VATICAN CITY - Instability and increasing violence in Syria have prompted Pope Benedict XVI to cancel the planned visit to the war-torn nation by a delegation of cardinals and bishops.

Instead, the pope announced Nov. 7, he has sent a smaller group to Lebanon to deliver a $1 million donation and boost the church's humanitarian response to the crisis.

The pope also appealed for dialogue to end the Syrian conflict, saying: "We have to do everything possible because one day it could be too late."

"I renew my invitation to the parties in conflict, and to all those who have the good of Syria at heart, to spare no effort in the search for peace and to pursue through dialogue the path to a just coexistence, in view of a suitable political solution of the conflict," Pope Benedict said at the end of his general audience in St. Peter's Square.

"I continue to follow with great concern the tragic situation of violent conflict in Syria, where the fighting has not ceased and each day the toll of victims rises, accompanied by the untold suffering of many civilians, especially those who have been forced to abandon their homes," he said.

He said he had hoped to send a delegation of three cardinals, three bishops and a priest to Syria during the world Synod of Bishops, which met for three weeks at the Vatican in October, to show solidarity with victims and encourage peace negotiations. The papal delegation to Damascus was to have included Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, who is chairman of the board of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.

"Unfortunately, due to a variety of circumstances and developments, it was not possible to carry out this initiative as planned," the pope said, "and so I have decided to entrust a special mission to Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum," which promotes and coordinates Catholic charitable giving.

Together with Cor Unum's secretary, Msgr. Giampietro Dal Toso, and Michel Roy, secretary-general of the Vatican-based umbrella group of Catholic aid agencies, Caritas Internationalis, Cardinal Sarah was to be in Lebanon Nov. 7-10, where he was to meet with priests, religious and lay representatives of Christian churches in Syria.

"He will visit a number of refugees from that country and will chair a meeting of Catholic charitable agencies to coordinate efforts, as the Holy See has urgently requested, to provide assistance to the Syrian people, inside and outside the country," the pope said of Cardinal Sarah's mandate.

The cardinal will deliver a $1 million donation made by participants in the Oct 7-28 synod and the pope himself. The money is to provide humanitarian aid and support local churches in an effort to bring some relief to those hit by the crisis, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told reporters.

The papal delegation's visit itself is also meant to "prompt all sides involved, as well as those who hold dear the good of Syria, to seek a just and peaceful solution to the conflict, Father Lombardi added.

Syria's civil war has left thousands dead and has displaced hundreds of thousands of people since March 2011.

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI congratulated U.S. President Barack Obama on his re-election, saying that he prayed the ideals of freedom and justice that guided America's founders might continue to flourish.

The Vatican did not make public the full text of the pope's telegram to Obama, which was sent via Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, Nov. 7.

"In the message, the Holy Father sent his best wishes to the president for his new term and assured him of his prayers that God might assist him in his very great responsibility before the country and the international community," the Vatican said in a statement.

The pope also told Obama he was praying that "the ideals of liberty and justice that guided the founders of the United States of America might continue to shine" as the nation goes forward, the statement said.

In remarks to reporters, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, voiced hopes that Obama would also promote "a culture of life and religious freedom."

It is the hope of everyone that President Obama "respond to the expectations" of the American people and "serve law and justice for the well-being and growth of every person, by respecting essential human and spiritual values and by promoting the culture of life and religious freedom, which have always been so precious in the tradition of the American people and their culture," the priest said.

U.S. Catholic bishops have been at odds with Obama over his support for legalized abortion and his administration's plan to require that the private health insurance plans of most Catholic institutions cover surgical sterilization procedures and artificial birth control, which are forbidden by the church's moral teaching.

The role of president of the United States is "an immense responsibility not just for the great nation, but for the whole world, given the United States' role on the world stage," Father Lombardi said, expressing hopes that the president would be able to "find the best ways to promote the material and spiritual well-being of all and effectively promote integral human development, justice and peace in the world."

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI praised the choice of the new patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, saying he was confident the new leader would help build a new Egypt that would serve the common good of the nation and the whole Middle East.

Bishop Tawadros, 60, was chosen Nov. 4 to lead Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, the largest Christian community in the country. He will be ordained Nov. 18 as Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria and patriarch of the See of St. Mark.

Pope Benedict said in a telegram to the new pope that he was "filled with joy" upon learning of the news and extended his "good wishes and prayerful solidarity."

"I am confident that, like your renowned predecessor, Pope Shenouda III, you will be a genuine spiritual father for your people and an effective partner with all your fellow-citizens in building the new Egypt in peace and harmony, serving the common good and the good of the entire Middle East," Pope Benedict wrote.

"In these challenging times it is important for all Christians to bear witness to the love and fellowship that binds them together," mindful of God's call for Christian unity, the Pope said.

