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TOPIC: francis


Argentina Plays Politics With Pope's Words On Property Rights

Some would like to paint the Argentine-born Pope Francis as a sympathizer of his native country's leftist government. But his 'socialist' declarations are in line with more than a century of Church doctrine.


BUENOS AIRES — Ever since Pope Leo XIII issued the Rerum novarum encyclical (1891), which christened the Roman Church's Social Doctrine, any time a pontiff attributes a social purpose to private property, the Catholic defenders of capitalism make their voices heard.

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Pope's Support For LGBT Partnerships Has Roots In Argentina

Pope Francis, the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, has had a longstanding tolerance of and friendship for homosexuals, and yet rejection of marriage as anything other than a heterosexual institution.


BUENOS AIRES — The Pope's recent declarations favoring gay partnership may have astounded the world outside the Church, but not inside. The surprise may instead come from Pope Francis" decision to adopt a public stance that directly opposes the ideals of most conservative Catholics. Seven years after his accession to the papal throne, the man we Argentines know as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, as the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, has indeed taken yet another step on his long-standing journey to open the Church to the secular world.

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Between Two Popes: Father Georg Gänswein Redefines Vatican Diplomacy

It is the most delicate of roles right now, as Father Georg continues to serve his original boss, retired Pope Benedict XVI, while also heading the Papal household of Pope Francis.

VATICAN CITY — During the morning audience, Father Georg sits smilingly beside Pope Francis. In the afternoon, he returns to play guardian angel to — and be the eyes and ears for — Benedict XVI.

Jockeying between two worlds has never scared Georg Gänswein.

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Pope Offers A Sumptuous Palace To The Homeless Of Rome

VATICAN CITY — While several Vatican buildings are embroiled in scandal, a few meters away from the colonnade of St. Peter's Square the "Palazzo Migliori" is becoming a symbol of goodness and generosity. Pope Francis has effectively "donated" it to the poor. Various entrepreneurs were interested in acquiring it and transforming it into a five-star hotel, but instead it has been transformed into a dormitory for the "invisibles of the night," the homeless who find refuge by wrapping themselves in wool blankets or cardboard boxes.

"We've restored dignity to the destitute through beauty," said Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, who oversees the Vatican's office of Pontifical charity.

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Chitra Kannabiran

Revisiting The Science Vs. Religion Paradigm

Darwin may have poked a hole in the Christian creation myth. But historically speaking, the relationship between science and religion has been far more nuanced than most people imagine.


HYDERABAD — The realms of science and religion are opposite poles of the human experience. One deals with the material, the other the spiritual, and scholars have long debated the relationship between the two realms, with a particular emphasis their apparent conflict.

The idea that science and religion are essentially contradictory originated largely in Western society, in response to scientific discoveries that were radical in their time and threatening to overturn prevalent views of the natural world. As a result, they questioned the basic tenets of Christianity.

And yet, despite the continuous advancement of science over the centuries (especially in last few decades), this narrative has changed. People and institutions have instead adopted worldviews that interpret both religion and science in ways that are not necessarily antagonistic to each other.

A demarcation

For starters, how is science distinguished from other realms of human experience and knowledge, including religion? There are many philosophies of science that attempt to explain its processes and the nature of its demarcation from pre-science (alchemy, magic, etc.) and pseudoscience (such as astrology).

Science itself, and scientific knowledge in general, began with the study of nature, of directly observable phenomena, and scientists could explain these phenomena by refining theories and conducting experiments.

The narrative has changed.

In the face of contradicting evidence, scientists discard theories or revise them to explain the data at hand. The very nature of the scientific process necessarily excludes religious experience and other mystic phenomena, which people explain on the basis of metaphysical powers and which are primarily existential in nature.

At the heart of the acquisition of knowledge in science is empiricism, and experience — as defined by experiment and observation — forms the basis for the generation of concepts. Thus science is empirically grounded theory.

