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Tuesday, July 27, 2004


VATICAN CITY, JUL 27, 2004 (VIS) - Archbishop Francesco Gioia, president of "Peregrinatio ad Petri Sedem," an organization created 70 years ago by the Holy See to assist pilgrims coming to the See of Peter, has just published a book entitled "Mendicanti del Cielo nel turismo, nei pellegrinaggi, nei santuari" (Mendicants from Heaven, in Tourism, Pilgrimages and Shrines).

   The archbishop studies the complex phenomenon of human mobility from a religious and sociological point of view. He looks at man as "a pilgrim in time and space," tourism as "a vehicle of evangelization," and a pilgrimage as "an itinerary of hope." In conclusion, he writes of shrines, terming man "the shrine of God," and saying that shrines are a "stage on the path of salvation" and "places of interior miracles."

  A press release from Peregrinatio ad Petri Sedem (Pilgrimage to the See of Peter) announcing the archbishop's book, also announced the publication by this office of a small volume in French and Italian entitled "The Four Basilicas: Obligatory Stages for the Pilgrims." These booklets, which will soon be published in English and German, look at Rome's patriarchal basilicas of St. Peter, St. John Lateran, St. Mary Major and St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls and present a historical perspective, a spiritual message and a practical guide on opening hours, telephone numbers, etc.

  The precursor of the peregrinatio was an office founded by Pope Pius IX at the end of the Extraordinary Holy Year of the Redemption 1933-1934 when he changed the  Central Committee into a permanent organization to assist pilgrims coming to Rome, to the See of Peter. Pope Paul VI gave this office juridical status in 1972, and reorganized it two years after the 1975 Holy Year. The Statutes which now govern the peregrinatio came into force on January 16, 2002.

  Directly answerable to the Secretariat of State, this office assists pilgrims - individuals, families or large groups - who come to Rome by coordinating travel and lodging plans, assisting in organizing liturgical celebrations, planning congresses and meetings and, in particular, planning and promoting all ecclesial activities. It does this by maintaining contacts with episcopal conferences, dioceses and national and diocesan groups or committees.

  The peregrinatio, with the Secretariat of State, organizes the travel of the apostolic trips made by the Holy Father and his entourage. It is governed by a Board of Directors, Pastoral Council and College of Auditors, and the president is directly appointed by the Holy Father.
.../PEREGINATIO PETRI SEDEM/GIOIA            VIS 20040727 (410)


VATICAN CITY, JUL 27, 2004 (VIS) - On the occasion of the Holy Father's pilgrimage to Lourdes on August 14 and 15 for the 150th anniversary of the promulgation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, we offer some statistics on the Catholic Church in France, updated through December 31, 2002.

  France has a population of 59,470,000, of which 46,110,000 are Catholic, or 77.5% of the total population. There are 181 bishops, 23,532 priests, 47,987 religious and 1,497 seminarians.

  The Catholic Church runs 7,337 primary schools, 2,691 middle and secondary schools and 215 high schools and universities attended by 2,143,995 students. In terms of social care centers owned or run by the Church or religious, there are 97 hospitals, 85 clinics, 505 rest homes for the elderly, invalid and handicapped, 107 orphanages, 26 centers for the family and the protection of life and 57 educational and social rehabilitation centers.
…/STATISTICS/FRANCE                            VIS 20040727 (160)


VATICAN CITY, JUL 27, 2004 (VIS) - On Saturday night July 24, members of the Jose David Suarez Front of the National Liberation Army (ELN) in Colombia kidnapped Bishop Misael Vacca Ramirez from Yopal in East Colombia, while he was visiting the Christian community of Morcote.

  One month ago, Alvaro Uribe, president of Colombia, began a dialogue with the ELN through the Mexican government. The kidnappers have made it known that they wanted to give a message to the prelate. The local Church has started contacts to free the bishop.

  In light of this event, Fr. Ciro Benedettini, C.P., vice director of the Holy See Press  Office, made the following declaration this morning:

  "The Holy Father received the news of this criminal act, in no way justifiable, with sorrow and concern, and he asks with paternal firmness for the immediate release of this prelate. It is regrettable and reproachable that a bishop, dedicated to announcing the Gospel of peace and hope to the faithful entrusted to his care, especially the poorest of the poor, is prevented in such a contemptible way from freely exercising his pastoral care."

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