Pope Benedict noted the "important progress" in ecumenical relations that was made under the guidance of the late Pope Shenouda, who died in March at age 88 after leading the Church for four decades.

More than 2,400 bishops and elite lay leaders voted to reduce a five-person short list to three nominees for a new pope. Bishop Tawadros' name was drawn from a glass bowl by a blindfolded child in a traditional ceremony held at Cairo's St. Mark's Cathedral; the Coptic Orthodox Church says the process lets "the hand of God" make the final choice.

Bishop Tawadros, whose birthday fell on the day of his selection, is bishop of Beheira. He studied pharmaceutical sciences at Alexandria University and reportedly ran a medicine factory before taking his vows.

"He is young — 60 is not so old — and he is well-educated," Fr. Rafic Grieche, spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic bishops' conference, told Catholic News Service. "He can make interior changes to his Church and at the same time be open to other churches and to the country's Muslims."

But the new pope will face a raft of challenges, with political debate in Egypt over how prominent a role Islamic law should play in the country's long-awaited constitution. His reaction to incidents of sectarian violence, which peaked in the months following Egypt's early 2011 uprising that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak, will also be key.

Michael Meunier, president of the U.S. Copts Association, was one of the laymen who participated in the complex election process. He told Vatican Radio Nov. 4 that people saw in Bishop Tawadros a man "who could unite Egypt's Christians in these very difficult times, a man of dialogue."

Dialogue and reconciliation with other Christian churches are critical, Meunier said, "because we are faced with many other challenges from hardliners" and extremist elements in the Muslim community.

"On a whole there is no future for Christians in Egypt without dialogue with Muslims. We have to engage moderate Muslims in the political fight that we face in Egypt, for example the new constitution being drafted; there are a lot of fanatic elements in society and they are going after moderate Muslims, they are going after women and they are going after Christians," he said.

"It is important to have a pope who believes in dialogue with Muslims because it's the only way to help promote democracy, religious freedom, human rights and respect for all these values that we hope for," Meunier said.

Bishop Tawadros will have to win back the support of many Coptic youth, suspicious of the Church's involvement in politics during the Mubarak era. At the height of the 2011 uprising, Pope Shenouda implored Coptic Christians to remain at home, solidifying the Church's reputation for unquestioned loyalty to the state.

Speaking to television cameras at a monastery after his election, Bishop Tawadros suggested he might revise the explicitly political role the Church held under Pope Shenouda's leadership.

"The most important thing is for the Church to return and live consistently within its spiritual boundaries because this is its main work, spiritual work," he said, pledging to "rearrange the house from the inside."

Activists welcomed the new approach, but voiced skepticism over how easy it would be to achieve, given the increasingly important role of religion in Egypt's political discourse. Islamists won more than two-thirds of the seats in the country's last Parliament — dissolved in June — and President Mohammed Morsi is from the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.

"It will be very difficult to get himself out of the political arena, when the (Muslim Brotherhood) mixes religion with politics," said Mina Thabet, a 23-year-old Coptic rights activist. "But I think he should."

"It has to change," said Grieche, referring to the days when the Church would back candidates from Mubarak's party in parliamentary elections.

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VATICAN CITY - When Christians remember their beloved deceased, they proclaim that their bonds with them are not broken by death and they profess their hope in eternal life, said Pope Benedict XVI.

Especially by visiting cemeteries and other burial grounds, the pope said, people "reinforce the bonds of communion that death could not break."

Pope Benedict celebrated a Mass Nov. 3 in St. Peter's Basilica in memory of the 10 cardinals and 143 archbishops and bishops from around the world who died in the past year.

The evening before, Pope Benedict had paid a private visit to the grottoes under St. Peter's Basilica to pray at the tombs of the popes buried there.

The November commemorations of All Saints and All Souls, as well as other memorial Masses traditional during the month, are not simply ways Catholics remember those who have gone before them, the pope said, but they also are expressions of Catholic faith in the reality of eternal life.

"Death opens to life -- eternal life, which is not an infinite copy of the present time, but something completely new," the pope said. "Faith tells us that the true immortality to which we aspire is not an idea or concept, but a relationship of full communion with the living God."

Remembering the deceased cardinals and bishops, he said, the church prays that the Lord will give them "the eternal prize promised to faithful servants of the Gospel."

Pope Benedict said the 10 cardinals and 143 bishops were the "meek, merciful, pure of heart, peace-making disciples" mentioned in the Beatitudes of the Gospel. They were "friends of the Lord who, trusting in his promises -- also in times of difficulty or even persecution -- maintained the joy of their faith and now live with the Father forever."

Reciting the Angelus Nov. 4 with pilgrims in St. Peter's Square, Pope Benedict said the saints are those men and women who tried to live the commandment to love God and to love their neighbors as themselves.

The pope said a deep, loving relationship with God is the best way to ensure that one becomes capable of loving others, "just as a child becomes capable of loving starting from a good relationship with his mother and father."

And just as parents love their children not only when they are being good, God always loves us and tries to help us see when and where we go astray, the pope said.

"From God, we learn to want to do only what is good and never what is bad. We learn to see others not only with our own eyes, but with the gaze of God," looking beyond the superficial to see the other person and what he or she needs, the pope said.

"Love of God and love of neighbor are inseparable," he said.

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI expressed his concern for everyone affected by Hurricane Sandy and encouraged all those working to rebuild from the disaster.

"Conscious of the devastation caused by the hurricane which recently struck the East Coast of the United States of America, I offer my prayers for the victims and express my solidarity with all those engaged in the work of rebuilding," he said Oct. 31 at the end of his weekly general audience.

Nearly 1,000 miles wide, Sandy's strong gales reached as far west as Lake Michigan. As of Oct. 31, it caused at least 55 deaths in seven states and left more than 8.5 million homes and businesses without power from the Carolinas to Ohio.

In the Caribbean government officials put the death toll across the islands at 69, with more than 50 in Haiti, where widespread flooding devastated parts of the already impoverished country.

After reciting the Angelus Oct. 28, the Pope called for prayers and concrete help for the people of Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica and the Bahamas, where, he said, the hurricane struck "with particular violence."

During his main audience talk Oct. 31, the Pope underlined the importance of the Church in preserving and passing on the faith across generations and throughout history. Some 10,000 people gathered under the rain in St. Peter's Square to hear the Pope's catechesis.

Though finding Christ is an intensely personal experience that transforms one's own heart, mind and individual existence, "faith is given in and through the community of the church," the Pope said.

The Creed and one's beliefs are not built upon a "private dialogue with Jesus," but are the result of a dialogue and a listening that shatter individualism and open one up to God's love and to others, he said.

"Faith comes to me given as a gift from God through a community of believers, which is the Church," he said.

People discover through baptism that they are not only united to Jesus, "but also to all those who walked and are walking the same path" toward holiness.

"Our faith is truly personal only if it is communal: It can be my faith only if it lives and moves in the 'we' of the Church, only if it is our faith, the common faith of the one church," the Pope said.

It is important to remember that faith is born in the Church and leads people to the Church, he said; "No one can have God as Father who does not have the Church as mother."

Tradition is "an uninterrupted chain of the life of the Church, the proclamation of the Word of God and the celebration of the sacraments that reaches us" from the past, he said.

Tradition is what "gives us the guarantee that that which we believe in is the original message of Christ, preached by the Apostles," he said.

This way, every man and woman from every generation and every continent can have access to the "immense resources" of sacred Scripture and the faith, and "enrich themselves from the treasures of grace" given to humanity by God, the Pope said.

In fact, the Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, "Lumen Gentium," reminded people that God doesn't seek to make people "holy and save them merely as individuals, without bond or link between one another. Rather has it pleased him to bring men together as one people, a people which acknowledges him in truth and serves him in holiness."

By radiating the truth of the Church, each person becomes a point of reference for others by passing on the person of Jesus and his message, Pope Benedict said.

Only by "letting oneself be guided and molded by the faith of the Church," Christians, who despite their weakness, limits and difficulties, become "like an open window" that lets God's light shine on the world.

Keeping one's faith closed up inside oneself contradicts the very nature of faith, the Pope said.

"We need a Church in order to have confirmation of our faith and to experience the gifts of God: his word, the sacraments, the support of grace and the witness of love," he said.

In a world of rampant individualism which only weakens human relations, "faith calls us to be church, carriers of love and of the communion of God for all humanity," he said.

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VATICAN CITY - Winning converts to the church, ministering better to practicing Catholics and bringing lapsed members back into the fold are all parts of the multifaceted effort known as the "new evangelization," Pope Benedict XVI told a group of bishops and other church leaders from around the world.

The pope made his remarks Oct. 28 during his homily at a Mass marking the end of the world Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization. The three-week gathering, which brought more than 260 bishops and religious superiors to the Vatican, along with dozens of official observers and experts, discussed how the church can revive and spread the faith in increasingly secular societies.

Pope Benedict underscored "three pastoral themes" that he said had emerged from the talks.

"Ordinary pastoral ministry ... must be more animated by the fire of the Spirit, so as to inflame the hearts of the faithful," he said, stressing the importance of the sacrament of confession, and the necessity of "appropriate catechesis" in preparation for the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist.

The pope also called for a "new missionary dynamism" to "proclaim the message of salvation to those who do not yet know Jesus Christ."

