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Monday, May 9, 2005


VATICAN CITY, MAY 9, 2005 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

- Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar general of His Holiness for the diocese of Rome, accompanied by the prelates of the episcopal council.

- Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

- Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

- His Beatitude Cardinal Ignace Moussa I Daoud, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.

On Saturday, May 7, he received in separate audiences:

- Walter Veltroni, mayor of Rome.

- Fr. Damian Fernando, diocesan administrator of Ratnapura, Sri Lanka, on his "ad limina" visit.

- Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.
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VATICAN CITY, MAY 9, 2005 (VIS) - The World Conference on Mission and Evangelization, convened by the Department for Mission and Evangelization of the Geneva-based World Council of Churches (WCC) starts today in Athens, Greece. For the first time the eight-day meeting is being held in a country whose majority is Orthodox, according to a communique published today by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

An estimated 600 delegates, representing Churches and ecclesial communities affiliated with the WCC are present for the meeting which will take place on the theme "Come Holy Spirit: Heal and Reconcile." The Catholic delegation, headed by Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the pontifical council, numbers 26 people, including representatives of the Mixed Working Group between the Catholic Church and the WCC, the Roman Curia, the Federation of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, missionary orders, lay movements within missionary orders and movements committed to Christian Unity.

The Athens assembly follows the previous such meeting that took place in 1996 in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil on the theme "Called to One Hope - the Gospel in Diverse Cultures."

The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, in the course of its collaboration with the WCC, and through its consultors set up within the Department of Mission and Evangelization, has contributed to the process of reflection for the convocation and preparation of this meeting. The Catholic Church in Greece also gave a contribution and will be present at the conference with a delegate.

The delegation of the Catholic Church, which is not a member of the WCC, will participate in the assembly as an observer.


VATICAN CITY, MAY 9, 2005 - Below is the calendar of liturgical celebrations due to be presided over by the Holy Father during the months of May and June.


 - Sunday 15: Pentecost Sunday. At 9.30 a.m. in the Vatican Basilica, priestly ordination of deacons of the diocese of Rome.

 - Thursday 26: Solemnity of Corpus Christi. Mass at 7 p.m. in the square of St. John Lateran, followed by a procession to the basilica of St. Mary Major for Eucharistic blessing.

 - Sunday 29: Pastoral visit to Bari, Italy, for the closure of the National Eucharistic Congress. Mass at 10 a.m.


- Wednesday 29: Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles. Mass at 9.30 a.m. in the Vatican Basilica. Blessing and imposition of the pallium on metropolitan archbishops.
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VATICAN CITY, MAY 9, 2005 (VIS) - A communique from the Office of the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff announced today that "Saturday, May 14, solemnity of Pentecost, at 5 p.m. at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter's Basilica, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, will preside at a Eucharistic celebration and, as charged by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, will read the Apostolic Letter with which the Supreme Pontiff has inscribed in the book of Blesseds the Servants of God: Ascension Nicol Goni, virgin and co-foundress of the Dominican Missionary Sisters of the Rosary and Marianne Cope, virgin, of the Sisters of St. Francis, Syracuse, U.S.A."


VATICAN CITY, MAY 8, 2005 (VIS) - Appearing at his study window to recite the noon Regina Coeli with the faithful in St. Peter's Square, Pope Benedict reflected on the solemnity of the Ascension, which is being celebrated today in Italy and in many other countries and also on the  39th World Day of Social Communications which is marked worldwide today.

  The Pope said that Jesus, "ascending into heaven, re-opened the path to our definitive homeland which is paradise. Now, with the power of His Spirit, He sustains us in our daily pilgrimage on earth." He added that "after the Lord ascended into heaven, the disciples gathered in prayer in the Cenacle with the Mother of Jesus, invoking together the Holy Spirit. ... Every Christian community is reliving in these days this singular spiritual experience in preparation for the solemnity of Pentecost."

  Turning to the celebration of the World Day of Social Communications, Benedict XVI noted that the theme chosen last year by Pope John Paul for this occasion is "The Communications Media: At the Service of Understanding Between Peoples." He said that, "in the current era of images, the mass media are effectively an extraordinary resource in promoting solidarity and understanding in the human family. We recently had extraordinary proof of this on the occasion of the death and solemn funeral of my beloved predecessor John Paul II.

