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Frenchman Kidnapped, Threatened with Beheading After ISIS’ Call


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Islamist militants in Algeria have purportedly responded to call from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to target Westerners by kidnapping a French mountain guide and threatening to behead him unless France halts its actions against ISIS.

In a new video that recently appeared online, two masked and armed militants are seen with a man who describes himself as a 55-year-old Nice native named Herve Gourdel.

“We are the soldiers of the Islamic State [ISIS] in Algeria responding to the message of [ISIS leader Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi and his spokesperson,” one of the militants says. “We give [French President Francois] Hollande, the head of the French criminal government, 24 hours to stop its offensive against the Islamic State, otherwise this hostage, French national Herve Gourdel, will be beheaded.”

The man identified as Gourdel then speaks to the camera, saying he is a mountain guide who arrived in Algeria on Saturday and was taken “yesterday” by the militants.

“They are holding me hostage,” Gourdel says. “I implore you, Mr. President, to do everything you can to get me out of this ordeal.”

The French Foreign Ministry released a statement Monday acknowledging that a French national had been kidnapped Sunday in Algeria, but said the kidnapping had not yet been claimed.

“Every measure is being expanded to find our compatriot,” the statement said. “The services of the state are mobilized and no hypothesis has been ruled out.”

Gourdel was apparently taken within hours of an ISIS spokesperson releasing an audio message to its supporters around the world urging them to target Westerners who support the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, "especially the spiteful and filthy French."

Last week, Hollande announced his nation would join the campaign in Iraq by launching airstrikes against ISIS targets. The U.S. has launched nearly 200 airstrikes against ISIS in recent weeks.

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Three Missing Afghan Soldiers Found at Canadian Border


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Three Afghan soldiers who went missing from a Cape Cod, Massachusetts military base over the weekend were found Monday near the U.S.-Canada border, a United States defense official told ABC News.

Law enforcement officials said the men did not try to hide, but instead walked up to border patrol agents and presented themselves for asylum.

The men are currently in Canadian custody, officials said.

The three officers -- a major and two captains -- had been participating in a tabletop exercise called "Regional Cooperation 2014," which is run by Centcom and scheduled to go from Sept. 17 to 24.

Law enforcement officials in Massachusetts told ABC News that the men were last seen Saturday buying civilian clothes at the Cape Cod Mall.

The three officers were part of a 14-officer contingent from Afghanistan, officials said.

The command post exercise has been held annually since 2004 and this year included participants from six countries and focused on a peacekeeping mission. Last year's exercise was conducted in Germany.

This comes as Col. Steve Warren said earlier Monday that there was no indication the missing men posed a threat to the public.

Warren said the missing soldiers were not considered a threat because they were "thoroughly" vetted by a number of people and agencies, including the State Department, the embassy in Kabul and by U.S. forces.

"We believe based on the extensive vetting that we did prior to their deploying to the United States that they do not pose a threat," he said.

Warren said exercise participants are allowed to come and go from the base hosting the exercise, but "as a rule because it’s an unfamiliar area to them they would have US personnel accompany them if they wanted to depart post."

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New ISIS Recording Urges Muslims to Kill Civilians in US-Led Coalition Countries


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A 42-minute audio recording by an ISIS spokesman was released on social media Sunday in which the group calls on Muslims to kill civilians in countries that belong to the anti-ISIS U.S.-led coalition.

"If you can kill a disbelieving American or European -- especially the spiteful and filthy French -- or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be," an ISIS spokesman says.

This latest threat comes as ISIS posts new pictures of some of its British recruits, and President Obama heads to the UN to seek an international effort to stop such ISIS fighters from traveling unimpeded to spread their war of terror.

But U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power told George Stephanopoulos on This Week, stopping the threat from ISIS and its fighters won't happen anytime soon.

"We think again the strategy can succeed, and most importantly that we have the greatest military in the world, they believe that," Power said. "I think the president has said it will be over several years."

U.S. and British authorities this morning are also bracing for word on the fate of ISIS hostage Alan Henning.

