Pope Francis tells Mexican bishops be unified, speak out on tough issues

MEXICO CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis demanded forceful denunciations of drug violence in Mexico from the country’s bishops, who have preferred timid pronouncements instead of speaking prophetically on a tragedy that has claimed more than 100,000 lives over the past 10 years and left an another 25,000 Mexicans missing. Speaking Feb. 13 to an audience…

Pope expresses joy after meeting Russian Orthodox patriarch

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM HAVANA (CNS) — Though their differences are recognizable and real, Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow emphasized their obligation as Christians and as bishops to encourage collaboration among Christians and charity for all who suffer. “I felt an interior joy that truly came from the Lord,” the…

Cookies, sombrero and a shoe shine: Even reporters give pope gifts

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT TO HAVANA (CNS) — Making his 12th trip abroad, Pope Francis was accustomed to collecting interview requests, notes and gifts from the journalists who travel on the plane with him. But his flight to Cuba Feb. 12 had a unique moment. Noel Diaz, who lives in Los Angeles and was covering…

Pope sends off missionaries of mercy to help people open hearts to God

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis marked the beginning of the church’s Lenten journey by sending off several hundred religious and diocesan priests on their own special path as “missionaries of mercy” in local parishes. “Look upon your servants, Lord, that we are sending as messengers of mercy, salvation and peace. Guide their steps” and…

Open God’s heart with prayer, pope tells Padre Pio Prayer Groups

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Praying is not like taking an aspirin, something one does just to feel a little better, Pope Francis told thousands of members of Padre Pio Prayer Groups from around the world. Prayer is not a business negotiation with God, either, the pope told more than 60,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s…

Pope: Patch up family feuds, forgive, let go of painful past

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Let the Year of Mercy be the time to end all family feuds, to forgive each other and let bygones be bygones, Pope Francis said. “I think about so many brothers and sisters who are estranged from their families; they don’t speak to each other,” he said during his weekly general…

Pope tells Iran’s president he has ‘high hopes’ for peace

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the Vatican, Pope Francis told him he had high hopes for peace. And while Pope Francis usually asks those he meets for their prayers, the Shiite cleric pre-empted the pope’s request and said, “I ask you to pray for me.” President Rouhani, who was…

Foot-washing ritual not limited to men, Vatican says in new decree

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Following a request by Pope Francis, the Vatican issued a decree specifying that the Holy Thursday foot-washing ritual can include “all members of the people of God,” including women — a practice already observed by the pope and many priests around the world. In a letter dated December 2014 and addressed…

Dialogue, remembrance, peace highlighted as pope visits synagogue

ROME (CNS) — While the Catholic Church affirms that salvation comes through Jesus, it also recognizes that God is faithful and has not revoked his covenant with the Jewish people, Pope Francis said. Interrupted repeatedly with applause at Rome’s main synagogue Jan. 17, the pope said the church “recognizes the irrevocability of the Old Covenant…