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Thursday, January 26, 2006


VATICAN CITY, JAN 26, 2006 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

 - Lech Kaczynski, president of the Republic of Poland, accompanied by his wife and an entourage.

 - Archbishop-bishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino, Italy.

 - Bishop Joseph Bolangi Egwanga Ediba Tasame of Budjala, Democratic Republic of the Congo, on his "ad limina" visit.

 - Fr. Jose Rodriguez Carballo O.F.M., minister general of the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor.

  This evening, he is scheduled to receive in audience Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
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VATICAN CITY, JAN 26, 2006 (VIS) - The third meeting of the joint international commission for theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches is due to be held at the Catholicosate of Etchmiadzin, Armenia, from January 26 to 30. Created in 2003, the commission has thus far celebrated two meetings, the first in Cairo, Egypt in 2004, and the second in Rome last year.

  At the invitation of the Catholicos of all Armenia, Karekin II, the meeting will be attended by two delegations, one Catholic and one Orthodox, headed respectively by Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Metropolitan Amba Bishoy of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

  According to a communique made public today, the program includes "three themes for study and dialogue, all related to the central theme of the Church as communion: bishops in the apostolic succession; the relationship between primacy and collegiality; and the working and ecclesiological importance of synods at the local and ecumenical level."

  The communique also reveals that, from January 31 to February 4, Cardinal Kasper, accompanied by Fr. Jozef M. Maj S.J., an official at the oriental section of the same pontifical council, will visit Georgia.

  The visit to Georgia, the first by a president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in 15 years, comes in response to an invitation to visit the local Catholic community issued by Bishop Giuseppe Pasotto, apostolic administrator of Caucasus of the Latins. The cardinal will also hold an official meeting with His Holiness Ilia II, Catholicos Patriarch of all Georgia, primate of the Georgian Orthodox Church.

  In addition to delivering a talk on the subject of relations between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, on February 2, Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, Cardinal Kasper will preside at a Eucharistic celebration in the presence of local faithful, later participating in an ecumenical prayer at the cathedral of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Tbilisi, Georgia. The president of the pontifical council is also due to visit an ecclesiastical academy, as well as the most important shrines and centers of monastic life of the Orthodox Church.
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VATICAN CITY, JAN 26, 2006 (VIS) - Today in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received members of the preparatory commission of the third European Ecumenical Assembly, telling them: "Your visit provides a further occasion to shed light upon the links of communion that bind us to Christ, and to renew the will to work together, so that full unity may come as soon as possible."

  The Pope then greeted the representatives, who come from European ecumenical organizations, and expressed his joy at meeting them again after the closing ceremony of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which he presided yesterday in the Roman basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls.

  "You have begun your European ecumenical pilgrimage - which will culminate in the gathering at Sibiu, Romania, in September 2007 - from here in Rome," he said, "site of the preaching and martyrdom of the Apostles Peter and Paul. This is extremely significant because the Apostles were the first to announce the Gospel to us, that Gospel which, as Christians, we are called to proclaim and bear witness to in today's Europe."

  The Pope then mentioned the theme of this forthcoming spiritual itinerary - "the light of Christ illuminates everyone. Hope of renewal and unity in Europe" - before going on to observe that in order for the process of unification of the continent to be fruitful, Europe must "find room for the ethical values which make up part of its vast and well-consolidated spiritual heritage."

  "Nonetheless, our presence as Christians will prove incisive and enlightening only if we have the courage to continue decisively down the path of reconciliation and unity. ... Everyone must show such strength, ... because we all have a specific responsibility towards the ecumenical progress of Christians on our continent and in the rest of the world.

  "Since the fall of the wall dividing Eastern and Western Europe, the meeting between peoples has become easier, ... and a need is being felt to face the great challenges of the present time in a united fashion, beginning with the challenges of modernity and secularization."

  The Pope closed his address by recalling how "experience amply demonstrates that sincere and fraternal dialogue generates trust, eliminates fears and preconceived notions, removes difficulties and opens the way to serene and constructive dialogue."
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VATICAN CITY, JAN 26, 2006 (VIS) - Yesterday evening in the basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls, Benedict XVI presided at the second Vespers of the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. The ceremony marked the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the theme of which was: "Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them."

  In his homily, the Pope affirmed that "the aspiration of all Christian communities and of each individual faithful to unity, and the strength to achieve it, are gifts of the Holy Spirit, and go hand in hand with an ever more profound and radical faithfulness to the Gospel. We realize that conversion of heart lies at the base of ecumenical commitment."

  Recalling the title of his first Encyclical, "Deus caritas est," the Holy Father stated: "God is Love. Upon this firm rock the entire faith of the Church rests. ... Fixing our gaze on this truth, the peak of divine revelation, divisions, while maintaining their painful magnitude, appear surmountable and do not discourage us."

  "True love," he went on, "does not cancel legitimate differences, but harmonizes them into a higher unity, one that is not imposed from outside, but that from within gives form, so to say, to the whole."

  Benedict XVI then indicated that "the longed-for achievement of unity depends, in the first instance, upon the will of God, Whose design and generosity surpass man's understanding, even exceeding his requests and expectations. By relying on divine goodness, we intensify our common prayer for unity, which is a necessary and highly effective instrument."

  "Unity is our shared mission; it is the condition necessary for the light of Christ to spread more effectively all over the world, that men and women may be converted and saved."

  After highlighting the fact that much still remains to be done, Benedict XVI concluded by saying: "Let us not lose faith, rather let us resume the journey with greater energy. Christ goes before us and accompanies us. We rely upon His unfailing presence; from Him we implore, humbly and tirelessly, the precious gift of unity and peace."

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