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Thursday, December 13, 2007


VATICAN CITY, DEC 13, 2007 (VIS) - Today in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received the Letters of Credence of seven new ambassadors to the Holy See: Chaiyong Satjipanon of Thailand, Alain Butler-Payette of Seychelles, Peter Hitjitevi Katjavivi of Namibia, Elizabeth Ya Eli Harding of Gambia, Urmila Joella-Sewnundun of Suriname, Barry Desker of Singapore, and Suhail Khalil Shuhaiber of Kuwait.

  The Pope addressed the diplomats as a group before greeting them individually and handing each a written copy of a speech concerning the specific situation in his or her own country.

  "Your function as diplomats," the Holy Father told them, "is particularly important in today's world, in order to show that in all situations of international life, dialogue must overcome violence, and the desire for peace and fraternity must prevail over the contrasts and selfishness that lead only to tensions, and the resentments that do not contribute to building reconciled societies."

  "Through you," he went on, "I wish to launch a fresh call to everyone who plays a role in public life and to those who participate in governing nations, to do everything in their power to restore hope to the peoples they rule, ... bearing in mind their deepest aspirations so that everyone may benefit from the profits of the natural and economic resources of his or her country, in accordance with the principles of justice and equity."

  Benedict XVI laid emphasis on the fact that young people "are a country's greatest wealth" and that their "integral education" is "a fundamental necessity." In this context, he also recalled that merely technical and academic training is not enough, and that it is important "to promote education based on human and moral values" in order to ensure that young people "may occupy their rightful place in the development of the nation," having been given an "awareness of the needs of others."

  Education "with the help of international institutions involved in eradicating illiteracy," said the Pope, is one "particularly important way to combat the desperation that can take root in the hearts of young people, and that lies at the base of many individual or collective acts of violence."

  The Holy Father completed his address by pointing out how the Catholic Church, "through her various educational institutions, is in the frontline alongside men and women of good will, in the field of the integral formation of the young."

  In his written remarks to the Thai ambassador, the Pope expresses his concern over "the scourge of AIDS, prostitution and the trafficking of women and children which continue to afflict the countries of the region." In this context, he also points out how "the decline in moral values, fuelled by the trivialization of sexuality in the media and entertainment industries, leads to the degradation of women and even the abuse of children. The complexity of this unspeakable human exploitation demands a concerted international response."

  Referring to the Christian concept of human love and sexuality, the Holy Father writes in his discourse to the Namibian ambassador that "the understanding of marriage as the total, reciprocal and exclusive communion of love between a man and a woman not only accords with the plan of the Creator, it prompts the most effective behaviors for preventing the sexual transmission of disease: namely, abstinence before marriage and fidelity within marriage."

  In the copy of his address to the ambassador of Singapore, Benedict XVI writes of the Church's particular concern "to defend the universal rights to life and to religious freedom. ... Moreover, the effective recognition of the right to freedom of conscience and religious freedom is one of the most serious duties of every community that truly wishes to ensure the good of the individual and of society. Your government is known for its commitment to initiatives aimed at promoting dialogue, respect and cooperation between different religious groups, of particular importance in view of the diverse ethnic and religious affiliation of your population."

  In his discourse to the representative from Kuwait, the Pope says "your country, which has overcome the devastating effects of violence and war, continues to play an important role in the delicate process of reconciliation which offers the only sure hope for a resolution of the many complex problems affecting the Middle East."
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 13, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

 - Stavros Lykidis, ambassador of Greece, on his farewell visit.

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

    - Archbishop Leo Jun Ikenaga S.J. of Osaka, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishop Michael Goro Matsuura.

    - Bishop Paul Yoshinao Otsuka of Kyoto.

    - Bishop Augustinus Jun-ichi Nomura of Nagoya.
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 13, 2007 (VIS) - Tomorrow evening, Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, president of the Governorate of Vatican City State, will preside at the official lighting ceremony of the Christmas tree which has recently been erected in St. Peter's Square. The tree stands next to the nativity scene, which is in the process of being constructed.

  The event, which is due to begin at 4 p.m., will be attended by civil and religious authorities from the region of Bolzano in northern Italy which donated this year's tree, a 140-year-old fir, 26 meters high, weighing more than three tons and decorated with 2,000 baubles.

  The nativity scene, which will be unveiled on the evening of December 24, has seventeen life-size statues. Of these, nine are the original figures donated by St. Vincent Pallotti for the nativity scene in the Roman church of Sant'Andrea della Valle in 1842. The other eight figures were added over the course of the years. As in 2006, the Italian province of Trento has provided further sculpted wooden figures and animals, as well as household utensils for the depiction of daily life.

  From December 19 to February 2, the Paul VI Hall will also be adorned with a tree and a nativity scene created by Mexican artists. The figures of the nativity scene are in the Novo Hispanic Baroque style, while the tree decorations are the work of Mexican traditional craftsmen. The nativity scene in St. Peter's Square will also include four Mexican Baroque angels.

  This initiative, entitled "Mexican Christmas in the Vatican," has been organized to mark the 15th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Mexico and the Holy See. The display will be inaugurated by Benedict XVI on Wednesday, December 19.
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 13, 2007 (VIS) - Benedict XVI has sent two telegrams of condolence for the death, at the age of 97, of Cardinal Alfons Maria Stickler S.D.B., archivist and librarian emeritus of Holy Roman Church: one to the late cardinal's brother and sisters, and another to Fr. Pascual Chavez Villanueva, major rector of the Salesian Society of St. John Bosco.

  The Holy Father describes the cardinal as a "sincere and zealous collaborator of the Holy See" who in all his duties "provided precious testimony of fervent faithfulness to Christ and to the Church." He also mentions the "cultural and ecclesial industriousness of the distinguished jurist and illustrious cardinal."

  The Holy Father has also sent a telegram to Cardinal Severino Poletto, archbishop of Turin, Italy, for a recent industrial accident in the city's Thyseen-Krupp factory in which four workers lost their lives. The funerals of the victims are being held today.

  In the telegram, the Pope expresses the hope "that all means be used to safeguard the dignity and safety of workers," and unites himself to the suffering of the victims' families.
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