Pope Francis opened his first morning as pontiff by praying Thursday at Rome’s main basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
So what does the election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio mean?
For starters, he’s the first Latin American and the first Jesuit to rise to the papacy.
He is also a humble man who lives simply and took the name Francis (a first) that evokes the founder of another great religious order, says our own David Gibson.
But there’s also a decades-old controversy surrounding his involvement in the kidnappings of two Jesuit priests in his native Argentina.
Jews worldwide welcomed newly elected Pope Francis as a friend and pointed to his sympathetic reaction to the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in his native Argentina — the deadliest bombing in the country’s history.
Francis’ election will help the reputation and morale of a region that has languished in relative obscurity, except when depicted as a fount of drugs (Colombia), deforestation (Brazil) and demagoguery (Hugo Chavez of Veneuzula), says Rick Hampson of USA Today.
The pope’s election means Catholics and evangelicals need to remain allied against the increasingly aggressive secularism of our age, says onetime presidential candidate Gary Bauer, president of American Values and chairman of the Campaign for Working Families.
The moment Pope Francis I stepped out onto the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican on Wednesday, vendors of all things papal went into overdrive to manufacture prayer cards, key chains, mugs, t-shirts and other pope-related souvenirs.
The new pope may cook, but NPR says he’s no foodie. Fruit, skinless chicken and salads are all favorites.
And, as the new pope prepared to deliver his first ever address, the lower house of Argentina’s National Congress was holding a ceremony to honor Hugo Chávez.
There’s an English language website devoted to sermons and sayings of the new pope. Study up.
But how much does it matter? More evidence today of Americans’ declining religious affiliation. The General Social Survey shows the number of Americans claiming no religious affiliation is the highest its been since the 1930s — 20 percent.
The Pew Forum, examining the same data, concludes that the percentage of U.S. Catholics who consider themselves “strong” members of the Roman Catholic Church has never been lower.
Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe legalized same-sex marriage in the U.S. is inevitable, according to a study by LifeWay Research, a Nashville polling firm with ties to the Southern Baptist Convention.
The Rev. Franklin Graham and other leading evangelical figures are backing efforts to require background checks for all gun purchases, providing hope for stalled congressional efforts to enact elements of President Barack Obama’s gun control plan, Time Magazine reports.
Compassion International announced that Jim Mellado, president of the Willow Creek Association, a ministry that serves local churches, will become its new president and CEO.
Change of venue: Following objections, a panel discussion on whether Israel is a democracy has been moved from a Conservative New York City synagogue to an LGBT synagogue, also in Manhattan.
The Los Angeles Archdiocese has agreed to pay $10 million to settle a priest sex abuse case.
RNS blogger Jonathan Merritt asks Rob Bell whether God has a gender.
And finally, punishment works. When trying to achieve a certain result, a reprimand can work as well as a reward, a group of researchers at the University of Nottingham found.
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