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Pope Francis emerged as a breastfeeding supporter, encouraging mothers to tend to their babies.

The pontiff told families who had brought their offspring to him for a special papal baptism that they should not stand on ceremony if the children were in need of food.

“If they are hungry, mothers, feed them, without thinking twice,” he said, smiling.

Pope Francis emerged as a breastfeeding supporter, encouraging mothers to tend to their babies

Pope Francis emerged as a breastfeeding supporter, encouraging mothers to tend to their babies

“Because they are the most important people here.”

On this occasion Pope Francis, 77, did not use the verb “breastfeed”. But he had already expressed an uncommonly down-to-earth approach to the practice in an interview with La Stampa last month. Recounting an encounter with a mother and her wailing newborn son at a general audience, he said he told her to feed him then and there.

“She was modest,” Pope Francis recalled.

“She didn’t want to breastfeed in public as the pope was going past.”

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Pope Francis baptized 32 infants at a Vatican ceremony on Sunday.

Formally welcoming the children into the Catholic Church Sunday, Pope Francis poured water from a shell-shaped dish over the heads of the babies held in their mothers’ arms.

Pope Francis baptized 32 infants at a Vatican ceremony

Pope Francis baptized 32 infants at a Vatican ceremony

The pontiff pronounced the babies’ names one by one, as parents held their children.

In the same Sistine Chapel last year, Francis was elected as the first Latin American pope. He is the first pope to choose the name Francis. Among the children were two Francescas.

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Pope Francis will appoint 19 new cardinals in February, including churchmen from Haiti and Burkina Faso, reflecting his commitment to the poor.

Cardinals, who wear red hats and robes, are the most senior clergymen in the Roman Catholic Church below the Pope.

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

The new cardinals will be formally instated at a ceremony, known as a consistory, on February 22.

The three clergymen over 80 come from Spain, Italy and the Caribbean island of St Lucia. They will assume the title cardinal emeritus.

Pope Francis named the new cardinals during Sunday address to worshippers gathered in St Peter’s Square.

Pope Francis will appoint 19 new cardinals, including churchmen from Haiti and Burkina Faso

Pope Francis will appoint 19 new cardinals, including churchmen from Haiti and Burkina Faso

They come from all corners of the world, including Italy, Germany, Britain, Nicaragua, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, South Korea, Chile and the Philippines.

But among those chosen are also men from countries like Haiti, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso.

The Vatican spokesman said that this was in keeping with Pope Francis’ drive to put the world’s poor at the core of the Church’s mission.

New Cardinals

  • Archbishop Pietro Parolin (Italy)
  • Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri (Italy)
  • Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller (Germany)
  • Archbishop, Beniamino Stella (Italy)
  • Archbishop Vincent Nichols (Britain)
  • Archbishop Leopoldo José Brenes Solórzano (Nicaragua)
  • Archbishop Gérald Cyprien Lacroix (Canada)
  • Archbishop Jean-Pierre Kutwa (Ivory Coast)
  • Archbishop Orani João Tempesta (Brazil)
  • Archbishop Gualtiero Bassetti (Italy)
  • Archbishop Mario Aurelio Poli (Argentina)
  • Archbishop Andrew Yeom Soo Jung (South Korea)
  • Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati Andrello (Chile)
  • Archbishop Philippe Nakellentuba Ouédraogo (Burkina Faso)
  • Archbishop Orlando B. Quevedo (Philippines)
  • Archbishop Chibly Langlois (Haiti)
  • Monsignor Loris Francesco Capovilla (Italy) *
  • Archbishop Fernando Sebastián Aguilar (Spain) *
  • Monsignor Kelvin Edward Felix (St Lucia) *

* Cardinal emeritus, without voting rights

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He did it again! Pope Francis has broken again with protocol after inviting an old friend, Father Fabian Baez, to join him on his Popemobile at the Vatican.

Father Fabian Baez was among well-wishers and pilgrims in St Peter’s Square on Wednesday as part of Pope Francis’ first general audience of the year.

Pope Francis invited Father Fabian Baez to join him on his Popemobile at the Vatican

Pope Francis invited Father Fabian Baez to join him on his Popemobile at the Vatican

Pope Francis told security guards to fetch his friend at which point Father Fabian Baez ran to embrace the pope before joining him in the open-top vehicle.

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Pope Francis was visiting the parish of St. Alphonso Maria dei Liguori, in the district of Justine, on the outskirts of Rome when an onlooker placed a baby lamb over his neck.

The pontiff was at the site to spend the afternoon of the Epiphany festival there where parishioners had set up a special nativity scene.

