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The first ever canonization of a married couple will be conducted by Pope Francis in a ceremony in Saint Peter’s Square on Sunday, October 18.

The French couple, Louis and Zelie Martin, who lived in the 19th Century, were the parents of the much venerated Saint Theresa of Lisieux.

Louis and Zelie Martin had nine children, four of whom died in infancy. The remaining five, all girls, became nuns.

The youngest daughter, Therese, died of tuberculosis aged 24 in 1897 and was canonized in 1925.Louis and Zelie Martin Canonization

Theresa of Lisieux is widely venerated for the simplicity of her spiritual life.

Her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, has inspired generations of modern Catholics.

In July, the Vatican’s Cardinal Angelo Amato, said the canonization gave testimony to the couple’s “extraordinary witness of conjugal and familial spirituality”.

It will be one of the highlights of the meeting of cardinals and bishops currently going on at the Vatican.

It is focusing on how the church can better minister to modern families, including gay Catholics in same-gender unions, couples who cohabit and those who divorce and remarry.

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Pope Francis has apologized for recent scandals “either in Rome or in the Vatican”.

The pontiff made the surprising apology at his weekly general audience in St Peter’s Square, but did not specify which scandals.

Pope Francis is thought to be referring to a senior Polish priest who was dismissed from his Vatican post after announcing he was in a gay relationship.

The Pope’s spokesman said the pontiff had not been referring to the recent resignation of Rome’s mayor.

Father Federico Lombardi admitted to reporters that Pope Francis’ apology had been “broad and generic” but said it did not refer to “political” situations involving Mayor Ignazio Marino, who resigned earlier this week over an expenses scandal.

Photo AFP

Photo AFP

The Vatican spokesman said Pope Francis was referring to scandals in which there is a “responsibility of men of the Church”.

To thousands of people who had gathered for his weekly address, Pope Francis said: “Before I begin the Catechism, in the name of the Church, I want to ask you for forgiveness for the scandals that have occurred recently either in Rome or in the Vatican. I ask you for forgiveness.”

The pontiff also said: “The word of Jesus is strong today, woe to the world because of scandals. Jesus is a realist. He says it is inevitable that there will be scandals. But woe to the man who causes scandals.”

Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino has come under criticism recently for the slow start in the city’s preparations for the holy year due to begin in the second week of December.

Millions of pilgrims are expected to travel to Rome for a series of Church events, and this will require extra policing and provision of accommodation and food and water.

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In his first speech after his arrival in Cuba, Pope Francis has called for the Church in the communist island to have “the freedom and the means” to pursue its mission.

Pope Francis also hailed improving ties between the US and Cuba as “an example of reconciliation for the whole world”.

The pontiff was greeted by Cuban President Raul Castro after landing in the capital, Havana.

He is due to celebrate Mass on September 20 in Havana’s iconic Revolution Square.

Photo Getty Images

Photo Getty Images

Pope Francis will spend four days in Cuba before flying to the US.

Following his arrival on Cuba on September 19, thousands lined the route of the Pope’s motorcade to the home of the Vatican’s ambassador to Cuba.

Pope Francis – the first pontiff to hail from Latin America – is credited with helping the recent thaw in diplomatic relations between Cuba and the US.

President Raul Castro has thanked Pope Francis for his contribution.

Speaking at the airport alongside Raul Castro, Pope Francis urged further support for Cuba’s Catholics “so that the Church can continue to support and encourage the Cuban people in its hopes and concerns, with the freedom, the means and the space needed to bring the proclamation of the kingdom to the existential peripheries of society”.

The Pope also called on Cuba and the US to “persevere on the path” of detente.

On September 17, the Vatican said it hoped the Pope’s visit would help bring an end to the 53-year-old US embargo and lead to more freedom and human rights in Cuba.

The following day, the US announced eased restrictions on business and travel with Cuba, the latest move by President Barack Obama to improve relations.

Pope Francis’s trip will later take him to the US, which he will also be visiting for the first time since his election to the papacy.

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Leftist Bolivian President Evo Morales has given a crucifix sculpted in the shape of a hammer and sickle to Pope Francis during his visit to Bolivia.

The gift combining Catholic and communist symbols has caused a stir among Catholic commentators.

One Catholic bishop suggested that Evo Morales had sought to “manipulate God”.

While some reports said Pope Francis was taken aback by the present, the Vatican has played down any row.

The crucifix was based on a design by Luis Espinal, a Jesuit Priest assassinated in 1980 by right-wing militia.

