TIME Television

Pope Francis Has Missed Out on So Much Good Television Since 1990

Cast members from HBO's "Sex and the City," from left, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis, Kim Cattrall and Sarah Jessica Parker.
Craig Blankenhorn—HBO/AP Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis, Kim Cattrall and Sarah Jessica Parker in "Sex and the City."

From Survivor to Mad Men, the religious leader has had better things to do

In a recent interview, Pope Francis said he has not watched television since July 15, 1990, when he swore to the Virgin Mary that he’d cut the habit. It’s clearly worked out well for the Pontiff, who’s become one of the most important figures in the world—but what has he been missing out on in his television-free years?

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

The 1990-1991 television season, the first to commence after a young Jorge Maria Bergoglio swore off the tube, saw the debut of Will Smith’s breakout role, as well as hits including Beverly Hills 90210, Dinosaurs, and Law & Order. That’s how long the Pope has been refusing to watch TV: The entire Law & Order universe has escaped his notice. (With 456 episodes of the flagship series alone, it’s no wonder he’s so much more productive than the rest of us.)

Frasier

The leader of the Catholic Church stopped watching TV before NBC’s “Must-See” Thursday lineup entered its 1990s renaissance. The appeals of the sometimes-raunchy Friends and the openly amoral Seinfeld gang might have been lost on him, but Frasier, assaying as it did an aesthete’s search for contentment and meaning in the universe, might have provided some light entertainment. We’ll never know!

Sex and the City

This Sarah Jessica Parker series, along with The Sopranos, established HBO as the 800-pound-gorilla of cable TV in the early part of the 21st century, and pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable to show on TV. (Not that the Pope would know!) But both HBO series, too, came in for criticism from Catholics in America; the mob drama for its depiction of Italian-Americans and the louche comedy for several plotlines, including one joking about the baptism of Miranda’s child. Perhaps it’s for the best the Pope missed out on the pay-cable boom!

Survivor

The reality series, about a group of Americans marooned in the wilderness for 39 days (one fewer than Jesus in the Biblical story of the temptation of Christ) has earned more than its share of faithful viewers over its 15 years on the air, but the show’s pan-theistic tone would seem to be a turnoff for viewers in the priesthood. Contestants, for instance, flout the First Commandment when they compete to win immunity “idols”—to say nothing of their hunger for a cash prize.

Mad Men

Don’t ask Pope Francis whether or not he thinks Don collaborated with Peggy on the Coke ad! But other aspects of the recently-concluded AMC drama, and of Peggy’s story arc, might resonate more poignantly with any Catholic. Through the conflicted copywriter, the show examined the evolving role of the church in the lives of the faithful in the years following Vatican II. And there’s, perhaps, an argument to be made that streaming it on Netflix isn’t quite the same as watching TV, which brings us to…

Grace and Frankie

Series star Jane Fonda, like the Pope an icon born in the mid-1930s, is an avowed fan of the Pontiff. That may not be enough to lure the Pope back to watching TV, but the series’ chilled-out, live-and-let-live attitude has a little in common with Francis’s famous humanism. And just as no one expects the 78-year-old Pope to watch TV again, 77-year-old Fonda’s star turn was something of a surprise—a testament to just how central to the culture television has become in the past 25 years.

TIME Television

Here’s What Pope Francis Might Have Seen When He Last Watched TV

Pope Attends The Pentecoste Celebration
Franco Origlia—Getty Images Pope Francis attends the Pentecost Celebration at the St. Peter's Basilica on May 24, 2015 in Vatican City

The Pope hasn't turned on the tube since July 15, 1990

These days, Pope Francis makes headlines with practically every step he takes, and his actions and pronouncements are regular fodder for TV news—not that he would know. This weekend, in an interview with the Argentinian newspaper La Voz del Pueblo, the Pope revealed that the last time he watched TV was almost exactly 25 years ago, on July 15, 1990.

It remains a mystery which TV program made him hit the “off” button once and for all. If he was watching world news, July 15, 1990 was generally quiet day. But here’s a look at some of the top stories of the day, which he might have seen before putting down the remote:

A hit from Hammer: Music-news watchers were keeping an eye on M.C. Hammer’s album Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em, which looked like it was about to become the best-selling rap album in the genre’s history.

A rat in the White House: First Lady Barbara Bush announced that a few months earlier she had inadvertently taken a swim in the White House pool at the same time that a rat was doing the same. The episode ended with the President killing the rodent. Meanwhile, Neil Bush, their son, was implicated in a banking scandal.

A shortage of priests: A recent study of U.S. Catholics had shown a severe shortage of priests. The report predicted that, within 15 years, the nation would only have one priest for every 2,200 Catholics.

A hit in theaters. The movie Ghost had been released that weekend (July 15 was a Sunday) but would not be released in Argentina until the fall. Likewise, the future Pope would not have been able to watch that weekend’s top U.S. box-office draw, Die Hard 2: Die Harder, which didn’t make it to his region until August.

