VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis held an informal, private meeting and lunch with Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner March 18.

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VATICAN CITY - Citing a distinguished German theologian and an anonymous elderly penitent from Argentina, Pope Francis told an overflow crowd in St. Peter's Square never to despair of God's mercy to sinners.

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VATICAN CITY - Religious groups and movements worldwide applauded the election of Pope Francis and are looking forward to the impact he will have on the church and other religious groups.

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VATICAN CITY - The Vatican dismissed claims that Pope Francis played a direct role in the kidnappings of two Jesuit priests during Argentina's murderous military dictatorship and described them as part of a campaign by "left-wing anti-clerical elements to attack the church."

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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - Lawyer Diego Morales often walks past the Metropolitan Cathedral in this South American capital. He recently popped in, however, taking a moment for prayer and reflection and to give thanks for what was previously unthinkable: that local Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio would be elected pope.

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis' episcopal motto is based on the Gospel account of "The Call of St. Matthew," the tax collector, in a homily given by St. Bede the Venerable.

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VATICAN CITY - The church has turned to religious orders for popes at various times over the centuries, often when in need of a reformer, and such may have been the cardinals' thinking again when they elected Pope Francis.

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WASHINGTON - Three hours had passed since the Vatican announced the first Latin American pope, but the gathering of mostly immigrants from Central and South America couldn't stop smiling and couldn't stop building a mountain of hopes pegged to the papal election of Argentina's Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

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WASHINGTON - Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, congratulated the newly elected pope, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, who took the name Francis.

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WASHINGTON - Catholic leaders worldwide expressed words of hope and joy in calling upon Catholics to come together as one body behind the papacy of Pope Francis.

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VATICAN CITY - While the cardinal electors were intensely praying and choosing the next pope, they were utterly unaware of the huge crowds waiting outside braving the rain and whether the smoke really worked, said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York.

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VATICAN CITY - Without faith in Christ's sacrifice on the cross, the Church is nothing more than a "pitiful NGO," Pope Francis said in his first homily as Pope.

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March 14, 2013

Pope Francis

White smoke that billowed March 13 from the Sistine Chapel chimney heralded more than the election of Pope Francis.

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VATICAN CITY - Montreal's Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, speaking of newly elected Pope Francis, said he was "always struck by that man, who is a holy man, a man of prayer."

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VATICAN CITY - The Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, began a briefing about the election of the Pope Francis, a Jesuit, by apologizing that he was a bit in "shock."

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