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Monday, September 18, 2006


VATICAN CITY, SEP 18, 2006 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

- Five prelates from the Episcopal Conference of Chad, on their "ad limina" visit:

    - Archbishop Matthias N'Garteri Mayadi of N'Djamena.

    - Bishop Michele Russo M.C.C.I., of Doba.

    - Bishop Rosario Pio Ramolo O.F.M. Cap., of Gore.

    - Bishop Miguel Angel Sebastian Martinez M.C.C.I., of Lai.

    - Bishop Jean-Claude Bouchard O.M.I., of Pala.

 - Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., accompanied by members of his family.

  On Saturday, September 16, he received in separate audiences:

 - Benoit Cardon de Lichtbuer, Belgian ambassador, on a farewell visit.

 - Gerhard Friedrich Karl Westdickenberg, German ambassador, on a farewell visit.

 - Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, archbishop of Santiago de Chile, Chile.
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VATICAN CITY, SEP 18, 2006 (VIS) - Benedict XVI today received the Letters of Credence of Martin Bolldorf, the new Austrian ambassador to the Holy See.

  In remarks to the diplomat, the Pope recalled how "Austria and the Holy See have a long history of fruitful union. This union is much more than a mere historical truth, it is founded on the fact that the vast majority of Austrian people belong to the Catholic Church. And this itself influences orientations, choices and common interests that significantly concern man, his freedom and his dignity, as well as his future in time and in society.

  "The State and the Church, from different points of view, both have at heart the good of man ... whose interests and dignity must never be made subject to parameters of feasibility, utility and productivity.

  "One of these common interests is Europe," the Holy Father added, "especially as regards developments in the process of European unification. Nowhere else in the world as in Europe do history and culture bear the mark of Christianity. The regional and national field - the homeland ... whence the majority of people draw the most important elements of their own cultural identity - is becoming ever more incorporated into the European field, the common homeland that is Europe."

  The continent of Europe benefits from the "great contribution arising from human mobility and the means of social communication," said the Holy Father. "The Church looks favorably on these developments. Where men and peoples consider themselves members of one family then the opportunities for peace, solidarity, and mutual exchange and enrichment increase." And Austria, "with its rich history as a State made up of many peoples ... is predestined to have a strong commitment for Europe."

  On the road towards integration, much depends "on the citizens' faith in this project. In discussions on the expansion of Europe and on its Constitution, the question constantly arises of the identity and spiritual roots upon which the community of European States and peoples rests. The most profound sources for a crisis-proof European 'whole' are to be found in shared convictions and in the values of history and of the Christian and humanist tradition of the continent."

  The Holy Father concluded his talk by recalling how, by virtue of the agreement with the Holy See, the Austrian State is committed to religious education, which is an obligatory subject in schools. "The State has the duty," he said, "of presenting children and young people - bearing in mind the growing number of pupils who belong to no specific confession - the roots of western thought and of the 'civilization of love' sustained by the Christian spirit."


VATICAN CITY, SEP 17, 2006 (VIS) - Before praying the Angelus with pilgrims gathered in the internal courtyard of the Apostolic Palace of Castelgandolfo, Benedict XVI recalled his recent trip to Bavaria, describing it as "a deep spiritual experience," that brought together "personal memories linked to places well known to me and pastoral initiatives towards an effective proclamation of the Gospel for today."

  He then went on: "At this time, I wish also to add that I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg, which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims. These in fact were a quotation from a medieval text, which do not in any way express my personal thought.

  "Yesterday, the Cardinal Secretary of State published a statement in this regard in which he explained the true meaning of my words. I hope that this serves to appease hearts and to clarify the true meaning of my address, which in its totality was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with great mutual respect."

  The Pope then referred to the recent liturgical feasts of the Exaltation of the Cross (September 14) and of Our Lady of Sorrows (September 15) which come together, he said, "in the traditional image of the Crucifixion, with the Virgin Mary at the foot of the Cross."

  "What does it mean to exalt the Cross? Is it not a scandal to venerate so shameful a gibbet?" asked the Pope. Yet, "Christians do not exalt any cross, but that particular Cross which Jesus sanctified with His sacrifice, fruit and witness of immense love. Christ on the Cross spilt all His blood to free humanity from the slavery of sin and death. And thus, from a sign of iniquity, the Cross has been transformed to a sign of blessing, from a symbol of death to the symbol par excellence of the Love that overcomes hatred and violence, and generates immortal life."

