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Pope Francis

Nicolás Maduro meets with the pope in surprise visit to Rome

October 24, 2016. Pope Francis met with Venezuelan president, Nicolás Maduro. The private visit took place in the midst of the "worrysome political, social, and economic situation the country is going through, which is having serious repercussins in the daily life of the people,” according to a statement from the Vatican.

Holy See and Vietnam begin their 6th bilateral meeting today

October 24, 2016. The sixth meeting between the Holy See and a delegation of Vietnam begins today to improve relations between the two states. The Vatican delegation is headed by Antoine Camilleri, while the head of the Vietnamese delegation is Bui Thanh Son, with Foreign Affairs. The last meeting between the two state delegations was in September 2014.
Pope Francis

Pope to award 2016 Ratzinger Prize to Inos Biffi and Ioannis Kourempeles

October 20, 2016. The winners of this year's Ratzinger Prize will be Inos Biffi and Ioannis Kourempeles. The former, an Italian priest, is an expert in Systematic Theology and History of Medieval Theology. The latter is Greek and an Orthodox. He is an expert in History of Dogmas and Dogmatic Theology. He will be the first Orthodox to be awarded the prize given by the Joseph Ratzinger Foundation, considered by many the Nobel Prize of Theology.
Pope Francis

Pope Francis sends his condolences to Thais after the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej

October 14, 2016. Pope Francis has sent a message to the Prime Minister of Thailand to express his condolences for the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. He was 88 years old, and his reign spanned seven decades. Pope Francis said he is "deeply saddened” and he expresses his closeness to the members of the royal family and the Thai people.
Pope Francis

Pope sends 100,000 dollars for Hurricane Matthew victims

October 14, 2016. Through the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum", Pope Francis will send $100,000 to the victims of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti. The money will fund relief efforts in the first stages of recovery after the devastating effects of the hurricane. With this gesture, the pope wants to express his "closeness of spirit and fatherly support” to everyone in the affected area.
Pope Francis

Pope authorizes new decrees of heroic virtues for four potential saints

October 11, 2016. Pope Francis authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate the decree of heroic virtues to four people, who are being investigated by the Church for possible sainthood. The decrees were given to the following "Servants of God:”
Pope Francis

Pope Francis rejects death penalty on Twitter: #NoDeathPenalty

October 10, 2016. The Pope has has given his support via Twitter to the World Day Against the Death Penalty. The following message can be read in each of his nine accounts, in their respective languages: "Punishment should necessarily include hope! #NoDeathPenalty.”
Pope Francis

Pope Francis announces Synod about youth and vocation

October 6, 2016. It will be held in 2018 under the name "Youth, faith, and vocational discernment.” Preparations for the second Synod of bishops convened by Pope Francis are well underway.

Theme chosen for 2017 World Communications Day

September 29, 2016. The theme for the 2017 World Communications Day has officially been announced. Coming from the book of Isiah, the theme is: "Fear not, for I am with you: communicating hope and trust in our time.”

U.S. Commission singles out worst countries to worship freely


The latest report from an American religious freedom watchdog listed the 26 worst countries that prosecute their citizens based on religion. Once again Asia dominated the report, but several African countries also made the list. Many of the nations have persecuted, minority Christian populations. 

The U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom issued their 2014 report, and divided the countries into three groups. The first includes the worst offenders, officially designated by the U.S. Government as "countries of particular concern,” and which face some type of sanctions.

They include Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan. Sudan, in particular, made headlines recently when a judge sentenced 27-year-old Miriam Yahya Ibrahim to death for apostasy. The  mother-to-be was born into a Muslim family, but married a Christian. Her husband, a U.S. Citizen, said they will appeal her sentence.

The second group is made up countries that the non-partisan commission says should also be designated as worst offenders by the U.S. State Department, and face government sanctions. The list is made up Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam.

The inclusion of Nigeria is no surprise either. Christian communities in the country's north are constantly attacked by Islamist militant group Boko Haram. The Nigerian government has been under scrutiny, after the terrorist group kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls in April.

The third list is made up of ten countries included in the commission's Tier 2 category. These countries are classified as tolerating religious persecution, but not to the extent and severity to merit government sanctions. The ten nations include Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia, Russia, and Turkey. 

Though not officially included on the list, the commission also discussed several other countries where they determined religious freedom was under attack. Although not a country, the commission singled out Western Europe. They said the region has put in place controversial laws on religious dress and practices like ritual slaughter. They also pointed out the lack of accommodation for conscientious objectors to certain laws, like gay marriage, based on their religious views. 

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