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Wednesday, February 14, 2007


VATICAN CITY, FEB 14, 2007 (VIS) - The role of women in the history of the Church was the theme chosen by Benedict XVI for his catechesis at today's general audience, which was held in the Paul VI Hall in the presence of 20,000 people.

  "Jesus chose 12 men as fathers of the new Israel, 'to be with Him and to be sent out to proclaim the message'," said the Holy Father, "but ... among the disciples many women were also chosen. ... They played an active role within the context of Jesus mission. In the first place ... the Virgin Mary, who with her faith and her maternal care worked in a unique way for our redemption. ... Having become a disciple of her Son, ... she followed Him even to the foot of the cross where she received a maternal mission for all his disciples in all times."

  After mentioning other women who appear in various parts of the Gospel - such as Susanna, and Lazarus' sisters Martha and Mary - the Pope pointed out that "the women, unlike the Twelve, did not abandon Jesus at the hour of His Passion. Outstanding among them was Mary Magdalene ... who was the first witness of the Resurrection and announced it to the others." Pope Benedict also recalled how St. Thomas Aquinas referred to Mary Magdalene as "the apostle of the apostles."

  In the first Christian communities, Benedict XVI went on, "the female presence was anything but secondary." St. Paul "starts from the fundamental principle according to which among the baptized 'there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female'." Furthermore, "the Apostle admits that in the Christian community it is quite normal that there should be women who prophesy, in other words who pronounce openly under the influence of Holy Spirit for the edification of the community."

  Therefore St. Paul's subsequent assertion that "women should be silent in the churches" must "be relativized," said the Pope, and he explained that "the problem ... of the relationship between these two apparently contradictory indications should be left to the exegetes."

  "The history of Christianity would have developed quite differently without the generous contribution of many women," said the Pope and he recalled how John Paul II had written: "The Church gives thanks for each and every woman ... for all the manifestations of the feminine 'genius'."

  "We share this appreciation, giving thanks to the Lord because He leads His Church, generation after generation, indiscriminately using men and women who know how to bring their faith to fruition ... for the good of the entire body of the Church.

  After the audience, relatives of three Israeli soldiers - Ehud Goldwaser and Eldad Regev, held by the Lebanese group Hezbollah since July 2006, and Gilad Shalit, in the hands of the Palestinian group Hamas since June 25 - handed the Pope the copy of a letter in which they request the immediate and unconditional liberation of their loved ones.

  Prior to the audience in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope had met in the Vatican Basilica with bishops from the Italian region of the Marches, who are currently undertaking their "ad limina" visit. The prelates were accompanied by civil authorities and faithful from their various dioceses.

  The Holy Father also recalled that on September 1 and 2, he will participate in a national meeting of Italian youth at the shrine of Loreto, Italy, and he invited young people to attend in large numbers. In closing, he read a prayer to the Virgin Mary asking, among other things, that she watch over this pastoral initiative so that it may be "fertile soil for the Italian Church."
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VATICAN CITY, FEB 14, 2007 (VIS) - Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. sent a telegram of condolence, in the Pope's name, to His Beatitude Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, Lebanon, for yesterday's bomb attack north of Beirut in which three people were killed and around 20 injured:

  "Profoundly grieved by the terrible attack that struck Lebanon this morning, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI asks Your Beatitude to express his spiritual closeness to the injured and to the relatives of the victims, and give them assurances of his prayers. Entrusting to divine providence those who died so tragically, the Holy Father invokes the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary upon the entire Lebanese nation. He calls upon the Lebanese people and their representatives to unanimously reject violence and hopes that, in this dramatic event, they may find the motivation for a commitment in favor of national unity and the common good."
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VATICAN CITY, FEB 14, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

 - Appointed Fr. John Moolachira of the clergy of the diocese of Tezpur, India, former rector of the minor diocesan seminary and pastor of Udalguri, as bishop of Diphu (area 15,222, population 1,090,150, Catholics 44,840, priests 44, religious 136), India. The bishop-elect was born in Puthusserykadavu, India in 1951 and ordained a priest in 1978.

 - Appointed Msgr. Daniel Fernandez Torres of the clergy of the diocese of Arecibo, Puerto Rico, pastor of the parish of "Nuestra Senora del Carmen," as auxiliary of the archdiocese of San Juan de Puerto Rico (area 1,056, population 1,427,970, Catholics 1,063,808, priests 296, permanent deacons 225, religious 690), Puerto Rico. The bishop-elect was born in Chicago, U.S.A. in 1964 and ordained a priest in 1995.
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