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Monday, May 12, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 10 MAY 2008 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received prelates from the Hungarian Catholic Bishops' Conference, at the end of their "ad limina" visit.

  "The people entrusted to your care", he told them, "now stand before us spiritually, with their joys, their plans, their suffering, their problems and their hopes. ... The long period of communist rule left a deep mark on the Hungarian people, and even today its consequences are evident, particularly in the difficulty many find in trusting others, a typical trait of people who have long lived in an atmosphere of suspicion.

  "The sense of insecurity is accentuated by the difficult economic situation, which thoughtless consumerism does nothing to improve", the Pope added. "People, including Catholics, suffer from that 'weakness' of thought and will which is so common in our times". Hence, "profound theological and spiritual reflection becomes difficult because ... of the lack, on the one hand, of intellectual preparation and, on the other, of an objective reference to the truths of faith.

  "In such a situation the Church must certainly be a teacher, but always and above all a mother, so as to favour the development of reciprocal trust and the promotion of hope".

  The Holy Father then went on to speak of the effects of secularisation in the country, highlighting the crisis of the family which includes among its symptoms "a notable drop in the number of marriages and an astonishing increase in divorces", as well as a growth "in so-called 'de facto' couples".

  "You have rightly criticised public recognition of homosexual unions, because it runs counter not only to the teaching of the Church but also to the Hungarian Constitution itself", the Holy Father told the prelates, recalling how "the lack of subsidies for large families has led to a drastic drop in the birth-rate, made even more dramatic thanks to the widespread practice of abortion".

  Benedict XVI emphasised the fact that the crisis of values is also affecting young people, and he expressed his appreciation for "the many initiatives the Church promotes, though with the limited means at her disposal, to animate the world of youth with formational activities ... that stimulate their sense of responsibility".

  He praised the bishops' initiatives to "take advantage of and modernise such traditional activities as pilgrimages and expressions of veneration to Hungarian saints, especially St. Elisabeth, St. Emeric, and of course St. Stephen". Pope Benedict then told the prelates that he shared their concern "for the lack of priests and the consequent overburden of pastoral work on the current ministers of the Church". In this context, he invited them to ensure the clergy "do not lose the focus of their lives and their ministry and, as a consequence, remain able to discern the essential from the secondary, identifying the right priorities for everyday life".

  "Despite secularisation the Catholic Church remains, for many Hungarians, the religious community of choice or, at least, an important point of reference. It is therefore to be hoped that relations with State authorities remain characterised by respectful collaboration, thanks also to bilateral agreements", the Holy Father said. Finally, in closing, he noted how the unity characterising the Hungarian prelates "in following the teachings of the Church is for me a cause of serenity and comfort".
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VATICAN CITY, 10 MAY 2008 (VIS) - At midday today, Benedict XVI received participants in an international congress being promoted by the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome to mark the 40th anniversary of the promulgation of the Encyclical "Humanae vitae".

  Recalling that the Encyclical was published by Pope Paul VI on 25 July 1968, the Pope highlighted how "the document soon became a sign of contradiction", and pointed out that "it constitutes a significant show of courage in reiterating the continuity of the Church's doctrine and tradition".

  "The truth expressed in 'Humanae vitae 'does not change", he said, "quite the contrary, in the light of new scientific discoveries its teaching becomes more relevant and stimulates reflection on the intrinsic values it possesses".

  The Holy Father affirmed that "in a culture suffering from the prevalence of having over being, human life risks losing its value. If the practice of sexuality becomes a drug that seeks to enslave the partner to one's own desires and interests without respecting the times of the beloved, then what must be defended is no longer just the concept of love but, primarily, the dignity of the person. As believers we could never allow the power of technology to invalidate the quality of love and the sacredness of life".

  Natural law, he said, "deserves to be recognised as the source inspiring the relationship between a married couple in their responsibility to generate children. The transmission of life is inscribed in nature and its laws stand as an unwritten norm to which everyone must refer".