Bolivia’s communications minister, Marianela Paco, told Bolivian radio: “The sickle evokes the peasant, the hammer the carpenter, representing humble workers, God’s people.”Pope Francis gifted Communist crucifix in Bolivia

She added there was “no other” motive behind the gift.

There are differing interpretations of Pope Francis’ thoughts on it.

Some reports say Pope Francis was embarrassed, telling Evo Morales: “This isn’t good.”

However, the Vatican spokesman, Federico Lombardi, said it was more likely Pope Francis had expressed surprise at the origins of the gift.

“I don’t think I would put this symbol on an altar in a church however,” he added.

Pope Francis himself has been accused of having Marxist leanings, after mounting strong criticisms of capitalism and inequality.

One of the strongest reactions came from Spanish bishop Jose Ignacio Munilla, who tweeted: “The height of arrogance is to manipulate God for the service of atheist ideologies.”

“This is a provocation, a joke” said Bolivian Bishop Gonzalo del Castillo, quoted by the AFP news agency.

There was also anger on the Facebook pages of the Catholic News Agency.

Pope Francis is now in Paraguay, the third and final country on his tour of Latin America, which ends on July 13.

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Pope Francis is visiting Ecuador at the start of his seven-day tour of Latin America.

Ecuador’s left-wing President Rafael Correa called the Pope’s visit “an honor”.

Pope Francis will also travel to Bolivia and Paraguay, as part of his second trip to the region since becoming pontiff in 2013.

The Argentine is the first Pope to come from South America. He is expected to highlight the themes of poverty and inequality.Pope Francis in Ecuador 2015

In 2007, before becoming Pope, Bishop of Buenos Aires Jorge Mario Bergoglio told a gathering of Latin American bishops that they were living in the most unequal part of the world.

During his previous trip in 2013, Pope Francis addressed millions on Brazil’s Copacabana Beach.

Pope Francis has requested to chew coca leaves while in Bolivia, according to Bolivian Culture Minister Marko Machicao.

Coca, the raw ingredient for cocaine, has been used in the Andes for thousands of years to combat altitude sickness and as a mild stimulant.

In September Pope Francis will travel to Cuba ahead of a trip to the US.

Pope Francis is credited with helping bring about last December’s diplomatic thaw between the two countries.

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Pope Francis has issued an encyclical, calling for fossil fuels to be “progressively replaced without delay”.

The pontiff urges the richer world to make changes in lifestyle and energy consumption to avert the unprecedented destruction of the ecosystem.

Environmentalists hope the message will spur on nations ahead of the UN climate conference in Paris in December.

However, parts of the document, leaked earlier this week, have already been criticized by some US conservatives.

The document has been dismissed by two Republican presidential candidates.

The encyclical, named “Laudato Si (Be Praised), On the Care of Our Common Home”, aims to inspire everyone – not just Roman Catholics – to protect the Earth.

The 192-page letter, which is the highest level teaching document a pope can issue, lays much of the blame for global warming on human activities.Pope Francis climate change encyclical

Pope Francis writes that: “We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will.

“The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life.”

The Pope criticizes what he calls a “collective selfishness”, but says that there is still time to stop the damage, calling for an end to consumerism and greed.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi launched the pontiff’s second encyclical at a news conference on June 18.

The release comes six months before international leaders gather in Paris to try to seal a deal to reduce carbon emissions.

It has been widely welcomed by environmental groups, with WWF president Yolanda Kakabadse saying it “adds a much-needed moral approach” to the debate on climate change.

Greenpeace leader Kumi Naidoo highlighted passages calling for policies that reduce carbon emissions, including by replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy.

But a leak of the document, published by Italy’s L’Espresso magazine on June 16, got a frosty response from skeptical conservatives in America, including two Roman Catholic presidential candidates.

Presidential hopeful Jeb Bush said he did not get his economic policy from his bishops, cardinals or pope.

Meanwhile Rick Santorum questioned whether Pope Francis was credible on the issue of climate science.

However, many academics have welcomed the pontiff’s input.

The UN’s climate change chief Christiana Figueres says the Pope’s message will influence talks in Paris this year on a deal to tackle global warming.

Developing countries are demanding firmer promises of financial help from rich countries so they can adapt to inevitable changes in the climate and get clean energy to avoid contributing to further warming.

Christiana Figueres said their position would be strengthened by Pope Francis’ insistence that this was the clear moral responsibility of the rich.

The encyclical will be welcomed by poor countries in Africa and Latin America.

The big question is how it will play in the USA, where it has already been dismissed by a Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, who is a Catholic.

Leading Republicans have warned the UN that they will undo President Barack Obama’s climate policies – so if the encyclical sways any of the conservative Catholics in Congress that could prove significant.

