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Monday, December 22, 2008


THE POPE SENT AN APOSTOLIC LETTER to Cardinal Joachim Meisner, Archbishop of Cologne, on the international scientific congress commemorating the 700th anniversary of the death - in that German city - of blessed John Duns Scotus. Highlighting that the Franciscan philosopher and theologian knew how "to join piety with scientific investigation", the Holy Father affirmed that "he made the effort to understand, explain, and defend the truth of the faith in the light of human reason" and "to demonstrate the consonance of all truths, natural and supernatural, that come from one and the same Source".

THE HOLY SEE AND THE FRENCH REPUBLIC signed an agreement this past 18 December in Paris, on the mutual recognition of grades and diplomas in higher education. On the part of the Holy See, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States, was the signatory and, for France, Bernard Kouchner, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, signed.
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VATICAN CITY, 22 DEC 2008 (VIS) - Today in the Clementine Hall of the Vatican the Holy Father had his traditional meeting with the cardinals, archbishops, bishops, and members of the Roman Curia to exchange Christmas greetings.

The Pope began his address recalling some of the anniversaries commemorated in 2008, including 50 years from the death of Pius XII and John XXIII's ascension to the papal throne, 40 years from the publication of the encyclical 'Humanae Vitae' and 30 years from the death of its author, Paul VI, as well as the inauguration, on 28 June, of the Pauline Year at the Roman basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, participated in by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.

"The Pauline Year", the Holy Father affirmed, "is a year of pilgrimage not only in the sense of travelling to the Pauline places, but above all of the heart's pilgrimage, with Paul, to Jesus Christ. Paul definitively teaches us that the Church is the Body of Christ, that the Head and the Body are inseparable, and that that it is not possible to love Christ without love for His Church and its living community".

Benedict XVI then referred to three other important events of the year including the World Youth Day in Australia, "a great celebration of the faith", his two apostolic trips to the United States and to France, and the Synod of Bishops at which "pastors from all over the world gathered around the Word of God, which was lifted up among them".

During the Synod, on the one hand, the Pope explained, "we are again made aware of what God, through His Word, addresses to each of us" and "we understand that His Word is present so that we might draw near to one another". On the other hand "this Word has shaped a common history and wants to continue doing so", which is why "we can understand it properly and fully only in the 'we' of the community instituted by God: ever aware that we can never exhaust it completely because it has something new to say to each generation. ... God, in the end, always speaks in the present".

During the synodal assembly it was very important, he added, "to experience that Pentecost exists even today in the Church -- ... the various modes of the experience of God and world and the wealth of cultures are present in her and only thus is revealed the vastness of human existence and, through it, the vastness of the Word of God".

The "presence of the Word of God, God Himself at this moment in history", has been the conducting thread of this year's pastoral visits, whose "true meaning can only be of serving this presence", the Holy Father emphasized. "In those occasions the Church", he observed, "makes the faith publicly perceptible through her, and therefore also the question of God".

Focusing on World Youth Day, which "each time becomes more an object for analysis, which attempts to understand this species, so to speak, of 'youth culture'", the Pope recalled that some analysts consider it a "type of rock festival, in the ecclesial sense, with the Pope as its 'star'". Nevertheless, it has to be kept in mind that these days "do not consist solely in that week that is seen by the rest of the world" and that "beforehand there is a long exterior and interior journey leading up to them. The Cross, accompanied by the image of the Mother of the Lord, makes a pilgrimage throughout the world. ... The meeting with the Cross, which is touched and carried by the youth, becomes an interior encounter with the One who died on the Cross for us". This encounter "awakens the memory of God who desired to become human and suffer with us in the depths of the youth. And we see the woman whom He gave us as Mother. The official Youth Days are just the culmination of a long journey".

The Pope continually referred to "four dimensions of the theme 'The Holy Spirit'". First of all, "the faith in the Creator Spirit", he said, " is an essential content of the Christian Creed. ... In our faith regarding creation we encounter the ultimate foundation of our responsibility toward the earth. It is not simply our property to be exploited according to our interests and desires. Rather, it is a gift of the Creator".

While highlighting that the Church "cannot and should not limit herself to transmitting just the message of salvation to her faithful", the Holy Father said that it must also "protect the human being against self-destruction. It is necessary to have something like an ecology of the human being, understood in the proper manner. It is not a surpassed metaphysics when Church speaks of the nature of the human being as man and woman, and demands that this order of creation be respected. ... That which is often expressed and understood by the term 'gender', is definitively resolved in the self-emancipation of the human being from creation and the Creator".

Secondly, he continued, the Spirit "also speaks, so to say, with human words, and has entered into history ... The Holy Spirit is the Word that we encounter in the writings of the Old and New Testaments. ... Reading Scripture together with Christ we learn to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit in human words and we discover the unity of the Bible".

Benedict XVI commented that the third dimension of pneumatology is "the inseparability of Christ and the Holy Spirit. This is seen in possibly the most beautiful way in St. John's narration of the first apparition of the Resurrected Christ to His disciples: He breathed on them and in this way gave them the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the breath of Christ".

"The fourth dimension", he said, "emerges spontaneously as the connection between the Spirit and the Church". In this context he recalled that St. Paul "presented the Church as the Body of Christ and thus as the organism of the Holy Spirit, in which the gifts of the Holy Spirit join individuals into a single living being".

The Pope stressed that "the theme of 'The Holy Spirit' ... makes the entire breadth of the Christian faith visible. It is a breadth, which from the responsibility for creation and for the existence of the human being in harmony with creation, leads through the themes of Scripture and salvation history to Christ. From Christ it continues on to the living community of the Church in its orders and responsibilities as well as its immensity and freedom, which are expressed as much in the multiplicity of charisms as in the image of Pentecost with its multitude of languages and cultures".

