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Monday, April 7, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 7 APR 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

 - Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples.

 - Archbishop Ubaldo Ramon Santana Sequera F.M.I., of Maracaibo, Venezuela, president of the Episcopal Conference of Venezuela, accompanied by Archbishop Roberto Luckert Leon of Coro and Cardinal Jorge Liberato Urosa Savino, archbishop of Caracas, Santiago de Venezuela, vice presidents of the same episcopal conference; and by Bishop Ramon Jose Viloria Pinzon of Puerto Caballo, secretary general.

  On Sunday 6 April, he received in audience Cardinal Christoph Schonborn O.P., archbishop of Vienna, Austria.

  On Saturday, 5 April, he received in separate audiences:

 - Bishop Luigi Antonio Secco S.D.B. of Willemstad, Dutch Antilles, on his "ad limina" visit.

 - Giovanni Galassi, ambassador of the Republic of San Marino, on his farewell visit.
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VATICAN CITY, 7 APR 2008 (VIS) - Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum", is to meet with bishops of England and Wales gathered in plenary assembly in the northern English city of Leeds from 7 to 10 April.

  At the invitation of the Episcopal Conference of England and Wales (CBEW), the cardinal will dialogue with the bishops in the light of the Holy Father's first Encyclical "Deus caritas est" on "how to promote the Catholic identity of the Church's charitable organisations in a rapidly changing environment, characterised by challenges to the Church's traditional outreach in this field", according to a communique made public today.

  "While the Church in England and Wales has reached out to those in need in an efficacious way", the communique continues, "historical and cultural changes warrant a reflection upon the role of the bishop as the primordial locus for charitable activity".

  On 8 April at Birmingham's Maryvale Institute, the president of "Cor Unum" will deliver a public lecture on the Church's charitable activities.
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VATICAN CITY, 7 APR 2008 (VIS) - Today in the Vatican, the Holy Father received prelates from the Antilles Episcopal Conference, who have just completed their "ad limina" visit.

  Addressing the bishops in English, the Holy Father reminded them how "your shores have been battered by negative aspects of the entertainment industry, exploitative tourism and the scourge of the arms and drugs trade; influences which not only undermine family life and unsettle the foundations of traditional cultural values, but tend to affect negatively local politics".

  Benedict XVI went on to encourage the prelates: "Be audacious witnesses to the light of Christ, which gives families direction and purpose, and be bold preachers of the power of the Gospel, which must permeate their way of thinking, standards of judgement, and norms of behaviour".

  "Pastoral renewal is an indispensable task for each of your dioceses", said the Holy Father, highlighting the vital importance of "the tireless promotion of vocations together with the guidance and ongoing formation of priests. ... Your solicitude for the human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral formation of your seminarians and priests is a sure expression of your care and concern for the constant deepening of their pastoral commitment". He encouraged the prelates to support the Saint John Vianney and Ugandan Martyrs Seminary, and noted how "the establishment of a Francophone seminary in the region is a welcome sign of hope".

  "Your pastoral concern for the decline in religious vocations exemplifies your deep appreciation of consecrated life. I too appeal to your religious communities, encouraging them to reaffirm their calling with confidence and, guided by the Holy Spirit, to propose afresh to young people the ideal of consecration and mission".

  Concluding his remarks in French, the Pope noted that each of the bishops "feels the great responsibility to do everything possible to support marriage and family life, which is the primary source of cohesion in communities and hence of vital importance in the eyes of the government authorities. In this perspective, the great network of Catholic schools throughout your region can make a great contribution. Values rooted in the way of truth presented by Christ illuminate the spirit and heart of young people and encourage them to continue along the path of faithfulness, responsibility and real freedom. Good young Christians make good citizens".
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VATICAN CITY, 6 APR 2008 (VIS) - At midday today, Benedict XVI appeared at the window of his study overlooking St. Peter's Square in order to pray the Regina Coeli with pilgrims gathered there.

