TIME Italy

Watch Thousands of Tango Dancers Celebrate Pope Francis’s Birthday in Rome

The Argentinian has expressed fondness for his country's dance

There’s no better way to celebrate a birthday than with a dance party, and for Pope Francis’s 78th, that means a massive tango party in the streets of Rome. Thousands gathered in and around the Vatican City to sing happy birthday in Italian, Spanish and other languages and dance to tango music—an Argentinian import like Francis himself.

Before becoming the Pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio gave an interview for the book The Jesuit by Sergio Rubin and Francesca Ambrogetti expressing his love for the tango. “I like it a lot,” he said. “It’s something that comes from within me.”

[Reuters]

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 The Vatican

The Vatican Is Building Showers for the Homeless in Rome

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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.

TIME The Vatican

Pope Francis Warns G20 of Effect of ‘Unbridled Consumerism’

Pope attends His Weekly Audience St. Peter's Square
Pope Francis speaks during his weekly audience in St. Peter's square on November 12, 2014 in Vatican City, Vatican. During the event, the Pope asked the clergy to be humble, urging them to be understanding towards their communities and to avoid an authoritarian attitude. Franco Origlia—Getty Images

"Responsibility for the poor and the marginalized must therefore be an essential element of any political decision"

Pope Francis warned heads of states attending the annual G20 meeting in Australia about the effects of “unbridled consumerism” and called on them to take concrete steps to alleviate unemployment.

In a letter addressed to Australia Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who is chairing this year’s G20 Leaders’ Summit which begins Sunday, the Pontiff called for its participants to consider that “many lives are at stake.”

“It would indeed be regrettable if such discussions were to remain purely on the level of declarations of principle,” Pope Francis wrote in the letter.

Pope Francis, who has made a habit of addressing the leaders of the G20 meetings, has often raised his concerns with the global economy. Last year, in lengthy report airing the views of the Vatican, he criticized the “idolatry of money” and denounced the unfettered free market as the “new tyranny.”

In the letter published Tuesday, he said that, like attacks on human rights in the Middle East, abuses in the financial system are among the “forms of aggression that are less evident but equally real and serious.”

“Responsibility for the poor and the marginalized must therefore be an essential element of any political decision, whether on the national or the international level,” he wrote.

TIME faith

Defining Extraordinary Synod: A Glossary for the Pope’s Big Gathering

Pope Attends Holy Mass For The Opening Of The Extraordinary Synod On The Family
Pope Francis attends the Opening Mass of the Synod of Bishops in St. Peter's Basilica on Oct. 5, 2014 in Vatican City. Franco Origlia—Getty Images

In a meeting about the future of the Catholic Church, the terminology is sometime ancient Greek

There’s a lot about the Extraordinary Synod of the Bishops on the Family that may seem unfamiliar or foreign to observers—especially the vocabulary. As leaders of the Catholic church gather this week at the Vatican to discuss issues, including divorce and remarriage, here’s a rundown of synod-speak for the uninitiated:

Synod: a gathering of clergy, or a church council; synod means “coming together” in Greek

Extraordinary Synod: a synod called for a special and urgent purpose

Synod Father: a priest participating in the synod

Intervention: a written statement composed and submitted by a synod father about views and topics he would like considered in the synod

Ecclesial: having to do with the church

Relator (pronounced, real-AH-tor): the designated person in an ecclesial gathering who conveys, writes or records the information that the meeting will discuss. The 2014 Synod Relator is Cardinal Péter Erdo of Esztergom-Budapest, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Hungary.

