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Catholic Church should not fear change, Pope Francis says at synod close

(Pope Francis greets cardinals at the end of a mass for the beatification of former pope Paul VI in St. Peter's square at the Vatican October 19, 2014. Former pope Paul VI who led the Roman Catholic Church during one of its most turbulent modern periods and enshrined its opposition to contraception, will be beatified by Pope Francis at the Vatican. Beatification is the last step before sainthood. The late pope's move towards canonization was made possible when the Vatican recognised a miracle concerning a pregnant woman in California whose child was at risk of dying. After praying to Paul VI, the child survived. REUTERS/Tony Gentile)

(Pope Francis greets cardinals at the end of a mass for the beatification of former pope Paul VI in St. Peter’s square at the Vatican October 19, 2014. REUTERS/Tony Gentile)

Pope Francis has closed an assembly of Catholic bishops that revealed deep divisions on how to respond to homosexuality and divorce, saying on Sunday the Church should not be afraid of change and new challenges.

Francis, who has said he wants a more merciful and less rigid Church, made his comments in a sermon to some 70,000 people in St. Peter’s Square for the ceremonial closing of a two-week assembly, known as a synod.

The working session of the gathering ended on Saturday night with a final document that reversed a historic acceptance of gays by the Church made just a week earlier — a result some progressives see as a setback for Francis.

“God is not afraid of new things. That is why he is continuously surprising us, opening our hearts and guiding us in unexpected ways,” the pope said.

Vatican to limit Sistine Chapel visitors to protect fragile frescoes

(DATE IMPORTED:November 21, 2009Pope Benedict XVI leads a special meeting with artists in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican November 21, 2009. Pope Benedict meets up to 500 artists from around the world, as part of efforts to turn the page on the Vatican's sometimes conflicted relationship with the contemporary art world. Picture taken with fish-eye lens. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano)

(The Sistine Chapel, as former Pope Benedict XVI met with artists on November 21, 2009. Picture taken with fish-eye lens. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano)

The Vatican will restrict the number of visitors to the Sistine Chapel to 6 million a year to protect Michelangelo’s delicate frescoes from damage caused by ever-growing crowds of tourists, an official said on Thursday.

Visitors to the chapel – where popes are elected in secret conclaves – can reach 20,000 a day in summer, with up to 2,000 people inside at a time.

Vatican waters down gay references in English translation of divisive text

(Bishops and cardinals attend a synod of bishops lead by Pope Francis in Paul VI's hall at the Vatican October 6, 2014. Pope Francis on Monday opened the Roman Catholic assembly that will discuss marriage, gay couples, birth control and other moral issues, telling his bishops to speak frankly and not be afraid of upsetting him. REUTERS/Max Rossi)

(Bishops and cardinals attend a synod of bishops at the Vatican October 6, 2014. REUTERS/Max Rossi)

The Vatican made key changes to an English translation of passages about homosexuality in a divisive document on Thursday, watering down a message that had been seen as a major shift in its tone on gay people.

The alterations pointed to continued tensions between conservatives and progressive bishops at the closed-door assembly, known as a synod, which is discussing family issues such as homosexuality, divorce and birth control.

Conservative Catholics want changes to Vatican document on family and gays

(Pope Francis adjusts his cap as he leads his weekly audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican October 15, 2014. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi)

(Pope Francis adjusts his cap as he leads his weekly audience in Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican October 15, 2014. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi)

Conservative Roman Catholic prelates on Tuesday vowed to change a controversial Vatican document that held out the possibility of a major shift in the Church’s attitude towards homosexuals.

The document, issued on Monday, said homosexuals had “gifts and qualities to offer” and asked if Catholicism could accept gays and recognise positive aspects of same-sex couples.

Vatican document challenges Catholic Church to change attitude to gays

(Pope Francis waves as he leads his weekly audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican October 8, 2014. REUTERS/Max Rossi)

(Pope Francis waves as he leads his weekly audience in Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican October 8, 2014. REUTERS/Max Rossi)

In a dramatic shift in tone, a Vatican document said on Monday that homosexuals had “gifts and qualities to offer” and asked if Catholicism could accept gays and recognise positive aspects of same-sex couples.