A World Cup loss: A week earlier, on July 8, West Germany had defeated the Pope’s home team, Argentina, in the World Cup finals. The particularly ugly game would likely have continued to be rehashed at least through the 15th—enough to make any Argentinian soccer fan walk away from the sofa.

TIME faith

Pope Francis Hasn’t Watched TV Since 1990 and He Misses Going Out for Pizza

Pope Francis holds the pastoral staff as he leaves at the end of a mass of Pentecost in St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican
Gregorio Borgia—AP Pope Francis holds the pastoral staff as he leaves at the end of a mass of Pentecost in St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican, on May 24, 2015.

The Pontiff has sacrifced a lot to become the head of the Catholic Church

You’d think anyone with an important job would relish the chance to have a pizza delivered and devour it in front of the television.

Well, as Pope Francis keeps proving, he’s not just anyone.

The leader of the Roman Catholic Church, who has made waves waves reaching out to disaffected Catholics and insisting on making the poor a top priority, hasn’t watched TV since July 15, 1990, he revealed in an interview published in the Argentinian newspaper La Voz del Pueblo.

The pontiff did not reveal the last program he watched or why he gave up the boob tube, except to say he decided “no es para mi” (it’s not for me), before promising the Virgin Mary he wouldn’t watch again…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Vatican

Pope Calls Palestinian Leader an ‘Angel of Peace’

Pope Francis meets Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas during an audience at the Vatican on May 16, 2015.
Alberto Pizzoli—AP Pope Francis meets Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas during an audience at the Vatican on May 16, 2015.

Pope Francis also gave Mahmoud Abbas a gift during their visit

(VATICAN CITY)—Pope Francis praised Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as an “angel of peace” during a meeting Saturday at the Vatican that underscored the Holy See’s warm relations with the Palestinians as it prepares to canonize two 19th-century nuns from the region.

Francis made the compliment during the traditional exchange of gifts at the end of an official audience in the Apostolic Palace. He presented Abbas with a medallion and explained that it represented the “angel of peace destroying the bad spirit of war.”

Francis said he thought the gift was appropriate since “you are an angel of peace.” During his 2014 visit to Israel and the West Bank, Francis called both Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres men of peace.

Abbas is in Rome for the canonization Sunday of two 19th-century nuns from what was then Ottoman-ruled Palestine. The new saints, Mariam Bawardy and Marie Alphonsine Ghattas, are the first from the region to be canonized since the early days of Christianity.

Church officials are holding up the new saints as a sign of hope and encouragement for Christians in the Middle East at a time when violent persecution from Islamic extremists has driven many Christians from the region of Christ’s birth.

In a statement Saturday, Abbas praised the two new saints as inspirational models for today’s Palestinians and urged Christians like them to remain in the region.

“We call on Palestinian Christians to stay with us and enjoy the rights of full and equal citizenship, and bear with us the difficulties of life until we achieve liberty, sovereignty and human dignity,” he said.

Abbas’ visit comes days after the Vatican finalized a bilateral treaty with the “state of Palestine” that made explicit its recognition of Palestinian statehood.

The Vatican said it had expressed “great satisfaction” over the new treaty during the talks with the Palestinian delegation. It said the pope, and later the Vatican secretary of state, also expressed hopes that direct peace talks with Israel would resume.

“To this end, the wish was reiterated that with the support of the international community, Israelis and Palestinians may take with determination courageous decisions to promote peace,” a Vatican statement said.

It added that interreligious dialogue was needed to combat terrorism.

TIME Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio Dismisses Pope Francis’ Views on Cuba, Israel

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL).
Andrew Burton—Getty Images Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Running for President, Leading a Global Faith Have Different Goals

During a Q&A on foreign policy Wednesday, Sen. Marco Rubio took a shot at an unlikely public figure: Pope Francis.

After delivering a meaty speech outlining his hawkish foreign policy priorities at the Council on Foreign Relations, the Florida Republican criticized the 78-year-old pontiff’s take on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the U.S.-Cuban standoff.

“His desire is peace and prosperity, he wants everyone to be better off. He’s not a political figure,” Rubio said. “Anything he can do to open up more opportunities for them, he’s going to pursue.”

Rubio contrasted that with his own approach.

“My interest as an elected official is the national security of the United States and embedded in that is the belief that it is not good for our people—or the people of Cuba—for an anti-American dictatorship 90 miles from our shores,” he said.

And asked about the Vatican’s support for separate states of Israel and Palestine, Rubio said the United States must stand with its ally Israel.

“It is the only free enterprise, democratic, pro-American country in the Middle East. If we had more free enterprise, pro-American democracies in the Middle East, my speech would be a lot shorter,” Rubio said.

