VATICAN CITY - When they are not in the Sistine Chapel, seated under Michelangelo's frescoes to vote for the next pope, the cardinal-electors will stay in a modern guesthouse that offers them both privacy and space to gather for relaxed conversation.

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Compromise has led to communists making 'slaves of the bishops'

TORONTO - At 81 years old, the bishop who once led hundreds of thousands through the streets of Hong Kong — defying Beijing, demanding democracy and an accountable government — is not holding his tongue.

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VATICAN CITY - From the moment he was elected pope at the age of 78 in 2005, Pope Benedict XVI has kept a schedule that appeared light compared to that of Blessed John Paul II, but busy for a man who already had a pacemaker and who wanted to retire to study, write and pray when he turned 75.

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DUBLIN - The head of the Redemptorist fathers in Rome said he deeply regrets the actions of an Irish member of the order who accused the Vatican of subjecting him to "frightening procedures reminiscent of the Inquisition."

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VATICAN CITY - The Catholic Church has never encouraged anyone to use ivory for religious devotional objects and, in fact, teaches that animals must be treated with respect, the Vatican spokesman said in a letter to "friends of the elephants."

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Updated 01/10/13

VATICAN CITY - The Catholic Church remains committed to deepening its relations with Jews and finds it "absolutely unacceptable" to consider the Jewish people as enemies, the Vatican spokesman said.

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VATICAN CITY -- Vatican City State vendors, including the Vatican Museums and supermarket, stopped accepting credit- and debit-card payments Jan. 1, citing technical difficulties amid unofficial reports of regulatory concerns by Italian financial authorities.

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VATICAN CITY - More than 2.3 million pilgrims and visitors joined Pope Benedict XVI for an audience, liturgy or prayer at the Vatican or Castel Gandolfo in 2012, the Vatican said.

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VATICAN CITY - A papal astronomer gave his reassurances that the world will not end Dec. 21, 2012.

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VATICAN CITY - Christmas in St. Peter's Square this year has a particularly southern Italian flavor with a towering tree from the Molise region and a Nativity scene donated by the Basilicata region.

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VATICAN CITY - New rules issued by Pope Benedict XVI for the governance of Catholic charities will not prevent such charities from accepting government funding,

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican praised a United Nations vote making Palestine a non-member observer state but called for full recognition of Palestinian sovereignty as necessary for peace in the region.

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VATICAN CITY - On the eve of his first trip to the Holy Land as grand master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, Cardinal Edwin O’Brien said he hoped to encourage the region’s Christian minority with a message of solidarity from Pope Benedict XVI and other Catholics in the West.

“The Church in the Holy Land has been under unfriendly domination throughout the centuries, and the fact that we still exist there is almost a miracle,” O’Brien told Catholic News Service Nov. 24. “We have to do everything we can as a Catholic people to encourage them and to let them know that we are one with them in their struggle.”

The cardinal left Rome Nov. 26 for a weeklong pilgrimage whose itinerary was to include Jerusalem, Bethlehem, West Bank, and Amman, Jordan. He was scheduled to meet with Jerusalem’s Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, who serves as the order’s grand prior, and other Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim leaders.

The cardinal also planned to visit a few of the more than 100 institutions that the knights support in the region, including parishes, schools and Bethlehem University.

O’Brien was not planning to visit the Gaza Strip and said he did not expect the recent fighting there to affect his visit, which was planned almost a year ago. But he noted that Twal has been on the “frontlines” in aiding victims of the violence there. Eight days of Israeli airstrikes, launched in retaliation for rocket attacks by Palestinian militants, killed more than 150 people and destroyed thousands of dwellings in Gaza before both sides agreed to a ceasefire Nov. 21.

“The Church does not take one side or the other” in the conflict, the cardinal said, “but simply says, do whatever we have to do to bring about peace and a secure way of living for all the people in that land that Christ walked.”

O’Brien noted that the Church’s charitable and educational activities in the Holy Land often serve a greater number of Muslims than Christians, which he said helped the cause of peace. He particularly noted the contribution of Christian Brothers-run Bethlehem University, in the West Bank, to interreligious harmony.

“More than half the students over the years have not been Christian,” the cardinal said. “And they graduate to leading positions in the Holy Land. Their gratitude to the Church and their influence in building bridges between Islam and Christianity, we just can’t measure the worth of that.

“We don’t do it so that we can get credit,” he said. “We do it so that the dignity of every human being will be developed to its highest potential. Bethlehem University, Madaba University, our high schools — all the good work that our people far away are doing to support these institutions is going to pay great dividends in the decades ahead.”

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VATICAN CITY - The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments is establishing an office to promote the development and use of appropriate liturgical art, architecture and music.

The new office was approved in early September by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state; final arrangements and the designation of personnel are being made, said Marist Father Anthony Ward, undersecretary of the congregation.

The office will provide advice, encouragement and guidance, he said, but it will not attempt to impose specific styles.

"The church has always adopted local artistic, architectural and music styles," Father Ward told Catholic News Service Nov. 14. At the same time, as the Second Vatican Council taught, "it always has emphasized Gregorian chant as the homegrown music of the Latin rite."

While the Pontifical Council for Culture promotes efforts in the area of sacred art and music, the congregation's new office will focus specifically on art, architecture and music used for Mass and other formal moments of prayer.

The Second Vatican Council document on the liturgy said, "The church has not adopted any particular style of art as her very own; she has admitted styles from every period according to the natural talents and circumstances of peoples, and the needs of the various rites."

It called for the preservation of the great liturgical art of the past and the encouragement of modern artists to create pieces appropriate for Catholic worship, "provided that it adorns the sacred buildings and holy rites with due reverence and honor."

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VATICAN CITY - The international community must get serious about enforcing humanitarian laws that make it possible to secure or destroy explosive devices leftover from a war before those devices harm innocent civilians or fall into the hands of terrorists, a Vatican official said.

Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, the Vatican's representative to U.N. agencies in Geneva, addressed a U.N. conference reviewing compliance with an international agreement on the restriction and use of certain conventional weapons; the conference was held in Geneva Nov. 12-13.

The focus of the conference was on laws dealing with the tracking and disposal of "explosive remnants of war," such as landmines and roadside bombs.
Failure to implement the agreement, Archbishop Tomasi said, has meant that many explosive weapons are not monitored during a conflict or removed after a conflict ends. As a result, they fall into the hands of terrorist groups and criminal organizations, and pose a threat to innocent civilians, he said.

Any hesitation in documenting or removing the explosive remnants of war, the archbishop said, "means more victims and bigger economic and social costs, and long-term hampering of development."

In past and present conflicts, civilians' safety has not been a priority, and "international humanitarian law was merely a set of non-respected rules," he said.
Archbishop Tomasi called for full adherence to the international agreements and international cooperation in monitoring compliance. "This is the only way to protect the civilian population, and in some cases the national community as a whole, from the consequences of explosive remnants of war."

The international community has a moral responsibility to protect civilians from explosive weapons during and after conflicts, the archbishop said. "Civilians should not have to pay twice for the absence of a secure, free and peaceful environment."

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