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The Vatican Information Service is a news service, founded in the Holy See Press Office, that provides information about the Magisterium and the pastoral activities of the Holy Father and the Roman Curia...[]

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Thursday, April 30, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 30 APR 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

- Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples.

- Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi, apostolic nuncio to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

Yesterday, Wednesday 29 April, he received in audience Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum".
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VATICAN CITY, 30 APR 2009 (VIS) - This morning the Holy Father addressed a third group of prelates from the Argentinean Episcopal Conference, who have just completed their "ad limina" visit.

In his remarks to them the Holy Father recalled how the Lord had entrusted bishops "with a ministry of great importance and dignity: that of bringing His message of peace and reconciliation to all people, of caring for the holy People of God with paternal love and leading them along the path of salvation".

"In exercising his episcopal ministry", he said, "a bishop must always act as a servant among his faithful, drawing constant inspiration from the One Who came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life to save many. Truly, to be bishop is an honour when lived with that spirit of service to others and as a humble and disinterested participation in the mission of Christ".

"Frequent contemplation of the image of the Good Shepherd", Benedict XVI told the prelates, "will serve as a model and a stimulus for your efforts to announce and spread the Gospel, it will encourage you to care for the faithful with tenderness and mercy, to defend the weak and to spend your lives in constant and generous dedication to the People of God".

After then encouraging them to stimulate "the practice of charity, especially among the most needy" in their dioceses, the Pope highlighted the importance of concentrating on "prayer as opposed to activism or a secularised vision of the charitable efforts of Christians. This assiduous contact with Christ through prayer will transform believers' hearts, opening them to the needs of others and so ensuring they are not 'inspired by ideologies aimed at improving the world, but guided by the faith which works through love'".

On the subject of priests, the Holy Father called on the bishops to tighten "their bonds of affection, respect and trust" with them. "I recognise your priests' self-sacrifice and commitment to the ministry", he said, "and I too wish to invite them to identify themselves increasingly with the Lord, becoming true models for their people by their virtues and good example, and feeding the flock of God".

Benedict XVI then turned his attention to the vocation of lay people who, "conscious of their baptismal promises and animated by Christ's charity, participate actively in the mission of the Church, as well as in the social, political, economic and cultural life of their country". In this context he made it clear that "Catholics should stand out among their fellow citizens by their exemplary accomplishment of their civic duties, and by the exercise of those human and Christian virtues which help to improve personal, social and working relationships".

"Their commitment", he concluded, "will also lead them to promote values that are essential to the common good of society, such as peace, justice, solidarity, the good of the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman, the defence of life from conception until natural death, and the right and obligation of parents to educate children according to their own moral and religious convictions".
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VATICAN CITY, 30 APR 2009 (VIS) - At midday today, the Holy See Press Office released the following communique:

"This morning in the Vatican, Alvaro Uribe Velez, president of the Republic of Colombia, was received in audience by His Holiness Benedict XVI. The president subsequently went on to meet with Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary of the Section for Relations with States of the Secretariat of State.

"The cordial discussions enabled a fruitful exchange of views to take place on questions concerning the current international and regional situation.

"Attention then turned to certain aspects of the situation in that South American country, in particular to the fight against drug trafficking, to social policies aimed at improving the living conditions of the many people who still live in poverty, and to collaboration between Church and State with the aim of consolidating national pacification".


VATICAN CITY, 30 APR 2009 (VIS) - Pope Benedict's general prayer intention for May is: "That the laity and the Christian communities may be responsible promoters of priestly and religious vocations".

His mission intention is: "That the recently founded Catholic Churches, grateful to the Lord for the gift of faith, may be ready to share in the universal mission of the Church, offering their availability to preach the Gospel throughout the world".

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 30 APR 2009 (VIS) - Pope Benedict's general prayer intention for May is: "That the laity and the Christian communities may be responsible promoters of priestly and religious vocations".

His mission intention is: "That the recently founded Catholic Churches, grateful to the Lord for the gift of faith, may be ready to share in the universal mission of the Church, offering their availability to preach the Gospel throughout the world".


VATICAN CITY, 29 APR 2009 (VIS) - The Vatican Museums, in a show of solidarity with victims of the 6 April earthquake in the Italian region of Abruzzo, will exceptionally remain open on Sunday 10 May. The Vatican Museums are usually closed on Sundays, except the last Sunday of each month.

"Accepting the proposal of the Custodians of the Museums, the Governorate of Vatican City State will donate the entire day's taking to people affected by the tremor", reads a communique made public today.

"All the staff of the Vatican Museums will adhere to the initiative by dedicating one day of work".
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VATICAN CITY, 29 APR 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Fr. Stanisalus Tobias Magombo of the clergy of Dedza, Malawi, national secretary for pastoral care of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi, as auxiliary of Lilongwe (area 24,025, population 4,584,000, Catholics 981,784, priests 82, religious 272), Malawi. The bishop-elect was born in Matowe Village, Malawi in 1968 and ordained a priest in 1996.
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VATICAN CITY, 29 APR 2009 (VIS) - During his general audience this morning Benedict XVI dedicated his catechesis to St. Germanus of Constantinople, who "played an important role in the complex history of the battle for images during the so-called iconoclastic crisis, and was able to resist the pressure of an iconoclastic emperor, ... Leo III.

"During Germanus' patriarchate (715-730)", the Pope added, "the capital of the Byzantine empire, Constantinople, was subject to a threatening siege by the Saracens. On that occasion (717-718) a solemn procession was organised and passed through the streets carrying the image of the Mother of God ... and the relic of the Holy Cross to call upon the Most High to defend the city. In fact, Constantinople was freed from the siege".

This event convinced the patriarch "that God's intervention was to be interpreted as evident approval of the reverence people showed towards holy icons. Leo III on the other hand, who came to the throne in that year of 717, ... began ever more openly to show his conviction that the consolidation of empire had to begin by reorganising expressions of faith, with particular reference to idolatry, a risk to which, in his view, the people were exposed by their excessive veneration for icons".

The Holy Father went on: "Patriarch Germanus' appeals to Church tradition and to the real effectiveness of certain images, unanimously recognised as 'miraculous', were all to no avail. The emperor became ever more intractable in implementing his policies of reform. ... Germanus had no desire to bow to the emperor's will in matters he considered vital to orthodox faith. ... As a consequence he felt obliged to resign as patriarch, condemning himself to exile in a monastery where he died in obscurity. Nonetheless his name re-emerged at the Second Nicean Council ... of 787 where his merits were recognised".

Of Germanus' works "certain homilies on Marian themes have survived, of which some have had a profound influence on the piety of entire generations of faithful, both in the East and the West", including one which Pope Pius XII "set like a pearl in the 1950 Apostolic Constitution 'Munificentissimus Deus'", dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

Benedict XVI went on to recall the "great contribution" this saint made to the Byzantine tradition in which "the rhetorical forms used in preaching, and even more so in hymns and poetical compositions, ... are as important to the celebration of the liturgy as the beauty of the sacred building in which it takes place".

The Holy Father concluded by considering three aspects in which St. Germanus still has something to say to modern man. Firstly, in the need to recognise "the visibility of God in the world and in the Church", because "God created man in His image but that image was covered with dirt and sin" and the Creator "could almost no longer see it. Thus the Son of God became man and ... in Christ, the true image of God, we too can ... learn to see ourselves as His image". If, to prevent idolatry and the danger of pagan images, God prohibited the Israelites from creating His image, yet "when He became visible in Christ through the Incarnation it became legitimate to reproduce the face of Christ. ... Holy images teach us to see God in the face of Christ, ... of the saints and of all human beings".

Secondly, Germanus shows us "the beauty and dignity of the liturgy", which must be celebrated "with an awareness of the presence of God and with a beauty and dignity that enable us to glimpse His splendour".

