FaithWorld

from The Great Debate:

Tackling inequality: Where a president meets a pope

There has been much speculation about President Barack Obama’s meeting with Pope Francis on Thursday. One Catholic church authority asserted, “it is not the task of the pope to offer a detailed and complete analysis of contemporary reality.” The pope got that message -- he wrote it himself in his first official “Papal Exhortation” last year.

Yet Francis has also asserted that his papacy has a “grave responsibility” to  “exhort all the communities to an ever watchful scrutiny of the signs of the times” -- particularly to know the face of the poor and outcast.

For the pope, this scrutiny must take in the fierce public debate about government cuts that now overshadows U.S. politics. The left and the right are battling over sharp reductions in foods stamps and unemployment benefits, denial of healthcare to those least able to afford it and cuts in many programs designed to help the poor and needy.

Francis has dedicated his papacy to helping those marginalized by harsh economic policies and personal setbacks. He advocates for a “poor church,” one that can give a voice to the voiceless. So poverty of all kinds will likely be an urgent topic when the pope and the president sit down.

Francis, of course, directly addresses only the 1.2 billion humans who are in the Catholic orbit, and Obama was elected to serve only one nation. Both, however, have “gone global” -- their words and actions affect “present realities” around the world.

from The Great Debate:

Pope Francis: Beyond the compelling gestures

The most talked about person in the world -- no surprise there! -- is Pope Francis. Polls and Internet traffic confirm: No celebrity even comes close to him in fame or favor.

When it comes to “followers,” the pope does have an enormous head start, as leader of the 1.2 billion-member Roman Catholic Church. He also inspires unmatched curiosity and attention globally among many millions from other faiths and no faiths.

Francis comments most effectively through compelling gestures. The public sees him kissing the bare foot of an imprisoned Muslim woman, or the illness-ravaged face of a man he is blessing. When a child jumps to his side or grabs his papal skull cap, the pope is attentive, undistracted. Less instantaneous, but still revealing, gestures find him riding public buses, driving his own old car, living in humble quarters or sneaking off in the night to minister to the homeless.

from The Great Debate:

Why Fellini’s films speak to the pope

La Strada may be almost 60 years old, but Federico Fellini's masterpiece is in the news. In an interview published late last week, Pope Francis called La Strada his favorite film.

Some might have expected a more church-friendly movie, like Roberto Rossellini's Rome, Open City -- which Fellini co-wrote -- about a priest helping the Italian Resistance fight Nazi occupiers during World War Two. While he also mentions it, the pontiff's favorite choice crystallizes his embrace of the fallible and the marginalized.

Consistent with his refusal to speak out against traditional hot-button topics like abortion, contraception and homosexuality, Pope Francis reveals in this movie selection a humanism that links him to the Italian director of such other classics as 8 1/2, Nights of Cabiria, La Dolce Vita and Amarcord.

from The Human Impact:

Is the new Pope bad news for women?

As most of you probably know already, the newly-elected Pope Francis represents a lot of firsts: First Jesuit to become pope. First Latin American (or from the ‘New World’). First pope to take the name Francis.

I’m Italian I take a special interest in his election. He’s the new archbishop of Rome and – due to a long history of mingling between the Italian state and the Catholic Church, due to culture and religion – Italians tend to follow Papal elections with a particular, even if unwanted, attention.

I was messaging my mom on Skype the night the whole thing happened - live webcam on St. Peter’s Square and everything - and I have to say a sort of emotional shiver went through my body as she texted “Biancaaaaaaaaaa” (white) to me as puffs of white smoke rose from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel.

from Photographers' Blog:

“I will show you the Pope”

Rome, Italy

By Alessandro Bianchi

After what seemed like a lifetime of standing in the rain, "Habemus Papam" (We have a Pope!).

I woke up after basically not sleeping at all. Another day and now what? We had no idea what Pope Francis would do. Nobody knew. Only that he was due to attend a small prayer at the Santa Maria Maggiore - a basilica in central Rome. So, fellow photographer Stefano Rellandini and I got on our scooters and went to take a look. When we got there, there was a lot of people - media, tourists (the basilica is right next to the main train station), curious bystanders, and a big wall which surrounds the basilica. Stefano stayed with the pack outside the main entrance and I went for a little wander. How could I see above this wall? The only way was to go into a local school. I walked in, looked for the principle and said "Come with me I have something to show you. I will show you the Pope." He smiled and said "Okay let's see." I said, "I have to have this picture, or my boss will be very unhappy..."

