TIME faith

Balloons Replace Doves as the Vatican Symbol of Peace

Vatican Pope
Colored balloons released by children fly next to a statue at the end of the noon Angelus prayer recited by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Jan. 25, 2015. Greogrio Borgia—AP

After doves released last year were attacked

Children visiting the Vatican released balloons instead of doves Sunday in a ritual that serves as a gesture of peace.

The change follows an incident last year when doves released together by children and Pope Francis were attacked by two other birds, a crow and a seagull, the Associated Press reports. The episode created unwanted attention for the Pope, who is named for animal lover Francis of Assisi.

“Here’s the balloons that mean, ‘peace,'” Pope Francis said Sunday as children released the balloons. Pope John Paul II began the tradition of releasing doves to acknowledge efforts for peace worldwide.

[AP]

TIME faith

Pope Francis to Families: Get Off Your Screens and Actually Talk to Each Other

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Pope Francis waves to faithful as he arrives for the private Audience to the Accountants and Accounting Experts in Aula Paolo VI at the Vatican, on November 14, 2014. Andreas Solaro—AFP/Getty Images

The Pontiff says technology should be used to enable conversation, not hinder it

Pope Francis wants families to know that technology isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be.

“By growing daily in our awareness of the vital importance of encountering others, we will employ technology wisely, rather than letting ourselves be dominated by it,” the Pontiff said Friday in his annual message for World Communications Day.

In other words, cut down on your screen time, kids.

Not that mothers and fathers aren’t beyond reproach: “Parents are the primary educators,” he said, “but they cannot be left to their own devices.”

“The media can be a hindrance if they become a way to avoid listening to others, to evade physical contact, to fill up every moment of silence and rest, so that we forget that ‘silence is an integral element of communication; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist,'” Pope Francis said.

This isn’t the first time the Pope has implied those family-centric Apple ads might be misleading. “Maybe many young people waste too many hours on futile things,” like “chatting on the Internet or with smartphones,” he said last year.

Even in 1967, long before the dawn of the selfie, Pope Paul VI remarked upon the rapidly expanding world of communications, noting how television and other media leave “their deep mark upon the mentality and the conscience of man who is being pressed and almost overpowered by a multiplicity of contradictory appeals.”

It’s like they say in Proverbs 18:2: “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion [on Twitter].”

TIME Sex

How Birth Control Has Changed Over the Centuries

A history of contraception, in all its many forms

Birth control may still be a hot button issue today in some countries, but men and women have been using contraceptives for thousands of years, albeit with varied results.

In ancient China, a popular remedy involved drinking a cocktail of lead and mercury. In ancient Egypt, a paste made out of honey, sodium carbonate, and crocodile dung was a popular form of contraception.

However, not all historic forms of contraception were based on superstition. A prototype of the cervical cap has been in use since the 18th century, and cave drawings in France appear to show a version of a condom.

For much of the 19th and early 20th centuries women in the U.S. had a hard time getting their hands on effective contraception. Due to anti-obscenity laws, doctors were not allowed to spread information about birth control.

To compensate for the lack of official methods, household products like Lysol and Coca-Cola were often used, as they were believed to kill sperm.

In 1960 modern birth control was born, when the FDA approved the first oral contraceptive pill for women. Within 5 years, millions of American women had prescriptions for the pill. Today, 99% of women of child-bearing age say they have used some form of birth control.

However, universal access to birth control still does not exist worldwide. Some 220 million women from developing countries say they want to use birth control but don’t have access.

TIME portfolio

The Best Pictures of the Week: Jan. 16 – Jan. 23

From escalating violence in eastern Ukraine and a thousands strong march in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Ala. to priests photographing Pope Francis in the Philippines and a surprising, glowing seascape in Hong Kong, TIME presents the best pictures of the week.

TIME Philippines

Pope Francis and the Mystery of Manila’s Vanishing Street Children

A homeless child in the streets of Manila in 2014.
A homeless child in the streets of Manila in 2014. Noel Celis—AFP/Getty Images

Was the Philippine capital really purged of unsightly urchins for the Pope's recent visit, as media reports allege?

