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Thursday, December 14, 2006


VATICAN CITY, DEC 14, 2006 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in audience Bishop Giancarlo Maria Bregantini C.S.S., of Locri-Gerace, Italy, on his "ad limina" visit.
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 14, 2006 (VIS) - The Office of Liturgical Celebration of the Supreme Pontiff published today the calendar of celebrations at which the Holy Father will preside during the Christmas season:


 - Sunday, 24: Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord. The Pope will celebrate Midnight Mass in the Vatican Basilica.

 - Monday, 25: Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord. At noon from the central balcony of the Vatican Basilica, the Pope will deliver his Christmas message to the world and will impart the "Urbi et Orbi" blessing.

 - Sunday, 31: At 6 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, the Holy Father will preside at first Vespers on the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God, during which the traditional "Te Deum" hymn of thanksgiving will be sung for the conclusion of the civil year.


 - Monday, 1: Solemnity of Mary Mother of God and 40th World Day of Peace which has as its theme: "The Human Person, the Heart of Peace." In the Vatican Basilica at 10 a.m., the Holy Father will preside at the celebration of Mass.

 - Saturday, 6: Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. Holy Father to preside at Mass in the Vatican Basilica at 10 a.m.

 - Sunday, 7: Baptism of Our Lord. Benedict XVI will preside at Mass in the Sistine Chapel at 10 a.m., during which he will impart the Sacrament of Baptism to a number of children.


VATICAN CITY, DEC 14, 2006 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, following their private meeting and after each had pronounced a public address, the Pope and His Beatitude Christodoulos, archbishop of Athens and of all Greece, signed a Joint Declaration in the presence of members of the archbishop's Greek delegation and of Catholic representatives.

  "We, Benedict XVI, Pope and Bishop of Rome, and Christodoulos, Archbishop of Athens and of all Greece, in this sacred place of Rome, ... wish to live ever more intensely our mission to bear apostolic witness, to transmit the faith, ... and to announce the Good News of the birth of the Lord. ... It is also our joint responsibility to overcome, in love and truth, the multiple difficulties and painful experiences of the past."

  "Our meeting in charity makes us more aware of our joint task: together to follow the arduous path of dialogue in truth in order to re-establish full communion of faith. ... Thus we obey a divine mandate ... and continue our commitment, ... following the example of the Apostles and demonstrating mutual love and a spirit of reconciliation."

  "We recognize the important steps made in the dialogue of charity, and in the decisions of Vatican Council II concerning relations between us. Moreover, we hope that bilateral theological dialogue will take advantage of these positive elements in order to formulate propositions acceptable to both sides, in a spirit of reconciliation."

  "Together we affirm the need to persevere on the road of constructive theological dialogue because, despite the difficulties, this is one of the essential ways we have to re-establish the longed-for unity, ... and to reinforce the credibility of the Christian message in a period of enormous social upheaval and of great spiritual searching by many of our contemporaries, who are disquieted by growing globalization which at times even threatens the lives of human beings and their relationship with God and the world."

  "We solemnly renew our desire to announce the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world, especially to new generations. ... This is very important in our societies where many schools of thought distance people from God and contribute nothing to the meaning of life."

  "We believe that religions have a role to play to ensure the triumph of peace in the world, and that they must in no way be the focus for intolerance and violence. As Christian religious leaders, we exhort all religious leaders to maintain and reinforce inter-religious dialogue, and to work to create a society of peace and fraternity among individuals and peoples. This is one of the missions of religion."

  The Pope and the Archbishop recognize the huge progress of science, but express concern at "experiments on human beings which do not respect the dignity or integrity of the person at all stages of existence, from conception to natural death." They also call for "more effective protection" of "the fundamental rights of human beings, founded on the dignity of man created in God's image."

  "We trust in a fruitful collaboration," they continue, "to ensure that our contemporaries may rediscover the Christian roots of the European continent." This, they write, "will help them to experience and promote fundamental human and spiritual values for the good of people and of society itself."

  Benedict XVI and His Beatitude Christodoulos invite wealthy nations to show solidarity towards less-developed countries. "It is likewise important," they write, "not to exploit the creation, which is the work of God, abusively." In this context, they call for "a reasoned and respectful care of creation, in order to administer it correctly, while maintaining solidarity, especially with people suffering hunger, and leaving future generations an earth that can truly be inhabited by everyone."

