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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:
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.

Archaeologist on Syria and Iraq: The artistic pillaging is very grave and irreparable


Along with tremendous loss of life in Syria and Iraq, one can add the destruction of unique ancient heritage. In what's known as the "Cradle of Civilization,” the Islamic State is destroying the memories of humanity in the area. 

Director, Archaeological Mission in Ebla, Syria
"The looting that has happened in the territories of these two countries is extremely serious. Naturally the situation is worse with the willful destruction that is perpetuated by ISIS.”

Since arriving in the area, Islamic State militants have knocked down extraordinary monuments like the Green Church, one of the oldest testimonies to Christian life in Iraq. They've also damaged the Tomb of the Prophet Jonah, a site of both Christian and Muslim pilgrimages.

Director, Archaeological Mission in Ebla, Syria
"The looting of archaeological sites, from Syria to Iraq, in these past few weeks and months, has obviously caused irreparable damage because they have violated and destroyed sites of historic significance, archaeological significance, and extreme monumental and important significance.”

In Iraq, the Assyrian city of Nimrod was destroyed with bulldozers. It's the site where, in the Bible, the tower of Babel existed. It dated back to the eighth century BC. The United Nations called its destruction cultural cleansing and a war crime.

Largest parts of the Syrian city Palmyra has been turned to dust. Satellite photos, along with footage shot by jihadists themselves, show how ancient temples have been destroyed.

It's a fate that plenty of monuments in the area have met.

The damage is irreparable, though it's not too late to stop all of the Middle East's ancient history from being wiped off the planet.

Director, Archaeological Mission in Ebla, Syria
"Facing this loss, reconstruction is something that can allow a partial recovery. It not only contributes to the identity of these countries but also their own artistic heritage, monuments of humanity.”

The latest victim of the destruction is the Christian monastery of Saint Elias in Mosul. It's the oldest monastery in the country, dating back 1,400 years. And satellite imagery confirms it has already been destroyed.

The Islamic State has doubled down on its cultural destruction strategy. On one hand, they have destroyed works. On the other, they sell art on the black market. They have already earned at least 50 million dollars selling cultural treasures.

It's estimated that 300 archaeological sites have been damaged during Syria' civil war. It's a sad fate for the same spot that some of the earliest developments in science, technology, commerce, art, and civil society originated from.