BETHLEHEM - Just like any parish decorating the church for a special occasion, Palestinians are decorating Bethlehem in advance of Pope Francis' visit on May 25. But these decorations are also a message to the world about the plight of Palestinians.

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BETHLEHEM - Catholic priests in the Palestinian Territories want Pope Francis to press Israel to allow greater freedom of movement, especially access to holy sites in Jerusalem, and they expect the issue to be addressed when the Pope meets with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem on May 26.

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JERUSALEM - Ahead of Pope Francis’ visit, Jewish religious and nationalist groups plan to demonstrate May 22 to demand that the Israeli government not cede sovereignty or control of the Cenacle, traditionally considered the site of Jesus’ Last Supper.

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NEW YORK - To hear Cardinal Walter Kasper tell it, he became the Pope’s point man for reform in the Catholic Church thanks to a bit of serendipity, or, if you will, Providence, before anyone knew that Francis was going to be the next Roman pontiff.

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VATICAN CITY - Canonization week in Rome served as something of an informal annual general meeting. The universal Church was catching up with herself after a momentous year since Conclave 2013, and everyone was talking about our new Holy Father. Over these weeks, I hope to share with readers some of what I heard about Francis’ reforming papacy from those in Rome from around the world.

Published in Fr. Raymond de Souza

The graffiti which has appeared on the walls of some Jerusalem churches in advance of Pope Francis' visit is nothing new. Which makes in no less ugly and no less crazy.

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis will be accompanied on his first visit to the Middle East by Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Muslim leader Omar Abboud — two friends from Buenos Aires.

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ROME - Spanish heartthrob Antonio Banderas may be cast in the role of Pope Francis in the first feature film to be made on the life of the Argentine pontiff.

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The Vatican is investigating a Jesuit theologian from India for allegedly espousing unorthodox beliefs, raising new questions about whether Pope Francis — the first Jesuit pope — is in fact moving the Catholic Church in a new direction.

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Catholics sometimes forget what the Pope's job is. It's not hard to mistake the Masses, meetings, audiences, addresses, encyclicals, photo opportunities and tours of St. Peter's Square in the popemobile for the Pope's job.

Published in Guest Columns

BETHLEHEM, West Bank - With the last round of peace talks between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority stalled if not moribund, some are hoping that a scheduled visit by Pope Francis to the Holy Land in May will breathe new life into the peace process.

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VATICAN CITY - After weeks of speculation, Pope Francis made it official on May 10 that Pope Paul VI could become the latest pope poised to become a saint after a miracle was accredited to Paul’s intercession.

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JERUSALEM - Ahead of Pope Francis’ Holy Land visit, the heads of Christian churches in the region plan to launch an international awareness campaign following a series of anti-Christian vandalism believed to have been carried out by Jewish extremists.

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VATICAN CITY - Canonization week in Rome was about more than just the new papal saints. With three-quarters of the College of Cardinals in attendance, hundreds of bishops and Catholic scholars and commentators in abundance, it was akin to an informal annual general meeting. The universal Church was catching up with herself after a momentous year since Conclave 2013, the last time the whole gang was together.

Published in Fr. Raymond de Souza