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Pope John XXIII Launched Vatican II and Then Some

On the night of Oct. 11, 1962, Pope John XXIII did something so natural that it's astonishing it was so revolutionary at the time. He came to the window of the Vatican's Apostolic Palace and spoke to thousands of candle-bearing faithful below — not in the arcane, scripted words of pontiffs past but in those of a father and pastor looking out for his flock.

"Going home, you will find your children. Give them a caress and tell them 'This is the caress of the pope,'" John said to the torch-lit cheers from St. Peter's Square.

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Entering the Monkhood a Rite of Passage

With golden umbrellas covering them from the equatorial sun, boys in princely attire are hoisted onto the shoulders of their fathers and uncles, part of a ritual carried out this time every year at Buddhist pagodas all over Myanmar: young would-be-novices preparing to enter the monkhood.

They circle around the temples in hopes of winning a blessing from Buddha, processions of beautifully dressed damsels following closely behind.

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In Eastern Ukraine, Religion is another Battleground

In the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, the split between nationalists and pro-Russians extends to religion, with sharp divides appearing between churches tied to Moscow and those that want to keep the country united.

"We should say thank you to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, who helped us to understand that we are Ukrainians. The aggression against Ukraine has helped reinforce our identity," said Father Tikhon, a 43-year-old priest of the local Greek Catholic church.

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Philippines' Oldest Artworks in Danger of Disappearing

On a small rock wall a short drive from the Philippine capital, enigmatic carvings that are believed to date back 5,000 years are in danger of disappearing before their mysteries can be solved.

The 127 engravings of people, animals and geometric shapes are the Southeast Asian nation's oldest known artworks, but encroaching urbanization, vandals and the ravages of nature are growing threats.

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Three Charged in U.S. over $33 mn Art Scam

Three men were charged Monday in New York in connection with a $33 million scam over two decades making and selling paintings purportedly by world-famous artists but which were in fact fakes.

Among the bogus works were pieces supposedly by Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock and sold to unsuspecting collectors for tens of millions of dollars.

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Brunei Delays Introduction of Tough Islamic Law

Brunei has postponed its implementation of harsh Islamic punishments, due to begin Tuesday, that have earned condemnation from the United Nations and sparked rare criticism at home.

No confirmed new date was given for the start of the punishments -- which will eventually include flogging, the severing of limbs and death by stoning -- but an official told the Brunei Times they would begin "in the very near future".

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Vienna's Versailles Offers Imperial Hideaway

Schoenbrunn Palace was Marie-Antoinette's summer childhood home and the beautiful and tragic Sissi's favored residence. Mozart performed there as a child and Napoleon was so smitten he moved in -- twice.

And from April 30, tourists too can sojourn in Vienna's top tourist site, in a converted suite of rooms with views over the palace gardens, even with butler, cook and horse-drawn conveyance.

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Dissenters Voice Doubt over John Paul II Sainthood

A much-loved pope will be declared a saint on Sunday but not everyone in the Catholic Church agrees.

John Paul II also alienated many left-wing Catholics and has been blamed for hushing up child sex crimes.

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University Cancels Panel on Gays Deemed 'Immoral' by Turkey's Hezbollah

A Turkish university cancelled a panel on gay rights after it came under harsh criticism from Islamic extremists who branded the event as "immoral", a liberal daily reported Monday.

The Ilke news agency, which is close to Turkey's Islamist Hezbollah movement made up of ethnic Kurds, condemned the timing of the conference, which had been planned for last Thursday, because it coincided with a week of events dedicated to the birth of Prophet Mohammed, the newspaper Radikal reported.

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John Paul's Legacy Stained by Sex Abuse Scandal

Pope John Paul II is rightly credited with having helped bring down communism, of inspiring a new generation of Catholics with a globe-trotting papacy and of explaining church teaching on a range of hot-button issues as Christianity entered its third millennium.

But the sexual abuse scandal that festered under his watch remains a stain on his legacy.

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