VATICAN CITY - Greeting hundreds of Christians from Lebanon, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged their presence in the Middle East and launched a fresh appeal for peace in the region.

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Recalling that Christ's mission transcends "all ethnic, national and religious particularities," Pope Benedict XVI created six new cardinals from four different continents, representing the Latin rite of the Catholic Church as well as two Eastern Catholic Churches.

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VATICAN CITY - The Nativity story, like the whole story of Christ, is not merely an event in the past, but has unfolding significance for people today, with implications for such issues as the limits of political power and the purpose of human freedom, Pope Benedict writes in his third and final volume on the life and teachings of Jesus.

Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives is only 132 pages long, yet it includes wide-ranging reflections on such matters as the significance of the virgin birth and the distinctive views of nature in ancient pagan and Judeo-Christian cultures.
The book was formally presented at the Vatican Nov. 20, and was scheduled for publication in English and eight other languages in 50 countries Nov. 21.

In the book, Pope Benedict examines Jesus' birth and childhood as recounted in the Gospels of Sts. Matthew and Luke. His interpretation of the biblical texts refers frequently to the work of other scholars and draws on a variety of academic fields, including linguistics, political science, art history and the history of science.

The book's publication completes the three-volume Jesus of Nazareth series, which also includes From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration (2007) and Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection (2011).

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said at the Nov. 20 book launch that the three books are the "fruit of a long inner journey" by Joseph Ratzinger, whose personal views they represent. While much of what the Pope says is accepted Catholic dogma, the texts themselves are not part of the Church's magisterium and their arguments are free to be disputed, Lombardi said.
In his new book, the Pope argues that Matthew and Luke, in their Gospel accounts, set out to "write history, real history that had actually happened, admittedly interpreted and understood in the context of the word of God."

The Pope calls the virgin birth and the Resurrection "cornerstones" of Christian faith, since they show God acting directly and decisively in the material world.

"These two moments are a scandal to the modern spirit," which expects and allows God to act only in ideas, thoughts and the spiritual world, not the material, he writes. Yet it is not illogical or irrational to suppose that God possesses creative powers and power over matter, otherwise "then He is simply not God."

Pope Benedict examines the political context of the time of Jesus' birth, which featured both the so-called "Pax Romana" — the widespread peace brought by the Roman ruler Caesar Augustus — and King Herod's thirst for power, which led to the slaughter of the innocents.

"Pax Christi is not necessarily opposed to Pax Augusti," he writes. "Yet the peace of Christ surpasses the peace of Augustus as heaven surpasses Earth."

The political realm has "its own sphere of competence and responsibility"; it oversteps those bounds when it "claims divine status and divine attributes" and makes promises it cannot deliver.

The other extreme comes with forms of religious persecution when rulers "tolerate no other kingdom but their own," he writes.

Any sign God announces "is given not for a specific political situation, but concerns the whole history of humanity," he writes.
The Pope writes that the Three Wise Men symbolize the purification of science, philosophy and rationality.

"They represent the inner dynamic of religion toward self-transcendence, which involves the search for truth, the search for the true God," the Pope writes.

The Pope also argues that the star of Bethlehem was a true celestial event. It "seems to be an established fact," he writes, that the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn happened in 7-6 B.C., which "as we have seen is now thought likely to have been when Jesus was born."

A key topic in the book is the role of human freedom in God's divine plan for humanity.

"The only way (God) can redeem man, who was created free, is by means of a free 'yes' to His will," the Pope writes. It is precisely "the moment of free, humble yet magnanimous obedience," such as Mary and Joseph showed when listening to God, "in which the loftiest choice of human freedom is made."

Jesus, too, in His human freedom, understood He was bound to obedience to His heavenly Father, even at the cost of His earthly life.

The missing 12-year-old, rediscovered by an anxious Mary and Joseph in the Temple, was not there "as a rebel against His parents, but precisely as an obedient (son), acting out the same obedience that leads to the cross and the Resurrection," the Pope writes.

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VATICAN CITY - Once the Vatican launches Pope Benedict XVI’s official Twitter feed before the end of the year, it’s hoped all the fake papal tweets will cease and desist, said a Vatican official.

There are dozens of unofficial @PopeBenedict handles and usernames in a number of different permutations and languages on Twitter; many are using an official portrait of the Pope as their avatar and some boast thousands of followers.

Some of these Twitter accounts are being run “obviously by people of goodwill” who tweet about real news and activities of the Pope, said a Vatican official who requested anonymity.

However, “We hope they will give up when they see the official site is up,” the official said.

