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Monday, April 23, 2007


VATICAN CITY, APR 21, 2007 (VIS) - Shortly after 3 p.m. today, Benedict XVI departed from Rome's Ciampino airport bound for the northern Italian town of Vigevano, on the first stage of his two-day pastoral visit to the dioceses of Vigevano and Pavia.

  At 4.40 p.m., after a brief stopover in the airport of Milan, the Pope's helicopter landed in Vigevano's "Dante Merlo" stadium from where he travelled by popemobile to the town center. Along the route, he passed in front of the convent of cloistered nuns of the Sisters Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament who came out to greet him. At 5.15, he arrived at the bishop's residence where he was welcomed by the local religious and civil authorities.

  The Pope appeared at the balcony of the episcopal residence, overlooking Piazza Sant'Ambrogio, to greet the thousands of people gathered there, including many young people and groups of sick. "I thank you," he said, "for your cordial and enthusiastic welcome. As I descended from the helicopter, I could almost hear the echo of the bells of all the churches in the diocese which rang out at midday today to wish me a choral welcome."

  "Here in Vigevano, the only diocese in Lombardy not visited by my venerated predecessor John Paul II, I have chosen to begin my pastoral pilgrimage within Italy. Thus it is as if I am resuming the path he followed, to continue to proclaim to the men and women of Italy the announcement, ancient yet ever new, that resounds with particular vitality in this time of Easter: Christ is risen! Christ is alive! Christ is with us today and forever."

  After his greetings, Benedict XVI went to Piazza Ducale where he presided at a Eucharistic concelebration with Lombard bishops and priests of the diocese of Vigevano.

  In his homily he recalled the words from the Gospel reading, "cast the net ... and you will find" which Jesus addressed to His disciples on Lake Tiberias after a fruitless fishing expedition that had lasted all night. The empty net, the Pope remarked, must have appeared to the Apostles "as the outcome of their experience with Jesus: they had known Him and accompanied Him, and He had promised them so much, and yet there they were with their nets empty of fish."

  Christ came out to meet them, though the disciples did not recognize Him. Nonetheless "they trusted Jesus and the result was a miraculously abundant catch of fish." It was then that John became aware of the presence of the Risen One and exclaimed: "'It is the Lord!' This spontaneous profession of faith," said Pope Benedict, "is also an invitation for us to proclaim that the Risen Christ is the Lord of our lives."

  "I have come here among you," the Holy Father continued, "above all to encourage you to be zealous witnesses to Christ. It is faithful adherence to His word that will make your pastoral activities fruitful. When the work in the Lord's vineyard seems in vain, like the Apostles nighttime efforts, it must not be forgotten that Jesus is capable of overturning everything in a moment. This evangelical episode ... reminds us, on the one hand, that we must commit ourselves to pastoral activities as if the outcome depended entirely upon our own efforts; on the other hand, it brings us to understand that the true success of our mission is entirely a gift of Grace. In the mysterious designs of His wisdom, God knows when it is time to intervene."

  "What does Christ's invitation to 'cast the net' actually mean?" the Pope asked. "In the first place it means, as it did for the disciples, believing in Him and trusting in His word. Jesus asks you, as He asked them, to follow Him with a sincere and firm faith. Listen, then, to His word and meditate upon it every day. ... Following the fundamental guidelines of the Synod and the instructions of your pastor, remain united and open yourselves to the vast horizons of evangelization. ... Sharing, collaborating and a feeling of joint responsibility, this is the spirit that must constantly animate your community.

  "Such a community requires everyone's contribution" he added. "Individual parishes - like the tiles of a mosaic and in full harmony among themselves - will form a living Church that is an organic part of the People of God." Moreover, "an indispensable contribution to evangelization comes from lay associations, communities and groups."

  Benedict XVI also encouraged his listeners "to continue to look after young people, both those who are 'near' and those who are 'far away.' In this context tirelessly promote ... a form of vocational pastoral care that helps the young in their search for a true meaning to give to their lives." The Pope also recalled that the family "is the principal element of social life, and so only by working in support of families can we renew the fabric of the ecclesial community and of civil society itself."