We entered into a class of school kids, around 15 years old (to tell the truth I wasn't really paying attention to them). Then came one of the longest moments of my life as I walked through the class and saw that from their window I could see into the courtyard of the basilica. I saw cars, police and a couple of priests. This was it. Seconds later he appeared at the doorway and I started taking pictures. I said to the kids "It's the Pope, it's the pope. He's here, say something," but they were a little star-struck and I had to say "Yes, it really is him - say something." So the kids all shouted "Viva il Papa, viva papa." Then one of his close cardinals tapped him on the shoulder and pointed at the kids (or more importantly me). Then the Pope waved and smiled and finally I could relax.

China criticizes Vatican for excommunicating bishops

China said on Monday the Vatican’s recent excommunication of two Chinese bishops who were ordained without papal approval was “unreasonable” and “rude,” in a sign of escalating tensions between the Vatican and Beijing.

In the government’s first response to the Vatican’s recent denunciations of the ordinations by China’s state-sanctioned Catholic church, the State Bureau of Religious Affairs said it was “greatly concerned” about the excommunication of Joseph Huang Bingzhang and Lei Shiyin.

The “threats of excommunication” are “extremely unreasonable and rude, which has severely hurt the feelings of Chinese Catholics and made its members feel sad,” state news agency Xinhua quoted a spokesman for the bureau as saying.

Malaysia sets up Vatican ties in gesture to Christian minority

(Pope Benedict receives a gift by Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak (L) during a meeting at the Pope's summer residence in Castelgandolfo July 18, 2011/Osservatore Romano)

Malaysia and the Vatican agreed on Monday to establish diplomatic ties, a move seen by analysts as a bid by the Malaysian government to appease minority Christians in the mainly Muslim Southeast Asian country. Prime Minister Najib Razak is trying to mend the government’s relations with Christians who make up about 9 percent of the country’s 28 million after a rise in religious tensions ahead of general elections widely expected next year.

Religious tensions have risen in Malaysia following general elections in 2008 when the government recorded its worst performance after mainly Chinese and Indian non-Muslim minorities abandoned Najib’s ruling coalition, complaining of marginalization.

Vatican excommunicates pro-govt Chinese Catholic bishop, criticizes Beijing

(Christmas mass at a Catholic church in Beijing December 24, 2009./David Gray)

A Chinese bishop ordained without papal approval has been excommunicated from the Catholic Church, the Vatican has said, bringing relations between the Vatican and Beijing to a new low. In a statement branding Thursday’s ordination illegitimate, the Vatican said Pope Benedict “deplores” the way communist authorities are treating Chinese Catholics who want to remain faithful to Rome instead of to the state-backed Church.

China’s state-sanctioned Catholic Church ordained Joseph Huang Bingzhang as bishop in Shantou city in southern Guangdong province on Thursday despite warnings he would not be recognized because the city has a Vatican-approved bishop.

“Consequently, the Holy See does not recognize him … and he lacks authority to govern the Catholic community of diocese,” the Vatican said on Saturday.

Irish Catholic Church concealed child abuse even after new prevention rules in 1990s

(Cloyne Cathedral, 7 May 2009/John Armagh)

A government-sponsored report said on Wednesday the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Ireland continued to conceal the sexual abuse of children by priests even after it introduced rules in the mid-1990s to protect minors.

Revelations of rape and beatings by members of religious orders and the priesthood in the past have shattered the dominant role of the Catholic Church in Ireland. But the latest report into the handling of sex abuse claims in the diocese of Cloyne, in County Cork, shows that senior-ranking clergy were still trying to cover up abuse allegations almost until the present day.

“This is not a catalogue of failure from a different era. This is not about an Ireland of 50 years ago. This is about Ireland now,” Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald told a news conference.

German court fines SSPX Bishop Williamson for denying Holocaust

(Photo: Bishop Williamson leaves for London after expulsion order from Argentina, 24 Feb 2009/Enrique Marcarian)

Ultra-traditionalist Catholic bishop Richard Williamson was fined 6,500 euros Monday by a German court for publicly denying the Holocaust in 2009, a court spokesman said. British-born Williamson, 71, who belongs to a controversial Catholic splinter group, the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), was appealing a 2010 fine of 10,000 euros for telling Swedish TV that no more than 300,000 Jews perished in the Holocaust.

He also denied in the interview the existence of gas chambers at Nazi concentration camps. Holocaust denial is a hate crime in Germany. Consensus among historians is that the Nazis killed six million Jews in the Holocaust.