The Vatican will have a verified and authenticated papal Twitter account, which will help users distinguish the official Pope Benedict stream from the imposters, the official said. No specific date has been set for its launch other than “before the end of the year,” he added.

Unfortunately, there are some phony accounts “that aren’t very helpful” because they obviously don’t have the best interest of the Pope or his teachings in mind.

For example, some bogus feeds produce off-colour or inappropriate commentary. But if it’s obviously satire, comedy or parody, “nothing can be done about that because of freedom of expression,” the official said. Yet, there’s little risk of people mistaking those accounts with the official account, he added.

However, if an account holder is using the Pope’s name with the aim of misrepresentation, misleading users or “username squatting” in order to prevent the Vatican from using the name or to illicitly offer the account name for sale, “then Twitter can close them down,” he said.

All the details about the official Pope Benedict Twitter account have not been hammered out, he said, such as which Twitter handles will be used and if there will be one username or different handles in different languages.

Feeds will be offered in five or six major global languages, though it’s not sure if Latin — the official language of the Church — will be one of them, he added.

Even though the Pope won’t be physically typing and sending the tweets, each message will be approved by the Pope himself, he said.

The idea of having an official papal Twitter account has been bouncing around for quite awhile.

To date, the Vatican offers a handful of official Twitter feeds in different languages, including Vatican news @news_va_en; Vatican communications @PCCS_VA; and the social network @Pope2YouVatican.

Pope Benedict sent his first ever papal tweet in 2011 when he inaugurated and launched the Vatican’s online news portal, www.news.va, which aggregates news content from the Vatican’s newspaper, radio, television and online outlets.

“Dear Friends, I just launched News.va. Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ! With my prayers and blessings, Benedictus XVI,” the Pope said with a tap on an iPad, sending the message onto the news site’s Twitter account.

Pope Benedict has long urged Catholics and Catholic media to use the Internet and social networks for evangelization.

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ROME - Presenting himself as "an elderly man visiting his peers," Pope Benedict XVI visited a Rome residence for the elderly, urging the residents to see their age as a sign of God's blessing and urging society to value their presence and wisdom.

"Though I know the difficulties that come with being our age, I want to say, it's wonderful being old," the 85-year-old pope said Nov. 12 during a morning visit to the residence run by the lay Community of Sant'Egidio.

The residence includes apartments for independent living as well as rooms for those requiring more skilled care. Younger members of the Sant'Egidio Community volunteer their time assisting and visiting with the residents, who include an elderly couple from Haiti whose home was destroyed in the 2010 earthquake.

Walking with his white-handled black cane, the pope visited several of the residents in their rooms and apartments before addressing them and members of Sant'Egidio in the garden.

One of the residents, 91-year-old Enrichetta Vitali, told the pope, "I don't eat so much anymore, but prayer is my nourishment." She asked the pope to "pray that I don't lose my memory so I can keep remembering people in my prayers."

The pope told those gathered at the residence on the Janiculum Hill that in the Bible a long life is considered a blessing from God, but often today society, which is "dominated by the logic of efficiency and profit, doesn't welcome it as such."

"I think we need a greater commitment, beginning with families and public institutions, to ensure the elderly can stay in their homes" and that they can pass on their wisdom to younger generations.

"The quality of a society or civilization can be judged by how it treats the elderly," he said.

Pope Benedict also insisted on recognition of the dignity and value of all human life, even when "it becomes fragile in the years of old age."

"One who makes room for the elderly, makes room for life," the pope said. "One who welcomes the elderly, welcomes life."

The pope told the residents that he knows the aged face difficulties, especially in countries where the global economic crisis has hit hard. And, he said, the elderly can be tempted to long for the past when they had more energy and were full of plans for the future.

However, the pope said, "life is wonderful even at our age, despite the aches and pains and some limitations," he said.

"At our age, we often have the experience of needing other's help, and this happens to the pope as well," he told the residents.

Pope Benedict said they need to see the help they require as a gift of God, "because it is a grace to be supported and accompanied and to feel the affection of others."

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VATICAN CITY - Sacred music can bolster people's faith and help lapsed Catholics rediscover the beauty of God, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"Sacred music can, above all, promote the faith, and, what's more, cooperate in the new evangelization," he told participants attending a conference and pilgrimage sponsored by the Italian St. Cecilia Association. St. Cecilia, whose feast day is Nov. 22, is traditionally honored as the patron saint of musical performers.

"Music and singing that are done well can help (people) receive the word of God and be moved in a positive way," the pope said in his address Nov. 10.

