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.

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. 

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.

Pope says everyone needs help getting through tough moments

VATICAN CITY - Just like the disciples, every follower of Jesus needs a "mountain-top" experience of light and of closeness to the Lord to get them through life's difficult and painful moments, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Celebrating a morning Mass March 4 at the Church of St. John Baptist de la Salle in a Rome suburb and reciting the Angelus at midday with visitors at the Vatican, Pope Benedict commented on the day's Gospel account of the Transfiguration.

Faith is light at end of dark tunnel of life's struggles, Pope says after Lenten retreat

VATICAN CITY - When life feels like a dark and silent tunnel, faith gives a Christian light and music, Pope Benedict XVI said at the end of his weeklong Lenten retreat.

Congolese Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa led the Pope's retreat Feb. 26-March 3 in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel of the Apostolic Palace, offering the Pope and top Vatican officials three meditations each day on the theme "Christians' Communion With God."

Thanking the cardinal at the end of the retreat, Pope Benedict said Cardinal Monsengwo "seasoned these meditations with beautiful stories -- taken mostly from your beloved African land -- which gave us joy and helped us."

Seminarians take to the soccer field in annual Rome tournament

ROME - More than 350 seminarians and priests from 71 countries will take to the field in early March for the kickoff of the sixth edition of Rome's Clericus Cup soccer tournament.

The spring 2012 tourney will feature 16 teams from pontifical universities, seminaries and religious orders vying for a trophy of a cleat-wearing soccer ball sporting a wide-brimmed clerical hat known as a saturno.

The Pontifical North American College, the U.S. seminary in Rome, placed fourth in 2011; team captain Daniel Gallagher, a seminarian from the Diocese of Pittsburgh, said March 2 the North American Martyrs plan to make some noise in the 2012 season.