Pope Francis Holds Historic Talks With Russian Orthodox Patriarch

pope Francis and KirillHistory has been made in Cuba where Pope Francis and the Russian orthodox, Patriarch Kirill, have held a first of its kind meeting.

At the talks which is the first between a Pope and a Russian church head since the western and eastern branches of Christianity split in the 11th century, both men called for Restored Christian Unity between the two churches.

In a joint declaration, they also urged the world to protect Christians from persecution in the middle east.

Patriarch Kirill has been the head of the Russian Orthodox Church since February 2009, while Pope Francis took up his role in March 2013.

The Roman Catholic Church has more than a billion members worldwide, while the Russian Orthodox Church numbers about 165 million.

The Russian Church is the largest and most powerful in the Orthodox faith, which is made up of a number of separate churches.

The encounter in Havana is not expected to lead to any immediate rapprochement between the Eastern and Western Churches.

Ahead of the meeting, the foreign policy Chief of the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Illarion, said there were still differences between the two churches, in particular on western Ukraine.

The Pope has now arrived in Mexico for a five-day visit. The country has the world’s second largest catholic population.

Pope Francis Meets With Muslims In CAR Capital, Bangui

Pope Francis Visits SardiniaPope Francis has visited a mosque in the capital of the Central African Republic, Bangui, where he met with Muslims who have sought shelter after nearly three years of violence between Christians and Muslims.

The Pope told worshippers in a mosque that “Christians and Muslims were brothers and sisters”.

Most Muslims had left the capital but 15,000 are left in an area called pk5 surrounded by armed Christian militia.

A “New Chapter”

The pope will conclude his visit to Africa with a final mass in Bangui. This is the pontiff’s first visit to a conflict zone and the final stop on his landmark three-nation African tour.

On Sunday, the Pope called on fighting factions in CAR to lay down their weapons.

Celebrating Mass in Bangui, he said they should instead, arm themselves “with justice, love, mercy and authentic peace”.

Pope Francis expressed hope that the January elections in the Central African Republic would open a “new chapter” for the country.

CAR has been torn apart by violence between Muslim rebels and mainly Christian militias.

It is the pontiff’s first visit to a conflict zone and the final stop on his landmark three-nation African tour.

In an address at the presidential palace, he called for unity and urged them to avoid “the temptation of fear of others, of the unfamiliar, of what is not part of our ethnic group, our political views or our religious confession”.

Conflict  blighted the CAR for decades but it was only in 2013 that the fighting took on a religious form.

Pope Francis Anticipates Peaceful Elections In CAR

Pope Francis Anticipates Peaceful Elections In CARPope Francis has expressed hope that the January elections in the Central African Republic (CAR) would open a “new chapter” for the country.

The Pope was speaking after arriving the nation’s capital, Bangui, which was the his first visit to a conflict zone.

CAR has been torn apart by violence between Muslim rebels and Christian militias.

In an address at the Presidential Palace, Pope Francis called for unity and admonished citizens to avoid the ethnic, religious and political hostility.

Acting President, Catherine Samba-Panza, asked the Holy Father for forgiveness for the country’s recent religious violence.

During the visit, the pontiff would celebrate mass in Bangui, but is also expected to meet Muslim leaders and visit a mosque in the city’s Muslim enclave known as PK5.

Pope Francis Celebrates Mass For Martyrs In Uganda

Pope francisPope Francis has celebrated mass in front of an audience of hundreds of thousands of Ugandan faithful.

He spoke at a catholic shrine dedicated to Christians martyred for their faith in the 19th century, on the second stage of his three-country trip to Africa.

The mass marks the 50th anniversary of the martyrs’ canonisation.

Burned Alive

There were huge cheers as the pope began the open-air ceremony at Namugongo, near Kampala.

It was there where many of the 45 Anglican and Catholic martyrs were burned alive.

Their execution was ordered by a king worried about the spread of Christianity.

Pope Francis is the third Pope to visit Uganda, and he is likely to continue to preach his message of mercy and care for the poor and to speak out against corruption.

He may also talk of the need for reconciliation among different tribes and, perhaps, pray for a peaceful vote in Uganda’s next election in February.

