- Sep 20, 2020
In January 2014, a Roman street artist put up an image of Pope Francis as a superhero on a street near the Vatican. City authorities scrubbed it off within 48 hours, but now it’s back in the form of a line of T-shirts, with proceeds going to papal charities and explicit Vatican support. Some Catholics may see that as exciting, others as a worrying risk of pursuing profit and celebrity under the guise of good intentions.
Given Pope Francis’s usual disinclination to answer his critics, it may seem a little puzzling as to why he quickly and publicly responded to Cardinal Robert Sarah about the implications of the pontiff’s recent decisions on liturgical translation. The nature of Sarah’s position, the pope’s readiness to be precise, and his personal investment in the issue may all help explain why Francis appears so ready to reply this time.
With a total population of just about 445,000 people, Malta is one of the world’s smallest sovereign nations, but both historically and today it’s punched well above its weight in Church affairs. In the wake of Monday’s shocking murder of an anti-corruption journalist, the Church there under Archbishop Charles Scicluna may be ideally positioned to inspire and sustain a serious push for reform.
Pope Francis is visiting a cemetery for American war dead this year on All Souls’ Day, and Americans are naturally inclined to wonder if he’s trying to make some sort of statement about the U.S. or its role in the world by doing so. As it turns out, however, the stop at Nettuno won’t even be the most important thing he does that day, and this may not be all about us.
Two stories about Pope Francis in the last few days have confirmed impressions of him as a maverick, break-the-mold kind of pope, one on the death penalty and the other on the Amazon. In both cases, however, there’s a good argument to be made that what the pope is up to represents not a revolution, but a natural evolution of where the Church was already moving.
It’s a well-kept secret of societies where Christians and Muslims rub shoulders that conversions from one faith to the other happen with sometimes surprising frequency. Muslims who embrace Christianity face special challenges, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, as a story from Lebanon about the time Jihad met the Virgin illustrates.