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Saturday, April 19, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 18 APR 2008 (VIS) - This morning, the Pope visited the New York headquarters of the United Nations Organisation where, on his arrival, he was welcomed by Ban Ki-moon, U.N. secretary general, and Srgjan Kerim, current president of the General Assembly.

  Benedict XVI is the third Pontiff to address the U.N. General Assembly. Pope Paul VI did so on 4 October 1965, and John Paul II on two occasions: 2 October 1979 and 5 October 1995.

  Following a private meeting with the secretary general, the Holy Father went to the General Assembly where he addressed representatives of the 192 member States.

  Excerpts from the Holy Father's address are given below:

  "Through the United Nations, States have established universal objectives which, even if they do not coincide with the total common good of the human family, undoubtedly represent a fundamental part of that good. The founding principles of the Organisation - the desire for peace, the quest for justice, respect for the dignity of the person, humanitarian co-operation and assistance - express the just aspirations of the human spirit, and constitute the ideals which should underpin international relations. ... The United Nations embodies the aspiration for a 'greater degree of international ordering', inspired and governed by the principle of subsidiarity, and therefore capable of responding to the demands of the human family through binding international rules and through structures capable of harmonising the day-to-day unfolding of the lives of peoples. This is all the more necessary at a time when we experience the obvious paradox of a multilateral consensus that continues to be in crisis because it is still subordinated to the decisions of a few, whereas the world's problems call for interventions in the form of collective action by the international community.

  "Indeed, questions of security, development goals, reduction of local and global inequalities, protection of the environment, of resources and of the climate, require all international leaders to act jointly and to show a readiness to work in good faith, respecting the law, and promoting solidarity with the weakest regions of the planet. I am thinking especially of those countries in Africa and other parts of the world which remain on the margins of authentic integral development, and are therefore at risk of experiencing only the negative effects of globalisation.  In the context of international relations, it is necessary to recognise the higher role played by rules and structures that are intrinsically ordered to promote the common good, and therefore to safeguard human freedom. These regulations do not limit freedom. On the contrary, they promote it when they prohibit behaviour and actions which work against the common good, curb its effective exercise and hence compromise the dignity of every human person".

  "Here our thoughts turn also to the way the results of scientific research and technological advances have sometimes been applied. Notwithstanding the enormous benefits that humanity can gain, some instances of this represent a clear violation of the order of creation, to the point where not only is the sacred character of life contradicted, but the human person and the family are robbed of their natural identity. Likewise, international action to preserve the environment and to protect various forms of life on earth must not only guarantee a rational use of technology and science, but must also rediscover the authentic image of creation. This never requires a choice to be made between science and ethics: rather it is a question of adopting a scientific method that is truly respectful of ethical imperatives.

  "Recognition of the unity of the human family, and attention to the innate dignity of every man and woman, today find renewed emphasis in the principle of the responsibility to protect. ... Every State has the primary duty to protect its own population from grave and sustained violations of human rights, as well as from the consequences of humanitarian crises, whether natural or man-made. If States are unable to guarantee such protection, the international community must intervene with the juridical means provided in the United Nations Charter and in other international instruments. The action of the international community and its institutions, provided that it respects the principles undergirding the international order, should never be interpreted as an unwarranted imposition or a limitation of sovereignty".

  "The principle of 'responsibility to protect' was considered by the ancient 'ius gentium' as the foundation of every action taken by those in government with regard to the governed. ... Now, as then, this principle has to invoke the idea of the person as image of the Creator, the desire for the absolute and the essence of freedom. The founding of the United Nations, as we know, coincided with the profound upheavals that humanity experienced when reference to the meaning of transcendence and natural reason was abandoned, and in consequence, freedom and human dignity were grossly violated. ... When faced with new and insistent challenges, it is a mistake to fall back on a pragmatic approach, limited to determining 'common ground', minimal in content and weak in its effect.

  "This reference to human dignity, which is the foundation and goal of the responsibility to protect, leads us to the theme we are specifically focusing upon this year, which marks the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. ... Human rights are increasingly being presented as the common language and the ethical substratum of international relations. At the same time, the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of human rights all serve as guarantees safeguarding human dignity. It is evident, though, that the rights recognised and expounded in the Declaration apply to everyone by virtue of the common origin of the person, who remains the high-point of God's creative design for the world and for history. They are based on the natural law inscribed on human hearts and present in different cultures and civilisations. Removing human rights from this context would mean restricting their range and yielding to a relativistic conception, according to which the meaning and interpretation of rights could vary and their universality would be denied in the name of different cultural, political, social and even religious outlooks".

  "The life of the community, both domestically and internationally, clearly demonstrates that respect for rights, and the guarantees that follow from them, are measures of the common good that serve to evaluate the relationship between justice and injustice, development and poverty, security and conflict. ... The merit of the Universal Declaration is that it has enabled different cultures, juridical expressions and institutional models to converge around a fundamental nucleus of values, and hence of rights. Today, though, efforts need to be redoubled in the face of pressure to reinterpret the foundations of the Declaration and to compromise its inner unity so as to facilitate a move away from the protection of human dignity towards the satisfaction of simple interests, often particular interests".

  "Experience shows that legality often prevails over justice when the insistence upon rights makes them appear as the exclusive result of legislative enactments or normative decisions taken by the various agencies of those in power. When presented purely in terms of legality, rights risk becoming weak propositions divorced from the ethical and rational dimension which is their foundation and their goal. The Universal Declaration, rather, has reinforced the conviction that respect for human rights is principally rooted in unchanging justice, on which the binding force of international proclamations is also based. This aspect is often overlooked when the attempt is made to deprive rights of their true function in the name of a narrowly utilitarian perspective. Since rights and the resulting duties follow naturally from human interaction, it is easy to forget that they are the fruit of a commonly held sense of justice built primarily upon solidarity among the members of society, and hence valid at all times and for all peoples".

  "As history proceeds, new situations arise, and the attempt is made to link them to new rights. Discernment, that is, the capacity to distinguish good from evil, becomes even more essential in the context of demands that concern the very lives and conduct of persons, communities and peoples".

  "Discernment, then, shows that entrusting exclusively to individual States, with their laws and institutions, the final responsibility to meet the aspirations of persons, communities and entire peoples, can sometimes have consequences that exclude the possibility of a social order respectful of the dignity and rights of the person. On the other hand, a vision of life firmly anchored in the religious dimension can help to achieve this, since recognition of the transcendent value of every man and woman favours conversion of heart, which then leads to a commitment to resist violence, terrorism and war, and to promote justice and peace. This also provides the proper context for the inter-religious dialogue that the United Nations is called to support, just as it supports dialogue in other areas of human activity".

  "Human rights, of course, must include the right to religious freedom, understood as the expression of a dimension that is at once individual and communitarian - a vision that brings out the unity of the person while clearly distinguishing between the dimension of the citizen and that of the believer. ... It is inconceivable, then, that believers should have to suppress a part of themselves - their faith - in order to be active citizens. It should never be necessary to deny God in order to enjoy one's rights. The rights associated with religion are all the more in need of protection if they are considered to clash with a prevailing secular ideology or with majority religious positions of an exclusive nature. The full guarantee of religious liberty cannot be limited to the free exercise of worship, but has to give due consideration to the public dimension of religion, and hence to the possibility of believers playing their part in building the social order".

  "My presence at this Assembly is a sign of esteem for the United Nations, and it is intended to express the hope that the Organisation will increasingly serve as a sign of unity between States and an instrument of service to the entire human family. It also demonstrates the willingness of the Catholic Church to offer her proper contribution to building international relations in a way that allows every person and every people to feel they can make a difference".

  "The United Nations remains a privileged setting in which the Church is committed to contributing her experience 'of humanity', developed over the centuries among peoples of every race and culture, and placing it at the disposal of all members of the international community. This experience and activity, directed towards attaining freedom for every believer, seeks also to increase the protection given to the rights of the person. Those rights are grounded and shaped by the transcendent nature of the person, which permits men and women to pursue their journey of faith and their search for God in this world. Recognition of this dimension must be strengthened if we are to sustain humanity's hope for a better world and if we are to create the conditions for peace, development, co-operation, and guarantee of rights for future generations".

