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Vatican defends pope's Twitter account despite attacks

The Vatican on Thursday defended the pope's choice to open a Twitter account, even if it exposes him to insults and online abuse.

"Twitter is a secular reality ... but we prefer to be present rather than stay away from something just to avoid a risk," said Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, head of the Vatican's department for social communications, during the launch of the annual papal message for World Communications Day.

Pope Benedict XVI opened his Twitter handle @Pontifex on Dec. 3. It has since gathered more than 2.5 million followers in nine languages, including Latin.

Two Americans receive new assignments as Vatican diplomats

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Pope Benedict XVI gave new assignments in mid-January to two U.S. archbishops serving as Vatican ambassadors.

Archbishop Joseph Marino, a native of Birmingham, Ala., who will be 60 on Jan. 23, was named the Vatican's first nuncio to Malaysia, as well as nuncio to East Timor and apostolic delegate in Brunei.

Archbishop Charles Balvo, a 61-year-old native of Brooklyn, was named nuncio to Kenya, as well as observer at the U.N. Environment Program and its Agency for Human Settlements, both based in Nairobi.

Vatican to enlist Christian all-stars to help scandal-ridden sports

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In an effort to flex its moral muscle in the professional sports arena, the Vatican has invited top-tier Christian athletes Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin to help bring ethical values back to a scandal-ridden world of sports.

The Pontifical Council for Culture is planning to host an international conference on re-instilling values in sports this spring, inviting representatives from top world governing bodies like FIFA (the International Federation of Association Football), the International Cycling Union and the Italian National Olympic Committee.

Church supports World Leprosy Day to raise awareness, stop stigma

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While the global rate of new infections of Hansen's disease, or leprosy, continues to decline, the stigma associated with the disease has not, and that often is the focus of annual church statements marking World Leprosy Day.

For the past 60 years, Christians around the world have marked the last Sunday of January as a day to pray for those with Hansen's disease, to raise awareness about it and to thank ministers and health care workers -- many of them Catholic -- who offer treatment, therapy and support to patients.

Pope baptizes, welcomes babies into a personal relationship with Jesus

The Sistine Chapel sounded a bit like a nursery Monday as Pope Benedict XVI baptized 20 babies, whose crying provided a constant accompaniment to the two-hour Mass on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

Referring to the day's reading from the Gospel of St. Luke, which recounts the baptism of Jesus by St. John the Baptist, Pope Benedict said that in choosing to receive the sacrament, Jesus showed he "was really immersed in our human condition; he lived it to the utmost -- although without sin -- and in such a way that he understands weakness and fragility."

Pope Benedict completes 'ad limina' visits with world's bishops

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It took more than seven years, but Pope Benedict XVI has hosted the formal visits of bishops from every country in the world and will begin the cycle all over again by meeting the heads of Italy's 227 dioceses in 2013.

The Code of Canon Law calls for the heads of every diocese in the world to make their formal visit ad limina apostolorum ("to the threshold of the apostles") every five years, but there are now almost 2,900 dioceses in the world and the 85-year-old pope also has other obligations as well.

'God's blunder'

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Pope Benedict’s World Day of Peace remarks, including his critique of “unregulated financial capitalism” were most welcomed. His words, coming out of Catholic social teachings, are not likely to go down well with ideologues of the free market.

It was unfortunate, however, he linked his otherwise timely remarks with another slap at gays and lesbians. Why must a treatise on the economy contain reflections on the “natural structure of marriage”? 

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July 4-17, 2014

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