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Wednesday, July 2, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 2 JUL 2008 (VIS) - At this morning's general audience, Benedict XVI began a new cycle of catecheses, turning his attention to St. Paul the Apostle to whom the current Pauline Year is dedicated. The Year began on 28 June 2008 and is due to conclude on 29 June 2009. The audience, celebrated in the Paul VI Hall, was attended by 8,000 people.

  Paul, said the Pope, is "an example of complete dedication to the Lord and to His Church, as well as of great openness to humanity and its cultures". In order "to understand what he has to say to we Christians of today, ... let us pause to consider the environment in which he lived and worked ... which in many ways ... is not so very different" from our own.

  The Apostle of the Gentiles "came from a specific and definable culture, clearly a minority culture, that of the people of Israel and their tradition". They were "plainly distinguished from the surrounding environment, and this could have two results: either derision, which could lead to intolerance, or admiration", said the Holy Father. He also identified two factors that helped Paul in his efforts: firstly, the spread of "Hellenistic culture which, after Alexander the Great, had become a shared heritage of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East"; secondly, "the political and administrative structure of the Roman empire" which "represented a shared and unifying fabric".

  "The universalistic outlook typical of St. Paul's personality", Pope Benedict commented, "certainly owes its original impulse to faith in Jesus Christ. ... Nonetheless, the historical and cultural situation of his time and his environment also cannot but have influenced his decisions and his actions".

  The Pope recalled how Paul has also been called "'the man of three cultures', bearing in mind his Jewish origins, his Greek language and his privilege of being 'civis romanus', as also evinced by his name of Latin origin. Another factor to bear in mid is the Stoic philosophy which was dominant in Paul's day" and which contains "exalted values of humanity and wisdom that were naturally taken up by Christianity. ... St. Paul's time was also marked by a crisis in traditional religion, at least in its mythological and civic aspects".

  At the end of this "first rapid excursion into the cultural environment of the first century of the Christian era", Benedict XVI affirmed: "It is not possible to understand St. Paul adequately without seeing him against the background - both Judaic and pagan - of his time. In this way his figure acquires a historical ... profundity that reveals how he both shared in his environment and brought original elements to it.

  "This also holds true for Christianity in general", the Holy Father added in conclusion, "of which the Apostle Paul is an important model from whom we still have much to learn. And this is the objective of the Pauline Year: to learn from St. Paul, to learn the faith, to learn Christ".
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VATICAN CITY, 2 JUL 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father has sent a Message to prelates of the Episcopal Conference of Colombia, who are meeting from 29 June to 5 July in a plenary assembly during which they will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the foundation of their institution.

  In his Message, the Pope highlights how the Episcopal Conference of Colombia, which came into being in 1908, "has constantly supported the evangelising mission of the Church in that beloved nation, seeking adequate ways and means to reinforce ecclesial life in those lands, and to encourage the baptised to respond generously to their vocation of sanctity".

  Referring to the challenges facing the Church in Colombia, Benedict XVI gives the prelates assurances of his "prayers and spiritual closeness in the efforts you are making to ensure the Gospel rings out in all parts of Colombian territory, through initiatives in the fields of pastoral care in education and in universities, and in the concern you show for the imprisoned, the sick, the elderly, indigenous peoples, workers, the displaced, the young and families".

  "In the certainty that you are laying solid foundations for a promising future, and for the good of the whole Church", he continues, "I encourage your to redouble your attention towards priests, seminarians, missionaries and religious, and to give renewed impetus to the various formational programmes for catechists, lay people and pastoral care workers".

  After highlighting the care with which the prelates seek to be "men of harmony", and their "continual exhortations for an end to the violence, kidnapping, and extortion which affect so many sons and daughters of that beloved land", the Pope concludes his Message by asking God "for an end to these situations which have caused so much suffering, and for a stable and just peace in Colombia, in a climate of hope and prosperity".
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VATICAN CITY, 2 JUL 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in audience Archbishop-elect Bernardito C. Auza, apostolic nuncio to Haiti, accompanied by members of his family.
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VATICAN CITY, 2 JUL 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

 - Erected the new diocese of Montenegro (area 4,395, population 335,521, Catholics 268,417, priests 35, religious 147) Brazil, with territory taken from the archdiocese of Porto Alegre, making it a suffragan of the same metropolitan church. He appointed Bishop Paulo Antonio De Conto of Criciuma, Brazil, as first bishop of the new diocese.

 - Appointed Msgr. Romualdo Matias Kujawski of the clergy of the diocese of Poznan, Poland, "fidei donum" priest to the archdiocese of Palmas, Brazil, as coadjutor of Porto Nacional (area 96,488, population 332,000, Catholics 286,000, priests 36, permanent deacons 4, religious 39), Brazil. The bishop-elect was born in Poznan in 1947 and ordained a priest in 1973.
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