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Monday, December 3, 2007


VATICAN CITY, DEC 3, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

 - Appointed Fr. Isaac Jogues Agbemenya, diocesan administrator of Aneho, Togo, as bishop of the same diocese (area 2,712, population 824,170, Catholics 182,265, priests 64, religious 48). The bishop-elect was born in Kpeme, Togo in 1958 and ordained a priest in 1985.

 - Appointed Msgr. Michael Akasius Toppo of the clergy of the diocese of Tezpur, India, bursar and diocesan chancellor, as bishop of the same diocese (area 38,700, population 4,382,000, Catholics 110,000, priests 77, religious 213). The bishop-elect was born in Gormara, India in 1955 and ordained a priest in 1986. He succeeds Bishop Robert Kerketta S.D.B., whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

  On Saturday, December 1, it was made public that he appointed Msgr. Ermes Giovanni Viale, official in the Section for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State, as bureau chief at the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 3, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

 - Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

 - Two prelates from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea, on their "ad limina" visit:

    - Bishop Peter Lee Ki-heon, military ordinary.

    - Fr. Simon Peter Ri Hyong-u O.S.B., apostolic administrator "ad nutum Sanctae Sedis" of the territorial abbey of Tokwon.

  - Bishop Wenceslao Padilla C.I.C.M., apostolic prefect of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, on his "ad limina" visit.

  On Saturday, December 1, he received in separate audiences five prelates from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea, on their "ad limina" visit:

    - Bishop John Chrysostom Kwon Hyeok-ju of Andong.

    - Bishop Gabriel Chang Bong-hun of Cheongju.

    - Bishop Francis Xavier Ahn Myong-ok of Masan, accompanied by Bishop emeritus Michael Pak Jeong-il.

    - Bishop Paul Hwang Cheol-soo of Pusan.
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 3, 2007 (VIS) - Benedict XVI today received prelates from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea and the apostolic prefect of Ulaanbaator, Mongolia, who have just completed their "ad limina" visit. Their coming to Rome, the Pope observed in his talk, has helped to strengthen "the bonds of collegiality which express the Church's unity in diversity and safeguard the tradition handed down by the Apostles."

  Continuing his English-language address to the prelates, the Holy Father spoke positively of the growth of the Church in Asia, recalling how the testimony of Korean martyrs and of many others on the continent "speaks eloquently of the fundamental concept of 'communio' that unifies and vivifies ecclesial life in all its dimensions."

  "To remain in Christ's love also has a particular significance for you today," the Pope told the Korean bishops, who in their reports had highlighted the negative effects of a secularist mentality. And he encouraged them to "to be effective shepherds of hope," striving "to ensure that the bond of communion which unites Christ to all the baptized is safeguarded and experienced as the heart of the mystery of the Church."

  "The gateway to this mystery of communion with God is of course Baptism. This sacrament of initiation - far more than a social ritual or welcome into a particular community - is the initiative of God. Those reborn through the waters of new life enter the door of the universal Church and are drawn into the dynamism of the life of faith."

  "The word 'communio' also refers of course to the Eucharistic center of the Church. ... The Eucharist roots our understanding of the Church in the intimate encounter between Jesus and humanity and reveals the source of ecclesial unity: Christ's act of giving Himself to us makes us His body."

  Benedict XVI told the bishops that "programs designed to highlight the importance of Sunday Mass should be infused with a sound and stimulating catechesis on the Eucharist. This will foster a renewed understanding of the authentic dynamism of Christian life among your faithful."

  He continued his address to the prelates: "I encourage you to ensure that religious are welcomed and supported in their efforts to contribute to the common task of spreading God's Kingdom." By sharing the "living treasures" of their spirituality with the laity, religious "will help to dispel the notion that communion means mere uniformity."

  The Pope then went on to consider "the importance of the promotion of marriage and family life in your region," recalling how, in this "vital apostolate, ... the growing complexity of matters regarding the family ... raises the question of providing appropriate training for those committed to working in this area."

  "I am also aware of the practical gestures of reconciliation undertaken for the wellbeing of those in North Korea. I encourage these initiatives and invoke Almighty God's providential care upon all North Koreans," the Holy Father concluded. "Throughout the ages, Asia has given the Church and the world a host of heroes of the faith. ... May they stand as perennial witnesses to the truth and love which all Christians are called to proclaim."
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 2, 2007 (VIS) - At midday today, the first Sunday of Advent, Benedict XVI appeared at the window of his study overlooking St. Peter's Square to pray the Angelus with the thousands of pilgrims gathered there.

  The Holy Father began his remarks by recalling how during this liturgical time "the People of God resume their journey to experience the mystery of Christ in history. Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever; history however changes and needs to be constantly evangelized."

  "This Sunday," he said, "is then an appropriate day to offer the entire Church and all men and women of good will my second Encyclical, which I have chosen to dedicate to the subject of Christian hope. It is entitled 'Spe salvi' because it begins with St. Paul's expression 'Spe salvi facti sumus (in hope we are saved). Here, as in other passages of the new Testament, the word 'hope' is closely linked to the word 'faith.' It is a gift that changes the life of the person who receives it."

