Austen Ivereigh

[LONDON] You do not need to be a close observer of the drama centered this past fortnight on St Paul's Cathedral and the protesters encamped there to notice today a great shift, one that carries strong implications for the relationship of Anglican Christianity with the world of finance. 

[BASILICA DI SAN FRANCESCO, ASSISI] As I write this, Pope Benedict has just left with heads of the delegations of different faiths back to Rome, where tomorrow he will greet them again in an audience in the Apostolic Palace.

I will be analysing today's event in detail in a forthcoming article for America. But for now, here are some fleeting thoughts.

[BASILICA DI SAN FRANCESCO, ASSISI] Speaking to some 300 representatives of the world's major religions gathered in the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, Pope Benedict XVI this morning expressed shame for the complicity of faith in violence and praised agnostics and other "searchers" for helping to purify faith. The speech is here.

[SANTA MARIA DEGLI ANGELI, ASSISI] The 200-odd religious leaders called here by Pope Benedict XVI have just watched a video about the history of the Assisi interfaith gatherings. It was well made: scenes of war contrasted with the commitments of religious leaders to peace.

[SANTA MARIA DEGLI ANGELI, ASSISI] A lot of journalistic ink has been spilled on the differences between the interreligious gathering led by the Pope today and the first one, called by John Paul II in 1986.

[ASSISI, ITALY] I've arrived in the home town of St Francis to await the arrival here of Pope Benedict and more than 200 faith leaders who tomorrow will deepen the commitment of religion to peace. The event will commemorate the historic first such gathering called by Pope John Paul II on 27 October 1986, when the world faced a deepening stand-off between the US and the Soviet Union. John Paul II repeated the event in January 2002, just months after the 9/11 attacks had created another terrifying threat to world peace.

[LONDON] Last night there were more buildings aflame in the city than at any time since World War II. Some 6,000 police were unable to cope as across the capital -- and in other cities in the UK -- gangs of hooded youths took to the streets in copycat riots, torching and looting in the third night of what has been the most widespread disorder in Britain's living memory.

The Irish prime minister, Enda Kenny, yesterday launched a bizarre, rambling attack on the Vatican, accusing it of attempting to frustrate an enquiry into failures of church leadership over clerical abuse and claiming that the Cloyne Report showed the "dysfunction, disconnection, elitism and narcissism" of the Vatican.

A two-day conference organized by the Archbishops of Canterbury and Westminster ended yesterday with the two leaders pledging to step up support for the beleagured Christians of the Holy Land through pilgrimages and lobbying to lift draconian Israeli restrictions.

[LONDON] There's nothing quite like real news -- a story that sprints out in all directions, leaving history gasping to catch up. That's true of the scandal unfolding this past week turning on revelations about the Murdoch-owned news empire, the illegal and immoral activities of some of its journalists, and the suborning of both police and politicians. As David Cameron told Parliament today, the revelations and allegations add up to a "firestorm"; and no one knows what else will burn in its path.