In Vietnam, about 14 percent of the population is part of about 50 ethnic minorities, whose standard of living lags seriously behind that of the majority.
Informed observers are speculating that the pope might add another destination to his first Asian trip -- one that would mark the voyage as truly historic.
Sexual violence "is always a crime, an immoral act" and the Catholic church is committed to prevent such offenses being perpetrated "against anyone, anywhere and under any circumstances," an English cardinal said.
Speaking at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster said the rape and sexual degradation of civilians during conflicts inflicted a "deep wound on the body of humanity."
Italy's Catholic bishops have condemned a court ruling that lifts a ban on married couples using sperm donors for artificial insemination, likening the move to playing God.
"None of us are the masters of anyone else, not even parents with respect to their own children," the secretary-general of the Italian bishops' conference, Msgr. Nunzio Galantino, said Wednesday.
"There is a glaring contradiction between those who proclaim freedom, respect, rights and then do not clearly recognize the rights of those who do not have the chance to express it for themselves."
A diocese in southern Vietnam has excommunicated a young priest who was accused of teaching false beliefs against the Catholic faith.
The World Cup, which opens today, "overcomes linguistic, cultural and national barriers," the pope said.
Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja supported Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan's proposal to offer amnesty for any Boko Haram militants who stop fighting and embrace peace.
In a June 3 letter, Onaiyekan said any amnesty arrangement must be undertaken with the goal of reconciliation among the government, militants and victims of violence.
The letter was the fifth the cardinal sent from Rome to Nigeria to address violence in his country. The cardinal said he is in Rome tending to church-related business.
Ukrainian Catholic bishops thanked people around the world for their prayers over the last six months and asked for continued prayers for peace in their country.
"The dignity that Ukrainians yearn for is not first and foremost material," said a message from the Permanent Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. "They seek a God-given dignity, a respect for their very being. Their right for self-determination, territorial integrity, cultural and especially ecclesial tradition has been violated brutally in the past and is demeaned today."
The Roman Catholic archbishop of Dublin, regarded as among the most influential church leaders in England and Ireland, has added his voice to those calling for an urgent inquiry into the discovery of nearly 800 babies and children buried in a septic tank at Tuam, a home for unwed mothers in western Ireland.
The scandal is just the latest among many to come to light involving the suffering of children in Ireland's history, and it may be among the factors that have contributed to a big fall in church attendance in recent years.
Pope Francis urged the Israeli and Palestinian presidents to act with courage and end what he called the "spiral of hatred and violence."