From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
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And I'm Melissa Block. Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world today with his decision to step down at the end of this month. It is the first papal resignation since the 15th century. The Vatican says a new pope may be elected before Easter, but as NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports, it's not clear how the church will function with two living popes.
It's Monday and time now for the Opinion Page. And after today's stunning news from the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI plans to resign, we want to hear your opinion on his legacy. 800-989-8255 is our phone number. Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also join the conversation at our website. That's at npr.org, click on TALK OF THE NATION.
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington. The numbers from Syria can leave you numb: nearly 700,000 refugees now in neighboring countries, and the U.N. says their numbers grow by 5,000 every day, maybe two million internally displaced, 60,000 dead again according to the U.N., and that estimate came before the most recent intensification of combat in and around Damascus.
When Pope Benedict XVI steps down at the end of the month, he will be remembered for his efforts to strengthen the Catholic Church's core beliefs and for his powerful and eloquent encyclicals, but also for a mixed record in handling the sexual abuse scandal.
The first German pope in a thousand years is a cold, distant intellectual who never served as a parish priest. Cardinal Ratzinger, the Vatican Enforcer, became Pope Benedict XVI. As successor to John Paul II, Benedict was never as beloved by the faithful but still attracted crowds matching those of his media-savvy predecessor.
And this is the day of the week when we normally talk to our MORNING EDITION contributor Cokie Roberts about politics. This morning, though, politics and the runup to the president's State of the Union Address tomorrow have been overshadowed by the news out of Rome.
So we've asked Cokie, a longtime Vatican watcher, to weigh in on the announcement that Pope Benedict is resigning at the end of this month.
Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday that he will resign on Feb. 28. For more on what his resignation means for the future of the Vatican leadership, Steve Inskeep talks with Mathew Schmalz, a professor of religious studies at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass.
An explosion Monday rocked a border crossing between Turkey and Syria. NPR's Deborah Amos reports she was at the scene with many other people, when a car blew up.
It was "a huge explosion," she tells our Newscast desk. "People panicked. You can see from where I am ... billowing clouds of smoke over the Turkish border point. It was inside Turkey. We'd already come out of Syria and we were in Turkey when the explosion went off." It all happened near the Turkish town of Reyhanli.
It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
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And I'm Renee Montagne.
Within the last hour, we have heard that Pope Benedict is resigning at the end of this month. A Vatican spokesman said the pope's announcement, quote, "took us by surprise," suggesting that even the pontiff's closest aides did not know what he was about to do. The last pope to resign was Gregory XII, in 1415.
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Steve Inskeep.
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And I'm Renee Montagne.
Surprising news this morning from the Vatican. Pope Benedict XVI has announced he is resigning at the end of this month. It is an unprecedented departure in modern times. The last time a pope stepped down, it was 1415, the Middle Ages. At 85 years old, Benedict said he was no longer up to the physical demands of the papacy. We've got NPR's Sylvia Poggioli on the line now live from Rome. Good morning.
Originally published on Mon February 11, 2013 4:52 am
The crisis in Tunisia deepened over the weekend when a secular political party withdrew from the Islamist-led coalition government. The crisis erupted last week when a secular politician and human rights advocate was gunned down outside his home in Tunis.
In Philadelphia in 1972, an immigrant couple of Kalmyk origin gave birth to a boy they named Erdne. A few years later, the Dalai Lama renamed him Telo Tulku Rinpoche and identified him as one in a long line of reincarnations of an ancient Buddhist saint. The boy was then taken to a monastery in the mountains of southern India to learn the teachings of the Buddha.
Telo Rinpoche was one of the first of his kind: someone from the West learning thousand-year-old traditions a world away from his family.
The author, a Syrian citizen living in Damascus, is not being identified by NPR for security reasons. Many Syrians interviewed for this piece asked that their full names not be used, for their safety.
In most every Arab country where there's been an uprising in the past couple of years, Islamists have gained influence or come to power. Is the same thing destined to happen in Syria if President Bashar Assad's secular government is ousted?
Syrians may not know the answer, but they certainly are talking about it.
A number of luxury retailers are rolling out tactics this year to mark the beginning of the Lunar New Year. For Bloomingdale's in New York City, though, reaching out to Asian shoppers during the cultural celebration is a decades-long tradition.
The upscale department store's marketing strategy traces back to 1971, the year President Nixon lifted the U.S. trade embargo with the People's Republic of China. Immediately, Marvin Traub, then-president of Bloomingdale's, decided he wanted to sell Chinese goods in his flagship store on the Upper East Side.
Pilgrims and tourists visiting the Vatican received a special treat Saturday, when some 4,000 members of the Knights of Malta marched in procession to the tomb of St. Peter.
The last of the great chivalrous orders is celebrating the 900th anniversary of its official recognition by Pope Paschal II. On Saturday, the Knights attended Mass in St. Peter's Basilica and received an audience with Pope Benedict XVI.
The Muhammad Mustafa mosque sits in a fairly well-off part of Kabul where government employees and some high-ranking officials live. Muhammad Ehsan Saiqal, a moderate, 54-year-old Muslim who welcomes girls into his Quran classes, is the imam.The slight, gray-bearded cleric preaches against suicide bombings.
"Islam doesn't permit suicide attacks," he says. "If someone kills any Muslim without any cause, under Shariah law [Islamic law] it means that he kills the whole Muslim world."
Iran's unpredictable president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is nearing the end of his final term in office and he has apparently decided to go out with a bang. The president has dragged a long-simmering feud with one of Iran's most powerful political families out into the open. It features hidden camera videos and allegations of corruption and it has prompted an urgent call for calm from the country's Supreme Leader. NPR's Peter Kenyon reports from Istanbul on what looks to be an unexpectedly lively campaign season in Iran.
Tens of thousands of Tunisians gathered for the funeral of Chokri Belaid on Friday. The secular political leader was murdered by unknown assailants on Wednesday. His killing set off riots and clashes between protesters and the police in several parts of the country.
A European police agency this week made what should've been a startling announcement that hundreds of professional soccer matches around the world may have been rigged by gamblers in recent years. But the news was greeted inside the sport less as a shock than as confirmation of a rampant problem. Sportswriter Stefan Fatsis joins us now as he does most Fridays. Hi, Stefan.
STEFAN FATSIS, BYLINE: Hey, Robert.
SIEGEL: And first, tell us about this investigation.