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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. official: Christians may be facing worst persecution in millenia


One of the topics Pope Francis discusses most often is the persecution of Christians in modern times. The Pope has said that this is one of the most dangerous eras in world history for some Christian groups.

March 4, 2014
"I tell you: today there are more martyrs than in the times of the Early Christians.”

And the Pope isn't exaggerating.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom recently released a report that describes violations of religious freedom in more than 30 countries throughout the world. The chair of the Commission said that Christians are facing some of the worst persecution in the history of the religion.

Chair, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom
"Well, Pope Francis is correct. We are witnessing levels of persecution of ancient Christian communities of the Middle East at levels that are something that we have not seen, one could almost say, in millenia. It's very disturbing and disheartening.” 

Non-state actors like Boko Haram or ISIS threaten Christians in the most visible way. But governments can also harm certain religious groups. Blasphemy laws in countries like Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt, Iran, and Saudi Arabia are an especially bad problem for believers and non-believers alike.

Chair, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom
"They continue to prosecute large numbers of people under blasphemy laws that are simply not sustainable under international standards of protection for religious freedom. They set up governments as arbiters of what are permissible beliefs and what aren't, what are permissible forms of expression and what are not.”

The report singled out the Central African Republic, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Tajikistan, and Vietnam for committing "particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”

But the information in the report wasn't all doom and gloom. Progress has been made toward peace and stability in some countries.

Chair, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom
"I do want to point out a couple of positive developments. We have seen, literally in the last couple of weeks, the Nigerian military successfully rescuing hundreds of captive women from Boko Haram.”

She also pointed to Sri Lanka and Cyprus as places that have improved after recently struggling with violence and war, which often endangers religious freedom.

The bipartisan commission has released the annual report since 1998. In addition to describing the religious freedom violations, the lengthy report also offers specific recommendations and an assessment what the United States can to better promote religious freedom.