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Monday, February 4, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 4 FEB 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

 - Juan Somavia, director general of the International Labour Organisation.

 - Four prelates from the Episcopal Conference of Costa Rica, on their "ad limina" visit:

    - Archbishop Hugo Barrantes Urena of San Jose de Costa Rica.

    - Bishop Angel San Casimiro Fernandez O.A.R. of Alajuela, apostolic administrator "sede vacante" of Ciudad Quesada.

    - Bishop Jose Rafael Quiros Quiros of Limon.

    - Bishop Oscar Gerardo Fernandez Guillen of Puntarenas.

 - On Saturday, 2 February, he received in separate audiences:

 - Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

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

 - Desire Koumba, ambassador of Gabon, accompanied by his wife, on a farewell visit.
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VATICAN CITY, 3 FEB 2008 (VIS) - After praying the Angelus today with thousands of people gathered in St. Peter's Square, the Pope invited people to pray for peace in Kenya and in Iraq, and called for an end to kidnappings in Colombia.

  "I invite you to join our brothers and sisters of Kenya, some of whom are present in St. Peter's Square, in a prayer for reconciliation, justice and peace in their country", he said. "I assure everyone of my closeness, and hope that mediation efforts currently underway will prove successful and lead, with the goodwill and collaboration of all, to a rapid solution of the conflict which has already provoked too many victims".

  The Pope then turned his attention to Iraq "where evil, and the suffering it brings, seem to know no limits ... as the sad news of these days informs us. Once again", he said, "I raise my voice in support of that sorely-tried people, and invoke upon them the peace of God".

  Speaking Spanish, he then said: "I also raise ceaseless and fervent prayers to God for Colombia, where for some time, many sons and daughters of that beloved country are suffering the effects of extortion, kidnapping and the violent loss of their loved ones".

  "May such inhuman suffering come to a definitive end, and ways be found for reconciliation, mutual respect and genuine harmony, thus recreating fraternity and solidarity which are the solid foundations upon which to construct just progress and stable peace".

  Finally, the Holy Father turned his attention to the family, saying that it is there "that children learn the lexicon of civil co-existence and discover human values". He also encouraged parents "to rediscover the greatness and beauty of the educational mission" noting that "education is very demanding but also exhilarating".
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VATICAN CITY, 3 FEB 2008 (VIS) - At today's Angelus prayer on this the fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Benedict XVI entrusted various intentions to the prayers of the faithful present in St. Peter's Square and to everyone listening to him.

  Remarking that yesterday is the Day of Consecrated Life, the Pope called for prayers for all those people whom "Christ calls to follow Him more closely with a special form of consecration". And he asked the Virgin Mary "to ensure many holy vocations to consecrated life, which is a priceless treasure for the Church and for the world.

  "Another prayer intention", said the Holy Father, "is offered to us by the Day for Life which is being celebrated today in Italy and which has as its theme 'Serving life'". In this context he exhorted everyone, "each according to his or her possibilities, profession and responsibilities, to feel in themselves an obligation to love and serve life, from its beginning to its natural end. It is, in fact, everyone's duty to welcome human life as a gift to be respected, protected and promoted, even more so when it is fragile and in need of attention and care, either before birth or when it is in its final stages".

  The Pope encouraged those who "with exertion but with joy, without fuss but with great dedication, assist elderly or disabled relatives", and those who "regularly consecrate part of their time to helping people of all ages whose lives are burdened by so many different forms of poverty".

  On the subject of Lent, which begins next Wednesday, Benedict XVI asked that it "be a time of authentic conversion for all Christians, who are called to an ever more authentic and courageous witness of their faith".

  The Holy Father concluded his remarks by recalling that, from yesterday and up to and including 11 February, Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and the 150th anniversary of the apparitions there, "it is possible to receive plenary indulgence, which may be applied to the deceased, under the usual conditions (sacramental Confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer in keeping with the intentions of the Holy Father) and by praying before a blessed image of Our Lady of Lourdes exposed to public veneration. For the sick and elderly this is possible if they formulate such a desire in their hearts".
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VATICAN CITY, 2 FEB 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

 - Accepted the resignation from the office of patriarch of Antioch of the Syrian Catholics presented by His Beatitude Ignace Pierre VIII Abdel-Ahad, and appointed as members of the committee that will govern the Syrian-Catholic Patriarchate until the election of a new patriarch:

    - Archbishop Theophile Georges Kassab of Homs, Hama and Nabk of the Syrians, Syria, who at the same time will administrator the patriarchal eparchy as apostolic administrator "sede vacante".

    - Archbishop Gregorios Elias Tabe of Damascus of the Syrians, Syria.

    - Archbishop Athanase Matti Shaba Matoka of Baghdad of the Syrians, Iraq.

 - Appointed Bishop Giovanni Paolo Benotto of Tivoli, Italy, as metropolitan archbishop of Pisa (area 847, population 312,307, Catholics 305,618, priests 216, permanent deacons 19, religious 434), Italy. The archbishop-elect was born in San Giuliano Terme, Italy in 1949, he was ordained a priest in 1973 and consecrated a bishop in 2003. He succeeds Archbishop Alessandro Plotti, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

 - Accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Uije, Angola, presented by Bishop Jose Francisco Moreira dos Santos O.F.M. Cap., upon having reached the age limit. He is succeeded by Coadjutor Bishop Emilio Sumbelelo.

 - Accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the apostolic vicariate of Puerto Maldonado, Peru presented by Bishop Juan Jose Larraneta Olleta O.P., upon having reached the age limit. He is succeeded by Coadjutor Bishop Francisco Gonzalez Hernandez O.P.

 - Appointed Msgr. Fabio Reynaldo Colindres Abarca, apostolic administrator "sede vacante et ad nutum Sanctae Sedis" of the military ordinariate of El Salvador, as military ordinary of El Salvador. The bishop-elect was born in Ilobasco, El Salvador in 1961 and ordained a priest in 1986.

 - Appointed Archbishop Emilio Carlos Berlie Belaunzaran of Yucatan, Mexico, as counsellor of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

 - Appointed as consultors of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue: Fr. M. Santiago, India; Fr. Franco Mulakkal, India; Fr. Heinz Wilhelm Steckling O.M.I., Germany; Br. Pombo Kipoy, Democratic Republic of the Congo; and Sr. Kateri Mitchel S.S.A., U.S.A.
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VATICAN CITY, 2 FEB 2008 (VIS) - This evening in the Vatican Basilica, following a Eucharistic celebration for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the 12th Day of Consecrated Life, presided by Cardinal Franc Rode C.M., prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, the Pope entered the basilica to greet the male and female religious gathered there.

  In his address to them, the Holy Father indicated that "following Christ without compromise, as presented in the Gospel, has, over the centuries, constituted the ultimate and supreme norm of religious life".

  The mission of consecrated life, said Benedict XVI, "is to recall that all Christians are invited by the Word to live from the Word and to remain under its authority. It is, then, the particular duty of male and female religious 'to remind the baptised of the fundamental values of the Gospel'. In this way, their testimony gives the Church 'an incentive towards ever greater fidelity to the Gospel'. Indeed, we could say that theirs is 'an eloquent, albeit often silent, proclamation of the Gospel'". In this context, the Pope recalled how in his own two Encyclicals, and on other occasions, he had "not failed to indicate the example of saints and blesseds from institutes of consecrated life".

  The Pope called on the religious to fill their days "with prayer, meditation and listening to the Word of God", and to help the faithful to appreciate the practice of "lectio divina". He went on: "You must know how to translate the indications of the Word into daily witness, allowing yourselves to be formed by the Word which, like seed sown in good soil, brings abundant fruit. Thus you will remain docile to the Spirit and grow in union with God, you will cultivate fraternal communion among yourselves and be ready to serve your brethren generously, especially those most in need. May mankind see your good works, the fruit of the Word of God that lives within you, and so give glory to the heavenly Father".
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VATICAN CITY, 2 FEB 2008 (VIS) - Given below is the communique released this morning by the Holy See Press Office concerning today's audience of the Holy Father Benedict XVI with Fatmir Sejdiu, president of Kosovo:

  "The Holy Father Benedict XVI today received in audience Fatmir Sejdiu, president of Kosovo, in the first place to express his closeness to the entire population of that land, where Christianity has been present since the first centuries of our era. Currently the Catholic Church there numbers about 65,000 faithful and performs an important service (especially in the fields of healthcare and education) in favour of all Kosovars, whatever their ethnic or religious background.

  "The meeting also served to enable the Holy Father to receive first-hand information on the current situation and future prospects.

  "The audience with the highest institutional authority of the current autonomous province of Serbia, administered by the United Nations under the terms of Security Council Resolution 1244, does not represent any change in the position of the Holy See vis-a-vis the definitive juridical status of Kosovo.

  "As for any possible declaration of independence by Kosovo, the Holy See will follow developments on the ground with particular attention and, in her appraisal thereof, will bear in mind the position of the international community.

  "The Holy See neglects no opportunity to exhort everyone to reconciliation, justice and peace. In this case, she reiterates what the Holy Father said to the diplomatic corps on 7 January 2008, when he expressed the hope that security and respect for the rights of those who live in that land be guaranteed, that the threat of violent conflict be definitively dispelled, and European stability reinforced".
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VATICAN CITY, 2 FEB 2008 (VIS) - Benedict XVI has written a Letter to His Beatitude Ignace Pierre VIII Abdel-Ahad, for the occasion of the latter's resignation from the office of patriarch of Antioch of the Syrian Catholics.

