TIME

Watch: Pope Francis and Easter at the Vatican

Watch highlights of Pope Francis’s Easter prayers for peace in Syria and Ukraine via Vatican Radio and TV.

TIME Religion

Scientists Say Gospel of Jesus’ Wife Probably Not Fake

Papyrus, Jesus' wife
Karen L. King Hollis, Professor of Divinity at Harvard University, in her office with a papyrus fragment of the gospel of Jesus' wife. Bill Greene—Boston Globe via Getty Images

The Vatican called a papyrus fragment which suggests Jesus was married a "clumsy forgery" when it emerged in 2012, but forensic analysis now appears to have proved its authenticity

A highly contested ancient Egyptian papyrus that references Jesus as a married man is more likely an authentic ancient text rather than a modern forgery, says a paper published in the Harvard Theological Review Tuesday.

In 2012, Harvard Divinity School Professor Karen L. King presented the fragment, called “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,” at a conference in Rome. Controversial passages read: “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife…'” and also “she will be able to be my disciple.” The latter caused a stir amid the backdrop of a continuing debate within the Catholic Church on whether women should be allowed to be priests.

Although the Vatican immediately dismissed the text as a “clumsy forgery,” teams of engineering, biology, and chemistry professors from Columbia University, Harvard University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology concluded after carbon testing that it is written on papyrus from the ancient era. An Egyptologist at Brown University, however, maintained that the document is a fraud. The University of Arizona said that it could not come to a firm conclusion given the small sample size.

King told the Boston Globe that the important argument isn’t whether or not Jesus was married, as one text doesn’t prove fact: “I’m basically hoping that we can move past the issue of forgery to questions about the significance of this fragment for the history of Christianity, for thinking about questions like, ‘Why does Jesus being married, or not, even matter? Why is it that people had such an incredible reaction to this?'”

[Harvard Theological Review]

TIME Pope Francis

Pope Francis Greets Queen Elizabeth In Vatican

The Queen And Duke Of Edinburgh Visit Rome And The Vatican City
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, have an audience with Pope Francis, during their one-day visit to Rome on April 3, 2014 in Vatican City, Vatican. Oli Scarff—Getty Images

Last week, Obama gave the Pope seeds. Today, the Queen gave him whiskey

A highly anticipated meeting between Pope Francis and Queen Elizabeth was held on Thursday afternoon in the Vatican, where the two world leaders exchanged words and gifts in person for the first time. The pair met for half an hour, including 17 minutes in private.

Last week, President Obama gave Francis a chest filled with seeds from fruits and vegetables used in the White House garden. But the Queen one-upped the American leader during her visit, presenting the Pope with whiskey and venison. Francis was the fifth Pope with whom Queen Elizabeth has met during her fifty-year reign. This trip marks the first foreign trip for the British monarch in three years.

TIME

Pope Francis Is Very Popular Among U.S. Catholics

Pope Francis reaches out to greet the faithful as he arrives to lead his Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican March 26, 2014. Tony Gentile—Reuters

Surprise, surprise

One year into his papacy, Pope Francis has won the hearts of 68% of American Catholics, according to a new poll.

Only a paltry one percent have a negative opinion of the 266th Vicar of Christ, reports CBS, and his popularity is spread pretty evenly between female and male adherents.

This esteem trounces his most recent predecessors — Pope Benedict XVI garnered just 40% approval and Pope John Paul II only merited 59%. And the outlook could get even rosier for the first South American pontiff; Pope John Paul’s favorability actually soared to 92% upon his death — a mixed blessing for someone who knew more than most about blessings.

