AMMAN, Jordan - Arab Christians are viewing with growing concern and revulsion an uptick in kidnappings of both their clergy and civilians as violence worsens in Syria and Iraq.

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WASHINGTON - A sign at the entrance to the exhibit warns of the shocking nature of the images beyond — photos smuggled out of Syria that show emaciated and grotesquely mutilated victims of dictator Bashar Assad’s prisons and torture chambers.

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis on June 19 criticized world powers for their failure to find a solution to the Syrian conflict, saying the country’s Christians had been united by “the blood of the martyrs” lost in war.

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A serious-looking Pope Francis on Wednesday (June 10) spoke with Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, in a meeting focused on conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East that pose complex and contrasting diplomatic challenges for the two leaders.

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VATICAN CITY - Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet Pope Francis on June 10, with pressure on the pontiff to speak up about the Kremlin’s role in the Ukraine conflict.

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OXFORD, England - French Catholics have urged church support for a campaign to stop Western companies from buying oil from Islamic State, in effect funding the mass killing of Christians.

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AMMAN, Jordan - Church bells are ringing once again in the Assyrian Christian villages dotting the Khabur River in northeastern Syria after Islamic State militants were routed by a combination of forces.

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RHODES, Greece - Migrants pay thousands of dollars to human traffickers in countries like Turkey and Libya to ferry them to what they hope are the greener pastures of Europe. The growing crises in places like Libya allow traffickers to work almost unobstructed.

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ROME - Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, Syria, and his people are exhausted.

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WASHINGTON - The sad realities of Syria's civil war permeate the paintings of Essa Neima, a 34-year-old Syrian national.

At a recent exhibit, his oil on acrylic works ranged from depictions of damaged church and mosque mosaics, to a broken icon of Mary and a refugee woman forced into servitude by the need to survive.

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OTTAWA - As Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) Canada marks its 10th anniversary this year, it is making an urgent appeal for continued help for imperilled families under Islamic State siege in Iraq and Syria.

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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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BEIRUT - Commemorating the second anniversary of the kidnapping of two Syrian bishops, the Greek Orthodox patriarch lamented the indifference of the international community about their fate.

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TORONTO - Not only is the Islamic State causing catastrophic human tragedy throughout Syria and Iraq, it is engaged in a “cultural genocide” as it destroys anything in its way that is not part of its idea of Islam, said Sascha Priewe.

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OTTAWA - The Canadian Council of Churches in an open letter to Prime Minister Harper has urging a broader response to the crisis in Iraq and Syria than military intervention.

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