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Pope Francis has created a tribunal to hear cases of bishops accused of covering up child abuse by priests.

The unprecedented move followed a recommendation from Pope Francis’ newly-created panel on clerical abuse.Pope Francis creates child abuse tribunal

Victims’ groups have long called for the Vatican to do more to make bishops accountable for abuse on their watch.

In 2014, the UN strongly criticized the Vatican for failing to stamp out child abuse and for allowing cover-ups.

A statement from the Vatican said the department would come under the auspices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The tribunal’s aim would be “to judge bishops with regard to crimes of the abuse of office when connected to the abuse of minors”, the statement added.

The Vatican panel which recommended the step was created to help dioceses improve abuse prevention measures and help victims.

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Tens of thousands of Catholics have attended a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis at a stadium in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Pope Francis’ visit to Sarajevo is aimed at promoting peace and reconciliation across Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The pontiff is also meeting members of the Muslim, Orthodox Christian and Jewish communities during his one-day trip.

Bosnia remains divided along religious and ethnic lines, 20 years after its civil war which depleted the Catholic population.

“War never again!” Pope Francis urged in his homily before 65,000 worshippers at Sarajevo’s Kosevo stadium.Pope Francis Sarajevo Stadium 2015

He added: “War means children, women and the elderly in refugee camps; it means forced displacement, destroyed houses, streets and factories. Above all countless shattered lives.”

“You know this well having experienced it here,” Pope Francis added in reference to the 1992-19995 Bosnian conflict, which left some 100,000 dead and two million displaced.

Pope Francis also warned that the world faced “a kind of third world war being fought piecemeal and, in the context of global communications, we sense an atmosphere of war”.

The war between Christian Orthodox Serbs and Muslim Bosniaks in the early ‘90s resulted in deep ethnic divisions. There was also a Bosniak-Croat conflict within the wider war.

Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Catholics, from the Bosnian Croatian community, are estimated to number 10-15% of the population.

Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin said a central aspect of the visit would be boosting the morale of Catholics, many of whom left the country after the conflict.

“In December the 20th anniversary of the war will be remembered but the traces and the wounds of war are still there,” Pietro Parolin told AFP news agency.

Pope Francis was welcomed in Sarajevo by children wearing traditional costume representing Bosnia-Herzegovina’s three main faiths.

The pontiff also spoke to the three-member presidency and called on Bosnia-Herzegovina to reject division and continue working for peace to create “a melody of sublime nobility and beauty, instead of the fanatical cries of hatred”.

Speaking to reporters on his flight to Sarajevo, Pope Francis described Bosnia-Herzegovina’s capital as the “Jerusalem of the West”.

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Pope Francis is visiting Bosnia-Herzgovina, where about 100,000 people are expected to greet him.

The Pope’s visit to the capital Sarajevo is aimed at prompting peace and reconciliation across Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The pontiff, who arrived today in the country, will hold a Mass at a Sarajevo stadium and also meet members of the Muslim, Orthodox Christian and Jewish communities.

Bosnia remains divided along religious and ethnic lines, 20 years after its civil war.Pope Francis visits Bosnia Herzegovina

Cardinal Vinko Puljic urged people of all faiths to “keep their ears and hearts open for the pope’s message”.

“We have put a lot of love into the preparations for the visit,” he said.

“The city is radiating joy.”

The war between Christian Orthodox Serbs and Muslim Bosniaks in the early 90s resulted in deep ethnic divisions.

Pope Francis will attempt to bolster reconciliation, by encouraging communities to come together.

In a message to the residents of Sarajevo earlier this week, Pope Francis wrote: “I come amongst you… to express my support for ecumenical and interfaith dialogue, and above all to encourage peaceful cohabitation in your country.”

At least 5,000 police will be on duty and authorities have published a helpline number if members of the public spot any suspicious activity during the visit.

On June 5, local media reported jihadists claiming to be from Islamic State had issued a video, calling for action in the Balkans. However, it is not thought to be linked to the papal visit.

Eighteen years ago, Pope John Paul II travelled to Sarajevo during a severe snowstorm in 1997. A monument was erected in the late pontiff’s honor in 2014.

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Two 19th Century nuns, who lived in what was then Ottoman-ruled Palestine and were native Arabic speakers, will be canonized by Pope Francis on Sunday, May 17.

The nuns, Mariam Bawardy of Galilee and Marie Alphonsine Ghattas of Jerusalem, will be among four new saints declared in Rome’s St Peter’s Square.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and over 2,000 Christian pilgrims from the region will be present at the ceremony.

The move is seen as a token of Vatican support for dwindling Christian communities in the Middle East.

