Vatican Applauds Bishops' Fight with Gov't

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ATLANTA - The pope's ambassador to the United States is praising American bishops for confronting the government over religious freedom.

Archbishop Carlo Vigano expressed full support for the bishops' efforts and repeated past words of encouragement from Pope Benedict XVI.

Vigano spoke Wednesday at an Atlanta meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. It's the bishops' first meeting since they filed a dozen lawsuits against a mandate from the administration of President Barack Obama that employee health insurance cover birth control. Obama has offered to soften the rule for religious employers, but bishops say that doesn't go far enough.

Critics say the lawsuits appear politically partisan, especially during a presidential election.

The bishops say it's not about politics. They plan religious-freedom rallies for two weeks leading up to July 4.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Rachel Zoll

Rachel Zoll

AP Religion Writer

The Associated Press is the backbone of the world's information system serving thousands of daily newspaper, radio, television and online customers with coverage in all media and news in all formats. It is the largest and oldest news organization in the world, serving as a source of news, photos, graphics, audio and video.