  Nascent life, said the Pope, "is the fruit of a love capable of thinking and choosing in complete freedom, without allowing itself to be overly conditioned by the sacrifice this may require. From here emerges the miracle of life which parents experience in themselves as they sense the extraordinary nature of what is achieved in them and through them. No mechanical technique can substitute the act of love that husband and wife exchange as a sign of the greater mystery, in which they are protagonists and co-participants of creation".

  After recalling the sad episodes that sometimes involve adolescents "whose reactions display their incorrect appreciation of the mystery of life and of the dangerous implications of their actions", the Holy Father expressed the hope that young people "may learn the true meaning of love and prepare for it with appropriate sexual education, not allowing themselves to be distracted by superficial messages that prevent them appreciating the essence of the truth at stake".

  "Freedom must join with truth, and responsibility with strength of dedication to others, also through sacrifice. Without these principles the community of man does not develop and there is a risk of being trapped in oppressive selfishness".
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VATICAN CITY, 10 MAY 2008 (VIS) - According to a decree made public today and signed by Cardinal James Francis Stafford and Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, O.F.M. Conv., respectively penitentiary major and regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary, Benedict XVI will grant the faithful Plenary Indulgence for the occasion of the two-thousandth anniversary of the birth of the Apostle Paul. The Plenary Indulgence will be valid throughout the Pauline Year which is due to run from 28 June 2008 to 29 June 2009.

  "With the imminence of the liturgical Solemnity of the Prince of the Apostles", says the decree, "the Supreme Pontiff ... wishes, in good time, to provide for the faithful with spiritual treasures for their own sanctification, that they may renew and reinforce ... their purpose of supernatural salvation from the moment of the First Vespers of the aforementioned Solemnity, principally in honour of the Apostle of the Gentiles the two-thousandth anniversary of whose earthly birth is now approaching.

  "In fact, the gift of indulgences which the Roman Pontiff offers the Universal Church, facilitates the way to interior purification which, while rendering honour to the Blessed Apostle Paul, exalts supernatural life in the hearts of the faithful and spurs them on ... to produce fruits of good works".

  The means to obtain the Plenary Indulgence are as follows:

  "All Christian faithful - truly repentant, duly purified by the Sacrament of Penance and restored with Holy Communion - who undertake a pious visit in the form of a pilgrimage to the papal basilica of St. Paul on Rome's Via Ostiense and pray in accordance with the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff, are granted and imparted Plenary Indulgence for the temporal punishment of their sins, once they have obtained sacramental remission and forgiveness for their shortcomings.

  "Plenary Indulgence may be gained by the Christian faithful, either for themselves or for the deceased, as many times as the aforementioned acts are undertaken; it remains the case, however, that Plenary Indulgence may be obtained only once a day.

  "In order that the prayers pronounced on these holy visits may lead and draw the souls of the faithful to a more intense veneration of the memory of St. Paul, the following conditions are laid down: the faithful, apart from pronouncing their own prayers before the altar of the Blessed Sacrament, ... must go to the altar of the Confession and pray the 'Our Father' and the 'Creed', adding pious invocations in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Paul; and such acts of devotion must remain closely linked to the memory of the Prince of the Apostles St. Peter".

  "Christian faithful from the various local Churches, under the usual conditions (sacramental Confession, Eucharistic communion, prayer in keeping with the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff) and completely unattached to any form of sin, may still obtain the Plenary Indulgence if they participate devotedly in a religious function or in a pious exercise held publicly in honour of the Apostle of the Gentiles: on the days of the solemn opening and closing of the Pauline Year in any place of worship; on other days determined by the local ordinary, in holy places named for St. Paul and, for the good of the faithful, in other places designated by the ordinary".

  The document concludes by recalling how the faithful who, "through sickness or other legitimate or important reason", are unable to leave their homes, may still obtain the Plenary Indulgence if, with the soul completely removed from attachment to any form of sin and with the intention of observing, as soon as they can, the usual three conditions, "spiritually unite themselves to a Jubilee celebration in honour of St. Paul, offering their prayers and suffering to God for the unity of Christians".
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VATICAN CITY, 10 MAY 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

 - Promoted Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. to the order of bishops, assigning him the suburbicarian see of Frascati.

 - Accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith, Canada, presented by Bishop Denis Croteau O.M.I., upon having reached the age limit. He is succeeded by Coadjutor Bishop Murray Chatlain.
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VATICAN CITY, 11 MAY 2008 (VIS) - In the Vatican Basilica at 10 a.m. today, the Pope presided at a Eucharistic celebration for the Solemnity of Pentecost.

  In his homily, the Holy Father indicated that on the day of the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Church received a "Baptism of fire", and he continued: "At Pentecost the Church was constituted not by human will but by the power of the Spirit of God. And it immediately became clear how this Spirit gave life to a community that is, simultaneously, one and universal, thus overcoming the curse of Babel.

  "Only the Holy Spirit, which creates unity in love and in mutual acceptance of diversity, can free humanity from the constant temptation to seek earthly power which wishes to dominate and standardise everything".

  The Pope referred to that "particular aspect of the action of the Holy Spirit" which is "the interweaving of multiplicity and unity", and he pointed out that with "the event of Pentecost it became clear that the Church has multiple languages and diverse cultures. In the faith they can understand and fecundate one another".

  "In the very act of its foundation, the Church was already 'catholic' and universal", said Benedict XVI. "From the beginning she spoke all languages because the Gospel entrusted to her is destined for all peoples, in accordance with the will and command of the Risen Christ. The Church that came into being at Pentecost was not above all a particular community - the Church of Jerusalem - but the Universal Church which speaks the languages of all peoples.

  "From her, other communities would be born in every part of the world", he added, "particular Churches all of which are realisations of the one Church of Christ. The Catholic Church is not, then, a federation of Churches, but a single unit; ontological priority belongs to the Universal Church. A community not catholic in this sense would not even be Church".

  The Pope highlighted how "the path of the Word of God which began in Jerusalem reached its goal, because Rome represents the whole world and therefore incarnates St. Luke's idea of catholicism".

  The word pronounced by the Risen Christ when He appeared before His disciples in the Cenacle: "Shalom - peace be with you" is not, said the Holy Father, "a simple greeting, it is much more. It is the gift of the promised peace, conquered by Jesus at the cost of His blood, it is the fruit of His victory in the struggle against the spirit of evil".

  Pope Benedict then called people to a renewed awareness of the responsibility this gift brings with it, "the responsibility of the Church to be ... a sign and instrument of God's peace for all people". In this context, he recalled how he had sought to transmit this message during his recent visit to U.N. headquarters, "but it is not only with such events 'at the summit' that we must concern ourselves", he said. "The Church accomplishes her service to Christ's peace above all in her ordinary presence and activity among men and women, by preaching the Gospel, and with the signs of love and mercy that accompany it".

  Of these signs, he particularly mentioned the Sacrament of Penance. "How important and, unfortunately, insufficiently understood is the gift of Reconciliation which brings peace to hearts", he said.

  "The peace of Christ is spread only through the renewed hearts of men and women who have become reconciled, servants of justice, ready to spread peace in the world using only the power of truth, without making compromises with the mentality of the world, because the world cannot give the peace of Christ: this is how the Church can be a leavening for the reconciliation that comes from God".
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VATICAN CITY, 11 MAY 2008 (VIS) - At midday today, following this morning's Mass for the Solemnity of Pentecost held in the Vatican Basilica, Benedict XVI appeared at the window of his study to pray the Regina Coeli with the thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square below.

  "In a special way", he said, "Pentecost is the Baptism of the Church which embarks on her universal mission, beginning on the streets of Jerusalem, with her prodigious preaching in the various languages of humankind. In this Baptism of Holy Spirit the personal dimension is inseparable form the community dimension, the 'I' of the disciple and the 'us of the Church.

