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Friday, April 18, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 18 APR 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed:

 - Msgr. Julio Parrilla Diaz, pastor of the parish of "La Inmaculada de Inaquito" in Quito, Ecuador, as bishop of Loja (area 11,476, population 575,000, Catholics 533,000, priests 163, permanent deacons 2, religious 386), Ecuador. The bishop-elect was born in Orense, Spain in 1946 and ordained a priest in 1975.

 - Fr. Roger Victor Rakotondrajao, priest of the diocese of Miarinarivo, Madagascar, as coadjutor bishop of Mahajanga (area 71,900, population 1,049,000, Catholics 200,000, priests 45, religious 193), Madagascar. The bishop-elect was born in 1960 and ordained a priest in 1990.
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VATICAN CITY, 18 APR 2008 (VIS) - The Vatican Information Service will transmit two special services on Saturday 19 April and on Sunday 20 April. These will cover, respectively, the Holy Father's address to the General Assembly of the United Nations (scheduled for 4.45 p.m. Rome time today) and his visit to Ground Zero (scheduled for 3.30 p.m. Rome time on Sunday).
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VATICAN CITY, 18 APR 2008 (VIS) - This morning, the Pope celebrated a private Mass in the chapel of the apostolic nunciature in Washington D.C., then bid farewell to the staff there.

  At 8.45 a.m. local time (2.45 p.m. in Rome) he boarded his aircraft and departed for New York, where he is scheduled to land at the John Fitzgerald Kennedy international airport at 9.45 a.m. He will then travel directly to the headquarters of the United Nations where, at 10.45 a.m. local time (4.45 in Rome), he will deliver an address before the General Assembly.

  The General Assembly is formed of 192 member States. The president of this 62nd General Assembly is Srgjan Kerim, ambassador of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The secretary general of the United Nations is the Korean Ban Ki-moon, who was elected to office in October 2006.

  At 5.10 p.m. (11.10 p.m. in Rome), having had lunch at the residence of the Holy See permanent observer to the United Nations, the Pope will visit New York's Park East Synagogue and, an hour later, attend an ecumenical meeting in the church of St. Joseph.
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VATICAN CITY, 17 APR 2008 (VIS) - The Holy See Press Office today announced that this afternoon in the chapel of the apostolic nunciature in Washington, the Pope met with a small group of people who were sexually abused by members of the clergy.

  "Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley O.F.M. Cap., archbishop of Boston, accompanied the group. They prayed with the Holy Father, who afterwards listened to their personal accounts and offered them words of encouragement and hope.

  "His Holiness assured them of his prayers for their intentions, for their families and for all victims of sexual abuse".


VATICAN CITY, 17 APR 2008 (VIS) - In the Pope John Paul II Cultural Centre in Washington D.C. at 6.30 p.m. local time today, Benedict XVI met with some 200 representatives of five religious communities: Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Jains. The Pope John Paul II Cultural Centre was founded in 1998 at the initiative of the then archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Joseph Adam Maida, and was inaugurated in 2001 in the presence of President George W. Bush. It is a place of meeting, dialogue and academic research on the relationship between faith and culture.

  "This country has a long history of co-operation between different religions in many spheres of public life", said the Pope in his address. "Inter-religious prayer services during the national feast of Thanksgiving, joint initiatives in charitable activities, a shared voice on important public issues: these are some ways in which members of different religions come together to enhance mutual understanding and promote the common good".

  The Holy Father recalled how "Americans have always valued the ability to worship freely and in accordance with their conscience". Today, "children of all religions sit side-by-side, learning with one another and from one another. This diversity gives rise to new challenges that spark a deeper reflection on the core principles of a democratic society.

  "May others", he added, "take heart from your experience, realising that a united society can indeed arise from a plurality of peoples, ... provided that all recognise religious liberty as a basic civil right.

