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Wednesday, June 11, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 11 JUN 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed:

 - Bishop Luis Gonzaga Silva Pepeu O.F.M. Cap. of Afogados da Ingazeira, Brazil, as metropolitan archbishop of Vitoria da Conquista (area 25,089, population 751,000, Catholics 563,000, priests 47, permanent deacons 4, religious 58), Brazil. The archbishop-elect was born in Caruaru, Brazil in 1957, he was ordained a priest in 1982 and consecrated a bishop in 2001.

 - Fr. Antonio Carlos Rossi Keller of the clergy of the archdiocese of Sao Paulo, Brazil, pastor of the parish of "Santo Antonio", as bishop of Frederico Westphalen (area 11,473, population 405,000, Catholics 314,000, priests 57, religious 140), Brazil. The bishop-elect was born in Sao Paulo in 1953 and ordained a priest in 1977.
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VATICAN CITY, 11 JUN 2008 (VIS) - At the end of today's general audience, the Holy Father addressed a greeting to pilgrims from the Italian diocese of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino, recalling his own visit to Assisi last year.

  "Once more I thank you", he told them, "for the warm welcome you gave me on that day, which was so rich in faith and spirituality. Also by virtue of our meeting then, may your diocesan community enjoy renewed spiritual vitality and work with all its energy on the pastoral programme, in which - 800 years after the 'conversion' of St. Francis - you are currently committed to living a year of 'communion' in preparation for the coming year of 'mission'".
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VATICAN CITY, 11 JUN 2008 (VIS) - In today's general audience, which was held in St. Peter's Square, the Pope turned his attention to the figure of St. Columbanus, a famous Irish monk who lived in the sixth century and "who with good reason may be called a 'European' saint".

  Columbanus was born about the year 543, in the province of Leinster in south-western Ireland. "At the age of around 20 he entered the monastery of Bangor in the north-west of the island, where the abbot was Comgall", said the Holy Father. "Life at Bangor and the example of the abbot influenced Columbanus' view of monasticism" a view which he "formed over time and then spread during the course of his life".

  Benedict XVI recalled how at the age of 50 Columbanus left Ireland "with 12 companions to begin missionary work on the European continent, where the migration of peoples from the north and the east had caused entire Christian regions to lapse back into paganism".

  He explained how this "re-evangelisation" began, "in the first place, through the witness of the missionaries' own lives. ... Many young men asked to be accepted into the monastic community and to live like them, and it soon became necessary to found a second monastery", which was built in Luxeuil. That monastery "became the centre for the expansion of monastic and missionary life of the Irish tradition on mainland Europe". Subsequently, "a third monastery was erected at Fontaine".

  St. Columbanus lived at Luxeuil for some 20 years. There he wrote his "'Regula monachorum' which describes the image of the ideal monk. It is the only ancient Irish monastic rule we possess today". The saint also introduced into mainland Europe "private confession and penance, ... proportioned to the gravity of the sin committed".

  "Intransigent as he was on moral matters, Columbanus came into conflict with the royal house because he severely criticised King Theodoric for his adulterous relationships". As a result, in 610 he and all the Irish monks were expelled from Luxeuil and "condemned to definitive exile".

  They took ship for Ireland but the vessel ran aground nor far from the beach and the monks returned to dry land. Instead of going back to Luxeuil, "they decided to begin a new work of evangelisation", first in Tuggen in Switzerland then in the area around Lake Constance".

  Continuing his account of Columbanus life, Benedict XVI explained how when the saint arrived in Italy, he still had to face "considerable difficulties. Church life was rent by the Arian heresy which was still prevalent among the Lombards, and by a schism which had divided most of the Churches of northern Italy from communion with the Bishop of Rome". In this situation, the Irish saint "wrote a treatise against Arianism and a letter to Pope Boniface IV to convince him to make certain decisive steps towards re-establishing unity".

  In the Italian town of Bobbio, Columbanus "founded a new monastery that would subsequently become a cultural centre comparable with the famous Montecassino. It was in Bobbio that he spent his last days, dying on 23 November 615, the day on which he is commemorated in the Roman rite down to our own time".

  "St. Columbanus' message focuses on a powerful call to conversion and detachment from worldly goods, with a view to the eternal reward. With his ascetic life and his uncompromising attitude to the corruption of the powerful, he evokes the severe figure of John the Baptist. Yet his austerity ... was only a means to open himself freely to the love of God and to respond with his entire being to the gifts received from Him, reconstructing the image of God in himself, and at the same time ploughing the earth and renewing human society".

  "A man of great culture and rich in gifts of grace, both as a tireless builder of monasteries and as an uncompromising penitential preacher", the Pope concluded, Columbanus "spent all his energies to nourish the Christian roots of the nascent Europe. With his spiritual strength, with his faith, with his love of God and neighbour, he became one of the Fathers of Europe, showing us today the way to those roots from which our continent may be reborn".
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