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Poll: Pope Very Popular in United States, but No ‘Francis Effect’.

Image: Poll: Pope Very Popular in United States, but No 'Francis Effect'Pope Francis blesses the altar during Ash Wednesday at Santa Sabina Basilica in Rome on March 5.

One year after his election, Pope Francis is “immensely popular among American Catholics,” a survey said on Thursday, but there is no sign of a “Francis effect” inspiring more to attend Mass or do volunteer work.The Washington-based Pew Research Center said 85 percent of Catholics in the United States viewed the Argentine-born pontiff favourably, with 51 percent reporting a “very favourable” view of him, while only 4 percent expressed a negative opinion.

Among Catholics, 68 percent thought he represented “a major change for the better,” a view shared by 51 percent of the non-Catholics responding to the poll in telephone interviews of 1,340 Americans from Feb. 14 to 23.

Francis:Pope’s Hidden Life Revealed.
But the poll also found the rock-star status of the pope, whose simple style has attracted record crowds to the Vatican and won Time magazine’s Man of the Year title for 2013, has not clearly translated into greater lay participation in the church since his surprise election on March 13, 2013.

“There has been no measurable rise in the percentage of Americans who identify as Catholic,” the survey said. “Nor has there been a statistically significant change in how often Catholics say they go to Mass.”

Forty percent of Catholics said they were now praying more often and 26 percent were “more excited” about their faith, but their frequency of going to confession or volunteering at church has not changed.


“If there has been a ‘Francis effect’, it has been most pronounced among Catholics who already were highly committed to the practice of their faith,” the survey concluded.

Francis’s 85 percent favourable rating lags behind the 93 percent the late Pope John Paul scored in 1990 and 1996. Pope Emeritus Benedict’s rating reached 83 percent in 2008, just after his only visit to the United States, but it was mostly in the 70s.

The survey said women were slight more favourable to Francis than men and Catholics aged 40 and older were more likely to have a very favourable view than younger believers who came of age under the more dogmatic popes John Paul and Benedict.

Pope Francis’s openness to reforming some Church doctrines seems to have raised U.S. Catholics’ expectations of fundamental changes in coming decades, judging by responses to the poll.

The biggest jump concerned allowing the now celibate clergy to marry. Some 51 percent thought priests would be able to marry by 2050, compared to 39 percent who thought that a year ago.

Some 56 percent expect artificial birth control to be allowed by 2050, a slight rise from 53 percent last year, and 42 percent expected to see women priests, up from 37 percent.

“Regardless of their expectations about what the Church will do, large majorities of Catholics say the Church should allow Catholics to use birth control (77 percent), allow priests to get married (72 percent) and ordain women as priests (68 percent),” the survey wrote.

“Half of Catholics say the Church should recognise the marriages of gay and lesbian couples,” it added.

These responses were roughly in line with results reported in Germany and several other European countries last month to a Vatican survey on sexual morality being taken for a major synod of world bishops on family policy due in October.

Most national bishops conferences have not published their results for the Vatican survey, but the few reports released in Europe indicated a wide gap between Church teaching on sex and the views that many Catholics actually hold.

Some disappointment rang through in comments on how Francis is doing his job. In his lowest rating, only 54 percent said he was addressing the clerical sexual abuse scandal well.

U.S. Catholics rated the abuse scandal the most important issue for the new pope in a Pew survey in March 2013.

Francis:Pope’s Hidden Life Revealed.
By contrast, 81 percent thought he was spreading the faith well and standing up for traditional moral values. Some 76 percent credited him with addressing the needs of the poor.

The survey said 22 percent of Americans identify as Catholics and 40 percent of them reported they attended Mass weekly or more often. Another 42 percent of self-identified Catholics went to church only occasionally and 18 percent never.

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.


Pope Expresses Support for Italy’s ‘Pitchfork’ Protesters.

Image: Pope Expresses Support for Italy's 'Pitchfork' ProtestersMembers of the “Movimento dei Forconi” (Pitchfork Movement) gather in St. Peter’s Square during the Angelus prayer at the Vatican on Dec. 22.

ROME — Pope Francis on Sunday expressed support for Italians protesting over high unemployment, recession, and austerity but urged them to reject the “temptation of violence.”

The “Pitchfork Movement” was initially inspired by a group of Sicilian farmers but has grown into a wider wave of unrest expressing frustration with the government’s failure to turn around the economy.

