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Friday, November 7, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 7 NOV 2008 (VIS) - Made public yesterday afternoon was the final declaration of participants in the First Seminar of the Catholic-Muslim Forum, which took place in Rome from 4 to 6 November on the theme: "Love of God, Love of Neighbour".

  Each of the two sides in the meeting was represented by 24 participants and five advisers who discussed the two great themes of "Theological and Spiritual Foundations" and "Human Dignity and Mutual Respect". Points of "similarity and of diversity emerged, reflecting the distinctive specific genius of the two religions" the English-language declaration says.

1. "For Christians the source and example of love of God and neighbour is the love of Christ for His Father, for humanity and for each person" reads the first of the fifteen points of the declaration. "Love of neighbour cannot be separated from love of God, because it is an expression of our love for God. ... Grounded in Christ's sacrificial love, Christian love is forgiving and excludes no-one; it therefore also includes one's enemies".

  "For Muslims ... love is a timeless transcendent power which guides and transforms human mutual regard. This love, as indicated by the Holy and Beloved Prophet Muhammad, is prior to the human love for the One True God".

2. "Human life is a most precious gift of God to each person. It should therefore be preserved and honoured in all its stages".

3. Human dignity is derived from the fact that every human person is created by a loving God and has been endowed with the gifts of reason and free will, and therefore enabled to love God and others. On the firm basis of these principles, the person requires the respect of his or her original dignity and his or her human vocation. Therefore, he or she is entitled to full recognition of his or her identity and freedom by individuals, communities and governments, supported by civil legislation that assures equal rights and full citizenship.

4. "We affirm that God's creation of humanity has two great aspects: the male and the female human person, and we commit ourselves jointly to ensuring that human dignity and respect are extended on an equal basis to both men and women.

5. "Genuine love of neighbour implies respect of the person and her or his choices in matters of conscience and religion. It includes the right of individuals and communities to practice their religion in private and public.

6. "Religious minorities are entitled to be respected in their own religious convictions and practices. They are also entitled to their own places of worship, and their founding figures and symbols they consider sacred should not be subject to any form of mockery or ridicule.

7. "As Catholic and Muslim believers, we are aware of the summons and imperative to bear witness to the transcendent dimension of life, through a spirituality nourished by prayer, in a world which is becoming more and more secularised and materialistic.

8. "We affirm that no religion and its followers should be excluded from society. Each should be able to make its indispensable contribution to the good of society, especially in service to the most needy.

9. "We recognise that God's creation in its plurality of cultures, civilisations, languages and peoples is a source of richness and should therefore never become a cause of tension and conflict.

10. "We are convinced that Catholics and Muslims have the duty to provide a sound education in human, civic, religious and moral values for their respective members and to promote accurate information about each other's religions.

11. "We profess that Catholics and Muslims are called to be instruments of love and harmony among believers, and for humanity as a whole, renouncing any oppression, aggressive violence and terrorism, especially that committed in the name of religion, and upholding the principle of justice for all.

12. "We call upon believers to work for an ethical financial system in which the regulatory mechanisms consider the situation of the poor and disadvantaged, both as individuals, and as indebted nations. We call upon the privileged of the world to consider the plight of those afflicted most severely by the current crisis in food production and distribution, and ask religious believers of all denominations and all people of good will to work together to alleviate the suffering of the hungry, and to eliminate its causes.

13. "Young people are the future of religious communities and of societies as a whole. Increasingly, they will be living in multi-cultural and multi-religious societies. It is essential that they be well formed in their own religious traditions and well informed about other cultures and religions.

14. "We have agreed to explore the possibility of establishing a permanent Catholic-Muslim committee to co-ordinate responses to conflicts and other emergency situations.

15. "We look forward to the second seminar of the Catholic-Muslim Forum to be convened in approximately two years in a Muslim-majority country yet to be determined".

  The declaration concludes by affirming that all the participants "expressed satisfaction with the results of the seminar and their expectation for further productive dialogue".
OP/CATHOLIC MUSLIM DECLARATION/...            VIS 20081107 (860)


VATICAN CITY, 7 NOV 2008 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received the Letters of Credence of Vytautas Alisauskas, the new ambassador of Lithuania to the Holy See.

  Speaking English, the Pope thanked the ambassador for his comments "concerning the need for modern Europe to draw upon the tradition that flows from the teaching of the Gospel", and he recalled how "in recent centuries, the faith of the Lithuanian people has sustained them through periods of foreign domination and oppression, and has helped them to preserve and consolidate their identity.

  "Now that the Republic has regained its independence", he added, "it can offer moving testimony to the values which enabled its people to survive those difficult years. ... Communities that have lived under such circumstances acquire a deep conviction that true happiness is to be found in God alone. They know that any society which denies the Creator inevitably begins to lose its sense of the beauty, truth and goodness of human life".

  The Holy Father noted how a generation has grown up in Eastern Europe "which did not share in that experience of totalitarian government, and tends therefore to take its political freedom for granted. In consequence of this, there is a risk that some of the fruits which matured in testing times may begin to be lost. ...Today's society, although free, suffers increasingly from fragmentation and moral confusion. In this context, it is vitally important that Lithuania, and indeed the whole of Europe, cultivates the memory of the history that shaped it, in order to preserve its true identity and thus to survive and flourish in the world of the 21st century".