  "In what does this hope consist, this hope so great and so 'trustworthy' as to make us say that in it we have 'salvation?' It substantially consists in the knowledge of God, in the discovery of His good and merciful Father's heart. With His death on the cross and His resurrection, Jesus revealed His face to us, the face of a God so great in love as to transmit to us an unshakeable hope which not even death can break."

  However, "the development of modern science has confined hope and faith ever more to the private and individual sphere, to the point that today it is clear, and at times dramatically clear, that mankind and the world have need of God, ... otherwise they remain without hope.

  "Without doubt science contributes to the good of humanity, but it is not capable of redeeming it," the Pope added in conclusion. "Man is redeemed by love which makes personal and social life good and beautiful. For this reason the great hope, the full and definitive hope, is guaranteed by God, by the God Who is love, and Who in Jesus visited us and gave us life."
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 2, 2007 (VIS) - Early this morning, Benedict XVI visited the Roman hospital of St. John the Baptist, which belongs to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and specializes in treating people suffering from neurological disorders.

  The Holy Father celebrated Mass then went on to visit the reanimation unit, an advanced structure for the cure and rehabilitation of patients recovering from comas.

  In his homily, delivered before patients and their families gathered in a hall of the hospital, the Pope gave assurances of his spiritual closeness and his daily prayers, inviting them to "find support and comfort in Jesus, and never to lose trust."

  "God visits us mysteriously in suffering and sickness," said the Holy Father, "and if we abandon ourselves to His will, we may experience the power of His love. Hospitals and nursing homes, precisely because they are inhabited by people tried by pain, can become privileged places in which to bear witness to the Christian love that nourishes hope and gives rise to fraternal solidarity."

  Benedict XVI then recalled how, at its origins, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta - of which Fra' Andrew Bertie is the current grand master - was dedicated to helping pilgrims in the Holy Land by means of a Hospice-Infirmary, and how "it sought to cure the sick, especially the poor and marginalized. One testimony of such fraternal love," he added, "is this hospital which, having been built in the 1970s, is today a center of high technology and of solidarity where, alongside the healthcare staff, many volunteers work with generous dedication."

  The Holy Father told the doctors, nurses and volunteers who work in the hospital that they "are called to provide an important service to the sick and to society, a service that calls for abnegation and a spirit of sacrifice.

  "In each sick person," he added, "may you know how to recognize and serve Christ Himself. Show Him, with your gestures and your words, the signs of His merciful love."

  The Pope also took advantage of his visit to the hospital "ideally" to present his Encyclical "Spe salvi" to the Christian community of Rome. And he invited his listeners to study the text "so as to discover the reasons for that 'trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present, ... even if it is arduous'."
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 1, 2007 (VIS) - Benedict XVI's general prayer intention for December is: "That human society may be solicitous in the care of all those stricken with AIDS, especially children and women, and that the Church may make them feel the Lord's love."

  His mission intention is: "That the incarnation of the Son of God, which the Church celebrates solemnly at Christmas, may help the peoples of the Asiatic Continent to recognize God's Envoy, the only Savior of the world, in Jesus."
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 1, 2007 (VIS) - In the Vatican Basilica at 5 p.m. today, the Pope presided at the celebration of the first Vespers of the first Sunday of Advent.

  At the start of his homily, the Holy Father recalled how "Advent is the time of hope par excellence" and how Christians, "as they prepare to celebrate the great feast of the birth of Christ the Savior, revitalize their expectation of His glorious return at the end of time."

  "It was to the subject of hope," he said," that I dedicated my second Encyclical, which was published yesterday. And today I am happy to present it ideally to the entire Church on this first Sunday of Advent so that, while preparing for Christmas, the community and the individual faithful may read and meditate upon it, and so rediscover the beauty and profundity of Christian hope."

  After underlining how "true and certain hope is founded on faith in God-Love, the merciful Father," Benedict XVI made it clear that Advent is a "propitious time for the rediscovery of hope, a hope that is not vague and illusory but sure and trustworthy because 'anchored' in Christ, God-made-man and rock of our salvation."

  In his Letter to them, St. Paul reminds the Ephesians "that before embracing faith in Christ they had no hope and were 'without God in the world'," said the Pope. "This expression seems more valid than ever," he added, "because of the paganism of our own day. In particular we may refer it to contemporary nihilism which corrodes hope in man's heart, causing him to think that emptiness reigns within him and around him: emptiness before birth, emptiness after death. The truth is that without God, hope fades."

  "What is at stake," he said, "is the relationship between existence in the here and now, and what we call the 'beyond:' this is not a place in which we will 'end up' after death, but rather the reality of God, the fullness of life to which each human being is, so to say, reaching out. To this expectation of mankind God responded in Christ with the gift of hope.