The defining period in the evolution of modern science was during the scientific and industrial revolutions in Europe, between the 16th and 19th centuries. In the 17th century, Francis Bacon laid down one of the first epistemologies of science in the inductivist philosophy.

Francis Bacon in parliament — Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Before this time, there were few conflicts between science and religion because scientists did not openly contradict the religious beliefs of their communities. Nicolaus Copernicus and Galileo Galilei, in the 15th and 16th centuries, respectively, are notable examples of scientists persecuted for propagating ideas that contradicted the Church's teachings.

Copernicus proposed the theory of a heliocentric universe in the early 16th century. Galileo's observations of other planets led him to propose that Earth was in motion and not fixed at a point in space — contrary to the dominant geocentric view of his time. Galileo also confirmed the Copernican theory, that Earth isn't at the center of the universe. He was convicted of heresy and placed under house arrest.

As the story goes, Galileo didn't waver in his support of the Copernican theory and even published more studies on the subject. And by the next century, astronomers had confirmed the Copernican hypothesis beyond doubt and the Church had to update its position. Galileo was finally acknowledged for his contributions by the Christian leaders in the 20th century.

Two books

Religious institutions underwent a similar series of events in the face of another epochal discovery — of the theory of natural selection advanced by Charles Darwin in the 19th century. The Anglican and Catholic churches were particularly opposed to it and condemned it as a godless and brutal philosophy.

It's notable that Darwin himself was a believer and saw his laws of evolution as a pattern from the creator. As he wrote in a letter to one of his colleagues, Darwin "had no intention to write atheistically" and that he couldn't see beneficence and design (in nature) as others did. But for all his worries, the Church accepted his ideas towards the late 19th century.

Sociologists of science have collected these and other incidents under a so-called conflict model. While these stories are interesting to recall and retell, they memorialize only a few instances in the history of science. At other times, the new ideas have unfolded in more complex ways.

The uncoupling of nature from Christian scripture paved the way for science to progress.

After the scientific revolution kicked in in Europe in the 16th century and after, people's perception of science changed significantly. Inventors and craftsmen began collaborating to produce instruments that enabled deeper discoveries. Reasoning and logic, coupled with systematic experimentation, became cornerstones of a reborn scientific method, and in turn precipitated changes in the relationship between science and religion. Science became a preeminently legitimate path to understand the laws of nature while thinkers sidelined religion and its spiritual pursuits.

Bacon collected this growing separation between the two domains in the metaphor of "God's two books," the book of nature and the book of scripture; philosophers like him argued that they were to be studied separately. The uncoupling of nature from Christian scripture paved the way for science to progress both unhindered and unsupported by Christianity.

Science and Islam

The relationship between science and Islam has been somewhat different, although no less bumpy for the persistent underlying conflict between natural order and theistic purpose. Scholars have long held that science and Islam aren't in conflict, and indeed, between the ninth and 15th centuries science flourished in Islamic nations. The Arabic kingdoms had absorbed the knowledge of the Greeks through translated works.

Belief in religious ideas hasn't changed much.

Al-Haytham (b. 965 AD) experimented with light and vision, laying the foundation for modern optics. He used the scientific method and emphasized experimentation. Al-Biruni was another prominent scholar in Central Asia in the 10th and 11th centuries, noted for his contributions to mathematics, astronomy, geology and geography. He explained the movements of the Sun and the planets and undertook precise studies of eclipses.

These and other thinkers pursued knowledge not to understand the universe but, in their view, to understand God's work. For example, historians have argued that the diktat to face Mecca during prayers prompted Muslim astronomers to estimate Earth's size and shape, and produce diagrams by which any Muslim could determine the sacred directions from any point in the Islamic world. That said, their scientific inquiry often reached a precision far beyond the needs of the people who would use them.

But even after the growth of liberal, secular democracies around the world, belief in religious ideas hasn't changed much.

