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Pope meets with Palestinian leaders
VATICAN (SE): Pope Francis met with a delegation from the Permanent Committee for Dialogue with Religious Figures in Palestine on the morning of December 6. The pope told the delegation, “The Holy Land is for us as Christians the land par excellence of dialogue between God and mankind. The culmination of that dialogue that took place in Nazareth between the Angel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary, an event to which the Qur’an also makes reference.”
 
Appeal against religious advertising ban
WASHINGTON (SE): The archdiocese of Washington filed an appeal on December 11 against a ban on its Christmas advertisements being posted on the sides of city buses.
WTOP reported that the notice to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia indicates the Church will challenge a federal ruling of December 8 that found restrictions placed on religious advertisements by MetroBus are legal.MetroBus has banned anything that promotes or opposes religion.
 
Environment advocate arrested
HO CHI MINH (UCAN): Father John Baptist Nguyen Dinh Thuc challenged the arrest of an environmental advocate and member of his parish council in the province of Nghe An on December 7.
He is accusing the government of playing a dirty trick in the November 27 disappearance of 37-year old Francis Nguyen Nam Phong. Security officers told his wife he was arrested for having sex with prostitutes and resisting police.
The priest said Phong took part in protests against the Taiwanese owners of a steel plant that spilled toxic waste into the sea in 2016.
 
Changing Mass times to avoid violence
VILLAHERMOSA (SE): In one of the most violent parts of Mexico the local Church is changing many of its usual Mass time at Christmas in order to avoid what it terms the most dangerous times.
“With respect to the problem of insecurity, for the most part the established schedule has been kept, but we are trying to avoid scheduling certain times that could be high risk,” El Heraldo de Tabasco reported Father José Luis Compeán Rueda as saying at a December 3 press conference in Villahermosa.
 
Who’s identified?
MANILA (UCAN): Migrant workers from The Philippines are about to be gifted with a new ID card identifying the president, Rodrigo Duterte, with a picture and signature that are exactly the same size as the holder of the card.
Critics on social media are calling it a shameless self-promotion on behalf of the president and the president of the Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People, Bishop Ruperto Santos, called it overkill, as its purpose is not to identify the president.
“This is only the first phase of implementation and will cater first to our returning workers until the system is ready for all,” labour secretary, Silvestre Bello, said.
 
Children to choose Olympic mascots
TOKYO (AsiaNews): The children of Japan will vote on the mascots to be used for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, it was announced on December 7. It is the first time that such a method has been used in the history of the Olympics. 
The organisers presented the three pairs of finalist mascots and elementary school children from all over the country are being asked to choose their favorite pair. The decision was made after the originally approved logo had been accused of plagiarism. About 21,000 children can take part in the vote.
 
Priest still missing from Raqqa
RAQQA (SE): The Latin Rite Jesuit, Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, who disappeared on 28 July 2013 from Raqqa, the Syrian city that later became the capital of the Islamic State, has not been found, even after the city fell to the Syrian military.
It seems that there is no trace of him nor idea of what happened to him.
Father Jacques Murad, together with the brothers and sisters of Dei Mar Musa—the monastic community he founded—said everyone is now living in a time of uncertainty and trepidation, but striving for the peace of the men and women of Christ.
 
Can’t afford disunity
VATICAN (AsiaNews): Pope Francis met a delegation from the National Council of Churches of Taiwan on December 12 urging the promotion of greater Christian unity and charity as well as educational projects for young people.
The pope said, “There are many areas in which we, as Christians, are called to work together to promote the dignity of each human being and to support those who are less fortunate than ourselves… The love of God, made incarnate in life, is… our royal road.”
He said that today, especially in Asia, Christianity cannot afford not to be united.

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