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Of liturgy and life: Jesuit scholar reflects on his 46 years in Rome

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VATICAN CITY -- In a sitting room where lace doilies top every table, Jesuit Fr. Robert F. Taft's gray sweater and wooden cane add to the impression that he's a refined retired professor.

But then he shared what he believes is the line his former students quote most: "There are two things you do not do alone: liturgy and sex."

The world-renowned liturgical scholar was interviewed Dec. 13 as he prepared to return to the United States after more than 46 years in Rome.

Students and friends share his pithy quotes with relish and his graduate summer school students at the University of Notre Dame even published a collection of them several years ago.

"They're totally spontaneous. It's not like I sit in my room before class thinking, 'What wisecrack can I throw at them today?' It just happens," he said.

Taft, who said he's "on the top of the heap" when it comes to knowledge of the Byzantine liturgy, officially retired as a professor at Rome's Pontifical Oriental Institute in 2002. He is scheduled to move to the Jesuit retirement center in Weston, Mass., just after Christmas and will celebrate his 80th birthday Jan. 9.

Church should fear sin of members more than persecution, pope says

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ROME -- The church should fear the sin of its own members more than hatred against Christians, Pope Benedict XVI said.

While the church has suffered from persecution throughout its history, it "is supported by the light and strength of God" and will always end up victorious, he said.

Overcoming trials and outside threats shows how the Christian community "is the presence, the guarantee of God's love against all ideologies of hatred and selfishness," he said on the feast of the Immaculate Conception Dec. 8.

"The only danger the church can and should fear is the sin of her members," the pope said.

Pope Benedict marked the feast day by making an afternoon visit to a statue of Mary erected near the Spanish Steps.

He went from the Vatican to the heart of Rome's tourist and shopping district to pay homage to Mary by praying before the statue, which commemorates Pope Pius IX's proclamation in 1854 that Mary, by special divine favor, was without sin from the moment she was conceived.

Pope names U.S. Catholic evangelists to advise Vatican council

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VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI named two Catholic evangelists from the United States to help advise the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization.

Curtis Martin, founder and president of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, and Ralph Martin, director of graduate theology programs in evangelization at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in the Archdiocese of Detroit, were among 15 people appointed as consultors to the newly created council. The Vatican released the names of the papal appointees Dec. 7.

Curtis Martin, who holds a master's degree in theology, is a fellow at the Augustine Institute in Denver, a Catholic graduate school dedicated to new evangelization.

Ralph Martin is an assistant professor of theology at the Detroit seminary, was the founding editor of New Covenant Magazine and founding director of the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Office in Rome.

Of the 15 experts chosen, nine are clergy and six are lay Catholics, including one woman -- Maria Voce, who is president of the Focolare movement.

Pope: Follow Christ, not some ethical code

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VATICAN CITY -- Following the Gospel is not adhering to a doctrine or code of ethics but entails truly following the person of Christ in one's life, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Through Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit, "we can turn with trust to God our Father, confident that, in doing his will, we shall find true freedom and peace," he said during his weekly general audience Dec. 7.

In his audience talk to about 3,000 people in Paul VI hall, Pope Benedict continued a series of talks on Christian prayer.

Divine revelation doesn't follow earthly rules in which the powerful hold the keys to knowledge, he said. God takes a completely different approach, choosing instead to share with "the little ones" true knowledge of the divine, he said.

Only those who are pure of heart and are open to God's will can see the face of God in Jesus, he said.

People must have a simple heart, like a child, free of any self-assured presumptions that they can live their own life without any help from anyone, not even God, the pope said.

"But we need God, we need to meet him, listen to him and talk to him," and only through him will people find peace, he said.

Update: Pope won't face charges for not buckling up

BERLIN -- Pope Benedict XVI can cross an outstanding charge of failing to use a seatbelt from his list of worries.

The southern German city of Freiburg on Wednesday (Nov. 30) threw out charges against the pontiff for riding in his popemobile without a seatbelt during a September visit.

"There will be no fine for the pope," city spokeswoman Edith Lamersdorf, told the daily Badische Zeitung. "The charges were quashed."

Although there is a requirement in Germany to wear seatbelts, even in slow-moving vehicles, city officials ruled that the law didn't apply in the pope's case because the street on which he was spotted without a seatbelt had been closed for public traffic the day of his visit.

Attorney Christian Sundermann had filed the complaint on behalf of an unnamed German resident of Dortmund. Freiburg was Benedict's last stop during his September visit to his native Germany.

Is Ireland just the first Vatican embassy to go?

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Last year, veteran Italian journalist Massimo Franco published a book about what he sees as the Vatican’s declining international relevance. Its opening chapter was titled “The Last Ambassador,” and featured a diplomat from a major Western nation who compared his situation, representing his government to the Vatican today, to that of the final ambassadors to the soon-to-disappear Republic of Venice in 1797.

SSPX head says Vatican statement needs changes

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VATICAN CITY -- The head of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X said a "doctrinal preamble" presented by the Vatican needs changes before it can be accepted as the basis for the group's reconciliation.

The statement by Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior of the society, appeared to hold out hope for further discussions with the Vatican, but it was unclear whether the Vatican would be willing to revisit the text.

"It is true that this doctrinal preamble cannot receive our endorsement, although leeway has been allowed for a 'legitimate discussion' about certain points of the (Second Vatican) Council. What is the extent of this leeway?" Bishop Fellay said in an interview posted on the society's website Nov. 29.

In September, when Bishop Fellay was handed the preamble, the Vatican did not publish the document but said it "states some doctrinal principles and criteria for the interpretation of Catholic doctrine necessary to guarantee fidelity" to the formal teaching of the church.

Pope Benedict XVI slapped with charges for not wearing seat belt

BERLIN -- Just because the pope gets to ride in the popemobile doesn't give him license not to wear a seat belt.

So says an unnamed German man who filed charges against Pope Benedict XVI for allegedly failing to use a seat belt while touring Germany on an official visit in September.

Attorney Christian Sundermann confirmed that the complaint was filed with authorities in Freiburg, the southern German city that was Benedict's last stop during his German visit, according to the newspaper Der Westen.

The unnamed plaintiff, from Dortmund, argues that the pope was seen several times during the visit without a seat belt. The complaint offers several eyewitnesses, including the archbishop of Freiburg, the head of the German Conference of Bishops and the premier of the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, where Freiburg sits.

The complaint refers to a "Mr. Joseph Ratzinger" -- the German-born pope's given name -- and sightings of him on Sept. 24 and 25 riding in a vehicle without a seat belt "for more than an hour."

Pope urges international agreement on climate change

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VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI urged international leaders to reach a credible agreement on climate change, keeping in mind the needs of the poor and of future generations.

The pope made the remarks at his noon blessing at the Vatican Nov. 27, the day before officials from 194 countries were to begin meeting in Durban, South Africa, to discuss the next steps in reducing greenhouse gases and stopping global temperatures from rising.

"I hope that all members of the international community can agree on a responsible, credible and supportive response to this worrisome and complex phenomenon, keeping in mind the needs of the poorest populations and of future generations," the pope said.

The meeting, which runs until Dec. 9, is the latest in a series to consider follow-up action to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which obligated industrialized countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a specific amount. The Kyoto Protocol expires at the end of 2012, and the Durban encounter is considered crucial in forging an additional commitment period.

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