On Friday, the Pope addressed an audience of young people in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, urging them to unite and take a stand against the destructive effects of tribalism.

Pope Francis Celebrates Rain-Soaked Mass In Kenya

popePope Francis has celebrated a huge mass at a university campus in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

Crowds waited in the rain at the University of Nairobi sports ground, since the early hours of Thursday. More than one million people were expected to attend the mass.

Pope Francis made a plea for traditional values, saying “the health of any society depends on the health of its families”.

Earlier, the Pope urged Kenyans to work for peace and reconciliation on his first trip as pontiff to Africa, amid a rise in militant violence.

He arrived in Kenya on Wednesday, the first stop on a three-nation tour.

‘Paris Attacks An Act Of War By ISIS’ – Hollande

Francois HollandeFrench President, Francois Hollande, has described the near-simultaneous attacks in Paris that killed about 130 people as an ‘act of war’ organised by the Islamic State (ISIS) militant group.

President Hollande said the attacks, carried out by eight gunmen and suicide bombers, were “organised and planned from outside”.

He added that the murders were “committed by a terrorist army, the Islamic State group, a jihadist army, against France, against the values that we defend everywhere in the world, against what we are: a free country that means something to the whole planet”.

He stressed that France “will be merciless toward the barbarians of Islamic State group”.

Mr Hollande, who was speaking after an emergency security meeting, vowed the country would “act by all means anywhere, inside or outside the country”.

“France is united and taking action and it will triumph over barbarity.What we are defending is our country, but more than that, it is our values,” the French leader added.

Leaders from around the world have also expressed solidarity in the wake of the attacks.

German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, said the attackers “hate freedom”.

She expressed grief for those who died, saying “they wanted to live the life of free people in a city that celebrates life”.

Pope Francis also condemned the events as “unjustifiable, inhuman acts”.

For Russian President, Vladimir Putin, the bloodshed was “the latest testimonial to the barbaric essence of terrorism which throws down a challenge to human civilisation”. He added that Moscow stood ready to help “investigate the crime that took place in Paris”.

U.S. President, Barack Obama, called Friday’s violence an “attack on all humanity” and an “outrageous attempt to terrorise innocent civilians”.

United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, nonetheless, condemned “the despicable terrorist attacks”, while British Prime Minister, David Cameron said he was “shocked” by the violence.

The targets included bars, restaurants, a concert and a high-profile football match. IS claimed the attacks.

Meanwhile, Mr Hollande had declared three days of national mourning.

He raised the security threat level to its highest point and imposed a nationwide state of emergency. The attacks wounded at least 180 people, 80 of whom are in a critical condition.

President Hollande was among the spectators and was whisked to safety after the first explosion. It later emerged three suicide bombers blew themselves up at fast food outlets and a brasserie near the stadium.

Police said that a Syrian passport was found on the body of one of the bombers at the stadium.

Church Synod To Open Amid Gay Row

church synoid popePope Francis is due to celebrate mass at St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, at the start of a synod of bishops that will focus on family issues.

The run-up was dominated by a row over a Vatican priest, Poland-born Krzysztof Charamsa, who on Saturday announced he was in a gay relationship.

Monseigneur Charamsa said he wanted to challenge the church’s “backwards” attitude to homosexuality.

He was later dismissed from his post at the Vatican’s office in charge of guarding Roman Catholic doctrine.

A spokesman said Charamsa’s decision to give interviews on the eve of the synod was “grave and irresponsible” and would put Pope Francis under “undue media pressure”.

Almost 300 Church leaders -will be discussing such issues as the treatment of Catholics who are gay, and how to approach couples who live together without being married or wish to take communion after being divorced.

Georgia Executes First Woman In 70 Years

georgiaThe US state of Georgia has executed the first woman in 70 years, despite a number of last-ditch appeals, including one by the Pope, to try and block her execution.

47 year old Kelly Gissendaner was convicted for the planned murder of her husband in 1997.

Lawyers filed at least three appeals with the US Supreme Court to try and delay the sentence hours before she died, but all failed.

