"The great ideas which once inspired Europe seem to have lost their attraction, only to be replaced by the bureaucratic technicalities of its institutions."
When Francis arrives at the European Parliament, he'll be entering a place where the hopes and fears of a whole continent are played out.
King Juan Carlos of Spain received a tribute from the country's bishops after he announced his decision to abdicate in favor of his son.
The executive committee of the Span's bishops' conference described the work of the outgoing 76-year-old king as having "extraordinary value" because of his work on behalf of democracy during his 39 years on the throne.
A Ukrainian Catholic priest in Crimea said church members are alarmed and frightened by the Russian military occupation and fear their communities might be outlawed again if Russian rule becomes permanent.
Fr. Mykhailo Milchakovskyi, a pastor in Kerch, Ukraine, described the atmosphere as tense because many residents of the town located in the eastern part of Crimea were unsure of their future.
"No one knows what will happen. Many people are trying to sell their homes and move to other parts of Ukraine," Milchakovskyi told Catholic News Service on Wednesday.
Catholic leaders in the Central African Republic praised the courage of missionary priests and nuns who remained in the country during the current conflict, despite offers of evacuation.
"That most have remained here is the greatest act of witness our church has given," said Bishop Nestor-Desire Nongo Aziagbia of Bossangoa, Central African Republic.
The head of the Ukrainian Catholic church appealed for calm as violence worsened between police and pro-European Union demonstrators in Kiev, Ukraine.
Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, major archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, said Tuesday that he was dismayed and saddened by as violence escalated for the third consecutive day in and around Kiev's Maidan -- or Independence -- Square.
French Catholics criticized a Constitutional Court judgment denying local officials the right to opt out of conducting same-sex marriages. Antoine Renard, president of France's National Federation of Catholic Family Associations, charged that the court was operating under political pressure in issuing its decision.
"This ruling could have dramatic consequences for religious freedom both here and abroad," he said. "It also suggests the French Constitution is old-fashioned and needs verification."
Churches in Europe have welcomed pledges by the European Union to make financial help for countries around the world conditional on their protection of religious freedom.
The Brussels-based Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community, COMECE, said Tuesday that action was needed "given the systematic and increasing violations of freedom of religion by some governments and non-state actors."
The Belgian Catholic bishops' conference has welcomed judicial condemnation of a 2010 police raid on the cathedral and residence of Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Mechelen-Brussels.
The pope's German biographer said when he met with the pope last year, Benedict was "drained of energy" and "deeply disheartened."