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European countries distinguish between religious, civil marriages

As some in the United States consider whether religious and civil marriages should be separated, they might look to practices in Europe, where most countries have long distinguished between the two.

"Whereas the Catholic church has a clear vision of the special meaning of marriage, it's viewed in the civil context as a contract between two people -- and it's a fact of modern society that such contracts vary," Thierry Bonaventura, spokesman for the 34-country Council of European Bishops' Conferences, told Catholic News Service on Monday.

Obama and Castro take next steps to normalize US-Cuba ties

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An hourlong meeting Saturday between U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro marked the first such personal encounter between the leaders of the two neighboring countries since 1958.

The session held during the Summit on the Americas, in which Cuba participated for the first time, was the most visible step toward ending a half century of strained relations dating back to the Cuban revolution.

Latin American officials: Pope Francis to visit three countries July 6-12

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Pope Francis is expected to arrive July 6 in Ecuador, starting a three-country tour of his home continent, The Associated Press reported from Quito.

The trip, the pope's second to South America since being elected in March 2013, also would include stops in Bolivia and Paraguay, two fast-growing countries in recent years, but still among the poorest on the continent.

Bishop: Framework on Iran's nuclear program a step to advancing peace

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The adoption of a framework related to Iran's nuclear program by the United States and other countries is an important step in "advancing a peaceful resolution" to the questions surrounding the program, the chairman of the U.S. bishop's Committee on International Justice and Peace.

Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, N.M., said April 8 in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Monday in letters to every member of Congress that the framework was a milestone in the long-standing negotiations to curb the "unacceptable prospect of Iran developing nuclear weapons."

Faith communities, World Bank find a common foe in extreme poverty

The World Bank and global faith leaders are joining together to end extreme poverty around the world by 2030.

The effort brings together the influential faith community with a major U.S.-based institution that has committed billions of dollars to development work and can leverage billions more from private sector sources to continue a 25-year trend of declining poverty in the world's poorest nations.

Congo genocide must end; church can help perpetrators, religious say

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The brutal kidnappings and killings in Congo must stop, and the church can help by reaching out to the "perpetrators and accomplices" of the violence, said members of several religious congregations working in Congo.

Hundreds of innocent children and adults have been kidnapped and "butchered" in nighttime raids by armed men in the northeastern area of Beni, said a written statement by members of the general councils of 10 religious orders and congregations that are present in the diocese of Butembo-Beni.

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