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November 26th, 2013
09:57 PM ET

Pope Francis' new vision for the Church

Pope Francis is challenging church leaders to shift their focus back to the poor. In the first major document he’s written since becoming pontiff, Pope Francis writes:

"I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security."

That's basically a call for leaders to get their shoes muddy and get involved in the lives of their parishioners, rather than spending too much time parsing church doctrine. CNN Senior Vatican Analyst John Allen has more.

One of the most powerful images of Pope Francis' papacy is his embrace of a severely disfigured man. It has become a symbol of the pontiff’s compassion for all people, and it changed the life of the man he hugged. Ben Wedeman has his story.
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Filed under: John L. Allen Jr. • Pope Francis • Up Close
April 19th, 2008
07:40 PM ET

The Pope's visit, and lasting impressions...

John L. Allen Jr.
CNN Sr. Vatican Analyst
Vatican Correspondent, National Catholic Reporter

Prior to the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI in the United States last Tuesday, he remained an enigma for most Americans. A poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life showed that 80 percent of Americans, including two-thirds of the country’s 70 million Catholics, knew “nothing or next to nothing” about the pope.

If this six-day swing shaped up as Benedict’s opportunity to introduce himself to the American public, what is it people seem to have learned?

For Catholic insiders, the list of things gleaned is probably almost infinite. Priests who attended the pope’s Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York this morning, for example, probably paid close attention to the details of how Benedict celebrated the Mass, as well as the rhetorical and spiritual approach he took in his homily (a reflection on the scripture readings), as models for how they themselves will do those things in the future. Catholic educators undoubtedly paid close attention to the vision for Catholic schools the pope laid out in his address at the Catholic University of America on Thursday.

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Filed under: John L. Allen Jr. • Pope Benedict • TV
April 18th, 2008
12:06 PM ET

Pope meets sex abuse victims: The back story

John L. Allen Jr.
CNN Sr. Vatican Analyst
Vatican Correspondent, National Catholic Reporter

Three days ago, I got an e-mail from a fellow journalist telling me that Bernie McDaid, a victim of priestly sex abuse whom I had met in 2003 in Rome, wanted to reach me. At the time, I was overwhelmed with coverage of the first day of Pope Benedict XVI’s trip to America, and inclined to file the e-mail under “things that can wait.”

My colleague’s teaser that “you’ll want to hear this,” however, stirred me to make the call right away.

I sensed something might be up, because two weeks earlier I had interviewed the Vatican’s ambassador in the United States, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, who told me that a meeting between the pope and sex abuse victims while Benedict was in America remained “within the field of possibility.” I also understood that such a meeting would be historic, since no pope had ever before sat down with victims to hear their stories, offer his apology, and solicit their advice as to how the church might respond.

As it turns out...
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Filed under: John L. Allen Jr. • Pope Benedict
April 16th, 2008
08:18 PM ET

Politics and the Pope

John L. Allen Jr.
CNN Sr. Vatican Analyst, Vatican Correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter

Perhaps attempting to deny President George W. Bush, and by extension the Republican Party, a monopoly on Pope Benedict XVI, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asserted during a conference call with journalists today that aside from a few hot-button issues such as abortion, “The Catholic social agenda reads like the Democratic platform.”

Pelosi pointed to issues such as debt relief, immigration, the environment, torture, and budge priorities as areas of harmony between the social concerns of the Catholic church and Democrats.

Specifically on immigration, Pelosi expressed hope that “the Holy Father will be heard by those who are on the fence on this issue.”

“We need to hear the perspective of a person of faith and values who commands a level of respect that no politician could ever dream of,” she said.

Pelosi, who greeted Benedict at the White House this morning, spoke during an afternoon conference call with a group of religion writers.

Pelosi clearly acknowledged her differences with Pope Benedict on matters such as abortion and birth control, saying that “the church can only do what it believes, and I can only do what I believe.”

She added, however, that she hopes unwanted pregnancies become more rare, so that “people don’t have to make that choice.”

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Filed under: John L. Allen Jr. • Pope Benedict
April 15th, 2008
08:13 PM ET

Ethically challenged, even with the pope

John L. Allen Jr.
CNN Sr. Vatican Analyst
Vatican Correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter

Aboard “Shepherd One” today, the Alitalia jet carrying Pope Benedict XVI to the United States, four of the 70 journalists accompanying the pope to the United States were faced with a brief ethical dilemma: whether to take part in what arguably amounted to a staged news conference with the pope.

In the end, the decision wasn’t apparently that tough – each of the four decided to go ahead. The brief flurry of debate, however, illustrates the fine line that reporters sometimes walk between wanting to exploit whatever access they can get, yet without being co-opted to advance someone else’s agenda.

To set the scene, reporters on the papal plane had originally hoped that Benedict XVI would come back after take-off en route to the United States to engage in a real press conference – unscripted questions, impromptu replies, and the possibility for follow-up queries in order to press the pope on important matters. The pope had done just that on the way to Brazil in May 2007, the only other trans-Atlantic flight so far of his three-year papacy.

Instead, however, Vatican officials asked reporters late last week to submit proposed questions for the pope to Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesperson. Lombardi chose four questions, on the following topics:

·        The sexual abuse crisis

·        Immigration

·        The public role of religion in America

·        The United Nations

On previous papal flights when Lombardi has screened the questions, he has read them to the pope himself and then asked the pope to respond. This time, however, Lombardi came back shortly after take-off and informed four journalists that their questions had been selected, and that he would call upon them to ask the question when the pope came back to the press compartment.

Hence the ethical dilemma, which reporters on the papal plane debated energetically for a few minutes this morning:  Is it okay for a journalist to ask a question of the pope under those circumstances, on the grounds that it’s better than nothing? Or, were we taking part, as one colleague today insisted, in a "journalistic sham"?

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Filed under: John L. Allen Jr. • Pope Benedict
April 14th, 2008
12:22 PM ET

Pope's visit: Behind the scenes on 'Shepherd One'

Pope Benedict XVI

When Pope Benedict XVI touches down at Andrews Air Force Base tomorrow for the start of his April 15-20 pastoral visit in the United States, TV and radio commentators setting the scene are likely to refer to his plane as “Shepherd One.” The implied comparison to the U.S. President’s “Air Force One” is clever, but, alas, largely misleading.

In truth, there is no “papal plane” in the sense of a jet owned by the Vatican and used exclusively for papal travel. Instead, the pope flies on a regular commercial jet belonging to Alitalia, the Italian national airline, chartered by the Vatican for the period of a given trip. The pilots and crew are all Alitalia personnel.

Most of the passengers aboard the papal plane are actually journalists, representing a cross-section on the world’s major secular and Catholic media outlets. This time, 70 journalists are accompanying Pope Benedict to the United States, a figure which includes print reporters, TV and radio correspondents, producers, cameramen and photographers.

Journalists pay top dollar to fly with the pope – the roundtrip airfare this time is roughly $4800, comparable to a full-fare business class ticket for what usually amounts to economy class accommodations.

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Filed under: John L. Allen Jr. • Pope Benedict