Many people, including St. Augustine, have found themselves attracted to God because of some profound experience prompted by the beauty of liturgical music and sacred song, he said.

In the church's missionary outreach, he said, it urges Catholics to recognize, respect and promote the musical traditions of the local people.

Traditionally Christian countries, like Italy, have a rich heritage of sacred music which can help lapsed Catholics rediscover God and be drawn again to the Christian message and the mystery of faith, he said.

Because of their important role in new evangelization, he urged church musicians to dedicate themselves "to improving the quality of liturgical song, without being afraid of reviving or emphasizing the great musical tradition of the church, which has two of its highest expressions in Gregorian and polyphony."

"Show how the church may be the place in which beauty feels at home," he said.

"Sacred song united to the words, form a necessary and integral part of the solemn liturgy," he said, quoting from the Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy "Sacrosanctum Concilium."

The reason why sacred music is "necessary and integral," Pope Benedict said, isn't simply for aesthetic purposes, but because sacred song "cooperates in nourishing and expressing the faith and, therefore, in glorifying God and sanctifying the faithful."

Sacred music "is not an accessory or embellishment of the liturgy, but is the liturgy itself."

The pope thanked the men and women musicians and singers for helping the faithful "praise God and make his word sink deep in their hearts."

That evening, in the Sistine Chapel, the pope attended a concert with his brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, who was the director of the Regensburg Boys Choir for decades.

They listened to music from a Mass composed by Msgr. Ratzinger, as well as to pieces by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Msgr. Massimo Palombella -- the director of the Sistine Chapel Choir -- and Colin Mawby, a contemporary British composer who has served as director of music at Westminster Cathedral.

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VATICAN CITY - Instability and increasing violence in Syria have prompted Pope Benedict XVI to cancel the planned visit to the war-torn nation by a delegation of cardinals and bishops.

Instead, the pope announced Nov. 7, he has sent a smaller group to Lebanon to deliver a $1 million donation and boost the church's humanitarian response to the crisis.

The pope also appealed for dialogue to end the Syrian conflict, saying: "We have to do everything possible because one day it could be too late."

"I renew my invitation to the parties in conflict, and to all those who have the good of Syria at heart, to spare no effort in the search for peace and to pursue through dialogue the path to a just coexistence, in view of a suitable political solution of the conflict," Pope Benedict said at the end of his general audience in St. Peter's Square.

"I continue to follow with great concern the tragic situation of violent conflict in Syria, where the fighting has not ceased and each day the toll of victims rises, accompanied by the untold suffering of many civilians, especially those who have been forced to abandon their homes," he said.

He said he had hoped to send a delegation of three cardinals, three bishops and a priest to Syria during the world Synod of Bishops, which met for three weeks at the Vatican in October, to show solidarity with victims and encourage peace negotiations. The papal delegation to Damascus was to have included Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, who is chairman of the board of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.

"Unfortunately, due to a variety of circumstances and developments, it was not possible to carry out this initiative as planned," the pope said, "and so I have decided to entrust a special mission to Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum," which promotes and coordinates Catholic charitable giving.

Together with Cor Unum's secretary, Msgr. Giampietro Dal Toso, and Michel Roy, secretary-general of the Vatican-based umbrella group of Catholic aid agencies, Caritas Internationalis, Cardinal Sarah was to be in Lebanon Nov. 7-10, where he was to meet with priests, religious and lay representatives of Christian churches in Syria.

"He will visit a number of refugees from that country and will chair a meeting of Catholic charitable agencies to coordinate efforts, as the Holy See has urgently requested, to provide assistance to the Syrian people, inside and outside the country," the pope said of Cardinal Sarah's mandate.

The cardinal will deliver a $1 million donation made by participants in the Oct 7-28 synod and the pope himself. The money is to provide humanitarian aid and support local churches in an effort to bring some relief to those hit by the crisis, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told reporters.

The papal delegation's visit itself is also meant to "prompt all sides involved, as well as those who hold dear the good of Syria, to seek a just and peaceful solution to the conflict, Father Lombardi added.

Syria's civil war has left thousands dead and has displaced hundreds of thousands of people since March 2011.

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI congratulated U.S. President Barack Obama on his re-election, saying that he prayed the ideals of freedom and justice that guided America's founders might continue to flourish.

The Vatican did not make public the full text of the pope's telegram to Obama, which was sent via Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, Nov. 7.

"In the message, the Holy Father sent his best wishes to the president for his new term and assured him of his prayers that God might assist him in his very great responsibility before the country and the international community," the Vatican said in a statement.