On May 16, Pope Francis met Mahmoud Abbas at the Vatican.

Mahmoud Abbas’ visit came just days after the Vatican formally recognized Palestinian statehood in a treaty.Palestinian nuns Mariam Bawardy and Marie Alphonsine Ghattas canonization

The treaty states that the Holy See favors a two-state solution to the conflict with Israel and allows the Vatican to oversee aspects of Roman Catholic life in the areas President Mahmoud Abbas controls.

Israel expressed disappointment with the treaty, which uses the term “Palestinian state”.

Mariam Bawardy was born in Galilee to Greek Catholic parents from Syria and Lebanon.

A mystic, she is said to have carried out many miracles and to have experienced stigmata – wounds representing those suffered by Jesus on the cross.

Marie Alphonsine Ghattas – who was born to a Palestinian family in Jerusalem – co-founded the Congregation of the Rosary Sisters, which today runs many kindergartens and schools.

Both nuns lived through tough conditions, overcoming male dominance in Ottoman society, poverty and ill-health while helping others.

They are said to have seen apparitions of the Virgin Mary and remained in close communication with her.

By granting these women sainthood, the Catholic Church is celebrating their good works but it is also showing support for Christians in the birthplace of their religion.

The total number of Christians in Israel and the Palestinian territories has declined to less than 2% of the population.

This is partly because of growing Jewish and Muslim populations, but also because of the conflict and the chance of better opportunities abroad.

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Cuban President Raul Castro will meet Pope Francis in a private audience at the Vatican.

The Argentine Pope played a key role in a recent diplomatic rapprochement between the US and Cuba.

Raul Castro, who is stopping off as he returns from Russia’s WW2 Victory Day parade, wishes to thank Pope Francis for his help, Vatican radio says.

The Roman Catholic Church has maintained relations with Cuba since the 1959 revolution.Raul Castro and Pope Francis meeting

Pope Francis will visit Cuba on his way to the US in September.

In 1996, Pope John Paul II became the first pontiff to receive a Cuban leader when Fidel Castro travelled to the Vatican.

Raul Castro, the brother of Fidel, was last in Rome in 1997 when he was defense minister. At the time he was preparing the historic visit of John Paul II to Havana the following year.

The Catholic Church has organized a series of secret diplomatic meetings to broker the US-Cuban rapprochement.

The talks directly involved Pope Francis. The US had imposed a trade embargo soon after Cuba’s revolution, which it began to lift at the end of 2014.

Pope Francis, 78, will be the third pontiff to travel to Cuba, following visits there by John Paul II in 1998 and Benedict XVI in 2012.

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During his traditional Easter Sunday’s Urbi et Orbi address, Pope Francis has called for peace in Syria and Iraq.

The pontiff urged the international community to address the “immense humanitarian tragedy” in both countries.

Pope Francis also called for peace in the Holy Land, Ukraine, Libya, Yemen, Nigeria, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

He once again referred to the persecution of Christians in many countries.

Pope Francis said: “We ask Jesus, the victor over death, to lighten the sufferings of our many brothers and sisters who are persecuted for his name, and of all those who suffer injustice as a result of ongoing conflicts and violence.

“We ask for peace, above all, for Syria and Iraq, that the roar of arms may cease and that peaceful relations may be restored among the various groups which make up those beloved countries. Pope Francis Urbi et Orbi 2015

“May the international community not stand by before the immense humanitarian tragedy unfolding in these countries and the drama of the numerous refugees.”

The Pope also said his thoughts and prayers were with the young people killed in last Thursday’s massacre at Garissa University College in Kenya.

Referring to the outline agreement on Iran’s nuclear program recently reached in the Swiss city of Lausanne, he expressed hope that it might be “a definitive step toward a more secure and fraternal world”.

Pope Francis concluded his address by saying: “We ask for peace and freedom for the many men and women subject to old and new forms of enslavement on the part of criminal individuals and groups.

“Peace and liberty for the victims of drug dealers, who are often allied with the powers who ought to defend peace and harmony in the human family. And we ask peace for this world subjected to arms dealers.”

During this year’s Good Friday service in Rome, Pope Francis condemned what he termed the “complicit silence” about the killing of Christians.

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Pope Francis is celebrating a Mass of Jesus Resurrection in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City starting with 10:15 AM local time on Easter Sunday.

The Mass and the subsequent Urbi et Orbi (to the City and to the World) blessing will attended by thousands of devout Roman Catholics and will be livestreamed by the Vatican across the world.Pope Francis Easter Sunday 2015

The special Easter Mass commemorates the day in Christian faith when Jesus Christ rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven. It is the culmination of the Christian Holy Week, which is marked by numerous holy days and celebrations. It also marks the end of the Lent.