Secretary General: the synod’s basic administrator who assists in all the synod’s preparations and forthcoming documents. The 2014 Synod Secretary General is Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri

Mitre: the pointed hat a bishop wears for special occasions, like synod masses

Auditor: person specially selected by Pope Francis to observe the synod and all its proceedings

Fraternal delegates: representatives of non-Catholic Christian communities who are present at the synod

Voting members: cardinals and other papal appointees who can vote in the synod

Non-voting members: auditors, observers, and other participants who cannot vote in the synod

TIME Religion

The Great Nunquisition: Why the Vatican Is Cracking Down on Sisters

VATICAN-POPE-ANGELUS-WC-2014-FEATURE
Nuns pose with the jersey of Argentinian football star Lionel Messi and flags prior Pope Francis Sunday Angelus prayer at St. Peter's Square on July 13, 2014 at the Vatican. FILIPPO MONTEFORTE—AFP/Getty Images

Today's generation of nuns are progressive women, two things the Church isn't used to

Nuns are an endangered species. They are dying and not being replaced.

If you think the news is bad now, a world without nuns would be a far worse place. The nuns that I know are much too humble to tout their achievements and all of the good they contribute to society, but make no mistake, they are an integral part of the fabric that holds our civilization together.

In 2014 there were just 49,883 religious Catholic sisters in the United States, down 13% percent from 2010 according to figures from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. To put it in greater perspective, that is a 72% decline since 1965.

Because nuns don’t brag about all of the good that they do or hashtag how awesome they are on Facebook, many people have no idea about the things they accomplish on a daily basis.

You probably haven’t heard about Sister Joan Dawber. Sister Joan, a Sister of Charity of Halifax, runs a safe house in Queens for victims of human trafficking—former sex and labor slaves. She takes these women in when they have no one else to protect them and risks her life to help them rebuild theirs.

About 20 minutes away by car from Sister Joan’s safe house, Sister Tesa Fitzgerald works tirelessly to raise the children of mothers who are incarcerated. When those women get out of prison Sister Tesa helps them get clothes, jobs and an apartment. Those women credit Tesa with nothing less than saving their lives.

Most people don’t know about Sister Nora Nash, a Franciscan Sister who lives just outside of Philadelphia. As her order’s Director of Corporate Social Responsibility, Sister Nora wakes up every single morning determined to make corporations more responsible to the human race. Sister Nora and her assistant director, Tom McCaney have taken to task the grocery store chain Kroger over the rights of farm workers, Hershey’s chocolate company over child labor, McDonald’s over childhood obesity, Walmart on raising their minimum wage and Wells Fargo over predatory lending practices. Nash wakes up every single morning determined to make corporations more responsible to the human race. Then she follows through on it.

For more than four decades Sister Jeannine Gramick has been tireless in her fight for gay rights through her organization New Ways, despite coming under intense scrutiny from the Vatican.

Sister Dianna Ortiz made headlines in 1989 when she was abducted, tortured and raped while working as a teacher in Guatemala. After living through that horror, instead of allowing herself to sink into a terrible depression, she headed up an organization to help thousands of torture survivors around the globe find the will to keep living.

It’s a problem that you haven’t heard about these women. You would think that, during a time when the Church has suffered from great criticism and weathered very public scandals, it would be celebrating these incredible achievements. Think again.

The Vatican doesn’t celebrate these women. In fact, it has done the very opposite. Attacks on American nuns have been happening since 2008, when the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life initiated an “Apostolic Visitation,” a euphemism for investigation, of the nuns.

To put it in perspective, previous “visitations” conducted by the Church were designed to investigate things like the priest sex abuse scandal.

The nuns nicknamed it the Great Nunquisition and in the past eight years they’ve come under scrutiny from the church patriarchy.

A 2012 Vatican document highlighted the Church’s problem with the Leadership Council of Women Religious, the largest group of nuns in the United States. The document claimed that the LCWR was “silent on the right to life from conception to natural death” and that Roman Catholic views on the family and human sexuality “are not part of the LCWR agenda in a way that promotes church teachings.”

Today’s nuns are simply too progressive for the Vatican. The Vatican chooses not to celebrate nuns and it chooses not to empower them.

