VATICAN CITY - God is always calling people to dedicate themselves fully to serving him, but they often don't hear because they are either too distracted or afraid they would no longer be free if they answered the call, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"Let us pray that all young people pay attention to the voice of God, who speaks to their hearts and calls them to detach themselves from everything in order to serve him," he said April 29 -- the World Day of Prayer for Vocations.

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - The March visit to Cuba by Pope Benedict XVI has helped reawaken people's interest in the Catholic Church, according to two Cuban bishops visiting the United States.

But it also has stirred criticism of the church's efforts to work with the government more and may be connected to a fire of suspicious origin that gutted a travel agency that organizes charter flights from Florida to Cuba.

Remarks at an April 24 forum at Harvard University by Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino about the church's role in Cuba riled some of the outspoken critics of the Castro government in both Havana and Florida.

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WASHINGTON - Pope Benedict XVI told the German bishops that, as Pope, he has celebrated Mass in different languages and "sometimes it is hard to find common ground" in the various translations.

"The underlying common text often remains visible only from afar," he told the bishops, who were preparing to send their revised Mass translation to the printers.

In a letter dated April 14 and posted on the German bishops' website April 24, Pope Benedict said that, over the years, it has become "increasingly clear" to him that not translating liturgical texts literally creates difficulties.

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VATICAN CITY - All pastoral work, including promoting social justice and providing for the poor, must be nourished by prayer, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Without contemplating and internalizing God's word daily, one risks being suffocated by too heavy a workload and one's heart risks hardening to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, he said.

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ROME - With the papal birthday and anniversary last week, attention in Rome was understandably focused on reviewing the seven-year pontificate of Benedict XVI. I had the unexpected pleasure though of reading about the other end of the Holy Father’s life — the early years of his Bavarian youth.

Last year an interview book was published by Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, the pope’s older brother. They were ordained priests together in 1951 and have enjoyed a close relationship through the years. After his election as Pope, the younger brother, Joseph, was not able to travel to Germany to spend time with Georg, so now the monsignor comes several times a year to Rome to spend time with his little brother, the Pope. They had originally planned to retire together to their home in Regensburg, but the events of April 19, 2005, permanently altered that plan.

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VATICAN CITY - The scourge of sex tourism and the trafficking of human beings for harvesting organs must be urgently addressed, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Such crimes are "evils that must be dealt with urgently since they trample on the rights of millions of men and women, especially among the poor, minors and handicapped," he said.

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VATICAN CITY - Preparing children for their first Communion must be done with both great zeal and moderation, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Around the world, many children receive their first Communion during the Easter season, he told pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square April 22 for the recitation of the "Regina Coeli," a Marian prayer used in place of the Angelus from Easter to Pentecost.

The Pope urged "priests, parents and catechists to prepare for this feast of faith well, with great fervor but also with sobriety."

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Meeting a group of major U.S. donors to Catholic charitable works, Pope Benedict XVI asked them to pray "for the freedom of Christians to proclaim the Gospel and bring its light to the urgent moral issues of our time."

The Pope met April 21 with about 80 members of the Papal Foundation, who presented him with an $8.5-million donation that will be used to fund scholarships and 105 Catholic projects in close to 50 countries.

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VATICAN CITY - While the text of the Bible is fixed, the same Holy Spirit that inspired its writing continues to inspire its proclamation and interpretation in the church, Pope Benedict XVI said.

The Catholic Church's understanding of the Bible grows through time thanks to the Holy Spirit's guidance and to reflection, study, prayer and preaching, the Pope said in a message to members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, an international group of scholars who advise the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

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VATICAN CITY - When a community is faced with crisis, persecution and trouble, it should come together in prayer for strength from God, not formulate strategic plans to defend itself from difficulties, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Unity is fundamental, he said, and the community needs to come together and ask "only to proclaim the word of God fearlessly in the face of persecution," not to avoid tests, trials and tribulation.

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VATICAN CITY  - Pope Benedict XVI celebrated his 85th birthday with guests who treated him to Bavarian "oompah" music and folk dancing in the apostolic palace.

Bavarian bishops, minister-president of Bavaria -- Horst Seehofer, and a 150-person regional government delegation visited the Pope April 16 in the Vatican's Clementine Hall.

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI does not want to undo the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, but he is working to ensure that "the foundation and heart of the Christian faith shines again," said Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch in a book released in time for the seventh anniversary of the pope's election.

Bishops, theologians and concerned Catholic have an obligation to help the faithful understand the theology and teaching of the pope, Cardinal Koch wrote in the book that was to be presented in Rome April 16, Pope Benedict's 85th birthday and just three days before the anniversary of his election.

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI's 85th birthday, April 16, and the seventh anniversary of his election, April 19, are obviously occasions for wishing the Pope well and reflecting on the events of his reign thus far. Inevitably, however, these milestones also prompt speculation about what Vatican officials and observers refer to diplomatically as "papal transition."

Pope Benedict, after all, is already the sixth-oldest Pope since the 1400s, when records became available. It has been almost two years since he told a German interviewer, "My forces are diminishing" and that, when it comes to public appearances, "I wonder whether I can make it even from a purely physical point of view."

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VATICAN CITY - With Easter flowers and blossoming trees still decorating St. Peter's Square, Pope Benedict XVI held his weekly general audience and encouraged Catholics to let the risen Lord into their hearts and to share his peace with the world.

As he did with the disciples after Easter, "even today the risen Lord can enter into our homes and hearts even if, sometimes, the doors are closed," the Pope said April 11.

"He alone can roll back the burial stone that man often puts over his feelings, relationships and behavior; stones that sanction death, division, hatred, anger, jealousy, mistrust, indifference," Pope Benedict said.

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When he turns 85 on April16 Pope Benedict XVI will be just the sixth pope to reach that milestone age and the oldest pontiff in 109 years. Last month, the Pope warmly told former Cuban president Fidel Castro, who is eight months Benedict’s senior, “Yes, I’m old, but I can still carry out my duties.”

Benedict was described as a transitional figure when he became pontiff seven years ago. He was 78. It had been 300 years since the Vatican welcomed a new pope that old. But although less robust than on the day he ascended the throne of Peter, Benedict is still keeping a busy schedule and serving the Church with faith and distinction. Some transition.

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