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Monday, April 28, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 28 APR 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

 - Seven prelates from the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba, on their "ad limina" visit:

    - Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, archbishop of San Cristobal de la Habana, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishops Alfredo Victor Petit Vergel and Juan de Dios Hernandez Ruiz S.J.

    - Archbishop Juan Garcia Rodriguez of Camaguey.

    - Bishop Mario Eusebio Mestril Vega of Ciego de Avila.

    - Bishop Domingo Oropesa Lorente of Cienfuegos.

    - Bishop Marcelo Arturo Gonzalez Amador of Santa Clara.

 - Archbishop Joseph Marino, apostolic nuncio to Bangladesh, accompanied by members of his family.
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VATICAN CITY, 28 APR 2008 (VIS) - A press conference held this morning in the Holy See Press Office presented the results of a survey into "the reading of the Scriptures in a number of countries (U.S.A., UK, Netherlands, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Poland and Russia". The research was promoted by the Catholic Biblical Federation and by GFK-Eurisko.

  Participating in the press conference were Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture; Bishop Vincenzo Paglia of Terni, Italy, who is also president of the Catholic Biblical Federation; and Luca Diotallevi, co-ordintaor of the research group and professor of sociology at the University of "Roma Tre".

  Presenting the results of the survey, Archbishop Ravasi dwelt on the need to underline the importance of the Bible, commenting that the philosopher Blaise Pascal was right to affirm that Scripture contains passages that console people of all conditions and other passages that disquiet them.

  Bishop Paglia explained that with a view to the forthcoming Synod on "The Word of God in the Life and the Mission of the Church", due to be held in October, the Catholic Biblical Federation "had felt it would be useful to undertake research in a number of countries in the world - while bearing in mind the various Christian traditions - in order to acquire concrete information on Christians' relationship with Scripture".

  The survey, he said, "confirmed in full Vatican Council II's pastoral intuition to exhort the faithful to rediscover Scripture as the primary source of spiritual life". It also reaffirmed "the bond that exists between the Bible and the Eucharist", because "the majority of those interviewed indicated the Sunday celebration as the place in which they habitually listen to the Word of God".

  In examining "the role of the Bible in ecumenical dialogue", the survey highlighted how "Scripture remains the most effective 'place' Christians have to progress together along the path of unity. ... The answers also showed that there no longer exists that diversity among the various Christian traditions - a diversity evident in the past - concerning their relationship with Scripture".

  Another factor to emerge was "the considerable expectations that the men and women of our time have towards Holy Scripture" which "is considered with great respect by everyone". Among Christians "it is widely held that the Bible contains the Word of God, that it is an inspired work capable of giving meaning to life, and that it has far greater authority than other ecclesial manifestations", although the values it contains "are difficult to put into practice".

  For this reason, said Bishop Paglia, one of the great challenges is "the responsibility of preaching, which on the basis of the Scripture must constitute an authoritative appeal to believers and to all those who seek".

  "Listening to the Scriptures favours the cohesion of listeners", he said. "Indeed, listening to the Word of God truly 'makes' the Church". Hence "reading Scripture in the company of the Church" makes it possible to avoid "the two most dangerous obstacles: a fundamentalist reading, ... and an individualist pseudo-psychological reading which leads readers to reflect themselves in the pages".

  The prelate concluded his remarks by highlighting the need "to find space for the 'schools of the word', the 'schools of the Gospel', and the 'schools of reading and listening to the Bible'. ... It is in this perspective", he said, "that we must see 'lectio divina', the oldest and riches method of listening to Scripture" which must be given "new spaces and new forms until it becomes the habitual way of approaching the Word of God in our Christian communities".

  For his part Professor Diotallevi explained that some 13,000 interviews had been completed during the course of the survey, which he described as "the most systematic scientific undertaking yet attempted to compare, on an international scale, levels and forms of familiarity with the Scriptures of Christian tradition among the adult population".

  "The Bible in the areas we examined", he said, "is not the text of a minority but an important point of reference present - in different degrees and ways - in the life and culture of broad majorities of the population. ... It may be affirmed that between a third and a quarter of adults in the countries examined have read a Bible passage at least once in the last 12 months".

  Professor Diotallevi noted the existence of "a gap dividing the Anglo-Saxon world from central and eastern Europe". In the former, "the sensation of the closeness of God is anything but extinct and the practice of prayer is anything but marginal. A very large majority of people look to the Bible as a source of truth, as the source of a message that has to do with life".

