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Friday, December 14, 2007


VATICAN CITY, DEC 14, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

 - Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops.

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

    - Archbishop Peter Takeo Okada of Tokyo, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishop James Kazuo Koda.

    - Bishop Francis Xavier Osamu Mizobe S.D.B. of Takamatsu.

    - Bishop Tarcisius Isao Kikuchi S.V.D. of Niigata.
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 14, 2007 (VIS) - A "Doctrinal Note on some aspects of evangelization" prepared by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was made public today. Accompanying the publication is an English-language summary outlining the main points of the new document. Extracts from the summary are given below:

  "The Doctrinal Note is devoted principally to an exposition of the Catholic Church's understanding of the Christian mission of evangelization, which is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ," the summary begins.

  "Today there is 'a growing confusion' about the Church's missionary mandate. Some think 'that any attempt to convince others on religious matters is a limitation of their freedom,' suggesting that it is enough to invite people 'to act according to their consciences,' or to 'become more human or more faithful to their own religion,' or 'to build communities which strive for justice, freedom, peace and solidarity,' without aiming at their conversion to Christ and to the Catholic faith.

  "Others have argued that conversion to Christ should not be promoted because it is possible for people to be saved without explicit faith in Christ or formal incorporation in the Church."

  Considering certain "anthropological implications" the document observes that "while some forms of agnosticism and relativism deny the human capacity for truth, in fact human freedom cannot be separated from its reference to truth."

  "This search for truth cannot be accomplished entirely on one's own, but inevitably involves help from others and trust in knowledge that one receives from others. Thus, teaching and entering into dialogue to lead someone in freedom to know and to love Christ is not inappropriate encroachment on human freedom, 'but rather a legitimate endeavor and a service capable of making human relationships more fruitful'."

  "Through evangelization, cultures are positively affected by the truth of the Gospel. Likewise, through evangelization, members of the Catholic Church open themselves to receiving the gifts of other traditions and cultures."

  "Any approach to dialogue such as coercion or improper enticement that fails to respect the dignity and religious freedom of the partners in that dialogue has no place in Christian evangelization."

  Going on to examine "some ecclesiological implications," the summary affirms that "for Christian evangelization, 'the incorporation of new members into the Church is not the expansion of a power-group, but rather entrance into the network of friendship with Christ which connects heaven and earth, different continents and ages'."

  "The Doctrinal Note cites the Vatican Council II's 'Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World' (Gaudium et Spes) to say that respect for religious freedom and its promotion 'must not in any way make us indifferent towards truth and goodness. Indeed, love impels the followers of Christ to proclaim to all the truth which saves'."

  Finally, on the subject of "ecumenical implications," the document "points out the important role of ecumenism in the Church's mission of evangelization. Christian divisions can seriously compromise the credibility of the Church's evangelizing mission."

  "When Catholic evangelization takes place in a country where other Christians live, Catholics must take care to carry out their mission with 'both true respect for the tradition and spiritual riches of such countries as well as a sincere spirit of cooperation.' Evangelization proceeds by dialogue, not proselytism."
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 14, 2007 (VIS) - This morning in the Holy See Press Office, the presentation took place of a "Doctrinal Note on some aspects of evangelization" prepared by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

  Participating in the press conference were Cardinals William Joseph Levada, Francis Arinze and Ivan Dias, respectively prefects of the Congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith, for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and for the Evangelization of Peoples; and Archbishop Angelo Amato S.D.B., secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

  Cardinal Levada explained that the document is intended to respond "to a certain confusion about whether Catholics should give testimony about their faith in Christ. The congregation," he said, "decided to address some specific points which seem to undermine the fulfillment of Christ's missionary mandate. It does so under three general headings:" the anthropological, ecclesiological and ecumenical implications of evangelization.

  In his remarks, Archbishop Amato recalled that "evangelization means not just teaching doctrine but announcing the Lord Jesus though word and deed, in other words, becoming instruments of His presence and activity in the world."

  The "primary task of the Church," the archbishop went on, "is to lead mankind to friendship with Jesus Christ, in freedom and respect for the conscience of others. ... The necessary respect for different sensibilities and particular traditions cannot preclude the need for freedom or for truth, which are the indispensable prerequisites for any form of dialogue."

  "Unity in truth and the exercise of freedom in charity are the arduous but rewarding paths that the Note aims to highlight, in the difficult and fascinating task of bearing witness to Christian faith at the beginning of the third millennium."

  In his talk, Cardinal Arinze made a number of observations concerning the regions of sub-Saharan Africa where "African traditional religion has been the dominant religious and cultural context for centuries. It is also from that context that most converts to Christianity in these countries in the past two hundred years have come."