Protesters have marched in several cities, mostly peacefully, but some have blocked roads and disrupted trains. There were clashes with police in Turin, and accusations that shopkeepers were bullied to close their doors and join the movement.

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“To those from Italy gathered today to demonstrate their social commitment, I hope that you make a constructive contribution, rejecting the temptations of confrontation and violence, and always following the path of dialogue in defending your rights,” the Pope said.Francis has drawn huge crowds to the square since taking over from Benedict, who resigned in February. He has urged the church to become closer to the poor, more merciful and less condemning.

After seeing a banner in the square below reading “The Poor Cannot Wait”, the Pope said it was “beautiful,” and spoke off-the-cuff about the gravity of Italy’s growing homeless problem.

“Families and houses go together. It is very difficult for a family to make it without living in a house,” he said during his last appearance in the square before Christmas. “In these days of Christmas, I invite all — every person, every social organization, the authorities —to do everything possible to ensure that every family can have a home.”

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.


Pope Francis Named ‘Time’ Person of the Year.

Image: Pope Francis Named 'Time' Person of the Year

By Sandy Fitzgerald

Time magazine has picked Pope Francis as its 2013 Person of the Year, with the popular pontiff beating President Barack Obama, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and several others for the top honor.

“Rarely has a new player on the world stage captured so much attention so quickly,” said Time Managing Editor Nancy Gibbs Wednesday. “In his nine months in office, he has placed himself at the very center of the central conversations of our time: about wealth and poverty, fairness and justice, transparency, modernity, globalization, the role of women, the nature of marriage, the temptations of power.”

Gibbs pointed out that the 76-year-old Pope has “no army or weapons, no kingdom beyond a tight fist of land in the middle of Rome, but with the immense wealth and weight of history behind, to throw down a challenge.”

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The Pope’s message is also spreading to people beyond the church, said Gibbs.

“When he kisses the face of a disfigured man or washes the feet of a Muslim woman, the image resonates far beyond the boundaries of the Catholic Church,” Gibbs wrote in a piece explaining the magazine’s selection.

Story continues below video.

The former Jorge Bergoglio was selected from a short list of candidates including Syrian President Bashar Assad, Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, Obama, Cruz, gay rights activist Edith Windsor, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and entertainer Miley Cyrus, all of whom, for better or worse, made top headlines in 2013.

Snowden, Windsor, Assad, and Cruz were named as runners-up by “Time.”

Former Vice President Dick Cheney earlier this week described the shortlist as “crappy,” especially taking offense at Snowden, who he calls a traitor who should be “tried for treason.”

But Francis was chosen over all the others, for many reasons, noted Gibbs, including his powerful message of “don’t just preach; listen. Don’t scold; heal.”

The church has been weakened worldwide by scandals and corruption, said Gibbs, and in less than a year, “he has not changed the words, but he’s changed the music. Tone and temperament matter in a church built on the substance of symbols — bread and wine, body and blood — so it is a mistake to dismiss any Pope’s symbolic choices­ as gestures empty of the force of law.”

Further, Gibbs said Francis is a humble man with a sense of timing who lives in a hostel instead of the papal palace.

“He prays all the time, even while waiting for the dentist,” said Gibbs. “He has retired the papal Mercedes in favor of a scuffed-up Ford Focus. No red shoes, no gilded cross, just an iron one around his neck.”

Further, she said, Pope Francis is doing more than “modeling mercy and transparency” when he rejects privilege, calls strangers, and releases Vatican financial information for the first time.

“He is ­embracing complexity and acknowledging the risk that a church obsessed with its own rights and righteousness could inflict more wounds than it heals,” said Gibbs.

Gibbs said Francis has become “something of a rock star.”

More than 3 million people showed up to see him on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro last summer, said Gibbs, and “churches report a “Francis effect” of lapsed Catholics returning to Mass and confession.”

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Pope Francis May Be Sneaking Out of Vatican to Meet the Poor.

Image: Pope Francis May Be Sneaking Out of Vatican to Meet the Poor

By Lisa Barron

Pope Francis is known for his personal touch — calling people who have written him letters, washing the feet of juvenile detainees, and kissing a deformed man — but he also may be sneaking out at night in disguise to meet with the homeless.

Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the Vatican Almoner, who has the centuries-old job of distributing money from the Holy See to those in need, told reporters in Rome that Francis has elevated the position to make it part of his own personal charity, The Associated Press Reports.

