Pope Francis plans to make his first visit to the United States next September, and his itinerary will include traveling to Philadelphia for the upcoming World Meeting of Families congress. The discussion topics for the meeting are set to focus on contentious issues such as premarital sex, homosexuality, infertility and celibacy, according to the congress' meeting notes.
"I would like to confirm that, God willing, in September 2015 I will go to Philadelphia for the eighth World Meeting of Families," the pope said during his opening speech at the interreligious conference on traditional marriage at the Vatican.
Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput told Catholic News Service that he was surprised at the early announcement. "You know usually they don't make these announcements. Four months out is the typical and here we are 10 months away, and the Holy Father said he is coming to Philadelphia," Chaput said. more >>
Hillsong Church and its band Hillsong United received special recognition on ABC News' "Nightline" Thursday evening.
The Pentecostal megachurch was founded in Australia in 1983 and today has over 30,000 members, according to Hillsong officials. In addition to their powerful ministry, Hillsong produced the award-winning worship band Hillsong United, which has toured the world performing at various Hillsong church location and concert venues. On Thursday, "Nightline" highlighted the achievements of the church and its music while featuring its New York leading pastor Carl Lentz. The segment aired at 12:35 a.m. ET.
Just weeks before "Nightline" featured Hillsong, the church's band Hillsong United was nominated for an American Music Award in the Contemporary Inspirational Artist category. It marked the band's first AMA nomination. The 2014 AMA's will be broadcast from Los Angeles' Nokia Theater on Nov. 23 on ABC. more >>
A new Pew survey found that Latin American Catholics are increasingly leaving the Catholic Church, either to join evangelical Protestant churches or are abandoning religion altogether. The survey participants cited a search for a personal connection with God as the biggest reason for their shift.
The wide-ranging survey, released on Thursday, reported that although 69 percent of adults across the region identify as Catholic, in almost every country surveyed there was a reported net loss of Catholics in terms of people raised Catholic and currently Catholic. Overall for Latin America as a whole, 84 percent of the population was raised Catholic, but only 69 percent identify as part of the Catholic Church now. By contrast, only nine percept of Latin America's population was raised in the Protestant tradition, but today 19 percent identify as Protestant. The number of religiously unaffiliated people is also rising, going from four percent raised without religion to currently eight percent identifying as no religion today.
As for various reasons why Latin Americans are leaving the Catholic Church, 81 percent of those who responded said that they are seeking a personal connection with God; 69 percent saidthey enjoy the style of worship at a new church, while 60 percent said that they wanted a greater emphasis on morality. more >>
While plans for the Seattle-based Mars Hill Church name and brand to completely dissolve by the end of the year are moving forward, transformation of its 13 locations are well underway.
"Everything is closing down at the end of the year, including our central offices," Mars Hill communications director Justin Dean told The Christian Post. "Mars Hill will cease to exist after Dec. 31, 2014."
Dean said that after selling or transferring all property and assets that belong to the church, it will use the money to satisfy its remaining debt and will take care of the remaining staff that will be laid off at the end of the year. more >>
The Vatican announced Tuesday that Pope Francis will set up a panel to help process the "backlog" of appeals from priests who've been accused of committing sexual abuse against minors. The new judicial body, or college, will be overseen by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
"Hearing the appeals is a very important job, especially those on abuse of minors, and the backlog of cases is at risk of absorbing all the time of the congregation," Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi told The Tablet, a Catholic news weekly.
"[The accused] shall have his case examined by the whole body of members of the congregation, the ordinary session, which may also examine other specific cases upon papal request, and/or examine cases referred to it by the newly created college," he added. more >>
Canadian-born pop star Justin Bieber was spotted at Hillsong Church in New York City Sunday with models Kendall Jenner and Hailey Baldwin.
"No doubt, the rumor mill will see Bieber's spiritually-inclined meet with Jenner and Baldwin as a romantic date," wrote Page Mackinley of the Inquisitr. "But, in fact, the 'vonfident' singer has been on a religious retreat of sorts following his split with [Selena Gomez]."
Being at Hillsong for an evening church service is the latest in a series of spiritual outings for Bieber, who's been reeling from controversies surrounding a DUI charge while in Miami and his breakup with Gomez. more >>