Over the weekend there were new pleas for mercy from his wife and from leaders of the Muslim community, even al Qaeda, that he be spared because the one time British taxi driver only went to Syria as a driver for an Islamic relief mission.


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UN Session: ISIS, Ebola, Rookies and No-Shows


iStock Editorial(UNITED NATIONS) -- Motorcades will soon flood the area for miles around the U.N. headquarters and presidential suites at the city’s swankiest hotels will be booked solid as the 69th United Nations General Assembly kicks off this week.

By the looks of it, NYPD occupies every street corner around for blocks radiating out from the U.N.’s East River location, diplomatic security fills in the gaps and government aides travel in swarms.

Given the state of our planet, a meeting of the world’s leaders comes not a moment too soon.

“The world is facing multiple crises,” U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told reporters. “Each has its own dynamics, and requires its own approach. But all have featured atrocious attacks on civilians, including children. All have dangerous sectarian, ethnic or tribal dimensions. And many have seen sharp divisions within the international community itself over the response.”

A chaotic week awaits and with the U.S. ramping up its campaign against ISIS, the world’s largest Ebola outbreak in history spreading, and the war between Ukraine and Russia unflinching, here’s what you need to know about U.N. week.

On The Agenda:

Syria was at the top of last year’s agenda and this year, it’s all about ISIS. The growing threat of the Sunni Islamic State group will dominate the floor during the general debate and on the sidelines. Behind closed doors President Obama hopes to recruit more allies to join the roster of the U.S.-led coalition. For the first time since 2009, Obama will chair a session on ISIS Wednesday afternoon, urging the Security Council to pass a resolution aimed at cracking down on foreign fighters headed for Syria and Iraq.

“Together, we will address the horrendous violence in Syria and Iraq, where conflict and governance failures have provided a breeding ground for extremist groups,” said the secretary general. “I welcome the growing international consensus to act against this serious threat to global and regional peace and security,” he added.

Following Sunday’s massive People’s Climate March through the streets of New York, some 140 leaders will take part in Tuesday’s Climate Summit, gearing up for another global discussion in Paris next year.

Even the Secretary General hit the streets on Sunday, along with an estimated 400,000 activists, according to the event’s organizers.

The Ebola outbreak has now killed more than 2,700 people according to the World Health Organization. With nearly 5,762 cases across five West African nations, it is the largest Ebola outbreak in history.

The problem demands a global response. America’s U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power said last week, “the United Nations was built for global challenges like this.”

The director-general of the WHO, Dr. Margaret Chan, described the outbreak as “the greatest peacetime challenge that the United Nations and its agencies have ever faced.”

High level meetings are slated for Thursday, just a week after the Security Council declared Ebola a “threat to international peace and security.”

The No-Shows:

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will skip this year’s General Assembly and the country’s permanent representative to the U.N., Bashar Ja’afari will keep the seat warm. As the three and a half year Syrian civil war rages, the head of the U.N. commission told the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva last week “the Syrian government remains responsible for the majority of the civilian casualties, killing and maiming scores of civilians daily.”

But newcomer Hadi al-Bahra, the president of the Syrian Opposition Coalition, is in town and spoke with ABC News’ Bob Woodruff on Sunday:

Though invited, Russian President Putin is blowing off the whole affair. As a member of the U.N. Security Council, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will vote this week on behalf of the Kremlin.

And for the first time in 15 years, North Korea is sending a foreign minister, Ri Su-yong, reports South Korean publication Joongang Daily. According to the paper, this is only the third time the country has sent a representative since the Hermit Kingdom joined the United Nations.

The Rookies

A few notable rookies will make their debut at the General Assembly, including Ukraine’s new President Petro Poroshenko and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This is Modi’s first trip stateside after he was denied a visa back in 2005 for his failure to stop violent religious riots in 2002.

Former military strongman, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, will represent his country for the first time since taking office in June.

The world’s newest head of state, Afghanistan’s President-elect Ashraf Ghani, will be watching from Kabul this year. After two rounds of voting and months of diplomatic wrangling, Ghani’s victory was announced last weekend and he is expected to be sworn in early next week.

