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Monday, February 19, 2007


VATICAN CITY, FEB 17, 2007 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican's Consistory Hall, Benedict XVI received pontifical representatives to Latin America, to whom he expressed his appreciation for their "important ecclesial service" which, he said, they carry out "often in the face of no small number of difficulties" due to the distance separating them from their homeland, "frequent travel and, sometimes, social and political tensions."

  Nuncios are called, the Pope said, "to consolidate the bonds of communion between the particular Churches and Peter's Successor." They have "the responsibility to promote ... dialogue and collaboration with civil society in order to achieve the common good." Being a pontifical representative "is a ministry of ecclesial communion and a service to peace and harmony between peoples."

  Recalling how John Paul II had defined Latin America as the "continent of hope," the Holy Father observed that the Fifth General Assembly of the Episcopate of Latin America - which is to be celebrated in Aparecida, Brazil in May and which he is due to attend - "aims to identify the great priorities and to inject fresh energy into the Church's mission at the service of the Latin American people in the real circumstances of the early 21st century." This is all part of "the catholicity which ... has left its mark on the cultural structure that up to now has characterized Latin American identity."

  The nations that make up Latin America "consider themselves as 'sisters' and, indeed, seek to become a community, united in peace and in cultural and economic development. The Church ... is in natural concordance with all legitimate aspirations of peoples to greater harmony and cooperation," to which end "she makes her own special contribution, that of the Gospel."

  Pope Benedict expressed the hope that "in those Latin American countries with Constitutions that limit themselves to 'conceding' freedom of belief and worship, but still fail to 'recognize' religious liberty," reciprocal relations may soon be defined on the basis of "principles of autonomy and of healthy and respectful collaboration."

  The Church's role in Latin America, said the Pope, "continues to be of primary importance, thanks also to the fortuitous blending of the ancient and rich sensibility of the indigenous people" on the one hand, "with Christianity and modern culture" on the other. "The Catholic Church is the institution that enjoys the greatest degree of credit among the people of Latin America" for "the work she undertakes in the fields of education, healthcare and solidarity towards the needy. Help for the poor and the fight against poverty are and continue to be a fundamental priority" and "the Church is also active in mediation efforts which, not infrequently, are asked of her during moments of civil strife."

  The Church today, however, must face "the proselytism of sects and the growing influence of secularism," while families "show signs of giving way under the pressure of lobbies," which have the power to "exercise a negative influence on legislative processes." For this reason it is necessary "to reaffirm that marriage and the family have their foundations in the most intimate nucleus of truth about man and his destiny."

  The Holy Father also turned his attention to other themes due to be discussed during the Aparecida conference, such as "the phenomenon of migration, closely associated with [the question of] the family; the importance of schooling; ... and the need adequately to inform public opinion on the great ethical questions in accordance with the principles of the Church's Magisterium."

  Finally Benedict XVI mentioned ecclesial movements which, he said, represent "a valid resource for the apostolate, but must be helped to remain ever faithful to the Gospel and to the teaching of the Church, also when they work in the social and political spheres. In particular, I feel I must reiterate that it is not for men of the Church to head social and political groupings, but for mature and professionally trained lay people."

  "We ask the Lord, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary," the Pope concluded, "that the fruits ... of the forthcoming general assembly of the Latin American episcopate may be of benefit the entire Church."
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VATICAN CITY, FEB 17, 2007 (VIS) - Made public today was a Letter from Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. to Giuseppe Mazzella, president of the "Medicine, Dialogue, Communion" association, for the occasion on an international congress on the theme: "Communication and relations in medicine. New perspectives for medical activity." The congress has been promoted by the association in collaboration with the Sacred Heart Catholic University.

  Cardinal Bertone writes that the theme of the congress, held in Rome on February 16 and 17, "is particularly important for modern medicine, which is ever more subject to manipulation and to attempts to distort its specific nature, which is that of being a source of knowledge at the service of the sick and of their physical and spiritual suffering."

  A vital element of this mission, the cardinal continues, is the "relationship between doctor and patient." This "also includes the entire medical staff, the healthcare structure and the domestic context, not forgetting the relatives of the sick."

  "It would be wrong," the secretary of State says, "to identify human beings entirely in their capacity to relate and communicate, thus denying those who do not have this possibility the intrinsic and objective value they possess simply for being human. This - as the venerated John Paul II wrote in his Encyclical 'Evangelium vitae' - is 'the mentality which tends to equate personal dignity with the capacity for verbal and explicit, or at least perceptible, communication. It is clear that on the basis of these presuppositions there is no place in the world for anyone who, like the unborn or the dying, is a weak element in the social structure, or for anyone who appears completely at the mercy of others and radically dependent on them, and can only communicate through the silent language of a profound sharing of affection'."

  Cardinal Bertone concludes his Letter by expressing the hope that the "new perspectives" of the congress may be considered from a point of view "that places the human being above those false values that are ever more relentlessly imposed by modern society: efficiency, productivity and autonomy."


VATICAN CITY, FEB 17, 2007 (VIS) - This afternoon, the Pope visited Rome's Major Pontifical Seminary for the occasion of the feast of its patroness, Our Lady of Trust, which always falls on the Saturday before the beginning of Lent.