Pope Francis took the helm of the Catholic Church last year, vowing to refashion the institution “for the poor.” Yet during his recent five-day visit to the Philippines, where he presided over Mass for more than six million rapturous worshippers, it appeared many of the nation’s most impoverished were cruelly banished from view.

As the Pontiff touched down in Asia’s most Catholic nation, reports emerged that street children had been rounded up and caged in order to sanitize Manila’s streets. Local authorities vehemently denied this was a case, pointing out that the accompanying photographs of an emaciated toddler and young girl handcuffed to a metal pole had in fact been taken months earlier.

However, rumors continued to swirl as more anecdotal evidence arrived. So was the Philippine capital purged of unsightly urchins? In a word, yes, although only a small fraction of this was anything new.

According to local activists, street children are constantly being rounded up across this sprawling metropolis of 12 million. This is generally for vagrancy and petty crime — they are often scapegoats for the deeds committed by organized gangs — and, although numbers are hard to pin down, the Pope’s visit seemed to herald a slight uptick.

“There’s definitely been a ramp up,” Catherine Scerri, deputy director of the Bahay Tuluyan NGO that helps street children, tells TIME. “They were definitely told not to be visible, and many of them felt that if they didn’t move they would be taken forcibly.”

Those detained end up a various municipal detention centers sprinkled all over Metro Manila, says Father Shay Cullen, the Nobel Peace Prize-nominated founder of the Preda Foundation NGO. These local adult jails each adjoin euphemistically named “children’s homes,” which, like the adult facility, has bars on the windows.

Children are summarily kept for anything up to three months without charge, with little ones sharing cells with young adults. Many fall prey to serious sexual and physical abuse: Kids just eight-years-old are often tormented into performing sex acts on the older detainees, says Cullen. (Amnesty International documented such abuses in a December report.)

“They are locked up in a dungeon,” says Cullen, explaining that some 20,000 children see the inside of a jail cell annually across the Philippines. “We keep asking why they put these little kids in with the older guys.”

Nevertheless, Philippines Welfare Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman explicitly denies that homeless children were rounded up for the Papal visit, highlighting that they were, in fact, central to the 78-year-old Pontiff’s reception. Some 400 homeless kids — albeit in bright, new threads — sang at a special event (and posed awkward theological questions.)

Any children detained, explains Juliano-Soliman, were “abandoned, physically or mentally challenged or found to be vagrant or in trouble with the law, and we are taking care of them.” Father Cullen’s allegations, Juliano-Soliman suggests, are a sympathy ploy to win donations “One can’t help but think it’s a good fundraising action,” she says wryly.

However, Juliano-Soliman did confirm that 100 homeless families — comprising 490 parents and children — were taken off the street of Roxas Boulevard, the palm-fringed thoroughfare arcing Manila Bay along which Pope Francis traveled several times, and taken about an hour and a half’s drive away to the plush Chateau Royal Batangas resort. Room rates there range from $90 to $500 per night.

This sojourn lasted from Jan. 14, the day before Pope Francis’s visit, until Jan. 19, the day he left. It was organized by the Department of Social Welfare’s Modified Conditional Cash Transfer program, which provides grants to aid “families with special needs.”

Juliano-Soliman says this was done so that families would “not be vulnerable to the influx of people coming to witness the Pope.” Pressed to clarify, she expressed fears that the destitute “could be seen as not having a positive influence in the crowd” and could be “used by people who do not have good intentions.”

For Scerri, though, this reasoning doesn’t cut it: “It’s very difficult to believe that children and families who have lived on the streets for most of their lives need to be protected from what was a very joyous, very happy, very peaceful celebration.”

In fact, families involved were only told two days prior that they were to make the trip to Chateau Royal Batangas. “Many felt that if they didn’t participate that they would be rounded up,” says Scerri, adding that those who returned to their usual digs by Malate Catholic Church found large signs had been painted in the interim that prohibited sleeping rough.

Ultimately, whether jailed or stashed in a resort, “there’s nothing new,” says Father Cullen. “Every time dignitaries come it’s a common phenomenon for more children to be locked up.”

So where did Manila’s street children go? The truth is that most people didn’t really care, just as long as they did.

