VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI is making his second trip as pope to Africa in mid-November, spending three days in Benin and presenting an important document on the future of the church on the continent.

Benin is a small West African nation with little international influence. But its 150-year history of Christianity, its multi-ethnic and multifaith identity, and its struggles for social justice make the country an ideal platform for the Pope's message.

The Nov. 18-20 trip features meetings with government leaders, a speech to non-Christian leaders and an encounter with children at a local parish. The 84-year-old Pope will deliver 10 major talks at 16 events in Benin, spending most of his time in Cotonou, but also visiting the coastal city of Ouidah.

Redemptorists urge Hanoi Catholics to remain calm after attacks


HANOI, Vietnam - Redemptorists at a Hanoi parish have urged local Catholics to keep calm after a mob led by government officials attacked a convent and church in early November.

The Asian church news agency UCA News reported tens of thousands of people attended 10 special Masses celebrated Nov. 5-6 at Thai Ha Church in the capital. Each Mass was attended by an estimated 3,000-5,000 people.

Vatican partners with company to discuss stem-cell research


VATICAN CITY - New biotechnologies raise questions in the fields of medicine, economics, ethics and philosophy, and the Vatican plans to look at all of them during a three-day conference devoted to adult stem-cell research, officials said.

The Pontifical Council for Culture partnered with NeoStem, Inc., a U.S. company researching and marketing adult stem-cell therapies, to sponsor the Nov. 9-11 international conference, "Adult Stem Cells: Science and the Future of Man and Culture."

Pope urges Germany to defend all human life


VATICAN CITY - After the Nazi atrocities of the World War II, Germany's new constitution recognized the dignity of each human being, a value that is starting to be questioned in the country, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"Only a society that respects and unconditionally defends the dignity of every person from conception to natural death can call itself a humane society," the Pope said Nov. 7 as he welcomed Reinhard Schweppe as Germany's new ambassador to the Holy See.

Pope condemns violence in Nigeria, prays for victims


VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI appealed for an end to violence in Nigeria and prayed for victims of the most recent wave of civil conflict there.

"I am following with concern the tragic incidents that have occurred in recent days in Nigeria. As I pray for the victims, I call for an end to all violence, which never solves problems, but only increases them, sowing hatred and division even among believers," the Pope said.

Coptic Catholic leader warns of growing Christian-Muslim rift in Egypt


FRIBOURG, Switzerland - The patriarch of the Coptic Catholic Church in Egypt blamed Islamic fundamentalists for the increasing number of attacks on Christians and criticized a growing division between Muslims and Christians since the country's February revolution.

Speaking at St. Nicolas Cathedral in Fribourg, Switzerland, during a day of prayer for persecuted Catholics, Cardinal Antonios Naguib, Coptic Catholic patriarch of Alexandria, said the links between Muslims and Catholics that were reinforced in the period just after the revolution have deteriorated.

Pope says Ivory Coast needs truth, reconciliation after civil violence


VATICAN CITY - The people of the Ivory Coast have a right to know the truth about atrocities committed by both sides after disputed elections led to months of violence earlier this year, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Welcoming Joseph Tebah-Klah as the Ivory Coast's new ambassador to the Vatican Nov. 4, the Pope said the new government and all the country's people must make a firm commitment to promoting reconciliation between citizens who were on different sides of the dispute.

Ireland to close embassy to Holy See, but diplomatic relations continue


DUBLIN - Ireland will close its Embassy to the Holy See in what has been described by officials as a cost-saving measure.

Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore said the move is not a result of a recent dispute between Ireland and the Vatican, which led Italian Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, papal nuncio to Ireland, to be temporarily called back to the Vatican in late July and later reassigned to the Czech Republic. The Vatican had recalled Leanza citing "certain extreme reactions" from politicians after the Vatican was criticized in a report into the mishandling of clerical abuse in the Irish diocese of Cloyne.

Disarmament campaign in Sao Paulo churches yields 271 firearms


SAO PAULO - Nineteen parishes in Sao Paulo opened their doors to collect guns and ammunition as part of the city-wide Religions United for Disarmament campaign that collected 271 firearms and 173 rounds of ammunition during nine days.

The weapons were collected during the World Week for Disarmament in late October under the direction of the Sao Paulo Metropolitan Civil Guard, the city's police force.

Physicists, cosmologists meet at Vatican to discuss nature of universe


VATICAN CITY - World-renown physicists, who study everything from imperceptible particles to the expanding cosmos, came together for a Vatican-sponsored conference on the "new frontier of physics" -- the sub-nuclear world of electrons, hadrons and neutrinos.

From the ancient Greeks to the Nobel Prize-winning scientists of today, humanity has sought to delve into the nature and origin of matter and discover the basic building blocks of the universe.

The Pontifical Academy of Sciences provided a forum for about 52 experts to showcase the latest discoveries when it hosted an international symposium Oct. 30-Nov. 2 on the future of sub-nuclear physics and the puzzles left to piece together.

Birth of 7 billionth baby is challenge to help all, newspaper says


VATICAN CITY - The challenge posed to the world by the birth of its 7 billionth inhabitant isn't how to stop population growth, but to find ways to ensure the continued growth can benefit all humanity, said an article in the Vatican newspaper.

According to the United Nations, the world's population hit -- and quickly exceeded -- 7 billion Oct. 31.

At a time when people are talking again about overpopulation, "it's worth asking which overpopulation we're talking about," said Cristian Martini Grimaldi, writing on the front page of L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper.