas.

Pope Francis to Greet Children of Prisoners with a Train Ride and a Gift of Kites

Photo via REUTERS / Max Rossi / RNS

Pope Francis blesses a child at the Vatican on March 14, 2015. Photo via REUTERS / Max Rossi / RNS

Pope Francis wants to treat the children of Italian prisoners to a train ride within the Vatican walls, a gesture intended to draw Catholics’ attention to Jesus’ command to minister to prisoners and the poor.

On May 30, Vatican guards will open a great iron gate to the “Children’s Train,” which will travel along the city-state’s only branch line for an appointment with the pope.

The chosen passengers are the prisoners’ children from Rome, Latina, Bari, and Trani.

They will have a midday meeting with Francis and will be given colored kites.

Vatican Looks to Reform Its Media Operations, Add Multimedia

Photo via UK in Italy via Flickr / RNS

Lord Christopher Patten during the XXII Pontignano Conference. Photo via UK in Italy via Flickr / RNS

The Vatican is dragging its media machine into the 21st century, promising to promote social media and streamline its fragmented services with the help of a former BBC executive.

Lord Christopher Patten, former chairman of the BBC Trust, on May 27 outlined reform plans nearly a year after being appointed chief of the pope’s media committee.

Addressing journalists at St. Patrick’s church in central London, Patten highlighted “wasteful” duplications of media services at the Vatican and said modernization was imperative.

Australians Push for Vatican Cardinal to Testify on Abuse

Photo via REUTERS / Tony Gentile / RNS

Australian Cardinal George Pell arrives for a meeting in the Vatican on March 6, 2013. Photo via REUTERS / Tony Gentile / RNS

More than 55,000 people have signed a petition calling for Cardinal George Pell to return to his native Australia and face a government commission on child sex abuse, after allegations that he tried to bribe the victim of a pedophile priest.

Addressed to Pope Francis, the Change.org petition calls for Pell — the Vatican’s financial chief and former archbishop of Sydney — to answer questions from Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Breaking Silence, U.S. Nuns Say Vatican Probe Cleared Up Confusion, Reinforced Their Mission

Photo via CNS photo / L’Osservatore Romano / RNS

Pope Francis and representatives of the U.S. LCWR. Photo via CNS photo / L’Osservatore Romano / RNS

The controversial Vatican probe of American nuns that abruptly ended last month looked from the outside like a tense standoff between Rome and the U.S. sisters, punctuated by occasional public jousts that appeared to signal even tougher negotiations behind closed doors.

Not so, say the sisters, now freed to talk after both sides agreed to a month-long media blackout that ended May 15.

Those involved in the talks said that after a rocky start, the talks settled into a constructive dialogue that cleared up many misunderstandings that Vatican officials had about the sisters.

Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle Boosts His Profile Again with Charity Post

Photo via REUTERS / Alessandro Bianchi / RNS

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, right. Photo via REUTERS / Alessandro Bianchi / RNS

Caritas Internationalis, the global Catholic charitable organization, has elected Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle as its new president, just months after the up-and-coming prelate welcomed Pope Francis to the Philippines.

Tagle, sometimes dubbed “the Asian Francis,” was elected on May 14 by delegates attending Caritas’ general assembly in Rome. He is the first Asian president of the organization and takes over from Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, another Francis confidant, who served two terms as Caritas chief.

Why Vatican's Recognition of Palestine Upsets Israeli Government

Israeli President Shimon Peres, Pope Francis, and Palestinian President Mahmoud

Israeli President Shimon Peres, Pope Francis, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Image via RNS/Reuters.

The Vatican’s decision to recognize Palestine as a sovereign state on May 13 angered Israeli officials.

The move comes four days before the first-ever canonization of two Palestinian nuns and it solidifies the standing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is scheduled to meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Saturday.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon told The Times of Israel that the government is “disappointed by the decision. We believe that such a decision is not conducive to bringing the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.”

Vatican Recognizes State of Palestine

Image via giulio napolitano/shutterstock.com

Image via giulio napolitano/shutterstock.com

The Vatican announced it will recognize the state of Palestine in a treaty concluded May 13.

The treaty is awaiting formal approval and signing, but it is already being recognized as a major statement of support for a Palestian state in the historically contested region. 

The pope has long signaled his support of a state. The language of the treaty, while not yet signed, has alarmed Israelis but invigorated the Palestinian case for statehood, The New York Times reports

For the past year, the Vatican had informally referred to the country as “state of Palestine,” in its yearbook as well as in its program for Francis’ 2014 visit to the Holy Land.

Formal recognition of a Palestinian state by the Vatican, which has deep religious interests in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories that include Christian holy sites, lends a powerful signal of legitimacy to the efforts by the Palestinian Authority’s president, Mahmoud Abbas, to achieve statehood despite the long paralyzed Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Read more from The New York Times here.

Once Pope Francis Knows U.S. Capitalism He Will Love It, Says Catholic Theologian-Economist

Photo via giulio napolitano / Shutterstock.com

Photo via giulio napolitano / Shutterstock.com

The Rev. Martin Schlag is a trained economist as well as a Catholic moral theologian, and when he first read some of Pope Francis’ powerful critiques of the current free market system he had the same thought a lot of Americans did: “Just horrible.”

But at a meeting on May 11 at the Harvard Club, Schlag, an Austrian-born priest who teaches economics at an Opus Dei-run university in Rome, reassured a group of Catholics, many from the world of business and finance, that Francis’ views on capitalism aren’t actually as bad as he feared.

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