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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

God’s Spirit is at work in giving another chance

Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year B) May 6 (Acts 9:26-31; Psalm 22; 1 John 3:18-24; John 15:1-8)

It was no wonder that Saul frightened the Christian community in Jerusalem. He had done nothing to inspire trust or openness; in fact, he had been their tormentor-in-chief for a number of years. He was responsible for the blood and the misfortune of many. His arrival in Jerusalem and his claim to be a follower of Jesus only aroused suspicion and anxiety.

Facing the 10 major faith struggles of our day

Sometimes the simple act of naming something can be immensely helpful. Before we can put a name on something we stand more helpless before its effects, not really knowing what’s happening to us.  

Many of us, for example, are familiar with the book The Future Church: How Ten Trends are Revolutionizing the Catholic Church, by John Allen. The things he names in this book, even when they don’t affect us directly, still help shape us for the better. As a journalist who travels the world as the Vatican analyst for both CNN and the National Catholic Reporter, Allen is able to provide us with a wider, global perspective on Church issues than is generally afforded to those of us whose vision is more emotionally mired in our own local and national issues. Heartaches at home can make us blind to the wider concerns of the planet, just as seeing the concerns and pains of others first-hand can put our own concerns and pain into a healthier perspective. Allen’s global frame of reference, as outlined in the mega-trends he names in his book, helps us keep our own ecclesial concerns in a healthier perspective.

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

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

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

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.