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Pope Francis' one-day trip expected to give Albanians hope, healing

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Pope Francis' choice of Albania as the destination of his first international trip in Europe reflects his trademark pastoral approach: Head to the peripheries, bring healing to the suffering.

But his Sept. 21 visit to the poor, Muslim-majority nation also will highlight, to a world increasingly torn apart by sectarian strife, a hopeful example of Muslims and Christians living in harmony.

After kidnapping schoolgirls, Boko Haram takes aim at churches in northeast Nigeria

Five months after Boko Haram abducted more than 200 girls in Nigeria's Borno State, the Islamic extremist group has begun occupying churches in the country's northeastern region, church officials there said.

The militant group, which church leaders and analysts view as an African variation of the Islamic State, is also beheading men, forcing Christian women to convert to Islam and taking them as wives, officials said.

Force alone cannot stop 'religious cleansing' in Mideast, custos says

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Although Christians, Muslims and Jews have struggled for hundreds of years to live peacefully alongside each other in the Middle East, "we have never seen the kind of 'religious cleansing' we are witnessing today," said the head of the region's Franciscans.

"All religious communities must raise their voices against this abomination" being carried out, particularly in Iraq and Syria, by terrorists calling themselves the Islamic State, said Franciscan Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, custos of the Holy Land.

Pope names new archbishops of Madrid, Valencia

Pope Francis reassigned two prominent Spanish bishops, giving a new leader to the country's largest diocese and leaving a vacancy at the head of the Vatican's liturgical office.

The Vatican announced Thursday that the pope had named Archbishop Carlos Osoro Sierra as the new archbishop of Madrid and Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera to be archbishop of Valencia, in eastern Spain.

Syriac patriarch calls Islamic State actions 'attempted genocide'

Returning from a visit to the Kurdish region of Iraq, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan called the Islamic State invasion "pure and simple religious cleansing and attempted genocide."

"What we, the five patriarchs, saw in Ankawa, Irbil and other cities of Kurdistan, was something indescribable in terms of the violation of human rights and the threat of disappearing of various communities among the vulnerable minorities of Northern Iraq," Younan said. "It is a pure and simple religious cleansing and attempted genocide.

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November 21-December 5, 2014

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