  Commenting on today's Gospel reading of the meeting on the road to Emmaus, the Pope recalled how that locality, "which has not been definitively identified, ... in fact represents all places. The road leading there is the road each Christian, indeed all mankind, follows. The risen Jesus becomes our travelling companion on the roads of our life, to rekindle in our hearts the flame of faith and hope and to break the bread of eternal life".

  Dwelling then on the phrase "we had hoped ... " used by one of the disciples of Emmaus, the Pope explained the significance of the use of the past tense: "We had believed, we had followed, we had hoped, ... but now all is over. Even Jesus of Nazareth Who showed Himself so powerful a prophet in deed and word has failed and we have been disillusioned.

  "The drama faced by the disciples of Emmaus", the Holy Father added, "appears to mirror the situation of many Christians of our own time. It seems as if the hope of faith has failed. Faith itself is in crisis because of negative experiences that make us feel we have been abandoned by the Lord. But this road to Emmaus along which we are walking can become a path of purification and maturity for our belief in God".

  He continued: "Today too we can enter into dialogue with Jesus, listening to His Word. Today too He breaks the bread for us and gives Himself as our bread. And thus the encounter with the risen Christ, which is also possible today, gives us a more profound and authentic faith, tempered so to say by the fire of the events of Easter. A robust faith because it is nourished not by human ideas by the Word of God and His real presence in the Eucharist".

  Following the Marian prayer, Benedict XVI recalled that today marks the close of the first World Congress of Divine Mercy. "Go and be witnesses of God's mercy ", he told the participants, "the source of hope for each human being and for the world entire".
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VATICAN CITY, 6 APR 2008 (VIS) - Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. has sent a telegram in the Pope's name for yesterday's killing of a Syrian Orthodox priest in Baghdad, Iraq.

  In the telegram, sent via the apostolic nunciature to Iraq to the Syrian Orthodox Archbishop Mar Saverius Jamil Hawa of Baghdad, the Holy Father expresses his deep sadness at the death of Fr. Yousef Adel Abudi and "assures Your Eminence, the priests and the religious of the archdiocese of his closeness in prayer.

  "Entrusting this devoted servant's soul to the infinite mercy of God, His Holiness prays that all people will follow the ways of peace in order to build a just and tolerant society in the beloved land of Iraq".
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VATICAN CITY, 5 APR 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, as his special envoy to solemn celebrations marking the 8th centenary of the translation of the relics of St. Andrew to Amalfi, Italy. The event is due to take place on 8 May.
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VATICAN CITY, 5 APR 2008 (VIS) - At midday today in the Vatican's Clementine Hall, the Holy Father received participants in the 18th plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family, which was held from 3 to 5 April on the theme: "The presence and witness of grandparents in families".

  After highlighting how the Church has always recognised grandparents' "great richness in human and social, religious and spiritual terms", the Pope recalled how "in the past grandparents played an important role in the life and growth of the family. Even as they got older, they continued to be present for their children, grandchildren and perhaps even great-grandchildren, providing a living witness of kindness, sacrifice and a daily and unreserved giving of self".

  "Today, the economic and social evolution has brought about profound transformations in the lives of families", noted the Holy Father. Some elderly people feel "a burden to their family and prefer to live alone or in rest homes, with all the consequences such choices bring.

  "Unfortunately", he added, "the 'culture of death' seems to be gaining ground on various sides, threatening even the period of old age. With growing insistence, euthanasia is even proposed as a solution to resolve certain difficult situations". Hence "it is necessary to react forcefully to that which dehumanises society. ... We must unite to defeat all forms of marginalisation together, because it is not just they (grandparents and the elderly) who are overwhelmed by the individualistic mentality, but everyone. If, as is often said, grandparents represent a valuable resource, it is important to make coherent choices in order to take full advantage of them".

  The Pope called for grandparents to return as a "living presence in the family, in the Church and in society. ... May they continue to be witnesses of unity, of values founded on faithfulness to the one love that generates faith and the joy of life. The so-called new models of the family and rampant relativism have weakened these fundamental values of the family nucleus".