"There are still many regions in Africa, Asia and Oceania whose inhabitants await with lively expectation, sometimes without being fully aware of it, the first proclamation of the Gospel," the pope said. And as a result of migration driven by globalization, he added, the "first proclamation is needed even in countries that were evangelized long ago."

Finally, the pope spoke of the need to persuade lapsed Catholics, "especially in the most secular countries," to "encounter Jesus Christ anew, rediscover the joy of faith and return to religious practice in the community of the faithful."

This effort, in particular, calls for "pastoral creativity" and use of a "new language attuned to the different world cultures," he said. As an example of such innovation, the pope mentioned the Vatican's "Courtyard of the Gentiles" project, which promotes dialogue between religious believers and agnostics.

Referring to the day's reading from the Gospel of St. Mark, the pope invoked Bartimaeus -- the blind man who miraculously received his sight back from Jesus and then joined him as one of the disciples -- as a model for Christians in countries "where the light of faith has grown dim."

"New evangelizers are like that," Pope Benedict said, "people who have had the experience of being healed by God, through Jesus Christ."

The day before the closing Mass, at the synod's last working session Oct. 27, Pope Benedict thanked the participants for their work, including the final propositions that will eventually serve as the basis for a document of the pope's own reflections on the new evangelization.

At that same meeting, the pope said that he had decided to make two administrative changes relevant to the new evangelization. Responsibility for seminaries will shift from the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education to the Congregation for the Clergy, he said; and responsibility for catechesis will shift from the latter office to the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization.

The pope also congratulated the six bishops, four of them members of the synod, whom he will induct into the College of Cardinals Nov. 24. He said he had named the new cardinals-designate, none of whom hails from Europe, as a sign of "the universality of the church, showing that the church is a church of all peoples, (and) speaks in all languages ... not a church of one continent, but a universal church."

One of the cardinals-designate, Philippine Archbishop Luis Tagle of Manila, was also one of 15 new members of the ordinary council of the general secretariat of the Synod of Bishops announced Oct. 26.

The new council members, who will oversee the international gatherings of bishops periodically held at the Vatican, include two U.S. bishops: Cardinals Donald W. Wuerl of Washington and Timothy M. Dolan of New York. Others included Cardinals Christoph Schonborn of Vienna, Austria; Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; and George Pell of Sydney.

Published in International

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI surprised pilgrims in St. Peter's Square Oct. 24 by announcing he would create six new cardinals in late November.

The Pope said the consistory to create the new cardinals, who come from six countries, would take place Nov. 24, the feast of Christ the King.

It will be the smallest group of cardinals created since the 1977 consistory when Pope Benedict, the then-Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, received his red hat from Pope Paul VI along with three other churchmen.

The new cardinals will include: 63-year-old U.S. Archbishop James Harvey, prefect of the papal household; Lebanon's Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai, 72; Archbishop Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, 53, head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church; Nigerian Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja, 68; Colombian Archbishop Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota, 70; and Philippine Archbishop Luis Tagle of Manila, 55.

Pope Benedict made the announcement at the end of his weekly general audience, which was attended by about 20,000 pilgrims. As is usual, Cardinal-designate Harvey was seated next to the Pope during the audience. While he did not visibly react when his name was announced, the new cardinal-designate smiled and had a brief moment with the Pope before returning to his normal duties of helping lead important guests up to the Pope.

Telling the crowd that he had the "great joy" of announcing new cardinals, Pope Benedict said cardinals have "the task of helping the successor of Peter in his ministry" of strengthening people's faith and promoting the unity of the Church.

The Pope asked Catholics to pray that the new cardinals would "always love Christ and His Church with courage and dedication."

Of the six soon-to-be cardinals, only Cardinal-designates Harvey and Salazar were not members of the world Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization, which was meeting at the Vatican when the Pope made his announcement.

The late-November consistory will bring the total number of cardinals to 211 and the number of cardinals under age 80 to 120. Until they reach their 80th birthdays, cardinals are eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a new pope.

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Proclaiming seven new saints -- including St. Kateri Tekakwitha and St. Marianne Cope from North America -- Pope Benedict XVI said they are examples to the world of total dedication to Christ and tireless service to others.

In a revised canonization rite Oct. 21, the pope prayed for guidance that the church would not "err in a matter of such importance" as he used his authority to state that the seven are with God in heaven and can intercede for people on earth.

An estimated 80,000 pilgrims from the United States, Canada, the Philippines, Italy, Spain, Germany and Madagascar filled St. Peter's Square for the canonization of the holy women and men who ministered among their people.

The pilgrims applauded the proclamation of the new saints, who included: Kateri, an American Indian who was born in the United States and died in Canada in 1680; Mother Marianne, a Sister of St. Joseph who traveled from Syracuse, N.Y., to Hawaii to care for people with Hansen's disease and died in Molokai in 1918; and Pedro Calungsod, a teenaged Philippine catechist who was martyred in Guam in 1672.

