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Thursday, April 20, 2006


VATICAN CITY, APR 20, 2006 (VIS) - In the Holy See Press Office at midday today, a press conference was held to present the celebrations being organized to mark the fifth centenary of St. Peter's Basilica.

Participating in the event were Cardinals Francesco Marchisano, archpriest of the basilica, and Albert Vanhoye S.J., rector emeritus of the Pontifical Biblical College; Archbishop Angelo Comastri and Bishop Vittorio Lanzani, respectively president and delegate of the Fabric of St. Peter's; Antonio Paolucci, superintendent of the Florentine Museums and curator of the exhibition, "Petros Eni;" and Maria Cristina Carlo-Stella, bureau chief at the Fabric of St. Peter's.

In his talk, Cardinal Marchisano traced a brief history of the basilica, beginning with the emperor Constantine's original fourth-century construction. By the end of the 14th century, in light of the frailty of the Constantinian structure, pontiffs were desirous of building a new church, a project that finally began on April 18, 1506 when Pope Julius II placed the first stone of the current basilica. Work continued for a further 130 years and involved such artists as Bramante, Sangallo, Michelangelo and Bernini.

The basilica, said the cardinal, possesses an extraordinary archive composed of 3,050,000 documents concerning the work carried out from the beginning to our own times. It is, he added, one of the most visited sites in the world, with between five and 20 thousand people crossing its doors each day.

For his part, Archbishop Comastri recalled that in 1939, "by decision of Pope Pius XII, excavation work began under St. Peter's Basilica. To great astonishment, the ancient necropolis interred by Constantine's architects in the year 320 came to light. Moving up the slopes of the Vatican hill, a small monument was found, identified as the 'Tropaion of Gaius;' this discovery was followed by that of the famous red wall with the graffiti 'Petros eni' and a series of other graffiti all testifying to the devotion to Peter in this place."

Bishop Lanzani's talk concerned the issuing of stamps and coins to commemorate the anniversary.

"The Governorate of Vatican City State will issue a series of commemorative stamps of the value of 0.45 and 0.60 euros," he said. "The first represents the commemorative medal of Bramante, produced by Cristoforo Foppa between the years 1505 and 1506. ... The second depicts the medal placed in the foundations of the new St. Peters, also the work of Cristoforo Foppa." Both stamps bear the inscription: "Templum Divi Petri in Vaticano 1506-1606."

The Fabric of St. Peter's will also mint two medals for the occasion, one in silver and one in two different metals, the work of the Italian engraver Sergio Giandomenico. One side shows the consignment of the keys to St. Peter against the background of the basilica, with the emblem of the Fabric of St. Peter's underneath and the inscription "Patriarcalis Basilica Principis Apostolorum 1506-1606" around the edge. On the other side is an image of the Holy Father with the phrase "Benedictus XVI, Pontifex Maximus."


VATICAN CITY, APR 20, 2006 (VIS) - Made public today was a Letter from the Pope, written in Latin and dated March 4, appointing Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez, archbishop of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, as his special envoy to celebrations marking the fourth centenary of the death of St. Toribio de Mogrovejo, patron saint of the Latin American episcopate.

  Accompanying the cardinal to the celebrations - due to be held in Lima, Peru from April 24 to 29 - are Msgrs. Pedro Rufino Hidalgo Diaz, rector of the Pontifical Faculty of Theology in Lima and member of the cathedral chapter; Alberto Maravi Petrozzi, rector of the major seminary of St. Toribio and member of the cathedral chapter; and Angelo Accattino, secretary of the apostolic nunciature to Peru.


VATICAN CITY, APR 19, 2006 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Bishop Jose Mauro Pereira Bastos C.P., of Janauba, Brazil, as bishop of Guaxupe (area 13,953, population 857,374, Catholics 600,161, priests 100, religious 169), Brazil. He succeeds Bishop Jose Geraldo Oliveira do Valle C.S.S., whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese, the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

  On Thursday, April 13, it was made public that he:

 - Appointed Bishop Luigi Conti of Macerata-Tolentino-Recanati-Cingoli-Treia, Italy, as metropolitan archbishop of Fermo (area 1,318, population 282,534, Catholics 276,921, priests 244, permanent deacons 17, religious 443), Italy. The archbishop-elect was born in Urbania, Italy in 1941, he was ordained a priest in 1965 and consecrated a bishop in 1996.

 - Appointed Msgr. Leopoldo Girelli, counsellor at the apostolic nunciature to the United States of America, as apostolic nuncio to Indonesia, at the same time raising him to the dignity of archbishop. The archbishop-elect was born in Predore, Italy in 1953 and ordained a priest in 1978.
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VATICAN CITY, APR 19, 2006 (VIS) - At the end of today's general audience, the Pope said: "With great anguish I learned the news of last Monday's terrible attack in Tel Aviv, Israel, and I feel the need to express my most firm condemnation of that terrorist act. It is not by such abominable acts that the legitimate rights of a people can by protected."

