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.

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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."

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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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VATICAN CITY - Paolo Gabriele, the papal butler charged with stealing and leaking papal correspondence, said he was innocent of charges of aggravated theft, but "I feel guilty for having betrayed the trust the Holy Father placed in me."

"I loved him like a son," Gabriele said of the Pope during the second day of his trial.

The morning session of the trial Oct. 2 also featured brief testimony by Cristina Cernetti, one of the consecrated laywomen who work in the papal apartment; and longer testimony by Msgr. Georg Ganswein, Pope Benedict XVI's personal secretary.

Ganswein, who described himself as "extremely precise," said he never noticed any documents missing, but when he examined what Vatican police had confiscated from Gabriele's Vatican apartment, he discovered both photocopies and originals of documents going back to 2006, when Gabriele began working in the papal apartment.

Taking the stand first, Gabriele said widespread concern about what was happening in the Vatican led him to collect photocopies of private papal correspondence and, eventually, to leak it to a journalist.

"I was looking for a person with whom I could vent about a situation that had become insupportable for many in the Vatican," he testified.

Gabriele told the court that no one encouraged him to steal and leak the documents.

Although he said he acted on his own initiative, Gabriele told the court he did so after "sharing confidences" about the "general atmosphere" in the Vatican with four people in particular: retired Cardinal Paolo Sardi, a former official in the Vatican Secretariat of State; Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica; Ingrid Stampa, a longtime assistant to Pope Benedict XVI, going back to his time as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger; and Bishop Francesco Cavina of Carpi, who worked in the secretariat of state until 2011.

Gabriele said that although he had set aside some documents previously, he began collecting them seriously in 2010 after Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, then secretary-general of Vatican City State, was reported to have run into resistance in his attempt to bring spending under control and bring transparency to the process of granting work contracts to outside companies. The archbishop is now nuncio, or ambassador, to the United States.

Asked to describe his role in the papal household, Gabriele said he served Pope Benedict his meals, informed the Vatican Secretariat of State of the gifts given to the Pope, packed the Pope's suitcases and accompanied him on trips, and did other "small tasks" assigned to him by Ganswein.

"I was the layman closest to the Holy Father, there to respond to his immediate needs," Gabriele said.

Being so close to the Pope, Gabriele said he became aware of how "easy it is to manipulate the one who holds decision-making power in his hands."

Gabriele had told investigators that he had acted out of concern for the Pope, who he believed was not being fully informed about the corruption and careerism in the Vatican. Under questioning by his lawyer, he said he never showed any of the documents to the Pope, but tried — conversationally — to bring some concerns to the Pope's attention.

The Vatican prosecutor objected to any further questioning about Gabriele's motives, saying they "don't matter, we must discuss the facts." The judges agreed and ordered the defendant's lawyer to move on.

Gabriele's lawyer also asked him several questions about the 60 days he spent in Vatican detention, including whether or not it was true that he first was held in a tiny room and that, for the first 15-20 days, the Vatican police left the lights on 24 hours a day. Gabriele said both were true.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, later told reporters that Judge Nicola Picardi, the Vatican prosecutor, had opened an investigation into the conditions under which Gabriele was detained.

Vatican investigators had said they found in Gabriele's Vatican apartment three items given to Pope Benedict as gifts: a cheque for 100,000 euros ($123,000 U.S.); a nugget — presumably of gold — from the director of a gold mining company in Peru; and a 16th-century edition of a translation of the Aeneid. Gabriele denied the nugget was ever in his apartment, and he said he had no idea how the cheque got there. As for the book, he said it was normal for him to take home books given to the Pope to show his children.

"I didn't know its value," and, in fact, he carried it around in a plastic bag, he said.

Ganswein testified that he only began suspecting Gabriele in mid-May after a journalist published documents Ganswein knew had never left the office he shared with Gabriele.

When Ganswein entered the courtroom and when he left again, Gabriele stood. He did not do so for the other witnesses.

The trial formally opened Sept. 29 and Vatican judges decided to separate Gabriele's trial on charges of aggravated theft from the trial of Claudio Sciarpelletti, a computer expert in the Vatican Secretariat of State, charged with aiding and abetting Gabriele.

Gabriele was arrested in May after Vatican police found papal correspondence and other items in his Vatican apartment; many of the documents dealt with allegations of corruption, abuse of power and a lack of financial transparency at the Vatican.

The papal valet — who is 46, married and has three children — faces up to four years of jail time, which he would serve in an Italian prison.

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) -- Amid increasing violence in eastern Congo, Pope Benedict XVI called for peaceful dialogue and greater protection of civilians there.

After praying the Angelus with pilgrims gathered in the courtyard of the papal summer residence Sept. 30, the pope said he was following, "with love and concern," the events unfolding in Congo.

Government soldiers have been stationed in Goma in the eastern part of the country for several months to fight the rebel group called "M23," which defected from the Congolese military.

Clashes, which intensified in the spring, have led more than 300,000 people to flee their homes, according to Vatican Radio.

The United Nations has said Rwandan defense officials are backing the rebel group, which has been accused of rape and the murder of civilians in its effort to control Congo's mineral-rich North Kivu province. Rwandan officials have denied allegations of assisting the rebels.

The pope said his prayers were with the "refugees, women and children, who because of prolonged armed clashes are subjected to suffering, violence and deep distress."

The pope called for the "peaceful means of dialogue and the protection of many innocent people" so that peace -- founded on justice -- may quickly return to the nation and the whole region.

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VATICAN CITY - Choosing men and women from every part of the world and from a wide variety of professions, Pope Benedict XVI nominated 45 experts and 49 observers for the upcoming world Synod of Bishops.

The Oct. 7-28 gathering will include the largest bloc of women — 10 experts, including Sr. Gill Goulding of Toronto's Regis College, and 19 observers — ever to participate in a Vatican synod.

Europe accounts for the overwhelming majority of the appointees, followed by North America, with 10 people from the United States, two from Mexico and Goulding from Canada. A number of the appointees are also advisors to the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization and other Vatican offices.

The list of papal appointments to the synod was published Sept. 22 by the Vatican.

Experts and observers, who include laypeople, are not voting members of the synod. According to Vatican rules, only priests, bishops and cardinals can be full members who vote and determine the propositions to be presented to the Pope at the end of the gathering.

The 45 experts include priests, nuns and laypeople, many of whom are professors, rectors or supervisors of catechetical or pastoral programs. They will serve as resources for the more than 200 synod members as they discuss the theme, "New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith."

The 49 observers can attend all synod sessions, participate in the synod working groups and have an opportunity to address the entire assembly.

Many of the observers are leaders of religious orders, founders or leaders of lay movements or large Catholic associations, or professors or organizers of catechetical and pastoral programs.

Here is the full list of experts invited to attend the upcoming world Synod of Bishops:

- Sr. Gill Goulding C.J., associate professor of systematic theology and spirituality at Regis College University of Toronto (Canada).
- Sr. Beatriz Acosta Mesa O.D.N. (Colombia), superior general of the Company of Our Lady Mary.
- Mauro Agosto, professor of Latin at Rome's Pontifical Lateran University.- Fr. Anthony Alaba Akinwale O.P., rector of the Dominican Institute of Ibadan (Nigeria).
- Fr. Luiz Alves de Lima S.D.B., member of the administrative office of the Society of Latin American Catechists (Brazil).- Fr. Antonio Aranda Lomena, professor of dogmatic theology at the University of Navarre (Spain).
- Fr. George Augustin S.A.C., professor of fundamental and dogmatic at the "Philosophisch-Theologischen Hochschule Vallendar" (Germany).- Fr. Paul Bere S.J., professor of the Old Testament and biblical languages at the Catholic University of West Africa (Burkina Faso).
- Br. Enzo Bianchi, prior of the monastic community of Bose (Italy).- Br. Enzo Biemmi F.S.F., president of the European Team of Catechists (Italy).
- Fr. Luca Bressan, episcopal vicar for culture, charity, the mission and social work of the archdiocese of Milan (Italy).- Sr. Sara Butler M.S.B.T. (U.S.A.), professor at the Ecclesiastical Faculty of St. Mary of the Lake University in Mundelein, and member of the International Theological Commission.
- Jessica Joy Candelario, coordinator for the pastoral care of young people at "Bukal Ng Tipan Pastoral Centre" (Philippines).- Anna Kai-Yung Chan, professor at the Holy Spirit Seminary College of Theology and Philosophy, Hong Kong (China).
- Sr. Luisa Ciupa S.A.M.I., vice president of the Commission for Catechesis of the Greek-Catholic Ukrainain Church (Ukraine).- Fr. Eamonn Conway, head of the Theology and Religious Studies Department at Mary Immaculate College of the University of Limerick (Ireland).
- Fr. Jeremy Driscoll O.S.B. (U.S.A.), professor at the Theological Faculty of Rome's St. Anselm Pontifical Athenaeum, and professor of liturgy at the Mount Angel Seminary in St. Benedict, Oregon.- Caroline Farey, professor at the Maryvale Institute, Birmingham (England).
- Fr. Juan Javier Flores Arcas O.S.B. (Spain), rector of Rome's St. Anselm Pontifical Athenaeum.
- Msgr. Rafiq Hanna Khoury, professor of liturgy at the major seminary of Beit Jala (Palestinian Territories).- Sr. Anna Emmanuela Klich O.S.U., director of the Inter-Congregational Institute for Catechesis in Krakow (Poland).
- Fr. Jaime Alberto Mancera Casas, episcopal vicar for pastoral care in the archdiocese of Bogota (Colombia).- Msgr. Ermenegildo Manicardi, rector of Rome's "Almo Collegio Capranica", and professor at the Pontifical Biblical Institute (Italy).
- Fr. Thomas Manjaly, professor of Sacred Scripture at Oriens Theological College and at the Inter-Diocesan Theologate for North East India in Shillong (India).- Ralph Martin, director of graduate theological programs in the new evangelisation at the Sacred Heart Seminary of Detroit (U.S.A.).
- Fr. Paolo Martinelli O.F.M. Cap. (Italy), president of the Franciscan Institute of Spirituality at the "Antonianum" Pontifical Athenaeum in Rome, and professor of fundamental theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.- Fr. Krzysztof Mielnicki, director of the office for catechesis of the diocese of Drohiczyn (Poland).
- Sr. Paula Jean Miller F.S.E., professor at the Department of Theology of the University of St. Thomas in Huston (U.S.A.).- Fr. Joseph-Marie Ndi-Okalla, vice rector of the "Universite Catholique D'Afrique Centrale" in Yaounde (Cameroon).
- Fr. Godfrey Igwebuike Onah (Nigeria), vice rector of the Pontifical Urban University in Rome.- Rodolfo Papa, professor of art history and aesthetics at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome.
- Fr. Cleto Pavanetto S.D.B., professor emeritus of the Faculty of Christian and Classical Literature at the Pontifical Salesian University of Rome.- Edward Peters, professor of canon law and holder of the Edmund Cardinal Szoka Chair at the Sacred Heart Major Seminary of Detroit (U.S.A.).
- Fr. Salvador Pie-Ninot (Spain), professor of fundamental theology and ecclesiology at the "Facoltat de Teologia de Catalunya", and professor of fundamental theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.- Msgr. Antonio Pitta, professor at the Faculty of Theology of Rome's Pontifical Lateran University.
- Sr. Enrica Rosanna F.M.A, former under secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (Italy).- Fr. Marko Ivan Rupnik S.J. (Slovenia), director of the "Ezio Aletti" Study Centre in Rome.
- Fr. Samir Khalil Samir S.J. (Lebanon), professor of Arab-Christian theology at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome, and professor of the history of Arabic culture and Islamology at the University of "St. Joseph de Beyrouth".- Fr. Kinkupu Leonard Santedi, professor at the Catholic University of Congo, president of the "Evangelii Nuntiandi" Foundation in Africa, and member of the International Theological Commission (Democratic Republic of Congo).
- Msgr. Pierangelo Sequeri (Italy), president of the Faculty of Theology of Northern Italy, and member of the International Theological Commission.- Thomas Soding, professor of biblical theology at the "Bergische" University of Wuppertal (Germany).
- Fr. Virginio Spicacci S.J., active in pastoral care and evangelisation in the archdiocese of Naples (Italy).- Fr. Mihaly Szentmártoni S.J. (Serbia), president of the Institute of Spirituality of the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
- Fr. Giuseppe Tanzella-Nitti, professor of fundamental theology at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome.- Petroc Willey, dean of graduate research at the Maryvale Institute of Birmingham (England).
The Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops has, likewise with the approval of the Supreme Pontiff, appointed the following individuals as "Auditores" (or Auditros) for the forthcoming Synodal Assembly.
- Emile Amin Henein, Director of the "Truth" Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, (Egypt).
- Chiara Amirante, founder and president of the New Horizons Community (Italy).- Carl Albert Anderson (U.S.A.), supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus.
- Fr. Camilo Bernal Hadad C.I.M. (Colombia), superior general of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary.- Sr. Maria Antonieta Bruscato F.S.P. (Brazil), superior general of the Daughters of St. Paul.
- Guzman Carriquiry (Uruguay), secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.- Jose Maria Simon Castellví (Spain), president of the International Federation of the Association of Catholic Media F.I.A.M.C.
- Sr. Rekha (Mary Joseph) Chennattu R.A., professor of the New Testament at the Pontifical Institute of Philosophy and Religion in Pune (India).- Fr. Renato de Guzman S.D.B., chief assistant for pastoral care of the Grade School and High School Departments, Don Bosco Technical Institute in Makati City (Philippines).
- Florence De Leyritz, member of the Alpha France Association (France).- Marc De Leyritz, president of the Alpha France Association (France).
- Fr. Ari Luis do Valle Ribeiro, professor at the seminar of the diocese of Santo Amaro, and diocesan coordinator for catechesis (Brazil).- Mikhail Fateev, director of production at the "United Television" channel of St. Petersburg (Russian Federation).
- Sr. Inmaculada Fukasawa A.C.I. (Japan), superior general of the Handmaidens of the Sacred Heart of Jesus- Msgr. Enrique Glennie Graue, vicar general of the archdiocese of Mexico (Mexico).
- Francisco Jose Gomez Arguello Wirtz (Spain), co-founder of the Neo-Catechumenal Way.- Fr. Jesus Higueras Esteban, pastor of S. Maria de Cana, Madrid (Spain).
- Marco Impagliazzo (Italy), president of the Sant'Egidio Community.- Lydia Jimenez Gonzalez (Spain), director general of the "Cruzadas de Santa Maria" Secular Institute.
- Ernestine Sikujua Kinyabuuma, professor at the University Institute of Maria Malkia in Lubumbashi, and member of the "Focolari" Movement (Democratic Republic of Congo).- Joakim Kipyego Koech, head of the Communion and Liberation Movement in Kenya.
- Zoltan Kunszabo, permanent deacon of the archdiocese of Esztergom-Budapest (Hungary).- Ewa Kusz (Poland), former president of the World Conference of Secular Institutes, C.M.I.S.
- Chantal Le Ricque, lay woman of the archdiocese of Paris (France).- Fr. Vinko Mamic O.C.D., president of the Union of Superiors Major in Croatia (Croatia).
- Curtis A. Martin, founder and president of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students - Focus (U.S.A.).- Salvatore Martinez, president for Italy of the Renewal in the Holy Spirit Movement (Italy).
- Sr. Nzenzili Lucie Mboma F.M.M. (Democratic Republic of Congo), executive director of the Service of Documentation and Study on Global Mission, S.E.D.O.S.- Marylee J. Meehan (U.S.A.), president of the International Catholic Committee of Nurses and Medico-Social Assistants, C.I.C.I.A.M.S.
- Franco Miano, president of Italian Catholic Action.- Gisele Muchati, regional director of the New Families Movement (Syria).
- Peter Murphy, executive director of the Secretariat for Evangelisation and Catechesis of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (U.S.A.).- Patricia Ngozi Nwachukwu K.S.M., member of the Knights of St. Mulumba (Nigeria).
- Yong Suk Francis Xavier Oh, secretary general of the Catholic Lay Apostolate Council of Korea (Korea).- Fr. Piergiorgio Perini, president of the International Service Organisation for the "Cellule Parrocchiali di Evangelizzazione" (Italy).
- Rita María Petrirena Hernandez, head of the department for pastoral coordination of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba (Cuba).- Sr. Suzanne Louise Phillips F.M.M. (Australia), superior general of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Mary.
- Sr. Mary Prema Pierick M.C. (India), superior general of the Missionaries of Charity.- Jose Prado Flores, founder and international director of the St. Andrew Schools of Evangelisation (Mexico).
- Sr. Yvonne Reungoat F.M.A. (France), superior general of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, Salesian Sisters of St John Bosco. - Br. Alvaro Antonio Rodriguez Echeverria F.S.C. (Costa Rica), superior general of the Brothers of Christian Schools.
- Michel Roy (France), secretary general of "Caritas Internationalis".- Raid Sargi, president of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Damascus (Syria).
- Tommaso Spinelli, catechist of the youth group of the parish of Santa Melania Juniore in Rome.- Manoj Sunny, director and journalist, founding member of the Jesus Youth Movement (India).
- Br. Emili Turu Rofes F.M.S. (Spain), superior general of the Marist Brothers (Little Brothers of Mary).- Fr. Emmanuel Typamm C.M. (Cameroon), secretary general of the "Confederation des Conferences des Superieurs Majeurs D'Afrique et de Madagascar", Co.S.M.A.M.
- Maria Voce (Italy), president of the Focolari Movement.- Sr. Mary Lou Wirtz F.C.J.M. (U.S.A.), president of the International Union of Superiors General, U.I.S.G.

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