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Monday, June 18, 2007


VATICAN CITY, JUN 18, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

 - Six prelates from the Episcopal Conference of Togo, on their "ad limina" visit:

    - Archbishop Philippe Fanoko Kossi Kpodzro, emeritus of Lome, accompanied by Archbishop-elect Denis Komivi Amuzu-Dzakpah.

    - Bishop Jacques Nyimbusede Tukumbe Anyilunda of Dapaong.

    - Bishop Benoit Comlan Messan Alowonou of Kpalime, apostolic administrator of Atakpame.

    - Bishop Ambroise Kotamba Djoliba of Sokode.

    - Msgr. Isaac Jogues Kodjo Agbemenya Gaglo, diocesan administrator of Aneho.

  On Saturday, June 16, he received on separate audiences:

 - Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care (for Healthcare Ministry).

 - Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.
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VATICAN CITY, JUN 18, 2007 (VIS) - At 5 p.m. tomorrow Tuesday, March 19, at the altar of the Cathedra in St. Peter's Basilica, Benedict XVI will preside at the funeral of Cardinal Angelo Felici, who died yesterday at the age of 87. The Italian cardinal was prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and president emeritus of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei."
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VATICAN CITY, JUN 16, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Fr. Domenico Cancian F.A.M., superior general of Sons of Merciful Love, as bishop of Citta di Castello (area 820, population 60,060, Catholics 58,900, priests 71, permanent deacons 9, religious 142), Italy. The bishop-elect was born in Mareno di Piave, Italy in 1947 and ordained a priest in 1972. He succeeds Bishop Pellegrino Tommaso Ronchi O.F.M. Cap., whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese, the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.
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VATICAN CITY, JUN 16, 2007 (VIS) - Following this morning's private meeting, and their exchange of speeches, the Pope and His Beatitude Chrysostomos II, signed a Joint declaration in the presence of the Catholic and Cypriot Orthodox delegations.

  In the declaration, Benedict XVI and the archbishop of New Justiniana and All Cyprus declare their "sincere and firm desire, in obedience to the will of Our Lord Jesus Christ, to intensify the search for full unity among all Christians. ... We wish the Catholic and Orthodox faithful of Cyprus to live fraternally and in full solidarity. ... Furthermore, we wish to support and promote theological dialogue which, through the competent international commission, is preparing to consider the most onerous questions that marked the historical event of division. It is necessary to reach substantial agreement over full communion in the faith, in sacramental life and in the exercise of pastoral ministry."

  The Holy Father and His Beatitude Chrysostomos II affirm that during their meeting they "examined the situation of the divisions and tensions which, for more than 30 years, have characterized the island of Cyprus, with the tragic everyday problems that also affect the lives of our communities and of individual families." They also considered "the situation in the Middle East, where war and contrasts between peoples risk spreading, with disastrous consequences. We have invoked the peace 'that comes from above.' Our Churches intend to play a role of pacification in justice and in solidarity and, in order for this to come about, it is our desire to promote fraternal relations between all Christians and faithful dialogue between the various religions that are present and operate in the region."

  After making a call for all those who raise their hands "against their brothers" to lay down their arms, the joint declaration calls for "every effort to be made to ensure that human rights are always defended, in all countries." Of these, "the primary right is that of freedom of religion. Not to respect it constitutes a grave offence to the dignity of man. ... And hence, to profane, destroy or plunder the places of worship of any religion is an act against humanity and the civilization of peoples."

  "At a time of growing secularization and relativism, Catholics and Orthodox in Europe are called to offer renewed witness on ethical values," write the Pope and Chrysostomos II. Referring to the European Union, they highlight how "it cannot be limited to merely economic cooperation, it needs solid cultural foundations, shared ethical positions and openness to the religious dimension. It is necessary to revive the Christian roots of Europe, which have made its civilization great over the centuries, and to recognize that the Western and Eastern Christian tradition have, in this sense, a joint task to accomplish."

  The Pope and the archbishop of New Justiniana and All Cyprus indicate that "the rich heritage of faith and the solid Christian tradition of our lands must encourage Catholic and Orthodox to a renewed determination to announce the Gospel in our time, in order to be faithful to our Christian vocation and to respond to the needs of today's world."

  On the subject of bioethics, the two men express their "serious concern" for the way in which this question is handled. And they affirm that "the exploitation of human beings, abusive experimentation and genetic experiments that do not respect ethical values, are an offense to life, threaten the wellbeing and dignity of each human being and cannot and must not be justified or permitted at any moment of existence."