  The Pope concluded his homily by mentioning the patron saints of Vigevano: St. Ambrose, St. Charles Borromeo and Blessed Matteo Carreri, and he also referred to other people from the local area whose causes of beatification are currently underway. These include Fr. Francesco Pianzola who "went out to meet the spiritual poverty of his time with a courageous missionary style," and Teresio Olivelli, a layman of Catholic Action "who died at the age of just 29 in the Hersbruck concentration camp, a sacrificial victim of a brutal form of violence which he tenaciously opposed with the ardor of charity."

  Finally, the Holy Father commended the community to the Mother of God "that a renewed effusion of the Holy Spirit" may descend upon the diocese. He also reiterated how the "disciples' tiring and fruitless night's fishing is a perennial admonishment for the Church of all times: alone, without Jesus, we can do nothing!"

  Following the Mass, the Pope travelled by helicopter to Pavia where he arrived at 8.15 p.m.
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VATICAN CITY, APR 22, 2007 (VIS) - Immediately on arriving in Pavia yesterday evening, the Holy Father travelled by car to the city cathedral where he appeared at the balcony to greet young people gathered in the square below.

  The Pope called on them not to be afraid to commit their lives to Christ Who, he said, "never disappoints our expectations because He knows what is in our hearts ... The Church - which needs your commitment to carry the evangelical message, especially to your peers - supports you on the road of knowledge of the faith and of love for God and for our fellow man. ... Society ... awaits your contribution in order to create a less selfish and more cohesive form of shared coexistence, one truly animated by the great ideals of justice, freedom and peace."

  At 9 a.m. today, Sunday, Benedict XVI visited the "San Matteo" hospital which treats sick people from Pavia and all Italy. Having greeted the president and a representative of the patients, the Pope expressed his thanks to the doctors, nurses and all the hospital staff.

  Here, said the Holy Father, "truly inspiring results are achieved. It is my heartfelt hope that vital scientific and technological progress will always be accompanied by a concern to promote, alongside the good of sick people, such fundamental values as respect for and defense of life at every stage, upon which the authentically human quality of coexistence depend."

  Benedict XVI highlighted the fact that "in each person suffering from illness it is He Himself Who awaits our love. Of course, suffering is abhorrent to the human heart, yet it remains true that when accepted with love and illuminated with faith, it becomes a precious opportunity that unites us mysteriously to Christ the Redeemer, the Man of suffering Who on the Cross took upon Himself the pain and death of man. With the sacrifice of His life He redeemed human suffering and made it the fundamental means of salvation.

  "Dear sick people," he concluded, "entrust to the Lord the discomfort and pain you have to face, and in His plan you will become means of purification and redemption for the world entire."
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VATICAN CITY, APR 22, 2007 (VIS) - Having concluded his visit to Pavia's "San Matteo" hospital, the Pope travelled by car to the "Almo Collegio Borromeo" where he celebrated Mass at 10.30 a.m. Bishops of Lombardy, priests of the diocese of Pavia and a number of Augustinian Fathers concelebrated with the Holy Father.

  In his homily, the Pope focussed on the "three great stages" of St. Augustine's journey of conversion.

  These "conversions" of St. Augustine, he said, "were in fact one big conversion: searching for the Face of Christ and then walking alongside Him."

  "The first fundamental conversion was Augustine's interior journey towards Christianity, towards that 'yes' of faith and Baptism. ... The saint was constantly tormented by the question of truth. ... He wanted to find the right path, and not just to live blindly without meaning or goal. This passion for truth is the true key to understanding his life."

  "He had always believed - at times somewhat vaguely, at others more decidedly - that God exists and that He looks after us. But truly knowing God and really becoming familiar with Jesus Christ, to reach the point of saying 'yes' to Him with all the consequences it brings: this was the great interior struggle of the years of his youth."

  St. Augustine's "second conversion," Pope Benedict explained, took place following his Baptism, when he returned to Hippo in Africa where he founded a small monastery and intended to dedicate his life to the contemplation of God. However, by popular request and almost by force, he was ordained a priest and so "had to live with Christ for everyone."

 "The great philosophical work of his life, of which he had dreamed, remained unwritten. In its place came something more precious: the Gospel translated into the language of everyday life."

  This, said the Holy Father "was the second conversion that this man, struggling and suffering, had to achieve: being there for everyone, offering his life, always and anew together with Christ, so that others could find Him Who is true life."

