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Monday, February 20, 2006


VATICAN CITY, FEB 20, 2006 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in audience Bishop Andrea Maria Erba B., emeritus of Velletri-Segni, Italy.

  On Saturday, February, 18, he received in separate audiences:

 - Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education.

 - Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States of America and permanent observer to the Organization of American States.

 - Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.
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VATICAN CITY, FEB 20, 2006 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received members of the administrative council of the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel.

  The Pope greeted Bishop Jean-Pierre Bassene of Kolda. Senegal, president of the administrative council, recalling how the foundation, created in 1980, grew from the solidarity of the faithful, especially in Germany, who responded generously to an appeal launched by John Paul II on May 10, 1980, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, "in favor of the people of the Sahel, who were then facing the consequences of a terrible drought."

  "Entrusted to the responsibility of bishops in the countries concerned, and with the goal of fighting against desertification in this region of Africa, the foundation has fully developed as a work of the Church, highlighting through numerous projects carried our over more than 20 years that love for others - which is a task for each member of the faithful, but also for the entire ecclesial community - must be expressed in concrete gestures."

  The Holy Father concluded his brief address by encouraging members of the foundation "to continue with determination, thanks to the help of the pontifical Council 'Cor Unum,' this work of Christian brotherhood, which is a service to all human beings and which also contributes to inter-religious dialogue and to the revelation of the love of God to the inhabitants of this land."
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VATICAN CITY, FEB 20, 2006 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received the Letters of Credence of Ali Achour, the new ambassador of Morocco to the Holy See. After expressing his thanks for the greetings of the king of Morocco, Mohammed VI, conveyed by the diplomat, the Pope reiterated his esteem "for the tradition of welcome and understanding which has, for many centuries, characterized relations between the Kingdom of Morocco and the Catholic Church."

  The Holy Father recalled that Morocco has just celebrated the 50th anniversary of its independence, praising its express intent to move towards "a modern, democratic and prosperous future." The achievements of these years "must enable Moroccans to live in security and dignity, so that they can actively participate in the social and political life of the country."

  The Pope then went on to refer to the "ever-closer collaboration between countries bordering on the Mediterranean Sea, ... which is called more than ever before to be a place of encounter and dialogue between peoples and cultures." He also focussed on some of the serious problems faced by these countries, such as "the phenomenon of migration," which "constitutes an important factor in relations between States."

  "In ever greater numbers, emigrants from less favored regions call at the gates of Europe in search of better living conditions," said the Pope. Therefore, it is necessary "that institutions in the countries of destination and transit, do not consider these people as a mere commodity or labor force, and that they respect their fundamental rights and their dignity."

  "The precarious situation of so many foreigners must favor solidarity between the countries involved, so as to contribute to the development of the emigrants' places of origin. In fact, these problems cannot be solved only by national policies. Only ever-greater collaboration between all the nations concerned will favor the search for solutions to these painful problems."

  Benedict XVI then referred to Morocco's contribution to "the consolidation of dialogue between civilizations, cultures and religions," recalling that "in the current international context, the Catholic Church is convinced that, in order to support peace and understanding among peoples, ... there is an urgent need for religions and their symbols to be respected, and for believers not to be exposed to provocations that wound ... their religious feelings."

  "Nonetheless," the Holy Father added, "intolerance and violence can never be justified as a response to offence, because they are incompatible with the sacred principles of religion. For this reason, we can only lament the actions of those who deliberately profit from the offence caused to religious sentiments in order to foment violence, because their aims are foreign to religion."

  The Pope concluded his address to the diplomat by recalling that for believers and for people of good will, the only road that leads to peace and fraternity is that of "respect for the religious practices and convictions of others," so that "in all societies, everyone may be assured of the opportunity to practice the religion they have freely chosen."


VATICAN CITY, FEB 20, 2006 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, the Pope received in audience prelates from the Conference of Bishops of Senegal, Mauritania, Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau, who have just completed their "ad limina" visit.

  Benedict XVI noted how the great variety of human and ecclesial situations in these particular Churches makes it difficult to harmonize pastoral activities. Nonetheless, he said, "the ties of communion are essential for an ever-greater apostolic fruitfulness and in order to carry out the mission received from the Lord."

  "Walking alongside their people," said the Pope, "bishops must guide, encourage and coordinate evangelizing action, that the faith may grow and spread among human beings. In this way, the Gospel must take full root in the cultures of your peoples."

  The Holy Father emphasized that "in order to remain faithful to baptismal commitments, each individual must receive a solid education in the faith, so as to be able to face up to the new phenomena of modern life, such as growing urbanization, the unemployment of many young people, material seductions of all kinds and the influence of ideas of varying provenance."

  After dwelling on the generous collaboration of priests in the work of evangelization, the Pope called for their initial and permanent formation to render them "humanly and spiritually balanced, capable of responding to the challenges they must face, both in their personal and their pastoral lives." He also mentioned the need for "a solid spiritual formation to fortify their intimate life with God in prayer and contemplation, and to enable them to discern the presence and action of the Lord in the persons entrusted to their pastoral mission."

  Benedict XVI indicated how the Church in this region "expresses her love for others in a very visible way, with her commitment to social development", embodied in numerous ecclesial structures at the service of the poorest. He also pointed out how many non-Christians, especially Muslims, collaborate in this service. "Efforts made towards a meeting in truth of believers from different religious traditions will contribute to achieving the real good of people and of society."

  "It is vital," he added, "that fraternal relations between communities be rendered more profound, in order to favor the harmonious development of society, recognizing the dignity of each individual and allowing everyone the free expression of their religion."

  Referring in closing remarks to current tensions in Guinea-Bissau, the Pope recalled the efforts of the local Church "to promote dialogue and cooperation among all the elements of the country," and he called on the prelates - "through the word illuminated by faith, constant witness of faithfulness to the Gospel and generous pastoral service" - to continue to be "sure points of reference and guidance for all your countrymen."


VATICAN CITY, FEB 18, 2006 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

 - Appointed Kay Martin Schmalhausen Panzio S.C.V., chaplain and professor of ethics at the St. Paul Catholic University of Arequipa, Peru, as bishop prelate of Ayaviri (area 32,300, population 179,300, Catholics 175,800, priests 17, religious 28), Peru. The bishop-elect was born in Lima, Peru in 1964 and ordained a priest in 1989. He succeeds Juan Godayol Colom S.D.B., whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same territorial prelature, the Holy Father accepted, in accordance with canon 401 para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law.

 - Appointed Bishop Remi Joseph Gustave Sainte-Marie M. Afr., of Dedza, Malawi, as coadjutor bishop of Lilongwe (area 24,025, population 4,068,000, Catholics 774,760, priests 112, religious 324), Malawi.


VATICAN CITY, FEB 19, 2006 (VIS) - The miraculous healing worked by Jesus at the beginning of His ministry, as narrated in the Gospel readings over these Sundays, provided the theme for Benedict XVI's remarks prior to praying the Angelus with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square.

  The paralytic cured by Jesus, as recounted in today's liturgy, represents, said the Pope, the image of human beings "prevented by sin from moving freely ... and from giving the best of themselves. Indeed evil, taking root in the soul, binds man ... and little by little paralyzes him. For this reason Jesus ... first says: 'your sins are forgiven,' and only afterwards adds: 'rise, take up your pallet and go home.' ... The message is clear. Man, paralyzed by sin, has need of the mercy of God that Christ came to give him, so that, healed in his heart, all his life can again blossom."

  The Holy Father continued: "Today too, humans bear the mark of sin that prevents them from making swift progress in those values of fraternity, justice and peace that they have proposed in solemn declarations, Why? ... In historical terms, we well know that there are many causes and that the problem is a complex one; but the Word of God invites us to look with faith and, like the men who carried the paralytic, to trust that only Jesus can truly heal."