  "The task of upholding religious freedom is never completed", the Holy Father observed. "Protecting religious freedom within the rule of law does not guarantee that peoples - particularly minorities - will be spared from unjust forms of discrimination and prejudice. This requires constant effort on the part of all members of society to ensure that citizens are afforded the opportunity to worship peaceably and to pass on their religious heritage to their children".

  Going on to examine the question of dialogue between religions, the Pope expressed the view that "as we grow in understanding of one another, we see that we share an esteem for ethical values, discernible to human reason, which are revered by all peoples of goodwill. The world begs for a common witness to these values. I therefore invite all religious people to view dialogue not only as a means of enhancing mutual understanding, but also as a way of serving society at large".

  The Holy Father noted the "growing interest among governments to sponsor programmes intended to promote inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue", and he described such initiatives as "praiseworthy". However, "at the same time, religious freedom, inter-religious dialogue and faith-based education aim at something more than a consensus regarding ways to implement practical strategies for advancing peace. The broader purpose of dialogue is to discover the truth".

  "Spiritual leaders have a special duty ... to place the deeper questions at the forefront of human consciousness, to reawaken mankind to the mystery of human existence, and to make space in a frenetic world for reflection and prayer".

  He went on: "Confronted with these deeper questions concerning the origin and destiny of mankind, Christianity proposes Jesus of Nazareth. ... The ardent desire to follow in His footsteps spurs Christians to open their minds and hearts in dialogue".

  "In our attempt to discover points of commonality, perhaps we have shied away from the responsibility to discuss our differences with calmness and clarity", suggested Pope Benedict. "While always uniting our hearts and minds in the call for peace, we must also listen attentively to the voice of truth.

  "In this way, our dialogue will not stop at identifying a common set of values, but go on to probe their ultimate foundation. We have no reason to fear", he concluded, "for the truth unveils for us the essential relationship between the world and God. We are able to perceive that peace is a 'heavenly gift' that calls us to conform human history to the divine order".

  Having completed his discourse, the Pope moved on to the Pope John Paul II Cultural Centre's Polish National Room. There he met representatives of the Jewish community to whom he consigned a Message for the Feast of the Passover, which this year begins on Saturday 19 April.

  In his Passover Message, the Pope writes: "At this time of your most solemn celebration, I feel particularly close, precisely because of what 'Nostra Aetate' calls Christians to remember always: that the Church 'received the revelation of the Old Testament through the people with whom God in His inexpressible mercy concluded the ancient Covenant. ... In addressing myself to you I wish to re-affirm the Second Vatican Council's teaching on Catholic-Jewish relations and reiterate the Church's commitment to the dialogue that in the past forty years has fundamentally changed our relationship for the better.

  "Because of that growth in trust and friendship", the Holy Father adds in his Message, "Christians and Jews can rejoice together in the deep spiritual ethos of the Passover, a memorial of freedom and redemption. Each year, when we listen to the Passover story we return to that blessed night of liberation. This holy time of the year should be a call to both our communities to pursue justice, mercy, solidarity with the stranger in the land, with the widow and orphan, as Moses commanded".

  "This bond permits us Christians to celebrate alongside you, though in our own way, the Passover of Christ's death and resurrection, which we see as inseparable from your own, for Jesus Himself said: 'salvation is from the Jews'. Our Easter and your Pesah, while distinct and different, unite us in our common hope centred on God and His mercy".

  "With respect and friendship, I therefore ask the Jewish community to accept my Pesah greeting in a spirit of openness to the real possibilities of co-operation which we see before us as we contemplate the urgent needs of our world, and as we look with compassion upon the sufferings of millions of our brothers and sisters everywhere. Naturally, our shared hope for peace in the world embraces the Middle East and the Holy Land in particular. May the memory of God's mercies, which Jews and Christians celebrate at this festive time, inspire all those responsible for the future of that region - where the events surrounding God's revelation actually took place - to new efforts, and especially to new attitudes and a new purification of hearts!"


