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  • Pope thanks people for prayers for his family after deadly crash

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis, in mourning for the deaths of his nephew's wife and two small children, thanked people at his weekly general audience Aug. 20 for their prayers. After each of the priests who translate the pope's words offered him condolences for the tragedy that struck his family, Pope Francis explained to the people: "The pope has a family, too. We were five siblings, and I have 16 nieces and nephews. One of these nephews was in an accident. His wife died along with his two small children -- one who was 2 years old and the other several months."

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  • Elderly Iraqi Christians defy terrorists, flee to camp

    MANCHESTER, England (CNS) -- A group of 11 sick, disabled and elderly Iraqi Christians --including an 80-year-old woman with breast cancer -- defied terrorists who ordered them to convert to Islam or be beheaded, saying they preferred death to giving up their faith.

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  • Former sex slave says she still feels impact of meeting with pope

    SEOUL, South Korea (CNS) -- A day after Pope Francis left South Korea, a former sex slave who spent a few minutes with the pontiff said she still felt the impact of their meeting. In an interview with Catholic News Service, Kim Bok-dong, 88, said through an interpreter she told Pope Francis she wished for "a world without war." And then she asked him to urge the Japanese government, "'Please apologize to the victims and then resolve the comfort women issues.'"

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  • Pope talks airstrikes in Iraq, his health, possible U.S. visit

    ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM SEOUL, South Korea (CNS) -- Pope Francis said the use of force can be justified to stop "unjust aggressors" such as Islamic State militants in northeastern Iraq, but he declined to endorse U.S. military airstrikes against the militants and said such humanitarian interventions should not be decided on by any single country.

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  • Cardinal, patriarch call for international action to liberate Iraq

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis' personal envoy to the suffering people of Iraq joined the Chaldean Catholic patriarch in launching an appeal to the international community Aug. 18, pleading for help to liberate villages controlled by the Islamic State terrorists and to provide the displaced with international protection.

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  • Pope tells Asians to witness to Christ in all aspects of life

    SEOSAN, South Korea (CNS) -- Pope Francis told young Asian Catholic leaders to witness to Christ in everything they do. During his homily on the muddy grounds of Haemi Fortress, Pope Francis urged more than 40,000 people -- including young Catholic leaders from 22 Asian countries -- to "reflect God's love." He reminded them it was their "right and duty to take part in the life of (their) societies."

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  • Pope calls on Catholics to dialogue with China, other Asian societies

    SEOUL, South Korea (CNS) -- Speaking at the execution site of anonymous Korean martyrs, Pope Francis told Catholic bishops and young laypeople from across Asia to evangelize their continent through dialogue and openness, even with others suspicious or intolerant of the church. But he also urged them to challenge aspects of their cultures incompatible with Christian values.

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  • 800,000 watch as pope moves 124 Korean martyrs closer to sainthood

    SEOUL, South Korea (CNS) -- Pope Francis placed 124 Korean martyrs on the last step toward sainthood in a beatification Mass Aug. 16 that brought elation to the 800,000 people in attendance. The sun was searing as Bishop Francis Ahn Myong-ok of Masan, president of the commission for the beatification, asked the pope to pronounce the martyrs blessed. After hearing a brief collective biography of 124 of the original founders of the Korean Catholic Church, Pope Francis pronounced the formula of beatification.

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  • Asian youths inspired after pope spends extra time with them

    DANGJIN, South Korea (CNS) -- About 6,000 young people from 30 Asian countries had Pope Francis all to themselves for several hours Aug. 15. The youths said they felt inspired after Pope Francis went off script to answer questions from pre-selected participants, watched a re-enactment of a modern-day prodigal son and also sat down to lunch with a small group at the Asian Youth Day conference in the Daejeon Diocese.

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  • Pope says forgiveness key to reconciling divided Korea

    SEOUL, South Korea (CNS) -- Addressing young people from Korea and other Asian countries on their concerns about the future, Pope Francis said the best hope for reunification of the divided Korean peninsula lay in brotherly love and a spirit of forgiveness.

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  • At stadium Mass, pope tells Koreans to resist materialism

    SEOUL, South Korea (CNS) -- Celebrating Mass before some 50,000 people, Pope Francis prayed that Christian values overcome demoralization in economically successful societies. "The hope held out by the Gospel is the antidote to the spirit of despair that seems to grow like cancer in societies which are outwardly affluent yet often experience inner sadness and emptiness," the pope said Aug. 15 in his homily at the World Cup Stadium in Daejeon.

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  • Iraqi Christians beginning to die in hot, crowded camps, witnesses say

    MANCHESTER, England (CNS) -- Iraqi Christians driven from their homes by Islamic State fighters are beginning to die in crowded camps, witnesses claimed. Sahar Mansour, 40, who lectured in chemistry at the University of Mosul before she fled the city in June, said newborn babies, the sick and the elderly in the Ankawa refugee camp on the outskirts of Irbil are dying from diseases, thirst and malnutrition. Mansour now resides in the camp.

