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Vatican

Pope Benedict XVI denounces cultural shift toward gay marriage in U.S.

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI on Friday denounced the "powerful political and cultural currents" that are working to "alter the legal definition of marriage" in the United States.

The pope's condemnation of same-sex marriage came in an address to a delegation of bishops from Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, headed by Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Maryland legalized gay marriage March 1 and Minnesota will be one of five states to vote on the issue in the coming months. Minnesota's bishops are campaigning for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Benedict stressed that "sexual difference cannot be dismissed as irrelevant to the definition of marriage," and called on the church to continue its "reasoned defense of marriage."

The pope also echoed bishops' concerns over their battle with the Obama administration on the contraception mandate. "Threats to freedom of conscience, religion and worship" in the United States, he said, "need to be addressed urgently."

Pope: Lent should be time of grace, defeating temptation

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VATICAN CITY -- The 40 days of Lent are a time of spiritual renewal in preparation for Easter, but they also are a time to recognize that evil is at work in the world and even the Catholic Church faces temptations, Pope Benedict XVI said.

The pope explained the meaning of Lent during his weekly general audience on Ash Wednesday.

Like the people of Israel during their 40-year exodus and like Jesus during his 40 days in the desert, the Catholic Church and its members experience the grace of God, but also are besieged by evil around them and are tempted by power and selfishness, the pope said.

Jesus, before beginning his public ministry, withdrew to the desert for 40 days. Fasting, "he nourished himself on the word of God, which he used as a weapon to defeat the devil," the pope said.

Pope Benedict said experience of God's grace and of temptation is not unique to modern Catholics or to the church.

Pope creates 22 new cardinals, including three from U.S., Canada

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VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI created 22 new cardinals from 13 countries -- including three from the United States and Canada -- placing red hats on their heads and calling them to lives of even greater love and service to the church.

The churchmen who joined the College of Cardinals Feb. 18 included Cardinals Timothy M. Dolan of New York; Edwin F. O'Brien, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem and former archbishop of Baltimore; and Thomas C. Collins of Toronto.

Cardinal-designate Dolan leads cardinals' reflection on evangelization

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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.

The head of the Archdiocese of New York was asked to give the main address on evangelization and missionary activity at a meeting of the pope with the cardinals and cardinals-designate, who were to be inducted into the College of Cardinals Feb. 18.

The meeting was attended by 133 prelates, including at least 20 of the 22 who were to receive their red hats from the pope the following morning.

Pope urges support for large families

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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 Wednesday 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.

"I hope that adequate social and legislative measures are promoted that safeguard and sustain large families, which represent richness and hope for the whole country," he said.

In his catechesis, the pope continued a series of talks on prayer by highlighting some of Jesus' prayers during his crucifixion.

Jesus' willingness to forgive his tormenters and executioners is an invitation to all Christians to forgive those who cause harm or are in the wrong, the pope said.

People should pray for those who have done them wrong with "the same attitude of mercy and love that God has for us," he said.

Bishops get earful at Vatican sex abuse summit

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ROME -- Though a four-day summit in Rome on the sexual abuse crisis was, in a sense, directed at everyone, its primary audience was composed of approximately 100 bishops and superiors of religious orders from around the world, who face a Vatican-imposed May deadline to submit their anti-abuse policies.

As it turns out, those church potentates got an earful.

Leaked letters reveal ViganÚ's complaints of corruption

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ROME -- Both in Washington and in Rome, leaking supposedly confidential material is high art. Conventional wisdom in both places, therefore, holds that you should never write anything down you’d be uncomfortable seeing in the newspapers.

As a veteran Roman now living in Washington, Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò has fresh occasion these days to take that wisdom to heart.

Vatican downplays charges of financial 'corruption'

VATICAN CITY -- Insisting on the Holy See's continuing commitment to transparency and rectitude in economic affairs, the Vatican's spokesman downplayed references to "corruption" in a letter apparently sent to Pope Benedict XVI by a Vatican official who is now apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican Press Office, criticized as "partisan," "partial and banal," an Italian television news program, which, on Jan. 25, broadcast portions of letters addressed to Pope Benedict and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State.

The letters were apparently signed by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano and written when he was the secretary general of the commission governing Vatican City.

One of the letters, dated April 4, 2011, said that when Archbishop Vigano took office almost two years earlier, he discovered a "disastrous situation" of "chaotic management" and overspending on contracts.

The letter also complained of a "media campaign" launched by opponents of the archbishop's efforts at reform, and implored the pope not to remove him from his job, "even for promotion to a more important post."

Curial horror greeted John XXIII's announcement of ecumenical council

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VIEWPOINT

This is the first of an occasional series of articles about the Second Vatican Council that will appear this year in NCR leading up to 50th anniversary of the council's opening on Oct. 11, 2012. In October, NCR will publish a special edition devoted solely to the council's 50th anniversary. Read more about it here.

Wednesday, the Catholic church should have celebrated -- but didn't -- an important anniversary, the day 53 years ago when Pope John XXIII invited 18 Curia cardinals to accompany him to a ceremony at St. Paul Outside the Walls. It was the feast day of St. Paul, who is believed to have been executed in Rome about 67 A.D. and buried where the basilica named after him now stands.

It was also the final day of the Octave for Christian Unity, an objective close to the pope's heart. Presumably because of the attendance of so many Vatican higher-ups, the ceremony lasted longer than usual. The result was that the content of the carefully timed announcement the pope made to the cardinals had been released to the media before the cardinals were told.

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