Asked about his earlier support for separate states of Israel and Palestine, Rubio was dour: “I don’t think the conditions exist for that today.”

It won’t be the last time Pope Francis plays a role in U.S. presidential politics. He’s set to visit Philadelphia in September of 2015, as the presidential race gets even more heated.

Read more: The Possible Presidential Candidate Who Agrees the Most with Pope Francis

TIME Vatican

Vatican Recognizes State of Palestine in New Treaty

Pope Francis celebrated the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Fatima during his traditional weekly General Audience in St. Peter's square on May 13, 2015 in Vatican City.
Stefano Costantino—Splash News/Corbis Pope Francis celebrated the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Fatima during his traditional weekly General Audience in St. Peter's square on May 13, 2015 in Vatican City.

The treaty is the first legal document to establish official diplomatic relationship between the Vatican and the Palestinian state

(VATICAN CITY) — The Vatican has officially recognized the state of Palestine in a new treaty.

The treaty, which was finalized Wednesday but still has to be signed, makes clear that the Holy See has switched its diplomatic relations from the Palestine Liberation Organization to the state of Palestine.

The Vatican had welcomed the decision by the U.N. General Assembly in 2012 to recognize a Palestinian state. But the treaty is the first legal document negotiated between the Holy See and the Palestinian state and constitutes an official diplomatic recognition.

“Yes, it’s a recognition that the state exists,” said the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is due to visit Pope Francis on Saturday before the canonization of two new saints from the Holy Land a day later.

The Vatican has been referring unofficially to the state of Palestine for at least a year.

During Pope Francis’ 2014 visit to the Holy Land, the Vatican’s official program referred to Abbas as the president of the “state of Palestine.” In the Vatican’s latest yearbook, the Palestinian ambassador to the Holy See is listed as representing “Palestine (state of).”

The Vatican’s foreign minister, Monsignor Antoine Camilleri, acknowledged the change in status, given that the treaty was initially inked with the PLO and is now being finalized with the “state of Palestine.” But he said the shift was simply in line with the Holy See’s position.

TIME Pope Francis

Pope Francis’ Poverty Agenda Draws President Obama

Pope Francis attends the weekly general audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican on April 22, 2015.
Vandeville Eric—Sipa USA/AP Pope Francis attends the weekly general audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican on April 22, 2015

Poverty in the United States is a topic that is often avoided. But on Monday in Washington, a diverse group of 120 political, religious and civic leaders including President Obama will gather at Georgetown University for a three-day Catholic-Evangelical leadership summit on the issue, in large part thanks to Pope Francis.

Organized by Georgetown’s Initiative of Catholic Social Thought and Public Life and the National Association of Evangelicals, the summit is a “direct response” to Pope Francis’ “challenge to place the lives and dignity of the poor at the center of religious and public life,” according to John Carr, who heads the Georgetown Initiative.

The event has two main goals: Making overcoming poverty a national priority and moral imperative and breaking down the walls between people who focus almost entirely on family life and people who focus almost completely on economic life. “Anyone who is poor or works with the poor knows that a child’s prospects are affected both by the choices of her parents and the policies of her government,” Carr says.

The effort is already gaining national attention. Obama will join the summit on Tuesday, notably not by giving a speech about poverty but instead by participating in a discussion about it with Robert Putnam, professor of public policy at Harvard University, and Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute. The conversation will be moderated by Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne.

While Summit organizers did not ask the Pope Francis to participate, his continued emphasis on the poor has helped to shift the national tone on the issue. “We think he already has sent a very clear message,” Carr says. “I think Pope Francis’ first miracle is getting both Democrats and Republicans to talk about poverty in a real way.”

The political and ideological range of the Summit is perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of the event. Its bipartisan character is stark: Sen. Cory Booker, a progressive Democrat from New Jersey, and Sen. Tim Scott, a conservative Republican from South Carolina, are participating, as are former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Elizabeth Shuler, the secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO. The evangelical participation spans from organizations like Focus on the Family to Sojourners, and the Catholic side from a ministry of Opus Dei to the Nuns on the Bus.

The gathering mixes together public and private sessions so that participants can talk openly about more controversial political challenges and issues like immigration, race, family planning, and incarceration. “Ironically there is more consensus, more bipartisan cooperation, in some ways more unity in the religious community about global poverty than poverty in our own country and we are hoping to address that,” Carr says. “The polarization is real, and the religious community has a unique opportunity, particularly Catholics and evangelicals, to challenge people’s conscience and also to bridge some of the ideological and political division.”

Poverty in the United States has long struggled to survive on the national policy scene. President Lyndon Johnson declared the War on Poverty more than 50 years ago, and the recent statistics show the extent of the problem today. According to U.S. Census Bureau, one in five children in the U.S. lives in poverty, and nearly 50 million people lived below the poverty line in 2013. The earned income tax credit and the child tax credit during the Clinton and both Bush presidencies raised the conversation in the policy arena, Carr says, “but in terms of a national debate it has been way too long.”

