Alessandro Speciale

Alessandro Speciale has been covering the Vatican since 2007 and wrote for Religion News Service from 2011-2013. Born in Rome, he studied literature at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, Italy, and journalism at City University, London. He has appeared as an expert on Vatican affairs on CNN, BBC World and Al Jazeera English.

All Stories by Alessandro Speciale

Pope Francis tells atheists to ‘obey their conscience’

By Alessandro Speciale — September 11, 2013
VATICAN CITY (RNS) The pope's letter is especially notable for its open and honest assessment of the spiritual state of nonbelievers, and for seeming to open the door to the idea that notions of sin, conscience and forgiveness can be decided outside of the Catholic Church.

Pope kicks off reform mission in meeting with Vatican department heads

By Alessandro Speciale — September 10, 2013
VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis' meeting on Tuesday with the heads of all Vatican departments signals the kickoff to a reform campaign six months after he was elected with a mandate to bring the church's central bureaucracy in line.

Liberation theology finds new welcome in Pope Francis’ Vatican

By Alessandro Speciale — September 9, 2013
VATICAN CITY (RNS) The revival of liberation theology under Pope Francis is remarkable about-face for a movement that swelled in popularity but was later stamped out by the conservative pontificates of John Paul II and his longtime doctrinal czar, Benedict XVI.

Pope Francis, the ‘cold-call pope,’ reaches out and touches a lot of people

By Alessandro Speciale — September 6, 2013
Francis has been dubbed the "cold-call pope" due to his penchant for picking up the phone and calling all sorts of folks. But his habit can also encourage hoaxes and pranksters, and the Vatican this week had to deny two reports of alleged papal phone calls.

Italian school seeks to revive Catholic dominance of sacred art

By Alessandro Speciale — September 6, 2013
FLORENCE, Italy (RNS) The Sacred Art School puts a special emphasis on depiction of the human figure, with students learning the anatomy of bones and muscles just as Leonardo Da Vinci did five centuries ago.

Pope Francis’ peace appeal for Syria marks Vatican’s return to global stage

By Alessandro Speciale — September 5, 2013
VATICAN CITY (RNS) For Pope Francis, just six months on the job, the Syria question will test his ability to summon the power of his global bully pulpit, and could play a major role in shaping the global image of a man who's been lauded for his down-to-earth pastoral appeal.

Pope Francis taps diplomat Pietro Parolin as Vatican’s new ‘prime minister’

By Alessandro Speciale — August 31, 2013
VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis' new Secretary of State will replace Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, a trusted aide of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who had been blamed for the mismanagement and scandals that plagued the Vatican in recent years.

Pope Francis, Jordan king say dialogue is ‘only option’ in Syria conflict

By Alessandro Speciale — August 29, 2013
VATICAN CITY (RNS) The Catholic Church has been following with concern the radicalization of Syria's civil war. The country hosts a sizable Christian minority, which has mostly sided with Bashar al-Assad during the two-year long conflict.

Pope Francis celebrates Mass with wafers made by Argentine inmate

By Alessandro Speciale — August 27, 2013
VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis celebrates his daily Mass using Communion wafers made by Gabriela Caballero, a 38-year-old woman who is serving a seven-year jail term outside Buenos Aires.

Secretary denies God told Benedict XVI to resign

By Alessandro Speciale — August 26, 2013
VATICAN CITY (RNS) The personal secretary of former Pope Benedict XVI said the pontiff didn't resign because of a "mystical experience" with God, saying "There is nothing true in that story."

Benedict XVI: ‘God told me’ to resign

By Alessandro Speciale — August 21, 2013
VATICAN CITY (RNS) Reports say retired Pope Benedict XVI decided to become the first pope in 600 years to resign because "God told me" to step aside.

Pope pens personal message to Muslims at Ramadan’s end

By Alessandro Speciale — August 2, 2013
(RNS) While it is a long-established Vatican practice to send messages to the world's religious leaders on their major holy days, those greetings are usually signed by the Vatican's department for interfaith dialogue. This time, Pope Francis personally extended his greetings ahead of Eid al-Fitr, the conclusion of Ramadan.

Jesuit priest likely kidnapped in Syria

By Alessandro Speciale — July 31, 2013
(RNS) The Rev. Paolo Dall'Oglio, 58, lived for three decades in Syria, where he established an ecumenical community at Mar Musa on the site of an early Christian monastery, engaging in interfaith dialogue with Muslims and forging close ties with the local population.

Pope Francis to encounter a church in crisis in Brazil

By Alessandro Speciale — July 18, 2013
VATICAN CITY (RNS) Brazil will encounter a pope unlike any in the church's modern history, and Francis will find a church in crisis in the world's most populous Catholic nation.

Are miracles really needed to become a saint?

By Alessandro Speciale — July 15, 2013
VATICAN CITY (RNS) With a rare, if not unprecedented, move, Francis has rekindled a years-old debate in Catholic circles, with some asking whether miracles are really needed for sainthood anymore.
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