TIME Iraq

Pope OKs Protecting Iraq Minorities, Wants UN OK

Francis
Pope Francis shows to the media a yellow ribbon he received by one of the relatives of the victims of the Sewol ferry disaster during an airborne press conference on his journey back to Rome from Seoul, South Korea, Monday, Aug. 18, 2014. Gregorio Borgia—AP

(ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE) — Pope Francis has endorsed the use of force in Iraq to stop Islamic militants from attacking religious minorities but says the international community — and not just one country — should decide how to intervene.

Francis also said he and his advisers are considering whether he might go to northern Iraq to show solidarity with persecuted Christians, but are holding off on a decision for now.

In comments Monday to journalists returning from South Korea, Francis confirmed he will travel to the United States in September 2015 to attend a family rally in Philadelphia and was considering a three-city tour to address Congress in Washington and the United Nations in New York.

He said a Mexico stop on that trip was possible, as well as a separate visit to Spain.

TIME South Korea

Pope Francis Arrives in South Korea With a Message for All of Asia

Pope Francis Visits South Korea - DAY 1
Pope Francis walks with South Korean President Park Geun-Hye upon his arrival on August 14, 2014 in Seoul, South Korea. Pool—Getty Images

The Vatican says that Catholicism is growing faster in the region than anywhere else on Earth

Making the first trip to Asia by a Pontiff in 15 years, Pope Francis landed in South Korea on Aug. 14, beginning a five-day visit to one of Roman Catholicism’s few regional strongholds.

The Argentine, who made history as the first Latin American Pontiff, took the opportunity to hail the populous continent, where Catholic fervor is burgeoning in contrast to dwindling congregations in Europe. “As I begin my trip, I ask you to join me in praying for Korea and for all of Asia,” tweeted Pope Francis, whose visit will coincide with a large gathering of young Asian Catholics. In January 2015, he will return to Asia, with stops in Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

While in South Korea, the Pontiff will pray for peace for a divided Korean peninsula. On Thursday morning, less than an hour before Pope Francis landed in Seoul — where he was greeted by South Korean President Park Geun-hye, North Korean defectors and families of those who perished in the Sewol ferry disaster in April — North Korea fired three short-range rockets into the sea. Two more followed in the afternoon.

Much like in Eastern Europe during the Iron Curtain years, Catholic churches served as safe havens for South Korean human-rights defenders standing up to the dictatorships that held sway from the 1960s to the late 1980s. But the roots of Catholicism in Korea go back further than that. During his five-day visit, Pope Francis will beatify 124 Korean martyrs, including those who were persecuted in the 18th and 19th centuries by Confucian-bound dynastic rulers wary of foreign faiths. Around 10,000 Koreans are believed to have been killed for their faith.

Asia currently boasts the fewest number of Catholics of any region of the world, with only around 3% of Asians identifying as Catholics, according to the latest survey by the Pew Research Center. But the Vatican claims that Catholicism is growing faster in the region than anywhere else on earth, outstripping even Africa. The greatest numbers live in the Philippines, with roughly 80 million Catholics, or around 85% of the national population. India counts about 20 million believers, and the faith is believed to be growing in Vietnam. Yet tensions between Catholic communities and adherents to majority faiths like Islam have erupted in South Asia and Southeast Asia, sometimes violently.

In South Korea, the Catholic congregation has grown to about 5.4 million, or roughly 10% of the population. President Park was baptized at a Catholic church although her official biography says she holds no religious affiliation. Protestantism remains a more popular religion, although the primacy of evangelical mega-churches appears to have waned from an apex in the mid-90s. (Other South Koreans are Buddhists.)

In China, the ruling Communist Party maintains an official Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association that has to answer in part to atheist apparatchiks. The Holy See and Beijing do not have formal diplomatic relations, since China refuses to recognize the Vatican’s sway over what have been termed “underground churches” or those professing loyalty to Rome. Nevertheless, a religious revival in recent years has seen the growth of many faiths, including underground Catholic worship as well as belief in the state-sanctioned church.

