Tag Archives: Rome

Jada Pinkett Smith is the ‘lioness’ who tames the men of ‘Magic Mike XXL’

When Jada Pinkett Smith got the call from her agent about the Magic Mike sequel script, there was something she needed to know: Her part as Rome, the owner of a male strip club, was written for a man.

“I was like, OK?” she said.

She was skeptical, if intrigued.

Pinkett Smith had actually been thinking about the world of strippers, athough she’d never set foot in a strip club. But she had just wrapped a documentary for CNN in Atlanta that dealt with strip clubs and sex trafficking.

She agreed to Skype with Magic Mike star and producer Channing Tatum and director Gregory Jacobs. “That was a very interesting call,” she said.

Originally, Tatum had wanted Jamie Foxx for the role. He wanted to show people the side of Foxx he’d seen during a fun party, but it didn’t work out “for a lot of reasons.”

It ended up being the best thing for the film, which opens in Milwaukee, Madison, Kenosha and Appleton on June 30 and in Green Bay on July 1 (check local listings).

“The spirit of the thing was always supposed to be a woman,” said Tatum. “We were just a bunch of guys sitting here trying to come up with what is inside of a woman’s mind and it’s like, ‘Idiots, you should just ask them.'”

But Pinkett Smith still needed convincing.

“I think the selling point for me was when Channing said, ‘Listen, I really think that there’s a level of responsibility and celebration that we can bring to this whole form.’ I thought that was a radical freaking idea,” she said, her experiences in Atlanta top of mind. “If we could really elevate what is happening in these environments, how awesome would that be?”

So they got to work making Rome a woman, resting heavily on Pinkett Smith’s input on whom exactly this enigmatic club owner from Mike’s (Tatum) past should be.

The road-tripping strippers (including Tatum, Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, and Kevin Nash) don’t meet up with her until about half way through the film. Though the guys are bigger than life, it’s the diminutive Pinkett Smith who dominates the screen as soon as she’s introduced — the queen of her own empire of luxury and desire where men (including the likes of Michael Strahan, Donald Glover and Stephen “Twitch” Boss) exist purely for the pleasure of the female patrons.

“I created a philosophy that this is a woman who looked at eroticism and sexuality as a gateway to enlightenment,” said Pinkett Smith.

“We didn’t have to do very much. We just got out of the way,” added Tatum, who meant it pretty literally, comparing her energy to that of a lioness.

“It’s like, ‘No one move. If you don’t look at it in the eyes, it won’t attack you. Try to feel powerful! Don’t show weakness!'” he laughed.

The dynamic shifts only when the guys perform. Pinkett Smith, who takes over the MC role for Matthew McConaughey’s Dallas in a key scene, was more than happy to sit back and watch with feverish female extras. And they weren’t just acting — their reactions were real, she said.

Dancing priests from Milwaukee, New York state become Internet sensation

A video of a pair of dueling, dancing American priests studying in Rome has gone viral, following in the footsteps of a now-famous Italian nun whose Alicia Keyes-esque voice won her a singing contest and a record contract.

The Rev. David Rider, 29, of Hyde Park, New York, and the Rev. John Gibson, 28, of Milwaukee, first shot to Internet fame when they were filmed in April during a fundraiser at the North American College, the elite American seminary up the hill from the Vatican.

Rider warmed up the crowd with a lively tap-dance routine, only to be pushed aside by Gibson’s fast-footed Irish dance. Soon they were battling it out, trying to impress the crowd.

At the back of the room, journalist Joan Lewis recorded the event and later posted on YouTube.

“All of a sudden the numbers started rising and rising,” Lewis told The Associated Press.

Their Internet success has drawn comparisons to Sr. Cristina Scuccia, who won the Italian edition of “The Voice” in June with a series of unadorned pop song performances, in full habit. Her first album features a cover of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin.”

As with Scuccia, the priests’ online popularity was tinged with criticism. Some commentators wrote that the priests shouldn’t have been dancing under a crucifix and a painting of Pope Francis, calling it “disrespectful.”

“We would just refer them to the Bible,” Rider says, “where the Lord tells us to live with joy.”

Pope’s simple style influences cardinal fashion

No glitzy gold, no rich velvet, no regal fur. Pope Francis’ pared down papal wardrobe of sensible black shoes and a white cassock so thin you can see his black trousers through it is a perfect fit for his call for simplicity and humility among his clergy.

The pope’s personal style — which earned him Esquire magazine’s “Best Dressed Man of 2013” award — and his broader message of sobriety will be put to the test this weekend, when he inducts 19 prelates into the College of Cardinals, placing the three-cornered red silk biretta on the heads of the new “princes of the church.”

For the festive occasion, cardinals are traditionally outfitted in scarlet from head to toe, from the silk skull cap to bright red socks, with a white lace embroidered surplice known as a rochet worn over the red cassock and underneath the mozzetta, or shoulder cape.

But with the “slum pope” now calling the sartorial shots, fashionistas and Vaticanistas are wondering how his new cardinals — who hail from some of the poorest places on Earth, including Haiti, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast — will dress for their new role.

“What will make the difference at the consistory is how the cardinals interpret this traditional outfit,” said Raniero Mancinelli who has dressed cardinals and even popes since the early 1960s from his tiny shop right outside the Vatican walls.

Will they splurge for the fancy, optional red silk cape favored by some first-world cardinals? Or will they go the route of the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who according to clerical legend wore an altered hand-me-down cassock inherited from his predecessor for his 2001 consistory?

“The cardinals and priests are much more careful of shining and spend less on their clothes,” Mancinelli told The Associated Press. “The gilded miters are only in shop windows. This is a consequence of Francis. They want to show they are on the same pastoral page.”

Mancinelli, who is getting little sleep these days putting the finishing touches on outfits commissioned by several of the new cardinals, has some tips of what to watch out for on Feb. 22, when Francis will preside over the consistory formally welcoming the new cardinals.

Immediately noticeable will be how much lace is on the rochet, once sewn by hand — with a price-tag to match — but now often machine made. “This is the Francis effect,” he said of the cheaper version as he ran his fingers over a prototype.

Back in 2001 when the then-archbishop of Buenos Aires was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II, he wore a simple rochet with only two thin bands of embroidered lace.

Another saving can come in the material used for the cassock itself. Once made out of precious silk and cashmere, the cassocks are now often synthetic: polyester for the red lining and territal, a synthetic wool blend.

“It costs less and also lasts longer, that’s for sure,” Macinelli said.

Once handmade, the 33 red buttons (representing the years of Christ’s life) are now more often than not machine made.

The cardinals’ red, it should be noted, isn’t just a fabulous fashion statement: As Francis will recite when he places the biretta on each prelate’s head, red symbolizes a cardinal’s readiness to sacrifice his life for the church and “to act with courage, even to the shedding of your blood.”

Altogether, a cardinal’s outfit runs in the “few hundreds of euros, not few thousands,” Mancinelli said. One relatively reasonable add-on: a pair of red socks at 12 euros a pop.

Cardinal watchers might also want to keep their eyes on the pectoral crosses worn by the churchmen: When the Jesuit Bergoglio became a bishop in 1992, a friend bought him the simple metal pectoral cross he continues to wear as pope (having eschewed the gold-plated one offered to him the night of his election). Bergoglio’s metal cross was purchased in Mancinelli’s shop and identical versions are on sale for about 330 euros today. 

And of course, there are the parties that follow the consistory. In the past, new cardinals have been known to have sumptuous receptions thrown on their behalf by donors, friendly religious orders or church institutions. They are meant to entertain the parishioners, friends and family who may have travelled long distances for the occasion. It should be recalled that when Francis was installed as pope, he asked his sister to stay home in Argentina and for his other countrymen to donate to charity the money they would have spent to travel to Rome.

In a personal letter sent to his new cardinals in early January, Francis asked them to accept his nomination with joy, but to “do so in a way that this avoids any expression of worldliness, or any celebration alien to the evangelical spirit of austerity, simplicity and poverty.”

Mancinelli said that ever since Francis became pope a year ago, there has been a bit of “belt-tightening” all around in clerical garb, due also to the global economic crisis.

But there will always be exceptions. Across the Tiber river from the Vatican and Mancinelli’s small shop is Gammarelli, tailors by papal appointment and founded in 1798. Gammarelli famously prepares the three white outfits — small, medium and large — that a newly elected pope picks according to his size to wear out onto the balcony of St. Peter’s after his election.

Sixth generation Lorenzo Gammarelli said Francis’ call for sobriety — which Esquire credited with subtly signaling “a new era (and for many, renewed hope) for the Catholic Church” — hadn’t really affected business at all.