  It also emerged from the survey that "the practice of reading the Bible depends statistically, more than on shared religious beliefs, on participation in events and groups which already adopt this practice. ... Reading the Bible in no way echoes political polarisation between 'right' and 'left'", said Professor Diotallevi noting in conclusion the prevalence among the populations examined "of a position favourable to studying the Bible in schools. In particular those in favour exceed 50 percent in Russia, Poland, Italy, UK and Germany".
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VATICAN CITY, 27 APR 2008 (VIS) - At midday today, Benedict XVI appeared at the window of his study overlooking St. Peter's Square to pray the Regina Coeli with pilgrims gathered below.

  In his remarks, the Pope mentioned the recently-concluded ordination of 29 new priests in St. Peter's Basilica. "Fresh lymph is infused into the tissues of the ecclesial and civic communities", he said, recalling how he had invited the ordinands "to spread the joy of the Gospel through the world. Where Christ is preached with the power of the Holy Spirit and is accepted with an open heart, society, though full of so many problems, becomes a 'city of joy' - to quote the title of a famous book on the work of Mother Teresa in Calcutta".

  The Holy Father referred to his apostolic visit to the United States, where he encountered "great vitality and a resolute desire to live and bear witness to faith in Jesus". He then went on to greet the Oriental Churches which are celebrating Easter today, asking God to help them "in the difficult situations in which they often have to live and bear witness to the Gospel".

  Following the Regina Coeli, the Pope launched appeals for three African regions, where news "continues to cause profound suffering and intense concern". Somalia, Darfur and Burundi.

  In Somalia, and especially in Mogadishu, he said, "armed conflicts render the humanitarian situation ever more dramatic for that dear people, who for too many years have been oppressed by the burden of brutality and poverty".

  "In Darfur, despite a few momentary glimmers of hope, the tragedy continues for hundreds of thousands of defenceless and abandoned people".

  Finally, the Pope turned his attention to Burundi, calling on all sides involved in recent conflict "to return without delay to the path of dialogue and reconciliation", especially "following the bombardments of recent days which terrorised the inhabitants of the capital Bujumbura".

  He concluded: "I trust that local political authorities, the leaders of the international community and all people of good will make every effort to put an end to the violence and to honour the commitments they have taken on, so as to lay solid foundations for peace and development".
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VATICAN CITY, 27 APR 2008 (VIS) - At 9.30 a.m. today, the sixth Sunday of Easter, Benedict XVI presided at a Eucharistic celebration in the Vatican Basilica during which he ordained 28 deacons from the diocese of Rome and one from the Pontifical Urban College.

  Thirteen of the new priests from the diocese of Rome come from the city's major seminary, nine from the "Redemptoris Mater" College, and the other six from the "Almo Collegio Capranica", the Priestly Society of the Sons of the Cross and the Seminary of the Virgin of Divine Love.

  In his homily Holy Father noted how his ordination of new priests usually takes place on the fourth Sunday of Easter, "Good Shepherd" Sunday and the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, but that this year it had had to be postponed because of preparations for his apostolic trip to the United States.

  "The icon of the Good Shepherd, more than any other, seems to highlight the role and ministry of the priest in the Christian community", observed the Holy Father before turning his attention to today's biblical readings which, he said, "throw light from a different angle on the mission of priests".

  Benedict XVI examined the first reading, the passage in the Acts of the Apostles narrating the persecution in Jerusalem against the first Christian converts, the scattering of the disciples including Philip's flight to Samaria, and his preaching being welcomed there "with great joy".

  "Bringing the Gospel to everyone, that everyone may experience the joy of Christ and that there may be great joy in every city; what could be more beautiful than this? What could be greater? What could create greater enthusiasm than helping to spread the Word of Life throughout the world, than communicating the living water of the Holy Spirit? Announcing and bearing witness to this joy: this is the very heart of your mission", said the Pope to the ordinands.

  "These are elemental words for all priests", he told them. "To collaborate in other people's joy - in an often sad and negative world - the fire of the Gospel must burn within each of you, the joy of the Lord must live in you. Only then will you be able to convey and multiply this joy, bringing it to everyone, especially those who are sad and disillusioned".

