- Created on 28 February 2013
(CNN) -- When night falls Thursday over Vatican City, there will be no pope in residence.
After nearly eight tumultuous years at the head of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, Benedict XVI has made the almost unprecedented decision to stand down.
That resignation, which takes effect at 8 p.m. local time (2 p.m. ET), opens up the prospect of unforeseen opportunities and challenges for the Roman Catholic Church.
As Benedict closes the door behind him, many are wondering whether a new pontiff will choose to lead the church in a different direction -- and can lift it out of the mire of scandal that has bogged down this pope's time in office.
Even as Benedict's final week began, Vatican officials were trying to swat down unsavory claims by Italian publications of an episode involving gay priests, male prostitutes and blackmail. Then the news broke that Benedict had moved up the resignation of a Scottish archbishop linked over the weekend by a British newspaper to inappropriate relationships with priests.
Last year, leaks of secret documents from the pope's private apartment -- which revealed claims of corruption within the Vatican -- prompted a high-profile trial of his butler and a behind-doors investigation by three cardinals. Their report, its contents known so far only to Benedict, will be handed to his successor to deal with, the Vatican said.
At the same time, the church faces continued anger about what many see as its failure to deal with child sex abuse by priests.
So, when Benedict announced on February 11 that he would step down, becoming the first living pope to resign in 598 years, there was inevitable speculation that his move was in some way linked to the brewing scandals.
The danger for the Vatican is that the furor risks overshadowing what others see as Benedict's real legacy to the church: his teaching and writings, including three papal encyclicals.
Proof of the Vatican's irritation came with a stinging statement Saturday complaining of "unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories," even suggesting the media is trying to influence the election of the next pope.
The constant buffeting by scandal will doubtless also have taken a toll on an 85-year-old man whose interests lie in scholarly study and prayer rather than damage control.
Benedict suggested as much at his final general audience Wednesday, when in front of cheering crowds in St. Peter's Square he spoke of steering the church through sometimes choppy waters.
There had been "many days of sunshine," he said, but also "times when the water was rough ... and the Lord seemed to sleep."
Putting scandal aside, the pope's last day in office has been carefully mapped out by Vatican aides who've had to make up the rules over the past two weeks.
In contrast to the public focus of his final general audience and meetings with foreign dignitaries Wednesday, Benedict spent Thursday in a quiet, more intimate manner.
He met in the morning with the cardinals who've made their way to Rome to take part in the election of a new pontiff. Benedict told the cardinals it was a"joy to walk with you" during his eight years as pope.
During the meeting, Benedict pledged his "unconditional obedience" to the next pope.
"I will continue to serve you in prayer, in particular in the coming days" as the cardinals work to select a new pontiff, he said.
The cardinals gave Benedict a standing ovation, and then one by one each met the pope to say a final few words.
Later, senior Vatican officials and a detachment of the Swiss Guards, who by tradition protect the pope, will gather to bid him farewell as his helicopter takes off from Vatican City bound for the summer papal residence, Castel Gandolfo.
Once at Castel Gandolfo, where he will spend the next few weeks before moving to a small monastery within the Vatican grounds, Benedict will make one last public appearance on the balcony.
Having greeted those gathered below, he will step back inside and begin his life of seclusion.
At 8 p.m., the Swiss Guards will ceremonially leave the residence's gate -- and the process of transition to a new pope will begin.
The Vatican has said it wants to have the next pontiff in place in time for the week of services leading up to Easter Sunday on March 31.
In his final public address in St. Peter's Square, the pope called for a renewal of faith, and for the prayers of Catholics around the world both for him and his successor.
His departure leaves the church facing many questions, not least who will take the reins.
But Benedict suggested that its future, "at a time when many speak of its decline," lies in seeing it as a community of many people united in a love of Christ, rather than as an organization.
In what may be the last word on his @Pontifex Twitter account, the pope said Wednesday: "If only everyone could experience the joy of being Christian, being loved by God who gave his Son for us!"
