VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI held up the life of a young virgin and martyr as an example to seminarians of the total commitment to Christ required by young men seeking to enter the priesthood.

The Pope also said that a solid cultural background and intellectual understanding of faith was essential in the formation of priests as spreaders of the word of God.

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI warned visiting U.S. bishops that "radical secularism" threatens the core values of American culture, and he called on the church in America, including politicians and other laypeople, to render "public moral witness" on crucial social issues.

The Pope spoke Jan. 19 to a group of U.S. bishops who were in Rome for their periodic "ad limina" visits, which included meetings with the Pope and Vatican officials, covering a wide range of pastoral matters.

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI said Christians of all denominations should come to agreement on ethical matters, especially regarding human life, family and sexuality.

The Pope, in a meeting Jan. 19 with an ecumenical group of Catholic and Lutheran leaders from Finland, said that differences among Christians regarding the "proper understanding of human nature and its dignity" had grown in recent years.

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VATICAN CITY - Divisions among Christians, including on moral issues, weakens their credibility and their ability to respond to the spiritual yearning of many men and women today, Pope Benedict XVI said.

While "there is more that unites us than divides us" on the basic tenets of faith -- belief in Christ, the son of God and savior of humanity -- "divisions remain and regard many practical and ethical questions, giving rise to confusion and mistrust, weakening our ability to transmit the saving word of Christ," Pope Benedict said Jan. 18 at his weekly general audience.

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VATICAN CITY - The millions of refugees and migrants in the world are not numbers but people in search of a better life for themselves and their families, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"They are men and women, young and old, who are looking for a place they can live in peace," the Pope said Jan. 15, which the Vatican marked as the World Day for Migrants and Refugees.

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VATICAN CITY - Bishops make their "ad limina" visits to the Vatican to report on how well they have cared for their faithful, but also to give thanks to God for their bonds with the Pope, the successor of the Apostle Peter, said Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington.

Presiding at Mass Jan. 16 at the tomb of St. Peter, the cardinal led his fellow bishops in singing the creed in Latin and thanking God for the gift of apostolic faith that lives through the ministry of the Pope.

"Our celebration is a visible sign of the communion of faith spread throughout the whole world and how it is anchored here in Rome, where Peter lives now, bearing the name Benedict XVI," the cardinal said.

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VATICAN CITY - In the Catholic Church, it's true that everything old can be new again, and the Vatican wants one of those things to be the art of "apologetics" — dusted off and updated to respond to new challenges, including those posed by militant atheists.

The term "apologetics" literally means "to answer, account for or defend," and through the 1950s even Catholic high school students were given specific training in responding to questions about Catholicism and challenges to Church teaching.

At least in Northern Europe and North America, the effort mainly was a response to Protestantism. Today, while sects and fundamentalist groups challenge Catholics in many parts of the world, almost all Catholics face objections to the idea of belief in general, said Legionary of Christ Father Thomas Williams, a professor at Rome's Pontifical Regina Apostolorum University.

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VATICAN CITY - The economic crisis should push people to look at the values reflected in their civic life and prompt an honest evaluation of whether citizens are working together to promote justice and solidarity, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Addressing the mayor of Rome and the presidents of the province of Rome and region of Lazio Jan. 12, the Pope said citizens need to "recover values that are at the basis of a true renewal of society and that not only favor economic recovery, but also aim at promoting the integral good of the human person."

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VATICAN CITY - The Eucharist sustains those who are tired, worn out or lost in the world and transforms human sin and weakness into new life, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Speaking at his weekly general audience Jan. 11, the Pope focused on Jesus and the Last Supper, where he instituted the Eucharist, "the sacrament of his body and blood."

"Jesus' gift of himself anticipates his sacrifice on the cross and his glorious resurrection," the Pope said.

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TORONTO - On World Day of Peace, Pope Benedict XVI said the enthusiasm and idealism of youth offers new hope to the world. 