Read next: Pope Calls Out Philippines on Corruption and ‘Scandalous’ Inequality

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Pope Francis

Stop Breeding Like Rabbits? The Pope Misses the Point on Contraception

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Pope Francis adresses journalists sitting onboard a plane during his trip back to Rome, on Jan. 19, 2015. Giuseppe Cacace—AFP/Getty Images

Emily is Beijing Correspondent at TIME.

It is not the mom of seven who should be scolded for "irresponsibility"

On his flight back to Rome on Monday, Pope Francis offered the press corps some friendly advice on family planning. During his recent travels in the Philippines, he said, he met a mother who risked her life to bear seven children. Chiding her “irresponsibility,” he said the Catholic Church’s prohibition on modern contraception does not mean large families are a must. “Some think, excuse me if I use the word, that in order to be good Catholics, we have to be like rabbits,” he said. “But no.”

Now, I can’t argue with the Pope on matters of doctrine — that’s his specialty. But in the Philippines, the church’s stance on “artificial” contraception is also a national political issue. And its opposition to the use of things like birth-control pills and condoms is a matter of public health and human rights. From that perspective, his decree is deeply problematic.

The Philippines’ Catholic hierarchy has fought long and hard to restrict access to prophylactics. Over the past few decades, as most countries embraced family planning, the Philippines has moved in the opposite direction, discouraging the use of contraception and prohibiting abortion under any circumstance. They cast condom use as anti-Catholic and anti-Filipino, insisting that couples ought to use “natural methods.” That means abstinence — or abstinence on all but a woman’s least fertile days. (I once got a briefing on this from a bishop; it was awkward.)

Opposition from the church, particularly the influential Catholic Bishops Conference, kept the country’s family-planning bill on the shelves for more than a decade. Yet the Holy See is at odds with the stated preferences of Filipinos. Research suggests that most support voluntary family planning, and surveys show an unmet need, meaning a large number of women would like to control the number and timing of their pregnancies but can’t. That gap is highest (about 25%) among poor women, who, for instance, might be less able to afford pills or condoms, or may be less educated on their use.

The antiprophylactic rhetoric is also at odds with what we know about family planning in terms of public health. As social policy, abstinence does not work. Multiple studies show that without access to affordable, modern methods of contraception, the number of unplanned or unwanted pregnancies rises, as do rates of sexually transmitted infections and unsafe abortions. (Here is a telling case study from Manila.)

Finally, whether she chose to have seven children or did not have other options, the woman Pope Francis met — and all others — are entitled to make their own decisions about reproduction and reproductive health without coercion, danger or disrespect.

“Irresponsibility” is insisting on abstinence at women’s expense.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME contraception

Pope Francis Tells Catholics That They Shouldn’t Be Breeding ‘Like Rabbits’

After hopping around Asia, the Pontiff condemns artificial contraception

Pope Francis used his return journey from Asia to insist that the Catholic Church’s prohibition on artificial contraception does not necessitate followers bearing an enormous brood of children.

“Some think, excuse me if I use the word, that in order to be good Catholics, we have to be like rabbits — but no,” the 78-year-old Argentine told reporters while flying from the Philippines back to Rome, reports Reuters.

Francis spoke of meeting a Filipina woman who had risked her life to give birth to seven children, and revealed that he scolded her for her “irresponsibility.” He has developed a reputation for using plain, colloquial language to get his points across.

But despite garnering praise as a liberal reformer, Francis continues to condemn artificial birth-control methods, criticizing the Philippines’ recent legislation to make contraceptives more easily available to the public. He called these laws “ideological colonization,” claiming they conflict with traditional family values. (Advocates insist birth control empowers women and guards against sexually transmitted diseases.)

Francis explained that there are church-approved natural contraceptive methods that can prevent Catholics from having too many children. These consist primarily of abstinence while a woman is fertile.

[Reuters]

TIME Philippines

Pope Leaves Manila After Drawing Record Crowd of 6 Million

Francis dedicated the final homily of his Asia trip to children, given that the Mass fell on an important feast day honoring the infant Jesus

(MANILA, PHILIPPINES) — Pope Francis flew out of this Catholic bastion in Asia on Monday after a weeklong trip that included a visit to Sri Lanka and drew what Filipino officials says was a record crowd of 6 million faithful in a Manila park where he celebrated Mass.