The pope also told Obama he was praying that "the ideals of liberty and justice that guided the founders of the United States of America might continue to shine" as the nation goes forward, the statement said.

In remarks to reporters, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, voiced hopes that Obama would also promote "a culture of life and religious freedom."

It is the hope of everyone that President Obama "respond to the expectations" of the American people and "serve law and justice for the well-being and growth of every person, by respecting essential human and spiritual values and by promoting the culture of life and religious freedom, which have always been so precious in the tradition of the American people and their culture," the priest said.

U.S. Catholic bishops have been at odds with Obama over his support for legalized abortion and his administration's plan to require that the private health insurance plans of most Catholic institutions cover surgical sterilization procedures and artificial birth control, which are forbidden by the church's moral teaching.

The role of president of the United States is "an immense responsibility not just for the great nation, but for the whole world, given the United States' role on the world stage," Father Lombardi said, expressing hopes that the president would be able to "find the best ways to promote the material and spiritual well-being of all and effectively promote integral human development, justice and peace in the world."

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI praised the choice of the new patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, saying he was confident the new leader would help build a new Egypt that would serve the common good of the nation and the whole Middle East.

Bishop Tawadros, 60, was chosen Nov. 4 to lead Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, the largest Christian community in the country. He will be ordained Nov. 18 as Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria and patriarch of the See of St. Mark.

Pope Benedict said in a telegram to the new pope that he was "filled with joy" upon learning of the news and extended his "good wishes and prayerful solidarity."

"I am confident that, like your renowned predecessor, Pope Shenouda III, you will be a genuine spiritual father for your people and an effective partner with all your fellow-citizens in building the new Egypt in peace and harmony, serving the common good and the good of the entire Middle East," Pope Benedict wrote.

"In these challenging times it is important for all Christians to bear witness to the love and fellowship that binds them together," mindful of God's call for Christian unity, the Pope said.

Pope Benedict noted the "important progress" in ecumenical relations that was made under the guidance of the late Pope Shenouda, who died in March at age 88 after leading the Church for four decades.

More than 2,400 bishops and elite lay leaders voted to reduce a five-person short list to three nominees for a new pope. Bishop Tawadros' name was drawn from a glass bowl by a blindfolded child in a traditional ceremony held at Cairo's St. Mark's Cathedral; the Coptic Orthodox Church says the process lets "the hand of God" make the final choice.

Bishop Tawadros, whose birthday fell on the day of his selection, is bishop of Beheira. He studied pharmaceutical sciences at Alexandria University and reportedly ran a medicine factory before taking his vows.

"He is young — 60 is not so old — and he is well-educated," Fr. Rafic Grieche, spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic bishops' conference, told Catholic News Service. "He can make interior changes to his Church and at the same time be open to other churches and to the country's Muslims."

But the new pope will face a raft of challenges, with political debate in Egypt over how prominent a role Islamic law should play in the country's long-awaited constitution. His reaction to incidents of sectarian violence, which peaked in the months following Egypt's early 2011 uprising that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak, will also be key.

Michael Meunier, president of the U.S. Copts Association, was one of the laymen who participated in the complex election process. He told Vatican Radio Nov. 4 that people saw in Bishop Tawadros a man "who could unite Egypt's Christians in these very difficult times, a man of dialogue."

Dialogue and reconciliation with other Christian churches are critical, Meunier said, "because we are faced with many other challenges from hardliners" and extremist elements in the Muslim community.

"On a whole there is no future for Christians in Egypt without dialogue with Muslims. We have to engage moderate Muslims in the political fight that we face in Egypt, for example the new constitution being drafted; there are a lot of fanatic elements in society and they are going after moderate Muslims, they are going after women and they are going after Christians," he said.

"It is important to have a pope who believes in dialogue with Muslims because it's the only way to help promote democracy, religious freedom, human rights and respect for all these values that we hope for," Meunier said.

Bishop Tawadros will have to win back the support of many Coptic youth, suspicious of the Church's involvement in politics during the Mubarak era. At the height of the 2011 uprising, Pope Shenouda implored Coptic Christians to remain at home, solidifying the Church's reputation for unquestioned loyalty to the state.

Speaking to television cameras at a monastery after his election, Bishop Tawadros suggested he might revise the explicitly political role the Church held under Pope Shenouda's leadership.

"The most important thing is for the Church to return and live consistently within its spiritual boundaries because this is its main work, spiritual work," he said, pledging to "rearrange the house from the inside."