According to religious tradition, the resurrection occurred three days after Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and burial, marked as Good Friday on the Christian calendar. Holy Week is observed by most Christian denominations, including the Orthodox Churches, Roman Catholic Church and most Protestant Churches.

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Pope Francis has begun leading the traditional Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) at the Colosseum in Rome at 9.15 pm local time (3.15pm EDT) on Good Friday.

The meditations for the 14 Stations of the Cross have been written this year by Monsenior Renato Corti, Bishop Emeritus of Novara in Italy.

Pope Francis has repeatedly lamented Christian suffering in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere. Reflecting this concern, among those chosen to take turns carrying the cross in the Way of the Cross procession in the ancient arena were faithful from Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Egypt and China. Several Italian families also carried the lightweight cross for a few steps.Pope Francis Via Crucis 2015

Standing under a red canopy on the warm evening, Pope Francis listened to prayers affirming the right of religious freedom. Tens of thousands of tourists, pilgrims and Romans held candles as they watched.

Good Friday recalls Jesus’ death by crucifixion.

Earlier this afternoon, Pope Francis presided at the liturgy of the Passion of Our Lord in St. Peter’s basilica. As is customary, the homily was given by the preacher of the papal household, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFMCap.

After several Holy Week ceremonies, Pope Francis will celebrate Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Square Sunday, April 5.

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Enzo Cacialli of Don Ernesto restaurant in Naples – the legendary home of pizza – ran toward Pope Francis’ motorcade and handed the Pontiff a personal pie.Pope Francis gets pizza in Naples

Pope Francis reached down and accepted the offering, which had “Il Papa” spelled out in dough on top.

The Pope said earlier this month that the one thing that bugged him about being Pontiff was not being able to go out to get pizza without being recognized.

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In a recent interview with Mexican television, marking the second anniversary of his election, Pope Francis has suggested he may resign his papacy like his predecessor, rather than remain at the Vatican for life.

“I have the feeling that my pontificate will be brief. Four or five years; I do not know, even two or three,” the pontiff said.

Pope Francis praised Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to step aside in 2013 as “courageous”.

“Benedict should not be considered an exception, but an institution. Maybe he will be the only one for a long time, maybe he will not be the only one.

“But an institutional door has been opened,” Pope Francis told the Televisa channel.Pope Francis may resign

Pope Francis has hinted in the past that he could retire, but said he was opposed to the idea of an age limit for leaders of the Catholic Church.

“To say that one is in charge up to 80 years, creates a sensation that the pontificate is at its end and that would not be a good thing,” he added.

A papal conclave elected Pope Francis as Benedict XVI’s successor on March 13, 2013. He became the first Latin American to lead the Church.

During the interview Pope Francis admitted he was “surprised” by the decision and had only carried a small suitcase to Rome, with the expectation he would return to Buenos Aires.

His simple style has won him praise from Catholics, as have his promises to reform the Curia – the Church’s internal government.

However, he said two years of his papacy had now passed and he felt it would not continue for very much longer.

“I do not know. But I feel that the Lord has placed me here for a short time, and nothing more,” he added.

“But it is a feeling. I always leave the possibility open.”

Pope Francis told Televisa that he “did not mind being Pope”, but missed the anonymity associated with life as a priest.

“The only thing I would like is to go out one day, without being recognised, and go to a pizzeria for a pizza.”

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Pope Francis will be the first ever pontiff to address the US Congress, lawmakers in Washington have announced.

The Pope will make his historic speech on September 24, 2015.

“That day his holiness will be the first pope in our history to address a joint session of Congress,” said House Speaker John Boehner.

“I am very much looking forward to welcoming Pope Francis to the United States,” said President Barack Obama.

Around one in three members of Congress are Catholic, as are both the House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, and Republican John Boehner.

Photo AFP

Photo AFP

“We’re humbled that the Holy Father has accepted our invitation and certainly look forward to receiving his message on behalf of the American people,” said John Boehner.

Pope Francis’ trip to the US is expected to include a White House meeting with President Barack Obama.

In addition the pontiff is due to make a speech to the United Nations in New York and attend a Catholic rally in Philadelphia.

Pope Francis has not refrained from airing his political views since being elected head of the Catholic Church in March 2013.

He has made support for immigrants a key plank of papal policy.

The Pope has also taken a traditionally Catholic line on contraception and abortion.

Pope Francis’ views may put him at odds with members of Congress, which is riven by deep political divisions on these and other issues.

The first Pope to visit the US was Paul VI during a 1965 trip at the height of the Vietnam War.

