New Pope Francis biography fills gaps left by ‘instant books’

A wave of “instant books” about Pope Francis rushed into print after his surprise election last March left readers waiting for one that brought more insight into the two seemingly contradictory phases in his past.

In “Pope Francis: Untying the Knots,” British journalist Paul Vallely fills that gap by showing how the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio went from being the divisive head of the Jesuit order in Argentina in the 1970s to the humble and inclusive pastor he became once made a bishop in 1992.

Since so little was written in English about Bergoglio, the first quick biographies depended heavily on two books in Spanish, one a long interview with him and the other his dialogue with the chief rabbi of Buenos Aires.

Vallely told Reuters how he put together these contrasting episodes to give a fuller biography of the Roman Catholic Church’s new leader.

Q: How did the book project start?

A: I wrote a piece in The Independent (British newspaper) which explained to non specialists the symbolism of everything he did when he came out on the balcony after his election. The publishers read it and contacted me and said would you like to write a book? I said if this is going to be respectable, I need to go to Rome and to Argentina and you need to fund the travel. They agreed to that.

In Nigeria, art boom feeds a revival of interest in traditional animist art

(Artist and designer Nike Davies-Okundaye poses for a portrait in her art gallery in Lekki district in Lagos August 30, 2013. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye)

The haunting stone sculptures have stretched bodies with enlarged heads, mask-like faces and elongated chests – the kind of sharp, geometric qualities that inspired the works of Pablo Picasso and the Cubist movement in the 1920s.

Displayed at a Lagos gallery alongside colourful paintings of domestic scenes, they represent a revival of ancient art forms in Nigeria, rooted in traditional spirituality, that Christian missionaries tried to banish a century ago.

Politics looms large in India’s Hindu-Muslim riots that kill 31 at weekend

(Soldiers stand guard on a deserted street during a curfew in Muzaffarnagar, 127 km (80 miles) northeast of New Delhi, in the state of Uttar Pradesh September 9, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer)

India’s political parties blamed each other for religious riots that killed at least 31 people and forced hundreds to flee from their homes on the weekend, in a sign of rising tension between Hindus and Muslims ahead of a general election due by May.

Police evacuated both Hindus and Muslim villagers on Monday in the district of Muzaffarnagar, 127 km (80 miles) northeast of New Delhi in the state of Uttar Pradesh and at the epicenter of some of the worst communal violence in years.

Syrian Christians heed Pope Francis’s call to pray for peace

(A Syrian rebel fires a heavy machine gun mounted on the back of a vehicle in Maaloula, a suburb of Damascus, in this image taken from a September 4, 2013 video footage obtained from a social media website. The unverified activist video said to be from Wednesday purportedly shows Syrian rebel forces storming the town of Maaloula and clashing with Syrian army troops at a checkpoint in the town that is home to a Christian majority. REUTERS/Social media website via Reuters TV)

Hundreds of Syrian Christians gathered in Damascus on Saturday to pray for peace and protest against possible U.S. military intervention, responding to a call by Pope Francis for a day of prayer and fasting.

During a six-hour service at the al-Zeitouna Church, an ornate Roman Catholic cathedral in the capital’s ancient quarter, Syrian-born Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregoire III Laham appealed to Christians to stay in Syria despite the war.

Vatican cardinal looks into German ‘luxury bishop’ charges

(Limburg cathedral, 12 December 2004/Super-Grobi)

The Vatican launched a rare review of a German Catholic diocese on Monday following accusations its bishop spent lavishly on a new residence, putting him out of step with the new “church of the poor” promoted by Pope Francis.

The inquiry is officially called a “fraternal visit” to Limburg diocese by Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, the former Vatican nuncio (ambassador) in Berlin, and Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst said in a statement he was looking forward to it.

Limburg diocese, which includes Germany’s financial capital Frankfurt, has been in turmoil for months as reports of high cost overruns put pressure on Tebartz-van Elst, 53.

Tunisia’s Islamist-opposition consensus search fails, secularists threaten protests

(An anti-government protester shouts slogans as others wave flags and signs during a demonstration in Tunis August 24, 2013. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi)

Tunisia’s secular opposition threatened on Wednesday to launch more mass protests to force the Islamist-led government to step down, saying negotiations to end a political stand-off had failed.

Hamma Hammami, a senior leader in a coalition of over a dozen secular opposition parties agitating for new elections, blamed the Islamist Ennahda party heading the government coalition for the collapse of two weeks of mediated talks.

Muslim Brotherhood newspaper soldiers on despite Egypt crackdown

(A man reads the Muslim Brotherhood’s newspaper Al-Hurriya wa-l-adala (Freedom of Justice), named after their political party, in Cairo, September 3, 2013. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh )

Whenever Muslim Brotherhood journalist Islam Tawfiq files a story about the group’s struggle for survival for its newspaper Freedom and Justice, he fears his Internet address will tip off state security agents to his whereabouts.

Thousands of Brotherhood members have been arrested in a widening crackdown on the group since the army deposed Islamist President Mohamed Mursi on July 3.

West struggles to cope with online recruitment for Syria jihad

(A fighter from the Islamist Syrian rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra rides a motorcycle along a deserted street in Deir al-Zor August 17, 2013. Picture taken August 17, 2013. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi )

“I am French,” explains the young man in the YouTube video carrying a Kalashnikov and wearing a kufiya cotton headdress as he sits in front of a waving black-and-white flag of al Qaeda.

“Oh my Muslim brothers in France, Europe and in the whole world, Jihad in Syria is obligatory,” says the fair-skinned youth with sandy hair, wispy beard and southern French accent, imploring viewers to join him and his younger brother in Syria.

Britain’s new Chief Rabbi Mirvis faces task of uniting UK Jewish community

(Former chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks (R), congratulates the new chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, during a ceremony at St John’s Wood Synagogue in London September 1, 2013. REUTERS/Stefan Rousseau/pool )

Britain’s new chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, who has vowed to remain traditional by barring women rabbis and same-sex marriage, was sworn in on Sunday to face the challenge of uniting the nation’s polarized Jewish community.

About 1,400 guests, including Britain’s heir apparent Prince Charles, attended a ceremony at a north London synagogue as Mirvis replaced the respected Jonathan Sacks after 22 years as the leading spokesman for British Jews.

from The Human Impact:

INFOGRAPHIC: Egypt’s constituent assembly

CREDIT: Mina Fayek

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Egypt appointed a newconstituent assembly on Sunday, the third since a popular uprising toppled President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

This week, Cairo-based blogger Mina Fayek posted a very usefulinfographic on his blog detailing the composition of the 50-member assembly ordered to review amendments to the constitution signed by Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Mursi, at the end of last year.

Mursi was overthrown in an army takeover on July 3 which sparked violent protests, resulting in the killing of at least 900 people, most of them Islamist supporters of Mursi.