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Monday, January 9, 2006


VATICAN CITY, JAN 9, 2006 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Bishop Lawrence Huculak O.S.B.M. of Edmonton of the Ukrainians, Canada, as metropolitan archbishop of Winnipeg of the Ukrainians (Catholics 29,740, priests 50, permanent deacons 15, religious 43), Canada. The archbishop-elect was born in Vernon, Canada in 1951, he was ordained a priest in 1977 and consecrated a bishop in 1997. He succeeds Archbishop Michael Bzdel C.SS.R., whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese, the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

  On Saturday, January 7, it was made public that he:

 - Appointed Fr. Pierre-Celestin Tshitoko Mamba of the clergy of Kananga, Democratic Republic of the Congo, rector of the inter-diocesan philosophical school of Kabwe, as bishop of Luebo (area 32,000, population 1,670,000, Catholics 918,000, priests 84, religious 102), Democratic Republic of the Congo. The bishop-elect was born in Kolwezi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, in 1956 and ordained as a priest in 1982.

 - Appointed Bishop Felipe Bacarreza Rodriguez, auxiliary of Concepcion, Chile, as bishop of Los Angeles (area 13,454, population 333,007, Catholics 221,040, priests 39, permanent deacons 27, religious 74), Chile. He succeeds Bishop Miguel Blas Caviedes Medina, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese, the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.
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VATICAN CITY, JAN 9, 2006 (VIS) - This morning in the Sala Regia of the Vatican, Pope Benedict received the members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See for the traditional exchange of greetings in the New Year.

  Some extracts of the Pope's address to the assembled diplomats are given below:

  The Holy Father began his remarks by wishing "Christian joy" to the ambassadors and to the peoples and governments they represent. "May it be the joy of universal brotherhood brought by Christ, a joy that is rich in truthful values and is openly and generously shared; may it remain with you and grow every day of the year that has just begun."

  "We feel united as in a common mission, which confronts us with ever new and formidable challenges. Yet we address them with confidence, eager to support one another - each according to his proper responsibility - on our path towards great common objectives.

  "I spoke of 'our common mission.' And what is this, if not the mission of peace? ... Peace, alas, is hindered or damaged or threatened in many parts of the world. What is the way that leads to peace?"

  "In today's world, alongside appalling scenes of military conflict, open or latent, or only apparently resolved, one can observe, thank God, a courageous and tenacious effort on the part of many people and institutions in support of peace. Reflecting upon this situation, I would like to offer some thoughts by way of fraternal encouragement, which I will set out in a few simple points.

  "The first: commitment to truth is the soul of justice. Those who are committed to truth cannot fail to reject the law of might, which is based on a lie and has so frequently marked human history, nationally and internationally, with tragedy."

  "Political systems of the past, but not only the past, offer a bitter illustration of this. Set against this, there is truth and truthfulness, which lead to encounter with the other, to recognition and understanding."

  "Your experience as diplomats can only confirm that, in international relations too, by seeking the truth one can identify the most subtle nuances of diversity, and the demands to which they give rise, and therefore also the limits to be respected and not overstepped, in protecting every legitimate interest. ... And when these aspects of diversity and equality - distinct but complementary - are known and recognized, then problems can be resolved and disagreements settled according to justice, and profound and lasting understandings are possible. On the other hand, when one of them is misinterpreted or not given its due importance, it is then that misunderstanding arises, together with conflict, and the temptation to use overpowering violence.

  "There seems to me to be an almost paradigmatic illustration of these considerations at that nerve point of the world scene, which is the Holy Land. There, the State of Israel has to be able to exist peacefully in conformity with the norms of international law; there, equally, the Palestinian people has to be able to develop serenely its own democratic institutions for a free and prosperous future."

  "The danger is made more acute by organized terrorism, which has already spread over the whole planet. Its causes are many and complex, not least those to do with political ideology, combined with aberrant religious ideas. Terrorism does not hesitate to strike defenseless people, without discrimination, or to impose inhuman blackmail, causing panic among entire populations, in order to force political leaders to support the designs of the terrorists. No situation can justify such criminal activity, which covers the perpetrators with infamy, and it is all the more deplorable when it hides behind religion, thereby bringing the pure truth of God down to the level of the terrorists' own blindness and moral perversion.

  "The commitment to truth on the part of diplomatic missions, at both bilateral and multilateral level, can offer an essential contribution towards reconciling the undeniable differences between peoples from different parts of the world and their cultures, not only in a tolerant coexistence, but according to a higher and richer design of humanity. In past centuries, cultural exchanges ... have enriched culture and have favored sciences and civilizations. So it should be again today, and to an even greater extent, since the possibilities of exchange and mutual understanding are much more favorable. To this end, what is needed above all today is the removal of everything that impedes access to information, through the press and through modern information technology, and in addition, an increase in exchanges between scholars and students from the humanities faculties of universities in different cultural regions.

  "The second point which I would like to make is this: commitment to truth establishes and strengthens the right to freedom. ... Truth can only be attained in freedom. This is the case with all truth, as is clear from the history of science; but it is eminently the case with those truths in which man himself, man as such, is at stake, the truths of the spirit, the truths about good and evil, about the great goals and horizons of life, about our relationship with God. These truths cannot be attained without profound consequences for the way we live our lives. And once freely appropriated, they demand in turn an ample sphere of freedom if they are to be lived out in a way befitting every dimension of human life."

  "In the development of international law today, it is becoming increasingly clear that no government can feel free to neglect its duty to ensure suitable conditions of freedom for its own citizens without thereby damaging its credibility to speak out on international problems. And rightly so: for in safeguarding the rights belonging to the person as such, rights which are internationally guaranteed, one must naturally give primary importance to ensuring the rights of freedom within individual States, in public and private life, in economic and political relations, and in the cultural and religious spheres."

  "Unfortunately, in some States, even among those who can boast centuries-old cultural traditions, freedom of religion, far from being guaranteed, is seriously violated, especially where minorities are concerned. Here I would simply recall what has been laid down with great clarity in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

  "Fundamental human rights are the same on every latitude; and among them, pride of place must be given to the right to freedom of religion, since it involves the most important of human relationships: our relationship with God. To all those responsible for the life of Nations I wish to state: if you do not fear truth, you need not fear freedom! The Holy See, in calling for true freedom for the Catholic Church everywhere, also calls for that freedom for everyone.

  "I come now to a third point: commitment to truth opens the way to forgiveness and reconciliation. ... Differing convictions about the truth cause tensions, misunderstandings, disputes, and these are all the more serious the deeper the convictions underlying them. In the course of history these differences have caused violent clashes, social and political conflicts, and even wars of religion. This is undeniably true, but in every case it was the result of a series of concomitant causes which had little or nothing to do with truth or religion. ... Where the Catholic Church herself is concerned, in so far as serious mistakes were made in the past by some of her members and by her institutions, she condemns those mistakes and she has not hesitated to ask for forgiveness. This is required by the commitment to truth.

  "Asking for forgiveness, and granting forgiveness, which is likewise an obligation ... are indispensable elements for peace. ... Here I would recall the illuminating words of John Paul II: 'There can be no peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness.' I repeat these words, humbly and with deep love, to the leaders of nations, especially those where the physical and moral wounds of conflicts are most painful, and the need for peace most urgent.

  "One thinks immediately of the birthplace of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, who had a message of peace and forgiveness for all; one thinks of Lebanon, whose people must rediscover, with the support of international solidarity, their historic vocation to promote sincere and fruitful cooperation between different faith communities; and of the whole Middle East, especially Iraq, the cradle of great civilizations, which in these past years has suffered daily from violent acts of terrorism.

  "One thinks of Africa, particularly the countries of the Great Lakes region, still affected by the tragic consequences of the fratricidal wars of recent years; of the defenseless people of Darfur, subjected to deplorable violence, with dangerous international repercussions; and of so many other countries throughout the world which are the theatre of violent conflict.

  "Surely one of the great goals of diplomacy must be that of leading all parties in conflict to understand that, if they are committed to truth, they must acknowledge errors - and not merely the errors of others - nor can they refuse to open themselves to forgiveness, both requested and granted. ... Bloodshed does not cry out for revenge but begs for respect for life, for peace! May the Peacebuilding Commission recently established by the United Nations Organization respond effectively to this basic demand of mankind, with the willing cooperation of all concerned."

  "I would like to make a final point: commitment to peace opens up new hopes. This is, in some sense, the logical conclusion of everything that I have been saying. Man is capable of knowing the truth! ... The peace, to which he can and must be committed, is not merely the silence of arms; it is, much more, a peace which can encourage new energies within international relations which in turn become a means of maintaining peace. But this will be the case only if they correspond to the truth about man and his dignity. Consequently one cannot speak of peace in situations where human beings are lacking even the basic necessities for living with dignity.