Activists welcomed the new approach, but voiced skepticism over how easy it would be to achieve, given the increasingly important role of religion in Egypt's political discourse. Islamists won more than two-thirds of the seats in the country's last Parliament — dissolved in June — and President Mohammed Morsi is from the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.

"It will be very difficult to get himself out of the political arena, when the (Muslim Brotherhood) mixes religion with politics," said Mina Thabet, a 23-year-old Coptic rights activist. "But I think he should."

"It has to change," said Grieche, referring to the days when the Church would back candidates from Mubarak's party in parliamentary elections.

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VATICAN CITY - When Christians remember their beloved deceased, they proclaim that their bonds with them are not broken by death and they profess their hope in eternal life, said Pope Benedict XVI.

Especially by visiting cemeteries and other burial grounds, the pope said, people "reinforce the bonds of communion that death could not break."

Pope Benedict celebrated a Mass Nov. 3 in St. Peter's Basilica in memory of the 10 cardinals and 143 archbishops and bishops from around the world who died in the past year.

The evening before, Pope Benedict had paid a private visit to the grottoes under St. Peter's Basilica to pray at the tombs of the popes buried there.

The November commemorations of All Saints and All Souls, as well as other memorial Masses traditional during the month, are not simply ways Catholics remember those who have gone before them, the pope said, but they also are expressions of Catholic faith in the reality of eternal life.

"Death opens to life -- eternal life, which is not an infinite copy of the present time, but something completely new," the pope said. "Faith tells us that the true immortality to which we aspire is not an idea or concept, but a relationship of full communion with the living God."

Remembering the deceased cardinals and bishops, he said, the church prays that the Lord will give them "the eternal prize promised to faithful servants of the Gospel."

Pope Benedict said the 10 cardinals and 143 bishops were the "meek, merciful, pure of heart, peace-making disciples" mentioned in the Beatitudes of the Gospel. They were "friends of the Lord who, trusting in his promises -- also in times of difficulty or even persecution -- maintained the joy of their faith and now live with the Father forever."

Reciting the Angelus Nov. 4 with pilgrims in St. Peter's Square, Pope Benedict said the saints are those men and women who tried to live the commandment to love God and to love their neighbors as themselves.

The pope said a deep, loving relationship with God is the best way to ensure that one becomes capable of loving others, "just as a child becomes capable of loving starting from a good relationship with his mother and father."

And just as parents love their children not only when they are being good, God always loves us and tries to help us see when and where we go astray, the pope said.

"From God, we learn to want to do only what is good and never what is bad. We learn to see others not only with our own eyes, but with the gaze of God," looking beyond the superficial to see the other person and what he or she needs, the pope said.

"Love of God and love of neighbor are inseparable," he said.

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI expressed his concern for everyone affected by Hurricane Sandy and encouraged all those working to rebuild from the disaster.

"Conscious of the devastation caused by the hurricane which recently struck the East Coast of the United States of America, I offer my prayers for the victims and express my solidarity with all those engaged in the work of rebuilding," he said Oct. 31 at the end of his weekly general audience.

Nearly 1,000 miles wide, Sandy's strong gales reached as far west as Lake Michigan. As of Oct. 31, it caused at least 55 deaths in seven states and left more than 8.5 million homes and businesses without power from the Carolinas to Ohio.

In the Caribbean government officials put the death toll across the islands at 69, with more than 50 in Haiti, where widespread flooding devastated parts of the already impoverished country.

After reciting the Angelus Oct. 28, the Pope called for prayers and concrete help for the people of Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica and the Bahamas, where, he said, the hurricane struck "with particular violence."

During his main audience talk Oct. 31, the Pope underlined the importance of the Church in preserving and passing on the faith across generations and throughout history. Some 10,000 people gathered under the rain in St. Peter's Square to hear the Pope's catechesis.

Though finding Christ is an intensely personal experience that transforms one's own heart, mind and individual existence, "faith is given in and through the community of the church," the Pope said.

The Creed and one's beliefs are not built upon a "private dialogue with Jesus," but are the result of a dialogue and a listening that shatter individualism and open one up to God's love and to others, he said.

"Faith comes to me given as a gift from God through a community of believers, which is the Church," he said.

People discover through baptism that they are not only united to Jesus, "but also to all those who walked and are walking the same path" toward holiness.

"Our faith is truly personal only if it is communal: It can be my faith only if it lives and moves in the 'we' of the Church, only if it is our faith, the common faith of the one church," the Pope said.

It is important to remember that faith is born in the Church and leads people to the Church, he said; "No one can have God as Father who does not have the Church as mother."