President Benigno Aquino III, church leaders and 400 street children yelling “Pope Francis we love you,” saw him off at a Manila air base, where the pontiff, carrying a black travel bag, boarded a Philippine Airlines plane for a flight to Rome. Standing at the top of the stairs, the pope waved to the crowd, slightly bowed his head, then walked into the plane.

Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos lined Manila’s streets, with police keeping a close watch, to have their final glimpse of Francis, who smiled and waved aboard an open-sided, white popemobile.

“He’s my No. 1 world leader,” said Rita Fernandez, a 63-year-old mother of four, who stood on a street near the Apostolic Nunciature in Manila where Francis stayed during his four-day visit.

“He rides on a bus. He flew to Tacloban to visit the typhoon survivors despite the storm and he stops to talk to the poor. He’s a living saint,” said Fernandez, who held a cellphone with a camera and wore a yellow shirt showing a smiling Francis.

A crowd estimated at a record 6 million people by officials poured into Manila’s rain-soaked streets and its biggest park Sunday as Pope Francis ended his Asian pilgrimage with an appeal for Filipinos to protect their young from sin and vice so they can become missionaries of the faith.

The crowd estimate, which could not be independently verified, included people who attended the pope’s final Mass in Rizal Park and surrounding areas, and lined his motorcade route, said the chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, Francis Tolentino.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the Vatican had received the figure officially from local authorities and that it was a record, surpassing the 5 million who turned out for St. John Paul II’s final Mass in the same park in 1995.

Francis dedicated the final homily of his Asia trip to children, given that the Mass fell on an important feast day honoring the infant Jesus. His focus was a reflection of the importance that the Vatican places on Asia as the future of the church since it’s one of the few places where Catholic numbers are growing — and on the Philippines as the largest Catholic nation in the region.

“We need to see each child as a gift to be welcomed, cherished and protected,” Francis said. “And we need to care for our young people, not allowing them to be robbed of hope and condemned to a life on the streets.”

Francis made a triumphant entry into Rizal Park, riding on a popemobile based on the design of a jeepney, the modified U.S. Army World War II jeep that is a common means of public transport here. He wore the same cheap, plastic yellow rain poncho handed out to the masses during his visit to the typhoon-hit eastern city of Tacloban a day earlier.

The crowd — a sea of humanity in colorful rain ponchos spread out across the 60 hectares (148 acres) of parkland and boulevards surrounding it — erupted in shrieks of joy when he drove by, a reflection of the incredible resonance Francis’ message about caring for society’s most marginal has had in a country where about a quarter of its 100 million people lives in poverty.

Francis dedicated his four-day trip to the Philippines to the poor and marginal. He denounced the corruption that has robbed them of a dignified life, visited with street children and traveled to Tacloban to offer prayers for survivors of Typhoon Haiyan, the deadly 2013 storm that devastated one of the Philippines’ poorest regions.

Earlier Sunday, Francis drew a huge crowd to Manila’s Catholic university, where he came close to tears himself hearing two rescued street children speak of their lives growing up poor and abandoned.

The pope ditched his prepared remarks and spoke off the cuff in his native Spanish to respond to 12-year-old Glyzelle Palomar, who wept as she asked Francis why children suffer so much. Palomar, a former street child rescued by a church-run foundation, told him of children who are abandoned or neglected by their parents and end up on the streets using drugs or in prostitution.

“Why is God allowing something like this to happen, even to innocent children?” Palomar asked through tears. “And why are there so few who are helping us?”

A visibly moved Francis said he had no answer. “Only when we are able to cry are we able to come close to responding to your question,” he said.

“Those on the margins cry. Those who have fallen by the wayside cry. Those who are discarded cry,” the pope said. “But those who are living a life that is more or less without need, we don’t know how to cry.”

And he added: “There are some realities that you can only see through eyes that have been cleansed by tears.”

___

Associated Press writers Oliver Teves, Jim Gomez and Ken Moritsugu contributed to this report.

TIME

The Best Pictures of the Week: Jan. 9 – Jan. 16

From the 1.5 million strong unity march in Paris to fierce winter storms in Syria and the historic free-climb of Yosemite’s El Capitan to the Ohio State Buckeyes winning college football’s national championship, TIME presents the best pictures of the week.

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