John Allen in Rome: Although the NFL playoffs may have dominated weekend conversation in the States, it was another busy period on the pope-watch beat.
Pope Francis, who already profiles as the “immigrant pope” both due to his arriving in Rome from “the ends of the earth,” as he said on the night of his election, and because of his strong advocacy on behalf of migrants and refugees, made another clear statement of solidarity Jan. 19 by visiting a Roman parish known for outreach to immigrants and the poor.
We have a new winner in the sweepstakes for shortest shelf-life of any Vatican denial of a news story ever, with the nearly instantaneous retraction Jan. 17 of a statement disputing an Associated Press report that almost 400 priests had been defrocked in 2011/2012 in cases involving sexual abuse.
The denial was issued by Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, at 9:31 pm Rome time last night and retracted at 10:32 pm, which means that it survived barely an hour.
John Allen in Rome: Ahead of the Jan. 22 summit on Syria, the Vatican is continuing its full-court press for peace with gestures intended to reach policy-makers and ordinary people.
As the Legionaries of Christ started their extraordinary general chapter, the cardinal overseeing the troubled congregation said scandal had taken a toll on its finances, but that members had made progress in overcoming the moral and administrative legacy of their disgraced founder.
Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, the papal delegate to the Legionaries, spoke in an interview with Vatican Radio broadcast Thursday, the chapter's first working day. The cardinal had formally opened the gathering by concelebrating Mass with members of the congregation the previous evening.
Officially speaking, the Vatican doesn't do much to mark a pope's birthday. Unofficially, however, Francis marked the period around his 77th birthday Dec. 17.
As 2013 reached an end, Pope Francis’ burgeoning following on Twitter crossed the 11 million mark, taking all nine of his accounts in different languages into view. Spanish leads the way, with four and a half million pope followers, while English was in second place with three and a half million.
Given the wide popularity of the new pope, the fact that he’s now the most followed religious figure in the Twitter universe, surpassing the 8.2 million who follow the Dali Lama, is probably no real surprise.
Every so often a day rolls around that seems to perfectly sum up the arc of a story, and Saturday, Dec. 21, felt like one of those days in Pope Francis' ongoing reform campaign.
To set the scene, Francis had two big appointments on his calendar Dec. 21: the pope's annual year-end address to the Roman Curia and a visit to Rome's Bambino Gesù Hospital, which specializes in the care of sick children.
Perhaps the most dramatic Christmas Day example of the “Francis effect” came not in the Vatican but across town, in a Roman detention center for poor and undocumented immigrants. A four-day hunger strike, which featured angry Muslims from Morocco and Tunisia sewing their mouths shut, was suspended because the protestors were persuaded that Francis could “make us heard.”
In yet another gesture of outreach to ordinary people, Pope Francis starting in January will invite parishioners from Roman parishes to join him for his daily morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta, the Vatican residence where he lives.
The news was first reported yesterday by the Italian paper Corriere della Sera and confirmed today by the Vatican Press Office.
There are roughly 320 parishes in the Rome diocese.
The following is an NCR translation of the brief statement: