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Sunday, March 1, 2015
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 Pope  Francis encourages mission of Italy's co-op movement
Pope Francis encourages mission of Italy's co-op movement

Pope Francis held an audience with 7,000 members of the Confederazione Cooperative Italiane (confederation of Italian co-operatives) today. During the meeting he gave them five practical suggestions for their mission in the context of the current "throwaway culture". First, the Holy Father said, co-operatives must continue to be “the motor that uplifts and develops the weakest parts of our local communities and civil society.” Their first priority is to establish new co-ops, while developing existing ones, so as to create new employment opportunities, especially among youth,

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Holy Land: Arson attack on Jerusalem seminary
Holy Land: Arson attack on Jerusalem seminary

In the early hours today, Thursday 26 February, an arson attack damaged the Greek-Orthodox Patriarchate's Theological Seminary of Jerusalem, not far from the Old Town. The fire devastated a hall of the seminar and some annexes. The unknown attackers also wrote blasphemous sentences against Christ on the walls, in Hebrew. No one was injured. The attack was immediately condemned in a statement by the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land.

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Despite financial crisis, generous Spaniards increase donations to missions
Despite financial crisis, generous Spaniards increase donations to missions

Although people in Spain are coping with great financial problems - the country has more than 23% unemployment - donations to the Pontifical Mission Societies of Spain are 19.52% higher than they were last year. "We thank the generosity of the Spanish and all the volunteers, who with their work of animation and missionary cooperation have inspired the Spanish with generosity," National Director of the PMS in Spain, Father Anastasio Gil García told Fides. He said the increase was due to collections made in parishes .. the "small offerings of the faithful"

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Holy Land: Christian volunteers escort kindergarten children to school
Holy Land: Christian volunteers escort kindergarten children to school

Christian Peacemaker Team volunteers have begun escorting Palestinian children as young as four to school each day, to protect them from harassment by soldiers and illegal settlers. The Red Crescent Kindergarten School is well equipped with carpeted floors, multiple rooms for playing and learning, as well as all the supplies needed to teach and entertain the youngsters. Most importantly, it has caring teachers dedicated to their young pupils. In 2000, the school had ten teachers and 90 students, but now 

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Viewpoint:  Phyllis Zagano reflects on clerical attitudes towards women
Viewpoint: Phyllis Zagano reflects on clerical attitudes towards women

American Catholic journalist and writer Phyllis Zagano reflects on Lent, the bureaucracy in the Catholic Church and clerical attitudes towards women, in her commentary, entitled The Twilight Zone, published today in the National Catholic Reporter....  She writes: ''' Christians are moving through Lent gently, turning away from sin and toward the Gospel. But the bureaucracy chugs along in its own dimension, ignoring the retrograde backdrop, unknowing of the ways 

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Homeless man buried in Vatican City
Homeless man buried in Vatican City

Willy Herteleer, a homeless man who was a familiar face around the Vatican, has been buried in the old German Cemetery within Vatican City State. He was around 80 years old. He died on December 12 last year. Willy, who is thought to have been Belgian, attended daily Mass in Sant’Anna parish in the Vatican and spent his days and nights on the streets around St Peter's Square, Borgo Pio and Via di Porta Angelica. The pastor of Sant’Anna in the Vatican, Father Bruno Silvestrini, dedicated the Nativity Scene at Christmas to Willy, adding 

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US Bishops urge greater protection of Middle East religious minorities
US Bishops urge greater protection of Middle East religious minorities

In the wake of the brutal murders of 21 Coptic Christians at the hands of IS in Libya, increased support to protect religious minorities and civilians should be combined with adequate humanitarian assistance and other assets, said the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace. “Pope Francis and the Holy See have reiterated on a number of occasions that it is ‘licit’ to use force to stop these unjust aggressors and to protect religious minorities and civilians from these horrendous attacks,”

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US Catholic & Evangelical agencies voice concern over new unaccompanied children rule
US Catholic & Evangelical agencies voice concern over new unaccompanied children rule

An interim final rule published by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) of the US Department of Health and Human Services risks harmful effects on unaccompanied children resettled by the United States, according to comments filed by Catholic and Evangelical organizations and relief agencies. At issue is whether the rule adequately accounts for the religious and moral concerns of faith-based organizations. Regulations that may force those agencies to restrict their work could create an unmanageable backlog for services.