Her former lover, Gregory Owen, who killed her husband, Douglas, was given life in prison after he turned State witness and testified against her.

Pope Francis had asked the review board to reconsider, but the board announced it was not granting clemency.

Hours later, the US Supreme Court said it had rejected three applications for a stay of execution.

Witnesses to the execution told a local news agency that she was singing Amazing Grace before she was given a lethal injection.

Pope Francis Addresses UN General Assembly

popePope Francis has condemned in very strong terms the degradation of the environment, calling it a harm to humanity.

He made this condemnation at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in New York on Friday.

The Clergyman said that any harm done on the environment is not only offensive, but unacceptable.

He condemned what he called ‘oppressive lending systems’ which smaller countries, particularly Africa are subjected to.

The Catholic leader also addressed other topics including girls’ education and drug trafficking.

This is the first time Pope Francis would be addressing the UN General Assembly, since becoming the leader of the Catholic Church.

At a memorial in September 11 Memorial Musuem, the Pope prayed for those killed in the attack, also praying for healing for families of the victims.

Pope Celebrates Mass In Cuba

popePope Francis is in the Cuban capital, Havana, where he has celebrated a mass in front of thousands of people.

Pope Francis, who is on a trip to Cuba and the US, has been credited with helping with the recent renewal of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

The Pope said that he was in Cuba to further strengthen those ties.

During his homily, he said that “Christians are constantly called to set aside their own wishes and desires, their pursuit of power, and to look instead to those who are most vulnerable”.

After the mass, Pope Francis met Fidel Castro at his house in Havana for about 30 minutes. The two men exchanged books as gifts.

However, dissidents shouting and attempting to distribute flyers at the edge of Revolution Square, were arrested by security forces.

Pope Francis Easter Message

Pope-FrancisPope Francis has prayed for an end to the torment of Christians, commemorating the students murdered by Islamist militants at Garissa University in Kenya.

Celebrating the third Easter of his pontificate, Pope Francis spoke from the central balcony in a drizzling St. Peter’s Square after saying a Mass for tens of thousands of people wearing plastic ponchos and holding umbrellas.

Pope Francis in his message, 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 – and there are many”.

Attacks on Christians in Africa and the Middle East have been the unattractive backdrop of all Holy Week ceremonies leading up to Easter.

He commemorated the students massacred by Islamist militants at Garissa University in Kenya.

In Libya, where Islamic State (IS) militants beheaded 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians last February, he called for peace and also for an end to “the present absurd bloodshed and all barbarous acts of violence”.

He further prayed for peace in Iraq and Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Syria, Sudan, South Sudan, and Nigeria, where Boko Haram had also launched attacks on Christian churches.

“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.

“We ask peace for this world subjected to arms dealers, who make their money from the blood of men and women,” he said.

Just about the only positive part in the pope’s address was a reference to the deal reached in Switzerland last week between Iran and the international community on a framework for a nuclear accord.

Referencing the deal reached in Switzerland last week between Iran and the international community on a framework for a nuclear accord, Pope Francis said “In hope we entrust to the merciful Lord the framework recently agreed to in Lausanne, that it may be a definitive step towards a more secure and fraternal world”.

Pope Francis Warns Against Religious Provocation

Pope-FrancisPope Francis has cautioned people on the possible consequences of insulting other people’s faith, noting that there was a limit to freedom of expression.

Weighing in on last week’s terror in Paris, France and the resulting debate over freedom of expression, Pope Francis said en route to Manila, Philippines, that “one cannot kill in the name of God”, adding that  “one cannot provoke or  insult other people’s faith.”

Terror first struck when two Islamic extremists gained entrance into the Charlie Hebdo magazine company and killed several people.

However the Pope did not mention Charlie Hebdo specifically, or its cartoon depictions of Mohammed, which many Muslims have regarded as offensive.

A previous cartoon was one reason the Paris magazine was targeted, after which its post-attack cover showed Mohammed again, crying and holding a sign with the rallying cry “Je suis Charlie,” French for “I am Charlie.”

In his speech, Pope Francis – referring to his friend Alberto Gasbarri – said if a friend “says a swear word against my mother, then a punch awaits him”.