Faith

ASSISI, Italy - A common thread ran through many of the speeches and invocations of this year's "prayer for peace" encounter in Assisi: the uneasy sense that the world is facing not merely conflicts and wars, but a much broader crisis that affects social and cultural life in every country.

Environmental damage, the rich-poor divide, erosion of cultural traditions, terrorism and new threats to society's weakest members were cited as increasingly worrisome developments by speakers at the interfaith gathering in the Italian pilgrimage town Oct. 27.

Pope Benedict XVI, addressing the 300 participants, echoed those points in his own analysis of the state of global peace 25 years after Blessed John Paul II convened the first Assisi meeting.

Ad limina change means end to private meetings with Pope

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VATICAN CITY - In a quiet modification of a traditional format, the Vatican has dropped most of the individual private meetings between Pope Benedict XVI and bishops making their "ad limina" visits to Rome.

The unannounced change was instituted earlier this year, apparently in an effort to reduce the scheduling burden on the 84-year-old pope and to help cut through the backlog of "ad limina" visits, which are supposed to be made every five years by heads of dioceses.

In place of one-on-one meetings, the pope now usually holds more freewheeling sessions with groups of 7-10 bishops at a time, lasting about an hour. That is expected to be the format for U.S. bishops when they begin their "ad limina" visits in early November.

Pope proclaims three saints, calls them models of Christian charity

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed three saints and said their lives demonstrated that true faith is charity in action.

"These three new saints allowed themselves to be transformed by divine charity," the pope said at a canonization Mass in St. Peter's Square Oct. 23.

"In different situations and with different gifts, they loved the Lord with all their heart and they loved their neighbor as themselves, in such a way as to become models for all believers," he said.

Rome celebrates Blessed John Paul feast day; sainthood cause proceeds

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ROME - Thousands of Catholics in Rome celebrated the first feast of Blessed John Paul II Oct. 22 and the promoter of his sainthood cause said he has received several reports of healings that could be the miracle needed for the late pope's canonization.

Msgr. Slawomir Oder, the postulator of Pope John Paul's sainthood cause, told Vatican Radio, "I have received several very significant testimonies and am waiting for the complete documentation" that would allow him to judge which would be the most appropriate to submit to the Vatican.

"I was particularly struck by the healing of a little girl who was in an almost desperate situation and another very touching testimony regarding the healing of a priest," he told the radio Oct. 22.

Franciscans risk stoning to provide aid to poor along border fence

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SUNLAND PARK, N.M. - The compact car lifted a trail of dust as it traveled slowly along the 18-foot-tall chain-link fence, attracting the attention of the U.S. Border Patrol agent sitting in his green and white SUV.

When the vehicle stopped and two women got out, he was concerned contraband might be tossed over the fence into the United States to the waiting vehicle. Instead, the women began throwing items into Mexico.

The two women were Franciscan Missionaries of Mary who come to the fence periodically and toss whatever they can get to give the needy families of Puerto de Anapra, one of the poorest and most violent suburbs of Ciudad Juarez.

Knowing God's love never ends pulls people out of despair, pope says

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VATICAN CITY - Remembering God's love is forever helps lead the faithful out of darkness and despair and toward a future of hope, Pope Benedict XVI said.

It's important to remember all of God's gifts to humanity -- from creating the earth to giving humanity his only son -- because it is that very recollection of his generosity that "becomes the strength of hope," he said during his weekly general audience Oct. 19.

Remembering God's goodness and mercy "also opens up the path of light toward the future during times of darkness," the pope said.

Assisi III: Benedict puts his own mark on prayer summit's third edition

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VATICAN CITY - Slowly and carefully, the Vatican is setting the stage for the third edition of the interreligious "prayer for peace" encounter in the Italian pilgrimage town of Assisi.

The Oct. 27 event marks the 25th anniversary of the first such gathering. As in 1986, it is expected to draw representatives from many Christian denominations and more than a dozen other faiths.

It is also being celebrated in cities throughout the world, including Toronto where the Toronto Area Interfiath Council is hosting its own event at the Church of the Holy Trinity on Oct. 26 at 7:30 p.m.

Retired educator turns to drama to spread the Word

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Retired Catholic school educator Eleanor Glenn is on a different stage now, but she still has a passion for teaching others about the Catholic faith.

Instead of a classroom, Glenn — who has a religious education specialist certificate — is now spreading the Word through drama in her one-woman play that connects the sacrifice of the Mass with Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

The Servant at the Supper is about a fictitious servant girl who baked the bread and served the wine at the Last Supper. She is also present when the women bring the news of Christ’s Resurrection to the disciples and at Pentecost.

Pope announces 'Year of Faith' to help renew missionary energy

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI announced a special "Year of Faith" to help Catholics appreciate the gift of faith, deepen their relationship with God and strengthen their commitment to sharing faith with others.

Celebrating Mass Oct. 16 with participants in a Vatican conference on new evangelization, the pope said the Year of Faith would give "renewed energy to the mission of the whole church to lead men and women out of the desert they often are in and toward the place of life: friendship with Christ who gives us fullness of life."

The pope said the observance would begin Oct. 11, 2012 -- the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council -- and conclude Nov. 24, 2013 -- the feast of Christ the King.

Pope: Silence, solitude needed in 'agitated, sometimes frantic' world

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VATICAN CITY - Endless news, noise and crowds have made people afraid of silence and solitude, which are essential for finding God's love and love for others, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Progress in communications and transportation has made life more comfortable, as well as more "agitated, sometimes frantic," he said, especially in cities, where there is a constant din, even all night.

Young people seem to want to fill every moment with music and video, and there is a growing risk that people are more immersed in a virtual world rather than in reality because of the constant stream of "audiovisual messages that accompany their lives from morning to night," he said during a visit to an Italian monastery Oct. 9.

God will guide, protect those who follow him, pope says

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VATICAN CITY - God will always guide, protect and nourish those intent on following him, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"Following Jesus, the good shepherd, we will be certain we are on the right path and that the Lord will always guide us, be with us and we will lack nothing," the pope said Oct. 5 during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square.

With an estimated 20,000 people gathered in the square, the pope continued a series of talks about praying with the Psalms, focusing on Psalm 23: "The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I lack."

Looking at psalm -- "a text familiar to and loved by all" -- the pope said, "If we walk behind the good shepherd, no matter how difficult, twisting or long the path of our lives may seem, even if often it seems we are in a spiritual desert without water," we can be sure God will protect and provide for us.

The psalm is an expression of "radical trust in God's loving care," which reaches its highest expression in the death and resurrection of Jesus, who gave his life to save his flock, the pope said.

Greeting English speakers at the audience, the pope offered his "prayerful good wishes" to the 35 men scheduled to be ordained transitional deacons Oct. 6 by U.S. Cardinal William J. Levada, prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. The new deacons are preparing for the priesthood at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.

Pope Benedict also greeted a delegation of Orthodox scholars from the theology faculty of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. The faculty awarded Pope Benedict its "Apostle Jason of Thessaloniki Gold Medal," which the pope said was "an eloquent sign of the growing understanding and dialogue between Catholic and Orthodox Christians."

Addressing the Orthodox in English, the pope said he hoped the improved relations would be "a harbinger of ever greater progress in our efforts to respond in fidelity, truth and charity to the Lord's summons to unity."

At the end of the audience, Bishop Anthony B. Taylor of Little Rock, Ark., personally handed Pope Benedict a copy of the "Catholic Study Bible," an edition released in June as part of the Little Rock Scripture Study program.