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Friday, September 12, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 12 SEP 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Bishop Salvatore Pappalardo of Nicosia, Italy, as metropolitan archbishop of Siracusa (area 1,341, population 334,600, Catholics 324,500, priests 145, permanent deacons 10, religious 244), Italy. The archbishop-elect was born in Nicosia in 1945, he was ordained a priest in 1968 and consecrated a bishop in 1998. He succeeds Archbishop Giuseppe Costanzo, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.
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VATICAN CITY, 12 SEP 2008 (VIS) - The Vatican Information Service will transmit two special services on Saturday 13 September and on Sunday 14 September covering the Holy Father Benedict XVI's apostolic trip to France.
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VATICAN CITY, 12 SEP 2008 (VIS) - At 9.20 a.m. today, the Pope departed from Rome's Fiumicino airport. After a two-hour flight his aircraft landed at Orly airport in Paris, thus beginning his tenth apostolic trip outside Italy, his first to France.

  As he descended from the plane, the Holy Father was welcomed by Nicolas Sarkozy, president of the French Republic. Having then greeted Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, archbishop of Paris, and the civil and religious authorities present, he travelled by car to the apostolic nunciature. A few minutes later he moved on to the Elysee Palace where, at 12.30 p.m., he paid a courtesy visit to the president of the Republic.

  Having held a private meeting with President Sarkozy, the Pope went on to meet the authorities of State. Then, following a discourse by the French president, Benedict XVI pronounced the first address of his trip.

  He began his remarks by recalling that the principal reason for his visit was to mark "the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes".

  Referring then to President Sarkozy's comments during his visit to Rome in December 2007, to the effect that "the roots of France - like those of Europe - are Christian", the Holy Father said: "History itself offers sufficient proof of this: from its origins, your country received the Gospel message". In this context he mentioned the foundation of numerous religious congregations to assist those in need, and the "thousands of chapels, churches, abbeys and cathedrals" gracing the land.

  "The Church in France currently benefits from a 'regime of freedom'", he said. "Past suspicion has been gradually transformed into a serene and positive dialogue that continues to grow stronger. A new instrument of dialogue has been in place since 2002, and I have much confidence in its work, given the mutual good will".

  "At this moment in history when cultures continue to cross paths more frequently, I am firmly convinced that a new reflection on the true meaning and importance of 'laicite' is now necessary. In fact, it is fundamental, on the one hand, to insist on the distinction between the political realm and that of religion in order to preserve both the religious freedom of citizens and the responsibility of the State towards them; and, on the other hand, to become more aware of the irreplaceable role of religion for the formation of consciences and the contribution which it can bring to - among other things - the creation of a basic ethical consensus within society".

  "My greatest concern", the Pope went on, "is for young people". Many of them "are suffering from a loss of connection to family life", others are abandoned on the margins "and often left to themselves, they are vulnerable and must come to terms on their own with a reality that often overwhelms them".

  Hence, "it is necessary to offer them a sound educational environment and to encourage them to respect and assist others if they are to develop serenely towards the age of responsibility. The Church can offer her own specific contribution in this area. I am also concerned by the social situation in the Western world, marked sadly by a surreptitious widening of the distance between rich and poor. I am certain that just solutions can be found that go beyond the necessary immediate assistance and address the heart of the problems, so as to protect the weak and promote their dignity".

  The Pope also expressed his concern for "the state of our planet", highlighting how "we must learn to respect and protect it more. It seems to me that the time has come for more constructive proposals so as to guarantee the good of future generations.

  "Your country's presidency of the European Union", he added, "gives France the opportunity to bear witness - in accord with her noble tradition - to human rights and to their promotion for the good of individuals and society. When Europeans see and experience personally that the inalienable rights of the human person from conception to natural death - rights to free education, to family life, to work, and naturally those concerned with religion - when Europeans see that these rights, which form an inseparable unity, are promoted and respected, then they will understand fully the greatness of the enterprise that is the European Union, and will become active artisans of the same".

  Faced with "the danger of a resurgence of old suspicions, tensions, and conflicts among nations, which we are troubled to witness today", said the Pope, "France, which historically has been sensitive to reconciliation between peoples, is called to help Europe build up peace within her borders and throughout the world. In this regard, it is important to promote a unity that neither can nor desires to become a uniformity, but is able to guarantee respect for national differences and different cultural traditions, which amount to an enrichment of the European symphony, remembering at the same time that 'national identity itself can only be achieved in openness towards other peoples and through solidarity with them'. I express my confidence that your country will contribute increasingly to the progress of this age towards serenity, harmony and peace".

  The ceremony over, Pope Benedict travelled back to the apostolic nunciature where he had lunch in private.

  At 5 p.m. today, the Holy Father will participate in a brief meeting in the apostolic nunciature with members of the local Jewish community before going to the College des Bernardins, recently reopened to the public following its restoration, where he is due to meet with representatives from the world of culture.
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