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Friday, January 30, 2004


VATICAN CITY, JAN 30, 2004 (VIS) - The Pope today welcomed the prelates from the ecclesiastical provinces of Dijon and Tours and of the prelature of the Mission de France. He focused his talk to them on the vocation and mission of the laity, noting that their numbers, as those of priests, have diminished in recent years in France but that the bishops hold out hope because of the philosophical, theological and spiritual preparation of the lay faithful who are assisting pastors.

The laity in France, he observed, in seeking to better serve the Church, "are looking for a greater coherence between faith and its expression in daily life, .. .have rediscovered enthusiasm for studying Scripture and mediating on the Word, and have a growing sense of responsibility for and commitment to justice and works of solidarity in the face of new situations of precariousness." Pastoral structures have diminished in size as have the number of people serving them but "there are many who have generously accepted to dedicated themselves to parish life, under the pastor and in respect for the ordained ministry."

The Holy Father highlighted the need for communion among priests and bishops and the faithful, through which they can all more effectively "evangelize cultures, by making the strength of the Bible penetrate the realities of the family, the workplace, the media, sports and free time, and, in a Christian way, to animate the social order and public, national and international life." He remarked that he was thankful for the work the bishops have done to help young people discover - or rediscover - faith as they ask themselves about faith and the meaning of life.

Turning to the question of Sunday Mass," he underscored that "it does not have the place that it should. Pastors thus must take care to remind the faithful in a forceful and clear way ... of the meaning of the Sunday obligation and of participation in the Sunday Eucharist, which can never be just a simple option in the midst of many activities."

John Paul II highlighted the need for ongoing formation, for pastors as well as for the faithful helping out in parish activities such as catechesis. "In particular," he said, "it would be good to permanently form philosophers and theologians who can give Christians the intellectual foundations they need."

The Pope told the prelates that "the family must be at the center of your concerns. The family is not just a model of relationships among many others, it is a type of relationship that is indispensable for the future of society." Great care, he added, must be given to preparing young people as they look to marriage, "proposing to them a positive vision of affective relations and of sexuality." He went on to say that "we cannot be a witness, powerless, to the phenomenon of the disintegration of the family." The Church hopes to help "change behavior so that the positive values connected to conjugal and family life, will triumph, ... in the face of the often destructive messages of today's society which allow people to think that all affective behaviors are good, thus denying any moral qualification of human acts."


VATICAN CITY, JAN 30, 2004 (VSI) - The Holy Father this morning received the Letters of Credence of the new ambassador of the Republic of China, Chou-seng Tou, and remarked in his talk in English that "the religious and cultural traditions of the Republic of China bear witness to the fact that human development should not be limited to economic or material success.

"Many of the ascetical and mystical elements of Asian religions teach that it is not the acquirement of material wealth which defines the progress of individuals and societies, but rather a civilization's ability to foster the interior dimension and transcendent vocation of men and women."

John Paul II affirmed that "the good of society entails that the right to religious freedom be enshrined in law and be given effective protection. The Republic of China has shown its respect for the various religious traditions found therein and recognizes the right of all to practice their religion. Religions are a component in the life and culture of a nation and bring a great sense of well-being to a community by offering a certain level of social order, tranquillity, harmony and assistance to the weak and the outcast."

He underlined the "significant contribution" of the Catholic Church "to your Nation's social and cultural development, especially by its dedication to education, health care and assistance to the less fortunate. Through these and other activities, the Church continues to help foster the peace and unity of all peoples. In this way she pursues her spiritual and humanitarian mission, and contributes to building a society of justice, trust and cooperation.

"Also," added the Pope, "governments at all times should strive to maintain contact with the marginalized of their own countries as well as with the poor and outcast of the world at large. ... In this regard, I appreciate the Republic of China's many works of charity in the international arena and most especially in the developing world. It is my hope that the people of Taiwan will continue to promote charitable activities and thus contribute to the building of an enduring peace in the world."


VATICAN CITY, JAN 30, 2004 (VIS) - In a Message made public today, Pope John Paul told the participants in a meeting in Rome on the theme "Natural Fertility Regulation and the Culture of Life" that they are studying "very current matters, very interesting for the development of the relationship between science and faith." He noted that the Church has always promoted "the culture of responsible procreation and has promoted the awareness and diffusion of the so-called 'natural' methods of fertility regulation."

There is a mentality today, said the Pope, that "on the one hand appears intimidated in the face of responsible procreation and, on the other hand, would like to dominate and manipulate life," the latter as the result of "a certain propaganda." What must be developed, he said, is "a capillary educational and formative work with regards to married couples, engaged couples, young people in general, and social and pastoral workers to adequately illustrate all the aspects of natural fertility regulation."

"It is clear," he stated, "that when one speaks of 'natural' regulation, we are not referring only to respecting biological rhythms. It is a question of ... responding to the truth about the human person in their intimate unity of spirit, psyche and body, a unity that can never be merely reduced to an overall question of biological mechanisms. Only in the context of the spouses' reciprocal love, total and without reserve, can the moment of generating life, to which the future of mankind is tied, be lived in all its dignity."


VATICAN CITY, JAN 30, 2004 (VIS) - The Holy Father received the following in separate audiences today:

- Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Holy See permanent observer to the United Nations.

- Three prelates of the Episcopal Conference of France:

- Bishop Francis Deniau of Nevers.

- Bishop Georges Edmond Robert Gilson of Sens, prelate of the Mission of France.

-Rev. Luc Lalire, vicar general of Dijon.

- Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.
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