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Friday, February 22, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 22 FEB 2008 (VIS) - This morning at 9:00 in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel of the Apostolic Palace in the presence of the Holy Father, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap., Preacher to the Pontifical Household, gave the first Lenten sermon. The theme of this year's Lenten meditations is: "The Word of God is Living and Active" (Heb 4:12).

  A communique reads that "in preparing for the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God (5-26 October 2008) and keeping in mind the 'Lineamenta' (or first draft of the synod's theme), reflection is being offered on the proclamation of the Gospel message in the life of Christ (Jesus 'who preaches') and on the Church's mission (Christ 'preached'), on the Word of God as a means of personal sanctification (lectio divina), and on the relationship between the Spirit and the Word (a spiritual reading of the Bible)".

  The following sermons will be given on the Fridays of 29 February and 7 and 14 March.
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VATICAN CITY, 22 FEB 2008 (VIS) - A message from Benedict XVI to the bishops of Cuba on the tenth anniversary of the visit made by John Paul II to that country (21-26 January 1998) was distributed yesterday afternoon.

  The message was delivered to the Cuban prelates by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State, who yesterday began a six-day visit to Cuba for the celebration.

  "The ten year anniversary marking those unforgettable days for the Church and the Cuban people that were lived as the enthusiastic world watched", writes the Pope, "is without a doubt a duty of gratitude toward my venerated Predecessor as well as a sign of our passionate intention to renew the commitment to evangelization that he left deeply impressed in the hearts of all".

  The Holy Father expressed his admiration for the Cuban bishops' "pastoral unveilings" and his nearness to the "hopes and concerns of all the Cuban people. I constantly ask that the Lord give you the strength and generosity to live your faith ever more intensely and to work toward a world that is enlightened by the Gospel".

  "The proclamation of Christ's Gospel continues to find hearts in Cuba that are ready to welcome it. This fact carries with it the constant responsibility to help them to grow in the spiritual life, proposing to them this 'high standard of ordinary Christian living' that is the call to holiness of all baptized persons".

  The Pope emphasized that "proclaiming true doctrine, beginning with listening to and deepening one's understanding of the word of God, promoting the participation in the sacraments, and fostering a life of prayer are the primary goals of pastoral action, then bringing to all the salvation of Christ is the nucleus of the Church's mission".

  Although recognizing that "some Christian communities are overwhelmed by difficulties due to scarcity of resources, indifference, or even misgivings that can lead to discouragement", Benedict XVI encouraged the Cuban Catholics to "put your hope in Jesus Christ, our Savior who does not disappoint and who fills your hearts with joy, giving meaning and fruitfulness to your life of faith".

  "How many times", he continued, "do small gestures of friendship and good will, simple and ordinary gestures of respect, of care for the one who suffers or who gives unselfishly for the good of others, reveal a glimpse of the limitless love that God has for each and every one of us".

  In this context, he writes, it is very important that "the Church's mission in Cuba to those in most need acquires a great importance, with concrete works of service to and care for the men and women of all walks of life, who deserve to be supported not only in their material needs, but also welcomed with affection and understanding. The Pope deeply thanks the effort and sacrifice of the people and communities engaged in these works, following the example of Christ who 'came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many'".

  Benedict XVI urged the faithful Cubans to make the proclamation of the Gospel, which arrived in their country five centuries ago, bear fruit. The values of the Gospel message "had a great influence in the birth of the nation, above all through the work of the Servant of God Félix Varela and José Martí, who preached of the love of God among Cubans and all persons. These values are also vital to the harmony and future of the nation".

  "This inheritance has deeply marked the Cuban soul that today needs your generous pastoral care to be renewed again and again, showing that the Church, focusing its gaze upon Jesus Christ, does good, promotes the dignity of the person, and, in sowing seeds of understanding, mercy, and reconciliation, contributes to the betterment of persons and of society".

  The Holy Father concluded his message with assurances of his concern and "the fraternal prayer and collaboration of the other churches throughout the entire world".
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VATICAN CITY, 22 FEB 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father's message for the XLV World Day of Prayer for Vocations was published today. The celebration, which will take place on 13 April, the fourth week of Easter, this year, has the theme: "Vocations at the Service of the Church on Mission".

  The text is dated 3 December 2007 and is presented in French, English, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, Polish, and German. Here follow some excerpts:

  The Church is missionary in herself and in each one of her members. Through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, every Christian is called to bear witness and to announce the Gospel, but this missionary dimension is associated in a special and intimate way with the priestly vocation.  In the covenant with Israel, God entrusted to certain men, called by him and sent to the people in his name, a mission as prophets and priests. (...) The same happened with the prophets.