  "May the Lord, Prince of Peace, remain close to Israelis and Palestinians, that they do not abandon themselves to a tragic undercurrent but resume the journey that will bring them to live in peace and security, one next to the other as children of the one Father in heaven."
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VATICAN CITY, APR 19, 2006 (VIS) - The meaning of Easter was the theme chosen by Benedict XVI for today's general audience, which coincided with the first anniversary of his election to the pontificate. The Pope arrived by helicopter for the audience - held in St. Peter's Square in the presence of more than 60,000 people - from his residence at Castelgandolfo where he is spending a few days following the Easter celebrations.

  "How quickly time passes," said the Pope to the faithful. "A year has already gone since ... the cardinals meeting in conclave chose me to succeed the much mourned and beloved Servant of God, the great Pope John Paul II. With emotion I recall the first impact I received from the loggia of the Vatican Basilica ... with the faithful gathered in this same square."

  He continued: "That meeting, which remains impressed upon my mind and heart, was followed by many others, giving me the chance to experience how real the words were that I pronounced during the course of the solemn concelebration with which I began my exercise of the Petrine ministry: 'I feel with renewed conviction that I do not have to carry alone what in truth I could never carry alone'." Apart from God's celestial protection, the Pope mentioned the closeness, understanding, love and prayers of the faithful. "I ask each of you to continue to support me, praying to God to enable me to be mild and firm pastor of His Church," he said.

  "Immediately after His resurrection, Jesus called Peter to tend His flock," Pope Benedict added. "Who then could have humanly imagined the development that, over the centuries, would mark that small group of the Lord's disciples? Peter, together with the Apostles and later their successors, ... courageously spread the evangelical message, the fundamental and indispensable core of which is constituted by the Paschal mystery: the passion, death and resurrection of Christ. This is the mystery the Church celebrates at Easter: Christ's triumph over evil and death."

  "The Gospel accounts narrating the appearances of the Risen One usually conclude with an invitation to overcome all uncertainty ... and to announce that Jesus, beyond death, is eternally alive, a source of new life for all those who believe. ... Faith is born from the personal meeting with the Risen Christ, and becomes a force of courage and freedom that brings us to cry out to the world that Jesus has risen and lives forever. This is the mission of the Lord's disciples in all ages including our own."

  At the end of the audience, Benedict XVI returned to Castelgandolfo. In the first year of his pontificate, more than four million people have participated in his general and special audiences, his Sunday Angelus and liturgical celebrations celebrated by him.
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VATICAN CITY, APR 17, 2006 (VIS) - At midday today, the Pope appeared at the balcony of the Apostolic Palace of Castelgandolfo to pray the Regina Coeli with the faithful gathered in the square below. The Pope travelled to his Castelgandolfo residence yesterday evening to rest after the Easter celebrations.

  After recalling how the Regina Coeli prayer substitutes the Angelus during the period of Easter, the Pope affirmed that "Mary guarded in her heart the 'good news' of the resurrection - source and secret of true joy and authentic peace - that Christ, Who died and rose again, has conquered us with the sacrifice of the cross."

  He went on: "We ask Mary, just as she accompanied us in the days of the passion, to continue to guide our steps in this time of spiritual joy, that we may grow ever more in the knowledge and love of the Lord, and become witnesses and apostles of His peace."

  Benedict XVI then recalled how tomorrow, April 18, marks the 500th anniversary of the day Pope Julius II laid the first stone of the new Basilica of St. Peter's, "which the world entire admires for the powerful harmony of its lines."

  The Holy Father also gratefully recalled "the Supreme Pontiffs who commissioned this extraordinary construction over the tomb of the Apostle Peter," and "the artists who with their genius contributed to building and decorating it." He also had words of thanks for the staff of the Fabric of St. Peter's "who oversee the maintenance and protection of this unique masterpiece of art and faith."

  May this anniversary, he concluded, "reawaken in all Catholics the desire to be 'living stones' for the building of the holy Church, in which the 'light of Christ' shines out" through works of charity witnessed by the world.
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VATICAN CITY, APR 16, 2006 (VIS) - Benedict XVI celebrated the Easter Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord at 10.30 this morning in St. Peter's Square, which was decorated, as has become traditional, with flowers, shrubs and flowering plants from Holland. At midday, from the central loggia of the basilica, he pronounced his first Easter Message, expressed Easter greetings in 63 languages and imparted his "Urbi et Orbi" blessing.

  On the day of his own 79th birthday and three days before the first anniversary of his election as Pope, the Holy Father said: "Today, even in this modern age marked by anxiety and uncertainty, we relive the event of the Resurrection, which changed the face of our life and changed the history of humanity. From the risen Christ, all those who are still oppressed by chains of suffering and death look for hope, sometimes even without knowing it.

  "May the Spirit of the Risen One, in particular, bring relief and security in Africa to the peoples of Darfur, who are living in a dramatic humanitarian situation that is no longer sustainable; to those of the Great Lakes region, where many wounds have yet to be healed; to the peoples of the Horn of Africa, of the Ivory Coast, Uganda, Zimbabwe and other nations which aspire to reconciliation, justice and progress."

  Turning to the situation in Iraq, he expressed the hope that peace may "finally prevail over the tragic violence that continues mercilessly to claim victims. I also pray sincerely that those caught up in the conflict in the Holy Land may find peace, and I invite all to patient and persevering dialogue, so as to remove both ancient and new obstacles." In this context, he called on the international community, "which re-affirms Israel's just right to exist in peace," to "assist the Palestinian people to overcome the precarious conditions in which they live and to build their future, moving towards the constitution of a State that is truly their own."

  "May the Spirit of the Risen One enkindle a renewed enthusiastic commitment of the countries of Latin America," he went on, "so that the living conditions of millions of citizens may be improved, the deplorable scourge of kidnapping may be eradicated and democratic institutions may be consolidated in a spirit of harmony and effective solidarity.

  "Concerning the international crises linked to nuclear power, may an honorable solution be found for all parties, through serious and honest negotiations, and may the leaders of nations and of international organizations be strengthened in their will to achieve peaceful coexistence among different races, cultures and religions, in order to remove the threat of terrorism."

  The Holy Father concluded by calling on humankind in the third millennium not to be afraid, but to open their hearts to the Risen Christ. "His Gospel totally quenches the thirst for peace and happiness that is found in every human heart. Christ is now alive and He walks with us. What an immense mystery of love! 'Christus resurrexit, quia Deus caritas est! Alleluia!'."
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VATICAN CITY, APR 15, 2006 (VIS) - At 10 this evening in St. Peter's Basilica, the Pope presided at the solemn Easter vigil during which he administered the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation to seven catechumens from Albania, Belarus, Peru, Japan, Colombia and Cameroon.

  The celebration started in the atrium of St. Peter's where the Holy Father blessed the new fire and lighted the Easter candle. This was followed by the procession into the basilica with the candle and the singing the "Exultet." Then came the Liturgy of the Word and the Baptismal and Eucharistic Liturgies which the Holy Father concelebrated with cardinals.

  Referring to the significance of Christ's resurrection, Benedict XVI described it as "the 'greatest 'mutation,' absolutely the most crucial leap into a totally new dimension that there has ever been in the long history of life and its development: a leap into a completely new order which does concern us, and concerns the whole of history."

  "It is clear," he went on, "that this event is not just some miracle from the past, the occurrence of which could be ultimately a matter of indifference to us. It is a qualitative leap in the history of 'evolution' and of life in general towards a new future life, towards a new world which, starting from Christ, already continuously permeates this world of ours, transforms it and draws it to itself.

  "But how does this happen?" Benedict XVI asked. "How can this event effectively reach me and draw my life upwards towards itself? The answer, perhaps surprising at first but totally real, is: this event comes to me through faith and Baptism. For this reason Baptism is part of the Easter Vigil. ... Baptism is something quite different from an act of ecclesial socialization, from a slightly old-fashioned and complicated rite for receiving people into the Church. It is also more than a simple washing, more than a kind of purification and beautification of the soul. It is truly death and resurrection, rebirth, transformation to a new life."

  "The great explosion of the resurrection has seized us in Baptism so as to draw us on. Thus we are associated with a new dimension of life into which, amid the tribulations of our day, we are already in some way introduced. To live one's own life as a continual entry into this open space: this is the meaning of being baptized, of being Christian. This is the joy of the Easter Vigil."

  The Holy Father stressed how "the resurrection is not a thing of the past, the resurrection has reached us and seized us. We grasp hold of it, we grasp hold of the Risen Lord, and we know that He holds us firmly even when our hands grow weak. We grasp hold of His hand, and thus we also hold on to one another's hands, and we become one single subject, not just one thing."

  "'I, but no longer I.' If we live in this way, we transform the world. It is a formula contrary to all ideologies of violence, it is a program opposed to corruption and to the desire for power and possession. ... 'I, but no longer I.' This is the way of the cross, the way that 'crosses over' a life simply closed in on the I, thereby opening up the road towards true and lasting joy."
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VATICAN CITY, APR 14, 2006 (VIS) - In the Vatican Basilica at 5 p.m. today, Good Friday, the Pope presided at the celebration of the Lord's Passion. Following the reading of the Passion, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa O.F.M. Cap., preacher of the Pontifical Household, pronounced his customary Good Friday homily in which he recalled how, whilst the Passion and Death of the Savior are being celebrated, millions of people are induced to believe, "by the skillful manipulation of ancient legends, that Jesus of Nazareth was never in fact crucified."