More than 200 people took part in the re-enactment, wearing period costumes and playing the parts of villagers, artisans and street sellers. People lined the sides of the road leading to the church and watched from rooftops and balconies of surrounding buildings.

According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis greeted each of the participants and many of the parishioners who attended.

One special guest lay waiting in a small hut: a 2-month-old baby named Francesco, who had been baptized that morning and played the role of Jesus in the pageant.

Pope Francis visiting the parish of St. Alphonso Maria dei Liguori in Rome’s outskirts

Pope Francis visiting the parish of St. Alphonso Maria dei Liguori in Rome’s outskirts

A woman dressed as a shepherd placed the small lamb on Pope Francis’ shoulders. Children sang a Christmas song and gave the pope a bouquet of red roses.

At the end of his visit, Pope Francis talked about the importance of a new year beginning with Jesus, who stays by everyone’s side to overcome evil. He asked everyone to pray for children who would be born in 2014 and for all grandparents, who he said are the source of wisdom.

The priest who organizes the parish’s live Nativity scene each year said he had invited Pope Francis just a few days earlier and the pope had accepted immediately.

“The pope was so happy. He told me <<Keep it up. Don’t get discouraged>>,” Father Dario Criscuoli told journalists.

According to the Vatican newspaper, the priest said Pope Francis told him” “Surely to put something like this together you have to be crazy, but that’s OK; God likes some things that are crazy.”

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Pope Francis has announced his first trip as pontiff to the Holy Land.

Pope Francis will visit Jerusalem, Bethlehem in the West Bank, and the Jordanian capital, Amman from May 24 to 26.

The pontiff made the announcement during his weekly Sunday blessing in Vatican City.

Pope Francis will visit Jerusalem, Bethlehem in the West Bank, and the Jordanian capital, Amman from May 24 to 26

Pope Francis will visit Jerusalem, Bethlehem in the West Bank, and the Jordanian capital, Amman from May 24 to 26

The visit is so far Pope Francis’ only foreign trip planned for 2014. He will celebrate Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, with the ecumenical patriarch, Bartholomew.

“In the climate of joy typical of this Christmas period, I would like to announce that from 24 to 26 May, God willing, I will carry out a pilgrimage to the Holy Land,” Pope Francis told crowds gathered in St Peter’s Square.

The date of his announcement – Sunday, January 5th – marks the 50th anniversary of the historic meeting in Jerusalem between the Pope and the leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians.

January 5th is significant because it “commemorates the historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I of Constantinople” in 1964, he said.

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Nuns in a convent in southern Spain have been surprised by Pope Francis with a message left on an answer machine on New Year’s Eve.

Pope Francis was previously archbishop of Buenos Aires and knew some of the nuns at the convent as they also are from Argentina.

The nuns were at prayer when the Pope rang.

On hearing the message, they rang their bishop to try to get back in contact, but Pope Francis rang back in the evening.

Since taking up his post last year, Pope Francis has struck a more informal note than his predecessor, underlining his reputation for simplicity and humility

Since taking up his post last year, Pope Francis has struck a more informal note than his predecessor, underlining his reputation for simplicity and humility

Sister Adriana, the prioress of the convent, told COPE radio “she wanted to die” on hearing the message.

“Our friendship goes back 15 years but I never thought the Pope would remember us,” she said.

A recording of the message has been played on Spanish media.

“What can the nuns be doing that they can’t answer?” the message begins.

“Pope Francis speaking, I wanted to say hello to you at the end of the year. I’ll see if I can call you again later. God bless you.”

Since taking up his post last year, Pope Francis has struck a more informal note than his predecessor, underlining his reputation for simplicity and humility.

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According to the figures released by the Vatican, more than 6.6 million people attended the papal events presided by Pope Francis from his election in March to the end of 2013, compared to 2.3 million for former Pope Benedict in all of 2012.

The figures were based on the number of tickets issued for papal events where they are needed, such as general audiences, Masses and private audiences.

They were also based on estimates of the number of people at events where tickets are not needed, such as his weekly appearance from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square.

The Vatican did not issue comparative figures on Thursday but figures released on January 4, 2013 showed that some 2.3 million people attended all events presided by Benedict in 2012.

Figures released last month which were limited to the number of people who attended weekly general audiences showed that Pope Francis had drawn around four times as many people in about 9 and a half months of 2013 than Pope Benedict had in all of 2012. Pope Francis was elected on March 13, 2013, after Pope Benedict’s resignation in February.

