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October 6th, 2014
05:25 AM ET

Vatican Synod on the Family Begins

More than 200 Catholic bishops, priests and laypeople from around the world gathered in Rome this weekend to begin discussing Catholic teachings on a range of hot-button topics, from contraception and same-sex unions to polygamy and communion for divorced and remarried Catholics.

The issues, which the Vatican places under the heading of “pastoral challenges of the family,” were chosen based on the results of a worldwide survey of Catholics in 2013.

Pope Francis called the meeting, known as a synod, to address modern issues facing families today a topic that he has made a priority since the beginning of his pontificate.

The Catholic Church, the Pope has said, must make sure “it really is in contact with the homes and the lives of its people and does not become a useless structure out of touch with people.”

In his short time as Pope, Francis has reached out to those who previously might have felt shunned by the church because of their family circumstances.

He has married couples who were already living together, baptized children of unmarried couples and reportedly called a woman in Argentina who is married to a divorced man and told her she could receive communion.

On this last point, communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, a debate has been raging since February when Francis asked a progressive German cardinal, Walter Kasper, to address fellow cardinals on the topic.

The current teaching is that Catholics who are divorced may receive communion, while Catholics who are divorced and civilly remarried may not, because the church considers them to be committing adultery with their second partner.

See more on CNN.com

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Filed under: Pope Francis • Vatican
March 12th, 2013
06:52 AM ET

Buzz, excitement as papal conclave to select new pope begins – John Allen & Father Beck weigh in

Today, 115 cardinals from around the world will take an oath of secrecy and begin voting for the next spiritual leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. This morning, cardinals are holding a special mass for the election of the Holy Father. It is the final event open to the public featuring those cardinals.

At 10:45aET, they are scheduled to leave their residence at Casa Santa Marta and head to the Pauline Chapel. They will then enter the Sistine Chapel to officially begin the process of conclave as the world awaits their decision.

Chris Cuomo reports live from Rome for CNN's special coverage of the selection of the next pope. Senior CNN Vatican Analyst John Allen and CNN Contributor Father Edward Beck join him with their analysis of today’s proceedings.

Father Beck explains what makes the mass so special. “With all we've been hearing about the politicking of how a pope gets elected, this is the most important part, in that you are coming to the highest form of worship that we have as a Catholic Christian community,” he says.

The Cardinals are expected to take one vote today, though the rules technically do not require them to do so. Allen offers a reason for that expectation.

“The consensus is there is no clear front-runner. The Cardinals don't know where one another stand,” Allen says. “It's the first chance to get a sense of where things actually stand and which candidacy might have legs.”

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Filed under: Conclave • Pope • Religion • Vatican
March 11th, 2013
06:30 AM ET

Monsignor Rick Hilgartner: Many would say papal conclave is about politics, but also a very spiritual moment

In just 24 hours, the world could potentially have a new pope. Starting tomorrow, 115 Roman Catholic cardinals will walk from their home away from home—the Santa Marta residence at the Vatican—to the Sistine Chapel for conclave.  That walk will be taken twice a day, every day, until they elect a new pope.

Monsignor Rick Hilgartner, head of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat on Divine Worship, talks with John Berman on “Early Start” on the upcoming conclave. He explains the conclave's tradition, the ceremony, the secrecy, the preparations and more. He will be joining “Early Start” all week as we watch conclave unfold.

One day out until the voting begins, Monsignor Hilgartner discusses the process and the feeling in Rome today among the cardinals. "Many would say it's all about politics at this point," Monsignor Hilgartner says, "but I think it's important to remember that they also recognize that this is a very spiritual moment." Once the doors close and conclave begins, he says it’s less about politicking and “more about prayer as they each in silence write their votes.”

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Filed under: Conclave • Pope • Vatican
March 11th, 2013
05:32 AM ET

Preparations for papal conclave underway in Rome – Miguel Marquez reports

FROM CNN WIRES:

Preparations, both spiritual and practical, neared completion at the Vatican on Monday, where Roman Catholic cardinals will gather to begin the process of selecting the next pope.

The conclave - the secret papal election - begins Tuesday in the Sistine Chapel, which has been closed to the public while Vatican staff readied the ornately decorated vestry for deliberations.

The first public signs of preparations appeared over the weekend as workmen scaled the roof of the chapel on Saturday to install the chimney which will release the black or white smoke that signifies whether a new pope has been elected.

This morning on "Early Start," CNN's Miguel Marquez reports live from Rome on the final preps before the first vote in the papal conclave.

READ MORE: Cardinals huddle one last day before conclave to elect new pope begins

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Filed under: Papal conclave • Religion • Vatican
February 28th, 2013
09:54 AM ET

'Politicking' before papal conclave? Father Beck & Msgr. Hilgartner on the behind-the-scenes in the pope selection

CNN contributor Father Beck and Msgr. Hilgartner discuss the changes in Pope Benedict XVI's attire once he steps down.


Filed under: Pope Benedict XVI • Vatican
February 28th, 2013
09:40 AM ET

VIDEO: Clothing, shoes, ring to be retired after Pope Benedict XVI steps down

CNN contributor Father Beck and Msgr. Hilgartner discuss the changes in Pope Benedict XVI's attire once he steps down.


Filed under: Pope Benedict XVI • Vatican
February 28th, 2013
08:11 AM ET

WANTED: Future pope with global vision, 'salesmanship' skills, management ability – John Allen explains

CNN analyst John Allen on Pope Benedict XVI's final message to the cardinals and future direction of the church.


Filed under: Pope Benedict XVI • Vatican
February 27th, 2013
06:59 AM ET

CNN's John Allen: Pope Benedict XVI 'emotional' in final public appearance (video)

Sr. Vatican Analyst John Allen on Pope Benedict XVI's final general audience in his role at the head of Catholic Church.