  "Here my thoughts turn to the limitless multitudes who are suffering from starvation. They cannot be said to be living in peace, even though they are not in a state of war: indeed they are defenseless victims of war. Immediately there come to mind distressing images of huge camps throughout the world of displaced persons and refugees, who are living in makeshift conditions in order to escape a worse fate, yet are still in dire need. Are these human beings not our brothers and sisters? Do their children not come into the world with the same legitimate expectations of happiness as other children?

  "One thinks also of all those who are driven by unworthy living conditions to emigrate far from home and family in the hope of a more humane life. Nor can we overlook the scourge of human trafficking, which remains a disgrace in our time.

  "Faced with these 'humanitarian emergencies' and other human tragedies, many people of good will, along with different international institutions and non-governmental organizations, have in fact responded. But a greater effort is needed from the entire diplomatic community in order to determine in truth, and to overcome with courage and generosity, the obstacles still standing in the way of effective, humane solutions. And truth demands that none of the prosperous States renounce its own responsibility and duty to provide help through drawing more generously upon its own resources.

  "On the basis of available statistical data, it can be said that less than half of the immense sums spent worldwide on armaments would be more than sufficient to liberate the immense masses of the poor from destitution. This challenges humanity's conscience.

  "To peoples living below the poverty line, more as a result of situations to do with international political, commercial and cultural relations than as a result of circumstances beyond anyone's control, our common commitment to truth can and must give new hope."

  Commenting the words of St. Augustine - "Truth has indeed sprung up from the earth: Christ, who said of Himself: 'I am the Truth,' has been born of the Virgin" - the Pope concluded: "The Church always draws life from this truth, but at this stage in the liturgical year she finds it a source of special light and joy. And in the light of this truth, may these words of mine stand for you, who represent most of the world's nations, as an expression of conviction and hope: in truth, peace!"

  The Holy See currently has diplomatic ties with 174 nations, the European Communities and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, and has special relations with the Russian Federation and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO).
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VATICAN CITY, JAN 8, 2006 (VIS) - This afternoon, Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls released the following declaration to journalists:

  "The Holy See only learned the news of a possible release from prison of Ali Agca from news agencies.

  "The Holy See, faced with such a juridical question, confides in the decisions of the courts involved in this matter."
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VATICAN CITY, JAN 8, 2006 (VIS) - The Baptism of Jesus, the festival that concludes the liturgical period of Christmas, provided the theme of Benedict XVI's reflections before praying the Angelus this morning.

  The Pope told the thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square that it "was a Baptism of penance, using the symbol of water to express the purification of heart and of life. ... When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan, the Holy Spirit came down upon him in the bodily form of a dove, and John the Baptist recognized that He was the Christ, the 'Lamb of God' Who had come to take away the sin of the world. Thus the Baptism in the Jordan was also an 'epiphany, an expression of the Lord's messianic identity and of His redeeming work, which culminated in another 'Baptism,' that of His death and resurrection, by which the entire world was purified in the fire of divine mercy."

  "The Baptism of children," he continued, "expresses ... the mystery of the new birth to divine life in Christ: the believing parents take their children to the baptismal font, which represents the 'bosom' of the Church from whose blessed waters the children of God are generated. The gift received by the newborn children needs to be accepted by them, once they have become adults, in a free and responsible way. This process of maturation will bring them to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, which confirms Baptism and confers on each the 'seal' of the Holy Spirit."

  "May today's solemnity be a propitious occasion for all Christians to rediscover with joy the beauty of their Baptism which, if experienced with faith, becomes an ever-present reality, renewing us constantly in the image of the new man, and in the holiness of thought and of action."
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VATICAN CITY, JAN 8, 2006 (VIS) - Today, Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, upholding a custom of his predecessor and for the first time in his own pontificate, Benedict XVI administered the sacrament of Baptism to ten newborn infants. The ceremony took place in the Sistine Chapel.

  The Pope delivered an off-the-cuff homily in which he addressed the parents and godparents of the newly-baptized children - five boys and five girls, all Italian - pointing out that, in receiving the Sacrament, the infants "are introduced to a company of friends that will never abandon them, in life or in death. This company of friends is the family of God which carries within itself the promise of eternity."

  The Holy Father stressed that "remaining true to Baptism in the context of the modern world means saying 'yes' to Christ and to life, and 'no' to evil and death. We can say that also in our own time it is necessary to say 'no' to a culture largely dominated by death; an anti-culture which shows itself, for example, in drugs, in escape from reality, in illusion, and in the false happiness that is expressed in lies, fraud, injustice, and contempt for others, for solidarity, and for responsibility towards the poor and the suffering."

