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Brazil's Catholic Church Rejects Zika Abortion Argument

The Catholic Church in Brazil on Wednesday rejected calls supported by the United Nations to allow abortion in cases of the birth defect microcephaly.

Abortion is restricted in Latin America's biggest country to cases of rape, where the fetus has no brain, or where the mother's life is in danger.

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Pope Unleashes 'Super Confessors' to Tackle Special Sins

Dubbed 'super confessors', for one year only they can absolve sins usually only pardoned by the pope himself.

And on Wednesday over 1,000 of these "missionaries of mercy", handpicked by Pope Francis, were sent forth to win back the hearts of those who have left the Catholic Church and open the door to repentant sinners across the world.

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UAE Names Women Ministers for Happiness, Tolerance

The United Arab Emirates on Wednesday named women to the newly created posts of state ministers for happiness and tolerance, and a 22-year-old female for youth affairs.

Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum named eight women as he revealed his latest cabinet line-up of 29 ministers in a series of tweets.

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Russian Church Hopes 'Historic' Pope Talks Will Reset Ties

The Russian Orthodox Church on Tuesday said it hoped a historic first meeting between its Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis would herald a new era of cooperation between two Christian branches that have been estranged for centuries.

The Vatican announced Friday that the pair will meet in Cuba next week, in the first gathering of its kind since the bitter 11th-century split that divided Christianity into Western and Eastern branches.

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War-Scarred Ruins of Syria's Homs Inspire Artists

Devastated by 20 months of combat between regime forces and rebel fighters, the haunting ruins of the Old City of Homs now serve as inspiration for some Syrian artists.

In summer 2014, director Joud Said decided to set his film "It's Raining in Homs" in the ruins, just three months after the last rebels left the area under a truce deal following a lengthy siege.

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Berlin's Three Main Orchestras Stage Free Concert for Refugees

Three of the world's top conductors, Simon Rattle, Daniel Barenboim and Ivan Fischer are teaming up for a free concert by Berlin's three main orchestras next month which will be free for refugees, they announced on Tuesday.

The three maestri will each conduct their own orchestra -- Rattle the Berlin Philharmonic, Barenboim the Staatskapelle Berlin and Fischer the Konzerthaus Orchestra -- in a special concert on March 1 in the German capital's Philharmonic Hall, they said in a joint statement.

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Syrian Refugee Children to Join Rio Carnival Parade

Refugee children from Syria and other conflict-torn countries will be treated to a place in Rio de Janeiro's exuberant carnival parade on Tuesday, U.N. officials said.

Forty children aged from six to 14 from Syria, Sudan, Libya and elsewhere will parade among thousands of Brazilian youngsters in a spectacle by the Mangueira samba school, the United Nations refugees body UNHCR said in a statement.

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Bosnians Protest against Hijab Ban in Judiciary

Some 2,000 people, mostly women, protested on Sunday in downtown Sarajevo against a recent ban on wearing a hijab headscarf in the majority Muslim country's judicial institutions.

"We gathered to protest against prejudices, discrimination and marginalization," Samira Zunic Velagic, one of the protest organizers, told the crowd.

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Rio Carnival Dances toward Wild Finale, Swatting Zika Aside

Swatting aside fears over the Zika virus, the glittering dancers of the Rio Carnival samba championship and their adoring fans were primed Sunday for their first all-night parade.

After a fortnight of street parties, thousands of gallons of beer, and the day and night sound of drumming and singing throughout Brazil's most iconic city, the really serious Carnival fun was set to begin at 23:30 GMT.

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The Grave-Diggers of Maiduguri: Burying Boko Haram and the Past

Even the dead weren't safe from Boko Haram when the Islamist insurgency erupted in the northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri nearly seven years ago.

"They began to destroy this one," said Babagana Modu, gesturing to a mound of baked earth and sand -- the grave of a prominent Muslim cleric.

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