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Morning Catholic must-reads: 18/12/14

A priest blesses mass graves of victims of Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban (CNS)

Pope Francis will pray over a mass grave for victims of Typhoon Haiyan during his visit to the Philippines next month.

Dalits in India have urged the Vatican to excommunicate Catholics who continue to treat them as “untouchables”.

The German Church will press ahead with plans to relax its employment laws, a senior archbishop has said.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said he is “deeply saddened and distressed” by the Pope’s decision not to meet the Dalai Lama.

Jonathan Mirsky argues that the papal snub to the Dalai Lama shows “Beijing’s growing capacity for frightening and punishing those who might defy it”.

John Allen, Rocco Palmo, Jean-Louis De La Vaissière and Archbishop Thomas Wenski reflect on Francis’s role in yesterday’s breakthrough in Cuba-US relations.

And Daniela Petroff reports that the Pope received a birthday present of 800kg (1,760lbs) of chicken meat yesterday.

Follow me on Twitter @lukecoppen for updates throughout the day.