The third aspect is that of "love for the Church", the Pope concluded. "It may be that in the Church, as in ourselves, we see sin and other negative things, yet with the help of faith ... we can always rediscover divine beauty in the Church. In the Church, God offers Himself to us in the Eucharist, He speaks to us, ... He forgives us and He teaches us to forgive. Let us pray that God may teach us to see His presence and His beauty in the Church, to see His presence in the world".
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VATICAN CITY, 29 APR 2009 (VIS) - At the end of today's general audience, the Pope received a delegation of representatives from Canadian aboriginal communities, to whom he expressed his concern for aboriginal peoples in Canada who continue to suffer from the impact of the former Indian Residential Schools, according to a communique issued by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The meeting will be attended by Phil Fontaine, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, and Archbishop Vernon James Weisgerber, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, accompanied by representatives from Catholic dioceses and communities in the country.

In the late nineteenth century the federal government established residential schools for Canadian aboriginal children. The schools were administered by Catholic organisations and by other Christian Churches and communities, and financed by the Canadian government. "The number of students who attended residential schools is estimated at 100,000. These children were cut off from their families and forced to suppress their language, religion and traditional way of life. ... As well as being subjected to the process of cultural purging, some children were also the victims of sexual and physical abuse", says the communique.

On 11 June 2008 Stephen Harper, prime minister of Canada, and the Canadian government made a formal apology to the former students of residential schools in a special assembly at the House of Commons in Ottawa.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 28 APR 2009 (VIS) - At 9 a.m. on Sunday 3 May, Benedict XVI will preside at Mass in the Vatican Basilica and confer priestly ordination on nineteen deacons of the diocese of Rome.
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VATICAN CITY, 28 APR 2009 (VIS) - At midday today, the Pope arrived at the courtyard of the training school of the "Guardia di Finanza" in Coppito near the Italian city L'Aquila, where he met with people affected by the earthquake of 6 April, and with rescue and aid workers (volunteers, the Italian Civil Protection, firemen, soldiers, etc.).

"Here I am in this square", said the Holy Father in his address, "which almost from the first moment functioned as a headquarters for the rescue operations. This place, consecrated by the victims' prayers and tears, represents a symbol of your tenacious determination not to give way to discouragement." Quoting then the motto of the "Guardia di Finanza" - "Nec recisa recedit" - he pointed out that it "seems to well express what the mayor defined as your firm intention to rebuild the city, with that constancy which characterises you people of the Abruzzo region".

This same square, Benedict XVI went on, in which Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. officiated at the funeral of the many victims of the tremor, "is today occupied by the forces involved in helping L'Aquila and Abruzzo to rise from the rubble of the earthquake. ... My visit among you, which I wished to make from the first moment, is intended as a sign of my closeness to each one of you, and of the fraternal solidarity of the entire Church.

"The truth is that as a Christian community we are a single spiritual body", he added, "if one part suffers, all the others suffer too; if one part struggles to arise, all share in that effort. I must tell you that expressions of solidarity have reached me from all sides. Many high-ranking figures of the Orthodox Churches have written to assure me of their prayers and spiritual solidarity, also sending economic aid".

The Pope continued by underlining "the value and importance of solidarity which, though chiefly demonstrated at moments of crisis, is like a fire hidden under the embers. Solidarity is a highly civic and Christian sentiment, a measure of the maturity of a society. In practical terms it is expressed in aid work, but it not merely an efficient organisational machine; it has a soul and a passion which arise from the great civil and Christian history of our people, whether it takes an institutional form or is expressed through volunteer work.

"The tragic earthquake calls the civil community and the Church to profound reflection", said the Holy Father. At Easter, he went on, "we celebrated the death and resurrection of Christ, bringing your pain to our minds and hearts, and praying that those affected would not lose their trust in God and their hope. The civil community must also undertake a serious examination of conscience, and ensure it always shoulders its responsibilities. On this basis L'Aquila, though wounded, will arise once more".

Benedict XVI concluded his words by invoking the protection of Our Lady of Roio, much venerated in the local area, for "all localities affected by the earthquake" and, having sung the Regina Coeli, placed a golden rose at the foot of her statue.

His visit concluded, the Holy Father returned to the Vatican by car.
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VATICAN CITY, 28 APR 2009 (VIS) - This morning Benedict XVI travelled by car to the Italian region of Abruzzo to visit people affected by the 6 April earthquake which left 300 dead and thousands injured. The Pope had been due to travel to the area by helicopter but was forced to change his plans due to poor weather.

The first stage of his visit took him to the village of Onna, "one of the places that paid a high price in terms of human lives", said the Holy Father in his address there to people living in temporary shelters, having lost their homes in the quake.

"I was close to you from the first moment", he went on. "I followed the news with great concern, sharing your disbelief, your tears for the dead, and your anxious concerns for what you lost in an instant. Now I am here among you; and I would like to embrace you affectionately, each one. All the Church is here with me, accompanying your sufferings, participating in your pain for the loss of relations and friends, and desirous to help you rebuild the homes, churches and businesses that collapsed or were seriously damaged in the tremor. I have admired and continue to admire the courage, dignity and faith with which you face this serious trial, showing great determination not to give way to adversity".

"I am well aware that, despite the solidarity forthcoming from all sides, there are many daily discomforts involved in living outside your homes, in cars or tents, especially because of the cold and rain. ... My poor presence among you is intended as a tangible sign of the fact that the crucified Lord is risen and does not abandon you. ... He is not deaf to the anguished cries of so many families who have lost everything: houses, savings, work and sometimes even human lives. Of course, His tangible response comes though our solidarity, which cannot be limited to the initial emergency but must become a stable project over time. I encourage everyone, institutions and companies, to ensure that this city and this land may arise again".

The Holy Father then pronounced "some words of comfort" concerning the people killed in the earthquake. "They are alive in God", he said, "and await from you a testimony of courage and hope. They hope to see the rebirth of their land, which must once more adorn itself with houses and churches, beautiful and solid. ... Love remains, even beyond the river-crossing of this our precarious earthly life, because true Love is God. Those who love overcome death in God, and know that their loved ones are not lost". The Holy Father then concluded his remarks by reading as special prayer for the victims of the earthquake.

He then travelled to the basilica of Collemaggio in L'Aquila where he pronounced a brief prayer in front of the casket containing the remains of Pope St. Celestine V, one of the few things to have survived the earthquake in the basilica. As a sign of his spiritual participation, Benedict XVI left on the casket the pallium with which he was vested at the beginning of his own pontificate.

He then moved on to the student hall of residence, where a number of young people were killed by the earthquake, and greeted university students who used to reside there.

At midday the Holy Father arrived at the courtyard of the training school of the "Guardia di Finanza" where, having greeted mayors and pastors from the 49 communities most affected by the tremor, he pronounced an address to those present.

Monday, April 27, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 27 APR 2009 (VIS) - This morning Benedict XVI received in audience His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, accompanied by the Duchess of Cornwall, according to a communique issued today by the Holy See Press Office.

"A meeting subsequently took place with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., accompanied by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.

"The cordial discussions provided an opportunity for an exchange of views on certain questions of mutual interest including the human promotion and development of peoples, environmental protection, and the importance of inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue for furthering peace and justice in the world".
VATICAN CITY, 27 APR 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences twelve prelates from the Argentinean Episcopal Conference, on their "ad limina" visit:

- Bishop Santiago Olivera of Cruz del Eje.

- Bishop Pedro Maria Olmedo Rivero C.M.F., prelate of Humahuaca.

- Bishop Marcelino Palentini S.C.I. of Jujuy.

- Bishop Francisco Polti Santillan of Santiago del Estero, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishop Ariel Edgardo Torrado Mosconi.

- Bishop Juan Alberto Puiggari of Mar del Plata.

