Catholic Church

In the 21 months since his election, the first pope to take the name of Saint Francis has emerged as a moral leader on the global stage, addressing both Catholics and the world beyond.

A recent Pew worldwide survey showed an overwhelmingly favorable view of the pope. And that was before his crucial role in the U.S.-Cuba thaw was revealed.

Updated at 3:50 p.m. ET

A synod of Catholic bishops gathered at the Vatican has decided to eliminate a landmark opening to gays that had appeared in an interim summary of discussions made public earlier this week that had appeared to signal a possible shift in the tone of the church.

Some 200 bishops from around the world are gathered at the Vatican for a two-week assembly to discuss issues related to the family, including artificial contraception, premarital sex and ministering gay unions.

But one of the most controversial is a proposal to allow divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion — taboo in church doctrine for 2,000 years.

In February, Pope Francis tapped one of his favorite theologians, German Cardinal Walter Kasper, to address a meeting of all the cardinals.

Pope Francis has summoned bishops from all over the world to Rome to discuss issues concerning families – including hot-button issues like artificial contraception and gay civil unions.

The meeting, called a synod, opened on Sunday and is seen as a test of Francis' vision of a more merciful Church.

Not since the landmark Second Vatican Council half a century ago has a church meeting raised so much hope among progressive Catholics — and so much apprehension among conservatives.

Catholic schools across the U.S. are requiring teachers to sign morality clauses, which have gotten some educators fired for marrying same-sex partners. It's seen as a pushback among local church dioceses against changing state laws. As Sandhya Dirks of KALW reports, some parents are protesting the new requirements with threats to pull their students out of school.

A year ago today, the world's 1.2 billion Catholics got their first Jesuit pope and the first from the global south. Taking the name Francis, he soon became one of the world's most popular newsmakers.

Following two doctrinally conservative leaders, the Argentine-born pope's pastoral approach has given the Catholic Church a new glow — less judgmental, more merciful.

Like many others in the big Sunday crowd in St. Peter's square, Sally Wilson is not Catholic, but she came all the way from Beaumont, Texas, to see the pope.

In a solemn ceremony at the Vatican, Pope Francis on Saturday bestowed red hats on his first batch of cardinals.

Ten of the 19 new princes of the church come from outside Europe, including some of the poorest countries in the world.

Their selection is a sign that the reforms Francis is introducing include a restructuring of how the Catholic Church will be governed.

In the Saint Anthony of Padua Church in the Bronx, Wednesday night is prayer meeting night.

Fifty people gather in the spare assembly room for a ceremony that looks very different from a Catholic Sunday Mass.

For one thing, the service is led by a woman rather than a male priest. She preaches excitedly while a rock band of young Salvadoran immigrants backs her up.

Some people in the audience hold up their hands; others are swaying gently. There are tears in the crowd.

Suddenly, the woman stops speaking in Spanish and begins speaking in tongues.

The Vatican came in for tough public scrutiny over its handling of the clergy sex abuse scandal at a United Nations hearing Thursday in Geneva.

The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child took church officials to task during what The Associated Press described as a "grilling" that insisted the Holy See "take all appropriate measures to keep children out of harm."

Pope Francis, criticized by some conservative Catholics as not speaking out forcefully against abortion, said Monday that the practice is "horrific" and evidence of "the throwaway culture."

In an annual speech known as the pontiff's "State of the World" address, Francis told diplomats and journalists gathered at the Holy See that it "is horrific even to think that there are children, victims of abortion, who will never see the light of day."

Hunger, he said, is a threat to world peace, noting that food, like human life, is being discarded as unnecessary.

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