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Wednesday, November 28, 2007


VATICAN CITY, NOV 28, 2007 (VIS) - Continuing his series of catecheses on Fathers of the Church, Benedict XVI today dedicated his general audience to the figure of St. Ephrem the Syrian, "the most famous poet of the patristic age." The audience was held in the Paul VI Hall in the presence of 8,000 people.

  Before discussing St. Ephrem, the Pope remarked how "it is widely believed today that Christianity is a European religion which subsequently exported that continent's culture to other countries. But the truth is much more complex."

  "The roots of the Christian religion," the Pope explained, "are in the Old Testament, hence in Jerusalem and the Semitic world. And Christianity constantly draws nourishment from these Old Testament roots. The spread of Christianity in the early centuries was directed both westwards - to the Greco-Latin world where it later inspired European culture - and eastwards to Persia and India, where it contributed to the formation of a specific culture, in Semitic languages and with its own identity."

  Benedict XVI indicated that "in order demonstrate the one Christian faith's multiplicity of cultural form ever since its inception" he had chosen to focus his audience on St. Ephrem, a theologian and a poet who was born in Nisibis around the year 306 and died in Edessa in 373.

  "Poetry," the Holy Father explained, "enabled him to deepen his theological reflections through the use of paradox and images."

  "Ephrem gave poetry and liturgical hymns a didactic and catechetical character, ... so as to use liturgical feasts as opportunities to spread the doctrine of the Church."

  Benedict XVI dwelt briefly on Ephrem's ideas concerning God the Creator, saying: "Nothing in the Creation is isolated and the world is - alongside Scared Scripture - a Bible of God. Using his freedom wrongly, man overturns the order of the universe."

  For Ephrem, "Jesus' presence in Mary's womb greatly raised the dignity of women ... about whom he always speaks with sensitivity and respect," said the Pope. "Just as there is no Redemption without Jesus, so there is no Incarnation without Mary. And the divine and human dimensions of the mystery of our Redemption are already to be found in the saint's writings."

  Honored in Christian tradition with the title of "harp of the Holy Spirit," Ephrem remained a deacon of the Church throughout his life. "This was a decisive and emblematic choice," said the Holy Father. "He was a deacon, in other words a servant in liturgical ministry and, more radically, in the love of Christ ... as well as in charity towards his brethren who, with great skill, he introduced to a knowledge of the divine Revelation."
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VATICAN CITY, NOV 28, 2007 (VIS) - At the end of today's general audience, which was held in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope launched an appeal for everything possible to be done to halt the spread of AIDS.

  "December 1," he said, "marks World AIDS Day. I remain spiritually close to everyone suffering from this terrible sickness, and to their families, especially those who have lost a loved one. To everyone I give assurances of my prayers.

  "Furthermore, I wish to exhort all people of good will to increase their efforts to halt the spread of the HIV virus, to combat the disdain which is often directed towards people who are affected by it, and to care for the sick, especially those who are still children."
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VATICAN CITY, NOV 28, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed:

 - Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, auxiliary of Munster, Germany, as bishop of Limburg (area 6,182, population 2,329,472, Catholics 685,458, priests 457, permanent deacons 60, religious 1,267), Germany.

 - Archbishop Henryk Josef Nowacki, apostolic nuncio to Slovakia, as apostolic nuncio to Nicaragua.
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VATICAN CITY, NOV 28, 2007 (VIS) - "Young migrants" is the theme of the Message of the Holy Father Benedict XVI for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which is to be celebrated on January 13, 2008. The Message has been published in Italian, French, English, German, Spanish and Portuguese. Large extracts of the English-language version are given below:

  "The theme of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees invites us this year to reflect in particular on young migrants. ... The vast globalization process underway around the world brings a need for mobility, which also induces many young people to emigrate and live far from their families and their countries. The result is that many times the young people endowed with the best intellectual resources leave their countries of origin, while in the countries that receive the migrants, laws are in force that make their actual insertion difficult."

  "For the young migrants, the problems of the so-called 'difficulty of dual belonging' seem to be felt in a particular way: on the one hand, they feel a strong need not to lose their culture of origin, while on the other, the understandable desire emerges in them to be inserted organically into the society that receives them, but without this implying a complete assimilation and the resulting loss of their ancestral traditions. Among the young people, there are also girls who fall victim more easily to exploitation, moral forms of blackmail, and even abuses of all kinds.

  "Next, looking more closely at the sector of forced migrants, refugees and the victims of human trafficking, we unhappily find many children and adolescents too. On this subject it is impossible to remain silent before the distressing images of the great refugee camps present in different parts of the world. ... These children and adolescents have only had as their life experience the permanent, compulsory 'camps' where they are segregated, far from inhabited towns, with no possibility normally to attend school."