Roman Catholic gay rights groups around the world hailed the paper as a breakthrough, but Church conservatives called it a betrayal of traditional family values.

Leading Vatican cardinal says Catholic Church will never bless gay marriage

(Italian Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio arrives to attend a prayer at Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican March 6, 2013. Catholic cardinals said on Tuesday they wanted time to get to know each before choosing the next pope and meanwhile would seek more information on a secret report on alleged corruption in the Vatican. REUTERS/Max Rossi)

(Italian Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio at Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican March 6, 2013. REUTERS/Max Rossi)

A leading Vatican cardinal said on Thursday the Roman Catholic Church will never bless gay marriage, wading into a controversy over the issue in Italy and other countries.

On Tuesday, Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano ordered mayors to stop recognizing the validity of gay marriages performed outside the country, prompting protests from rights groups and local officials.

Pope Francis ditches Latin as official language of Vatican synod

(Cicero

(The legendary Latin orator Cicero addresses the Roman Senate  in 63 BC/”Cicero Accuses Catiline” by Cesare Maccari, 1888, now in Palazzo Madama in Rome)

In a break with the past, Pope Francis has decided that Latin will not be the official language of a worldwide gathering of bishops at the Vatican.

A cardinal made the announcement at the start of the first working day of the two-week assembly, known as a synod, where about 200 Roman Catholic bishops from around the world are discussing themes related to the family..

Pope Francis, opening Catholic gathering at Vatican, tells bishops to speak frankly

(Pope Francis leads the synod of bishops in Paul VI's hall at the Vatican October 6, 2014. Pope Francis opened a global Roman Catholic assembly on Sunday showing his apparent irritation with Church leaders who have waged a sometimes bitter public battle between progressives and conservatives on family issues. REUTERS/Claudio Peri/Pool )

(Pope Francis leads the synod of bishops in Paul VI’s hall at the Vatican October 6, 2014. REUTERS/Claudio Peri/Pool )

Pope Francis on Monday opened a Roman Catholic assembly that will discuss marriage, gay couples, birth control and other moral issues, telling his bishops to speak frankly and not be afraid of upsetting him.

After a ceremonial opening on Sunday, some 200 bishops from around the world sat with the pope in a Vatican hall to begin the working sessions of the two-week synod, which is centered on the theme of the family and could help define Francis’ papacy.

Vatican family synod will be a test case for Pope Francis’ papacy

(Pope Francis waves as he leaves at the end of his weekly audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican October 1, 2014. REUTERS/Tony Gentile)

(Pope Francis waves as he leaves at the end of his weekly audience in Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican October 1, 2014. REUTERS/Tony Gentile)

A global assembly of Roman Catholic bishops is shaping up as the first major showdown of Pope Francis’s papacy, with conservative and progressive cardinals trading insults ahead of its start on Sunday.

The two-week synod on the theme of the family will be attended by more than 250 people — nearly all of them bishops of the 1.2 billion-member Church and also 13 married couples.

Pope summons Mideast envoys to Rome over Islamist advance

(A woman prays near pictures of victims who were killed in an attack at the Syrian Catholic cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation, during Christmas eve in Baghdad, in this photo taken December 24, 2010. A French mission to rescue victims of the church massacre in Baghdad has raised questions about the fairness of such operations, with rights groups calling for the rescue of all Iraq's threatened groups, not just Christians. Picture taken December 24, 2010. To match Feature FRANCE-IRAQ/CHRISTIANS REUTERS/Mohammed Ameen )

(A woman prays near pictures of victims who were killed in an attack at the Syrian Catholic cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation, during Christmas eve in Baghdad, in this photo taken December 24, 2010. REUTERS/Mohammed Ameen)

Pope Francis, who has expressed alarm over the rise of Islamic State militants and the plight of Christians in the Middle East, has summoned his envoys in the region to a rare meeting to discuss a response to the crisis, the Vatican said on Tuesday.

The Oct. 2-4 gathering will include Vatican ambassadors to Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Israel and the Palestinians as well as representatives to the United Nations and the European Union.