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Monday, January 22, 2007


VATICAN CITY, JAN 22, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Msgr. Michael W. Banach, nunciature counsellor at the Secretariat of State, as Holy See permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (AIEA), to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and to the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), and as Holy See permanent observer to the United Nations Organization for Industrial Development (ONUDI), and to the Office of the United Nations in Vienna, Austria.

  Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, C.SS.R., major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, with the consent of the permanent synod and in conformity with canon 210 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the archieparchy of Changanacherry of the Syro-Malabars, India, presented by Metropolitan Archbishop Joseph Powathil.

  Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, C.SS.R., major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, with the consent of the synod of the Syro-Malabar Church and in conformity with canon 85, para. 2.2 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, transferred Bishop Joseph Perumthottam, auxiliary of Changanacherry of the Syro-Malabars, India, to the office of metropolitan archbishop of the same archieparchy (area 24,595, population 9,300,000, Catholics 382,086, priests 555, religious 3,101). The archbishop-elect was born in Punnathura, India in 1948, he was ordained a priest in 1974, and consecrated a bishop in 2002.

  Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, C.SS.R., major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, with the consent of the permanent synod and in conformity with canon 210 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the archieparchy of Trichur of the Syro-Malabars, India, presented by Metropolitan Archbishop Jacob Thoomkuzhy.

  Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, C.SS.R., major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, with the consent of the synod of the Syro-Malabar Church and in conformity with canon 85, para. 2.2 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, transferred Bishop Andrews Thazhath, auxiliary of Trichur of the Syro-Malabars, India, to the office of metropolitan archbishop of the same archieparchy (area 2,000, population 2,611,548, Catholics 460,728, priests 394, religious 3,172). The archbishop-elect was born in Pudukad, India in 1951, he was ordained a priest in 1977, and consecrated a bishop in 2004.

  On Saturday, January 20, it was made public that the Holy Father appointed:

 - Fr. Angelus Kujur S.J., director of Chotparua retreat center at Raiganj, as bishop of Purnea (area 15,733, population 8,349,215, Catholics 24,923, priests 44, religious 69), India. The bishop-elect was born in Muldantoli, India in 1946 and ordained a priest in 1980.

 - Fr. Paulinus Chukwuemeka Ezeokafor, rector of the minor seminary of the diocese of Awka, Nigeria, as auxiliary of the same diocese (area 1,551, population 1,265,779, Catholics 623,874, priests 277, religious 136). The bishop-elect was born in Nanka, Nigeria in 1952 and ordained a priest in 1984.

 - Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto, Italy, as a member of the Pontifical Council for Culture.
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VATICAN CITY, JAN 22, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

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

    - Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, archbishop of Bologna, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishop Ernesto Vecchi.

    - Bishop Claudio Stagni of Faenza-Modigliana.

    - Archbishop Paolo Rabitti of Ferrara-Comacchio.

    - Bishop Tommaso Ghirelli of Imola.

 - Cardinal Paul Shan Kuo-hsi S.J., of Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

 - Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, archivist and librarian of Holy Roman Church, accompanied by an entourage, for the presentation of the Bodmer Papyrus.

  On Saturday, January 20, the Holy Father received in separate audiences:

 - Trappist Fathers of the Abbey of the Three Fountains in Rome for the occasion of the Feast of St. Agnes.

 - The presidents of the forthcoming fifth General Conference of the Latin American Episcopate: Cardinals Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America; Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, archbishop of Santiago de Chile, Chile, and president of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM); and Geraldo Majella Agnelo, archbishop of Sao Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, and president of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil.

 - Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.
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VATICAN CITY, JAN 22, 2007 (VIS) - Today in the Vatican, the Holy Father received the Letters of Credence of Antun Sbutega, the first ambassador of Montenegro to the Holy See.

  In his address, Benedict XVI sent his greetings, via the ambassador, to all of Montenegrin society which, "in its ethnic plurality, has wished to establish a direct and cordial dialogue with the Holy See. ... Over the centuries," he went on, "the peoples of the current Crna Gora have always maintained dynamic and cordial relationships with neighboring peoples, making interesting contributions to the life of European nations."

  The Pope went on to refer to Prince Nicholas of Montenegro, who in 1886 signed a convention that aimed to meet the spiritual needs of Catholics in that country. "When the evangelical message of salvation reached the lands of Montenegro," said the Holy Father, "by embracing the eastern and western traditions together," the country "came to be characterized as a privileged place for the ecumenical encounter that everyone longs for. The meeting between Christians and Muslims also took on compelling forms in Montenegro.

