September 19th, 2013
11:41 AM ET

Pope: Church can't 'interfere' with gays

Pope Francis said the church has the right to express its opinions but not to "interfere spiritually" in the lives of gays and lesbians, expanding on explosive comments he made in July about not judging homosexuals.

In a wide-ranging interview published Thursday, the pope also said that women must play a key role in church decisions and brushed off critics who say he should be more vocal about fighting abortion and gay marriage.

The interview, released by Jesuit magazines in several different languages and 16 countries on Thursday, offers perhaps the most expansive and in-depth view of Francis' vision for the Roman Catholic Church.


Filed under: Catholic Church • Pope Francis • Religion • Vatican
Inauguration of the new pope
March 19th, 2013
07:18 AM ET

Inauguration of the new pope

Pope Francis officially became the Catholic Church's pontiff Tuesday, in a ceremony that the Vatican said ahead of time would be short in keeping with the spirit of simplicity exuded by the new Holy Father. We live-blogged the event below. You can read the full story here

[Updated at 10:21 a.m. ET] That's all for the live blog of Pope Francis' inauguration as the Catholic Church's 266th pontiff. Tens of thousands of people listened from St. Peter's Square in Vatican City as Francis called for the protection of the weakest in society during his homily.

For more on today's event, check out our full story. Also, see a number of select photos of the event.

[Updated at 7:18 a.m. ET] U.S. Vice President Joe Biden greets Pope Francis.


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Filed under: Catholic Church • Italy • Religion • Vatican
March 14th, 2013
03:14 AM ET

Pope's first full day: Mass with cardinals

[Updated at 8:15 a.m. ET] A man of many firsts, Pope Francis will spend part of his first full day celebrating Mass with the cardinals who elected him.

When Jorge Bergoglio stepped onto the balcony at the Vatican on Wednesday evening to reveal himself as the new leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, he made history as the first non-European pope of the modern era, the first from Latin America, the first Jesuit and the first to assume the name Francis.


Filed under: Catholic Church • Christian • Religion • Vatican
March 13th, 2013
06:25 PM ET

Argentina's Bergoglio becomes Pope Francis

[Updated at 6:25 p.m. ET] That will wrap up our live blog of Francis' debut. For more coverage, check out the links above and read our full story.

[Updated at 5:52 p.m. ET] When Pope Francis is formally installed in a Mass later this month, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will be there, leading the U.S. delegation to the event.

Biden is the first Roman Catholic to serve as vice president.

Meanwhile, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has congratulated Pope Francis - a native Argentine - and expressed hope that he will work toward justice, equality and peace for all.

As we noted earlier, the new pope has clashed with the Argentine government over his opposition to gay marriage and free distribution of contraceptives.

A photo from earlier tonight: People react as newly elected Pope Francis appears on the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica.

[Updated at 5:33 p.m. ET] We know a little more about what Pope Francis will be doing tomorrow: He and the cardinals will hold a Mass in the Sistine Chapel at 5 p.m. local time (noon ET), Vatican spokesman the Rev. Tom Rosica told CNN.

[Updated at 5:16 p.m. ET] A Vatican spokesman says Francis will be a reformer, and will call the church "back to basics."

"He knows the Curia, he's been extremely critical of the mess here," the Rev. Tom Rosica said, referring to the Vatican bureaucracy.

[Updated at 5:07 p.m. ET] Here's something that a pope has never had the chance to do before today: Shortly after Francis was elected, he placed a phone call to his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who has been staying at a papal retreat at Italy's Castel Gandolfo since he resigned February 28.

Benedict, 85, was the first pope to resign in hundreds of years.

News of the phone call came from the Rev. Tom Rosica, a Vatican spokesman.

[Updated at 4:53 p.m. ET] We've just been given confirmation about which Francis the new pope is honoring in his choice of name.

The new pope took the name Francis in honor of St. Francis of Assisi because he is a lover of the poor, Vatican spokesman the Rev. Tom Rosica told CNN.

Also, the new pope should be known as Pope Francis, not Pope Francis I, Rosica said.

[Updated at 4:50 p.m. ET] Let's take a look at what might be next for Pope Francis:

Before Francis was elected, Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said that the new pope will “very probably” say Mass this Sunday at St. Peter’s and do the traditional Angelus blessing, Lombardi said before the election.

It will take several days before there is an installation Mass, because it will take time for world leaders to arrive, Lombardi had said.

[Updated at 4:45 p.m. ET] U.S. President Barack Obama has weighed in.