[CBS]

TIME Vatican

Inside Obama’s Meeting With Pope Francis

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks with Pope Francis during their meeting at the Vatican March 27, 2014.
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks with Pope Francis during their meeting at the Vatican March 27, 2014. Stefano Spaziani

The Obama administration had billed the meeting as an opportunity to share common ground over the gap between the rich and the poor

The private meeting between President Barack Obama and Pope Francis had been scheduled to run for half-an-hour. It lasted 52 minutes. The president had been escorted into the Vatican by a line of Swiss guards, dressed in purple and yellow, wearing helmets and carrying pole arms. The cameras clicked as the president and the Pontiff shook hands, and then they sat at a small wooden table in the Papal Library, exchanging greetings through translators. “It’s wonderful to be here,” Obama said. “I’m a great admirer. Thank you so much for receiving me.” Francis answered: “Thank you.”

The rest of their meeting took place behind closed doors. The Obama administration had billed the meeting, the first between the two leaders, as an opportunity to share common ground over the gap between the rich and the poor. “The Holy Father has inspired people all over the world, including me, with his commitment to social just and his message of love and compassion, especially for poorest and most vulnerable among us,” Obama said the day before in an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. “When the Pope speaks, his words have an enormous weight.”

But the two men are likely to have touched on subjects on which they disagreed. Vatican officials have said that Francis would bring up the concern of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops over the requirement that birth control be covered under the new health care reform law. And on Thursday, Francis met briefly with a group of immigration activists, who asked him to raise the issue of deportations in the United States. According to Jersey Vargas, a 10-year-old elementary school student from Los Angeles whose father is facing deportation, the Pope promised he would raise the issue when the two men met. “I told him to pray for my family and to ask the president to stop deportation because it’s separating my family,” Vargas told Fox News Latino. “He blessed me and told me he would bring this up with President Obama.”

At the end of the visit, the two men emerged to pose for pictures and exchange gifts. Obama gave the pope a wooden box made of reclaimed wood from one of the oldest Cathedrals in America, containing fruit and vegetable seeds from the White House Garden. “If you have the chance to come to the White house, you’ll also see our garden,” said Obama. “Of course,” answered the pope. The Pope, in return gave Obama a copy of the encyclical he published in June. “I actually will probably read this at the Oval Office when I’m deeply frustrated,” Obama said, eliciting a chuckle from the pontiff. “I’m sure it will give me strength and calm me down.”

Rome was in a state of partial lockdown during Obama’s visit, with traffic diverted in many parts of the city center to make way for Obama’s Chevrolet SUV and his 50-car motorcade. The broad boulevard leading from the edge of the Tiber River to St. Peter’s Square and the Vatican was cleared of cars. On the other side of town, yellow police tape lined the long lane that runs between Rome’s ancient forums to the Coliseum, where Obama was expected to tour in the afternoon.

After his visit with the Pope, Obama was expected to meet with the Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, followed by a “working lunch,” with Italy’s President, Giorgio Napolitano, and a meeting and a news conference with the country’s recently elected Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi. After his tour of the Coliseum, he was scheduled to meet with embassy staff and their families.

TIME Religion

Obama Meets the Pope

President Obama met with Pope Francis in Vatican City today, an opportunity for both world leaders to discuss their shared commitment to combatting economic inequality. "Welcome, Mr. President," the Pontiff said. "I'm a great admirer," the President told the religious leader

President Barack Obama met with Pope Francis on Thursday at the Vatican, in his second Papal visit and first with the new Pontiff.

“Wonderful meeting you,” Obama told the Pope upon being greeted outside the Papal Library following a ceremonial procession led by the Vatican’s Swiss Guards.

“It is a great honor. I’m a great admirer,” Obama said. “Thank you so much for receiving me.”

The White House said before the visit that the meeting would be an opportunity for the two world leaders to discuss their shared commitment to combatting economic inequality, an issue Pope Francis has prioritized during his first year in office. Democrats have increasingly used the Pope’s emphasis on inequality as a political cudgel against Republicans ahead of the midterm elections.

But the gathering was also seen as an opportunity for the president to smooth ties with the Vatican and the large Hispanic Catholic population in America whose support for Obama has waned since helping vote him into office. The Vatican has been critical of a measure in Obama’s health care reform law that mandates contraception coverage, and officials said before the meeting that Pope Francis would likely raise those concerns.

