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Tuesday, February 20, 2007


VATICAN CITY, FEB 20, 2007 (VIS) - At 6 p.m. on Saturday, February 17, the Holy Father visited Rome's Major Pontifical Seminary for the occasion of the feast of its patroness, Our Lady of Trust. During the meeting, the Pope responded to six questions addressed to him by the seminarians. The text of their exchanges was made public yesterday afternoon.

  Gregorpaolo Stano of the diocese of Oria, Italy asked how, "among the thousands of interior voices," to discern the voice of God speaking within,

  "God speaks," Pope Benedict replied, "through other people, through friends, through our parents, ... through the priests who guide you," above all He speaks "in Sacred Scripture" which must be read "not as the word of a man or a document from the past, ... but as the Word of God which is always valid and speaks to me."

  "It is important to remain attentive to the other voices of the Lord, to let ourselves be guided also by people who have, so to say, experience with God and help us along this path. ... In this way our discernment grows, our personal friendship with God grows, [as does] the capacity to perceive, in the thousands of voices we hear today, the voice of God, which is always present and always speaks to us."

  Claudio Fabbri from the diocese of Rome wanted to know about the Holy Father's life during his own period of training for the priesthood at the seminary of Freising, Germany.

  "I believe that our life in the seminary of Freising was structured very much like your own. ... I can say that Sacred Scripture was at the heart of our theological studies: we truly lived with Sacred Scripture and learned to love it, to communicate with it." Another "vital area for us was liturgical formation." The Pope also mentioned his interest in literature and his "great love for music."

  Gianpiero Savino of the diocese of Taranto, Italy asked how, bearing in mind human weakness, it is possible to respond to a vocation "as demanding as that of being pastors of God's people."

  "It is good to recognize one's own weakness," said the Pope, "because thus we know that we have need of the Lord's grace. ... I [also] believe it is important to recognize that we are in need of a permanent conversion." This is a journey with no lack of "joy and light from the Lord, but also no lack of dark valleys where we must walk with trust seeking support in the Lord's goodness. ... And therefore the Sacrament of Penance is also important, ... to convert us to a new beginning and thus grow and mature in the Lord, in our communion with Him."

  The Holy Father also dwelt upon the necessity of not "isolating ourselves, not believing we can progress alone. We need the help of priest friends and lay friends to accompany and help us. ... The gift of perseverance brings us joy, it gives us the certainty that we are loved by the Lord, and this love sustains us, it helps us and does not abandon us in our weaknesses."

  A Bulgarian seminarian, Dimov Koicio from the diocese of Nicopoli, asked a question concerning "corruption in the Church" to which the then Cardinal Ratzinger had alluded during the 2005 Way of the Cross, and the dangers of "seeking to advance one's career through the Church."

  "The Lord knows," the Pope replied, "and knew from the beginning that sin also exists in the Church. And by our humility it is important to recognize this - not to see sin only in others, in institutions and in high office, but also in ourselves - so as, in this way, to be more humble and to learn that ecclesial standing does not count before the Lord, what counts is to remain in His love."

  Francesco Annesi of the diocese of Rome wanted to know how "a priest can bear witness to the Christian meaning of suffering, and how he must behave before those who suffer without the risk of seeming rhetorical or pathetic."

  "We must recognize that it is right to do everything possible to alleviate the afflictions of humanity, and help those who suffer ... to discover a life that is worthwhile and free from the evils which we ourselves provoke: hunger, epidemics, etc.," said the Holy Father in his reply. "But at the same time, recognizing this duty to combat the sufferings we have caused, we must also recognize and understand that suffering is an essential factor for our maturation. ... It is true that it is always problematic, if one is more or less in good health, to console someone else affected by a serious illness. ... Faced with these ills, which we all know and recognize, it is almost inevitable that everything seems rhetorical and pathetic. But if people feel ... that we want to carry the cross with them ... helping them in every way we can, they will believe in us."

  Marco Ceccarelli, a deacon of Rome, soon to be ordained a priest asked the Holy Father's advice on how to approach the first years of priestly ministry.

  In his reply, the Holy Father highlighted "the need to be with the Lord in the Eucharist every day, not as a professional obligation but as a true interior duty," and "to dedicate time to the Liturgy of the Hours" because "it helps us to be more open and to remain in profound contact with the Lord." It is also important "not to lose communion with other priests, your companions on the journey, or to lose personal contact with the Word of God, meditation."

  "Never lose," he concluded, "friendship with priests, listening to the voice of the living Church, or, of course, a readiness toward the people entrusted to us because from them, with their sufferings, their experiences of faith, their doubts and difficulties, we too can learn, and seek and find God."
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VATICAN CITY, FEB 20, 2007 (VIS) - At 11 a.m. on Friday, February 23, in the Consistory Hall of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, an Ordinary Public Consistory will be held for the canonization of the following Blesseds:

 - George Preca, Maltese, priest, founder of the "Societas Doctrinae Christianae" (M.U.S.E.U.M.).

 - Szymon of Lipnica, Polish, priest of the Order of Friars Minor.

 - Charles of St. Andrew (ne Johannes Andreas Houben), Dutch, priest of the Congregation of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

 - Antonio de Santa Ana (ne Antonio Galvao de Franca), Brazilian, priest of the Order of Alcantarine or Discalced Friars Minor, and founder of the Convent of Conceptionist Sisters "Recolhimento da luz."