  At the end of their declaration, the Holy Father and the Archbishop of Athens and of all Greece call upon the Lord "to grant all mankind the gift of peace, in the charity and unity of the human family."
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 14, 2006 (VIS) - This morning, the Holy Father received His Beatitude Christodoulos, archbishop of Athens and of all Greece, who is making an official visit to the Vatican. Prior to his audience with the Pope, the archbishop visited St. Peter's Basilica where he prayed at the tomb of John Paul II.

  In his address, the Holy Father recalled how "following the advent of Christianity, Greece and Rome intensified their relations" and how "this gave rise to very different forms of Christian communities and traditions in the regions of the world that today correspond to Eastern Europe and Western Europe. These intense relations helped to create a kind of osmosis in the formation of ecclesial institutions. And this osmosis - in safeguarding the disciplinary, liturgical, theological and spiritual peculiarities of the Roman and Greek traditions - made the Church's evangelizing activity and the inculturation of the Christian faith fruitful."

  Pope Benedict highlighted how "our relations continue today, slowly but deeply and with a desire for authenticity." This has made it possible "to discover a new range of spiritual expressions, rich in significance and joint commitment." He also recalled John Paul II's "memorable visit" to Athens in 2001, "a defining point in the progressive intensification of our contacts and collaboration."

  Catholics and Orthodox, said Benedict XVI, are called "to make a cultural and, above all, a spiritual contribution. They have the duty to defend the Christian roots of Europe, which have formed the continent down the centuries, and to enable the Christian tradition to continue to manifest itself and work with all its strength in favor of the defense of human dignity, the respect of minorities, avoiding that cultural uniformity which could lead to the loss of the immense riches of civilization. At the same time, it is necessary to work to safeguard human rights, which include the principle of individual freedom, and in particular of religious freedom. These rights must be promoted and defended in the European Union and in each member State.

  "At the same time," he added, "we must increase collaboration among Christians in all European countries in order to face the new risks that challenge the Christian faith: growing secularization, relativism and nihilism, which open the way to forms of behavior and laws that damage the inalienable dignity of man and threaten such fundamental institutions as marriage. It is vital to undertake joint pastoral activity, as a joint testimony to our contemporaries and an expression of our hope."
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 14, 2006 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received the Letters of Credence of six new ambassadors to the Holy See. They are: Lars Moller of Denmark, Maratbek Salievic Bakiev of Kyrgyzstan, Carlos Dos Santos of Mozambique, Princess Elizabeth Bagaya of Uganda, Makram Obeid of Syria, and Makase Nyaphisi of Lesotho.

  "The year just ending, witnessed numerous conflicts on many continents," said the Pope in the French-language talk he addressed to the ambassadors. "As diplomats, you are doubtless concerned by the situations and outbreaks of tension that affect local populations, and cause many innocent victims."

  The Holy Father assured his listeners that "the Holy See shares your disquiet for situations that put the survival of many peoples at risk, and cause the poorest to bear the burden of suffering and the lack of the most basic amenities." In order to face up to such circumstances, he continued, the leaders of civil society "must pay greater attention to their people, seeking more effective solutions in order to resolve situations of distress and poverty and to share goods as equally as possible, both within each country and across the international community.

  "Indeed," the Pope added, "the leaders of society have a duty to ensure that deep dissatisfaction with the political, economic and social spheres in a country or region is neither created nor maintained. Because this could lead people to think that society and it decision-making classes ignore them, and that they have no right to enjoy the fruits of national production.

  "Such injustices can only lead to disorder and engender a kind of escalation of violence. The search for peace, justice and understanding among everyone must be a primary objective and calls for leaders of nations to pay heed to real-life situations, committing themselves to suppressing everything that opposes equality and solidarity, especially corruption and the hoarding of resources."

  "I know that a certain amount of courage is needed in order to remain firm in the face of difficulties when the aim is the good of individuals and of the national community," the Holy Father concluded. "Nonetheless, in public life, courage is an indispensable virtue in order to avoid being swayed by partisan ideologies, by pressure groups or by thirst for power. ... As the Church's social doctrine recalls, the good of individuals and of peoples must always be the priority criterion in decisions regarding social life."

  Following the papal address, delivered to the ambassadors as a group, each of the diplomats was given the text of a discourse concerning the situation in his or her own country. To the Mozambican ambassador, Benedict XVI highlights the need for national reconciliation; to the ambassadors of Uganda and Lesotho, he recalls the Catholic Church's efforts in the fight against AIDS; and in the text given to the Syrian diplomat, the Pope expresses his hope in a development of relations between Syria and the Holy See to facilitate the question of Church property taken over by the State. He praises the respect for the family and the tolerance among various ethnic communities in Kyrgyzstan, and commends Denmark's efforts in seeking to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
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