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Monday, March 7, 2005


VATICAN CITY, MAR 7, 2005 (VIS) - Cardinal Angelo Sodano, in the name of Pope John Paul II, this morning received in separate audiences two new ambassadors to the Holy See, Helmut Turk of Austria and Stavros Lykidis of Greece. Each ambassador presented his Letters of Credence to the secretary of State who in turn gave them a signed Message from the Holy Father. The diplomats also gave the cardinal a copy of their speeches.

  The Pope's speech to Ambassador Lykidis, noting that "St. Paul founded there the first Christian communities in Europe," underscored "the legacy of the Christian faith in Greece, which is one of the constitutive elements of the nation. ... I am sure your country can continue to play an important role in the European Union so that this religious dimension will be recognized and expressed in an opportune fashion."

  "In today's world," said the message, "made unstable by terrorism and the presence of lasting and continually threatening conflicts, the European Union seems in many ways a model of political will in favor of the union of peoples for peace." He expressed the Holy See's delight in this and invited the peoples of Europe to "work with all their strength" for "dialogue and understanding among peoples."

  John Paul II extended "warm greetings" to the "small and dispersed" communities of Catholic faithful living in Greece who "are attached to their faith and anxious to give a living witness to it in the midst of their Orthodox brothers. In this regard, It would be opportune if the Catholic Church ... could have the juridical statute due her which would be a sign of the full recognition of her rights, as is the case in the other countries of the European Union."

  In his speech to Ambassador Turk, the Pope recalled his pastoral visits to Austria and paused to reflect on his "spiritual union" with the 2004 Mitteleuropaischer Katholikentag (Central European Catholic Day), when participants met on the theme "Christ, The Hope of Europe." He underlined the "Catholic identity" of Austria and its people.

  In his message, the Holy Father said: "The pilgrimage of peoples towards Mariazell under the auspices of the Catholics of Austria brought to my mind once again that your country is called to act politically within a broader European context. The reasons for this come from Austria's history and its geo-political placement in the heart of the continent. From being a border region, ... it has become a land that is a bridge."

  "Even the Church," said the Pope, "through her various institutions, wishes to offer her contribution to the common good. ... The Holy See notes with joy that in Austria there is a lasting and fruitful collaboration between Church and State for the good and for the convenience of its citizens, independent of their religious affiliation or denomination."

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