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.

Published in Fr. Raymond de Souza

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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VATICAN CITY - 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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TORONTO - In a world where the Islamic State threatens religious minorities in the Middle East, Boko Haram kidnaps Christian girls in Nigeria, Jews worldwide are forced to defend the existence of Israel, it might be said that interfaith relations are no walk in the park.

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PARIS - The exodus of Christians from the Middle East — due to wars, conflicts, socio-economic crises and persecution — will weaken moderate Islam "which, thanks to the Islamic-Christian conviviality, is so far the vast majority of Muslims in the Middle East," said Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai.

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TEL AVIV - A variation on the serious theme of Holocaust testimony has brought survivors and young Israeli students together in living rooms to celebrate life while remembering atrocities.

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IQRIT, Israel - For the elders of Iqrit, their biggest regret in life is not having been able to raise their children together.

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The U.S. Catholic bishops have welcomed the Obama administration’s tentative agreement aimed at limiting Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and their top spokesman on international affairs bluntly warned Congress against doing anything to undermine it.

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Fourth Sunday of Lent (Year B) March 15 (2 Chronicles 36:14-17a, 19-23; Psalm 137; Ephesians 2:4-10; John 3:14-21)

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BANGUI, Central African Republic - An archbishop in Central African Republic compared citizens of his country to the people of Israel wandering in the desert and urged them to use the Pope's planned autumn visit to escape from their "prolonged crisis."

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JERUSALEM - Where is it safe for Jews to live?

Published in Fr. Raymond de Souza

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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ROME - Roman Catholic bishops from the U.S. and Europe concluded a visit to Gaza with a call for the end of Israel’s long-running blockade, and greater action to alleviate poverty after last year’s violent war with Israel.

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BETHLEHEM, West Bank - Coming to Bethlehem during Christmas is like a family reunion for Afif Hazboun.

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