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.

Pope to join Catholic families for international celebration in Milan

VATICAN CITY - The Archdiocese of Milan, which will host the World Meeting of Families 2012, announced Pope Benedict XVI would spend three days in the northern Italian city in June, celebrating the event's closing Mass, but also attending a concert at the world famous La Scala theater.

The world meeting, to be held May 30-June 3, includes family activities as well as workshops and speeches for theologians and people involved in the pastoral care of families.

Preparing for synod, bishops look at role of family in evangelization

VATICAN CITY - Making final preparations for the world Synod of Bishops on new evangelization, a committee of cardinals and bishops discussed how difficult it is today to transmit the faith to others.

"There was talk about the 'current fruitlessness of evangelization,' including because of the presence of certain influences from modern culture that make the transmission of the faith particularly difficult," said a Vatican press release issued Feb. 27.

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.