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Friday, December 12, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 12 DEC 2008 (VIS) - Yesterday afternoon in the Vatican basilica, after the traditional Eucharistic celebration for the Roman universities in preparation for Christmas  presided over by Agostino Vallini, Vicar General of Rome, Benedict XVI met with the students.

  The Holy Father affirmed that "the two thousandth anniversary of the birth of the Apostle to the Gentiles is helping the entire Church to rediscover its proper and fundamental missionary vocation and, at the same time, to make full use of the inexhaustible theological and spiritual treasure of the Pauline letters".

  "I am convinced that for you, from a personal as well as the communal and apostolic point of view of the university, studying the person and message of St. Paul is a very enriching opportunity. This is why I will soon be presenting his Letter to the Romans to you," he said.

  Benedict XVI highlighted that this text "is without a doubt one of the most important cultural texts of all time. It is and continues to be principally a living message for the living Church". In this context, he expressed the desire that "it be substantial nourishment for your faith, leading you to believe more and better and also to reflect upon yourselves so that you might come to a 'mature' faith and, at the same time live this faith, putting it into practice according to the truth of Christ's commandment. Only in this way can the faith that one professes become 'credible' for others as well, who are conquered by the eloquent testimony of our deeds".
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VATICAN CITY, 12 DEC 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father received the bishops of the Taiwanese Episcopal Conference this morning at the end of their "ad limina" visit.

  In the speech addressed to them the Pope emphasized that the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Catholic Evangelization in Taiwan represented "an occasion to manifest ever more eagerly your oneness with each other and with our Lord as you together promote the Church's common apostolate".

    "This unity of mind and heart", he continued, "is evidenced by your desire to cooperate more closely in spreading the Gospel among non-believers and forming those already initiated into the Church through Baptism and Confirmation. I am pleased to note that you continue to coordinate a variety of institutions for this purpose, with due emphasis on the parish, the 'prime mover and pre-eminent place for catechesis'".

  Speaking then of the needs of priests and catechists, the Pope recalled that the programs of priestly formation should be "designed with due consideration for the variety of ages, life conditions and duties found among your clergy" and asked that the catechists be furnished '"with the necessary resources so that they may follow the example of Jesus in speaking the truth straightforwardly and in a way readily accessible to all".

  "Effective catechesis inevitably builds stronger families, which in turn give birth to new priestly vocations.  …  Parents, pastors, teachers, parish leaders, and all the members of the Church must set before young people the radical decision to follow Christ, so that in finding him, they find themselves".

  Benedict XVI referred to the recent pastoral letter of his episcopate, "Social Concern and Evangelization", which "underscores the Church's need to engage actively in the promotion of family life". "Your deep concern for the good of families and society as a whole", he said, "moves you to assist couples in preserving the indissolubility of their marital promises. Never tire in promoting just civil legislation and policies that protect the sacredness of marriage. Safeguard this sacrament from all that can harm it, especially the deliberate taking of life in its most vulnerable stages".

  "The Church's solicitude for the weak similarly compels her to give special attention to migrants.  In several recent pastoral letters, you have indicated the essential role of the parish in serving migrants and raising awareness of their needs. I am also pleased to note that the Church in Taiwan has been actively advocating laws and policies that protect the human rights of migrants. As you know, many of those who arrive on your shores not only share in the fullness of the Catholic communion, but also carry with them the unique cultural heritage of their respective places of origin. I encourage you to continue welcoming them with affection so that they may receive the assiduous pastoral care that will assure them of their belonging to the 'family of the faith'".

  "Your apostolic bond with the Successor of Peter entails a pastoral responsibility for the universal Church across the globe. This particularly means, in your case, a loving concern for Catholics on the mainland, whom I constantly hold in prayer. You and the Christian faithful in Taiwan are a living sign that, in a justly ordered society, one need not fear to be a faithful Catholic and a good citizen. I pray that as part of the great Chinese Catholic family, you will continue to be spiritually united with your brethren on the mainland".
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VATICAN CITY, 12 DEC 2008 (VIS) - This morning in the Clementine Hall of the Vatican the Holy Father received the participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and its president, Cardinal Walter Kasper. The session is dedicated to the theme "The Reception and Future of Ecumenical Dialogue".

  This topic, the Pope said, "presents two essential dimensions: on the one hand the discernment of the path taken up to now and, on the other, the identification of new paths to follow, seeking to overcome together the differences that unfortunately persist in the relationships between the disciples of Christ".

  "Without a doubt, theological dialogue constitutes an essential ingredient for reestablishing the full communion that we all aspire to and, therefore, it must be sustained and encouraged. This dialogue is developed more in the context of ecclesial relations that … broaden it and involve not only pastors but the entire People of God".