More than 6.6 million people attended the papal events presided by Pope Francis from his election in March to the end of 2013

More than 6.6 million people attended the papal events presided by Pope Francis from his election in March to the end of 2013

Pope Francis, who last month was named Person of the Year by Time Magazine, has drawn people to the Vatican because of his outgoing, simple and friendly style. Pope Benedict was more reserved and far less spontaneous.

The Vatican said the figures released on Thursday did not include the crowds that turned out to see the pope during his trips to Brazil, and to Assisi and Lampedusa in Italy.

More than 3 million people attended the pope’s final event of the Brazil trip on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro on July 28, 2013.

The crowds at Pope Francis’ general audiences and Sunday addresses have often topped 100,000, forcing police to close off the boulevard leading to the Vatican to accommodate more people.

Tickets to audiences and Masses are issued for free by the Vatican’s Prefecture of the Pontifical Household and usually distributed through parishes and Church institutions.

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Pope Francis has called for the world to unite against violence as a “community of brothers” in his first New Year blessing.

Addressing pilgrims in St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis departed from his prepared text to vent frustration at the level of conflict in the world.

“What is happening in the heart of man?” he asked.

“It’s time to stop.”

Without referring to any specific conflicts, he urged people to accept each other’s differences.

Pope Francis has called for the world to unite against violence as a "community of brothers" in his first New Year blessing

Pope Francis has called for the world to unite against violence as a “community of brothers” in his first New Year blessing

“We belong to the same human family and we share a common destiny,” Pope Francis said, speaking from his studio window overlooking the crowds in the square at the Vatican.

“This brings a responsibility for each to work so that the world becomes a community of brothers who respect each other, accept each other in one’s diversity, and take care of one another.”

Pope Francis plans major reforms in Church organization this year and will soon announce the appointment of a new group of cardinals to replace those who have died or reached the age of 80 in recent years.

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Pope Francis has not abolished sin as was published by Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said on Tuesday.

Father Federico Lombardi said the Vatican felt compelled to deny a published article titled Francis’ Revolution, has abolished sin writing by a renowned Italian intellectual, Eugenio Scalfari.

Pope Francis has not abolished sin as was published by Italian newspaper La Repubblica

Pope Francis has not abolished sin as was published by Italian newspaper La Repubblica

He also said the affirmation that Pope Francis has abolished sin was wrong, because those who really follow the pope daily know how many times he has spoken about sin and our human condition as sinners.

According to Reuters, it was not the first brush between the Vatican and Eugenio Scalfari, who founded La Repubblica newspaper in 1976.

Last month the Vatican removed from its website the text of Eugenio Scalfari’s transcript of his conversation with the pope, saying parts of it were not reliable.

In his reaction, Eugenio Scalfari said he had not used a tape recorder or taken notes when he met the pope.

Eugenio Scalfari said he rather reconstructed the long session from memory afterwards and made additions to help the flow of the article.

Pope Francis has been named the best dressed man of 2013 by Esquire magazine.

According to CNN, the magazine admits this is an unconventional decision, but they look to Pope Francis’ simple style decisions as signaling new hope for the Catholic Church.

In the past, Pope Benedict XVI wore elaborate robes and a large golden cross.

Pope Francis has been named the best dressed man of 2013 by Esquire magazine

Pope Francis has been named the best dressed man of 2013 by Esquire magazine

Now, Pope Francis is making a statement with his simple garments and small iron cross.

Instead of fashion, Pope Francis has been trying to focus on the Catholic Church helping the marginalized, the disenfranchised and the poor.

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Pope Francis has received a private message from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, the Vatican said on Saturday, without disclosing its contents.

It was the first known time Bashar al-Assad has sent a direct message to the Pope since the start of Syria’s civil war in 2011.

Pope Francis has made numerous appeals for an end to the conflict, the latest on Christmas Day.

Vatican sources said the message likely included the Syrian government’s position ahead of peace talks due to start on January 22nd under UN auspices in Geneva.

The Vatican, which has permanent observer status at the United Nations, also has a representative to UN organizations in Geneva.

Pope Francis has received a private message from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad

Pope Francis has received a private message from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad

It also said a delegation headed by Joseph Sweid, a Syrian minister of state, held talks in the Vatican with Pope Francis’ secretary of state, Archbishop Pietro Parolin and his foreign minister, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti.

“The delegation brought a message from President Assad for the Holy Father and illustrated the position of the Syrian government,” a statement said.

Syria’s civil war between forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad and mostly Sunni Muslim rebels fighting to topple him has killed more than 100,000 people since March 2011.

The Vatican is also keen to have information on the fate of Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, a Jesuit priest who supported the rebels and disappeared in July in eastern Syria.

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Pope Francis has urged for humanitarian aid in Syria in his first Christmas Day address – Urbi et Orbi.

The pontiff told thousands of pilgrims in St Peter’s Square in the Vatican to pray for a peaceful end to violence in Syria and other conflict zones.

The Pope also said tragic incidents involving migrants trying to reach Europe should not be repeated.

Christians around the world are celebrating Christmas, which marks the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem.

It was the third successive year that the Syrian conflict had been a main focus of the Christmas speech, one of the addresses known as Urbi et Orbi.

“Too many lives have been shattered in recent times by the conflict in Syria, fuelling hatred and vengeance,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis has urged for humanitarian aid in Syria in his first Christmas Day address

Pope Francis has urged for humanitarian aid in Syria in his first Christmas Day address

“Let us continue to ask the Lord to spare the beloved Syrian people further suffering.”

Pope Francis, 77, also called for peace in Iraq and a successful outcome in talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

Expanding on his concept of peace, he said: “True peace is not a balancing of opposing forces. It’s not a lovely facade which conceals conflicts and division. Peace calls for daily commitment.”

Conflicts in Africa were another focus of the Pope’s address.

He called the violence in the Central African Republic “often forgotten and overlooked” in a country “torn apart by a spiral of violence and poverty”.

He also urged an end to fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and for “social harmony” in South Sudan.

In the light of attacks on some Christian communities in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere, Pope Francis said: “Lord of life, protect all who are persecuted in your name.”

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Pope Francis celebrated his first Christmas Eve Mass since becoming pontiff St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.

The pontiff once again preached the importance of acceptance and humility, qualities he has demonstrated continually in his first nine months as head of the Catholic Church.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light,” Pope Francis began, quoting from Isaiah, a book of the Bible that includes prophesies foretelling the birth of Jesus.

Pope Francis has sought to change the image of the Catholic Church as a judgmental, lavish, inflexible institution since his election in March.

On Monday, he made a Christmas visit to Pope Emeritus Benedict and asked him to pray for him.

In Christmas Eve’s Mass, Pope Francis reiterated the importance of reaching out to the downtrodden, using the shepherds who were the first to hear of Jesus’ birth as an example.

“They were the first because they were among the last, the outcast,” he said.

“We bless you, Lord God most high, who lowered yourself for our sake. You are immense, and you made yourself small; you are rich and you made yourself poor; you are all-powerful and you made yourself vulnerable,” he said in thanks to God and also a clear indication of the humility he encourages his flock to emulate.

Before Christmas Eve Mass, Pope Francis personally placed a baby Jesus doll in a replica of a manger, a custom usually performed by an aid

Before Christmas Eve Mass, Pope Francis personally placed a baby Jesus doll in a replica of a manger, a custom usually performed by an aid

In his address to Vatican administrators on Saturday, Pope Francis said holiness was a practice of “deep humility and fraternal charity in our relationships with our fellow workers,” as he urged the cardinals, bishops and priests to avoid gossip.

Before the Mass, Pope Francis further inspired meekness, when he personally placed a baby Jesus doll in a replica of a manger, a custom usually performed by an aid.

The 2 1/2-hour Mass was the first of many services Pope Francis will lead during the holidays. On Christmas Day, he will deliver a “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) message from the basilica’s balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square.

Pope Francis will also hold mass on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day and another on January 6, for the feast of the Epiphany or “Three Kings’ Day”, celebrating the Magi’s visit to the baby Jesus.

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Pope Francis told Vatican officials he wants them to display professionalism and competence as well as holiness in their lives.

The pontiff warned Vatican administrators Saturday that their work can take a downward spiral into mediocrity, gossip and bureaucratic squabbling if they forget that theirs is a professional vocation of service to the church.

Pope Francis made the comments in his Christmas address to the Vatican Curia, the bureaucracy that forms the central government of the 1.2-billion strong Catholic Church. The speech was eagerly anticipated given that Pope Francis was elected in March on a mandate to overhaul the antiquated and oftentimes dysfunctional Vatican administration.

Already, heads have started to roll. Just last week, Pope Francis reshuffled the advisory body of the powerful Congregation for Bishops, the office that vets all the world’s bishop nominations. He removed the archconservative American Cardinal Raymond Burke, a key figure in the US culture wars over abortion and gay marriage, and also nixed the head of Italy’s bishops’ conference and another hard-line Italian, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, earlier axed as head of the Vatican office responsible for priests.

Other changes are on the horizon. In the coming weeks Pope Francis will name his first batch of cardinals and in February will preside over the third summit of his “Group of Eight” cardinal advisers, who are expected to put forward a first round of proposals for revamping the Holy See bureaucracy.