  The Holy Father and His Beatitude Chrysostomos II invite the leaders of nations "to favor and promote a fair distribution of the earth's resources, in a spirit of solidarity with the poor and with all the deprived people of the world."

  At the end of the declaration, they express their concern for "the risk of the destruction of creation" highlighting in this context how the environment "needs respect and protection from all those who live in it."


VATICAN CITY, JUN 17, 2007 (VIS) - Departing from the cathedral of San Rufino, Benedict XVI travelled by car to the basilica of St. Mary of the Angels. Along the route he blessed disabled people from Assisi's Seraphic Institute.

  At 5.45 reached the square in front of the basilica. There he was greeted by the custodian, the rector and the pastor before going on to visit the Shrine of Porziuncola and the chapel of St. Francis. At 6 p.m., the Holy Father delivered an address to the young people awaiting him in the square.

  "It was here," said the Pope, that Francis "established the 'headquarters' of his order, where the friars could come together, as if in a maternal bosom, regenerating themselves before starting out again full of apostolic energy." Pope Benedict then went on to give a broad outline of the saint's biography, focussing on the "special attraction" his figure has for the young.

  Francis' conversion at the age of 25 "came about when he at the peak of his vitality, his experiences, his dreams," said Benedict XVI. He also dwelt on Francis' character before his conversion, describing him as a "carefree and generous," person "who wandered the city of Assisi day and night with his friends."

  "How can it be denied," the Pope went on, "that may people are tempted to follow the life of the young Francis before his conversion? That lifestyle hides the desire for happiness that dwells in every human heart." Yet the saint did not find "true joy" there, because "the truth is that finite things can give glimmers of joy but only the infinite can fill the heart."

  Another feature of St. Francis was "his ambition, his thirst for glory and adventure," said the Pope, noting how the Lord used this characteristic in order to attract the saint "showing him the path of a saintly ambition projected towards the infinite."

  "As He did to Francis, Christ also speaks to our heart. We risk passing our entire lives being deafened by loud but empty voices. We risk missing His voice, the only one that counts because it is the only one that saves."

  "Do not be afraid to imitate Francis," said the Holy Father to the young people, "above all in your capacity to go back to yourselves. He knew how to create a silence within himself, listening to the Word of God. Step by step he let himself be guided by the hand towards the full encounter with Jesus, to the point of making this the treasure and light of his life."

  "Francis was truly enamoured of Jesus. He met Him in the Word of God, in his fellow man, in nature, but above all in His presence in the Eucharist. ... The nativity scene of Greccio well expresses his need to contemplate [the Lord] in the tender human form of a baby. ... His experience on the mountain of La Verna where he received the stigmata shows what level of intimacy he reached in his relationship with the crucified Christ."

  "Precisely because he was a man of Christ, Francis was also a man of the Church. From the crucifix of St. Damian he received the command to repair the house of Christ, in other words the Church. ... In the final analysis, that task was nothing other than the responsibility attributed by Christ to all the baptized. The Church grows and is repaired, above all, in the measure to which each of us converts and seeks sanctification."

  "Like concentric circles, Francis' love for Jesus expands not only over the Church but over all things, seen in Christ and for Christ. Here are the origins of his 'Canticle of the Sun' in which his eye rests upon the splendor of the Creation" and which "even before being an exalted piece of poetry and an implicit invitation to respect creation, is a prayer."

  "Francis' commitment to peace is also to be seen as a form of prayer. This aspect of his life is of great contemporary importance in a world which has so much need of peace yet does not manage to achieve it. Francis was a man of peace and an architect of peace. He showed as much in the mildness with which he approached men of other faiths, yet without silencing his own faith. ... If inter-religious dialogue today, and especially after Vatican Council II, has become a shared and indispensable patrimony of Christianity, Francis can help us to discover true dialogue without lapsing into a position of indifference towards the truth or lessening our Christian announcement."

  After the meeting, the Pope travelled to the Migaghelli sports field where he boarded the helicopter that took him back to the Vatican
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VATICAN CITY, JUN 17, 2007 (VIS) - At 4.30 p.m. today, Benedict XVI travelled to Assisi's cathedral of San Rufino where he met with priests, deacons, religious, superiors and students of the pontifical seminary of Umbria.

