TIME Religion

Majority of Americans Believe the Story of Jesus’ Birth is Historically Accurate

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Guido Reni—Getty Images/The Bridgeman Art Library The Nativity at Night, 1640 (oil on canvas)

Far more than believe in climate change

More Americans believe the Christmas story is historically accurate than believe in climate change.

According to a new Pew Survey of over 1,500 U.S. adults, 73% say they believe Jesus was born to a virgin, and 74% say they believe Jesus’s birth was announced to the shepherds by an angel (among Protestant respondents, that rate is 91% and 90%, respectively). 78% of women say they believe in the virgin birth, 65% of the respondents said they believe all elements of the Christmas story are factually true.

These findings are remarkably consistent with last year’s Pew study which also found that 73% of respondents believe Jesus was born to a virgin. And a 2007 Gallup poll found that 31% of Americans thought that the Bible was “the actual word of God, to be taken literally.”

In this year’s survey, 44% of Americans say they thought Christian symbols should be allowed on government property, even if other religious symbols arent.

By contrast, a Pew study of from January found that only 61% of Americans think that climate change is happening, and only 40% believe it’s caused by human behavior. Which means that almost twice as many Americans believe in the virgin birth as believe in human-induced global warming.

 

 

TIME Religion

The Truth About Religion and Animals

To connect the dots between the preciousness of animal life and the preciousness of human life isn’t to engage in moral equivalence.

This week’s story about Pope Francis telling a distraught boy that his dog would go to heaven was just so heartwarming—too bad it wasn’t true. It’s no wonder that media across the globe and pet-lovers everywhere fell for it. The story fit so neatly into what’s become a conventional narrative: the one in which “good” Pope Francis is pitted against “bad” Church traditionalists (often wrongly called “conservatives”).

It’s been pointed out here and there that Pope Francis isn’t quite as suited to the chosen stereotype as some people think. What the new shaggy dog story goes to show is that neither are the meanie traditionalists and conservatives themselves—especially when it comes to animal welfare.

And therein lies not a tail, but a tale.

The fact is that the most energetic thinking about that subject for the last several years has been emanating from just those supposedly backward quarters. It’s occurring not despite people with an affinity for religious and other traditionalism, but rather, by and because of them.

American Catholic and Catholic-influenced thinkers have been in the forefront of this budding moral movement at least since the appearance 12 years ago of Matthew Scully’s seminal book Dominion. Where the prominent Republican speechwriter first led, others of similar leanings have followed (this author included), mindful carnivores and vegans/vegetarians alike. Pro-animal writings and debate are now an itinerant cottage industry in venues like National Review, First Things magazine, at the American Conservative, and elsewhere far outside the orbits of the typically secular-to-atheist animal rights constituency inspired by utilitarian theorist Peter Singer (Animal Liberation).

Similarly, The New Atlantis recently devoted an entire issue to the moral consideration of animals, including Caitrin Nicol’s widely read instant classic, “Do Elephants Have Souls?” The latest issue of The Journal of Moral Theology likewise consists entirely of articles about the moral meaning of non-human animals. And so many evangelical Protestants are now speaking out that the Humane Society of the United States this fall released a 12-part video series called “Faith Voices on Animal Protection.”

Why so much interest in animal welfare from such perhaps unexpected precincts?

In part, the answer is that religious concern for animals comes as a surprise only to readers unacquainted with religion—a number that’s increasing, as many surveys show. As many “nones” seem not to know, theological concern for animals is in fact longstanding, as the dietary rules of Judaism concerning slaughter are the first to show. The Catholic Catechism states that animals are “owed” moral treatment, and many Christian thinkers have agreed; theologian Charles Camosy’s recent book For Love of Animals is a useful primer here. Among others, Trappists, Cistercians, Benedictines, and a number of saints have adopted vegetarianism or otherwise debated the requirements of mercy regarding animals. Recent popes have also appealed variously for clemency toward birds and beasts. Benedict XVI, to name one, deplored the industrial creation of foie gras, to the approval of PETA.