- Created on 28 February 2013
Pop and gospel performer Michael Winans, Jr. was sentenced to almost 14 years in prison years for running an $8 million Ponzi scheme, The Detroit Free Press reports. He was also ordered to pay his victims–some 1,200 investors–$4.8 million in restitution.
Winans, who is a member of the renowned Winans family gospel music dynasty, pleaded guilty to defrauding inv...
- Created on 26 February 2013
If you prioritize your relationship with your spouse, it will end up giving you the result that you desire: Your kids will feel secure, safe, and in the end, will feel like they are the most important thing in your life.
One of the greatest takeaways from my parents' lifelong romance was to set priorities in the proper order: God first, then spouse, after the spouse the kids, and then everything else. No doubt they had a unique perspective, having been in love with each other since Dad was five and Mom was three.
Legion are my memories where the three boys were with Mom and Dad going to fancy restaurants, taking long coastal drives, spending the day at far away beach cities, shopping for antiques, fishing, spending a Saturday at an auction house, hanging out at their workplace (they always worked together), and going with them wherever they wanted to go.
Here are a few interesting facts about marriage you should know.
Scientists theorize the difference has more to do with anthropology than biology: Men look for fertility features in women, and since women can't judge fertility in men by physical appearance, they must remember certain characteristics that will determine if he will be a good mate.
Marrying someone with similar cultural and religious values increases the success rate of the marriage.
Education level taken by itself, increases proportionately the success of a marriage.
If both spouses are from divorced parents, they are three times more likely to divorce, than if both spouses parents had stayed together. The changes of divorces however are reduced dramatically if one of the spouses came from parents who never divorced.
Few are my memories of going to the party of a classmate, me or my brothers causing one of our sporting events to swallow an entire weekend, or doing some other kid-centered activity.
My parents were intentional that having kids wasn't going to stop them from doing the things they did before they had kids. Their object was to bring the kids into their marriage, not allow the kids to drown their marriage in a sea of tasks for the children. For this reason, our kid activities were pretty limited.
This idea probably sounds foreign to many people. It seems the pervasive thinking in the Western world is that the lives of parents generally revolve around their children. Beginning each Monday, day in and day out, parents run themselves ragged tearing around from practice to recital to dance class to art school to theater to band until they fall into a heap on Sunday night, only to start again the next morning. So, what happens after that final Sunday, when you've dropped off your baby girl at the college of her choice and you walk away, hand in hand with your spouse, no longer knowing the hand you hold? One way to fight that scenario is to make serious efforts to make your husband or wife a priority in your life.
So is this simply one guy's opinion because of what he grew up with? I don't think so. Counselors, therapists, pastors, study after study, but most importantly, your own experience will tell you that kids who grow up in families where Mom and Dad's relationship is strong do much better than when Mom and Dad focus all of the attention on the kids, and forget about each other. Kids long for constants; when they know Mom and Dad's relationship is solid, kids flourish.
Even after taking into account the differences between our culture and ancient Hebrew culture, I think the Bible has some principles that could really help here. In Ephesians 5 & 6, in the most instructive and direct teaching to family roles and responsibilities in the Bible, Paul tells Fathers not to exasperate their children, and tells children to obey their parents; it's short and sweet. In a beautiful way that only God could have inspired, Paul describes—in explicit detail—the love and respect that spouses are to have in relationship with one another, and compares the marriage relationship to the relationship that Jesus Christ has with His church. A marriage is not just a relationship, it's a calling.
Now read the rest of the article here.
- Created on 26 February 2013
Cleotha ”Cleedi” Staples (pictured), the eldest member of the famed soul/gospel group, The Staple Singers, passed away on Feb. 21 of causes related to Alzheimer’s disease. The performer had battled the disease for over a decade, according to Philly.com.
She was 78.
Cleotha was born in Drew, Miss., on April 11, 1934 to Roebuck “Pops” Staples and his...
- Created on 21 February 2013
(CNN) -- NFL quarterback Tim Tebow has canceled an appearance at a controversial Dallas-area church. The outspoken Christian quarterback was scheduled to speak at First Baptist Church on April 28.