  "The sharing of our Catholic faith with others who do not yet know Christ should be regarded as a work of love," he continued, "provided that it is done with full respect for their human dignity and freedom. Indeed if a Christian did not try to spread the Gospel by sharing the excelling knowledge of Jesus Christ with others, we could suspect that Christian either of lack of total conviction on the faith, or of selfishness and laziness in not wanting to share the full and abundant means of salvation with his fellow human beings."

  For his part, Cardinal Dias commented on the Note from an "Asian theological perspective." Evangelization "in a context of religious pluralism is nothing new for the Church," he said. However, it does present "a particular challenge in modern times because we are living in an age in which people from different religions meet and interact more than in any other period in human history."

  With a range of religious traditions as vast as that of the continent of Asia, said the cardinal, "Christians must seek to discover therein the action of the Holy Spirit - in other words the 'seeds of truth' as Vatican Council II chose to call them - and lead them, with no pretensions to superiority, to full knowledge of the truth in Jesus Christ."

  Finally, on the subject of evangelization through inter-religious dialogue, Cardinal Dias expressed the view that "other religions represent a positive challenge for the Church; they stimulate her both to discover and recognize the signs of Christ's presence in the action of the Spirit, and to develop her own identity and bear witness to the integrity of revelation, of which she is the depositary for the good of everyone."
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 14, 2007 (VIS) - Cardinal Secretary of State Tarciso Bertone S.D.B. has sent a telegram, in the Pope's name, to Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, for the death of General Francois El Hajj, who was killed along with his driver in an explosion on December 12 which also injured many others.

  In the telegram, the Holy Father expresses his "profound communion in the trials that are once again afflicting Lebanon in these difficult and delicate times for the country," and entrusts the souls of the deceased to divine mercy. He also gives assurances of his prayers for the families of the dead and injured, and for all those affected by "this act of unjustifiable violence."

  Benedict XVI concludes by appealing to the Lord "to grant all the leaders of public life, and the Lebanese people, the interior strength and courage to discover, beyond particular interests, the road to unity and reconciliation so that the country may develop in peace and security."
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 14, 2007 (VIS) - This morning the Holy Father received in audience a delegation from the autonomous Italian region of Trentino - Alto Adige/Sud Tirol, led by the regional president and the mayor of the village of St. Martin en Thurn, which has supplied this year's Christmas tree for St. Peter's Square.

  "This ancient fir," said the Pope, "cut down without harming the life of the forest, ... will remain standing by the nativity scene until the end of the Christmas festivities. ... It is an important symbol of Christ's Nativity because with its evergreen leaves it recalls the life that does not die. The fir is also a symbol of the popular religiosity in your valleys, which finds particular expression in processions."

  "The tree and the nativity scene are elements of that typical Christmas atmosphere which is part of the spiritual heritage of our communities; an atmosphere suffused with religiosity and family intimacy which we must conserve even in our modern societies where the race to consumerism and the search for material goods sometimes seem to prevail.

  "Christmas is a Christian feast," added Benedict XVI in conclusion, "and its symbols, especially the nativity scene and the tree hung with gifts, are important references to the great mystery of the Incarnation and the Birth of Jesus, which are constantly evoked by the liturgy of Advent and Christmas."
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 14, 2007 (VIS) - Yesterday evening following a Eucharistic celebration for Roman university students, celebrated in the Vatican Basilica and presided by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar general for the diocese of Rome, the Pope arrived in the basilica to greet the young people gathered there.

  In his remarks to them, the Holy Father reflected on two themes: the spiritual formation of the young, and his own recent Encyclical "Spe salvi."

  He began by recalling how 150 university students from the diocese of Rome have decided to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation on the eve of Pentecost next year. Addressing them and the other young people present, the Pope invited them "to turn their gaze to the Virgin Mary. From her 'yes' you should learn to pronounce your own 'yes' to the divine call. The Holy Spirit enters our lives in the extent to which we open our hearts with our 'yes.' The fuller that 'yes' is, the fuller is the gift of His presence."

  Referring to his Encyclical on Christian hope, Benedict invited his listeners to reflect upon and consider, individually and as a group, the section dedicated to hope in the modern age.

  The Pope continued: "In the seventeenth century Europe went through an epoch-making change. Since then a mentality has become ever more widespread according to which human progress is the work of science and technology, while faith concerns only the salvation of the soul.

  "The two great concepts of modernity - reason and freedom - have been, so to say, 'disengaged' from God," the Holy Father added. They have "become autonomous and work together in the construction of the 'kingdom of man,' which in practice contrasts with the Kingdom of God. Hence the spread of materialist ideas, nourished by the hope that, by changing economic and political structures, it will finally be possible to achieve a just society in which peace, freedom and equality reign.

  "This process," the Pope concluded, "which is not without its merits and its historical causes, contains, however, a basic error: man is not just the result of certain economic and social conditions; technological progress does not correspond to the moral development of mankind. In fact without ethical principles science and technology can be used - as has happened and unfortunately still does happen - not for the good but to the detriment of individuals and humanity."
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