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IMAGE: CNS photo/Henry Romero, ReutersBy Cindy WoodenVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis is scheduled to have morethan two hours alone with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow in Cubain addition to signing a declaration with the patriarch before flying on toMexico for a Feb. 12-17 visit.The Vatican announced the pope-patriarch meeting Feb. 5 and, on Feb. 8, released an updated itinerary for Pope Francis' trip. The pope will leave Rome almostfive hours earlier than originally scheduled so that the meeting in Havana withPatriarch Kirill will not impact his schedule in Mexico.Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, toldreporters that in addition to official events on the schedule in Mexico, thepapal motorcades are expected to be long and lively. For example, he said, theroute from the airport to the nunciature in Mexico City, where the pope willsleep, is about 12 miles, and people are expected to line most of the route whenhe arrives from Cuba.Five popemobiles will ...
IMAGE: CNS photo/Jose Luis Gonzalez, ReutersBy Junno Arocho EstevesVATICANCITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis said his reasons for going to Mexico are "easyand simple.""I want to come as a missionary of mercy andpeace," the pope said in a video message to the Mexican people released bythe Vatican Feb. 7. "I want to meet with you to profess our faith togetherand share a fundamental truth in our lives: that God loves us very much, thathe loves us with an infinite love, beyond our merits."The pope said he was "very happy" for hisapostolic visit Feb. 12-17 and that he carries the people of Mexico in hisprayers and in his heart."I want to be as close as possible to you, but in a specialway to those whosuffer, to hug them and tell them that Jesus loves them very much, that he isalways at their side," he said. One of his "greatest desires" during the six-dayvisit, he said, is to visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which housesthe image of Mary that was miraculously imprinted on the cloak ...
(Vatican Radio) Today, February 8, we mark the International Day of Prayer and Awarenesss Against Human Trafficking.Amongst the faith-based organizations whose mandate is to raise awareness about this global phenomenon, fight it and work with its victims is Caritas, the helping hand of the Catholic Church.Caritas offers humanitarian action and support in many fields, it also coordinates the work of COATNET  - Christian Organisations Against Trafficking in Human Beings - a network of 42 Christian groups around the world who fight human trafficking. This International Day of Prayer has been chosen to coincide with the feat of St. Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese woman who was sold into slavery, abused and finally freed becoming an icon of Christian hope and forgiveness.As Pope Francis himself has said again and again “human trafficking is a crime against humanity”, “an open wound of the body of contemporary society”, and COATNET believes that “th...
Sri Lanka's ethnic Tamil leaders on Sunday asked the top human rights official of the United Nations to ‎help determine the fate of more than 4,000 civilians reported missing in the country's long civil war ‎amid the government's assertion that most of them are probably dead.  ‎UN High Commissioner for ‎Human Rights,  Zeid Raad al-Hussein, met the chief minister of Sri Lanka's Northern Province, the ‎arena of the civil war, which ended in 2009.   Zeid arrived in Sri Lanka on Saturday on a four-day visit ‎aimed at reviewing the measures taken by the island nation to investigate alleged atrocities committed ‎during the long civil war that left tens of thousands dead.   ‎Both the Sri Lankan government and the defeated Tamil Tiger rebels are accused of serious human ‎rights violations. According to U.N. estimates, up to 100,000 people were killed in the 26-year war, but ‎many more are feared to have died, incl...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a greeting to the people of Mexico as they await his arrival telling them that he is travelling to the nation as a “missionary of mercy and peace”.Four days before the start of his apostolic journey to Mexico, the Pope sent a video message to those awaiting him.In the message, in his native Spanish, the Pope highlights the fact that he wants to embrace all Mexican people, especially those who suffer.He also speaks of his devotion for the Blessed Virgin and he expresses his joy at being able to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.   Listen to the report:  Please find below Vatican Radio’s translation of the Pope’s video message:Dear brothers and sisters,With not long to go before my visit to Mexico, I am happy, I feel great joy. In my prayers, I always have a thought for all Mexicans. I carry them in my heart. Now I will be able to visit them and tread the soil of this blessed land, so beloved by God...
(Vatican Radio) From February 12 to the 17th Pope Francis is set to visit Mexico in the footsteps of  two of his predecessors to the See of Peter, Saint John Paul II who travelled there five times and Benedict XVI once in 2012. An Apostolic journey which marks the fourth time Pope Francis visits Latin America, whose Bishops are represented in a body by the title of Episcopal Council of Latin America and the Caribbean, more popularly known as 'Celam'.The current  President of this body is Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez, Archbishop of Bogotà ColombiaAs we know Francis is the first Pontiff from Latin America and during his pontificate has kept in touch with representatives of this body which was first founded by Pope Pius XII in 1955. Veronica Scarisbrick delves into Vatican Radio's sound archives and comes up with recordings of this Pope’s radio message dating back to 1955, as well as sound relating to 'Celam' and the following pope...
Pope Francis on Monday appointed an auxiliary bishop to the diocese of Dhaka in Bangladesh.  Fr. Shorot ‎Francis Gomes, the Vicar General of the Diocese of Sylhet is the new Auxiliary Bishop of Dhaka.  He takes the place of Auxiliary Bishop Theotonius Gomes who retired in April 2014.    Born Dec. 15, 1965, in Hashnabad, Fr. Shorot Francis Gomes completed his primary and secondary schooling from Holy Cross Bandura and entered the Little Flower Minor Seminary in the capital Dhaka.  While at Dhaka's St. Joseph  Seminary, he studied for his B.A. degree at Notre Dame College.  In 1984 he began studying philosophy and theology at Holy Spirit Major Seminary.  After his ordination on May 31, 1990, he was assigned several posts such as parish priest of the Cathedral parish and of Nagari Church and rector of the Little Flower Minor Seminary, Bandura.  From 1998 to 2002 he was in Rome, where he obtained a doct...
WASHINGTON-The Office of General Counsel of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) filed an amicus curiae brief in the U.S. Supreme Court, February 1, on behalf of USCCB, the Texas Catholic Conference and several Christian partners in support of a Texas law mandating health and safety standards protecting women who undergo abortions. Other groups joining the brief include the National Association of Evangelicals, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. The case is Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, currently before the U.S. Supreme Court."There is ample evidence in this case that hospital admitting privileges and ambulatory surgical center requirements protect women's lives and health," said the brief. "When such requirements are not enforced, abuses detrimental to women's lives and health arise."The brief noted that some abortion clinics have decla...
 WASHINGTON-Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York called on everyone "concerned about the tragedy of abortion" to recommit to a "vision of life and love, a vision that excludes no one" on January 14. His statement marks the 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. Cardinal Dolan chairs the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops."Most Americans oppose a policy allowing legal abortion for virtually any reason - though many still do not realize that this is what the Supreme Court gave us," wrote Cardinal Dolan. "Most want to protect unborn children at later stages of pregnancy, to regulate or limit the practice of abortion, and to stop the use of taxpayer dollars for the destruction of unborn children. Yet many who support important goals of the pro-life movement do not identify as 'pro-life,' a fact which should lead us to examine how we present our pro-life vision to others.""Even as Americans rema...
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Saudi Arabia's offer to send troops to fight Islamic State in Syria is as much about the kingdom's growing determination to flex its military might as it is about answering U.S. calls for more help from its allies in the Middle East....
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