  Stating that "everything depends, however, on the way they are used," he underscored how "these important instruments of communications can promote reciprocal knowledge and dialogue or, on the contrary, feed prejudice and disdain among individuals and peoples: they can contribute to spreading peace or to fomenting violence. This is why personal responsibility is always important: it is necessary for everyone to do their part to assure, in every form of communications, objectivity, respect for human dignity and attention to the common good. In such a way this contributes to knocking down the walls of hostility that still divide mankind and to consolidating those bonds of friendship and love that are signs of the Kingdom of God in history."

  Following the Regina Coeli prayer, the Pope briefly greeted pilgrims in Italian, English and Spanish. "I greet the participants in the Spring Marathon - School Fest which took place this morning in Rome, Trent and other Italian cities. I hope the formation of the younger generations is always at the center of attention of the ecclesial community and of public institutions."


VATICAN CITY, MAY 7, 2005 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed:

 - Msgr. Manuel Hilario de Cespedes y Garcia Menocal, vicar general of Pinar del Rio, Cuba, as bishop of Matanzas (area 8,444, population 690,400, Catholics 478,000, priests 20, permanent deacons 1, religious 64), Cuba. The bishop-elect was born in San Cristobal de la Habana, Cuba, in 1944 and ordained a priest in 1972.

 - Archbishop Luigi Pezzuto, apostolic nuncio to El Salvador, as apostolic nuncio to Belize.
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VATICAN CITY, MAY 7, 2005 (VIS) - This evening, Benedict XVI presided at a Eucharistic celebration in the basilica of St. John Lateran, on the occasion of his taking possession of the Cathedra of the Bishop of Rome. Forty cardinals, members of the diocesan episcopal council, the canons of the Lateran Basilica and the council of pastor prefects concelebrated with the Holy Father.

  At the beginning of the celebration, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar general of the diocese of Rome expressed the joy of the Church of Rome for her new pastor. The Pope then sat in his cathedra for the first time while the choir and congregation sang: "Joy, peace and life to you Benedict, bishop of Rome." After this, the Holy Father received expressions of "obedience" from a group of representatives of the Roman Church: Cardinal Ruini in his capacity as archpriest of the basilica of St. John Lateran; Archbishop Luigi Moretti, vicegerent of the diocese; two priests; a permanent deacon and a deacon preparing for the priesthood; a male and a female religious; a layman and a laywoman, and two young people who had received the rite of Confirmation.

  At the beginning of his homily, the Holy Father spoke of the Ascension of the Lord, which in many places is celebrated this Sunday, saying that Christ, "thanks to His being with the Father, is close to each of us forever. Each of us can address Him as a friend, each of us can call on Him." Although "we can live with our backs turned to Him, He always awaits us, He is always close to us."

  Benedict XVI emphasized that the Risen Christ "has need of witnesses who have met Him, of men and women who have known Him intimately through the power of the Holy Spirit. ... The successors to the Apostles - that is, the bishops - have the public responsibility to ensure that the network of this testimony endures over time. ... And in this network of witnesses, a special task falls to Peter's Successor."

  The Pope "must be aware that he is a weak and fragile man," in constant need of "purification and conversion. Yet he may also be aware that from the Lord comes the strength to confirm his brothers and sisters in the faith, and to keep them united in confessing the Crucified and Risen Christ."

  "The bishop of Rome sits in his cathedra to bear witness to Christ," said the Pope. "Thus the cathedra is the symbol of the 'potestas docendi,' that authority to teach which is an essential part of the mandate to bind and to loosen conferred by the Lord on Peter and, after him, on the Twelve." On this subject, the Pope affirmed that "where Holy Scripture is disjoined from the living voice of the Church, it falls prey to the disputes of experts."

  "This authority to teach frightens many people, both within and outside the Church. They ask themselves whether it does not threaten freedom of belief, whether it is not a presumption that goes against freedom of thought. It is not so. ... The Pope is not an absolute sovereign whose thoughts and will are law. Quite the contrary, the ministry of the Pope is a guarantee of obedience to Christ and to His Word. He must not proclaim his own ideas, but constantly bind himself and the Church in obedience to God's Word in the face of all attempts to adapt that Word or to water it down, and in the face of all forms of opportunism."

