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Saturday, February 14, 2004


VATICAN CITY, FEB 14, 2004 (VIS) - Last evening Pope John Paul welcomed the bishops from the ecclesiastical provinces of Bordeaux and Poitiers in France as they conclude their "ad limina" visit. He centered his talk to them in the pastoral ministry for young people, highlighting the need for a solid human and spiritual formation at all age levels, especially given "the complex and difficult framework in which young people live today."

"Their cultural universe," said the Pope, "is marked by new communications technologies which often create difficulties for their relations with the world, the times and with others, and which shape their behavior. That creates a culture of the immediate and the ephemeral, which is not always favorable to careful study nor to an inner growth or moral discernment. However, (use of) the new media" also offers interesting possibilities "that one cannot deny." He noted, for example, that dioceses use internet sites, many directed to the young, to inform and to form them.

The Holy Father underscored "the many ruptures in society today that make young people fragile: family separations, . breaks in social bonds, . the disintegration of the family unit," and other precarious situations. He emphasized the evolution of "disquieting mentalities," including "exacerbated subjectivity, excessive freedom from habits that let young people think that all behavior, just because it can be done, is good, a serious lessening of a moral sense." Young people at times "give the impression of having entered adulthood too soon because of their acquaintances and their behavior, and of not having had the time to mature physically, intellectually, emotionally and morally."

"As pastors you are attentive to these realities, knowing the generosity of the young who are ready to work for just causes and are anxious to find happiness." He said that education was key in forming young people, be it at the level of the family, the parish or schools. France has a history of great educators, he pointed out. "I invite you, despite few means, not to be sparing in your efforts in the educational field."

John Paul II stressed that "young people aspire to live in groups where they are known and loved," first and foremost the family, then friends and, not least of all, he said, the diocesan community, remarking that "the presence of adults other than relatives is often beneficial." He encouraged Catholic schools to be communities that always impart Christian values and transmit the Magisterium to young people.

"The pastoral ministry for the young," the Pope went on, "calls for those who accompany them to be perseverant, attentive and inventive. Never hesitate to use quality priests for this who have a good formation and a spiritual and moral life beyond reproach." He underscored that living the faith and the sacramental life is far more "than just one activity among many others in one's life."

Pope John Paul then turned to the question of young people who are preparing for marriage, noting that many have known suffering in their own family situations. "In society, many various models of relationships exist without

any anthropological or qualification. . The Church repeats that marriage between a man and woman, and a family are built above all on a strong bond between the persons and on a definitive commitment, not on the purely emotional aspect which cannot be the only basis for married life. May pastors and Christian couples be not afraid to help young people to reflect on this delicate and essential questions."
AL/YOUTH/FRANCE VIS 20040216 (590)


VATICAN CITY, FEB 14, 2004 (VIS) - A group of pilgrims from Slovakia, accompanied by Cardinals Jan Korec and Jozef Tomko and by President Rudolf Schuster, was welcomed to the Vatican today by John Paul II who recalled the three times he visited their country: in 1990 after the fall of the communist regime, in 1995 and again in 2003.

Noting that their visit coincides with the feast today of Cyril and Methodius, the Slav brothers and saints who are patrons of Slovakia and co-patrons of Europe, the Pope said that "the witness of these two great apostles of the Slavs is a strong reminder to rediscover the roots of the European identity of your people, roots that you share with other nations on the continent." Your faith, he told the Slovak pilgrims, represents the richest and most solid patrimony of your people. Safeguard and nourish it, he said: "It must not be hidden, but proclaimed and witness to with courage."

The Holy Father pointed out that Jesus taught the disciples to be "'the salt of the earth, .and the light of the world'. Being 'salt' and 'light' means making the Gospel truth shine in your daily personal and community choices. It means keeping unchanged the spiritual legacy of Saints Cyril and Methodius by opposing the widespread tendency to conform to homologous and standardized models.

"Slovakia and Europe of the Third Millennium," he underscored, "have become enriched by many cultural contributions but it would be deleterious to forget that Christianity contributed in a decisive manner to the formation of the continent. You, dear Slovaks, offer your significant contribution to the hoped-for building of European unity, making yourselves the voice of those human and spiritual values which have given meaning to your history. It is indispensable for these ideals that you have lived with coherence to continue to guide a free Europe that offers solidarity, capable of harmonizing its diverse cultural and religious traditions."


VATICAN CITY, FEB 14, 2004 (VIS) - Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, permanent observer to the Office of the United Nations and Specialized Institutions, spoke on February 10 in Geneva at the first meeting of the permanent Committee of experts on the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on their Destruction.

In his talk, published today, Archbishop Tomasi said that "when there has been the lack of knowledge, of ability or of will to take political decisions or practical measures to prevent production and dissemination of anti-personnel mines, national authorities and the international community have no right to avoid their respective responsibility for a comprehensive treatment of the tragic consequences mines cause."

After emphasizing that victims of anti-personnel mines "are innocent witnesses of a wrong approach to security," the permanent observer added: "In most cases the citizens of the country that employs this arm are those who suffer most its disastrous consequences." For this reason, he urged that in the First Review Conference which will take place in Nairobi, Kenya "the plight and a program of assistance to victims of anti-personnel mines should take a prominent place in the reflection."

"Healing entire populations of the consequences of war and armed conflicts, especially the people that have been most affected and victimized, is the best investment in building up true security and a durable peace."
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