Lawyers from Americans United for Separation of Church and State are warning public officials in New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. that extensive preparation at taxpayers' expense for Pope Francis' visit later this month is a violation of the U.S. Constitution. Quoting an appeals court ruling, such aid is the type of "specific evil" the First Amendment "was designed to prevent," the group said.
The organization, which advocates for a strict separation view of the religious freedom clauses of the First Amendment, sent a letter to the mayors of the respective cities and the heads of the Secret Service, National Park Service and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority on Monday "to provide guidance on the constitutional limitations on governmental support of and involvement with the papal visit."
"Specifically, government bodies must not provide any aid to a Pope's religious activities that goes beyond the provision of services — such as police, safety, and security — that are regularly given for comparable public events of a similar size," states the letter, which was signed by the group's legal director Alex Luchenitser and legal fellow John McGinnis. more >>
New York residents will get the chance to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis later this month during his U.S. tour which will include a procession through the city's iconic Central Park.
On Sept. 25, the pontiff will tour the city's famous landmark on his popemobile and tens of thousands are expected to turn out for what will be a historic event. The papal motorcade will be a part of his first-ever tour of the U.S. since becoming the first Latin American pope in 2013.
"The procession through Central Park will give thousands of New Yorkers an opportunity to come face-to-face with Pope Francis," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement on Tuesday. "We're proud to welcome one of the world's most powerful voices to our great city ... and we are grateful to the archdiocese for their cooperation in giving even more New Yorkers a chance to join in this historic visit." more >>
The Vatican has clarified in a statement that despite a recent news story of Pope Francis blessing Italian author Francesca Pardi, a lesbian who has written a children's book with positive depictions of gay families, the Roman Catholic Church's doctrine opposing gay marriage has not changed.
"The blessing of the pope at the end of the letter was directed to the person, not at any possible teachings that are not in line with the doctrine of the church … which hasn't changed a bit as the Holy Father has repeated even recently," said Vatican spokesman the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, according to Religion News Service on Monday.
Pardi, who lives in Milan, said that she wrote to Francis and was surprised when she received a letter back, in which the pope's staff conveys his blessing. more >>
HBO host Bill Maher challenged GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum in an interview on his show on Friday to explain why Maher, as an atheist, backs Pope Francis in his stance on climate change, and why Santorum, as a Roman Catholic, does not.
"What I want to ask is, I mean, I'm not a Catholic, I'm an atheist," Maher said. "But I like the pope better than you do. You're saying the pope should stick to what he knows, and I find that ridiculous."
In June, Pope Francis released the 184-page "Laudato Si,'" or "Praise Be to You" encyclical," which tackled the way man-made climate change affects the world, such as the damage it inflicts on the poorest populations. more >>
PHILADELPHIA — The eyes of the world will be on Pope Francis when he makes a visit to the western hemisphere next month, stopping first in Cuba before heading north to Washington, D.C., New York City and Philadelphia. But his stop at the Ground Zero memorial in NYC amid commemoration of the deaths of thousands due to terrorism has been described by organizers as an "extremely important event for the world."
Pope Francis is scheduled to meet with survivors and family members of those killed in the World Trade Center attacks, which claimed the lives of 2,606 people. Those slain were mostly New Yorkers but among them were visitors hailing from the United Kingdom, Dominican Republic, South Korea, India, and dozens of other countries. More than 400 of those killed when the Twin Towers fell were law enforcement officials and firefighters who were among first responders when al-Qaida-linked terrorists crashed commercial airliners into each tower.
That Sept. 25 meeting with 9/11 families will be held outside by the twin reflecting pools at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in downtown Manhattan, Helen Osman, secretary of communications for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, explained during a briefing about the pope's U.S. visit with reporters Friday. more >>
A study by the Public Religion Research Institute released in August on the beliefs of American Catholics has found that despite the Church's teachings, they support same-sex marriage and abortion just as much as the general population. What is more, a large percentage of Catholic respondents mistakenly believed Pope Francis has backed gay marriage.
A profile on American Catholics shared by PRRI noted that they make up roughly one in five, or 22 percent of all American adults, with 59 percent of Catholics categorized as white non-Hispanic, while 34 percent identifying as Hispanic.
When asked about whether gay and lesbian couples should have the legal right to marry, 60 percent of all U.S. Catholics said that they are in favor - compared to 55 percent of all Americans. more >>