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“The Holy Father told me at the beginning: You need to get out of the Vatican. Don’t wait for people to come ringing. You need to go out and look for the poor,” said the 50-year-old Krajewski. “When I say to him ”I’m going out into the city this evening,’ there’s the constant risk that he will come with me.”

Asked if Francis had ventured out of the Vatican on his own, the Polish prelate just smiled and said, “Next question, please,” sparking rumors that the pontiff is going incognito into the streets to give alms, reports UCatholic

“That’s what he’s like,” Krajewski said, recalling that as archbishop of Buenos Aires, when Francis was known as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, he “would go out at night . . . not just to find people, talk with them, or buy them something to eat. . . . He would eat with them. He would sit with them and eat with them on the street.

“This is what he wants from me,” he said.

The rumors that Francis still is doing it himself may well be true, reports The Huffington Post, quoting a “knowledgeable source in Rome” saying that “Swiss guards confirmed that the Pope has ventured out at night, dressed as a regular priest, to meet with homeless men and women.”

Krajewski himself acknowledged that he has enlisted the assistance of off-duty Swiss Guards, telling reporters that they often get called into duty, recently helping to box 27,000 rosaries that Francis handed out to the public one Sunday as “spiritual medicine.”

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

The Emperor and the Veil… By Tayo Olaniyan.


By Tayo Olaniyan

The veil fell briefly and the people saw all the ugliness hidden beneath the Emperor’s many words, they saw how the loud compassion of the past rung empty and was really about gold and manipulation, they saw a glimpse of ‘The Peoples Emperor’, only this time not in his majesty but in the grandest of travesty…

And so quickly the news spread, as many painted quite vividly the true picture of the Emperor’s heart, in all its revealed wickedness. Sadly, this time, the town criers could not be bought, as they had been bought many times in the past, for the people had turned their pots and pans into gongs themselves and shared the tale far and wide.

So loud grew the din of their pain and displeasure that even the Emperor’s enemies, usually deaf to the plight of all, except the jingle of the peoples coins gathered and ripe to be stolen, heard their cries and grabbed the opportunity… Any opportunity to show the Emperor in bad light couldn’t be wasted. No sooner had the poor widow, whose livelihood was snatched from her desperate grasp, fallen to the ground for the Emperors scorn, did a gnarled, wicked hand, reach out to help. Only this hand was the very one, which over the last 14 years, had thrown her into such penury. The hand was laden with stolen gold, yet it threw only two and a half pence at her…  Just enough for the tale to be told…

Even before the coins dropped in her laps, the praise singers had broken out in song, praising the Emperors’ enemy for showing mercy where the Emperor had shown scorn… As though no one remembered that all he had done, was throw back the crumbs from the loaf he had stolen from her. As though no one remembered, that had her right been given her, her husband might still be alive and she might not have been out trading, at the risk of complete ruin, against the Emperors order, on the well beaten path.

Alas, but the tale doesn’t end there, for no sooner had it been noised about, that the Emperor’s enemies had been kind to the widow scorned, did the Emperor, with urgent despatch ask that she be brought, to the palace built with the people’s wealth. The one where their voice didn’t matter…

And so with timid steps, she approached the palace gates, ushered in swiftly, for the Emperor’s word was with her. All the court thronged to see her. As she walked, she looked into the eyes of the stern horsemen with whips, who just a few hours before, were ready to tear her to pieces, at the Emperors careless command, now courteous and welcoming, some wishing they were in her shoes, for they knew what would follow…  They had seen it many times. Soon she would return, laden with more gold than they earned in a year. For when the Emperor sought favour, he dipped into the treasury and did as all kings do, with the wealth of the one’s whose wealth made him rich, he would blind the eye and mend the breach, especially when the veil had been lifted. That age old wisdom for keeping men subservient – a crumb for their loaves, to keep them content… to keep them silent…

‘Ahh welcome’ said the Emperor, arms wide and welcoming, with a smile curved around his lips… She looked into those eyes, and saw they had not changed. It was all a script, just like she had been told. It was time to play her part and get her share of the lands bounty… So smile widely she did, just as her wise old neighbour had advised, soon after he heard the Emperor had invited her to the palace…

