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.

Half of Irish have negative view of Catholic Church, survey shows


DUBLIN - Almost half of Irish people polled say they now have an unfavourable view of the Catholic Church.

Of those with a negative view, three-quarters cite the abuse scandals — the abuse or its cover-up — as a cause. However, 23 per cent say that their negative view is due to the Church's history and structures.

World in crisis goes beyond armed conflict at Assisi II


ASSISI, Italy - A common thread ran through many of the speeches and invocations of this year’s “prayer for peace” encounter in Assisi: the uneasy sense that the world is facing not merely conflicts and wars, but a much broader crisis that affects social and cultural life in every country.

Environmental damage, the rich-poor divide, erosion of cultural traditions, terrorism and new threats to society’s weakest members were cited as increasingly worrisome developments by speakers at the interfaith gathering in the Italian pilgrimage town Oct. 27.

Development must be at core of G20 agenda


LONDON - The urgent need to address global poverty and the threat of climate change may be overshadowed by the financial crisis engulfing the world’s richest nations, a British aid agency said.

The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development warned the leaders of the Group of 20 nations that they will perpetuate the global economic crisis if they fail to put international development “at the core” of their agenda at their Nov. 3-4 meeting in Cannes, France.

In a six-page briefing paper released Oct. 31, CAFOD, the aid agency of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said the failure to address development would result in the poverty gap widening and economic woes becoming the norm.

Day of the Dead takes on new meaning amid violence in Mexico


TEPOZTLAN, Mexico - "Dia de los Muertos," the traditional Mexican commemoration of deceased loved ones, has taken on a deeper meaning in light of drug-related violence in recent years.

Drug-related killings have been on the rise since 2006, surpassing 15,000 in 2010, according to a study commissioned by the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego.

Commonwealth to lift law banning monarchs from marrying Catholics


MANCHESTER, England - The law that bans a British monarch from marrying a Catholic is to be lifted after more than 300 years.

The reforms were announced following the unanimous agreement of the 16 nations that have Queen Elizabeth II as their constitutional head of state.

But they will not include the repeal of a Catholic becoming monarch because allegiance to the pope might conflict with the sovereign's role as the supreme governor of the Church of England.

Pope says Angolans must resist customs that contradict Gospel


VATICAN CITY - Angolan Catholics must resist customs in their country that go against the Gospel, including the practice of cohabitation without marriage, shunning or even killing children and old people accused of being witches, and divisions based on tribal origin, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"Christians breathe the spirit of their time and experience the pressure of the customs of their society, but through the grace of baptism, they are called to renounce the dangerous prevailing tendencies," the pope told the bishops of Angola and Sao Tome.

Believers must oppose violence to promote peace, true faith, Pope says


ASSISI, Italy - Taking 300 religious leaders with him on pilgrimage to Assisi, Pope Benedict XVI said people who are suspicious of religion cannot be blamed for questioning God's existence when they see believers use religion to justify violence.

"All their struggling and questioning is, in part, an appeal to believers to purify their faith so that God, the true God, becomes accessible," the Pope said Oct. 27 during an interfaith gathering in the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels.

Marking the 25th anniversary of the first Assisi interfaith gathering for peace, hosted by Blessed John Paul II in 1986, Pope Benedict brought together the religious leaders and -- for the first time -- four philosophers who describe themselves as humanists or seekers who do not identify with any single religion.

Historic bell stolen from San Francisco cathedral found in salvage yard


SAN FRANCISCO - The historic bell stolen Oct. 23 from the grounds of St. Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco was recovered Oct. 26 in West Oakland across the street from a scrap metal yard near the Port of Oakland docks, San Francisco police said.

The theft of the bell received widespread news coverage. Given to the church in 1889, the bell was in service at the former St. Mary's Cathedral until it burned to the ground in 1962, when it was moved to the current cathedral site.

An informant notified San Francisco Police inspectors Oct. 26 at 2 p.m. that the 5,330-pound bell was resting on beams in a field in West Oakland, said Officer Albie Esparza.

Pope offers prayers for quake victims; agencies send aid to Turkey


VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI offered prayers for the victims of Turkey's magnitude 7.2 earthquake as Catholic aid agencies worked to support the tens of thousands of victims left homeless in temperatures that approached freezing each night.

At the Vatican Oct. 26, at the end of a prayer service for peace, Pope Benedict said his thoughts were with the victims of the earthquake that "caused a serious loss of human lives, numerous missing and extensive damage. I ask you to join me in prayer for those who lost their lives and to be spiritually close to the many people who are struggling. May the Almighty give support to those who are involved in the rescue work."