  At 9.15 p.m., the Holy Father travelled to the Colosseum where he led the 'Via Crucis' or Way of the Cross. The loss of a sense of sin and its dramatic consequences for humanity were the central theme of the meditations, which this year were prepared by Archbishop Angelo Comastri, the Pope's vicar general for Vatican City State.

  Benedict XVI carried the cross for the first and last stations. Over the other stations, it was borne by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar general for the diocese of Rome, a family from the city, an American seminarian, two female religious, three young women from Mexico, Angola and Nigeria, and two Franciscans from the Custody of the Holy Land.

  At the end of the ceremony, the Holy Father delivered some off-the-cuff remarks to those present: "The Cross of the Lord," he said, "embraces the world. Its 'Via Crucis' covers all continents and times. In the 'Via Crucis' we cannot be mere spectators. We too are involved and so must seek out our place."

  "In the Cross of Christ today," he went on, "we have seen the suffering of abandoned and abused children; threats against the family; the division of the world in the pride of the rich who do not see Lazarus at their door, and the poverty of so many who suffer hunger and thirst."

  Yet the suffering is accompanied by consolation, he added. "We have seen the Mother, whose goodness remained faithful to the end. We have seen the courageous woman who remained before the Lord and was not afraid to show her solidarity with the One Who suffered. We have seen Simon of Cyrene, the African who bore the Cross with Christ."

  In this way, said Pope Benedict, "we have understood that the 'Via Crucis' is not simply a collection of the dark and sad things of the world. It is not useless moralism or a cry of protest that changes nothing. The 'Via Crucis' is the way of mercy, of the mercy that puts a limit to evil. This is what we learned from Pope John Paul II."

  It is, he concluded, "the way of mercy, and so the way of salvation. And thus we are invited to take the path of mercy and, with Jesus, to place a limit to evil."
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VATICAN CITY, APR 13, 2006 (VIS) - In the Vatican Basilica at 9.30 a.m. today, Holy Thursday, the Holy Father presided at the Chrism Mass, which is celebrated on this day in churches and cathedrals throughout the world. Cardinals, bishops and priests present in Rome concelebrated with the Pope. Following the homily, there was the renewal of priestly vows and the blessing of the oil used for catechumens, the sick and those being confirmed.

  In his homily, the Pope described "the profound significance of being a priest," as "becoming a friend of Jesus. ... This means that we must know Jesus in an ever more personal way, listening to Him, living with Him, remaining at His side."

  Benedict XVI then went on to highlight how a priest "must be above all a man of prayer. ... The world has need of God, not of any god, but of the God of Jesus Christ, the God Who became flesh and blood, Who loved us enough to die for us, Who rose and created a space for mankind within Himself. This God must live within us, and we in Him. This is our call as priests; only in this way can our priestly activity prove fruitful."

  The Holy Father recalled the words of Fr. Andrea Santoro, a priest of the diocese of Rome who was murdered in Turkey on February 5 this year while at prayer: "I am here to live among these people and to allow Jesus to do so by lending Him my flesh. Only by offering our own flesh do we become capable of salvation. The evil of the world must be borne and the pain must be shared, absorbing it in our own flesh right to the end, just as Jesus did."

  Later, at 5.30 p.m. in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Benedict XVI presided at the Mass of the Lord's Supper. During the celebration, imitating the gesture of the Lord towards His Apostles, the Pope washed the feet of 12 people, all of them lay men. At the presentation of the gifts, he was given the alms collected for rebuilding the homes of victims of recent landslides in Maasin, Philippines.

  In his homily, the Pope pointed out how "God comes down and becomes a slave, He washes our feet that we may sit at His table. This expresses all the mystery of Jesus Christ. This makes the meaning of redemption visible."

  After emphasizing how the Lord's love "knows no limits, but man can put a limit to it," the Pope asked "what makes mankind unclean?" It is, he said, "rejection of love, not wishing to be loved, not loving. It is pride, that believes it needs no purification and closes itself off from the salvific goodness of God. It is pride, that does not wish to confess and recognize that we have need of purification."

  The Lord today "invites us to imitate His humility, to entrust ourselves to it, to allow ourselves to be 'infected' by it. He invites us - however lost we may feel - to return home and allow His purifying humility to raise us up and enable us to enter into communion with Him, with God Himself."

  "Washing one another's feet means above all tirelessly forgiving one another, always starting out anew however useless it may seem. It means purifying one another by supporting one another and accepting support from others, purifying one another by giving each another the sanctifying power of the Word of God and introducing each other to the Sacrament of divine love."
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