New ‘Nuns on the Bus’ Tour to Highlight Pope Francis’ U.S. Visit and Agenda

Network / RNS

Sister Simone Campbell speaks during 2012 “Nuns on the Bus” tour. Photo via Network / RNS

Over the course of two weeks, starting on Sept. 10 in St. Louis, Campbell and nearly a dozen nuns will travel some 2,000 miles through seven states — Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia — that are marked by sharp political divides.

“The route is not to our base,” she said, contrasting this trip with previous ones that often stopped in cities and towns with communities receptive to the Catholic social justice message.

“We’re going to places where there are differences of opinion, to nourish conversations about the serious work of governance.”

Want to be a Patron of Vatican Art? 'Patrum' App Lets You Tour, Help Restore Famous Works

Screenshot of the Patrum app. Image via RNS/iTunes

The free English-language Patrum app showcases a selection of works at the Vatican Museums, featuring everything from an Etruscan tomb to 13th-century Chinese scrolls. The brief descriptions are accompanied by other articles detailing daily life at the Vatican Museums. App users are invited to join the conversation through the comment and chat sections.

Art lovers can also tailor their own profiles by picking out their favorite works, allowing them to receive specific updates and chat with others who express interest in the same pieces. While there are other apps that serve as virtual tour guides to Vatican treasures, that is not Patrum’s intent — its layout does not correspond to the museums’ vast network of corridors.

Pope Francis Says the Church Must Welcome Divorced and Remarried Catholics

Philip Chidell /

Pope Francis. Photo via Philip Chidell /

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.

Diocese Wants to Hold ‘Bling’ Bishop Accountable for Excesses

REUTERS / Wolfgang Rattay/ RNS

Photo via REUTERS / Wolfgang Rattay/ RNS

A German Catholic diocese wants to take episcopal responsibility to a new level by making its disgraced former “bishop of bling” responsible for the 3.9 million euros ($4.9 million) in losses incurred during the luxury makeover of his residence and office.

Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst earned the “bling” label in 2013 when aides revealed he had spent 31 million euros ($34 million) — over six times the original estimate — on the stately complex opposite the Romanesque cathedral in Limburg, north of Frankfurt.

The Vatican banished him from the diocese several months later and, subsequently, quietly reassigned him to a low-profile post in the Roman Curia. He seemed to be going the way of other failed bishops, such as the few punished in the clerical sexual abuse scandals by being removed from their dioceses

Pope Francis’ Approval Ratings Slump Sharply in U.S.

neneo / Shutterstock

Photo via neneo / Shutterstock

Growing conservative disaffection with Pope Francis appears to be taking a toll on his once teflon-grade popularity in the U.S., with a new Gallup poll showing the pontiff’s favorability rating among all Americans dropping to 59 percent from a 76 percent peak early last year.

Among conservatives the dropoff has been especially sharp: just 45 percent view Francis favorably today as opposed to 72 percent a year ago.

How the Vatican Links Human Trafficking, Climate Change, and God

Vladimir Wrangel /

Sunset over the dome of Saint Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. Photo via Vladimir Wrangel /

On July 21 and 22, the Vatican hosts two conferences on human trafficking and climate change, bringing the mayors of major cities — including several in the U.S. — to Rome for the events. What do human trafficking and climate change have to do with each other? And what does Catholicism have to do with them? Let us explain.

Q: Why is the Vatican concerned with human trafficking and climate change?

A: If Pope Francis has two pet issues, they are human trafficking and climate change. Since the first year of his papacy he has spoken against human trafficking, calling it “a crime against humanity” and lamenting it as modern slavery. It’s an even bet that when the pope addresses the United Nations in late September he will hammer it as one of the crucial issues of our time. Ditto on climate change. In June, the pontiff published his encyclical — the highest teaching of the church — on climate change.

“Our home is being ruined and that hurts everyone, especially the poorest among us,” Francis said just before the publication of the encyclical.

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.

Pope Francis Will Try to Break Out of 'The Bubble' on His U.S. Trip, Details Show

REUTERS / Giorgio Perottino / RNS

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

The Vatican on June 30 released details of Pope Francis’ itinerary for his Sept. 22-27 U.S. visit, his first, and it shows how this “pope of the people” wants to avoid becoming a prisoner of the East Coast “power corridor” during his five days in Washington, New York, and Philadelphia.

For example, organizers have added visits to a Catholic Charities food program in downtown Washington, a Catholic school in Harlem that serves largely Latino immigrant children, and a prison in Philadelphia to meet with inmates and some of their families.

Vatican Orders Former Dominican Republic Archbishop to Stand Trial on Child Abuse Charges

Photo via Orlando Barria / Catholic News Service / RNS

Jozef Wesolowski. Photo via Orlando Barria / Catholic News Service / RNS

In an unprecedented move, the Vatican on June 15 announced its former ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Jozef Wesolowski, would stand trial on charges he paid for sex with children.

Wesolowski, 66, who had the title archbishop during his five-year post in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic capital, was recalled to the Vatican in 2013. He was later the first person to be arrested inside the Vatican on child abuse charges.

He also faces charges of possessing child pornography during his stay at the Holy See and ahead of his arrest in September 2014, the Vatican said in a statement.

Pope Francis: ‘Let Us Modify Our Relationship with Natural Resources’

Photo by REUTERS / Amir Cohen / RNS

Pope Francis and Israel’s President Shimon Peres plant an olive tree in Jerusalem. Photo by REUTERS / Amir Cohen / RNS

People must change their lifestyles and attitudes to help defeat hunger, Pope Francis said June 11, a hint of what may be coming in his much-anticipated environmental encyclical next week.

“We must begin with our daily lives if we want to change lifestyles, aware that our small gestures can guarantee sustainability and the future of the human family,” said Francis, addressing delegates at a conference hosted by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.