pope francis

On the cusp of the New Year 2014, I went to St. Peter’s Square to see and hear perhaps the only person in the world -- not counting Justin Bieber, Rihanna or the boys in One Direction -- able to draw an eager outdoor crowd of 100,000 on a chilly, drizzly, gray December afternoon. It was Pope Francis’ first Christmas Day speech to the city and the world, and what I witnessed was a leader aware that he lives in an era of rampant digital disruption.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas urged Christian pilgrims from around the world to visit the Holy Land to mark the visit of Pope Francis, set for 2014, in a Christmas message on Monday. The pontiff is to make a brief visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories from May 25, his first to the Holy Land, Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot said last week.

The Catholic Church’s crisis in clergy child sexual abuse is rooted in a de facto immunity enjoyed by bishops and cardinals, regardless of their negligence. The soft-glove approach to accountability by John Paul II and Benedict XVI stemmed from a theological concept, apostolic succession, which sees every bishop as a spiritual descendant of Jesus’s apostles. Somewhere along the way, apostolic succession erased the memory of Judas, the betrayer.

Pope Francis is once again shaking things up in the Catholic Church. On Tuesday, he issued his first “apostolic exhortation,” declaring a new enemy for the Catholic Church: modern capitalism. “Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world,” he wrote.

Half a year into his tenure, Pope Francis has proved to be very, very good at generating headlines.

Catholics worldwide held a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria joined by Jews, Muslims and Orthodox Christians, with Pope Francis set to host a mass vigil on Saturday. Francis has called for a "cry for peace" to rise up around the globe and has said he will attend the four-hour prayer session in St Peter's Square. Earlier in the week he wrote to leaders of the G20 leading world economies urging them to "lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution".

Pope Francis isn’t eating much today—he’s fasting and praying for Syria, and hundreds of thousands of Christians across the globe are joining him. Today, during a five-hour evening prayer service for Syria in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis challenged the tens of thousands gathered there to rethink approaches to conflict as the fighting in Syria escalates and as the United States and France contemplate a military strike.

Pope Francis called for "mutual respect" between Christianity and Islam and an end to "unfair criticism" in a personal message on Friday congratulating Muslims on the feast of Eid al-Fitr. "We are called to respect the religion of the other, its teachings, its symbols, its values," he said in a statement distributed by the Vatican press office.