“Those who were simple before remain simple today,” he said. And vice versa. Speaking in front of the old world shop window decorated with the finest of scarlet cardinal garb, including that fancy red cape, he acknowledged: “Simplicity is not here.”

Casual quips by pope put Vatican on alert

Pope Francis has grabbed headlines with his off-the-cuff homilies, crowd-pleasing one-liners and lengthy interviews during which he has pontificated on everything from the church’s “obsession” with rules to how he won’t judge gays. But his chattiness has gotten him into some trouble, and the Vatican has gone into damage-control mode to clarify, correct or put his comments into context. Here’s a look at some of Francis’ more eyebrow-raising comments, and the efforts by the Vatican’s spin doctors to address them.

DID FRANCIS REALLY CONSIDER TURNING DOWN THE JOB?

In an interview with the Rome daily La Repubblica, editor Eugenio Scalfari quoted the pope as saying he was “seized by a great anxiety” moments after his election and asked the cardinals in the Sistine Chapel to give him a few minutes time to think things over.

“To make it go away and relax, I closed my eyes and made every thought disappear, even the thought of refusing to accept the position, as the liturgical procedure allows,” he was quoted as saying. “At a certain point I was filled with a great light. It lasted a moment, but to me it seemed very long. Then the light faded, I got up suddenly and walked into the room where the cardinals were waiting.” The pope was quoted as saying he signed the acceptance form and went out on the balcony to be introduced to the world as Pope Francis.

But the Rev. Thomas Rosica, who helps with Vatican media relations, later said the interview didn’t reflect Francis’ real words. He said Scalfari neither recorded the conversation nor took notes, reconstructing the conversation from memory and printing it as a verbatim interview. The Vatican doesn’t dispute the overall thrust of the interview, which Scalfari said he submitted to Francis for review and which the Vatican newspaper reprinted verbatim. But Rosica said the purported “mystical” experience recounted by Repubblica after the election didn’t happen, though Francis himself has said previously and in public that “I didn’t want to be pope.”

CAN ATHEISTS BE SAVED?

One of the novelties introduced by Francis has been his daily 7 a.m. Mass in the Vatican hotel, to which groups and individuals are invited. Francis delivers homilies each day, the contents of which are summarized by Vatican Radio. On May 22, he caused no shortage of confusion when he suggested that even atheists could find salvation.

According to church teaching, the Catholic Church holds the “fullness of the means of salvation” – a message that has long been taken to mean that only Catholics can find salvation. But in his homily, Francis said: “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! `Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!”

Rosica issued a lengthy “explanatory note” a few days later after being inundated with questions about whether Francis was changing church doctrine on salvation. He noted that church teaching also holds that “those who through no fault of their own” don’t know about Jesus but seek God and try to do his will can also attain eternal salvation.

“Always keep in mind the audience and context of Pope Francis’ homilies,” Rosica cautioned. “His words are not spoken in the context of a theological faculty or academy nor in interreligious dialogue or debate. He speaks in the context of Mass.”

SHOULD THE VATICAN BANK BE SAVED?

On April 24, Francis invited members of the Vatican bank to join him for Mass in the hotel. The Institute for Religious Works, as the bank is known, has been plagued by scandals – most recently over the arrest of a Vatican monsignor on charges he tried to smuggle some 20 million euro ($26 million) into Italy from Switzerland without declaring it at customs.

Given the scandals, the arrival of a reform-minded, non-nonsense pope has prompted a flurry of speculation that Francis might shut the bank down. So imagine the headlines that followed his April 24 homily, when he lamented how the church can sometimes become too bureaucratic, too much like an aid group, and that bureaucracies are necessary up to a point.

“The church isn’t an NGO, it’s a story of love,” Francis told the bank’s staff in the pews. “But there are the IOR folks here, excuse me, OK? Everything is necessary, offices are necessary, OK, but they’re only necessary up to a certain point: as a help to this story of love. But when the organization loses this primary place, when the love is gone, the poor church becomes an NGO. And this isn’t the way to go.”

Archbishop Angelo Becciu, under secretary of the Vatican secretariat of state, told the Vatican newspaper a few days later that Francis was by no means hinting that he might shut down the Vatican bank.

THE VICAR OF CHRIST SAID WHAT?