Pope Francis told Vatican officials he wants them to display professionalism and competence as well as holiness in their lives

Pope Francis told Vatican officials he wants them to display professionalism and competence as well as holiness in their lives

Pope Francis has said he wants a Vatican Curia that is more responsive to the needs of local bishops, who have long complained of Rome’s slow or unhelpful interventions in their work caring for souls. The Pope has said he wants the church as a whole to be less consumed with moralizing than showing mercy to the needy, wherever they are.

The pontiff thanked the cardinals, bishops and priests gathered in the Clementine Hall for the Christmas address for their work, diligence and creativity. Deviating from his prepared text, he said: “There are saints in the Curia!”

He also reminded them that Vatican officials must display professionalism and competence as well as holiness in their lives.

“When professionalism is lacking, there is a slow drift downwards toward mediocrity. Dossiers become full of trite and lifeless information, and incapable of opening up lofty perspectives,” he said.

“Then too, when the attitude is no longer one of service to the particular churches and their bishops, the structure of the Curia turns into a ponderous, bureaucratic customs house, constantly inspecting and questioning, hindering the working of the Holy Spirit and the growth of God’s people.”

Pope Francis also repeated a warning he has issued on several occasions in his morning homilies at the Vatican hotel where he lives: an admonition against gossiping. The secretive, closed world of the Vatican is a den of gossip, as revealed publicly last year by the leaks of papal documents from then-Pope Benedict XVI’s butler.

Using terminology familiar to those present, Pope Francis called for Vatican officials to exercise “conscientious objection to gossip”.

“Let us all be conscientious objectors, and mind you I’m not simply moralizing! Gossip is harmful to people, our work and our surroundings.”

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A little boy took off Pope Francis’ white zucchetto (skullcap) during a meeting with children and volunteers of the Santa Marta Vatican Institute at the Vatican on Saturday.

Pope Francis, 76, struggled to hold on to his skullcap after the playful youngster snatched it from the pontiff’s head.

Pope Francis met children and volunteers of the Santa Marta Vatican Institute

Pope Francis met children and volunteers of the Santa Marta Vatican Institute

The Pope had picked up the boy when he became fascinated by the white cap traditionally worn on the head of the Catholic church leader.

Pope Francis smiled as the boy carefully examined the accessory before carefully retrieving it from the curious youngster.

In the meantime, the little boy turned his attention to the Pope’s hair.

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In a recent interview, Pope Francis said he is not a Marxist but that even Marxists can be good people.

Pope Francis was responding to conservative criticisms that his economic and social ideas smack of communism.

He also denied reports that he would name a woman cardinal, said there was good progress in cleaning up Vatican finances and confirmed that he would visit Israel and the Palestinian territories next year, Italian newspaper La Stampa reported.

Last month, radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who has a huge following in the US, railed against Pope Francis for written comments made on the world economy.

Rush Limbaugh, who is not Catholic, said that parts of the document were “pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the Pope” and suggested that someone else had written the papal document for him. He also accused the Pope of going “beyond Catholicism” and being “purely political”.

Asked about the accusations, which sparked a debate in the media and blogosphere last month, Pope Francis, a member of the all-male Jesuit order associated with progressive social policies, said: “Marxist ideology is wrong. But in my life I have known many Marxists who are good people, so I don’t feel offended.”

He has also been criticized by other conservatives.

Rush Limbaugh railed against Pope Francis for written comments made on the world economy

Rush Limbaugh railed against Pope Francis for written comments made on the world economy

In last month’s document, seen as a platform for his papacy, Pope Francis attacked unfettered capitalism as “a new tyranny” said an “economy of exclusion and inequality” had proven to be deadly for many people around the world.

In his response to the critics, Pope Francis said he was not speaking “as a technician but according to the social doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, and this does not mean being Marxist”. He said he was just trying to present a “snapshot of what is happening” in the world today.

In another document last week, Pope Francis said huge salaries and bonuses were symptoms of an economy based on greed and called again for nations to narrow the wealth gap.

Conservatives in the 1.2 billion member Church have expressed concern and disappointment about some of the pope’s pronouncements, such as when he said he was not in a position to judge gays who are people of good will sincerely seeking God.

Asked about speculation that a woman could be among the new cardinals he will appoint early next year, Pope Francis said: “I don’t know where that idea comes from. Women in the Church should be valued, not <<clericalized>>.”

In other parts of the interview, Francis also said a committee of eight cardinals from around the world who are advising him on changes to the Vatican structure would make its first formal recommendations to him in February but that reform would be a “lengthy task”.

