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Monday, May 14, 2007


VATICAN CITY, MAY 14, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Archbishop Terrence Thomas Prendergast S.J. of Halifax, Canada, as metropolitan archbishop of Ottawa (area 5,818, population 859,000, Catholics 410,635, priests 239, permanent deacons 67, religious 867), Canada. He succeeds Archbishop Marcel Andre J. Gervais, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese, the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.
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VATICAN CITY, MAY 14, 2007 (VIS) - Shortly before 8 p.m. yesterday (1 a.m. this morning in Rome), Benedict XVI arrived at the international airport of Sao Paulo / Guarulhos where he was greeted by Jose Alencar Gomes da Silva, vice-president of the Federal Republic of Brazil, Archbishop Odilo Pedro Scherer of Sao Paulo, Bishop Luiz Gonzaga Bergonzini of Guarulhos, and other civil and religious authorities.

  The Pope pronounced a brief departure speech in which he expressed his satisfaction at having had the opportunity to inaugurate the Fifth General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean in the Brazilian city of Aparecida. "The signs of enthusiasm and the deep piety of this people of the Land of the Holy Cross will remain for ever impressed in my memory," he said. "Together with so many pilgrims from the length and breadth of the continent of hope, they have given whole-hearted proof of their faith in Christ and their love for the Successor of Peter.

  "I pray," he added, "that the Lord will assist religious and civil leaders to give renewed impulse to the initiatives that are awaited by all for the common good of the great Latin American family."

  Having praised the work of consular and religious authorities during his pastoral visit, the Holy Father concluded by thanking everyone for having "contributed to the splendor of these days, filling those taking part with joy and hope - 'gaudium et spes!' - for the Christian family and for its mission in society."

  The Pope's plane took off at 8.55 p.m., landing at Rome's Ciampino airport at 12.30 p.m. local time. From the airport, the Pope travelled directly to the apostolic palace at Castelgandolfo where he is due to remain until Friday, May 18.
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VATICAN CITY, MAY 13, 2007 (VIS) - This afternoon in the conference hall of the shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, the Holy Father presided at the inaugural session of the Fifth General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean. The conference is due to last until May 31 and has as its theme: "Disciples and missionaries in Jesus Christ, that in Him our peoples may have life ('I am the Way and the Truth and the Life')"

  The event - which took place during the celebration of Vespers on this sixth Sunday of Easter - began with greetings from Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, archbishop of Santiago de Chile and president of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM).

  The Holy Father began his talk by giving thanks to God for "the great gift of the Christian faith to the peoples of this continent."

  "Faith in God," he said, "has animated the life and culture of these nations for more than five centuries. ... Yet what did the acceptance of the Christian faith mean for the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean? For them, it meant knowing and welcoming Christ, the unknown God whom their ancestors were seeking, without realizing it, in their rich religious traditions. Christ is the Savior for Whom they were silently longing."

  "In effect, the proclamation of Jesus and of His Gospel did not at any point involve an alienation of the pre-Columbian cultures, nor was it the imposition of a foreign culture. Authentic cultures are not closed in upon themselves, nor are they set in stone at a particular point in history, ... they are seeking an encounter with other cultures, hoping to reach universality through encounter and dialogue with other ways of life and with elements that can lead to a new synthesis, in which the diversity of expressions is always respected as well as the diversity of their particular cultural embodiment."

  "The wisdom of the indigenous peoples fortunately led them to form a synthesis between their cultures and the Christian faith which the missionaries were offering them. Hence the rich and profound popular religiosity, in which we see the soul of the Latin American peoples."

  Benedict XVI then considered the question of globalization saying that, although "from certain points of view this benefits the great family of humanity, ... it also undoubtedly brings with it the risk of vast monopolies and of treating profit as the supreme value."

  "In Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as in other regions, there has been notable progress towards democracy, although there are grounds for concern in the face of authoritarian forms of government and regimes wedded to certain ideologies that we thought had been superseded, and which do not correspond to the Christian vision of man and society as taught by the Social Doctrine of the Church. On the other side of the coin, the liberal economy of some Latin American countries must take account of equity, because of the ever increasing sectors of society that find themselves oppressed by immense poverty or even despoiled of their own natural resources."

