Pope begins retreat, encourages prayer, fasting, charity

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI asked Catholics for their prayers as he began his weeklong Lenten retreat Feb. 26.

Before reciting the Angelus prayer at midday with visitors in St. Peter's Square, he also prayed that all Catholics would "embrace the spirit of this holy season, through prayer, fasting and almsgiving."

Charitable works are key part of new evangelization, Pope says

VATICAN CITY - An authentic Christian faith is demonstrated through concrete acts of charity and those acts are an essential part of the Catholic Church's new evangelization effort, Pope Benedict XVI told members of a Rome-based charity.

"The witness of charity touches human hearts in a special way," the Pope said, and "the new evangelization, especially in a cosmopolitan city like Rome, requires a great openness of spirit and a wise readiness to help all."

Chapter and verse: Pope uses Bible reflection to address 'his' priests

VATICAN CITY - Speaking 38 minutes without a prepared text, Pope Benedict XVI gave priests of the Diocese of Rome a look not only at how he approaches Scripture, but also at his priorities and personality.

Addressing the Rome priests as "my clergy," the Pope led them Feb. 23 in a reflection on faith, truth, hope and humility.

Celibacy should be seen as 'gift of grace,' not burden, speakers say

NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Priestly celibacy must be seen as "a freely accepted commitment and a gift of grace," not simply a functional discipline that frees a man for ministry, the keynote speaker at a University of Notre Dame symposium said Feb. 15.

Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher to the papal household, opened the Feb. 15-17 symposium with a call for a deeper understanding of celibacy based on biblical and theological roots.

Lenten ashes are call to repentance, humility, Pope says at Mass

ROME - Receiving ashes at the beginning of Lent is a call to repentance and humility and a sign that believers know that death will not have the final word in their lives, Pope Benedict XVI said.

The Pope's Ash Wednesday Mass Feb. 22 was preceded by a procession from Rome's Church of St. Anselm to the Church of Santa Sabina. Unlike last year, when Pope Benedict walked the block between the two churches, this year he rode in a golf cart modified to be a mini-Popemobile.

Pope Benedict, 84, has been using a mobile platform to process into St. Peter's Basilica since last October. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said then that use of the platform was to help the Pope conserve his energy and that Pope Benedict had no serious health problems.

Lent a time of grace, defeating temptation, Pope says

VATICAN CITY - The 40 days of Lent are a time of spiritual renewal in preparation for Easter, but they also are a time to recognize that evil is at work in the world and even the Catholic Church faces temptations, Pope Benedict XVI said.

The Pope explained the meaning of Lent during his weekly general audience Feb. 22, Ash Wednesday.

Like the people of Israel during their 40-year exodus and like Jesus during His 40 days in the desert, the Catholic Church and its members experience the grace of God, but also are besieged by evil around them and are tempted by power and selfishness, the Pope said.

Canonization Mass in October will bring seven new saints including Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha

VATICAN CITY — Like Pope Paul VI and Blessed John Paul II often did, Pope Benedict XVI will mark World Mission Sunday in October by creating new saints.

In the United States and Canada, many people are aware that the saints to be proclaimed Oct. 21 at the Vatican include Blessed Marianne Cope of Molokai and Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha.

Church leaders called to preserve tradition, Pope tells new cardinals

VATICAN CITY  - Leaders and members of the Catholic Church do not have the authority to determine its teaching and structure but are called to ensure its fidelity to Jesus and to the faith passed on by the apostles, Pope Benedict XVI told the 22 new cardinals he created.

"The Church is not self-regulating, she does not determine her own structure, but receives it from the Word of God, to which she listens in faith as she seeks to understand it and to live it," the Pope said in a homily Feb. 19 during a Mass concelebrated with the new cardinals in St. Peter's Basilica.

Pope, new cardinals concelebrate Mass

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI and the 22 new cardinals he created yesterday concelebrated Mass this morning in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The pope used Bernini’s sculpture of the Chair of St. Peter to illustrate his homily since the Mass marked the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, a liturgical solemnity that highlights Jesus giving Peter the authority to lead the church in love. The statue is topped by a window with a stained-glass dove representing the Holy Spirit.

Cold feet, warm hugs: Pilgrims do what it takes to see new cardinals

VATICAN CITY - More than 10,000 friends, family and supporters bore chilly morning temperatures, pressing crowds and long lines to get a chance to see Pope Benedict XVI place a red hat on their favorite cardinal. Only a few thousands got to see it happen in person.

“We arrived at the main gate at 6 a.m. just like good little pilgrims, in the freezing cold,” said Annette Zaralli Parsons from Richmond, Va.

But then they opened a different gate to let people into St. Peter’s Basilica for the Feb. 18 consistory to create 22 new cardinals from 13 countries “and so the people who had gotten in line later got in. So you should make your headline read: ‘Pilgrims freeze, miss consistory,’” she told Catholic News Service.

Of cardinal importance: new princes of the church on their role

VATICAN CITY - Practically everyone knows two things about cardinals -- that they wear red hats and elect the Pope. But what other purpose do these men serve in the Catholic Church?

On the eve of the Feb. 18 consistory where Pope Benedict XVI was scheduled to expand the College of Cardinals by 22 new members, the three North Americans among them shared some thoughts on the meaning of their new role.