  In his talk to them, the Holy Father insisted that "it is not enough" for the millions of faithful who come to Assisi to admire St. Francis, rather they must "be attracted by Francis' charism, they must be helped to accept the essential nucleus of Christian life and to tend towards its 'highest measure,' which is sanctity."

  "Ever more often, Christians in our time find themselves facing the tendency to accept a diminished Christ, admired in His extraordinary humanity but rejected in the profound mystery of His divinity. Francis himself suffers a kind of mutilation when he is called upon as a witness to certain values - certainly important and appreciated by modern culture - but forgetting that his profound choice, what we could call the heart of his life, was his commitment to Christ."

  "The name of Francis, together with that of Clare, call out for this city to distinguish itself for its particular missionary energy," said the Holy Father. And as a consequence, "it is necessary for this Church to live an intense experience of communion."

  In this context, the Pope recalled his Motu Proprio "Totius orbis," promulgated two years ago, in which he established that "the two great papal basilicas of St. Francis and of St. Mary of the Angels, while continuing to enjoy the special attention of the Holy See through the pontifical legate [Cardinal Attilio Nicora], from a pastoral point of view passed under the jurisdiction of the bishop of the city," Bishop Domenico Sorrentino. "I am truly happy," he went on, "to know that the new arrangement has begun with a show of great willingness and collaboration, and I am certain it will bring abundant fruits."

  "The appropriateness of a unitary structure such as that ensured by the Motu Proprio," the Pope continued, "was also suggested by the need for coordinated and effective pastoral action." If communities of consecrated life "have the right to expect acceptance and respect for their charism, they must nonetheless avoid living as 'islands,' and integrate themselves with conviction and generosity in service and in the pastoral plan adopted by the bishop for the whole diocesan community."

  Addressing himself directly to priests and deacons, the Holy Father said: "Your enthusiasm and your communion, your life of prayer and your generous ministry are indispensable. It can happen that we feel tired or afraid in the face of new challenges and new difficulties, but we must have faith that the Lord will give us the strength necessary to put into effect what He asks of us. He will ensure that vocations do not fail if we implore them with faith, and if together we undertake to seek and defend them with ... a pastoral care rich in ardor and inventiveness, capable of showing the beauty of priestly ministry."

  Benedict XVI concluded his talk by addressing consecrated men and women. "You are a great resource for the Church," he told them, "both in the field of pastoral care in parishes and in the support you provide for so many pilgrims, who often come to ask your hospitality" but "also expect to find a spiritual witness." To cloistered nuns he said: "Know how to hold high the flame of contemplation. ... Be signs of Christ's love, to whom all your brothers and sisters can look as they struggle with the fatigue of apostolic life and of lay commitment in the world."
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VATICAN CITY, JUN 17, 2007 (VIS) - In the hall of the convent of Assisi at 4.15 p.m. today, the Holy Father greeted German Poor Clare Capuchin Sisters from the Holy Cross Convent.

  The Pope then went to the Upper Basilica of St. Francis where he met with participants in the general chapter of the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor Conventual, led by their minister general Fr. Marco Tosca, and with the community of the convent.

  In a Message he presented to the fathers of the general chapter, the Pope expresses his gratitude "for the ready obedience with which, together with the Friars Minor," they accepted "the stipulations of the Motu Proprio 'Totius orbis' concerning the new relationship of the two papal basilicas of St. Francis and of St. Mary of the Angels with this particular Church."

  The Pope recalled how the theme of the 199th general chapter concerns "formation for the mission," and he pointed out that formation is never complete "but must rather be considered a permanent journey. ... At its roots must be the act of listening to the Word in a climate of intense and continuous prayer."

  "It is necessary," the papal message continues, "for each friar to be a true contemplative," capable of "seeing the face of Christ in his suffering fellows and bringing the announcement of peace to everyone."

  Benedict XVI calls on the religious to ensure that St. Francis' words - "the Rule and life of the Friars Minor is this: observe the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ" - remain as a "firm principle" for each one of them.

  St. Francis' prophecy "teaches us to make the Gospel our criterion in facing the challenges of all ages, including our own, resisting the deceptive lure of passing fashions to root ourselves in God's plan and thus discern the true needs of mankind. My hope is that the friars know how to accept this 'program' with renewed drive and courage, trusting in the strength that comes from on high."
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VATICAN CITY, JUN 17, 2007 (VIS) - Before praying the Angelus today with the faithful who had participated in the Eucharistic concelebration in the Lower Square of St. Francis in Assisi, Benedict XVI recalled the World Day of Prayer for Peace called by John Paul II in 1986, an event attended by representatives from other Christian confessions and leaders of various religions.

