Thursday 16


“Europe and Africa need generous young people who know how to take responsibility for their future,” Benedict XVI said during an audience with 80 bishops, priests and other participants attending a joint conference organized by the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar, known as SECAM, and the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences, known by the acronym CCEE.

All societal institutions, like the family, schools and the Church, “must be well aware that these young people hold the future and that it is important to do everything possible so that their journey is not marked by uncertainty and darkness,” the Pope said.

The conference, held in Rome February 13-17, was dedicated to finding ways in which European and African Catholics can cooperate in evangelization.


Friday 17


If objective truth does not exist, “there is no compass and we won’t know where to go,” Benedict XVI told members and almost-members of the College of Cardinals.

An awareness of the truth of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ makes life “rich and beautiful” and is essential for sharing the Christian faith with others, the Pope said at the end of a day-long meeting of the College of Cardinals.

Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan of New York gave the day’s main presentation on missionary activity and the new evangelization.


Saturday 18


Benedict XVI created 22 new cardinals from 13 countries, placing red hats on their heads and calling them to lives of even greater love and service to the Church.

The consistory took the form of a prayer service.

The Bible reading at the service was taken from the Gospel of Mark and recounted how the disciples were tempted by the idea of honor, but Jesus told them that greatness means becoming the servant of all.

After the Gospel reading, in what the Vatican described as an allocution, not a homily, the Pope told the cardinals that love and service, not an air of greatness, are to mark their lives as cardinals.

During the ceremony, Pope Benedict placed rings on the fingers of the 22 new cardinals and assigned each a “titular church” in Rome, making them full members of Rome’s clergy and closer collaborators of the Pope in governing the universal Church.

At the end of the ceremony, the College of Cardinals had 213 members, 125 of whom were under the age of 80 and, therefore, eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a new Pope.

During the consistory, the Pope announced the canonization of seven new saints. The canonization ceremony will be celebrated October 21 at the Vatican.


Sunday 19


“The Church is not self-regulating, she does not determine her own structure, but receives it from the word of God, to which she listens in faith as she seeks to understand it and to live it,” the Pope said in a homily during a Mass concelebrated with the new cardinals in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Mass marked the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, a liturgical solemnity focused on the authority Jesus entrusted to his apostles. The feast is usually celebrated February 22 but was early because Ash Wednesday falls on that date this year.

To illustrate his homily, the pontiff used another work of art, Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s towering sculpture of the Chair of St. Peter, which is topped by the Holy Spirit window in the basilica’s apse.

The altar servers at the Mass were seminarians from the Pontifical North American College, the US seminary in Rome where Cardinals O’Brien and Dolan both had served as rector before being named bishops.


Wednesday 22


The 40 days of Lent are a time of spiritual renewal in preparation for Easter, but they are also a time to recognize that evil is at work in the world and even the Catholic Church faces temptations, Benedict XVI said during his weekly general audience today, 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 her members experience the grace of God, but also face evil around them and are tempted by power and selfishness, the Pope said.

At the end of the audience, Pope Benedict met with Msgr. Keith Newton, head of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. Members of the ordinariate, established in January 2011 for the pastoral care of former Anglicans in England and Wales, were making a pilgrimage to the Vatican to thank the pontiff.


The Pope’s Ash Wednesday Mass was preceded by a procession from Rome’s Church of St. Anselm to the Church of Santa Sabina.

During Wednesday’s Mass, Benedict XVI received ashes on his head from retired Slovakian Cardinal Jozef Tomko, the cardinal-priest of Santa Sabina.

Before receiving and distributing ashes, Pope Benedict gave a homily focused on the meaning of ashes and of the admonition from the Book of Genesis, “You are dust and to dust you shall return.”

Santa Sabina is the “station church” for the first day of Lent. The assigning of a Rome church to a set day during Lent goes back to the fourth century when the Pope would move around the city, celebrating Mass in different churches during Lent and on holy days as a sign of the unity of all the city’s Catholics.


Friday 24


A Vatican diplomat attended an international summit seeking an end to Syria’s year-long civil war.

