Former Israeli President Shimon Peres asked Pope Francis to head a parallel United Nations called the "United Religions" to counter religious extremism in the world today.
Hidden beneath Albania's long legacy of interreligious harmony and peace lie the turmoil and bloodshed of an ancient vigilante code that affects thousands of families, many of them Catholic.
Called "blood feuds," they stem from a traditional Albanian code or "kanun" that sanctions murder to restore a family's honor after a member experiences an affront, injustice or killing.
The feud can start with a quarrel or offense, which then triggers the murder of any male member, even teenagers, in the perpetrator's family.
Returning from five years of teaching in Africa, theologian Ann Riggs says that missionary work is "an opportunity and location for us to become what we were created to be."
Riggs, who returned to the U.S. in July after teaching college students in Kenya, is a new professor of pastoral studies at Loyola University Chicago.
During her missionary work as the principal, or president, at Friends Theological College, she learned more about the importance of cultural dimensions and perceptions, and plans on bringing her new perspective to her students at Loyola.
Pope Francis' choice of Albania as the destination of his first international trip in Europe reflects his trademark pastoral approach: Head to the peripheries, bring healing to the suffering.
But his Sept. 21 visit to the poor, Muslim-majority nation also will highlight, to a world increasingly torn apart by sectarian strife, a hopeful example of Muslims and Christians living in harmony.
Five months after Boko Haram abducted more than 200 girls in Nigeria's Borno State, the Islamic extremist group has begun occupying churches in the country's northeastern region, church officials there said.
The militant group, which church leaders and analysts view as an African variation of the Islamic State, is also beheading men, forcing Christian women to convert to Islam and taking them as wives, officials said.
NCR Today: A straightforward, undisputed analysis of offenses in the conflict, whether by Hamas or Israel, will probably be hard to come by. But the U.N. is going to try.
"The match is an occasion for raising funds for solidarity projects, but above all [for promoting] values that draw people together, no matter what their culture or religious creed."
Fr. Juan Solana said he realizes "now that my words were awkward and suggest a reverence for our founder that we clearly reject."
Although Christians, Muslims and Jews have struggled for hundreds of years to live peacefully alongside each other in the Middle East, "we have never seen the kind of 'religious cleansing' we are witnessing today," said the head of the region's Franciscans.
"All religious communities must raise their voices against this abomination" being carried out, particularly in Iraq and Syria, by terrorists calling themselves the Islamic State, said Franciscan Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, custos of the Holy Land.
Pope Francis reassigned two prominent Spanish bishops, giving a new leader to the country's largest diocese and leaving a vacancy at the head of the Vatican's liturgical office.
The Vatican announced Thursday that the pope had named Archbishop Carlos Osoro Sierra as the new archbishop of Madrid and Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera to be archbishop of Valencia, in eastern Spain.