Awkward Encounters

It’s that time again when the Iranian head of state and the American president are within feet of each other. For most of the year, more than 6,000 miles separate President Rouhani and Obama, but this week the two leaders will both attend the General Assembly. Last year rumors swirled about a possible handshake that culminated with a quick phone call as Rouhani drove to JFK airport.

And while the two leaders are not expected to meet at the U.N., Secretary of State Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif met for more than an hour on Sunday.  Kerry noted that “this week is an opportunity to make additional progress” and stressed that “it is our intention to do so.” A State Department official said “going forward, the Secretary and Foreign Minister Zarif agreed to meet further as needed while in New York this week.”

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Gaza Reconstruction to Top Agenda When Cairo Talks Resume


iStock/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) -- Efforts to reach a lasting cease-fire in Gaza will resume this week in Egypt when a second round of talks between Israelis and Palestinians begin on Tuesday.

The long-term issues include Israel's demand to disarm Hamas and other militant groups, essentially demilitarizing Gaza. The Palestinians, meanwhile, want the blockade lifted and the construction of an airport and seaport.

All of those issues, however, will take a backseat to the reconstruction of Gaza, which will top the agenda at the Cairo talks.

The rebuilding of Gaza is the one problem that both Israel and the Palestinian Authority have a shared interest in solving now. They know if the serious humanitarian problems are not addressed -- which include a lack of housing, medical facilities, power and water -- Hamas militants could exploit the situation, fire rockets and kick off another round of violence.

The United Nations estimates the seven-week war this summer left nearly 18,000 homes, schools, hospitals and public buildings severely damaged or destroyed.

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Qatar Will Lose Right to Host 2022 World Cup, FIFA Member Believes


iStock/Thinkstock(BERLIN) -- A member of FIFA's executive committee believes Qatar will lose its right to host the 2022 World Cup.

Speaking to Sport Bild on Monday, German member Theo Zwanziger said he personally thinks the soccer tournament will not end up taking place in Qatar because of the extreme heat in the country and the effects it may have on players and fans.

FIFA responded by saying, "These were personal remarks by Theo Zwanziger as he stressed himself and we do not comment personal statements."

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American Fighting with Ukraine Rebels Urges Others to Join Him


iStock/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) -- With his face covered by a camouflage balaclava and a Midwestern aw-shucks tinge to his voice, Hunter from Illinois called on other Westerners to join him in fighting alongside Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine.

The man who claims to be, and sounds like, an American appeared on a three minute video released on YouTube by a media outlet associated with the Vostok Battalion, one of the main separatist groups fighting against Ukrainian troops.

“I arrived here to help, help New Russia, Novorossiya, become an independent state,” he said in response to a question by someone behind the camera. Novorossiya is the tsar-era name for the region favored by the separatists.

Hunter, who did not provide his last name in the video, said he joined the Vostok Battalion in the city of Donetsk “about a month” ago. It appears that he does not yet speak Russian, as the questions were translated for him and he responded in English.

He urged other Westerners to join him.

“People with U.S. military experience would be very valuable here,” he said.

Asked for his views on the conflict, Hunter admitted his knowledge of the situation is “limited,” but blamed the Ukrainian government for ignoring the will of the people.

“It seems to be a very simple, straightforward situation and the Kiev junta does not necessarily, I believe, reflect, they don’t, they don’t consider the popular opinion of the people of Donbass,” he said, referencing the common name of the region.

He suggested, as a solution, that Ukrainian authorities cede the territory in the east.

“It’d be better for everybody if they’d just come to a peaceful resolution. Give a reasonable amount of territory to the new state of Novorussia and, you know, make a peaceful, peaceful arrangement,” he said.

There had been at least one other American fighting in Ukraine, but on the other side of the conflict.

Mark Paslawsky, a Ukrainian-American U.S. Army veteran from New Jersey, was fighting for a pro-Ukrainian militia under the non de guerre “Franko.” He was killed in battle in late August.

