VATICAN CITY - The Vatican's official website suffered an attack by computer hackers March 7, cutting off access by users for several hours.

Italian media outlets reported that the website, vatican.va, became unresponsive around mid-afternoon local time, just as several other websites carried messages taking credit for the disruption in the name of the hacking group Anonymous. Email to and from the vatican.va domain was reportedly also blocked for at least part of the time.

Published in International

VATICAN CITY - Desecration, censorship, the ravages of time and even nesting mice have been unable to destroy the word of God, handed down for millennia by people of faith.

The endurance of sacred Scripture is the centerpiece of a new interfaith exhibit called Verbum Domini, which brings to the Vatican rare biblical texts and artifacts spanning a period from the third century B.C. to the 17th century.

"We seek to tell the amazing story of the preservation and translation of the most loved, most debated and the best-selling book every year and of all time," said Steve Green, an entrepreneur and the primary benefactor of The Green Collection, a private collection of more than 40,000 biblical antiquities.

Published in Arts News

VATICAN CITY - Tension, hostility and even violence are the "daily bread" of many of the Christian communities living in the biblical lands of the Middle East, said Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches.

In a letter to bishops around the world, Cardinal Sandri asked for widespread participation in the annual collection on behalf of Christians in the Holy Land. The Vatican released the cardinal's letter March 1.

Published in International

VATICAN CITY - Making final preparations for the world Synod of Bishops on new evangelization, a committee of cardinals and bishops discussed how difficult it is today to transmit the faith to others.

"There was talk about the 'current fruitlessness of evangelization,' including because of the presence of certain influences from modern culture that make the transmission of the faith particularly difficult," said a Vatican press release issued Feb. 27.

Published in Vatican

VATICAN CITY - The majority of the world's fertility specialists have spent so much time and effort trying to promote and perfect in vitro fertilization that they have wasted resources and time that could have been used to find ways to prevent and treat infertility, a U.S. physician told a Vatican audience.

"Infertility is a symptom of an underlying condition," and too many physicians do not even attempt to find the cause and treat it; they simply recommend in vitro fertilization, said Dr. Thomas W. Hilgers, a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life and director of the Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction in Omaha, Neb.

Published in International

VATICAN CITY - The unregulated sale and transfer of weapons and weapons' technology harm the poor and threaten peace and security around the world, a Vatican official told a U.N. meeting.

Archbishop Francis A. Chullikatt, the Holy See's permanent observer to the United Nations, addressed a committee preparing for the U.N. Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty; the conference will be in July.

Published in International

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.

Published in International

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.

Published in International

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."

Published in International

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.

Published in International

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.

Published in International

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.

Published in International

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.

Published in International

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.

Published in Vatican

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.

Published in International