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VATICAN CITY - A bishop in Calabria has ordered an end to all religious processions in his diocese after 30 men carrying a large statue of Mary and hundreds of people accompanying the statue paused and bowed in front of the house of a presumed mafia boss.

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ROME - Only two weeks after Pope Francis announced he was excommunicating the Mafia, a religious procession in southern Italy has provoked uproar after paying homage to a convicted mobster.

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VATICAN CITY - The tragic deaths of thousands of men, women and children who die while searching for a better future should trigger compassion and action, not indifference, Pope Francis said.

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis will travel to the heartland of the Italian mafia for the first time June 21, visiting the southern town where a three-year-old was murdered in a local drug war earlier this year.

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ROME - Italy’s Catholic bishops have condemned a court ruling that lifts a ban on married couples using sperm donors for artificial insemination, likening the move to playing God.

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VATICAN CITY - The conductor Zubin Mehta performed with an Italian orchestra at the Vatican Feb. 4, in a concert honoring Pope Benedict XVI and Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.

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ROVERETO DI NOVI, Italy - Fear and anxiety are natural responses to the terror and destruction wrought by a natural disaster, but God's love is rock solid, providing certainty and solace for all victims, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"Upon this rock, with this firm hope, one can build and one can rebuild," he said to more than 2,000 Rovereto di Novi residents -- many of whom were rendered homeless and jobless by two earthquakes in May.

"Remain true to your vocation as fraternal and supportive people, and tackle everything with patience and determination, fighting the temptations that unfortunately come with these moments of weakness and need," he said June 26.

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VATICAN CITY - Catholics who dedicate themselves to special prayers and efforts to promote the holiness of Christian families can receive special indulgences during the World Meeting of Families May 30-June 2 in Milan.

Pope Benedict XVI authorized the indulgences for those who, "truly repentant and motivated by charity, dedicate themselves to the sanctification of the family," said a decree published May 25 by Cardinal Manuel Monteiro de Castro, head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, which deals with indulgences.

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VATICAN CITY - The Italian bishops' conference released its first ever set of guidelines for handling accusations of clerical sexual abuse, urging bishops to cooperate with civil authorities, but also making it clear that bishops in Italy have no legal obligation to report suspected cases to police.

Bishop Mariano Crociata, general secretary of the bishops' conference, presented the guidelines to reporters May 22 and told them that 135 cases of clerical sexual abuse of minors had been reported between 2000 and 2012.

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BOLOGNA, Italy - Church agencies stepped up efforts to support local parishes providing assistance to nearly 5,000 people left homeless by a magnitude 6 earthquake in northern Italy.

Caritas Italy, part of the Catholic church's international aid network, was among the first agencies to respond May 20 by sending staff to the affected communities about 22 miles north of Bologna.

The Italian government was assessing damage May 21 and considered declaring a state of emergency.

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WHITE BEAR LAKE, Minnesota - Friends and parishioners of St. Pius X Church in White Bear Lake reflected on the lives of Jerry and Barb Heil at an evening prayer service Jan. 18.

On Jan. 19, divers resumed the search for 21 people still missing after a Costa Concordia cruise ship cruise ship crashed into the Italian coast Jan. 13. The Heils are the only Americans who remained unaccounted for among the more than 4,200 passengers. Eleven people died.

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