News/International

MADRID - Hours after firefighters doused overheated pilgrims with much-needed jets of water, the heavens added to their efforts by driving rain and wind onto the more than 1 million young Catholics camping at Cuatro Vientos airbase Saturday night for the World Youth Day vigil.

But the rain didn’t dampen the spirits of the pilgrims, who sang and chanted all the louder for Pope Benedict XVI, who entered the airbase to cheers and applause. The pope, however, skipped the longer speech he had prepared in favor of short addresses to pilgrims in Spanish, French, English, German, Italian, Portuguese and Polish.

In the different languages, he told the young people to be proud of the gift of their faith they should “gather with others to deepen it, be faithful to the celebration of the Eucharist, the mystery of faith par excellence.”

Pope Benedict asked that the youths, during the eucharistic adoration that followed, to “raise our minds and hearts to Jesus Christ” so he “may he pour out his Spirit upon us and upon the whole church, that we may be a beacon of freedom, reconciliation and peace for the whole world.”

He encouraged them to seek out their life’s vocation and to “persevere in it with joy and fidelity, knowing that he never abandons you or betrays you.”

Pope hears confessions in the park at WYD

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MADRID — Pope Benedict XVI began his third day in Madrid by hearing confessions in one of 200 portable confessionals set up in a park for World Youth Day pilgrims.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the pope offered the sacrament of reconciliation to four World Youth Day volunteers: two young men and two young women. The pope heard the confessions of two in French, one in German and the confession of a Spaniard in Italian.

While the pope used one of the same portable white confessionals that all penitents and priests in the park used, a white screen was placed around his to increase privacy.

Organizers originally had said the pope would offer the sacrament to three young people.

Pope offers challenges to young professors, young religious

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SAN LORENZO DE EL ESCORIAL, Spain (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI's meetings with young religious women and young university professors, held in the same complex, had very different tones.

The sisters and nuns -- all under 35 -- gathered in the sunny courtyard of the Basilica of St. Lawrence, while the professors -- most under 40 -- gathered inside the imposing stone basilica.

The young consecrated women were exuberant: singing, chanting and doing the wave. Most of them stood on their plastic chairs when the pope entered. The young professors visited one another rather quietly before the pope arrived and remained standing on the floor when the pope entered; they were in a church, after all.

In speeches to both groups, the pope expressed gratitude and offered encouragement, but he once was a young professor himself, and much of his advice to the scholars was based on personal experience and a continuing keen observation of what is happening in universities around the world.

Youths welcome pope to WYD; he asks them to think about faith

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MADRID - Formally welcomed to World Youth Day by a boisterous, flag-waving throng of hundreds of thousands of young people from around the world, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged their enthusiasm but also urged them to be strong, solid and think about their faith.

Pope Benedict walked through the Puerta de Alcala, a monumental arch symbolizing the entrance to the city, with young people representing Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Moving to the nearby Plaza de Cibeles for the formal greetings and a prayer service, young people representing the various regions greeted the pope and gave him a gift that represented a formal cultural welcome. The pope received salt and bread from a young Polish woman; a flower garland from a Japanese woman; a bowl of rice from a South Korean; a sombrero from a Honduran; and coffee beans in a banana leaf from a young man from Australia.

Vatican publishes documents related to Oregon sex abuse cases

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VATICAN CITY - The Vatican published online more than 70 pages of documents which, it said, prove the Vatican had no knowledge of a priest's sexual misconduct until he and his religious order petitioned for his laicization.

The case involves the late Andrew Ronan, a former Servite priest who was laicized in 1966; a man who says he was abused by Ronan in Oregon in 1965 has taken the Vatican to court, claiming Ronan was a Vatican employee.

In a statement Aug. 17, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said, "While most of the case has been dismissed, two accusations made by (the) plaintiff's attorneys have persisted and have been repeatedly reported in the press: that the Holy See knew that Ronan was an abuser, and that the Holy See transferred Ronan from one place to another with that knowledge.

"Those would, of course, be very serious accusations -- if true," Father Lombardi said. "But, as we are learning with the development of the case, the accusations are decidedly not true."

Pope says listening to, praying with young is a great joy

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MADRID - Listening to and praying with energetic young Catholics is a joy, Pope Benedict XVI told the king of Spain.

"I have come here to meet thousands of young people from all over the world, Catholics committed to Christ, searching for the truth that will give real meaning to their existence," the pope told King Juan Carlos Aug. 18 at Madrid's Barajas airport.

The king, walking with a crutch, and Queen Sofia welcomed the pope, as did 50 Spanish boys and young men dressed as Swiss Guards to make the pope feel at home.