  The promises made to our fathers were fulfilled entirely in Jesus Christ. (...) Jesus already in his public life while preaching in Galilee, chose some disciples to be his close collaborators in the messianic ministry.  For example, on the occasion of the multiplication of the loaves, he said to the Apostles: "You give them something to eat", encouraging them to assume the needs of the crowds to whom he wished to offer nourishment, but also to reveal the food "which endures to eternal life" (...) If we pause to meditate on this passage of the Gospel (...) we may take note of those aspects which distinguish the missionary activity of a Christian community, eager to remain faithful to the example and teaching of Jesus. To respond to the Lord's call means facing in prudence and simplicity every danger and even persecutions, since "a disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master". (...) Having become one with their Master, the disciples are no longer alone as they announce the kingdom of heaven; Jesus himself is acting in them. (...) Furthermore, as true witnesses, "clothed with power from on high", they preach "repentance and the forgiveness of sins" to all peoples.
  Precisely because they have been sent by the Lord, the Twelve are called "Apostles", destined to walk the roads of the world announcing the Gospel as witnesses to the death and resurrection of Christ. (...) The Acts of the Apostles also assigns a very important role in this task of evangelization to other disciples whose missionary vocation arises from providential, sometimes painful, circumstances such as expulsion from their own lands for being followers of Jesus. (...) First among them is undoubtedly Paul of Tarsus, called by the Lord himself, hence a true Apostle.  The story of Paul, the greatest missionary of all times, brings out in many ways the link between vocation and mission. Accused by his opponents of not being authorized for the apostolate, he makes repeated appeals precisely to the call which he received directly from the Lord.

  In the beginning, and thereafter, what "impels" the Apostles is always "the love of Christ". (...) In fact, the love of Christ must be communicated to the brothers by example and words, with all one's life.

  Among those totally dedicated to the service of the Gospel, are priests, called to preach the word of God, administer the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation, committed to helping the lowly, the sick, the suffering, the poor, and those who experience hardship in areas of the world where there are, at times, many who still have not had a real encounter with Jesus Christ. (...) Statistics show that the number of baptized persons increases every year thanks to the pastoral work of these priests, who are wholly consecrated to the salvation of their brothers and sisters.

  There have always been in the Church many men and women who, prompted by the action of the Holy Spirit, choose to live the Gospel in a radical way, professing the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. This multitude of men and women religious, belonging to innumerable institutes of contemplative and active life, still plays "the main role in the evangelisation of the world" .With their continual and community prayer, contemplatives intercede without ceasing for all humanity. Religious of the active life, with their many charitable activities, bring to all a living witness of the love and mercy of God.

  The gift of faith calls all Christians to co-operate in the work of evangelization. This awareness must be nourished by preaching and catechesis, by the liturgy, and by constant formation in prayer. It must grow through the practice of welcoming others, with charity and spiritual companionship, through reflection and discernment, as well as pastoral planning, of which attention to vocations must be an integral part.

  Vocations to the ministerial priesthood and to the consecrated life can only flourish in a spiritual soil that is well cultivated. Christian communities that live the missionary dimension of the mystery of the Church in a profound way will never be inward looking.


VATICAN CITY, 22 FEB 2008 (VIS) - Today the Pope received members of the Circle of St. Peter who brought him, as is traditional, the "Peter's Pence" collected every year in the parishes and institutes of Rome's diocese.

  Addressing the members of the society on the day that the Church celebrates the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, the Pope emphasized that their service "has always distinguished you for your unconditional faithfulness to the Church and its universal pastor, the Roman pontiff".

  "Yours, he continued, is a much appreciated apostolate that offers constant witness to the love that you hold for the Church and in particular for the Holy See". In this context he recalled their service in the Vatican basilica during the celebrations that are presided over by the Pope, the formation they offer, and their activities of assistance and charity "that you generously maintain".

  Benedict XVI expressed gratitude for the presentation of the Peter's Pence, which "represents concrete assistance offered to the Pope so that he might respond to the many petitions that come from around the world, especially from the poorest countries. Thank you for this service", he finished, "that you carry out with such generosity and a spirit of sacrifice".
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VATICAN CITY, 22 FEB 2008 (VIS) - At noon, during a brief ceremony attended by His Beatitude Nerses Bedros XIX, Patriarch of Cilicia of the Armenian Catholics, and a group of prelates of the Armenian Catholic Church, the Pope dedicated the north patio of the Vatican Basilica to St. Gregory the Illuminator.

  Recalling that, a few months before his death, John Paul II blessed the statue of St. Gregory the Illuminator that is located in that patio, Benedict XVI affirmed that "this great saint has made the Armenians, for more than seveneen centuries, a Christian people, and more, the first officially Christian people".

  "St. Gregory was called the Illuminator", he continued, "precisely because in him the Lord's face is reflected in an extraordinary way".

  The Pope asked that the "Armenian people, through the intercession of this illustrious and distinguished son, continue their journey along the paths of faith, letting themselves be guided, as they have for centuries, by Christ and by his Gospel, which has indelibly marked their culture".


VATICAN CITY, 22 FEB 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father Benedict XVI today received in audience Archbishop George Kocherry, Apostolic Nuncio to Zimbabwe.
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VATICAN CITY, 22 FEB 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

- Accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Soissons, France, presented by Bishop Marcel Herriot in accordance with canon 401 para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law. He is succeeded by Coadjutor Bishop Hervé Giraud.

- Appointed Msgr. Noel Treanor as Bishop of Down and Connor (area 2,419, population 1,000,000, Catholics 321,021, priests 243, religious 359), Ireland. The bishop-elect was born in Silverstream (Ireland) in 1950 and ordained a priest in 1976. He succeeds Bishop Patrick Walsh whose resignation from the pastoral care of that diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

-Appointed Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, Apostolic Nuncio to Bulgaria, as Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland.

-Appointed Msgr. Luciano Suriani as Apostolic Nuncio to Bolivia, at the same time elevating him to the dignity of archbishop.
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