He said that reform of the Vatican’s sometimes murky finances was “on the right path” and expressed satisfaction that last week a Council of Europe committee called Moneyval gave the Vatican a good evaluation of its efforts to abide by international financial standards.

Pope Francis said he had not yet decided what to do about the Vatican bank, which has been touched by scandals over the decades. In the past he has not ruled out closing it.

He said he was “getting ready” to go to the Holy Land next year to mark the 50th anniversary of when Pope Paul VI became the first pope in modern times to visit there.

Pope Francis has been invited by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority to make a visit, which is expected to take place in May or June.

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Pope Francis has been named Person of the Year 2013 by Time magazine after only nine months in office.

The Pope had pulled “the papacy out of the palace and into the streets”, managing editor Nancy Gibbs said.

“Rarely has a new player on the world stage captured so much attention so quickly – young and old, faithful and cynical,” she added.

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden was runner-up.

Buenos Aires Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope last March. He named himself Francis after a 12th Century Italian saint who turned his back on an aristocratic lifestyle to work with the poor.

Since then, Pope Francis has eschewed some of the more regal trappings of high office, made headlines by washing the feet of prisoners, and is planning some major reforms to the Church.

Pope Francis has been named Person of the Year 2013 by Time magazine after only nine months in office

Pope Francis has been named Person of the Year 2013 by Time magazine after only nine months in office

“In his nine months in office, he has placed himself at the very centre of the central conversations of our time: about wealth and poverty, fairness and justice, transparency, modernity, globalization, the role of women, the nature of marriage, the temptations of power,” Nancy Gibbs wrote.

Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said it was “a positive sign” that one of the international media’s most prestigious recognitions had been given to “a person who proclaims… spiritual, religious and moral values and speaks out forcefully in favor of peace and greater justice”.

“The Holy Father is not looking to become famous or to receive honors,” said Federico Lombardi.

“But if the choice of Person of Year helps spread the message of the Gospel – a message of God’s love for everyone – he will certainly be happy about that.”

This is the third time a Pope has received the recognition from Time magazine. John Paul II was selected in 1994 and John XXIII was chosen in 1962.

Besides Edward Snowden, this year’s other finalists were US activist Edith Windsor, US Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

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Pope Francis will set up a Vatican committee to fight abuse of children in the Catholic Church and offer help to victims.

The announcement, by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, follows a meeting between Pope Francis and his eight cardinal advisers.

It comes days after the Vatican refused a UN request for information on alleged abuse by priests, nuns or monks.

Pope Francis has said dealing with abuse is vital for the Church’s credibility.

Earlier this week the Pope expressed his compassion for the many victims of abuse by priests around the world.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley said the proposed panel of experts could provide codes of conduct for clergymen, guidelines for Church officials and better checks for would-be priests.

Pope Francis will set up a Vatican committee to fight abuse of children in the Catholic Church and offer help to victims

Pope Francis will set up a Vatican committee to fight abuse of children in the Catholic Church and offer help to victims

“Up until now there has been so much focus on the judicial parts of this but the pastoral part is very, very important. The Holy Father is concerned about that,” he said.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley added that the move was in line with the approach of the former Pope, Benedict XVI, who referred to the “filth” in the Catholic Church. Pope Benedict was, however, accused of failing to do enough to address the problem.

He said the new committee was suggested by the council of cardinals, which was convened to discuss reforms to the Catholic Church, and Pope Francis approved it on Thursday, according to AFP news agency.

The archdiocese of Boston was the centre of a child abuse scandal involving Catholic priests in the US in 2002. It ultimately led to the resignation of the archbishop at the time.

The Catholic Church has faced a raft of allegations of child abuse by priests around the world and criticism over inadequate responses by bishops.

Earlier this year the Pope strengthened Vatican laws on child abuse, broadening the definition of crimes against minors to include abuse of children.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child put a wide-ranging questionnaire to the Holy See – the city state’s diplomatic entity – last July, asking for detailed information about the particulars of all abuse cases notified to the Vatican since 1995.

The Vatican refused, saying the cases were the responsibility of the judicial systems of countries where abuse took place.

Vatican officials are due to be questioned about child abuse, among other issues, by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in January.

The Vatican has unveiled Evangelii Gaudium, the first major work Pope Francis has written in the role.

Pope Francis has called for power in the Catholic Church to be devolved away from the Vatican.

In his Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis says he is open to suggestions to changes in the power of the papacy.

The pontiff also warns that rising global economic inequality is bound to explode in conflict.

