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Thursday, March 30, 2006


VATICAN CITY, MAR 30, 2006 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences eight prelates from the Episcopal Conference of the Ivory Coast, on their "ad limina" visit:

    - Cardinal Bernard Agre, archbishop of Abidjan, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ake.

    - Bishop Paul Dacoury-Tabley of Grande-Bassam.

    - Bishop Laurent Akran Mandjo of Yopougon.

    - Archbishop Vital Komenan Yao of Bouake, accompanied by Coadjutor Archbishop Paul-Simeon Ahouanan Djro O.F.M., apostolic administrator of Yamoussoukro.

    - Bishop Jean-Jacques Koffi Oi Koffi of Abengourou, accompanied by Bishop emeritus Bruno Kouame.
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VATICAN CITY, MAR 30, 2006 (VIS) - In the Holy See Press Office this morning, a press conference was held to present a seminar on the Bologna Process. The seminar, organized by the Congregation for Catholic Education in collaboration with UNESCO-CEPES, is being held in the Vatican's New Synod Hall from March 30 to April 1.

  In his contribution Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, explained how canon law distinguishes between ecclesiastical universities and faculties, and Catholic universities and faculties, "although it would be more accurate to say that they are all Catholic, and that those Catholic universities and faculties we call ecclesiastical have a particular role and specific regulations."

  Msgr. Angelo Vincenzo Zani, under-secretary of the same congregation, recalled how the Holy See "adhered to the Bologna Process on the occasion of the ministerial summit held in Berlin in 2003. Since then, the Congregation for Catholic Education has followed the various stages of the process ... with the help of a specially-created commission, which assists ecclesiastical faculties in Europe to implement the relative guidelines."

  For his part, Archbishop Michael J. Miller C.S.B., secretary of the congregation, explained the program of the seminar, which has as its theme: "The cultural heritage and academic values of European universities, and the attraction of European institutions of higher education."

  Representatives from 42 countries are due to attend the meeting, said the archbishop, "most of them from Europe, but also from the Americas, Asia and the East." They include "ministers of education from the various countries, government officials, university rectors and representatives from European and international organizations."

  Among the themes to be debated during the seminar, the secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education highlighted the following: "European cultural heritage: identity and challenges. ... The academic values and contemporary significance of European universities. ... European universities: their cultural responsibility and role in the construction of Europe." Discussion groups will also tackle such subjects as: "fundamental values and academic freedom; foundations for interdisciplinary dialogue; inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue; and scientific research and ethical responsibility." The seminar will conclude on Saturday with a papal audience.

  Next to speak was Jan Sadlak, director of UNESCO's European Center for Higher Education (CEPES). Speaking English, he affirmed that Europe could be proud of its diversity, the source of inspiration in so many fields: "culture, ethnicity, and also religion. ... In order to preserve and nourish those various diversities we must have a solid set of values and core of common goals which can preserve us from those forces which brought to Europe two world wars and various kinds of totalitarian regimes. And here we need to point out the role of the university which, in its modern form, is a European creation with almost a thousand-year history in which the Roman Catholic Church has played an important role. This needs to be recognized."

  The last to speak was Sjur Bergan, head of the Department of Higher Education and History Teaching at the Council of Europe. "The topic of this conference," he said, "is essentially how our academic heritage and values make European higher education attractive both for our own students and for students and higher education partners in other parts of the world."

  He mentioned the four main purposes of higher education, as identified by the Council of Europe: "preparation for the labor market; preparation for life as active citizens in democratic societies; personal development; and the development and maintenance of a broad, advanced knowledge base." Highlighting the inadequacy of a purely economic evaluation of the advantages of higher education he added: "Academic heritage is of great importance to the Bologna Process both because of its intrinsic value and because it provides us with a broader perspective on higher education reform. Reform is part and parcel of our heritage: the universities, along with the Church and the parliament, are the oldest continuously existing institutions in Europe. I think it is important to underline that universities have survived precisely because they have been able to reform. Had they not been able to change, they would not have survived."
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VATICAN CITY, MAR 30, 2006 (VIS) - Made public today was the Holy Father's Message for the 43rd World Day of Prayer for Vocations, which is due to be celebrated on May 7, fourth Sunday of Easter, on the theme: "Vocation in the mystery of the Church."

  "The weight of two millennia of history makes it difficult to perceive the novelty of the fascinating mystery of divine adoption which lies at the center of St. Paul's teaching," writes the Holy Father in his Message, which is dated March 5. "We are called to live as brothers and sisters of Christ, to consider ourselves as sons and daughters of the same Father. This a gift that overturns all exclusively human ideas and projects."

  "What, then, must we say," Benedict XVI asks, "of the temptation, so strongly felt in our own time, to think ourselves so self-sufficient as to shut ourselves off from the mysterious plan God has for us? The love of the Father, revealed in the person of Christ, calls out to us."