- Bishop Armando Jose Maria Rossi O.P. of Concepcion.

- Bishop Hugo Norberto Santiago of Santo Tome.

- Bishop Luis Teodorico Stockler of Quilmes.

- Bishop Eduardo Maria Taussig of San Rafael.

- Bishop Carlos Jose Tissera of San Francisco.

- Archbishop Luis Rector Villalba of Tucuman.

On Saturday 25 April, he received in audience Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.
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VATICAN CITY, 27 APR 2009 (VIS) - The Holy See Press Office published the following communique today:

"This morning, His Holiness Benedict XVI received in audience Alexander Lukashenko, president of Belarus. Subsequently the president, accompanied by Sergei Martinov, foreign minister, met with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.

"During the discussions, which took place in a positive atmosphere, consideration was given to various matters concerning the relationship between faith and reason, and to inter-confessional and inter-cultural dialogue. Attention also turned to the international issues associated with promoting peace and the true progress of humankind, as well as to certain internal problems of the country, questions concerning the Catholic Church in Belarus and the prospects for deeper collaboration between the two sides. Finally the peaceful coexistence characterising relations between the Catholic and Orthodox communities, and with other religious confessions, was noted".


VATICAN CITY, 26 APR 2009 (VIS) - At the end of this morning's Mass, during which he proclaimed five new saints, the Holy Father prayed the Regina Coeli with faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.

"I hope that this pilgrimage, lived in sanctity and strengthened by the grace of the Pauline Year, may help each one of you 'to run' with greater joy and energy towards the final 'goal', towards the 'prize that God calls us to receive on high, in Christ Jesus'", he said.

The Pope then went on to refer to the celebration of the Day of the Sacred Heart Catholic University, which falls today. "Fifty years after the death of its founder, Fr. Agostino Gemelli, my hope is that the Catholic University may always remain faithful to the principles that inspired it, in order to continue to offer worthwhile formation to young generations".

As is the tradition following canonisations and beatifications, the Holy Father then greeted those present in various languages. Addressing Portuguese faithful about their newly-canonised countryman Nuno de Santa Maria, he recalled how the saint "provides an important lesson on sacrifice and participation, without which it would be impossible to achieve that fraternal equality characteristic of modern society, which recognises and treats everyone as members of the same family".

Turning then to speak to Polish pilgrims, the Pope recalled how the Week of the Bible is currently being celebrated in their country for the first time, under the patronage of the "Biblical Work" dedicated to John Paul II. "My heartfelt blessing goes to all those people who study the Word of God", he said. "By the intercession of the new saints, I invoke upon everyone the gift of Divine Wisdom".
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VATICAN CITY, 26 APR 2009 (VIS) - In St. Peter's Square at 10 a.m. today, the Holy Father celebrated the Eucharist and canonised the Italian Blesseds: Arcangelo Tadini (1846-1912), Bernardo Tolomei (1272-1348), Gertrude Comensoli (1847-1903) and Caterina Volpicelli (1839-1894), and the Portuguese Blessed Nuno de Santa Maria Alvares Pereira (1360-1431).

At the beginning of his homily, the Holy Father commented on today's Gospel which recounts how the two disciples of Emmaus, returning to Jerusalem, told the eleven disciples that they had recognised Jesus "in the breaking of the bread".

"Each community relives this same experience in the celebration of the Eucharist, especially on Sundays", said the Pope. "In celebrating the Eucharist we communicate with Christ, victim of atonement, and from Him we draw forgiveness and life. What would our lives as Christians be without the Eucharist?"

Going on then to recall certain fundamental aspects of the lives of the five new saints, the Holy Father began by referring to the "concrete and courageous initiatives" of St. Arcangelo Tadini. These included establishing the Catholic Workers' Mutual Assistance Association, building a textile mill and a residence for female workers, and founding the Congregation of Worker Sisters of the Holy House of Nazareth in 1900, his aim being to evangelise the world of work, sharing in its fatigues and following the example of the Holy Family of Nazareth.

"How prophetic the charismatic intuition of Don Tadini was, and what relevance his example still has, even today in times of serious economic crisis!" cried the Pope.

Benedict XVI described St. Bernardo Tolomei, abbot and founder of the Olivetan Benedictine Congregation who died of the plague in 1348 while assisting his fellow monks who had contracted the disease, as a "true martyr of charity. ... The example of this saint invites us to translate our own faith into a life dedicated to God in prayer and spent in serving others under the impulse of charity, a charity ready also to make the supreme sacrifice", he said.

St. Nuno de Santa Maria Alvares Pereira, he went on, "was a great soldier and a great leader who never allowed his personal qualities to overshadow the supreme action of God. .... At the end of his life he retreated to a Carmelite convent that he himself had ordered to be built".

"This exemplary figure, his life characterised by faith and prayer in apparently unfavourable settings, shows that in any situation - even military life and warfare - it is possible to enact and fulfil the values and principles of Christian life, especially if one places oneself at the service of the common good and the glory of God".

Turning then to focus on St. Gertrude Comensoli, foundress of the Institute of Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, Benedict XVI explained that the aim of her institute was "to translate 'charity contemplated' in the Eucharistic Christ into 'effective charity' through dedication to the needy.

"In a confused and often wounded society such as our own; to young people, such as those of our time, in search of values and of a meaning to give to their lives, St. Gertrude indicates a firm point of reference in God, Who in the Eucharist made Himself our travelling companion", he added.

Turning his attention then to St. Caterina Volpicelli, foundress of the Institute of Handmaidens of the Sacred Heart, the Pope noted how she "strove 'to be of Christ in order to bring to Christ' the people she came across in late nineteenth-century Naples, at a time of spiritual and social crisis".

This saint, the Holy Father concluded, "shows her own spiritual daughters, and all of us, the demanding path to a conversion that changes the heart at its roots and translates into activities coherent with the Gospel. Thus it is possible to lay the foundations for a society open to justice and solidarity, overcoming that economic and cultural imbalance which still exists in a large part of our planet".
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VATICAN CITY, 25 APR 2009 (VIS) - Yesterday evening the Holy See Press Office released a communique concerning the Holy Father's audience with Amr Moussa, secretary general of the League of Arab States. Amr Moussa and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States, recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the League of Arab States and the Secretariat of State.

  "During the cordial meetings", reads the English-language communique, "emphasis was placed on the importance of the agreement, which is intended to foster increased co-operation between the two parties with a view to promoting peace and justice in the world. Particular importance was given to the role of inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue.

  "Finally, there was an exchange of views on the international situation, especially in the Middle East, and on the need to find a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to the other conflicts which afflict the region".
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VATICAN CITY, 25 APR 2009 (VIS) - The Holy See Press Office released the following communique at midday today:

  "This morning, the Holy Father Benedict XVI received in audience Ralph Everard Gonsalves, prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The prime minister subsequently went on to met Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., who was accompanied by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.

  "The cordial discussions served to review the main political questions concerning the region, and to examine the social, ethical and religious issues that particularly affect the country".
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VATICAN CITY, 25 APR 2009 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received participants in a meeting of Italian Catholic teachers of religion. The teachers were accompanied by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian Episcopal Conference.

  "The teaching of Catholic religion is an inherent part of the history of education in Italy", said the Pope. The large number of pupils "who choose to study this subject is, furthermore, a sign of the exceptional importance it has in the educational process and an indication of the high levels of quality achieved".

  "Focusing on man created in God's image is, in fact, what daily distinguishes your work, in unity of purpose with other educators and teachers", said the Holy Father. He then recalled words he had pronounced at the 2006 Italian ecclesial congress in Verona when, touching on the "fundamental and decisive question" of education, he had highlighted the need "'to broaden the horizon of our rationality, open it to the great questions of truth and goodness, and unite theology, philosophy and science, respecting their reciprocal autonomy but also aware of the intrinsic unity that holds them together'. The religious dimension is, indeed, intrinsic to culture, it helps in the overall formation of the person and enables knowledge to be transformed into life wisdom".

  "Thanks to the teaching of Catholic religion, then, school and society are enriched with what is a true workshop of culture and of humanity, in which, by examining the significant contributions Christianity has made, people are enabled to discover goodness and grow in responsibility, to seek to confront their views and refine their critical sense, and to draw from the gifts of the past in order to better understand the present and to project themselves towards the future".

  The Pope then went on to refer to the current Pauline Year, observing that in the teaching of the Apostle of the Gentiles "religious formation is not separate from human formation. The final Letters of his epistolary, the so-called 'pastoral Letters' are full of significant references to social and civil life, aspects which Christ's disciples must keep well to mind. St. Paul is a true master, concerned both for the salvation and for the human and civil formation of people educated in a mentality of faith. ... The religious dimension is, then, not an appendage but an inherent part of the person".

  In closing, Benedict XVI praised the teachers' work. "Far from being a form of interference or a restriction on freedom", he told them, "your presence is a fine example of that positive spirit of secularism which enables constructive civil coexistence to be promoted, founded on reciprocal respect and faithful dialogue, values that a country always needs".
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VATICAN CITY, 25 APR 2009 (VIS) - Made public today was a Letter from the Holy Father to Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins C.M.F., prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, appointing him as special papal envoy to the closing celebrations of the Jubilee Year marking the seventh centenary of veneration of Our Lady of Europe. The event is due to take place in Gibraltar on 5 May. The Letter, written in Latin, is dated 31 March.

  The cardinal will be accompanied on his mission by two members of the clergy of the diocese of Gibraltar: Msgr. Paul Charles Bear, vicar general, Fr. Charles Azzopardi, apostolic vicar for youth.


VATICAN CITY, 25 APR 2009 (VIS) - The Bilateral Permanent Working Commission between the State of Israel and the Holy See met on 23 April at the ministry of foreign affairs in Jerusalem to continue negotiations on the economic agreement concerning fiscal and property matters, according to a communique released today by the Holy See Press Office.

  "The meeting was characterised by great cordiality and a spirit of co-operation", the English-language communique reads. "Meaningful progress was achieved by receiving a report from a working group, and the delegations renewed their joint commitment to conclude the agreement as soon as possible. The commission will next meet at plenary level on 30 April at Israel's ministry of foreign affairs".
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Friday, April 24, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 24 APR 2009 (VIS) - The Press and Information Office of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) today issued a note concerning a news item carried by certain communications media according to which Fr. Adolfo Nicolas S.J., superior general of the Society, had approved the publication of certain documents from the archives of Fr. Robert Graham S.J.

  "Such authorisation has never been given", the note says. "The documents will be catalogued but not published. A possible future publication can only happen after the Holy See opens its archives regarding the pontificate of Pope Pius XII".

  The private collection of Fr. Graham, who died in 1997 and was considered the leading Vatican expert on the role played by the Pontiff during World War II, contains more than 25,000 documents concerning initiatives undertaken by the Pope and the Vatican during that period.
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VATICAN CITY, 24 APR 2009 (VIS) - This evening the Holy Father is scheduled to receive in audience Amr Moussa, secretary general of the League of Arab States, accompanied by his wife and an entourage.
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Thursday, April 23, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 23 APR 2009 (VIS) - At 7.30 a.m. today, Benedict XVI celebrated Mass in the Vatican's "Redemptoris Mater" Chapel with members of the organising committee of the Sixth World Meeting of Families, which was held in Mexico City, Mexico, last January. Among those present at the Eucharistic celebration were Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, and Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, archbishop primate of Mexico.

  Commenting on the reading from the Acts of the Apostles in which St. Peter affirms that "we must obey God rather than any human authority", the Pope noted in his homily: "The Word of God speaks to us of an obedience that is not mere subjection, nor simply an obeying of orders, rather it arises from an intimate communion with God and consists in an interior vision capable of discerning that which 'comes from on high' and 'is above everything'. It is the fruit of the Holy Spirit which God grants without measure".

  "Our contemporaries", he went on, "need to discover this obedience, which is not theoretical but essential. It means opting for specific forms of behaviour which are based on obedience to God's will and which make us fully free. Christian families, with their domestic, simple and joyful lives, in which day by day they share their joys, hopes and concerns, and live in the light of faith, are schools of obedience and environments of true freedom. They know this well who over many years have enjoyed marriage in accordance with God's plan, ... experiencing the goodness of the Lord Who helps and encourages us".
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VATICAN CITY, 23 APR 2009 (VIS) - This morning the Pope received thirty representatives of the Pontifical Biblical Commission who have just held their plenary assembly, dedicated to the theme: "Inspiration and truth in the Bible". The president of the commission is Cardinal William Joseph Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

  Benedict XVI began by underlining the importance of the chosen theme, which "concerns not only believers, but the Church herself, because the Church's life and mission necessarily rest upon the Word of God, which is the soul of theology and, at the same time, the inspiration of all of Christian life". Moreover, "the interpretation of Sacred Scripture is of vital importance for Christian faith and for the life of the Church".

  "From a correct approach to the concept of divine inspiration and truth in Sacred Scripture derive certain norms that directly concern its interpretation", said the Pope. "The Constitution 'Dei Verbum', having affirmed that God is the author of the Bible, reminds us that in Sacred Scripture God speaks to mankind in a human manner. For a correct interpretation of Scripture we must, then, carefully examine what the hagiographers really sought to say and what God was pleased to reveal with their words".

  The Pope then recalled how Vatican Council II had identified "three perennially-valid criteria for interpreting Sacred Scripture in accordance with the Spirit that inspired it. In the first place, great attention must be given to the content and unity of the whole of Scripture. Indeed, however different the books it contains may be, Sacred Scripture is one by virtue of the unity of God's plan, of which Jesus Christ is the centre and the heart.

  "In the second place", he added, "Scripture must be read in the context of the living Tradition of the entire Church. ... In her Tradition the Church carries the living memory of the Word of God, and it is the Holy Spirit Who provides her with the interpretation thereof in accordance with its spiritual meaning. The third criterion concerns the need to pay attention to the analogy of the faith; that is, to the cohesion of the individual truths of faith, both with one another and with the overall plan of Revelation and the fullness of the divine economy enclosed in that plan".

  The task of scholars, the Holy Father went on, "is to contribute, following the above-mentioned principles, to a more profound interpretation and exposition of the meaning of Sacred Scripture. The academic study of the sacred texts is not by itself sufficient. In order to respect the coherence of the Church's faith, Catholic exegetes must be careful to perceive the Word of God in these texts, within the faith of the Church".

  "The interpretation of Sacred Scriptures cannot be a merely an individual academic undertaking, but must always be compared with, inserted into, and authenticated by the living Tradition of the Church. This norm is essential in order to ensure a correct and reciprocal exchange between exegesis and Church Magisterium. Catholic exegetes do not nourish the individualistic illusion that biblical texts can be better understood outside the community of believers. The opposite is true, because these texts were not given to individual scholars 'to satisfy their curiosity or to provide them with material for study and research'. The texts inspired by God were entrusted to the community of believers, to the Church of Christ, to nourish the faith and to guide the life of charity".

  "Sacred Scripture is the Word of God in that its is written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Tradition, on the other hand, integrally transmits the Word of God as entrusted by Christ the Lord and by the Holy Spirit to the Apostles and their successors so that they, illuminated by the Spirit of truth, could faithfully conserve, explain and spread it through their preaching".