Archbishop Michael L. Fitzgerald, apostolic nuncio to Egypt and the Holy See’s delegate to the Arab League, was an observer at the so-called Friends of Syria meeting in Tunis, Tunisia, said the Vatican’s top spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi.

The meeting of representatives of about 60 Western and Arab states called for an immediate cease-fire and demanded that Syria open humanitarian corridors. The nations also pledged to increase aid and to set up relief depots in areas along the Syrian border.

The Vatican’s participation at the summit, at the invitation of Tunisia’s foreign minister, was “intended to show the closeness and solidarity of the Holy See with all of the Syrian people” and its wish for “peace and stability” in the region, Father Lombardi said.


Saturday 25


An almost exclusive reliance on technology and a focus on financial profit seem to dominate the field of medical responses to infertility, Benedict XVI warned today.

Pope Benedict spoke to members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, which had just held a three-day workshop at the Vatican on diagnosing and treating infertility.

The Pope said he wanted “to encourage the intellectual honesty of your work, an expression of a science that maintains a correct spirit of seeking the truth to serve the authentic human good and that avoids the risk of being merely functional.”

However, one attendee at the February 22-24 meeting told Inside the Vatican the meeting was, to put it bluntly, “a disaster.” This source said: “The theme was infertility today, but only two presenters gave true Catholic answers to the problem and the success they have been having in helping couples who have trouble conceiving: Dr. Thomas Hilgers and Mer­cedes Arzu Wilson [honored by Inside the Vatican in January as one of our “Top Ten” people of 2011]. The rest of the presenters were primarily pro-in vitro fertilization and other kinds of fertilization outside the womb and then placed inside the womb — all contrary to Catholic teaching of course. If Planned Parenthood had planned the assembly, they could not have done a better job. Other Catholic visitors expressed their great disappointment and disgust,” the attendee added. “They came to hear the truth and left in sadness to experience what is happening inside the Vatican.”


Sunday 26


Benedict XVI asked Catholics for their prayers as he began his week-long Lenten retreat.

Congolese Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo of Kinshasa was chosen to preach the retreat Feb. 26-March 3 for Pope Benedict and top Vatican officials in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel inside the Apostolic Palace.

The cardinal’s topic was to be “Communion of the Christian with God.”


Tuesday 28


The Archdiocese of Milan, which will host the World Meeting of Families 2012, announced Benedict XVI would spend three days in the northern Italian city in June, celebrating the event’s closing Mass and attending a concert at the world-famous La Scala theater.

The world meeting, to be held May 30 to June 3, includes family activities as well as workshops and speeches for theologians and people involved in the pastoral care of families.

The theme of the meeting, co-sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Family, is: “The Family: Work and Celebration.”


The government of Vietnam has agreed to allow the Pope’s special envoy to have greater freedom to visit Catholics in the Communist country, Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said.

The archbishop, who was appointed in January 2011, took part in meetings Feb. 27-28 of a joint Vatican-Vietnamese working group, established to work toward fully normalizing relations. For years, top Vatican diplomats made annual trips to

Vietnam to work out details of the Church’s life and freedom to function in the country. The trips included a discussion with government officials of every potential bishop’s appointment. The Vatican always insisted that needing government permission to name a bishop was not the usual Vatican

procedure, but that it could be tolerated temporarily as Vatican-Vietnamese relations improved.

The Vatican delegation visiting Hanoi Feb. 27-28 was led by Msgr. Ettore Balestrero, the Vatican undersecretary for relations with states.


Monday 5


Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, the Holy See’s permanent observer to U.N. offices in Geneva, told the U.N. Human Rights Council that while Christians are not the only victims, attacks on them in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia “increased 309 percent between 2003 and 2010.”

The archbishop denounced “intolerance that leads to violence and to the killing of many innocent people each year simply because of their religious convictions.”

In some countries, which the archbishop did not name, religious freedom is threatened by “government-imposed and unjust restrictions.”

