As Ukrainians prepared to mark their Aug. 24 Independence Day, Catholic leaders condemned the threat to Ukraine's territorial integrity and prayed for a speedy end to the hostilities.
Pope Francis phoned relatives of the late James Foley on Aug. 21 to console them for their loss and assure them of his prayers.
Pope Francis wrote to the president of Iraq, calling for an end to the "brutal suffering of Christians and other religious minorities" and urging political leaders to end the humanitarian crisis in the country.
Francis said in his letter to Iraqi President Fouad Massoum: "I appeal to you with my heart full of pain while I follow the brutal suffering of Christians and other religious minorities who are forced to leave their homes, as their places of worship are destroyed."
Human trafficking destroys the lives of millions of children, women and men each year, making it a real threat to peace, the Vatican said as it announced Pope Francis' 2015 World Peace Day message would focus on the phenomenon.
"Slaves no more, but brothers and sisters" will be the theme for the Jan. 1, 2015, commemoration and for the message Pope Francis will write for the occasion, according to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
China has reacted cautiously to a bid by Pope Francis to open new dialogue with Beijing, with some officials quick to warn the Vatican not to "interfere" with the country's religion.
On his return flight from a five-day tour of South Korea, Francis said he was ready to go to China -- "For sure! Tomorrow!" -- after receiving a positive response to two goodwill telegrams he sent to President Xi Jinping as the pope flew over Chinese airspace.
Pope Francis, in mourning for the deaths of his nephew's wife and two small children, thanked people at his weekly general audience Wednesday for their prayers.
After each of the priests who translate the pope's words offered him condolences for the tragedy that struck his family, Pope Francis explained to the people: "The pope has a family, too. We were five siblings, and I have 16 nieces and nephews. One of these nephews was in an accident. His wife died along with his two small children -- one who was 2 years old and the other several months."
Pope Francis asked people to join him in prayer Tuesday after he learned that two of his great-nephews and their mother had died in a car crash in Argentina. His nephew is in critical condition.
The dead were identified as the wife and two young sons of Pope Francis' nephew, Emanuel Horacio Bergoglio: Valeria Carmona, 39, Joseph Bergoglio, 2, and Antonio Bergoglio, 8 months.
According to Argentine news reports, the 35-year-old son of the pope's late brother Alberto Bergoglio underwent emergency surgery and was on a respirator.
Pope Francis' personal envoy to the suffering people of Iraq joined the Chaldean Catholic patriarch in launching an appeal to the international community Monday, pleading for help to liberate villages controlled by the Islamic State terrorists and to provide the displaced with international protection.
The Vatican's nuncio to Iraq said U.S. military airstrikes "had to be done, otherwise [the Islamic State] could not be stopped."
Pope Francis formally asked U.N. agencies and the entire international community "to take action to end the humanitarian tragedy now underway" in northeastern Iraq.
In a letter signed Aug. 9 but released by the Vatican after it had been delivered, Pope Francis told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon immediate action was needed "to stop and to prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities."