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Vatican: Francis considering Cuba stop during trip to US

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Pope Francis is considering making a stop in Cuba during his upcoming trip to the United States in September, but nothing has been confirmed, the Vatican announced Friday.

Francis -- who was credited by both the U.S. and Cuba in December for helping facilitate the landmark beginning of normalization of relations between the two countries -- "has taken into consideration the idea" of visiting the island nation, the Vatican said.

Canadian Supreme Court rules against prayer at city council meetings

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Canada's Supreme Court has ruled that a small town in Quebec may not open its council meetings with prayer.

In a unanimous ruling Wednesday, Canada's highest court ruled that the town of Saguenay can no longer publicly recite a Catholic prayer because it infringes on freedom of conscience and religion.

The case dates back to 2007, when a resident of Saguenay complained about public prayer at City Hall.

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.

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