In the latest issue of The New York Review of Books, Eamon Duffy creates a portrait of Pope Francis by reviewing three recent books on the pope: The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope by Austen Ivereigh, A Big Heart Open to God: A Conversation with Pope Francis by Antonio Spadaro, SJ, and Pope Francis: Untying the Knots by Paul Vallely. After reading Duffy's "Who Is Pope Francis?", take a look at our review of Ivereigh's The Great Reformer from our latest issue.

Today Obama will announce his proposals for the federal budget in 2016, and the Washington Post’s Federal Eye blog tells us what we should expect. CNN explains how the 10-year plan attempts to help the middle-class. The Boston Globe addresses GOP resistance to Obama’s approach to addressing income inequality. 

Over at the Guardian: a profile on how Silicon Valley culture is informing church plants geared to young tech company employees. In short, there are lots of screens involved.

Cubans are building new churches for the first time since the Cuban revolution, 56 years ago. Could Pope Francis's recent role in negotiations between the US and Cuba have had something to do with it?

In December, Cuban President Raul Castro thanked Pope Francis for his role in the secret talks that led to a prisoner swap between Cuba and the United States and the start of negotiations to restore full diplomatic relations.

In 2015, church officials said requests to build new churches that had long been ensnared in red tape began to receive government approval.

At The (new?) New Republic, Gerard Russell asks: Is Christianity Doomed in the Middle East?

In 1987, Christians in Iraq numbered 1.4 million. Since then, the country’s population has doubled but its Christian community has declined to 400,000.

And in case you missed it, read our review of Russell’s book which addresses similar issues, Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms.

Finally, a sporting event happened yesterday. Rebecca Leber looks at whether its ads were less sexist this year.

Maria Bowler is the former assistant digital editor of Commonweal. 

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