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Preview: SmilePak program provides students nourishment, hope

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Thirty students at Mulberry Middle School in Mulberry, Fla., know they won't go hungry. On Friday afternoons the group meets Kathy Pickett in the school's food pantry to secretly pick up backpacks filled with food. The food in the backpacks provides the students and their families a weekend supply of nourishment. On Monday morning, empty backpacks are returned to the school, and the cycle is repeated.

Russell Crowe meets Pope Francis but leaves without a 'Noah' endorsement

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Russell Crowe, who plays the title character in the new Hollywood blockbuster "Noah," lobbied hard for a personal audience with Pope Francis. What he got Wednesday instead was a blessing.

Crowe used social media in recent weeks to try to cajole Francis to watch "Noah," which has drawn fire from religious groups that say the film takes too many liberties with the biblical story of Noah's Ark and the great flood. Crowe also asked for a private audience with the pontiff.

Pope to proclaim Brazilian, Canadian church pioneers saints in April

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Without a canonization ceremony, Pope Francis will declare three pioneers of the Catholic church in the Americas saints April 2, according to a Jesuit working on the causes.

Signing a decree, the pope will recognize the sainthood of Blessed Jose de Anchieta, a Jesuit known as the Apostle of Brazil; Blessed Marie de l'Incarnation, known as the Mother of the Canadian Church; and Blessed Francois de Laval, the first bishop of Quebec.

Underground bishop of Shanghai who spent decades in prison dies at 96

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Bishop Joseph Fan Zhongliang of Shanghai, a prominent leader of China's underground Catholic Community, died after a brief illness Sunday at his home. He was 96.

Fan, like many other Catholic leaders, served in prison after he and other priests were arrested in 1955 during a government crackdown. From 1958 to 1978, Fan was imprisoned in Qinghai province, where his job was to carry corpses in a cemetery, reported the Asian church news portal ucanews.com.

Czech priest, philosopher Tomas Halik wins 2014 Templeton Prize

Tomas Halik, a Roman Catholic priest and philosopher, onetime Czech political activist and an advocate for religious freedom and interfaith dialogue, won the 2014 Templeton Prize on Thursday for religious and spiritual progress.

Halik, 65, a convert to Catholicism whose influences include religious figures such as Mother Teresa and author Graham Greene, has in recent years been increasingly active in building bridges between people of different faiths and between those who claim a religious tradition and those who do not.

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October 10-23, 2014

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