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Friday, June 13, 2003


VATICAN CITY, JUN 13, 2003 (VIS) - Today the Holy Father received participants in the meeting of presidents of the European Episcopal Commissions for the Family and for Life who are reflecting on "The Challenges and Possibilities at the Beginning of the Third Millennium."

John Paul II affirmed that today "the identity of the family" is being threatened. When "the 'human' dimension in family life" is lost, he said, "the anthropological root of the family as a communion of persons is put into question" and "alternative falsehoods crop up that do not recognize the family as a precious and necessary good for the social fabric."

"In the Europe of our times," he continued, "the institution of the family suffers from a disconcerting fragility." However, he added, "so many Christian families offer consoling social and ecclesial testimony: they live this reciprocal gift of conjugal and family love in an admirable way, overcoming difficulties and adversity. It is precisely from this total self-giving that the couple's happiness comes, when they stay faithful to conjugal love till death and when they are faithfully open to the gift of life."

The Pope indicated that in modern European societies, "mentalities are spreading that are favorable to divorce, contraception and abortion, denying in fact the genuine sentiment of love and attacking human life, not recognizing human beings' full right to life."

Despite these attacks on the family and life, he said, "Thank God there are many families that are faithful to their Christian and human vocation in spite of difficulties. ... Movements that promote the family and life are growing; they consolidate and constitute a new social conscience. Yes, countless are the resources of the family!"

The Holy Father renewed his invitation "to leaders of peoples and legislators to fully assume their commitments in defense of life so that they promote a culture of life." This year is the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Charter of the Rights of the Family, promulgated by the Holy See. He concluded: "I hope that this important document continues to be a valid aid and guide to those who have social and political duties and responsibilities."

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VATICAN CITY, JUN 13, 2003 (VIS) - Made public today was the program of the Pope's trip to Bosnia-Herzegovina on June 22, where he will beatify Servant of God Ivan Merz.

The Holy Father will leave Rome at 8:15 a.m., arriving at Banja Luka's international airport at 9:40 a.m. After a welcome ceremony, he is scheduled to meet with the collegial presidency of the country. At 11:30 a.m. he will celebrate Mass and beatify Servant of God Ivan Merz on a plain in front of the Convent of the Most Holy Trinity of the Order of the Friars Minor on a hillside in Petricevac. He will also say a few words before praying the Angelus.

At 2:30 p.m. the Pope will eat lunch with bishops from Bosnia-Herzegovina and with cardinals and bishops of the entourage in the bishop's residence in Banja Luka. At 5:30 p.m. he is scheduled to receive the president of the Serbian Republic and the president of the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and a half an hour later he will meet with the country's inter-religious council. At 6:30 p.m. he will make a private visit to the Catholic cathedral in Banja Luka. At 7:15 p.m., after a farewell ceremony in the airport, the Pope will return to Rome where he is scheduled to arrive at 9:00 p.m.



VATICAN CITY, JUN 13, 2003 (VIS) - The Ninth Vatican Observatory Summer School in Observational Astronomy and Astrophysics will take place at observatory headquarters in the summer papal residence at Castelgandolfo from June 15 to July 11 on "Observations and Theoretical Understanding of Galaxy Evolution: From the Local Universe to the Distant Universe."

According to a communique from the observatory, 26 young scholars from 20 different countries will be in Rome for the 2003 summer session. The selection for this biennial event was made by the principal faculty of the school and the observatory director, Fr. George V. Coyne, S.J., from more than 200 applications.

The Vatican provides the fifteen students from developing countries with scholarships that cover at least 75 percent of the total costs of the school, including travel and room and board. The purpose of the school is to help young people at the beginning of their program of higher studies to develop quality research careers which will be nourished by interchange on an international scale. Many of the students who participated in the previous eight summer sessions have either completed or are now pursuing studies or post-graduate research at renowned institutions. The Jesuit community of the Vatican Observatory has provided scholarships to seven of the students from developing countries to pursue their graduate studies.

Two lectures will be given each morning, with evening seminars by the Vatican staff and visiting astronomers. During the summer course, students will also present a short paper on their research or the research of their home institution. Other activities will include laboratory exercises, use of the Observatory computers for data reduction and image processing, and use of astronomical databases. No formal course credits will be given, but certification of satisfactory completion of the course will be supplied. Courses will be taught in English.

Ambassadors to the Holy See from each of the countries represented are invited to visit the school and to have lunch with the participants.

Though the Vatican Observatory is headquartered in Castelgandolfo, in 1981, when the skies of Rome became too bright for the observatory, for the first time in its history it founded a second research center, the Vatican Observatory Research Group (VORG), in Tucson, Arizona in the United States, one of the world's largest and most modern centers for observational astronomy. In 1993, in collaboration with Steward Observatory, the Vatican Observatory completed the construction of the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope (VATT) on Mt. Graham, Arizona, considered the best astronomical site in the Continental United States.

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VATICAN CITY, JUN 13, 2003 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Fr. Roman Casanova Casanova, pastor in the diocese of Tortosa, Spain, as bishop of Vic (area 3,964, population 357,641, Catholics 353,362, priests 231, permanent deacons 7, religious 751), Spain. The bishop-elect was born in Deltebre in 1956 and was ordained a priest in 1981. The Holy Father accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese presented by Bishop Josep Maria Guix Ferrers upon having reached the age limit.

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VATICAN CITY, JUN 13, 2003 (VIS) - Today the Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

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

- Archbishop Anselme Titianma Sanon of Bobo-Dioulasso.

- Bishop Philippe Ouedraogo of Ouahigouya.

- Bishop Wenceslas Compaore of Manga.

- Bishop Lucas Kalfa Sanon of Banfora.

- Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of Sacraments.

This evening he is scheduled to receive Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

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