  "It is necessary," he added, "to continue this journey, on which the Church hopes that everyone will make a joint commitment to unite forces in the service of the inborn nobility of human beings. The Church, in fact, sees this as a significant part of her mission, ... while maintaining respect for the traditions that give a land its identity."

  After voicing his conviction that, in Europe, Montenegro "will not fail to give its active support in the civil, political, social, cultural and religious spheres," the Pope identified one of the country's priorities as "reinforcing the state of law in the various sectors of public life" in order to promote "an increase in citizens' trust in society," both "as individuals and as a community."

  Turning to consider the position of Catholics in the country, Benedict XVI noted that "the full recognition, dating to more than a century ago, of the life and goals of the Catholic community in the context of Montenegrin society has turned out to be useful to the sovereignty of the State and ... to the specific mission of the Church." He also recalled "the respectful attitude of the Orthodox Church of the time, which did not oppose the agreement with the Apostolic See," but considered it "a useful instrument for meeting people's spiritual needs."

  The Pope concluded his address by reiterating his great esteem for Montenegro and expressing hopes in the continuance of "fraternal dialogue with the Orthodox, so present and active in the country," and of "millennia of mutual respect."


VATICAN CITY, JAN 21, 2007 (VIS) - Shortly before midday today, Benedict XVI appeared at the window of his private study overlooking St. Peter's Square in order to pray the Angelus with the pilgrims gathered below.

  The Pope recalled the fact that the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is taking place from January 18 to 25, and that its theme this year - "He even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak" - is "taken from the Gospel of St. Mark and refers to the people's amazement at Jesus' healing of the deaf man."

  "The original project for the Week," he continued, "was prepared by faithful in Umlazi, South Africa, a poor city where AIDS has assumed the proportions of a pandemic and where human hopes are very few. But the Risen Christ brings hope to everyone, especially to Christians. Heirs to the divisions of the past, they now wish to launch this appeal: Christ can do anything, He "even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak." In other words, He is capable of infusing Christians with the ardent desire to listen to others, to communicate with others and, with Him, to talk the language of mutual love."

  "Ecumenism is a profound experience of dialogue, an act of listening and talking to one another, ... a task that everyone can undertake, especially as regards 'spiritual ecumenism' based on the prayer and experiences that Christians are currently able to share."

  The Pope expressed the hope that "the desire for unity, translated into prayer and fraternal collaboration to alleviate man's suffering, may become ever more widespread." He also thanked all the people who, "all over the world, pray and work for unity with conviction and constancy."

  After praying the Angelus, Benedict XVI mentioned the Day of Catholic Schools, which is being celebrated today in the diocese of Rome, and he recalled how Catholic educational institutions serve "the integral growth of the person: heart, mind and freedom."
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VATICAN CITY, JAN 20, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy See Press Office today released the following communique at the close of a meeting held in the Vatican from January 19 to 20, on the situation of the Catholic Church in China.

  "Pope Benedict XVI, in the desire to deepen his knowledge of the situation of the Catholic Church in China, called a special meeting which took place in the Vatican Apostolic Palace on January 19 and 20, 2007.

  "The meeting was presided by Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., and attended by representatives of the Chinese episcopate (Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan) and by the people who, for the Holy See, follow the Chinese question most closely. The wide-ranging and intricate debate was characterized by a frank and fraternal cordiality.

  "In the light of the troubled history of the Church in China and of the principal events of recent years, consideration was given to the most serious and urgent ecclesial problems. Problems which call for adequate solutions based on the fundamental principles of the Church's divine constitution and religious freedom. The inspiring witness of the bishops, priests and lay faithful was recognized with profound appreciation; without giving way to compromise they have maintained their loyalty to the See of Peter, sometimes at the cost of grave suffering. It was noted with particular joy that today almost all of the bishops and priests are in communion with the Supreme Pontiff.

  "There has, moreover, been a surprising numerical growth of the ecclesial community which, in China as elsewhere, is called to bear witness to Christ, to look ahead with hope and, in announcing the Gospel, to measure itself against the new challenges that society is facing.

  "From the multiplicity of the participants' contributions, what emerged was the will to continue along the path of respectful and constructive dialogue with the governing authorities, in order to overcome the misunderstandings of the past. The hope was also expressed that a normalization of relations at all levels could be achieved so as to facilitate a peaceful and fruitful life of faith in the Church, and to work together for the good of the Chinese people and for peace in the world.

