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Friday, February 29, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 29 FEB 2008 (VIS) - Today in the Vatican, the Holy Father received the Letters of Credence of Mary Ann Glendon, the new ambassador of the United States to the Holy See and former president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

  Addressing the new ambassador in English, the Pope expressed his conviction "that the knowledge and experience born of your distinguished association with the work of the Holy See will prove beneficial in the fulfilment of your duties and enrich the activity of the diplomatic community to which you now belong".

  "From the dawn of the Republic, America has been ... a nation which values the role of religious belief in ensuring a vibrant and ethically sound democratic order", said the Holy Father, noting the American characteristic "of uniting people of good will, regardless of race, nationality or creed, in a shared vision and a disciplined pursuit of the common good.

  "Today", he added, "this task of reconciling unity and diversity, of forging a common vision and summoning the moral energy to accomplish it, has become an urgent priority for the whole human family, which is increasingly aware of its interdependence and the need for effective solidarity in meeting global challenges and building a future of peace".

  "The experience of the past century, with its heavy toll of war and violence, culminating in the planned extermination of whole peoples, has made it clear that the future of humanity cannot depend on mere political compromise. Rather, it must be the fruit of a deeper consensus based on the acknowledgement of universal truths. ... The building of a global juridic culture inspired by the highest ideals of justice, solidarity and peace calls for firm commitment, hope and generosity on the part of each new generation".

  "The building of a more secure future for the human family means first and foremost working for the integral development of peoples, especially through ... curbing the corruption and militarisation which divert precious resources from many of our brothers and sisters in the poorer countries.

  "The progress of the human family is threatened not only by the plague of international terrorism, but also by such threats to peace as the quickening pace of the arms race and the continuance of tensions in the Middle East", said the Pope who also expressed his hope "that patient and transparent negotiations will lead to the reduction and elimination of nuclear weapons and that the recent Annapolis Conference will be the first of a series of steps towards lasting peace in the region".

  The Holy Father recalled the role played by the United Nations in resolving this and other problems, highlighting how such international organisations, "by their nature are capable of fostering genuine dialogue and understanding, reconciling divergent views, and developing multilateral policies and strategies capable of meeting the manifold challenges of our complex and rapidly changing world".

  Benedict XVI noted with gratitude "the importance which the United States has attributed to inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue as a positive force for peacemaking. The Holy See is convinced of the great spiritual potential represented by such dialogue, particularly with regard to the promotion of non-violence and the rejection of ideologies which manipulate and disfigure religion for political purposes, and justify violence in the name of God".

  The Pope alluded to the "American people's historic appreciation of the role of religion in shaping public discourse and in shedding light on the inherent moral dimension of social issues", noting that at times this role is "contested in the name of a straitened understanding of political life and public discourse".

  Such appreciation, he told the ambassador in conclusion, "is reflected in the efforts of so many of your fellow citizens and government leaders to ensure legal protection for God's gift of life from conception to natural death, and the safeguarding of the institution of marriage, acknowledged as a stable union between a man and a woman, and that of the family".


VATICAN CITY, 29 FEB 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum", who are meeting to reflect on the theme: "Human and spiritual qualities of people who work in Catholic charity institutions".

  "Charitable activity occupies a central position in the Church's evangelising mission", said the Pope. We must not forget that works of charity are an important area in which to meet people who do not yet know Christ, or who know Him only partially. It is right, then, that pastors and those responsible for pastoral charity work ... should concern themselves with the human, professional and theological-spiritual formation" of people who operate in this field.

  "Those who work in the many forms of charitable activity of the Church cannot, then, content themselves just with offering technical services or resolving practical problems and difficulties. The assistance they provide must never be reduced to mere philanthropy but must be a tangible expression of evangelical love".

  Charity workers, the Pope explained, must be, "above all, witnesses of evangelical love". They achieve this "if the ultimate aim of their mission is not that of being social service operatives, but of announcing the Gospel of charity. Following Christ's footsteps, they are called to be witnesses of the value of life in all its expressions, especially defending the life of the weak and the sick, following the example of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta who loved and looked after the dying, because life is not measured in terms of efficiency, but has value always and for everyone".

  Ecclesial charity workers, Benedict XVI continued, are also "called to be witnesses of love, of the fact that we fully become men and women when we live for others, that no-one must die and live for themselves alone". And, he concluded, charity workers "must be witnesses of God, Who is fullness of love and invites us to love".
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VATICAN CITY, 29 FEB 2008 (VIS) - Pope Benedict's general prayer intention for March is: "That the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation between persons and people may be understood and that the Church, through her testimony, may spread Christ's love, the source of new humanity".

  His mission intention is: "That Christians, who are persecuted in many parts of the world and in various manners because of the Gospel, may continue, sustained by the strength of the Holy Spirit, to bear witness courageously and openly to the Word of God".
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VATICAN CITY, 29 FEB 2008 (VIS) - This morning, Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. presented the Holy Father with the 2008 edition of the "Annuario Pontificio," or pontifical yearbook. Also present were Archbishop Fernando Filoni, substitute for General Affairs, and the officials responsible for compiling and printing the volume.

  A communique regarding the presentation highlights some of the salient facts contained in the new yearbook. In 2007, eight new episcopal sees were created, as well as one apostolic prefecture, two metropolitan sees and one apostolic vicariate; 169 new bishops were also appointed.

  Between 2005 and 2006, the number of Catholics in the world increased from 1,115 million to 1,131 million, a growth of 1.4 percent. Over the same period, the number of bishops grew from 4,841 to 4,898, an increase of 1,2 percent.

  The number of religious and diocesan priests passed from 406,411 in 2005 to 407,262 in 2006 (a growth of 0.21 percent). The number of priests has grown steadily from 2000 to 2006.

  However, the distribution of priests differs from continent to continent. Their numbers have fallen in Europe and America, and increased in Africa and Asia.

  Students of philosophy and theology in diocesan and religious seminaries number 115,480, an increase of 0.9 percent over last year. Of these 24,034 are in Africa, 37,150 in America, 30,702 in Asia, 22,618 in Europe, and 976 in Oceania.
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VATICAN CITY, 29 FEB 2008 (VIS) - Made public today were the responses of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to two questions concerning the validity of Baptism conferred with certain non-standard formulae.

  The first question is: "Is a Baptism valid if conferred with the words 'I baptise you in the name of the Creator, and of the Redeemer, and of the Sanctifier', or 'I baptise you in the name of the Creator, and of the Liberator, and of the Sustainer'"?

  The second question is: "Must people baptised with those formulae be baptised 'in forma absoluta'?"

  The responses are: "To the first question, negative; to the second question, affirmative".

  Benedict XVI, during his recent audience with Cardinal William Joseph Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, approved these responses, which were adopted at the ordinary session of the congregation, and ordered their publication. The text of the responses bears the signatures of Cardinal Levada and of Archbishop Angelo Amato S.D.B., secretary of the dicastery.

  An attached note explains that the responses "concern the validity of Baptism conferred with two English-language formulae within the ambit of the Catholic Church. ... Clearly, the question does not concern English but the formula itself, which could also be expressed in another language".

  "Baptism conferred in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit", the note continues, "obeys Jesus' command as it appears at the end of the Gospel of St. Matthew. ... The baptismal formula must be an adequate expression of Trinitarian faith, approximate formulae are unacceptable.

  "Variations to the baptismal formula - using non-biblical designations of the Divine Persons - as considered in this reply, arise from so-called feminist theology", being an attempt "to avoid using the words Father and Son which are held to be chauvinistic, substituting them with other names. Such variants, however, undermine faith in the Trinity".

  "The response of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith constitutes an authentic doctrinal declaration, which has wide-ranging canonical and pastoral effects. Indeed, the reply implicitly affirms that people who have been baptised, or who will in the future be baptised, with the formulae in question have, in reality, not been baptised. Hence, they must them be treated for all canonical and pastoral purposes with the same juridical criteria as people whom the Code of Canon Law places in the general category of 'non-baptised'".
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VATICAN CITY, 29 FEB 2008 (VIS) - Made public yesterday afternoon was the final deceleration of the annual meeting of the "Joint Committee for Dialogue of the Permanent Committee of al-Azhar for Religious Dialogue among the Monotheistic Religions and the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue". The meeting was held in Cairo on 25 and 26 February, under the presidency of Sheikh Abd al-Fattah Muhammad Alam and Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran.

