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Cardinal: Religion teachers critical to evangelization

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WASHINGTON -- The cardinal recently selected by Pope Benedict XVI to play a key role in the October 2012 world Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization told high school religion teachers Oct. 28 that solid catechesis, confidence in the faith and sharing the faith are critical elements to carrying out the work of the new evangelization.

"You are on the front line of the new evangelization -- an effort that mirrors so clearly the work of the early church and the first disciples," said Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington to a conference of Catholic high school religion teachers as part of High School Principals Association professional development day at a local Catholic high school.

"The new evangelization is not a program. It is a mode of thinking, seeing and acting," Cardinal Wuerl said. "It is a lens through which we see the opportunities to proclaim the Gospel anew. It is also a recognition that the Holy Spirit is actively working in the church."

Pope: Angolans must resist Gospel-contradicting customs

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VATICAN CITY -- Angolan Catholics must resist customs in their country that go against the Gospel, including the practice of cohabitation without marriage, shunning or even killing children and old people accused of being witches, and divisions based on tribal origin, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"Christians breathe the spirit of their time and experience the pressure of the customs of their society, but through the grace of baptism, they are called to renounce the dangerous prevailing tendencies," the pope told the bishops of Angola and Sao Tome.

Meeting the bishops Oct. 29 at the end of their "ad limina" visits to the Vatican, Pope Benedict said there were three practices widely accepted in Angolan society that are contrary to the Gospel and the good of the human family.

The first, he said, is what Angolans call "amigamento," or cohabitation, which the pope said "contradicts God's plan for procreation and the human family."

Pope Benedict said the low rate of Catholic marriages in Angola indicates a serious problem, including for social stability.

Among Assisi participants, a sense of deeper crisis in modern society

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Analysis

ASSISI, Italy -- A common thread ran through many of the speeches and invocations of this year's "prayer for peace" encounter in Assisi: the uneasy sense that the world is facing not merely conflicts and wars, but a much broader crisis that affects social and cultural life in every country.

Environmental damage, the rich-poor divide, erosion of cultural traditions, terrorism and new threats to society's weakest members were cited as increasingly worrisome developments by speakers at the interfaith gathering in the Italian pilgrimage town Oct. 27.

Pope Benedict XVI, addressing the 300 participants, echoed those points in his own analysis of the state of global peace 25 years after Blessed John Paul II convened the first Assisi meeting.

In 1986, he noted, the world was caught up not only in simmering armed conflicts but also in a cold war between two opposing blocs. Today, the Cold War is over and there is "no threat of a great war hanging over us," but "nevertheless the world is, unfortunately, full of discord," he said.

Nonbeliever gets hearing at Assisi

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ASSISI, Italy -- It isn't every day that the Vatican shares the papal stage with a nonbeliever.

Then again, Julia Kristeva was no flame-throwing atheist. Some sentences of her speech could have been lifted from a papal discourse.

"In order for humanism to develop and re-establish itself, the moment has come to take up again the moral codes constructed through the course of history" and renew them without weakening them, Kristeva told Pope Benedict XVI and about 300 religious representatives Oct. 27 in Assisi.

Kristeva, a Bulgarian-born philosopher and psychoanalyst, was one of four nonbelievers the pope invited to the Assisi interfaith meeting for peace. Their presence was an innovation that sparked questions and even criticism in some conservative quarters.

The program gave Kristeva and the pope the same podium and a global audience, and both spoke in bridge-building language. The pope said he invited the nonbelievers because he was convinced they were seekers who, by looking for truth, in effect are looking for God.

Pope prays Assisi pilgrimage will foster peace

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VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI prayed that his interreligious pilgrimage to Assisi would promote dialogue among believers of different faiths and help the world move toward peace and reconciliation.

"In a world still torn by hatred, divisions, selfishness and wars, we want to pray that tomorrow's meeting in Assisi would promote dialogue among people of different religions," the pope said Oct. 26 during a prayer service at the Vatican.

Pope Benedict prayed that the Assisi meeting would help "enlighten the minds and hearts of all men and women so that anger would give way to pardon, division to reconciliation, hatred to love, violence to meekness, so that peace would reign in the world."

"We ask God for the gift of peace. We want to pray that he make us instruments of his peace," the pope said at the Christian prayer service, which was attended by cardinals and bishops, as well as Orthodox and Protestant leaders. Several Muslim representatives also were present.

Benedict a pope of seconds in Assisi

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Analysis

John Paul II was a pope of firsts, from launching World Youth Day to visiting the Rome synagogue, from leading a liturgy of repentance for the failures of Christians to convening a summit of “new movements.” Every time John Paul broke the mold, he added another chapter to the story of his remarkable 26-year papacy.

Today, when Pope Benedict XVI repeats those acts, the point is no longer to innovate. Instead, it’s to signal that the precedents will last, that these gestures have passed into the permanent inheritance of the Catholic church.

In a sense, one might say that Benedict is becoming a pope of seconds -- and, arguably, those seconds are almost as important as the firsts.

That will be the case again on Oct. 27, when Benedict convenes a cross section of spiritual leaders in Assisi, Italy, repeating John Paul’s historic initiative in favor of peace in 1986. John Paul himself repeated the gesture in 1993 (to pray for peace in the Balkans) and in 2002 (to pray for peace in the world after the terrorist attacks of September 2001). This edition will mark the 25th anniversary of John Paul’s original summit.

Vatican note on economy the first ripple of a southern wave

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Commentary

Whenever the Vatican appears to lurch in a given direction, there's a tendency in Catholic circles to become obsessed with how much ecclesiastical authority the gesture or text in question carries. For the most part, it's a legitimate question; when Benedict XVI uses kneelers during Communion, for instance, people have good reasons for wondering if it's a harbinger of a policy move or simply a matter of personal taste.

Sometimes, however, fussing about the authority behind something misses the bigger picture. Reaction to Monday's note from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, titled "Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Political Authority," offers a classic case in point. (Read the document.)

Vatican blasts 'idolatry' of global markets

VATICAN CITY -- Blaming the world's economic and financial crisis on an "economic liberalism that spurns rules and controls," the Vatican on Monday released an ambitious proposal for global regulation of the financial industry and the international money supply.

The 16-page document from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace calls for a "central world bank" to regulate the "flow and system of monetary exchanges similar to the national central banks," such as the U.S. Federal Reserve.

The proposal also calls for a global tax on financial transactions, whose revenue would go to a fund to help "support the economies of the countries hit by crisis."

Ultimately, the plan would help establish a "world political authority" envisioned by Popes John XXIII in 1963 and Benedict XVI in 2009. That body would have international governance on arms control, migration, food security, and environmental protection.

The proposal is the Vatican's newest response to globalization, which it says makes far-flung nations more dependent on each other but also more exposed to each other's risky choices and financial mismanagement.

Vatican document on brotherhood still in the works

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The Vatican is legendary for thinking in centuries, which may help explain why a document on the vocation to the religious brotherhood that in some ways has been in the works for a quarter century remains largely in the planning stages today.

When that document from the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, better known as the Congregation for Religious, eventually appears, certainly no one can accuse them of having rushed into it.

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