VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI has donated $100,000 to help the people of Syria.

The Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the Vatican's charity promotion and coordinating office, announced March 31 that the Pope made the donation to fund "the charitable work of the local church in Syria supporting the population" that has been hit by the ongoing violence in the country.

The council's secretary, Msgr. Giampietro Dal Toso, was to personally deliver the aid March 31 and meet with Melkite Patriarch Gregoire III Laham of Damascus, Syria, as well as other local church leaders.

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI has asked an Italian married couple, founders of the Focolare Movement's New Families initiative, to write the meditations for his Way of the Cross service at Rome's Colosseum April 6.

The Vatican announced March 15 that the pope had asked Danilo and Annamaria Zanzucchi to write the meditations, which are read over loudspeakers as a cross is carried through and around the Colosseum on Good Friday.

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VATICAN CITY - Confession can help Catholics build lives filled with hope and holiness, which are needed for effective evangelization, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"New evangelization, therefore, also starts from the confessional," he told confessors and other participants attending a course sponsored by the Apostolic Penitentiary -- a Vatican court that that handles issues related to the absolution of sin.

New evangelization "draws its life blood from the holiness of the children of the church, from the daily journey of personal and communal conversion to adhere ever more deeply to Christ, he said in his address March 9.

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VATICAN CITY - Permissive attitudes toward sex, cohabitation before marriage and acceptance of same-sex marriage can damage individuals and are harmful for society, Pope Benedict XVI told a group of U.S. bishops at the Vatican.

"It is in fact increasingly evident that a weakened appreciation of the indissolubility of the marriage covenant, and the widespread rejection of a responsible, mature sexual ethic grounded in the practice of chastity, have led to grave societal problems bearing an immense human and economic cost," the Pope said March 9.

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VATICAN CITY - Just like the disciples, every follower of Jesus needs a "mountain-top" experience of light and of closeness to the Lord to get them through life's difficult and painful moments, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Celebrating a morning Mass March 4 at the Church of St. John Baptist de la Salle in a Rome suburb and reciting the Angelus at midday with visitors at the Vatican, Pope Benedict commented on the day's Gospel account of the Transfiguration.

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VATICAN CITY - When life feels like a dark and silent tunnel, faith gives a Christian light and music, Pope Benedict XVI said at the end of his weeklong Lenten retreat.

Congolese Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa led the Pope's retreat Feb. 26-March 3 in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel of the Apostolic Palace, offering the Pope and top Vatican officials three meditations each day on the theme "Christians' Communion With God."

Thanking the cardinal at the end of the retreat, Pope Benedict said Cardinal Monsengwo "seasoned these meditations with beautiful stories -- taken mostly from your beloved African land -- which gave us joy and helped us."

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ROME - Recounting their rural Bavarian childhood and subsequent lifelong friendship, the elder brother of Pope Benedict XVI offers a privileged look at the personal side of the spiritual leader of 1.3 billion Catholics.

My Brother the Pope, published March 1 by Ignatius Press, is based on interviews with Msgr. Georg Ratzinger by German writer Michael Hesemann and was originally published in German last year.

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VATICAN CITY - The Archdiocese of Milan, which will host the World Meeting of Families 2012, announced Pope Benedict XVI would spend three days in the northern Italian city in June, celebrating the event's closing Mass, but also attending a concert at the world famous La Scala theater.

The world meeting, to be held May 30-June 3, includes family activities as well as workshops and speeches for theologians and people involved in the pastoral care of families.

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VATICAN CITY - An almost exclusive reliance on technology and a focus on financial profit seem to dominate the field of medical responses to infertility, Pope Benedict XVI said.

However, what couples need and deserve, he said, is "a correct diagnostic evaluation and a therapy that corrects the causes of infertility."

Pope Benedict spoke Feb. 25 to members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, which had just held a daylong workshop at the Vatican on diagnosing and treating infertility.

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VATICAN CITY - An authentic Christian faith is demonstrated through concrete acts of charity and those acts are an essential part of the Catholic Church's new evangelization effort, Pope Benedict XVI told members of a Rome-based charity.

"The witness of charity touches human hearts in a special way," the Pope said, and "the new evangelization, especially in a cosmopolitan city like Rome, requires a great openness of spirit and a wise readiness to help all."

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VATICAN CITY - Speaking 38 minutes without a prepared text, Pope Benedict XVI gave priests of the Diocese of Rome a look not only at how he approaches Scripture, but also at his priorities and personality.

Addressing the Rome priests as "my clergy," the Pope led them Feb. 23 in a reflection on faith, truth, hope and humility.

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI and the 22 new cardinals he created yesterday concelebrated Mass this morning in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The pope used Bernini’s sculpture of the Chair of St. Peter to illustrate his homily since the Mass marked the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, a liturgical solemnity that highlights Jesus giving Peter the authority to lead the church in love. The statue is topped by a window with a stained-glass dove representing the Holy Spirit.

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VATICAN CITY - Practically everyone knows two things about cardinals -- that they wear red hats and elect the Pope. But what other purpose do these men serve in the Catholic Church?

On the eve of the Feb. 18 consistory where Pope Benedict XVI was scheduled to expand the College of Cardinals by 22 new members, the three North Americans among them shared some thoughts on the meaning of their new role.

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VATICAN CITY - Secularism has had an easy time spreading through many traditionally Christian cultures because so many Christians do not know their faith and do not grasp the truth it teaches, Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan of New York told the College of Cardinals.

While the New York prelate did not downplay the challenges the church faces in reviving the faith of its members and bringing the Gospel to those who have never heard it, he delivered his assessment Feb. 17 with his characteristic smile and broad gestures, telling Pope Benedict XVI and the cardinals that evangelization requires joy and love.

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI called on governments and communities to help large families, saying children represent hope and the well-being of every nation.

"There is no future without children," he said at the end of his general audience Feb. 15 in a greeting to members of an Italian association of large families.

"In today's social context, a family made up of many children constitutes a witness of faith, courage and optimism," he said.

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