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The Philippine government is facing calls for an inquiry after it admitted relocating homeless people temporarily during Pope Francis’ visit.

Social welfare secretary Corazon Soliman said that nearly 500 people were taken from the streets of Manila to an upscale resort in the outskirts.

House of Representatives member Terry Ridon called for an inquiry, saying the move was a “clearing operation”.

Pope Francis arrived in the Philippines last week and left on January 19.

Terry Ridon said the government relocation scheme was “truly horrendous, given the fact that Pope Francis visited our country to – first and foremost – see and talk to the poor.”

According to the Philippine Star, he plans to summon Corazon Soliman to explain her agency’s actions before lawmakers.

Corazon Soliman said in interviews this week that the homeless families were removed shortly before the pontiff arrived on January 15.

Photo EPA

Photo EPA

Many of them lived along the Manila Bay seafront, the venue for January 18 mass which drew a record crowd of six million.

On January 14, they were taken to the Chateau Royale resort, which charges hundreds of dollars for a room per night, and returned to the capital on Monday after Pope Francis had left.

The families are now temporarily residing at government facilities in Manila, Corazon Soliman said.

She defended the move as an effort to protect them from large crowds and crime syndicates during the Pope’s visit, adding that it was part of a scheme to eventually move them to rent-free temporary accommodation.

“Part of the orientation is to familiarize themselves with a room with a door and toilets,” Corazon Soliman told the AFP news agency.

She insisted it was “not for keeping them out of sight”, and said the Pope saw shanties and homeless people during his trip.

The controversy comes after reports that street children had been rounded up and put into cages in detention centers, which the government has denied.

Pope Francis had made poverty one of the central themes to his visit, calling for mercy and compassion for the poor and meeting and hugging street children.

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Millions of people are expected to attend an outdoor Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in the Philippine capital Manila.

An estimated three million people had already gathered at Rizal Park two hours before the Mass began.

Twenty years ago, more than five million people attended a Mass celebrated here by Pope John Paul II.

The Vatican said Pope Francis would dedicate the service in part to the victims of Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the country in 2013.

The Mass will be Pope Francis’ final full day in the Philippines, where there are 80 million Catholics, concluding his six-day tour of Asia.

Pope Francis arrived in a “popemobile” based on the design of the local minibuses, known as jeepneys.

Crowds sang and cheered as the pontiff stopped at various points to greet worshippers.

Some people had camped outside the park overnight to be the first ones admitted when the gates opened early on Sunday morning.Pope Francis Manila Mass

Before the final mass, Pope Francis held morning meetings with religious leaders and young people at the University of Santo Tomas which is the biggest Catholic university in Asia.

Pope Francis opened his meeting with over 20,000 students by remembering the 27-year-old woman who had died during his visit to Tacloban on January 17.

Earlier, police had reported that she had been killed when scaffolding collapsed after Saturday’s Mass.

The Pope then listened to several children speak about their experiences of growing up on the streets.

One of the children, 12-year-old Glyzelle Palomar, wept as she told her story and asked why God had allowed it to happen.

A visibly moved Pope Francis replied: “Only when we are able to cry are we able to come close to responding to your question.”

He added that the world needed to learn how to cry with those in need.

“Those on the margins cry. Those who have fallen by the wayside cry. Those who are discarded cry. But those who are living a life that is more or less without need, we don’t know how to cry,” he said.

Pope Francis, who comes from Argentina, was applauded when he told students that sometimes men were too macho, and that women had much to tell today’s society, seeing the world through different eyes, and asking different questions.

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Pope Francis has arrived in typhoon-hit city of Tacloban in the Philippines to hold an open-air Mass.

Tacloban was devastated by Typhoon Haiyan just over a year ago.

Tens of thousands braved pouring rain and strong winds brought by Tropical Storm Mekkhala to attend the Mass.

Pope Francis was due to meet survivors of the typhoon after the mass but the storm forced the pontiff to cut short his visit.

The Pope said as soon as he saw the catastrophe caused by the typhoon, he had decided to go to the Philippines.

Pope Francis is visiting the Philippines, where there are 80 million Catholics, as part of a six-day tour of Asia.

Typhoon Haiyan, which remains the strongest storm ever recorded on land, created a 23ft high storm surge, destroying practically everything in its path when it swept ashore on November 8, 2013.

Around 90% of the city of Tacloban in Leyte province was destroyed and more than 14.5 million people were affected in six regions and 44 provinces. About one million people remain homeless.

Pope Francis was due to have lunch with survivors of Typhoon Haiyan later on Saturday but he left Tacloban four hours early because of the approaching storm and returned to Manila.

