FaithWorld

A game of two popes: Vatican plays down talk of World Cup rivalry

(Pope Francis (L) prays with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI after arriving at the Castel Gandolfo summer residence, south of Rome March 23, 2013. Pope Francis travelled by helicopter from the Vatican to Castel Gandolfo for a private meeting with former Pope Benedict XVI. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano )

(Pope Francis (L) prays with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at Castel Gandolfo March 23, 2013. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano )

With Argentina meeting Germany in the World Cup final, the Vatican on Friday brushed aside talk of soccer rivalry between Argentine Pope Francis and his predecessor Benedict, a German.

In response to the intense media speculation about whether they would watch the game together, which it called “amusing”, the Vatican called on soccer fans to observe a “pause for peace” before Sunday’s final to remember victims of war and poverty.

A senior Vatican official who works with both Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict told Reuters that no decision had been taken yet on how each of the two would spend Sunday night.

Benedict, the source pointed out, is not a soccer fan, but added: “Let’s see. The current situation is unique”.

Poland asks: should a doctor serve God, or patients?

(Professor Bogdan Chazan smiles as he speaks to the media among his supporters in front of a maternity hospital in Warsaw June 13, 2014. In April this year, a pregnant woman asked Chazan, director of Warsaw's Holy Family Hospital, for an abortion because her own physician had diagnosed her unborn child with grave health problems. Chazan sent the woman a letter saying he could not agree to an abortion in his hospital because of a "conflict of conscience," and instead gave the woman the address of a hospice where, he said, the child could get palliative care once born. Picture taken on June 13, 2014. To match story POLAND-ABORTION/ REUTERS/Jacek Marczewskii/Agencja Gazeta)

(Professor Bogdan Chazan smiles as he speaks to the media among his supporters in front of a maternity hospital in Warsaw June 13, 2014.REUTERS/Jacek Marczewskii/Agencja Gazeta)

In April this year, a pregnant woman asked Professor Bogdan Chazan, director of Warsaw’s Holy Family Hospital, for an abortion because her own physician had diagnosed her unborn child with grave health problems.

Chazan sent the woman a letter saying he could not agree to an abortion in his hospital because of a “conflict of conscience,” and instead gave the woman the address of a hospice where, he said, the child could get palliative care once born.

Iraqi Christians’ flee violence and fear end of long history

(Cardinal Louis Raphael I Sako (L), the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Babylon and the head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, gives communion to Iraqi Christians during Mass at John Baptist De La Salle Church in Amman May 23, 2014. Cardinal Sako led a Mass attended by hundreds of Iraqi Christians who are in Jordan ahead of a visit by Pope Francis on Saturday.REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed )

(Cardinal Louis Raphael I Sako (L), the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Babylon and the head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, gives communion to Iraqi Christians during Mass at John Baptist De La Salle Church in Amman May 23, 2014. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed )

The violence in Iraq is hastening the end of nearly 2,000 years of Christianity there as the few remaining faithful flee Islamic State militants, archbishops from Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkuk said on Wednesday.

War and sectarian conflict have shrunk Iraq’s Christian population to about 400,000 from 1.5 million before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, and now even those who stayed are leaving for Turkey, Lebanon and western Europe, the prelates said on a visit to Brussels seeking European Union help to protect their flocks.

Pope Francis shows mega-banks how to do it

(Jean-Baptise de Franssu (L), new president of Vatican Bank IOR, outgoing President Ernst Von Freyberg (R) and Cardinal George Pell leave at the end of a news conference at the Vatican July 9, 2014. The Vatican said on Wednesday it will separate its bank's investment business from its Church payments work to try to clean up after years of scandal including allegations of money laundering and tax evasion. French businessman Franssu was named as the new head of the bank, officially known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), succeeding German lawyer Freyberg, who has run the bank since February 2013. REUTERS/Tony Gentile )

(Jean-Baptise de Franssu (L), new president of Vatican Bank IOR, outgoing President Ernst Von Freyberg (R) and Cardinal George Pell leave at the end of a news conference at the Vatican July 9, 2014. REUTERS/Tony Gentile ) The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

By Edward Hadas

Confessing one’s sins is relatively easy. Penance can be painful, but usually ends fast. Leading a better life, though, is a lot more difficult. Pope Francis is ensuring that the Vatican’s financial system is well on the way. And by doing so he is also schooling Wall Street on how to clean house.

from The Great Debate:

What’s the 2014 election really about? Religious vs. women’s rights

Demonstrators gather in front of the U.S. Supreme Court for the "Not My Boss's Business" rally for women's health and rights in Washington

Religious rights versus women's rights. That's about as fundamental a clash as you can get in U.S. politics. It's now at the core of the 2014 election campaign, with both parties girding for battle.

What generated the showdown was last week's U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case. The decision instantly became a rallying cry for activists on both the right and left. Congressional Democrats are already proposing a law to nullify the decision. “It's shameful that a woman's access to contraception is even up for debate in 2014,” Senator Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) said.   Conservative blogger Erick Erickson crowed, “My religion trumps your ‘right’ to employer-subsidized, consequence-free sex.”