The church is led by Robert Jeffress, who has been widely criticized for views against homosexuality, Islam and Mormonism. Tebow, announcing his decision Thursday on Twitter, said that he was canceling his appearance "due to new information that has been brought to my attention."
Tebow's statement appeared over a series of four tweets on the social media site.
"I will continue to use the platform God has blessed me with to bring Faith, Hope and Love to all those needing a brighter day. Thank you for all of your love and support. God Bless!" he wrote to his Twitter followers.
Tebow was scheduled to speak at the 11,000-member Dallas church as part of a monthlong celebration of the megachurch's completion of a new building campaign, a $130 million dollar project that encompasses five blocks of the downtown.
"Tim called me last night and explained to me that because of some things going on in his personal life and his career he needed to steer clear of controversy right now, but that at some other date he would like to come and speak at our church," Jeffress told CNN by phone from Dallas. "Tim has to do what Tim thinks is best for him right now."
The First Baptist Church of Dallas is a member of the Southern Baptist Convention. Jeffress, who has been in its pulpit since 2007, is no stranger to controversy.
After introducing Texas Gov. Rick Perry at the Values Voter Summit in Washington in October 2011, Jeffress told reporters he believed Mormonism was a cult, expressing a personal position and one held by his denomination. The move was seen as a particular slight to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a lifelong Mormon.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, while acknowledging sharp theological differences with the Southern Baptist Convention, bristles at the term cult and says it is inaccurate.
Jeffress has also drawn fire for his comments about homosexuality, Judiasm and Catholicism.
"This in no way is going to diminish what our church is teaching about salvation being available to all through faith in Jesus Christ," Jeffress said.
Jeffress pointed out that Tebow is a member of the First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, a fellow SBC church.
"They certainly believe what we do, that salvation is through Christ alone, and about homosexuality. Tim confirmed that to me last night, that they believe exactly what we do about homosexuality."
Tebow and Jeffress differ dramatically in how they present their faith. Tebow in talking about his faith has used much softer language, while Jeffress has no trouble going after less popular and culturally sensitive issues in Christianity.
"I believe that homosexuality is a sin just like adultery is a sin, just like I believe premarital sex is a sin, because it's a deviation from God's standard," Jeffress said.
"God's plan for sex is that is should be between a man and a woman in a marriage relationship and any deviation from that is wrong."
While he believes any sex outside a heterosexual marriage is wrong, he adds, "I never single out homosexuality as the only sin or the unpardonable sin. I think homosexuality, just like adultery, can be forgiven if we ask God for forgiveness."
Jeffress said he thinks there is a genetic disposition toward homosexuality, a stance on sexual orientation taken by many theologically conservative Christians and one scorned as scientifically flawed by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Jeffress said he is sure there are gay members in his church. "We don't ask all the gay members to stand up, but I'm sure that there are people who are gay in our church simply because of the letters I have received," he said. "We have people who've committed adultery and who lie and who steal, but that doesn't mean they're not welcome to come to our church."
As for comments about Mormons, Jews and Catholics, he is quick to point out that he believes "no one goes to hell in a group."
"I'm not the one who decides who goes to heaven and hell. God does that. God has already given us the criteria for what it takes to go to heaven when you die. Jesus said in John 14:6, 'I am the way, the truth and the life, and no man comes to the father except through me.' When I quote that verse I like to remind people that Jesus who said that was not a Southern Baptist evangelist but a Jewish rabbi. Yet as a Jewish rabbi he said there is one way to heaven, and that is through faith in me."
The controversy surrounding Tebow's appearance won't dampen the church's plans, Jeffress said. He said Tebow, while escaping the spotlight now over his beliefs, will continue to face controversy.
"I think Tim is going to discover that no matter how hard you try to hide from controversy, if you stand for the simple truths of the Bible, like faith in Christ, necessary for salvation, and sex (being acceptable only) between a man and a woman in marriage, you can't avoid controversy. That's something Tim needs to discover on his own. We in no way want to impugn him. He's a great man of God who sincerely loves the Lord."