His Holiness
December 25, 2015

In his annual "Urbi et Orbi" Christmas address, Pope Francis called from the Vatican for unity in the face of Islamic terrorism. He directly addressed the Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris that killed 130 and the Oct. 31 downing of a Russian plane over Egypt that killed all 224 people on board, condemning both attacks as "brutal acts of terrorism."

"Only God's mercy can free humanity from the many forms of evil, at times monstrous evil, which selfishness spawns in our midst," the pope said. His Holiness' wide-ranging address also called for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and asked God to give strength to persecuted Christians around the world. Samantha Rollins

September 23, 2015

The Dalai Lama only has one requirement for his successor, should she be female: "Her face should be very, very attractive." In an interview with the BBC earlier this week, the spiritual leader, who calls himself a feminist, was prompted to revisit a comment he made over a decade ago to a French journalist in which he called for the next Dalai Lama to be a woman because women have a greater "'biological' capacity 'to show affection... compassion,'" The Independent reports.

While he still believes that women should "take a more important role," he went on to add an additional prerequisite for the job. "If a female does come her face should be very, very attractive," the Dalai Lama recalled telling the French journalist over 10 years ago. The BBC interviewer pressed him: "So you can only have a female Dalai Lama if they're attractive? Is that what you're saying?" The Dalai Lama responded in the affirmative. "Otherwise," he said, "not much use."

Watch the full interview here. Becca Stanek

June 10, 2015

In a move The New York Times has hailed as "the biggest step the Holy See has taken yet to hold bishops accountable," Pope Francis has created a tribunal for responding to claims of child abuse.

The new Vatican tribunal will hear cases in which bishops have been accused of "failing to protect children from sexually abusive priests," the Times reports. In an announcement Wednesday, the Vatican said that the tribunal was proposed by the Vatican's sex abuse advisory commission, led by Cardinal Sean O'Malley.

The tribunal will review the complaints against bishops and adjudicate them as necessary. The tribunal will fall under the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which currently reviews all child abuse cases brought against priests. Meghan DeMaria

April 29, 2015

During his weekly general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis lamented the wage gap between men and women.

"The Christian seed of radical equality between men and women must bring new fruits," Pope Francis said at St Peter's Square. "For this reason, as Christians, we must become more demanding in this regard: for example, [by] supporting with decision the right to equal retribution for equal work; disparity is a pure scandal."

Earlier this month, Francis said at his weekly audience that "more weight and more authority" should be given to women, both inside and outside the church. Meghan DeMaria

April 12, 2015

Pope Francis on Sunday described the mass killing of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians as the "first genocide of the 20th century," angering Turkey, which refuses to acknowledge the slaughter in such stark terminology.

"In the past century, our human family has lived through three massive and unprecedented tragedies," the pontiff, citing a declaration from predecessor John Paul II, said at a ceremonial Mass to mark the centennial of the killings. "The first, which is widely considered 'the first genocide of the 20th century,' struck your own Armenian people."

Turkey, which continues to deny that genocide ever took place, immediately summoned a Vatican ambassador to explain the remarks. Jon Terbush

March 13, 2015

Friday marks the second anniversary of Pope Francis' election, but the pontiff isn't sure how much longer he'll hold the title.

"I have a feeling my pontificate will be brief: four or five years, I don't know. Two years have already gone by," Pope Francis, 78, said in an interview with Mexico's Televisa. "It is a vague feeling I have that the Lord chose me for a short mission. I am always open to that possibility."

Francis is known for being more progressive than previous popes, and he has hinted in the past that he wants resignation to be a more accepted option for popes. "Benedict should not be considered an exception, but an institution," Francis said in 2013. Meghan DeMaria

March 3, 2015

Domenico Giani, commander of the Vatican's security forces, told Italy's Polizia Moderna that ISIS presents a significant threat to Pope Francis and the Vatican. Giana added, though, that there isn't indication ISIS is planning an attack directed at the pope.

"The threat exists. This is what has emerged from my conversations with Italian and foreign colleagues," Giani told Polizio Moderna, the official publication of Italy's state police. "At the moment, I can say that we know of no plan for an attack against the Vatican or the Holy Father."

Last week, Italy's government was on high alert when ISIS mentioned Italy and Christians as potential targets, calling the country "the nation signed with the blood of the cross." The threat came in a video with images of 21 Coptic Christians who were beheaded, warning that ISIS forces were "south of Rome" in Libya.

Giani said Pope Francis has no plans to change his relaxed papal style, though. "Even as pope, he's still a priest who doesn't want to lose the contact with his flock," Giani told Polizio Moderna. "It's us, those in charge of his safety, are the ones that have to help him, not the other way around." Meghan DeMaria

February 18, 2015

At Pope Francis' weekly general audience on Wednesday, the Vatican gave a group of U.S. gay and lesbian Catholics from the VIP seats.

However, The Associated Press notes that Francis didn't announce the group's presence, and the Vatican's list of attendees described the visitors as "a group of lay people accompanied by a Sister of Loretto."

But the visitors, who were officials from New Ways Ministry, were still happy that they were invited to sit at the front of the audience. They held reserved seats with Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, the "prefect of the papal household." The ministry told AP that the last two popes had refused requests for VIP seats for its members. Under Pope Benedict XVI's papacy, the New Ways Ministry co-founders were forbidden from ministering to gay Catholics.

"Pope Francis gives me hope," Sister Jeannine Gramick, one of the New Ways Ministry co-founders, told AP. "To me, this is an example of the kind of willingness he has to welcome those on the fringes of the church back to the center of the church." Meghan DeMaria

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