Today’s new moral energy is also emanating from such quarters for another reason: the similarity discerned by some people between the industrial trashing of animal life via factory farms, and the industrial trashing of human life via factory abortion. When Pope Francis decries the tragedy of a “throwaway culture,” he is not only talking about fast-food wrappers or unwanted kitties—as his 2013 Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, section 214, makes clear.

To connect the dots between the preciousness of animal life and the preciousness of human life isn’t to engage in moral equivalence. It’s rather to observe that people have big enough hearts to cherish both.

Once upon a time, concern for already-born animal life was thought to be on one side of the political aisle; and concern for unborn human life on the other. Today, more people can see beyond that false divide to a place where the two positions logically align. Maybe that’s why the Millennials, for all their vaunted progressivism, are more anti-abortion in polls than their Boomer parents; and they are simultaneously also more concerned with animal welfare, as the food industry is the first to know.

Whether furry friends await us in the hereafter is a question unlikely to be answered any time soon, including within the Apostolic Palace. But that more and more people today care about the dogs still here on earth—and the elephants, and the horses, and the pigs, and yes, the chickens too—is a widening social truth. And in a twist unforeseen a generation ago, believers from all over are helping to build that thing.

Mary Eberstadt is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and author most recently of How the West Really Lost God.

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 Religion

Noah’s Ark Theme Park Won’t Get Tax Breaks

'Ark Encounter' is struggling to stay afloat

A life-size Noah’s Ark theme park planned in northern Kentucky won’t receive $18 million in tax incentives after concerns from the state over its hiring practices.

The state’s tourism secretary wrote a letter Wednesday saying that Answers in Genesis, which is funding the planned Ark Encounter theme park, was requiring “salvation testimony” and a “Creation belief statement” in its job postings, which the state said was discriminating based on religious grounds.

(MORE: Modern-Day Noah: Dutch Man Builds Ark of Biblical Proportions)

“It is readily apparent that the project has evolved from a tourist attraction to an extension of AIG’s ministry that will no longer permit the commonwealth to grant the project tourism development incentives,” wrote Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet Secretary Bob Stewart.

The Ark Encounter, which would feature a 510-foot wooden replica of Noah’s Ark as described in the Bible, has been underway since 2010, but the $170 million project has run into financial difficulties since getting approval in 2011 from the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority.

TIME faith

Why This Evangelical Pastor Wants to Bring Back Advent

Rev. Louie Giglio
lee Steffen—AP Louie Giglio, pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta

He argues it could help people struggling during the holidays

Christmas—and its ubiquitous cheer—is already everywhere. And when life is not exactly cheery, it can be hard to celebrate “Joy to the World.” That’s why pastor Louie Giglio, the founder of Passion City Church in Atlanta, is using a new book to encourage evangelicals to recover the church holiday that leads up to Christmas: Advent.

For most people, “Advent” means calendars of little chocolate treats behind paper windows, one for each December day until the Christmas morning. But Advent actually is a four-week liturgical period leading up to Christmas. It marks the start of the Christian new year, which this year started on the last Sunday in November, and is as important to church history as Lent is to Easter—it symbolizes a period of prayer and reflection before the coming holy day. Catholic, Orthodox, and mainline Protestant churches tend to follow the liturgical calendar, and so they celebrate the four Sundays of Advent—each one has a different meaning, liturgy and Bible verses that go with it. Evangelical churches tend to have fewer ties to historical church practices, so the idea of them celebrating Advent is relatively new.

This year, Giglio is encouraging both his church and the broader evangelical community to spend time celebrating Advent as a way to build trust in God when times are hard. His message is personal. He wrote his new Advent devotional, Waiting Here For You: An Advent Journey of Hope, with a family going through cancer in mind, and then three months later, his father-in-law was given an incurable cancer diagnosis. “The word ‘advent’ means expectation,” Giglio explains. “It is building into our framework of Christmas the confidence that God is going to come through for us.”

Celebrating Christmas, Giglio says, is about more than just marking Jesus’ birthday; it’s also about remembering God’s presence in hard times. Jesus was born “on tax day to a couple that had the cloud of pregnancy hanging over their heads, a couple that was out of town and didn’t have money and in a cave, and was alone and afraid in the middle of the night,” he explains, recounting the narrative of Jesus’ birth. “We try to dramatize it a lot, but God really did come on the craziest day of all,” he says.

