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Whither the Middle East?

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Authors' note: This blog post is part two of a two-part series. Read part one: "A Middle Eastern House of Cards."

Great uncertainty hovers over discussions of the shape of the new order that will emerge from the violence and chaos sweeping through the Middle East today. The old order, unnaturally born from the Sykes-Picot Agreement 100 years ago, is coming to an end, dealt a death blow by the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, and alternative visions for the region have proved misguided.

Mother Teresa's canonization in 2016 only hypothetical, says Vatican

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Despite reports in the Italian press that Blessed Teresa of Kolkata's canonization has been set for Sept. 4, 2016, a Vatican spokesman says the date is only hypothetical and cannot be confirmed.

Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi issued a statement Tuesday in response to media reports that the founder of the Missionaries of Charity, who worked among the poorest of the poor, would be canonized before the end of the upcoming Holy Year of Mercy.

To the ends of the earth

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No matter what the Gospel says, picking up snakes is never going to be part of my mission plan. Now that I think about it, I'm also pretty reluctant to pick fights with demons, so the commentaries that say Mark didn't really write this ending to his Gospel offer me a welcome justification for avoiding those adventures. Most scholars think that the Gospel of Mark ended at Verse 8 of Chapter 16, which states that the women who discovered Jesus' empty tomb "said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid."

New Palestinian saints promoted women, encouraged peace, priest says

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The two new Palestinian saints were instrumental in the promotion of women in the Arab world and in efforts for interreligious dialogue toward peace, said Jordanian Fr. Rifat Bader.

Pope Francis was to canonize Blessed Marie-Alphonsine and Blessed Mary of Jesus Crucified along with a French nun and an Italian nun by during a Mass in St. Peter's Square this Sunday.

Two days ahead of the Mass, larger-than-life-sized tapestries of each of the soon-to-be saints already decorated the facade of St. Peter's Basilica.

Report: Only 'full recognition of religious freedom' will protect people

The cover photograph on a new 232-page report outlining religious freedom violations around the world last year pretty much says it all.

The image is of Yezidis of all ages walking on a sandy, dusty terrain with sheep. Thousands of members of this religious minority had been executed and assaulted last year while others were forced to flee their ancient homeland in the Nineveh plains of Iraq by actions of the Islamic State, known as ISIS.

Periphery pope: Bosnia trip aims to build bridges in divided nation

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Pope Francis' concern for those suffering on the margins and for small Catholic communities that have kept the faith alive through war or repression will take him to Bosnia-Herzegovina in early June.

By making a one-day trip June 6 to Sarajevo, he said he hoped he could "be an encouragement for the Catholic faithful, give rise to the development of the good and contribute to strengthening fraternity, peace, interreligious dialogue and friendship."

Vatican decision to recognize Palestine upsets Israeli government, Jewish advocacy groups

The Vatican's decision to recognize Palestine as a sovereign state on Wednesday angered Israeli officials.

The move comes four days before the canonization of two Palestinian nuns and solidifies the standing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is scheduled to meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Saturday.

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July 17-30, 2015

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