Earlier, he apologized to the crowds gathered at the main cathedral in Leyte province and said: “I am sad about this, truly saddened, because I had something prepared especially for you.”Pope Francis in Tacloban

The Pope said his pilots had told him that the weather was going to get worse.

“We barely have time to get to the aeroplane,” he said.

Tropical Storm Mekkhala, with winds of up to 80 mph, forced the suspension of ferry services to Leyte and stranded thousands of travelers, according to the Associated Press news agency.

One woman was killed after the mass, when scaffolding near the stage collapsed, local media report.

The storm is forecast to hit the shore of nearby Samar Island later on Saturday.

During the Mass in Spanish, with a translation into English, Pope Francis spoke of the devastating impact of Typhoon Haiyan on people in Tacloban.

He told the faithful that “so many of you in Tacloban have lost everything. I don’t know what to say – but the Lord does… He underwent so many of the trials that you do”.

A national holiday has been declared in Manila for the duration of Pope Francis’ visit.

Security is very tight, with tens of thousands of soldiers and police deployed, after failed attempts to kill two previous popes in the Philippines.

The centerpiece of Pope Francis’ visit will be an open-air Mass in Manila on January 18, which is expected to attract millions.

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Pope Francis has defended freedom of speech but also stressed its limits following last week’s attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

The pontiff said religions had to be treated with respect, so that people’s faith was not insulted or ridiculed.

To illustrate his point, Pope Francis told journalists that his assistant could expect a punch if he cursed his mother.

The remarks came as funerals were held for four people killed in the Charlie Hebdo attack by militant Islamists.

Friends and family paid last respects to cartoonists Bernard Verlhac, known as Tignous, and Georges Wolinski, as well as columnist Elsa Cayat and policeman Franck Brinsolaro.Pope Francis on freedom of speech

Eight magazine staff, a visitor to the magazine, a caretaker and two policemen died in the last week’s attack. A policewoman and four people at a kosher supermarket died in separate attacks.

Al-Qaeda said it had directed the Charlie Hebdo attack.

Charlie Hebdo was targeted for publishing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. It printed another cartoon of the Prophet on its front page after the attacks, angering some Muslims who say all depictions of the Prophet should be forbidden.

France has deployed thousands of troops and police to boost security in the wake of last week’s attacks. There have been retaliatory attacks against Muslim sites around France.

Speaking to journalists flying with him to the Philippines, Pope Francis said last week’s attacks were an “aberration”, and such horrific violence in God’s name could not be justified.

He staunchly defended freedom of expression, but then he said there were limits, especially when people mocked religion.

“If my good friend Doctor Gasparri [who organizes the Pope’s trips] speaks badly of my mother, he can expect to get punched,” he said, throwing a pretend punch at the doctor, who was standing beside him.

“You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others. There is a limit.”

In a separate development, the government announced that a Malian employee of the Jewish supermarket that was attacked would be given French citizenship.

Some 300,000 people signed an online petition calling for the move after the Muslim employee, Lassana Bathily, hid several customers from gunman Amedy Coulibaly in a cold store.

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Pope Francis has lost his papal hat as he arrived in windy Manila, the Philippines, on January 15.

The Pope was beginning his five-day visit to the nation’s 80 million Roman Catholics.Pope Francis loses papal hat in Manila

Huge crowds were gathered for the pontiff’s arrival, and are expected at each stage of the tour which will include a Mass in the capital and a visit to typhoon-hit Tacloban.

Pope Francis is the fourth pontiff to visit the Philippines.

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Hundreds of thousands of cheering people who waited several hours in steaming heat have greeted Pope Francis at his arrival in the Philippines.

People lined the streets of the capital Manila to glimpse his motorcade.

Millions more are expected to come out to see him over his five-day visit to the nation’s 80 million Catholics.

Pope Francis said that a priority of his visit would be to send a message to the poor who face “social, spiritual and existential” injustices.

“The central nut of the message will be the poor, the poor who want to go forward, the poor who suffered from Typhoon Haiyan and are continuing to suffer the consequences,” the pontiff said while travelling to the Philippines from Sri Lanka.

Typhoon Haiyan killed or left missing more than 7,300 people, razing villages to the ground in the centre of the Philippines in 2013.

Leyte province was especially badly affected, and it is there where Pope Francis will seek to console survivors on January 17.

The Pope said that also prominent in his mind were some Filipino workers at the Vatican who had left their families for jobs overseas.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

The Philippines is one of the world’s largest exporters of labor – it is estimated that about a tenth of the population has left the country in search of work – and reports of their abuse and exploitation are commonplace.