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Once-Jailed Oligarch 'Ready' to Challenge Putin for Presidency


Sean Gallup/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- The last Russian oligarch to challenge President Vladimir Putin politically -- and pay dearly for it -- says he's ready to try again.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky was once Russia's richest man and the head of Russian energy giant Yukos. But after he made political moves against Putin, he was quickly tried and convicted on fraud charges in 2003. His company was dismantled and he would spend nearly the next decade in prison.

Khodorkovsky's takedown sent a strong signal to the rest of Russia's powerful tycoons not to meddle in politics, lest they suffer a similar fate. It seems the message got through. In the decade since then, none have tried.

But now Khodorkovsky is back. Putin pardoned him and released him from prison in December, a move that was widely seen as an effort to tamp down on international criticism of Russia before hosting the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

At the time, Khodorkovsky insisted he had no interest in challenging Putin.

"The struggle for power is not for me," he said.

It appears that is no longer the case. In interviews with European publications this weekend, Khodorkovsky said he was "ready" to become Russia's president and pledged to enact political reforms.

"I would not be interested in the idea of becoming president of Russia at a time when the country would be developing normally," he told France's Le Monde newspaper, according to AFP.

"But if it appeared necessary to overcome the crisis and to carry out constitutional reform, the essence of which would be to redistribute presidential powers in favor of the judiciary, parliament and civil society, then I would be ready to take on this part of the task," he added.

In a separate interview with Germany's Der Spiegel magazine, Khodorkovsky warned that the longer Putin remains in power, the more likely Russia is headed towards a bloody disintegration.

Khodorkovsky's comments come as he is set to help launch a group called Open Russia, which will seek to organize the opposition against Putin's rule.

Yet if Khodorkovsky dreams of personally wresting the Kremlin from Putin's grasp, he has a tough road ahead.

Putin remains firmly in power, having engineered a political system that has marginalized any meaningful opposition. He also controls most media, especially the powerful television stations.

Khodorkovsky, meanwhile, has limited leverage, living in self-imposed exile in Switzerland. Given what happened last time he got involved in politics, and also that shortly before his release last December prosecutors hinted at new charges against him, it's unclear what might happen to Khodorkovsky if he returns to Russia.

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Cairo Explosion Kills At Least Two, Injures Four


iStock/Thinkstock(CAIRO, Egypt) -- At least two people were killed in a bombing outside Egypt's foreign ministry in Cairo on Sunday.

The incident comes on the heels of numerous attempts over past months to evacuate street vendors who live and work in the building's area in the Boulaq neighborhood, as workers have not had the best relationships with government authorities.

The bomb was located behind a tree near the Sultan Abu Eala mosque by the foreign ministry in downtown Cairo. The incident prompted the evacuation of five schools, and all major roads leading to the site were closed.

While authorities did not disclose any suspects, they are calling the explosion an act of terrorism as an investigation continues.

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Couple Confesses in Socialite's Murder, Bali Police Say


iStock/Thinkstock(DENPASAR, Bali) -- Indonesian authorities say Chicago native Tommy Schaefer admitted that he killed his girlfriend's mother while the family vacationed last month at the upscale St. Regis resort in Bali.

Schaefer's girlfriend, Heather Mack, who is three months pregnant, has also confessed to witnessing her mother's murder and helping to dispose of her body, police in Bali said.

"Both of them have confessed," Bali Regional Police Chief Colonel Djoko Heru Utomo said. "Tommy was the one who carried out the killing."

"Heather thought that Tommy did not mean to kill her mother," Utomo said.

Mack, 19, and Schaefer, 21, have been behind bars since the gruesome discovery of 62-year old Sheila von Wiese-Mack's body, found stuffed inside a silver suitcase left in the trunk of a taxi last month.

Mack previously claimed her mother died during an armed gang attack that she and Schaefer escaped. But Indonesian investigators say surveillance video shows Mack's mother and Shaeffer arguing in the hours before the murder.

Mack's attorney declined a request for comment from ABC News.

According to Bali authorities, Schaefer allegedly killed von Wiese-Mack because he was "hurt and offended" following an argument.

