TIME Turkey

Pope Francis Begins Turkey Visit

Pope Francis waves as he boards a plane at Fiumicino Airport in Rome
Pope Francis waves as he boards a plane at Fiumicino Airport in Rome Nov. 28, 2014 Giampiero Sposito—Reuters

The 77-year-old will become only the fourth Pontiff to visit the Muslim-majority nation

Pope Francis begins a three-day visit to Turkey on Friday, during which he is due to discuss threats to Christian communities in the Middle East with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

After meeting Erdogan, the 77-year-old Argentine will travel to Istanbul over the weekend. He claims to want to forge a closer relationship between the Catholic Church and the Muslim world, reports Al Jazeera.

Turkey boasts only around 80,000 Christians compared to 75 million Muslims. The nation has hit the headlines in recent months as a launching point for jihadists wanting to join the sectarian slaughter wreaked by groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS.)

A radical Sunni cult, ISIS has vowed to exterminate both the region’s Shia Muslims and Christian sects such as the Yazidis.

TIME europe

Pope Urges ‘Aged and Weary’ Europe to Accept Migrants and Reject Hunger

Pope Francis delivers his speech at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, on Nov. 25, 2014.
Pope Francis delivers his speech at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on Nov. 25, 2014 Remy De La Mauviniere—AFP/Getty Images

The Pontiff uses address to the European Parliament to argue that migrants need "acceptance and assistance"

At many times in Europe’s turbulent history religious leaders have turned a blind eye to violence and discrimination. At other times faith itself has set the battleground. This awareness heightened both the strangeness and the poignancy of the Nov. 25 speech by Pope Francis to members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

The Pontiff wasn’t the most obvious person to deliver hard truths to elected politicians about the rising threats to the democracies they serve, or, as head of the Catholic Church, to convey a blast against global corporations that undermine the democratic process by co-opting institutions, as he resonantly expressed it, to “the service of unseen empires.” Yet standing at the lectern at the center of the plenary chamber, peering through wire-rimmed reading glasses at his script, he did these things and more. The leader of a religion that has created its share of fractures made an eloquent plea for the European Union to rediscover its founding principles of “bridging divisions and fostering peace and fellowship.”

Many factors gave urgency to his words. Europe is grappling with soaring unemployment in the midst of global economic instability and the relentless problems of the euro zone. There is a war within its own borders while brutal conflicts on other continents affect the security of European nations and citizens. The interlocking challenges are compounded by voters’ dwindling trust in the political classes. In speaking to members of these classes, the Pope aimed, he said, “as a pastor to deliver a message of hope” to “a Europe that gives the impression of feeling aged and weary.” A glance around the chamber — built as a hemicycle to encourage members of the Parliament from different political groupings to see each other not as opponents but colleagues — reinforced just how timely that papal message was and the extent to which politicians have become, like the Catholic Church in its darker periods, part of the problem as well as its solution.

Pope Francis emphasized the centrality of human dignity and the equal value of every life. He did so to an assembly of 751 MEPs and other European officials that severely underrepresents the diversity of European populations — only 36.75% of lawmakers are women and only about 5% are from ethnic minorities — while substantially representing views that the Pope singled out for criticism. “One of the most common diseases in Europe, if you ask me, today is the loneliness of those who have no connection to others,” he said. This phenomenon could be observed among the isolated old and the alienated young, the poor and “in the lost gaze of the migrants who have come here in search of a better future.”

“Unity doesn’t mean uniformity,” the guest speaker told an audience overwhelmingly composed of middle-aged white men in suits. “In point of fact all real unity draws from the diversities that make it up.” To that audience he set out a list of priorities. It was, he ventured, “intolerable that people are dying each day of hunger while tons of food are thrown away each day from our tables.” He won a round of applause with a call “to promote policies that create employment but above all it is time to restore dignity to work by restoring proper working conditions.” He also highlighted Europe’s failure to achieve “a united response to the question of migration. We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast graveyard. The boats landing daily on Europe’s shores are filled with men and women who need acceptance and assistance.”

Listening to him were members of mainstream parties who have contributed to that failure and representatives of fringe parties — now achieving such electoral success that they may not for much longer remain on the fringes — who are arguing for the dissolution of the European Union and the turning away of migrants. It seems unlikely that members of the U.K. Independence Party (UKIP), or France’s hard-right National Front party will have been swayed by his words any more than Ian Paisley, at the time the apparently implacable voice of Northern Irish Protestant loyalism, could be persuaded to give a fair hearing to Pope John Paul II’s 1988 speech to the European Parliament, the last such address by a Pontiff to the body until Francis took the floor.

Eventually, however, Paisley did learn to stop bellowing and to prize peace above division, at least to some extent. European history is full of such encouraging examples alongside its gloomier lessons. Pope Francis reminded Europe of its capacity for good. In so doing, he continues to reassert the capacity of his office to do the same.

TIME

The Best Pictures of the Week: Nov. 14 – Nov. 21

From a dramatic snowstorm in Buffalo, N.Y. and the slaying of worshipers in a Jerusalem synagogue to Obama’s immigration plan and the murder of Honduras’ beauty queen, TIME presents the best pictures of the week.