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  • Pope to U.N.: Act to end the tragedy in Iraq

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis formally asked U.N. agencies and the entire international community "to take action to end the humanitarian tragedy now underway" in northeastern Iraq. In a letter signed Aug. 9, but released by the Vatican only after it had been delivered, Pope Francis told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon immediate action was needed "to stop and to prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities."

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  • Christian patriarchs denounce silence on persecution in Mideast

    BEIRUT (CNS) -- Mideast Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs denounced the "total international silence" on the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and called for Muslim religious authorities to issue fatwas, or legal edicts, banning attacks against Christians and "other innocents."

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  • Iraqi minorities need more than material aid, cardinal says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The one thing Iraqi church leaders and aid workers, foreign charities and governments cannot do for the displaced and terrorized people of northeastern Iraq is answer their question, "What will become of us?" said Cardinal Fernando Filoni, the pope's envoy to the region.

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  • Families of Korean ferry accident appeal to Pope Francis for justice

    SEOUL, South Korea (CNS) -- Families of the victims of the April Sewol ferry accident appealed directly to Pope Francis for justice on the eve of his Aug. 14-18 visit. Under overcast skies and spitting rain at the plaza outside of Seoul City Hall, a handful of families asked the pontiff to help them get answers for why their children "had to die" the way they did. They have been pushing for a special law that would allow for an independent, transparent investigation into the accident and the pressing criminal charges against those they believe responsible for the accident off the country's southwestern coast that left 304 people dead, mostly high school students.

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  • On eve of pope's visit, Americans in South Korea build Catholic faith

    MANILA, Philippines (CNS) -- Maryknoll Sister Jean Maloney first arrived in South Korea to work as a nurse after the Korean War ended more than 50 years ago. Sister Jean, 84, described herself in those days as "a young sister full of vitality" who thought she was bringing the Christian faith so she could tell everyone about God.

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  • Campaigners Appeal to Pope to Draw Attention to North Korea

    Campaigners Appeal to Pope to Draw Attention to North Korea Underline Grave and Widespread Human Rights Violations in Country ROME, August 12, 2014 (Zenit.org) - Human rights groups campaigning for justice in North Korea have published a letter welcoming Pope Francis to the peninsula and appealing to him to draw attention to the grave abuses taking place in the country.

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  • Pope Francis Sends Video Message to Koreans

    VATICAN CITY, August 11, 2014 (Zenit.org) - Here is the text of the Pope Francis' video message broadcast by KBS in Korea in light of the Holy Father's forthcoming Apostolic Visit to the Republic of Korea for the 6th Asian Youth Day:

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  • Pope's finance chief talks Vatican reform

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis wants a "poor church for the poor," but that "doesn't necessarily mean a church with empty coffers," said Cardinal George Pell, "and it certainly doesn't mean a church that is sloppy or inefficient or open to being robbed."

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  • Portuguese face economic crisis with pragmatism, hope

    LISBON, Portugal (CNS) -- A restaurant maitre d' in Almada tells patrons about his recent return home after a long hospitality career in Belgium. A business conference planner in Luxembourg returns to the Lisbon coastal communities for birthday and family celebrations.

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  • CRS official: Gaza a 'complete catastrophe' on 'brink of collapse'

    AMMAN, Jordan (CNS) -- A top Catholic charity official described Gaza as a "complete catastrophe" after nearly four weeks of fighting between Israel and the Palestinian militant Hamas. "Gaza is on the brink of collapse at this point," said Matthew McGarry, who directs the Catholic Relief Services' operations in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem. He spoke to Catholic News Service in a phone interview from Jerusalem, describing the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, a coastal strip subject to Israeli airstrikes and artillery fire.

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  • Sign of peace at Mass: Vatican says it stays put, but urges education

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The sign of peace at Mass has not always led to serenity among liturgists or within the congregations gathered each Sunday in Catholic churches around the world. After nine years of study and consultation, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments has told Latin-rite bishops around the world that the sign of peace will stay where it is in the Mass.

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  • Desperation of people in Gaza spurs violence, say cardinal, patriarch

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The president of Caritas Internationalis suggested Israeli and Hamas leaders pick up a pair of binoculars so they could see that "most of your victims are innocent people." Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, president of the Vatican-based umbrella organization for national Catholic charities, said peace is impossible without reconciliation, and reconciliation requires recognizing each other as human beings.

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  • Free from ordeal in Sudan, woman condemned for apostasy meets pope

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Meeting a Sudanese woman who risked execution for not renouncing her Catholic faith, Pope Francis thanked Meriam Ibrahim for her steadfast witness to Christ. The pope spent 30 minutes with Ibrahim, her husband and two small children July 24, just hours after she had arrived safely in Italy following a brutal ordeal of imprisonment and a death sentence for apostasy in Sudan.

