MANILA, Philippines - Although it was not called a welcoming ceremony, Pope Francis was greeted by government and church officials and an exuberant crowd Jan. 15 at Manila's Villamor Air Base.

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The pastoral visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines, which culminates Jan. 18 at an outdoor Mass expected to draw more than four million people, is being dubbed as a “mercy and compassion visit,” said Faye Arellano of Toronto.

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TORONTO - Pope Francis’ mission of healing to Sri Lanka will be a critical moment for Toronto’s huge Tamil community, which includes thousands of refugees still mourning relatives killed in the 26-year Sri Lankan civil war, said Tamil priest and theologian Fr. Joseph Chandrakanthan.

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - Arriving in Sri Lanka, a country recovering from two-and-a-half decades of ethnic and religious civil war, Pope Francis said reconciliation would require its people to explore their painful recent history and accept persistent differences within their multicultural society.

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - Hours before Pope Francis was to arrive in Sri Lanka, people in Colombo were busy with final preparations.

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VATICAN CITY - Interreligious reconciliation and recovery from natural disaster will be major themes of Pope Francis' Jan. 13-18 visit to Sri Lanka and the Philippines, according to the Vatican spokesman.

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VATICAN CITY - In every age and in every culture, people seek God just as the Three Kings did and, in every age, with the help of the Holy Spirit, they find him in the surprising humility of a baby born in a manger, Pope Francis said.

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ROME - Catholic bishops from the southern Italian region of Calabria have broken their silence and spoken out against the “inhumane” power of the Mafia that dominates their poverty-stricken area.

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VATICAN CITY - Underscoring the geographical diversity of his selections, Pope Francis named 15 cardinal electors "from 14 nations of every continent, showing the inseparable link between the church of Rome and the particular churches present in the world."

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VATICAN CITY - Becoming a mother or father is a gift from God, but women and men have a duty to embrace that gift and be astonished by its beauty, Pope Francis said.

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VATICAN CITY - The day after Christmas, Pope Francis warned Catholics about two related temptations: giving Christmas a "false, sugary coating" and not putting the faith one professes into action.

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VATICAN CITY - The crying of Baby Jesus is not the only cry people should hear on Christmas; many children around the world are crying because of war, maltreatment and abuse, Pope Francis said.

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ROME - Pope Francis' decision to hold two synods of bishops on the family with a year of consultation and reflection in between fits in exactly with this theological approach to pastoral planning, which emphasizes studying the reality, reflecting on it and, only later, taking action, said retired German Cardinal Walter Kasper.

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VATICAN CITY - Preceded by a procession of flags from the nations of the Americas and the recitation of the rosary in Spanish, Pope Francis and thousands of Catholics from across the Atlantic celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Vatican.

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ROME - The Dalai Lama said he would not meet Pope Francis while in Rome for a summit of Nobel Peace Prize winners.

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