  Having completed his address, the Holy Father met with the president of the General Assembly and, subsequently, with the president of the U.N. Security Council, a post currently held by Dumisani Kumalo, South African ambassador.

  Click here to read the complete text of the Holy Father's address.
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VATICAN CITY, 19 APR 2008 (VIS) - This afternoon, having lunched with bishops of the archdiocese of New York, the Pope travelled by car to the city's St. Joseph's Seminary, where he was welcomed by the rector, Msgr. Gerald T. Walsh.

  The Pope first went to the seminary chapel where he met with a group of 50 disabled children. One of them addressed a greeting to the Holy Father in the name of all of them, after which Pope Benedict made some remarks of his own.

  "God", he said, "has blessed you with life, and with differing talents and gifts. Through these you are able to serve Him and society in various ways. ... Sometimes it is challenging to find a reason for what appears only as a difficulty to be overcome or even pain to be endured. Yet our faith helps us to break open the horizon beyond our own selves in order to see life as God does. God's unconditional love, which bathes every human individual, points to a meaning and purpose for all human life".

  Benedict XVI encouraged the young people "to pray every day for our world, ... including those who have yet to come to know Jesus. And please do continue to pray for me", he concluded. "As you know I have just had another birthday. Time passes!"
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VATICAN CITY, 19 APR 2008 (VIS) - In New York at 9.15 a.m. today, Benedict XVI celebrated Mass in the city's neo-Gothic St. Patrick's Cathedral. As he arrived, the Holy Father was greeted by Cardinal Edward Egan, archbishop of New York, Msgr. Robert T. Ritchie, the rector of the cathedral, and Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York.

  The celebration of Mass for the Universal Church, which coincided with the third anniversary of Benedict XVI's election to the pontifical throne, was dedicated to clergy and religious of U.S. east coast dioceses, where New York is located.

  "In this country", said the Holy Father in his homily, "the Church's mission has always involved drawing people 'from every nation under heaven' into spiritual unity, and enriching the Body of Christ by the variety of their gifts. As we give thanks for past blessings, and look to the challenges of the future, let us implore from God the grace of a new Pentecost for the Church in America".

  The Church, he went on, "is called to proclaim the gift of life, to serve life, and to promote a culture of life. ... The proclamation of life, life in abundance, must be the heart of the new evangelisation. For true life - our salvation - can only be found in the reconciliation, freedom and love which are God's gracious gift.

  "This", he added, "is the message of hope we are called to proclaim and embody in a world where self-centredness, greed, violence, and cynicism so often seem to choke the fragile growth of grace in people's hearts. ... Perhaps we have lost sight of this: in a society where the Church seems legalistic and 'institutional' to many people, our most urgent challenge is to communicate the joy born of faith and the experience of God's love".

  Benedict XVI then dwelt on some features of the cathedral building itself, associating them with the mission of priests and religious within the Church.

  "The first", he said, "has to do with the stained glass windows. ... From the outside, those windows are dark, heavy, even dreary. But once one enters the church, they suddenly come alive; reflecting the light passing through them, they reveal all their splendour. ... It follows", he explained, "that we, who live the life of grace within the Church's communion, are called to draw all people into this mystery of light.

  "This is no easy task in a world which can tend to look at the Church, like those stained glass windows, 'from the outside': a world which deeply senses a need for spirituality, yet finds it difficult to 'enter into' the mystery of the Church. Even for those of us within, the light of faith can be dimmed by routine, and the splendour of the Church obscured by the sins and weaknesses of her members. It can be dimmed too, by the obstacles encountered in a society which sometimes seems to have forgotten God and to resent even the most elementary demands of Christian morality".

  "Yet the word of God reminds us that, in faith, we see the heavens opened, and the grace of the Holy Spirit lighting up the Church and bringing sure hope to our world".

