Pope, patriarch, primacy and the press

The Holy Land pilgrimage by Pope Francis contained plenty of symbolic gestures, photo ops and sound bites crafted to slip into broadcasts, ink and Twitter.There was his direct flight into the West Bank, the first papal "State of Palestine" reference and the silent prayer with his forehead against the concrete security wall between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, near graffiti pleading, "Pope, we need some 1 to speak about justice." He also prayed at a memorial for suicide-bombing victims and put a … [Read more...]

British rabbi stands to defend America’s first freedom

When Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks arrived in America recently representatives of the United States government did not greet him with a demand that Great Britain's former chief rabbi remove his yarmulke while in public.That's a good thing. But there are places -- France leaps to mind -- where this would not be the case. In fact, religious liberty is under siege in many corners of Europe, said Sacks, a member of the House of Lords."In Britain we have seen a worker banned from wearing a small … [Read more...]

Dueling saints from the Second Vatican Council?

History will show St. John XXIII was a pastor with an "exquisite openness to the Holy Spirit," while St. John Paul II will be known "as the pope of the family."That was as close as Pope Francis came to providing the sound bite all the so-called Vatican experts were waiting to hear during the historic St. Peter's Square rites in which he -- with the retired Pope Benedict XVI looking on -- elevated to sainthood two popes who did so much to shape modern Catholicism.The media mantra called … [Read more...]

The pope and the Pentecostal smartphone

The image projected onto the giant screen above the recent Kenneth Copeland Ministries conference was not your typical clever smartphone video.Still, the crowd of Pentecostal Protestants was mesmerized because the shepherd vested in white who addressed them -- in Italian, with subtitles -- was one of the last men on earth they would have expected to warmly bestow his blessing on them.Pope Francis stressed that they "must encounter one another as brothers. We must cry together. ... These … [Read more...]

Duck! Elderly patriarchs discussing doctrine!

This elderly patriarch's image is certainly striking, with his stern face and a gray beard that flows over his chest, contrasting with the colorful clothing typical of his flock and his unique line of work.Just before Christmas, he raised eyebrows with a blunt statement on one of today's most controversial issues.No, this wasn't the Duck Commander in Louisiana. This patriarch resides in the city his followers formally refer to as Constantinople-New Rome."The Lord appointed the … [Read more...]

What would Pope Francis pick as top 2013 news story?

Popes come and popes go, with a new pope elected every few years or decades.Thus, when viewed through the lens of history, the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI was a stunning event in the history of Roman Catholicism and, thus, all of Western Christianity. He was the first man to resign St. Peter's throne in 600 years. Surely this was the most important religion-news story of 2013?But when seen through the lens of the mainstream press, the bookish Benedict's exit was a mere ripple in the … [Read more...]

Unusual challenge from a Greek Orthodox bishop

It happens all the time: Church leaders stand at podiums and urge members of their flocks to go and share their faith, striving to win new converts.These speeches rarely make news, because they are not unusual. But something very unusual happened earlier this month in Brookline, Mass."You will surely agree that our mission ... is to lead our brothers and sisters -- both inside and outside the church -- to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," said the featured speaker."This is becoming … [Read more...]

A growing hole in the middle of American Jewry

There is a Yiddish saying about the mysteries of faith, family and fellowship that, loosely translated, proclaims: "You cannot make Shabbat by yourself.""The point is that you need the presence of other Jews around you to live out the dictates of your Jewish beliefs," said sociologist Steven M. Cohen, of the Jewish Institute of Religion at Hebrew Union College.Shabbat creates that circle of support. Beginning minutes before sundown on Friday, it involves a day of rest, prayer, ritual … [Read more...]


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