Obama offered his prayers and "warm wishes" Wednesday to newly elected Pope Francis. Obama called him "a champion of the poor and the most vulnerable among us," and also said his election as "the first pope from the Americas ... speaks to the strength and vitality of (that) region."

[Updated at 4:44 p.m. ET] The pope's election has caught the attention of the Internet crowd, to put it lightly. Facebook says that its users' top terms about 70 minutes ago were:

1) Pope; 2) Jorge Bergoglio; 3) Vatican; 4) White smoke; 5) Cardinal; 6) Catholic; 7) Decision; and 8) Papal.

[Updated at 4:31 p.m. ET] Latin Americans in St. Peter's Square are thrilled.

"As a youth, and as a Catholic student, and as a Mexican, I am absolutely overwhelmed with emotion (at) the fact that we have a new pope that will represent that part of the (world)," a woman from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, told CNN. "That is something very exciting. I feel that Mexico has been a country that has suffered a lot, and so has Latin America, but it is a people that has always put trust in God, so it is absolutely wonderful to represent our part of the world this time around."

Beside her, a woman from Mexico City said her heart jumped when she heard the announcement that a pope had been picked.

"I'm so excited," she said. "It's a reason of being proud tonight, because Latin America is a very important Catholic area and now it's going to be totally represented here, so I'm so proud and I'm so happy today. ... It's going to help a lot, a Latin American pope, it's going to help. It's going to rebuild many things, and it's a new start."

Check out more Latin American reaction here.

[Updated at 4:22 p.m. ET] Let's take a look at some reaction to Francis' election. Here's what Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York - by some accounts a pre-conclave contender for the papacy - had to say, shortly after he participated in the conclave:

“Pope Francis I stands as the figure of unity for all Catholics wherever they reside," Dolan said in a statement released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “Intense prayer from all around the world surrounded the election of Pope Francis I. The bishops of the United States thank God for the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the inspired choice of the College of Cardinals.”

And the Church of England, the country's official church denomination, offered a prayer Wednesday for the newly elected pope.

"Guide him by by your spirit, give him grace to lead people in prayer and zeal, and to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, your son our Lord," the prayer read.

[Updated at 4:08 p.m. ET] CNN Vatican expert John Allen has reported previously, for the National Catholic Reporter, that the new pope may have been the runner-up in the 2005 election that saw Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger become Benedict XVI. Allen noted that there's no official account of that election - it is officially secret, after all - but various reports had Bergoglio coming in second in 2005.

Pope Francis asked the crowd in St. Peter's Square to pray for him. "Before I give you a blessing, I ask you for a favor - I want you to bless me," he said.

[Updated at 3:51 p.m. ET] Choosing the name Francis is powerful and ground-breaking, CNN Vatican expert John Allen says.

As noted earlier, this is the first Pope Francis. Also, the name parallels one of the most venerated figures in the Roman Catholic Church, St. Francis of Assisi.

Allen described the name of Pope Francis as "the most stunning" choice and "precedent shattering."

"There are cornerstone figures in Catholicism" such as St. Francis, Allen said. Figures of such stature as St. Francis seem "irrepeatable - that there can be only one Francis," Allen added.

Read more about the new name, from CNN's Michael Martinez.


March 13th, 2013
09:09 AM ET

Obama: U.S. pope would do just as well

It's been said that Roman Catholic cardinals are reluctant to ever choose an American pope, because the Vatican would then be too closely tied to Washington. President Barack Obama would beg to differ.

As cardinals participated in a conclave Wednesday to elect a new pope, Obama told ABC's "Good Morning America" that an "American pope would preside just as effectively as a Polish pope or an Italian pope or a Guatemalan pope."

"I don't know if you've checked lately but the Conference of Catholic Bishops here in the U.S. don't seem to be taking orders from me," he said, chuckling, after being asked if an American pope would take orders from the president.

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Catholic Church • Christian • Politics • Religion • Vatican
March 13th, 2013
07:41 AM ET

Wednesday's live events

Roman Catholic cardinals continue their conclave to elect a new pope.  Watch Live for ongoing coverage from the Vatican. 

Today's programming highlights...

Ongoing coverage - Papal conclave

10:30 am ET - Budget debate - The House Budget Committee considers the proposed 2014 budget plan released this week by Rep. Paul Ryan.  Senate Democrats release their own budget proposal at 2:00 pm ET.


