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Monday, December 4, 2006


VATICAN CITY, DEC 4, 2006 (VIS) - Given below is the text of a declaration made today by Cardinal Claudio Hummes O.F.M., prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, concerning his comments on priestly celibacy that appeared on the pages of "Estado de Sao Paolo," a Brazilian newspaper.

  "On the subject of the echoes provoked by my words as reported by the newspaper 'Estado de Sao Paulo,' I would like to specify the following:

  "In the Church it has always been clear that priests' obligation to celibacy is not a dogma but a disciplinary norm. Indeed, it is valid for the Latin Church but not for the oriental rites where, even in communities united to the Catholic Church, it is normal for there to be married priests.

  "Yet it is also clear that the norm prescribing celibacy for priests in the Latin Church is very ancient and is founded upon consolidated tradition and upon strong motivations, both theological-spiritual and practical-pastoral, as reiterated also by Popes.

  "Even during the recent Synod on priests, the most widespread opinion among the fathers was that a relaxation of the rule of celibacy would not be a solution even to the problem of the lack of vocations, which is, rather, to be linked to other causes, in the first place the modern culture of secularization. This is clear also from the experience of other Christian confessions that have married priests and pastors.

  "This question is not, then, currently on the order of the day for the ecclesial authorities, as was recently reiterated following the latest meeting of heads of dicastery with the Holy Father."
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 4, 2006 (VIS) - His Beatitude Christodoulos, archbishop of Athens and of all Greece, is to visit the Holy Father and the Church of Rome from December 13 to 16, according to a communique released by the Holy See Press Office today.

  "The archbishop was in Rome for the funeral of His Holiness John Paul II," says the communique, "but this is the first time that the primate of the Greek Orthodox Church makes an official visit to the Pope and to the Church of Rome."

  The Holy Father will receive His Beatitude Christodoulos and his entourage on the morning of December 14. At a ceremony in the basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls, the archbishop of Athens and of all Greece will be given part of a chain - kept in that basilica - with which St. Paul was held prisoner. Later, the communique continues, "Rome's Pontifical Lateran University will confer an 'honoris causa' degree upon the illustrious guest." During his stay in Rome, the archbishop and his entourage will also visit some of the holy sites of the city such as the basilicas and catacombs.

  The communique points out how on November 3, the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Greece expressed its "joy at this visit, the fruits of which will be positive."

  In his 2001 pilgrimage in the footsteps of St. Paul, John Paul II visited the Areopagus of Athens where he signed a joint declaration with His Beatitude Christodoulos, and was received by the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Greece. In subsequent years, visits have been exchanged between delegations from the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Greece, which came to Rome, and from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, which went to Athens. These initiatives were followed by "fraternal and intense" contacts between the Catholic Church of Rome and the Orthodox Church of Greece.
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 3, 2006 (VIS) - At midday today, before praying the Angelus with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square, Benedict XVI recalled his recent apostolic trip to Turkey, during which, he said, "I felt how I was accompanied and supported by the prayers of the entire Christian community."

  The Pope expressed the hope that his recent journey would produce "fruits of goodness for ever more sincere cooperation among all Christ's disciples and for a productive dialogue with Muslim believers." After thanking the Turkish authorities and people for "a welcome worthy of their traditional spirit of hospitality," the Holy Father mentioned the Catholic community in Turkey which, he said, "often finds itself in difficult conditions."

  Catholics in Turkey, Pope Benedict went on, are "a small but varied flock, rich in enthusiasm and faith, who ... always live the experience of Advent intensely, sustained by hope. During Advent, the liturgy often ... assures us, almost as if to overcome our natural diffidence, that God 'comes:' He comes to be with us. ... He comes to bridge the distances that divide and separate us. He comes to reconcile us with Him and among ourselves. He comes into the history of humanity ... to bring the gift of fraternity, harmony and peace."

  For this reason, "Advent is, par excellence, the time of hope," he went on. And to live it fully, "the liturgy exhorts us to look to Mary Most Holy and to walk ... with her towards the manger of Bethlehem. When God knocked at the door of her young life, she accepted Him with faith and love. ... Let us allow ourselves to be attracted by her beauty, a reflection of divine glory, so that 'the God Who comes' may find in each of us a good and open heart He can fill with His gifts."
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 2, 2006 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

- Appointed Fr. Anthony Swamy Thomasappa of the clergy of Bangalore, India, professor of St. Peter's Pontifical Seminary, as bishop of Chikmagalur (area 14,015, population 2,984,422, Catholics 37,397, priests 72, religious 266), India. The bishop-elect was born in Mariannapalaya, India in 1951 and ordained a priest in 1984. He succeeds Bishop John Baptist Sequeira, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese, the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

