ANCONA, Italy - Remembering the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Pope Benedict XVI appealed to government leaders and all people of good will to work toward a future marked by solidarity and peace.

The pope marked the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in the United States after celebrating the closing Mass for the Italian National Eucharistic Congress in Ancona, on Italy's Adriatic coast.

Before leading the midday Angelus prayer with about 80,000 people gathered at a shipyard, the pope recalled the anniversary.

"In commending to the Lord the lives of the victims of the attacks carried out that day and their families, I ask leaders of nations and people of good will always to refuse violence as a solution to problems, to resist the temptation of hatred and to work in society, drawing inspiration from the principles of solidarity, justice and peace," the pope said.

In his homeland, pope to face growing secularism, some protests


VATICAN CITY - In the days leading to Pope Benedict XVI's visit to his homeland Sept. 22-25, German media were asking whether the pope would feel at home in the country he left 30 years ago.

Obviously, he visited Germany frequently while serving in Rome and kept up with friends and colleagues and with developments in church life, theology and politics. As pope, he traveled to Germany in 2005 to celebrate World Youth Day in Cologne and again in 2006 to visit Bavaria, the region where he was born and raised and served as a theology professor and bishop.

After interviewing key Germans involved in planning the upcoming papal trip, Vatican Radio's German program in early September said there's a bit of a sense that the pope and Germans are strangers to each other.

The country was still divided into East and West Germany when he moved to Rome as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and while the communists in the East had succeeded to a large extent in severely limiting Christian life and practice, church activity in the West still was lively.

Irish government defends prime minister's comments on clergy abuse


DUBLIN - The Irish government has stood by comments by Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, who charged that the Vatican attempted to "frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago."

In a one-page statement issued late Sept. 8, five days after the Vatican refuted the, the government also welcomed the Vatican's expression of regret over the suffering of abuse victims.

The government struck a less conciliatory note in its defense of Kenny, saying his comments in July "accurately reflect the public anger of the overwhelming majority of Irish people at the failure of the Catholic Church and the Holy See to deal adequately with clerical child sexual abuse and those who committed such an appalling act."

The government also reiterated that a 1997 letter to Irish bishops from Archbishop Luciano Storero, the apostolic nuncio at the time, "provided a pretext for some members of the clergy to evade full cooperation with the Irish civil authorities in regard to the abuse of minors."

10 years after 9/11, US comfort level with Muslims slow to change


WASHINGTON - A decade after the terrorist attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, led to a backlash against Muslims, many Americans are still uncomfortable with followers of Islam and think its teachings are at odds with American values.

Slim majorities of the people polled this summer by the Public Religion Research Institute say Muslims are an important part of the U.S. religious community and that they are comfortable with Muslim women wearing burqas or Muslim men praying in public in an airport. Those majorities were less than 55 percent in each category.

The report released Sept. 6 by the Brookings Institution, which partnered with the religion institute for the study, noted similarities to how Catholics and Mormons were treated in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

"Throughout American history... immigrants professing faiths outside the existing mainstream have tested the commitment to religious liberty," said the report, "What It Means To Be An American."

It noted that Mormons' endorsement of polygamy was seen as an affront to marriage and a threat to democracy, leading to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints being "hounded" to "the brink of legal extinction by the 1890s."

Pope Benedict offers blessings on 9/11 anniversary


WASHINGTON - Pope Benedict XVI offered his blessings to U.S. Catholics as they prepared to observe the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

In a message to Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. bishops, the pope said, "I join you in commending the thousands of victims to the infinite mercy of Almighty God and in asking our heavenly Father to continue to console those who mourn the loss of loved ones."

Pope Benedict told Archbishop Dolan, "I extend my most affectionate greetings to you, your brother bishops and all those entrusted to your pastoral care, and I gladly impart my apostolic blessing as a pledge of peace and serenity in the Lord."

The message, dated Sept. 11, was released Sept. 9 in Washington.

Sudanese bishops call for nonviolence, patience in building South Sudan


JUBA, South Sudan - Recognizing the difficulties facing the people of South Sudan, the world's youngest nation, the Sudan Catholic Bishops' Conference called upon citizens to join with government leaders to build a country through reconciliation and nonviolence.

The bishops, concluding a three-day meeting Sept. 8, said in a statement that by working together, the people of South Sudan must be "one nation from every tribe, tongue and people."

South Sudan became independent July 9, six months after citizens voted overwhelmingly to secede from Sudan following decades of war.

"We encourage all citizens of South Sudan, with their faith communities, civil society and political parties, to participate in building a new, prosperous and peaceful nation," the bishops said. "We encourage a culture of hard work rather than entitlement or dependency."

