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Brazilians look forward to greeting new pope at World Youth Day

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Hundreds of thousands of pre-Lenten Carnival-goers diverted their attention from the festivities to pay attention to the news of Pope Benedict XVI's resignation.

National television networks halted their coverage of the four-day festival Monday to dedicate most of the morning broadcasts to the news coming from the Vatican and reactions from Brazilians.

Organizers of the World Youth Day 2013, set for July 23-28 in Rio de Janeiro, said plans will continue as scheduled even though the identity of the new pope would not be known for several weeks.

With decline in participation, Brussels archdiocese to close churches

Belgium's Mechelen-Brussels archdiocese has become Europe's latest to plan church closures in the face of declining Catholic participation.

An archdiocesan official told the German Catholic news agency KNA that "dozens of churches" faced closing and that the city's largest Catholic landmark, St. Catherine Church, was expected to be turned into a fruit and vegetable market.

Religious leaders call for US initiative for Palestinian-Israeli peace

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Three Catholic prelates joined more than two dozen other Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders in urging the United States to embark on a new initiative to secure peace between the Palestinian National Authority and Israel.

The leaders called upon U.S. diplomats to seek a two-state agreement "before it is too late" in a statement from the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East.

Tibetans mourn as self-immolations near 100

Six Tibetan pilgrims prostrated themselves face down on the road, then rose, took three paces forward and repeated the dusty act of devotion around the 250-year-old monastery.

It is a ritual that Tibetans have practiced for centuries. Despite wars and a communist takeover, the Tibetan people's age-old attachment to their Buddhist faith remains.

But a deadly development on this eastern edge of the high Tibetan plateau has made this small community tense and fearful.

Vatican spokesman says church condemns ivory hunters' slaughter of elephants

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The Catholic church has never encouraged anyone to use ivory for religious devotional objects and, in fact, teaches that animals must be treated with respect, the Vatican spokesman said in a letter to "friends of the elephants."

Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, responding to questions posed in an online National Geographic editorial, said, "thinking that there is an important ivory trafficking center to uproot here (in the Vatican) in order to save African elephants makes no sense."

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September 12-25, 2014

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