 - Appointed Fr. Paul Cremona O.P., pastor of the church of Jesus of Nazareth in Malta, as archbishop of Malta (area 246, population 395,000, Catholics 375,000, priests 689, religious 1,454). The archbishop-elect was born in Valletta, Malta in 1946 and ordained a priest in 1969. He succeeds Archbishop Joseph Mercieca, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese, the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

 - Appointed Bishop Diego Coletti of Livorno, Italy, as bishop of Como (area 4,244, population 530,000, Catholics 520,000, priests 579, permanent deacons 9, religious 1,083), Italy. He succeeds Bishop Alessandro Maggiolini, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese, the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

 - Appointed Salvatore Di Cristina, auxiliary of the archdiocese of Palermo, Italy, as archbishop of Monreale (area 1,509, population 232,250, Catholics 215,000, priests 136, permanent deacons 2, religious 325), Italy. The archbishop-elect was born in Palermo in 1937, he was ordained a priest in 1960 and consecrated a bishop in 2001.
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 2, 2006 (VIS) - In the Vatican Basilica at 5 p.m. today, the Pope presided at the celebration of the first Vespers of the first Sunday of Advent.

  In his homily, the Holy Father indicated how "at the beginning of a new annual cycle, the liturgy invites the Church to renew her announcement to all people, encapsulating it in these words, 'God is coming'."

  "The one true God, 'the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob,' is not a God Who remains in heaven, disinterested in our history," said the Pope. "He is the God-Who-comes. He is a Father Who never ceases to think of us and, in absolute respect for our freedom, wishes to meet us and visit us; He wants to come, to dwell among us, to stay with us. His 'coming' arises from His will to free us from evil and from death, from everything that prevents our true freedom. God comes to save us."

  Benedict XVI then pointed out that "the liturgy of Advent highlights how the Church gives voice to the yearning for God so profoundly inscribed in the history of humanity; a yearning that is, unfortunately, often stifled or diverted along false paths."

  With "prayer and good works," said the Holy Father, the Christian community "can hasten the last coming, helping humanity to go out towards the Lord Who comes". In this context, Advent must be lived "in communion with all those people - and thanks be to God, they are many - who hope for a more just and fraternal world.

  "In this commitment to justice," he added, "it is possible that men and women of all nationalities and cultures, believers and non-believers, find themselves together to some degree. Indeed, all of them, though for different reasons, are animated by a shared longing for a future of justice and peace."

  The Pope underlined how "peace is the goal to which all of humanity aspires. For believers, 'peace' is one of the most beautiful names of God, Who wishes for understanding among all His children, something I had the opportunity to recall also during my pilgrimage of recent days to Turkey."

  "Let us then," he concluded, "begin this new Advent - a time given to us by the Lord of time - by reawakening in our hearts the expectation of the God-Who-comes, and the hope that His Name be hallowed, that His Kingdom of justice and peace may come, that His will be done, on earth as in heaven."
HML/ADVENT VESPERS/...                            VIS 20061204 (430)


VATICAN CITY, DEC 2, 2006 (VIS) - According to a communique made public today by the Synod of Bishops, the 10th Meeting of the Special Council for Asia was held in Rome on November 17 and 18.

  Under the presidency of Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, the cardinals, archbishops and bishops who participated in the meeting considered "two themes of great contemporary importance contained in the post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation 'Ecclesia in Asia:' vocations to the priesthood and to consecrated life, and inter-religious dialogue."

  In the continent of Asia between 1978 and 2004, the communique states, "the numbers of secular clergy rose by 5.56 percent, and of regular clergy by 42.55 percent. Male religious vocations increased by 38.72 percent, and female religious vocations by 64.59 percent."

  As for inter-religious dialogue, the communique notes "the numerous efforts and positive results achieved by particular Churches and episcopal conferences in maintaining dialogue and collaboration with the great religions of the Asian continent, especially Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism; although there is no lack of difficulties provoked by certain groups of fundamentalists in various countries. They, however, are minority groups, given that the great majority of religious believers remains open to dialogue, and is disposed to collaborate with Christians and with men and women of good will in promoting justice and peace, and the fundamental values of social coexistence, among which respect for religious freedom has an important position."

  The note from the Synod of Bishops also recalls how the first Asian Mission Congress was held in Chang Mai, Thailand, from October 18 to 22. The theme of the event was "the Story of Jesus, a celebration of faith and life," and among the participants were observers from non-Christian religions.

  The next meeting of the Special Council for Asia is due to be held on November 20 and 21, 2007.
SE/SYNOD ASIA/ETEROVIC                            VIS 20061204 (320)


VATICAN CITY, DEC 2, 2006 (VIS) - The Holy See Press Office today released the following communique:

  "The Holy See feels the duty to communicate its position regarding the episcopal ordination of Fr. John Wang Renlei, which took place on November 30 at Xuzhou, in the province of Jiangsu, China.

  "The Holy Father learned the news with great sadness, because this episcopal ordination was conferred without the pontifical mandate, in other words without respecting the discipline of the Catholic Church concerning the appointment of bishops (cf. canon 377 para. 1 of the Code of Canon Law).

