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Vatican

Waiting for the pope: Vatican flags, human wall -- and hope for peace

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LEON, Mexico (CNS) -- Thousands of Catholics formed a human wall lining parts of the highway and boulevards leading into and through this industrial city of shoe factories and tanneries in anticipation of Pope Benedict's arrival March 23 -- his first visit to Mexico since being elected in 2005.

Many dressed in white T-shirts and waved Vatican flags as they waited in the hot sun. Others chanted support slogans and screamed as motorists honked horns while passing. Some even began lining up in the predawn hours.

Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Cuba benefits both Vatican and the Castros

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When Pope John Paul II visited Cuba in 1998, he called for the island nation "to open to the world and for the world to open to Cuba."

Pope Benedict XVI now will walk in that wider doorway.

The official reason for the trip is pastoral. Just weeks before his 85th birthday, Benedict is mustering his strength to bring encouragement to the Cuban flock after his first stop in Mexico this week.

The pope will bless the patroness of Cuba, La Caridad, the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre, on the 400th anniversary of her statue found floating in the sea.

Experts say his two-day visit to Cuba benefits the Vatican with increased opportunity to promote the faith in a country that once imprisoned priests, confiscated church property, shuttered religious schools and deprived active Catholics of education and job opportunities.

In turn, the visit benefits the Castro brothers -- ailing revolutionary Fidel and his now-ruling brother Raul -- who know the Roman Catholic Church has always opposed the half-century-old U.S. trade embargo.

Pope tells Cubans to look beyond Marxism

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI on Friday (March 23) urged Cuba's communist government to look for "new models" beyond its "Marxist ideology," saying it is clear that Marxism "no longer responds to reality."

Speaking on the plane taking him to Mexico for his first visit to Spanish-speaking Latin America, the pontiff also stressed that though the church "is not a political power," Catholics must do more to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor and to promote "social justice."

Pope names bishop once accused of improprieties to Vatican council

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VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI has appointed a German bishop who had been accused of financial irregularities and hitting children to the Vatican's health care council.

Retired Bishop Walter Mixa of Augsburg was named a member of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry on Wednesday.

It is the 70-year-old bishop's first appointment as a member of a Vatican dicastery. He served as the bishop of Augsburg and the German Military Ordinariate until he resigned in 2010.

Mixa's resignation was accepted a few weeks after he offered it, after accusations surfaced that he had hit children during his time as a priest in charge of a children's home near Augsburg. He originally denied the claims, then admitted that he had perhaps "boxed the ears" of some of his wards.

Mixa also faced accusations of misappropriation of funds from the children's home.

German prosecutors also investigated Mixa for alleged sexual abuse of a minor when he was bishop of Eichstatt from 1996 to 2005, but dropped the investigation for lack of evidence.

Pope to find mixed political messages in Mexico trip

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SILAO, Mexico (RNS) Pilgrims ply a winding mountain to the summit of the Cerro del Cubilete in the western state of Guanajuato, visiting a statue of "Christ the King" erected as an act of defiance during a period of church-state conflict.

The Cristo Rey, as it is known, stands as a reminder of the Roman Catholic rebels who fought forces of an anti-clerical central government during the Cristero Rebellion of the 1920s, when churches and seminaries were shut down and the Catholic Church lost its legal standing and the right to own property.

Vatican announces investigations into document leaks

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VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI has established a commission to investigate a series of leaks of letters exchanged among Vatican officials and between the officials and the pope himself.

Archbishop Angelo Becciu, Vatican substitute secretary of state, said March 16 that the papal commission would try "to shed light on the whole affair," while a Vatican tribunal would look into taking legal action against those who gave the documents to reporters, and the Vatican Secretariat of State would carry out an administrative review of every Vatican office.

While some of the leaked letters are gossipy, others include allegations of serious financial misconduct.

The leaks being investigated by the Vatican began in January with the publication of letters written by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano when he was secretary-general of the Governor's Office of Vatican City State. The archbishop, who now is nuncio to the United States, warned of corruption, abuse of power, a lack of transparency in awarding contracts and opposition to financial reforms.

Vatican exhibits spotlight the Bible, Vatican archive

VATICAN CITY -- Christian history buffs have a lifetime of treasures to explore in Rome, including two new exhibits that opened Feb. 29 at the Vatican.

"Lux in Arcana" puts on display for the first time documents from the storied Vatican Secret Archive, including the records of Galileo Galilei's heresy trial and a letter to the pope signed by clergy and members of the English Parliament seeking an annulment for King Henry VIII so he could marry Anne Boleyn.

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.

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