  "Faced with the crisis of the family," the Holy Father asked, "is it not perhaps possible to start afresh from the presence and witness of people (grandparents) who have more robust values and projects? It is not, in fact, possible to plan the future without drawing on a past full of significant experiences and of points of spiritual and moral reference".

  The Pope concluded his remarks by recalling that the 6th World Meeting of Families, is due be held in Mexico in 2009. And he invited ecclesial communities, especially family groups, movements and associations "to prepare themselves spiritually for this event of grace".
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VATICAN CITY, 5 APR 2008 (VIS) - Today in the Vatican, the Holy Father received 300 participants in an international congress entitled: "Oil on the wounds. A response to the blight of abortion and divorce". The event is being promoted by the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family in collaboration with the Knights of Columbus.

  Benedict XVI expressed his satisfaction at the participants' focus on the parable of the Good Samaritan in studying questions "which bring so much suffering to the lives of people, families and society". He also recalled how in debating such matters, "often purely ideologically, a kind of conspiracy of silence is created. Only through an attitude of merciful love can we ... bring help and enable victims to rise up again and resume the course of their lives.

  "In a cultural context marked by increasing individualism, hedonism and, all too often, by a lack of solidarity and adequate social support", the Pope added, people make "decisions that contrast with the indissolubility of the conjugal bond and with the respect due to human life freshly conceived and still guarded in the maternal womb".

  He went on: "Divorce and abortion are, of course, different choices, at times made in difficult and dramatic circumstances. They often give rise to traumas and are a source of profound suffering for the people who make them. ... They leave wounds that mark life indelibly.

  "The Church's ethical judgement concerning abortion and divorce is clear and well-known to everyone: they are grave sins which - in various ways and with due evaluation of subjective responsibilities - injure the dignity of the human person, involve a profound injustice in human and social relationships, and offend God Himself, the guarantor of the marital bond and the architect of life".

  Nonetheless, "the Church, following the example of her divine Master, always has to deal with real people, especially the weakest and most innocent, ... as well as other men and women who, having perpetrated those acts, are stained with sin and bear its interior wounds while seeking peace and the possibility of rehabilitation.

  "The Church", said the Pope, "has the primary duty to approach these people with love and delicacy, with kindness and maternal concern, in order to announce the merciful closeness of God and Jesus Christ. ... Yes, the gospel of love and of life is also always the gospel of mercy" and, "on the basis of this mercy, the Church cultivates an indomitable faith in mankind and its capacity for recovery. She knows that, with the help of grace, human freedom is capable of the definitive and faithful giving of self which makes it possible for the marriage of a man and a woman to be an indissoluble bond", just as she knows that "human freedom, even in the most difficult circumstances, is capable of extraordinary gestures of sacrifice and solidarity to accept the life of a new human being".

  "Hence", Pope Benedict went on, "it may be seen that the 'noes' pronounced by the Church in her moral guidelines, and upon which public opinion sometimes unilaterally fixes its attention, are in fact so many 'yeses' to the dignity of human beings, their lives and their capacity to love".

  Turning to consider the consequences of divorce, the Holy Father recommended that pastoral efforts be concentrated on ensuring "that children do not become the innocent victims of conflicts between divorcing parents", and that efforts be made to ensure "as far as possible" the continuity "of the bond with parents and of the relationship with their family and social origins, which are indispensable for well-balanced psychological and human development".

  "How much selfish complicity often lies at the roots of a difficult decision that so many women have had to face alone and of which they still have the open wound in their soul!" said Benedict XVI talking of abortion. Then, echoing John Paul II's words from his Encyclical "Evangelium vitae", he added: "Do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. ... The Father of mercies is ready to give you His forgiveness and His peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation".

  In closing, Benedict XVI expressed his appreciation for "all those social and pastoral initiatives which seek the reconciliation and cure of people affected by the drama of abortion and divorce". They are, he concluded, "essential elements in building the civilisation of love of which humanity today has more need than ever".

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