Pope Benedict told the royal family, Spanish bishops and dignitaries at the airport that joining hundreds of thousands of young people at World Youth Day was the motive for his third papal trip to Spain and his 20th trip outside of Italy since becoming pope in 2005.

Many participants at the youth gathering "have heard the voice of God, perhaps only as a little whisper, which has led them to search for him more diligently and to share with others the experience of the force which he has in their lives," the pope said.

On plane to Madrid, pope says WYD refreshes, strengthens the young

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ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT TO MADRID - Pope Benedict XVI described the World Youth Day celebrations as a "waterfall of light" that refreshes, nourishes and strengthens young Catholics and, therefore, can bring hope to the world.

Responding to four questions during the flight from Rome to Madrid Aug. 18, the pope told reporters that Blessed John Paul II was inspired when he instituted World Youth Day, and the celebration has brought much good to the church and the world, even if the results aren't always evident immediately.

"God sows silently, and the seeds he plants don't show up right away in statistics," the pope said. It's like the parable where some of the  seeds fall on the road and just dry out, while others fall among weeds and struggle, and others fall on fertile ground and flourish, he said as he prepared to join hundreds of thousands of young people in Spain Aug. 18-21.

Obviously, he said, some of the seeds sown during World Youth Day "will be lost, but that is human."

However, he said, he was confident most of the seeds, especially the seeds of "friendship with God and friendships with others," would continue to grow.

Abuse payouts put Dublin archdiocese on brink of financial collapse

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DUBLIN - The Dublin archdiocese is on the brink of financial collapse because of payouts to victims of clergy sexual abuse, according to an internal report.

The report — prepared by the diocesan Council of Priests and obtained by The Irish Catholic newspaper — said that "reserves the diocese had built up over decades have been spent on seeking to compensate, somewhat, victims of child sexual abuse by priests."

So far, 172 civil actions from people alleging abuse have been taken against 44 priests of the Dublin archdiocese; 117 have been concluded and 55 are ongoing. The costs, so far, to the archdiocese for settlement of claims regarding child sexual abuse by priests is currently at 13.5 million euros ($20 million) — 9.3 million euros in settlements and 4.2 million euros in legal costs for both sides.

"This means the diocese will have to go into debt for a considerable period and will not have resources for other projects unless we fundraise for them specifically," the document added.

At opening Mass, WYD pilgrims begin 'days you will never forget'

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MADRID - A cloudless blue sky turned to inky night as hundreds of thousands of pilgrims participated in the opening Mass for World Youth Day, celebrated by Madrid Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela in the Plaza de Cibeles.

Protected from the heat by white umbrellas and streams of soft mists, dozens of bishops and priests gathered on and around the makeshift altar to celebrate the Mass for pilgrims representing their homeland with flags, special hats, T-shirts and banners.

In his homily, Rouco said World Youth Day is inseparable from Blessed John Paul II, "the pope of the young," whose memory they celebrated with the Mass.

The relationship Blessed John Paul had with the young was "unprecedented," he said "a hitherto unknown relationship between the Church and her young: direct, immediate ... imbued with a faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, enthusiastic, hopeful, joyful, contagious."

This tradition has continued with Pope Benedict XVI, he said, who did not hesitate to highlight Blessed John Paul's love of the young in his homily for his predecessor's beatification in May.

Some may protest, but young will welcome pope in Spain, spokesman says

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VATICAN CITY - Protests planned against Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Madrid Aug. 18-21 are "not worrying or surprising" to the Vatican, particularly because "there are hundreds of thousands of young people who will be happy to welcome the pope," the Vatican spokesman said.

Groups opposed to government and church spending for the pope's visit have planned a protest Aug. 16, the opening day of World Youth Day.

Briefing reporters Aug. 12 about the papal trip, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi said, "It seems to me that before every papal trip there are demonstrations by people who have a different opinion and use the occasion to express their problems or concerns .... It's part of life in a democratic country."

Father Lombardi also acknowledged the failure of efforts to keep the location of the next World Youth Day secret until Pope Benedict announces it at the final Mass Aug. 21.

Brother of slain Pakistani minister disputes family feud theory

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BANGALORE, India (CNS) -- The brother of assassinated Catholic government minister Shahbaz Bhatti has joined Christians in rejecting the idea that family and property disputes were behind the March assassination.

"This is just nonsense," Paul Bhatti, special adviser on minorities to the Pakistan government, told Catholic News Service Aug. 15 from Islamabad, Pakistan.

The assassination of 42-year old Shahbaz Bhatti, who was ambushed and sprayed with bullets while being driven to his office in Islamabad, has drawn worldwide condemnation, including from Pope Benedict XVI.

Paul Bhatti spoke to CNS about a leaked news report that absolved Islamic extremists for his brother's assassination.