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Thursday, March 11, 2004


VATICAN CITY, MAR 11, 2004 (VIS) - Following is the text of the telegram sent this morning by Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano in the Holy Father's name to Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, archbishop of Madrid, for the terrorist attacks which took place this morning in the Spanish capital:

"Upon learning the sad news of the abominable terrorist attacks perpetrated this morning in the Atocha, El Pozo del Tio Raimundo and Santa Eugenia train stations in the capital which have caused so very many deaths and countless injuries among the citizens who were on their way to work, and which have so cruelly plunged so many families and Spanish society in general into sadness, the Holy Father wishes to reiterate his firm and absolute condemnation of such unjustifiable acts that offend God, violate the basic right to life, and undermine peaceful coexistence, so longed-for by ecclesial communities and by the noble people of Spain."

"His Holiness, while praying for the repose of the souls of those who died, assures the families who mourn the loss of their loved ones of his closeness. At the same time, he asks your Eminence to convey to them his deepest condolences and his best wishes for the speedy recovery of the injured.

"While encouraging the beloved Spanish people to continue with determination and without discouragement on the path of peaceful and serene coexistence, he invokes the protection of Our Lady for all and as a sign of his affection and hope, he imparts on everyone his apostolic blessing."


VATICAN CITY, MAR 11, 2004 (VIS) - Pope John Paul, in a letter published today and dated February 22, feast of the Chair of Peter, has appointed Archbishop Domenico Umberto D'Ambrosio of Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy as his Delegate for the Shrine and Works of St. Pio of Pietrelcina.

In the Letter, the Holy Father speaks of the life, death and works of St. Pio of Pietrelcina, his charisms "in the Franciscan and Capuchin traditions of contemplative prayer and active charity," especially for the ill, and the results of that spiritual legacy as expressed in the two works he founded: the Prayer Groups and the House for the Relief from Suffering. Noting the vast numbers of people in the world who are devoted to St. Pio, "with growing clarity, the opportunity for closer ties between the Shrine and the Holy See became more evident."

"As Delegate for the Shrine," the Pope underscores, "you will above all dedicate special care to this place of worship where so many pilgrims of many nationalities come annually" and "you will safeguard the charisms that the Spirit awakened and continues to awaken in this beloved part of the Holy Church of God." The Pope quoted his own words last March 25 to the archbishop: "You will be the custodian of Father Pio of Pietrelcina."

"Under your authority, will take place," said John Paul II, citing "Christus Dominus," Pope Paul VI's 1965 Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church "all that regards 'the public exercise of divine worship, saving the diversity of rites; the care of souls; preaching to the people; the religious and moral education of the faithful, and especially children; catechetical instruction and liturgical formation; the decorum of the clerical state; and, lastly, the various works relative to the exercise of the sacred apostolate'." He also noted that the archbishop will take care "to harmonize the pastoral activity of the Shrine with other activities of the diocesan pastoral ministry.

In closing the Pope pointed out that Archbishop D'Ambrosio, as Delegate for the Shrine, is also president of the House for the Relief of Suffering and general director of the International Association of Prayer Groups.


VATICAN CITY, MAR 11, 2004 (VIS) - Made public today was the speech given on March 8 by Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, permanent observer of the Holy See to the Office of the United Nations and Specialized Institutions in Geneva, to the Seventh Group of Governmental Experts on the States Parties to the Convention on Prohibition or Restriction on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May be Deemed Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects (CCW). The committee is meeting in Geneva from March 8 to 12.

The nuncio stated that "the multilateral negotiations of arms control or of disarmament still remain slow and long, and results are reached almost always on the basis of the lowest common denominator. On the contrary, the production of new conventional arms follows the most advanced and the most rapid scientific and technological discoveries," resulting in ever more devastating weapons and "useless human suffering." He pointed to the increasing use of cluster bombs, highlighting their "traumatizing and devastating effects on civilian populations as well as the negative socio-economic consequences."

"The Holy See," said Archbishop Tomasi, "is involved in a great number of countries of all the regions, in initiatives concerning victims of armed conflicts and their families, including victims of anti personnel mines and explosive remnants of war." He stressed that "prevention is surely less costly in terms of human lives and socio-economic damage. A culture of prevention is the most appropriate in order to ensure a security which is based on justice, trust and cooperation between States. For that reason, the right equilibrium should be that of an armament maintained at the lowest level and whose effects would bring about minimal suffering and damages."


VATICAN CITY, MAR 11, 2004 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, inaugurated the council's plenary assembly on the theme, "The Christian Faith at the dawn of the new millennium and the challenge of unbelief and religious indifference." Fifty-five people from all continents, including members, consultors and officials of the dicastery, are participating in the meeting which takes places from March 11 to 13.

After opening remarks, there was the presentation of the results of a world survey on unbelief and religious indifference that the pontifical council conducted. "It is not true that atheism is growing in the world. ... From the militant and organized atheism of other times, we now have a situation of practical indifference, of a loss of the relevance of the question of God, of abandonment of religious practice, above all, in the western world. But not an abandonment of belief in God."

According to the council's president, "what we need to do is to give specific responses, not continue to examine the problem of the loss of faith. We are not sociologists but pastors."

The outcome of this study is a "map" of unbelief. Following is a summary of its conclusions:

- "Unbelief is not increasing in the world. It is a phenomenon linked above all to the western world. It is not linked to Asia, Latin America or Africa, nor to the Muslim world."

- "Militant atheism is declining and does not exercise any public influence with the exception of some regimes where there is still an atheistic political system in power. A certain militant laity is noted, however, especially in Europe."

- "Religious indifference or practical atheism is growing. Agnostics and non-practicing believers tend to be placed in one single group which lives as if God does not exist: is is the rise of 'homo indifferens'."

- "Atheism and unbelief, typically masculine, urban phenomena of people with a medium to high cultural level in the past, today extend to women who work outside of the home: among them, unbelief increases and reaches levels which are almost equal to those of men."

- "The number of persons who regularly go to Church is decreasing. This does not mean an increase in those who do not believe, but rather a change in religious practice and their way of believing: to believe without belonging."

- "A new search, more spiritual rather than religious, is growing, one that does not always coincide with a return to tradition religious practices."


VATICAN CITY, MAR 11, 2004 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

- Rafael Bielsa, minister of Foreign Affairs in Argentina, accompanied by his wife and an entourage.

- Four prelates from the Episcopal Conference of the Netherlands on their "ad limina" visit:

- Bishop Franciscus Jozef Maria Wiertz of Roermond, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishop Everardus Johannes de Jong.

- Bishop Adrianus Herman van Luyn, S.D.B., of Rotterdam.

- Bishop Antonius Lambertus Maria Hurksman of 's-Hertogenbosch, Bois-le-Duc.

- Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio in Israel and Cyprus and apostolic delegate in Jerusalem and Palestine, accompanied by eleven priests.
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