VATICAN CITY -- The sounds of ululations and drums and a litany of saints filled St. Peter's Basilica Dec. 1 as Pope Francis celebrated Mass according to what is commonly called the Zairean Rite.

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VATICAN CITY -- As Advent approached, Pope Francis gave a small fragment of Jesus' crib back to Catholics in the Holy Land.

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VATICAN CITY -- A Nativity scene is a simple reminder of something astonishing: God became human to reveal the greatness of his love "by smiling and opening his arms to all," Pope Francis said in a letter on the meaning and importance of setting up Christmas cribs.

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The online publication The Catholic Thing recently dubbed Pope Francis “idiosyncratic” for his insistence that evangelical encounters should witness to Christ without having a proselytizing edge. 

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VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis advanced the sainthood cause of Bishop Ovide Charlebois -- a Canadian Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate who ministered to First Nations peoples and migrant workers scattered throughout the vast, lake-covered province of Manitoba.

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VATICAN CITY -- Theologians must explore and debate disputed questions, at times even taking "risks" with what they propose, but those discussions should take place within the academy so as not to confuse the faithful, Pope Francis said.

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VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis appointed a seasoned Italian finance inspector to lead the Vatican's financial watchdog agency following the resignation of its president.

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VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis led prayers for the people of Albania after the country was struck by a magnitude 6.4 earthquake.

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ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM JAPAN -- Questions about Vatican finances, especially those involving a real estate deal in London, are serious, but they also are a sign that reforms begun by Pope Benedict XVI are working, Pope Francis said.

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TOKYO -- Pope Francis spent his last morning in Japan at the Jesuit-run Sophia University, celebrating Mass with his Jesuit confreres, visiting aged members of the Jesuit community and addressing students and staff.

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VATICAN CITY -- Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta was set to leave Vatican City to present himself before judicial authorities in Argentina before a Nov. 28 deadline that, if ignored, could result in an arrest warrant.

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TOKYO -- While not adopting the Japanese bishops' opposition to nuclear power plants as his own, Pope Francis insisted the 2011 meltdown at the Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in Fukushima raises serious questions.

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TOKYO -- Beauty, creation and each human life are gifts of God to be treasured and shared, not enslaved to current societal ideas of what is valuable, perfect or productive, Pope Francis said at a Mass in the famous Tokyo Dome.

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HIROSHIMA, Japan -- Saying it is "perverse" to think the threat of nuclear weapons makes the world safer, Pope Francis urged a renewed commitment to disarmament and to the international treaties designed to limit or eliminate nuclear weapons.

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NAGASAKI, Japan -- While the world knows Nagasaki as the site of a U.S. atomic bomb blast, for the Catholic Church it is also the site of one of the fiercest campaigns of anti-Christian persecution.

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