Sometimes, Francis’ one-liners don’t warrant Vatican clarification, but they’re worth repeating simply because they came from the lips of the Successor of Peter, Vicar of Christ, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church:

– Francis urged the church to “strip” itself of its worldy attachment to wealth during his Oct. 4 trip to Assisi and focus instead on the basics of Christ’s teachings. “You might say, `Can’t we have a more human Christianity, without the cross, without Jesus, without stripping ourselves?'” he asked rhetorically. “In this way we’d become pastry-shop Christians, like a pretty cake and nice sweet things. Pretty, but not true Christians.”

– Francis was asked June 7 why he chose to live in the Vatican hotel rather than the fancier Apostolic Palace where his predecessors lived. “If I was living alone, isolated, it wouldn’t be good for me,” he told students of Jesuit schools. “A professor asked me the same question, `Why don’t you go and live there (in the papal apartments)’? And I replied: `Listen to me professor, it is for psychiatric reasons.'”

– The pope has urged nuns and sisters to be like joyful mothers to the church, caring for its flock, and not act like they’re “old maids.” “It makes me sad when I find sisters who aren’t joyful,” he lamented during his Oct. 4 visit to a cloistered convent in Assisi. “They might smile, but with just a smile they could be flight attendants!”

Given Francis’ wry sense of humor and willingness to regularly ditch speeches prepared for him, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said he wants the faithful to know the difference between a pontifical joke and an encyclical, a clever quip in a homily and infallible teaching.

“There are different genres of expression, some are magisterial and official, others are more pastoral,” Lombardi told The Associated Press. “They have a different doctrinal value.”

Pope Francis says he won’t judge gay priests

Pope Francis, returning to Rome from a hugely popular trip to Brazil, said this morning that he won’t judge gay priests.

The Associated Press said the leader of the Roman Catholic Church chatted with reporters during a 22-minute news conference at the Vatican.

On the issue of priests who are gay, Pope Francis said, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI, in 2005, had signed a document saying that gays were not fit to serve as priests.

Responding to the morning’s news, Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT civil rights group in the United States, said, “While Pope Francis’s words do not reflect a shift in church policy, they represent a significant change in tone. Like his namesake, Francis’s humility and respect for human dignity are showing through, and the widespread positive response his words have received around the world reveals that Catholics everywhere are thirsty for change.”

Griffin also said, “But as long as millions of LGBT Catholic individuals, couples and youth alike are told in churches big and small that their lives and their families are disordered and sinful because of how they are born – how God made them – then the church is sending a deeply harmful message. One’s sexuality is an immutable characteristic and every leading medical and mental health organization has declared that attempts to change or suppress that fact are profoundly damaging. It’s time to send positive and affirming messages to all people, because the Bible is clear. All people have dignity in themselves and in their love for one another. It’s time for church teaching to reflect that simple fact.”

Pope criminalizes child sex abuse, Vatican leaks

Pope Francis overhauled the laws that govern the Vatican City State on July 11, criminalizing leaks of Vatican information and specifically listing sexual violence, prostitution and possession of child pornography as crimes against children that can be punished by up to 12 years in prison.

The legislation covers clergy and lay people who live and work in Vatican City and is different from the canon law which covers the universal Catholic Church.

The bulk of the Vatican’s penal code is based on the 1889 Italian code. Many of the new provisions were necessary to bring the city state’s legal system up to date after the Holy See signed international treaties, such as the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Others were necessary to comply with international norms to fight money-laundering, part of the Vatican’s push toward financial transparency.

One new crime stands out, though, as an obvious response to the leaks of papal documents last year that represented one of the gravest Vatican security breaches in recent times.

Paolo Gabriele, the butler for then-Pope Benedict XVI, was tried and convicted by a Vatican court of stealing Benedict’s personal papers and giving them to an Italian journalist, Gianluigi Nuzzi.

Using the documents, Nuzzi published a blockbuster book on the petty turf wars, bureaucratic dysfunction, allegations of corruption and reports of same-sex liaisons in the highest levels Catholic Church governance.

Gabriele, who said he wanted to expose the “evil and corruption” that plagued the Holy See, was convicted of aggravated theft and sentenced to 18 months in the Vatican’s police barracks. Benedict eventually pardoned him and he is a free man.

But his crime devastated the Vatican, shattering the confidentiality that typically governs correspondence with the pope.

In an indication of how serious the Vatican considers such confidentiality, the penalties for violations of the new law are stiff: Anyone who reveals or receives confidential information or documentation risks six months to two years in prison and a (euro) 2,000 euro ($2,500) fine; the penalty goes up to eight years in prison if the material concerns the “fundamental interests” of the Holy See or its diplomatic relations with other countries.