  The second feature the Pope considered was the architecture of the cathedral, "like all Gothic cathedrals, a highly complex structure, whose exact and harmonious proportions symbolise the unity of God's creation. ... Does this not bring to mind our need to see all things with the eyes of faith, and thus to grasp them in their truest perspective, in the unity of God's eternal plan? This requires, as we know, constant conversion, and a commitment to acquiring 'a fresh, spiritual way of thinking'. ... Is not this ongoing 'intellectual' conversion", he asked, "as necessary as 'moral' conversion for our own growth in faith, our discernment of the signs of the times, and our personal contribution to the Church's life and mission?".

  In this context, Pope Benedict expressed the view that "one of the great disappointments which followed Vatican Council II, with its call for a greater engagement in the Church's mission to the world, has been the experience of division between different groups, different generations, different members of the same religious family. We can only move forward if we turn our gaze together to Christ! In the light of faith, we will then discover the wisdom and strength needed to open ourselves to points of view which may not necessarily conform to our own ideas or assumptions. ... In this way, we will move together towards that true spiritual renewal desired by the Council, a renewal which can only strengthen the Church in that holiness and unity indispensable for the effective proclamation of the Gospel in today's world".

  "Here, within the context of our need for the perspective given by faith, and for unity and co-operation in the work of building up the Church, I would like say a word about the sexual abuse that has caused so much suffering. I have already had occasion to speak of this, and of the resulting damage to the community of the faithful. Here I simply wish to assure you, dear priests and religious, of my spiritual closeness as you strive to respond with Christian hope to the continuing challenges that this situation presents. I join you in praying that this will be a time of purification for each and every particular Church and religious community, and a time for healing".

  "The unity of a Gothic cathedral, we know, is not the static unity of a classical temple, but a unity born of the dynamic tension of diverse forces which impel the architecture upward, pointing it to heaven. Here too, we can see a symbol of the Church's unity, which is the unity ... of a living body composed of many different members, each with its own role and purpose".

  "Certainly within the Church's divinely-willed structure there is a distinction to be made between hierarchical and charismatic gifts. Yet the very variety and richness of the graces bestowed by the Spirit invite us constantly to discern how these gifts are to be rightly ordered in the service of the Church's mission".

  "In the finest traditions of the Church in this country", the Pope concluded, addressing the priests and religious, "may you also be the first friend of the poor, the homeless, the stranger, the sick and all who suffer. Act as beacons of hope, casting the light of Christ upon the world, and encouraging young people to discover the beauty of a life given completely to the Lord and His Church".

  At the conclusion of Mass the Holy Father made some off-the-cuff remarks concerning his Petrine ministry:

  "At this moment I can only thank you for your love of the Church and Our Lord, and for the love which you show to the poor Successor of St. Peter. I will try to do all that is possible to be a worthy successor of the great Apostle, who also was a man with faults and sins, but remained in the end the rock for the Church. And so I too, with all my spiritual poverty, can be for this time, in virtue of the Lord's grace, the Successor of Peter. It is also your prayers and your love which give me the certainty that the Lord will help me in this my ministry. I am therefore deeply grateful for your love and for your prayers. My response now for all that you have given to me during this visit is my blessing, which I impart to you at the conclusion of this beautiful celebration".
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VATICAN CITY, 19 APR 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

 - Appointed Fr. Edward Hiiboro Kussala, professor of moral theology at St. Paul's Seminary in Khartoum, Sudan, as bishop of Tombura-Yambio (area 81,321, population 671,000, Catholics 316,590, priests 27, religious 32), Sudan. The bishop-elect was born in Source Yuba, Sudan in 1964 and ordained a priest in 1994. He succeeds Bishop Joseph Abangite Gasi, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

 - Appointed Bishop Peter J. Kairo of Nakuru, Kenya, as archbishop of Nyeri (area 7,823, population 178,000, Catholics 71,400, priests 80, religious 287), Kenya. The archbishop-elect was born in Londiani, Kenya in 1941, he was ordained a priest in 1970 and consecrated a bishop in 1983.