  "Only within the ecclesial context can Sacred Scripture be understood as the authentic Word of God which is guide, norm and rule for the life of the Church and the spiritual development of believers. This means rejecting all interpretations that are subjective or limited to mere analysis [and hence] incapable of accepting the global meaning which, over the course of the centuries, has guided the Tradition of the entire people of God".
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VATICAN CITY, 23 APR 2009 (VIS) - Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi C.S., Holy See permanent observer to the United Nations at Geneva, yesterday delivered a speech before the Conference called to review the 2001 Durban Declaration.

  Speaking English, Archbishop Tomasi affirmed that "the stranger and those who are different too often are rejected to the point that barbarous acts are committed against them, including genocide and ethnic cleansing. Old forms of exploitation give way to new ones: women and children are trafficked in a contemporary form of slavery, irregular immigrants are abused, persons perceived to be or who in fact are different become, in disproportionate numbers, the victims of social and political exclusion".

  "The Holy See", he went on, "is also alarmed by the still latent temptation of eugenics" which could lead to "the elimination of human beings that do not fulfil the characteristics predetermined by a given society".

  The permanent observer also indicated the need to review certain educational systems "so that every aspect of discrimination may be eliminated from teaching, textbooks, curricula and visual resources". Media, he said, "should be accessible and free of racist and ideological control as this leads to discrimination and even violence against persons of different cultural and ethnic background".

  The archbishop then went on to underline the importance of a "full implementation of religious freedom for individuals, and their collective exercise of this basic human right".

  "The challenges ahead of us demand more effective strategies in combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance", he concluded. "The first step for a practical solution lies in an integral education that includes ethical and spiritual values which will favour the empowerment of vulnerable groups like refugees, migrants and people on the move, racial and cultural minorities, people prisoners of extreme poverty or who are ill and disabled, and girls and women still stigmatised as inferior in some societies where an irrational fear of differences prevent full participation in social life".


VATICAN CITY, 23 APR 2009 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican Apostolic Palace, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Secretariat of State and the League of Arab States.

  According to a communique published at midday today, the Memorandum was signed for the Secretariat of State by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States, and for the League of Arab States by Amr Moussa, secretary general of that organisation. Among those present at the signing ceremony were Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. and Walid Al Gargani, head of the Arab League mission to the Holy See.

  "The agreement", reads the communique, "further consolidates the existing ties of collaboration between the Holy See and the League of Arab States, especially at a political and cultural level, in favour of peace, security and stability, both regionally and internationally. Furthermore, it proposes instruments for consultation between the two sides, with particular emphasis on initiatives of inter-religious dialogue".
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VATICAN CITY, 23 APR 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

 - Thirteen prelates from the Argentinean Episcopal Conference, on their "ad limina" visit:

    - Bishop Gustavo Arturo Help of Venado Tuerto.

    - Archbishop Guillermo Jose Garlatti of Bahia Blanca, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishop Pedro Maria Laxague.

    - Bishop Carlos Maria Franzini of Rafaela.

    - Bishop Jorge Ruben Lugones S.J. of Lomas de Zamora.

    - Bishop Aurelio Jose Kuhn O.F.M., prelate of Dean Funes.

    - Bishop Jorge Luis Lona of San Luis.

    - Bishop Baldomero Carlos Martini of San Justo.

    - Bishop Carlos Humberto Malfa of Chascomus.

    - Archbishop Jose Luis Mollaghan of Rosario.

    - Bishop Miguel Mykycej F.D.P. of Santa Maria del Patrocinio en Buenos Aires of the Ukrainians.

    - Bishop Antonio Juan Baseotto C.SS.R., military ordinary emeritus.

 - Cardinal Raffaele Farina S.D.B., librarian of Holy Roman Church, accompanied by an entourage for the presentation of the book "Die Vatikan-Bible", published by "Belser Verlag".
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Wednesday, April 22, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 22 APR 2009 (VIS) - In his general audience, held this morning in St. Peter's Square, the Pope proceeded with his series of catecheses on the great writers of the Eastern and Western Churches in the Middle Ages, focusing his attention today on Ambrose Autpert.

  Ambrose Autpert, the Holy Father explained, "is a little-known author of the eighth century. His works have, in fact, largely been attributed to other more famous figures, from St. Ambrose of Milan to St. Ildephonsus".

  Born to a high-ranking family in Provence, Ambrose Autpert entered the court of the Frankish King Pepin the Short where he was tutor to the future emperor Charlemagne. He subsequently travelled to Italy where he entered the Benedictine monastery of St. Vincent in the duchy of Benevento. Having been ordained a priest in 761, he was elected as abbot sixteen years later and died on 30 January 784.

  "He was monk and abbot during a time marked by great political tensions, which also had repercussions on the internal life of the monasteries", something also reflected in his writings, said the Holy Father. "He decried, for example, the contradiction between the splendid outward aspect of the monasteries and the tepidity ('tepiditas') of the monks themselves". In his ascetic tract "Conflictus vitiorum" (Conflict between the Vices and the Virtues) he seeks "to teach monks how to face the spiritual struggle in daily life".

  "Observing the lust for profit of the rich and powerful members of the society of his time, he felt moved to write a tract especially for them, 'De cupiditate' in which, with the Apostle Paul, he denounced greed as the root of all evil", said the Holy Father, highlighting how, "in the light of the current world economic crisis, this still has great relevance. From this root, from greed, this crisis was born".

  Autpert's teaching also has relevance "for mankind in this world. The rich have the duty to struggle against greed, against the desire to possess, to show off, against a false concept of freedom understood as being able to dispose of everything in accordance with one's own will. The rich must also discover the authentic path of truth, love and a just life".

  The Pope went on: "Ambrose Autpert's most important work is his ten-volume commentary on the Book of Revelation, ... the first in-depth commentary in the Latin world on the last book of Holy Scripture". In this work Autpert makes it clear that "the Church cannot be separated from Jesus Christ. He is the Mediator and the Church participates in such mediation because she is His Body".

  Autpert also "looks to Mary as a model of the Church", recognising that the Virgin has "a decisive role in the work of Redemption". Thus, "with good reason is he considered the first great Marian theologian of the West. Mercy, which he felt must free the soul from attachment to worldly and transitory pleasures, must be united to a profound study of the sacred sciences, especially meditation on Holy Scripture".

  "In Ambrose Autpert we see a person who lived in a time of great political manipulation of the Church, a time in which nationalism and tribalism disfigured her face. Yet amidst these difficulties, which we too also experience, he was able to discover the true face of the Church in Mary and the saints, and thus he understood what it means to be Catholic, to be Christian, to live from the Word of God, to enter into its profundity and so experience the mystery of the Mother of God. ... Let us listen to this message and ask the Lord to help us live the mystery of the Church, also in our own time", the Pope concluded.
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VATICAN CITY, 22 APR 2009 (VIS) - Made public today was a Message from Benedict XVI to Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, archbishop emeritus of Bologna, Italy, and the Pope's special envoy to celebrations marking the ninth centenary of the death of St. Anselm. The celebrations are being marked with a week of cultural and religious events in the Italian city of Aosta, birthplace of this doctor of the Church.

  The anniversary of the death of Anselm - who died in Canterbury, England, on 21 April 1109 - provides an opportunity "to call back to our minds one of the most outstanding figures in the tradition of the Church, and in the history of western European thought", writes the Pope.

  "Anselm's exemplary monastic life", he goes on, "the originality with which he re-examined the Christian mystery, his subtle theological and philosophical doctrine, his teachings on the vital importance of conscience and on freedom as responsible adherence to truth and goodness, his ardent activities as pastor of souls dedicated to promoting the freedom of the Church, all this never ceased to excite great interest in the past, an interest which the anniversary of his death is happily reawakening and promoting in various ways and various places".