Judge Giuseppe Dalla Torre, the president of the Vatican tribunal who presided over Gabriele’s trial, acknowledged this week that the Gabriele case could be seen as having an influence on the new crime, though he said the crime itself was “irrelevant” to the overall reform.

But the crime of leaking Vatican information never existed before in the Vatican legal system. Sexual crimes did exist, albeit in a general form in the archaic code as a crime against “good customs.”

The new law gives a broader definition of the crimes against children, including the sale of children, child prostitution, recruiting children, sexual violence, sexual acts with children and the production and possession of child pornography.

In the old code, such general crimes would have carried a maximum penalty of three to 10 years, the Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said. Under the revision, the punishments go from five to 10 years, with aggravating circumstances bringing the maximum up to 12 years, he said.

It considers a minor anyone under age 18, and allows Vatican prosecutors to pursue the case on their own even if the victim or his or her guardians choose not to make a criminal complaint.

Dalla Torre stressed that just because such acts are illegal now doesn’t mean they were legal before. It merely means that, 100 years ago, child pornography was not specified as a crime in either the Italian legal code or the Vatican’s. 

Pope Francis blesses thousands of Harley-Davidson bikes, riders

Biker culture came to the Vatican on June 16 as Pope Francis blessed thousands of Harley-Davidsons and their riders celebrating the manufacturer’s 110th anniversary with a loud parade and plenty of leather.

Thundering Harley engines nearly drowned out the Latin recitation of the “Our Father” prayer that accompanied Francis as he greeted the crowd before Mass. Standing in his open-top jeep, Francis drove up the main boulevard leading to St. Peter’s Square, blessing the thousands of people in what was a giant Harley parking lot.

Once the service got underway, bikers in their trademark leather Harley vests sat in the square alongside nuns and tens of thousands of Catholics taking part in an unrelated, two-day anti-abortion rally.

Francis addressed them both afterward, giving a blessing to the “numerous participants” of the Harley gathering.

Tens of thousands of Harley owners from around the world descended on Rome for the four-day anniversary of the American manufacturer.

The main events were the Vatican blessing and a parade on June 15 past the Colosseum and other historic landmarks – adding color, traffic and noise to an already colorful day in downtown Rome, thanks to a gay Pride march.

Earlier in the week, the Milwaukee-based Harley gave Francis two white classic motorcycles for the Vatican police force to use.

There was something a bit incongruous about the Harley crowd – known for its “Freedom” motto, outlaw image and adventuresome spirit – taking part in a solemn papal Mass to commemorate a 1995 encyclical on the inviolability of human life.

“Evangelium Vitae” is a roadmap of the church’s teaching against abortion, euthanasia and murder. Harley’s advertising for its 2013 bike collection reads “Live life on your own terms. More than 30 ways to defy the status quo.”

The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, noted that there were probably quite a few Catholic riders in the crowd and that regardless, anyone is welcome to a papal Mass.

“I know great people who have big bikes,” Lombardi quipped.

In his comments to the pro-life crowd, Francis offered prayers “for every human life, especially the most fragile, defenseless and threatened.” But he stayed away from saying anything more polarizing about abortion or contraception.

He then spent a good half-hour after the Mass caressing, kissing and chatting with a few dozen sick or disabled people in the square, including one on a motorcycle wearing Harley garb.

Pope Francis: ‘gay lobby’ exists at Vatican

Pope Francis lamented that a “gay lobby” was at work at the Vatican, according to a report from The Associated Press.

The pope apparently made the remarks during a private audience with the leadership of a Latin American church group.

The Latin American and Caribbean Confederation of Religious – the regional organization for priests and nuns of religious orders – confirmed on June 11 that its leaders had written a synthesis of Francis’ remarks after their audience with the pope last week.

The group said it was distressed that the document had been published and apologized for released information.

In the document, Francis is quoted as saying that while there were many holy people in the Vatican, there was also “corruption:” “The ‘gay lobby’ is mentioned, and it is true, it is there… We need to see what we can do…”

Last year, there were rumors of a “gay lobby” in connection to a series of embarrassing leaks to the Italian press.

Progressive leaders respond to election of new pope

The cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church ended their conclave earlier today and announced that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio is the new pope. The leader of the 1.2 billion church has taken the name of Francis.

Francis, 76, according to various reports, is a humble man who cares about the poor.