For many evangelical megachurches, where Christmas can quickly become about evangelizing, holiday performances, mission outreach, and extravagant nativity scenes, that spiritual message can fall by the wayside. But Giglio hopes that Advent can offer a new encouragement. “I don’t have a neat and tidy message of faith—it does not always work out the way we want it to work out,” Giglio says. “Christmas is a reminder that God is at work and those plans are still unfolding. … That is a miracle.”

TIME Pakistan

Bollywood Actress Veena Malik Sentenced to 26 Years in Jail For Blasphemy

Veena Malik during promotional event
Ramesh Sharma—India Today Group/Getty Images Veena Malik promotes her movie Zindagi 50 50 at the India Today multiplex in Noida, India.

The actress appeared in a scene that referenced Muhammad's daughter

A Pakistani anti-terrorism court has sentenced film and television star Veena Malik to 26 years in jail after she appeared in a scene that the Guardian describes as “loosely based on the marriage of the Prophet Muhammad’s daughter.”

The sentence stemmed from a blasphemy charge, which was also levied at Malik’s husband, businessman Asad Bashir Khan and Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, owner of the Jang-Geo media group which aired the TV show, for their parts in the scene which aired in May. Khan and Shakil-ur-Rahman were also sentenced to 26 years. None of the accused were present in court.

The offending scene was a reenactment of Malik and Khan’s own wedding, acted as musicians played a devotional song about the wedding of a daughter of the Prophet Muhammad. After the episode aired, the senior vice president of a chapter of the Muslim religious organisation Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat made an official complaint, saying the show had defiled the family of the Prophet Muhammad, by using the religious music.

The sentence was handed down by judge Raja Shahbaz, who said, “The malicious acts of the proclaimed offenders ignited the sentiments of all the Muslims of the country and hurt the feelings, which cannot be taken lightly and there is need to strictly curb such tendency.”

[Guardian]

TIME Crime

Rev. Al Sharpton: Pray for Michael Brown’s Family on Thanksgiving

Reverand Al Sharpton speaks at a press conference on the eve of Thanksgiving to pray and address the events of the last few days regarding the grand jury verdict of police officer Darren Wilson on Nov. 26, 2014 in New York.
Andrew Burton—Getty Images Reverand Al Sharpton speaks at a press conference on the eve of Thanksgiving to pray and address the events of the last few days regarding the grand jury verdict of police officer Darren Wilson on Nov. 26, 2014 in New York.

Families of two men killed in police incidents came together with Rev. Al Sharpton

The families of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, who were both killed in confrontations with police officers over the summer, are set to experience their first Thanksgivings without their loved ones. In preparation for the holiday, Rev. Al Sharpton and the National Action Network hosted a “bonding prayer” Wednesday for the two families at the civil rights organization’s headquarters in Harlem.

“Not only do they share pain of being victims of police conduct,” Sharpton said. “This will be their first Thanksgiving with an empty seat at the table”

Garner was killed after being held in a chokehold by a New York City officer. For Brown’s family, the wounds from his death are especially fresh given the grand jury decision announced this week not to indict officer Darren Wilson, who fired the fatal shots at the 18-year-old. Since the announcement of the decision, protests have sprang up across the U.S. and in Brown’s hometown of Ferguson, Mo.

“We hope that when people pull up to their tables on Thanksgiving, they pray for these families,” Sharpton said before praying that both Garner’s and Brown’s deaths “birth a new way” of handling police conduct and race relations in America.

TIME

Religion, Hypocrisy, and Obamacare

Eric Yoffie was President of the Union for Reform Judaism from 1996 to 2012.

It is not OK for a religiously serious person to offer no plan at all to help truly poor, weak, and helpless Americans.

“Now, when you die and get to the meeting with St. Peter, he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small. But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor. You better have a good answer.”

These words, spoken last year to a member of the Ohio legislature by John Kasich, the now reelected Republican governor of Ohio, are significant for two reasons.

