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Vatican

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.

Timely note reflects Catholic vision

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Vatican documents on matters of social justice, unlike their counterparts on sexual matters, generally land at the bottom of news budgets, marginalized as esoteric and idealistic with little hope of achieving relevance in the real world.

So it was good fortune, or misfortune, depending on one’s point of view, that the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace happened to release its call for reform of the global financial system at a time of intense anxiety over global economics and as the Occupy Wall Street movement was spreading from city to city (see story).

The Vatican, often woefully inept at achieving timeliness and relevance, was, intentionally or not, dead on the mark in this instance. This document had relevance on arrival and a made-to-order news hook. Who could resist a Vatican call for overturning the era’s financial order?

The reactions were immediate, with those disposed to view American capitalism as an adjunct to American Catholicism strongly opposed. In those quarters, the document was dismissed as an insignificant piece from an insignificant Vatican office.

Pakistani official meets with the pope

VATICAN CITY -- A Pakistani government official met with Pope Benedict XVI after his general audience to discuss "the expectations and hopes of Christians" in Pakistan, according to Fides, the Vatican's missionary news agency.

At the brief meeting Nov. 16, Akram Masih Gill, the minister of state for national harmony, said he asked the pope "to pray for the faithful Pakistanis who, during the difficulties they encounter every day, trust in his support."

Gill, a practicing Catholic, was named in August to head the ministry that deals with interfaith relations and minority affairs in Pakistan. His predecessor, Shahbaz Bhatti, also a Catholic, was assassinated last March.

During his visit to Rome, Gill met with Bishop Enrico Dal Covolo, rector of the Pontifical Lateran University, and established a joint project between the university and the Pakistani government agency to promote harmony and dialogues between different faith groups, Fides reported.

The project envisions the exchange of professors, students and books, as well as the joint organization of conferences on issues like dialogue between faiths and religious harmony.

Vatican court upholds Massachusetts parish closures

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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- The Springfield Diocese has been informed that the Apostolic Signature, the Vatican's highest tribunal, has upheld the diocese's decision to suppress and close three parishes.

According to a Nov. 10 press release issued by the diocese, the upholding of the parish closings "is a definitive finding which supports the actions of the diocese, thus removing any possibility for their restoration as parishes."

The three parishes in the western Massachusetts diocese involved in the final ruling are: St. Stanislaus Kostka in Adams and St. George and St. Patrick in Chicopee. The decision affirmed merging St. Stanislaus Kostka with Pope John Paul the Great Parish, and St. George and St. Patrick with Holy Name of Jesus.

It also affirms a ruling made earlier this year by the Vatican Congregation for Clergy that upheld the parish mergers.

In the same action, the press release said, the Vatican court indicated the diocese had not yet provided sufficient cause to use the former churches for nonreligious uses, a similar point made by the Vatican Congregation for Clergy in its decision.

Pope asks for prayers for Benin trip

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VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI asked for prayers for his trip to Benin and for those suffering from violence on the African continent.

The pope, addressing pilgrims at his noon blessing Nov. 13, said he was traveling to Benin "in order to strengthen the faith and hope of Christians in Africa."

"I entrust this trip and the inhabitants of this beloved continent to your prayers, especially those who experience insecurity and violence," he said. He prayed that Mary give support to all those working for reconciliation in Africa.

During the Nov. 18-20 visit, the pope planned to unveil a document he wrote as a follow-up to the 2009 Synod of Bishops on Africa. The text synthesizes the synod's conclusions and presents pastoral priorities for the church in Africa.

The pope said the whole point of the synod was to help make Christians "the salt of the earth and the light of the world."

The pope's schedule in Benin included meetings with political authorities and interreligious representatives, an encounter with children, liturgies with Catholics and a Mass to present the post-synodal document.

2012 papal trip to Mexico, Cuba being studied

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VATICAN CITY -- Vatican officials are at an advanced stage in studying the possibility of a papal trip to Mexico and Cuba in the spring of 2012, the Vatican spokesman said.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the spokesman, told reporters Nov. 10 that the nuncios to Mexico and Cuba have been told to inform those governments that "the pope is studying a concrete plan to visit the two countries, responding to the invitations received" from them.

Father Lombardi said a definite decision regarding a trip in the spring should be made within a few weeks. The fact that the nuncios were asked to inform the governments demonstrates the advanced nature of the planning, he said.

The Mexican government and Mexican Catholics repeatedly have said they'd like Pope Benedict to visit "and he is happy to finally be able to respond," the Jesuit said. The pope went to Brazil in 2007, but would like to visit a Spanish-speaking country in the region and Mexico is the largest of them.

"Cuba is another country that really wants to see the pope," he said, and a papal visit could offer great encouragement to the people and the country "in an important period of their history."

Ireland's embassy closure is not a diplomatic rebuke of the Holy See

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Commentary

Ireland's decision to rely upon a nonresident ambassador to the Holy See rather than to continue the expense of two embassies in Rome, one for Italy and one for the Vatican, makes economic sense.

Ireland is responsibly looking to meet its economic obligations to the EU in a manner that is least disruptive to existing personnel and its national interests. At a time when the world economy is anxiously waiting to see if Greece can meet the fiscal expectations of Eurozone obligations without imposing undue hardship on its citizens, Ireland deserves praise, not scorn or suspicion, for its good sense.

It is, of course, understandable how some uninformed by the context might see this as a diplomatic rebuke to the Holy See. There is no credible evidence to suggest it is. After all, while 179 countries have diplomatic relations with the Vatican, close to half of that number is nonresident, and housed outside Rome. What's more, Ireland hardly singled out the Holy See, announcing the closure of embassies in Iran and East Timor at the same time.

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