  "I consider it my duty," said the Pope, "to launch from here an urgent and heartfelt appeal for all the armed conflicts bloodying the earth to cease, for arms to fall silent and everywhere for hatred to give way to love, offense to forgiveness and discord to union.

  "Here we feel the spiritual presence of all those who weep, suffer and die because of war and its tragic consequences, in all parts of the world, Our thoughts go out particularly to the Holy Land, so beloved by St. Francis, to Iraq, to Lebanon, to the entire Middle East. The peoples of those countries know, and have long known, the horrors of combat, of terrorism, of blind violence, the illusion that force can resolve conflicts, the refusal to listen to the other's reasons and to do them justice. Only responsible and sincere dialogue, supported by the generous support of the international community, can put an end to so much pain and restore life and dignity to individuals, institutions and peoples.

  "May St. Francis, man of peace, obtain for us from the Lord an increase in the number of people ready to become 'instruments of His peace,' through the thousand small acts of everyday life. May those in positions of responsibility be animated by a passionate love for peace and by an indomitable will to achieve it, seeking appropriate means to that end."

  The Mass over, Benedict XVI greeted a delegation from the convent. Then, accompanied by Fr. Vincenzo Coli, the custodian, he visited the tomb of St. Francis in the lower basilica. the Pope then returned to the convent, where he had lunch.
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VATICAN CITY, JUN 17, 2007 (VIS) - At 8.30 a.m. today, following an hour-long helicopter journey from the Vatican, the Pope arrived in the Italian town of Assisi to begin a visit commemorating the eighth centenary of the conversion of St. Francis.

  After a brief visit to the Shrine of Rivotorto, where St. Francis lived for two years with his first followers, the Holy Father travelled to the Shrine of St. Damian. From there he journeyed by car to the Basilica of St. Clare where he prayed before the Blessed Sacrament and venerated the crucifix of St. Damian where St. Francis heard the words that changed his life: "Go, Francis, and repair my house."

  At 10 a.m., Benedict XVI presided at a Eucharistic concelebration in the Lower Square of St. Francis.

  In his homily the Holy Father considered the figure of St. Francis, who in his first 25 years of life "pursued vain dreams of worldly glory." However, "his conversion led him to practice mercy. ... Serving lepers even to the point of kissing them was not only a philanthropic gesture - what might be called a 'social' conversion - but a true religious experience, directed by the initiative of grace and by the love of God."

  "To convert ourselves to love is to pass from bitterness to 'sweetness,' from sadness to true joy. Humans are truly themselves, and realize themselves fully, in as much as they live with God and of God, recognizing and loving Him in their fellow man."

  "The life of the converted Francis," said the Pope, was "a great act of love," as is shown by "his choice of poverty and his search for Christ in the face of the poor."

  Francis was "a true master" in the "search for peace, the protection of nature, and the promotion of dialogue among mankind," said the Holy Father and he recalled John Paul II's initiative that brought together representatives from Christian confessions and from other religions of the world for a meeting of prayer for peace in Assisi in 1986. "That was," said Pope Benedict, "a prophetic intuition and a moment of grace."

  "The light of the 'Poverello' on that initiative was a guarantee of its Christian authenticity," said the Pope, "because his life and his message are so visibly founded upon his choice of Christ. What must be rejected a priori is any form of religious indifferentism, which has no connection with authentic inter-religious dialogue.

  "The spirit of Assisi," Pope Benedict added, "which from that [1986 initiative] continues to spread out around the world, is opposed to the spirit of violence and to the abuse of religion as a pretext for violence. Assisi tells us that faithfulness to one's own religious convictions, faithfulness above all to the crucified and risen Christ, is not expressed in violence and intolerance but in sincere respect for others, in dialogue, and in an announcement that appeals to freedom and reason while remaining committed to peace and reconciliation.

  "Failing to bring together acceptance, dialogue and respect for everyone with the certainty of faith that all Christians, like the saint of Assisi, are called to cultivate, would be neither evangelical nor Franciscan," the Pope concluded. We must all "announce Christ as the way, the truth and the life of man; the only Savior of the world."
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