  During the meeting, the Pope replied to questions addressed to him by the seminarians. Later, having greeted the deacons and superiors, he dined with the community of the seminary before returning to the Vatican.
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VATICAN CITY, FEB 18, 2007 (VIS) - Shortly before midday today, Benedict XVI appeared at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.

  Commenting on today's Gospel reading, the Pope pointed out how "it contains one of the most typical and powerful phrases of Jesus' teaching: 'love your enemies.' ... almost a 'manifesto' ... to which He asks His disciples to adhere, proposing His own model of life in radical terms."

  "Why," Pope Benedict asked, "does Jesus propose love for one's enemies, in other words a love that exceeds human capacities?" And he went on: "In reality, Christ's proposal is realistic because it takes into account the fact that there is too much violence in the world, too much injustice, and that, therefore, this situation cannot be overcome without the counterbalance of extra love, extra goodness. This 'extra' comes from God: it is His mercy, which became flesh in Jesus and which alone can 'tip' the world from evil towards good."

  "This evangelical episode is considered as the 'Magna Carta' of Christian non-violence, which does not consist in surrendering to evil ... but in responding to evil with good, thus breaking the chain of injustice. ... For Christians this is not merely a tactical form of behavior, but an individual way of life, the attitude of people who are so convinced by the love of God ... that they are not afraid to face evil only with the arms of love and truth.

  "Love for one's enemies," he added, "is the nucleus of the 'Christian revolution,' a revolution that is not based on ... economic, political or media power, but that is a gift of God. ... This is the novelty of the Gospel, which noiselessly changes the world. This is the heroism of the 'little ones' who believe in God's love and disseminate it."

  After praying the Angelus, Benedict XVI spoke of his "spiritual closeness" to Guinea. "The bishops of that country," he said, "have expressed to me their concern for the situation of social paralysis, general strikes and violent reactions that have caused numerous victims. In calling for human and civil rights to be respected, I give assurances of my prayers that a shared commitment to follow the path of dialogue may overcome the crisis."

  Finally, the Holy Father turned his attention to Poland where the bishops have called "a special day of prayer and penance for the entire Polish clergy" to fall on Ash Wednesday. "May this prayer for the sanctity of priests," said the Pope, "fill all the faithful with a spirit of forgiveness, reconciliation and mutual trust."
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VATICAN CITY, FEB 19, 2007 (VIS) - Today in the Vatican, the Pope received Cardinal James F. Stafford, major penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary, prelates and officials of that tribunal, and father confessors of Roman basilicas.

  In his address to them, the Pope pointed out how a confessor, "following the Church's Magisterium with gentle insistence, becomes a minister of the consoling mercy of God, he emphasizes the reality of sin, and at the same time reveals the limitless renovating power of divine love, the love that restores life."

  "Experiencing the Lord's tenderness and forgiveness, penitents are more easily persuaded to recognize the gravity of sin, and more determined to avoid it in order to remain and grow in a renewed friendship with Him."

  The confessor is "an active instrument of divine mercy," said the Holy Father. "Therefore, he must unite a highly-developed spiritual and pastoral sensitivity with serious theological, moral and educational training making him capable of understanding people's life experiences. Furthermore, it is good for him to know the social, cultural and professional background of those who come to the confessional, in order to be able to give appropriate advice and spiritual and practical guidance."

  Priests must not forget that in the Sacrament of Penance they are "fathers, spiritual judges, teachers and educators," said the Pope, adding that "this calls for constant 'aggiornamento'." In this context, he also mentioned the advantages of "the courses of the so-called 'internal forum' promoted by the Apostolic Penitentiary."

  "We cannot preach forgiveness and reconciliation to others if we do not experience these things personally. Although it is true that in our ministry there are various ways and instruments with which to communicate the merciful love of God to our brothers and sisters, it is nonetheless in the celebration of this Sacrament that we can do so in the most complete and exalted manner. Christ has chosen us, dear priests, to be the only ones with the power to pardon sins in His name. This then, is a specific ecclesial service to which we must give priority."

  Many people in difficulty "seek the comfort and consolation of Christ," Pope Benedict concluded. "How many penitents find in confession the peace and joy they were seeking for so long! How can we not recognize, also in our own time marked by so many religious and social challenges, that this Sacrament must be rediscovered and presented anew?"


VATICAN CITY, FEB 19, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

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

    - Archbishop Riccardo Fontana of Spoleto-Norcia.

    - Bishop Giovanni Scanavino O.S.A., of Orvieto-Todi.

    - Archbishop Giuseppe Chiaretti of Perugia-Citta della Pieve.

    - Bishop Pellegrino Tomaso Ronchi O.F.M. Cap., of Citta di Castello.

 - Bishop Gregor Maria Hanke O.S.B., of Eichstatt, Germany.

  This evening he is scheduled to receive in audience Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals.
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VATICAN CITY, FEB 19, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Bishop Adalberto Martinez Flores of San Lorenzo, Paraguay, as bishop of San Pedro (area 20,002, population 390,000, Catholics 358,000, priests 20, religious 30), Paraguay.
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