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Friday, May 21, 2004


VATICAN CITY, MAY 20, 2004 (VIS) - This morning the Holy Father received the participants in the 53rd General Assembly of the Italian Episcopal Conference which has been reflecting these past few days on the renewal of parishes, social communications and priestly and religious vocations.

  The Pope encouraged bishops who share his concerns for vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, and he invited young people in Italy "to carefully consider and  to embrace, with joy not fear, the Lord's call which is an extraordinary gift." Addressing the families of those who receive a vocation who are "so often worried about the future of their children," he recalled that "no one is more generous than the Lord and every one of his calls is a great blessing for the family of those who are called."

  Referring to the media, John Paul II said, "We know well the penetrating influence that the media have on modern thought and personal and collective behavior, promoting a vision of life that unfortunately often corrodes fundamental ethical values, especially with regard to the family." The media, he added, must contribute to "the affirmation of positive models of life and to spreading the Gospel."

  "Terrorism, war and violations of human rights, which make the international situation so difficult and dangerous, weigh greatly on our hearts, dear brother bishops. I continue to join in your prayer, especially for those who are held hostage in Iraq, for those who risk their life and for those who die in the line of duty."

  "The Pope expressed his appreciation for the conference's initiative to promote pilgrimages of peace to the Holy Land. "This is also," he said, "a strong sign of unity and solidarity with Christian communities that live there who greatly need our help."

  Referring to Italy, the Holy Father indicated that despite differences "a sincere search for the common good must prevail so that Italy's path to progress becomes quicker and so that a new phase of development begins with the creation of jobs which are so necessary especially in the South."

  "A decisive field, in which efforts must be multiplied, is the family, based on marriage, the protection and acceptance of life and the primary responsibility of parents in education.  I repeat in unison with you the words of this year's theme for the World Day of Life: 'There is no future without children!' A common effort in social politics, the pastoral care of the Church and all those who can influence thought is necessary and urgent for Italy's future so that young couples may discover the joy of having and educating children and thus participating in the work of the Creator."
AC/.../ITALIAN EPISCOPAL CONFERENCE                   VIS 20040521 (450)

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