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By Philip Pullella VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Father Ernest Simoni, a 88-year-old Albanian, was watching Pope Francis on television this month when, to his astonishment, he heard the pontiff mention his name. Francis announced that the simple, white-haired Roman Catholic priest, who had spent many years in jail during Albania's communist dictatorship, was to become a cardinal. It was the first that Simoni, or any of the other 16 new cardinals named by Francis at the same time, had heard of their elevation to the prestigious rank.
The offensive to drive the Islamic State group from its Raqa stronghold in Syria will begin in the next few weeks, top US and British defence officials said Wednesday. US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter and his British counterpart Michael Fallon made the predictions nearly 10 days into a US-backed Iraqi offensive on Mosul, the last major Iraqi city under IS control. "It will be within weeks, not many weeks," Carter told reporters at a two-day NATO defence ministers meeting in Brussels.