In a news conference after the meeting with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Obama said the Pope “did not touch in detail” on the issue of contraception. Instead, he said he discussed religious freedoms in the context of the healthcare law with Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State.

The President said his conversation with Pope Francis focused on other issues, including conflict and growing inequality worldwide as well as immigration in the United States. He also said he extended an invitation to the Pope to come to the U.S.

But he played down suggestions from a reporter that he would collaborate with the Pope on inequality.

“You know, I don’t think that His Holiness envisions entering into a partnership or coalition with any political figure on any issue,” he said. “His job is a little more elevated. We’re down on the ground, dealing with the often profane, and he’s dealing with higher powers.”

The Vatican said in its own statement that the meeting focused on social issues. “There was a discussion on questions of particular relevance for the Church in that country, such as the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection, as well as the issue of immigration reform,” the Vatican said in the statement.

Pope Francis, who was TIME’s Person of the Year in 2013, is widely popular globally and in America, where 8 in 10 Catholics view him favorably, per a recent Pew Research Center poll.

“He can cause people around to the world to stop and perhaps rethink old attitudes and begin treating one another with more decency and compassion,” Obama said in an interview with the Italian daily Corriere della Sera before the meeting.

The White House said Obama presented Pope Francis with “a custom-made seed chest featuring a variety of fruit and vegetable seeds used in the White House Garden,” noting that the Pontiff said earlier this month that he would open the gardens of the papal summer residence to the public.

“I bring greetings from my family,” Obama told the Pope upon meeting him. “The last time I came here to meet your predecessor I was able to bring my wife and children.”

Obama, on a week-long tour in Europe that has primarily focused on regional security amid recent tension with Russia, is the ninth president to make an official visit to the Vatican.

-with reporting from Zeke J Miller

TIME Vatican

Pope Francis Fires German ‘Bling Bishop’

An inquiry into Monsignor Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst's $43 million residence has ended with the Vatican demanding his resignation

Pope Francis has replaced a German bishop whose $43 million new residence complex sparked outrage among Catholics.

The so-called ‘Bishop of Bling,’ Monsignor Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst from Limburg was temporarily expelled during a church inquiry in October, the Associated Press reports. Tebartz-van Elst spent lavishly renovating his residence, including a reported $20,000 on a bathtub and $620,000 on artwork.

That inquiry has now found him incapable of holding his diocese and demanded his resignation, the Vatican said Wednesday.

Tebartz-van Elst will be replaced by Monsignor Manfred Grothe. Tebartz-van Elst will get a new job, said the Vatican, adding that the pope hoped that residents of Limburg would accept the decision with “docility and willingness to rediscover a climate of charity and reconciliation.”

Pope Francis has emphasized charity and addressing social inequality since taking his seat in the Vatican last March. He is due to meet with President Obama Wednesday.

[AP]

TIME movies

Pope Francis and Russell Crowe Won’t Be Meeting After All

The actor has been campaigning the Holy See to screen his new film "Noah" but studio Paramount Pictures says an informal chat was never on the cards

Apparently it takes more than a Twitter campaign to woo Pope Francis.

Variety reports that a tentatively scheduled meet and greet between Pope Francis and the team behind Noah has been canceled, despite star Russell Crowe’s Twitter campaign to draw the Holy See to the project.

Crowe is in Italy to promote the film along with director Darren Aronofsky and Paramount Pictures executives, ahead of its U.S. release on March 28. Variety originally reported that a meeting between the Pope, Crowe and Aronofsky had been scheduled for Wednesday, but the Vatican canceled over fear that the arrangement would cause a “spectacle.”

But Paramount denies that a meeting was ever set in stone, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The studio told THR that they contacted the Vatican about Crowe attending the papal general audience in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday, but the Vatican wasn’t thrilled with the idea. Paramount told THR that the Vatican thought Crowe’s appearance could disrupt the weekly prayer event, so the studio abandoned the idea.