 - Appointed Msgr. Hubert Berenbrinker of the clergy of the archdiocese of Paderborn, Germany, canon of the metropolitan chapter, as auxiliary of the same archdiocese (area 14,754, population 4,900,000, Catholics 1,694,853, priests 1,171, permanent deacons 158, religious 2,093). The bishop-elect was born in Verl, Germany in 1950 and ordained a priest in 1977.
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VATICAN CITY, 19 APR 2008 (VIS) - Today, the third anniversary of his election to the pontifical throne, Benedict XVI will celebrate Mass for priests and religious in New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral, at 9.15 a.m. local time (3.15 p.m. in Rome).

  At 4 p.m. local time the Holy Father will travel to St. Joseph's Seminary. There he will briefly greet a group of disabled children before moving on to the sports field behind the seminary building for a gathering with young people and seminarians.

  Following this, the Pope will return to his residence in New York where he will dine with staff of the Holy See permanent mission to the United Nations.

  Tomorrow, 20 April, the last day of his apostolic trip the United States, the Pope is scheduled to visit Ground Zero at 9.30 a.m. local time. Ground Zero is the site once occupied by the twin towers, destroyed in the terrorist attack of 11 September 2001 which cost the lives of 2,896 people.

  At 2.30 p.m. that day the Holy Father will celebrate Mass in New York's Yankee Stadium. Since 1923 the stadium, which has capacity for 60,000 people, has hosted games of the New York Yankees baseball team, famous for having won more World Series championships than any other team.

  At 7.30 p.m. local time, Benedict XVI will travel to the John Fitzgerald Kennedy international airport, where the farewell ceremony will be held at 8 p.m.

  The papal flight is scheduled to take off at 8.30 p.m. (2.30 a.m. in Rome) and land at Rome's Ciampino airport eight hours later at 10.45 a.m.
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VATICAN CITY, 18 APR 2008 (VIS) - At 6 p.m. local time today, the Holy Father participated in an ecumenical meeting at the church of St. Joseph. The event was attended by 250 representatives from 10 Christian confessions.

  At the beginning of his address, the Holy Father expressed his appreciation "for the invaluable work of all those engaged in ecumenism: the National Council of Churches, Christian Churches Together, the Catholic Bishops' Secretariat for Ecumenical and Inter-religious Affairs, and many others. The contribution of Christians in the United States to the ecumenical movement is felt throughout the world", he said.

  The Holy Father expressed the opinion that "globalisation has humanity poised between two poles. On the one hand, there is a growing sense of interconnectedness and interdependency between peoples even when - geographically and culturally speaking - they are far apart. ... On the other hand, we cannot deny that the rapid changes occurring in our world also present some disturbing signs of fragmentation and a retreat into individualism".

  The Pope then went on to express his concern for "the spread of a secularist ideology that undermines or even rejects transcendent truth. The very possibility of divine revelation, and therefore of Christian faith, is often placed into question by cultural trends widely present in academia, the mass media and public debate. For these reasons, a faithful witness to the Gospel is as urgent as ever. Christians are challenged to give a clear account of the hope that they hold.

  "Too often", he added, "those who are not Christians, as they observe the splintering of Christian communities, are understandably confused about the Gospel message itself. Fundamental Christian beliefs and practices are sometimes changed within communities by so-called 'prophetic actions' that are based on a hermeneutic not always consonant with the datum of Scripture and Tradition. Communities consequently give up the attempt to act as a unified body, choosing instead to function according to the idea of 'local options'".

  "Faced with these difficulties", the Pope went on, "we must first recall that the unity of the Church flows from the perfect oneness of the Trinitarian God". With reference to the Apostles, he also recalled how "the ultimate effectiveness of their preaching" depended "on the work of the Spirit Who confirmed their authoritative witness".

  "The power of the 'kerygma' has lost none of its internal dynamism", he continued. "Yet we must ask ourselves whether its full force has not been attenuated by a relativistic approach to Christian doctrine similar to that found in secular ideologies, which, in alleging that science alone is 'objective', relegate religion entirely to the subjective sphere of individual feeling".