Wednesday 7


Benedict XVI urged Christians in the Middle East not to lose hope despite the serious difficulties they face. “I extend my prayerful thoughts to the regions in the Middle East, encouraging all the priests and faithful to persevere with hope through the serious suffering that afflicts these beloved people,” he said.

The Pope made his remarks when he greeted Armenian Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX Tarmouni of Beirut and Armenian bishops from around the world attending their synod in Rome. At the end of the general audience in St. Peter’s Square, the pontiff expressed his “sincere gratitude” for Armenian Catholics’ fidelity to their heritage and traditions, and to the successor of St. Peter. The majority of Catholics in the Middle East belong to Eastern Catholic Churches — the Armenian, Chaldean, Coptic, Maronite or Melkite Churches.


The Vatican’s official website suffered an attack by computer hackers, cutting off access by users for several hours.

Italian media outlets reported that the website, vatican.va,

became unresponsive around mid-afternoon local time, just as several other websites carried messages taking credit for the disruption in the name of the hacking group Anonymous. Email to and from the vatican.va domain was reportedly also blocked for at least part of the time. A posting on one Italian site claimed that the attack was an act of revenge for an array of outrages, including the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests and the historic practice of selling indulgences for sins.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, confirmed that vatican.va had been the “object of an attack,” but had no other information or comment to offer.


Thursday 8


While migration brings struggles for the migrant and the host country, in the long term it provides opportunities for stability, cultural enrichment and religious growth, said speakers at a Rome event sponsored by the U.S. embassy to the Holy See.

U.S. Ambassador Miguel H. Diaz, a Cuban-born theologian, led a panel discussion, “Building Bridges of Opportunity: Migration and Diversity” March 8 at the Pontifical North American College; the discussion brought together Vatican officials, experts on migration, other ambassadors, students, priests, religious and people working with immigrants.

Diaz opened the discussion by commenting on the story of Abraham and Sarah welcoming three strangers, who turned out to be God’s messengers. The story, he said, “suggests the challenges and opportunities that come with encountering strangers and the ethical responsibility to share life-sustaining resources.”

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican observer at U.N. agencies in Geneva, said: “The Church sees migration as a resource for development, a positive phenomenon.”

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said education — both in schools and in religious education classes — is a key to helping people recognize the human dignity of migrants and the cultural richness they can bring.

Saturday 10


Remembering the common roots of the Christianity they share, Roman Catholics and Anglicans should renew their commitments to working for Christian unity, Benedict XVI said.

The Pope and Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, held an evening prayer service at Rome’s Church of St. Gregory on the Caelian Hill, the church from which Pope St. Gregory the Great sent St. Augustine of Canterbury and his fellow monks to evangelize England in 597. The service was part of celebrations marking the 1,000th anniversary of the founding of the Camaldolese branch of the Benedictine Order. Camaldoli monks and nuns live and pray at the Church of St. Gregory and have an active program of ecumenical contacts.


Wednesday 14


Benedict XVI blessed and rang the official International Eucharistic Congress bell, which has been on tour across Ireland for nearly a year, in preparation for the world meeting in June.

An Irish delegation, led by the 2012 Congress President Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, presented the Pope with the small brass bell before the start of his weekly general audience. Before the Pope was driven into St. Peter’s Square, he met with the delegation and rang the bell. The bell has been brought to parishes, schools, nursing homes and hospitals throughout Ireland to raise awareness about the Eucharistic Congress and to call people to attend the event.

According to tradition, St. Patrick left a bell in every church he consecrated as a way to call people to the Eucharist. The 50th International Eucharistic Congress is in Dublin June 10-17 with the theme: “The Eucharist: Communion With Christ and With One Another.” Pope Benedict will not be attending the congress.

During his general audience the pontiff continued his cycle of talks on prayer and started a new chapter looking at prayer depicted in the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters of St. Paul.

At the end of his talk, the Pope met with Cardinal Emmanuel-Karim Delly, Chaldean patriarch of Baghdad, and Chaldean ­Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad, who presented the Pope with a wrapped gift.

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