VATICAN CITY, 17 APR 2008 (VIS) - At 5 p.m. local time (11 p.m. in Rome), the Pope went to the Catholic University of Washington where he met with representatives from the Catholic academic world. The event was attended by a total of around 600 people, including 235 rectors of Catholic universities and colleges, 195 diocesan heads of education, as well as professors and students.

  "Education", said the Pope in his address, "is integral to the mission of the Church to proclaim the Good News".

  "Set against personal struggles, moral confusion and fragmentation of knowledge, the noble goals of scholarship and education, founded on the unity of truth and in service of the person and the community, become an especially powerful instrument of hope".

  The Pope highlighted the need "to reflect on what is particular to our Catholic institutions" and to ask: "how do they contribute to the good of society through the Church's primary mission of evangelisation?"

  He went on: "A university or school's Catholic identity is not simply a question of the number of Catholic students. It is a question of conviction - do we really believe that only in the mystery of the Word made flesh does the mystery of man truly become clear? ... Do we accept the truth Christ reveals? Is the faith tangible in our universities and schools?"

  "The contemporary 'crisis of truth' is rooted in a 'crisis of faith'", he said. " Only through faith can we freely give our assent to God's testimony and acknowledge Him as the transcendent guarantor of the truth He reveals. ... Freedom is not an opting out. It is an opting in - a participation in Being itself. Hence authentic freedom can never be attained by turning away from God".

  The Holy Father explained how the Church's mission to evangelise "involves her in humanity's struggle to arrive at truth. In articulating revealed truth she serves all members of society by purifying reason, ensuring that it remains open to the consideration of ultimate truths".

  "With confidence, Christian educators can liberate the young from the limits of positivism and awaken receptivity to the truth, to God and His goodness. In this way you will also help to form their conscience which, enriched by faith, opens a sure path to inner peace and to respect for others".

  "When nothing beyond the individual is recognised as definitive", the Pope warned, "the ultimate criterion of judgement becomes the self and the satisfaction of the individual's immediate wishes".

  Then, after thanking the academic authorities for their "dedication and generosity" and "selfless contributions" which "serve both your country and the Church", Benedict XVI recalled that "any appeal to the principle of academic freedom in order to justify positions that contradict the faith and the teaching of the Church would obstruct or even betray the university's identity and mission; a mission at the heart of the Church's 'munus docendi' and not somehow autonomous or independent of it.

  "Teachers and administrators, whether in universities or schools, have the duty and privilege to ensure that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice", he added. "This requires that public witness to the way of Christ, as found in the Gospel and upheld by the Church's Magisterium, shapes all aspects of an institution's life, both inside and outside the classroom. Divergence from this vision weakens Catholic identity and, far from advancing freedom, inevitably leads to confusion, whether moral, intellectual or spiritual".

  The Pope had special words of encouragement for teachers of catechesis, both lay and religious. "Religious education", he said, "is a challenging apostolate, yet there are many signs of a desire among young people to learn about the faith and practice it with vigour". In conclusion, he encouraged religious and priests not to "abandon the school apostolate; indeed, renew your commitment to schools especially those in poorer areas".
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VATICAN CITY, 17 APR 2008 (VIS) - At 9.30 a.m. local time today, the Pope arrived by car at the Nationals Park Stadium of Washington D.C., which has capacity for 45,000 spectators and is the most modern baseball stadium in the United States. The Holy Father was welcomed by Archbishop Donald William Wuerl of Washington, by Adrian M. Fenty, mayor of Washington D.C., and by Theodore Lerner, owner of the stadium and its team.

  Benedict XVI made a tour of the stadium by popemobile before moving to the sacristy. Mass, dedicated to the faithful of the archdiocese of Washington, began at 10 a.m.

  In his homily, the Holy Father recalled how Pope Pius VII had divided the diocese of Baltimore and established the dioceses of Boston, Bardstown (now Louisville), New York and Philadelphia. "Two hundred years later, the Church in America can rightfully praise the accomplishment of past generations in bringing together widely differing immigrant groups within the unity of the Catholic faith and in a common commitment to the spread of the Gospel", he said.

