Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz notes the ironies in his latest creation, "Jesus the Homeless," a bronze sculpture depicting the Christian savior huddled beneath a blanket on an actual-size park bench. Only the feet are visible, and their gaping nail wounds reveal the subject.  Photo courtesy Timothy Schmalz

Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz notes the ironies in his latest creation, “Jesus the Homeless,” a bronze sculpture depicting the Christian savior huddled beneath a blanket on an actual-size park bench. Only the feet are visible, and their gaping nail wounds reveal the subject. Photo courtesy Timothy Schmalz

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On the anniversary

Today is the one-year anniversary of Pope Francis’ election. We at RNS celebrate this occasion, if for no other reason than that it’s been a good year for us and other media companies that have benefited from the explosion of interest in the new pope.

So what’s it like to work for the not-so-new pope? Our own David Gibson interviewed some who said he has an “enigmatic smile that seemed welcoming but reveals nothing.” They call it the Mona Lisa smile.

At Time, Robert Christian writes that one key Francis initiative stands out for its abject failure: his push for a peaceful resolution to Syria’s civil war. Still, it’s a good day for Catholics. Tomas Halik, a Roman Catholic priest and philosopher who sees his mission as working to create understanding among “seekers” won the 2014 Templeton Prize for religious and spiritual progress.

On the explosion:

One of two buildings destroyed by an explosion yesterday northeast of Manhattan’s Central Park housed a long-standing Hispanic evangelical church — and reportedly one-third of the congregation. Six people have died in the explosion so far.

On the culture wars:

Sunrise Children’s Services, which shelters and feeds more than 2,000 abused and neglected children every year, faces a $7 million budget shortfall manufactured by the Kentucky Baptist Convention in order to prevent Sunrise from hiring gay people.

A South Carolina pastor is warning Christians not to participate in Holi, the Hindu holiday that begins Monday, in which people throw multi-colored powder at one another. The event has been appropriated by The Color Run and Run or Dye events. Pastor Trey Rhodes of Difference Church in Mt. Pleasant, doesn’t like it:

“While Holi celebrates one day a year of love for everyone, Christ followers, in distinct contrast to a caste system which divides, live a life of love that changes everything about us as well as how we daily respond to those around us.”

Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican who is a favorite of the tea party, said supporters of abortion rights chanted “Hail, Satan” to silence their enemies.

North Carolina GOP Senate candidate Greg Brannon believes Planned Parenthood wants to legalize infanticide.

On the death penalty:

New Hampshire’s House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly, 225 to 104, to repeal the death penalty on Wednesday. The fate of the bill in the state’s Senate is less certain, but many give it a strong chance of passage. And the new governor, Maggie Hassan, is prepared to sign it. If New Hampshire abolishes the death penalty, it would become the 19th state to do so.

On Muslim understanding, or lack thereof:

For years, Muslim-American activists and media reports have raised awareness about anti-Muslim speakers hired to teach law enforcement officers about counterterrorism. Though there have been occasional canceled classes, the problem persists.

New Guantanamo Bay U.S. prison guidelines describe hunger-striking detainees as undergoing “long term non-religious fasting,” a copy of the document obtained by Reuters shows.

The Guardian reports that some Muslims don’t wan’t to see Darren Aronofsky’s new movie because Noah is a sacred figure in Islam. And it turns out that Christians aren’t too keen on it, either. Paramount Pictures has edited and re-edited Aronofsky’s original to try to find a version that Christians will go crazy for.

On Jesus sculptures:

The BBC has a gorgeous spread on Cristo Redentor, the iconic Jesus statue in Rio de Janeiro. Check it out, if only to see how online story presentations are changing.

And Ken Garfield reports on a church outside Charlotte, N.C., that hoisted a life-size sculpture depicting a figure asleep under a blanket on a park bench. The sculpture is called  “Homeless Jesus.”

On Buddhism:

Dan Harris, a co-anchor of ABC’s “Nightline” and the weekend edition of “Good Morning America,” says that after an on-air panic attack, he found meditation and Buddhism to help him get through the day. He has a new book.

On Purim:

Purim is just around the corner (starts Saturday night), and Lauren Markoe has a sweet story about the Sunflower Bakery where the bakers’ helpers are developmentally disabled people. It’s a reversal-of-fortune story apropos for the holiday.

Related: The Tablet investigates how Christians have fallen in love with Queen Esther, Purim’s Jewish heroine. To them she is seen as an example of how people can become awakened to their true roles in life, stop hiding and become leaders.

Is Lt. Gen. “Jerry” Boykin the new Haman (the evil vizier in the Esther story who sought to exterminate the Jews)? The retired Lt. Gen. and executive vice president of the conservative Family Research Council “joked” that Jews are responsible for literally all of the world’s problems.

On the great beyond:

We close with an obituary making the rounds on Facebook.

“Walter George Bruhl Jr. of Newark and Dewey Beach is a dead person; he is no more; he is bereft of life; he is deceased; he has rung down the curtain and gone to join the choir invisible; he has expired and gone to meet his maker.”

Read on. It gets better.

And the New York Times writes about the rise of eco-friendly funerals. But for the record, we had this story first.

Stick with us. We beat the competition.


  1. I am new to RNS. I cannot recall reading the newsletter when the catholic pope is not the central newsmaker. Is RNS a catholic organization that must report what is going on with the pope?

  2. Kevin Eckstrom

    Stan: Thanks for your comment. No, we are not a Catholic organization, and in fact we are not affiliated with or controlled by any religious group. That said, Pope Francis has been a huge newsmaker since his election and he keeps giving us things to write about. Thanks,

    Kevin Eckstrom / RNS

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