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A gay revolution at the Vatican would be groundbreaking–especially if it happened at Pope Francis’ ongoing Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in Rome. But that would be stretching it.

On Oct. 13, the synod–which brought together over 250 Cardinals and church representatives from around the world–released a document hailed by many as signaling a softer stance toward homosexuality. “Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community,” reads one passage of the 58-section report. “Are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities?”

The passage is noteworthy for a church that has historically linked the word homosexuality with the word sin. It fits with Francis’ message that his papacy is animated by a spirit of embrace, of mercy, not by a mission to root out sin. But it does not mean that the Vatican is changing its sexual-ethics policy.

For starters, the report reaffirms the meaning of marriage as a union between a man and a woman. And second, it is just a snapshot of the Catholic leaders’ conversations about family issues as the synod entered its second and final week. The first week saw discussions on everything from polygamy to divorce. But this was only a starting point for more detailed talks as participants break into smaller groups. The report, moreover, is not proscriptive–it is not a decree, nor does it mark a doctrinal shift. It is also not final. That means, as Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of the Philippines said, “The drama continues.”

Just as important is the fact that the drama began long before the synod commenced on Oct. 5, and will continue after it ends on Oct. 19. The first act came earlier this year, when congregations around the world were surveyed about family life. The responses set the stage for the meeting in Rome. Discussions will continue at next summer’s World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia (a traditionally conservative U.S. diocese), and conclude next fall when an even larger group of bishops will gather at the Vatican for further discussions.

Against this backdrop, evidence of a revolution is hard to spot. Conversations about sexuality in the U.S. have a faster trajectory than they do in the Vatican or in many developing countries; change takes centuries, not weeks. The unusual interest in a gathering of clerics, however, points to a notable shift: people actually care about what a group of bishops is thinking. For many, that itself may be a revolution.


‘The real adversary is the Spanish state, which has done everything to stop us voting.’

ARTUR MAS, leader of the Spanish region of Catalonia, on Oct. 14, as he announced that a nonbinding vote on Catalan independence would go ahead on Nov. 9 despite opposition from Madrid; earlier, a Spanish court had sided with the central government and suspended the planned vote, but Mas vowed to press ahead, saying the “consultation” ballot could proceed under a different legal framework



Gallup asked people in 131 countries whether they were planning to start their own business within the next year. Here’s how many said yes, by region:

[The following text appears within a chart. Please see your hard copy for actual chart.]



Sub-Saharan Africa



Middle East and North Africa











He’s Back


Kim Jong Un visits a newly built housing complex in Pyongyang in an undated photo released by North Korea’s official news service on Oct. 14. The visit marked the first public appearance by the North Korean leader since Sept. 3, ending weeks of speculation about his whereabouts as observers of the totalitarian state debated whether Kim, shown here with a cane, might be suffering from ill health or had been deposed in a palace coup.


Why the Price of Oil Is Falling–and What It Means for the World

After years of triple-digit prices, the cost of a barrel of crude oil has dropped more than 20% from its $115 level in June to around $85–and there’s every indication that it will keep sliding.

[This article consists of 3 illustrations. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

American Oil Boom

Thanks to its exploitation of previously inaccessible shale deposits, the U.S. now pumps over 8.5 million barrels of oil a day–nearly twice what it produced six years ago–adding to the global supply of crude.

Saudi Strategy

The fall in prices has been helped by signals from Saudi Arabia–the world’s largest oil producer and the kingpin of the OPEC oil cartel–that it won’t move to cut production to counter the drop.

Russian Suffering

Russia draws 45% of its revenue from oil and gas taxes, so the drop will hit its coffers. Cheap oil could also rein in its armed forces: the Finance Minister recently said Russia might have to control military spending.



Winning bid for a flawless 8.41-carat pink diamond at a Sotheby’s auction on Oct. 7, marking a new world record against the backdrop of pro-democracy protests in the city

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Authorities in Beijing are offering leniency to officials who, having fled China to avoid corruption charges, return to turn themselves in by Dec. 1. Those who don’t will face stiffer punishment under an ongoing government crackdown on graft.


Companies and governments have stored over 65 million voiceprints–data about the way people speak–in databases around the world, according to an Associated Press report, setting the stage for greater use of voice biometrics as a way of verifying identities.


The Irish government has announced plans to plug a tax loophole used by multinationals like Google to legally cut their tax bill. Dubbed the “double Irish,” the scheme will be phased out by the end of the decade.

This appears in the October 27, 2014 issue of TIME.

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