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Tuesday, January 18, 2005


VATICAN CITY, JAN 18, 2005 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences four prelates from the Spanish Episcopal Conference on their "ad limina" visit:

    - Bishop Miguel Jose Asurmendi Aramendia, S.D.B., of Vitoria.

    - Bishop Juan Jose Omella Omella of Calahorra y La Calzada-Logrono.

    - Bishop Jesus Sanz Montes, O.F.M., of Jaca and of Huesca.

    - Bishop Juan Maria Uriarte Goiricelaya of San Sebastian.
AL/.../...                                        VIS 20050118 (70)


VATICAN CITY, JAN 18, 2005 (VIS) - At noon today, Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls made the following declaration:

  "Today Tuesday, January 18, Gianfranco Fini in his capacity as foreign minister of the Italian Republic, came to the Vatican where he paid visits to Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, secretary for Relations with States, and to Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano.

  "The visit falls within the framework of contacts that Minister Fini is strengthening with various governments, in order to reinforce international collaboration.

  "In the course of the talks in the Vatican, opinions were exchanged on current affairs, especially the situation in Europe and in the Middle East. There was also agreement on the need to reform the United Nations in order to respond better to the challenges of the third millennium."
OP/MEETING FINI:SODANO/NAVARRO-VALLS                VIS 20050118 (140)


VATICAN CITY, JAN 18, 2005 (VIS) - This morning, in the largest private audience ever given by a Pope to Jewish leaders, John Paul II received 160 Jewish rabbis and cantors from Israel, the United States and Europe.

  The Holy Father pointed out that "this year we will be celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council's Declaration 'Nostra aetate', which has significantly contributed to the strengthening of Jewish-Catholic dialogue.

  "May this be an occasion for renewed commitment to increased understanding and cooperation in the service of building a world ever more firmly based on respect for the divine image in every human being."

  The rabbis, who all belong to the Pave the Way Foundation, thanked the Holy Father for "all the efforts he has sustained over 26 years of pontificate to reconcile the two faiths and demolish the wall of hatred," according to a communique from the Foundation published last evening. During the audience, they recited a prayer in honor of John Paul II.

  Gary Krupp, founder and president of the Pave the Way Foundation, affirmed that the aim of his group is "to unite men and women of good faith, beyond any religious belief and without prejudice, and to remove with determination all obstacles in the way of this objective. The Pope has done this for decades. The least we can do is to thank him humbly for all he has done for the Jewish people in the world; and in our turn we undertake to make serious efforts for peace on Earth," he said.

  Rabbi Jack Bemporad, director of the Center for Inter-religious Understanding, said "since Vatican Council II, and under the guidance of Pope John Paul II, the Church has made many extremely significant steps to create new bonds with Jews on a foundation of sincere affection and reciprocity."

  "No Pope before John Paul II has ever done as much, or been so concerned to create fraternal relations between Catholics and Jews. ... I am convinced that Pope John Paul II will be considered a great healer of relations between Catholics and Jews. ... Coming to the Vatican from all over the world, we rabbis say thank you!"
AC/JEWS:CATHOLICS/RABBIS                        VIS 20050118 (380)


VATICAN CITY, JAN 18, 2005 (VIS) - Joaquin Navarro-Valls, director of the Holy See Press Office, made the following declaration today upon learning of the release in Iraq of the kidnapped Syrian Catholic archbishop: "With great satisfaction we learned of the release of Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa of Mosul who had been kidnapped yesterday afternoon.

  "The Holy Father was immediately informed and he thanked God for the happy outcome of this affair.

  "No ransom was paid.

  "The kidnapping caused great surprise because the archbishop was well loved by both Christians and Muslims."

  Last evening Navarro-Valls, made the following statement to journalists: "The news has reached us of the kidnapping of Syrian Catholic Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa of Mosul, Iraq, The Holy See deplores in the firmest possible manner this despicable terrorist act and asks that this worthy pastor be released immediately to his ministry."

  Archbishop Casmoussa was born in Karakoche in northern Iraq in 1938. He was ordained a priest in 1962 and consecrated a bishop in December 1999.

  The Iraqi population is estimated at 25 million. Approximately 750,000 are Christians, 70% of whom belong to the Chaldean Catholic Church. There are 60,000 Syrian Catholics in Iraq.

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