  The Pope noted the "notable degree of maturity in faith" among many lay people and catechists. "Yet it is true," he added, "that one can detect a certain weakening of Christian life in society overall and of participation in the life of the Catholic Church, due to secularism, hedonism, indifference and proselytism by numerous sects, animist religions and new pseudo-religious phenomena. ... The faithful are looking to this fifth conference for ... new paths and creative pastoral plans, ... capable of instilling a firm hope for living out the faith joyfully and responsibly, and thus spreading it in one's own surroundings."

  "In the face of the priority of faith in Christ and of life 'in Him' - as formulated in the title of this fifth conference - a further question could arise: could this priority not perhaps be a flight towards emotionalism, towards religious individualism, an abandonment of the urgent reality of the great economic, social and political problems of Latin America and the world, and a flight from reality towards a spiritual world?"

  "The first basic point to affirm," the Holy Father continued, "is the following: only those who recognize God know reality and are able to respond to it adequately and in a truly human manner. The truth of this thesis becomes evident in the face of the collapse of all the systems that marginalize God."

  At the beginning of this new phase for the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean, starting with this fifth general conference in Aparecida, "an indispensable pre-condition is profound knowledge of the Word of God. To achieve this, we must train people to read and meditate on the Word of God through catechesis using the Catechism of the Catholic Church and its abridged version, the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

  "In this area," the Pope added, "we must not limit ourselves solely to homilies, lectures, Bible courses or theology courses, but we must have recourse also to the communications media: press, radio and television, websites, forums and many other methods for effectively communicating the message of Christ to a large number of people."

  There will also be need, he went on, for "social catechesis and a sufficient formation in the social teaching of the Church, for which a very useful tool is the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Christian life is not expressed solely in personal virtues, but also in social and political virtues."

  "The peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean have the right to a full life, proper to the children of God, under conditions that are more human: free from the threat of hunger and from every form of violence." In this context, Benedict XVI recalled Paul VI's Encyclical "Populorum Progressio," which was promulgated 40 years ago this year and which emphasizes that "authentic development must be integral, that is, directed to the promotion of the whole person and of all people, and it invites all to overcome grave social inequalities and the enormous differences in access to goods."

  "In order to form disciples and sustain missionaries in their great task, the Church offers them in addition to the bread of the Word, the bread of the Eucharist. ... Hence the need to give priority in pastoral programs to appreciation of the importance of Sunday Mass" which "must be the center of Christian life."

  "Christians should be aware that they are not following a character from past history, but the living Christ, present in the 'today' and the 'now' of their lives. ... The encounter with Christ in the Eucharist calls forth a commitment to evangelization and an impulse towards solidarity; it awakens in the Christian a strong desire to proclaim the Gospel and to bear witness to it in the world so as to build a more just and humane society. ... Only from the Eucharist will the civilization of love spring forth which will transform Latin America and the Caribbean, making them not only the continent of hope, but also the continent of love!"

  "How," the Pope went on to ask, "can the Church contribute to the solution of urgent social and political problems, and respond to the great challenge of poverty and destitution? ... In this context, we inevitably speak of the problem of structures, especially those which create injustice.

  "In truth," he added, "just structures are a condition without which a just order in society is not possible. But how do they arise? How do they function? Both capitalism and Marxism promised to point out the path for the creation of just structures, and they declared that these, once established, would function by themselves; ... that not only would they have no need of any prior individual morality, but that they would promote a communal morality.

  "And this ideological promise has been proved false. The facts have clearly demonstrated it. The Marxist system, where it found its way into government, not only left a sad heritage of economic and ecological destruction, but also a painful destruction of the human spirit. And we can also see the same thing happening in the West, where the distance between rich and poor is growing constantly, and giving rise to a worrying degradation of personal dignity through drugs, alcohol and deceptive illusions of happiness.