First and most important, they are a reminder of a simple religious truth: If you don’t care about the poor, the suffering, and the sick, you cannot be a good Christian — or a good Jew, or a good Muslim. You may pretend to be a good religious person, of course. You can convince yourself, perhaps, that you are God-fearing and upright. But in the final analysis, if you forget the downtrodden and ignore the stranger and the widow, and fail to show kindness and mercy to the least among us, you have failed in your religious obligations. As Governor Kasich pointedly reminded the legislator, like him a conservative and a man of faith, St. Peter will be waiting with some very specific questions, and he will not be satisfied with platitudes or evasions.

And while the Governor was speaking as a believing Christian, his words hold true for all the Abrahamic traditions. True, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam offer a stunning diversity of practices and beliefs. Their adherents observe different rituals and pray with different liturgies. Each proposes a distinct path to salvation, and at times, each suggests the superiority of its own religious way. Still, for all of their traditional differences, there are common pillars upon which they all rest. All three assert some version of the Golden Rule, demanding that we act toward others as we would have others act toward us. And all three require compassion for the weak and the poor, requiring us to go beyond ourselves, feel pain that is not our own, and then reach out to the truly needy in our midst.

As a politician, and a good one, Governor Kasich, if pressed, would undoubtedly not say that he was calling his opponents un-Christian. Nonetheless, his words were clear in their intent and very much on target. He was reminding us that despite all the palaver that we hear about the Judeo-Christian tradition, too many religious Americans have lost sight of what religion must always be: A force for compassion, healing, and hope.

The second reason that the Governor’s words are significant is because of the context in which they were expressed.

The Governor said what he said while convincing the members of the Ohio legislature to approve an expansion of Medicaid, a government healthcare program for the poor. The expansion is provided for by the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), and therefore was unpopular with conservatives, even though it extended medical insurance to 275,000 needy Ohioans.

It would be absurd to suggest that religion requires support for Obamacare. There are a variety of ways in which government could expand health coverage, and in fact, Kasich opposes the Affordable Care Act as an inefficient, “top-down” program. But what was important was his assertion that despite opposing Obamacare, a responsible religious person could — and, in fact, must — endorse selective use of the legislation if that is the only way to help poor and desperate people, such as the 26,000 veterans and 55,000 mentally ill persons who had no other options available to assist them.

In his little sermon to the legislator, the Governor was making it clear that it is fine to say you prefer Plan A to Plan B, but it is not fine for a religiously serious person to offer no plan at all to help truly poor, weak, and helpless Americans. To do that is to contribute to the increasingly common image of political leaders as cynical and complacent and cut off from any real understanding of the people they represent. To do that is to be untrue to the fundamental teachings of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and to ignore religion’s understanding of our higher selves.

Twenty-two states have not yet expanded Medicaid, and most, alas, are offering no alternative to their most disadvantaged citizens. I can only hope that politicians in these states will follow the lead of the Governor of Ohio, who understood that turning our back on those at the very bottom of the ladder is not the American way, and it is not the Judeo-Christian way, either. If you are a practical politician with high ideals and religious convictions, you need to put real solutions on the table. And whatever your personal theology or the state of your belief, why not assume that the Governor’s right? If the time comes that someone is standing at heaven’s gate, asking what you did for the poor, it’s best to be ready with an answer.

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

Vatican Strengthens Ties with Evangelicals and Mormons Against Gay Marriage

Pope Francis general audience
Osservatore Romano/EPA Pope Francis during his weekly general audience in St. Peter square, Vatican City, Nov. 19, 2014.

New alliances formed in Rome this week

In a month when papal conversation about marriage has been all the rage, the Vatican is enlisting a new set of allies to support its commitment to marriage between a man and a woman: American evangelicals and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

This week the Vatican hosted a three-day, international, interreligious colloquium called Humanum, “The Complementarity of Man and Woman: An International Colloquium.” Its goal was to “propose anew the beauty of the relationship between the man and the woman.” Speakers came from nearly two dozen countries and a variety of religious traditions, including Muslims, Jews, Sikhs and Taoists.

The presence of American evangelicals and the LDS Church was particularly notable. Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, and Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, each gave speeches, and representatives from the Heritage Foundation and the Family Research Council in Washington attended. President Henry Eyring of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ first presidency spoke and Elder Tom Perry of the LDS’s Quorum of the Twelve also joined. In the United States, this trio of faiths has worked together to stand against the government’s Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, but it was the first time they were coming together at the Vatican to talk about marriage.