The other new saints are: French Jesuit Father Jacques Berthieu, martyred in Madagascar in 1896; Italian Father Giovanni Battista Piamarta, founder of religious orders, who died in 1913; Sister Carmen Salles Barangueras, founder of a Spanish religious order, who died in 1911; and Anna Schaffer, a lay German woman, who died in 1925.

In his homily at Mass following the canonization, Pope Benedict prayed that the example of the new saints would "speak today to the whole church" and that their intercession would strengthen the church in its mission to proclaim the Gospel to the world.

The pope also spoke about each new saint individually, giving a short biographical outline and highlighting a special characteristic of each for Catholics today.

Pope Benedict called St. Kateri the "protectress of Canada and the first Native American saint," and he entrusted to her "the renewal of the faith in the First Nations and in all of North America."

The daughter of a Mohawk father and Algonquin Christian mother, St. Kateri was "faithful to the traditions of her people," but also faithful to the Christianity she embraced at age 20. "May her example help us to live where we are, loving Jesus without denying who we are," the pope said.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, who is of American Indian descent, told Catholic News Service, "I think many young people today are embarrassed about embracing the Catholic faith because they live in a secular culture that's hostile toward religious experience."

St. Kateri also "grew up in a place where there was great hostility toward Christianity," Archbishop Chaput said, but she resisted all efforts to turn her away from her faith, "so in some ways she would be a model of fidelity in the face of persecution on religious freedom grounds."

Archbishop Gerald Cyprien Lacroix of Quebec told CNS that the canonization of the first aboriginal of North America is "huge for us." St. Kateri, he said, is an excellent model for young people of "living a simple life, faithful to the Lord in the midst of hostility."

St. Kateri's life and canonization show that "saints don't have to do extraordinary things, they just have to love," Archbishop Lacroix said.

Francine Merasty, 32, a Cree who lives in Pelican Narrows, Sask., said, "Kateri inspires me because she's an aboriginal woman. According to sociologists, aboriginal women are at the lowest (social) strata, and for the church to raise up to the communion of saints an aboriginal woman is so awesome and wonderful."

Jake Finkbonner, the 12-year-old boy from Washington state whose healing was accepted as the miracle needed for St. Kateri's canonization, received Communion from the pope during the Mass. Jake's parents and two little sisters did as well.

Speaking about St. Marianne of Molokai in his homily, Pope Benedict said that a time when very little could be done to treat people with Hansen's disease, commonly called leprosy, "Marianne Cope showed the highest love, courage and enthusiasm."

"She is a shining example of the tradition of Catholic nursing sisters and of the spirit of her beloved St. Francis," the pope said.

Leading a group of Hawaiian pilgrims, including nine patient-residents from Kalaupapa, where St. Marianne ministered, Honolulu Bishop Larry Silva said St. Marianne is "an inspiration for those who care for those most in need, which is what all Christians are called to do. Now, with universal veneration, she can inspire people around the world."

With thousands of Philippine pilgrims in St. Peter's Square, Pope Benedict praised St. Pedro, a catechist who accompanied Jesuit priests to the Mariana Islands in 1668. Despite hostility from some of the natives, he "displayed deep faith and charity and continued to catechize his many converts, giving witness to Christ by a life of purity and dedication to the Gospel."

The pope prayed that "the example and courageous witness" of St. Pedro would "inspire the dear people of the Philippines to announce the kingdom bravely and to win souls for God."

Pope Benedict also cited St. Anna Schaffer as a model for a very modern concern.St. Anna was working as a maid to earn the money for the dowry needed to enter a convent when an accident occurred and she "received incurable burns" which kept her bedridden the rest of her life, the pope said. In time, she came to see her pain and suffering as a way to unite herself with Christ through prayer, he said.

"May her apostolate of prayer and suffering, of sacrifice and expiation, be a shining example for believers in her homeland, and may her intercession strengthen the Christian hospice movement in its beneficial activity," the pope said.
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Contributing to this story was Francis X. Rocca.

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You can enjoy the features below about St. Kateri Tekakwitha on CatholicRegister.org.

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VATICAN CITY - In a continuing effort to preserve the integrity of the Mass and highlight the meaning of a canonization, when Pope Benedict XVI declares seven new saints Oct. 21, the ceremony will look different than it has in the past.

Msgr. Guido Marini, master of papal liturgical ceremonies, said the change will mark another step in Pope Benedict's efforts to remove from the papal Mass elements that are not strictly part of the liturgy, in accordance with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council.

Earlier, the Pope stopped giving new cardinals their rings during Mass; and in June he started the practice of giving new archbishops a pallium — a woolen band around their necks — before the entrance antiphon of the Mass.

