VATICAN CITY - For Vatican historians, the roots of a Christian idea of religious liberty go way back: in fact, back 1,700 years to the Emperor Constantine's victory on Rome's Milvian Bridge and to his conversion.

At a Vatican conference in late April marking the anniversary, the head of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences said Constantine's victory in 312 under the sign of the cross was "the foundation of a new world" marked by religious freedom for Christians and separation between church and state.

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VATICAN CITY - Citing "serious doctrinal problems which affect many in consecrated life," the Vatican announced a major reform of an association of women's religious congregations in the United States to ensure their fidelity to Catholic teaching in areas including abortion, euthanasia, women's ordination and homosexuality.

Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle will provide "review, guidance and approval, where necessary, of the work" of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the Vatican announced April 18. The archbishop will be assisted by Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, Ohio, and Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., and draw on the advice of fellow bishops, women religious and other experts.

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VATICAN CITY - Almost 30 years after the still-unexplained disappearance of a teenage girl who lived with her family at the Vatican, the Holy See continues to be willing to cooperate with efforts to solve the mystery, the Vatican spokesman said.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi issued a three-page statement April 14 recalling how often Pope John Paul II appealed for the release of Emanuela Orlandi after her presumed kidnapping in 1983 and how top Vatican officials formally answered investigators' questions then and in subsequent investigations carried out in the late 1980s and mid-1990s.

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TORONTO - Though we all participate in the global economy by buying things and services, it’s pretty hard to take personal responsibility for globalization — but somebody has to, says the Vatican.

The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace has issued a kind of digest of Pope Benedict XVI’s latest encyclical and aimed it squarely at business leaders. “The Vocation of the Business Leader” is a 30-page booklet aimed at business professionals mentoring young employees and professors in business schools. It extensively quotes and summarize Benedict’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate.

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VATICAN CITY - A Vatican-sponsored congress on the ethical use of stem cells in scientific research was canceled because of a lack of funding, organizers said.

The Third International Congress on Responsible Stem Cell Research was to be held April 25-28 at the Vatican and was being organized by the Pontifical Academy for Life with the collaboration of the Vatican-based International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations, the Jerome Lejeune Foundation and the Bioethical Consultative Committee of Monaco.

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI has appointed a German bishop who had been accused of financial irregularities and hitting children to the Vatican's health care council.

Retired Bishop Walter Mixa of Augsburg was named a member of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry March 21.

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI has established a commission to investigate a series of leaks of letters exchanged among Vatican officials and between the officials and the Pope himself.

Archbishop Angelo Becciu, Vatican substitute secretary of state, said March 16 that the papal commission would try "to shed light on the whole affair," while a Vatican tribunal would look into taking legal action against those who gave the documents to reporters, and the Vatican Secretariat of State would carry out an administrative review of every Vatican office.

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VATICAN CITY - The U.S. government has put the Vatican on a list of countries that are vulnerable to money launderers, though not as vulnerable as the United States itself.

It was the first time the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs included the Holy See in its annual report.

The Vatican was one of 68 countries listed as "Jurisdictions of Concern," the second classification behind "Jurisdictions of Primary Concern," which the U.S. identifies as major money-laundering countries and includes the United States, Canada, Australia and Mexico.

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VATICAN CITY - The Vatican's official website suffered an attack by computer hackers March 7, cutting off access by users for several hours.

Italian media outlets reported that the website, vatican.va, became unresponsive around mid-afternoon local time, just as several other websites carried messages taking credit for the disruption in the name of the hacking group Anonymous. Email to and from the vatican.va domain was reportedly also blocked for at least part of the time.

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VATICAN CITY - Desecration, censorship, the ravages of time and even nesting mice have been unable to destroy the word of God, handed down for millennia by people of faith.

The endurance of sacred Scripture is the centerpiece of a new interfaith exhibit called Verbum Domini, which brings to the Vatican rare biblical texts and artifacts spanning a period from the third century B.C. to the 17th century.

"We seek to tell the amazing story of the preservation and translation of the most loved, most debated and the best-selling book every year and of all time," said Steve Green, an entrepreneur and the primary benefactor of The Green Collection, a private collection of more than 40,000 biblical antiquities.

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VATICAN CITY - Tension, hostility and even violence are the "daily bread" of many of the Christian communities living in the biblical lands of the Middle East, said Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches.

In a letter to bishops around the world, Cardinal Sandri asked for widespread participation in the annual collection on behalf of Christians in the Holy Land. The Vatican released the cardinal's letter March 1.

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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.

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VATICAN CITY - The majority of the world's fertility specialists have spent so much time and effort trying to promote and perfect in vitro fertilization that they have wasted resources and time that could have been used to find ways to prevent and treat infertility, a U.S. physician told a Vatican audience.

"Infertility is a symptom of an underlying condition," and too many physicians do not even attempt to find the cause and treat it; they simply recommend in vitro fertilization, said Dr. Thomas W. Hilgers, a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life and director of the Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction in Omaha, Neb.

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VATICAN CITY - The unregulated sale and transfer of weapons and weapons' technology harm the poor and threaten peace and security around the world, a Vatican official told a U.N. meeting.

Archbishop Francis A. Chullikatt, the Holy See's permanent observer to the United Nations, addressed a committee preparing for the U.N. Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty; the conference will be in July.

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VATICAN CITY - The Vatican budget forecast for 2012 pleased an international group of cardinals who advise the Vatican on economic matters, but the cardinals still expressed concern about the impact of the global economic crisis on central church offices.

The Council of Cardinals for the Study of the Organizational and Economic Problems of the Holy See met at the Vatican Feb. 14-15 to review the budget forecast for 2012 and the initial preparation of the final budget report for 2011.

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