  The Holy Father proceeded: "It is both a paradox and a tragedy that in this era of globalisation, when the possibilities of communication and interaction with others have increased to a degree that earlier generations could scarcely have imagined, so many people feel isolated and cut off from one another. This gives rise to many social problems which cannot be resolved on the political plane alone. ... The Church has a vital part to play here" because "she seeks to build a civilisation of love. ... Since 'love of God leads to participation in the justice and generosity of God towards others', the practice of Christianity leads naturally to solidarity. ... It leads to a determination to serve the common good and to take responsibility for the weaker members of society, and it curbs the desire to amass wealth for oneself alone. Our society needs to rise above the allure of material goods, and to focus instead upon values that truly promote the good of the human person".

  Lithuania and the Holy See can work together, said Pope Benedict, "to forge a Europe in which priority is given to the defence of marriage and family life, to the protection of human life from conception to natural death, and to the promotion of sound ethical practices in medical and scientific research: practices which are truly respectful of the dignity of the human person. We can promote effective solidarity with the poor, the sick, the vulnerable, and all those on the margins of society.

  "These values will strike a chord with all those, especially the young, who are seeking answers to their profound questioning about the meaning and purpose of life. They will resonate with all who are anxious to discover the truth that is so often obscured by the superficial messages propagated by post-modern society. They will appeal to all who are discriminating enough to reject the world-view built upon relativism and secularism, and who aspire instead to live in a manner befitting the true nobility of the human spirit".


VATICAN CITY, 7 NOV 2008 (VIS) - At midday today, the Holy Father received participants in an international congress entitled: "A Gift for Life. Considerations on Organ Donation". The meeting is being held in Rome from 6 to 8 November and has been organised by the Pontifical Academy for Life in collaboration with the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations and the National Transplant Centre.

  In his address the Pope affirmed that "tissue and organ transplants represent a great advance of medical science, and are certainly a sign of hope for many people suffering serious and at times critical illnesses".

  "Unfortunately the problem of the availability of vital organs for transplant is not theoretical but dramatically real, as evinced in the long waiting lists of many sick people whose only hopes of survival are linked to a minimal supply which in no way corresponds to effective need".

  Benedict XVI then recalled how "the body of each individual, along with the spirit which is given individually, constitutes an indivisible unit in which is impressed the image of God Himself". For this reason, "priority must be given to respect for the dignity of the person and protection of his or her individual identity".

  Referring then to the technology of organ transplants, the Pope highlighted the fact that people can only donate "if the health and identity of the individual are never put at serious risk, and always for morally-valid and proportional reasons. Any logic of buying and selling of organs, or the adoption of discriminatory or utilitarian criteria ... is morally unacceptable.

  "Abuses in the transplant and trafficking of organs, which often affect innocent people such as children, must find the scientific and medical community united in a joint refusal. These are unacceptable practices which must be condemned as abominable. The same ethical principle must be reiterated when it is suggested that human embryos be created and destroyed for therapeutic purposes. The very idea of considering the embryo as 'therapeutic material' contradicts the cultural, civil and ethical foundations upon which the dignity of the person rests".

  After highlighting how "informed consent is a precondition of freedom" ensuring "that transplants have the nature of a gift and are not interpreted as acts of coercion or exploitation", the Holy Father recalled that "vital organs must not be removed save from a dead body, which also has a dignity that must be respected. Over recent years science has made further progress in ascertaining the death of a patient. ... In an area such as this, there must be no suspicion of arbitrariness, and where certainty has not been reached the principle of precaution must prevail".

  Recipients of organs, Benedict XVI went on, "should be aware of the value of this gesture. They are recipients of a gift that goes beyond its therapeutic benefit. What they receive, in fact, ... is a testimony of love, and this must arouse an equally generous response so as to enhance the culture of giving and gratuity".

  "Transplants which accord to this ethic of giving", the Pope concluded, "require all sides to invest every possible effort in formation and information, so as increasingly to awaken consciences to a problem that directly affects the lives of so many people. It is important, then, to avoid prejudices and misunderstandings, to overcome diffidence and fear replacing them with certainties and guarantees, so as to create in all people an ever-greater awareness of the great gift of life".
AC/ORGAN TRANSPLANT/...                    VIS 20081107 (590)


VATICAN CITY, 7 NOV 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences four prelates from the Bolivian Episcopal Conference, on their "ad limina" visit:

- Bishop Krzysztof Bialasik Wawrowska S.V.D. of Oruro.

- Bishop Leonardo Maria Bernacchi O.F.M., apostolic vicar of Camiri.

- Bishop Luis Morgan Casey, apostolic vicar of Pando.

- Bishop Carlos Burgler C.SS.R., apostolic vicar of Reyes.

This evening he is scheduled to receive in audience Cardinal William Joseph Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
AL:AP/.../... VIS 20081107 (90)

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