  "Just structures," the Holy Father explained, "neither arise nor function without a moral consensus in society on fundamental values, and on the need to live these values with the necessary sacrifices, even if this goes against personal interest. Where God is absent - God with the human face of Jesus Christ - these values fail to show themselves with their full force, nor does a consensus arise concerning them.

  "I do not mean that non-believers cannot live a lofty and exemplary morality; I am only saying that a society in which God is absent will not find the necessary consensus on moral values or the strength to live according to the model of these values, even when they are in conflict with private interests.

  "On the other hand, just structures must be sought and elaborated in the light of fundamental values, with the full engagement of political, economic and social reasoning. ... This political task is not the immediate competence of the Church," because "respect for a healthy secularity - including the pluralism of political opinions - is essential in the authentic Christian tradition.

  "If the Church were to start transforming herself into a directly political subject, she would do less, not more, for the poor and for justice, because she would lose her independence and her moral authority, identifying herself with a single political path and with debatable partisan positions. ... Only by remaining independent can she teach the great criteria and inalienable values, guide consciences and offer a life choice that goes beyond the political sphere."

  The Holy Father expressed the view that, Latin America "being a continent of baptized Christians, it is time to overcome the notable absence - in the political sphere, in the world of the media and in the universities - of the voices and initiatives of Catholic leaders," and "to remind the laity of their responsibility and their mission to bring the light of the Gospel into public life, into culture, economics and politics."

  The Pope then considered other priority areas for the renewal of the Church in Latin America, beginning with the family which is a "patrimony of humanity and constitutes one of the most important treasures of Latin American countries." However, "it is currently suffering a degree of adversity caused by secularism and by ethical relativism, by movements of population internally and externally, by poverty, by social instability and by civil legislation opposed to marriage."

  "In some families in Latin America there still unfortunately persists a chauvinist mentality that ignores the 'newness' of Christianity, in which the equal dignity and responsibility of women relative to men is acknowledged and affirmed."

  "Consequently there has to be intense and vigorous pastoral care of families. Moreover, it is indispensable to promote authentic family policies corresponding to the rights of the family as an essential subject in society."

  The Holy Father then encouraged priests "to accomplish their exalted calling," to which end they must possess "a solid spiritual formation" and a life "imbued with faith, hope and charity." At the same time they "must be attentive to their cultural and intellectual preparation."

  "Latin American and Caribbean society needs your witness," he told religious men and women and consecrated persons. "In a world that so often gives priority to seeking well-being, wealth and pleasure as the goal of life, ... you are witnesses that there is another meaningful way to live."

  "I remind the lay faithful," he said, "that they too are the Church, the assembly called together by Christ so as to bring His witness to the whole world," and that "they must consider themselves jointly responsible for building society according to the criteria of the Gospel, with enthusiasm and boldness, in communion with their pastors."

  Pope Benedict noted the fact that "in Latin America the majority of the population is made up of young people. ... Young people are not afraid of sacrifice, but of a meaningless life. ... They must also commit themselves to a constant renewal of the world in the light of God. More still, they must oppose the facile illusions of instant happiness and the deceptive paradise offered by drugs, pleasure, and alcohol; and they must oppose every form of violence."

  "The deliberations of this fifth general conference lead us to make the plea of the disciples on the road to Emmaus our own: 'Stay with us, for it is towards evening, and the day is now far spent'," said the Pope as he reached the conclusion of his address.

  "Stay with us, because ... discouragement is eating its way into our hearts: make them burn with the certainty of Easter. ... Stay with us, Lord, when mists of doubt, weariness or difficulty rise up around our Catholic faith."

  "You are Life itself: remain in our homes, so that they may continue to be nests where human life is generously born, where life is welcomed, loved and respected from conception to natural death.

  "Remain, Lord, with those in our societies who are most vulnerable; remain with the poor and the lowly, with indigenous peoples and Afro-Americans, who have not always found space and support to express the richness of their culture and the wisdom of their identity. Remain, Lord, with our children and with our young people, who are the hope and the treasure of our continent. ... O Good Shepherd, remain with our elderly and with our sick. Strengthen them all in faith, so that they may be Your disciples and missionaries!"