President Benigno Aquino has also spoken of his determination to eradicate poverty, although he has been at loggerheads with the local Roman Catholic Church over a 2012 reproductive health law that promotes artificial birth control.

After leaving the airport, Pope Francis boarded an open-sided Popemobile to travel the 7 mile route to the Apostolic Nunciature in Manila, where he is staying.

The highlight of Pope Francis’ visit will be a huge open-air Mass in Manila on January 18 and a visit to Tacloban to meet survivors of a devastating typhoon in November 2013.

Security will be tight after failed attempts to kill two previous popes.

Tens of thousands of soldiers and police have been deployed.

Pope Francis is the fourth pontiff to visit the Philippines – 80% of its 100 million people are Catholic.

A three-day public holiday has been declared in Manila to clear the traffic.

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Twenty new cardinals have been named by Pope Francis, including churchmen from Tonga, Ethiopia and Myanmar.

Fifteen of the new appointees are under 80, making them eligible to enter a conclave to elect the Pope’s successor.

The pontiff said the appointment of cardinals from 14 countries from every continent in the world showed the Vatican’s “inseparable link” with Catholic Churches around the world.

They will be formally installed on February 14.

Pope Francis also announced on January 4 that he would lead of meeting of all cardinals to discuss reform of the Roman Curia, the Vatican’s administrative body, on February 12 and 13.

The list of names includes five retired bishops who will join the College of Cardinals but are over 80 and so cannot take part in a papal election.

It is the second time Pope Francis has announced the appointment of new cardinals from a wide variety of countries.

Last January Pope Francis named 19 new additions, including churchmen from Haiti and Burkina Faso, which a Vatican spokesman said reflected his commitment to the poor.

He has now chosen over a quarter of all cardinals able to vote for the next Pope.

With his appointments, Pope Francis appears to be trying to reflect the diversity and growth of the Church in developing nations.

In his a pre-Christmas address to cardinals, Pope Francis sharply criticized the Vatican bureaucracy, complaining of “spiritual Alzheimer’s” and “the terrorism of gossip”.

Pope Francis wants to see an overhaul of the Church, bringing it closer to ordinary people.Pope Francis names new cardinals

List of new cardinals:

Archbishop Dominique Mamberti (France)

Archbishop Manuel Jose Macario do Nascimento Clemente (Portugal)

Archbishop Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel (Ethiopia)

Archbishop John Atcherley Dew (New Zealand)

Archbishop Edoardo Menichelli (Italy)

Archbishop Pierre Nguyen Van Nhon (Vietnam)

Archbishop Alberto Suarez Inda (Mexico)

Archbishop Charles Maung Bo (Myanmar)

Archbishop Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij (Thailand)

Archbishop Francesco Montenegro (Italy).

Archbishop Daniel Fernando Sturla Berhouet (Uruguay)

Archbishop Ricardo Blazquez Perez (Spain).

Bishop Jose Luis Lacunza Maestrojuan (Panama)

Bishop Arlindo Gomes Furtado, (Capo Verde).

Bishop Soane Patita Paini Mafia (Tonga)

Archbishop emeritus Jose de Jesus Pimiento Rodríguez (Colombia)*

Titular Archbishop Luigi De Magistris (Italy)*

Titular Archbishop Karl-Joseph Rauber (Germany)*

Archbishop emeritus Luis Hector Villalba (Argentina)*

Bishop emeritus Julio Duarte Langa (Mozambique)*

* Cardinal emeritus, without voting rights

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Mehmet Ali Agca, who shot and injured former Pope John Paul II in 1981, has laid flowers on the late pontiff’s tomb in the Vatican.

The 56-year-old Turkish man told police he felt he needed to make the gesture, Italian media report.

The gunman’s gesture comes 31 years to the day that Pope John Paul II visited Mehmet Ali Agca in prison and forgave him for the attempt on his life.

Mehmet Ali Agca served 19 years in an Italian jail for shooting the Pope twice at close range. His motive remains a mystery.Mehmet Ali Agca Pope John Paul tomb

He spent another 10 years in prison in Turkey on charges related to the earlier murder of a newspaper editor.

Mehmet Ali Agca laid white roses at the tomb of the late Pope on December 27, in his first visit to the Vatican since his attack on John Paul II on May 13, 1981.

Pope John Paul II was left seriously injured, with one bullet passing through his abdomen and another narrowly missing his heart.

Vatican officials have for a second time denied Mehmet Ali Agca’s request for a face-to-face meeting with Pope Francis.

“He has put flowers on the tomb of John Paul II. I think that is enough,” the Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, told La Repubblica newspaper.

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