He also is a conservative man, who opposes same-sex marriage and says that it is discriminatory for children to have gay parents because they are denied a mother and a father. He once called gay marriage “a destructive attempt to end God’s plan.”

In the hours after the announcement of the election of a new pope from Argentina, some progressive leaders responded:

President Barack Obama said, “On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I offer our warm wishes to His Holiness Pope Francis as he ascends to the Chair of Saint Peter and begins his papacy.  As a champion of the poor and the most vulnerable among us, he carries forth the message of love and compassion that has inspired the world for more than two thousand years – that in each other we see the face of God.  … Just as I appreciated our work with Pope Benedict XVI, I look forward to working with His Holiness to advance peace, security and dignity for our fellow human beings, regardless of their faith.”

Dr. Sharon Groves, director of the HRC Religion and Faith Program, said, “We congratulate Pope Francis in his new position as leader for the Roman Catholic Church. As pope, he has enormous power to be a source of spiritual healing for millions around the world. But for him to be the best kind of spiritual leader, he must acknowledge the signs of the times and embrace LGBT people as worthy of dignity and respect. American lay Catholics are fully supportive of equality, even more so than the broader population.  The new pope should follow the virtuous lead of his flock.

“We hope the new pope understands the time for religious-based bigotry is not only over, but must be denounced. Demonizing LGBT people and their families from this powerful platform not only fails to keep faith with the most charitable principles of Catholic teachings and the Jesuit tradition of caring for the marginalized, but it does real psychological damage to millions of LGBT people around the world.”

Herdon Graddick of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation said, “For decades the Catholic hierarchy has been in need of desperate reform. In his life, Jesus condemned gays zero times. In Pope Benedict’s short time in the papacy, he made a priority of condemning gay people routinely. This, in spite of the fact that the Catholic hierarchy had been in collusion to cover up the widespread abuse of children within its care. We hope this pope will trade in his red shoes for a pair of sandals and spend a lot less time condemning and a lot more time foot-washing.”

He also said, “The National Catholic reporter said Pope Francis called adoption by gay and lesbian people a form of discrimination against children. The real discrimination against children is the pedophilia that has run rampant in the Catholic Church with little more than collusion from the Vatican.”

Jon O’Brien of Catholics of Choice stated, “We welcome Pope Franci and look forward to hearing about his priorities in the coming days. We do not expect very many changes, but sincerely hope that the culture will change to better reflect the needs of the church and of Catholics. As Cardinal Bergoglio, he was outspoken against the recent liberalization of Argentinian laws on abortion, stating flatly that ‘abortion is never a solution.’ But this is no surprise, as he and his fellow electors were all appointed by his two conservative predecessors, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II.”

The Equally Blessed Coalition said, “We are inspired by his humility, his devotion to the poor and the depth and thoughtfulness that characterize much of his writing. Pope Francis understands that we are all in need of God’s mercy, and we hope that he conducts his papacy with this kind of humility. … It is our fervent hope and continuing prayer that Francis will break new ground in opening a conversation with LGBT people so that he may come to know a little about their experiences of God’s grace, mercy and love.”

Joe Mirabella of All Out said, “I along with fellow Catholics around the world hoped the church was ready to send a signal that they were ready to stop attacking our families. Sadly, with the election of Jorge Begoglio the church has demonstrated they remain out of touch with the flock. LGBT people and our allies are not likely to find a friend in Pope Francis I.”

Ben Summerskill of Stonewall UK said, “We hope Pope Francis shows more Christian love and charity to the world’s 420 million lesbian, gay and bisexual people than his predecessor.”

Editor’s note: to be updated

Top contenders to be the next pope

Cardinals from around the world gather beginning March 12 in a conclave to elect a new pope following the stunning resignation of Benedict XVI.

In the secretive world of the Vatican, there is no way to know who is in the running, and history has yielded plenty of surprises. Yet several names have come up repeatedly as strong contenders. Here is a look at who they are:

CARDINAL ANGELO SCOLA: Scola is seen as Italy’s best chance at reclaiming the papacy, following back-to-back pontiffs from outside the country that had a lock on the job for centuries. He’s also one of the top names among all of the papal contenders. Scola, 71, has commanded both the pulpits of Milan’s Duomo as archbishop and Venice’s St. Mark’s Cathedral as patriarch, two extremely prestigious church positions that together gave the world five popes during the 20th century. Scola was widely viewed as a papal contender when Benedict was elected eight years ago. His promotion to Milan, Italy’s largest and most influential diocese, has been seen as a tipping point in making him one of the leading papal candidates. He is known as a doctrinal conservative who is also at ease quoting Jack Kerouac and Cormac McCarthy.

