Lent is time to help others spiritually, materially, pope says

VATICAN CITY - In his Lenten message, Pope Benedict XVI called on the faithful to be concerned for one another and "not to remain isolated and indifferent" to the fate others.

Materialism and a sense of self-sufficiency are obstacles to a Christian life of charity, the Pope said.

Instead of looking first to God and then to the well-being of others, people often have an attitude of "indifference and disinterest born of selfishness and masked as a respect for 'privacy.'"

    Richer orders should share with poorer religious, says Vatican prefect

    VATICAN CITY - Wealthier religious orders should share their resources with struggling religious communities, said the prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

    Cardinal-designate Joao Braz de Aviz said that while religious men and women live a life of poverty and possess nothing, their religious "institution doesn't always give the same witness."

    "It's not that we are against holding assets or are saying the church cannot have all the things it needs," he said in an interview with the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, Feb. 2.

      Strong bond with God is defining quality of religious life, pope says

      VATICAN CITY - Strengthening one's relationship with God must be the highest priority and most defining quality of religious life, Pope Benedict XVI said.

      Celebrating vespers with members of religious orders Feb. 2, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the World Day for Consecrated Life, the Pope said the day was a way of bringing greater attention to the witness of faith of religious men and women worldwide.

      In his homily during the evening service in St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Benedict said the day was also an important occasion for religious to "renew your intentions and rekindle the feelings that inspire the giving of yourselves to God."

        Pope to visit Mexico, Cuba March 23-28, meet leaders, Catholic faithful

        VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI will meet with Cuban President Raul Castro, Mexican President Felipe Calderon and bishops and Catholics from the region when he visits Mexico and Cuba in late March.

        He will also greet bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean as well as pray at the shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre in Cuba.

        It will be his third visit to the Americas after the United States in 2008 and Brazil in 2007.

          Confession: Celebration of mercy, not trial before prosecution

          VATICAN CITY - Priests hearing confessions need to replace any negative or aggressive attitudes with meekness and mercy toward the penitent, said a Vatican expert on confession.

          The sacrament of reconciliation "has led to a unilateral overemphasis on the accusation and listing of sins," said Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican court that handles issues related to the sacrament of penance.

          The end result is that "the thing that is absolutely central when listening to sin, that is, the blessed embrace of the merciful Father, is put on the backburner," he said.

            Pope prays for peace, watches dove fly back into his apartment

            VATICAN CITY - "Mamma mia," Pope Benedict XVI said as a dove flew over his head and back into his apartment Jan. 29 after he and two Italian school children released the bird as a symbol of peace.

            The Pope and representatives of the Italian Catholic Action children's section release doves during the Sunday Angelus address in late January each year. And, almost every year, at least one of the birds flies back into the papal apartment.

              Half a century after Vatican II, a year of faith and debate

              VATICAN CITY - Fifty years ago this October, Blessed John XXIII and more than 2,500 bishops and heads of religious orders from around the world gathered in St. Peter's Basilica for the opening session of the Second Vatican Council.

              Over the following three years, Vatican II would issue 16 major "pronouncements" on such fundamental questions as the authority of the church's hierarchy, the interpretation of Scripture, and the proper roles of clergy and laity. Those documents, and the deliberations that produced them, have transformed how the Catholic Church understands and presents itself within the context of modern secular culture and society.

                Christianity, religion risk oblivion in many parts of world, pope says

                VATICAN CITY - Christianity and even religious belief are in grave danger across the globe, risking oblivion, Pope Benedict XVI said.

                "Across vast areas of the earth, faith runs the danger of extinguishing like a flame that runs out of fuel," he said.

                The world faces "a profound crisis of faith, and a loss of a sense of religion constitutes the biggest challenge for the church today," he said.

                  Evangelization can never be just a marginal concern, pope says

                  VATICAN CITY - Evangelization must never be a marginal concern for the church, Pope Benedict XVI said.

                  From bishops to religious and the lay community, "All elements of the great mosaic of the church must feel themselves strongly called on by the Lord's mandate to preach the Gospel, so that Christ may be proclaimed everywhere," the Pope said in his message for World Mission Sunday.

                  The annual observance will be marked Oct. 21 at the Vatican and in most countries.

                    Sprucing up your prayer life can help bring you closer to God

                    TORONTO - With the busy schedule of a university student, Vanessa Nicholas-Schmidt was finding it difficult to fit prayer into her regular routine during her school years.

                    To remedy this, her spiritual director suggested she get creative, recommending a variety of different prayer styles.

                    “She said Jesus is not expecting the friendship to look any one way,” said Nicholas-Schmidt, program director at Faith Connections, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto’s youth ministry. “How can we talk to Jesus in a way that fits in with our lives no matter where we are on the journey?”

                      Consecrated life means living for God, others, pope says at audience

                      VATICAN CITY - Consecrated life entails giving oneself completely to God and living for others, Pope Benedict XVI said.

                      Speaking at his weekly general audience Jan. 25, the Pope continued his catechesis on Christian prayer, looking at the Last Supper, when Jesus instituted the Eucharist and the ministerial priesthood.

                      The Pope said Jesus prayed for God's intercession for his disciples, who, like himself, "do not belong to the world."