Tradition is "an uninterrupted chain of the life of the Church, the proclamation of the Word of God and the celebration of the sacraments that reaches us" from the past, he said.

Tradition is what "gives us the guarantee that that which we believe in is the original message of Christ, preached by the Apostles," he said.

This way, every man and woman from every generation and every continent can have access to the "immense resources" of sacred Scripture and the faith, and "enrich themselves from the treasures of grace" given to humanity by God, the Pope said.

In fact, the Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, "Lumen Gentium," reminded people that God doesn't seek to make people "holy and save them merely as individuals, without bond or link between one another. Rather has it pleased him to bring men together as one people, a people which acknowledges him in truth and serves him in holiness."

By radiating the truth of the Church, each person becomes a point of reference for others by passing on the person of Jesus and his message, Pope Benedict said.

Only by "letting oneself be guided and molded by the faith of the Church," Christians, who despite their weakness, limits and difficulties, become "like an open window" that lets God's light shine on the world.

Keeping one's faith closed up inside oneself contradicts the very nature of faith, the Pope said.

"We need a Church in order to have confirmation of our faith and to experience the gifts of God: his word, the sacraments, the support of grace and the witness of love," he said.

In a world of rampant individualism which only weakens human relations, "faith calls us to be church, carriers of love and of the communion of God for all humanity," he said.

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VATICAN CITY - Winning converts to the church, ministering better to practicing Catholics and bringing lapsed members back into the fold are all parts of the multifaceted effort known as the "new evangelization," Pope Benedict XVI told a group of bishops and other church leaders from around the world.

The pope made his remarks Oct. 28 during his homily at a Mass marking the end of the world Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization. The three-week gathering, which brought more than 260 bishops and religious superiors to the Vatican, along with dozens of official observers and experts, discussed how the church can revive and spread the faith in increasingly secular societies.

Pope Benedict underscored "three pastoral themes" that he said had emerged from the talks.

"Ordinary pastoral ministry ... must be more animated by the fire of the Spirit, so as to inflame the hearts of the faithful," he said, stressing the importance of the sacrament of confession, and the necessity of "appropriate catechesis" in preparation for the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist.

The pope also called for a "new missionary dynamism" to "proclaim the message of salvation to those who do not yet know Jesus Christ."

"There are still many regions in Africa, Asia and Oceania whose inhabitants await with lively expectation, sometimes without being fully aware of it, the first proclamation of the Gospel," the pope said. And as a result of migration driven by globalization, he added, the "first proclamation is needed even in countries that were evangelized long ago."

Finally, the pope spoke of the need to persuade lapsed Catholics, "especially in the most secular countries," to "encounter Jesus Christ anew, rediscover the joy of faith and return to religious practice in the community of the faithful."

This effort, in particular, calls for "pastoral creativity" and use of a "new language attuned to the different world cultures," he said. As an example of such innovation, the pope mentioned the Vatican's "Courtyard of the Gentiles" project, which promotes dialogue between religious believers and agnostics.

Referring to the day's reading from the Gospel of St. Mark, the pope invoked Bartimaeus -- the blind man who miraculously received his sight back from Jesus and then joined him as one of the disciples -- as a model for Christians in countries "where the light of faith has grown dim."

"New evangelizers are like that," Pope Benedict said, "people who have had the experience of being healed by God, through Jesus Christ."

The day before the closing Mass, at the synod's last working session Oct. 27, Pope Benedict thanked the participants for their work, including the final propositions that will eventually serve as the basis for a document of the pope's own reflections on the new evangelization.

At that same meeting, the pope said that he had decided to make two administrative changes relevant to the new evangelization. Responsibility for seminaries will shift from the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education to the Congregation for the Clergy, he said; and responsibility for catechesis will shift from the latter office to the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization.

The pope also congratulated the six bishops, four of them members of the synod, whom he will induct into the College of Cardinals Nov. 24. He said he had named the new cardinals-designate, none of whom hails from Europe, as a sign of "the universality of the church, showing that the church is a church of all peoples, (and) speaks in all languages ... not a church of one continent, but a universal church."

One of the cardinals-designate, Philippine Archbishop Luis Tagle of Manila, was also one of 15 new members of the ordinary council of the general secretariat of the Synod of Bishops announced Oct. 26.

The new council members, who will oversee the international gatherings of bishops periodically held at the Vatican, include two U.S. bishops: Cardinals Donald W. Wuerl of Washington and Timothy M. Dolan of New York. Others included Cardinals Christoph Schonborn of Vienna, Austria; Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; and George Pell of Sydney.