    The Holy Father, with respect to the progress made, mentioned "relations with the Orthodox Churches and the ancient Eastern Orthodox Churches, both for what they bring to theological dialogue as well as for the consolidation and growth of ecclesial fraternity" and spoke of the last document of the International Mixed Commision for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches entitled "Ecclesial Communion: Conciliar Character and Authority", affirming that "it safely opens a positive perspective of reflection on the relationship between the primate and sinodality in the Church, a crucially important point in the relations with our Orthodox brothers and sisters".

  In conclusion, Benedict XVI recalled that the plenary session had given special attention to the "Harvest Project" (ecumenical consensus/convergence on some fundamental aspects of the Christian faith identified in the papers of the first four international bilateral dialogues to those who participated in the Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council). The results of the dialogue with "the Lutheran World Federation, the World Methodist Council, the Anglican Communion, and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches are found 'in an intermediate stage of the journey and it is useful and opportune to objectively analyze the results obtained'".
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VATICAN CITY, 12 DEC 2008 (VIS) - This morning in the Holy See Press Office the Instruction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith "Dignitas Personae" on certain bioethical questions was presented. It was published in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Polish.

  Archbishops Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, S.J., Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life; Bishop Elio Sgreccia, President Emeritus of the Pontifical Academy for Life; and Maria Luisa Di Pietro, associate professor of Bioethics at the Sacred Heart University, Rome and President of the "Science and Life" Association took part in the press conference.

  Archbishop Ladaria affirmed that this instruction is the fruit of study that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith undertook in 2002 on new questions in bioethics with the goal of bringing the same dicastery's instruction "Donum vitae" (1987) up to date. The document, approved by the Pope, "forms part of the ordinary Magisterium of the Successor of Peter" and "is of a doctrinal nature".

  This instruction "encourages biomedical investigation that respects the dignity of all human beings and of procreation. … At the same time, it does not exclude diverse biomedical technology as ethically illicit and", he said, "will probably be accused of containing too many prohibitions. Nevertheless, faced with this possible accusation it is necessary to emphasize that the Church feels the duty of making those without voices heard".

  Archbishop Fisichella noted that the document "attempts to express the Church's proper, authorized contribution to the formation of conscience, not only of believers but also of those who try to hear the arguments presented and to debate them. This is", he said, "an intervention that forms part of the Church's mission and should be listened to not only as legitimate but also as necessary in a pluralist, secular, and democratic society".

  For her part, Professor Di Pietro noted that before examining the questions dealt with in the document, such as techniques of assisting fertility, in vitro fertilization, the freezing of embryos and eggs, embryo reduction, and pre-implant diagnosis, "it is necessary to remember the three fundamental goods that govern each of the decisions":

- The recognition of the dignity of the person of each human being from conception to natural death, with the consequent subjectivity of the right to life and physical integrity.

- The unity of marriage, which carries with it the reciprocal respect of the right of the spouses to become father and mother only through one another.

- The specifically human values of sexuality that "demand that the procreation of a human person be desired as the fruit of the conjugal act specific to the love between spouses".

  Bishop Sgreccia referred to the third part of the document that speaks of newly proposed therapies that involve the manipulation of the embryo or the human genetic patrimony.

  "The text holds that it is necessary", he said, "to keep in mind one fundamental distinction: theoretically, genetic therapy can be applied to somatic cells with directly therapeutic ends or to germinal cells". As regards the latter, "it is not possible to intervene as there still does not exist a safe technique", he stressed, "because it could entail the risk of deformation in the hereditary genetic patrimony of future generations".

 The former president of the Pontifical Academy for Life affirmed that "the distinction between reproductive cloning and therapeutic cloning is untenable and thus also always presupposes a reproduction".
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VATICAN CITY, 12 DEC 2008 (VIS) - Today in separate audiences the Holy Father received:

- Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-Kiun of Hong Kong, China.

- A delegation of the Principality of Andorra after the ceremony of the exchange of instruments of ratification of the agreement between the Holy See and the Principality signed this past 17 March.

- Erwin Pröll, the governor of Lower Austria.

- Pilgrims from Lower Austria arriving with the gift of the Christmas tree for St. Peter's Square.

  This afternoon he is scheduled to receive three prelates of the Episcopal Conference of Taiwan on their "ad limina" visit.

- Bishop Thomas Chung An-zu of Kiayi.

- Bishop Martin Su Yao-wen of Taichung.

-Bishop Bosco Lin Chi-nan of Tainan.
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VATICAN CITY, 12 DEC 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father named:

- Bishop Jean-Pierre Blais, previously Auxiliary Bishop of Quebec, as Bishop of Baie-Comeau (area 148,750, population 90,907, Catholics 90,041 priests 36, permanent deacons 9, religious 64) in Canada.

- Archbishop Antonio Arcari, previously Apostolic Nuncio to Honduras, as Apostolic Nuncio to Mozambique.
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