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.

New evangelization also begins with confession, Pope says

VATICAN CITY - Confession can help Catholics build lives filled with hope and holiness, which are needed for effective evangelization, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"New evangelization, therefore, also starts from the confessional," he told confessors and other participants attending a course sponsored by the Apostolic Penitentiary -- a Vatican court that that handles issues related to the absolution of sin.

New evangelization "draws its life blood from the holiness of the children of the church, from the daily journey of personal and communal conversion to adhere ever more deeply to Christ, he said in his address March 9.

Migration offers opportunity for growth, mission, say speakers in Rome

ROME - While migration brings struggles for the migrant and the host country, in the long term it provides opportunities for stability, cultural enrichment and religious growth, said speakers at a Rome event sponsored by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See.

U.S. Ambassador Miguel H. Diaz, a Cuban-born theologian, told the audience that while balancing humanitarian and legal concerns is a challenge for modern states dealing with migration, "by finding ways to integrate migrants, communities can become stronger than before. The experience of migration can be an opportunity to embrace positively human diversity."

Irish asked to ring in St. Patrick’s Day

DUBLIN - Organizers are encouraging parishes and communities across Ireland to use the feast of St. Patrick -- March 17 -- to intensify preparation for the International Eucharistic Congress.

Their initiative, Ring for Renewal, "invites people to pause for a moment in their day to ring a bell on St. Patrick's Day and reflect on how they can be renewed as individuals and members of the church as they prepare for the congress," said Father Kevin Doran, congress secretary-general.