CARDINAL ODILO SCHERER: Scherer is known for prolific tweeting, appearances on Brazil’s most popular late-night talk show and squeezing into the subway for morning commutes. Brazil’s best hope to supply the next pontiff is increasingly being touted as one of the top overall contenders. At the relatively young age of 63, he enthusiastically embraces all new methods for reaching believers, while staying true to a conservative line of Roman Catholic doctrine and hardline positions on social issues such as rejection of same-sex marriage. Scherer joined Twitter in 2011 and in his second tweet said: “If Jesus preached the gospel today, he would also use print media, radio, TV, the Internet and Twitter. Give Him a chance!” Scherer became the Sao Paulo archbishop in 2007 and was named a cardinal later the same year.

CARDINAL MARC OUELLET: Canada’s Ouellet once said that being pope “would be a nightmare.” He would know, having enjoyed the confidence of two popes as a top-ranked Vatican insider. His high-profile position as head of the Vatican’s office for bishops, his conservative leanings, his years in Latin America and his work in Rome as president of a key commission for Latin America all make him a favorite to become the first pontiff from the Americas. But the qualities that make the 68-year-old popular in Latin America – home to the world’s biggest Catholic population – and among the cardinals who elect the pope have contributed to his poor image in his native Quebec, where ironically he was perceived during his tenure as archbishop as an outsider parachuted in from Rome to reorder his liberal province along conservative lines.

CARDINAL PETER ERDO: Erdo is the son of a deeply religious couple who defied communist repression in Hungary to practice their faith. And if elected pope, the 60-year-old would be the second pontiff to come from eastern Europe – following in the footsteps of the late John Paul II, a Pole who left a great legacy helping to topple communism. A cardinal since 2003, Erdo is an expert on canon law and distinguished university theologian who has also striven to forge close ties to the parish faithful.  He is increasingly seen as a compromise candidate if cardinals are unable to rally around some of the more high-profile figures like Scola or Scherer.

CARDINAL GIANFRANCO RAVASI: Ravasi, the Vatican’s culture minister, is an erudite scholar with a modern touch – just the combination some faithful see as ideal for reviving a church beset by scandal and a shrinking flock. The 70-year-old is also one of the favorites among Catholics who long to see a return to the tradition of Italian popes. The polyglot biblical scholar peppers speeches with references ranging from Aristotle to late British diva Amy Winehouse. Ravasi’s foreign language prowess is reminiscent of that of the late globetrotting John Paul II: He tweets in English, chats in Italian and has impressed his audiences by switching to Hebrew and Arabic in some of his speeches.

CARDINAL PETER TURKSON: Ghana’s Turkson is viewed by many as the top African contender for pope. The 64-year-old head of the Vatican’s peace and justice office was widely credited with helping to avert violence following contested Ghanaian elections. He has aggressively fought African poverty, while disappointing many by hewing to the church’s conservative line on condom use amid Africa’s AIDS epidemic. Turkson’s reputation as a man of peace took a hit recently when he showed a virulently anti-Islamic video, a move now seen as hurting his papal prospects. Observers say those prospects sank further when he broke a taboo against public jockeying for the papacy – saying the day after Benedict’s resignation announcement that he’s up for the job “if it’s the will of God.”

CARDINAL TIMOTHY DOLAN: Dolan, the 63-year-old archbishop of New York, is an upbeat, affable defender of Catholic orthodoxy, and a well-known religious figure in the United States. He holds a job Pope John Paul II once called “archbishop of the capital of the world.” His colleagues broke with protocol in 2010 and made him president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, instead of elevating the sitting vice president as expected. And during the 2012 presidential election, Republicans and Democrats competed over which national political convention the cardinal would bless. He did both. But scholars question whether his charisma and experience are enough for a real shot at succeeding Benedict.

CARDINAL JORGE MARIO BERGOGLIO: Bergoglio, 76, has spent nearly his entire career at home in Argentina, overseeing churches and shoe-leather priests. The archbishop of Buenos Aires reportedly got the second-most votes after Joseph Ratzinger in the 2005 papal election, and he has long specialized in the kind of pastoral work that some say is an essential skill for the next pope. In a lifetime of teaching and leading priests in Latin America, which has the largest share of the world’s Catholics, Bergoglio has shown a keen political sensibility as well as the kind of self-effacing humility that fellow cardinals value highly. Bergoglio is known for modernizing an Argentine church that had been among the most conservative in Latin America.