  Benedict XVI then went on to express the hope that "this significant anniversary" and his own visit "will be an occasion for all Catholics to reaffirm their unity in the apostolic faith, to offer their contemporaries a convincing account of the hope which inspires them, and to be renewed in missionary zeal for the extension of God's Kingdom.

  "The world needs this witness", he added. "Who can deny that the present moment ... is a time of great promise, as we see the human family in many ways drawing closer together and becoming ever more interdependent. Yet at the same time we see clear signs of a disturbing breakdown in the very foundations of society: ... increased violence; a weakening of the moral sense; a coarsening of social relations; and a growing forgetfulness of God".

  "The fidelity and courage with which the Church in this country will respond to the challenges raised by an increasingly secular and materialistic culture will depend in large part upon your own fidelity in handing on the treasure of our Catholic faith. ... The challenges confronting us require a comprehensive and sound instruction in the truths of the faith. But they also call for cultivating a mindset, an intellectual 'culture', which is genuinely Catholic, confident in the profound harmony of faith and reason, and prepared to bring the richness of faith's vision to bear on the urgent issues which affect the future of American society".

  Recalling how his U.S. visit "is meant to be a witness to 'Christ our Hope'", the Pope expressed the view that "Americans have always been a people of hope" whose ancestors came to the country "with the expectation of finding new freedom and opportunity", and of building "a new nation on new foundations.

  "To be sure", he added, "this promise was not experienced by all the inhabitants of this land; one thinks of the injustices endured by the native American peoples and by those brought here forcibly from Africa as slaves. Yet hope, hope for the future, is very much a part of the American character. And the Christian virtue of hope ... has also marked, and continues to mark, the life of the Catholic community in this country".

  He continued: "It is in the context of this hope born of God's love and fidelity that I acknowledge the pain which the Church in America has experienced as a result of the sexual abuse of minors. No words of mine could describe the pain and harm inflicted by such abuse. It is important that those who have suffered be given loving pastoral attention. Nor can I adequately describe the damage that has occurred within the community of the Church. Great efforts have already been made to deal honestly and fairly with this tragic situation, and to ensure that children - whom our Lord loves so deeply, and who are our greatest treasure - can grow up in a safe environment. These efforts to protect children must continue".

  Pope Benedict called on the faithful to do everything possible "to foster healing and reconciliation, and to assist those who have been hurt", as well as "to love your priests, and to affirm them in the excellent work that they do".

  "Through the surpassing power of Christ's grace, entrusted to frail human ministers, the Church is constantly reborn and each of us is given the hope of a new beginning" said the Holy Father. "Let us trust in the Spirit's power to inspire conversion, to heal every wound, to overcome every division, and to inspire new life and freedom. How much we need these gifts! And how close at hand they are, particularly in the Sacrament of Penance!

  "The liberating power of this Sacrament ... needs to be rediscovered and re-appropriated by every Catholic. To a great extent, the renewal of the Church in America depends on the renewal of the practice of Penance and the growth in holiness which that Sacrament both inspires and accomplishes".

  "'In hope we were saved'", exclaimed the Pope, exhorting the faithful "to continue to be a leaven of evangelical hope in American society" and, by the witness of faith, to "point the way towards that vast horizon of hope which God is even now opening up to His Church, and indeed to all humanity: the vision of a world reconciled and renewed in Christ Jesus, our Saviour".

  At the end of his homily, the Holy Father addressed some worlds to the Hispanic community. "The Church in the United States", he said, "welcoming so many of her immigrant children to her bosom, has grown thanks also to the witness of faith of the Spanish-speaking faithful. ... Do not let yourselves be defeated by pessimism, inertia or problems. ... The Lord calls you to continue contributing to the future of the Church in this country and to spreading the Gospel".

  Mass over, the Pope blessed the first stone of the altar of the John Paul the Great Catholic school of the diocese of Arlington, and the first stone of the new chapel of the St. Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, California.
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