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Pope: Same-sex unions 'penalize' marriage


VATICAN CITY -- Same-sex unions "penalize" traditional couples and distort the true nature of the family, Pope Benedict XVI said.

The many crises that families face are "caused by the rapid social and cultural changes" in society, the pope said Jan. 14 in a speech to officials from the city and province of Rome and the Lazio region of Italy.

Passing legislation or adopting policies that recognize "forms of unions, which distort the essence and purpose of the family end up penalizing those who, with much effort, commit themselves to living a life whose bonds are marked by stable intimacy, have juridical guarantees and are recognized publicly, he said.

While same-sex unions or gay marriage is not recognized in Italy, a number of city and regional governments, including Rome's Lazio region, have introduced registries for same-sex couples that are largely symbolic and have no legal consequences.

Pope Benedict also called on the government officials to help support married women who wish to pursue a career and build a family.

Too often, he said, women "are forced to wait" to have children.

Vatican announces May 1 beatification for John Paul II


Pope Benedict XVI Friday approved a miracle attributed to Pope John Paul II, clearing the way for the late pontiff’s beatification, the final step before sainthood. The Vatican announced that the beatification ceremony will take place in Rome on Sunday, May 1.

While the announcement is expected to be greeted with joy around the Catholic world, critics have raised questions both about the substantive case for declaring the late pope a saint, including his record on the sexual abuse crisis, and the speed with which it’s occurred.

In a statement released this morning, the Vatican insisted that aside from waiving the normal five-year waiting period to begin a sainthood cause, on account of what it described as the “imposing fame for holiness” enjoyed by John Paul II during his life, in every other respect “the common canonical dispositions” for sainthood causes were “integrally observed.”

Organizers expect that the ceremony will attract the largest crowd in Rome since the events surrounding the death of John Paul II and the election of Benedict XVI six years ago, in April 2005.

Egypt recalls Vatican ambassador

VATICAN CITY -- The government of Egypt recalled its ambassador to the Vatican Jan. 11 to protest a demand by Pope Benedict XVI that it better protect the country’s embattled Christian minority.

The Egyptian foreign ministry said in a statement that its ambassador, Lamia Aly Hamada Mekhemar, had been recalled because the pope’s demands represented an “unacceptable interference in its internal affairs.”

In an address to foreign ambassadors at the Vatican on Jan. 10, the pope noted recent violence against Christians in the Middle East, including a car bomb outside a Christian Coptic church in Alexandria, Egypt, that killed at least 21 people on New Year’s Day.

Benedict then called on “governments of the region to adopt ... effective measures for the protection of religious minorities.” He quoted a recent statement by Catholic bishops that Christians in the Middle East “should enjoy all the rights of citizenship, freedom of conscience, freedom of worship and freedom in education, teaching and the use of the mass media.”

Pope rips anti-Christian tide in major foreign policy speech



Pope Benedict XVI today devoted his most closely watched annual foreign policy address to religious freedom, especially what many observers see as a rising global tide of anti-Christian hostility. He denounced assaults on Christians in Iraq, Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan and China, as well as a growing “marginalization” of Christianity in secular Europe.

New Vatican head of religious life comes without agenda



Pope Benedict XVI’s choice as the new Vatican overseer for religious orders, 63-year-old Brazilian Archbishop João Bráz de Aviz, is seen as a personable if little-known figure with a reputation as a moderate-to-conservative, who apparently comes to his new job without a strong personal agenda regarding religious life.

If so, that alone would make Bráz de Aviz a contrast to the man he replaces, 76-year-old Slovenian Cardinal Franc Rodé, a Lazarist who spent much of his five-year tenure as Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life battling what he described as a “crisis” in religious life following the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).

Among other things, under Rodé’s leadership, the office -- popularly known as the “Congregation for Religious” -- launched an on-going, and controversial, Apostolic Visitation of women religious in the United States.

Dolan among members of new evangelization council


VATICAN CITY -- The new Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization has its first members, including Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York.

The council, formally established in October, is charged with renewing and strengthening the faith in traditionally Christian countries where religious belief and practice are threatened by secularism and indifference.

Pope Benedict XVI named 19 cardinals and bishops to be members of the council Jan. 5.

In addition to Dolan, the members included: Australian Cardinal George Pell of Sydney; Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops; and U.S. Cardinal William J. Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The pope also named Belgian Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard of Mechelen-Brussels to the new council. The archbishop created controversy in Belgium just before Christmas when he told a parliamentary commission that the church should not automatically be expected to compensate victims of clerical sex abuse.

Brazilian to head Vatican Congregation for Religious Life


VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI named Brazilian Archbishop Joao Braz de Aviz of Brasilia, not a member of a religious order, to head the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

The 63-year-old archbishop succeeds Cardinal Franc Rode, the 76-year-old Vincentian who held the post for almost seven years. The normal retirement age for curia officials is 75.

Since 1973, prelates ordained for religious orders and for dioceses have alternated in holding the post of prefect of the congregation overseeing religious life in the Catholic Church. In the past 100 years, 11 of the 18 prefects did not belong to a religious order.

Archbishop Braz de Aviz was born in Mafra in 1947 and did his initial seminary studies in Brazil before being sent to Rome, where he earned degrees from the Pontifical Gregorian University and the Pontifical Lateran University.

Ordained to the priesthood in 1972 for the Diocese of Apucarana, he served as a parish priest, as a professor of dogmatic theology in a seminary and as rector of the seminaries in Apucarana and Londrina.

Pope calls for religious freedom, end to violence


VATICAN CITY -- Opening 2011 with a strong call for religious liberty, Pope Benedict XVI condemned deadly attacks against Christians and announced a new interfaith meeting next fall in Assisi, Italy.

At a Mass Jan. 1 marking the World Day of Peace and a blessing the next day, the pope voiced his concern about fresh episodes of violence and discrimination against Christian minorities in the Middle East.



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September 26-October 9, 2014


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