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  • Pope condemns religious persecution in Christmas address

    Pope Francis gives his traditional Christmas "Urbi et Orbi" blessing from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica on December 25, 2014 at the VaticanPope Francis on Thursday roundly condemned jihadist violence and the "brutal persecution" of religious minorities in a Christmas message to the world's 1.2 billion Catholics and millions of others. His second traditional "urbi et orbi" message (to the city and to the world) comes at the close of a year plagued by war and violent religious fundamentalism, notably in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria and most recently against school-children in Pakistan. "Truly there are so many tears this Christmas," he said in the message broadcast across the world.

  • Israel approves 243 new settler homes in East Jerusalem
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel has given preliminary approval for the construction of 243 new homes on West Bank land that Israel annexed to Jerusalem, and advanced plans for another 270 homes in the same area, officials said on Thursday. Such moves run counter to calls by the United States and other world powers for Israel to freeze construction of new settler homes. The land in question was captured by Israel in a 1967 war and annexed to Jerusalem in a move never recognized internationally. Palestinians, who seek statehood in Israeli-occupied territory, want it as part of a future state. ...
  • Syria's war enters new year more fragmented than ever

    Rebel fighters take positions inside a damaged building during clashes with forces loyal to Syria's President Assad who are stationed in Aleppo's historic citadelBy Alexander Dziadosz BEIRUT (Reuters) - Deep into its fourth year of conflict, Syria looks less and less like a state than a patchwork of warring fiefdoms, making outside powers more reluctant to intervene even as it becomes more destabilizing for the region. The United States finally entered Syria’s war this year, three years after President Barack Obama said Bashar al-Assad must leave power. But it did so only reluctantly, to staunch advances by Islamic State fighters in neighboring Iraq, and without challenging Assad. ...

  • Pope wishes Christmas hope and peace for Mideast

    Pope Francis, center, delivers his "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and to the world) blessing from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Thursday, Dec. 25, 2014. Tens of thousands of Romans and tourists in St. Peter's Square listened as the pontiff delivered the Catholic church's traditional "Urbi et Orbi" (Latin for "to the city and to the world) Christmas message from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica. Francis said: "truly there are so many tears this Christmas." (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)VATICAN CITY (AP) — A somber Pope Francis steeped his Christmas message to the world Thursday in sadness for those with little cause for joy — abused children, refugees, hostages and others suffering from violence in the Middle East, Africa, Ukraine and elsewhere.

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