On anniversary of Blessed John Paul's death, Vatican focuses on WYD

VATICAN CITY - On the seventh anniversary of the death of Blessed John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI paid homage to one of his predecessor's innovations: World Youth Day.

Greeting an estimated 5,000 cheering young people from Spain April 2, Pope Benedict said they were "the protagonists and principal recipients of this pastoral initiative promoted vigorously by my beloved predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, whose passage to heaven we remember today."

Bringing retreat reflection to the everyday

Upon returning from a Sisters of Life retreat in Connecticut, I decided my Lenten resolution would be to incorporate 20 minutes of prayer into my daily routine.

Finding it hard to fit prayer time into a hectic schedule, one of the sisters told me it might be helpful to get creative in my prayer life in order to better understand how God is speaking to me. So, along with the regular Hail Marys and Our Fathers, I started reading random Bible passages and keeping a journal to better open the lines of communication.

Finding God at work in our everyday lives

At some point who among us hasn’t wondered what God wants of us? Sometimes we may sense His calling but how do we know for sure?

Fr. Timothy Gallagher has dedicated many years to helping people who are seeking answers to these difficult questions. Through his ministry of retreats, the American priest provides spiritual direction by using the teachings of St. Ignatius of Loyola as a saintly roadmap to guide spiritual discernment and renewal.

At the invitation of the Sisters of Life, Gallagher directed a two-day discernment of spirits retreat on Mar. 17-18 at St. Catherine of Sienna Church in Toronto that was attended by about 225 people.

Pope, at Mass in Havana's Revolution Square, calls for full religious freedom in Cuba

HAVANA - Preaching at Mass in Havana's Revolution Square, location of the headquarters of Cuba's Communist Party, Pope Benedict XVI called for full religious freedom and greater respect for human rights on the island.

"In Cuba steps have been taken to enable the church to carry out her essential mission of expressing the faith openly and publicly," the Pope said during his homily March 28. "Nonetheless, this must continue forward."

With President Raul Castro seated near the altar platform, the Pope said, "I wish to encourage the country's government authorities to strengthen what has already been achieved and advance along this path of genuine service to the true good of Cuban society as a whole."

In Mexico, Pope says social change will come with revival of faith

SILAO, Mexico - Visiting Latin America for the second time in his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI offered a message of hope for social progress rooted in a revival of Catholic faith.

The overriding message of the Pope's public statements during his three days in Mexico, March 23-26, was that this troubled country, and the region in general, cannot solve their problems -- which include poverty, inequality, corruption and violence -- by following the prescriptions of secular ideologies.

Trust in God to help change society, Pope says in Mexico's heartland

SILAO, Mexico - Celebrating Mass in the Catholic heartland of Mexico, Pope Benedict XVI told a nation and a continent suffering from poverty, corruption and violence, to trust in God and the intercession of Mary to help them bring about a "more just and fraternal society."

"When addressing the deeper dimension of personal and community life, human strategies will not suffice to save us," the Pope said in his homily during the outdoor Mass at Guanajuato Bicentennial Park March 25, the second full day of his second papal visit to Latin America. "We must have recourse to the one who alone can give life in its fullness, because he is the essence of life and its author."

A ‘Victim Soul,’ Sr. Carmelina suffered for others

Over the past two decades thousands of people have attended Eucharistic celebrations to pray to Sr. Carmelina Tarantino. Many of those devotees attended a Mass on Mar. 21 at St. Pascal Baylon parish in Thornhill, Ont. to mark the 20th anniversary of the death of the remarkable Toronto religious sister.

March 21 was also the third anniversary of the date Cardinal Thomas Collins officially launched Sr. Carmelina’s cause for sainthood by opening the Archdiocesan Tribunal for the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints. 

Giving sombreros to popes a tradition for family of Mexican milliners

SAN FRANCISCO DEL RINCON, Mexico - The milliners of Sombreros Salazar in this deeply Catholic town 140 miles northeast of Guadalajara have the habit of making oversized, charro hats for the pope.

The family matriarch, Maria de la Luz Yepez Torres, already has made the oversized hats for Pope Paul VI and Blessed John Paul II.

Pope asks married couple to compose Via Crucis meditations

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI has asked an Italian married couple, founders of the Focolare Movement's New Families initiative, to write the meditations for his Way of the Cross service at Rome's Colosseum April 6.

The Vatican announced March 15 that the pope had asked Danilo and Annamaria Zanzucchi to write the meditations, which are read over loudspeakers as a cross is carried through and around the Colosseum on Good Friday.

Pope rings bell symbolizing call to turn out for eucharistic congress

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI blessed and rang the official International Eucharistic Congress bell, which has been on tour across Ireland for nearly a year, in preparation for the world meeting in June.

An Irish delegation, led by the 2012 congress president Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, presented the Pope with the small brass bell before the start of his weekly general audience March 14. Before the Pope was driven into St. Peter's Square, he met with the delegation and rang the bell.

Catholics, Anglicans need to renew commitment to unity, Pope says

ROME - Remembering the common roots of the Christianity they share, Roman Catholics and Anglicans should renew their commitments to praying and working for Christian unity, Pope Benedict XVI said.

The Pope and Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, held an evening prayer service March 10 at Rome's Church of St. Gregory on the Caelian Hill, the church from which Pope Gregory the Great sent St. Augustine of Canterbury and his fellow monks to evangelize England in 597.