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Scotland: Catholic Church endorses Jewish call for end to anti-Semitism
Scotland: Catholic Church endorses Jewish call for end to anti-Semitism

The Catholic Church in Scotland has endorsed the all-party statement condemning anti-Semitism and released by the Jewish community today. Bishop John Keenan, Bishop of Paisley said: "In 1965, Pope Paul VI in the document Nostra Aetate proclaimed; "in her rejection of every persecution against any man, the Church, mindful of the patrimony she shares with the Jews and moved not by political reasons but by the Gospel's spiritual love, decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism,

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Syria: Extremists seize Christian towns
Syria: Extremists seize Christian towns

Extremist terror group Islamic State has attacked Christian villages in north-east Syria. The assault took place yesterday (Monday, 23rd February) targeting Assyrian villages in the Khabour region of Syria’s Hassake governorate. Archimandrite Emanuel Youkhana spoke to a contact in Hassake city where around 400 families have fled following the advance of IS. “Bishop Mar Aprem Athniel… told me the church and community hall are overloaded with the people and they are now [sending] them to the families in Hassake city.”

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Syria: IS attacks Christian villages, kidnaps 'dozens' of people
Syria: IS attacks Christian villages, kidnaps 'dozens' of people

In the early hours of yesterday morning, Monday 23 February, more than 40 pick-up vehicles carrying jihadist militia of the so-called Islamic State attacked several Christian villages along the river Khabur, in the north eastern Syrian province of Jiazira. Dozens of Syrian Christians were taken hostage by the jihadists, while churches in some villages were torched or damaged. The Syrian-Catholic Archbishop of Hassaké-Nisibi, Jacques Behnan Hindo said:

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 Israeli settlers destroy 36 olive trees in South Hebron Hills
Israeli settlers destroy 36 olive trees in South Hebron Hills

On the morning of February 20, Palestinians in the South Hebron Hills awoke to find that 36 olive trees had been cut or seriously damaged during the night, probably by Israeli settlers. The 25 year-old trees, owned by Hushiy family from Yatta, were located near the village of Qawawis, in the South Hebron Hills, between the Israeli illegal outpost of Mitzpe Yair and the Israeli settlement of Suseya, beside Bypass road 317. This is the third incident of Israeli settler 'price tag' vandalism against the Palestinian inhabitants of the South Hebron Hills in the last two months.

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Lebanon:  Syrian-Catholic Patriarch opens centenary commemoration of Assyrian genocide
Lebanon: Syrian-Catholic Patriarch opens centenary commemoration of Assyrian genocide

Syrian-Catholic Patriarch Mar Ignace Youssef III opened commemorations to mark the centenary of the Assyrian Genocide, presiding in the evening of Saturday 21 February a liturgical celebration at Our Lady of the Annunciation Cathedral in Beirut. The 'Assyrian genocide' refers to the deportation and physical elimination of Christians belonging to Assyrian, Chaldean and Syriac communities in Ottoman territory at the hands of the Young Turks government.

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Pope Francis and Curia members begin Lenten retreat
Pope Francis and Curia members begin Lenten retreat

Pope Francis and other members of the Roman Curia began their annual spiritual retreat on the first Sunday of Lent yesterday. The retreat is taking place in the town of Ariccia, in the Pauline Fathers Casa Divin Maestro centre,  about 20 miles south of Rome. The Pope is staying there, along with other members of the Roman Curia, from Sunday to Friday. The priest who is leading the spiritual exercises is Carmelite Father Bruno Secondin. The reflections will focus on the roots of the Christian faith and the inner strength to live it out consistently.

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 EU Bishops: 'Surrogate motherhood is a violent assault on human dignity'
EU Bishops: 'Surrogate motherhood is a violent assault on human dignity'

Surrogacy has become a booming industry across the world. This is true both in developed and less developed countries. It represents a serious violation of the human dignity and basic fundamental rights of the woman and of the child. It involves trafficking in human beings for reproductive purposes. No common rules have been so far adopted at the EU level, although there are common ethical and legal grounds among Member States for tackling this phenomenon. The Working Group on Ethics in Research and Healthcare of COMECE

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Afghanistan: Taliban release kidnapped  Jesuit priest
Afghanistan: Taliban release kidnapped Jesuit priest

A Jesuit priest who was abducted by the Taliban in Afghanistan eight months ago, was freed over the weekend. Father Alexis Prem Kumar, 47, arrived at New Delhi airport last night. He told reporters that India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi was responsible for for his release. He said: "It is because of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that I am here. He saved me. This evening, he talked to me when I was at the Kabul Airport. Possibly, he took a lot of interest in rescuing me."

