It was Palestinian Week in Rome. The Holy See recognized the “State of Palestine.” The Holy Father called Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas an “angel of peace.” Two Palestinian saints were canonized. Or so it appeared in the world’s press. Not for the first time under Pope Francis, what was reported was not exactly what happened.

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JERUSALEM - Israel is downplaying the recent media flurry over reports the Vatican and Palestinian representatives have finalized the text of a formal agreement recognizing freedom of religion in the "State of Palestine" and outlining the rights and obligations of the Catholic Church, its agencies and its personnel in the territory.

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JERUSALEM - The Vatican’s decision to recognize Palestine as a sovereign state has angered Israeli officials.

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OTTAWA - A Mexican group that includes the mother of one of 43 students who disappeared from a teacher-training college in Ayotzinapa, Mexico, is asking Canada to take Mexico off its list of safe countries.

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VATICAN CITY - Despite media reports that Pope Francis refused the candidate France proposed as its next ambassador to the Holy See — speculating that it is due to the fact Laurent Stefanini is homosexual — the French government has yet to receive an official response from the Vatican, said a spokesperson for the French government.

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GENEVA - The Holy See's permanent observer to the United Nations in Geneva called on the international community to assist Nigeria and neighbouring countries to rid the region of Boko Haram insurgency.

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VATICAN CITY - The Catholic Church firmly opposes the death penalty and urges all states to move toward its abolition, said the Vatican's permanent observer to United Nations agencies in Geneva.

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WASHINGTON - Pope Francis personally appealed to President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro this year to encourage both leaders to normalize diplomatic relations, a senior Obama administration official said.

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OTTAWA - Dennis Savoie has been chosen as Canada's new ambassador to the Holy See.

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis and his council of eight cardinals are unlikely to complete a radical shakeup of the Holy See’s administration, or Curia, before 2015, the Vatican said Tuesday (April 29).

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OTTAWA, Ontario - Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Msgr. Jose Bettencourt, a native of Portugal who grew up in Ottawa, as the Holy See's head of protocol.

Msgr. Bettencourt is only the second non-Italian to hold the position. The post had been held by Msgr. Fortunatus Nwachukwa, a Nigerian diplomat, who was named Nov. 12 as apostolic nuncio to Nicaragua.

"We are very proud of him and the honor the Holy Father has conferred on him in calling him to this charge," Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa said.

"He values his ties with his local church of Ottawa though his duties only permit a short stay at Christmas and a longer break over the summer months," the archbishop said. "He is invariably pleased to receive Canadians when I refer people to him and is kind to a fault."

In his position Msgr. Bettencourt is in charge of the protocol involving the Holy See's relationships with other states, from welcoming visiting heads of state at the airport to dealings with diplomats and ambassadors accredited to the Vatican.

His role includes overseeing how heads of state and others participate in ceremonies such as canonizations and consistories and ensuring that visitors to the Vatican are welcomed and relaxed.

Before his appointment, Msgr. Bettencourt worked closely in organizing papal audiences, briefing the pope and visiting bishops, heads of state and lay people for the visits.

He has served in the Vatican's Secretariat of State since 2002.

Born in 1962 in Velas, Azores, Portugal, Msgr. Bettencourt grew up in Ottawa, where he attended both elementary and secondary school. He graduated from the University of Ottawa before pursuing theological studies at Dominican College and St. Paul University, where he studied for the priesthood. He was ordained in 1993.

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