  In the same way, Mary's suffering "forms a single whole with that of her Son. It is a suffering full of faith and love. The Virgin at Calvary participates in the salvific power of Christ's suffering, uniting her 'fiat' to that of her Son."

  "Let us too renew our 'yes' to God Who chose the way of the Cross to save us. It is a great mystery that is still taking place, until the end of the world, and that also needs our collaboration."
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VATICAN CITY, SEP 16, 2006 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Cardinal Agostino Vallini, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, as a member of the Congregation for Bishops.
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VATICAN CITY, SEP 16, 2006 (VIS) - At midday today, Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. released the following declaration:

  "Given the reaction in Muslim quarters to certain passages of the Holy Father's address at the University of Regensburg, and the clarifications and explanations already presented through the Director of the Holy See Press Office, I would like to add the following:

  "The position of the Pope concerning Islam is unequivocally that expressed by the conciliar document Nostra Aetate: 'The Church regards with esteem also the Muslims. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, Who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.'

  "The Pope's option in favor of inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue is equally unequivocal. In his meeting with representatives of Muslim communities in Cologne, Germany, on 20 August 2005, he said that such dialogue between Christians and Muslims 'cannot be reduced to an optional extra,' adding: 'The lessons of the past must help us to avoid repeating the same mistakes. We must seek paths of reconciliation and learn to live with respect for each other's identity.'

  "As for the opinion of the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus which he quoted during his Regensburg talk, the Holy Father did not mean, nor does he mean, to make that opinion his own in any way. He simply used it as a means to undertake - in an academic context, and as is evident from a complete and attentive reading of the text - certain reflections on the theme of the relationship between religion and violence in general, and to conclude with a clear and radical rejection of the religious motivation for violence, from whatever side it may come. On this point, it is worth recalling what Benedict XVI himself recently affirmed in his commemorative Message for the 20th anniversary of the Inter-religious Meeting of Prayer for Peace, initiated by his predecessor John Paul II at Assisi in October 1986: ' ... demonstrations of violence cannot be attributed to religion as such but to the cultural limitations with which it is lived and develops in time. ... In fact, attestations of the close bond that exists between the relationship with God and the ethics of love are recorded in all great religious traditions.'

  "The Holy Father thus sincerely regrets that certain passages of his address could have sounded offensive to the sensitivities of the Muslim faithful, and should have been interpreted in a manner that in no way corresponds to his intentions. Indeed it was he who, before the religious fervor of Muslim believers, warned secularized Western culture to guard against 'the contempt for God and the cynicism that considers mockery of the sacred to be an exercise of freedom.'

  "In reiterating his respect and esteem for those who profess Islam, he hopes they will be helped to understand the correct meaning of his words so that, quickly surmounting this present uneasy moment, witness to the 'Creator of heaven and earth, Who has spoken to men' may be reinforced, and collaboration may intensify 'to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom'."
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VATICAN CITY, SEP 16, 2006 (VIS) - This morning at Castelgandolfo, the Pope received participants in a congress being promoted by the Pontifical Academy for Life and by the International Federation of Catholic Doctors' Associations, which is meeting to consider the theme: "Stem cells, what future for therapy?"

  Benedict XVI began his remarks by observing how "research into somatic stem cells merits approval and encouragement when it brings together scientific knowledge, the most advanced technology in the field of biology, and the ethic that postulates respect for human beings at every stage of their existence." In this context, he mentioned the promising horizons being opened in the cure of illnesses involving "the degeneration of tissues with consequent risks of invalidity and death for those affected."

  The Holy Father encouraged those working in Catholic-inspired scientific institutions to increase research in this field and "to establish closer contact among themselves and with others who seek, using appropriate methods, to relieve human suffering.

  "In the face of the frequent and unjust accusations of insensitivity directed against the Church," he added, "I would like to underline the constant support she has given over the course of her two thousand-year history to research aimed at the cure of illnesses and at the good of humanity. If there has been - and there still is - resistance, it was and is against those forms of research that involve the planned suppression of human beings who are already alive, though they may not yet have been born."

