Word Cloud of Pope Francis's Tweets by Michael Peppard via Wordle

Word Cloud of Pope Francis’s Tweets by Michael Peppard via Wordle

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Neo-atheist Richard Dawkins made waves earlier this week for downplaying “mild pedophilia.” Now he has praise for mild Anglicanism:

“I’m kind of grateful to the Anglican tradition for its benign tolerance,” Dawkins tells The Spectator. “I sort of suspect that many who profess Anglicanism probably don’t believe any of it at all in any case but vaguely enjoy, as I do … I suppose I’m a cultural Anglican and I see evensong in a country church through much the same eyes as I see a village cricket match on the village green. I have a certain love for it.”

Left-handed compliment? Not that Anglicans would take offense. But his fellow atheists may not appreciate this follow-up:

“I certainly would absolutely never do what some of my American colleagues do and object to religious symbols being used, putting crosses up in the public square and things like that, I don’t fret about that at all, I’m quite happy about that.”

Never mind atheists, Dawkins may not be welcome in Quebec, where they want to ban religious symbols for public sector workers. (Do maple leafs count?)

Unfortunately, it’s Friday the 13th and NatGeo reports that the superstition is rooted in traditions about the Last Supper. Alas, it’s so ingrained that there’s no getting rid of it. But we can always cross our fingers…

Of greater import: sundown marks the start of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. At Tablet, Mark Oppenheimer says Jews need to make synagogue attendance more than a once-a-year ritual: “Becoming fluent in your own religious tradition is like playing an instrument or a sport: It takes time, dedication, and practice.”

Yom Kippur is a tough sermon, as rabbis know. Melissa Matthes talks about her research into what clergy say in response to national tragedies, like the Sept. 11 attacks.

Tough times for Focus on the Family, once a mainstay of the Religious Right: a $3 million deficit and more layoffs that leave the ministry with half the workforce it had a decade ago.

Fordham theologian Michael Peppard has done a word cloud of six months of Pope Francis’ tweets. As you can see above, “God” is big. But after Francis wrote a letter to an atheist in an Italian newspaper, some believers wonder if God is big enough to forgive atheists, or even get them to Heaven. In herein I try to reassure the loyal opposition that the pope is still Catholic — though that may not be enough for Protestants.

The pope has put a moratorium on making monsignors – no “purple rain” in the forecast. What will Rocco do?

The guys from NPR’s brilliant “Car Talk” have the best riff on the pope getting an old Renault to drive around the Vatican. To wit:

The Pope buys a 1984 Renault… Now there’s a man who believes in the power of prayer

A must-read.

A new Pew poll shows that Francis is as popular as everyone seems to think he is. But Matthew Schmitz says the whole notion is “supremely absurd”:

“But what point is there in an approval rating of a pope? What point would there be in an approval rating for one’s father, mother, brother?”

At his homily today, the pope wasn’t in the mood for surveys, as he lashed out again at Christians who gossip – “Christian murderers,” he calls them:

“Those who live judging their neighbor, speaking ill of their neighbor, are hypocrites, because they lack the strength and the courage to look to their own shortcomings … If you speak ill of your brother, you kill your brother.”

Related: At Ethics Daily, Chuck Warnock has “6 Rules for Pastors Before Posting That Blog.” Actually, everyone should read them.

If ex-Pope Benedict XVI is out of the public eye, his students are rallying to make sure his theological legacy endures, and flourishes in places like Africa, where the church is growing. Reuters’ Tom Heneghan reports.

The U.S. bishops are trying to improve relations with theologians by meeting today through Saturday with a hand-picked group of younger members of the guild. Few in the Catholic theological world knew about this, so it will be interesting to see who the bishops are talking to. NCR’s Josh McElwee reports from Washington.

The bishops have come to the defense of Catholic Relief Services, as our own Katherine Burgess reports. Conservative critics have been on a campaign to discredit church social justice agencies like CRS, and the bishops have had enough. Here is New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, head of the bishops conference, on his view of these critics:

“I’ve got to be honest with you, with particular groups we’re tempted to get so frustrated that we say they’re never going to be happy. They don’t trust us, they don’t believe us. They seem to think that the best thing they can do is criticize. And we sometimes shrug and say, All we can do is tell you that we’ve listened to you, we’ve looked into this scrupulously. We’re trying our best and we are convinced that we are acting in complete consonance with Catholic teaching.”

Best headline today: “Can bubbas love Muslims?” That’s from Omar Sacirbey’s story about a new documentary on comedians doing red-state standup about Muslims.

A top Vatican official on relations with Muslims reflects on Francis’ approach to Islam. Calling its followers “brothers” instead of “friends” seems to be one shift.

Voyager 1 has left the solar system. This is pretty awesome, in the true sense of that shopworn word. Has anyone parsed the theology of this moment? Is there one? I wish there were. Let us know.

And while you’re at it, sign up for the Daily Religion News Roundup by putting your email in the box below. It’s outta this world.

David Gibson

Categories: Culture

David Gibson

David Gibson

David Gibson is an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker. He is a national reporter for RNS and has written two books on Catholic topics, the latest a biography of Pope Benedict XVI.


  1. David Gibson

    David Gibson

    Article author

    John McGrath, I think that might have been one of the Pope’s intended audiences, in fact, in the Vatican. I don’t think that being a careerist — or even a murderer — cancels out one’s Christianity, however.

  2. I live in Co. Springs, home of Focus, and can tell you that this started the day that Dobson stepped down. It is simply poor management, plus a non-profit which has let political principles guide them instead of doing “the Lord’s work’. I can remember a time not too long ago when Focus was, by far, the cities largest employer. No more. They also kicked many loyal employees to the curb which should never happen with a so called christian ministry. Sad to see, and I have seen it personally living in a houshold years ago where I was the only one in that house that didn’t work for them. Now every one of those other people in that house are working at places like WalMart or not working at all.

  3. Gee, this edition sure seemed ‘All Roman Catholic/All the Time.’ Yes, there were others here and there.

    I think Pope Francisco is wonderful and the best hope in decades to return the RCC to a focus on the gospel of JC.

    How about some mention of the stories about the Emerging Church movement among mainline Protestant churches in the USA?

    Rev. Nadia Bolz-Webber’s book, “Pastrix”, was just published this week and is very controversial for many Christians. It’s also quite profane and one of my favorites. She’s on a book tour and in the news. N-W pastors an ELCA church in Denver, HFASS, pronounced ‘Half-Ass.’

    Follow up!

    In the meantime, I continue to be a fan of RNS and several of your blogs. Thanks.

  1. […] tweets. As you can see above, “God” is big. But after Francis wrote a letter to an atheist in an Italian newspaper, some believers wonder if God is big enough to forgive atheists, or even get them to Heaven. In herein I try to reassure the loyal opposition that the pope is still Catholic — though that may not be enough for Protestants. The pope has put a moratorium on making monsignors – no “purple rain” in the forecast.What will Rocco do?  […]

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