  Down the centuries, the Pope writes, many men and women, "transformed by divine love, have consecrated their lives to the cause of the Kingdom," and "through Christ have known the mystery of the Father's love." These people, the Pope goes on, "represent the multiplicity of vocations that have always been present in the Church."

  Referring then to Vatican Council II's universal call to sanctity, the Holy Father affirms that, in each generation, Christ "calls individuals to take care of His people; in particular He calls men to the priestly ministry to exercise a paternal function. ... The priest's mission in the Church is irreplaceable. Therefore, even though some areas suffer a shortage of clergy, we must not lose the conviction that Christ continues to call men" to the priesthood.

  "Another special vocation occupying a place of honor in the Church is the call to consecrated life. ... Although they undertake various forms of service in the field of human formation and care for the poor, in education and in assistance to the sick, [consecrated people] do not consider these activities as the principle aim of their lives because, as the Code of Canon Law says: 'Contemplation of divine things and assiduous union with God in prayer is to be the first and foremost duty of all religious'."

  Benedict XVI concludes his Message with a call to pray "for vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life. ... The Church's sanctity depends essentially on her union with Christ and her openness to the mystery of grace at work in the hearts of believers. For this reason, I would like to invite all the faithful to cultivate an intimate relationship with Christ, Master and Pastor of His people, imitating Mary who guarded the divine mysteries in her heart and contemplated them assiduously."
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VATICAN CITY, MAR 30, 2006 (VIS) - Today in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received a group of representatives from the European parliamentary group of the Popular Party on the occasion of the Study Days on Europe, an initiative organized by the group.

  The Pope began his English-language address to the parliamentarians by recalling how "Roman Pontiffs have always devoted particular attention to this continent; today's audience is a case in point, and it takes its place in the long series of meetings between my predecessors and political movements of Christian inspiration."

  "At present, Europe has to address complex issues of great importance, such as the growth and development of European integration, the increasingly precise definition of neighborhood policy within the Union and the debate over its social model. In order to attain these goals, it will be important to draw inspiration, with creative fidelity, from the Christian heritage which has made such a particular contribution to forging the identity of this continent.

  "By valuing its Christian roots," said the Holy Father, "Europe will be able to give a secure direction to the choices of its citizens and peoples, it will strengthen their awareness of belonging to a common civilization and it will nourish the commitment of all to address the challenges of the present for the sake of a better future."

  The Pope then expressed his appreciation for the Popular Party's "recognition of Europe's Christian heritage" which, he said, "offers valuable ethical guidelines in the search for a social model that responds adequately to the demands of an already globalized economy, ... assuring growth and employment, protection of the family, equal opportunities for education of the young and solicitude for the poor.

  "Your support for the Christian heritage, moreover, can contribute significantly to the defeat of a culture that is now fairly widespread in Europe, which relegates to the private and subjective sphere the manifestation of one's own religious convictions. Policies built on this foundation not only entail the repudiation of Christianity's public role; more generally, they exclude engagement with Europe's religious tradition, which is so clear, despite its denominational variations, thereby threatening democracy itself, whose strength depends on the values that it promotes."

  To oppose or ignore the European Christian tradition "would be a sign of immaturity, if not indeed weakness. ... In this context one has to recognize that a certain secular intransigence shows itself to be the enemy of tolerance and of a sound secular vision of State and society."

  The Pope then expressed his pleasure "that the European Union's constitutional treaty envisages a structured and ongoing relationship with religious communities, recognizing their identity and their specific contribution. Above all, I trust that the effective and correct implementation of this relationship will start now, with the cooperation of all political movements irrespective of party alignments.

  "It must not be forgotten," he stressed, "that when Churches or ecclesial communities intervene in public debate, expressing reservations or recalling various principles, this does not constitute a form of intolerance or interference, since such interventions are aimed solely at enlightening consciences, enabling them to act freely and responsibly, according to the true demands of justice, even when this should conflict with situations of power and personal interest."

  The main area of the Catholic Church's interventions in the public sphere, said Benedict XVI, "is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable." Among these principles he listed: "Protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family, as a union between a man and a woman based on marriage, and its defense from attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different forms of union which in reality harm it and contribute to its destabilization, obscuring its particular character and its irreplaceable social role; and the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.

  "These principles are not truths of faith, even though they receive further light and confirmation from faith; they are inscribed in human nature itself and therefore they are common to all humanity. The Church's action in promoting them is therefore not confessional in character, but is addressed to all people, irrespective of any religious affiliation they may have."

  The Holy Father closed his address by calling on the parliamentarians "to be credible and consistent witnesses of these basic truths through your political activity, and more fundamentally through your commitment to live authentic and consistent lives."
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