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Tuesday, February 28, 2006


VATICAN CITY, FEB 28, 2006 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

 - Accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, U.S.A., presented by Archbishop Joseph Anthony Fiorenza, upon having reached the age limit. He is succeeded by Coadjutor Archbishop Daniel N. DiNardo.

 - Gave his assent to the canonical election carried out on February 9 by the Synod of Bishops of the Greek-Melkite Catholic Church meeting in Ain Traz, Lebanon, from February 6 to 11, 2006, of Archimandrite Georges Bakar, bursar of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, as patriarchal vicar of Jerusalem with the title of archbishop of Pelusio of the Greek-Melkite Catholics. The archbishop-elect was born in Cairo, Egypt, in 1946 and ordained a priest in 1973.

  His Beatitude Gregoire III Laham, Greek-Melkite Catholic patriarch, with the consent of the synod of the patriarchal Church meeting in Ain Traz, Lebanon, from February 6 to 11, 2006, transferred, in accordance with canon 85 para. 3 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, Bishop Isidore Battikha B. A., auxiliary and "protosincellus" of Damascus of the Greek-Melkites, to the position of metropolitan archbishop of Homs, Hama and Jabrud (Catholics 27,000, priests 14, permanent deacons 1, religious 33), Syria.
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VATICAN CITY, FEB 28, 2006 (VIS) - On March 5, the first Sunday of Lent, the annual spiritual exercises of the Holy Father and the Roman Curia will begin in the "Redemptoris Mater" Chapel of the Vatican's Apostolic Palace. This year's exercises, dedicated to the theme "Walking with Jesus towards Easter," will be directed by Cardinal Marco Ce, patriarch emeritus of Venice, Italy.

  The retreat will begin with Eucharistic exposition, the celebration of Vespers, an introductory meditation, adoration and Eucharistic blessing.

  Over the following days there will be the celebration of Lauds and meditation at 9 a.m.; celebration of Terce and meditation at 10.15 a.m.; meditation at 5 p.m.; and Vespers, adoration and Eucharistic blessing at 5.45 p.m.

  The spiritual exercises will come to an end on the morning of Saturday, March 11, with the celebration of Lauds and a closing meditation.

  During the retreat all audiences will be cancelled, including the weekly general audience of Wednesday, March 8.
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VATICAN CITY, FEB 28, 2006 (VIS) - This morning in the Holy See Press Office, Cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao and Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, respectively president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples presented the document: "Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of Gypsies."

  The text of the document is the result of a broad-ranging study to which pastoral workers, experts and gypsies themselves have all contributed. The document's six chapters are divided into two sections: the first presents an overall view of the Church and gypsies, while the second concentrates on specific questions.

  Cardinal Hamao explained how the origins of a specific form of pastoral care for gypsies date back to the first half of the 20th century "through the individual initiatives of some zealous priests in France, Germany, Italy and Spain. The Holy See recognized it as a special mission in 1965, after the first historic international pilgrimage of gypsies to Rome, by creating the International Secretariat for the Apostolate of Nomads," which was later integrated into the Pontifical Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migration and Tourism, created by Paul VI in 1970.

  "Though the document refers to gypsies, whose number in Europe alone is about 15 million," the cardinal continued, "it is equally valid for other nomads, who share similar conditions of life in the various continents. In any case, nomadism is not the only characteristic of the gypsy people. ... It is their ethnicity, their culture and age-old traditions that we should take into account. Therefore the local Churches, in countries where they live, should find pastoral inspiration in these Guidelines, ... adapting them to the circumstances, needs and requirements of each group."

  The president of the pontifical council went on to note certain "positive signs of evolution" among gypsies, such as "a growing desire to attain literacy and professional formation, social and political awareness expressed by forming associations and parties, increasing participation in local and national management in some countries, and the presence of women in social and civic life." He also recalled the enthusiastic participation of gypsies at "the beatification of the Spanish martyr Ceferino Jimenez Malla, the first gypsy to be raised to the honor of the altar."

  Although the nomadic quality of gypsy life in some way reflects the condition of all mankind - "homo viator" - gypsies' right to identity often comes up against the "indifference or opposition" of many people, who "share habitual prejudices towards them. Signs of rejection persist, often without eliciting any reaction or protest from those who witness them."

  The cardinal added: "All this has caused untold suffering in the course of history, as we know. Their persecution reached its height especially during the past century. ... Obviously the Church too should recognize their right to have their own identity, and stir consciences in order to achieve greater justice for them."

  Returning to the subject of nomadism, Cardinal Hamao noted how this form of life "has given rise to an identity with its own languages, and a culture and religiosity with its own traditions, and a strong sense of belonging. ... Their way of life is essentially a living witness to inner freedom from the bonds of consumerism and of the false security based on people's presumed self-sufficiency."

  "These Guidelines," he concluded, "are a sign that the Church has a particular concern for gypsies, meaning that they are the receiver of a special pastoral action in appreciation of their culture. ... In fact, everyone should be welcomed in the Church, where there is no place for marginalization and exclusion."

  For his part, Archbishop Marchetto concentrated on pastoral activity, firstly noting that "the peculiar nature of gypsy culture makes evangelization merely 'from the outside' ineffective." All the same, "a genuine incarnation of the Gospel - called inculturation - cannot indiscriminately legitimize every aspect of their culture."

  He continued: "Indeed, the universal history of evangelization affirms that the spread of the Christian message has always been accompanied by a process of purification of cultures. ... However, purification does not mean emptying, but some amount of integration with the surrounding culture will be necessary: it is an intercultural process. Reconciliation and communion between gypsies and non-gypsies, therefore, include legitimate interaction between cultures."

  The archbishop praised the "strong sense of family which is seen among gypsies," but warned that this "should not degenerate, for instance, into perennial resentment between families and clans." He also recalled the need among gypsies for equal rights between men and women and stressed the fact that "honesty at work is a civic and Christian virtue, which cannot be disregarded." He also lamented the fact that "audiovisual or printed information rarely makes the general public aware of the positive aspects of gypsy culture, and most often deals with negative ones, which further damage their image."

  "Of course, gypsies are a special minority because they have no country of origin to give them the support they might need and this means the lack of political guarantees and some degree of civil protection. In fact while the arrival of other people seeking refuge and of 'boat people' enables mobilization of a given number of people and governments, that of gypsies usually brings about rejection, even if they come from very poor countries, and are sometimes forced to flee due to religious, racial or political persecution."

  Archbishop Marchetto pointed out that this situation can only be overcome with a common and comprehensive global policy, and that "it is vitally important that international organizations take an interest in gypsies."

  On the subject of the evangelization of gypsies, he said it "is a mission of the whole Church, because no Christian should remain indifferent to a situation of marginalization with respect to ecclesial communion. ... Moreover, in the catechesis, it is important to include dialogue that allows gypsies to express how they perceive and experience their relationship with God. Therefore, it is necessary to assess the convenience of translating the Bible, the various liturgical texts and prayer books, into the languages used by the different ethnic groups."

  The secretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Migrant Peoples concluded by highlighting the danger of the proselytism of religious sects among gypsies and indicating how "new ecclesial movements could play a special role in this specific pastoral care. With their strong sense of community and openness, and the availability and special warm-heartedness of their members."

  The complete document, "Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of Gypsies," will soon be available for consultation on the web page of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, at the following address:


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