For the past year, no two living people have had their every utterance parsed for meaning as thoroughly and consistently as President Obama and Pope Francis. This search for meaning will continue Thursday, when Obama makes his second visit as president to the Vatican.
Like any between two powerful heads of state, the meeting is important, but focusing on policy and statecraft risks overlooking key dimensions of this meeting. For the president, the pope, and the American people, this meeting has farther-reaching importance.
The policy implications of the meeting are broad and include a range of issues-from climate change and immigration reform to the Syrian crisis and Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Adviser Susan Rice will both join Obama. The men have several shared policy priorities. The president has invoked Francis's statements on income inequality; one of the signature issues of his second term, and the administration has also worked with the Vatican on the fight against global poverty. Ken Hackett, the American ambassador to the Holy See, is the former CEO of Catholic Relief Services and one of the nation's foremost experts on international development. more >>
Atheist author and biologist Richard Dawkins, who was Prospect magazine's "world's top thinker" last year, has not been nominated for the title this year. Pope Francis, meanwhile, was nominated.
The magazine compiles a list of individuals they identify as "engaging most originally and profoundly with the central questions of the world today" and asks people from around the world to vote on the nominees.
A national gay rights organization has taken issue with a Roman Catholic Archdiocese's recently implemented "morals clause" added to their private school teacher contracts.
"As support for LGBT equality continues to grow, particularly among Catholics, the Cincinnati Archdiocese is enacting draconian restrictions on Catholic school employees," Paul Guequierre of the Human Rights Campaign wrote in an entry on the group's website Tuesday that calls for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati to reconsider its new rule. "HRC is calling on Diocese leaders to model Christian values and not discriminate against LGBT teachers or straight allies in their employment practices."
Guequierre argued that the new measure for Catholic school teachers in the Archdiocese is discriminatory and will remove employment protections for teachers. more >>
A Roman Catholic diocese in Massachusetts that refused to sell a historic mansion to a gay couple is facing mounting legal pressure.
Massachusetts' Attorney General Martha Coakley recently filed a brief in support of the gay couple who are suing the Diocese of Worcester alleging discrimination.
Filed before superior court earlier this month on behalf of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Coakley argued that the diocese's actions constituted "sexual orientation discrimination." more >>
Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby signed an agreement Monday to support an anti-slavery, anti-human trafficking initiative. The leaders of the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion backed the initiative known as the Global Freedom Network.
"Many are already engaged in the struggle and we join them with much to learn as well as much to contribute. All are called to join common cause to end this crime and suffering," said Welby. "We are struggling against evil in secret places and in deeply entrenched networks of malice and cruelty. No one of us is strong enough, but together we are ready for the challenge God is placing before us today, and we know that he will strengthen us so that all people may live in freedom and dignity."
In a statement released honoring the occasion, Welby said that the joint endeavor was part of the efforts to have Anglicans and Catholics united. more >>
A former Swedish megachurch pastor has resigned from the church board of the largest Assembly of God church in the world.
Ulf Ekman, the former leader at Word of Life, announced earlier this week that he and his wife Birgitta would be converting to Catholicism, and that he would also be departing his post at Yoido Full Gospel Church, where pastor David Yonggi Cho was recently convicted on charges that millions of dollars of church money was spent on buying his son's stocks. Cho was also sentenced to three years in prison.