  Finally, "the third and decisive stage" on St. Augustine's journey of conversion took place when he discovered that "only one person is truly perfect and that the words of the Sermon on the Mount are fully realized only in one person, in Jesus Christ Himself. And the entire Church - all of us, including the Apostles - must pray every day: 'forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.'

  "Augustine had understood an ultimate level of humility. Not only the humility to make his own great philosophy part of the faith of the Church, not only the humility to translate his great knowledge into the simplicity of announcement, but also the humility to recognize that he himself and the entire pilgrim Church were in constant need of the merciful goodness of a forgiving God. And we, Augustine added, become as similar as possible to the Perfect Christ when we become like Him people of mercy."

  Following the Eucharistic celebration and before praying the Regina Coeli, the Pope addressed a special greeting to young people, to whom he expressed the hope "that you become ever more aware of the joy of following Christ and of becoming His friends. ... This is the same joy that brought me to write my recently-published book 'Jesus of Nazareth.' It may be a little difficult for the youngest of you, but I consign it to you ideally, that it may accompany the journey of faith of the new generations."
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VATICAN CITY, APR 22, 2007 (VIS) - This afternoon at 4.15, the Pope travelled to the University of Pavia where he met with representatives from the world of culture in the university's "Tersiano" courtyard. Following a greeting from Angiolino Stella, rector of the university, and from a representative of the students, the Holy Father pronounced a few words of his own.

  "All universities," he said, "should safeguard their identity as centers of study 'made to man's measure,' in which students do not remain anonymous but are able to cultivate a fruitful dialogue with professors, drawing incentives for their own cultural and human development."

  "It is of fundamental importance," he went on, "that the commitment to academic research remains open to the existential question of meaning in peoples lives. ... Only by valuing the person and interpersonal relations can didactic interaction become an educational relationship."

  The love of Christ gave form to St. Augustine's life commitment, said Pope Benedict. "From a life dedicated to searching for worldly success he passed to a life totally donated to Jesus Christ, the only Master and Lord. May St. Augustine be for everyone a model for the dialogue between reason and faith."

  "By the intercession of St. Augustine," the Pope concluded, "may the University of Pavia always stand out for its special attention to individuals, for a marked community dimension in academic research, and for a fruitful dialogue between faith and culture."
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VATICAN CITY, APR 22, 2007 (VIS) - After his meeting with representatives from the world of culture in the University of Pavia, Benedict XVI travelled to the basilica of San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro to celebrate Vespers. Before entering the basilica, the Holy Father paused on the patio of the convent of St. Augustine where he blessed the cornerstone of a new Augustinian cultural center, which the Order intends to dedicate to him.

  Once inside the basilica, the Pope incensed the urn containing the relics of St. Augustine and, after greeting Bishop Giovanni Giudici of Pavia and Fr. Robert Francis Prevost, prior general of the Augustinian Order, pronounced his homily.

  "In this moment of prayer I would like to gather here, at the tomb of the 'Doctor gratiae,' a significant message for the journey of the Church," said the Pope. "This message comes to us from the encounter between the Word of God and the personal experience of the great bishop of Hippo. ... Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, ... is the revelation of the face of God Love to all human beings as they travel along the paths of time towards eternity. ... This is the heart of the Gospel, the central nucleus of Christianity. The light of this love opened Augustine's eyes and brought him to encounter the 'beauty, ever ancient and ever new' in which alone the human heart finds peace."

  "Here before the tomb of St. Augustine," the Pope continued, "I would like once again to consign ideally to the Church and to the World my first Encyclical, which contains this central message of the Gospel: 'Deus caritas est,' God is love," and which is "greatly indebted to the thought of St. Augustine who was enamoured of the Love of God."

  "In the wake of the teachings of Vatican Council II and of my venerated predecessors, I am convinced ... that contemporary humanity has need of this essential message. ... Here everything must begin and here everything must lead, all pastoral activity and all theological treatises."

  "Love is the heart of Church life and of her pastoral activity. ... Only those who have a personal experience of the Lord's love are able to exercise the task of guiding and accompanying others on the road of following Christ. ... Following Christ is above all a question of love."