  Benedict XVI emphasized that this is what John Paul II did "when, in the face of all apparently benevolent attempts, in the face of erroneous interpretations of freedom, he unequivocally underlined the inviolability of the human being, the inviolability of human life from conception to natural death. The freedom to kill is not true freedom, but a tyranny that reduces human beings to slavery."

  "The Pope is aware of being bound - in his important decisions - to the great community of the faith of all times, to the binding interpretations that have developed during the Church's pilgrim journey." He has the responsibility to ensure that the Word of God "continues to be present in its greatness and to sound forth in its purity, so that it is not dismembered by constant changes in fashion."

  At the end of his homily, the Holy Father assured Romans: "Now I am your bishop. Thank you for your generosity! Thank you for your kindness! Thank you for your patience! As Catholics we are all, in some way, also Romans."

  After Mass, the Pope traveled in an open car to the basilica of St. Mary Major to venerate the "Salus Populi Romani" icon of the Virgin Mary which is conserved in the Borghese Chapel. This act of veneration by a new Pope represents an unbroken tradition of supplication by the people of Rome to the Mother of Salvation.
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VATICAN CITY, MAY 7, 2005 (VIS) - At midday today, Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls made the following declaration:

  "On the day of his enthronement on the 'Cathedra Romana' as bishop of Rome, the Holy Father received in audience the mayor of the city, Walter Veltroni.

  "Benedict XVI expressed his gratitude to the mayor for the warmth with which the Romans have welcomed him, and again expressed his feelings of respect and affection towards the city and the diocese that have become his own.

  "He also formulated his best wishes for prosperity and harmony to all the citizens of Rome, giving assurances - within the distinction of roles - of the Church's contribution to the spiritual and civil progress of the city."


VATICAN CITY, MAY 7, 2005 (VIS) - Pope Benedict XVI welcomed the pastors of the Church in Sri Lanka on their "ad limina" visit this morning and noted in his speech to them in English that this is the first such visit since his election.

  His opening words were dedicated to "the devastating effects of the tsunami last December, which claimed a vast number of lives in Sri Lanka alone, and left hundreds of thousands homeless. ... Please accept my profound sympathy and that of Catholics everywhere for all who have endured such terrible losses."

  The Pope pointed out that "the Christian community has a particular obligation to care for those children who have lost their parents as a result of the natural disaster." He said that "these most vulnerable members of society ... so often are simply forgotten or shamelessly exploited as soldiers, labourers, or innocent victims in the trafficking of human beings.  No effort should be spared to urge civil authorities and the international community to fight these abuses and to offer young children the legal protection they justly deserve."

  Stating that "even in the darkest moments of our lives, we know that God is never absent," Benedict XVI spoke of the "unprecedented generosity of the humanitarian response to the tsunami," and commended the bishops "for the outstanding way in which the Church in Sri Lanka struggled to meet the material, moral, psychological and spiritual needs of the victims. We can recognize further signs of God's goodness in the partnership and collaboration of so many diverse elements of society in the relief effort. It was heartening to see members of different religious and ethnic groups in Sri Lanka and throughout the global community coming together to show their solidarity towards the afflicted and rediscovering the fraternal bonds that unite them.  I am confident that you will find ways of building further on the fruits of this cooperation, especially by ensuring that aid is offered freely to all who are in need."

  Benedict XVI then noted that "the Church in Sri Lanka is young - a third of the population of your country is under the age of fifteen - and this gives great hope for the future. Religious education in schools must therefore be a high priority. Whatever difficulties you may encounter in this area, do not be deterred from carrying out your responsibility. Seminaries, likewise, require particular attention on the part of the bishops, and I urge you to be ever vigilant in maintaining a sound spiritual and theological formation for your seminarians. They need to be inspired to exercise their future apostolate in a way that will attract others to follow Christ - the more holy, the more joyful and the more impassioned they are in their priestly ministry, the more fruitful it will be."
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