  Benedict XVI highlighted how his predecessors, "especially the beloved John Paul II," made a fundamental choice "to lead the men and women of our time to Christ the Redeemer so that ... He may heal them. I too wish to continue along this road. In particular with my first Encyclical 'Deus caritas est,' I sought to show believers and the whole world that God is the source of authentic love. Only the love of God can renew the heart of man, and only if cured at heart can paralyzed humanity once again arise and walk."

  After the Angelus, the Pope again recalled the recent catastrophic landslide that destroyed two villages in the Philippines. "I ask you," he said, "to join me in praying for the victims, their loved ones and all those affected. May the grieving families experience the consolation of the Lord's presence and rescue workers be assured of our support and concern."
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VATICAN CITY, FEB 18, 2006 (VIS) - This morning, Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano presented the Holy Father with the 2006 "Annuario Pontificio," or pontifical yearbook, the first of Benedict XVI's pontificate. Also present were Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute for General Affairs, and the officials responsible for compiling and printing the volume.

  A communique regarding the presentation highlights some of the salient facts contained in the new yearbook. In 2005, 15 new episcopal sees were created as well as one metropolitan see, and one apostolic administration; 170 new bishops were also appointed.

  According to statistics for the period 2003-2004, in a world population of 6,388 million, Catholics number 1,098 million. Over this period, the number of faithful increased in absolute terms by 12 million (or 1.1 percent). However, compared with the increase in the world population, which in the same period grew from 6,301 million to 6,388 million, the relative percentage of Catholics dropped from 17,2 percent in 2003 to 17.1 percent in 2004

  In 2004, priests numbered 405,891 (one third of them regular and two thirds diocesan), with their numbers increasing by 441 over the period 2003-2004. However, the distribution of priests differs from continent to continent, with their numbers growing in Africa and Asia, stationary in America and Oceania, and falling in Europe.

  Since 1978, the number of permanent deacons has been growing and in 2004 stood at 32,324, most of them in North America and Europe.

  Numbers of candidates to the priesthood, both diocesan and religious, have increased overall, passing from 112,373 in 2003 to 113,044 in 2004. Vocations are more numerous in Africa and Asia, while in Europe they are falling.
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VATICAN CITY, FEB 18, 2006 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican's Clementine Hall, the Pope received 400 permanent deacons from the diocese of Rome for the 25th anniversary of the reinstatement of that ecclesial ministry in the diocese.

  "Union with Christ, cultivated through prayer, sacramental life and especially Eucharistic adoration," said Benedict XVI, "is of the utmost importance to your ministry, in order that it truly bear witness to the love of God."

  After thanking the permanent deacons for their service in Roman parishes, especially their pastoral concern for Baptisms and the family, The Holy Father highlighted how they must be "servants of the Truth. By announcing the Gospel, you will offer a Word capable of illuminating and giving meaning to the work of mankind and to the suffering of the sick, and you will help the new generations discover the beauty of Christian faith. In this way, you will be deacons of the Truth that makes people free, and you will lead the inhabitants of this city to encounter Jesus Christ. For men and women, welcoming the Redeemer into their lives is a source of profound joy, a joy that can bring peace even in moments of trial."

  The Pope stressed the fact that evangelization must be accompanied by the witness of charity. Referring to the large number of poor people, "many of them from countries far from Italy," who come to the parishes in search of help, he said: "Welcome these brothers and sisters with great cordiality and openness, and seek, as far as possible, to help them in their need."

  "My gratitude goes out to those of you committed to this silent and daily witness of charity," he added. "Through your service, the poor also become aware of being part of the great family of the children of God, which is the Church."

  Benedict XVI concluded his address to the deacons by describing their vocation as "a special grace for your family life, which in this way is called to be ever more open to welcoming the will of the Lord and the needs of the Church. May the Lord reward the readiness with which your wives and children accompany you in your service to the entire ecclesial community."
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