Twelve Syrian refugees have a new home. This weekend, Pope Francis invited three Muslim families who fled ISIS and violence in Syria to live at the Vatican. The Pope even flew them to Italy on his private plane. According to the Vatican, each of the families had their homes destroyed in bombings during the country’s on-going civil war, and were living in a refugee community in Greece. In a statement, church officials said,
The Pope has desired to make a gesture of welcome regarding refugees, accompanying on his plane to Rome three families of refugees from Syria, 12 people in all, including six children … All the members of the three families are Muslims …The Vatican will take responsibility for bringing in and maintaining the three families. The initial hospitality will be taken care of by the Community of Sant’Egidio.
The Catholic church leader recently visited a Greek island that has been home to thousands of refugees, who have made the dangerous journey through ISIS-controlled areas in the Middle East to find safety in Europe. There, he met with families, and encouraged them with a message of hope, assuring them that they are not alone. Discuss
On Friday afternoon, four gunmen disguised themselves as relatives of the local residents of a home for the elderly in Yemen, entered the facility, handcuffed 16 people and proceeded to execute them. Four of the victims were Catholic nuns who worked with the elderly residents of the home. The charity home was actually first established by Mother Teresa to care for the elderly in region. An Indian priest who was on staff was kidnapped by the gunmen following the shooting. Though no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, an Indian government official said it was the work of terrorists.
This weekend, Pope Francis not only spoke out against the violence, but also condemned the world media for ignoring the story of the 'modern-day martyrs':
They do not make the front pages of the newspapers, they do not make the news. They have given their blood for the Church. They are victims of the attack by those who killed them but also victims of indifference, of this globalization of indifference. They don't matter.
Pope Francis wants Catholic leaders to do everything they can to prevent death penalties from being enforced for at least one year. During an address this weekend, he said, “The commandment ‘do not kill’ holds absolute value and applies to both the innocent and the guilty,” while adding:
I appeal to the conscience of those who govern so that international consensus is reached for the abolishment of the death penalty. And I propose to all those among them who are Catholic to make a courageous and exemplary gesture: may no execution sentence be carried out in this Holy Year of Mercy.
Pope Francis’ position on capital punishment itself isn’t all that surprising: He’s long been an advocate of holistic pro-life values, from defending the unborn and fighting human trafficking to promoting peace and even fighting climate change. But what stands out about his latest call for the abolishment of the death penalty isn’t just his plea for the moral or spiritual high ground. He implied that there are strong, practical arguments for ending the death penalty, saying, “In effect, modern societies have the possibility to efficiently repress crime without taking away definitely the possibility to redeem oneself from those who committed the crime.”
A look at the numbers shows that when it comes to employing other means to “efficiently repress crime,” he’s right. According to many studies, there's little to no evidence that the death penalty is an effective deterrent for preventing violent criminal behavior. As this piece from The Washington Post notes, even though “States have been executing fewer and fewer people over the past 15 years … rates of violent crime are still falling steadily.”
Just when you thought the national saga with real estate mogul and GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump couldn't get any stranger, the Pontif himself publicly questioned Trump's faith. Yes, that's right. Speaking earlier today, Pope Francis said Trump is "not Christian" if he wants to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border—something the candidate has repeatedly said he wants to build. He said: "A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel."
It didn’t take long for Trump—who claims to be a Presbyterian—to respond:
For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful. I am proud to be a Christian and as President I will not allow Christianity to be consistently attacked and weakened, unlike what is happening now, with our current President. No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith.
A new statement from a Vatican commission created by Pope Francis himself says that bishops must report any incidents of sexual abuse they are aware of to law enforcement. The new statement, which calls the reporting of abuse a “moral and ethical responsibility” of the church, actually counters a previous recommendation by French Monsignor Tony Anatrella last fall that said it was the families’ role to report abuse to police, not church officials’. However, the commission—which was created as part of an effort by Pope Francis to fight sexual abuse within the Catholic Church—said in a statement,
As Pope Francis has so clearly stated, ‘The crimes and sins of the sexual abuse of children must not be kept secret for any longer. I pledge the zealous vigilance of the Church to protect children and the promise of accountability for all.’ We, the president and the members of the commission, wish to affirm that our obligations under civil law must certainly be followed, but even beyond these civil requirements, we all have a moral and ethical responsibility to report suspected abuse to the civil authorities who are charged with protecting our society.