Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

Ladislas set a machete under the crucifix. Bijoux laid a wicker mat there. And Emelda dropped military fatigues.

In a country where most people are Christian and all are suffering from decades of violence and atrocities, Pope Francis told the Congolese to lay down their weapons and their rancor.

The people of Congo are more precious than any of the gems or minerals found in the earth beneath their feet, yet they have been slaughtered by warmongers and exploited by prospectors, Pope Francis said.

After flying across the equator, Pope Francis was welcomed warmly -- in every sense -- to Congo where Catholics make up the majority of the population and where, for decades, the Catholic Church has been at the forefront of efforts to bring peace, education and health care to the people.

Before beginning their ecumenical pilgrimage of peace to South Sudan, Pope Francis and the leaders of the Anglican Communion and the Presbyterian Church of Scotland asked Christians around the globe to accompany them with prayers.

Public criticism by cardinals and bishops is annoying -- "like a rash that bothers you a bit," Pope Francis said -- but differences need to be aired and criticism can be helpful, he told the Associated Press.

While the Second Vatican Council gave the Catholic Church a "beautiful" document on the priesthood, "it did not face the fundamental question" of the difference between Catholic and Protestant understandings of ordained ministry, wrote Pope Benedict XVI in an essay published after his death.

Soon after Pope Benedict XVI was laid to rest in the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica, an Italian publisher released early copies of a book by the late pope’s secretary.

Australian Cardinal George Pell, who died in Rome Jan. 10, never made a secret of his staunch adherence to established Catholic moral teaching and his concern about fellow cardinals and bishops he saw as willing to abandon that teaching.

The disappearance 40 years ago of Emanuela Orlandi has haunted her family, fueled conspiracy theories and provided grist for a recent Netflix series.