  The Holy Father went on: "May your membership of the Church and your apostolate always stand out for their freedom from any kind of personal interest and for their unreserved adhesion to Christ's love. Young people in particular need to receive the announcement of freedom and joy, the secret of which is in Christ. He is the most authentic response to the expectations of their hearts which are troubled by the many questions they carry within."

  "Following the footsteps of St. Augustine, you too must be a Church that frankly announces the 'good news' of Christ. ... The Church is not simply an organization for collective expression nor, at the other extreme, is she the sum of individuals living a private religion. The Church is a community of people who believe in the God of Jesus Christ and commit themselves to living in the world the commandment of love that He left us."

  "I encourage you," the Holy Father concluded, "to pursue the 'exalted degree' of Christian life which considers charity as the bond of perfection, and which must also be translated into a form of moral life inspired by the Gospel."

  A the conclusion of Vespers, the Pope went to Pavia's "P. Fortunati" stadium whence he travelled by helicopter to the airport of Milan. There he boarded a plane that took him back to Rome where he landed shortly before 8.30 p.m.
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VATICAN CITY, APR 21, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

 - Accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Tura, India, presented by Bishop George Mamalassery, upon having reached the age limit. He is succeeded by Coadjutor Bishop Andrew Marak.

 - Appointed Luis Morao Andreazza O.F.M., auxiliary of Santa Ana, El Salvador, as bishop of Chalatenango (area 2,016, population 271,000, Catholics 244,00, priests 32, religious 34), El Salvador. He succeeds Bishop Eduardo Antonio Alas Alfaro, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese, the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

 - Appointed as members of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples: Archbishops Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States of the Secretariat of State; Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet of Hanoi, Vietnam; and Gianfranco Agostino Gardin O.F.M. Conv., secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

 - Appointed Bishop Jean-Pierre Grallet O.F.M., auxiliary of Strasbourg, France, as archbishop of the same archdiocese (area 8,280, population 1,808,000, Catholics 1,356,000, priests 877, permanent deacons 56, religious 1,869). The archbishop-elect was born in Rozelieures, France in 1941, he was ordained a priest in 1969, and consecrated a bishop in 2004.
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A LETTER HAS BEEN MADE PUBLIC, WRITTEN IN LATIN and dated April 2, in which the Pope appoints Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, president of the Pontifical Council "Justice and Peace" and of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, as his special envoy to celebrations marking the fifth centenary of the death of St, Francis of Paola. The event is due to be held in Paola, Italy, from May 1 to 4. The cardinal will be accompanied by Msgrs. Aniceto Molinaro, pro-dean of the faculty of philosophy at the St. Anselm Pontifical Athenaeum, Rome, and Luigi Falcone of the Secretariat of State.

TO MARK THE BEGINNING OF THE GERMAN PRESIDENCY of the European Union and of the Group of Eight most industrialized States (G8), the Holy Father sent a Letter, dated December 16, 2006, to Angela Merkel, chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany. In the Letter, the Pope expresses the appreciation of the Catholic Church for the intention, expressed by the German government and shared by the other members of the G8, to keep the theme of poverty as the focus of international political agreements, with particular concern for Africa. The German chancellor replied to the Pope's Letter with one of her own in which she expresses her intention to continue to combat poverty and to achieve the millennium development goals.
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VATICAN CITY, APR 23, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences Archbishop Ubaldo Ramon Santana Sequera F.M.I., of Maracaibo, Venezuela, president of the Episcopal Conference of Venezuela. Archbishop Santana Sequera was accompanied by Archbishop Roberto Luckert Leon of Coro and Cardinal Jorge Liberato Urosa Savino, archbishop of Caracas, Santiago de Venezuela, vice presidents of the same episcopal conference; and by Bishop Ramon Jose Viloria Pinzon of Puerto Caballo, secretary general.

  On Saturday, April 21, he received in separate audiences five prelates from the Italian Episcopal Conference on their "ad limina" visit:

    - Bishop Rodolfo Cetoloni O.F.M., of Montepulciano-Chiusi-Pienza.

    - Bishop Mario Meini of Pitigliano-Sovana-Orbetello.

    - Dom Michelangelo Riccardo M. Tiribilli, O.S.B., abbot of Monte Oliveto Maggiore.

    - Msgr. Paolo Razzauti, diocesan administrator of Livorno.

    - Msgr. Marco Fabbri, diocesan administrator of Volterra.
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