VATICAN CITY, MAY 13, 2007 (VIS) - Following this morning's Mass on the esplanade in front of the Brazilian shrine of Aparecida, the Holy Father recited the Regina Coeli with the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims gathered there, calling on them to pray for the outcome of the Fifth General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean which, he said, "opens up a future of hope for the Latin American family. You have a part to play in building the destiny of your nations."

  The Pope then greeted the various groups present, beginning with Spanish-speaking faithful to whom he said: "May the Virgin Mary help you to keep alive the flame of faith, love and harmony, so that by the witness of your lives and by faithfulness to your baptismal vocation, you may be light and hope for humanity."

  "Families stand at the heart of the Church's mission of evangelization," he told English-speaking pilgrims, "for it is in the home that our life of faith is first expressed and nurtured."

  To French-speaking families, especially those living in Haiti, French Guyana and the Antilles, he said: "May you build, in cooperation with others, a more generous and fraternal society, taking care to help young people discover the greatness of family values."

  Benedict XVI also recalled the fact that today is the 90th anniversary of the apparitions of the Virgin at Fatima in Portugal. "With their powerful call to conversion and penance," he said, "they are without doubt the most prophetic of all modern apparitions."

  "In a special way we entrust to her those peoples and nations that are in particular need," and especially "those brothers and sisters who suffer from hunger. In this regard I want to mention the 'March against Hunger' promoted by the World Food Program. ... This initiative is taking place today in many cities worldwide."

  Finally the Pope offered prayers for the Afro-Brazilian community, "who this Sunday are commemorating the abolition of slavery in Brazil. May this celebration foster a renewed sense of missionary outreach towards this highly significant socio-cultural group in the Land of the Holy Cross."
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VATICAN CITY, MAY 13, 2007 (VIS) - This morning, Benedict XVI presided at Mass outside the Brazilian shrine of Aparecida. The ceremony, attended by some 300,000 people, marked the inauguration of the Fifth General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean.

  Bishops and priests from the various episcopal conferences of Latin America and the Caribbean concelebrated with the Pope.

  In his homily the Holy Father affirmed that "this liturgical celebration lays a most solid foundation for the fifth general conference, setting it on the firm basis of prayer and the Eucharist, 'Sacramentum Caritatis.' Only the love of Christ, poured out by the Holy Spirit, can make this meeting an authentic ecclesial event, a moment of grace for this continent and for the whole world."

  After emphasizing how "the Church's mission exists only as a prolongation of Christ's mission: 'As the Father has sent me, even so I send you'." the Pope pointed out that "Christ's mission is accomplished in love. He has kindled in the world the fire of God's love. It is love that gives life: and so the Church has been sent forth to spread Christ's love throughout the world."

  "The Church," he went on "considers herself the disciple and missionary of this love: missionary only insofar as she is a disciple, capable of being attracted constantly and with renewed wonder by the God Who has loved us and Who loves us first. The Church does not engage in proselytism. Instead, she grows by 'attraction:' just as Christ 'draws all to Himself' by the power of His love, culminating in the sacrifice of the Cross, so the Church fulfils her mission to the extent that, in union with Christ, she accomplishes every one of her works in spiritual and practical imitation of the love of her Lord."

  "Faith in the God Who is love," said Pope Benedict, is the Latin American continent's "most precious inheritance. ... This is your strength, which overcomes the world, the joy that nothing and no one can ever take from you, the peace that Christ won for you by His Cross! This is the faith that has made America the 'continent of hope.' Not a political ideology, not a social movement, not an economic system: faith in the God Who is Love - Who took flesh, died and rose in Jesus Christ - is the authentic basis for this hope which has brought forth such a magnificent harvest from the time of the first evangelization until today, as attested by the ranks of saints and blesseds whom the Spirit has raised up throughout the continent."