  "His intense eagerness for knowledge and his inborn proclivity for clarity and logical rigour would push Anselm towards the 'scholae' of his time. Thus he arrived at the monastery of Le Bec in Normandy, where he was able to satisfy his interest in dialectics and where, above all, his vocation to the cloister was awoken". As a thinker, "the saint sought to achieve a vision of the logical links intrinsic to the mystery, to perceive the 'clarity of truth' and hence to understand the evidence of the 'necessary reasons' underlying the mystery".

  "The truth is", the Pope explains, "that his search for the intellect ('intellectus') located between faith ('fides') and vision ('species') had its source in the faith itself and was supported by trust in reason, through which the faith is to a certain extent illuminated". In the monastery of Le Bec, Anselm revealed "his educational genius, which was expressed in that ... style which distinguished the whole of his life, a style which united mercy and firmness".

  Pope Urban II appointed him archbishop of Canterbury, a mission in which he gave ample evidence of "his love for truth, his rectitude, his rigorous faithfulness of conscience, his 'episcopal honesty', and his tireless efforts to free the Church from worldly restraints and from enslavement to [political] calculations incompatible with her spiritual nature".

  St. Anselm, Pope Benedict concludes, "still retains great relevance and exercises a powerful attraction". His "light continues to shine throughout the Church, especially where people cultivate the truths of faith and a desire to examine them through reason".
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VATICAN CITY, 22 APR 2009 (VIS) - Given below is the calendar of the Holy Father's liturgical celebrations and activities, scheduled for the month of May.

 - Sunday 3. Fourth Sunday of Easter. At 9 a.m. in the Vatican Basilica, priestly ordination of deacons of the diocese of Rome.

 - Friday 8 to Friday 15. Apostolic trip to the Holy Land.

 - Sunday 24. Solemnity of Ascension of the Lord. Pastoral visit to Montecassino, Italy.

 - Sunday 31. Solemnity of Pentecost. Mass at 9.30 a.m. in the Vatican Basilica.
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VATICAN CITY, 22 APR 2009 (VIS) - The Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Patrimony of the Church, in accordance with Italian Ministry for Cultural Activities and Heritage, has added its voice to the appeal launched on 9 April following the earthquake in the Italian region of Abruzzo for help "in restoring one or more of the mobile works of art damaged during the tremor".

  The pontifical commission, explains a communique published today, invites all financial and cultural institutions, museums, public and private restoration workshops, and qualified restorers who have not already done so, to give written confirmation of their spontaneous willingness and readiness "to adopt" a mobile work of art, using the phrase "da chiodo a chiodo" to the following e-mail address: beniculturali@beniculturali.va. The request must be accompanied by a curriculum vitae.
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VATICAN CITY, 22 APR 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed:

 - Fr. Charles Morerod, dean of the faculty of philosophy at Rome's Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas and professor of dogmatic theology, as secretary general of the International Theological Commission, and consultor of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

 - Archbishop Justo Mullor Garcia, apostolic nuncio, as a member of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

 - As members of the Pontifical Council for the Family: Pablo Adrian Cavallero and Marcela Estela Benhaim Varela, Argentina.

 - As consultors of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments: Msgr. Juan Miguel Ferrer Grenesche, vicar general of the archdiocese of Toledo, Spain, and Msgr. Wilhelm Imkamp of the clergy of the diocese of Augsburg, Germany.
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Tuesday, April 21, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 21 APR 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father has sent a Message to Fr. Notker Wolf, abbot primate of the Benedictine Confederation, for the occasion of the ninth centenary of the death of St. Anselm, archbishop of Canterbury and doctor of the Church, whose feast day falls today.

  St. Anselm was born in Aosta, Italy, in 1033. He was abbot of St. Marie le Bec in Normandy, then archbishop of Canterbury from 1093 until his death in 1109.

  "Recalling with a devoted heart the figure of this saint", writes the Pope in his Latin-language Message, "we wish to exalt and illustrate the treasure of his wisdom so that the people of our time, especially Europeans, may draw close to him and receive his sound and abundant doctrine".
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VATICAN CITY, 21 APR 2009 (VIS) - At 10 a.m. on Sunday 26 April, third Sunday of Easter, the Pope will celebrate the Eucharist in St. Peter's Square and canonise the following Blesseds:

 - Arcangelo Tadini (1846-1912), Italian diocesan priest and founder of the Congregation of Worker Sisters of the Holy House of Nazareth.

 - Bernardo Tolomei (1272-1348), Italian founder of the Olivetan Benedictine Congregation.

 - Nuno de Santa Maria Alvares Pereira (1360-1431), Portuguese religious of the Order of Friars of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel.

 - Gertrude Comensoli (1847-1903), Italian virgin and foundress of the Institute of Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament.

 - Caterina Volpicelli (1839-1894), Italian virgin and foundress of the Institute of Handmaidens of the Sacred Heart.
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VATICAN CITY, 21 APR 2009 (VIS) - The Holy See Press Office released the following declaration at midday today:

  "The Holy See Press Office, through its director, Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J., anticipated yesterday evening some comments concerning the speech given yesterday by the Iranian president at the Review Conference of the Durban Declaration of 2001 against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Moreover, the Press Office wishes to recall the words of Pope Benedict XVI, who said last Sunday: 'I express heartfelt prayers that the delegates present at the Geneva Conference will work together, in a spirit of dialogue and mutual acceptance, so as to put an end to every form of racism, discrimination and intolerance, thereby marking a fundamental step towards the affirmation of the universal value of human dignity and human rights, within a framework of respect and justice for every person and every people'. In consequence, the Holy See deplores the use of this United Nations forum for the adoption of political positions, of an extremist and offensive nature, against any State. This does not contribute to dialogue and it provokes an unacceptable atmosphere of conflict. What is needed, instead, is to make good use of this important opportunity to engage in dialogue together, according to the line of action that the Holy See has always adopted, with a view to effectively combating the racism and intolerance that still today affect children, women, those of African descent, migrants, indigenous peoples, etc., in every part of the world. The Holy See, in renewing the Pope's appeal, reiterates that its own delegation at the conference is working in this spirit".
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VATICAN CITY, 21 APR 2009 (VIS) - A communique released by the Pontifical Council for the Laity announces that at the general audience tomorrow, Wednesday 22 April, the Pope will recall the 25th anniversary of the consignment of the World Youth Day cross by John Paul II to young people of the world.

  During the Holy Year of Redemption (1983-1984), John Paul II ordered a simple wooden cross be erected next to the altar in St. Peter's Basilica. At the close of the Holy Year, exactly 25 years ago, he consigned that same cross to the youth of the world, saying: "Take this into the world as a sign of the Lord Jesus' love for humankind, and tell everyone that only through Christ, Who died and rose again, comes salvation and redemption".

  The communique goes on: "The invitation was taken literally by the young people of the San Lorenzo International Youth Centre. ... And since then, for twenty-five years, the cross has never ceased to travel the world, visiting above all the countries in which World Youth Days have been held, but carrying a sign of hope also to other places such as the continent of Africa, where it was welcomed with great devotion by thousands of young people". Furthermore, "from 2003, in accordance with the wishes of Pope John Paul II, the cross has been accompanied on its pilgrimage by the Marian icon 'Salus Popoli Romani', as a sign of Mary's maternal protection".

  During tomorrow's general audience, Benedict XVI will once again consign the cross to young people of the San Lorenzo Centre, in the presence of Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the Vatican dicastery responsible for organising World Youth Days. At the end of the audience the cross and the icon of Mary will be borne in procession to the San Lorenzo Centre, pausing in St. Peter's Square so those present can venerate them. That afternoon the procession will pass through the historic centre of Rome as far as Piazza Navona. The celebration of the anniversary will conclude at 5 p.m. at the San Lorenzo Centre with an hour of adoration, followed by Mass.

