SANSEPOLCRO, Italy - Celebrating the 1,000th anniversary of a town founded to be a model of Gospel peace and justice, Pope Benedict XVI said Christians today must find ways to infuse their cities and nations with Gospel values while welcoming and respecting people with other beliefs.

In his evening visit May 13 to Sansepolcro, named after the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, the Pope urged the townspeople to use the anniversary to emulate Sts. Arcanus and Aegidius, who established the town after returning from Jerusalem.

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VATICAN CITY - People spreading the Gospel are still subject to persecution even though they are bringing a message of peace and hope to a world marked by crises, anxiety and desperation, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"However, despite the problems and tragic reality of persecution, the church does not get discouraged, it remains faithful to the Lord's mandate," knowing that witnesses and martyrs always have been numerous and indispensible for evangelization, he said.

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI said knowing that Catholics around the world pray for him has given him strength and confidence since his election seven years ago.

"From the first moment of my election as the successor of Peter, I always have felt supported by your prayers, by the prayers of the church, especially in the most difficult moments," he said May 9 at his weekly general audience.

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI called on America's Catholic colleges and universities to reaffirm their Catholic identity by ensuring orthodoxy in theological studies and accepting the oversight of bishops.

The Pope made his remarks May 5 to U.S. bishops from Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Wyoming, who were making their periodic "ad limina" visits to the Vatican.

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VATICAN CITY - Laws and government policies should not make economic inequality worse; rather they should help people live more decent lives, Pope Benedict XVI told diplomats.

"The quality of human relationships and the sharing of resources are the foundation of society, allowing everyone to have a role and to live in dignity in accordance with their aspirations," he said.

The Pope spoke May 4 to five new ambassadors to the Vatican, who were presenting their letters of credential. The new ambassadors from Ireland, Ethiopia, Armenia, Malaysia and Fiji will not be residing in Rome.

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VATICAN CITY - Excluding truth and the transcendent from scientific debate and research has impoverished modern thought and weakened the intellect's ability to understand reality, Pope Benedict XVI said.

True intellectual and scientific progress requires an openness to dialogue with opposing views, rather than settling with the "mere repetition" of what one already knows, he added.

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VATICAN CITY -- The church's first martyr found the strength to face his accusers because of his close relationship with God, Pope Benedict XVI said.

St. Stephen, who was accused of blasphemy and stoned to death, upheld the faith and gave witness to Christ as the righteous one proclaimed by the prophets, the pope said during the general audience in St. Peter's Square May 2.

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VATICAN CITY - The quest for justice and peace will bear fruit only if it's also a quest for the truth about the human person, created by God and "endowed with intelligence and freedom, capable of knowing and loving," Pope Benedict XVI said.

Intelligence enables people to discover what is good and beneficial -- "the right order that is inscribed within creation itself" -- the Pope said in a message April 30 to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

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VATICAN CITY - God is always calling people to dedicate themselves fully to serving him, but they often don't hear because they are either too distracted or afraid they would no longer be free if they answered the call, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"Let us pray that all young people pay attention to the voice of God, who speaks to their hearts and calls them to detach themselves from everything in order to serve him," he said April 29 -- the World Day of Prayer for Vocations.

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - The March visit to Cuba by Pope Benedict XVI has helped reawaken people's interest in the Catholic Church, according to two Cuban bishops visiting the United States.

But it also has stirred criticism of the church's efforts to work with the government more and may be connected to a fire of suspicious origin that gutted a travel agency that organizes charter flights from Florida to Cuba.

Remarks at an April 24 forum at Harvard University by Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino about the church's role in Cuba riled some of the outspoken critics of the Castro government in both Havana and Florida.

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WASHINGTON - Pope Benedict XVI told the German bishops that, as Pope, he has celebrated Mass in different languages and "sometimes it is hard to find common ground" in the various translations.

"The underlying common text often remains visible only from afar," he told the bishops, who were preparing to send their revised Mass translation to the printers.

In a letter dated April 14 and posted on the German bishops' website April 24, Pope Benedict said that, over the years, it has become "increasingly clear" to him that not translating liturgical texts literally creates difficulties.

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VATICAN CITY - All pastoral work, including promoting social justice and providing for the poor, must be nourished by prayer, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Without contemplating and internalizing God's word daily, one risks being suffocated by too heavy a workload and one's heart risks hardening to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, he said.

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ROME - With the papal birthday and anniversary last week, attention in Rome was understandably focused on reviewing the seven-year pontificate of Benedict XVI. I had the unexpected pleasure though of reading about the other end of the Holy Father’s life — the early years of his Bavarian youth.

Last year an interview book was published by Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, the pope’s older brother. They were ordained priests together in 1951 and have enjoyed a close relationship through the years. After his election as Pope, the younger brother, Joseph, was not able to travel to Germany to spend time with Georg, so now the monsignor comes several times a year to Rome to spend time with his little brother, the Pope. They had originally planned to retire together to their home in Regensburg, but the events of April 19, 2005, permanently altered that plan.

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VATICAN CITY - The scourge of sex tourism and the trafficking of human beings for harvesting organs must be urgently addressed, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Such crimes are "evils that must be dealt with urgently since they trample on the rights of millions of men and women, especially among the poor, minors and handicapped," he said.

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VATICAN CITY - Preparing children for their first Communion must be done with both great zeal and moderation, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Around the world, many children receive their first Communion during the Easter season, he told pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square April 22 for the recitation of the "Regina Coeli," a Marian prayer used in place of the Angelus from Easter to Pentecost.

The Pope urged "priests, parents and catechists to prepare for this feast of faith well, with great fervor but also with sobriety."

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