  In the English-language declaration, the sheikh and the cardinal ask that such "noble principles and exemplary values" as "peace, truth, justice, and right behaviour and co-operation in the development and use of the earth's resources for the benefit of the whole of humanity", may "guide human behaviour, especially at the present time when boundaries and distinctions between peoples are decreasing and the phenomenon of violence, extremism, terrorism is increasing, together with contempt for religions, religious values and everything that is considered sacred".

  Taking into consideration the place of al-Azhar as a centre of study and research in the Muslim world, and bearing in mind the specific role of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, Sheikh Abd al-Fattah and Cardinal Tauran recognise "on both sides the importance of mutual knowledge and of the search for common ground between the two religions as a basis for wider co-operation and improved relations".

  The meeting "examined the theme of 'Faith in God and Love of Neighbour as the Foundations for Inter-religious Dialogue'", says the communique, adding: "During its exchanges the committee underlined common principles and emphasised shared spiritual and moral values", as well as discussing "the question of freedom of expression, noting that it can never justify harming people's feelings in religious matters, thus creating strained relations and destroying brotherly love".

  In this context the committee "strongly condemned the republication of offensive cartoons and the rising number of attacks against Islam and its Prophet, as also other attacks against religion".

  "The members of the committee expressed their satisfaction at the agreement reached, seeing this as an encouragement to continue to engage in dialogue".

  At the end of the meeting participants agreed upon certain recommendations, including the affirmation "that all religions respect the dignity and honour of the human person without consideration of race, colour, religion or conviction, and condemn any offence against personal integrity, property and honour".

  They also recommended that "religious leaders, both Muslim and Christian, as well as intellectuals and educators, should make every effort to inculcate these values in their activities in places of learning and in all levels of society".

  The recommendations also included an appeal to the communications media "to be vigilant that freedom of expression not be taken as a pretext for offending religions, convictions, religious symbols and everything that is considered sacred, but rather to oppose extremism, to encourage mutual acceptance, love and respect for all, regardless of their religion".

  The next meeting of the joint committee is scheduled to be held in Rome on 24-25 February 2009.


VATICAN CITY, 29 FEB 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

 - Juan Gavarrete Soberon, ambassador of Guatemala, accompanied by his wife, on a farewell visit.

 - Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

 - Msgr. Felix Anthony Machado, archbishop-bishop-elect of Nashik, India.

  This evening, he is scheduled to receive in audience Cardinal William Joseph Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
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Thursday, February 28, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 28 FEB 2008 (VIS) - At midday today the Pope received prelates from the Episcopal Conference of El Salvador, who have recently completed their "ad limina" visit.

  The Pope highlighted how most Salvadoran people "are characterised by their living faith and deep religious sentiment. The Gospel, taken there by the first missionaries and fervently preached by pastors full of love for God such as Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, has become deeply rooted in that beautiful land, bringing abundant fruits of Christian life and sanctity".

  Benedict XVI remarked on the fact that poverty forces many people to emigrate "in search of better living conditions, often bringing negative consequences to the stability of marriage and the family". He also recognised the prelates' efforts "to promote reconciliation and peace in the country and so overcome the painful events of the past".

  Referring to violence, which "is considered as your country's most serious problem, you recognise" the Pope told the prelates "that its increase is the direct consequence of other deeper social scourges such as poverty, a lack of education, the progressive loss of those values which have always forged the Salvadorian soul, and the break-up of families. The truth is that the family is a vital asset for the Church and for society, as well as being a basic factor in constructing peace".

  "Hence", he continued, "you feel the need to revitalise and reinforce adequate and effective pastoral care among families in all your dioceses, offering young people a solid spiritual and emotional formation that may help them discover the beauty of God's plan for human love, and enable them coherently to experience the authentic values of marriage and the family such as tenderness, mutual respect, self-control, total dedication and constant fidelity".

  In order to tackle the poverty of so many people, said Benedict XVI, it is important "to improve infrastructures and economic conditions in order to enable everyone to enjoy a dignified life. Yet it must not be forgotten that man is not just a product of the material and social conditions in which he lives. ... 'Man needs God, otherwise he remains without hope'".

  In this context, the Pope encouraged prelates "to promote ambitious and audacious efforts at evangelisation" so as to ensure that all the faithful may experience "that intimate meeting with the living Christ which as at the basis and origin of Christian existence".

  The lay faithful "must be helped to discover the spiritual richness of their Baptism", said the Holy Father. In order to achieve "this most exalted vocation they need to be firmly rooted in an intense life of prayer, to listen assiduously and humbly to the Word of God, to participate frequently in the Sacraments, and to acquire a strong ecclesial sense of belonging and solid doctrinal formation, especially as concerns the Church's social doctrine where they will find clear criteria and guidance to illuminate the society in which they live".

  Priests, the Pope told the bishops, "deserve your best attentions and your closeness to each one. [You must be] aware of their individual circumstances, serve them in all their spiritual and material needs and encourage them to proceed joyfully along the path of priestly sanctity". He also encouraged the bishops "to be promoters and models of communion among their own priests", and "to correct irregularities where necessary".

  "A priest's love and faithfulness to his vocation", the Holy Father concluded, "will be the best and most effective form of vocational pastoral care, and an example and encouragement to your seminarians, who are the heart of your dioceses and to whom you must dedicate your best resources and efforts, because they are the hope for your Churches".
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VATICAN CITY, 28 FEB 2008 (VIS) - The Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" today begins its 28th plenary assembly. The meeting, which will end on 1 March, is dedicated to the theme: "Human and spiritual qualities of people who work in Catholic charity institutions".

  One of the aims of the assembly is to re-examine Benedict XVI's Encyclical "Deus caritas est" and to verify if and how it has changed the attitude of those who work in the charitable arm of the Church. Attention will also be given to the question of the integral and continuous formation of managers and workers in the various Catholic charity organisations.

  The 28th general assembly will begin with an address by Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, president of "Cor Unum", followed by a report from Msgr. Karel Kasteel, secretary of that pontifical council. Following this, representatives of the various charitable bodies will discuss their work experiences.

  Friday 29 February will be dedicated to examining the principal theme of the meeting, the main contribution coming from the president of the Catholic charities of Alexandria, Virginia, U.S.A. Subsequently, Professor Paul Schallenberg of the university of Fulda, Germany, will address the gathering on the subject: "The place of mercy in the welfare State. Theological-ethical observations". At the end of the second day, participants will visit the "Comunita dell'Agnello", a group of female religious who operate on the streets and in homes announcing the Gospel and working with the poor.

  On Saturday 1 March, working groups will meet to discuss ideas and proposals for formation.

  Cardinal Cordes, in the belief that the power of Christian witness among people who suffer derives from the personal conviction of those who work in the sector of charity, has invited leaders of national and diocesan Catholic charity organisations of the American continent to a week of spiritual exercises, to be held in June in Guadalajara, Mexico.
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VATICAN CITY, 28 FEB 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

 - Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, apostolic nuncio to Australia.

 - Five prelates from the Episcopal Conference of El Salvador, on their "ad limina" visit:

    - Bishop Rodrigo Orlando Cabrera Cuellar of Santiago de Maria.

    - Bishop Jose Luis Escobar Alas of San Vicente.

    - Bishop Jose Adolfo Mojica Morales of Sonsonate.

    - Bishop Elias Samuel Bolanos Avelar S.D.B. of Zacatecoluca.

    - Msgr. Fabio Reynaldo Colindres Abarca, military ordinary.
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VATICAN CITY, 28 FEB 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Fr. Sebastiano Paciolla O. Cist., promoter of justice at the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, as under-secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
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Wednesday, February 27, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 27 FEB 2008 (VIS) - In his general audience, held this morning in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope concluded his series of catecheses on the figure of St. Augustine. Before the audience, the Holy Father went to the Vatican Basilica to greet pilgrims who had been unable to find a place in the hall.

  St. Augustine "is one of the great converts of Christian history" said Benedict XVI. Reading the "Confessions", he went on, "it is easy to see that Augustine's conversion was neither sudden nor fully achieved right from the start. Rather it may be defined as a ... journey, and remains as a model for each one of us".

  "St. Augustine was, ever since the beginning, an impassioned searcher after the truth. ... and the first stage of his journey of conversion ... consisted precisely in his gradual approach to Christianity". He received a Christian education from his mother Monica and, despite having lived a wild youth, "always felt a profound attraction to Christ".

  The saint's "passion for mankind and for truth ... made him seek God, great and inaccessible". But "Faith in Christ, led him to understand that the apparently distant God is not in fact distant. He has come close to us, making Himself one of us. In this context, faith in Christ was the culmination of Augustine's long search along the path of truth. ... This path must be followed with courage and, at the same time, with humility, while remaining open to the permanent purification of which each one of us has need".

