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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.”
Pope Francis

Pope will not be able to travel to Israel on Friday to attend the funeral of Shimon Peres

September 28, 2016. Despite the rumors that Pope Francis will travel to Israel to attend Shimon Peres funeral, the Vatican has issued a statement officially announcing a confirmation for the pope's scheduled visit to Georgia and Azerbaijan will remain as planned on Friday. The pope spoke warmly about the former leader and sent out a telegram of condolences:

Non-partisan group lobbies U.S. government to press Turkey for greater religious freedom


The Hagia Sophia stands as one of the most imposing monuments to history and religion worldwide. As a museum, it guards its storied past. But all that could change if the Turkish government gives in to internal pressure to change it back into a mosque.

Chair, U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom
"It would send a message that the current government views the sensitivities of Turkey's religious minorities, and in particular its ancient Christian community, as being of no real consequence.”

The U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom considers the move "provocative.” Already, Turkey's prime minister and his ruling party face growing criticism, describing him as an authoritarian who wants to get rid of the country's strictly-enforced secular status. Recent moves, for example restricting sites like YouTube and Twitter, don't help his reputation.

Chair, U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom
"There's been a downward turn in the last year for a number of human rights in Turkey, including the right to internet usage, the right to privacy, and the right to freedom of assembly. And this has had a negative effect on all Turkish citizens, including certainly, the smallest communities.”

The status of the Hagia Sophia mirrors the plight of the country's Christians. For 900 years, the basilica-turned-mosque-turned Museum served as the spiritual center of the Eastern Orthodox Church. 

Today, the presence of Christianity is threatened. Unless the government reopens the Greek-Orthodox seminary, Bartholomew could be its last Ecumenical Patriarch.

Chair, U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom
"We hope that Turkey will move in a positive direction and improve religious freedom, including reopening the Halki Seminary after years of promises that they would do that.” 

In its annual report on religious freedom, the Commission urged the U.S. Government to "fully engage” Turkey, to protect the rights of religious minorities and to grant them full autonomy. 

The Turkish prime minister's response to change the Hagia Sophia into a mosque has been lukewarm. He has said that nearby mosques are often empty and should be filled before considering any changes. The U.S. Commission and critics said such a move would detracts from the country's rich history and its tradition as a religiously plural democracy.