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Thursday, February 12, 2004


VATICAN CITY, FEB 11, 2004 (VIS) - Today, liturgical memory of Our Lady of Lourdes and 12th World Day of the Sick, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar general for the diocese of Rome, celebrated Mass at 4:30 p.m. in St. Peter's Basilica for the ill and for the pilgrims of Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi and UNITALSI. At the end of the Eucharistic celebration, Pope John Paul came to the basilica to bless the sick and speak to them and those who care for them.

"With great affection I greet you," said the Pope. "Since this morning my prayers have been dedicated in a special way to you and now I am delighted to meet with you." He noted that "20 years ago, on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, I published the Apostolic Letter 'Salvifici doloris' on the Christian meaning of human suffering. I chose that date thinking of the special message that the Virgin imparted from Lourdes to the sick and suffering."

He pointed out that today especially we think of Mary and the Lourdes grotto, "where the words 'I am the Immaculate Conception' are written' . because in this basilica, 150 years ago Blessed Pope Pius XI solemnly proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, . a truth which introduces us to the heart of the mystery of creation and the Redemption."

"Looking at Mary," added the Holy Father, "our hearts are open to hope because we see the great things that God realizes when, with humility, we open ourselves to fulfilling His will. Mary Immaculate is a stupendous sign of the victory of life over death, of love over sin, of salvation over every type of sickness of body and spirit. . May contemplating this ineffable mystery fill you with comfort, dear sick people; may it illuminate your work, dear doctors, nurses and health care workers; and may it sustain your precious activity, dear volunteers, as you are called to recognize and serve Jesus in every needy person."


VATICAN CITY, FEB 11, 2004 (VIS) - Pope John Paul focussed the catechesis of today's general audience on the liturgical memory of Our Lady of Lourdes and on the celebration of the 12th World Day of the Sick. He noted that the shrine at Lourdes "continues to attract crowds of pilgrims from every part of the world, including many people who are sick" and, over the years, "an intense relationship has developed which binds it to the world of illness and those who work in health care services."

He added that the principal celebration of the World Day of the Sick is taking place this year in Lourdes because "in 2004 we will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception which took place on December 8, 1854. Four years later in Lourdes, in 1858 the Virgin Mary, appearing to Bernadette Soubirous in the grotto of Massabielle, called herself 'the Immaculate Conception'."

"The World Day of the Sick," remarked the Holy Father, "is a strong call to rediscover the important presence in the Christian community of those who suffer and to evaluate ever more their precious contribution. Pain and sickness can seem absurd if we look at them in strictly human terms: when, however, we allow ourselves to be illuminated by the light of the Gospel, we can see the deeply salvific meaning."

Turning to those who "suffer in body and spirit," the Pope expressed his "affection and spiritual closeness. At the same time I would like to remind everyone that human life is always a gift of God, even when it is marked by physical pain of every kind; a 'gift' to be used for the Church and the world. Certainly anyone who suffers must not be left alone. In this regard I wish to express a word of heartfelt appreciation for all those who, with simplicity and spirit of service, are close to those who are sick, seeking to alleviate their suffering and, as much as possible, to free them from infirmities thanks to progress in the world of medicine."

Following a summary of the catechesis and his greetings in different languages to the pilgrims present, John Paul II noted that "today marks the 75th anniversary of the Treaty and Concordat between the Holy See and the Italian State. The Lateran Pacts marked a positive turning point, of historical dimensions, in the relationship between Church and State in Italy, opening the path to a broader collaboration in service to and for the benefit of the entire population."
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VATICAN CITY, FEB 12, 2004 (VIS) - In welcoming Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez to the Vatican today, Pope John Paul told him in remarks in Spanish that he was "pleased at the collaboration that exists between the Church and leaders in your country."

"Colombia is very present in my thoughts and my prayers," the Pope told him, "as I pray that its people might walk without losing heart towards an authentic social peace, rejecting any form of violence, generating new forms of coexistence for a sure and firm path of justice, and promoting in a capillary fashion from every corner of the nation unity, fraternity and respect for each other. It is time to establish firm foundations for the moral and material rebuilding of your national community in order to reestablish a society that is just, responsible, peaceful and marked by solidarity."

