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This week, Pope Francis was the biggest thing to hit America since the British Invasion. You could buy Pope-themed dolls, cookies with the Pope's face, hats, coffee mugs, backpacks, and even a Pope Bobblehead.

It was the pope's first visit to the U.S., and he seemed eager and happy to be here. He spoke passionately about the poor, climate change, and the migrant crisis, and cautioned against religious extremism. It has left some people wondering why he met privately and secretly with Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refuses to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Robert Benson Photography

A new play premieres this weekend as part of a gala event celebrating the hundredth anniversary of a synagogue in Chester, Connecticut called Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek.

The play is called “100 Years in 36 Minutes.” Its co-writer, Lary Bloom, came to the WNPR studios earlier this week to talk about it.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, speaking during a rare press conference Tuesday, said for him one of the highlights of Pope Francis’ trip to the U.S. came in Philadelphia, when he met with victims of sexual abuse by priests.

Addressing reports that Pope Francis met privately with controversial Kentucky clerk Kim Davis during his U.S. visit, the Vatican acknowledges that the meeting took place. Davis, who has refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, says she met the pope at the Vatican Embassy in Washington.

"I cannot deny the meeting took place but I have no comments to add," Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said in Italian Wednesday.

Walking With Dante

Sep 28, 2015
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"Dante's Inferno" is the most famous section of Dante Aligheri's 14,000 line epic poem, The Divine Comedy. But it's only the first part of Dante's long pilgrimage through the afterlife. He first enters the circles of hell, filled with beasts and sinners doomed to the Inferno for crimes like gluttony, lust, and treason. 

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

Pope Francis was in Philadelphia this weekend and so were more than 250 pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Hartford.

The pontiff told the United Nations General Assembly that it is critical that the international community act now to solve problems ranging from climate change to poverty and inequality of opportunity.

Office of John Boehner

Politicians from across Connecticut have been listening to the message of Pope Francis this week and now they're reacting to a world leader whose message seeks to avoid the partisanship endemic to Washington, D.C. 

Pope Francis speaks his mind, and he did that again in his address to a joint meeting of Congress on Thursday morning. But, in the vein of the best Jesuit teachers, Francis praised America, its rich political history and its ideals before delicately delivering some things its political leaders might, well, want to consider working on.

There were political messages that challenged the orthodoxy of both American political parties, but, in this 51-minute address, there were a lot more points of emphasis Democrats are happy about — and that put some pressure on Republicans.

Pope Francis, in an address to a joint meeting of Congress, encouraged lawmakers to work together to solve the problems of ordinary Americans and to show compassion for people across the globe who are suffering from war and hunger.

The annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, was struck by tragedy Thursday, as a stampede near the holy city killed at least 717 people and left more than 860 injured, according to Saudi officials.

The death toll and the number of injured have risen as authorities get reports from the site; initial reports stated that more than 300 people had died. We're updating this post as new information arrives.

When Pope Francis addressed Congress on Thursday, he faced a body that is more Christian than the U.S. public as a whole — and also more Catholic.

First the numbers: Whereas nearly a quarter of the U.S. population says they have no religious affiliation, it's less than 1 percent in Congress.

Congress is "disproportionately religiously affiliated," said Alan Cooperman, director of religion research at the Pew Research Center. "That is, the share of members of Congress who say they have a religion is considerably higher than the share of all American adults."

Pope Francis celebrated the Mass of Canonization of Junipero Serra at Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., today. You can watch the proceedings in The Washington Post video above.

The White House

Pope Francis is visiting Washington, D.C. this week. His first visit to the U.S. began formally on Wednesday with an arrival ceremony at the White House and a personal meeting with President Barack Obama. 

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has come out against the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline. It's something she has spent months avoiding taking a position on — and her announcement coincided with the mass media event of Pope Francis' landing at Andrews Air Force Base.

Mazur/Catholic Church England and Wales / Creative Commons

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy will be among the dignitaries welcoming Pope Francis to the U.S. during a ceremony at the White House. 

European Union 2014 - European Parliament

There's a lot of great TV. We already knew that, but the Emmy Awards reiterated that we live in a golden age of television. "TV is where you meet people who are recognizably people, people with whom you are willing to spend your time — either once a week, or in intense hours-long bursts," said Alexandra Petri from the Washington Post. This hour, we recap the Emmys.

We also preview Pope Francis' trip to the United States this week. His visit comes at a time of political divide and presidential politics.

Updated at 11:45 p.m. ET

Thousands of Cubans packed Havana's Revolution Square to celebrate Mass with Pope Francis, history's first Latin American pope, erupting in cheers as the pontiff approached in his open-sided popemobile.

Believers and non-believers waved Cuban and Vatican flags as they thronged the square, overlooked by a huge portrait of Argentine Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara. The pope in his homily steered clear of politics, but focused on the need for Christians and others to help their fellow man.

Pope Francis arrives in Cuba on Saturday, where he will hold Mass and visit with President Raul Castro ahead of a six-day tour of several U.S. cities, a meeting with President Obama and a speech to a joint meeting of Congress.

Courtesy of the Knights of Columbus

When Pope Francis leads a Mass in Philadelphia later this month, the crowd will be following along with programs made in Connecticut by the Knights of Columbus.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Gary Franks was the first black Republican elected to the U.S. Congress in nearly 60 years when he took office in 1991. Since his political career ended in the late 1990s, he hasn’t been heard from in Connecticut.

Tânia Rêgo/ABr / Creative Commons

New York officials have joined Cardinal Timothy Dolan in condemning the scalping of tickets to see Pope Francis's motorcade during his upcoming visit to New York City.

Nearly a century ago, immigrants from Germany and Ireland founded St. Helena Church in a working-class neighborhood in north Philadelphia.

Immigrants, and their children, still fill the pews at St. Helena's — but the vast majority of them are now from Vietnam, Latin America, the Philippines and Africa. Weekly masses are conducted in Spanish and Vietnamese as well as English. The senior priest, the Rev. Joseph Trinh, is himself a Vietnamese refugee. One of his associate priests is from Haiti, and another is from Ecuador.

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Athletes have always used their elevated platform to advance products and ideas. After a game winning play, it's almost expected to hear the star thank either God, the Lord, and/or Jesus. But you won't hear that from Houston Texan running back Arian Foster. He just came out as an atheist playing football for a NFL team in the bible belt. How will that play out?

Aida Mansoor / Muslim Coalition of Connecticut

Thousands of Muslims in Connecticut visited mosques around the state last Friday to celebrate the end of Ramadan. The holiday is called Eid al-Fitr, a joyous celebration of prayer, gift-giving, and community gathering, that entails feast that can last up to three days.

Menemsha Films

Sir Nicholas Winton, who organized the rescue of more than 600 children just before the start of World War Two, has died in England. He was 106 years old. 

One of the people he saved now lives in Hartford.

Once upon a time Nancy Butler lived in the Beltway and used her MBA to secure a high paying job with a defense contractor.  But Butler had considered herself a devout Christian since the age of 9, and something about a job with a company that made torpedoes started to bother her. So she left and embarked on a journey that included mission work in Asia and enrollment at Yale Divinity School.

The nine people who were killed in a mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., on Wednesday have been identified by the authorities.

Tânia Rêgo/ABr / Creative Commons

Pope Francis's highly anticipated statement on the environment says climate change is happening, but the question is whether or not rank-and-file Catholics will accept the Pope's idea.