  St. Augustine, the Pope recalled, "was reluctantly ordained a priest in Hippo and assigned to the service of the faithful", in which role "he continued to live with Christ, but while serving everyone. He found this very difficult at the start, but he understood that only by living for others, and not just for his own private contemplation, could he truly live with Christ and for Christ. Renouncing a life of pure meditation he learned, often with difficulty, to place the fruits of his intellect at the service of others, to communicate his faith to the common people, ... and thus to live for them in that city which he had made his own. ... This was his second conversion".

  The Pope then went on to identify another stage in Augustine's journey "which we could call his third conversion and which brought him daily to ask forgiveness of God. ... We have a perennial need to be washed by Christ, ... to be renewed by Him". We need "the humility to recognise that we are all sinners, constantly journeying until God definitively gives us His hand and introduces us to eternal life". With such humility Augustine lived and died.

  "Having converted to Christ Who is truth and love", the Pope continued, "Augustine followed Him throughout his life and stands as a model for all human beings who seek after God. ... Today too, as in his time, humankind needs to know this fundamental reality and, above all, to put it into practice: God is love and meeting Him is the only answer to the disquiet of our hearts".

  Benedict XVI concluded his catechesis with a prayer that "every day we may be able to follow the example of this great convert, meeting in every moment of our lives, as he did, the Lord Jesus, the One Who saves us, purifies us and gives us true joy, true life".
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VATICAN CITY, 27 FEB 2008 (VIS) - Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. yesterday returned to the Vatican following his six-day journey to Cuba to commemorate the tenth anniversary of John Paul II's visit there. The late Pope's trip was the subject of a Message sent by Benedict XVI to the Cuban bishops on 21 February.

  On Monday 25 February, Cardinal Bertone met with Felipe Perez Roque, foreign minister of Cuba. Following the meeting the cardinal announced that both Raul Castro, the new Cuban president, and the Catholic Church wish to respond to the needs of the Cuban people "bearing in mind the difficulties, above all those caused by the economic embargo" against Cuba. Repeating the words of John Paul II, the cardinal described the embargo as "unjust and ethically unacceptable". Ten years ago the late Pontiff had highlighted how the economic blockade is "an oppression for the people of Cuba", not a means "to help the Cuban people achieve dignity and independence" and "a violation of the people's independence".

  Answering journalists' questions, the cardinal also affirmed that he had not asked the Cuban government for an amnesty but for "gestures of reconciliation", adding that the Church considers the recent release of certain prisoners as "a positive gesture".

  Cardinal Bertone also made it clear that he had personally asked the government of the United States to facilitate the reunion of Cuban emigres with their relatives still on the island, saying this would be a humanitarian gesture and everything possible was being done to achieve it.

  Yesterday's meeting with the new Cuban president, Raul Castro, marked the close of the cardinal's visit to Cuba.
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VATICAN CITY, 27 FEB 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

 - Appointed Fr. Adair Jose Guimaraes of the clergy of the diocese of Uruacu, Brazil, pastor of the parish of "Nossa Senhora Aparecida" in Minacu, as bishop of Rubiataba-Mozarlandia (area 26,797, population 96,700, Catholics 75,700, priests 17, religious 18), Brazil. The bishop-elect was born in Mara Rosa, Brazil in 1960 and ordained a priest in 1986. He succeeds Bishop Jose Carlos de Oliveira C.SS.R., whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

 - Appointed Bishop Earl A. Boyea, auxiliary of Detroit, U.S.A., as bishop of Lansing (area 16,098, population 1,801,941, Catholics 230,981, priests 194, permanent deacons 90, religious 535), U.S.A. He succeeds Bishop Carl F. Mengeling, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

 - Erected the new diocese of Floriano (area 60,930, population 193,111, Catholics 173,799, priests 29, religious 51) Brazil, with territory taken from the diocese of Oeiras-Floriano, making it a suffragan of the metropolitan church of Teresina. He appointed Bishop Augusto Alves da Rocha of Oeiras-Floriano as first bishop of the new diocese.

 - Appointed Fr. Juarez Sousa Da Silva of the clergy of the diocese of Campo Maior, Brazil, study director at the major inter-diocesan seminary "Sagrado Coracao de Jesus" in the archdiocese of Teresina, as bishop of Oeiras (area 15,096, population 133,140, Catholics 119,826, priests 12, religious 8), Brazil. The bishop-elect was born in Barras, Brazil in 1961 and ordained a priest in 1994.

 - Maurizio Prato, consultor of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, as international auditor of the same prefecture.
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Tuesday, February 26, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 26 FEB 2008 (VIS) - At 11 a.m. on Saturday, 1 March, in the Consistory Hall of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, an Ordinary Public Consistory will be held for the canonisation of the following Blesseds:

- Blessed Gaetano Errico, Italian priest and founder of the Congregation of the Missionaries of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (1791-1860).

 - Blessed Maria Bernarda Butler (nee Verena), Swiss foundress of the Congregation of the Missionary Franciscan Sisters of Mary Help of Christians (1848-1924).

- Blessed Alfonsa of the Immaculate Conception (nee: Anna Muttathupandathu), Indian professed sister of the Congregation of Poor Clares of the Third Order of St. Francis (1910-1946).

- Blessed Narcisa de Jesus Martillo Moran, Ecuadorian lay woman (1833-1869).
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VATICAN CITY, 26 FEB 2008 (VIS) - The Special Council for Oceania of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops held its ninth meeting in Rome on 14 and 15 February, according to a communique made public yesterday afternoon.

  Under the presidency of Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, the meeting was attended by two cardinals, five archbishops and one bishop, most of them from the continent of Oceania.

  "The particular Churches on this continent have an unquestionable vitality", says the communique. A vitality "sustained by the 2001 Apostolic Exhortation 'Ecclesia in Oceania' which has been reprinted and translated into various local languages".

  "The entire continent is being mobilised - both in the more socially advanced areas and in less developed regions - to prepare" for World Youth Day 2008, which is due to be held in Sydney, Australia, in July. Various economic initiatives have been organised to help young people from the poorest areas of the continent to participate in the event. "The Day", the communique proceeds, "is considered as one of the most important events in the history of Australia, and interest is growing in the visit of Pope Benedict XVI, as an event of special grace".

  On the subject of the other theme examined during the meeting, that of the inculturation of the Gospel message, the communique recalls how "this is one of the great pastoral concerns of the Church in Oceania. It is a gradual process by which the Gospel enters the various cultures, transforming or purifying certain values so they can find their place within a genuine Christian culture, without undermining due respect either for the Gospel or for the cultures themselves.

  "In this dynamic process", the communique adds in conclusion, "the joint efforts of pastors, priests, deacons and catechists are indispensable. Of particular importance are Catholic schools of all levels, which safeguard Catholic identity and remain as vital instruments of evangelical witness in the modern world, which is so often secularised".
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VATICAN CITY, 26 FEB 2008 (VIS) - At midday today, the Holy See Press Office released the following communique:

  "From 2 to 9 March, Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. will - at the invitation of the religious and civil authorities - make a visit to Armenia and Azerbaijan, in the course of which he will have the opportunity to express the closeness of the Holy Father Benedict XVI to the Catholic faithful in those countries.

  "The cardinal will meet the government authorities of Armenia and Azerbaijan.

  "During his stay in Armenia from 2 to 6 March, Cardinal Bertone will be received by His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, to whom he will consign a Letter signed by Pope Benedict XVI. In the Letter, the Holy Father expresses his regards and his desire for the Catholic Church to continue the ecumenical journey alongside the Armenian Apostolic Church.

  "From 6 to 9 March, Cardinal Bertone will visit Azerbaijan where he will meet Sheikh Allashukur Pashazade, head of Muslims in the Caucasus, and other religious leaders, to tell them of the Catholic Church's desire to collaborate in the joint commitment to peace, harmony between peoples and the good of the human family. In Baku, Cardinal Bertone will attend the inauguration of a new Catholic church built on land donated to Servant of God John Paul II by President Heydar Aliyev, father of the current head of State".


VATICAN CITY, 26 FEB 2008 (VIS) - The Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" has, in the Holy Father's name, sent a first consignment of emergency economic aid to the 11 Ecuadorian dioceses affected by recent flooding, according to a communique made public at midday today.

  During the Angelus of Sunday 24 February, Benedict XVI launched an appeal for Ecuador "inviting everyone to show fraternal solidarity so that the people of these areas - who are experiencing moments of anguish and tribulation in the wake of devastating floods and the eruption of the Tungurahua volcano - may, as soon a possible, return to the normality of everyday life".
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Monday, February 25, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 25 FEB 2008 (VIS) - At midday today, the Holy Father received participants in an international congress entitled: "Close by the Incurable Sick Person and the Dying: Scientific and Ethical Aspects". the even was promoted by the Pontifical Academy for Life for the occasion of their general assembly which will be held in the Vatican over coming days.

  "Death", said the Pope, "concludes the experience of earthly life, but through death there opens for each of us, beyond time, the full and definitive life. ... For the community of believers, this encounter between the dying person and the Source of Life and Love represents a gift that has a universal value, that enriches the communion of the faithful". In this context, he highlighted how all the community should participate alongside close relatives in the last moments of a person's life. "No believer", he said, "should die alone and abandoned".

  All society "is called to respect the life and dignity of the seriously ill and the dying", said the Holy Father. "Though aware of the fact that 'it is not science that redeems man', all society, and in particular the sectors associated with medical science, are duty bound to express the solidarity of love, and to safeguard and respect human life in every moment of its earthly development, especially when it is ill or in its terminal stages.

  "In more concrete terms", he added, "this means ensuring that every person in need finds the necessary support through appropriate treatments and medical procedures - identified and administered using criteria of therapeutic proportionality - while bearing in mind the moral duty to administer (on the part of doctors) and to accept (on the part of patients) those means for preserving life which, in a particular situation, may be considered as 'ordinary'".

  As for forms of treatment "with significant levels of risk or that may reasonably be judged to be 'extraordinary', recourse thereto may be considered as morally acceptable, but optional. Furthermore, it will always be necessary to ensure that everyone has the treatment they require, and that families tried by the sickness of one of their members receive support, especially if the sickness is serious or prolonged".

  Just as when a child is born family members have specific rights to take time off work, said the Pope, in the same way "similar rights must be recognised" to the relatives of the terminally ill. "A greater respect for individual human life inevitably comes through the concrete solidarity of each and all, and constitutes one of the most pressing challenges of our times".

  After noting how it is becoming ever more common for elderly people in large cities to be alone "even in moments of serious illness and when approaching death", the Holy Father noted that such situations increase pressures towards euthanasia, "especially when a utilitarian view of people has become established". In this context, he once again recalled "the firm and constant ethical condemnation of all forms of direct euthanasia, in keeping with the centuries-long teaching of the Church".

  "The synergetic efforts of civil society and of the community of believers must ensure not only that everyone is able to live in a dignified and responsible way, but also that they can face moments of trial and of death in the finest condition of fraternity and solidarity, even where death comes in a poor family or a hospital bed".

  Society, said the Holy Father must "ensure due support to families who undertake to care in the home, sometimes for long periods, sick members who are afflicted with degenerative conditions, ... or who need particularly costly assistance. ... It is above all in this field that synergy between the Church and the institutions can prove particularly important in ensuring the necessary help for human life in moments of frailty".
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VATICAN CITY, 25 FEB 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

 - Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto, apostolic nuncio to Chile.

 - Six prelates from the Episcopal Conference of El Salvador, on their "ad limina" visit:

    - Archbishop Fernando Saenz Lacalle of San Salvador, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishop Gregorio Rosa Chavez.

    - Bishop Luis Morao Andreazza O.F.M. of Chalatenango.

    - Bishop Miguel Angel Moran Aquino of San Miguel.

    - Bishop Romeo Tovar Astorga O.F.M. of Santa Ana, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishop-elect Jose Elias Rauda Gutierrez O.F.M.
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VATICAN CITY, 23 FEB 2008 (VIS) - In a ceremony held in St. Peter's Square at midday today, Benedict XVI symbolically presented families, teachers and young people with the letter he wrote on 21 January to the diocese and city of Rome concerning the vital importance of education.

  In his remarks the Holy Father recalled how "education has never been easy, and today it seems to be becoming more difficult than ever". This means that a lot of parents and teachers "renounce their duty and do not even manage to understand the true nature of the mission entrusted to them. There are, in fact, too may uncertainties, too many doubts circulating in our society and in our culture, too many distorted images propagated by the social communications media". Nonetheless, he continued, "we feel supported by a great hope, a deep trust" that "also in our own time it is possible to educate in goodness, ... and each person is called to make his or her own contribution".

  Addressing parents, teachers, priests and catechists, Benedict XVI encouraged them "joyfully to shoulder the responsibility with which the Lord entrusts you, so that the great heritage of faith and culture - which is the most authentic treasure of this our beloved city - may not be lost in the passage from one generation to another, but rather be renewed and strengthened, and become a guide and a stimulus on our journey towards the future".

  The Pope called on parents to remain firm in their love for one another and to show "a coherent witness of life" in order to help new generations "clearly to distinguish good from evil and, in their turn, to build solid rules for life that may support them through future trials. Thus you will make your children rich with that most precious and lasting inheritance which consists in the example of the daily practice of faith".

  "Your task", the Holy Father told teachers, cannot "be limited to supplying notions and information while ignoring the great question of truth, especially of the truth that can be a guide in life. ... In close association with parents, you are entrusted with the noble art of forming the individual".

  Pope Benedict then encouraged priests, religious and catechists of Roman parishes "to be trustworthy friends in whom [children and young people] can reach out and touch Jesus' friendship with them. At the same time, be sincere and courageous witnesses of the truth that makes people free and that shows the new generations the way that leads to life".

  Pointing out how education is not just the responsibility of educators, Benedict XVI reminded children and young people that they too are called "to be participants in your own moral, cultural and spiritual development. It is up to you, then, freely to welcome in your hearts, minds and lives the heritage of truth, goodness and beauty that has accumulated over the centuries and that has its cornerstone in Jesus Christ.

  "It is up to you to renew and develop this heritage, freeing it from the many lies and distortions that often make it unrecognisable and provoke diffidence and disillusionment in you". On this difficult journey, he concluded, "you are never alone. Not only are your parents, teachers, priests and friends near you, ... but above all that God Who created us and Who is the secret guest of our hearts. ... He is the true hope and the solid foundation of our lives. To Him, most of all, can we entrust ourselves".
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VATICAN CITY, 23 FEB 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

 - Appointed Bishop Francesco Montenegro, auxiliary of Messina-Lipari-Santa Lucia del Mela, Italy, as metropolitan archbishop of Agrigento (area 3,041, population 461,000, Catholics 449,000, priests 286, permanent deacons 34, religious 502), Italy. The archbishop-elect was born in Messina in 1946, he was ordained a priest in 1969 and consecrated a bishop in 2000. He succeeds Archbishop Carmelo Ferraro, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

 - Appointed Bishop Marcelino Hernandez Rodriguez, auxiliary of Mexico, Mexico, as bishop of Orizba (area 2,012, population 551,010, Catholics 498,648, priests 73, religious 188), Mexico.


VATICAN CITY, 24 FEB 2008 (VIS) - This morning the Pope visited the Roman parish of Santa Maria Liberatrice a Monte Testaccio, where he celebrated Mass.

  At the beginning of his homily, Benedict XVI recalled the fact that this year marks the centenary of the consecration of the current church. He then went on to comment on the liturgy for today, the third Sunday of Lent, and its symbolic references to water. "God", he said, "is thirsty for our faith and wants us to find the source of our true happiness in Him. The risk for all believers is that of practising an inauthentic form of religiosity, of seeking the answer to our most inmate expectations elsewhere than in the heart of God, of using God as if He were at the service of our desires and our plans".

  Referring to the Old Testament reading on the journey through the desert, the Holy Father noted how "the people, rather than abandoning themselves faithfully into His hands, insisted that God meet their expectations and requirements and, in the moment of trial, lost trust in Him.

  "How often does this happen in out lives", he added. "In how many circumstances, rather than meekly conforming ourselves to divine will, would we like God to accomplish all our designs and fulfil all our expectations. In how many occasions does our faith appear fragile, our trust weak, our religiosity contaminated by magical elements of merely earthly origin?"

  In this period of Lent in which the Church invites us "to true conversion, let us humbly and obediently welcome the warning of the responsorial Psalm: 'O that today you would listen to his voice! Do not harden your hearts'".

  Turning then to consider the Gospel account of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well in Sychar, Benedict XVI highlighted how at a certain point the woman asked Jesus for water, "thus showing how everyone has an inborn need of God and of the salvation that only He can achieve".

  "Jesus wishes to bring us, like the Samaritan woman, to profess our faith in Him forcefully, that we may then announce and testify to our fellow man the joy of meeting Him and the wonders that His Love brings to our lives".

