VATICAN CITY - The Vatican budget forecast for 2012 pleased an international group of cardinals who advise the Vatican on economic matters, but the cardinals still expressed concern about the impact of the global economic crisis on central church offices.

The Council of Cardinals for the Study of the Organizational and Economic Problems of the Holy See met at the Vatican Feb. 14-15 to review the budget forecast for 2012 and the initial preparation of the final budget report for 2011.

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VATICAN CITY - Strengthening its ties to the Vatican will help the United Kingdom in its efforts to confront the global challenges of poverty, arms proliferation, climate change, regional conflicts and threats to religious freedom, said a high-ranking British government official.

"The Holy See and its views can be very influential and can be very supportive of what we in Britain are trying to do," said Lord David Howell, minister of state in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

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VATICAN CITY - A high-profile U.S. lawsuit accusing Pope Benedict XVI of covering up sexual abuse has been withdrawn.

Lawyers for the plaintiff in John Doe 16 v. Holy See filed a notice of voluntary dismissal Feb. 10, bringing the case effectively to an end.

The lawsuit was filed in April 2010 in the U.S. District Court in Milwaukee by an unnamed Illinois man who claimed he had been molested by Fr. Lawrence Murphy during the latter's time on the staff of Milwaukee's St. John's School for the Deaf. The lawsuit claimed that the Vatican "has known about the widespread problem of childhood sexual abuse committed by its clergy for centuries, but has covered up that abuse and thereby perpetuated the abuse."

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VATICAN CITY - The take-away message from a Vatican-backed symposium on clerical sex abuse was clear: Victims, truth and justice come first. And the church can no longer wait for a crisis to erupt before it begins to address the scandal of abuse.

"We do not need to wait for a bomb to explode. Preventing it from exploding is the best response," said Philippine Archbishop Luis Tagle.

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ROME - The Vatican's top sex abuse investigator called for greater accountability under church law of bishops who shield or fail to discipline pedophile priests.

Msgr. Charles Scicluna, promoter of justice for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, made his remarks to reporters in Rome Feb. 8, after addressing an international symposium on clerical sex abuse.

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ROME - Cardinal Marc Ouellet led a penitential vigil to show contrition for the sexual abuse of children by priests and for the actions of Catholic officials who shielded the perpetrators from justice Feb. 7.

Ouellet, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, presided over the vigil during a week-long symposium attended by representatives of 110 bishops’ conferences and 30 religious orders. The Feb. 6-9 conference, “Toward Healing and Renewal,” launched a global initiative aimed at improving efforts to stop clerical sexual abuse and better protect children and vulnerable adults. It was held at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University and is supported by the Vatican Secretariat of State and several other Vatican offices.

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VATICAN CITY - A federal court in Mississippi Feb. 2 dismissed a 10-year-old lawsuit accusing the Vatican of complicity in a scheme to bilk more than $200 million from insurance companies.

The state insurance commissioners of Mississippi, Tennessee, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas had filed the lawsuit in 2002 charging the Vatican and Msgr. Emilio Colagiovanni with racketeering and fraud.

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VATICAN CITY - Wealthier religious orders should share their resources with struggling religious communities, said the prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Cardinal-designate Joao Braz de Aviz said that while religious men and women live a life of poverty and possess nothing, their religious "institution doesn't always give the same witness."

"It's not that we are against holding assets or are saying the church cannot have all the things it needs," he said in an interview with the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, Feb. 2.

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VATICAN CITY - Insisting on the Holy See's continuing commitment to transparency and rectitude in economic affairs, the Vatican's spokesman downplayed references to "corruption" in a letter apparently sent to Pope Benedict XVI by a Vatican official who is now apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican Press Office, criticized as "partisan," "partial and banal," an Italian television news program, which, on Jan. 25, broadcast portions of letters addressed to Pope Benedict and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State.

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VATICAN CITY - The Vatican has signed three international treaties supporting the fight against the illegal drug trade, financing terrorism and organized crime.

By signing onto these international legal instruments Jan. 25, the Vatican "confirms its intention as well as its effective and practical commitment to collaborate with the international community in a manner consistent with its nature and mission, with a view to guaranteeing international peace and justice," wrote Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican secretary for relations with states.

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VATICAN CITY - In 2011, for the first time, the number of visitors to the Vatican Museums topped 5 million.

Antonio Paolucci, director of the museums, said breaking the 5-million threshold poses serious problems as well as challenges in the areas of access and education.

"Five million visitors means 10 million hands that touch or can touch and 10 million feet that, day after day, wear out the multicolored stone (floors) and the most famous archaeological mosaics in the world," he 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 - In part to avoid giving the impression that becoming a cardinal is a sacrament or quasi-sacrament, Pope Benedict XVI will use a revised, streamlined prayer service to create 22 new cardinals in February.

"The rite used up to now has been revised and simplified with the approval of the Holy Father Benedict XVI," the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, reported Jan. 7.

The paper said there would not be a "ring Mass" the day after the consistory; the new cardinals will receive their red hats, their cardinal rings and the assignment of their titular churches in Rome during the same ceremony Feb. 18.

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI's early January address to the Vatican diplomatic corps, an annual tradition that reaffirms the Holy See's commitment to its relations with foreign states, comes after an especially trying year for Vatican diplomacy.

In November, the Irish government announced that it would close its embassy to the Holy See, to continue relations through an ambassador based in Dublin. The move was ostensibly to cut costs, but its timing, closely following harsh criticisms of the Vatican's record on clerical sex abuse by the Irish prime minister and other officials, strongly suggested that it was really a political rebuke.

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VATICAN CITY - The Prefecture of the Papal Household, the office responsible for handing out free tickets to papal events, estimated more than 2.5 million people saw Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican in 2011.

The prefecture -- headed by U.S. Archbishop James M. Harvey -- estimated 500,000 people attended a liturgy celebrated by Pope Benedict in the month of May.

Pope Benedict beatified Pope John Paul II May 1. While there may have been only 500,000 people with tickets in St. Peter's Square and on Vatican territory, Italian police had said more than 1 million people were gathered in and around the Vatican and in front of large video screens in several parts of Rome for the Mass.

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