Lawmakers promise best behavior for Pope Francis’s visit – By Cristina Marcos – 09/14/15 06:51 PM EDT

Lawmakers are expected in the coming days to receive protocol guidance ahead of Pope Francis’s Sept. 24 address to a joint session of Congress.

The guidance comes amid fears that the first-ever papal address to Congress could spark a State of the Union-like atmosphere given the pontiff’s politics, where one-half of the chamber stands to cheer on the pope while the other sits on their hands, grim-faced.

Francis is famous for making political audiences uncomfortable, and his calls for global leaders to reduce inequality and to act on climate change might sound like an address by President Obama to some Republican lawmakers.

At the same time, the pope’s opposition to abortion rights could make some Democrats uncomfortable and lead to GOP cheers, especially given the charged debate over federal funding for Planned Parenthood that’s threatening to trigger a government shutdown at the end of the month.

Lawmakers interviewed by The Hill ahead of Francis’s visit predict nothing of the sort.

They insist Democrats and Republicans will be conscious to not politicize the speech, and say they will avoid the kinds of theatrics familiar to State of the Union audiences.

“Congress will be on its very best behavior on this occasion,” said Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.).

Lawmakers anticipate they won’t applaud or cheer based on political preferences.

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Pope Francis says he senses an ‘atmosphere of war’ in the world – AFP 7:30AM ET

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Stringer/ReutersPope Francis

Pope Francis arrived in Sarajevo on Saturday for a visit aimed at bolstering reconciliation between war-scarred Bosnia’s Serb, Croat and Muslim communities.

Pope Francis said the world was beset by an “atmosphere of war” and attacked those who are guilty of inciting and fomenting it.

Many conflicts across the planet amount to “a kind of third world war being fought piecemeal and, in the context of global communications, we sense an atmosphere of war,” the pontiff said in a mass at Sarajevo’s Olympic Stadium during a one-day visit to the Bosnian capital.

The one-day trip comes 20 years after the end of a 1992-95 conflict that ripped the Balkan state apart and left it permanently divided along ethnic lines.

Around 5,000 police officers were on duty for the ten-hour visit, during which more than 100,000 people are expected to turn out to see the Argentinian pontiff.

As Francis’s plane touched down just after 0700 GMT, tens of thousands of people were already waiting for him in Sarajevo’s Olympic stadium ahead of an open air mass later in the day.

“I am here because I want peace across the whole world and an end to war and hate,” said Branimir Vujca, 50, a doctor from Kiseljac in central Bosnia, who had come with his wife and three children.

Around 20,000 visitors from neighbouring Croatia, which is predominately Catholic, were expected to join the crowds.

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For Pope Francis, Personnel Is Policy – By Tierney Sneed March 13, 2015 | 12:01 a.m. EDT

The pope’s efforts to defuse the American culture wars have included leadership changes in the U.S. church.

Pope Francis greets bishops during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 11, 2015.

Pope Francis greets bishops during his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City on Wednesday.

Pope Francis has joked that he won’t be around forever. But in the two years since being named head of the Roman Catholic Church, he’s seen to it that his agenda will outlast his papacy, with a number of important – and at times surprising – personnel decisions.

In a sprawling organization like the Catholic Church, with its 1.2 billion members worldwide, promotions and demotions can have a wide-ranging effect in terms of how leaders shepherd their parishioners and the messages such moves send to the broader church. And the clergy members the pope has chosen to elevate back up the message of inclusion and shifting priorities Francis has propagated through both word and deed.

“Personnel is policy,” says John Carr, director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University.

In Francis’ speech after the announcement of his election, the Argentine previously known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio noted that his “brother cardinals have gone to the ends of the earth” in choosing him as the first non-European pope in more than a millennium. And he has followed their lead: A Pew Research Center report notes that under Francis, European cardinals no longer make up the majority of the Vatican’s cardinal electors, with the latest round of “princes of the church” including cardinals from countries like Ethiopia, Myanmar, Tonga and Vietnam.

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Pope Francis’s edict on climate change will anger deniers and US churches – John Vidal Saturday 27 December 2014 16.06 EST

Pope Francis was a key player in thawing relations between the US and Cuba. Photograph: Franco Origlia/Getty Images

He has been called the “superman pope”, and it would be hard to deny that Pope Francis has had a good December. Cited by President Barack Obama as a key player in the thawing relations between the US and Cuba, the Argentinian pontiff followed that by lecturing his cardinals on the need to clean up Vatican politics. But can Francis achieve a feat that has so far eluded secular powers and inspire decisive action on climate change?

It looks as if he will give it a go. In 2015, the pope will issue a lengthy message on the subject to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, give an address to the UN general assembly and call a summit of the world’s main religions.