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Pope Francis: Lent is a time when we battle against evil
Pope Francis: Lent is a time when we battle against evil

In his address to pilgrims in St Peter's Square on Sunday, Pope Francis reflected on how Jesus went into the solitude of the wilderness for 40 days where he successfully overcame temptations in “a hand-to-hand combat” with Satan. And through his victory over Satan, he said, “we have all triumphed but we need to protect this victory in our daily lives.” The Holy Father went on to explain how in the wilderness we can listen to God’s voice and that of the tempter. And we listen to God’s voice through his words and that why it’s important to read the Holy Scriptures

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Pope renews call for conversion for members of organized crime
Pope renews call for conversion for members of organized crime

People involved in organized crime or who deliberately carry out acts of violence against others or the environment cannot call themselves Christian, Pope Francis said in a speech on Saturday to pilgrims from the Diocese of Cassano all’Jonio, who had travelled to Rome on a ‘return visit’ to thank the Holy Father. In June last year, Pope Francis made a one day visit to the diocese in the southern Italian region of Calabria which has been deeply scarred by the local organized crime group, the 'Ndrangheta'. During that visit 

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 Coptic Church recognizes martyrdom of 21 Coptic Christians
Coptic Church recognizes martyrdom of 21 Coptic Christians

The Coptic Orthodox Church has announced that the murder of the 21 Egyptian Christians killed by the so-called Islamic State in Libya will be commemorated in its Church calendar. Pope Tawadros II announced that the names of the martyrs will be inserted into the Coptic Synaxarium, the Oriental Church’s equivalent to the Roman Martyrology. This procedure is also equivalent to canonization in the Latin Church.  According to terrasanta.net news service, the martyrdom of the 21 Christians will be commemorated on

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Australia:  SVP  welcomes report on refugee children in detention
Australia: SVP welcomes report on refugee children in detention

The St Vincent De Paul Society National Council of Australia has welcomed a report by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) on refugee children held in detention. Australia currently holds about 800 children in mandatory closed immigration detention for indefinite periods, with no pathway to protection or settlement. This includes 186 children detained on Nauru. Children and their families have been held on the mainland and on Christmas Island for, on average, one year and two months. More than 167 babies have been born in detention within the last 24 months.

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Norfolk: New Church consecrated
Norfolk: New Church consecrated

A new church dedicated to the Jesuit martyr St Henry Morse SJ has been consecrated in Norfolk. Right Reverend Alan Hopes, the Bishop of East Anglia, blessed the baptismal font and the altar before sprinkling the building and congregation with holy water and placing holy relics in the altar. In addition, 12 consecration crosses were specially commissioned from local craftsman and parishioner Peter Dunsmore, who also designed and built the church benches. Around 150 people attended the ceremony on Tuesday evening at the church in Shelfanger Road, Diss. 

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Pope Francis receives German Chancellor Angela Merkel
Pope Francis receives German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Pope Francis received German Chancellor Angela Merkel in private audience on Saturday. An official statement said the cordial exchange between the two leaders focused on the fight against poverty and international crises, including the conflict in eastern Ukraine. It also revealed that the wide-ranging talks touched on topics such as the alleviation of poverty, the role of women in developing countries, equality, and Germany's agenda for the upcoming G7 Summit in the southern German state of Bavaria in June.

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Brother of slain Egyptian Christians prays for their killers
Brother of slain Egyptian Christians prays for their killers

The brother of two of the 21 Coptic Christians murdered by Islamic State in Libya, used live television to thank their killers for including the men’s declaration of faith in the video of their execution. Christian channel SAT-7 ARABIC has become a mouthpiece for the families of the young men over the last six weeks since they were first abducted. Beshir called into SAT-7's weekly live worship and prayer programme, We Will Sing, on Tuesday night.

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Pope Francis: Never use God as a cover for injustice
Pope Francis: Never use God as a cover for injustice

During at Casa Santa Marta on Friday morning, Pope Francis used his homily to reflect on how Christians, especially during Lent, should not confine themselves to outside signs of piety like fasting and charity and instead must reach out to those in need. He said Jesus wants from us a fasting that breaks the evil chains, frees those who are oppressed, clothes those who are naked and carries out justice. This, he said, is true fasting,

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Holy See at  UN: Social development must be ethical, moral, person-centred
Holy See at UN: Social development must be ethical, moral, person-centred

Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Holy See Permanent Observer at the UN in New York highlighted the Holy See's concerns regarding economic growth in his address to the 53rd Session of the Commission for Social Development on 10 February. Development has led to new challenges and has not benefited everyone in society equally, he said. Significant inequalities remain and many of the most vulnerable groups in society have been left behind. Without addressing these inequalities, especially as we transition into the post 2015 development agenda,

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