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Monday, May 30, 2005


VATICAN CITY, MAY 30, 2005 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in audience participants in the general assembly of the Italian Episcopal Conference

  On Saturday, May 28, he received in separate audiences:

 - Cardinal Federic Etsou-Nzabi-Bamungwabi C.I.C.M., archbishop of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

 - Cardinal Edmund Casimir Szoka, president of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State and president of the Governorate of Vatican City State.

 - Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
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VATICAN CITY, MAY 28, 2005 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed:

 - Bishop Solomon Amanchukwu Amatu, auxiliary of Awka, Nigeria, as coadjutor of the diocese of Okigwe (area 1,824, population 2,001,838, Catholics 823,483, priests 202, religious 139), Nigeria.

 - Bishop Fabio Suescun Mutis, military ordinary of Colombia, as member of the Council of the Central Office of Pastoral Coordination of Military Ordinariates, within the Congregation for Bishops.
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VATICAN CITY, MAY 28, 2005 (VIS) - This morning, Benedict XVI received members of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Burundi, who have just completed their "ad limina" visit.

  At the beginning of his address in French, the Pope recalled Archbishop Michael A. Courtney, who was murdered in December 2003 while serving as apostolic nuncio to Burundi. "He was faithful, even to the point of sacrificing his life to the mission with which the Holy Father had entrusted him in the service of your dear country, and of the local Church."

  The Holy Father went on to refer the five-yearly "ad limina" visits bishops make to the Holy See, and the reports they present that underline "the Catholic Church's active role in promoting peace and reconciliation in your country, especially during this election period."

  "The suffering occasioned by the war - during which, we must recall, many Christians bore heroic witness to their faith - cannot conceal the desire to work, for Christ and in His name, towards fraternity and unity among everyone." On this subject, the Pope called on pastoral activity plans and on diocesan synods to contribute "to announcing the Gospel, to healing memories and hearts, to favoring solidarity among all citizens, eliminating the spirit of vengeance and of resentment, and tirelessly calling for forgiveness and reconciliation."

  After highlighting the fact that ten years ago John Paul II had promulgated the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Ecclesia in Africa," the Holy Father expressed the hope that this document becomes "a Magna Carta of your commitment to the mission with which you have been entrusted, in communion with the other local Churches."

  The Pope asked the bishops to follow the faithful carefully "so that they experience ever more intensely the requirements of their Baptism. Many of them know extreme poverty and interior distress, and are tempted to return to ancient practices not purified by the Spirit of the Lord, or to sects." For this reason, he went on, "solid Christian formation is necessary, without neglecting efforts of inculturation, especially in the field of translating the Bible and the texts of the Magisterium."

  Benedict XVI concluded by giving thanks "for the apostolic commitment shown, often in difficult conditions, by priests, and male and female religious in your dioceses, both locals and those who have come from other areas. Nor do I forget the catechists, worthy helpers in the apostolate, or all the faithful who participate in the development of human beings and of society within the ambit of the Church's activity of social promotion, and her service in the world of education and health care."
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VATICAN CITY, MAY 29, 2005 (VIS) - This morning, the Pope traveled by helicopter to Bari for the closing ceremony of the 24th National Eucharistic Congress which was held this week in the southern Italian city, and had as its theme: "Without Sundays, We Cannot Live."

  On his first apostolic trip in Italy, Benedict XVI concelebrated Mass  with prelates of the Italian Episcopal Conference at 10 a.m. in the presence of 200,000 people gathered in the "Marisabella" esplanade. Following the Mass he prayed the Angelus with the faithful.

  In his homily, the Pope recalled how the theme of the Eucharistic congress "takes us back to the year 304, when the emperor Diocletian prohibited Christians, on pain of death, from possessing the Scriptures and from coming together on Sunday to celebrate the Eucharist. ... In Abitene, a small town in what is today Tunisia, 49 Christians" were arrested one Sunday as they celebrated the Eucharist, "in defiance of the imperial proscription. ... Following atrocious tortures, they were put to death."

  Like the martyrs of Abitene, it is not easy for Christians of this century "to live like Christians. ... The world in which we live (is) often marked by unbridled consumerism, by religious indifference and by a secularism closed to all forms of transcendence."

  After recalling how God helped the Jewish people "with the gift of manna," the Pope said: "The Son of God, having been made flesh, could become Bread, and thus act as nourishment for His people on their journey to the promised land in heaven.

  "We need this Bread in order to cope with the fatigue and weariness of the journey. Sunday, the day of the Lord, is the right occasion to draw strength from Him Who is the Lord of life. The precept of the feast day is not, then, simply an obligation imposed from outside. To participate in the Sunday celebration and feed on the Eucharistic bread is a need for Christians, who thus find the energy necessary for the path they must follow."

  Benedict XVI emphasized that the Christ we encounter in the Sacrament of the Eucharist "is the one and same Christ present in the Eucharistic bread all over the world. This means we can encounter Him only together with everyone else. We can only receive Him in unity."

  "The consequence of this is clear," he went on, "we cannot communicate with the Lord if we do not communicate with one another. ... For this it is necessary to learn the great lesson of forgiveness: do not let resentment gnaw at the soul, but open your hearts to the magnanimity of listening to others."

  After again recalling that the Eucharist "is the Sacrament of unity," the Pope lamented the fact that it is precisely in the Sacrament of unity that Christians are divided. "Even more so then, supported by the Eucharist, we must feel stimulated to tend with all our strength towards that full unity that Christ so ardently anticipated in the Cenacle. Here in Bari, the city that holds the bones of St. Nicholas, a land of meeting and dialogue with our brother Christians of the East, I would like to reiterate a fundamental commitment: my desire to work with all my energy to reconstituting the full and visible unity of all Christ's followers."

  He added: "I am aware that, to this end, expressions of good intentions are not enough. Concrete gestures are needed. Gestures that enter into souls and move consciences, calling everyone to that interior conversion that is the prerequisite for all progress on the road of ecumenism. I ask you all to start decisively down the road to that spiritual ecumenism which, in prayer, opens the doors to the Holy Spirit, Who alone can create unity."

  After Mass and before praying the Angelus, the Holy Father said: "Our hearts are full of gratitude, to God and to all those who have worked for the realization of such an extraordinary ecclesial event, particularly meaningful because it takes place in the Year of the Eucharist, which has had in the Congress its most outstanding moment."

  Benedict XVI then travelled by popemobile to the sports ground where he had landed, and returned by helicopter to the Vatican.

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