Coexistence and conflict

In India and other countries in the world's Orient, modern science and technology have been imported from the Occident. Eastern societies didn't experience the same scientific and industrial revolutions that societies in the West did, so the outcomes of these revolutions didn't conform to societal needs. The social hierarchy and division of labor in Indian society may not have been conducive to the development of modern experimental science.

Nevertheless, theoretical knowledge in astronomy and mathematics flourished to a greater extent in India, reaching a high degree of sophistication between the fourth and 11th centuries. The list of famous scholars includes Aryabhata, Bhaskara I and Bhaskara II. In the seventh century, Bhaskara I introduced the decimal system and developed a method to calculate the sine function in trigonometry. Bhaskara II, who lived in the 12th century, contributed to algebra and calculus and advanced the idea of infinities in mathematics.

More interestingly, according to the available accounts, religious organizations didn't oppose their ideas.

In newly independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru, the country's first prime minister, promoted the idea that science and a scientific outlook were important and desirable for progress, and his government adopted policies that emphasized the scientific temper. But the method of teaching science in schools and colleges has done little to inculcate this temper, and it remains mostly absent in the educational and cultural milieu in India.

Nehru in 1950 — Photo: Wikimedia Commons

It's also clear from general experience that even the rigorous practice of science doesn't impact one's personal religious beliefs, and the two systems of thought often coexist in individuals. This reality stands in sharp contrast to another — of efforts among religious fundamentalists to press modern scientific knowledge into the service of glorifying ancient Indian knowledge and culture.

Religion in different forms has largely co-existed with science.

It has thus become common to hear of unfounded claims about science having been more advanced in ancient (Hindu) India, well before the rest of the world, accompanied by a socio-political atmosphere that's only becoming more tolerant of pseudoscience, myths and rituals extending into educational and academic events, including at the Indian Science Congress, the next edition of which will be head in the coming weeks.

Despite the realms of science and religion being radically different in the ways in which they acquire and validate knowledge, the interplay of scientific and religious activity in peoples' lives differs from one social and political setting to the next. Religion in different forms has thus largely co-existed with science, with both domains contributing to our worldview.

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Marco Gallo*

Pope Francis: The Poor Offer Salvation For The Rest Of Us

A closer reading of the Pope's recent treatise that challenges the way contemporary culture sees poverty in society.


BUENOS AIRES When Pope Francis decided after the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy in 2016, to set November 17 as the World Day of the Poor, he wanted to bring to the attention of both Catholics and public opinion worldwide, the new role played by the "excluded" in our globalized and distracted societies.

In his message The Hope of the Poor Will Never be Frustrated, the Pope wishes to underline as on other occasions, the enormous inequality that exists in our world, with a growing breach between the rich and the poor who evidently suffer the worst of its consequences.

The Supreme Pontiff states in his message: "The economic crisis has not prevented large groups of people from accumulating fortunes that often appear all the more incongruous when, in the streets of our cities, we daily encounter great numbers of the poor who lack the bare necessities of life and are at times harassed and exploited."

They are seen as a threat or simply useless, simply because they are poor.

But the Pontiff also explicitly comments on the merciless judgment brought on the poor as the "parasites on society." He declares that "the poor are not even forgiven for their poverty. Judgment is always around the corner. They are not allowed to be timid or discouraged; they are seen as a threat or simply useless, simply because they are poor." The message considers the inhuman conditions in which the poor seek the dignity of work, when possible. "They labor in unsafe and inhumane conditions that prevent them from feeling on a par with others. They lack unemployment compensation, benefits, or even provision for sickness," the Pontiff stated.

Very often the poor are the object of sociological studies, trophies to show to politicians, invisible to most of society and almost never considered as individuals with personal histories. Pope Francis points out that the task at hand is not to help them but present them with "gratuitous love that seeks no reward."

Within this perspective, he invites us all to change our mentality. The poor can guide us to lead a more austere life, less consumerist, where the things that matter are not those we hold as possessions, but human relations.