  The cross, known as the "WYD Cross", will then leave for a brief pilgrimage through Poland before moving on to Spain where it will be taken through all the dioceses of the country in preparation for the 26th World Youth Day, due to be held in Madrid in August 2011.
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VATICAN CITY, 21 APR 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

 - Appointed Bishop Robert J. Cunningham of Ogdensburg, U.S.A., as bishop of Syracuse (area 14,915, population 1,199,000, Catholics 352,000, priests 310, permanent deacons 85, religious 536), U.S.A. He succeeds Bishop James M. Moynihan, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

 - Appointed Bishop Robert James Carlson of Saginaw, U.S.A., as metropolitan archbishop of St. Louis (area 15,451, population 2,177,000, Catholics 566,000, priests 737, permanent deacons 248, religious 2,176), U.S.A. The archbishop-elect was born in Minneapolis, U.S.A. in 1944 he was ordained a priest in 1970 and consecrated a bishop in 1983.

 - Appointed Bishop Theophile Kaboy Ruboneka of Kasongo, Democratic Republic of Congo, as coadjutor of the diocese of Goma (area 25,000, population 2,039,000, Catholics 795,210, priests 109, religious 293), Democratic Republic of Congo.
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Monday, April 20, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 18 APR 2009 (VIS) - Today in the courtyard of the Apostolic Palace in Castelgandolfo, Benedict XVI received 3,000 members of the Franciscan Family who recently participated in the "Chapter of the Mats" in Assisi, Italy, commemorating the birth of the Franciscan order on the eighth centenary of the approval of St. Francis' "Protoregula" by Pope Innocent III.

  The dozen friars who first followed St. Francis of Assisi, said the Pope, have over the centuries become "a multitude scattered throughout the world. ... And I, as Pastor of the universal Church, wish to thank [God] for the precious gift you yourselves represent for all Christian people. From the brook that sprang up at the base of Monte Subasio, a great river was born which has made a notable contribution to the universal spread of the Gospel".

  Francis, the Holy Father continued, "experienced the power of divine grace, as if he had died and been raised again. All his earlier wealth, all his reasons for feeling proud and secure, everything became a 'loss' from the moment he encountered the crucified and risen Christ. At that point abandoning everything became almost a necessity, in order to express the superabundance of the gift he had received".

  Pope Benedict then went on to describe the focus of his meeting with the Franciscans as "the Gospel as a rule for life", and he highlighted how St. Francis "viewed himself entirely in the light of the Gospel. This is his appeal. This is his perennial relevance", he said. "Thus the 'Poverello' became a living Gospel, capable of attracting men and women of all times to Christ, especially the young who prefer radical commitment to half measures. Bishop Guido of Assisi, and later Pope Innocent III, recognised evangelical authenticity in the projects of Francis and his companions, and encouraged their efforts, also with a view to the good of the Church".

  However, the Pope noted, "Francis could also simply not have come to the Pope. Many religious groups and movements were formed in that period and some of them stood against the Church as an institution, or at least they did not seek her approbation. A polemical attitude towards the hierarchy would certainly have brought Francis many followers. Yet his first thought was to place his own and his companions' development in the hands of the Bishop of Rome, Peter's Successor. This fact demonstrates his true ecclesial spirit. From the beginning he saw the little 'us' he had begun with his first friars as being part of the great 'us' of the one universal Church.

  "The Pope recognised and appreciated this", added Benedict XVI. "In fact, he too could have failed to approve Francis' plans. And indeed, we may well imagine that among Innocent III's collaborators some advised him to do just that, perhaps fearing that the little group of friars resembled other heretical and pauperist groups of the period. However, the Roman Pontiff, well-informed by the bishop of Assisi and by Cardinal Giovanni di San Paolo, was able to discern the initiative of the Holy Spirit and welcomed, blessed and encouraged the nascent community of 'Friars Minor'".

  "Eight centuries have passed and today you wish to renew your Founder's gesture", the Pope told his audience. "You are all children and heirs of those origins. ... Like Francis and Clare of Assisi, ... always begin again from Christ ... in order to see His face in our brothers and sisters who suffer, and to bring everyone His peace. Be witnesses of the beauty of God, whose praises Francis sang while contemplating the wonders of creation".

  "Go forth and continue 'to repair the house' of the Lord Jesus Christ: His Church", cried the Holy Father. "Yet there is another ruin, an even more serious ruin: that of people and of communities", he said.

  "Like St. Francis, always begin with yourselves", he concluded. "If you prove capable of renewing yourselves in the spirit of the Gospel, you will continue to help the pastors of the Church to make her face, as the bride of Christ, ever more beautiful. Now as at your beginnings, this is what the Pope expects from you".
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VATICAN CITY, 18 APR 2009 (VIS) - On 28 April the Holy Father will travel to the Italian region of Abruzzo to meet people affected by the recent earthquake there.

  In a communique made public today, Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. announces that the Pope will arrive at the camp set up near the village of Onna at 9.30 a.m. before going on to the city of L'Aquila where he will visit the student hall of residence and the basilica of Collemaggio. He will then move on to the barracks of the "Guardia di Finanza" where he will meet with representatives of the local people and of the rescue services. His return to the Vatican is scheduled for 12.30 p.m.

  During his journey by helicopter, the Pope will fly over some of the areas struck by the earthquake.
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VATICAN CITY, 19 APR 2009 (VIS) - At midday today, the second Sunday of Easter and Divine Mercy Sunday, Benedict XVI prayed the Regina Coeli with faithful gathered in the courtyard of the Apostolic Palace of Castelgandolfo.

  The Pope expressed his thanks for greetings he had received over the last few days, both for his birthday, 16 April, and for the fourth anniversary of his election as Pontiff, which falls today 19 April.

  "As I had the opportunity to reiterate recently", he remarked, "I never feel alone. And in this special week, which for the liturgy constitutes a single day, I have enjoyed an even greater experience of the communion that surrounds and supports me: a spiritual solidarity, nourished primarily by prayer, that express itself in a thousand different ways. From my collaborators in the Roman Curia to the most far-flung parishes, we Catholics form a family and must feel ourselves to be such, animated by the same sentiments as the first Christian community".

  The Holy Father went on to recall how the communion of early Christians "had the risen Christ as its centre and foundation. In fact, the Gospel recounts how at the monument of the Passion, when the divine Master was arrested and condemned to death, the disciples scattered. ... Having risen, Jesus gave His followers a new unity, stronger than before, invincible, because founded not upon human resources but upon divine mercy which made them all feel loved and forgiven by Him. It is, then, the merciful love of God that unites the Church, yesterday as today, and makes humankind a single family".

  "Animated by this profound conviction, my beloved predecessor John Paul II wished to dedicate this Sunday, the second of Easter, to Divine Mercy, and to show everyone the risen Christ as their source of faith and hope, accepting the spiritual message transmitted by the Lord to St. Faustina Kowalska, a message encapsulated in the invocation: 'Jesus, in You I trust'".
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VATICAN CITY, 19 APR 2009 (VIS) - Today at Castelgandolfo, after praying the Regina Coeli, the Pope expressed his best wishes to "our brothers and sisters of the Eastern Churches who, following the Julian Calendar, celebrate Easter today. For all of them, may the risen Lord renew the light of faith and bring abundance of joy and peace", he said.

  The Holy Father then went on to mention the forthcoming review of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance held in Durban, South Africa, in 2001. The review conference is due to begin tomorrow in Geneva, Switzerland.

