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John Kerry is the first Catholic US Secretary of State since Edmund Muskie (AP)

US secretary of state discusses issues including the Middle East and Obama’s healthcare reforms

Bishop Richard E Pates of Des Moines, Iowa (CNS) Below: Bishops' delegation enters Gaza (Mazur)

Bishops from US, canada and Europe visit the troubled area’s tiny Christian community

Pope Francis waves at the crowd yesterday

Pope to visit Holy Land on May 24

Francis makes announcement on 50th anniversary of Paul’s Jerusalem meeting

Pope Francis (CNS)

Pontiff holds two-hour private meeting with patriarchs and major archbishops of the Eastern Catholic churches

Relatives lower the casket of a man who was killed in suicide attack on a church in Peshawar, Pakistan (CNS)

Persecution is a localised phenomenon rather than a truly global one

Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas with Archbishop Vincent Nichols (Communications/www.rcdow.org.uk)

Archbishop Nichols says Church ‘promotes a just peace for all in the Holy Land’

The Pope presides at the prayer vigil for Syria (AP)

An estimated 100,000 people attend peace vigil in St Peter’s Square

Pope Francis shakes hands with Jordan's King Abdullah II  at the Vatican (CNS)

Pope Francis met King Abdullah II and Queen Rania at the Vatican

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

Whatever we do, the people of Syria will remain victims of one of the most murderous political criminals—and also of the weakest international leadership—of modern times

A church in Judeida, Idlib province. Christians in Syria face an uncertain future (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

European history offers a chilling precedent