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Tuesday, June 3, 2003


VATICAN CITY, JUN 3, 2003 (VIS) - Pope John Paul today received 28 Latin Rite prelates of India, at the conclusion of their obligatory quinquennial "ad limina" visit.

In his talk to them in English, he noted that their dioceses are "fertile ground" for the harvest of faith, underscoring that local Catholic Churches may be "materially poor, especially when compared to other Christian communities, (but) they are rich in human resources." In particular the Pope remarked on "the impressive numbers of religious and diocesan vocations in your provinces, and the high percentage of faithful who attend Sunday Mass."

"Notwithstanding these positive signs," he went on, "your dioceses are also faced with challenges. The negative influence of the mass media, secularism, materialism, and consumerism, compounded by the false promises of a few fundamentalist groups, have lured some Catholics into giving up their faith. Sadly, even some members of the clergy have, at times, been attracted by half empty promises of money, comfort and power."

The Holy Father then turned to the pastoral initiatives needed to face these challenges, saying they must be rooted in "the four Christian pillars of holiness, prayer, the sacraments and the Word of God. ... Effective pastoral planning must be contextualized in such a way that it addresses the problems created by modern society," such as "the movement towards a culture of death, as seen for example in the menacing threats directed towards unborn children, especially unborn girls. ... Remain vigilant in your efforts to preach fearlessly the consistent teaching of the Church regarding the inviolable right to life of every innocent human being."

He remarked that "globalization has also challenged traditional customs and ethics. This is clearly seen in attempts to impose upon Asian society morally unacceptable types of family planning and reproductive health measures. At the same time, an incorrect understanding of the moral law has led many people to justify immoral sexual activity under the guise of freedom, which in turn has resulted in a commonplace acceptance of the contraceptive mentality." He said all this helps to "contribute to the spread of HIV/AIDS which is reaching epidemic proportions in your country."

Citing "Evangelium Vitae," John Paul II declared: "The efforts which respect the dignity and rights of women must be made to guarantee that at all levels of Indian society a 'new feminism' is promoted. This will 'reject the temptation of 'male domination', in order to acknowledge and affirm the true genius of women in every aspect of the life of society and overcome all discrimination and exploitation'."

The Pope remarked that St. Francis Xavier, "who did so much for the spread of Christianity in India, possessed the ability to minister successfully in a non-Christian environment." He said he hoped the Church in India would imitate this saint, adding "This is not an easy task, especially in areas where people experience animosity, discrimination and even violence because of their religious convictions or tribal affiliation. These difficulties are exacerbated by the increased activity of a few Hindu fundamentalist groups which are creating suspicion of the Church and other religions. Unfortunately, in some regions the State authorities have yielded to the pressures of these extremists and have passed unjust anti-conversion laws, prohibiting free exercise of the natural right to religious freedom, or withdrawing State support for those in ... castes who have chosen to convert to Christianity."

In conclusion, Pope John Paul stated that "the Church in India must never relinquish her fundamental task of evangelization." He urged bishops to "continue to engage local leaders of other religious beliefs in an interreligious dialogue" and to "maintain a substantive dialogue with local and national authorities to ensure that India continues to promote and protect the basic human rights of all its citizens."

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VATICAN CITY, JUN 3, 2003 (VIS) - Msgr. Piero Monni, Holy See permanent observer to the World Tourism Organization, is in Madrid, Spain to attend the 70th session of the Executive Council of the WTO, a two-day meeting which starts today.

The communique from Msgr. Monni's office announcing this meeting states that international tourism has suffered deeply from events linked to the September 11 tragedy, the recent war in Iraq and the outbreak of SARS, which has been especially serious in several parts of the world.

"The SARS crisis," says the note, "in addition to the cost in human lives, has also blocked the flow of travellers to the areas that have been struck, rendering even more problematic the resumption of the tourist market not only for the Asian continent, but also in adjacent areas. Such problems, considered crucial for the development and future of the world's tourism industry, will be analyzed and discussed within the framework of the Madrid WTO meeting."

The Executive Council will also discuss the following topics: the process of transforming the WTO from an organization into a specialized institution of the United Nations; the need to increase sustainable tourism; the importance of developing quality in tourism and promoting ethical values; the opportunity to continually monitor tendencies in the travel sector and to prepare statistical data linked to the tourism market; preparations for the WT0's 25th General Assembly, set to take place in Beijing from October 17 to 24; and the expansion of the European Union and subsequent repercussions on tourism.

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VATICAN CITY, JUN 3, 2003 (VIS) - Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum," issued a declaration during a press conference at the end of his May 28 - June 2 trip to Iraq, where he was sent by the Holy Father to coordinate Catholic humanitarian aid in the country.

According to the communique, Archbishop Cordes confirms that during the many meetings he had with civil and religious authorities and the heads of charitable institutions, "everyone expressed gratitude to the Holy Father for his tireless commitment to the people of Iraq and to peace. Having experienced a great spirit of communion and collaboration among Christians in Iraq, I have assured them that I will refer these sentiments of profound recognition to His Holiness."

The president of "Cor Unum" affirmed that in accordance with the dicastery's mission he will verify "personally the necessities of the country in view of a plan for aid which will involve Catholic humanitarian organizations. They have already pinpointed some sectors of intervention such as emergency aids in food, housing, sanitary, and education. Many Catholic aid agencies are intending to take charge, together with other institutions, of these necessities."

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VATICAN CITY, JUN 3, 2003 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

- Svetozar Marovic, president of Serbia and Montenegro, and an entourage.

- Four prelates from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India on their "ad limina" visit:

- Bishop John Thattumkal, S.S.C., of Cochin.

- Bishop Stephen Athipozhiyil of Alleppey.

- Bishop Stanley Roman of Quilon.

- Bishop Joseph Kalathiparambil of Calicut.

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