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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:
Pope Francis

Pope's schedule during his trip to Sweden

September 27, 2016. Pope Francis will travel to Sweden next October 31 and November 1, for the occasion of the Lutheran–Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation.This will be the 17th trip of his pontificate.

Third priest found dead in Mexico

September 26, 2016.Mexican priest, Alfredo Lopez Guillen, was found dead this weekend on a rural road about 350 km east of Mexico City, after being allegedly abducted and assaulted in his parish on Monday September 19. This is the third case of violence against priests in Mexico in just one week. On Monday, September 19, Fr. Nabor Jiménez and Fr. José Alfredo Juarez were also kidnapped in the church of Our Lady of Fatima. Hours later they found them lifeless in a ditch in Poza Rica, Veracruz. The Catholic Church wants clarification on the murders, because it is not yet known who could be the alleged perpetrators.
Pope Francis

Holy See adopts UN Convention against Corruption

September 23, 2016. Pope Francis has asked the Vatican to be exemplary in the fight against corruption and meet the set international standards in this regard. Therefore, the Secretary of State has announced that the Holy See will conform to the Merida Convention against Corruption. This requires countries to implement anti-corruption measures concerning its laws, institutions and practices. From now on, the Roman Curia and the Vatican City State will review its administrative procedures to align them to the standards set by the Convention. Through this compliance, the Vatican says it hopes to contribute to increased transparency and proper management of public affairs in the international community.

PEOPLE OF THE YEAR 2014: Persecuted Christians in Iraq


It's a tragedy ROME REPORTS witnessed firsthand. Iraqi Christians forced out of their homes under the threat of being killed. Just a few years ago, there were roughly 2 million Christians in Iraq. Now there are less than 250,000. It was never easy to be Christian in the country, but even as a religious minority, Christians played an important role in Iraqi  society. 

Going back home, seems like a fading possibility. The aggression of ISIS terrorists still lingers in their memories. But despite all the violence, their faith is still very much alive.  

"We have great faith in God, our Father, and we will keep it now and when we go back home.”

"With the help of God, we keep hope alive. Above everything else, the hope of going back to Qaraqosh.” 

More than 400,000 people have fled to Northern Iraq. In just a few weeks, about 70,000 arrived to the city of Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan, an autonomous region in Iraq. 

They've lost everything and they live under these conditions. The yard of a local parish, was turned into an improvised refugee camp overnight. Here alone, there are roughly 160 families living under 64 tents. They've been here for five months and the situation isn't getting any better. 

Pastor Mar Yusef
"We have Christmas now but the problem will be after Christmas when all the lights are gone. What will we do after?”

Chaldean Patriarch
"It is a miserable situation. You have ten people living in a small place, without employment. The psychological pressure is terrible.”

In these conditions, it's difficult to envision a Christmas celebration. Sarmad Kallo is a Dominican friar who was forced to flee from Qaraqosh. Now he is a refugee from Erbil. Just like Jesus was persecuted at birth, he says even newborn Christians are targeted. 

Dominican Friar
"Christianity is born in a manger. Jesus was born poor and we too are poor.  If you think about it, Christmas is right here with us. Christ will be born among us. He will rise from this poverty we are living. He was the Savior, but He was also persecuted. Now we are being persecuted for believing in Him and his message. So this year,  we will truly experience Christmas.” 

The dramatic changes are even seen in this shopping center. The Ainkawa Mall, was built for shopping, but now it's a makeshift refugee camp. It provides shelter for more than 400 families who lost everything. They share a bathroom and they huddle around small rooms with dim lights. Many of these Christians are from Mosul where for the first time in more than 1500 years, the parish bells can no longer ring. 

"We are from Mosul. At 6.00 am we received a  message. We could either pay a tax for being Christian, or we would be decapitated. We were forced to leave and when we reached the border, everything was stolen from us...our cars, our money, everything.” 

The territory ISIS has taken over, in Syria and Iraq equates to the size of Jordan. Along the way, they have killed, threatened and persecuted Christians. 

These refugees have lost it all, except hope and faith. In that, they've found the strength to carry on, even amid the darkness.