TIME faith

Pope Francis Is Selling His Fiat Car in a Raffle for the Poor

Pope Francis Attends His Weekly Audience In St Peter's Square
Pope Francis waves to the faithful as he leaves St. Peter's Square at the end of his weekly audience on November 19, 2014 in Vatican City, Vatican. During his speech Pontiff appealed for peace in the Middle East. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images) Franco Origlia—Getty Images

The Vatican said it is raffling off objects that the Pontiff has received as gifts

Pope Francis’ four-wheel-drive Panda Fiat is just one of a collection of items the Vatican is raffling off to raise money for charity.

Posters around the Vatican announced the raffle will also include his Homero Ortega brand hat, bicycles, and an espresso coffee machine, Reuters reports, among 13 objects and 30 unspecified “consolation prizes.”

Tickets on sale at the Vatican will cost $12.50, and the winner will be announced on Jan. 8. The Vatican announced last week that Pope Francis, who has made fighting poverty a priority, was building bathrooms for the homeless in the shadow of St. Peter’s Basilica.

[Reuters]

TIME faith

Pope Francis Says Children Have a Right to a Father and a Mother

VATICAN-POPE
Pope Francis kisses a baby during an audience with members of the Association of Italian Catholic Doctors at Paul VI audience hall at the Vatican on Nov. 15, 2014. Filippo Monteforte—AFP/Getty Images

The statement seems at odds with the Vatican leader's push to make the church more accepting of nontraditional families

Pope Francis caused quite a stir on Monday with a statement that was criticized as a rolling back of his much lauded attempts to make the Catholic Church more inclusive of the LGBT community.

“Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother,” said the Pope during a speech at the Complementarity of Man and Woman conference in Rome.

The statement, made to the attending conservative religious leaders around the world, was the only concrete reference the Pope made to heterosexuality, with the rest of the speech remaining largely ambiguous on the concept of complementarity between man and woman.

Many religious leaders present at the conference took this to mean an unequivocal support of traditional families. “Pope Francis made clear that male/female complementarity is essential to marriage and cannot be revised by contemporary ideologies,” Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention tweeted.

However, the Pontiff’s announcement at the conclusion of his speech that he will attend Philadelphia’s World Meeting of the Families in September was conversely deemed a nod toward more acceptance of nontraditional families.

Sister Simone Campbell, an advocate on various social-justice issues who has taken on the church in the past, predicted that there would be several nontraditional families present at the Philadelphia conference. “He’s bringing in the various realities and letting people speak for themselves, and that creates change,” Campbell told the Washington Post. “He’s opening hearts. He’s not changing definitions.”

TIME faith

Pope Francis’ Modern Family Evolution

Extraordinary Consistory On the Themes of Family Is Held At Vatican
Pope Francis greets cardinals as he arrives at the Synod Hall for the morning session of Extraordinary Consistory on the themes of Family on February 21, 2014 in Vatican City, Vatican. Franco Origlia—Getty Images

Christopher Hale is a senior fellow at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and the co-founder of Millennial.

Thorny issues surrounding family life, the LGBT community and divorced and remarried couples will be at the fore of the Pope's 2015 visit stateside

After months of speculation, Pope Francis made it official Monday: he plans on visiting the United States in September 2015. For his first ever trip to the nation, Francis will go to Philadelphia for the 8th World Meeting of Families.

This much anticipated gathering will take place just weeks before the Vatican’s 2015 Synod of the Family. The meeting and the synod will serve as the conclusion of a year long discernment process by the Church on the best way forward in approaching thorny issues surrounding family life, particularly pastoral outreach to the LGBT community and communion for divorced and remarried couples.

Last month, the Church began this discernment process at an extraordinary synod called by Pope Francis. The meeting’s blockbuster midterm report affirmed the “gifts and qualities” of the LGBT community and courageously asked, are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities?” Though the attending bishops rejected this language in the final report, it’s clear that this conversation about family life has advanced forward and will dominate the Church in the next year.

On all these issues, Pope Francis has consistently been revealing his cards throughout the process. For one, Francis has asked the Church to be open to a new way forward. In a September homily, the pope debunked the worst myth in and about the Catholic Church: that it doesn’t change. In fact, the Church asks us, Pope Francis says “to leave aside the old structures: they are of no use! And to take up new wineskins, those of the Gospel.”

The Church that Pope Francis dreams of is a home for everyone: “the Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems.” This Church is with people and engaged in their sufferings. Francis puts it this way: “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.” And finally, this is a Church that distributes its sacraments widely and doesn’t use them as a weapon to divide its flock. The Eucharist, Francis says, “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.”

Pope Francis is hoping that the Church that gathers in Philadelphia will be open to what he calls the “newness” of God. But clearly not everyone is on board with the Francis agenda. American Cardinal Raymond Burke–who was recently demoted–has been Francis’s most vocal critic: “The pope rightly speaks of the need to go out to the peripheries….The people have responded very warmly to this. But we cannot go to the peripheries empty-handed….Faith cannot adapt to culture but must call to it to convert. We are a counter-cultural movement, not a popular one.”

Cardinal Burke’s critique perhaps lays out the biggest question of the 2015 meeting in Philadelphia. Yes, the Church must go and encounter the world. But what must be the contours of this engagement look like? And how far is the Church willing to modify its practices in this effort? Even Francis doesn’t know the answer to these detailed questions, but less than a year away from this historic gathering in the City of Brotherly Love, he’s sure of his basic hope: “Let the Church always be a place of mercy and hope, where everyone is welcomed, loved and forgiven.”

Christopher Hale is a senior fellow at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and the co-founder of Millennial. He helped lead national Catholic outreach for President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.

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 faith

Pope Francis Confirms U.S. Visit in 2015

The pope will attend the triennial World Meeting of Families

Pope Francis has confirmed he will travel to the U.S. next year to attend a gathering in the city of Brotherly Love, marking his first visit to the U.S. as pontiff.

“I wish to confirm according to the wishes of the Lord, that in September of 2015, I will go to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families,” Pope Francis said Monday, according to Vatican Radio. “Thank you for your prayers with which you accompany my service to the Church. Bless you from my heart.”

The World Meeting of Families is a triennial gathering and claims to be the world’s largest meeting of Catholic families. It will be held Sept. 22-27, with the Pope set to attend the final weekend events. During his visit, the pope will host a mass at the close of the event in Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Details of his visit, however, have not been finalized.

“A hallmark of his papacy has been a keen focus on the many challenges that families face today globally,” said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput. “I believe that the presence of the Holy Father will bring all of us –Catholic and non-Catholic alike – together in tremendously powerful, unifying and healing ways.”

Pope Francis hinted he’d be traveling to the U.S. in 2015 in August, but it had yet to be confirmed.

TIME Religion

Pope Denounces Euthanasia as ‘Sin Against God’

Pope Francis Holds An Audience For Members Of The Catholic Doctors
Pope Francis waves during an audience with the Association of Italian Catholic Doctors at the Paul VI Hall on Nov. 15, 2014 in Vatican City. Franco Origlia—Getty Images

(VATICAN CITY) — Pope Francis denounced the right to die movement Saturday, saying it’s a “false sense of compassion” to consider euthanasia as an act of dignity when in fact it’s a sin against God and creation.

Francis made the comments to the Association of Italian Catholic Doctors.

Earlier this month, the Vatican’s top bioethics official condemned as “reprehensible” the assisted suicide of an American woman, Brittany Maynard, who was suffering terminal brain cancer and said she wanted to die with dignity.

Francis didn’t refer to the Maynard case specifically.

While denouncing euthanasia in general, he also condemned abortion, in vitro fertilization (or “the scientific production of a child”) and embryonic stem cell research (or “using human beings as laboratory experiments to presumably save others.”)

“This is playing with life,” he said. “Beware, because this is a sin against the creator, against God the creator.”

While shying away from hot-button, culture war issues such as abortion, Francis has spoken out frequently about euthanasia. He considers the assisted suicide movement as a symptom of today’s “throw-away culture” that views the sick and elderly as useless drains on society.

Francis urged doctors to take “courageous and against-the-grain” decisions to uphold church teaching on the dignity of life, even if it requires resorting to conscientious objection.

TIME faith

Pope Francis Could Visit the U.S. in 2015

Pope Francis gestures as he arrives to lead his weekly general audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican
Pope Francis gestures as he arrives to lead his weekly general audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican November 12, 2014. Tony Gentile—Reuters

The Vatican’s U.N. envoy is dropping hints

Pope Francis could be planning a visit to New York in time for the United Nations’ 70th anniversary in 2015, the Vatican’s U.N. envoy has hinted.

The Holy See has already said he would like to attend a family rally in Philadelphia next year and his permanent observer to the U.N., Archbishop Bernardito Auza, told the Associated Press, “if he comes to Philadelphia, he will come to New York.”

A papal visit in 2015 would also coincide with an upcoming exhibition at the U.N. headquarters in New York City that will feature century-old manuscripts relating to the Pope’s namesake, St. Francis of Assisi.

Auza said people had been hoping the exhibition would serve as a kind of announcement that the Pope intended to visit the States.

[AP]

TIME The Vatican

The Vatican Is Building Showers for the Homeless in Rome

480627519
St. Peter's Basilica CEZARY ZAREBSKI PHOTOGRPAHY—Getty Images/Flickr RF

Three showers are going up near St. Peter's

The Pope traditionally washes the feet of the poor on the day before Good Friday. But now the Vatican has unveiled plans to offers bathrooms to the poor all year round.

Rome’s homeless will soon be able to shower in the shadow of St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Vatican plans to build the showers for Rome’s homeless to wash and change, the Vatican Insider, run by the Italy’s La Stampa, reports. It’s also helping ten parishes across Rome provide access to showers.

Pope Francis, TIME’s Person of the Year in 2013, has made poverty alleviation a priority, and this week he called on leaders converging in Australia for the G20 meeting to take responsibility for the “poor and marginalized.”

Read more at The Vatican Insider.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser