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Monday, January 21, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 21 JAN 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in audience Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, archbishop of Madrid, Spain.

  On Saturday, 19 January, he received in separate audiences:

 - Cardinal Sergio Sebastiani, president of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See.

 - Two prelates from the Conference of Latin Bishops in the Arab Regions (CELRA), on their "ad limina" visit:

    - Bishop Paul Hinder, O.F.M. Cap., apostolic vicar of Arabia.

    - Archbishop Paul Dahdah O.C.D., apostolic vicar of Beirut, Lebanon.

 - Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.
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VATICAN CITY, 21 JAN 2008 (VIS) - In the Holy See Press Office this morning, the presentation took place of the programme of events for the forthcoming Pauline Year, and in particular of initiatives to be held at the Roman basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls. The Pauline year will run from 28 June 2008 to 29 June 2009.

  Participating in today's press conference were Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, archpriest of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls, Fr. Johannes Paul Abrahamovicz, prior of the basilica's abbey, and Piero Carlo Visconti, of the administrative offices.

  Cardinal Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo remarked how Pope Benedict had called the Pauline year during the celebration of first Vespers for the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul on 28 June 2007, in order to commemorate the second millennium of the birth of the Apostle of the Gentiles. On that occasion, the Pope had highlighted the ecumenical dimension of the event because St. Paul "was particularly committed to bringing the Good News to all people, and made prodigious efforts for the unity and harmony of all Christians".

  The cardinal explained how the Pauline year "will provide an occasion" to undertake various activities: "rediscover the figure of the Apostle; reread the numerous Letters he sent to the first Christian communities; relive the early years of our Church; delve deeply into his rich teaching to the 'gentiles'; meditate on his vigorous spirituality of faith, hope and charity; make a pilgrimage to his tomb and to the numerous places he visited while founding the first ecclesial communities; revitalise our faith and our role in today's Church in the light of his teachings; pray and work for the unity of all Christians in a united Church".

  Scheduled activities include a pastoral programme (daily ordinary and extraordinary liturgical celebrations, meetings for prayer and the Sacrament of Penance); a cultural religious programme (catecheses on St. Paul, conferences, congresses, concerts); pilgrimages (to the basilica and to other Pauline sites in and outside Rome); a cultural artistic programme (exhibitions, publications, postage stamps, the coining of a special medal, the issue of a stamp and a two euro coin by the Governorate of Vatican City State); a publishing programme (a guide to the basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls to be published in various languages, a new edition of the Acts of the Apostles and of the Letters of St. Paul, and the opening of a site www.annopaolino.org constantly updated with information relating to the event).

  Finally, the cardinal turned his attention the ecumenical programme, ecumenism being an important aspect of the Pauline Year. He announced that the chapel currently used as the baptistery, located between the basilica and the cloister of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls, will become the "Ecumenical Chapel, maintaining its characteristic baptismal font but designated as a place in which to offer our Christian brethren a special place for prayer, either within their own groups, ... or together with Catholics, without the celebration of the Sacraments".

  This chapel will also be used to house the remains of St. Timothy of Antioch and of other unknown forth century martyrs, which were discovered in the hypogeum of St. Paul during restoration work on the basilica in 2006.
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VATICAN CITY, 21 JAN 2008 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace, in keeping with the tradition for today's feast of St. Agnes, the Pope today blessed two lambs, the wool of which will be used to make the palliums bestowed on new metropolitan archbishops on June 29, Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles.

  The pallium is a white woollen band embroidered with six black crosses which is worn over the shoulders and has two hanging pieces, front and back. Worn by the Pope and by metropolitan archbishops, the pallium symbolises authority and expresses the special bond between the bishops and the Roman Pontiff.
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VATICAN CITY, 21 JAN 2008 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, the Pope received participants in the plenary assembly of the Congregation for Catholic Education, to whom he said: "It is highly appropriate that, in our own day, we should reflect on how to render this apostolic task of the ecclesial community incisive and effective", a task "entrusted to Catholic universities and, in particular, to ecclesiastical faculties".

  The Holy Father then referred to reforms in the ecclesiastical study of philosophy, reforms that "will not fail to highlight the metaphysical and sapiential dimensions of philosophy". He also mentioned the possibility of "examining the suitability of reforming the 1979 Apostolic Constitution 'Sapientia christiana', ... the 'magna charta' of ecclesiastical faculties which serves as the basis upon which to formulate criteria to assess the quality of those institutions, an assessment required by the Bologna Process of which the Holy See has been a member since 2003.

  "The ecclesiastical disciplines", he added, "especially theology, are today subjected to new interrogations in a world tempted, on the one hand, by a rationalism which follows a false idea of freedom unfettered by any religious references and, on the other, by various forms of fundamentalism which, with their incitement to violence and fanaticism, falsify the true essence of religion ".

  Faced with the educational crisis, Benedict XVI proceeded, "schools must ask themselves about the mission they are called to undertake in the modern social environment". Catholic schools, "though open to everyone and respecting the identity of each, cannot but present their own educational, human and Christian perspective". In this context, he said, they face a new challenge, that of "the coming together of religions and cultures in the joint search for truth". This means, on the one hand, "not excluding anyone in the name of their cultural or religious background", and on the other "not stopping at the mere recognition" of this cultural or religious difference.

  The Pope went on to refer to another theme being examined by the plenary assembly, that of reforming the document "Ratio fundamentalis institutionis sacerdotalis" for seminaries, issued in 1970 and updated in 1985. Any reform, said the Pope, "will have to highlight the importance of the proper correlation between the various dimensions of priestly formation in the perspective of Church-communion, following the indications of Vatican Council II. ... The formation of future priests must, furthermore, offer them guidance and help to enter into dialogue with contemporary culture.

  "Human and cultural formation must, then, be significantly reinforced and sustained also with the help of modern sciences, because certain destabilising social factors that exist in the world today (such as the situation of separated families, the educational crisis, widespread violence, etc.), render new generations fragile".

  The Pope concluded his talk by highlighting the need for "adequate formation in spiritual life so as to make Christian communities, particularly in parishes, ever more aware of their vocation, and capable of providing adequate responses to questions of spirituality, especially as posed by the young. For this to happen, the Church must not lack qualified and responsible apostles and evangelisers".
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VATICAN CITY, 21 JAN 2008 (VIS) - This morning, the Pope received participants in the Sixth Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, who are meeting to prepare the Synod's General Assembly, due to be held from 5 to 26 October.

  After expressing his thanks for a speech by Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, the Holy Father mentioned his own recent Encyclical "Spe salvi". The "social character of hope", he said, is evident in the "'connection between love of God and responsibility for others', which makes it possible not to lapse into selfish desires of salvation".

  "It is my belief that the effective application of this fruitful principle is evident in the Synod, in which encounter becomes communion and the solicitude for all Churches is expressed in the shared concern of all.

  "The forthcoming General Assembly of the Synod will reflect on the 'Word of God in the Life and the Mission of the Church'", he added. "The great tasks facing the ecclesial community in the modern world (and among the many I particularly stress evangelisation and ecumenism) are centred on the Word of God and, at the same time, draw therefrom their justification and support.

  "Just as the Church's missionary activity ... finds its inspiration and its goal in the Lord's merciful revelation, so ecumenical dialogue cannot base itself on the words of human wisdom or on skilful strategies, but must be animated exclusively by constant reference to the original Word, which God consigned to His Church to be read, interpreted and lived in communion".

  "In this context, St. Paul's doctrine reveals a particular strength, clearly founded on divine revelation but also on his own apostolic experience which, ever and anew, made it clear to him that not human wisdom and eloquence but only the force of the Holy Spirit builds the Church in faith".

  The Pope went on to remark that the Synod will coincide with the celebration of the Pauline Year and that the meeting will provide pastors of the Church with an opportunity to reflect on "the witness of this great Apostle and Herald of the Word of God. ... May his example be an encouragement for everyone to accept the Word of salvation and to translate it into daily life, in faithful discipleship of Christ".

  Benedict XVI concluded his talk to the participants in the Sixth Ordinary Council by telling them: "yours is a meritorious service to the Church" because the Synod is the institution best-qualified "for promoting truth and unity of pastoral dialogue within the mystical Body of Christ".
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VATICAN CITY, 21 JAN 2008 (VIS) - The Holy See Press Office released the following communique at midday today:

  "This morning, the Holy Father Benedict XVI received in audience Jose Manuel Ramos-Horta, president of the Democratic Republic of East Timor, accompanied by his entourage. The president subsequently went on to meet Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.

  "During the discussions, mention was made of the cordial relations between the Holy See and the Democratic Republic of East Timor, and of the co-operation between the Catholic Church and the State in the fields of education, healthcare, and the struggle against poverty.

  "The political and social situation of the country was also examined, with particular emphasis given to the process of national reconciliation and to the support of the international community for the consolidation of democratic institutions".
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VATICAN CITY, 20 JAN 2008 (VIS) - After praying the Angelus today, the Pope greeted the 200,000 faithful present, and in particular university students and professors who had come to demonstrate their solidarity after he was compelled to postpone the visit he had been due to make last week to Rome's "La Sapienza" University.

  After expressing his thanks to Cardinal Camillo Ruini, his vicar general for the diocese of Rome, who had promoted and organised the participation in today's Angelus, the Holy Father explained how he had at first willingly accepted the invitation to visit "La Sapienza" for the inauguration of the university's academic year. "Unfortunately", he said, "as you know, the climate that had arisen made my presence at the ceremony inappropriate and, against my will, I postponed the visit, though I did send the text of the discourse I had prepared for the occasion.

  "To the university environment, which was my world for many years", added Benedict XVI, "I am linked by my love for the search for truth, for discussion, for frank and respectful dialogue between different points of view.

  "This is also the mission of the Church, committed to following Jesus, Master of life, of truth and of love. As a professor - so to say, emeritus - who has met many students in his life, I encourage you all, dear university students and professors, always to be respectful of the opinions of others and to seek truth and goodness with a free and responsible spirit".

  Going on to address some remarks to administrators, teachers, parents and pupils of Catholic schools, who came for the Day of Catholic Schools which the diocese of Rome is celebrating today, the Holy Father said: "In educating children and young people in the faith, Catholic schools also have an important role to play. I encourage you, then, to continue your work, which has the Gospel as its focus, following an educational syllabus that aims at the integral formation of the human person. Despite the difficulties you encounter, continue your mission with courage and faith, cultivating a constant passion for education and a generous commitment and service to the new generations".

  Before concluding the Pope, who was interrupted various times by applause, added some off-the-cuff remarks: "Thank you to everyone for this show of solidarity. ... Let us continue in this spirit of fraternity, of love for truth and freedom, of joint commitment for a more fraternal and tolerant society".
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VATICAN CITY, 20 JAN 2008 (VIS) - Shortly before midday today, the Pope appeared at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with the 200,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square and its surroundings.

  In remarks before the Marian prayer, Benedict XVI mentioned the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity during which Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, "aware that their divisions represent an obstacle to their acceptance of the Gospel, together implore the Lord, even more intensely, for the gift of full communion".

  The Holy Father recalled how the initiative began a hundred years ago when Fr. Paul Wattson suggested an "Octave" of prayer for the unity of all Christ's disciples, and he greeted some of the priest's followers, the Friars and Sisters of the Atonement, who were present in St. Peter's Square.

  "We all", said the Pope, "have the duty to pray and to act in order to overcome the divisions between Christians, and to respond to Christ's express wish 'Ut unum sint'. Prayer, conversion of hearts and the strengthening of spiritual bonds of communion represent the essence of this spiritual movement which we hope may soon lead Christ's disciples to the joint celebration of the Eucharist, the expression of their full unity".

  Mentioning the theme of this year's Week, "pray without ceasing", taken from St. Paul's Letter to the Thessalonians, the Holy Father explained how the Apostle had sought to show that "new life in Christ and in the Holy Spirit" gives each of us "the capacity to overcome all forms of selfishness and to live together in peace", as well as "willingly to lift the burdens and suffering of others. ... The Church's evangelising mission follows the path of ecumenism, the path of the unity of faith, of evangelical witness and of true fraternity".

  Benedict XVI concluded by recalling that on Friday, 25 January, he will close the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in a ceremony at the Roman basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls, and he invited Romans and pilgrims to participate in the event.
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VATICAN CITY, 19 JAN 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

 - Accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Kimbe, Papua New Guinea, presented by Bishop Alphonse Liguori Chaupa, in accordance with canon 401 para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law.

 - Appointed Bishop Gerulfus Kherubim Pareira S.V.D. of Weetebula, Indonesia, as bishop of Maumere (area 1,732, population 270,000, Catholics 259,598, priests 123, religious 260), Indonesia.

 - Appointed Fr. Enrico Solmi of the clergy of the archdiocese of Modena - Nonantola, Italy, diocesan head of the pastoral care of families and director of the regional office for pastoral care of families in Emilia Romagna, as bishop of Parma (area 2,154, population 320,759, Catholics 308,335, priests 281, permanent deacons 11, religious 706), Italy. The bishop-elect was born in San Vito di Spilamberto, Italy in 1956 and ordained a priest in 1980. He succeeds Bishop Silvio Cesare Bonicelli, 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, 19 JAN 2008 (VIS) - The Holy See Press Office announced this morning that "the Holy Father Benedict XVI today received in audience Faure Gnassingbe, president of the Republic of Togo, who subsequently went on to meet Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.

  "In the course of the cordial discussions satisfaction was expressed at the good relations that exist between the Holy See and Togo, with particular emphasis on the contribution Catholics make to the integral progress of the Togolese people. The need to achieve complete national reconciliation was underlined as was the urgent importance of bringing aid to the numerous refugees and victims of last October's floods".


VATICAN CITY, 19 JAN 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father's Message for the World Day of the Sick 2008, was made public today. Its theme is: "The Eucharist, Lourdes and Pastoral Care of the Sick". The World Day of the Sick is due to be celebrated on February 11, Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

  In the Message, which has been published in Italian and English, the Pope explains how this year's World Day is associated with "two important events in the life of the Church: ... The 150th anniversary of the apparitions of Mary Immaculate at Lourdes, and the celebration of the International Eucharistic Congress at Quebec, Canada, in June". This, he writes, "is a remarkable opportunity to consider the close connection that exists between the Mystery of the Eucharist, the role of Mary in the project of salvation, and the reality of human pain and suffering".

  "There is an indissoluble bond", the Pope states, "between the mother and the Son generated in her womb by work of the Holy Spirit, and this bond we perceive, in a mysterious way, in the Sacrament of the Eucharist".

  Benedict XVI highlights how "Mary 'Mater Dolorosa' is associated with the sacrifice of Christ, suffering with her divine Son at the foot of the cross. The Christian community feels her to be especially close as it gathers around its suffering members who bear the signs of the Lord's passion. Mary suffers with those who are afflicted, with them she hopes, and she is their comfort, supporting them with her maternal help".

  The Pope mentions the theme of the Eucharistic Congress of Quebec, "The Eucharist, Gift of God for the Life of the World", then proceeds: "It is He who gathers us around the Eucharistic table, arousing in His disciples loving care for the suffering and the sick, in whom the Christian community recognises the face of its Lord".

  "It thus appears clear that it is specifically from the Eucharist that health pastoral care must draw the necessary spiritual strength to come effectively to man's aid and to help him understand the salvific value of his own suffering. ... Mysteriously united to Christ, the man who suffers with love and meek self-abandonment to the will of God becomes a living offering for the salvation of the world".

  The Pope invites diocesan and parish communities to celebrate the World Day of the Sick "with full appreciation for the happy concurrence of the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady at Lourdes with the International Eucharistic Congress. May it be an occasion to emphasise the importance of Mass, and of the adoration and celebration of the Eucharist, so that chapels in our healthcare centres become beating hearts in which Jesus offers Himself unceasingly to the Father for the life of humanity! The distribution of the Eucharist to the sick, if performed decorously and in a spirit of prayer, is a true comfort to those who suffer".

  Benedict XVI concludes his Message by inviting people to consider the World Day of the Sick as "a propitious circumstance to invoke in a special way the maternal protection of Mary over those who are weighed down by illness, over healthcare providers, and workers in health pastoral care. I think in particular of priests involved in this field, religious, volunteers, and all those who with active dedication are concerned to serve, in body and soul, the sick and those in need".
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VATICAN CITY, 19 JAN 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received professors and students of the diocesan seminary of Rome, the "Almo Collegio Capranica", for the feast day of their patroness, St Agnes, which falls on 21 January.

  In his talk to them, them Benedict XVI gave particular emphasis to the figure of Cardinal Domenico Capranica, who founded the institution 550 years ago and who, a century before the Council of Trent, was able to see "that the desired reform would not only have to involve ecclesiastical structures but, principally, the lives and choices of those people within the Church who were called to be ... guides and pastors of the People of God".

  The same cardinal also drew up the "Constitutiones" of the "Almo Collegio" which regulate "the various aspects of the formation of the young students", said the Pope. With those "Constitutiones", the cardinal "demonstrated his concern for the primacy of the spiritual dimension, and his awareness that the profundity of a solid priestly formation - and its consequent durability - depend to a decisive degree on the completeness and overall structure of the educational syllabus.

  "These aspects have even greater importance today", the Pope added, "considering the multiple challenges priests and evangelisers must face on their mission. In this context I have, on a number of occasions, reminded seminarians and priests of the urgent need to cultivate a profound interior life, a personal and constant contact with Christ in prayer and contemplation, a sincere longing for sanctity.

  "In fact, without a true friendship with Jesus, it is impossible for Christians, and especially for priests, to carry out the mission with which the Lord entrusts them. For priests, it is clear that this also entails serious cultural and theological preparation".

  The Holy Father stressed "the decisive impulse" a period spent in Rome can give to priests' educational itinerary, because of "the presence of the Cathedra of Peter, the work of the people and the institutions that assist the Bishop of Rome", and "a more direct knowledge of certain particular Churches".

  "Your pastors", the Pope told his audience, "have sent you to the city of Peter's Successor in the hope that you return enriched by a markedly Catholic spirit, and a fuller and more universal awareness of ecclesial matters".

  Life in the "Almo Collegio" enables its students, who come from all over the world, "to gain an intimate knowledge of that mix of cultures and mentalities which is so typical of modern life", the Pope concluded. "Furthermore, the presence of students from the Russian Orthodox Church represents a further encouragement to dialogue and fraternity, and gives nourishment to ecumenical hopes".
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