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SANTIAGO, September 16, 2018 (News Wires) - Pope Francis on Saturday expelled a Chilean priest under investigation in a case involving the sexual abuse of children, according to a report by local media on Saturday, amid a growing global abuse scandal that has shaken the Roman Catholic Church.

The Archdiocese of Santiago said the Pope had decided to defrock the Reverend Cristian Precht, local daily El Mercurio reported.

Precht was a former head of the Church’s Vicariate of Solidarity human rights group that in the 1980s had challenged ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet to end the practice of torture in Chile.

The well-known Chilean religious leader has since been accused of sexual abuse as part of the investigation into allegations against members of the Marist Brothers religious community.

Precht has previously denied the charges.

Pope Francis´ announcement comes as Chilean police raid church offices throughout the Andean nation looking for new cases of sexual abuse or evidence that church officials concealed abuse from authorities.

The Catholic Church worldwide is reeling from crises involving sexual abuse of minors, deeply damaging confidence in the Church in Chile, but also in the United States, Australia, and Ireland where the scandal has hit hardest, and elsewhere.

VATICAN CITY, September 2, 2018 (Reuters) - Pope Francis on Sunday appealed to all parties who have influence in Syria to defend human rights and safeguard the civilian population in the rebel-held northern region of Idlib, which faces an imminent attack by government forces.

After seven years of civil war, the Syrian province of Idlib and surrounding areas are the last major enclave held by rebels opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a close Russian ally.

A source has told Reuters Assad is preparing a phased offensive to regain the province.

“The winds of war are blowing and we are receiving troubling news about the risk of a possible humanitarian catastrophe in Syria, in the province of Idlib,” Francis told thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly blessing.

“I renew my heartfelt appeal to the international community and all the actors involved to use the tools of diplomacy, dialogue and negotiation to ensure the respect of international human rights and to safeguard civilian lives,” he added.

A major offensive in the Idlib area, where displaced people already make up half the population, risks forcing another 700,000 Syrians from their homes, the United Nations has said.

Syria’s foreign minister said on Thursday government forces would “go all the way” in Idlib, and that Damascus’s main targets were al-Nusra militants. The minister said Syria would try to avoid civilian deaths.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday the United States viewed a military assault on Idlib as an escalation of the Syrian conflict.

VATICAN CITY, September 1, 2018 (Reuters) - Pope Francis said on Saturday that he wanted concrete action to combat the "emergency" of plastics littering seas and oceans.

Pope Francis made the appeal in a message to galvanise Christians and others to work to save what he hails as the "marvellous," God-given gift of the "great waters and all they contain."

“Efforts to fight plastics litter must be waged "as if everything depended on us," Pope Francis said.

The pope also denounced as "unacceptable" the privatisation of water resources at the expense of the "human right to have access to this good."

Environmental protection is a priority of his papacy.

Francis urged politicians to apply "farsighted responsibility" and generosity in dealing with climate change, as well migration policies including about those who "risk their lives at sea in search of a better future."

From fishing lines to flip flops, there are more than five trillion pieces of plastic floating in the world’s oceans, according to a 2014 study published in a Public Library of Science journal.

Plastic degrades over time into tiny particles known as microplastics which can be ingested by marine life, together with plastic microbeads used in toiletries and other household products, harming the food chain and environment.

Plastic debris has been found littering the oceans from the North to the South Poles and around remote Pacific islands.

But only 1 per cent is thought to be floating on the sea surface - the remaining 99 per cent is scattered along coast lines, buried deep in sea-beds or hidden in the guts of marine creatures, Erik van Sebille, oceanographer and associate professor at Utrecht University, told Reuters in a recent interview.

Marine experts fear there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050, measured by weight, according to a factsheet from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a UK-based charity working to end waste in the economy.

“(Plastic) is shockingly widespread - it literally is almost everywhere in the ocean, it’s omnipresent,” said van Sebille, who studies how ocean currents move plastic around.

Internationally, significant efforts are being made to remove plastic from the world’s water bodies.

One example is “The Ocean Cleanup”, a Dutch foundation formed after a speech by a concerned Dutch teenager went viral online. It aims to clear over half of the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”, an area between Hawaii and California where ocean currents have concentrated plastic debris.

This year’s World Oceans Day had a focus on tackling plastic pollution and preventing marine litter.

Van Sebille argues that, at this stage, preventative measures to stem the flow of plastics would be more effective than trying to clean up the mess.

Plastic production has seen “an exponential increase” since the 1950s, he said. “On current trends, in the next five years we’ll be producing more plastic than all the twentieth century,” he said. “There’s an enormous amount of plastic coming our way.”

Cities could take the lead in an urbanising world, as they are widely responsible for waste management, he suggested.

He also advocated fixing the holes in the current recycling process where a third of plastic packaging ends up being lost or wasted during collection and processing.

“The oceans belong to us all,” he said. “This is really a worldwide problem that we, as global humanity, need to tackle”.

VATICAN CITY, July 22, 2018 (News Wires) — Pope Francis has lamented the latest migrant deaths in shipwrecks of smugglers’ boats and entreated nations to act swiftly to prevent more tragedies.

Francis in his traditional Sunday appearance to faithful in St. Peter’s Square expressed sorrow over recent deaths in the Mediterranean Sea and assured victims’ loved ones of his prayers.

He called on “the international community to act decisively and quickly so similar tragedies aren’t repeated” and said the “safety, respect of rights and the dignity of all must be guaranteed.”

Far fewer migrants have arrived in Italy this year compared to the same period in 2017, but U.N. refugee officials say recent crossings have been deadlier.

With Italy’s new populist government and Malta not allowing aid groups’ boats to dock, rescued migrants lately have been stranded at sea for days.

BARI, Italy, July 7, 2018 (MENA) - Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria and Patriarch of St. Mark Diocese attended on Saturday ecumenical prayer for peace in the Middle East, at an invitation by Pope Francis of the Vatican.

The pontiff's several-day visit to Italy comes at the invitation of Pope Francis, who has also invited all church leaders in the Middle East to perform the joint prayer in the Italian city.

After the prayer, the Vatican's pope will meet with leaders of the Eastern Churches.

VATICAN CITY, July 6, 2018 (News Wires) - Pope Francis urged governments on Friday to make good on their commitments to curb global warming, warning that climate change, continued unsustainable development and rampant consumption threatens to turn the Earth into a vast pile of "rubble, deserts and refuse."

Francis made the appeal at a Vatican conference marking the third anniversary of his landmark environmental encyclical "Praise Be." The document, meant to spur action at the 2015 Paris climate conference, called for a paradigm shift in humanity's relationship with Mother Nature.

In his remarks, Francis urged governments to honor their Paris commitments and said institutions like the IMF and World Bank had important roles to play in encouraging reforms promoting sustainable development.

"There is a real danger that we will leave future generations only rubble, deserts and refuse," he warned.

The Paris accord, reached by 195 countries, seeks to avoid some of the worst effects of climate change by curbing global greenhouse gas emissions via individual, nonbinding national plans. US President Donald Trump has said the US will pull out of the accord negotiated by his predecessor unless he can get a better deal.

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