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Thursday, December 18, 2003


VATICAN CITY, DEC 18, 2003 (VIS) - Today the Holy Father received in separate audiences:

- Four prelates of the French Episcopal Conference on their 'ad limina' visit:

- Archbishop Jean-Pierre Cattenoz of Avignon.

- Bishop Francois-Xavier Loizeau of Digne.

- Bishop Dominique Rey of Frejus-Toulon.

- Bishop Jean-Michel di Falco of Gap.

- Luvy Salerni Navas, ambassador of Nicaragua, on her farewell visit.

- Ivan Misic, ambassador of Bosnia-Herzegovina, on his farewell visit.

- Cardinal Walter Kasper and Bishop Brian Farrell, L.C., respectively president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

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VATICAN CITY, DEC 18, 2003 (VIS) - The Office of Liturgical Celebration of the Supreme Pontiff published today the calendar of celebrations at which the Holy Father will preside during the Christmas season:


- Wednesday, 24: Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord. The Pope will celebrate Midnight Mass in the Vatican Basilica.

- Thursday, 25: Solemnity of the Birth of the Lord. At noon from the central balcony of the Vatican Basilica, the Pope will deliver his Christmas message to the world and will impart the "Urbi et Orbi" blessing.

- Wednesday, 31: At 6 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, the Holy Father will preside at first vespers on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, during which the traditional 'Te Deum" hymn of thanksgiving will be sung for the conclusion of the civil year.


- Thursday, 1: Solemnity of Mary Mother of God. The Holy Father will preside at the celebration of the solemnity within the octave of Christmas in the Vatican Basilica at 10 a.m. on the occasion of the 37th World Day of Peace on the theme 'An Ever Timely Commitment: Teaching Peace.' The Eucharist will be celebrated by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, secretary of State.

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VATICAN CITY, DEC 18, 2003 (VIS) - The Holy Father this morning welcomed the bishops and diocesan administrators from the ecclesiastical province of Marseille as well as the archbishop of Monaco, who have just concluded their 'ad limina' visit. He focussed his talk on 'the renewal of the spiritual life of pastors, the faithful and entire communities,' saying it is from this 'that will spring forth a new pastoral and missionary elan.'

He said that 'in this perspective persons committed to the consecrated life have a primordial role to play. Consecrated life in all of its forms, old and new, is a gift from God to the Church.' John Paul II said he wanted 'to repeat with conviction and strength the need for consecrated life in the Church and the world. Indeed, a diocese without communities of consecrated life 'would be deprived of many spiritual gifts, of places reserved for seeking God, of apostolic activities and specific pastoral methods.'

The Pope then turned to the crisis being undergone in France by communities of consecrated life, citing the bishops' quinquennial reports on this subject. He said that this crisis 'is marked in a notable way in the apostolic congregations, by the progressive and constant decrease in the number of members of the diverse institutes, ' and by the weak numbers of candidates for the novitiates.' He noted that 'members are ageing, with the inevitable consequences on the life of the institutes, on their witness, on their government and even on the choices linked to their missions and to where their resources are destined." Now, more than ever, he said, 'leaders of institutes must be attentive to the permanent formation of their members, especially on the theological and spiritual levels.'

The Holy Father added that he was delighted 'to see that congregations are taking care to propose their charisms to the laity of all ages and circumstances and to include them in their mission.'

He lauded the work done by consecrated persons 'in France and in the poorest of countries, especially in Africa' where they see to 'excluded people, illiterate children, street youths, people in precarious situations or poverty, those sick with AIDS, migrants and other displaced peoples.' He urged leaders of congregations 'to never neglect or desert too quickly these essential places for transmitting Gospel values.'

John Paul II underscored many times in his talk the need to devote attention to young people, especially in their early and formative years, and with particular regard for those who are considering a vocation to the religious life. Young people, he said 'need audacious witnesses who call on them to live the Gospel and to place themselves generously at its service.'

The Pope also underlined the need for a fruitful dialogue between institutes and congregations at both the national and diocesan levels. He added that, of all the activities of these communities, he wished to highlight 'the eminent role they play in intellectual research in your country. Religious in France have often been beacons in this domain.'

'In your dioceses,' he went on, 'consecrated life has many faces, with old and new communities existing side by side. ' New communities are a fortune for the Church. Helped by their bishops, ' they still need to mature, to become rooted and sometimes to be organized according to canonical rules.' He said that many times the older congregations can learn much from the enthusiasm and the ardor of new communities. The latter, he remarked, 'have a courage that sometimes is missing in older institutes.'
The Holy Father noted that many of the bishops 'underscored the important role that communities of contemplative life play in your dioceses.' They add, he stated, to the 'apostolic fruitfulness of the parishes, movements and ministries and are for many young people and adults reference points and spaces in which they can find solid bases for building and reaffirming their human and spiritual life.' He said that in particular 'monasteries play a precious role,' especially for those priests, religious and laity who spend time there on retreats.

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VATICAN CITY, DEC 16, 2003 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Msgr. Pier Giacomo Grampa, rector of Papio College and pastor-archpriest of Ascona, Switzerland as bishop of Lugano (area 2,811, population 282,181, Catholics 235,669, priests 288, permanent deacons 288, religious 630), Switzerland. The bishop-elect was born in Busto Arsizio, Italy in 1936 and was ordained a priest in 1959. He succeeds Bishop Giuseppe Torti whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted upon having reached the age limit.

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VATICAN CITY, DEC 18, 2003 (VIS) - The following prelates died in recent weeks:

- Cardinal Paulos Tzadua of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on December 11 at age 82.

- Bishop Joseph Anthony Ferrario, emeritus of Honolulu, U.S.A., on December 12 at age 77.

- Bishop Luiz Roberto Gomes de Arruda, prelate emeritus of Guajara-Mirim, Brazil on December 6 at age 89.

- Bishop Johannes Sudiarna Hadiwikarta of Surabaya, Indonesia on December 13 at age 59.

- Bishop Augustine Eugene Hornyak, O.S.B.M., apostolic exarch for the Ukrainian faithful resident in Great Britain on November 16 at age 84.

- Bishop William Edward Power, emeritus of Antigonish, Canada on November 29 at age 88.

- Archbishop Fernando Vargas Ruiz de Somocurcio, emeritus of Arequipa, Peru on December 8 at age 85.

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