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

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

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 faith

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]

TIME Pope Francis

Pope Makes Mideast Leaders a Peace Offer They Couldn’t Refuse

Francis' invitation to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres to pray together at the Vatican exploits their one shared desire: To avoid painful specifics

By inviting the president of Israel and the head of the Palestinian Authority to his Vatican home for a “prayer for peace,” Pope Francis picks up where Secretary of State John Kerry left off—using moral suasion to bring the two famously recalcitrant sides together in the same room. But in this case, Francis is leaving out the Israeli leader who matters most.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as head of government, is the key decision-maker in any peace negotiations with the Palestinians. Yet the Pope’s invitation from a Bethlehem mass on Sunday was extended not to Netanyahu but to Shimon Peres, the famously dovish 90-year-old statesman whose seven-year term in the largely symbolic office of president expires in two months.

Peres readily accepted the Pope’s invitation to travel to the Vatican for “a heartfelt prayer to God for the gift of peace,” as Francis put it. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said a quick yes, too. That puts together in a room two men of peace who routinely voice the need for a two-state solution to the as-yet-intractable conflict–and who, according to contemporaneous news reports, met discreetly several times in 2011.

As Peres tells it, he and Abbas came within a whisker of fashioning an agreement that would have resolved the matter by agreeing on the terms for fashioning a state called “Palestine” beside Israel.

But Netanyahu forbad Peres from closing the deal, according to Peres, who recounted the tortured history earlier this month to an Israeli television station, shortly after the apparent collapse of the Kerry negotiations.

And while there is nothing at all wrong with prayer, least of all for peace, the Pope’s invitation truly was one that neither side could refuse. The Israelis and Palestinians have been talking so long about peace – 20 years now, since the breakthrough known as the Oslo Accords that introduced then then-exciting idea of sitting down face-to-face with the enemy – that to be seen rejecting talks is to be viewed as the villain.

Both sides have strong incentives to be perceived as inclined toward an agreement, and both sides have strong incentives to avoid the particulars required to produce one. Which is why an invitation to keep things as vague as praying for peace is something of a godsend, especially coming from the most charismatic religious figure in the world. Where’s the downside in that?

None that’s apparent. But only a fool would rule out this Pope. After barely a year in office, the Argentine Francis has shown himself nothing if not a man of this world, shrewd, and deeply committed to challenging the status quo. It was en route through Bethlehem to the mass where he delivered his seemingly airy invitation that Francis made his unscheduled, quietly thrilling stop at the Separation Barrier. He prayed in silence, and briefly touched his head against the gritty concrete, possibly the way a ram does, in warning.

 

TIME Jordan

Pope Calls for Peace in Syria During Historic Holy Land Trip

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Pope Francis leaves the Amman stadium after celebrating a mass on May 24, 2014 in the Jordanian capital. Patrick Baz—AFP/Getty Images

Pope Francis commended Jordan's commitment to "lasting peace for the entire region" during his first trip to the Holy Land as pope

Pope Francis called for a peaceful end to Syria’s three-year-old civil war during a Saturday stop in Jordan on his first Holy Land trip as pope.

“This great goal urgently requires that a peaceful solution be found to the crisis in Syria, as well as a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said alongside Jordan’s King Abdullah II in remarks that departed from the script, Reuters reports.

The pope also commended Abdullah for his efforts in seeking “lasting peace for the entire region.” Millions of Syrian refugees have fled to Jordan and other nearby countries during Syria’s civil war, which has killed more than 160,000 people so far.

Pope Francis also addressed the conflict during Friday mass at the International Stadium in Amman.

“Peace is not something which can be bought; it is a gift to be sought patiently and to be ‘crafted’ through the actions, great and small, of our everyday lives,” he said.”I also embrace with affection the many Christian refugees from Palestine, Syria and Iraq: please bring my greeting to your families and communities, and assure them of my closeness.”

Christians in the area hope Pope Francis’ visit will bring hope to the region’s declining Christian minority.

[Reuters]

TIME Pope Francis

Pope Francis Kicks Off Holy Land Visit in Jordan

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Pope Francis blesses the crowd before celebrating a mass at the Amman stadium in the Jordanian capital on May 24, 2014. Khalil Mazraawi—AFP/Getty Images

The Pontiff's historic, three-day journey to the Middle East begins with a meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah II in Amman. In a papal first, he is traveling with both a rabbi and an imam

Pope Francis arrived in Amman, Jordan on Saturday morning, kicking off a jam-packed three-day trip to the Holy Land.

In his first official visit to the region, the Pontiff will meet with King Abdullah II, then celebrate mass at the International Stadium, visit the site of Jesus’ baptism, and meet with refugees from neighboring Syria and Iraq. On Sunday, he will take a helicopter to Bethlehem in the West Bank, then head to Jerusalem later that night.

As TIME’s Elizabeth Dias writes, the Pontiff’s reputation as a trend-bucker will be on display throughout the trip. He has refused to use a bulletproof car and is traveling with an imam and a rabbi, marking the first time an official papal delegation has included members of other faiths.

The Pope’s visit is under particular scrutiny from Palestinians, many of whom are Christian, who are hoping that he will spotlight the Israeli occupation. Francis has emphasized that the pilgrimage to the region is for “strictly religious” purposes, but his decision to fly directly into the West Bank rather than go through Israel’s security barrier from Jerusalem has already drawn note.

“We feel he has been able to speak about the poor in Latin America,” Naim Ateek, an Anglican priest, told TIME ahead of the trip. “Now we would like to see him speak about the oppressed in Palestine.”

Christians in the region are also hoping that the Pope’s visit might rejuvenate the dwindling minority of Christians in the region.

But the Pope, who was TIME’s Person of The Year in 2013, is set to meet with representatives of many faiths and groups. He is expected to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday and with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday.

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