ROME – The same day Pope Francis brought 12 Syrian refugees to Rome from Greece, a merchant ship rescued 41 refugees, including a three-year-old child. They told human rights workers they saw as many as 500 others drown when the refugees' boat sank.

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis blessed the eyes of an American girl who suffers from a genetic condition that will make her blind, in a visit to the Vatican described as a “miracle” by her father.

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ROME - Italy may be the spiritual home of 1.2 billion members of the Catholic Church around the world, but a new poll shows only 50 per cent of Italians consider themselves Catholic.

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ROME - After months of public debate and protests, the Italian Senate passed a controversial bill that grants legal recognition to non-married heterosexual and homosexual couples.

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BRESCIA, Italy - Italian State Police in Brescia, working with their counterparts in Kosovo, announced Dec. 1 that they had taken action against four Kosovars they believed to be terrorist risks and who, police said, made threats on social media against Pope Francis.

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FLORENCE, Italy - If God and his word are to help people, Christians have to be in touch with what is really happening in people's lives, Pope Francis said during an afternoon Mass.

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FLORENCE, Italy - Meeting workers and addressing a major gathering of the Catholic Church in Italy, Pope Francis demanded an end to economic exploitation, to clerics "obsessed" with power, to apathy among youth and to a cold, fearful church that forgets Christ is always by its side.

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ROME - A priest has lost his post in northern Italy after saying he can “understand” pedophilia within the church. The priest appeared to blame children for sexual abuse and described homosexuality as a sickness.

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ROME - A Tuscany priest is offering a baby bonus of more than $2,000 to Italian Catholic families who have three or more children. But there are strings attached.

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy - Pope Francis is shunning the expansive papal summer palace in Castel Gandolfo for the third time since 2013, a choice that is causing frustration among locals who rely on the tourists a papal visit brings.

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VATICAN CITY - It took place in silence and lasted only a few minutes, but Pope Francis' time of prayer and contemplation before the Shroud of Turin was marked with gestures of reverence and tenderness.

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TURIN, Italy - A thin white cloth draped over the glass-covered Shroud of Turin was pulled down and billowed to the floor, marking the official opening of the venerated icon’s exposition to the public.

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VATICAN CITY - Italian police arrested at least nine people in what officials described as a terrorist cell that had planned, in 2010, to strike at the Vatican with a suicide bomber.

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VATICAN CITY - The poor, migrants in search of a better life and the unemployed want what all human beings want: life, dignity and a chance to earn a decent living, Pope Francis said in several speeches urging compassion and assistance by both governments and individuals.

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VATICAN CITY - The bishop of a southern Italian diocese has issued new directives aimed at keeping the mafia out of this year's Easter processions.

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