  "Whoever loves the Lord Jesus and keeps His word, already experiences in this world the mysterious presence of the Triune God. We heard this in the Gospel: 'we will come to Him and make our home with Him.' Every Christian is therefore called to become a living stone of this splendid 'dwelling place of God with men.' What a magnificent vocation!"

  The Holy Father concluded by expressing the hope that, "through the prayers of the Virgin Mary," the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean may be "abundantly clothed with power from on high, in order to spread throughout this continent and the whole world the holiness of Christ."
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VATICAN CITY, MAY 12, 2007 (VIS) - Today at 6 p.m. (11 p.m. in Rome), Benedict XVI arrived at the shrine of Aparecida to pray the Rosary with priests, religious, seminarians and deacons of Brazil. Also participating in the event were representatives of the Fifth General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean, and tens of thousands of pilgrims.

  After the recitation of the Glorious Mysteries and the singing of the "Salve Regina," the Pope pronounced his homily. Through the praying of the Rosary, he said, "the divine Comforter seeks to initiate us in the knowledge of Christ that issues forth from the clear source of the Gospel text.

  "For her part," he added, "the Church of the third millennium proposes to offer Christians the capacity for 'knowledge of God's mystery, of Christ, in Whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge'." In this, "Mary Most Holy, the pure and immaculate Virgin, is for us a school of faith."

  Benedict XVI then went on to greet priests, saying: "What great challenges, what difficult situations you have to face, with such generosity, self-denial, sacrifices and renunciations! ... The witness of a priestly life well lived brings nobility to the Church, calls forth admiration among the faithful, and is a source of blessings for the community; it is the best way to promote vocations. ... It is true collaboration in building the Kingdom of God!" The Pope also recalled elderly and infirm priests, pointing out how their "conformation to Christ Suffering and Risen is the most fruitful apostolate."

  "Your exuberance, enthusiasm, idealism and encouragement to face new challenges," said the Holy Father addressing deacons and seminarians, "serve to give the People of God a renewed openness, make the faithful more dynamic and help the community to grow, to progress, and to become more trusting, joyful and optimistic. ... Always keep before your eyes the figure of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, Who 'came not to be served but to serve.' ... Be like the first deacons of the Church: men of good reputation, filled with the Holy Spirit, with wisdom and with faith.

  "And you, seminarians," he added, "remember that the seminary is the cradle of your vocation and the first place where you experience communal life. I ask you, with God's help, to be holy, faithful and happy priests in the service of the Church."

  Addressing the consecrated men and women present, the Pope described them as "an offering, a present, a divine gift that the Church has received from her Lord" and thanked them, for "the unreserved, total, definitive, unconditional and impassioned love, ... manifested in silence, in contemplation, in prayer and in the most varied activities that you undertake ... in favor of humanity and especially of the poorest and most abandoned.

  "All this," he added, "calls forth in the hearts of the young the desire to follow Christ the Lord more closely and radically, and to offer their lives so as to bear witness before the men and women of our day to the fact that God is love, and that it is worth allowing oneself to be conquered and entranced in order to devote one's life exclusively to Him."

  Benedict XVI also recalled the fact that "religious life in Brazil has always been important and has had a key role in the work of evangelization, from the very beginnings of the colonial era." In this context, he mentioned the figures of St. Antonio de Santa Ana Galvao, the first native-born Brazilian saint, and St. Pauline, foundress of the Little Sisters of the Immaculate Conception.

  "How important it is to maintain our sense of belonging to the Church, which leads us to grow and to mature as brothers and sisters, children of the one God and Father," the Holy Father concluded. "The Pope therefore wants to say to all of you: The Church is our home! This is our home! ... Anyone who accepts Christ ... is assured of peace and happiness, in this life and in the next! ... It is worth being faithful, it is worth persevering in our faith!"
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VATICAN CITY, MAY 12, 2007 (VIS) - At 10.45 a.m. local time today, the Pope met with members of the "Fazenda da Esperanca" community in Guaratingueta, an institute for the rehabilitation of people with problems of drug and alcohol abuse.

