A worker covers with a banner reading "illegal poster" a poster depicting Pope Francis and accusing him of attacking conservative Catholics, in Rome, Italy, February 5, 2017. REUTERS/Max Rossi/File Photo
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Senior Roman Catholic cardinals from the around the world defended Pope Francis on Monday against a spate of recent attacks from conservatives challenging his authority.The statement was unusual in that the cardinals -- from Italy, Chile, Austria, India, Germany, Congo, the United States, Australia and Honduras -- customarily issue statements only at the end of their meetings, which are held four times a year.The statement said the cardinals expressed their solidarity with the pope "in light of recent events," which Vatican sources said was a clear reference to the attacks.It poked fun at the pope for not having responded to a rare public challenge in November by four conservative cardinals, led by Burke, who accused him of sowing confusion on important moral issues such as homosexuality and divorce.Cardinals are the highest-ranking Catholic prelates below the pope and those under 80 years old can vote in a conclave to elect his successor.
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