In a similar way, beginning Oct. 21, the canonization rite will take place before Mass begins.

"Canonization is basically a canonical act" through which the Pope exercises his ministry to teach and to legislate, Marini told L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper.

"In effect, a canonization is a definitive sentence through which the supreme pontiff decrees that a servant of God, already listed among the blessed, is to be inscribed in the catalogue of saints and venerated in the universal church," the monsignor said.

"The authority exercised by the Pope in a canonization sentence will now be even more visible through the use of certain ritual elements," particularly through the Pope's triple invocation of God's help in making such an important decision, he said.

Marini said the distinction between the canonization rite and the celebration of the Mass is meant to respond to the Second Vatican Council's call for the "splendour of the noble simplicity" of the Mass to shine forth.

The seven women and men who will be proclaimed saints with the new ceremony are:

-- Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, a native American who was born in upstate New York and died in Canada in 1680 at the age of 24.

-- Blessed Marianne Cope of Molokai, who led a group of sisters from New York to the Hawaiian Islands in 1883 to establish a system of nursing care for leprosy patients.

-- Blessed Peter Calungsod, a lay catechist from the Philippines who was martyred April 2, 1672, in Guam.

-- Blessed Jacques Berthieu, a Jesuit who was born near Polminhac, France, and was martyred June 8, 1896, in Ambiatibe, Madagascar.

-- Blessed Giovanni Battista Piamarta, an Italian priest and founder of the Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth for men and the Humble Servants of the Lord for women. He died in 1913.

-- Blessed Carmen Salles Barangueras, the Spanish founder of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. She died in 1911.

-- Blessed Anna Schaffer, a lay German woman who wanted to be a missionary, but could not because of a succession of physical accidents and diseases. She died in 1925.

Published in International

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI said the enduring desire for God, the truth of the Gospel and the "restlessness" of today's youth are reasons to hope for a "new springtime for Christianity" in Europe and beyond.

The pope made his remarks to an interviewer in a new documentary film, "Bells of Europe," which was shown at the Vatican Oct. 15 after the day's session of the world Synod of Bishops.

The synod is dedicated to the new evangelization, a project aimed at reviving the Christian faith of secularized societies, especially in Europe and other Western lands.

Pope Benedict told his interviewer that he has three main reasons to hope for a Christian revival, starting with the "fact that the desire for God, the search for God, is profoundly inscribed into each human soul and cannot disappear."

He said he also takes heart from the eternal truth of the Gospel.

"Ideologies have their days numbered," the pope said. "They appear powerful and irresistible but, after a certain period, they wear out and lose their energy because they lack profound truth."

"The Gospel, on the other hand, is true and can therefore never wear out," he said.

Finally, Pope Benedict cited the dissatisfaction of young people today with the "proposals of the various ideologies and of consumerism."

Answering a question about Christianity's prospects in Europe, Pope Benedict said that the continent is undergoing a crisis of identity, divided between "two souls."

One of these souls is "abstract anti-historical reason," which seeks "to liberate itself from all traditions and cultural values in favor of an abstract rationality," he said, citing for example a ruling (subsequently overturned) by the European Court for Human Rights that crucifixes should be removed from classrooms in Italian public schools.

"We could call Europe's other soul the Christian one," Pope Benedict said, describing it as a "soul which itself created the audaciousness of reason and the freedom of critical reasoning, but which remains anchored to the roots from which this Europe was born."

A blend of these two souls, the pope concludes, will lead to a "new humanism" arising "directly from the view of man created in the image and likeness of God."

Published in International

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict added 12th-century German abbess St. Hildegard of Bingen and St. John of Avila to the roster of doctors of the universal Church.

The Pope proclaimed the new doctors at Mass Oct. 7 in St. Peter’s Square, where the thousands in attendance included pilgrims waving Spanish flags, and Germannuns in traditional habits.

In his homily, Pope Benedict noted St. Hildegard’s knowledge of medicine, poetry and music, and called her a “woman of brilliant intelligence, deep sensitivity and recognized spiritual authority. The Lord granted her a prophetic spiritand fervent capacity to discern the signs of the times.”

He said that St. John, “a profound expert on the sacred Scriptures,” knew how to“penetrate in a uniquely profound way the mysteries of the redemption worked by Christ for humanity.”

The Doctors of the Church,saints honoured for particularly important contributions to theology and spirituality, come from both the Eastern and Western Church traditions.

The 35 doctors include early Church fathers such as Sts. Jerome, John Chrysostom and Augustine, and theologians such as Sts. Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventureand John of the Cross, but also St. Therese of Lisieux, who was honoured by Blessed John Paul II in 1997, despite her lack of scholarly accomplishment.
St. Hildegard is the fourth female doctor of the Church, joining Sts. Therese, Catherine of Siena and Teresa of Avila.

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VATICAN CITY - On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, published a short reminiscence of the council by Pope Benedict XVI.

In the essay, the Pope recalls his presence at the opening of Vatican II, which he attended as a theological adviser. He both praises and criticizes some of the council's most consequential documents, regarding religious liberty and the Church's relationship with non-Christian religions and the modern world.

The essay is the introduction to a forthcoming collection of previously unpublished council-era writings by then-Father Joseph Ratzinger. The collection will be published in German this November.

"It was a moment of extraordinary expectation," the Pope writes of the procession of more than 2,000 bishops into St. Peter's Basilica Oct. 11, 1962. "Great things were about to happen."

"Christianity, which had built and formed the Western world, seemed more and more to be losing its power to shape society," he writes. "So that it might once again be a force to shape the future, (Blessed) John XXIII had convoked the council without indicating to it any specific problems or programs. This was the greatness and at the same time the difficulty of that task that was set before the ecclesial assembly."

A crucial question for the council fathers, Pope Benedict writes, was the "relationship between the Church and the modern world."

"From the 19th century onward," the Church had "visibly entered into a negative relationship with the modern era," he writes. "Did it have to remain so?"

Pope Benedict concludes that one of the council's best-known documents, "Gaudium et Spes," the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, failed to offer an adequate definition of the "essential features that constitute the modern era."

Instead, he writes, the "encounter with the great themes of the modern epoch" happened in "two minor documents, whose importance has only gradually come to light."

The Declaration on Religious Liberty, "urgently requested, and also drafted, by the American bishops in particular," clarified the Church's affirmation of the "freedom to choose and practice religion and the freedom to change it, as fundamental human rights and freedoms," he writes.

That declaration lent itself to troubling interpretations, the Pope writes, since it might seem to imply the "inaccessibility of the truth to man," which would make religion a merely subjective matter. But he writes that the 1978 election of Blessed John Paul II, from a country where the state denied religious freedom, revealed the "inner orientation of the faith toward the theme of freedom, and especially freedom of religion and worship."

The Pope also praises "Nostra Aetate," the council's declaration that the "spiritual, moral, and socio-cultural values (of non-Christian religions) were to be respected, protected and encouraged."

But the Pope writes that a "weakness of this otherwise extraordinary text has gradually emerged: It speaks of religion solely in a positive way, and it disregards the sick and distorted forms of religion."

In conclusion, Pope Benedict reiterates one of his most prominent teachings about Vatican II: that it must be interpreted in continuity with the Church's millennial traditions, not as a radical break with the past.

"The council fathers neither could nor wished to create a new or different Church. They had neither the authority nor the mandate to do so," he writes. "That is why a hermeneutic of rupture is so absurd and is contrary to the spirit and the will of the council fathers."

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VATICAN CITY - To evangelize means to help people understand that God Himself has responded to their questions, and that His response — the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ — is available to them as well, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"Our role in the new evangelization is to co-operate with God," the Pope told the more than 260 cardinals, bishops and priests who are members of the world Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization. "We can only let people know what God has done."

In a 21-minute, off-the-cuff reflection during morning prayer at the synod's opening session Oct. 8, Pope Benedict spoke of the importance of prayer in the Church's push for a new evangelization, the meaning of evangelization, and sharing the Gospel through both proclamation and charity.

The Pope examined the use of the word "evangelion," the Greek term that is the root of the English word "evangelization," and which is itself translated as "Gospel."

In the Book of Isaiah, he noted, the Hebrew equivalent of the word describes "the voice that announces a victory, that announces goodness, joy and happiness," transmitting the message that "God has not forgotten His people," and that He intervenes with power in history to save them.

In the New Testament, the Pope said, "evangelion" is the good news of the incarnation of Christ, the coming of God's Son into the world to save humanity.

For the people of Israel suffering under Roman rule, it was truly good news that God spoke to His people and came to live among them, the Pope said. News of Jesus' birth was the answer to those who questioned whether there really was a God; whether He knew His people and the circumstances of their lives; and whether He had any power to change their situation.

People today have the same questions, the Pope said: "Is God a reality or not? Why is He silent?"

When Christians evangelize, they must remember that their "faith has content," and that what they believe and seek to share with others is outlined in the creed, he said. They must use their intelligence to reflect on the tenets of their faith and use their mouths to proclaim it.

Because faith isn't an abstract notion, Christians also must live their faith and share it with the world through acts of charity and love, the Pope said.

"Being tepid is the greatest danger for Christians," he said. "We pray that faith becomes like a fire in us and that it will set alight others."

The synod formally opened Oct. 7 with a Mass in St. Peter's Square.

During his homily, Pope Benedict said that the "Church exists to evangelize" by sharing the Gospel with people who have never heard of Christ, strengthening the faith of those who already have been baptized and reaching out to those who "have drifted away from the Church."

"At various times in history," he said, "divine providence has given birth to a renewed dynamism in the Church's evangelizing activity," as happened, for example, with the evangelization of the Americas beginning late in the 15th century.

"Even in our own times, the Holy Spirit has nurtured in the Church a new effort to announce the good news," the Pope said.

The modern effort to proclaim salvation in Christ to the modern world found "a more universal expression and its most authoritative impulse in the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council," which opened 50 years ago Oct. 11.

The Pope said the synod is dedicated to helping people strengthen their faith and to helping those who have drifted away "encounter the Lord, who alone who fills existence with deep meaning and peace; and to favour the rediscovery of the faith, that source of grace which brings joy and hope to personal, family and social life."

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VATICAN CITY - Catholics who participate in events connected with the 2012-2013 Year of Faith can receive a special indulgence, the Vatican said.

Pope Benedict XVI authorized the granting of a plenary, or full, indulgence in order to highlight the Year of Faith and encourage the "reading, or rather, the pious meditation on" the documents of the Second Vatican Council and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a Sept. 14 Vatican decree said.

The decree, which the Vatican released Oct. 5, was signed by Cardinal Manuel Monteiro de Castro, head of the Vatican tribunal that deals with indulgences and with matters related to the sacrament of penance.

An indulgence is a remission of the temporal punishment a person is due for sins that have been forgiven.

Pope Benedict established the Year of Faith, "dedicated to the profession of the true faith and its correct interpretation," to run from Oct. 11, 2012 to Nov. 24, 2013. It begins on the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II, which is also the 20th anniversary of the publication of the catechism.

The plenary indulgence is being offered to pilgrims who visit sacred shrines, to Catholics who participate in local events connected to the Year of Faith, and to those who may be too ill or otherwise prevented from physical participation. It can be granted on behalf of the individual petitioner or on behalf of departed souls.

The decree said conditions for the special Year of Faith indulgence include the normal requirements set by the Church for all plenary indulgences: that the person goes to confession, receives the Eucharist and prays for the intentions of the Pope.

The decree explained in detail some specific requirements for the plenary indulgence:

— Those visiting basilicas, cathedrals, catacombs or other sacred sites in the form of a pilgrimage must participate in a liturgy, "or at least pause for an appropriate time in prayer and with pious meditations, concluding with the recitation of the Our Father, the profession of faith in any legitimate form, invocations of the Blessed Virgin Mary and, where appropriate, of the Holy Apostles or patron saints."

— The Catholic faithful in any local church can obtain the indulgence by attending three sermons at parish missions or three lectures on Vatican II or the catechism; attending Mass or the Liturgy of the Hours on days designated by the local bishop for the Year of Faith; or visiting the place where they were baptized to renew their baptismal vows.

— Catholics who attend Mass celebrated by a bishop on the Year of Faith's last day, the feast of Christ the King, will also receive the indulgence, as will those impeded by sickness or other serious cause from attending the Mass, as long as they are truly repentant and pray while listening to the bishop bestow the indulgence via television or radio.

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MANCHESTER, England - Pope Benedict XVI personally intervened to prevent a British cardinal from occupying political office when he retired from active ministry, the cardinal said.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, retired archbishop of Westminster, said the British government was considering appointing him as a member of the House of Lords after he reached 75, the retirement age for bishops and cardinals. However, Pope Benedict opposed the idea because he did not wish to set a precedent that might have been copied by bishops in South America and Africa who wished to join the governments of their countries, the cardinal said in an interview published by the London-based Sunday Telegraph.

Under Church law, Canon 285 prohibits clerics from holding political office.

"The idea was quite attractive," Murphy-O'Connor, 80, told the newspaper.

"I consulted the Pope and his chief advisor and they were against it. It's to do with having the freedom to be outside the political system."

Asked if the Pope had personally blocked him from becoming a Lord, the cardinal answered: "Yeah, more or less."

The British Constitution allows Anglican bishops to sit as "lords spiritual" or "spiritual peer" in the House of Lords in a practice that pre-dates the Reformation. It would be normal for the archbishop of Canterbury to join the House of Lords on retirement as leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Murphy-O'Connor said he was tempted to become a spiritual peer, in which he would have been given the title "Lord," after his 2009 retirement from Westminster because he saw the need for Christians to be active in public life.

The cardinal also discussed his views on religion and its role in modern society in the interview.

"Christianity is important in this country," he told the newspaper. "It has to stand up for itself in the face of secularism. We must be brave enough to speak intelligently about what we believe. We must combat aggressive secularism, because it is dangerous."

The cardinal added: "Nobody is obliged to be a Christian, but no one should be obliged to live according to the new secular religion, which says it alone decides what's right."

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