As she trembled in fear, reluctant to go with the Emperor’s horsemen. He had looked deeply into her eyes, and said with a chuckle ‘the veil has been lifted, and only you can put it back, do exactly as I tell you and tonight some of the Emperor’s milk would grace your child’s tea‘.
And so she remembered the script and played her part, as a guest of the Emperor, in the people’s palace… the one with the huge fence and massive gates… the one built with the people’s wealth… where they were not welcome…  As for her, today she was welcome. Very, very, very welcome.
And so she planted the plastic smile firmly on her face, and acted her part. And true to the old man’s words, the milk began to flow… In fact that very afternoon, she had milk in her tea, cos’ the Emperor insisted, she shared a cup with him, while the bright lights flashed again and again. Quite a strange cup it was, very unlike the old yellow custard container she used for tea at home. Still, with awkward grace as only peasants can muster, she put up a brave show and did her part.

At some point and for a while, she felt a twinge of regret and wished she could stand tall, speak her mind and leave, but the taste of the milk, reminded her of a taste her children were yet to experience…  Motherhood battled with conscience and the breast silenced the heart, as the gold did as it is oft, it painted many a picture of plenty and comfort where now her reality glared harshly as lack and want…

As she gathered herself to leave, having done all as the script required, her heart remained strangely heavy with a sadness she couldn’t place. Till staring deeply into the Emperor’s eyes and seeing the darkness still remain, she sighed and sighed deeply, knowing now what the old man had meant, when he said the veil had been lifted… for now she realised, she also had seen the Emperor behind the veil and no amount of gold could put the veil back up, not anymore…

(By Tayo Olaniyan – All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental)


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

Netanyahu to Kerry: No ‘Partial Deal’ With a Nuclear Iran.

Image: Netanyahu to Kerry: No 'Partial Deal' With a Nuclear Iran

ROME — Israel’s prime minister said Wednesday that the world should not accept what he called a “partial deal” to curb Iran’s nuclear program — just as it is not allowing the Syrian government to keep any of its chemical weapons stockpile.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told America’s chief diplomat that ongoing negotiations with Iran should insist Tehran end all enrichment on uranium, get rid of any fissile material, and close water plants and underground bunkers, which he said are only necessary to build a nuclear bomb.

“I think a partial deal that leaves Iran with these capabilities is a bad deal,” Netanyahu told Secretary of State John Kerry at the start of what was expected to be a daylong private meeting in Rome.

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“You wisely insisted there wouldn’t be a partial deal with Syria,” Netanyahu said. “You were right. If [Syrian President Bashar] Assad had said, ‘I’d like to keep 20 percent, 50 percent, or 80 percent of my chemical weapons capability,’ you would have refused — and correctly so.”

Still, Netanyahu predicted that “we’re very close” to striking a deal with Iran. “And I agree with you that the goal is to get it peacefully,” he said.

Israel is nervously watching the renewed nuclear negotiations between Iran and six world powers.

Netanyahu has long demanded that the United States not ease any of its harsh economic sanctions against Tehran until the Islamic republic dismantles its nuclear weapons program.

Kerry maintained the United States would continue to insist that Iran prove to the world that its nuclear program is peaceful, as Tehran says. But the negotiations, which began again this month after a six-month lull, have come nowhere near demanding the level of tough restrictions on Iran as Israel wants.

“No deal is better than a bad deal,” Kerry said. “But if this can be solved satisfactorily, diplomatically, it is clearly better for everyone, and we are looking for an opportunity to be able to that.”

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Pope Calls for World Justice System Reform, Adding ‘God Is a Prisoner’.

Image: Pope Calls for World Justice System Reform, Adding 'God Is a Prisoner'

VATICAN CITYPope Francis Wednesday called for a more humane justice system, saying God too was “a prisoner” of the world’s injustices and was in every cell.

“God is a prisoner too. He is inside the cell,” Francis said at an audience with Italian prison chaplains in the Vatican.

“He is a prisoner of our egoism, of our systems, of the many injustices . . . that punish the weak while the big fish swim freely,” the Pope said.

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He also spoke of reforms to the justice system.

“You have spoken of a justice system for reconciliation, a justice system of hope, of open doors, of new horizons,” he said. “This is no utopia. It can happen.”

Francis has shown close attention to prison life and in one of his first acts as Pope blessed the feet of young inmates at a juvenile prison in Rome as part of an Easter ritual in March.

Italy suffers from severe prison overcrowding and there are growing calls for reforms that would cut down on lengthy pre-trial detention.

© AFP 2013


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