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Thursday, June 12, 2003


VATICAN CITY, JUN 12, 2003 (VIS) - Yesterday afternoon in the Vatican Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, inaugurated the June 11-14 meeting of presidents of the Episcopal Commissions for the Family and for Life.

According to a communique made public today, the meeting - whose theme is "Challenges and possibilities at the beginning of the third millennium" - has the purpose of "providing information on the problems and work carried out by different European nations" in the realm of the family.

Cardinal Lopez Trujillo spoke on the "situation of the family and of life in the world." The communique indicates that "the European continent is the most critical because for a long time secularization has influenced the family, already very fragile due to internal and external problems, in a negative way." Despite the fact that many movements, associations and numerous institutes of bioethics exist to promote the family, "great unity is necessary so that the cause of the family and life may be enriched by cultural contribution and the experience of these research centers."

A second theme concerns "the relationship between family and society, especially in reference to legislation in certain parliaments, that we can define as 'iniquitous' and 'not respectful' of human rights and the rights of the family and life, from conception to natural death. Often parliaments are misinformed and also the language that they use is almost always ambiguous and not coherent with the most advanced scientific research. In this light, the Pontifical Council for the Family has published a 'Lexicon' in which 78 universal general terms appear that aim to clarify basic scientific information from an anthropological, physiological and sexual point of view, as well as from the point of view of procreation."

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VATICAN CITY, JUN 12, 2003 (VIS) - This morning in the Clementine Hall, Pope John Paul welcomed 200 people involved in the planning and execution of his apostolic trips throughout the world from the Secretariat of State to Alitalia, Italy's national airline, from the Vatican's gendarmes and Pontifical Swiss Guard to members of all the media who cover his travels.

"Through your work," he said, "you have allowed the Pope to go and meet the men and women of our time in the everyday places where they live. You have helped him in his ministry as an itinerant missionary, anxious to proclaim to everyone the word of salvation."

Referring to his recent trip to Croatia, the Holy Father said: "My just-concluded 100th trip offers me the occasion to renew my heartfelt thanks to Divine Providence that allowed me to realize this important pastoral project."

John Paul II explained why he has travelled so frequently in his pontificate: "Right from the day I was elected as Bishop of Rome, October 16, 1978, with special intensity and urgency I heard the echo of Jesus' command: 'Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all of creation'. I thus felt the duty to imitate the Apostle Peter who 'went here and there among them all' to confirm and consolidate the vitality of the Church in fidelity to the Word and in service to the truth; to tell everyone that the Church loves them, that the Pope loves them and likewise to receive from them the encouragement and example of their goodness, of their faith."

He pointed out that his trips also allow him to manifest "a specific exercise of the ministry proper to the Successor of Peter, that is, 'the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity in faith and in communion."

"In all of my trips, I have felt like a pilgrim visiting that special shrine known as (God's) people. In these shrines I have been able to contemplate the face of Christ, both disfigured as on the Cross or resplendent in light like on Easter morning." The Holy Father highlighted the importance of sharing with the bishops their problems and joys, of meeting the faithful, especially young people, "and knowing more closely the life of Christian communities on diverse continents." He also spoke of his meetings with the faithful of other Churches and ecclesial communities and the followers of Judaism, Islam and other religions.

"The great multi-color assemblies of the People of God, gathered for Eucharistic celebrations," the Pope concluded, "remain impressed in my memory and on my heart as the most meaningful and most moving memories of my visits."

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VATICAN CITY, JUN 12, 2003 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

- Marwan Muasher, foreign affairs minister of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and an entourage.

- Two prelates from the Episcopal Conference of Burkina Faso on their "ad limina" visit:

- Archbishop Jean-Marie Untaani Compaore of Ouagadougou.

- Archbishop Seraphin Rouamba of Koupela.

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VATICAN CITY, JUN 12, 2003 (VIS) - On Sunday, June 22 John Paul II will make an apostolic trip to Bosnia-Herzegovina during which he will beatify Servant of God Ivan Merz in Banja Luka. It will be his 101st trip outside of Italy and his second to the country. The Holy Father was last in Sarajevo on April 12-13, 1997.

On the occasion of this pastoral visit, we present some statistics on the Church in this country.

Bosnia-Herzegovina has 4,070,000 inhabitants, of whom 461,000 are Catholic, approximately 11.3 percent of the total population. Currently, there are four bishops, 583 priests, 523 religious and 230 seminarians in the country.

The Catholic Church in this Balkan nation runs 13 primary, middle and secondary schools, attended by more than 3,500 students. In addition, there is one home for the elderly, disabled and handicapped, one orphanage, one day care center and five centers for education and social rehabilitation.

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