Filed under: Budget • Catholic Church • Crime • Dollars & Sense • Economy • Justice • Politics • Religion • Vatican
March 13th, 2013
07:33 AM ET

Vote for pope resumes after lunch

Will the Roman Catholic Church's cardinals elect a pope today, the first full day of their conclave? If so, they'll have to make it happen in their afternoon session.

Black smoke rose from the chimney fixed to the roof of the Sistine Chapel on Wednesday morning, indicating that the cardinals' first two votes of the day were inconclusive. The cardinals also didn't come to a conclusion on Tuesday evening, which was their first vote.

They will have two more opportunities to vote on Wednesday afternoon, after they have lunch.

We have a number of features to inform you about the process. Our full story on Wednesday's activities can be found here. But also check out:

Wednesday's conclave schedule

Video: Millions bet on pope

How a pope is chosen

The contenders

Video: Papal conclave 101

Cover-up claims disturb conclave

Conclave to elect new pope begins Tuesday
March 11th, 2013
02:03 AM ET

Conclave to elect new pope begins Tuesday

Preparations, both spiritual and practical, neared completion at the Vatican on Monday, where Roman Catholic cardinals will gather to begin the process of selecting the next pope.

The conclave - the secret papal election - begins Tuesday in the Sistine Chapel, which has been closed to the public while Vatican staff readied the ornately decorated vestry for deliberations.

The first public signs of preparations appeared over the weekend as workmen scaled the roof of the chapel on Saturday to install the chimney which will release the black or white smoke that signifies whether a new pope has been elected.


Filed under: Catholic Church • Christian • Religion • Vatican
March 8th, 2013
11:57 AM ET

Cardinals set pope election date

The Catholic cardinals gathered in Rome voted Friday to begin the secret election, or conclave, to elect a new pope next Tuesday afternoon, the Vatican said.

The 115 cardinal-electors taking part in the conclave will enter the closed-door process after a morning Mass, the Vatican said. Only those younger than 80 are eligible to vote.

All cardinal-electors are at Vatican
Archbishops (purple hats) and cardinals (red hats) sit in St Peter's Square on February 27 in Vatican City.
March 7th, 2013
03:20 PM ET

All cardinal-electors are at Vatican

All 115 cardinal-electors are now in the Vatican ahead of a conclave to elect a new pope, Vatican spokesman Tom Rosica said on Thursday.

No date has been set for the conclave, or secret election, for the new pope, said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman.

But Cardinal Roger Mahony, the retired archbishop of Los Angeles, suggested that the announcement might not be far away in a tweet posted Thursday.


Filed under: Catholic Church • Christian • Religion • Vatican
Last cardinal-elector due at Vatican tomorrow
A prayer service is held in the Sistine Chapel on October 31, 2012. The papal conclave will happen here.
March 6th, 2013
07:38 AM ET

Last cardinal-elector due at Vatican tomorrow

Slowly but surely, the Catholic Church's cardinals are putting themselves in position to elect a new pope.

All but two of the 115 cardinals eligible to elect the new pope are now in Rome, Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi announced Wednesday. One more is due to arrive this afternoon, and the last one on Thursday, he said.

No date has yet been proposed for the secret election, or conclave, to select the successor to former pontiff Benedict XVI, who resigned last week. For more on today's developments at the Vatican, read this story.

Interactive: A look at possible papal contenders

How is a new pope elected?

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Filed under: Catholic Church • Christian • Religion • Vatican
Sistine Chapel closing for conclave preparations
A prayer service is held in the Sistine Chapel on October 31, 2012.
March 5th, 2013
07:54 AM ET

Sistine Chapel closing for conclave preparations

The Sistine Chapel is closing to the public Tuesday afternoon so that Catholic officials can prepare for an eventual conclave to elect a new pope, the Vatican announced.

Catholic cardinals have yet to announce when the conclave to elect Pope Benedict XVI's successor would start. On Monday they began a series of meetings designed to, among other things, decide when the conclave will begin. They were due to continue these meetings, known as General Congregations, Tuesday and Wednesday.

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Filed under: Catholic Church • Christian • Religion • Vatican
Embattled Cardinal O'Brien apologizes for 'my sexual conduct'
Cardinal Keith O'Brien of Scotland resigned last month.
March 3rd, 2013
12:47 PM ET

Embattled Cardinal O'Brien apologizes for 'my sexual conduct'

Cardinal Keith O'Brien of Scotland, who has been dogged by allegations he abused four men studying to be priests in the 1980s, said in a statement Sunday that "there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal."

O'Brien, who resigned last month, did not explicitly state what he had done or what allegations against him are true. "In recent days certain allegations which have been made against me have become public. Initially, their anonymous and non-specific nature led me to contest them," he said in the statement.