  "The Holy Father, who was fully informed of the proposals reached in the course of the meeting, has benevolently decided to address a Letter to Catholics in China."
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VATICAN CITY, JAN 20, 2007 (VIS) - Today in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received the 50 participants in the plenary session of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America which is presided by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops. The theme of the plenary is: "The Family and Christian Education in Latin America."

  "The Church in Latin America," said the Holy Father, "is facing enormous challenges: cultural changes generated by social communications media that influence the thoughts and habits of millions of people; migration, that has so many repercussions on family life and on religious practice in new environments; the re-emergence of questions regarding how peoples must approach their historical memories and their democratic future; globalization, secularism, growing poverty and environmental degradation, especially in big cities, as well as violence and drug trafficking."

  For these reasons, Latin America has urgent need "of a new evangelization that stimulates us to enter more deeply into the values of our faith, that they may become the vital sap that forms the identity of those beloved peoples."

  "The men and women of South America have great thirst for God," the Pope affirmed. "When a feeling of being orphaned from God the Father arises in the life of communities, the work of bishops, priests and other pastoral care agents becomes vital. They, like Christ, must bear witness that the Father is always provident Love, revealed in His Son.

  "When faith is not nourished by prayer and the divine Word," he added, "when sacramental life languishes, then sects and new pseudo-religious groups prosper, causing many Catholics to move away from the Church. As these people receive no answers to their deepest aspirations - answers which could be found in a shared life of faith - situations of spiritual emptiness are also created. ... For this reason it is important to foster a sense of belonging to the Church, where Christians can grow and mature in communion with their fellows."

  "For the future of the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean it is important that Christians adopt and intensify the lifestyle of Jesus' disciples," announcing "Christ and His Gospel in all places. ... In a special way, the widespread phenomena of exploitation and injustice, of corruption and violence, are an urgent call for Christians to live their faith coherently and to strive to receive a sound doctrinal and spiritual formation, thus contributing to the construction of a more just, humane and Christian society."

  On this subject, the Pope recalled how Christian families are "the main place for the experience and transmission of faith and virtue. The legacy of the faith is safeguarded in the home," where family members "learn the values" that will help them to live as children of God.

  Benedict XVI concluded his address by calling upon the Virgin Mary to guide the participants in the forthcoming fifth General Conference of the Latin American Episcopate, that they may find "the most appropriate ways to ensure their peoples have life in Christ, and build, in the so-called 'continent of hope,' a future worthy of all men and women."


VATICAN CITY, JAN 20, 2007 (VIS) - This morning, the Pope received the Letters of Credence of Marius Gabriel Lazurca, the new Romanian ambassador to the Holy See.

  Speaking to the diplomat in French, the Pope highlighted the Holy See's satisfaction at Romania's recent entry into the European Union. He dwelt on the "long Christian tradition" of the country and voiced the hope that it will make "an original contribution to the European edifice, helping it to be not just an economic force and a market of consumer goods," but also giving it "a new political, cultural and spiritual impulse, capable of building a prosperous future for new generations."

  "For many years," Pope Benedict continued, "your country has been making great efforts towards the renewal of society, with the aim of healing the wounds of the past and enabling everyone to enjoy fundamental freedoms and to benefit from social and economic progress. ... It is just as important to ensure that everyone has equal access to independent and transparent justice." In this context, the Pope also called for "renewed attention to the poorest families, to help them educate their children with dignity."

  The Pope expressed his satisfaction at "the progress made by the government in its delicate handling of the return of property confiscated from religious communities. ... I also hope," he went on, "that the laws ruling religious freedom, which is a fundamental freedom, be fully respected, especially as concerns the Greek-Catholic Church."

  After giving assurances of the Catholic Church's readiness to meet the authorities in order to study ways to overcome any difficulties, the Holy Father made clear his "concern" over plans to build a 19-storey building next to the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Bucharest. The archbishop of Bucharest has appealed to the State authorities, said the Pope, "to conserve this historical patrimony and the values of faith it represents, not only for the Catholic community but for all the Romanian people."

  The Pope sent greetings, via the ambassador, to His Beatitude Teoctist, patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, and voiced the hope "that Catholic and Orthodox faithful continue to form ever more fraternal relationships in their daily lives, and that dialogue continues to progress at all levels. I particularly hope that the European ecumenical meeting, due to be held at Sibiu, Romania in September, will prove to be an important stage on our shared journey towards unity."

  In closing, the Pope sent a special greeting to the Catholic community in Romania, saying: "I know that the Catholic faithful take an active part in the life of the country, especially in the spiritual and social fields, and I heartily encourage them to bear courageous witness to the irreplaceable position of the family in society."

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