  This Sunday's liturgy, said the Pope, encourages us "to re-examine our relationship with Jesus, to seek His face tirelessly. This is indispensable so that you, dear friends, may continue - in a new cultural and social context - the work of evangelisation and of human and Christian education that has been carried out in this parish for more than a century".

  "Open your hearts to that pastoral missionary activity which encourages each Christian to go out and meet people - in particular young people and families - in the places where they live, work and spend their free time, in order to announce to them God's merciful love. ... I encourage you to persevere in you commitment to education, which is the typical charism of all Salesian parishes".

  In a meeting held following Mass, the Pope again evoked the episode of the Samaritan woman. She, he said "may appear representative of modern mankind, of modern life. She had had five husbands and lived with another man. She made copious use of her freedom but did not become freer, rather she became emptier. But we also see that this woman had a burning desire to discover true happiness, true joy. In this context, the Pope encouraged the faithful "to continue your pastoral and missionary commitment, your dynamism, to help people today discover true freedom and true joy".

  At the end of the visit, one of the parishioners read out a Roman dialect poem in honour of the Pope. "Unfortunately", the Holy Father replied, "I do not speak the Roman dialect, but as Catholics we are all a little Roman, we carry Rome in our hearts and we understand a little of the Roman dialect".
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VATICAN CITY, 24 FEB 2008 (VIS) - At midday today, the Holy Father appeared at the window of his study overlooking St. Peter's Square, to pray the Angelus with thousands of faithful gathered below.

  On this third Sunday of Lent, said the Holy Father, "the liturgy presents us with one of the most beautiful and profound texts of the Bible: the dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman".

  "Jesus spoke of 'living water' capable of quenching thirst and of becoming, in her, a spring 'gushing up to eternal life'. He also showed that He knew details of her personal life and revealed that the hour had come to worship the one true God in spirit and in truth. Finally - something very rare - He confided to her that He was the Messiah".

  "The theme of thirst runs throughout the Gospel of John", said the Pope, "from the meeting with the Samaritan woman to the great prophecy during the Festival of Booths, and even unto the Cross when, in order to fulfil Scripture, Jesus said before dying 'I am thirsty'. ... Yes, God thirsts for our faith and our love. Like a good and merciful father He desires all possible good for us, and this good is He Himself.

  "The woman of Samaria", he added, "represents the existential dissatisfaction of people who have not found what they were seeking. She had had 'five husbands' and was living with another man. Her coming and going to the well to draw water was an expression of a repetitive and resigned existence, but that day everything changed for her thanks to her meeting with the Lord Jesus Who affected her so deeply that she abandoned the water jar and ran to tell the people in the village: 'Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done!" He cannot be the Messiah, can he?'"

  Benedict XVI invited the faithful to open their hearts "to a trusting perception of the Word of God so that, like the Samaritan woman, we may meet Jesus Who reveals His love to us and says: the Messiah is your Saviour, 'I am he, the one who is speaking to you'. May Mary, the first and perfect disciple of the Word made flesh, obtain this gift for us".

  Following the Angelus, the Pope referred to "recent floods that have devastated extensive coastal areas of Ecuador, causing terrible damage to add to that already caused by the eruption of the Tungurahua volcano. Entrusting the victims of this calamity to the Lord, I express my personal closeness to those experiencing moments of anguish and tribulation and I invite everyone to show fraternal solidarity so that the people of these areas may, as soon a possible, return to the normality of everyday life".
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Friday, February 22, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 22 FEB 2008 (VIS) - This morning at 9:00 in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel of the Apostolic Palace in the presence of the Holy Father, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap., Preacher to the Pontifical Household, gave the first Lenten sermon. The theme of this year's Lenten meditations is: "The Word of God is Living and Active" (Heb 4:12).

  A communique reads that "in preparing for the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God (5-26 October 2008) and keeping in mind the 'Lineamenta' (or first draft of the synod's theme), reflection is being offered on the proclamation of the Gospel message in the life of Christ (Jesus 'who preaches') and on the Church's mission (Christ 'preached'), on the Word of God as a means of personal sanctification (lectio divina), and on the relationship between the Spirit and the Word (a spiritual reading of the Bible)".

  The following sermons will be given on the Fridays of 29 February and 7 and 14 March.
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VATICAN CITY, 22 FEB 2008 (VIS) - A message from Benedict XVI to the bishops of Cuba on the tenth anniversary of the visit made by John Paul II to that country (21-26 January 1998) was distributed yesterday afternoon.

  The message was delivered to the Cuban prelates by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State, who yesterday began a six-day visit to Cuba for the celebration.

  "The ten year anniversary marking those unforgettable days for the Church and the Cuban people that were lived as the enthusiastic world watched", writes the Pope, "is without a doubt a duty of gratitude toward my venerated Predecessor as well as a sign of our passionate intention to renew the commitment to evangelization that he left deeply impressed in the hearts of all".

  The Holy Father expressed his admiration for the Cuban bishops' "pastoral unveilings" and his nearness to the "hopes and concerns of all the Cuban people. I constantly ask that the Lord give you the strength and generosity to live your faith ever more intensely and to work toward a world that is enlightened by the Gospel".

  "The proclamation of Christ's Gospel continues to find hearts in Cuba that are ready to welcome it. This fact carries with it the constant responsibility to help them to grow in the spiritual life, proposing to them this 'high standard of ordinary Christian living' that is the call to holiness of all baptized persons".

  The Pope emphasized that "proclaiming true doctrine, beginning with listening to and deepening one's understanding of the word of God, promoting the participation in the sacraments, and fostering a life of prayer are the primary goals of pastoral action, then bringing to all the salvation of Christ is the nucleus of the Church's mission".

  Although recognizing that "some Christian communities are overwhelmed by difficulties due to scarcity of resources, indifference, or even misgivings that can lead to discouragement", Benedict XVI encouraged the Cuban Catholics to "put your hope in Jesus Christ, our Savior who does not disappoint and who fills your hearts with joy, giving meaning and fruitfulness to your life of faith".

  "How many times", he continued, "do small gestures of friendship and good will, simple and ordinary gestures of respect, of care for the one who suffers or who gives unselfishly for the good of others, reveal a glimpse of the limitless love that God has for each and every one of us".

  In this context, he writes, it is very important that "the Church's mission in Cuba to those in most need acquires a great importance, with concrete works of service to and care for the men and women of all walks of life, who deserve to be supported not only in their material needs, but also welcomed with affection and understanding. The Pope deeply thanks the effort and sacrifice of the people and communities engaged in these works, following the example of Christ who 'came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many'".

  Benedict XVI urged the faithful Cubans to make the proclamation of the Gospel, which arrived in their country five centuries ago, bear fruit. The values of the Gospel message "had a great influence in the birth of the nation, above all through the work of the Servant of God Félix Varela and José Martí, who preached of the love of God among Cubans and all persons. These values are also vital to the harmony and future of the nation".

  "This inheritance has deeply marked the Cuban soul that today needs your generous pastoral care to be renewed again and again, showing that the Church, focusing its gaze upon Jesus Christ, does good, promotes the dignity of the person, and, in sowing seeds of understanding, mercy, and reconciliation, contributes to the betterment of persons and of society".

  The Holy Father concluded his message with assurances of his concern and "the fraternal prayer and collaboration of the other churches throughout the entire world".
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VATICAN CITY, 22 FEB 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father's message for the XLV World Day of Prayer for Vocations was published today. The celebration, which will take place on 13 April, the fourth week of Easter, this year, has the theme: "Vocations at the Service of the Church on Mission".

  The text is dated 3 December 2007 and is presented in French, English, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, Polish, and German. Here follow some excerpts:

  The Church is missionary in herself and in each one of her members. Through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, every Christian is called to bear witness and to announce the Gospel, but this missionary dimension is associated in a special and intimate way with the priestly vocation.  In the covenant with Israel, God entrusted to certain men, called by him and sent to the people in his name, a mission as prophets and priests. (...) The same happened with the prophets.