  "Man," the Pope added, "is the only creature who is free to say yes or no to eternity, in other words to God. Human beings can extinguish hope in themselves, eliminating God from their lives. ... God knows man's heart. He knows that those who refuse Him have not known His true face, and for this reason He never ceases to knock at our door like a humble pilgrim seeking welcome. This is why the Lord grants new time to humanity: so that everyone may come to know Him! And this too is the significance of a new liturgical year that begins: it is a gift of God Who wishes once more to reveal Himself in the mystery of Christ, through the Word and the Sacraments."

  Benedict XVI highlighted how "God loves us and for this reason expects us to return to Him, to open our hearts to His love, to put our hand in His and remember that we are His children. This expectation of God's always precedes our own hope, just as His love always reaches us first."

  "All human beings are called to hope, thus responding to God's expectation in them," the Pope concluded. "Hope is indelibly written in man's heart because God our Father is life, and we were made for eternal and blessed life."
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 1, 2007 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received members of a Forum of Catholic-inspired Non Governmental Organizations, who are currently in Rome to reflect on the contribution they can offer, "in close collaboration with the Holy See, to the solution of the many problems and challenges associated with the various activities of the United Nations and other international and regional organizations."

  In his English-language talk, the Holy Father noted how, despite their different backgrounds, the delegates share "a passion for promoting human dignity. This same passion has constantly inspired the activity of the Holy See in the international community," he said.

  In this context, the Pope examined the question of international cooperation between governments, noting "with satisfaction ... achievements such as the universal recognition of the juridical and political primacy of human rights, ... the efforts being made to develop a just global economy and, more recently, the protection of the environment and the promotion of inter-cultural dialogue."

  "At the same time, international discussions often seem marked by a relativistic logic which would consider as the sole guarantee of peaceful coexistence between peoples a refusal to admit the truth about man and his dignity, to say nothing of the possibility of ethics based on recognition of the natural moral law. This has led, in effect, to the imposition of a notion of law and politics which ultimately makes consensus between states, ... the only real basis of international norms."

  Among "the bitter fruits of this relativistic logic," the Pope mentioned "the attempt to consider as human rights the consequences of certain self-centered lifestyles; a lack of concern for the economic and social needs of the poorer nations; contempt for humanitarian law, and a selective defense of human rights."

  The Holy Father expressed the hope that the Church's social doctrine may become "better known and accepted on the international level" and encouraged his listeners "to counter relativism creatively by presenting the great truths about man's innate dignity and the rights which are derived from that dignity." This, he said, "will help to advance specific initiatives marked by a spirit of solidarity and freedom.

  "What is needed," Pope Benedict added, "is a spirit of solidarity conducive for promoting as a body those ethical principles which, by their very nature and their role as the basis of social life, remain non-negotiable. A spirit of solidarity imbued with a strong sense of fraternal love leads to a better appreciation of the initiatives of others and a deeper desire to cooperate with them."

  "An authentic spirit of freedom, lived in solidarity, will help the initiative of the members of non-governmental organization to create a broad gamut of new approaches and solutions with regard to those temporal affairs which God has left to the free and responsible judgement of every individual. When experienced in solidarity, legitimate pluralism and diversity will lead not to division and competition, but to ever greater effectiveness."
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 1, 2007 (VIS) - As is traditional on November 30, Feast of St. Andrew, patron of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, a delegation from the Holy See, led by Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, travelled to Istanbul, Turkey, for the liturgical celebrations marking that day. Every year, the ecumenical patriarchate sends a delegation to Rome on June 29, Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.

  Yesterday the Catholic delegation attended a solemn liturgy presided by His Holiness Bartholomew I, ecumenical patriarch, in the Church of St. George in Fanar, then met with the patriarch and with members of the synodal commission for relations with the Catholic Church. At the end of the ceremony, Cardinal Kasper presented the ecumenical patriarch with a signed copy of Benedict XVI's Encyclical "Spe salvi," a reproduction of a mosaic showing the "Mystical Lamb" from the vault of the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna, and a Message from the Pope.

  In his Message, the Holy Father highlights his "vivid recollection" of his own "participation last year in the celebration of this feast at the Ecumenical Patriarchate." He also thanks God for the meeting of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox, which was held in Ravenna, Italy, in October, at the same time recognizing that the event "was not without its difficulties."

  His English-language Message continues: "I pray earnestly that these may soon be clarified and resolved, so that there may be full participation in the Eleventh Plenary Session and in subsequent initiatives aimed at continuing the theological dialogue in mutual charity and understanding.

  "Indeed," he adds, "our work towards unity is according to the will of Christ our Lord. In these early years of the third millennium, our efforts are all the more urgent because of the many challenges facing all Christians, to which we need to respond with a united voice and with conviction.

  "I therefore wish to assure you once more of the Catholic Church's commitment to nurture fraternal ecclesial relations and to persevere in our theological dialogue, in order to draw closer to full communion, as stated in our Common Declaration issued last year at the conclusion of my visit to Your Holiness."

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