Faith

VATICAN CITY -- The church's first martyr found the strength to face his accusers because of his close relationship with God, Pope Benedict XVI said.

St. Stephen, who was accused of blasphemy and stoned to death, upheld the faith and gave witness to Christ as the righteous one proclaimed by the prophets, the pope said during the general audience in St. Peter's Square May 2.

Priests must live holy lives to be effective ministers, Vatican says

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VATICAN CITY - Ten years after a historic papal response to clerical sex abuse, the Vatican urged priests to strive for greater holiness in their own lives so that they might effectively minister to others and reverse the tide of atheism.

In its annual letter to priests for 2012, the Vatican's Congregation for Clergy focused on Blessed John Paul II's 2002 Holy Thursday letter to clergy, in which the late pope responded to the growing revelations and scandal of sexual abuse of minors by priests.

Pope says quest for peace must also be quest for truth

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VATICAN CITY - The quest for justice and peace will bear fruit only if it's also a quest for the truth about the human person, created by God and "endowed with intelligence and freedom, capable of knowing and loving," Pope Benedict XVI said.

Intelligence enables people to discover what is good and beneficial -- "the right order that is inscribed within creation itself" -- the Pope said in a message April 30 to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

Don't let fear, search for the superficial deafen God's call, Pope says

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VATICAN CITY - God is always calling people to dedicate themselves fully to serving him, but they often don't hear because they are either too distracted or afraid they would no longer be free if they answered the call, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"Let us pray that all young people pay attention to the voice of God, who speaks to their hearts and calls them to detach themselves from everything in order to serve him," he said April 29 -- the World Day of Prayer for Vocations.

Celebrating in different languages, Pope sees translation troubles

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WASHINGTON - Pope Benedict XVI told the German bishops that, as Pope, he has celebrated Mass in different languages and "sometimes it is hard to find common ground" in the various translations.

"The underlying common text often remains visible only from afar," he told the bishops, who were preparing to send their revised Mass translation to the printers.

In a letter dated April 14 and posted on the German bishops' website April 24, Pope Benedict said that, over the years, it has become "increasingly clear" to him that not translating liturgical texts literally creates difficulties.

Canada honours Andrey Sheptytsky for saving Jews

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OTTAWA - As religious leaders from Ukraine sat in the gallery, the House of Commons passed unanimously on April 24 a motion honouring Ukrainian Catholic Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky for his courageous efforts to save Jews during the Second World War.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney's motion said Sheptytsky, who headed the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church from 1900 until his death in 1944, courageously spoke out against violence against Jews and sheltered and saved the lives of more than 160 Ukrainian Jews, many of them children.

Charity, social justice must be coupled with prayer, Pope says

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VATICAN CITY - All pastoral work, including promoting social justice and providing for the poor, must be nourished by prayer, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Without contemplating and internalizing God's word daily, one risks being suffocated by too heavy a workload and one's heart risks hardening to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, he said.

Prepare kids for first Communion with zeal, moderation, Pope says

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VATICAN CITY - Preparing children for their first Communion must be done with both great zeal and moderation, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Around the world, many children receive their first Communion during the Easter season, he told pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square April 22 for the recitation of the "Regina Coeli," a Marian prayer used in place of the Angelus from Easter to Pentecost.

The Pope urged "priests, parents and catechists to prepare for this feast of faith well, with great fervor but also with sobriety."

Parish nurses bring spiritual care to healing

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TORONTO - When Shirley Christo, a parish nurse at St. John Fisher parish in Brampton, Ont., returned home from the International Parish Nursing Assembly conference a few years ago, she was greeted by some shocking news: a woman in her parish, who had been diagnosed with cancer and whose husband potentially had a brain tumour, had also just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Christo had been to this woman’s home several times; she knew her well. But this time was different. She took with her a prayer blanket she’d received at the conference and knocked on the woman’s door. When the woman answered, Christo asked, “May I go on this journey with you?”

The woman said yes. Christo wrapped her prayer blanket around her, and has been by her side ever since.

Ministering to seafarers is often a bumpy ride

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TORONTO - Michael Ho quickly learned it takes more than prayer to be a deacon with the Apostleship of the Sea (AOS).

Aside from sharing the sacraments Ho, along with his international colleagues, delivers word on human rights, dignity and equality while comforting those enduring the hardships of a life at sea.

As an associate chaplain with AOS, which began providing ministerial services to sailors in 1899 out of Scotland, Ho’s formal function is to offer communion, hear confessions and arrange Masses for those he calls the Salties. While Ho calls these tasks his primary responsibility, the 64-year-old deacon does not always go home after saying amen with the seafarers — in fact some days he never says it at all.

Cameron believes something good comes out of teen spite

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TORONTO - Craig Cameron’s “great high school rebellion” began one evening after a confirmation class at his local parish in Halifax. The frustrated 17-year-old came home, convinced that he did not want or need to be confirmed. After expressing his frustration and voicing his decision to his mother, he stormed to his bedroom “like only a teenager can” and — this is where the archetypal narrative breaks — began to pray.

It wasn’t that Cameron had a problem with the morality that the Church taught, it was that he had a problem with the morality that the members of the Church were living.

“This discrepancy was a bit of an obstacle for me to receive the sacrament,” he said.