"The Holy Spirit grants us joy. He is joy. ... This joy is the expression of happiness, of being in harmony with oneself, which is only possible if one is in harmony with God and His creation".

The Pope concluded expressing his wish at the end of this year, "that happiness be always alive in us and thus shine forth to the world in its tribulations".
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VATICAN CITY, 21 DEC 2008 (VIS) - At noon today Benedict XVI appeared at the window of his private study to pray the Angelus with the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square.

"With Christmas near at hand", the Pope said, "we are invited to fix our gaze upon the ineffable mystery that Mary carried within her virginal womb for nine months: the mystery of God made human. This is the first cardinal point of redemption. The second is the death and resurrection of Jesus and these two inseparable points reveal a single divine plan: to save humanity and its history, taking them up entirely by completely taking on all the evils that oppress them".

"This mystery of salvation also has a historical dimension, a cosmic dimension: Christ is the sun of grace who with His light: 'transfigures and ignites the universe that awaits Him. The very placement of Christmas is tied to the winter solstice, when the days in the Northern hemisphere start to become longer. Regarding this, perhaps not everyone knows that St. Peter's Square is also a meridian: the great obelisk projects its shadow along a line that runs along the pavement toward the fountain under this window, and in these days the shadow is the longest of the entire year. This reminds us of the role of astronomy in marking the hours of prayer. For example, the Angelus is prayed in the morning, at noon, and in the evening".

"The fact that the winter solstice takes place today, 21 December, at this very hour, affords me the opportunity of greeting those who are participating in the initiatives of the International Year of Astronomy 2009, called to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Galileo Galilei's first observations with the telescope. Among my predecessors ... there have been practicioners of this science, including Sylvester II, who taught it, Gregory XIII to whom we owe our calendar, and St. Pius X, who knew how to build sundials. If the heavens, in the beautiful words of the psalmist, 'tell of the glory of God', the laws of nature, which many scientists have studied over the years giving us an ever-better understanding of them, are a great incentive to contemplate the works of the Lord with gratitude".
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VATICAN CITY, 20 DEC 2008 (VIS) - Today the Holy Father named Msgr. Enrico Vigano, previously assistant in the Office of Liturgical Celebrations, as office head in that department.
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VATICAN CITY, 20 DEC 2008 (VIS) - Today in the Vatican the Holy Father received in separate audiences:

- Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

- Cardinal Agostino Vallini, Vicar General of His Holiness for the diocese of Rome.

- Professor Franco Miano, National President of the Italian Catholic Action with Bishop Domenico Sigalini of Palestrina, General Ecclesiastical Assistant.
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VATICAN CITY, 20 DEC 2008 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican the Holy Father received the members of the Pontifical Institute of Christian Archaeology along with their grand chancellor, Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski.

In his address the Pope praised the "precious and fruitful cultural, literary, and academic work that the Institute carries out in the service of the Church and of culture in general", affirming that "in the traditional sphere of archaeology, the ordinary and specialized courses your Institute gives have great scientific importance, offering knowledge of paleo-Christian monuments, above all in Rome with wider references to other regions of the 'Orbis christianus antiquus', ".

"The Institute's admirable objective is precisely the study of the traces of ecclesial life through the centuries. You offer the opportunity, for those who choose this discipline, of being immersed in a complex reality, that of the first centuries of the Church, in order to 'understand' the past, making it present to people today".

"When this means describing the history of the Church", the Pope stated, "... the archaeologist's patient investigation cannot be separated from also penetrating into supernatural reality, without however, renouncing the rigorous analysis of archaeological finds".

The Holy Father then recalled that "the diffusion of artistic and historical culture in all areas of society gives human beings of today the means of rediscovering their roots and drawing upon cultural and spiritual elements that help build a truly human society. Each person and each society needs a culture open to the anthropological, moral, and spiritual dimensions of existence".

"The experience of your Institute proves that the study of archaeology, especially of paleo-Christian monuments, allows us to deepen our knowledge of the evangelical truth that has been handed down to us and offers the opportunity of following the masters and witnesses of the faith who have preceded us".

"Knowing the heritage of past Christian generations", the pontiff concluded, "allows those following to remain faithful to the 'depositum fidei' of the first Christian community and, following along the same path, continues to make the immutable Gospel of Christ resound in every age and place".


VATICAN CITY, 20 DEC 2008 (VIS) - Today Benedict XVI received in the Vatican the children and young adult representatives of Italian Catholic Action (ACI) for the traditional exchange of Christmas good wishes.

"Many say that youth", the Pope stated, "are capricious, that they are never happy with anything, that they run through games one after the other without ever being satisfied. You instead say to Jesus: 'You are enough for me'!".

"You are enough for us", he continued, "above all when we pray that You always hear our prayers that we might make the world a more beautiful and better place for all. You are enough for us because You forgive us when we have done wrong; You are enough for us because if we become lost You look for us and take us in Your arms like You did with the lost sheep. You are enough for us because You have a beautiful Mother who, before You died on the cross, You asked to be also our Mother".

The Holy Father emphasized that the youngest members of ACI "have many teachers who help you to live together, to pray, and to grow in knowledge of the Gospel. The true goal of Catholic Action is to help you become holy: that is why it helps you to meet Jesus, to love His Church, and to take interest in the world's problems. Isn't it true that you are taking care of children who are less fortunate than yourselves? Isn't it true that, with your 'month of peace' you show, even many adults, how to appreciate peace because you know how to live in peace amongst yourselves?".

"Pray to the Lord", he finished, "that He change the hearts of those who make weapons, that He make terrorists come to their senses, that He convert the hearts of those who are always thinking of war, and that He help humanity build a better future for all the children of the world".

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