The reason for such frenetic activity, says Bishop Marcelo Sorondo, chancellor of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences, is the pope’s wish to directly influence next year’s crucial UN climate meeting in Paris, when countries will try to conclude 20 years of fraught negotiations with a universal commitment to reduce emissions.

“Our academics supported the pope’s initiative to influence next year’s crucial decisions,” Sorondo told Cafod, the Catholic development agency, at a meeting in London. “The idea is to convene a meeting with leaders of the main religions to make all people aware of the state of our climate and the tragedy of social exclusion.”

Following a visit in March to Tacloban, the Philippine city devastated in 2012 by typhoon Haiyan, the pope will publish a rare encyclical on climate change and human ecology. Urging all Catholics to take action on moral and scientific grounds, the document will be sent to the world’s 5,000 Catholic bishops and 400,000 priests, who will distribute it to parishioners.

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Pope lambasts mobsters, says mafiosi ‘are excommunicated’ – BY PHILIP PULLELLA SIBARI Italy Sat Jun 21, 2014 2:38pm EDT

Pope lambasts mobsters, says mafiosi ‘are excommunicated’

(Reuters) – Francis on Saturday issued the strongest attack on organised crime groups by a pontiff in two decades, accusing them of practising the “the adoration of evil” and saying mafiosi are excommunicated.

It was the first time a pope had used the word excommunication – a total cutoff from the Church – in direct reference to members of organised crime.

“Those who in their lives follow this path of evil, as mafiosi do, are not in communion with God. They are excommunicated,” he said in impromptu comments at a Mass before hundreds of thousands of people in one of Italy’s most crime-infested areas.

To sustained applause he told the crowd: “This evil must be fought against, it must be pushed aside. We must say no to it.” He branded the local crime group, the ‘Ndrangheta, as an example of the “adoration of evil and contempt of the common good” and said the Church would exert its full force in efforts to combat organised crime.

“Our children are asking for it, our young people are asking for it. They are in need of hope and faith can help respond to this need,” he said.

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Vatican spokesman Father Ciro Benedettini said the pope’s stern words did not constitute a formal over-arching decree of canon (Church) law, regarding excommunication, which is a formal legal process.

Rather, he said it was more of a direct message to members of organised crime that they had effectively excommunicated themselves, reminding them that they could not participate in Church sacraments or other activities because they had distanced themselves from God through their criminal actions.

Still, the use of the highly charged word by a pope was significant because many members of organised crime in Italy see themselves as part of a religious, cult-like group, take part in sacraments, go to church and in some cases have also found complicity by some churchmen in the south.

The pope, Benedettini said, was trying to “isolate mafiosi within their own communities,” sending a message that they should not in any way be looked up to as “men of honour”.


In 1993 Pope John Paul sternly warned members of Sicily’s Mafia that they would “one day face the justice of God”. The Mafia responded several months later with bomb attacks against several churches in Rome, including the Basilica of St. John’s, which is a pope’s church in his capacity of bishop of Rome.

Francis spoke in a homily at the end of day-long trip to the southern region of Calabria, home of the home of the mafia-style ‘Ndrangheta which investigators say has spread around the world.

The ‘Ndrangheta has been much harder for investigators to combat than the Sicilian Mafia because its structure is more lateral than hierarchical and its tightly-knit crime families are less flashy than the Sicilian mob and harder to penetrate.

A 2013 study by Demoskopia, an economic and social research institute, estimated the ‘Ndrangheta’s annual turnover at some 53 billion euros ($72 billion) in 30 countries, equivalent to about 3.5 percent of Italy’s total official economic output.

Around half of its revenues came through drug trafficking, the study found.

Francis made the trip in part to pay tribute to Nicola “Coco” Campolongo, who was killed in the town along with his grandfather in an organised crime attack last January.

The charred body of the boy, who had been entrusted to his grandfather Giuseppe Iannicelli after his parents were jailed on drugs charges, was found along with those of Iannicelli and a Moroccan woman in a burnt-out car in the town.

Francis, who last January strongly denounced the murder and asked the killers to repent, comforted the boy’s father and other relatives during a meeting a Vatican spokesman called highly emotional.

“Never again violence against children. May a child never again have to suffer like this. I pray for him continuously. Do not despair,” the spokesman quoted the pope as saying.

The boy’s parents and grandfather were part of a drugs trafficking clan of the ‘Ndrangheta. Social workers have come under criticism for entrusting the boy to his maternal grandfather, a convicted drugs runner who was out on bail.

The bishop of the area the pope visited, Nunzio Galantino, is seen as one of the most progressive in Italy’s poorer, underdeveloped south and has taken strong stands against organised crime.

But there have been instances of collusion of some priests in other areas of Calabria where the ‘Ndrangheta is strongest, further south along the Italian peninsula near Reggio Calabria.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Stephen Powell)