Pope Francis

Pope Francis extends Catholic priests' right to forgive abortion

It continues a special dispensation granted last year for duration of the Year of Mercy, which finished Sunday.

The letter states: "I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life. In the same way, however, I can and must state that there is no sin that God's mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with the Father."

"May every priest, therefore, be a guide, support and comfort to penitents on this journey of special reconciliation," the letter continues.

Pope Francis names 17 new cardinals of Roman Catholic Church

The new cardinals come from five continents, and include the Vatican's envoy to Syria.

The range of backgrounds "represents a break with custom", said the BBC's David Willey in Rome.

Pope Francis has now chosen close to a third of the College of Cardinals who will ultimately pick who succeeds him.

Only cardinals under the age of 80 can vote on the next Pope. Thirteen of those named cardinals on Saturday are under 80, and are now eligible to succeed him.

How Pope Francis is shaking up the Vatican

He's appointing a batch of new cardinals on Saturday, reshaping the group that will someday choose the next pope.

Many of the new men come from lands far distant from Rome: Three are from Africa, two from Asia, one from Oceania, and one from the Middle East. All represent places where the Catholic population is in the minority.

Meanwhile, some major cities usually led by a cardinal -- including Los Angeles and Philadelphia -- are being bypassed this time around.

Why has the pope said no to women priests?

Often seen as wanting to overturn the conservative thrust of recent pontificates, Francis has shown himself to be squarely on the side of Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI when it comes to women's ordination.

"The final word is clear," he said Tuesday when asked about women's ordination during an in-flight press conference returning from Sweden, "it was said by St John Paul II and this remains."

"Forever?" the journalist asked. "Never, ever?"

"If we carefully read the declaration of St. John Paul II it goes in that direction, yes," Francis replied.

Reformation day: Pope Francis marks Luther anniversary in Sweden

The Pope appealed to Catholics and Lutherans to "mend" history and look with honesty at the past, "recognising error and seeking forgiveness".

By tradition, on 31 October 1517 the German theologian Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of a church.

The papal visit kicks off a year of events to mark the quincentenary.

Pope Francis and Lutheran leaders presided over a ecumenical prayer service in Lund cathedral in southern Sweden on Monday.

New Cardinal Sir John grateful for appointment

Cardinals are personally selected by the Pope. Pope Francis announced the new cardinals from the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica at the end of a special Mass on Sunday, October 9, in the Vatican.

The 59-year-old is among 17 cardinals selected by the pope and is now the sixth cardinal ever selected from the Oceania region.

The group includes men from five countries that had never before had a cardinal, namely PNG, Bangladesh, the Central African Republic, Lesotho and Malaysia.

Pope preaches in half-empty stadium

Orthodox believers were asked not to take part in Roman Catholic services and a Church delegation due to attend also stayed away.

But Church officials said the decision had been taken by mutual agreement.

It was one of the smallest crowds seen at an outdoor papal Mass during Francis's foreign trips.

People who did attend in the capital Tbilisi said afterwards that the papal visit was good for Georgia.

"This is a very significant event, both for the country and for faithful from the whole Catholic parish," Keti Khitarikhvili told Reuters news agency.

Pope 'shares pain' of Nice attack victims, families

More than 80 people died when Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel plowed a 20-ton truck into crowds on the Promenade des Anglais seafront in Nice during a fireworks celebration on France's key national holiday.

Ten children were among the victims of the ISIS-inspired attack. More than 200 people were injured.

"I wish to share in your pain, a pain that is even greater when I think of the children, or indeed entire families, whose life was taken from them suddenly and so dramatically," Francis said.

Mark Zuckerberg gives Pope Francis a drone

Mark Zuckerberg handed over a Facebook drone when he, and his wife Priscilla Chan, met Pope Francis on Monday.

"It was a meeting we'll never forget," Zuckerberg said. "You can feel [the Pope's] warmth and kindness, and how deeply he cares about helping people."

Pope Francis makes surprise visit to former prostitutes

The women had been rescued from their pimps and are being given shelter and protection at an apartment run by a Catholic charity in Italy's capital.

The pontiff chatted to the women, some trafficked from Africa and elsewhere in Europe, for more than an hour.

The 79-year-old cleric has repeatedly described human trafficking as a "crime against humanity".

The Pope sat down with the women, including seven Nigerians, six Romanians and four Albanians, and listened to their stories of forced prostitution, the Vatican said.