Pope Francis called for "mutual respect" between Christianity and Islam and an end to "unfair criticism" in a personal message on Friday congratulating Muslims on the feast of Eid al-Fitr. "We are called to respect the religion of the other, its teachings, its symbols, its values," he said in a statement distributed by the Vatican press office.

Pope Francis celebrated the last Mass of his trip to Brazil on Sunday before more than a million people gathered on the beach in this city, the national flags of Catholics from around the world hoisted in the air as a chorus of Brazilian priests belted out songs before the multitude. It was a vibrant display of the Vatican’s ambition of halting the losses of worshipers to evangelical churches and the rising appeal of secularism.

Pope Francis chose to engage in “a silent diplomacy” to help victims of Argentina’s ‘dirty war’ rather than lead a public outcry, according to an Argentine Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Blocs of large superpowers are no longer the movers and shakers, but rather "those who've got the 'soft power' and influence around the world -- these are the important people, and here we are standing in the midst of that," he said during an interview at the Vatican press office.

Lancaster alluded to the soft power of the Vatican, which panelists agreed plays a significant role in international affairs. She noted that in the modern world, military and economic power, while important, can play second fiddle to religion, which is traditionally seen as a soft power.

The Assisi gathering, held on the 25th anniversary of a historic initiative in favor of peace hosted by John Paul in 1986, this time did not include common prayer among the delegates...In fact... the delegates were withdrawing to various rooms around the Basilica of St Mary of the Angels

September 27, 2011

The pontifical council for the promotion of the new evangelisation represents a significant benchmark to measure the Vatican's capability to regain some influence in what was once "its" Europe...It has to fight against what the Vatican perceives as "the supremacy of the fragments": a cultural approach which tends to isolate and disperse western societies, and by consequence also Catholics: a sort of "grassroots relativism".

The Vatican - once the world’s premier art patron - is again reaching out to artists, organizing an exhibit of contemporary works. Sixty living artists, including two Americans, were invited to reflect on the theme of truth and charity. The exhibit is part of the Vatican’s bid to reconcile with contemporary art.