Pope Francis visits a favela in Brazil in 2013 — Photo: Agencia Brasil

Thus, perhaps as a great paradox, they can help us to live more openly and generously, and "to discover their inner goodness, paying heed to their background and their way of expressing themselves, and in this way to initiate a true fraternal dialogue."

He invites us all to change our mentality.

The poor have their dignity and society tends to forget this. The Pope clarifies that "the poor are not statistics to cite when boasting of our works and projects. The poor are persons to be encountered." For the Catholic faithful, they are a veritable treasure that "saves us, because they allow us to see the face of Jesus Christ."

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Marcelo Cantelmi

Pope Francis, Cornered Between Vatican Conservatives And Trump Allies

The Argentine pontiff, used to navigating politics in Buenos Aires, is battling at a whole different level now. And his papacy may hang in the balance.


BUENOS AIRES — Even admirers have noticed just how worn out and defensive Pope Francis now seems. As head of the Catholic Church, he is being squeezed from two sides. First there is the proliferation of child abuse scandals that can no longer be swept under the rug, in part because of how quickly the modern media disseminates the information, but also because of a cultural shift that has no tolerance for such behavior. The previous silence of the victims has disappeared, blowing off the lid of secrecy and the statute-of-limitations strategy that had so far enabled their tormentors to evade prosecution.

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E.J. Dionne Jr.

Losing My Faith In The Catholic Church

The major disgrace of America's Catholic bishops was to foster a culture in which priests sexually assaulted children and were then sent on to new duties as their ungodly behavior was covered up.

There is also a second failure. Thanks to the bishops, who are supposed to strengthen the faith, Catholics are now regularly asked: "How can you be a Catholic?" And, even more pointedly, "How can you stay?"

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Andrej Mrevlje

China And The Vatican, Intrigue At The Heart Of Power

The old, retired cardinal has had enough. He does not like what the Vatican is doing in China. He takes a plane and asks to be received by the pope. But instead of bringing it to an end, the encounter between the two men escalates the tensions around the Vatican's pending agreement with China, a deal between two opposing arms of Catholicism in one of the most strictly controlled regimes in the world.

The outcry of betrayal came from 86-year-old Cardinal Joseph Zen, affectionately named "Lion in Winter." For decades, Zen has been urging the Vatican to take a stronger stand in defending the Catholic Church from persecution and control by Chinese Communist authorities. Cardinal Zen, now retired, is a Shanghai native but fled to Hong Kong to escape Communist rule at the end of the Chinese Civil War. He spent almost whole his life in Southeast Asia, and traveled to China often.

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Sergio Ocampo Madrid

Letter To The Pope: Why You Shouldn't Visit Colombia


BOGOTÁFather Jorge, dear Pope Francis, less than a month remains before your visit to Colombia. Before Sept. 6, you still have time to make your excuses and cancel. Believe me, you really needn't expose yourself to a trip that wil inevitably be both a failure and a risk. Colombia is irredeemable. We are condemned to a 1000, not 100 years of solitude. Leave us be and let us wallow in our rottenness and idiocy.

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Roy Greenburgh

Four Years, 100 Days: The Hard Work Of Popes And Presidents


Buenos Aires, 2013. At the ripe age of 76, Jorge Mario Bergoglio seems destined to wind down an illustrious career in the Catholic hierarchy as the widely respected and mostly beloved Archbishop of the Argentine capital. But the Holy Spirit (and the College of Cardinals) was destined to intervene, sending the Jesuit prelate to become the 266th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.

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José María Poirier

Pope Francis: The Line Between Populism And The People

As his words and public gestures confirm, Francis is a people's pope, not a populist, and as genuine as he is popular with ordinary folk.


BUENOS AIRES — The Argentine Church has made a point in the past few decades to distance its thinking from both Marxism and capitalism, and this explains in part its sympathies for "Peronism", that overarching national movement that combines ideological elements of both Left and Right.

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