Pope Francis Moves to Hold Bishops Accountable in Sex Abuse Crisis for First Time

Photo via REUTERS / Dado Ruvic / RNS

Pope Francis speaks with young people in Sarajevo, on June 6, 2015. Photo via REUTERS / Dado Ruvic / RNS

Pope Francis has approved the first-ever system for judging, and possibly deposing, bishops who fail to protect children from abusive clerics, a major step in responding to Catholics who have been furious that guilty priests have been defrocked while bishops have largely escaped punishment.

The five-point plan on accountability for bishops originated with the special sex abuse commission that Francis set up to deal with the ongoing crisis, and after some modifications, his nine–member Council of Cardinals signed off on it and Francis gave his final blessing to it on June 10.

New Arabic-Language Vatican Guidebook Aims to Explain Catholic Culture

Photo via Rosie Scammell / RNS

The Vatican's new Arabic-language guidebook. Photo via Rosie Scammell / RNS

The Vatican has released a new Arabic-language guidebook, the first of its kind, which aims to bring the culture of the Catholic Church to a new audience.

Titled The Vatican, its Significance and its Monuments, the guidebook hit bookstores around the Holy See late last month and goes beyond sightseeing tips.

The book’s author, Edmond Farhat, said he was compelled to write the guide after a lengthy diplomatic career representing the Vatican across North Africa.

Pope Warns Against Being ‘Too Attached to the Computer’

Photo via REUTERS/Luca Zennaro/Pool/RNS

Pope Francis on his flight from Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, to Rome on June 6, 2015. Photo via REUTERS/Luca Zennaro/Pool/RNS

Pope Francis has decried the “filth” of online pornography and warned people against wasting time on their computers.

Speaking aboard the papal plane after his visit on June 6 to Bosnia-Herzegovina’s capital of Sarajevo, the pontiff took a two-pronged approach to modern technology.

“There are two different elements here: method and content,” he said, according to Vatican Radio.

“Regarding the method or way of doing things, there is one that is bad for the soul, and that is being too attached to the computer.”

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 /

Photo via beboy /

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

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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

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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 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

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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

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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.