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Pope pins financial mess on 'crisis of faith'

VATICAN CITY -- Europe's economic and financial crisis is the consequence of an "ethical crisis" and a "crisis of faith," Pope Benedict XVI said Thursday, resulting in the triumph of selfishness over social responsibility.

Benedict made his remarks in his annual Christmas speech to the Roman Curia, the Catholic church's central administration at the Vatican.

The pope acknowledged that "such values as solidarity, commitment to one's neighbor and responsibility toward the poor and suffering are largely uncontroversial," but said the "motivation is often lacking ... to make sacrifices."

While the remedy for selfishness lies in "proclamation of the gospel," the pope said Europe is now undergoing a crisis of faith evident in the troubles of the Roman Catholic Church.

"Regular churchgoers are growing older all the time and ... their number is constantly diminishing," and "recruitment of priests is stagnating" while "skepticism and unbelief are growing."

Benedict drew a contrast between Europe's anemic religious life and Africa's "joyful passion for faith," which he experienced last month during a three-day visit to the West African country of Benin.

Vatican OK with Manila leader despite link to Vatican II school

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Despite reports to the contrary, sources say there’s no particular Vatican concern about the new archbishop of Manila, the Philippines, over an article he contributed more than a decade ago to a controversial history of the Second Vatican Council. The article had not been part of the official documentation considered before his appointment.

Pope advances sainthood causes of Marianne Cope, Kateri Tekakwitha

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VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI advanced the sainthood causes of Blessed Marianne Cope of Molokai and Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha.

He also formally recognized the martyrdom of 64 victims of the Spanish Civil War and advanced the causes of 18 other men and women.

During a meeting Dec. 19 with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, the pope signed the decrees recognizing the miracles needed for the canonizations of Blesseds Marianne and Kateri.

Before a date is set for the canonization ceremonies, there must be an "ordinary public consistory," a formal ceremony opened and closed with prayer, during which cardinals present in Rome express their support for the pope's decision to create new saints.

Blessed Marianne, who worked as a teacher and hospital administrator in New York, spent the last 30 years of her life ministering on the Hawaiian island of Molokai to those with leprosy. She died on the island in 1918 at age 80 and was beatified in St. Peter's Basilica in 2005.

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.

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August 29-September 11, 2014

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