He apologized "to those I have offended" and to "the Catholic Church and people of Scotland."

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Filed under: Catholic Church • Religion • Vatican • World
March 1st, 2013
07:13 AM ET

Church's cardinals to start meeting Monday

The events that will lead to the election of a new pope are starting to take shape.

The Catholic Church's cardinals will start general congregations - meetings that precede a conclave to elect a new pope - on Monday at 9:30 a.m. at the Vatican (3:30 a.m. ET), with a second session set for later that day, according to a letter issued Friday by the dean of the College of Cardinals.

Setting a date for the conclave to elect the new pope will be among the items on the agenda. The previous pope, Benedict XVI, resigned Thursday.

Possible papal contenders

Pope's Twitter account to end when he leaves
Pope Benedict XVI clicks on a tablet to send his first Twitter message at the Paul VI hall at the Vatican on December 12.
February 22nd, 2013
11:43 AM ET

Pope's Twitter account to end when he leaves

This will be one short-lived Twitter feed.

When Pope Benedict XVI leaves office on February 28, his Twitter presence as @Pontifex will also come to an end, according to Vatican Radio.

Benedict has been active on Twitter for only about two and a half months, but more than 2 million people have chosen to follow his tweets in nine languages.

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Filed under: Catholic Church • Religion • Vatican
February 11th, 2013
07:34 AM ET

Monday's live events

President Obama will deliver his fourth State of the Union address before Congress on February 12.  Watch Live for all of your political coverage.

Today's programming highlights...

Ongoing coverage: The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI

12:30 pm ET - White House briefing - Tomorrow's State of the Union address and gun violence will likely dominate Press Secretary Jay Carney's briefing with the White House press corps.


Filed under: Barack Obama • Congress • Gun violence • On today • Politics • Religion • Vatican
October 23rd, 2012
08:03 AM ET

Vatican puts off Syria trip because of 'gravity of the situation'

The Vatican announced a big change of plans Tuesday: It's not sending a delegation to Syria for now.

The trip's being postponed because of the "gravity of the situation" there, Secretary of State for the Vatican Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said.


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Filed under: Syria • Vatican • World
October 21st, 2012
02:07 AM ET

Pope to name first Native American saint

Sunday is a big day for Catholics. Pope Benedict XVI will name 17th century Mohawk Kateri Tekakwitha the first Native American saint.

Another newly named saint is Marianne Cope, a German-born woman who emigrated to the United States as a child, became a nun and went on to devote 30 years of her life helping lepers in Hawaii.

Their canonization, along with those of five other saints, will be celebrated at a special Mass in St. Peter's Square Sunday morning.


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Filed under: Religion • Vatican • World
December 24th, 2011
06:55 PM ET

Pope calls for worshipers to remember 'essence' of Christmas

Pope Benedict XVI presided over Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, delivering a homily that focused on the "essence" of the holiday rather than the "commercial celebration" it has become.

"Today Christmas has become a commercial celebration, whose bright lights hide the mystery of God's humility, which in turn calls us to humility and simplicity," the pope said after recalling the story of Christmas. "Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season, and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem, so as to find true joy and true light."

The 84-year-old pope, presiding over his seventh mass as pontiff, also conjured up an image of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, explaining that visitors must bend down to enter its low opening, drawing a tie to what followers of Christ must do to find their faith.

"If we want to find the God who appeared as a child, then we must dismount from the high horse of our 'enlightened' reason," he said. "... In this spirit let us celebrate the liturgy of the holy night, let us strip away our fixation on what is material, on what can be measured and grasped."

The pope started off Saturday's celebrations by lighting a peace candle in the window of his study during the unveiling of a larger-than-life nativity scene in St. Peter's Square. The scene, at 23 feet high and 82 feet wide, is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, according to the Vatican's news agency.

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Filed under: Christian • Religion • Vatican
Pope Benedict 'returns home' to Germany
Pope Benedict XVI shakes hands with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday at the Chancellery in Berlin.
September 22nd, 2011
08:02 AM ET

Pope Benedict 'returns home' to Germany

Pope Benedict XVI arrived at Berlin's Tegel airport Thursday morning.

About 6,000 police officers are securing the visit, authorities told CNN.

"Even though this journey is an official visit which will reinforce the good relations existing between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Holy See, I have not come here primarily to pursue particular political or economic goals, but rather to meet people and to speak about God," the pope said during a speech at Bellevue Castle.

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