  "That of Xuzhou is just the latest - in order of time - of the illegitimate episcopal ordinations which have been afflicting the Catholic Church in China for a number of decades, creating divisions in diocesan communities and tormenting the consciences of many ecclesiastics and faithful. This extremely grave series of acts, which offend the religious sentiments of all Catholics in China and the rest of the world, is the fruit and consequence of a vision of the Church that does not correspond to Catholic doctrine and undermines the fundamental principles of her hierarchical structure. Indeed, as Vatican Council II makes clear, 'one is constituted a member of the episcopal body in virtue of sacramental consecration and hierarchical communion with the head and members of the body'."

  "The Holy See, having learned only at the last minute of the planned episcopal ordination in the diocese of Xuzhou, did not fail to take the steps possible in the brief time available in order to prevent an act that would have produced a fresh laceration in ecclesial communion. In fact, an illegitimate episcopal ordination is an act objectively so serious that Canon Law lays down severe penalties for those who confer or receive it, assuming the act was carried out in conditions of true freedom (cf. canon 1382 para. 1 of the Code of Canon Law).

  "It is a consolation to note that, despite past and present difficulties, almost the entirety of bishops, priests, religious and lay people in China, conscious of their status as living limbs of the Universal Church, have maintained a profound communion of faith and of life with Peter's Successor and with all Catholic communities around the world.

  "The Holy See is aware of the spiritual crisis and suffering of those ecclesiastics - consecrating bishops and ordinands - who find themselves compelled to be an active part of illegitimate episcopal ordinations, thus contravening the Catholic tradition which, in their hearts, they would like to follow faithfully. The Holy See also shares the interior disquiet of those Catholics - priests, religious and laity - who find themselves obliged to accept a pastor whom they know is not in full hierarchical communion with the head of the College of Bishops or with other bishops around the world.

  "As regards these episcopal ordinations, the Holy See cannot accept being faced with a 'fait accompli.' Therefore, it deplores the procedure with which the ordination of Fr. Wang Renlei in Xuzhou was carried out, and hopes that incidents of this kind will not be repeated in the future."


VATICAN CITY, DEC 4, 2006 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences 14 prelates from the Italian Episcopal conference on their "ad limina" visit:

    - Archbishop Pier Luigi Mazzoni of Gaeta.

    - Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano.

    - Bishop Giuseppe Matarrese of Frascati.

    - Bishop Domenico Sigalini of Palestrina.

    - Bishop Gino Reali of Porto-Santa Rufina

    - Bishop Lino Fumagalli of Sabina-Poggio Mirteto

    - Cardinal Camillo Ruini, His Holiness' vicar general for the diocese of Rome, accompanied by Auxiliaries: Archbishop Luigi Moretti, and Bishops Enzo Dieci, Armando Brambilla, Salvatore Fisichella, Paolino Schiavon, Ernesto Mandara and Benedetto Tuzia.
AL/.../...                                        VIS 20061204 (110)


VATICAN CITY, DEC 4, 2006 (VIS) - At midday today, the Holy See Press Office released the following communique:

  "Concerning the matter of the construction of a skyscraper near the historic Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Joseph in Bucharest, Romania, the Holy See Press Office wishes to specify the following:

  "At the end of April this year, the archdiocese of Bucharest informed the Secretariat of State about the construction of a building - of 19 floors above ground level and four below - at a distance of less than 10 meters from the northeast wall of the Cathedral of St. Joseph which, as a consequence, risks being irreparably damaged. Concerns are aggravated by the precedent of the Armenian church, which suffered grave damage for similar reasons. On various occasions, the archbishop and the auxiliary bishop of Bucharest have come to the Secretariat of State to provide updated information concerning this case, with which the apostolic nunciature to Romania is also concerning itself, and about which the Holy See has received appeals from other parties.

  "Following this, the Secretariat of State has not failed to take the appropriate steps with the Romanian authorities, both directly and through their embassy to the Holy See, to ask for the immediate suspension of work and the withdrawal of the relative authorizations, also in view of the provisions of the 1993 European Union Treaty concerning Legal Conditions and Measures for Preserving Cultural Heritage, to which Romania adhered, and the State Commission Report for Monitoring Building.

  "The Holy See is aware of the resolution with which the Romanian Senate approved the report of the commission of inquiry, which requests the immediate suspension of work. This should be followed by a decision on the part of the appropriate authorities.

  "The Secretariat of State continues to follow the situation closely, in the hope that a speedy and satisfactory conclusion to this delicate question may be found, in the above-mentioned terms, for the protection of the cathedral of Bucharest, of the historical heritage it represents and of the values of faith it embodies, not only for the Catholic community but for all the Romanian people."
OP/SKYSCRAPER CATHEDRAL/BUCHAREST                VIS 20061204 (370)

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