VATICAN CITY - The ordinations of 20 new priests for the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X are "illegitimate, period," said the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi.

Catholic groups join unions seeking work-free Sundays in Europe


OXFORD, England - Catholic Church groups have joined trade unions in the European Sunday Alliance, which will campaign to protect Sundays and ensure fairer conditions for family life.

"Some people say there can never be a return to work-free Sundays — but the many working together in this alliance don't share this view," said Anna Echterhoff, legal adviser for institutional and social affairs at the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community, one of the organizations supporting the alliance. "That so many stakeholders from different backgrounds are involved is something new and unique."

The alliance was launched June 20 in Brussels by 65 Church organizations, unions and civil associations. Among them are Europe's Catholic Youth Network, the Central Committee of German Catholics, representatives of the German bishops and the European Jesuits, Poland's Solidarity union, France's Force Ouvriere and the Danish food workers' union. It also includes family organizations from a dozen countries.

In a July 4 interview with Catholic News Service, Echterhoff said Sundays were protected under EU law as a rest day for children and adolescents. She said she hoped work-free Sundays would be reinstated under an EU directive now being prepared.

Ireland wants religious orders land, property to pay abuse victims


DUBLIN - The Irish government has asked religious congregations implicated in the 2009 Ryan Report on abuse to transfer land and properties worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the state as part of a revised package to compensate victims.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn insisted that the 476 million euros ($681 million) already offered by the 18 congregations was not enough. He said he expected the congregations to pay 680 million euros and, if they are unable to do so, they should transfer the ownership of many of their schools to the state.

None of the 18 religious congregations concerned would speak on the record about the latest proposal. However, a number privately expressed reservations about the land transfer.

Order accuses Fr. Corapi of sexual, financial wrongdoing, falsehoods


WASHINGTON - Fr. John A. Corapi, a highly visible speaker and preacher who had his own television show, was involved in "years of co-habitation" with a former prostitute, repeated abuse of alcohol and drugs and "serious violation" of his promise of poverty, according to a fact-finding team appointed by his religious order.

Corapi, who recently announced he would leave the priesthood because he could not get a "fair hearing" on misconduct allegations against him, has been ordered by the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity to return to live at the order's regional headquarters in Robstown, Texas, and to dismiss a lawsuit against the woman whose accusations prompted the investigation.

"Catholics should understand that (the order) does not consider Fr. John Corapi as fit for ministry," said a July 5 news release from Fr. Gerard Sheehan, regional priest servant for the order, commonly known as SOLT.

Budget surplus at Vatican, but worldwide giving down


VATICAN CITY - The Vatican reported a budget surplus for the first time in four years in 2010, but said contributions from Catholics and dioceses around the world had gone down.

The budget of the Holy See, which includes offices of the Roman Curia and related agencies, ended 2010 with a surplus of about $13.1 million.

The separate budget of Vatican City State, which includes the Vatican Museums, ended 2010 with a surplus of about $28 million, according to a Vatican statement July 2.

The figures were released following a three-day meeting of a council of cardinals charged with reviewing Vatican finances. The statement said the Vatican's financial picture continued to improve, but it cautioned that the global financial picture still presented "elements of uncertainty and instability."

Exhibit for anniversary of Vatican archives to include WWII material


VATICAN CITY - Documents from the still-sealed Second World War section of the Vatican Secret Archives will be part of a major exhibition of Vatican papers hosted by the city of Rome.

The exhibit marking the 400th anniversary of the Vatican archives will be open February-September 2012 at Rome's Capitoline Museums.

Bishop Sergio Pagano, prefect of the Vatican Secret Archives, said that with special permission from the Vatican Secretariat of State "a very limited number" of documents related to the Second World War would be among the 100 documents and objects from the eighth to the 20th century placed on public display.

"The exhibit certainly will not be able to shed new light on Pius XII because (the archival papers from) this pontificate are still closed," the bishop said July 5 at a news conference announcing the exhibit.

Pope marks 60 years as a priest, bestows palliums on archbishops


VATICAN CITY - Celebrating Mass with archbishops from 25 countries, Pope Benedict XVI reflected on his 60 years as a priest, calling it a demanding and "awe-inspiring" ministry that brought him closer to God.

The pope's unusually personal recollection came June 29, the anniversary of his priestly ordination in Bavaria in 1951 and the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the patron saints of Rome.

During the three-hour-long Mass, he gave 41 archbishops the woolen pallium as a sign of their communion with the pope and their pastoral responsibility as shepherds. Among them were four prelates from the United States and one from Canada, Gerald Lacroix of Quebec.

The liturgy in St. Peter's Basilica began with a fanfare of trumpets. The pope smiled as he processed toward an altar ringed with flowers, pausing to greet Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.

Approval of same-sex marriage will undermine New York families


ALBANY, N.Y. - Following passage of legislation to allow same-sex marriage in the state, the Catholic bishops of New York expressed concern “that both marriage and family will be undermined by this tragic presumption of government.”

In a June 24 statement, the heads of the state’s eight Catholic dioceses said they were “deeply disappointed and troubled” at approval of a bill that will “alter radically and forever humanity’s historic understanding of marriage.”

The state Senate passed the measure 33-29 in an evening vote June 24, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed it into law later that night. Unless it is delayed by legal challenges, it will take effect in late July.

New York would then become the sixth state to permit same-sex marriage. It currently is allowed in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, in addition to the District of Columbia.

God over gamma rays


>VATICAN CITY - Raised Catholic by Jewish and Catholic parents, Msgr. Robert L. Stern loved his faith but never planned on becoming a priest.

The outgoing head of the international Vatican agency Catholic Near East Welfare Association said that when he was in college, the priesthood seemed like a "gloomy road" and he had his eyes instead on the brighter path of becoming a nuclear physicist.

"It was the 'in' thing at the time," he told Catholic News Service at CNEWA's central office at the Vatican.

But God had different plans for the native New Yorker, and the "temptation" to enter ordained life grew while he was an undergraduate student.

The tall, spritely 78-year-old clergyman said he only thought about the priesthood because he felt the Holy Spirit calling him strongly and "I wanted to do what God wanted."

Yet it was with "fear and trepidation" that he started exploring a priestly vocation in his junior year at college.

Pope launches Vatican web portal, tweets the news


VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI inaugurated the Vatican's online news portal with a click, and then announced the launch with the first-ever papal tweet.

"Dear Friends, I just launched Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ! With my prayers and blessings, Benedictus XVI," the pope said in his message on the news site's Twitter account.

His tweet -- 117 characters -- went viral, and within 24 hours had more than 35,000 followers.

The pope was flanked by Vatican communications officials June 28 as he tapped an iPad and officially launched, which aggregates news content from the Vatican's newspaper, radio, television and online outlets.

The pontiff was then given a brief tour of the portal's features. The launch came on the eve of the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul and the 60th anniversary of Pope Benedict's ordination into the priesthood.

Hybrid eyed as pope's next vehicle, papal spokesman says


>VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI will be traveling in greener style in the future when a project for a new hybrid popemobile gets off the drawing boards and on to the road, a papal spokesman said.

Mercedes-Benz is making plans for an energy-saving papal vehicle that could be used at home or abroad, said Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office.

On papal trips, Pope Benedict is usually driven in a white Mercedes with bullet-proof glass that allows him to sit and wave at the crowds from the back.

Vatican officials said late last year that the pope, who has said he is committed to saving energy at the Vatican, would welcome an electric vehicle as a symbol of his support for measures that promote energy sustainability.