  The Holy Father made it clear that although "scientific discoveries, and their application through human ingenuity, undoubtedly offer new possibilities for the betterment of humankind. This does not mean ... that the 'knowable' is limited to the empirically verifiable, nor religion restricted to the shifting realm of 'personal experience'.

  "For Christians to accept this faulty line of reasoning would lead to the notion that there is little need to emphasise objective truth in the presentation of the Christian faith, for one need but follow his or her own conscience and choose a community that best suits his or her individual tastes. The result is seen in the continual proliferation of communities which often eschew institutional structures and minimise the importance of doctrinal content for Christian living".

  The Pope told the representatives of different Christian confessions that "only by 'holding fast' to sound teaching will we be able to respond to the challenges that confront us in an evolving world. Only in this way will we give unambiguous testimony to the truth of the Gospel and its moral teaching. This is the message which the world is waiting to hear from us.

  "Like the early Christians, we have a responsibility to give transparent witness to the 'reasons for our hope', so that the eyes of all men and women of goodwill may be opened to see that God has shown us His face and granted us access to His divine life through Jesus Christ. He alone is our hope!"

  "May this prayer service", the Holy Father concluded, "exemplify the centrality of prayer in the ecumenical movement; for without it, ecumenical structures, institutions and programs would be deprived of their heart and soul".


VATICAN CITY, 18 APR 2008 (VIS) - At 5.20 p.m. today, the Holy Father visited New York's Park East Synagogue, which was built in 1889 and is one of the city's historic landmarks. The members of the synagogue are involved in educational and charitable activities and its Rabbi, the Austrian Arthur Schneier, a Holocaust survivor, is president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation which campaigns to make the Cross the Crescent, and the Star of David symbols of peace, tolerance and mutual respect.

  In his address, the Holy Father spoke of his desire to express his "respect and esteem for the Jewish community in New York City. ... I find it moving", he said, "to recall that Jesus, as a young boy, heard the words of Scripture and prayed in a place such as this".

  After thanking Rabbi Schneier for his words of welcome, Benedict XVI said: "I know that the Jewish community make a valuable contribution to the life of the city, and I encourage all of you to continue building bridges of friendship with all the many different ethnic and religious groups present in your neighbourhood".

  The Pope renewed his Passover greetings to the community and assured them of his prayers "at this time, as you prepare to celebrate the great deeds of the Almighty, and to sing the praises of Him Who has worked such wonders for His people".
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VATICAN CITY, 18 APR 2008 (VIS) - At the end of his meeting with the president of the U.N. Security Council, the Pope met with members of the United Nations staff, to whom he addressed some brief remarks.

  Benedict XVI contrasted the relatively small size of the U.N. headquarters and the greatness of its mission with the reduced dimensions of Vatican City State and the universality of the Church's calling. "The sixteenth-century artists who painted the maps on the walls of the Apostolic Palace", he said, offered Popes "a tangible sign of the immense outreach of the Church's mission at a time when the discovery of the New World was opening up unforeseen horizons.

  "Here in this glass palace, the art on display has its own way of reminding us of the responsibilities of the United Nations Organisation. We see images of the effects of war and poverty, we are reminded of our duty to strive for a better world, and we rejoice in the sheer diversity and exuberance of human culture, manifested in the wide range of peoples and nations gathered together under the umbrella of the international community".

  The Pope expressed his own and the Church's appreciation to U.N. staff, particularly recalling "the many civilians and peace-keepers who have sacrificed their lives in the field for the good of the peoples they serve" and "the vast multitude who dedicate their lives to work that is never sufficiently acknowledged, often in difficult circumstances".

  U.N. personnel, he said, "constitute a microcosm of the whole world, in which each individual makes an indispensable contribution from the perspective of his or her particular cultural and religious heritage. The ideals that inspired the founders of this institution need to take shape here and in every one of the Organisation's missions around the world in the mutual respect and acceptance that are the hallmarks of a thriving family".

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