  "The Spirit", added the Holy Father, "consecrates the person and at the same time makes him a living member of the mystical Body of Christ, a participant in the mission of bearing witness to His love. And this comes about through the Sacraments of Christian initiation: Baptism and Confirmation". Pope Benedict concluded his remarks by calling on everyone to rediscover "the beauty of being baptised in the Holy Spirit" and to rediscover "an awareness of our Baptism and our Confirmation, ever present sources of grace".
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VATICAN CITY, 11 MAY 2008 (VIS) - After today's Regina Coeli prayer, the Holy Father launched an appeal for peace in Lebanon.

  "Over recent days I have followed events in Lebanon with great concern", he said. "There the stalled political initiative was followed first by verbal violence then by armed clashes which have left many dead and injured. Although in the last few hours tension has eased, I feel it incumbent upon me today to exhort the Lebanese to abandon the logic of aggressive confrontation, which would lead their dear country to irreversible consequences.

  "Dialogue, mutual understanding and the search for reasonable compromise are the only way to give Lebanon back its institutions and its people back the security necessary for a dignified daily life, rich in hope for tomorrow.

  "May Lebanon, by the intercession of Our Lady of Lebanon, respond courageously to its vocation to be, for the Middle East and for the entire world, a sign of the real possibility of peaceful and constructive coexistence among mankind. The country's various communities are, ... at one and the same time, 'an element of originality, of richness, and of difficulty. But making Lebanon live is the shared duty of all its inhabitants'".
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VATICAN CITY, 12 MAY 2008 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, the Holy Father received the Letters of Credence of Mordechay Lewy, the new ambassador of Israel to the Holy See.

  Addressing the diplomat in English, Benedict XVI expressed his "cordial good wishes on the occasion of Israel's celebration of 60 years of statehood. The Holy See joins you in giving thanks to the Lord that the aspirations of the Jewish people for a home in the land of their fathers have been fulfilled, and hopes soon to see a time of even greater rejoicing when a just peace finally resolves the conflict with the Palestinians".

  The Pope also highlighted areas of mutual interest shared by the Holy See and the Sate of Israel, highlighting how "Judeo-Christian heritage should inspire us to take a lead in promoting many forms of social and humanitarian action throughout the world, not least by combating all forms of racial discrimination". He also referred to "the cultural and academic exchanges that are taking place between Catholic institutions worldwide and those of the Holy Land" and recalled how dialogue between Jews and Christians "is bearing much fruit and needs to be continued with commitment and generosity.

  "The holy cities of Rome and Jerusalem", he added, "represent a source of faith and wisdom of central importance for Western civilization, and in consequence, the links between Israel and the Holy See have deeper resonances than those which arise formally from the juridical dimension of our relations".

  Turning to consider the question of "the alarming decline in the Christian population of the Middle East, including Israel, through emigration" the Holy Father observed that "of course Christians are not alone in suffering the effects of insecurity and violence as a result of the various conflicts in the region, but in many respects they are particularly vulnerable at the present time".

  Invoking the "the growing friendship between Israel and the Holy See", Benedict XVI expressed the hope that "ways will be found of reassuring the Christian community, so that they can experience the hope of a secure and peaceful future in their ancestral homelands, without feeling under pressure to move to other parts of the world in order to build new lives.

  "Christians in the Holy Land have long enjoyed good relations with both Muslims and Jews. Their presence in your country, and the free exercise of the Church's life and mission there, have the potential to contribute significantly to healing the divisions between the two communities".

  "I do realise that the difficulties experienced by Christians in the Holy Land are also related to the continuing tension between Jewish and Palestinian communities. The Holy See recognizes Israel's legitimate need for security and self-defence and strongly condemns all forms of anti-Semitism. It also maintains that all peoples have a right to be given equal opportunities to flourish. Accordingly, I would urge your Government to make every effort to alleviate the hardship suffered by the Palestinian community, allowing them the freedom necessary to go about their legitimate business, including travel to places of worship, so that they too can enjoy greater peace and security.

