VATICAN CITY - In a joint statement, representatives of more than 50 countries have recognized that Christians are particularly endangered in the Middle East, and they called on the international community to reaffirm the human right to freedom of religion.

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VATICAN CITY - Iraqi and Syrian refugees who have fled persecution in their homelands and the Palestinian Christians struggling to survive in the land of Jesus deserve the prayers and material support of Catholics around the globe, a Vatican official said.

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JERUSALEM - Six months after the end of the most recent war in Gaza, there is still a "grave humanitarian crisis" in the narrow strip wedged between the Egyptian and Israeli borders, where more than 1.8 million Palestinians live closed off to the world because of an international embargo.

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AMMAN, Jordan - Christians in the Middle East welcomed the release of nearly 20 Assyrian Christians abducted by Islamic State militants in northeastern Syria, but expressed concern that more than 200 others remained in captivity.

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BEIRUT - Two Syrian-born patriarchs separately urged the international community to work together to address the crisis in Syria and the region.

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AMMAN, Jordan - A prominent Syrian Christian political leader has called for U.S.-led coalition forces to use airstrikes to aid fellow Christian and Kurdish fighters battling Islamic State militants following reports of flagrant abductions and church burnings in northwest Syria.

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WASHINGTON - Amid frequent reports of brutal killings and attacks by Islamic State militants, the director of an Islamic group in the United States strongly believes that people of faith must "collectively denounce" these actions of "stark evil" and "cruel barbarism."

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BEIRUT - The Middle East is suffering a "Way of the Cross" that is the greatest tragedy since the Second World War, Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregoire III Laham said in a Lenten message about suffering.

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis once again urged solidarity with migrants who risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean Sea for Europe, and assured prayers for the victims of a deadly crossing in early February.

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VATICAN CITY - Even as their theological dialogues continue in the search for full agreement on doctrinal issues, divided Christians are called to work together for justice and peace, especially in the Middle East, Pope Francis said.

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OTTAWA - A Canadian bishop who travelled to Gaza with the annual Holy Land Co-ordination visit to the Middle East Jan. 11-12 says fear is the biggest obstacle to mutual recognition of human dignity in the region.

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OXFORD, England - An international report has warned that Christians face worsening mistreatment worldwide and called for "urgent action" by Western governments and church leaders.

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From imprisonment to torture to beheadings, more Christians worldwide live in fear for their lives than at any time in the modern era.

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BEIRUT - Catholic patriarchs of the Middle East lamented the suffering of their people in violence-wracked areas and offered words of hope while calling for prayers for their safety.

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis deplored the "abuses and inhuman acts" of Islamic State militants, and called on all religious leaders to condemn them "unanimously and unambiguously." He also said he hoped to travel to the Middle East to comfort persecuted Christians there.

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