"In Indonesia, you get credit for admitting and cooperating. So he might think this will save him some time if he is ever sentenced," said defense attorney Janet Johnson, who is not involved in the case.

Despite these reported new confessions, the couple has yet to be formally charged.


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Syrian Opposition Leader: ‘We Need Your Assistance’


ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The leader of what is referred to as the moderate Syrian opposition has a message for the world: give us the proper support and we can end the two-pronged war in Syria against dictator Bashar al-Assad as well as ISIS in “three years max.”

Syrian Opposition Coalition president Hadi al-Bahra will address the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Wednesday to plead for American and western aid to defeat Assad and ISIS militants in Syria.

“Currently I am sitting with you and fighting on two fronts. We are fighting in Damascus against the regime, we are fighting in Aleppo against ISIL,” Bahra said. “We are in the fight and will continue to fight. But we need your assistance. This danger now is not a Syrian issue. It is proved now that it is not a regional issue. It is also expanding now to be threat in Europe and even to the U.S.”

Bahra was elected president of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces in July after serving as a representative for the coalition of rebel groups fighting Assad during peace negotiations in Geneva last spring. During an interview with ABC News’ Bob Woodruff, Bahra said he was proud of his Syrian countrymen who took up arms to fight for their country.

“Actually, we aspire and look back to the American Revolution and we see now this story repeating itself. We are the normal Syrians fighting for our freedom and to transfer our political system to democracy,” he said.

This week, Congress gave President Obama authority to provide funding and military training to Syrian opposition forces led by Bahra. Critics are skeptical that arms provided by the West could fall into the wrong hands and that the vetting and training process will take too long to effectively combat ISIS.

“I assure you all the aid will go to moderate national Syrian army, the Free Syrian Army, and we will be very careful with it,” Bahra said.

Bahra says he is confident in the opposition’s ability to win the fight in Syria without U.S. boots on the ground.

“We would like to win our own freedom,” he said. “By our own people, and we are ready to sacrifice everything to win back our freedom and our constitutional rights.”

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Afghanistan Names New President, Candidates Agree on Power-Sharing Deal


U.S. Department of State(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- Afghanistan declared the country's next president on Sunday, naming Ashraf Ghani as the new leader with 55 percent of the popular vote, according to Afghan sources.

The announcement comes as Ghani and runner-up Abdullah Abdullah agreed upon a national unity government deal during a ceremony attended by current President Hamid Karzai and other senior officials.

The decision ends a months-long dispute that could have forced the full withdrawal of U.S. and foreign troops from the war-torn country. The transition, deemed "peaceful," is a first for Afghanistan since 1901, according to the BBC.

In a statement Sunday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the political agreement "helps bring closure to Afghanistan's political crisis, and restores confidence in the way forward."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called the formation "a moment of extraordinary statesmanship," stating that the country "has an enormous opportunity to grow stronger from this recent moment of testing."

The recent Afghan presidential election faced much scrutiny with allegations of fraud. The accusations led to a full audit of all ballots, aided by the U.S.

"Nonetheless, the final outcome of the election process is legitimate and the results will be transparent," U.S. Department of State spokesperson Jen Psaki said.

"Although the candidates had disputes and serious reservations with the process that could not be resolved, they agreed for the good of the country to resolve the harmful political uncertainty and abide by the outcome of the election.  For this reason, the new administration has made electoral reform one of its chief priorities – a goal we support."

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Ukraine, Russian-Backed Rebels Agree on Buffer Zone in Peace Talks


iStock/Thinkstock(KIEV, Ukraine) -- While efforts are progressing to end the conflict in Ukraine, tensions were renewed Saturday with fresh provocations from both sides.

Ukrainian officials and Russian-backed rebels moved to strengthen a ceasefire, agreeing to an 18-mile buffer zone that would prohibit overflights and be free of heavy weapons.

In addition to the decision, both groups reportedly agreed to swap prisoners.

Still, ideas of peace did not linger for long as an arms factory was targeted near rebel-held Donetsk, and Russia again sent an unauthorized humanitarian aid convey to rebel-held cities hit hard by fighting.

