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  • Sports has long been viewed as a vehicle for social change, and now Pope Francis is taking that theory to the next level. In October, the Vatican will hold a three-day multifaith sports conference, “Sports at the Service of Humanity.” As reported by John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal, the conference will “examine the role sports can play in society, from establishing relationships to helping promote health and wellness.” There will be speeches, panels, and group workshops, and representatives from all faiths are expected to be present.
  • Pope Francis told members of the world's wealthy political and economic elite on Wednesday that they should not be deaf to the cry of the poor and must consider their own role in creating inequality.
  • Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who devoted herself to helping the poor, will be canonized as a saint, after Pope Francis issued a decree attributing a second miracle to the founder of the Missionaries of Charity. Mother Teresa won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. The canonization is expected to occur in 2016; many expect it to take place in September, around the date of her death (and her official feast day).
  • Pope Francis' meeting last week with an American woman at the center of a row over gay marriage was not something he had sought and should not be seen as an endorsement of her views, the Vatican said on Friday. One Vatican official said there was "a sense of regret" that the pope had ever seen Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk who went to jail in September for refusing to honor a U.S. Supreme Court ruling and issue same-sex marriage licenses.
  • A Kentucky county clerk who had been jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples secretly met Pope Francis in a move that disappointed many liberal Catholics and encouraged officials who support her stance. The meeting with Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, and comments by the pope on Monday, may spur action by local officials across the United States who have refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples since the U.S. Supreme Court's June decision to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states.
  • There’s something macabre about hosting a photo-op inside of a prison. Waiting for the pope to arrive at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia on Sunday, inside walls topped with barbed wire, cameramen milled about while televisions blared. Harsh lights were trained on the papal chair, handmade by prisoners, which sat empty at the front of an elementary-school-style gymnasium. The early warning sign of a Francis sighting is always his entourage. Surrounded by hordes of men in black suits and cardinals in black cassocks, the pope’s white was striking. He changed the feel of the room, just barely, smiling with unmistakable delight at the row of female inmates seated at the front.
  • Pope Francis spoke before a joint session of Congress Thursday morning, delivering a historic and sweeping address that offered an unequivocally moral — and deeply religious — discussion of a litany of issues, both foreign and domestic. Francis, an Argentinian who noted with pride that he is also a “son of this great continent,” challenged lawmakers in attendance to take their role as public servants seriously, and to remember the needs of citizens most at risk.
  • Standing before a rapt Congress, Pope Francis issued a ringing call to action on behalf of immigrants Thursday, urging lawmakers to embrace "the stranger in our midst" as he became the first pontiff in history to address a joint meeting at the U.S. Capitol. Referencing the migration crisis in Europe as well as the United States' own struggle with immigration from Latin America, Francis summoned lawmakers "to respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal."
  • Pope Francis on Wednesday urged the United States to help tackle climate change and called on Americans to build a truly tolerant and inclusive society, as he struck a political tone on his first visit to the world's richest nation. In a speech on the White House South Lawn, the Argentine pontiff lauded President Barack Obama's efforts to reduce air pollution, months after Francis made the environment one of his top issues by issuing a landmark "encyclical" letter.
  • Pope Francis arrived on his first visit to the United States on Tuesday, bringing to Washington a message that its power and wealth should be used to serve humanity, and not the other way around. An Alitalia plane carrying the Argentine-born leader of the world's 1.2 billion member Roman Catholic church touched down on a gray, blustery afternoon at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland after a flight from Cuba.
  • Pope Francis has been brushing up on his English ahead of his arrival in Washington in September, and tickets to his U.S. events are already a hot commodity. But anyone expecting his message to be simply one of mercy and love could be in for a distinct surprise. In his speech to a joint meeting of Congress, the pope of the poor could well deliver a harsh message for the world’s richest nation. For all the genuine warmth of his smile, his track record suggests he sees it as his job not just to comfort the afflicted, but also to afflict the comfortable. And however delicately he fine-tunes his language, the hard fact is that he believes the United States is as much a part of the problem as the solution.
  • Pope Francis, with his message of economic equality and environmental sustainability, is coming to America. But is anyone paying attention? A report issued a week before the pope’s first visit to the United States says the answer is yes—but the differences in Catholic responses to the pope’s message reveal huge divisions within the Catholic world.
  • With Pope Francis set to begin his first-ever U.S. visit Tuesday, a document obtained by NBC News shows law enforcement is worried terrorists may impersonate police officers, firefighters and EMTs to launch deadly attacks inside the U.S. A memo distributed by the Pennsylvania State Police's Criminal Intelligence Center to law enforcement warns that imposters pretending to be first responders could use false identification to enter secure areas and wreak havoc before slipping away undetected.
  • Pope Francis went to east Cuba on Monday to celebrate the second Mass of a trip that has earned him praise for aiding the Communist rulers' rapprochement with Washington, but has so far steered clear of overt politics. He is the first Pope to visit Holguin, capital of the province where the Castro brothers, Raul and Fidel, grew up.
  • Sep 12 2015
    Obama's papal balancing act
    President Barack Obama’s upcoming White House meeting with Pope Francis will mark the latest chapter in a growing relationship between two men with often-similar priorities. But behind the scenes, Obama aides are working to avoid politicizing the papal visit, even as they hope to capitalize on it. That will likely mean praising and deferring to Francis, whose calls for action against climate change and mass incarceration dovetail with the president's vision, but taking care not to explicitly link the pope to Obama's legislative agenda. It's the type of balancing act that will affect everything from what policy initiatives Obama announces in conjunction with the papal visit to what gift he gives the popular pontiff.
  • Pope Francis is asking every Catholic parish or religious community in Europe to take in refugee families fleeing from the war-torn Middle East, a direct appeal to assist with the region’s ongoing migrant crisis. Francis delivered the charge during his weekly prayer in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, telling the assembled crowd that Christians have an obligation to offer refugees flooding into Europe “a concrete hope.”
  • Pope Francis announced Tuesday he was opening a special, temporary “mercy” window to make it easier for women who have abortions and confess to get back into the full good graces of the Roman Catholic Church. The move set off immediate debate over whether Francis had actually changed church practice or had said something symbolic — and what that symbolism might be. In a letter, Pope Francis expressed empathy with women who have abortions, calling theirs an “agonizing and painful decision.” During the upcoming “Jubilee of Mercy” year, he wrote, all priests would be empowered to “absolve the sin of abortion” for those who seek forgiveness with “a contrite heart.” The Mercy Year starts Dec. 8.
  • When Pope Francis indicated late last year that he intended to focus much of his attention in 2015 on combating the climate crisis, there were skeptics who wondered just how far he was willing to go. The answer is getting much clearer. The pope has already hosted a major summit on global warming with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and this week, the public received a leaked copy of Francis’ encyclical on climate change, which holds human activity responsible for the crisis. Just as important, the pope characterized the crisis as a moral issue.
  • What is believed to be an Italian-language draft of the pope’s encyclical on the environment leaked yesterday, sending climate and religion journalists scrambling to translate sections of what looks to be the most comprehensive statement on the environment ever produced by the Catholic Church. The Vatican has condemned the leak, and still plans to release the finalized version on Thursday. But in the meantime, ThinkProgress has trolled the internet and consulted with two Italian speakers (who asked not to be named) to muster a few translations of some of the most interesting sections.
  • After months of build up, an Italian-language document believed to be an early draft of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment was leaked four days early on Monday, breaking a Vatican embargo on an official papal teaching that flatly rejects traditional conservative Christian justifications for exploiting the planet.