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  • U.S. Jesuit named next head of Jesuit Refugee Service

    ROME (CNS) -- Father Adolfo Nicolas, superior of the Jesuits, has named Thomas H. Smolich, outgoing president of the U.S. Jesuit Conference, to be the next director of Jesuit Refugee Service. The JRS international office in Rome announced the appointment July 29. Father Smolich will succeed German Jesuit Father Peter Balleis.

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  • In Jerusalem hospital, staff and family help Gaza trauma patients

    JERUSALEM (CNS) -- Since the death of his wife in an Israeli missile attack on their house in the Gaza Strip in late July, George Ayyad, 75, has been keeping vigil over his son Jeries, 31. Jeries Ayyad lay in the intensive care unit of St. Joseph Hospital. Second- and third-degree burns covered 90 percent of his body. Both legs were amputated, and he had serious brain trauma.

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  • Text said to evacuate, but Gaza parish staff had nowhere to go

    JERUSALEM (CNS) -- When the staff at the lone Catholic parish in the Gaza Strip received text warnings to evacuate the premises, they had nowhere to go. Father Raed Abusahlia, president of Caritas Jerusalem who has been in contact with the parish priest, told Catholic News Service that Father Jorge Hernandez of the Institute of the Incarnate Word and three nuns who live at the parish had nowhere to evacuate the 29 severely disabled children and nine elderly women in their care.

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  • Family, nuncio in Syria plead for news about kidnapped Jesuit

    ROME (CNS) -- On the eve of the first anniversary of the presumed kidnapping of an Italian Jesuit in Syria, his family posted a video on YouTube pleading for news about his whereabouts. "We would like to once again hold him in our arms; however, we also are prepared to mourn for him," said the message released by the family of Jesuit Father Paolo Dall'Oglio, who was last heard from July 29, 2013, in northern Syria.

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  • For some Mideast Catholics, church is anchor of hope amid violence

    BETHLEHEM, West Bank (CNS) -- As the death toll in Gaza surpasses 1,000, violent demonstrations in the West Bank leave dead and wounded, and an entire Christian community is exiled from the Iraqi city of Mosul by Islamic extremists, Christians in the Holy Land find themselves facing harsh realities.

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  • In El Salvador, priests work to fight influence of gangs

    TONACATEPEQUE, El Salvador (CNS) -- Gangs once menaced this bedroom community on the outskirts of San Salvador; residents would lock themselves in their homes after dark. The gangs charged residents extortion -- "rent" -- to live in Tonacatepeque and carried out killings in the community -- sometimes attacking residents; other times settling scores among themselves in the streets.

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  • Pope calls for prayers as militants chase all Christians out of Mosul

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As the last Iraqi Christians in Mosul fled the city, Pope Francis urgently called for prayers, dialogue and peace. "Violence isn't overcome with violence. Violence is conquered with peace," the pope said before leading thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square in a moment of silent prayer July 20.

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  • Stop targeting civilians, archbishop tells Israelis, Gaza fighters

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican representative to the U.N. Human Rights Council urged the Israeli military and fighters in the Gaza Strip to stop targeting civilian areas. "As the number of people killed, wounded, uprooted from their homes, continues to increase in the conflict between Israel and some Palestinian groups, particularly in the Gaza Strip, the voice of reason seems submerged by the blast of arms," Archbishop Silvano Tomasi said July 23 during a special session of the council in Geneva.

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  • Jerusalem patriarch: Don't punish all Gaza Palestinians because of Hamas

    WASHINGTON (CNS) -- It is impossible for Israeli military to target Hamas missiles without hitting civilians in the Gaza Strip, said Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem. People might not agree with Hamas, which controls Gaza, but "we cannot punish all the population because you do not agree with Hamas," he told Catholic News Service in Washington July 23.

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  • Vatican revising canon law on abuse penalties, cardinal says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Church law has procedures and penalties for effectively dealing with allegations of clerical sexual abuse, but the Vatican is working to revise a section of the Code of Canon Law to make those norms and procedures clearer and, therefore, more effective, said the president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.

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  • Expulsion of Christians a 'crime against humanity,' Mosul bishop says

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Backed up by death threats and property seizures, the expulsion of the entire Christian community from Mosul is "a crime against humanity," said an archbishop from Mosul. Chaldean Archbishop Amel Shamon Nona said the Islamic State, which took control of Iraq's second-largest city in early June, is carrying out "religious cleansing."

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  • Life and death under debate in the U.K.

    ROME, July 21, 2014 (Zenit.org) - A bill to legalize assisted suicide has been introduced into Britain's House of Lords by Lord Falconer, previously Lord Chancellor under Labour prime minister Tony Blair, and it is causing widespread debate.

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