Pope Francis proclaimed Mother Teresa a saint before a crowd of more than 100,000 in St. Peter’s Square, bestowing the Catholic Church’s highest honor on one of the most widely admired public figures in recent history.
CARDINAL ROBERT SARAH (pronounced Sar-AH, with the accent on the last syllable) has never been afraid to speak out. Such was his defiance of his native Guinea’s dictator, Ahmed Sékou Touré, that he was at the top of a list of candidates for assassination found when the strongman died in 1984. Since coming to Rome in 2001 he has emerged as standard-bearer-in-chief of the traditionalists: Roman Catholics who prize doctrinal certainty over adapting to changing times. Many in the church’s higher reaches would like to reverse some of the innovations that followed the Second Vatican Council, which closed in 1965 (indeed, they often claim its intentions were misinterpreted).
As the head of the department overseeing the church’s charitable activities, Cardinal Sarah brought Caritas, its main development agency, under tighter Vatican control and in 2011 jettisoned its liberal-minded director, Lesley-Anne Knight. At a recent synod, or meeting of bishops, called by the pope to discuss issues that split liberals and traditionalists relating to the family and sexual orientation, he vigorously opposed change. On July 5th he went further, openly defying Pope Francis. The issue was one of immense symbolic importance for Catholics. At a conference in London Cardinal Sarah, who now heads the Vatican’s liturgy department, asked priests to resume celebrating mass facing east, with their backs to the congregation, as they had done before the Second Vatican Council.
Seldom do Catholic leaders clash so publicly. The Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, wrote to the priests of his diocese reminding them that an instruction “approved by the highest authority in the church” told them to face the congregation whenever possible. The pope saw Cardinal Sarah on July 9th, after which the Holy See said the cardinal’s words, which went against that settled position and the pope’s known wishes, had been wrongly interpreted.
Pope Francis talks to journalists on his flight back to Rome on Sunday, following a visit to Armenia. — Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images
Aboard a flight home from Armenia, Pope Francis fielded a pointed question from reporters: Did he agree with German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who, in the wake of the Orlando shooting, said gays deserve an apology from the Church?
His answer was frank.
“I believe that the Church not only should apologize to the person who is gay whom it has offended,” the Pope told reporters, “but has to apologize to the poor, to exploited women, to children exploited for labor; it has to ask forgiveness for having blessed many weapons.”
Marx, a close adviser to Pope Francis, had told a conference in Dublin that the Church must apologize for having consistently marginalized gay people in the course of its history. At the mention of the Orlando shooting, the Catholic News Service reports the Pope closed his eyes as if in pain — then expanded on Marx’s comments.
Francis stands firm amid a tide of Donald Trump-fuelled xenophobia in the presidential campaign but pontiff challenges some progressive views
Pope Francis has channelled the spirit of America’s founding fathers to make an impassioned embrace of immigrants and cultural diversity, insisting that newcomers to the United States must not be ashamed of their traditions.
Speaking on Saturday from the Philadelphia hall where rebels gathered in 1776 to assert their freedom from Britain, the pontiff told a crowd of thousands that immigrants brought “gifts” which helped to “renew” the US.
“I ask you not to forget that, like those who came here before you, you bring many gifts to your new nation,” the pope said before an estimated 24,000 people gathered at Independence Hall. “You should never be ashamed of your traditions. Do not forget the lessons you learned from your elders, which are something you can bring to enrich the life of this American land.”
It was a strong rebuff to the Donald Trump-fuelled xenophobia roiling conservatives on the presidential campaign trail, and stalling immigration reform efforts in Washington.
While declining to fully indulge conservatives on issues across the spectrum of the modern US culture wars, the pontiff also challenged some progressive views by denouncing discrimination against religion and making a veiled criticism of abortion.
“Religious freedom certainly means the right to worship God, individually and in community, as our consciences dictate,” Francis said. “But religious liberty, by its nature, transcends places of worship and the private sphere of individuals and families.”
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.
ROME—Pope Francis responded to Europe’s burgeoning immigration crisis Sunday, asking every Catholic church on the continent to set an example of Christian mercy by taking in a family of refugees.
“May every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary in Europe host a family,” the pope told a crowd in St. Peter’s Square after reciting the traditional noon Angelus prayer.
There are approximately 120,000 parishes in Europe, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. The pope added that the Vatican itself would receive two families in the next few days.
The pope has made migration one of the major social causes of his pontificate. Only a few months after his election in 2013, he visited the southern Mediterranean island of Lampedusa, a major entry point for undocumented immigrants to Europe, where he denounced rich nations’ indifference to the thousands who had died trying to cross the sea from North Africa.
When Pope Francis released his encyclical on the environment earlier this month, he faced some criticism from people who said religious leaders do not have the correct expertise to speak authoritatively about climate change.
Acclaimed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is not one of those people.
On Tuesday, the author and host of the late-night talk show StarTalk tweeted that despite being a religious figure, Pope Francis is more than qualified to talk about scientific issues. In a series of tweets, Tyson noted that the Vatican Observatory employs dozens of scientists who inform the pope on issues like climate change.
“Yes, it’s possible to be a supreme holy figure yet still know what you are talking about regarding the Climate,” he tweeted.
The Pope employs a dozen full time astrophysicists as part of the four-century old Vatican Observatory http://t.co/nIWzPHooDu
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) June 30, 2015
Yes, it’s possible to be a supreme holy figure yet still know what you are talking about regarding the Climate.
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) June 30, 2015
This isn’t the first time a scientist has spoken in defense of the pope. Independent climate scientists who reviewed the encyclical following its publication found little to argue with in terms of its scientific language.
During that review, Rutgers University professor of environmental sciences Anthony Broccoli said the Pope’s status as a religious leader had nothing to do with whether he could get the science correct.
“Pope Francis doesn’t have to be a scientist to arrive at these conclusions,” he told ThinkProgress at the time. “All he would have to do is consult the extensive reports on climate change that have been written by the world’s climate scientists in a process organized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. These reports have been written to inform policymakers and stakeholders about the state of the science and they are a reliable source of information.”
Aside from having a cadre of scientists by his side, Pope Francis has his own science background, achieving a technician’s degree in chemistry before becoming a priest. Indeed, in his latest encyclical, Francis stressed that religion and science can enter into an “intense and productive dialogue with each other.”
Tyson seems to agree with that idea, too. Last year, while hosting the show Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Tyson drew attention for his implications that faith can help science blossom by producing “fantastic, world-changing ideas.“