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Argentine diocese apologizes for actions of abusive priest

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The diocese of San Isidro publicly apologized for the actions of Fr. Jose Mercau, a priest sentenced to 14 years in jail in 2006 for sexually abusing of four children.

"The San Isidro diocesan community, and especially the bishop and priests, publicly apologize to the young victims who were affected by the conduct of a priest within our diocese, Father Jose Mercau, when he was a priest at St. John the Baptist Church," said the document signed by Bishop Oscar Ojea and read at diocesan Masses Dec. 14-15.

Floods, rain threaten to make Christmas even more difficult in Gaza

The snowstorms and torrential rain that battered the Middle East in mid-December threatened to make this Christmas season an especially difficult one for Christians in Gaza.

Matthew McGarry, Catholic Relief Services' country representative, described the situation as "quite bad."

"There is extensive damage to infrastructure, and we haven't been able to get our staff in until today," McGarry told Catholic News Service on Tuesday. "We are targeting the most vulnerable families."

Many schools remained closed because of structural damage, he added.

From Syria and Iraq to Ukraine, Francis hits home on 'ecumenism of blood'

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News about Pope Francis continues to flow at such a torrid pace that it's hard to digest one development before the next one hits. His Dec. 15 blockbuster interview with La Stampa is a case in point, with a shake-up at the Congregation for Bishops 24 hours later making it already seem ancient history.

Iraqi Catholic leader asks West: 'If they kill us all, will you do something then?'

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Warning that a Middle East empty of Christians would be "just like the Taliban," Iraq's most senior Catholic leader pointedly called on the West to show greater concern for suffering Christians in the region.

"We feel forgotten and isolated," said Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, head of Iraq's Chaldean Catholic Church.

 "We sometimes wonder, if they kill us all, what would be the reaction of Christians in the West? Would they do something then?"

Zimbabwe's bishops say country more polarized than before elections

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Zimbabwe is more polarized now than it was before this year's general elections, said the country's bishops.

"The political fault lines and their impact on all aspects of the lives of Zimbabweans are set not only to deepen, but also to stand in the way of progress and ultimately in the way of peace," the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference said in a pastoral letter Tuesday.

"We note with apprehension that ... there are no visible prospects for improvement in the spheres of life in Zimbabwe that cry for restoration to give people hope for a better life," the bishops said.

Syrian bishop says nuns' kidnapping shocks, frightens Christians

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The kidnapping of five Orthodox nuns from a Christian village near Damascus has shocked Syria's Christian community and filled many Christians with fear, said Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, Syria.

Speaking Tuesday to Vatican Radio, Audo said the latest information is that the superior and four of the nuns belonging to the Orthodox Monastery of Santa Tecla in Maaloula were kidnapped during the night Sunday and taken to Yabrud, a city nearby.

"We have no more information," he said.

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April 11-24, 2014

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