  In his Letter the Pope refers to another letter, which the patriarch sent him explaining the reasons for his decision, and he recalls how "you presented your resignation from the office of patriarch following a period of reflection and prolonged prayer before the Lord".

  "I very much appreciate", the Holy Father goes on, "this gesture of ecclesial love, motivated above all by your concern for the spiritual progress of the faithful and for harmony among bishops, and in which I perceive an admirable confirmation of your apostolic zeal".

  Benedict XVI expresses his gratitude "for all the good" achieved during the years "in which you were patriarch, and for the ecclesial service you have performed with abnegation and generosity throughout your life".

  Having reflected deeply and having listened to the views of your collaborators, the Pope writes, "I felt it my duty to accept your resignation for the noble pastoral reasons that motivated it".

  "I wish to inform you that having given the matter careful attention - and consenting to certain requests of the extraordinary Synod which met in the Vatican from 26 to 28 April 2007 - I have decided that the government of the Syrian-Catholic Church should be entrusted for an appropriate period of time, until the election of your successor, to an episcopal committee composed of three members: Archbishop Theophile Georges Kassab of Homs, Hama and Nabk of the Syrians, who will also administer the patriarchal eparchy; Archbishop Athanase Matti Shaba Matoka of Baghdad of the Syrians; and Archbishop Gregorios Elias Tabe of Damascus of the Syrians. The patriarchate will be presided by each of the three members in turn".

  The Holy Father concludes his Letter by expressing the certainty that His Beatitude "will continue to offer the precious gift of prayer, wise counsel and the sacrifice of heart, as well as the trials and the joys that Divine Providence does not fail to dispense to good pastors".
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VATICAN CITY, 2 FEB 2008 (VIS) - Yesterday afternoon, the Holy Father visited Rome's Major Pontifical Seminary for the occasion of the feast of its patroness, Our Lady of Trust. After presiding at Vespers, the Holy Father expressed his joy at having the opportunity, as Bishop of Rome, to visit "his seminary".

  "Because the gift of being adoptive children of God has illuminated your lives", the Pope told the seminarians, "you have felt the desire to share this with others. That is why you are here, to develop your filial vocation and prepare yourselves for your future mission as apostles of Christ. ... Savouring the joy of life with God the Father means that you feel the ever more urgent need to become messengers of the Gospel of His Son, Jesus".

  "All this cannot but induce great trust, because the gift received is amazing, it fills us with wonder and sates us with intimate joy. And thus you are able to understand the role Mary has in your lives. ... Just as 'the Son was born of woman', of Mary Mother of God, the fact that you are children of God means you have her as mother".

  The Pope then addressed the parents of the future priests, saying "you are probably the most surprised of all about what has happened and is happening to your children. You had perhaps imagined for them a mission different from the one for which they are now preparing. ... Let us look to Mary. The Gospel helps us to understand that she too asked herself many question about her Son Jesus, and reflected on Him for a long time.

  "It is inevitable that the vocation of children in some way also becomes the vocation of the parents", he added. "You have found yourselves participating in your sons' marvellous adventure. Indeed, although it may appear that a priest's life does not attract the interest of the majority of people, in reality it is the most interesting of adventures and the most necessary for the world: the adventure of demonstrating and realising the fullness of life to which everyone aspires. It is a very demanding adventure and could not be otherwise because a priest is called to imitate Jesus".

  The Holy Father then went on to refer to two aspects that characterise the lives of seminarians. In the first place, that of listening to the voice of the Lord which, he said, "requires an atmosphere of silence. For this reason the seminary offers time and space to daily prayer; it pays great attention to liturgy, to meditation on the Word of God and to Eucharistic adoration. At the same time, it asks you to dedicate long hours to study: by praying and studying, you can create within yourselves the man of God that you must become and that people expect a priest to be".

  The Pope went on: "There is also another aspect to your lives: ... the community aspect, which is of great importance. ... Your communion is not limited to the present but also concerns the future. The pastoral activity that awaits you must see you acting together united in a single body, an 'ordo' of priests who, with the bishop, watch over the Christian community".

  "All this serves as a reminder that God calls you to be saints, and that sanctity is the secret of real success in your priestly ministry. From this moment on, sanctity must be the final goal of all your choices and decisions. Entrust this desire and this daily commitment to Mary, Mother of Trust".

  "Follow your journey at the seminary with your hearts open to truth, to transparency, and to dialogue with those who guide you, and this will enable you to respond simply and humbly to the One Who calls you, freeing yourselves from the risk of pursuing a personal project of your own".
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