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Thursday, July 3, 2003


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

- Christian Poncelet, president of the Senate of the Republic of France, and an entourage.

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

- Bishop Joseph D'Silva of Bellary.

- Bishop Aloysius Paul D'Souza of Mangalore.

- Bishop Bernard Blasius Moras of Belgaum.

- Bishop Gerald Isaac Lobo of Shimoga.

- Ampalavanar Selverajah, ambassador of Singapore, on his farewell visit.

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VATICAN CITY, JUL 3, 2003 (VIS) - The Pope today welcomed 19 bishops from the ecclesiastical provinces of Bangalore, Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam in India who are in Rome for their quinquennial "ad limina" visit. In his talk to them in English, he noted that today is "the feast of the glorious Apostle Saint Thomas, so venerated by your people."

The Holy Father began by highlighting the call for both "a new evangelization and renewed missionary activity" which he has addressed to the entire Church, and stressed in particular that "a correct understanding of the relationship between culture and the Christian faith is vital for effective evangelization. On your own Indian sub-continent you are faced with cultures rich in religious and philosophical traditions." However, he admonished, "any theology of mission that omits the call to a radical conversion to Christ and denies the cultural transformation which such conversion will entail necessarily misrepresents the reality of our faith, which is always a new beginning in the life of Him Who alone is 'the way, the truth and the life'."

"In this regard, we reaffirm that interreligious dialogue does not replace the 'missio ad gentes' but rather forms a part of it. Similarly, it must be noted that relativist explanations of religious pluralism, which state that the Christian faith is of no different value than any other belief, in fact empty Christianity of its defining Christological heart: faith alienated from our Lord Jesus, as the only Savior, is no longer Christian, no longer theological faith. An even greater misrepresentation of our faith occurs when relativism leads to syncretism: an artificial 'spiritual construct' that manipulates and consequently distorts the essential, objective, revelatory nature of Christianity."

John Paul II then pointed to the lights and shadows of the Church in India, noting that the positive elements include numerous adult baptisms, despite obstacles, a high percentage of Catholics who attend Sunday Mass, increasing numbers of laity participating in the liturgy and other indications of "growth and maturity" in their dioceses, including dedicated priests, religious and catechists.

Among the challenges the Church faces, he said, are the need for both a deeper appreciation of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and a "comprehensive marriage preparation program for those readying themselves for the Sacrament."

"Individually you are the visible source and foundation of unity in your own particular Churches," the Pope told the prelates. "Together with the Pope, all bishops represent the whole Church in the bond of peace, love and unity. In this regard, a bishop must never be considered a mere delegate of a particular social or language group, but must always be recognized as a successor of the Apostles whose mission comes from the Lord. The repudiation of a bishop, whether by an individual or a group, is always a transgression of ecclesial communion and thus a scandal for the faithful and a counter-witness to the followers of other religions."

In closing, Pope John Paul noted that the development in their Particular Churches has often "depended upon the ministry of missionaries and the financial generosity of overseas donors." However, he added, "it is also true to say that particular Churches, including those in the developing world, should seek to build up their own resources to promote local evangelization and build centers and institutions of education and charitable works."

The Holy Father told the bishops they must "ensure that the administration of 'goods meant for all' is never sullied by temptations to materialism or favoritism but is wisely undertaken in response to the needs of the spiritually or materially poor."

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VATICAN CITY, JUL 3, 2003 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed:

- Msgr. Amadeo Rodriguez Magro, vicar general of the archdiocese of Merida-Badajoz, Spain, as bishop of Plasencia (area 10,000, population 274,561, Catholics 270,494, priests 204, religious 481), Spain. The bishop-elect was born in San Jorge de Alor, Spain in 1946 and was ordained a priest in 1970.

- Archbishop George Panikulam, apostolic nuncio in Honduras, as apostolic nuncio in Mozambique.

- Bishop Hans-Josef Becker, auxiliary of the archdiocese of Paderborn, Germany as metropolitan archbishop of the same archdiocese (area 14,754, population 4,934,408, Catholics 1,786,330, priests 1,210, permanent deacons 116, religious 2,416). The archbishop-elect was born in Warstein-Belecke, Germany in 1948 and was ordained a priest in 1977.

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VATICAN CITY, JUL 3, 2003 (VIS) - The following prelates died in recent weeks:

- Bishop Raymond Roy, emeritus of Alberta, Canada on June 25 at the age of 84.

- Bishop Simeon O. Valerio, S.V.D., former apostolic vicar of Calapan, the Philippines on June 20 at the age of 85.

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