  The promises made to our fathers were fulfilled entirely in Jesus Christ. (...) Jesus already in his public life while preaching in Galilee, chose some disciples to be his close collaborators in the messianic ministry.  For example, on the occasion of the multiplication of the loaves, he said to the Apostles: "You give them something to eat", encouraging them to assume the needs of the crowds to whom he wished to offer nourishment, but also to reveal the food "which endures to eternal life" (...) If we pause to meditate on this passage of the Gospel (...) we may take note of those aspects which distinguish the missionary activity of a Christian community, eager to remain faithful to the example and teaching of Jesus. To respond to the Lord's call means facing in prudence and simplicity every danger and even persecutions, since "a disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master". (...) Having become one with their Master, the disciples are no longer alone as they announce the kingdom of heaven; Jesus himself is acting in them. (...) Furthermore, as true witnesses, "clothed with power from on high", they preach "repentance and the forgiveness of sins" to all peoples.
  Precisely because they have been sent by the Lord, the Twelve are called "Apostles", destined to walk the roads of the world announcing the Gospel as witnesses to the death and resurrection of Christ. (...) The Acts of the Apostles also assigns a very important role in this task of evangelization to other disciples whose missionary vocation arises from providential, sometimes painful, circumstances such as expulsion from their own lands for being followers of Jesus. (...) First among them is undoubtedly Paul of Tarsus, called by the Lord himself, hence a true Apostle.  The story of Paul, the greatest missionary of all times, brings out in many ways the link between vocation and mission. Accused by his opponents of not being authorized for the apostolate, he makes repeated appeals precisely to the call which he received directly from the Lord.

  In the beginning, and thereafter, what "impels" the Apostles is always "the love of Christ". (...) In fact, the love of Christ must be communicated to the brothers by example and words, with all one's life.

  Among those totally dedicated to the service of the Gospel, are priests, called to preach the word of God, administer the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation, committed to helping the lowly, the sick, the suffering, the poor, and those who experience hardship in areas of the world where there are, at times, many who still have not had a real encounter with Jesus Christ. (...) Statistics show that the number of baptized persons increases every year thanks to the pastoral work of these priests, who are wholly consecrated to the salvation of their brothers and sisters.

  There have always been in the Church many men and women who, prompted by the action of the Holy Spirit, choose to live the Gospel in a radical way, professing the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. This multitude of men and women religious, belonging to innumerable institutes of contemplative and active life, still plays "the main role in the evangelisation of the world" .With their continual and community prayer, contemplatives intercede without ceasing for all humanity. Religious of the active life, with their many charitable activities, bring to all a living witness of the love and mercy of God.

  The gift of faith calls all Christians to co-operate in the work of evangelization. This awareness must be nourished by preaching and catechesis, by the liturgy, and by constant formation in prayer. It must grow through the practice of welcoming others, with charity and spiritual companionship, through reflection and discernment, as well as pastoral planning, of which attention to vocations must be an integral part.

  Vocations to the ministerial priesthood and to the consecrated life can only flourish in a spiritual soil that is well cultivated. Christian communities that live the missionary dimension of the mystery of the Church in a profound way will never be inward looking.


VATICAN CITY, 22 FEB 2008 (VIS) - Today the Pope received members of the Circle of St. Peter who brought him, as is traditional, the "Peter's Pence" collected every year in the parishes and institutes of Rome's diocese.

  Addressing the members of the society on the day that the Church celebrates the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, the Pope emphasized that their service "has always distinguished you for your unconditional faithfulness to the Church and its universal pastor, the Roman pontiff".

  "Yours, he continued, is a much appreciated apostolate that offers constant witness to the love that you hold for the Church and in particular for the Holy See". In this context he recalled their service in the Vatican basilica during the celebrations that are presided over by the Pope, the formation they offer, and their activities of assistance and charity "that you generously maintain".

  Benedict XVI expressed gratitude for the presentation of the Peter's Pence, which "represents concrete assistance offered to the Pope so that he might respond to the many petitions that come from around the world, especially from the poorest countries. Thank you for this service", he finished, "that you carry out with such generosity and a spirit of sacrifice".
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VATICAN CITY, 22 FEB 2008 (VIS) - At noon, during a brief ceremony attended by His Beatitude Nerses Bedros XIX, Patriarch of Cilicia of the Armenian Catholics, and a group of prelates of the Armenian Catholic Church, the Pope dedicated the north patio of the Vatican Basilica to St. Gregory the Illuminator.

  Recalling that, a few months before his death, John Paul II blessed the statue of St. Gregory the Illuminator that is located in that patio, Benedict XVI affirmed that "this great saint has made the Armenians, for more than seveneen centuries, a Christian people, and more, the first officially Christian people".

  "St. Gregory was called the Illuminator", he continued, "precisely because in him the Lord's face is reflected in an extraordinary way".

  The Pope asked that the "Armenian people, through the intercession of this illustrious and distinguished son, continue their journey along the paths of faith, letting themselves be guided, as they have for centuries, by Christ and by his Gospel, which has indelibly marked their culture".


VATICAN CITY, 22 FEB 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father Benedict XVI today received in audience Archbishop George Kocherry, Apostolic Nuncio to Zimbabwe.
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VATICAN CITY, 22 FEB 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

- Accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Soissons, France, presented by Bishop Marcel Herriot in accordance with canon 401 para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law. He is succeeded by Coadjutor Bishop Hervé Giraud.

- Appointed Msgr. Noel Treanor as Bishop of Down and Connor (area 2,419, population 1,000,000, Catholics 321,021, priests 243, religious 359), Ireland. The bishop-elect was born in Silverstream (Ireland) in 1950 and ordained a priest in 1976. He succeeds Bishop Patrick Walsh whose resignation from the pastoral care of that diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

-Appointed Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, Apostolic Nuncio to Bulgaria, as Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland.

-Appointed Msgr. Luciano Suriani as Apostolic Nuncio to Bolivia, at the same time elevating him to the dignity of archbishop.
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Thursday, February 21, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 21 FEB 2008 (VIS) - Today in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received the credential letters of Viadeta Jancovic, Serbia's new ambassador to the Holy See.

  In his speech to the diplomat, the Pope affirmed that the Holy See "greatly values its diplomatic links with Serbia, and hopes thereby to offer encouragement to the continuing efforts to build a future of peace, prosperity, reconciliation, and peaceful coexistence throughout the region, as Serbia and its neighbors seek to take their proper place within Europe".

  Few countries in the continent of Europe escaped the ravages of war in the last century", said the Holy Father, "and all can learn from the lessons of the recent past.  As you work towards a more secure future, it is vital to remember that the identity and the rich cultural tradition of your nation, as of all European nations, is deeply rooted in the heritage of Christian faith and the Gospel of love".

  "If we choose to live by the values drawn from our Christian roots", Benedict XVI observed, "we discover the courage to forgive and to accept forgiveness, to be reconciled with our neighbors, and to build together a civilization of love in which all are accepted and respected.  I know how deeply the Serb people have suffered in the course of recent conflicts and I wish to express my heartfelt concern for them and for the other Balkan nations affected by the sad events of the last decade".

  "The Holy See", he added, "shares your earnest desire that the peace which has been achieved will bring lasting stability to the region.  In particular, with regard to the current crisis in Kosovo, I call upon all interested parties to act with prudence and moderation, and to seek solutions that favor mutual respect and reconciliation".

  "Not least among the various divisions between the peoples of Europe are those resulting from the tragic loss of Christian unity over the past thousand years", the Pope recalled. He then expressed joy for the progress in relations between the Catholic and Orthodox Christians in Serbia in recent years and for the beneficial collaboration made in various areas. "I earnestly hope that these positive developments will continue to bear fruit", he said, "in particular through joint exploration of Christian social doctrine".

  The Holy Father next spoke of the Serbia's geographical situation on the border between Eastern and Western Christianity that offers "a unique opportunity to promote ecumenical dialogue, while its familiarity with Islam, both through its encounter with the Ottoman Empire and through the presence of many Muslims in the region today, opens up rich possibilities for progress in inter-religious dialogue.  Both of these processes are of the utmost importance in establishing greater mutual understanding and respect between peoples and nations in the modern world".

  "Freedom of religion is an indispensable element in building the kind of society in which such harmony can develop, and the steps taken by Serbia in recent years to guarantee this fundamental human right are greatly appreciated", Benedict XVI said.

  "The plan to restore to churches and religious communities property which had been nationalized by the Yugoslav Federation and the introduction of religious teaching in schools have contributed to the spiritual renewal of your country, and in this regard an important example has been given from which other governments can learn".

  "I pray that this openness to religious values in society," he concluded, "will continue to grow, so that public debate may be truly nourished by the principles derived from faith".
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VATICAN CITY, 21 FEB 2008 (VIS) - This morning the Holy Father received participants of the Society of Jesus' general congregation, with the newly named superior general, Fr. Adolfo Nicolás, which has been meeting in Rome from 7 January.

  The Pope encouraged those present and all their brothers in the Society to continue in their faithfulness to the mission received from God, "in full fidelity to the original charism in the ecclesial and social context that characterizes this beginning of the millennium".

