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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WASHINGTON - Tariq Aziz, a Chaldean Catholic who represented Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein's government on the world stage as foreign minister and deputy prime minister, died June 5 after suffering a heart attack.

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VATICAN CITY - One of the largest churches in Mosul, Iraq, will be transformed into a mosque.

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TORONTO - When the Islamic State attacked the city of Mosul in June 2014, members of Toronto’s Jesus the King Council of the Knights of Columbus knew they had to respond.

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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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IRBIL, Iraq - The head of the Vatican's Congregation for Eastern Churches visited Iraq to convey Pope Francis' blessing and concern for Church officials and the displaced living and working in difficult circumstances.

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TORONTO - For Ghina Al-Sewaidi — lawyer, Muslim and Iraqi-Canadian — the correct word to describe Islamic State attacks on Yezidi and Mandaean people is genocide. The correct response is to sponsor the survivors through Canada’s refugee system.

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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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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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VATICAN CITY - Educating children is the best way to help displaced Iraqi Christians recover from the traumatic experience of being chased from their homes by Islamic State militants, said Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, England, after an April 11-12 visit to Irbil.

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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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April 9, 2015

Think long term

By extending and expanding its military mission in Iraq, Ottawa has recommitted to being an active player in helping to stop the Islamic State. The cause to defend innocent victims is just, and Canada should be involved. But that involvement must go beyond a military contribution.

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AMMAN, Jordan - A call for an area to protect Christians and other religious minorities in Syria and Iraq is gathering pace even as April marks the centenary of the 1915 genocide of Armenian, Assyrian and Greek Christians.

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