  This culture of death, he added, "is expressed in a sexuality which becomes pure enjoyment without responsibility, which makes man a mere object, no longer a person but a commodity."

  "To this seeming promise of happiness, to this apparent life which in reality is no more than an instrument of death, to this anti-culture, we say 'no' in order to cultivate the culture of life. Baptism today is a great 'yes' to life, a 'yes' to Christ, a 'yes' to the One Who conquered death."

  Benedict XVI affirmed that the 'yes' to the culture of life is expressed in the Ten Commandments. They "are not prohibitions but a vision of life" he said, adding that they are a "yes" to God Who gives meaning to life. "'Yes' to the family, the fourth commandment; 'yes' to life, the fifth commandment; 'yes' to responsible love, the sixth commandment; 'yes' to solidarity, social responsibility and justice, the seventh commandment; 'yes' to truth, the eighth commandment; 'yes' to respect for others and for what belongs to them, ninth and tenth commandments. This is the philosophy and the culture of life that take concrete and practical form in communion with Christ."
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VATICAN CITY, JAN 7, 2006 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

 - Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

 - Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.
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VATICAN CITY, JAN 7, 2006 (VIS) - Today in the Vatican, the Holy Father received in audience a delegation from the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, led by the president of the organization, Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick.

  In his address to them, the Pope recalled "with gratitude the presence of delegations from the World Alliance both at the funeral of my predecessor Pope John Paul II and at the inauguration of my own papal ministry. In these signs of mutual respect and friendship I am pleased to see a providential fruit of the fraternal dialogue and cooperation undertaken in the past four decades, and a token of sure hope for the future."

  Benedict XVI then went on to recall the 40th anniversary of the closing of Vatican Council II, and the promulgation of the Conciliar Decree on Ecumenism "Unitatis Redintegratio" saying: "The Catholic-Reformed dialogue, which came into existence shortly thereafter, has made an important contribution to the demanding work of theological reflection and historical investigation indispensable for surmounting the tragic divisions which arose among Christians in the sixteenth century.

  "One of the results of the dialogue has been to show significant areas of convergence between the Reformed understanding of the Church as 'Creatura Verbi' and the Catholic understanding of the Church as the primordial Sacrament of God's outpouring of grace in Christ. ... The Decree on Ecumenism affirmed that 'there can be no ecumenism worthy of the name without interior conversion'."

  "At the very beginning of my pontificate I voiced my own conviction that 'inner conversion is the prerequisite for all ecumenical progress,' and recalled the example of my predecessor, Pope John Paul II, who often spoke of the need for a 'purification of memory' as a means of opening our hearts to receive the full truth of Christ. The late Pope ... gave a powerful impulse to this endeavor in the Catholic Church, and I am pleased to learn that several of the Reformed Churches ... have undertaken similar initiatives."

  Benedict XVI concluded his remarks by recalling that the way of dialogue "calls for wisdom, humility, patient study and exchange. May we set out with renewed confidence, in obedience to the Gospel and with our hope firmly grounded in Christ's prayer for His Church."
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VATICAN CITY, JAN 7, 2006 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received the "gentiluomini di Sua Santita," a group of laymen who attend to protocol during official pontifical ceremonies and audiences, thanking them for their service to Peter's Successor.

  "Yours is an honorable service which is part of the centuries-old tradition of the Pontifical Household," he told them. "Today, of course, everything [in the Pontifical Household] seems simpler than it was, but if functions and roles have changed with respect to the past, the goal of those who work there remains the same: service to the Successor of the Apostle Peter."

  After pointing out that the Christmas period, "during which we contemplated the Savior Who came to earth," was drawing to a close, Benedict XVI said: "Illuminated by that great mystery, we begin this new year with serenity and trust, under the sign of God's life-giving love."

  The Pope went on: "All roles are important when one cooperates in realizing the Kingdom of God. In order to be able to proceed, the ship of Peter has need of many unseen services which, together with other more visible ones, contribute to ensuring a safe voyage. It is vital that the shared goal should never be lost from sight: dedication to Christ and to His work of salvation."
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VATICAN CITY, JAN 6, 2006 (VIS) - Today, Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, the Pope celebrated Mass in the Vatican Basilica.