  "The Church", he said, "urgently needs persons of solid and deep faith, of serious culture, and of genuine human and social sensitivity; of priests and religious who dedicate their lives to living at the margins in order to bear witness and help further the understanding that there exists a profound harmony between faith and reason, between evangelical spirit and a thirst for justice and dedication to peace".

 "The Society of Jesus, Benedict XVI continued, "faithful to its best tradition, should continue forming its members with great attention to the sciences and to virtue, without conforming to mediocrity, because the task of confrontation and dialogue in very diverse social and cultural situations with the different mentalities of today's world is one of the most difficult and costly there is".

  "In the attempt to build bridges of understanding and dialogue with those who do not belong to the Church or who have difficulty in accepting its positions and messages, you must loyally take charge of the Church's fundamental right to remain faithful to its mandate and adhere completely to the Word of God as well as to the Magisterium's charge of conserving the truth and unity of Catholic doctrine in its entirety".

  The Pope emphasized that "this holds not only for the vow of each Jesuit. As you work as members of an apostolic body you have to also remain attentive that your works and institutions always maintain a clear and explicit identity so that the goal of your apostolic activity is neither ambiguous nor obscure and so that many others might share your ideals and might effectively and enthusiastically join with you, collaborating in your vow of service to God and as human beings".

  "The themes that are debated and questioned today, such as the salvation of all in Christ, sexual morality, and marriage and the family, should be considered in the context of contemporary reality, maintaining, however, that harmony with the Magisterium that avoids the provocation of confusion and uncertainty in the People of God".

  The Holy Father encouraged the Jesuit fathers to "continue and to renew" their mission among and with the poor. "For us", he said, "the option for the poor is not ideological but rather is born of the Gospel". Besides making the "effort to understand and fight the structural causes" of  injustice and poverty, he added, "it is necessary to fight the deep roots of evil in the very heart of the human being, the sin that separates us from God, without forgetting to care for the most urgent needs of others in Christ's spirit of charity".

  Finally, referring to the Spiritual Exercises, "which from its origins have characterized your Society", the Pope asked that they "continue making them a precious and effective instrument for the spiritual growth of souls. (…) The Spiritual Exercises represent a particularly precious journey and method for seeking and encountering the face of God in and around us and in all things; for coming to know his will and putting it into practice".
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VATICAN CITY, 21 FEB 2008 (VIS) - At 11.30 a.m. today in the Holy See Press Office, a press conference was held to present an international congress entitled "Close by the Incurable Sick Person and the Dying: Scientific and Ethical Aspects", due to be held in the Vatican on February 25 and 26 under the auspices of the Pontifical Academy for Life.
  Participating in today's press conference were Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life; Joseph Capizzi, professor of Moral Theology at the Catholic University of America, and member of the Foundation "Culture and Life" (USA); Monsignor Maurizio Calipari, one of the academy's moral theologians and bioethics professor at the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family; and Zbigniew Zylicz, the medical director of "Dove House Hospice" in Hull, East Yorkshire (England).

  Bishop Sgreccia briefly summarized the goal of the assembly, which will focus on the moment "in which human fragility is felt most deeply, a moment often intensified by solitude and suffering (…) but one which is very important in the Christian vision because the physical body crumbles and the subject's history comes to an end but they draw near the entrance to full life, eternal life".

  This moment of passage is the assembly's specific subject", added the prelate. "We once again", he said, "sense the need to further define the terms of what is and is not licit in the therapeutic sphere, above all in order to respond to the various doubts and continuing debate in the field of medical assistance. The program proposes many ethical themes with the expectation of clarifying with balance and precision, as best as possible, the limits of the therapy and assistance given to the terminally ill and dying. There will also be discussions of cultural and anthropological nature. Above all, we will present the aspects concerning assistance: how society and the Christian community can be mobilized, palliative care, but the main focus will be on treatments that respond to precise ethical questions".

  Monsignor Calipari affirmed that "besides ensuring greater possibilities for life and better health conditions for many, new techniques in medical assistance can sometimes carry with them a greater affront than personal suffering to the patient without there being, or even contrary to there being, a real perspective of benefit."

  "What should be done in these cases?", he asked. "What criteria should be adopted to be able to express an ethical and functional judgment on the use of means of conserving life that is well-grounded and justifiable"?

  Professor Calipari proposed the outline of "a new systematic standard of evaluation that would dynamically join the concepts of 'proportionality/disproportionality' (which is chronologically more recent) and 'ordinariness/extraordinariness' (more traditional), without depriving them of their differences and their characteristics". From this would derive, he continued, a norm that "could represent a precise reference for the concrete decisions on the choice for and recourse to the different means of conserving life. The result of this effort  is called 'the principle of ethical on the use of the means of conserving life".

  Professor Zylicz continued the presentation, speaking on the theme of palliative care, hospices, and household assistance. "Although the concept of the hospice is very Christian, hospices do accept people of all faiths and religions."

  "Death", he continued, "should be seen as a part of life, a normal event. The death of a loved one can even be an important moment of personal growth. People working in hospices struggle with many ethical dilemmas, such as (artificial) food and hydration, intensive symptom control, which may result in the earlier death of a patient, anguish and terminal sedation, and, finally, with the increasing societal demands of euthanasia."
OP/INCURABLY ILL/SGRECCIA                    VIS 20080221 (320)


VATICAN CITY, 21 FEB 2008 (VIS) - Today the Holy Father received in audience Renato Guarini, the rector of La Sapienza University in Rome.
AP/.../...                                VIS 20080221 (20)


VATICAN CITY, 21 FEB 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Bishop Ricardo Watty Urquidi M.Sp.S., previously bishop of Nuevo Laredo in Mexico, as bishop of Tepic (area 22,777, population 1,115,208, Catholics 1,073,321, priests 210, religious 270), Mexico. He succeeds Bishop Alfonso Humberto Robles Cota, whose resignation from the pastoral care of that diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.
NER:RE/.../WATTY:ROBLES                    VIS 20080221 (60)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 20 FEB 2008 (VIS) - Benedict XVI returned to his catechesis on St. Augustine in the Wednesday general audience. The Pope greeted pilgrims in St. Peter's Basilica and then moved to the Paul VI audience hall where the rest of those attending the audience waited.

  St. Augustine, the Holy Father said, was "a great witness of Christ, much loved by my predecessors and whom I also have studied and meditated upon often. He is the Father of the Church who has left us the most works, some of which are of vital importance for the history of Christianity."

  Benedict XVI first cited the "Confessions", in which "we can follow, step by step, the inner journey of this extraordinary man who was passionate about God". He also mentioned the "Retractions" in which an aged Augustine returned to everything that he had written, noting revisions and "leaving a unique and precious literary document that was also a teaching of sincere intellectual humility".

  "On the City of God" was "a decisive work for the development of Western political thought and in the history of Christian theology". It was written between 413 and 416 to respond to the accusations made by pagans who ascribed the fall of Rome in 410 to the Christian God and the apostles who could not protect the city, while under the pagan divinities Rome was the "caput mundi" and it was unimaginable that it could have fallen into enemy hands.

  As the Pope explained, many thought that Rome "was not safe with the God of the Christians" and that "the Christian God could not offer protection, which is why they could not trust in Him". Augustine responded to this objection, "which touched the hearts of the Christians profoundly, with his illustrious "On the City of God", clarifying what we can and what we cannot hope for from God, referring to the relationship between the political sphere and that of the faith of the Church". "Even today", he continued, "this text is a source for defining the lay life and the Church's duty, the true and great hope that gives us faith".

 In the text Augustine "presents the history of humanity governed by divine providence, which is, however, divided between the two opposing loves that give origin to the two cities: the earthly one that originates in self love and indifference toward God, and the celestial one born of love of God and indifference to self".

  "On the Trinity", the Pope continued, "deals with the nucleus of the Christian faith", while "On Christian Doctrine" is a cultural introduction to the interpretation of the Bible, and thus to Christianity itself, and was of great importance in the formation of Western culture".

  The saint, "aware of his intellectual stature (…) always gave preference to the spread of the Christian message to ordinary persons over learned theological works. This concern is evident in his "On the Catechizing of the Uninstructed" dedicated to the problems of teaching illiterate Christians" and the "Psalm Against the Donatists".

Benedict XVI explained that the Donatists, who the book was aimed at, held that the true Church was the African one. He noted that St. Augustine had fought his whole life against this schism, sustaining that only in the unity of the Church was an African Church also possible. The "Psalm Against the Donatists", therefore, although it is a doctrinal treatise, is written in an accessible manner so that all might understand that it is "only in the unity of the Church that our relationship with God and others comes to be and that peace in the world grows".