  "The question is raised of how to respond to the expectations of the young migrants? What can be done to help them? Of course, it is necessary to aim first of all at support for the family and schools. But how complex the situations are, and how numerous the difficulties these young people encounter in their family and school contexts! In families, the traditional roles that existed in the countries of origin have broken down, and a clash is often seen between parents still tied to their culture and children quickly acculturated in the new social contexts.

  "Likewise, the difficulty should not be underestimated which the young people find in getting inserted into the educational course of study in force in the country where they are hosted. Therefore, the scholastic system itself should take their conditions into consideration and provide specific formative paths of integration for the immigrant boys and girls that are suited to their needs. The commitment will also be important to create a climate of mutual respect and dialogue among all the students in the classrooms based on the universal principles and values that are common to all cultures."

  "The Church looks with very particular attention at the world of migrants and asks those who have received a Christian formation in their countries of origin to make this heritage of faith and evangelical values bear fruit in order to offer a consistent witness in the different life contexts."

  "Among the migrants ... there is one category to consider in a special way: the students from other countries who because of their studies, are far from home. ... They are young people who need a specific pastoral care because they are not just students, like all the rest, but also temporary migrants. They often feel alone under the pressure of their studies and sometimes they are also constricted by economic difficulties."

  "It is necessary to help them find a way to open up to the dynamism of inter-culturality and be enriched in their contact with other students of different cultures and religions. For young Christians, this study and formation experience can be a useful area for the maturation of their faith, a stimulus to be open to the universalism that is a constitutive element of the Catholic Church.

  "Dear young migrants, prepare yourselves to build together your young peers a more just and fraternal society by fulfilling your duties scrupulously and seriously towards your families and the State. Be respectful of the laws and never let yourselves be carried away by hatred and violence. Try instead to be protagonists as of now of a world where understanding and solidarity, justice and peace will reign."

  "The Church needs you too and is counting on your contribution. You can play a very providential role in the current context of evangelization. Coming from different cultures, but all united by belonging to the one Church of Christ, you can show that the Gospel is alive and suited to every situation; it is an old and ever new message. It is a word of hope and salvation for the people of all races and cultures, of all ages and eras."
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VATICAN CITY, NOV 28, 2007 (VIS) - Today in the Holy See Press Office, Cardinal Raffaele Martino, Archbishop Agostino Marchetto and Msgr. Novatus Rugambwa, respectively president, secretary, and under-secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, presented the Pope's Message for the 94th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, due to be held on January 13, 2008 on the theme of "Young Migrants."

  Cardinal Martino affirmed that in our own time "the migration of young people is undergoing considerable growth. The young are forced to emigrate because of poverty and want, environmental decay, local and international conflicts, political and religious persecution, the demand for labor in industrialized countries, family reunion, etc."

  "Young migrants," the cardinal said, "often find themselves alone, in a no-man's-land halfway between two cultures." This causes them "to live in a situation of great uncertainty that prevents them from conceiving a feasible project for their future and increases the factors that lead to marginalization, opening the doors to criminality, prostitution, alcohol, drugs and larceny."

  "The crisis of values of our own day," the president of the pontifical council continued, "leads to the spiritual death of many young immigrants. Most of them are also relatively distant from religious concerns, and often recognize that they have received no ... education in this field."

 "Specific pastoral action in support of young immigrants must be undertaken while bearing in mind the existential situation of the individual: ... the language, culture, religion, origin and personal history of each young immigrant."

  Archbishop Marchetto focussed above all on aspects concerning the right to asylum and the situation of refugees. After recalling the fact that in some States unaccompanied minors are placed in detention, he turned to consider living conditions in refugee camps.

  "Transitional camps," he said, "must go back to the role for which they were intended: places in which to reside temporarily. ... Currently, however, it has become a general practice, especially in countries of the South, to force people to live in overcrowded camps, very often in unspeakable conditions. Normally they are not even allowed to work, while their freedom of movement is limited, and thus they become totally dependent on the internal distribution of food within the camps. Moreover, they are often reduced to a life with a minimum of necessary goods and scant dignity. ... Hence there is little future for people who live in these places, which are often located in remote areas."

  Finally, the archbishop praised the work of female religious who, "assisted by Catholic NGOs and by U.N. organizations, care for and accompany young people, especially girls who have suffered violence, rape or threats. There also exist," he added, "centers for underage mothers, offering them a second chance to complete their interrupted education or to learn a trade."

  In his remarks, Msgr. Rugambwa considered the position of students who emigrate, highlighting how in his Message the Pope presents them "as a gift for man and for the Church. They bring with them the great resources of their youth, and must be open and receptive to new ideas and experiences while, at the same time, capable of remaining anchored in the truth."

  "As the Holy Father says," indicated Msgr. Rugambwa, "these young people, must not only increase their openness to the dynamism of inculturation, but also seek opportunities for dialogue between cultures and religions, ... thus they will experience the universality of the Church."

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