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI surprised pilgrims in St. Peter's Square Oct. 24 by announcing he would create six new cardinals in late November.

The Pope said the consistory to create the new cardinals, who come from six countries, would take place Nov. 24, the feast of Christ the King.

It will be the smallest group of cardinals created since the 1977 consistory when Pope Benedict, the then-Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, received his red hat from Pope Paul VI along with three other churchmen.

The new cardinals will include: 63-year-old U.S. Archbishop James Harvey, prefect of the papal household; Lebanon's Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai, 72; Archbishop Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, 53, head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church; Nigerian Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja, 68; Colombian Archbishop Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota, 70; and Philippine Archbishop Luis Tagle of Manila, 55.

Pope Benedict made the announcement at the end of his weekly general audience, which was attended by about 20,000 pilgrims. As is usual, Cardinal-designate Harvey was seated next to the Pope during the audience. While he did not visibly react when his name was announced, the new cardinal-designate smiled and had a brief moment with the Pope before returning to his normal duties of helping lead important guests up to the Pope.

Telling the crowd that he had the "great joy" of announcing new cardinals, Pope Benedict said cardinals have "the task of helping the successor of Peter in his ministry" of strengthening people's faith and promoting the unity of the Church.

The Pope asked Catholics to pray that the new cardinals would "always love Christ and His Church with courage and dedication."

Of the six soon-to-be cardinals, only Cardinal-designates Harvey and Salazar were not members of the world Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization, which was meeting at the Vatican when the Pope made his announcement.

The late-November consistory will bring the total number of cardinals to 211 and the number of cardinals under age 80 to 120. Until they reach their 80th birthdays, cardinals are eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a new pope.

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Proclaiming seven new saints -- including St. Kateri Tekakwitha and St. Marianne Cope from North America -- Pope Benedict XVI said they are examples to the world of total dedication to Christ and tireless service to others.

In a revised canonization rite Oct. 21, the pope prayed for guidance that the church would not "err in a matter of such importance" as he used his authority to state that the seven are with God in heaven and can intercede for people on earth.

An estimated 80,000 pilgrims from the United States, Canada, the Philippines, Italy, Spain, Germany and Madagascar filled St. Peter's Square for the canonization of the holy women and men who ministered among their people.

The pilgrims applauded the proclamation of the new saints, who included: Kateri, an American Indian who was born in the United States and died in Canada in 1680; Mother Marianne, a Sister of St. Joseph who traveled from Syracuse, N.Y., to Hawaii to care for people with Hansen's disease and died in Molokai in 1918; and Pedro Calungsod, a teenaged Philippine catechist who was martyred in Guam in 1672.

The other new saints are: French Jesuit Father Jacques Berthieu, martyred in Madagascar in 1896; Italian Father Giovanni Battista Piamarta, founder of religious orders, who died in 1913; Sister Carmen Salles Barangueras, founder of a Spanish religious order, who died in 1911; and Anna Schaffer, a lay German woman, who died in 1925.

In his homily at Mass following the canonization, Pope Benedict prayed that the example of the new saints would "speak today to the whole church" and that their intercession would strengthen the church in its mission to proclaim the Gospel to the world.

The pope also spoke about each new saint individually, giving a short biographical outline and highlighting a special characteristic of each for Catholics today.

Pope Benedict called St. Kateri the "protectress of Canada and the first Native American saint," and he entrusted to her "the renewal of the faith in the First Nations and in all of North America."

The daughter of a Mohawk father and Algonquin Christian mother, St. Kateri was "faithful to the traditions of her people," but also faithful to the Christianity she embraced at age 20. "May her example help us to live where we are, loving Jesus without denying who we are," the pope said.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, who is of American Indian descent, told Catholic News Service, "I think many young people today are embarrassed about embracing the Catholic faith because they live in a secular culture that's hostile toward religious experience."

St. Kateri also "grew up in a place where there was great hostility toward Christianity," Archbishop Chaput said, but she resisted all efforts to turn her away from her faith, "so in some ways she would be a model of fidelity in the face of persecution on religious freedom grounds."

Archbishop Gerald Cyprien Lacroix of Quebec told CNS that the canonization of the first aboriginal of North America is "huge for us." St. Kateri, he said, is an excellent model for young people of "living a simple life, faithful to the Lord in the midst of hostility."

St. Kateri's life and canonization show that "saints don't have to do extraordinary things, they just have to love," Archbishop Lacroix said.

