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Islamic State militant ‘Jihadi John’ named by media

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The Islamic State militant known as “Jihadi John,” who has been seen in videos of hostages’ beheadings, was identified Thursday by the BBC and The Washington Post.

Mohammed Emwazi, who is in his mid-20s, is believed to be a Kuwaiti-born British man from west London. The BBC said he was known to British security services, who chose not to disclose his name for operational reasons.

Activists: Islamic State group now holding 220 Christians in Syria

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The number of Christians abducted by the Islamic State group in northeastern Syria has risen to 220, activists said Thursday.

The United Kingdom-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the civilians were kidnapped from 11 villages near the town of Tal Tamr over the past three days by the militants, who control vast swaths of Syria and Iraq.

The abductions, which started Monday, caused thousands of residents to flee and become refugees in nearby cities.

English, Welsh bishops make defense of life top election priority

The Catholic bishops of England and Wales have made the defense of human life their top priority in guidance to Catholic voters ahead of the general election.

A four-page letter to voters, which will be distributed throughout churches, lists "important issues" the bishops invite Catholics to raise with candidates in the May 7 election for the House of Commons.

Ukrainian Catholic leader invites pope, says visit could bring peace

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The head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church invited Pope Francis to visit the war-torn nation, saying it would help bring peace.

"It would be a prophetic gesture that would show the power of prayer and Christian solidarity, give us courage and hope and build a better future for everyone," said Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, major archbishop of Kiev-Halych.

Patriarchs' Lenten messages focus on struggles of Middle East Christians

The Middle East is suffering a "Way of the Cross" that is the greatest tragedy since World War II, Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregoire III Laham said in a Lenten message about suffering.

He said the church, despite its efforts, is having difficulty meeting the growing needs it faces in the region.

"We fail in front of the suffering of our people in all walks of life, Christians and Muslims. It's a universal suffering," he said.

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