Since becoming Pope in March, Francis has struck a markedly different tone to his predecessor on several issues.

In his “apostolic exhortation”, Pope Francis said he preferred a Church that was “bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security”.

However, the document reiterates the Church’s opposition to the ordination of female priests, saying this is “not a question open to discussion”.

The document also touches on inter-faith relations, urging Christians to “embrace with affection and respect Muslim immigrants to our countries in the same way that we hope and ask to be received and respected in countries of Islamic tradition”.

Pope Francis has called for power in the Catholic Church to be devolved away from the Vatican

Pope Francis has called for power in the Catholic Church to be devolved away from the Vatican

Last month Pope Francis held his first meeting with a special group of cardinals to consider ways to reform the Vatican bureaucracy after saying in a newspaper interview that the Vatican had become too self-interested and needed to be inclusive.

“Excessive centralization, rather than proving helpful, complicates the Church’s life and her missionary outreach,” he says in the latest document.

Pope Francis also says he does not believe that the papacy “should be expected to offer a definitive or complete word on every question which affects the Church and the world”.

This month the Vatican launched an unprecedented survey of the views of lay Catholics on modern family life.

The document does restate the Church’s opposition to abortion but concedes that “it is also true that we have done little to adequately accompany women in very difficult situations,… especially when the life developing within them is the result of rape or a situation of extreme poverty”.

“Who can remain unmoved before such painful situations?” he asks.

Pope Francis also expands on his concerns about economic inequality.

“Today we also have to say <<thou shalt not>> to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills,” the pontiff says, going on to castigate the “new idolatry of money”.

“I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor!” Pope Francis goes on.

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Pope Francis has decided to put on public display nine tiny fragments of bone which may belong to St Peter, the world’s first Pope.

The fragments were placed in a case on the altar during an open air mass in St Peter’s Square.

The bones reputed to be of St Peter were held aloft by Pope Francis at mass on Sunday – the first time the relics have ever been shown to the public.

Discovered during the excavation of tombs under St Peter’s Basilica in the 1940s, the alleged bones of the saint and apostle who lived 2,000 years ago – and who is considered the first pope – have always been stored in the chapel of the papal apartment.

But to mark the end of the Vatican’s Year of Faith, during which 8.5 million people have visited St Peter’s tomb, the bronze box containing the fragments was brought into St Peter’s Square for an open air mass on Sunday.

Placed on the altar, the box was opened, revealing the fragments – each measuring about an inch long – laid on an ivory base and held down with wire. Pope Francis first wafted incense towards the bones, then held the box aloft during the mass, although he did not refer to them.

The Catholic Church has long been undecided on whether the bones are truly those of St Peter, even though, in 1968 archeologist Margherita Guarducci persuaded Pope Paul VI to say the bones had been “identified in a way we can hold to be convincing”.

Pope Francis has decided to put on public display nine tiny fragments of bone which may belong to St Peter, the world's first Pope

Pope Francis has decided to put on public display nine tiny fragments of bone which may belong to St Peter, the world’s first Pope

Prof. Margherita Guarducci had noticed Greek graffiti near the excavated tomb graffiti that she translated as “Peter is here”, while tests on the bones showed they came from a man in his 60s. But her conclusion was rejected by fellow experts involved in the dig.

A Latin inscription on the outside of the bronze box in which the bones are contained states they are “considered” to be St Peter’s.

Ahead of the unveiling, archbishop Rino Fisichella, the head of the pontifical council for the promotion of new evangelization, said the relics were merely “traditionally recognized” as belonging to Saint Peter.

“It has finally been decided to produce the bones for the public, but these relics have a low profile at the Vatican,” said Marco Ansaldo, a Vatican expert at Italy’s La Repubblica.

“It seems clear the Vatican is not yet sure about the relics and is therefore rather embarrassed” he added.

The Vatican also has an ambivalent view of the Turin Shroud, the length of cloth bearing the image of a man, which was reputedly used to wrap the corpse of Christ. Without confirming if they believe the shroud is genuine, Vatican officials say it has earned its role as an object of veneration.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said that producing the bones on Sunday was “a way to feel spiritually close to the story of the tomb and of the apostle. There is a serious possibility they are St Peter’s bones, but we don’t go beyond that”.

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Addressing the delegates of the European Olympic Committees at the Vatican on Saturday, Pope Francis has warned that the commercialization of sport may undermine its spiritual values.

Pope Francis told Olympic leaders that looking for profit and victory at all costs risked reducing athletes “to mere trading material”.

“Sport is harmony, but if money and success prevail as the aim, this harmony crumbles,” the Pope said.