In a rare hopeful sign, Pope Francis’ plane was allowed to travel through Chinese air space on its way to South Korea, something his predecessors’ jets had not been able to do. Following papal tradition, Pope Francis issued a radio message to Chinese President Xi Jinping as his plane passed over the People’s Republic. “Upon entering Chinese airspace,” the Pope said, “I extend best wishes to your Excellency and your fellow citizens, and I invoke the divine blessings of peace and well-being upon the nation.”

Still, some Chinese Catholics who planned to join the Asian Youth Day in South Korea were dissuaded by Chinese authorities. On the Chinese side of the border with North Korea, foreign missionaries and charities (both Catholic and Protestant) have been facing scrutiny in recent weeks for what is officially illegal activity.

Meanwhile, on Monday, in Seoul, Pope Francis plans to hold a special mass praying for peace and reconciliation among the two Koreas. The same day, joint military exercises involving the U.S. and ally South Korea are slated to begin. North Korea will surely not be pleased.

TIME Immigration

Pope Francis: Child Migrants to U.S. Must Be ‘Welcomed and Protected’

Pope Francis waves as he leads his Sunday Angelus prayer in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican on July 13, 2014.
Pope Francis waves as he leads his Sunday Angelus prayer in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican on July 13, 2014. Tony Gentile—Reuters

Immigrants "continue to be the subject of racist and xenophobic attitudes" said the pontiff, as the U.S. struggles to deal with a wave of unaccompanied child migrants at its southern border

The Pope has called for tens of thousands of unaccompanied child migrants to be “welcomed and protected” as they attempt to enter the U.S. from Central America and Mexico.

In a letter read Monday at a Vatican conference in Mexico City on human migration and development, Pope Francis said migration “has now become a hallmark of our society and a challenge.”

The Vatican Radio translation continues with the Pope noting: “Many people forced to emigrate suffer, and often die, tragically; many of their rights are violated, they are obliged to separate from their families and, unfortunately, continue to be the subject of racist and xenophobic attitudes.”

The pontiff calls on nations to become more welcoming towards migrants, singling out the increasing numbers of children who migrate alone as deserving special care and attention.

“They are increasing day by day,” the Pope said, in a reference to the rising number of unaccompanied child migrants attempting to cross the U.S. border. “The humanitarian emergency requires, as a first urgent measure, these children be welcomed and protected.”

Pope Francis ended the letter by suggesting that the international community should inform migrants about the dangers of their journey and instead promote development in their home countries.

In an accompanying press statement, the Vatican noted since October, the U.S. has detained around 57,000 unaccompanied children, double the number from the same period last year.

TIME Vatican

Report: Pope Francis Raises Idea of ‘Solutions’ to Clergy Celibacy

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Pope Francis addresses faithful from the window of his study overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican during his Sunday Angelus prayer on July 13, 2014 Filippo Monteforte—AFP/Getty Images

He also called the Catholic Church's sex abuse scandal a "leprosy in our house"

Pope Francis reportedly called the Catholic Church’s requirement that its clergy remain celibate a “problem” for which “there are solutions,” during a controversial interview with an Italian newspaper.

The Pope also allegedly said that 1 in 50 members of the clergy are pedophiles and that the Church’s sex abuse scandal is “a leprosy in our house.”

“The 2% of pedophiles are priests, and even bishops and Cardinals,” the Pope reportedly said, according to a CBS News translation of an interview in La Repubblica. “And others, even more numerous, know about it but keep quiet. They punish without saying the reason why. I find this state of things untenable and it is my intention to confront it with the severity it requires.”

The Pope spoke with well-known atheist Eugenio Scalfari, the 90-year-old founder of La Repubblica, who relied on memory and did not record or take notes during their multiple conversations.

In response, the Vatican commended Scalfari for bringing out “the sense and spirit of the conversation” but noted that the interview was not of a proper or accurate transcript and questioned if the article’s format was “forgetfulness or [an] explicit recognition that a manipulation is taking place for the more naive readers?”