The Georgetown effort is not to build a new organization, but to build greater urgency and new alliances across the ideological and partisan divide to make poverty a national priority. “We think there is a lot of lip service to this issue but very little action,” Carr says. “The Washington mantra is the forgotten middle class, and the middle class are having a tough time, but the moral measure of our society is how we treat the least of these, and those are not the priorities of Washington.”

Summit organizers hope conversations this week are a launch pad for lasting policy change. The Circle of Protection, an alliance of Christian leaders represented at the Summit, is challenging all of the 2016 presidential candidates to create three-minute videos sharing what they would do as president to overcome poverty in the U.S. The clips would be shown both online and in churches and other settings in coming months.

Their timing, and the timing of the Summit more broadly, is strategic. Pope Francis will visit the U.S. in September in the middle of the heated presidential primary contest. His name and presence will almost certainly give poverty a major boost in the national conversation.

TIME Vatican

Pope Francis and Raul Castro to Meet at the Vatican

Pope Francis smiles as he arrives to lead his open-air weekly audience in St. Peter's square on April 29, 2015 at the Vatican.
Vincenzo Pinto—AFP/Getty Images Pope Francis smiles as he arrives to lead his open-air weekly audience in St. Peter's square on April 29, 2015 at the Vatican.

Pope Francis will receive Cuba’s president Raúl Castro at the Vatican on Sunday morning, May 10, the Holy See announced on Tuesday. The meeting will be “strictly private,” according to a statement from the Holy See Press Office, and the two heads of state will meet in the study of the Paul VI Audience Hall.

The meeting comes as Pope Francis plans to visit the Caribbean island in September en route to the United States. The pontiff also helped to broker a deal easing relations between the United States and Cuba in December, an appeal that a senior U.S. administration official at the time called “very rare.”

“As we already know, President Raúl Castro has publicly thanked the Pope for his role in fostering the rapprochement between Cuba and the United States of America,” Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, director of the Holy See Press Office, said in the statement.

TIME Vatican

Pope Francis Calls for Equal Pay for Women and Men

He says gender-based pay disparities are "pure scandal"

Pope Francis expressed support for equal pay for men and women on Wednesday, calling income disparities “pure scandal.”

Speaking during his weekly general audience, Francis asked that Christians “become more demanding” about achieving gender equality, according to the National Catholic Reporter.

“Why is it expected that women must earn less than men?” he asked the crowd at St. Peter’s Square. “No! They have the same rights. The disparity is a pure scandal.”

The Pope emphasized that concern for women’s equality isn’t at odds with concern for declining marriage rates around the world, a shift he said Christians needed to reflect on “with great seriousness.”

“Many consider that the change occurring in these last decades may have been set in motion by women’s emancipation,” he said. But Francis called that idea “an insult” and “a form of chauvinism that always wants to control the woman.”

[NCR]

TIME Armenia

German President Enrages Turkey by Referring to 1915 Armenian ‘Genocide’

German President Joachim Gauck delivers a speech at the Berlin Cathedral Church in Berlin, Germany, April 23, 2015
Michael Sohn—AP German President Joachim Gauck delivers a speech at the Berlin Cathedral Church in Berlin, Germany, April 23, 2015

"The fate of the Armenians stands as exemplary in the history of mass exterminations, ethnic cleansing, deportations and yes, genocide"

German President Joachim Gauck on Thursday angered Turkey by labeling the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 as a “genocide” ahead of Friday’s centennial commemoration of the event, which took place during World War I.

A day before the German parliament debates using the term “genocide” for the Armenian massacre, Gauck said, “The fate of the Armenians stands as exemplary in the history of mass exterminations, ethnic cleansing, deportations and yes, genocide, which marked the 20th century in such a terrible way.”

However, the contentious term has sparked outcry within Turkey, which has a significant Armenian minority and officially contends that both sides suffered a heavy death toll during the war. The successor state of the Ottoman Empire, as the territory was known during 1915, has never formally acknowledged the Armenian massacre as a genocide.

On Wednesday, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Dautoglu urged German Chancellor Angela Merkel to exclude the genocide label in parliamentary debates. “To reduce everything to a single word, to put responsibility through generalizations on the Turkish nation alone … is legally and morally problematic,” he said.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called the Armenian deaths “our shared pain” and offered to establish a joint historical commission to examine the deaths, but fell short of acknowledging the events as a “genocide.”

“[U]sing the events of 1915 as an excuse for hostility against Turkey and turning this issue into a matter of political conflict is inadmissible,” Erdoğan said in a statement.

Pope Francis recently provoked the ire of Erdoğan for labeling the 1915 Armenian killings as the “first genocide of the 20th century.”

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