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John Paul II and John XXIII to become saints in April

Pope John Paul II, the Polish pontiff who led the Catholic Church for 27 years and witnessed the fall of communism and Pope John XXIII, who called the reforming Second Vatican council, will be declared saints on April 27, Pope Francis has announced.

Pope John Paul II photographed in 1992. Credit: REUTERS/Luciano Mellace

The announcement of the date for the canonisations had been expected since July when Francis approved a second miracle attributed to John Paul, opening the way to the fastest canonisation in modern times.

Pope John XXIII photographed during his coronation ceremony in 1958. Credit: Reuters

He also approved sainthood for John, who reigned from 1958 to 1963 and who oversaw sweeping reforms to modernise the Church, even though he has only been credited with one miracle since his death.

Pope Benedict breaks silence to deny abuse cover-up

Seven months after leaving the papacy, emeritus Pope Benedict XVI broke his self-imposed silence as he denied covering up for sexually abusive priests and defended Christianity to non-believers.

Pope Benedict released a letter to one of Italy's best-known atheists in the first work published by Benedict since he retired and his first-ever denial of personal responsibility for the sex scandal.

Pope Benedict has not spoken out publicly since he left St Peter's in February. Credit: Vandeville Eric/ABACA/Press Association Images

What made the letter published in La Repubblica even more remarkable was that it appeared just two weeks after the new pontiff, Pope Francis penned a similar letter to the newspaper's atheist editor.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the appearance of the letters was pure coincidence.

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Pope names Archbishop Pietro Parolin as his 'deputy'

Archbishop Pietro Parolin has been named as Vatican prime minister

Pope Francis has named Archbishop Pietro Parolin as his secretary of state, Vatican prime minister and chief aide - a role often called the "deputy pope".

The veteran diplomat's appointment ends the era Cardinal Tarciscio Bertone, who was widely blamed for failing to prevent ethical and financial scandals.

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Three arrested as part of Vatican bank investigation

A Vatican cleric, a member of Italy's secret services and a financial broker have been arrested as part of an Italian investigation into the Vatican bank, a police source and a lawyer told Reuters.

St. Peter's Square at the Vatican in Rome, Italy.

The cleric, Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, worked as an accountant in the Vatican's financial administration. He was arrested in a parish in Rome's outskirts, his lawyer Silverio Sica said.

Scarano was suspended from his duties several weeks ago when he was placed under investigation by magistrates in the southern city of Salerno, his home town.

In that investigation, Scarano was accused of taking 600,000 Euros in cash out of an account in the Vatican bank a little at a time, usually 10,000 Euros, and giving it to friends who gave him checks. It is alleged he then deposited the checks into an Italian bank account to pay off a mortgage.

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