  Following a few brief remarks from Br. Hans Stapel, founder of the "Nossa Senhora de Gloria" charity, the Holy Father greeted volunteers and benefactors of the "Fazenda" communities in various countries, as well as relatives of the young people who seek help there.

  Through the "Fazenda" institution, said Pope Benedict, "the Lord has given you this opportunity for physical and spiritual recovery, so vital for you and your families. In turn, society expects you to spread this precious gift of health among your friends and all the members of the community."

  "You must be ambassadors of hope," he added. "Brazil's statistics concerning drug abuse and other forms of chemical dependency are very high. The same is true of Latin America in general. I therefore urge the drug-dealers to reflect on the grave harm they are inflicting on countless young people and on adults at every level of society: God will call you to account for your deeds. Human dignity cannot be trampled upon in this way."

  Having expressed his appreciation for this work, "which has the charism of St. Francis and the spirituality of the 'Focolare' Movement as its spiritual foundation," the Holy Father said: "Reintegration in society undoubtedly demonstrates the effectiveness of your initiative. Yet it is the conversions, the rediscovery of God and active participation in the life of the Church which attract even greater attention and which confirm the importance of your work. It is not enough to care for the body, we must adorn the soul with the most precious divine gifts acquired through Baptism."

  Benedict XVI thanked "all those who contribute materially and spiritually to enable the charity 'Nossa Senhora da Gloria' to continue its work. ... My thoughts turn now to those many other institutions throughout the world which work to rebuild and renew the lives of these brothers and sisters of ours present in our midst, whom God loves with a preferential love. I am also thinking," he concluded, "of groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous as well as the sobriety associations working generously in many communities to build up the lives of others."

  Returning to the "Bom Jesus" seminary, the Pope lunched with representatives of the presidency of the Fifth General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean.


VATICAN CITY, MAY 12, 2007 (VIS) - Today at around 10.30 a.m. local time, Benedict XVI arrived at the "Fazenda da Esperanca" in Guaratingueta, an institute for young people with problems of drug and alcohol dependency founded in 1979 at the initiative of Br. Hans Stapel O.F.M. The center draws inspiration from the "Focolare" Movement and from the principles of Franciscan spirituality. Currently there are 32 "Family of Hope" communities all over the world and their field of activity also extends to single mothers, poor and homeless families, and terminally-ill AIDS sufferers.

  Visiting the newly-built church of the "Fazenda," the Pope greeted the Poor Clares, an order of cloistered nuns living in Guaratingueta "In places where society no longer sees any future or hope," the Holy Father told them, "Christians are called to proclaim the power of the Resurrection.

  "It is here," he added, "in this 'Fazenda da Esperanca' - home to so many, especially young people, who are seeking to overcome drug addiction, alcoholism, and chemical dependency - that a clear witness is given to the Gospel of Christ. ... It is the risen Christ Who heals the wounds and saves the sons and daughters of God, saves humanity from death, from sin and from slavery to passions. The Passover of Christ unites heaven and earth. In this 'Fazenda da Esperanca', the prayers of the Poor Clare Sisters are united with the demanding work of medicine and therapy in order to vanquish the prisons and break the chains of drugs that bring so much suffering to God's beloved children."

  "In this same love, Brother Hans invited them to be the guarantors of all the work carried out in the 'Fazenda da Esperanca," living out "the commandment of love for God and neighbor in its supreme form, loving to the end. This means that we must never lose hope! Hence the name given to this work by Brother Hans: 'Fazenda da Esperanca.' We need to build up hope, weaving the fabric of a society that, by relaxing its grip on the threads of life, is losing the true sense of hope."

  "My dear sisters," the Pope concluded, "make it your task to proclaim that 'hope does not disappoint.' May the sorrow of the Crucified Lord, which filled Mary's soul at the foot of the Cross, console the hearts of many mothers and fathers who weep with sorrow because of their children's continuing dependency on drugs. By your silent prayerful self-offering ... proclaim the message of love that conquers sorrow, drugs and death. Proclaim Jesus Christ, a human being like us, Who suffers like ourselves, Who took our sins upon Himself in order to deliver us from them!"

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