  " Clearly, these matters can only be addressed within the wider context of the Middle East peace process", said the Pope and, recalling the recent negotiations at Annapolis, indicated that the Holy See "prays that the hopes and expectations raised there will not be disappointed. ... When all the people of the Holy Land live in peace and harmony, in two independent sovereign states side by side, the benefit for world peace will be inestimable, and Israel will truly serve as 'light to the nations', a shining example of conflict resolution for the rest of the world to follow".

  Pope Benedict also mentioned negotiations on economic and fiscal matters between the Holy See and Israel. "I know that I speak on behalf of many when I express the hope that these agreements may soon be integrated into the Israeli internal legal system and so provide a lasting basis for fruitful co-operation", he said.

  Finally, referring to the situation of Christians in the Holy Land and "the difficulties caused by continuing uncertainties over their legal rights and status, especially with regard to the question of visas for church personnel", he concluded: "Only when these difficulties are overcome, will the Church be able to carry out freely her religious, moral, educational and charitable works in the land where she came to birth".
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VATICAN CITY, 12 MAY 2008 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, the Holy Father received members of the Italian organisation Movement for Life, led by their president Carlo Casini.

  Opening his address to them, Benedict XVI recalled how the year 2008 marks the 30th anniversary of the legalisation of abortion in Italy. "It is your intention", he told his audience, "to suggest profound reflections on the human and social effects the law has produced in the civil and Christian community during that period".

  "We cannot but recognise", he went on, "that, in practical terms, defending human life has become more difficult today, because a mentality has been created that progressively devalues human life and entrusts it to the judgement of individuals. A consequence deriving therefrom is lessened respect for the human person, a value that lies at the foundation of any form of civil coexistence, over and above the faith a person may profess".

  Abortion "not only has not resolved the problems afflicting many women and no small number of families, but it has opened another wound in our societies" said the Holy Father. He also called for combined efforts to ensure that "institutions once again focus their activities on defence of human life and priority concern for families. ... Families must be helped, using all legislative means to facilitate their formation and their educational work in the difficult social context of today".

  "It is necessary to bear concrete witness to the fact that respect for life is the first form of justice that must be applied. For those who have the gift of faith this becomes an imperative that cannot be deferred. ... Only God is the Lord of life. Each human being is known, loved, wanted and guided by Him, ... and each has his origins in God's creative plan".

  The Pope pointed out that this year also marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and he praised the Movement for Life's commitment "in the political sphere, assisting and encouraging the institutions to ensure that correct recognition is given to the words 'human dignity'.

  "Your initiative in the European Parliament's Commission for Petitions, in which you affirm the fundamental values of the right to life from the moment of conception, of the family founded on the marriage of a man and a woman, of the right of all conceived human beings to be born and educated in a family of parents, is further confirmation of the solidity of your commitment and your full communion with the Church's Magisterium which has always proclaimed and defended such values as 'non negotiable'".

  Benedict XVI concluded by thanking his audience for their service "to the Church and to society. How many human lives have you saved from death! Continue along this path and do not be afraid, so that the smile of life may triumph on the lips of all children and their mothers".
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VATICAN CITY, 12 MAY 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

 - Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne, archbishop of Lima, Peru.

 - Cardinal Julio Terrazas Sandoval C.SS.R., archbishop of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia.

 - Four prelates from the Hungarian Catholic Bishops' Conference, on their "ad limina" visit:

    - Bishop Miklos Beer of Vac, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishop Lajos Varga.

    - Bishop Laszlo Kiss-Rigo of Szeged-Csanad.

    - Bishop Szilard Keresztes, emeritus of Hajdudorog for Catholics of Byzantine Rite.

  On Saturday 10 May he received in separate audiences:

 - Three prelates from the Hungarian Catholic Bishops' Conference, on their "ad limina" visit:

    - Bishop Bela Balas of Kaposvar.

    - Bishop Andras Veres of Szombathely.

    - Bishop Imre Asztrick Varszegi O.S.B., abbot of the territorial abbey of Pannonhalma.

 - Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.
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