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.

Ukranian rector says the state is watching


OXFORD, England - The U.S.-born rector of Ukraine’s Catholic university said his country is “living in dark times” and accused state security services of placing him under surveillance.

“Our telephones are tapped — the stationary ones probably, the mobile ones certainly. Lists of my telephone conversations have been shown to colleagues, and an assistant was followed through the city,” said Fr. Borys Gudziak, rector of the Lviv-based Ukrainian Catholic University.

“I have seen some fundamental change in hopeless situations — from communism to an independent Ukraine, from growing authoritarianism to the Orange Revolution. Although I believe we’re living in dark times, I’m convinced the Spirit and human dignity will prevail,” he told Austria’s Die Presse daily.

He said the university students and faculty were “not a nest of radical revolutionaries. But we do try to be free.”

Sexual Abuse of Minors Requires Strong Response Say Vatican


VATICAN CITY - The phenomenon of the sexual abuse of minors within the church requires a strong response that is "not inertia, a culture of silence or repression," said the Vatican's top investigator of clerical sex abuse said.

Msgr. Charles Scicluna, promoter of justice for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said that the church must do all it can to respond to the problem and emphasize that protection of children is integral to the good of the universal church.

Msgr. Scicluna spoke at a news conference to present an upcoming symposium on sexual abuse that organizers hope will contribute to a "global culture" of transparency and commitment to keeping children and young people safe within the Catholic Church.

The symposium, to be held in Rome in February, will give bishops and other church leaders a chance to learn from experts the best practices learned over the last several years about sexual abuse of minors from psychological, juridical, sociologic and child-protection standpoints.

Vatican, biotech firm host congress to promote adult stem-cell therapy


VATICAN CITY - The Vatican will host an international congress to promote the use of adult stem cells as a safe, effective and ethical means to fight degenerative diseases.

The congress, to be held Nov. 9-11, will also feature speakers who support embryonic stem-cell research, to give proponents an opportunity to "explain the reasoning behind their position," said Father Tomasz Trafny, an official with the Pontifical Council for Culture. The church is opposed to the use of embryonic stem cells since it involves the destruction of the human embryo.

The congress, organized by the Vatican's councils for Culture and Health Care Ministry as well as the Pontifical Academy for Life, is being held in conjunction with the international biopharmaceutical company, NeoStem.

The congress will be the culture council and the biotech firm's first major collaborative project since they forged an agreement in 2010 to work together to educate people about the benefits of adult stem-cell research. The collaboration is between NeoStem's Stem for Life  Foundation and the culture council's foundation -- called STOQ International, for Science, Theology and the Ontological Quest.

AIDS epidemic needs ‘value-based’ action


UNITED NATIONS - Abstinence and fidelity-based programs remain the only universally effective, safe and affordable means of halting the spread of AIDS, the Vatican’s ambassador to the United Nations told a meeting to review progress and chart the future course of the global response to the disease.

Archbishop Francis Chullikatt also said in remarks delivered June 10 that access to anti-retroviral drugs is vital in treating the disease and for reducing the risks for spreading it, but should not be seen as a means to “diminish the consequences of dangerous and irresponsible behavior.”

The archbishop said the world’s approach to the AIDS epidemic must involve “a value-based response which recognizes the need to promote the inherent dignity of the human person, thus, responsible sexual behavior and recognition of responsibility to oneself and one’s own community.”

While access to anti-retroviral drugs has proved beneficial in treating AIDS and limiting the spread of the human immunodeficiency virus that causes the disease, the archbishop said only about a third of the 15 million people with the disease in low- and middle-income countries can obtain the medication.

Pope meets Gypsies, urges end to prejudice, oppression, rejection


VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI prayed that the world's Gypsies no longer be subjected to prejudice, oppression and rejection.

Gypsies should always uphold "justice, legality, reconciliation and strive to never be the cause of someone else's suffering," he said in a festive meeting with nearly 2,000 Gypsies, Roma, Sinti and Travellers in the Vatican's Paul VI hall June 11.

Pope Benedict recalled the painful past of the Gypsies, especially when hundreds of thousands of men, women and children "were barbarically killed in extermination camps" during World War II.

He acknowledged that even today, many Gypsy communities and individuals still face "serious and worrying problems, such as often-difficult relations with the societies in which they live."