 - Marie Eugenie de Jesus (nee Anne-Eugenie Milleret de Brou), French, foundress of the Institute of Sisters of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.
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VATICAN CITY, FEB 20, 2007 (VIS) - At 11.30 a.m. today in the Holy See Press Office, a press conference was held to present an international congress entitled "Christian conscience in support of the right to life," due to be held in the Vatican on February 23 and 24 under the auspices of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

  Participating in today's press conference were Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life; Bishop Anthony Fisher O.P., auxiliary of Sydney, Australia and professor of bioethics and moral theology at the John Paul II Institute in Sydney; Msgr. Jean Laffitte, vice president of the Pontifical Academy for Life and professor of anthropology and of conjugal spirituality at the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family; Monica Lopez Barahona, biologist, professor of bioethics and director of the bioethical institute at the University of Francisco de Vitoria, Madrid, Spain.

  In his comments, Bishop Sgreccia made it clear that the theme chosen for this year's congress reflects the urgent need to form Christian consciences "in the modern context, indicating the foundation, the specific nature and the duties of a conscience illuminated by faith, though not overlooking the need for dialogue with the lay world and the pluralism of cultures."

  Going on to refer to the question of conscientious objection, which is due to be discussed on the second day of the congress, the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life indicated that if such objection "is accompanied by love for truth and for all people it is not an avoidance of responsibility but, on the contrary, a testimony of support and assistance." Today, in the field of healthcare, "a whole series of new cases and situations arise in which doctors and other figures associated with their work are called to put this objection into effect."

  Bishop Anthony Fisher, speaking English, began his comments by considering "the question of what conscience is and is not and what authority conscience has."

  "The classical Christian conception of conscience," he said, "is of the natural perception of basic moral principles, their application in particular circumstances, and the final judgement about what is to be (or has been) done. ... But conscience must be both well-informed and well-formed."

  The bishop mentioned "the authority of the Church as a moral teacher and former/informer of conscience, ... the ideas of the Magisterium, the unconditional assent of faith, religious assent and dissent. ... Can there be a conflict between the Church as teacher and the individual conscience and how is this to be resolved?"

  Bishop Fisher also considered "the problematic of those who oppose conscience to Magisterium," identifying "two helpful strands of contemporary thought: the communitarian call to think with one's moral community and the 'practical reason' approaches to maturation of conscience. On these views the Magisterium is not some external source of moral thinking with which private conscience must grapple: it informs conscience much like a soul informs a body, giving it its shape and direction from within."

  Msgr. Laffitte spoke of the concept of tolerance which, he said, has ceased "to be an expression of the classical virtue of prudence and, hence, a practical virtue," while "ideological tolerance has been raised to the rank of theoretical virtue."

  "Ideological tolerance" he continued, "is always linked to an individualistic concept of moral conscience. ... And the norms received from moral authority, from social tradition and from the teaching of the religious authorities will, at best, be considered as interesting guidelines or stimulating opinions upon which to reflect, but in no case will such norms involve the individual as a moral subject."

  Professor Lopez Barahona recalled that "man is a free being who establishes his behaviour and forges his will in a series of ethical and/or religious principles. Loyalty to these principles brings the right and the need of conscientious objection."

  "We have," she said, "witnessed incessant concessions to scientific research by the legislator, justified with reasoning that may seek to present the consecration of bioethics by the law as the protection of the person, whereas these concessions actually involve creating new exemptions in favour of biomedical research even when this fails to take the dignity of human life into account."


VATICAN CITY, FEB 20, 2007 (VIS) - Made public today was a note signed by Catholic Archbishop John Bathersby and Anglican Bishop David Beetge, co-presidents of the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM), regarding an article published yesterday in the British newspaper "The Times" on the IARCCUM document: "Growing Together in Unity and Mission."

  "'Growing Together in Unity and Mission' has not yet been officially published," the English-language note reads. "It is unfortunate that is contents have been prematurely reported in a way which misrepresents its intentions and sensationalizes its conclusions. The first part of the document, which treats doctrinal matters, is an attempt to synthesize the work of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) over the past 35 years. It identifies the level of agreement which has been reached by ARCIC, but is also very clear in identifying ongoing areas of disagreement, and in raising questions which still need to be addressed in dialogue. Those ongoing questions and areas of disagreement are highlighted in boxed sections interspersed throughout the text. It is a very honest document assessing the state of Anglican-Roman Catholic relations at the present moment."

  The note continues: "The Times article speculates about the Catholic Church's response to a possible schism within the Anglican Communion. It should be pointed out that the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity has consistently spoken of the value of the Anglican Communion remaining a communion, rooted in the Apostolic faith, as indicated in this statement from 2004: 'It is our overwhelming desire that the Anglican Communion stays together, rooted in the historic faith which our dialogue and relations over four decades have led us to believe that we share to a large degree'."
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VATICAN CITY, FEB 20, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy See Press Office released the following communique at midday today:

  "Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, president of the Commission for Religious Relations with Muslims, and president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, was received in Cairo, Egypt, today by Sheikh Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi, Grand Imam of al-Azhar.

  "Welcomed in an atmosphere of great cordiality, Cardinal Poupard relayed to Sheikh Tantawi the greetings of His Holiness Benedict XVI, and the Pope's invitation to meet him in Rome, an invitation that was accepted with satisfaction.

  "The meeting of the two men provided an opportunity to evaluate the work of the 'Joint Dialogue Commission' comprised of members of the 'Al-Azhar Permanent Committee for Dialogue with Monotheistic Religions' and of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue. The commission meets on February 24 every year - alternately in Cairo and Rome - in memory of Pope John Paul II's visit to al-Azhar on February 24, 2000. The two also discussed other aspects of relations between Christians and Muslims.

 "Cardinal Poupard will also meet Hamdi Zaqzuq, the government minister for religion."


VATICAN CITY, FEB 20, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Cardinal Salvatore De Giorgi, archbishop emeritus of Palermo, Italy, as a member of the Congregation for Bishops.
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