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Thursday, September 25, 2003


VATICAN CITY, SEP 25, 2003 (VIS) - Today at Castelgandolfo, Pope John Paul welcomed Filipino bishops from the provinces of Cagayan de Oro, Cotabato, Davao, Lipa, Ozamis and Zamboanga, who are in Rome for their "ad limina" visit.

He framed his reflections this morning in the context of a plenary council held in the Philippines 12 years ago and on "the three key pastoral priorities (that) emerged: the need to be a Church of the poor, the pledge to become a true community of the Lord's disciples, and the commitment to engage in renewed integral evangelization. Since the Filipino Bishops will be making their ad limina visits to Rome in three groups, I shall use each of these points as a broad backdrop for my comments to each group. For you, I shall start with the first priority: the Church of the poor."

Being a Church of the poor, the Pope stated, "echoes the first Beatitude ' 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven'. ... A Church of the poor "seeks to share time and resources in order to alleviate suffering, ... (and it) works with all sectors of society, including the poor themselves, in search of solutions to the problems of poverty. ... The Church of the poor is a Church in which the poor are welcomed, listened to and actively involved."

"In a very real way, then," the Holy Father continued, "a true Church of the poor contributes much to the needed transformation of society, to social renewal based on the vision and values of the Gospel. This renewal is an undertaking that has the lay faithful as its principal and essential agents: therefore, the laity must be given the necessary tools to carry out this role successfully. This entails a thorough formation in the Church's social doctrine, and constant dialogue with clergy and religious concerning social and cultural issues."

He emphasized that "we must not lose sight of the fact that the immediate and perhaps most important arena of lay witness to Christian faith is marriage and the family. When family life is healthy and flourishing, there is likewise a strong sense of community and solidarity ' two essential elements for the Church of the poor. Not only is the family an object of the Church's pastoral care but it is also one of the most effective agents of evangelization."

John Paul II remarked that "without ignoring the deleterious effects of secularism or of legislation that corrupts the meaning of family, marriage and even human life itself, we may note that poverty is certainly among the major factors exposing Filipino families to the risk of instability and fragmentation. ... A Church of the poor can do much to strengthen the family and to combat human exploitation."

He then mentioned "the unsettling presence of terrorist activity in the Philippines and the abhorrent episodes of violence erupting there. ... With you, I cannot condemn such acts strongly enough. I call on the parties involved to lay down the weapons of death and destruction, rejecting the despair and hatred which these entail, and to take up the arms of mutual understanding, commitment and hope."

In concluding remarks, the Pope said that "in the campaign against terrorism and violence, religious leaders have a vital role to play." He cited his Message for the 2002 World Day of Peace: "The various Christian confessions, as well as the world's great religions, need to work together to eliminate the social and cultural causes of terrorism. They can do this by teaching the greatness and dignity of the human person, and by spreading a clearer sense of the oneness of the human family."

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VATICAN CITY, SEP 25, 2003 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

- Accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the archdiocese of Korhogo, Ivory Coast, presented by Archbishop Auguste Nobou, upon having reached the age limit.

- Gave his consent to the canonical election by the Synod of Bishops of the Church of Antioch of the Maronites, who met in Bkerke on June 9-14, of Chorbishop Nabil Hage, protosincellus (vicar general) of the archeparchy of Tyr of the Maronites, to the archbishopric see of Tyr of the Maronites (Catholics 41,000, priests 25, religious 49), Lebanon. The archbishop-elect succeeds Archbishop Maroun Khoury Sader whose resignation the Holy Father accepted in accordance with Canon 210, para. 2, of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.

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VATICAN CITY, SEP 25, 2003 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in audience six prelates from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines on their "ad limina" visit:

- Bishop Emilio Z. Marquez of Lucena.

- Bishop Rolando J. Tirona, prelate of Infanta.

- Archbishop Jesus A. Dosado, C.M., of Ozamis.

- Bishop Emilio L. Bataclan of Iligan.

- Bishop Edwin A. de la Pena, of the Missionary Society of the Philippines, of Marawi.

- Archbishop Carmelo Dominador F. Morelos of Zamboanga.

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VATICAN CITY, SEP 25, 2003 (VIS) - As is customary every year before leaving his summer residence at Castelgandolfo and returning to Rome, this morning the Pope thanked the town's mayor, councilmen and law enforcement officials for their service throughout his stay. He also bid farewell to priests and the different religious communities.

The Holy Father assured law enforcement officials that he would continue to pray for them and their work. "In addition," he said, "I ask you to pray for me and my daily service to the Church. Pray in particular for my upcoming pilgrimage to Pompeii so that it may mark the start of a new phase of spiritual renovation and more intense Marian devotion for the Church."

Yesterday afternoon, John Paul II greeted Saverio Petrillo, general director of the Pontifical Villas, and staff members as well as their family members. "Upon returning to the Vatican," he said, "I ask the Giver of every good to reward you with an abundance of grace."

The Pope will return by car to Vatican at 6:30 p.m.

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