Pope Francis has been hailed as a progressive icon. Yet on the subject of women in the Church, he remains loyal to a long-held and antiquated stance: he doesn’t think women should become priests.

Nuns are dying out because their population is aging and young women are not joining their ranks in the numbers they once did.

The young women who could be the nuns of tomorrow share a lot of the same values as the nuns of today. They are fiercely dedicated to the concept of social justice and doing good in the world. Seven in 10 millennials consider themselves social activists, and 72% of them are eager to participate in a nonprofit young professional group.

They want to be of service.

I recently spoke to a young woman who was discerning to be a Catholic sister, but changed her mind before she took perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

I asked her why and the answer was very simple and yet disheartening.

“I want to work for an employer that values what I do.”

She plans to work for an NGO. She wanted to be of service to the world, but she also wanted to feel empowered in her job.

Why would a generation of young women raised to believe that they can be anything join an institution that tells them there is something they absolutely cannot be, that there is a certain level they will never reach? Many of the women who are nuns today joined the vocation because it was a way to become highly educated, travel the world and dedicate themselves to a higher good without being beholden to a husband or children.

Young women today can do that with a passport and a Kickstarter account.

I am constantly reminded of something Sister Maureen Fiedler, a feminist and the host of the public radio program Interfaith Voices told me when I interviewed her for my book: the fact that Jesus was, and is, an “equal-opportunity employer.” He loved everyone the same.

If Catholic nuns are to survive in this country, something has to give. The Vatican needs to treat the nuns with more respect. The rules will have to evolve. Women will need to be given more power and leadership roles in the church.

Speaking at the annual LCWR assembly earlier this month, Franciscan Sister Ilia Delio described exactly what it means to be a nun today: “We are about drawing in the poor, the lonely, the marginalized, all those seeking to be part of a whole,” she said. “This is nothing more and nothing less than the most awesome vocation.

It is awesome. The nuns are awesome. But if the Vatican doesn’t start treating them as such, there is no incentive for more young women to aspire to join their ranks.

Jo Piazza is the author of the new book, If Nuns Ruled the World, which shatters the stereotypes of American Catholic nuns and profiles 10 daring sisters. A veteran journalist whose work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Slate, the Daily Beast and Yahoo, Piazza holds a masters degree in Religious Studies from New York University.

TIME Religion

Pope Francis Visits ‘Cemetery For Abortion Victims’ in South Korea

It's a strong anti-abortion gesture

Pope Francis visited a symbolic “cemetery for abortion victims” Saturday during his visit to South Korea, a gesture that strongly reaffirms the Church’s stance against abortion, after suspicion by some that the pontiff might hold tepid anti-abortion views.

The abortion memorial, located at the Kkottongnae home for the sick about 120 miles from Seoul, is a field dotted with white crosses and statues of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus as a child. Francis paused briefly at the site, bowed his head and folded his hand in prayer, the Boston Globe reports.

Jung Kwang-ryul of the Kkottongnae community, described the site as a “one-of-a-kind memorial,” saying the pope’s stop is “a clear testimony of his defense of life.”

South Korea is believed to have one of the highest abortion rates in the world, despite it being illegal except in the case of rape or incest.

During the early days of his papacy, some within the Church questioned Francis’ commitment to opposing abortion. In early interviews, Francis complained that the Church is “obsessed” with moral debates. “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods,” Francis said in one interview.

But since then, Francis has strengthened his anti-abortion credentials with starker statements. “It is necessary to reiterate the strongest opposition to any direct attack on life, especially innocent and defenseless, and her unborn child in the womb is the innocent par excellence,” the pope said in April.

[Boston Globe]

TIME Religion

Pope Francis Sacks Entire Board of Vatican’s Financial Watchdog

The pontiff has replaced the all-Italian board of the Financial Information Authority with an international group of new members — including Juan C. Zarate, a Harvard professor and former Bush Administration official

Pope Francis replaced the entire, all-Italian board of the Vatican’s internal financial watchdog Thursday amid clashes over the pace of reform, the Boston Globe reports.