CARDINAL LEONARDO SANDRI: Leonardo Sandri, 69, is a Vatican insider who has run the day-to-day operations of the global church’s vast bureaucracy and roamed the world as a papal diplomat. He left his native Argentina for Rome at 27 and never returned to live in his homeland. Initially trained as a canon lawyer, he reached the No. 3 spot in the church’s hierarchy under Pope John Paul II, the zenith of a long career in the Vatican’s diplomatic service ranging from Africa to Mexico to Washington. As substitute secretary of state for seven years, he essentially served as the pope’s chief of staff. The jovial diplomat has been knighted in a dozen countries, and the church he is attached to as cardinal is Rome’s exquisite, baroque San Carlo ai Catinari.

CARDINAL LUIS ANTONIO TAGLE: Asia’s most prominent Roman Catholic leader knows how to reach the masses: He sings on stage, preaches on TV, brings churchgoers to laughter and tears with his homilies. And he’s on Facebook. But the 55-year-old Filipino’s best response against the tide of secularism, clergy sex abuse scandals and rival-faith competition could be his reputation for humility. His compassion for the poor and unassuming ways have impressed followers in his homeland, Asia’s largest Catholic nation, and church leaders in the Vatican. Tagle’s chances are considered remote, as many believe that Latin America or Africa – with their faster-growing Catholic flocks – would be more logical choices if the papal electors look beyond Europe.

CARDINAL CHRISTOPH SCHOENBORN: Schoenborn is a soft-spoken conservative who is ready to listen to those espousing reform. That profile could appeal to fellow cardinals looking to elect a pontiff with the widest-possible appeal to the world’s 1 billion Catholics. His Austrian nationality may be his biggest disadvantage: Electors may be reluctant to choose another German speaker as a successor to Benedict. A man of low tolerance for the child abuse scandals roiling the church, Schoenborn, 68, himself was elevated to the upper echelons of the Catholic hierarchy after his predecessor resigned 18 years ago over accusations that he was a pedophile.

CARDINAL MALCOLM RANJITH: Benedict XVI picked the Sri Lankan Ranjith to return from Colombo to the Vatican to oversee the church’s liturgy and rites in one of his first appointments as pope. The choice of Ranjith in 2005 rewarded a strong voice of tradition – so rigid that some critics regard it even as backward-looking. Ranjith in 2010 was named Sri Lanka’s second cardinal in history. There are many strikes against a Ranjith candidacy – Sri Lanka, for example, has just 1.3 million Catholics, less than half the population of Rome. But the rising influence of the developing world, along with the 65-year-old’s strong conservative credentials, helps keep his name in the mix of papal contenders.

CARDINAL ANDRES RODRIGUEZ MARADIAGA: To many, Maradiaga embodies the activist wing of the Roman Catholic Church as an outspoken campaigner of human rights, a watchdog on climate change and advocate of international debt relief for poor nations. Others, however, see the 70-year-old Honduran as a reactionary in the other direction: Described as sympathetic to a coup in his homeland and stirring accusations of anti-Semitism for remarks that some believe suggested Jewish interests encouraged extra media attention on church sex abuse scandals. Maradiaga, the archbishop of Tegucigalpa, is among a handful of Latin American prelates considered to have a credible shot at the papacy.

CARDINAL ANGELO BAGNASCO: The archbishop of Genoa, Bagnasco also is head of the powerful Italian bishops’ conference. Both roles give him outsized influence in the conclave, where Italians represent the biggest national bloc, and could nudge ahead his papal chances if the conclave looks to return the papacy to Italian hands. At 70 years old, Bagnasco is seen as in the right age bracket for papal consideration. But his lack of international experience and exposure could be a major liability.

CARDINAL SEAN PATRICK O’MALLEY: As archbishop of Boston, O’Malley has faced the fallout from the church’s abuse scandals for nearly a decade. The fact he is mentioned at all as a potential papal candidate is testament to his efforts to bring together an archdiocese at the forefront of the abuse disclosures. Like other American cardinals, the papal prospects for the 68-year-old O’Malley suffer because of the accepted belief that many papal electors oppose the risk of having U.S. global policies spill over, even indirectly, onto the Vatican’s image. O’Malley is among the most Internet-savvy members of the conclave.