The pontiff has struck a different tone to his predecessor on a range of issues.

Pope Francis said recently the Church was too focused on preaching about abortion, gay people and contraception.

He played basketball as a young man and is a keen supporter of his local San Lorenzo football club in Buenos Aires.

Pope Francis told Olympic leaders that looking for profit and victory at all costs risked reducing athletes to mere trading material

Pope Francis told Olympic leaders that looking for profit and victory at all costs risked reducing athletes to mere trading material

Pope Francis had two days of meetings with leaders of the world of sport. He met Sepp Blatter, the head of the International Football Federation (FIFA) and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach.

He has also been talking about the spiritual values of team games with the rugby squads of Italy and Argentina – ahead of their encounter in Rome.

“Rugby is like life because we are all heading for a goal. We need to run together and pass the ball from hand to hand until we get to it,” Pope Francis told the rugby players.

Addressing the delegates of the European Olympic Committees at the Vatican on Saturday, the Pope said: “When sport is considered only in economic terms and consequently for victory at every cost, it risks reducing athletes to mere trading material from whom profits are extracted.”

Thomas Bach presented the Pope with the Olympic Order in Gold, telling him: “You truly understand the joy in human spirit that sport can bring but just as much the deeper values that it can nurture.”

Sepp Blatter gave Pope Francis a special Latin edition of the FIFA magazine.

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Pope Francis donned a bright red nose and clowned around with a newlywed couple inside the Vatican this week.

The Pope posed with the bride and groom, who are volunteers at a charity that brings clown therapy to sick children.

The lighthearted moment came hours after Pope Francis kissed and prayed with a severely disfigured man at the end of his general audience at St. Peter’s Square.

Pope Francis donned a bright red nose and clowned around with a newlywed couple inside the Vatican

Pope Francis donned a bright red nose and clowned around with a newlywed couple inside the Vatican

In the eight months since he was elected pope, Pope Francis, 76, has emerged as an endearing figure known for his humility and desire to build a more inclusive church.

When a young boy wandered on stage during a homily last month, the pontiff let him stay by his side and even gave him a playful pat on the head.

Pope Francis has stayed true to his humble Jesuit roots by choosing to live a simple life.

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Pope Francis touched the nearly 50,000 attendees at Wednesday’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square by embracing an ailing man who suffers from a disfiguring genetic disorder.

In a series of photos that have since gone viral, Pope Francis is seen praying, then placing his hands on the unnamed man, who then proceeds to bury his head in the pope’s chest.

Pope Francis touched the nearly 50,000 attendees at Wednesday’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square by embracing an ailing man who suffers from a disfiguring genetic disorder

Pope Francis touched the nearly 50,000 attendees at Wednesday’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square by embracing an ailing man who suffers from a disfiguring genetic disorder

According to the Catholic News Agency, the man suffers from neurofibromatosis, a disease that causes pain and tumors throughout the body, as well as a host of other hearing, vision, heart and nerve complications.

Pope Francis has previously encouraged increased interaction with people from all walks of life, especially the poor, weak and sick.

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Pietro Parolin has been appointed by Pope Francis as the new prime minister of Vatican.

Veteran diplomat Pietro Parolin is replacing Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone as part of Pope Francis’ initiative to reform the Vatican.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, appointed by Pope Benedict XVI, had been widely criticized over last year’s so-called “Vatileaks” scandals.

Leaked documents revealed corruption and infighting at the Vatican.

In September Tarcisio Bertone said he had been the victim of “moles and vipers”.

Pietro Parolin is replacing Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone as part of Pope Francis’ initiative to reform the Vatican

Pietro Parolin is replacing Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone as part of Pope Francis’ initiative to reform the Vatican

“Of course there were a lot of problems, particularly in the last two years, and some accusations were levied against me,” he said.

“But this should not darken what I see as a positive overall result. We missed some things, also because problems were kept locked away by some people who did not contact the Secretariat of State,” Tarcisio Bertone added.

Cardinals welcomed the choice of Pietro Parolin who is seen as a reformer and known for his efforts to improve relations with China and Israel.

The French cardinal, Jean-Louis Tauran, told Vatican radio that Pietro Parolin was “an excellent choice, an efficient man, a good negotiator, very balanced.”

Pope Francis has already set in motion the reform of the Vatican Bank which has allegedly been turning a blind eye to money-laundering by some of its clients. He has also appointed a committee of Catholic economists to advise him on improving accounting methods and financial transparency.

The appointment of Pope Francis’ new secretary of state is seen by Vatican watchers as the most important single administrative act carried out by the new Pope since his election last March.

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