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US Targets ISIS with Five More Airstrikes in Iraq


iStock/Thinkstock(BAGHDAD) -- U.S. military forces continued their attacks on ISIS this weekend, hitting the militant group with five new airstrikes.

Military crews targeted the areas near Haditha and south of Baghdad on Friday and Saturday, according to U.S. Central Command.

One strike destroyed an ISIS boat ferrying supplies across the Euphrates River, while the other four eliminated two armed vehicles, three of the group's checkpoints, and two guard outposts.

"The strikes were conducted as part of the President's comprehensive strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL [ISIS]," officials said in a statement.

U.S. Central Command has conducted a total of 183 airstrikes across Iraq since Aug. 8.

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5 Things To Know About the Pope's Trip to Albania


Buda Mendes/Getty Images(TIRANA, Albania) -- On Sunday, Pope Francis will make a one-day trip to Albania's capital Tirana, his first visit to a European country outside of Italy.

After a quick flight over the Adriatic Sea, Francis will spend 11 hours in the predominantly Muslim country. He'll meet the nation’s leaders and bishops, representatives of other religions and Christian denominations, disadvantaged children and others assisted by Catholic charitable organizations. He will also celebrate mass in a central square of the capital and lead a vespers ceremony.

But before he goes, here are five things to keep in mind:

1. No Extra Security

Despite security concerns in the media, he’s taking no extra security.

Last week, Iraq’s ambassador to the Holy See, Habeeb Al Sadr, told an Italian newspaper that “the Pope is indeed a target” of the militant group ISIS. Italian news outlets also reported that Albanian authorities were concerned about Muslim extremists who trained in Iraq and Syria and that they may have returned to that country to carry out attacks.

The Italian state security was doubled around St. Peter’s Square this week as a precaution, but the Vatican said they had not increased the Pope’s security on the trip because there have been no specific threats. Vatican spokesman Rev. Frederico Lombardi told reporters Monday, “We are obviously paying attention but there is no need for concern or a change to his program in Albania.”

Francis will even travel in his open-topped Pope Mobile to Mass as is his custom on oversees trips.

2. A Message of 'Coexistence'

For his fourth international trip, Francis chose a country whose population is not predominantly Catholic, like some other European states, but predominantly Muslim. Some 60 percent of Albanians are Muslim, while only 15 percent are believed to be Catholic. The Vatican hopes the trip will offer a message of coexistence and dialogue between different religions.

Francis is expected to make a trip to Turkey at the end of November.

3. 'Rekindle the Faith'

For most of the 20th century, Albania was under an atheist Communist dictatorship where many clergy and believers were tortured and executed for their beliefs. More than 1,000 churches totally razed.

A cause is underway for the sainthood of 40 Albanian martyrs from this period in the country's history.

After the Cold War ended, Saint Pope John Paul II was the first pope to ever visit Albania, doing so in 1993. During his trip, he “practically re-established the [Catholic] hierarchy” after the communist dictatorship by ordaining four bishops to lead the church there, according to Lombardi.

Francis is expected to honor those who were "martyrs for the faith who lived in Albania, the victims of atheistic Communism,” said Lombardi. The trip is meant to encourage those who have rekindled the faith and kept it alive through persecution by commemorating those who were persecuted under communism.

4. Francis to Honor Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa, who was eventually beatified by Saint Pope John Paul II, was present with him during that visit to her home country. "In Albania, Mother Teresa is a national heroine, as well as a figure of extraordinary Christian holiness,” Father Lombardi said.

Francis will hold his one and only mass on the trip in a square named in her honor.

The day’s events will conclude with a journey to visit children at the Betania Centre, along with various people from other charitable centers in Albania.

5. Will Francis Visit the US?

At an audience with the Pope on Thursday morning, the Archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles J. Chaput, formally invited Francis to the World Meeting of Families there next September. Francis didn’t immediately accept the invitation, but he didn’t say no. The last papal visit to the U.S. was by Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI in 2008. Congress and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio have also extended invitations.

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