"I thank you for your visit," said the Holy Father, "and I renew my wishes for the spiritual and material progress of Colombians, for their coexistence in harmony and freedom." He asked for God's blessings "on the beloved sons and daughters of Colombia, on families, ecclesial communities and the diverse public institutions and those who administer them."


VATICAN CITY, FEB 11, 2004 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

- Appointed Archbishop Franc Rode, archbishop of Ljubljana, Slovenia, as prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. He accepted the resignation from the same position presented by Cardinal Eduardo Martinez Somalo in accordance with Canon 354 of the Code of Canon Law.

- Accepted the resignation from the position of secretary general of the Synod of Bishops presented by Cardinal Jan Pieter Schotte, C.I.C.M., in accordance with Canon 354 of the Code of Canon Law. The Pope appointed Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, apostolic nuncio in Ukraine to succeed him.

- Accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts, U.S.A., presented by Bishop Thomas L. Dupre in accordance with Canon 401, para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law.

- Appointed Fr. Luis Felipe Sanchez Aponte, vicar general of the diocese of Chiquinquira, Colombia and director of the Diocesan Institute of Pastoral Ministry, as bishop of the same diocese (area 4,019, population 310,000, Catholics 309,000, priests 83, religious 180). The bishop-elect was born in Samaca, Colombia in 1947 and was ordained a priest in 1973.

- Appointed Fr. Antonio Ortega Franco, C.O., moderator of the Secretariat for the Laity and pastor in the archdiocese of Mexico, Mexico, as auxiliary bishop of the same archdiocese (area 1,479, population 7,738,307, Catholics 6,999,402, priests 1,333, permanent deacons 81, religious 6,387). The bishop-elect was born in Empalme Escobedo, Mexico in 1941 and was ordained a priest in 1968.

- Appointed Dr. Patricio Ventura-Junca Tobar, professor of pediatrics of the Faculty of Medicine at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile and director of the Center for Bioethics at the same university, as ordinary member of the Pontifical Academy for Life.
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VATICAN CITY, FEB 12, 2004 (VIS) - The Holy Father has announced that the Eleventh Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will take place in the Vatican from October 2 to 29, 2005 on the theme. "The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church."
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VATICAN CITY, FEB 12, 2004 (VIS) - John Paul II today received Kamal Kharrazi, foreign minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, along with an entourage. "Your presence here," said the Pope in English, "is a sign of the cooperation that, for more than fifty years now, has marked the official relations between the Holy See and your country. I am confident that this spirit of collaboration will continue to grow ever stronger as we address issues of mutual concern to us."

"Not least in this regard," added the Holy Father, "is the ongoing commitment to safeguard the inalienable rights and dignity of the human person, especially in efforts aimed at promoting greater understanding among peoples of different religious, cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Mr. Minister, I assure you of my good wishes for your stay in Rome and I invoke upon you the blessings of Almighty God."

The last Iranian government official to be welcomed to the Vatican by Pope John Paul was Iranian President Seyyed Mohammad Khatami on March 11, 1999.


VATICAN CITY, FEB 12, 2004 (VIS) - Ahmed Qurei, prime minister of the Palestinian National Authority, was welcomed this morning by Pope John Paul on his first ever visit to the Vatican. The Pope told him that his "presence brings back vivid memories of my pilgrimage to the Holy Land, during which I prayed fervently for peace and justice in the region."

He went on to say, in brief remarks in English, that "while signs of hope have not been altogether absent, unfortunately the sad situation in the Holy Land is a cause of suffering for all. No one must yield to the temptation of discouragement, let alone to hatred or retaliation. It is reconciliation that the Holy Land needs: forgiveness not revenge, bridges not walls. This demands that all leaders of the region follow, with the help of the international community, the path of dialogue and negotiation which leads to lasting peace. Upon you and your people I cordially invoke an abundance of divine blessings."

Ahmed Qurei was named to his post on September 7, 2003. He is the second prime minister of the Palestinian Authority since April 2003.


VATICAN CITY, FEB 12, 2004 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

- Two prelates from the French Episcopal Conference on their "ad limina" visit

- Bishop Georges Pontier of La Rochelle.

- Bishop Christophe Dufour of Limoges.

- Msgr. Vito Rallo, special envoy and permanent observer to the Council of Europe.

- Cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao, president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, accompanied by Archbishop Agostino Marchetto and Fr. Michael A. Blume, S.V.D., respectively secretary and undersecretary of the same pontifical council.
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