Luke Coppen

What is Pope Francis up to?

If you think your diary looks busy over the next few days, spare a thought for Pope Francis. The 85-year-old, who was confined to a wheelchair for several months this year, is preparing for a big weekend. He will be spending it in the company of the world’s cardinals – the red-clad figures who are

The war has helped to resurrect Poland’s Catholic church

In my wife’s home city of Wroclaw, there’s a luxury hotel named after John Paul II. It has always seemed strange that the Catholic church sanctioned this. Giant chandeliers and glitzy bathrooms weren’t really what St John Paul stood for, and since the hotel opened in 2002 it had seemed as much a monument to

The Catholic crack-up

[audioplayer src=”″ title=”Freddy Gray and Damian Thompson discuss the Catholic crack-up” startat=1403] Listen [/audioplayer]A scurrilous rumour recently swept Rome: the Pope had summoned the Vatican’s finance czar over his expenses. When Cardinal George Pell admitted spending more than £3,000 on a designer kitchen unit, Francis quipped: ‘What, is it made of solid gold?’ That never

Ultimate fighting president

Last month a rich, boastful alpha male savoured the greatest victory of his life in New York City. Almost no one thought he could do it, but he made it look easy. In the build-up he ridiculed his opponent mercilessly and feuded with enemies on Twitter. ‘I’d like to take this chance to apologise,’ he

Poles apart | 19 May 2016

Bono has a new opponent: Liroy, a tattooed Polish rapper whose hits include ‘Jak Tu Sie Nie Wkurwic’ (‘How can I not get pissed off?’). He was outraged when the U2 singer recently claimed that Poland is succumbing to ‘hyper-nationalism’. In an open letter Liroy wrote: ‘Your knowledge on this subject must be based on

Sorry — but Pope Francis is no liberal

[audioplayer src=’′ title=’Luke Coppen and Freddy Gray discuss Pope Francis’] Listen [/audioplayer]On the last day of 2013, one of the weirdest religious stories for ages appeared on the news wires. The Vatican had officially denied that Pope Francis intended to abolish sin. It sounded like a spoof, but wasn’t. Who had goaded the Vatican into

Thinking space

Martin Rees is sitting in the Master’s Lodge of Trinity College, Cambridge, with a laptop balanced on his knee. ‘I want to show you this,’ he says, tapping the keys with long, neat fingernails. Two red swirls appear on either side of the screen, gliding towards each other. When they meet it’s messy, like two

Get well, Adele

In his last months as prime minister, Gordon Brown sat down and wrote a fan letter to a young British singer-songwriter. ‘With the troubles that the country’s in financially,’ he told her, ‘you are a light at the end of the tunnel.’ Last weekend that light officially went out: Adele has suffered a career-threatening vocal

Unfair sex

Lana Lawless, a stocky blonde in her fifties, stepped up to the tee at the 2008 World Long Drive Championship and smashed the ball into a 40 mile per hour headwind. It landed 254 yards away, the length of two-and-a-half football pitches. With that swing, Lawless became women’s world champion. At the turn of the

Fight the good fight

A few Saturdays ago a stocky 32-year-old went to mass at the quaintly named Gaylord Texan Convention Center in Dallas, Texas. Later that day he had an altercation with a 34-year-old Ghanaian. Records show that he threw over 1,000 punches at the older man during a half-hour scuffle. Countless bystanders witnessed the brawl but not

Welcome to the age of Gaga

Unpredictable, spectacular, bold and contentious — Lady Gaga is the perfect pop star for the 21st century, says Luke Coppen In 1903, Rainer Maria Rilke wrote a letter to a young man who yearned to be a great artist. ‘In the deepest hour of the night,’ the German poet advised, ‘confess to yourself that you