The Financial Information Authority was created in 2010 to combat money laundering and bring the Vatican into compliance with international standards, and Pope Francis has brought a renewed focus on the agency since he was elected over a year ago and made financial reform a priority.

But the board has faced infighting since Swiss anti-money-laundering expert Rene Bruelhart became its director in 2012, capped by Italian Cardinal Attilio Nicora’s resignation as its head in January.

Pope Francis and Bruelhart have pushed for a more international board, with new members hailing from Italy, Singapore, Switzerland and the U.S., including Juan C. Zarate, a Harvard professor and a former official in the George W. Bush administration.

[Boston Globe]

TIME The Vatican

Pope’s Private Conversations Aren’t Church Policy

Pope Francis Visits The Church of St. Ignatius
Pope Francis on April 24, 2014 in Rome, Italy. Franco Origlia—Getty Images

The Vatican denies that the pope wants to change the rule on whether divorcees and their new spouses can take the sacrament, after he reportedly told an Argentine woman whose first marriage had ended in divorce that she could take communion

The Vatican assured Catholics Thursday that Pope Francis’ private conversations will not become church policy after a phone conversation of his stirred controversy.

Pope Francis reportedly spoke on the phone to an Argentine woman who had written him for guidance. She said that her priest had not allowed her to take communion because her current husband’s previous marriage was never annulled. After the conversation, her husband, Julio Sabetta, claimed that the head of the Catholic Church told the woman she was free of sin.

“He said that she has been freed of all sin, that he blessed the whole family, that she’s free to take communion from here on out, and he asked that we pray for him,” Sabetta said, adding that after they hung up, the whole family hugged and wept together. “It was something amazing,” he said.

The account, which Sabetta posted on Facebook on April 21, led to speculation that the Pope wanted to changeVatican policy that currently prevent those who have remarried after getting divorced from access to the sacraments. This possibility was fueled by the fact that the pope has called a synod in October to discuss family issues, including contraception and divorce. The Vatican even sent out a questionnaire to all the world’s bishops asking for their input before the meeting.

But Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi denied that there would be a change in policy, according to the Associated Press: “consequences related to the teaching of the Church are not to be inferred” from the pope’s private conversations.

“Several telephone calls have taken place in the context of Pope Francis’ personal pastoral relationships. Since they do not in any way form part of the Pope’s public activities, no information or comments are to be expected from the Holy See Press Office.”

[AP]

TIME Religion

Pope Francis Prays for Peace on Easter Sunday

Pope Francis
Pope Francis waves to the crowd from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica where he delivered the Urbi et Orbi (Latin for to the city and to the world) at the end of the Easter Mass in St. Peter's Square at the the Vatican, April 20, 2014. L'Osservatore Romano/AP

In his Easter address to more than 150,000 at St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Francis called for an end to the recent conflicts in Syria, Nigeria and Ukraine and advised Catholics to help "those crushed by life’s troubles"

Pope Francis prayed for peace in Ukraine during his Easter mass in Vatican City on Sunday.

“We ask [God] to enlighten and inspire the initiatives that promote peace in Ukraine, so that all those involved, with the support of the international community, will make every effort to prevent violence,” Francis said in front of a crowd of more than 150,000 visitors at St. Peter’s Basilica.

This year, the Catholic church’s celebration of Easter coincides with Easter in the Orthodox churches, which have a sizable presence in Ukraine.

The Pontiff also prayed for peace in Syria and the Middle East at large, an end to the recent Nigerian terrorist attacks that have targeted Christians and an end to the deadly Ebola outbreak in parts of Africa, the Associated Press reports.

Pope Francis said the hopeful spirit of Easter means “leaving ourselves behind and encountering others, being close to those crushed by life’s troubles, sharing with the needy, standing at the side of the sick, elderly and the outcast.”

[AP]

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