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Bethlehem L'Arche workshop makes Christmas sheep

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The Ma'an lil-Hayat workshop is in full swing as adults shape felted wool into round balls for a large order of sheep to fill people's Nativity scenes.

Ma'an lil-Hayat -- Arabic for "Together for Life" -- is part of the international L'Arche network founded in 1964 by Canadian Catholic Jean Vanier for people with intellectual disabilities. The workshop takes a local resource closely associated with the Christmas story -- sheep wool -- and uses it to bring dignity and recognition to a population often overlooked in Palestinian society.

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?"

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September 12-25, 2014

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