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Tuesday, November 18, 2003


VATICAN CITY, NOV 18, 2003 (VIS) - John Paul II wrote a message to Italian bishops who are celebrating the fifty-second general assembly of the Italian Episcopal Conference (C.E.I.) in Assisi, Italy.

'Your concern as pastors,' writes the Pope, 'will be focused on this occasion on the topic ' of the parish, very opportunely presented in the program of your assembly as the 'Church living in the midst of the homes of Her sons and daughters.' ' I must emphasize that I share with you the conviction of the central and irreplaceable role of the parish to make participation in the Church possible, and in a certain sense easy and spontaneous for every person and family. As the Vatican Council II affirmed ' parishes 'represent the visible Church constituted throughout the world'.'

The Holy Father emphasizes the 'essential presence of parishes in Italy, their vitality and capacity to carry out a pastoral and social service which is attentive to the needs of the people' and recalls that during the assembly 'the best ways to preserve and increase this richness in the face of the great social and cultural changes of our age' will be studied.

'In order to accomplish these goals it will be particularly important for Italian parishes to maintain a 'familial' characteristic which distinguishes them and makes them, in a certain way, big 'families of families': thus, parishes will be a warm and welcoming environment ' and will be able to offer a great contribution to the defense and promotion of that precious and invaluable reality, which unfortunately is continually threatened today, which is the family.'

At the end of the message, the Pope expresses his 'lively appreciation' for the pastoral care with which the bishops guide Italian life and recalls that 'the nation which has contributed so much to building up Europe and to the diffusion of authentic values of civilization, continues to struggle with various problems and contrasts, as the weed of political terrorism has not yet been completely rooted out.'

'I am beside you,' he concludes, 'in the work that each one of you carries out in order to promote serenity and harmony in relationships between the diverse forces and political, social and institutional components. I share ' in your continual commitment to the defense of human life, the family founded on marriage, scholastic freedom and ' in the development of employment and in helping the poorest sectors of the population. I unite myself to you spiritually in order to invoke the gift of peace on all of humanity which is tormented by so many bloody conflicts. With you, I commend the Italians who died in Iraq while fulfilling their duty in the service of the Iraqi people, to the Lord.'

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VATICAN CITY, NOV 18, 2003 (VIS) - Made public today was the annual message from the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue to Muslims on the occasion of the end of 'Id Al-Fitr', the feast which concludes the month of Ramadan. The message, whose theme is, 'Constructing peace today,' was published in French, English, Italian. It was signed by the president of the council, Archbishop Michael L. Fitzgerald.

This year Archbishop Fitzgerald considers the encyclical by Pope John XXIII 'Pacem in terris,' in which the pope refers to peace as 'an edifice resting on four pillars: truth, justice, love and freedom.'

'Truth is the first pillar,' affirms the council's president, 'for it includes the recognition that human beings are not their own masters, but are called the fulfill the will of God. ' Truth moreover brings each individual to acknowledge his or her own rights, but also to recognize his or her own duties towards others.'

'Yet peace cannot exist without justice,' he continues, 'respect for the dignity and rights of each human person. It is the lack of justice, in individual, social and international relations that causes so much unrest in our world today, and brings about violence.'

Referring to love, he emphasizes that it 'implies the ability to recognize that we all belong to one human family.' Speaking about forgiveness, he says, 'is essential to the restoration of peace when conflict has broken out, for it opens up the possibility of beginning again, on a new basis, in a restored relationship. All this supposes freedom ' allows people to act according to reason and to assume responsibility for their own actions.'

The president of the council goes on to say that to the four pillars he would add prayer. He recalls what the Pope says: 'Prayer is not a form of escapism. On the contrary, it allows us to face up to reality with a strength which comes from God.'

At the end of the message, Archbishop Fitzgerald invokes God's blessing on all Muslims and their families and asks that 'this blessing be a source of comfort in particular for those who have suffered, or who are still suffering, on account of armed conflict. May the Good God give all of us the strength to be true constructors of peace.'



VATICAN CITY, NOV 18, 2003 (VIS) - This morning, Cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao inaugurated the fifth World Congress for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees, which is taking place in Rome from November 17 to 22 and whose theme is, 'Starting afresh from Christ. Towards a renewed pastoral care of migrants and refugees.' Two-hundred and ninety seven people from ninety-nine countries are participating in the congress.

The president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples referred to the 'urgency to work for a new world which is more fraternal, welcoming in solidarity, freer and more peaceful.'

Gabriella Rodriguez, who works in the office of the United Nations for Human Rights of Migrants, spoke about 'The present situation of international migrants.' The media, she said, 'have offered a distorted vision of the effects of migration, creating reactions which have negatively affected migrants.' After pointing out the dangers people who are forced to emigrate must confront, from 'illicit human trafficking, to the sexual exploitation of women and children, to forced labor,' Rodriguez indicated that it is fundamental 'to promote the use of mechanisms of information and public censure; to sensitize the media in order to eliminate the use of racist and xenophobic stereotypes.'

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, U.S.A., while speaking about people on the move, stressed that the 'Church must defend and bear witness to common fraternity. The present situation in the world has showed us the sad reality of millions of persons who have lost their right, or the opportunity to exercise their right, to stay in their own home.'

In the afternoon, a round table is scheduled in which representatives from the five continents will speak about their respective situations and consequent challenges.
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VATICAN CITY, NOV 18, 2003 (VIS) - The Holy Father accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Gap, France, presented by Bishop Georges Lagrange, in accordance with Canon 401, para. 2, of the Code of Canon Law. Bishop Jean-Michel Di Falco, auxiliary of the same diocese, succeeds him.


VATICAN CITY, NOV 18, 2003 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

- His Beatitude Cardinal Ignace Moussa I Daoud, prefect of the Congregation for Oriental Churches.

- Cardinal Paul Shan Kuo-hsi, bishop of Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

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