  The Holy Father then went on to consider the rite of laying on of hands, which also figures in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles, highlighting how "such a sign is inseparable from prayer, of which it is a silent continuation. Without saying a word the consecrating bishop - and after him the other priests - places his hands on the heads of the ordinands, thus expressing an invocation to God to effuse His Spirit upon them, to transform them and to make them participants in the priesthood of Christ".

  "A meeting of two freedoms comes about in that silent prayer: the freedom of God, working though the Holy Spirit, and the freedom of man, ... a mysterious Trinitarian 'movement' which brings the Holy Spirit and the Son to dwell in the disciples. ... Without love for Christ, which is put into effect by observing His commandments, people exclude themselves from the Trinitarian movement and begin to turn in on themselves, losing the capacity to receive or communicate God".

  Benedict XVI encouraged the new priests "to adore Christ the Lord in your hearts: that is, carve our a personal relationship of love with Him" in which "to live, purify, illuminate and sanctify all other relationships".

  "Our hope, your hope, is God in Jesus and in the Spirit", the Pope concluded. "From today, that hope becomes in you a 'priestly hope', the hope of Jesus the Good Shepherd Who dwells within you and shapes your desires in accordance with His divine Heart: a hope of life and forgiveness for the people who will be entrusted to your pastoral care; ... a hope of openness to faith and to the meeting with God for those who will come to you in their search for peace; a hope for peace and comfort for the suffering and the injured of life".
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VATICAN CITY, 26 APR 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed:

 - Archbishop Osvaldo Padilla, apostolic nuncio to Korea, as apostolic nuncio to Mongolia.

 - As consultors of the Commission for Religious Relations with Jews of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity: Archbishop Kevin John Patrick McDonald of Southwark, Great Britain; Bishop William Francis Murphy of Rockville Centre, U.S.A.; Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa O.F.M. Custos of the Holy Land; Fr Joseph Sievers, director of the Cardinal Agostino Bea Institute at Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University; and Fr. Lawrence E. Frizzel, director of the Institute of Judeo-Christian Studies at Seton Hall University, U.S.A.
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VATICAN CITY, 26 APR 2008 (VIS) - Made public today was the Letter, written in Latin and dated 27 March, in which Benedict XVI appoints Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, as his special envoy to ceremonies commemorating the new Christian Millennium in Ethiopia. The event will coincide with the Ethiopian National Eucharistic Congress, to be held in Addis Ababa from 2 to 4 May.

  The mission accompanying Cardinal Dias will be made up of Fr. Tsegaye Kenini of the archdiocese of Addis Ababa, former secretary general of the Ethiopian Catholic Secretariate, and Fr. Tesfaye Tadesse M.C.C.I., superior general of the Combonian Missionary Fathers in Ethiopia and president of the conference of religious superiors major of Ethiopia.


VATICAN CITY, 26 APR 2008 (VIS) - Made public today was a Letter from the Pope addressed to Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, archbishop of Paris, France, to mark the hundredth anniversary of an annual pilgrimage by young people from the province of Paris. This year's pilgrimage, which takes them to Lourdes, is being held from 22 to 27 April.

  In his Letter to the cardinal, who is also president of the Conference of Bishops of France, the Holy Father mentions the fact that 2008 marks the 150th anniversary of the apparition of the Virgin Mary to Bernadette Soubirous in the grotto of Massabielle.

  Benedict XVI calls on young people to imitate Mary's response when she was "invited to follow an amazing yet disconcerting journey. Her readiness led her to experience a joy of which all previous generations had sung", he writes.

  "Our 'yes' to God", the Pope continues, "makes the font of true happiness gush forth. It frees the 'I' from everything that closes it in on itself. It brings the poverty of our lives into the richness and power of God's plan, without restricting our freedom and our responsibility. ... It conforms our lives to Christ's own life".

  The Holy Father then encourages the young "enthusiastically to celebrate the joy of loving Christ and of believing and hoping in Him, and trustingly to follow the path of initiation you have before you. I particularly invite you", he writes, "to take up the witness of your ancestors in the faith, and to learn to welcome the Word of God - in silence and meditation - so that it can mould your hearts and produce generous fruits in you".

  This pilgrimage, Pope Benedict concludes, "is also a good time to allow yourselves to be asked by Christ: 'What do you want to do with your lives?' May those among you who feel the call to follow Him in the priesthood or in consecrated life - as have so many young participants in these pilgrimages - reply to the Lord's call and put yourselves totally at the service of the Church, with a life completely dedicated to the Kingdom of heaven. You will never be disappointed".

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