  In his "Expositions on the Book of Psalms", the Holy Father added, are found many homilies "that were collected by scribes while the saint preached (…) Their fame ensured their wide distribution and they served as models that were always adaptable to new contexts".

  "Even today," the Pope finished, "St. Augustine lives through his works and is present among us. We thus see the lasting vitality of the faith for which he spent his entire life."
AG/ST AUGUSTINE/…                        VIS 20080220 (670)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 19 FEB 2008 (VIS) - Made public today was the address Benedict XVI delivered yesterday to members of the executive committee of the International Union of Superiors General, who were meeting in the Vatican to reflect on "some particularly relevant and important aspects of consecrated life".

  "We are all aware how, in modern globalised society, it is becoming ever more difficult to announce and bear witness to the Gospel", said the Pope. "The process of secularisation which is advancing in contemporary culture does not, unfortunately, spare even religious communities.

  "Nonetheless", he added, "we must not be discouraged, because if (as has been said) many clouds are gathering on the horizon of religious life today, there also exist (indeed they are constantly growing) signs of a providential reawakening which gives rise to consolation and hope.

  "The Holy Spirit blows powerfully throughout the Church, creating a new commitment to faithfulness, both in the historical institutes and, at the same time, in new forms of religious consecration that reflect the needs of the times. ... What characterises these new forms of consecrated life is a shared desire ... for a radical form of evangelical poverty, for faithful love of the Church, and for generous dedication to the needy with particular attention to that spiritual poverty which so markedly characterises the modern age".

  The Pope subsequently went on to refer to "the orders and congregations with a long tradition in the Church", noting how they have suffered a "difficult crisis due to the ageing of members, a more or less accentuated fall in vocations and, sometimes, a spiritual and charismatic 'weariness'".

  Although describing this crisis as "worrying", Benedict XVI highlighted certain positive signs, "especially when communities have chosen to return to the origins and live in a way more in keeping with the spirit of the founder. In almost all recent general chapters of religious institutes the recurring theme has been precisely that of rediscovering the original charism, to then incarnate it and renew it in the present".

  Such rediscovery "has helped give institutes a promising new ascetic, apostolic and missionary impulse", said the Pope and he concluded: "It is along this road that we must continue, praying to the Lord to bring to full fruition the work He began".
AC/CONSECRATED LIFE/...                    VIS 20080219 (390)


VATICAN CITY, 19 FEB 2008 (VIS) - On Saturday, 1 March, to mark the Sixth European Day for Universities, the Holy Father will preside at a Marian prayer vigil in the Paul VI Hall. The theme of the vigil will be: "Europe and the Americas together to build a civilisation of love".

  The Day has been promoted by the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE) and the vicariate of Rome's office for pastoral care in universities.

  The university students gathered in the Paul VI Hall will be linked by satellite to other students in various European and American cities: Naples, Italy; Bucharest, Romania; Toledo, Spain; Avignon, France; Minsk, Belarus; Washington DC, U.S.A.; Mexico City, Mexico; Havana, Cuba, Aparecida, Brazil, and Loja, Ecuador.

  At 5 p.m. the Holy Father will lead the praying of the Rosary, then address some words to the participants before distributing copies of his Encyclical "Spe salvi" to a number of student representatives.

  Also for the occasion of this European Day, a congress is due to be held at Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University from 28 February to 1 March on the theme: "Europe and the Americas together towards integral and solidary development". The event has been promoted by the vicariate of Rome's office for pastoral care in universities together with the European Commission's office in Italy, and the Italian ministries for communication, for university research and for foreign affairs".

  The congress will begin with opening addresses on the theme of "The shared roots and historical ties of the relationship between Europe and the Americas" to be given by Florencio Hubenak of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina "Santa Maria de los Buenos Aires", and by Bianca Maria Tedeschini Lalli of the "Universita degli Studi Roma Tre".

  The meeting will then continue with three main sessions, the first on: "Europe and the Americas in the global society", the second on: "The role of university formation in facing development challenges", and the third on: "University cultures and models in globalisation".

  The meeting will come to an end on the morning of 1 March with two round table discussions on "The brain drain problem: U.S.A. - Latin America - Europe" and "Experiences of and prospects for university co-operation for integral and solidary development".
.../EUROPEAN DAY UNIVERSITIES/...                VIS 20080219 (390)


VATICAN CITY, 19 FEB 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed:

 - Fr. Valter Dario Maggi, pastor and secretary of the episcopal commission for education of the Ecuadorian Episcopal Conference, as auxiliary of the archdiocese of Guayaquil (area 18,711, population 3,357,000, Catholics 3,022,000, priests 339, permanent deacons 25, religious 678), Ecuador. The bishop-elect was born in Brignano Gera d'Adda, Italy in 1956 and ordained a priest in 1985.
 - Fr. Joseph Ponniah, vicar general of Trincomalee-Batticaloa, India, as auxiliary of the same diocese (area 8,397, population 1,545,129, Catholics 68,174, priests 66, religious 131). The bishop-elect was born in Thannamunai, India in 1952 and ordained a priest in 1980.
NEA/.../MAGGI:PONNIAH                        VIS 20080219 (120)

Monday, February 18, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 16 FEB 2008 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican's "Redemptoris Mater" Chapel, at the conclusion of the Roman Curia's spiritual exercises, the Pope expressed thanks, in the name of all those present, to the preacher Cardinal Albert Vanhoye S.J. The theme of this year's exercises was: "Let us welcome Christ, our High Priest. 'Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession'".

  In his remarks, the Pope recalled how Jesus knelt before Peter to wash his feet. This image, he said, "was always before my eyes" and "spoke to me. I saw that it was here, through such behaviour, through such an act of extreme humility, that Jesus' new priesthood was fulfilled. It was fulfilled precisely in the act of solidarity with us, with our weaknesses, our suffering, our trials, even unto death.

  "With new eyes I also saw Jesus' red clothing, which speaks to us of His blood", the Pope added. And addressing Cardinal Vanhoye he went on: "You showed us how Jesus' blood was, through His prayer, 'oxygenated' by the Holy Spirit. And thus it became a force of resurrection and a source of life for us".

  The Holy Father also noted how Peter had asked the Lord to wash not only his feet but also his head and hands, commenting: "It seems to me that - beyond that specific moment - this expresses the difficulty faced by St. Peter and by all the Lord's disciples in understanding the amazing novelty of Jesus' priesthood, of this priesthood which is debasement, solidarity with us, and thus gives us access to the true shrine: the risen body of Jesus.

  "Throughout the period of his discipleship and ... until his own crucifixion, St. Peter had to listen ever and anew to Jesus, in order to enter more deeply into the mystery of His priesthood, the priesthood that Christ communicated to the Apostles and to their successors. In this context, the figure of Peter seems to me like one of us today. You", he concluded, still addressing Cardinal Vanhoye, "have helped us to listen to the voice of the Lord, to relearn the meaning of His priesthood and of ours. You have helped us to participate in Christ's priesthood and thus to receive a new heart, the heart of Jesus, as the centre of the mystery of the new Covenant".
AC/THANKS PREACHER/VANHOYE                VIS 20080218 (420)


VATICAN CITY, 16 FEB 2008 (VIS) - A communique made public today announces that Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum", the Vatican dicastery that promotes the Holy See's charitable activities, has travelled to India to meet with bishops of that country's episcopal conference who are meeting in plenary assembly at Jamshedpur.

  The assembly is reflecting on the Church's charitable commitments in the light of the Encyclical "Deus caritas est", and will give particular attention to the question of the Christian roots of charity.

  The cardinal's trip to India, which will last until 19 February "will strengthen the witness of the Catholic Church in the field of charity where she continues to make her presence felt through many works of charity. Christians in India run 20 percent of primary schools, 25 percent of support structures for widows and orphans, and 30 percent of centres for the disabled, lepers and AIDS sufferers".

  "India, with its 1.2 billion inhabitants", the communique explains, "is a nation in full economic and social expansion, and this fact has important consequences for the charitable organisations active there. The mission of the 'diakonia' remains indispensable, both for the poor and for the essence of the Church herself. 'Diakonia' being an ecclesial activity, the bishop or ordinary plays a fundamental role. His, in fact, is the final responsibility for charitable activity. It is in this particular field that Cardinal Cordes will encourage the Indian prelates".

  The first stage of the cardinal's visit will take him to the tomb of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. He will then go on to visit the shelters for the poor she founded.

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