Pakistan suicide bombs shatter windows in church buildings


QUETTA, Pakistan - Two suicide bombs that killed at least 23 people and wounded 82 affected nearby church structures.

The Sept. 7 blasts near the home of a top paramilitary official also shattered windows in the residence of Bishop Victor Gnanapragasam, local offices of Caritas Pakistan, and three Catholic schools. The roof of the computer laboratory of a Catholic high school also caved in.

The schools were closed immediately.

The Pakistani Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attacks, to avenge the recent arrest of a senior al-Qaida leader by Pakistani security forces in Quetta.

"I had just taken the roll call when the blast echoed; the children started crying and screaming. 'It's an earthquake,' they shouted," said Uzma Tahmeen, a Catholic teacher.

Post-9/11 world needs religion to be weapon of peace, spokesman says


VATICAN CITY - If humanity wants to build peace out of the ruins of Sept. 11, 2001, religion has to play a major role in dialogue, said the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi.

The day of the attacks 10 years ago was "a monstrous day," he said during a presentation at Vatican Radio Sept. 6 of a new book on the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy.

Dialogue is the key to overcoming hatred and the risk of religious fanaticism, he said.

"If we want to build peace for humanity, we have to be able to develop a discourse in which the religious dimension becomes an active force for peace," he said.

Father Lombardi was one of a number of speakers presenting a new book written by a Vatican Radio journalist.

9/11 anniversary prompts spiritual reflection


RYE, N.Y. - As Chief Joseph Pfeifer of the New York City Fire Department sees it, the 9/11 terrorist attacks were a global trauma and the 10th anniversary of the attacks provides a transformative opportunity for the world community to pause and think about the tragedy’s spiritual dimension and its aftermath.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Pfeifer was chief of the 1st Battalion, one of the first on the scene and in charge of directing firefighter response in the north tower of the World Trade Centre. He met his firefighter brother in the lobby of the building as Lt. Kevin Pfeifer responded to the second alarm. They exchanged a few words, and Kevin headed up the stairs. He helped evacuate workers and directed other firefighters to safety, but he was killed in the collapse of the building.

“People were angry at God and they had every right to be, but that was not my experience,” Pfeifer said in an interview with Catholic News Service. “I was walking back to the firehouse from the site on the second day, when we knew there would be no more survivors. It was completely dark except for the lights we had brought in. There was no power and there was smoke everywhere.

Vatican denies claims in Irish report on abuse


VATICAN CITY - The Vatican forcefully denied it undermined the Irish bishops’ efforts to protect children from sexual abuse and characterized as “unfounded” claims the Vatican tried to interfere in government investigations regarding Church handling of sex abuse cases.

The Vatican recognizes “the seriousness of the crimes” detailed in a government report about cases in the diocese of Cloyne, Ireland, and “has sought to respond comprehensively,” said a communique released by the Vatican Sept. 3.

The communique accompanied a 19-page formal response to the Irish government’s Cloyne Report on the diocese and to statements made by the Irish prime minister and motions passed by both houses of the Irish Parliament concerning the report and the Vatican’s involvement in how cases were handled. The Vatican said the report “brought to light very serious and disturbing failings in the handling of accusations of sexual abuse by children and young people by clerics in the diocese of Cloyne,” but it said the local bishop and his vicar general were to blame.

The formal “Response of the Holy See” was hand-delivered Sept. 3 by Msgr. Ettore Balestrero, undersecretary for relations with states, to Helena Keleher, charge d’affaires at the Irish Embassy to the Holy See in Rome, the Vatican said.

Oil mining process fuels drive to stop pipeline across central U.S.


WASHINGTON - Maryknoll Father Jim Noonan hopes the five or so hours he spent in jail recently will be noticed by U.S. President Barack Obama.

A staff associate in the Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns, Noonan, 77, was among 65 people arrested Aug. 20 during the first day of a planned two-week protest to call attention to the environmental dangers he believes are posed by a proposed-mile pipeline to carry Canadian crude oil to refineries in Oklahoma and Texas. Through Aug. 30, nearly 600 people had been arrested.

"I wanted to do anything I possibly could to be a voice," Noonan told Catholic News Service after his arrest for participating in the first sit-in. "I wanted to ask the president please do not authorize this pipeline because your children and your grandchildren will rue the day that this was authorized."

Noonan's angst is aimed at preventing Obama from signing a permit allowing construction of the Keystone XL Project by TransCanada Corp., from Montana to Texas. The pipeline expansion, opponents believe, would open the door to a rapid increase in oil mining in northern Alberta, endangering a fragile ecosystem and escalating the release of greenhouse gases.