The colloquium rallied around the theological concept of complementarianism, the belief that men and women have different roles in a marriage and religious leadership—husbands are spiritual leaders, and wives submit to them in love. To be “complementary” is to complete or fill the lack in the other thing. It opposes egalitarianism, the theological belief that men and women are equal in all respects in marriage and in religious leadership positions. Traditional Catholic, evangelical, and LDS belief interprets the Bible to support a complementarian relational structure. That may explain why mainline Protestant traditions that interpret the Bible to an egalitarian end—Presbyterian, Episcopal, United Church of Christ—were not featured at the event.

Pope Francis did not spearhead the colloquium, as many casual observers might think. It was organized and led by German Cardinal Gerhard Müller, a strong conservative voice at the Pope’s Synod on the Family last month. Müller is the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican group that sponsored the event. Still, Pope Francis gave an opening address to attendees, in which he affirmed the Church’s teaching that children have a right to a mother and a father.

Skepticism about the other’s faith tends to run deep between Catholics, evangelicals and Mormons. In strict economic terms, the three faiths all compete for followers. They are heavily missionizing, and often they evangelize precisely in ways that distinguish themselves apart from the other faiths. But the Protestant work ethic runs deep in both evangelical and Mormon culture, as does deep commitment to faith convictions that the outside world may not understand. The gathering signals that some Vatican leaders recognize that banding together to support marriage as between one man and one woman may be a smart strategy going forward, especially as they have been standing separately against the western world’s changing sexual mores.

On paper, the colloquium concluded with an affirmation of marriage. “For on earth marriage binds us across the ages in the flesh, across families in the flesh, and across the fearful and wonderful divide of man and woman, in the flesh. This is not ours to alter,” it reads. “It is ours, however, to encourage and celebrate….This we affirm.”

But in practice, it ended with something more significant—a strengthening of alliances. The event forged and deepened relationships across faith lines. “This group differs on many points—theological and political—but we agree that marriage matters,” says Moore, who walked around the Vatican with a copy of Luther’s 95 Theses in his coat pocket, a symbol of Protestantism’s break with Rome 500 years ago. “The colloquium started a conversation of groups on virtually every continent and virtually every religious tradition on how we can work together for the common good of marriage.”

For Eyring, of the LDS Church, the event marks a beginning. “They are talking about how are we going to get the word out and what more can we do. They want to do more,” he told the Deseret News. “It’s been amazing how receptive they have been to us,” Perry added, describing relationship he has been developing with Catholic leaders. “I think that we’ve developed a relationship now that they recognized that we have the strength and our structure in our organization that can reach out in a way that other churches do not have.”

American evangelical leaders say they are also leaving hopeful of the journey ahead. “The content of the colloquium was important, but perhaps more so were the connections made between people who share come concerns but who didn’t know each other before,” Moore says. “I am leaving the colloquium much more optimistic than I was when I arrived.”

Adds Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council: “The atmosphere was almost euphoric as the attendees from six of the world’s seven continents broke from the historic gathering to return to their respective nations renewed in their stand for marriage,” he says. “The courts may declare otherwise, and Hollywood may depict its demise, but the union of a man and a woman as the natural and enduring definition of marriage will endure until the end.”

TIME faith

Meet Blase Cupich: Chicago’s New Archbishop

Bishop Blase Cupich, Pope Francis' first major appointment in the hierarchy of the U.S. Catholic Church, leaves Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago
Jeff Haynes—Reuters Bishop Blase Cupich, Pope Francis' first major appointment in the hierarchy of the U.S. Catholic Church, leaves Holy Name Cathedral as part of a ritual a day ahead of his installation as the new archbishop in Chicago, Nov. 17, 2014.

Pope Francis was said to be personally involved in Cupich’s selection

On Tuesday afternoon, Blase Cupich, former bishop of Spokane, Wash., will be installed as the ninth archbishop of Chicago. Pope Francis named Cupich, 65, to the appointment in September to replace Cardinal Francis George, who is the city’s first retiring archbishop and who is fighting cancer. “This was not on my radar screen at all… I honestly thought that I was going to retire in Spokane,” Cupich says. “The Pope thought otherwise.”

The archbishop of Chicago is a key seat in the power structure of American Catholicism. The archdiocese is the country’s third-largest Catholic community with 2.2 million members — nearly half of whom are Hispanic — and a budget that tops $1 billion. Its two previous archbishops have been named cardinals.

Pope Francis was said to be personally involved in Cupich’s selection. So far the two men have had almost no direct communication — Cupich wrote the Pope a personal letter thanking him for the appointment, as is customary, but that’s it. They will likely meet for the first time in June for the presentation of the pallium, a cloak that the Pope places on the shoulders of new archbishops around the world.

Cupich is ready to hit the ground running. Known for his simple lifestyle, he brought just 20 boxes with him to Chicago, mostly of books and clothes. In a lightly edited Q&A with TIME, Cupich admits he is looking ahead to the pastoral challenges his new archdiocese faces, ranging from immigration reform to youth development to contextualizing the Church’s message about marriage and family. “I think it is a very exciting time in the life of the church,” Cupich says. “It is probably as exciting as what happened in the Second Vatican Council.”

Many people have commented that in picking you for the Chicago seat, Pope Francis was making a point about the kind of future leaders he wants in American churches. Is that overstated?

I think that the Pope has trust in every bishop that is appointed. I consider that to be the case, plus the fact that I don’t feel very comfortable carrying that burden. If I’m supposed to be at the end of the funnel of everything the Pope wants, that’s an onerous task. I think it is a very exciting time in the life of the church. It really comes down to a deeper appreciation, a more wholesome appreciation of what it means to recognize that the risen Christ is working in the life of the church. That is the basis of everything he is doing. It is not just about Jorge Bergoglio, the former archbishop of Buenos Aires who is now Pope Francis. It is about his being able to be attuned to where the risen Christ is active in the life of the church today, and trying in some way to point the church to that.

A lot of parishes are confused about what Pope Francis’ Extraordinary Synod on the Family means. How will you guide parishes on its takeaways?

I think it is important for people to not come to a conclusion too quickly about what the church is going to do … There is a commitment, as the Holy Father said, not about changing doctrine. This is about two things. First, making sure that we are looking at the full breadth of our doctrine, not just cherry-picking things that are familiar to us, but there is a whole tradition of teaching that goes back 2,000 years. Second is how do we apply that doctrine in pastoral practice. We’ve always had different accommodations for people who are on the journey, who are on the way, to bring them along. I think that those are the kinds of things and nuances that have to be worked out and that we have to speak about, but we have to do it in a way that is unifying. We have to make sure that everybody comes together. That is the role of the Holy Father.

What other themes are you thinking about this year?

You think about immigration, you think about jobs, about the economy — those are experienced in families. They impact marriage. That is the context I’m going to use this year to speak about those issues, to have people reflect on them, how do we approach those various areas and what needs to be done to improve those areas as it impacts families, as it impacts marriages, as it helps children. I think that this year, given the synod, I’m going to contextualize all of those questions that way.

Tell me about your preaching style. Do you like preaching?

I like it more than the people who listen to me! I did my doctoral dissertation on the lectionary readings that we use at mass, and how you have Biblical texts that have been taken out of their original Bible context and put together for mass, and now they form a new text. Out of that new text there is an interplay of new meaning … I try to be sensitive to the power of language, to the power of language that God uses to reveal something about what Christ is doing in our time. That is why I’m always excited about preaching, because there is always something new. Christ uses our imagination, uses the power of language and human speech in order to make present what he is doing … I was really grateful to have a chance to have some really in depth study about the power of language, using a philosopher who taught at the University of Chicago, by the name of Paul Ricoeur. I’m really happy to be in Chicago because a lot of what I do is rooted in his approach to language.

What do you make of the flurry of press coverage over your appointment?

It is tough to get used to. I was a big nobody before all of this, and I still consider myself to be that. One of my family members, having seen all the press coverage and watching the internet videos on me, said, ‘I don’t really get it. You are not that interesting.’ So that keeps me humble. You can always count on family to do that for you.

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.

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