[CBS News]

TIME World Cup

It’s Pope vs. Pope in the World Cup Final

Pope Francis embraces Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the Castel Gandolfo summer residence in 2013.
Pope Francis embraces Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the Castel Gandolfo summer residence in 2013. Osservatore Romano/Reuters

But the Argentine pontiff and his German predecessor probably won't watch the game together, the Vatican says

The Vatican has cast doubts on a papal soccer party after saying Pope Francis and his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, probably won’t watch the World Cup final together, the Associated Press reports.

Sunday’s final sees Argentina and Germany go head to head for the trophy but for Argentine Pope Francis, the final’s a little past the 77-year-old’s bedtime.

The Vatican’s spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the Pope normally goes to bed at 10pm local time, an hour after kick off. However, he added that though the Pope isn’t a big sports fan “we’ll see in the coming days” whether the Pope will delay his slumber.

Pope Francis has already promised that he won’t pray for his home team to win. German Pope Benedict is also unlikely to pay much attention, apparently preferring intellectual hobbies over the athletic.

“Both would want the better team to win, without taking sides,” Lombardi tactfully stated.

Nevertheless, social media has already dubbed Sunday’s match “the final of the two popes” and has spawned the hashtag, #holywar.

On Sunday, Argentina and Germany will meet in their third World Cup final. In 1986, Diego Maradona led Argentina to victory, which Germany quickly overturned in the 1990 World Cup final. Despite their history, Germany remains the clear favorite to win.

[AP]

TIME Pope Francis

Pope Francis Meets With Sex Abuse Victims

+ READ ARTICLE

Pope Francis held a meeting with victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy on Monday. It was his first such meeting since he became pontiff in March 2013.

The pope met the six victims separately after they attended a private morning Mass at the Vatican, the Associated Press reports. Of the six, two are from Ireland, two from Britain and two from Germany. Each spoke with the Pope for around 30 minutes.

During the Mass, the Pope gave a homily in which he apologized for the abuse. “I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of Church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse made by family members, as well as by abuse victims themselves,” the Pope said.

The pontiff added: “all bishops must carry out their pastoral ministry with the utmost care in order to help foster the protection of minors, and they will be held accountable.”

Though this is his first meeting, the Pope has always been clear in his condemnation of sexual abuse by the clergy. He previously described their actions as “satanic”.

Nevertheless he has faced criticism for not meeting with abuse victims sooner. The previous pope, Pope Benedict, met with abused people several times on international visits.

Amidst criticism of the Church’s failure to tackle abuse, Pope Francis did improve the Vatican’s laws against child abuse last year. The Pope has also created a committee to tackle the issue. Amongst the committee members are an abuse victim and a cardinal. The committee is expected to announce Monday that it will incorporate more members from the developing world onto its board.

However, he also controversially claimed in an interview this year that the Catholic Church had done more than any other organization to expose pedophilia. “The Catholic Church is maybe the only institution to have moved with transparency and responsibility,” Francis said. “No one else has done more. Yet the church is the only one to be attacked.”

Over the past 10 years, 3,420 credible charges of sexual abuse have been referred to the Vatican. To date, 824 members of the clergy have been stripped of their office.

[AP]

TIME

Pope Francis: I Won’t Use ‘Sardine Can’ Popemobile

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Pope Francis waves to the crowd, from his pope-mobile, as he leaves the Manger Square after presiding over an open-air mass on May 25, 2014, outside the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank Biblical town of Bethlehem. Ahmad Gharabli—AFP/Getty Images

"It's true that anything could happen, but let's face it, at my age I don't have much to lose"

Pope Francis called his bulletproof Popemobile a “sardine can” in an interview with a Spanish newspaper, saying he prefers to be in the open and connected with people despite the possibility of an assassination attempt.

“I know that something could happen to me, but it’s in the hands of God,” Francis told the Barcelona newspaper La Vanguardia.

Popes have traditionally ridden in the custom glass-sided Popemobile since an assassination attempt on then-Pope John Paul II in 1981, but Francis has often chosen closer physical proximity with crowds–and more troublesome security situations.

Francis’s tours through St. Peter’s square have been in an open-topped vehicle rather than the bulletproof version preferred by the the previous Pope Benedict, who retired last year and is now Pope Emeritus.

“It’s true that anything could happen, but let’s face it, at my age I don’t have much to lose,” Francis said.

[La Vanguardia]

TIME Vatican

Pope Francis Joins Israeli and Palestinian Leaders in Prayer for Peace

The stately Vatican prayer ceremony inverted Middle East diplomacy, which usually requires an agreement to justify pageantry

+ READ ARTICLE

At the very hour Pope Francis sat with the Presidents of Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the garden of the Vatican, filling a soft June evening with the very best of intentions, more immediately meaningful events continued to unfold in the Middle East.

In Israel, the leader of the pivotal faction in the ruling coalition unveiled his own roadmap for peace — embracing the gritty specifics of the conflict that the Vatican “invocation for peace” avoided. Yair Lapid, who holds the title of Israeli Finance Minster and controls the Yesh Atid party that claimed the crucial centrist vote in the 2013 election, threatened to bring down the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu if Israel moves to annex any of the West Bank, the Palestinian territory that, along with the Gaza Strip, would form a proposed Palestinian state.

Lapid urged the resumption of negotiations that fell apart in April, pointedly calling for Israel to prepare a map of its own boundaries — something American and Palestinian officials have said Netanyahu has refused to do. Lapid also called for a freeze on construction of Jewish settlements deep in the West Bank, beyond the so-called blocs that under most scenarios would become part of Israel in a final arrangement. “There is no reason to keep avoiding the necessity of drawing out the state of Israel’s future borders,” Lapid said.

Meanwhile, in Egypt, the former field marshal Abdul Fattah al-Sisi was sworn in as President. In his first speech, he declared battling terrorism Egypt’s top priority, an approach that rewards moderates in the Palestinian camp. Al-Sisi has taken aim at Hamas, a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood that he removed from government last July. Badly weakened, Hamas has formed a “unity government” with the Fatah Party of President Mahmoud Abbas, who sat beside the Pope on Sunday, fresh in from Cairo.

Abbas’ presence was one of the few tangibly political impacts of the nominally apolitical session, which Pope Francis had announced during his visit to the Holy Land two weeks ago. Abbas was received, and thus validated, as head of a unified Palestinian government, one staffed by technocrats but supported by Hamas, which Netanyahu says disqualifies it as a negotiating partner because the group has failed to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. Even Israeli President Shimon Peres expressed skepticism of the reconciliation on Sunday, saying that Hamas’ history of terrorism was an impossible contradiction from Fatah’s renunciation of violence: “You can’t have water and fire in the same glass,” Peres told reporters.

But Washington, the E.U. and the U.N. continue to work with the interim government, and Abbas’ presence in the stately setting, embraced by the charismatic Pontiff, carried a symbolic weight.

And symbolism was everything in Rome. The 90-minute program, made up entirely of prayers interlaced by classical music, inverted the customary order of Middle Eastern diplomacy. Instead of pageantry occasioned by an agreement, the event offered stately ceremony as incentive, or perhaps a reminder, to two sides that have not negotiated in earnest since 2008.

Rabbis, priests and imams spoke in turn. And if the Muslim prayers dwelled more on justice (as the faith itself does), and Abbas more than once invoked Jerusalem (“Oh God, we ever praise you for making Jerusalem our gate to heaven”), the skein of grievance was subtle enough not to disrupt the occasion. Abbas, though head of a faction routinely described as secular, often flips open a well-worn Koran on the flights between the world capitals where he is received as a statesman, albeit one without a universally recognized state.

But it was Pope Francis who said, “To have peace, one needs courage, far more than you need for a war.” And it was the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople who read from Isaiah, “They shall not labor in vain, or bear children in calamity.” The black-clad Orthodox cleric Bartholomew I had prayed with Pope Francis in Jerusalem two weeks ago, where the Pontiff had come to celebrate the 50 years since a predecessor had formally ended 900 years of hostility between the two branches of the church. On Sunday, when the prayers ended, Francis pulled the onetime nemesis to his side for the group photo.

There the two churchmen stood, one in white, the other in black, side by side between the Israeli and the Palestinian, showing it can be done.

TIME Religion

Pope Francis Pivots To Take on Scourge of Church Corruption, Child Sexual Abuse

Pope Francis leaves for trip to Holy Land
Pope Francis disembarks a plane at Queen Alia airport in Amman, Jordan upon his arrival for a papal visit on May 24, 2014. L'osservatore Romano/EPA

On a flight back from Holy Land tour, Pope Francis talked to reporters for 45 minutes.

The man never stops.

On the plane back from his three-day trip to the Middle East, Pope Francis held a 45-minute press conference with journalists, and he announced that he will meet with a small group of victims of sexual abuse for the first time in the coming weeks. The church, Francis said, cannot have “Daddy’s boys” who would be exempt from punishment for sexual abuse of minors. “There are no privileges,” he said.

Victims from the United Kingdom, Germany, and Ireland will participate in the meeting. Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, one of Francis’ core group of eight advisory cardinals, will also participate. While the meeting is a first for Francis, Pope Benedict XVI met with victims of sexual abuse several times.

Francis also announced that he will visit the Philippines and Sri Lanka in January. He also indicated that future Popes may follow his predecessor’s example and retire. He himself would consider retiring, if that is what he senses God is calling them to do. “I believe Benedict XVI is not an isolated case,” he said.

But amid all the religion-themed news of the flight, coming off of a high-profile and news-packed pilgrimage, there was another significant tidbit that could get lost in the shuffle: Francis confirmed that the Vatican is investigating charges that $20 million went missing from the Vatican bank during Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone’s watch. Bertone, Benedict XVI’s secretary of state, stepped down in October when Francis replaced him with Archbishop Pietro Parolin. “It’s something being studied, it’s not clear,” Francis said, when asked about the investigation of missing funds. “Maybe it’s the truth, but at this moment it’s not definitive.”

It is a reminder that Francis still faces the substantial task of reforming the Vatican’s scandal-plagued financial system. He has been making some progress. Last August, he issued a statement against money laundering. In February, he established a new Secretariat of the Economy and appointed Australian Cardinal George Pell to lead it. He also created a 15-member council of lay financial experts and Catholic prelates to guide policy and oversee audits at any time. Over the last year, the Vatican bank, under the leadership of Ernst von Freyberg and formally known as the Institute for Works of Religion, has closed hundreds of accounts.

Even for a smooth operator like Pope Francis, it takes time to turn an operation as giant and unwieldy as the Vatican around.

TIME Vatican

Pope Declares ‘Zero Tolerance’ Sex-Abuse Policy

Pope Francis prays as he holds an envelope before placing it in one of the cracks between the stones of the Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews can pray, in Jerusalem on May 26, 2014 Andrew Medichini—AP

Pope Francis plans to meet with sex-abuse victims next month

Pope Francis announced on Monday that he would meet with a group of sex-abuse victims at the Vatican. He declared that there would now be a “zero tolerance” policy for any members of the clergy who sexually violate children. The Pope went on to reveal that three bishops are under investigation by the Vatican for abuse of children (or for aiding in the systemic cover-up).

The Pope has previously been criticized by victims of assault for not reaching out to them. He has spent time with those who have suffered, but not at the hands of the church. The Pope plans to meet with six victims early next month and attend Mass with them.

‘‘On this issue we must go forward, forward. Zero tolerance,’’ Francis said to a group of reporters as he returned from his trip to the Holy Land. He called abuse of children an “ugly” crime that betrays God, according to the Associated Press.

[AP]

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