  The Pope then highlighted how history "has condemned such science in the past, and will condemn it in the future, not only because it is devoid of the light of God, but also because it is devoid of humanity."

  "In the face of the direct suppression of human beings," he continued, "there can be no compromise or prevarication; it is inconceivable for a society to fight crime effectively when it itself legalizes crime in the field of nascent life."

  The fact that the congress has expressed commitment to and hope of "achieving new therapeutic results by using cells from the adult body without having to suppress newly-conceived human beings, and the fact that your work is being rewarded with results, confirm the validity of the Church's constant call for full respect for human beings from the moment of conception. ... A good end," he concluded, "can never justify intrinsically illicit means."
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VATICAN CITY, SEP 16, 2006 (VIS) - This morning, the Pope received the Letters of Credence of Ivan Rebernik, the new ambassador of Slovenia to the Holy See. In his address to the diplomat, the Holy Father observed how Slovenia "cultivates a fruitful dialogue with the ecclesial structures present on the ground, recognizing their positive contribution to the life of the nation."

  "From the earliest centuries of Christianity, the power of the Gospel was at work in the land of Slovenia," said the Holy Father, mentioning Sts. Victorinus and Maximianus. He also recalled Blessed Anton Maria Slomsek who "promoted national resurgence, undertaking valuable work in the formation of the Slovenian people."

  In Slovenia, Pope Benedict went on, "Christianity and national identity are closely linked. It is therefore natural that there should be such profound harmony with the Bishop of Rome." This "constructive dialogue was not interrupted by the sad events of last century," and in 2001 led to the signing of the Agreement between the Republic of Slovenia and the Holy See on juridical matters.

  "This is an important agreement," he added, "the faithful implementation of which cannot but strengthen mutual relations and collaboration for the promotion of the individual and the common good, while fully respecting the laicism of the State." However, "open questions" still exist, "which await a solution."

  Benedict XVI went on: "Knowing the respect and affection nourished by Slovenians for the Pope, I am certain that their political representatives will know how to interpret their traditions, sensibilities and culture. The Slovenian people have the right to affirm and assert the Christian spirit that formed their identity."

  "The task facing today's leaders is that of identifying appropriate ways to acquaint the new generations with a knowledge and appreciation of the values of the past, enabling them to bring the rich patrimony they have inherited into the millenium that has just begun. ... It would be truly shortsighted not to seek to open young people to a knowledge of their historical roots whence flows the lymph necessary to ensure the nation new seasons rich in fruit.

  "In this context," he added, "the question of [young people's] education - also in the religious values shared by the majority of the population - must not be avoided, if we do not wish to risk progressively losing the specific characteristics of national identity. What is at issue is respect for the very freedom of citizens, over which the Republic of Slovenia watches carefully, and which the Apostolic See also wishes to see promoted in the spirit of the aforementioned agreement."

  The Holy Father concluded by referring to "the experience of other peoples on the continent of Europe, in particular the Slavonic peoples, who, aware of the importance of Christianity for their social identity and of the valid contribution the Church can offer in this field, have not evaded the duty of ensuring, also through legislation, that their rich ethical and religious heritage may continue to bring abundant fruits to young generations."


VATICAN CITY, SEP 16, 2006 (VIS) - At the end of yesterday's ceremony at Castelgandolfo marking the resignation from the office of secretary of State of Cardinal Angelo Sodano, and the appointment of his successor, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope pronounced some off-the-cuff remarks.

  After expressing his appreciation for Cardinal Sodano's competence and will to serve the Church, the Holy Father thanked all the collaborators of the Secretariat of State, present at the audience, and of pontifical representations around the world.

  "I have learnt even more clearly," said the Pope, "how only this great collaborative network makes it possible to respond to the Lord's command: 'Confirma fratres tuos in fide'." It is thanks to such collaboration, he added, "that the Pope can ... accomplish his mission."

  Benedict XVI highlighted how "this curial work is in fact pastoral activity in its most eminent sense, because it truly helps to guide the people of God."

  The Pope told Cardinal Sodano how happy he was to have had his company on the recent papal visit to Bavaria, and he gave the outgoing secretary of State a copy of the Virgin of Altotting, "as a sign not only of my enduring gratitude but also of our communion in prayer. May the Virgin Mary always accompany you, protect and guide you. This is the expression of my sincere gratitude."
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