  In his homily, the Holy Father affirmed that "the light of Christmas that shone out in the night, illuminating the manger of Bethlehem where Mary, Joseph and the shepherds stood in silent adoration, today shines and is visible to everyone. The Epiphany is a mystery of light, symbolically represented by the star that guided the journey of the Magi."

  "The light that emerged at Christmas and today appears to peoples, is the love of God, revealed in the person of the Word incarnate," which is thus "the principle of universal reconciliation, ... the final goal of history." For this reason, the Pope added, "on this Solemnity, ... the liturgy includes the so-called 'announcement of Easter:' indeed, the liturgical year embraces the entire parabola of the history of salvation, at the center of which is the 'Triduum of the Lord, crucified, buried and risen'."

  Benedict XVI pointed out that the Magi "adored a simple Child in the arms of Mother Mary, because in Him they recognized the source of the dual light that had guided them: the light of the star and the light of Scripture. They recognized in Him the King of the Jews, glory of Israel, but also the King of all peoples."

  He went on: "The liturgical context of Epiphany also shows the mystery of the Church and her missionary dimension. The Church is called to bring the light of Christ to shine in the world, reflecting it in herself as the moon reflects the light of the sun."

  The Pope then highlighted the fact that the Church "is holy, but is formed by men and women with their limitations and errors. It is Christ, He alone, Who giving us the Holy Spirit can transform our misery and renew us constantly. He is the light of peoples, 'lumen gentium,' Who chose to illuminate the world through His Church."

  Later, at midday, after the conclusion of Mass, the Holy Father appeared at the window of his private study to pray the Angelus with thousands of faithful gathered below in St. Peter's Square.

  He expressed his "most cordial best wishes for peace and goodness in the Lord" to Christians of the Eastern Churches which, following the Julian calendar, celebrate Christmas today.

  "It seems natural today," he added, "to think back to World Youth Day, which last August brought together more than a million young people in Cologne, Germany, having as their motto the words used by the Magi to refer to Jesus: 'we have come to adore Him'."

  The Holy Father affirmed how "that memorable event ... represented a true 'epiphany.' In fact the pilgrimage of young people, in its most profound dimension, may be seen as a journey guided by the light of a 'star,' by the light of faith.

  "Today I would like to extend to the whole Church the message I then proposed to the young people gathered on the banks of the Rhine: 'Open wide your hearts to God! Allow yourselves to be surprised by Christ! Open the doors of your freedom to His merciful love! Present your joys and your sorrows to Christ, letting Him illuminate your minds with His light and touching your hearts with His grace'."

  The Pope continued: "It is my wish that the whole Church, as in Cologne, may breath the atmosphere of 'epiphany' and of authentic missionary commitment stimulated by the appearance of Christ, light of the world, sent by God the Father to reconcile and unify humanity with the power of love. In this spirit, let us pray with fervor for the full unity of all Christians, that their testimony may become a ferment of communion for the whole world."

  After the Angelus, the Pope recalled that today is also the Day of Missionary Children and mentioned "the thousands of solidarity initiatives" supported by the Pontifical Work of the Holy Childhood, "educating children to grow in a spirit of openness to the world and of attention to the difficulties of their more disadvantaged peers. I too, in my ministry, rely on the prayers of children and on their active participation in the Church's mission."
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VATICAN CITY, JAN 5, 2006 (VIS) - This afternoon Benedict XVI visited the nativity scene built by the street cleaners of Rome at their headquarters near the Vatican, and thanked them for their work in the area around St. Peter's Square. John Paul II visited the street cleaners' nativity scene every year from 1979 to 2002.

  This nativity scene, as the Pope pointed out in his address, "is the most famous in Rome." First constructed in 1972, it contains 95 houses made of pumice stone as well as rivers, fountains, aqueducts, lights, recreations of Roman streets and around 200 figures. It is made with materials from all over the world, in particular from the colonnade of St. Peter's Square, Bethlehem and the Italian shrine of San Giovanni Rotondo.

  "Contemplating these evangelical scenes," the Pope went on, "becomes an incentive to meditate on the central mystery of our salvation: God became man for us, and we can welcome Him in our hearts and experience the joy of His sanctifying presence. However, it is not enough to stand and watch, we must do more. Jesus must become the center of our lives. It is important that He be the guide of our daily journey and the ultimate and definitive goal of our earthly pilgrimage."

  After wishing the street cleaners and their families a happy 2006, Benedict XVI concluded: "The Lord wants us to be vigilant and attentive, so that we do not allow ourselves to be deceived by the false appeal of ephemeral and passing values."
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