Pope Francis celebrated his first canonizations in the course of his Mass in St. Peter's Square last Sunday, giving the Catholic Church over 800 new saints. All but two (a Colombian nun and a Mexican nun) were the "martyrs of Otranto," who were beheaded for their faith after Turkish Muslims invaded their southern-Italian port city in 1480. In the pope's words, "They had refused to renounce their faith and died confessing the risen Christ." According to some historical records, while the 800 were being executed, a Turk by the name of Bersabei was inspired to convert. He too suffered martyrdom, impaled by his own comrades-in-arms.
Christians of all faith traditions have long been persecuted in many countries, but today in the Muslim world, where Christians are often the largest non-Muslim minority, the persecution is accelerating and spreading.
Pope Francis had met with the Coptic pope, Tawadros II of Alexandria, just two days before, and no doubt he was praying for the mounting number of Coptic martyrs in Egypt, with whom, he had said, Catholics are united in the "ecumenism of suffering." This would include the two killed and seven dozen wounded as they were leaving St. Mark's Cathedral in Alexandria on April 7 and also the four whose funeral had just taken place inside the cathedral, who had been murdered in a Muslim pogrom the previous day. It would also include those languishing in prison for their faith, such as Nadia Mohamed Ali and her seven children, all of whom were sentenced by an Egyptian court to 15 years' imprisonment earlier this year for converting to Christianity. Another Christian woman, Demyana Emad, a 23-year-old primary-school teacher, was jailed last week for "insulting Islam" in her classroom -- only the latest example of the Islamist government's blasphemy prosecutions, typically of Christians. more >>
Pope Francis greeted more than 40,000 people from Italy and other countries who had gathered for a pro-life event at Saint Peter's Square after marching against abortion on Sunday, and praised their efforts to highlight the importance of respect for human life.
"I greet the participants of the March for Life which took place this morning in Rome and invite everyone to stay focused on the important issue of respect for human life, from the moment of conception," Catholic News Agency quoted the pope as saying at St. Peter's Basilica.
There were about 80,000 people, half of whom were there for the Regina Coeli prayer, an ancient Latin Marian Hymn, led by the pope after he canonized some 800 new saints. more >>
Reported cases of priest abuse from last year have been the lowest since 2004, according to an annual compliance audit of Roman Catholic Church dioceses in the United States.
In 2012, there were six credible cases of abuse found of 34 claims, with 15 of those allegations still under investigation, reported the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA).
The audit itself was performed by StoneBridge Business Partners, a multinational organization founded in 1994, on behalf of CARA. more >>
In an unprecedented move, Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, who became the first pope in almost 600 years to retire when he stepped down at the end of February due to health reasons, has returned to the Vatican to live next to Pope Francis.
"He is a man who is not young: He is old and his strength is slowly ebbing," said Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi, according to the Associated Press. "However, there is no special illness. He is an old man who is healthy."
Benedict will now live in a converted monastery right behind St. Peter's Basilica, where Pope Francis lives. It was previously believed that he would live out the rest of his days "hidden in the world" in a papal residence in the hill south of Rome, but now he will share the famous Vatican gardens with the newly elected Roman Catholic Church leader. more >>
The Syrian Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo, Mar Gregorios Ibrahim, and Greek Orthodox Archbishop Metropolitan Paul Yazigi have been released unharmed after they were kidnapped by gunmen outside the city.
"We know very well that the role these bishops are playing in Aleppo is to encourage the Syrian Christians, and strengthen them to remain in their land," said Bishop Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, according to Christian ministry SAT-7.
The bishops were stopped on Monday traveling back from negotiations to release captives taken by Syrian rebels when attackers shot their driver and took the bishops hostage. more >>
Pope Francis continues implementing changes in the Vatican and his latest decision was to redirect money from traditional bonuses to 4,500 city state employees and use it for charity purposes.
"I don't think there will be any bonus," said Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, as reported by The Telegraph.
"Extra expenses are something that might be normal in a situation of abundance, but that is not the world we find ourselves in now. It didn't seem possible or appropriate to burden the Vatican's budget with a considerable, unforeseen extra expense." more >>