Francine Merasty, 32, a Cree who lives in Pelican Narrows, Sask., said, "Kateri inspires me because she's an aboriginal woman. According to sociologists, aboriginal women are at the lowest (social) strata, and for the church to raise up to the communion of saints an aboriginal woman is so awesome and wonderful."

Jake Finkbonner, the 12-year-old boy from Washington state whose healing was accepted as the miracle needed for St. Kateri's canonization, received Communion from the pope during the Mass. Jake's parents and two little sisters did as well.

Speaking about St. Marianne of Molokai in his homily, Pope Benedict said that a time when very little could be done to treat people with Hansen's disease, commonly called leprosy, "Marianne Cope showed the highest love, courage and enthusiasm."

"She is a shining example of the tradition of Catholic nursing sisters and of the spirit of her beloved St. Francis," the pope said.

Leading a group of Hawaiian pilgrims, including nine patient-residents from Kalaupapa, where St. Marianne ministered, Honolulu Bishop Larry Silva said St. Marianne is "an inspiration for those who care for those most in need, which is what all Christians are called to do. Now, with universal veneration, she can inspire people around the world."

With thousands of Philippine pilgrims in St. Peter's Square, Pope Benedict praised St. Pedro, a catechist who accompanied Jesuit priests to the Mariana Islands in 1668. Despite hostility from some of the natives, he "displayed deep faith and charity and continued to catechize his many converts, giving witness to Christ by a life of purity and dedication to the Gospel."

The pope prayed that "the example and courageous witness" of St. Pedro would "inspire the dear people of the Philippines to announce the kingdom bravely and to win souls for God."

Pope Benedict also cited St. Anna Schaffer as a model for a very modern concern.St. Anna was working as a maid to earn the money for the dowry needed to enter a convent when an accident occurred and she "received incurable burns" which kept her bedridden the rest of her life, the pope said. In time, she came to see her pain and suffering as a way to unite herself with Christ through prayer, he said.

"May her apostolate of prayer and suffering, of sacrifice and expiation, be a shining example for believers in her homeland, and may her intercession strengthen the Christian hospice movement in its beneficial activity," the pope said.
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Contributing to this story was Francis X. Rocca.

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You can enjoy the features below about St. Kateri Tekakwitha on CatholicRegister.org.

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VATICAN CITY - In a continuing effort to preserve the integrity of the Mass and highlight the meaning of a canonization, when Pope Benedict XVI declares seven new saints Oct. 21, the ceremony will look different than it has in the past.

Msgr. Guido Marini, master of papal liturgical ceremonies, said the change will mark another step in Pope Benedict's efforts to remove from the papal Mass elements that are not strictly part of the liturgy, in accordance with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council.

Earlier, the Pope stopped giving new cardinals their rings during Mass; and in June he started the practice of giving new archbishops a pallium — a woolen band around their necks — before the entrance antiphon of the Mass.

In a similar way, beginning Oct. 21, the canonization rite will take place before Mass begins.

"Canonization is basically a canonical act" through which the Pope exercises his ministry to teach and to legislate, Marini told L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper.

"In effect, a canonization is a definitive sentence through which the supreme pontiff decrees that a servant of God, already listed among the blessed, is to be inscribed in the catalogue of saints and venerated in the universal church," the monsignor said.

"The authority exercised by the Pope in a canonization sentence will now be even more visible through the use of certain ritual elements," particularly through the Pope's triple invocation of God's help in making such an important decision, he said.

Marini said the distinction between the canonization rite and the celebration of the Mass is meant to respond to the Second Vatican Council's call for the "splendour of the noble simplicity" of the Mass to shine forth.

The seven women and men who will be proclaimed saints with the new ceremony are:

-- Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, a native American who was born in upstate New York and died in Canada in 1680 at the age of 24.

-- Blessed Marianne Cope of Molokai, who led a group of sisters from New York to the Hawaiian Islands in 1883 to establish a system of nursing care for leprosy patients.

-- Blessed Peter Calungsod, a lay catechist from the Philippines who was martyred April 2, 1672, in Guam.

-- Blessed Jacques Berthieu, a Jesuit who was born near Polminhac, France, and was martyred June 8, 1896, in Ambiatibe, Madagascar.

-- Blessed Giovanni Battista Piamarta, an Italian priest and founder of the Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth for men and the Humble Servants of the Lord for women. He died in 1913.

-- Blessed Carmen Salles Barangueras, the Spanish founder of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. She died in 1911.

-- Blessed Anna Schaffer, a lay German woman who wanted to be a missionary, but could not because of a succession of physical accidents and diseases. She died in 1925.

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