TIME Sri Lanka

Pope Francis Urges Pursuit of Truth in Sri Lanka at Start of Second Asian Tour

Pope Francis stands on his vehicle as devotees gather on the road to see him after he arrived at the Colombo airport
Pope Francis stands on his vehicle as devotees gather on the road to see him after he arrived at the Colombo airport Jan. 13, 2015 Dinuka Liyanawatte—Reuters

The Pontiff will travel to the Philippines later this week

Pope Francis arrived in Sri Lanka on Tuesday, calling for the “pursuit of truth” as he began the first papal visit to the country since the end of a bitter and long-running civil conflict in 2009.

“The process of healing also needs to include the pursuit of truth, not for the sake of opening old wounds, but rather as a necessary means of promoting justice, healing and unity,” he said after landing in the capital Colombo, where he was greeted by the country’s newly installed President, Maithripala Sirisena, who displaced Mahinda Rajapaksa in national elections earlier this month.

A former Rajapaksa ally, Sirisena emerged as the unexpected winner of a ballot that, until two months ago, looked set to deliver a third term for the increasingly autocratic Rajapaksa. His defection from the former leader’s camp in November, and his promise to give more power to the legislature and weaken Rajapaksa’s executive presidency, swiftly changed the dynamics of the race, as the opposition came together behind his candidacy.

During the election, Sirisena promised an independent domestic probe into allegations of rights abuses during the civil war that saw years of bloody fighting between the country’s Sinhalese majority and separatists from Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority.

Speaking in Colombo on Tuesday, the Pontiff, who will also travel to the Philippines later this week, stressed the need for inclusive society as the country recovers from the conflict, which lasted nearly three decades.

“The great work of rebuilding must embrace improving infrastructures and meeting material needs, but also, and even more importantly, promoting human dignity, respect for human rights, and the full inclusion of each member of society,” he said.

TIME Religion

Pope Poo-pooed by GOP for Being too Jesus-like

Pope Francis Visits Molise
Pope Francis attends an outdoor papal mass on July 5, 2014 in Campobasso, Italy. Franco Origlia—Getty Images

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This article originally appeared on Patheos.

I can’t think of a Pope who has made a bigger impact, brought more hope and sounded more like Jesus than Pope Francis.

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan. I even Facebook-lifted a hashtag I saw on Diana Butler Bass’ page that I use all the time now: #popecrush.

And now he’s coming to the United States!

The first Pope from the Americas is coming to the U.S.

This is very exciting.

So exciting, in fact, that a bi-partisan resolution has been presented to Congress that would congratulate the pontiff on being the first Pope from the Americas and for his “inspirational statements and actions.”

#Popecrush on!

Unfortunately, it’s beginning to look like this particular resolution may never make it out of committee. It was sent to the House Foreign Affairs Committee and seems to have died there.

Why?

Because the Pope is too much like Jesus.

Yep. Seriously.

Let me explain.

There actually are a few (19 out of 221) GOP backers of this resolution and one of them is leaking a little information about why it may never pass or even be voted on. According to this Republican insider, many of his cohorts expressed concern that the Pope has been making statements on issues like “trickle-down economics,” which are “politically charged.”

A religious leader addressing the morally repugnant behavior of economic and political systems that value the powerful over the poor?

Where have I seen that before?

Oh yeah – Jesus.

Also, let’s not miss the irony that the Republicans who are resisting the passage of this resolution have the audacity to accuse the Pope actions of being “politically charged.” Their resistance to honoring a man who, as the resolution itself says, has demonstrated humility, broke from tradition to wash the feet of criminals, embraced lepers, and places an emphasis on humanitarian efforts is the only “politically charged” thing I see here.

The upside to all of this is that I suspect Pope Francis really doesn’t care if the U.S. Congress honors him this way.

Kind of like Jesus probably wasn’t hoping to be honored by Pilate.

Mark Sandlin is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) from the South. He is a co-founder of The Christian Left.

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TIME Pope Franics

Pope Francis Celebrates a Year of Change at the Vatican

Pope Francis holds his weekly general audience on March 5, 2014 at St. Peter's square in Vatican City.
Pope Francis holds his weekly general audience on March 5, 2014 at St. Peter's square in Vatican City. Andreas Solara—AFP/Getty Images

A year after becoming the first non-European pope in more than a millennium, the Argentine pontiff continues to challenge the status quo. That's evident again in his choice to celebrate his first year, untraditionally, outside the walls of the Holy See

Pope Francis has spent his first year in office challenging Vatican custom and the he’ll celebrate the anniversary of his papacy in the same fashion, as the first pope in decades to mark the occasion outside the Vatican walls.

The first non-European pope in more than a millennium will spend the week of preaching and prayer at a retreat with the Roman Curia in a small town 15 miles from the Vatican. The decision to break with tradition by leading the Curia—the Vatican bureaucracy—outside the Holy See for his one-year anniversary evokes Francis’ efforts to reform a church he has criticized for being too insular.

The Vatican has also marked Francis’ first year in office with the release of an e-book that compiles quotations from the pope’s first year in office.

In the 12 months since he succeeded the conservative and tradition-bound Pope Benedict, Francis hasn’t shied from challenging Vatican rules and Catholic custom. He travels in a Ford Focus rather than the papal limousine; he lives in the Vatican hotel rather than the Vatican’s papal apartments; he raised traditionalist eyebrows when, on a flight after a visit to Brazil, he was asked his opinion on homosexuality and answered, “Who am I to judge?” The Argentine-born pope—and TIME’s 2014 Person of the Year—has imbued his office with rare rock star status. He has initiated a profound change in style—if not always in underlying substance—at the Vatican that many believe is reinvigorating the world’s largest religion.

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