However the rejection played out, it looks like Crowe’s Twitter stalking was in vain.

[The Hollywood Reporter]

TIME Religion

Boehner and Pelosi Invite Pope Francis to Congress

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

Congressional leaders used the occasion of Francis' first anniversary as Pope to invite him to Washington. President Obama is going to the Vatican to meet with His Holiness on March 27

Happy one-year anniversary, Pope Francis: You are invited to come to Congress.

Almost one year to the minute after Pope Francis was named Benedict XVI’s successor, House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday afternoon that they were formally inviting the popular Holy Father to address Congress. President Barack Obama is going to the Vatican to meet with His Holiness on March 27, and the Holy See has not announced formal plans to visit the United States. Pope Francis has made it clear that his priorities for international visits are the Holy Land, Asia, and then Africa.

Congress could use some peace-building right about now. Leaders appear divided even on inviting the Pope: Boehner and Pelosi, both Catholics, issued the invitation, but Boehner did not include Pelosi’s name in his announcement of the invitation.

Pelosi’s statement:

“As we approach the first anniversary of the inauguration of Pope Francis, I am pleased to join Speaker Boehner in inviting His Holiness to address a Joint Meeting of the United States Congress.

“I had the privilege of attending His Holiness’ inauguration at the Vatican and was inspired by his message of peace, compassion, and brotherhood.

“Whether inspired by St. Francis of Assisi, who cared for all of God’s creation, or by St. Joseph, protector of the church, Pope Francis has lived his values and upheld his promise to be a moral force, to protect the poor and the needy, to serve as a champion of the less fortunate, and to promote love and understanding among faiths and nations.”

Boehner’s statement:

“It is with reverence and admiration that I have invited Pope Francis, as head of state of the Holy See and the first Pope to hail from the Americas, to address a joint meeting of the United States Congress.

“Pope Francis has inspired millions of Americans with his pastoral manner and servant leadership, challenging all people to lead lives of mercy, forgiveness, solidarity, and humble service.

“His tireless call for the protection of the most vulnerable among us—the ailing, the disadvantaged, the unemployed, the impoverished, the unborn—has awakened hearts on every continent.

“His social teachings, rooted in ‘the joy of the gospel,’ have prompted careful reflection and vigorous dialogue among people of all ideologies and religious views in the United States and throughout a rapidly changing world, particularly among those who champion human dignity, freedom, and social justice.

“These principles are among the fundamentals of the American Idea. And though our nation sometimes fails to live up to these principles, at our best we give them new life as we seek the common good. Many in the United States believe these principles are undermined by ‘crony capitalism’ and the ongoing centralization of political power in the institutions of our federal government, which threaten to disrupt the delicate balance between the twin virtues of subsidiarity and solidarity. They have embraced Pope Francis’ reminder that we cannot meet our responsibility to the poor with a welfare mentality based on business calculations. We can meet it only with personal charity on the one hand and sound, inclusive policies on the other.

“The Holy Father’s pastoral message challenges people of all faiths, ideologies and political parties. His address as a visiting head of state before a joint meeting of the House and Senate would honor our nation in keeping with the best traditions of our democratic institutions. It would also offer an excellent opportunity for the American people as well as the nations of the world to hear his message in full.

“It is with deep gratitude that I have asked Pope Francis to consider this open invitation on behalf of the Congress and the millions of citizens of the United States we serve.”

TIME Vatican

Pope Asks Twitter Flock To Pray For Him

The pontiff

As Pope Francis wraps up his first year as head of the Catholic Church, the social media-savvy pontiff tweeted out to his 3.7 million followers for religious support:

The Pope, named TIME’s Person of the Year, is celebrating his first anniversary on the job by spending the day in a prayer retreat outside Rome to mark Lent.

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