National Catholic Reporter

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Vatican City

Vatican to host 1,200 religious formation directors for conference

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Some 1,200 formation directors for Catholic religious orders from "every part of the world" will come to Rome next week to take part in a Vatican-hosted conference sharing ideas on how men and women considering religious life should be guided in their discernment.

The conference includes participation of three Vatican congregations and is the latest in a series of events to mark the Year of Consecrated Life, called by Pope Francis and being held through the beginning of 2016.

Vatican Good Friday reflections ask: ‘When will death penalty be abolished?’

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A series of reflections to be used by Pope Francis in Rome on Good Friday make connections between the crucifixion of Jesus and the modern-day use of the death penalty.

The reflections, to be used by the pope at an annual public service in and near Rome’s historic Colosseum, pointedly ask: “When will the death penalty, still practiced in many states, be abolished?”

Pope Francis joins homeless people for private tour of Sistine Chapel

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While enjoying a private visit to the Sistine Chapel, a group of VIP guests -- homeless people who live around the Vatican -- were surprised by a visit from Pope Francis.

The 150 visitors had just reached the Sistine Chapel at about 5 p.m. Thursday when Pope Francis walked through the door.

"Welcome," the pope said. "This is everyone's house, this is your home. The doors are always open for all."

Joy comes from faith, not doctrine, pope says

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God's law is about love for God and for others, not cold, abstract doctrine, Pope Francis said at a morning Mass.

"It's sad to be a believer without joy and there is no joy when there is no faith, when there is no hope, when there is no law, but only rules and cold doctrine," he said at the Mass Thursday in the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

"The joy of faith, the joy of the Gospel is the touchstone of a person's faith. Without joy, that person is not a true believer," he said, according to Vatican Radio.

Pope Francis' visit to Turin will highlight shroud, young people, marginalized

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Pope Francis will spend two days in Turin to venerate the Shroud of Turin; meet young people, workers, juvenile detainees, immigrants and the sick; and visit with his Italian relatives from northern Italy.

The papal visit June 21-22 also will commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of St. John Bosco, a 19th-century priest from the Turin region who was a pioneer in vocational education, worked with poor and abandoned children and founded the Salesians, a religious order specializing in youth work.

Vatican statistics show modest, steady church growth worldwide

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The number of Catholics in the world and the number of priests and permanent deacons rose slightly in 2013 while the number of men and women in religious orders declined, according to Vatican statistics.

For the second year in a row, the number of candidates for the priesthood also decreased.

The numbers come from the Statistical Yearbook of the Church, which was completed in February and published in March. The yearbook reported worldwide church figures as of Dec. 31, 2013.

Papal aide organizes special Sistine Chapel tour for homeless people

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The papal almoner, an archbishop who distributes charitable aid from Pope Francis, planned a special afternoon for about 150 homeless people: a walk through the Vatican Gardens, a visit to the Vatican Museums, private time in the Sistine Chapel and dinner in the museums' cafeteria.

Blood of Naples' patron liquefies during Pope Francis' visit to cathedral

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At the end of Pope Francis' spontaneity-filled meeting with priests, seminarians and religious in the cathedral of Naples, the vial of dried blood of the city's patron saint appeared to miraculously liquefy.

After Pope Francis blessed the congregation with the reliquary holding the vial, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe of Naples announced, "As a sign that St. Januarius loves the pope, who is Neapolitan like us, the blood is already half liquefied."

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