As he talked about the theme of “Educating Young People in Justice and Peace” Jan. 1, he emphasized the potential of young people in today’s society, as well as the responsibilities of parents, educators and youth to look towards Christ and encourage each other. 

Antonio Fernando, a first-year English student at the University of Toronto, said acting on this message would mean better awareness of what’s going on in the world.

“At World Youth Day, (the Pope) wanted us to be open to whatever’s happening in the world, to appreciate where we are coming from and to keep improving ourselves,” said Fernando. 

Angela De Ciantis, a third-year psychology student at Toronto’s York University, takes a more internal approach to this theme.

“It shows a need to understand those terms (justice and peace), because you can have different interpretations,” she said. Not only should youth be aware of issues surrounding them, but they should also reflect on exactly how they see justice and peace, she said.

Pope Benedict XVI talked briefly about family, calling parents “the first educators.” Although Brandon Cheong, a Grade 11 student from Cardinal Newman Catholic High School in Toronto, understands the value of family, he said it is becoming less important from the perspective of our culture.

“You learn how to behave first from your parents, but today, the family is secondary to the values of society,” said Cheong.

“Families are spending less time with each other, so there’s no longer that binding heart of what the family used to be. Families rely more on the education system to say what’s acceptable.”

Also mentioned are the roles of teachers and educators, whom the Pope calls to promote Catholic values. 

Lisa Bailey, a Family Studies teacher at Mary Ward Catholic Secondary School, understands this responsibility. “(The Pope’s) message reinforces why we are called to be Catholic educators.  It’s not just to teach the curriculum, it’s about leading by example and walking with students on their faith journey,” said Bailey.

Bailey also said these tasks provide great challenges, particularly when struggling with  influences from society. “There’s a struggle between faith and things that happen in society around youth. You have your morals against what society says. Whether it be movies or television shows, there are conflicting messages that Catholics see that are not always in line with our faith.”

Many internal and external challenges face youth and those who try to encourage them. However, Pope Benedict’s message may yet be fulfilled if young people are willing to take it to heart.

De Ciantis suggests a simple idea: “To be a good example. When you demonstrate your faith, people notice. If you help others, people will be influenced to help more often.”

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI condemned "religiously motivated terrorism" and restrictions on religious freedom during his annual address to diplomats accredited to the Vatican.

Looking both at signs of promise and areas of concern around the globe, the Pope said human dignity, truth and justice demand governments safeguard all human life and recognize the importance of the traditional family based on the marriage of a man and a woman.

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI baptized 16 infants and told their parents and godparents that prayer and the sacraments will give them the strength and guidance they need to promote a child's true well-being.

Presiding over the annual liturgy in the Sistine Chapel Jan. 8, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the Pope said the sacraments and putting one's trust in God through prayer offer "that light of truth" that illuminates the right path to take in their child's education and upbringing.

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VATICAN CITY - In an effort to help Catholics have a better and correct understanding of their faith and become authentic witnesses to Christ, the Vatican is issuing a list of pastoral recommendations for celebrating the Year of Faith.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will release a "note" Jan. 7 outlining the aims of the special year and ways bishops, dioceses, parishes and communities can promote "the truth of the faith," the congregation said in a written statement Jan. 5.

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VATICAN CITY - At Christmas, the human dream of being like God started to become a reality -- not through any human efforts, but through God sending his son to be born on earth to redeem humanity, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Addressing an estimated 7,000 people gathered for his weekly general audience Jan. 4, the pope encouraged Christians to continue living the joy and mystery of Christmas as they prepare for the feast of the Epiphany, celebrated at the Vatican Jan. 6, and the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which the pope planned to celebrate Jan. 8 by baptizing babies in the Sistine Chapel.

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VATICAN CITY - Anointing of the sick is not a minor sacrament, said Pope Benedict XVI, but one that "deserves greater consideration today" because of its spiritual benefits to both minister and recipient.

The Pope's words appeared in a message for the 2012 World Day of the Sick, released by the Vatican Jan. 3. The day itself is celebrated annually Feb. 11, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

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