How did the issue become so big so fast? Because it touches some extremely sensitive nerves in the body politic.

Islamic State appeals to only four percent of Syrians: poll

(A man purported to be the reclusive leader of the militant Islamic State Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has made what would be his first public appearance at a mosque in the centre of Iraq's second city, Mosul, according to a video recording posted on the Internet on July 5, 2014, in this still image taken from video. There had previously been reports on social media that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi would make his first public appearance since his Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) changed its name to the Islamic State and declared him caliph. The Iraqi government denied that the video, which carried Friday's date, was credible. It was also not possible to immediately confirm the authenticity of the recording or the date when it was made. REUTERS/Social Media Website via Reuters TV)

(A man purported to be the reclusive leader of the militant Islamic State Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has made what would be his first public appearance at a mosque in the centre of Iraq’s second city, Mosul, according to a video recording posted on the Internet on July 5, 2014, in this still image taken from video. REUTERS/Social Media Website via Reuters TV)

Only four percent of Syrians believe Islamic State insurgents, who have captured large swathes of Syria and Iraq, represent their interests, according to research conducted by a British polling group published on Wednesday.

The survey, conducted by Opinion Research Business (ORB) with 1,014 adults in face-to-face interviews, found that about one in three Syrians believe President Bashar al-Assad and his government best represent Syrians’ interests.

Vatican bank clean-up and account closures wipe out 2013 profit

An exterior view of the tower of the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR) in Vatican City in 2011. A preliminary inquiry by the Vatican bank after the arrest of a Vatican prelate on suspicion of trying to smuggle huge sums of money into Italy from Switzerland found "clear failings" at the institution, a source close to the bank said on July 4, 2013. The board of the bank, formally known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), held a meeting on Thursday that also addressed the shock resignation of its two top managers on Monday. The meeting had not been made public. Picture taken in 2011. REUTERS/Stringer

(The Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), or Vatican bank, is located in the round tower at the right in this view of Vatican City in 2011. REUTERS/Stringer)

The Vatican bank has blocked the accounts of more than 2,000 clients and ended some 3,000 “customer relationships” as part of a clean-up process that nearly wiped out its profit, its 2013 financial statement showed on Tuesday.

The bank has been hit by years of scandal, including money laundering allegations and is about to be restructured with a new president and a new board.

Indonesian presidential hopeful prays quick Mecca trip will win votes

(Indonesian presidential candidate Joko "Jokowi" Widodo runs on the stage after delivering a speech in front of his supporters at Gelora Bung Karno stadium in Jakarta July 5, 2014. The closest and dirtiest presidential race in Indonesia's young democracy could be decided on Wednesday among the mosques and rice paddies of West Java, the nation's most populous province. Former special forces chief Prabowo Subianto and Jakarta Governor Joko "Jokowi" Widodo are running neck-and-neck in opinion polls, leaving markets in Southeast Asia's largest economy under pressure and on tenterhooks awaiting the outcome. Picture taken July 5, 2014. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside )

(Indonesian presidential candidate Joko “Jokowi” Widodo runs on the stage after delivering a speech in front of his supporters at Gelora Bung Karno stadium in Jakarta July 5, 2014. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside )

The front-runner in Wednesday’s Indonesian presidential election has flown to Mecca on a whirlwind pilgrimage in a last-ditch bid to win voters among the world’s largest Muslim population and put to rest damaging suggestions that he is really a Christian.

Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has seen his huge early lead in polls narrow sharply in what has become Indonesia’s dirtiest and tightest presidential race in the face of a sharp and well-financed campaign by his rival, ex-general Prabowo Subianto.

UK imams urge British Muslims to shun Syria and Iraq

(Men attend Friday prayers at the central mosque in Birmingham, central England February 2, 2007. REUTERS/Rui Vieira)

(An imam addresses men attending Friday prayers at the central mosque in Birmingham, central England February 2, 2007. REUTERS/Rui Vieira)

More than 100 Islamic prayer-leaders from various denominations of Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims have signed a letter calling on British Muslims not to travel to Iraq or Syria to fight.

“We urge the British Muslim communities to continue the generous and tireless efforts to support all of those affected by the crisis in Syria and unfolding events in Iraq, but to do so from the UK in a safe and responsible way,” said the open letter, released on Friday (for text, click here).

Muslims in China’s Xinjiang told to ignore Ramadan customs

(An Imam calls on Muslim Uighurs for their afternoon prayer with a home-made iron loudspeaker on the roof of the Kuqa Mosque, the second biggest mosque in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, August 20, 2012. Picture taken August 20, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer )

(An Imam calls  Muslim Uighurs to prayer with a home-made iron loudspeaker on the roof of the Kuqa Mosque, the second biggest mosque in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, August 20, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer )

Officials in China’s restive western region of Xinjiang have told Muslims to ignore religious customs during the holy month of Ramadan, an indication of what rights groups say is discrimination targeting the Uighur minority group.

The fasting month follows a series of attacks around China, centred on Xinjiang, that Beijing has blamed on Islamists they say are seeking to establish an independent state called East Turkestan.