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Quake aftermath continues to torment ancient town of Amatrice as the death toll rises

August 25, 2016. Rescue teams continue to work tirelessly with the hope of finding new survivors, but the number of deaths will increase as there are still dozens missing. Italy's civil protection agency has announced that 190 have dead in the affected areas in the province of Rieti are overcome, while 57 were killed in the province of Ascoli. During the night, there have been up to 60 new tremors of between 3 and 4 degrees of magnitude. Rescuers worked overnight in the most affected Arquata del Tronto, Pescada< g> del Tronto, Accumoli< g> and Amatrice. The most dramatic situation exists in Amatrice, the largest municipality affected, and where 2,000 people live, but in the summer months doubles its population with vacationers and many tourists who had come to enjoy the weekend party pasta "amatriciana,” a dish that has its origins here. More than 1,000 people have been displaced by the quake.
World

Grand Ayatollah to Pope Francis: “Thank you for saying Islam is not equal to terrorism”

August 22, 2016. Grand Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi sent a letter to Pope Francis to thank him for his words on the flight back from Poland, a few weeks ago: "It is not right to say that Islam is a terrorist faith.” In his letter, the Shia religious leader has strongly condemned terrorist attacks from fundamentalist Islamic groups. He has also stated that "the vast majority of the Musilm people consider all Takfiri sects to be outside the fold of Islam.” Makarem Shirazi is one of the 64 Grand Ayatollahs in Shia Islam and, as such, one of the highest authorities in matters of Islamic dogma and law.
World

Pope conveys “solidarity and spiritual closeness” for the victims of wildfire in Portugal

August 16, 2016. The fire has killed at least five people and caused hundreds to evacuate their homes. The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin addressed a letter, on behalf of Pope Francis, to the bishop of Funchal, Antonio Carrilho. The letter was read during the celebration of Holy Mass for Our Lady of the Mount, Patroness of Funchal. In the letter, Pope Francis expressed his condolences and sorrow over the loss of life and property in the Portuguese island of Madeira, where wildfires have killed at least five people and caused hundreds to evacuate their homes. Pope Francis conveys "solidarity and spiritual closeness” for the victims and those displaced by the wildfires and prayed for the wounded and asked them to have "courage and consolation in Christian hope” for all involved.
World

Pope sends condolences to North America in wake of Hurricane Earl

August 9, 2016. Pope Francis sent his prayers and condolences to the victims in the wake of Hurricane Earl through a message sent by the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin. The hurricane killed at least 45 people in Mexico and 13 in the Dominican Republic and caused an estimated $50 million in damage.
World

Pope sends his condolences following attack that killed 70 people at a hospital in Pakistan

August 9, 2016. The terrorist attack at Quetta Hospital killed dozens of lawyers and left 120 others injured.
Pope Francis

Pope Francis officially establishes the commission to study the diaconate of women

August 2, 2016. Six women and six men will study the diaconate of women "with regard to the first ages of the Church.”
Vatican

Federico Lombardi appointed new president of The Ratzinger Foundation

Aug. 1, 2016. Today Fr. Lombardi officially ceases to be director of the Vatican Press Office and becomes the president of The Ratzinger Foundation. Father Federico Lombardi will chair the board of the Vatican foundation established by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010. Until now it was run by president Monsignor Giuseppe Scotti. The Ratzinger Foundation promotes the study of theology, organizes cultural and scientific congresses and rewards the work of scholars and researchers in different fields.

A look at the sticking points between Israelis and Palestinians

2014-06-07

On his return from the Holy Land, Pope Francis brought with him a historic agreement: a meeting between the presidents of Israel and Palestine at the Vatican to pray together for peace.

POPE FRANCIS
May 25, 2014
"In this site, where the Prince of Peace was born, I would like to invite you, President Mahmuod Abbas, and President Shimon Peres, to come together and join me in intense prayer and asking God for the gift of peace. I offer my home at the Vatican to host this meeting of prayer.”

Both leaders accepted the invitation. The Pope made it clear the meeting was not a negotiation, but rather a moment to pray for peace. If anything, it will be a time to bring both sides together after the peace talks between the two countries stalled.

FRANCESCO BONINI
Professor, LUMSA
"The gesture from Pope Francis, and the confirmation from both presidents and the ecumenical patriarch for this prayer give way to large margins for hope, because only a creative and trustworthy effort will solve this extraordinary, complex and fascinating issue.”

One of the most contested points deals with the status of Jerusalem. Both countries claim the Holy City as their capital. But the main debate is centered over control of the historic area, located in East Jerusalem.

FRANCESCO BONINI
Professor, LUMSA
"Israelis control it, and it's the capital of the State of Israel. But it has the potential to become the capital of an independent Palestinian state, but it hasn't been fully recognized by the international community. It's a giant diplomatic puzzle.”

Another trouble spot in negotiations is the establishment of internationally recognized borders, and the mutual recognition of the two independent States. Pope Francis pressed the latter during his trip to the Holy Land.

FRANCESCO BONINI
Professor, LUMSA
"Palestine's institutional and democratic identity is strongly debated, because at this moment, it's in the midst of a liberation movement, a product of a 'revolutionary' process to achieve independence.”

Pope Francis is aware of the importance that stability in the Middle East has on a global scale, as well as to sustain Christian populations in the Land of Christ. As a result, he decided to harvest the power of prayer as a tool to help ease the tensions that have seized the region since the start of the 20th Century.


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