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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:

U.S. State Department releases annual report on human trafficking, downgrades Thailand and Venezuela


Human trafficking is a worldwide issue. It effects every single country. In the 2014 Trafficking in Persons report, the U.S. Department of State analyzed how severe the problem is. Given how often Pope Francis has talked about the issue, it's not surprise that his words and images appear in the report. 

U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See
"Pope Francis' engagement on the issue of fighting human trafficking is immensely important. He has raised the attention level of the world to this particular issue. FLASH The Vatican's attention, Pope's Francis specific interest in eliminating this scourge has done wonders to an issue that was maybe put aside in the past.”

All countries are ranked using a series of factors, including government and NGO data, and the network of American embassies. The countries are then divided into four tiers, the first is the best equipped to fight all forms of trafficking.

U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See
"There are few countries that have been raised in the report. Switzerland is one, Jordan, Haiti... Haiti, for instance passed a legislation that for the first time declared slavery as a crime. I mean, one would say: 'About time.' But nonetheless there is progress.”

The lowest of the tiers, the worst, includes 23 countries, located mainly in Africa and Asia. This year, the report downgraded both Thailand and Venezuela to the lowest tier

According to the report, the situation in Thailand is severe, but the government hasn't done enough. One trouble spot is forced labor in the country's fishing industry. It cites corrupt government officials as one of the greatest challenges.

The report also singled out Venezuela's lack of progress. It said that the country's tourism sector and location in the Caribbean make it prone to sex trafficking; and it noted the exploitation of nearly 30,000 Cuban doctors and nurses brought in, in exchange for cheap oil to Cuba.

For the 12th year, the U.S. State Department included Somalia as a special case. The government controls little territory, and violence from Islamists, plus piracy at sea, make it hard to tackle human trafficking. 

The 23 countries at the bottom tier, could face sanctions by the U.S. Government. But rankings aside, the report also noted that all countries, including the United States, can still do more to fight human trafficking.