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Friday, January 23, 2004


VATICAN CITY, JAN 23, 2004 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

- Jose Maria Aznar, president of the Government of Spain, accompanied by his wife and an entourage.

- Four prelates from the Episcopal Conference of France on their "ad limina" visit:

- Bishop Maurice Gaidon of Cahors.

- Bishop Bernard Housset of Montauban.

- Bishop Marcel Perrier of Pamiers.

- Bishop Bellino Ghirard of Rodez.

- Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

- Archbishop Jozef Kowalczyk, apostolic nuncio in Poland.

Later this afternoon, the Holy Father is scheduled to receive Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
AP:AL/.../... VIS 20040123 (120)


VATICAN CITY, JAN 23, 2004 (VIS) - This morning the Holy Father received in audience Jose Maria Aznar, president of the Spanish government, accompanied by his wife and an entourage.

During his brief remarks to Aznar, the Pope expressed his joy at having received him along with his family, as this is his last visit to the pontiff as the president of government after eight years in office. "During this period," he said, "we have had the opportunity to meet on diverse occasions, the last of which was during my apostolic trip to Spain last May. On that memorable occasion, I was able to recognize the deep Christian roots of the Spanish people and the dynamism of the Church in your noble country. These two qualities have marked the most brilliant moments of your history, and with them the new generations will be able to embark upon an ever-more promising future."

"While I am pleased with the sincere and loyal collaboration between the Church and the authorities at the service of the Spanish people, from respect to independence, I thank you for your visit, and I renew my encouragement for the spiritual and material progress of the Spanish people, for their peaceful coexistence in harmony and liberty, and at the same time I invoke the Almighty's every blessing for His beloved sons and daughters in Spain."

In a declaration released in the late morning, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, director of the Holy See Press Office, indicated that after the audience with John Paul II, President Aznar was received by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, secretary of State.

"In a very cordial conversation, the Pope and President Aznar spoke about Europe. The Holy Father expressed appreciation for the position of the president of the Spanish government particularly on the question of the recognition of the historical Christian roots of Europe.

"The conversation extended to the topics of the current situations in the world, especially in the Middle East.

"The Holy Father then received President Aznar's wife and children and an entourage.

"During the encounter with the secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano bestowed the title of Dame of the Order of Pius IX ("Ordine Piano") upon President Aznar's wife, Ana Botella, in recognition of her social and charitable initiatives."
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