  "It is an important initiative", he said, "because even today, despite the lessons of history, such deplorable phenomena still exist. The Durban Declaration recognises that 'all peoples and individuals form a human family rich in its diversity. They have contributed to the progress of civilisation and of the cultures which constitute the shared heritage of humankind. ... The promotion of tolerance, of pluralism and of respect can lead to a more inclusive society'. On the basis of these affirmations, what is required is firm and substantial action, at both the national and international level, to prevent and eliminate all forms of discrimination and intolerance. What is needed above all is a vast programme of education to exalt the dignity of individuals and protect their fundamental rights. For her part, the Church reiterates that only recognition for the dignity of man, created in the image and likeness of God, can constitute a sure foundation for such an undertaking. Indeed, it is this shared origin that gives humankind its shared destiny, which should arouse in everyone a strong sense of solidarity and responsibility. I express my sincere hopes that the delegates present at the Geneva conference may work together in a spirit of dialogue and acceptance to put an end to all forms of racism, discrimination and intolerance, thus taking a fundamental step towards affirming the universal value of the dignity of man and his rights, in a context of respect and justice for all individuals and peoples".

  This evening Benedict XVI returned to the Vatican at the end of his post-Easter rest period at Castelgandolfo.
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VATICAN CITY, 20 APR 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

 - Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar general of His Holiness for the diocese of Rome.

 - Five prelates from the Argentinean Episcopal Conference, on their "ad limina" visit:

    - Archbishop Hector Ruben Aguer of La Plata, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishop Antonio Marino.

    - Bishop Hugo Nicolas Barbaro of San Roque de Presidencia Roque Saenz Pena.

    - Archbishop Mario Antonio Cargnello of Salta.

    - Bishop Alcides Jorge Pedro Casaretto of San Isidro.

 - Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, apostolic nuncio to Guatemala.
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VATICAN CITY, 20 APR 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Fr. Luis Cabrera Herrera O.F.M., definer general of his order, as metropolitan archbishop of Cuenca (area 8,630, population 654,000, Catholics 622,000, priests 119, permanent deacons 11, religious 345), Ecuador. The archbishop-elect was born in Azogues, Ecuador in 1955 and ordained a priest in 1983. He succeeds Archbishop Vicente Rodrigo Cisneros Duran, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

  On Saturday 18 April it was made public that the Holy Father:

 - Accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Tete, Mozambique, presented by Bishop Paulo Mandlate S.S.S., upon having reached the age limit.

 - Appointed Fr. Robert Bezak C.S.S.R., administrator of the parish of Banska Bystrica - Radvan and superior of the Redemptorist Fathers in that parish, as archbishop of Trnava (area 4,833, population 635,692, Catholics 461,046, priests 221, religious 405), Slovakia. The archbishop-elect was born in Prievidza, Slovakia in 1960 and ordained a priest in 1984. He succeeds Archbishop Jan Sokol, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

 - Appointed Cardinal Jozef Glemp, archbishop emeritus of Warsaw, Poland, as his special envoy to celebrations marking the thousandth anniversary of the death of St. Bruno, due to take place in Lomza and Gizyko, Poland, from 19 to 21 June.

 - Appointed Fr. Beda Umberto Paluzzi O.S.B., apostolic administrator of the territorial abbey of Montevergine, Italy, as ordinary abbot of the same territorial abbey (area 1, population 14, Catholics 8, priests 8, religious 14).

 - Appointed Bishop Zygmunt Zimowski of Radom, Poland, as president of the Pontifical Council for Healthcare Ministry, at the same time elevating him to the dignity of archbishop. He succeeds Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, whose resignation from the same office the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit. The archbishop-elect was born in Kupienin, Poland in 1949, he was ordained a priest in 1973 and consecrated a bishop in 2002.
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VATICAN CITY, 20 APR 2009 (VIS) - The following prelates died in recent weeks:

 - Cardinal Umberto Betti O.F.M., former rector of the Pontifical Lateran University, on 1 April at the age of 87.

 - Bishop Ephraim Silas Obot of Idah, Nigeria, on 12 April at the age of 72.

 - Bishop Albert Sanschagrin O.M.I., emeritus of Saint-Hyacinthe, Canada, on 2 April at the age of 97.
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Friday, April 17, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 17 APR 2009 (VIS) This is the statement released today by the Secretary of State of the Holy See:

  "The Ambassador of the Kingdom of Belgium, acting under instructions from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, has informed the Secretary for Relations with States of the Resolution with which the House of Representatives in his country asked the Belgian Government to 'condemn the unacceptable statements of the Pope on the occasion of his journey to Africa and to protest officially to the Holy See'. The meeting took place on 15 April 2009.

  "The Secretariat of State notes with regret this action, unusual in the context of the diplomatic relations existing between the Holy See and the Kingdom of Belgium. It deplores the fact that a Parliamentary Assembly should have thought it appropriate to criticise the Holy Father on the basis of an isolated extract from an interview, separated from its context, and used by some groups with a clear intent to intimidate, as if to dissuade the Pope from expressing himself on certain themes of obvious moral relevance and from teaching the Church's doctrine.

  "As is well known, the Holy Father, in answer to a question concerning the efficacy and the realistic character of the Church's positions on combating Aids, stated that the solution is to be sought in two directions: on the one hand through bringing out the human dimension of sexuality; and on the other, through true friendship and willingness to help persons who are suffering. He also emphasised the commitment of the Church in both these areas. Without this moral and educational dimension, the battle against Aids will not be won.

  "While in some European countries an unprecedented media campaign was unleashed concerning the predominant, not to say exclusive, value of prophylactics in the fight against Aids, it is consoling to note that the moral considerations articulated by the Holy Father were understood and appreciated, in particular by the Africans and the true friends of Africa, as well as by some members of the scientific community. As one can read in a recent statement of the Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa (CERAO): 'We are grateful for the message of hope which [the Holy Father] came to entrust to us in Cameroon and Angola. He came to encourage us to live in unity, reconciled with one another in justice and peace, so that the Church in Africa can herself be a burning flame of hope for the life of the entire continent. And we thank him for having restated for all, in a nuanced, clear and insightful way, the common teaching of the Church concerning the pastoral care of sufferers from Aids'".
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VATICAN CITY, 17 APR 2009 (VIS) - On Monday 20 April, the series of discussions known as the "Dialogues in the Cathedral" will resume in the Roman basilica of St. John Lateran. On this occasion the reflections will focus on the question: "When does life end?"

  The event will be presented by Cardinal Agostino Vallini, prefect emeritus of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, His Holiness' vicar general for the diocese of Rome and archpriest of the basilica of St. John Lateran.

  Participating in Monday's meeting, which is due to begin at 7.30 p.m., will be Professor Maria Luisa Di Pietro, an expert on bioethics and co-president of the Science and Life Foundation, and Professor Francesco D'Agostino, a jurist and president of the Union of Italian Catholic Jurists. The meeting will be moderated by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life.
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Thursday, April 16, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 16 APR 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father will today celebrate his 82nd birthday in the Apostolic Palace of Castelgandolfo a few kilometres south of Rome where he is enjoying a brief period of rest following the ceremonies of Holy Week.

  Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. yesterday commented the circumstance by expressing the hope that the Holy Father "may long continue to carry out his ministry, ... helping the men and women of today to find God".

  "The focus of his concern", Fr. Lombardi continued his remarks, "is to bring mankind to God and God to mankind, through a great personal love for Christ. ... Despite the critical attitude it is necessary to adopt towards so many negative aspects of today's culture and mentality, in the final analysis the principle message [the Church] wishes to communicate is a message of love, a message for the good of mankind and of the human person; that is, their reconciliation with God and with all the other men and women who live on this earth".

  Joseph Aloysius Ratzinger, the name with which Benedict XVI was baptised, was born on 16 April 1927 in Marktl am Inn, Germany. From 1946 to 1951, the year in which he was ordained a priest and began to teach, he studied philosophy and theology at the University of Munich and at the higher school of philosophy and theology of Freising. In 1953 he obtained a doctorate in theology with a thesis entitled: "The People and House of God in St. Augustine's Doctrine of the Church." Four years later he qualified as a university teacher with a work on St. Bonaventure's theology of history.

  After a period of teaching dogma and fundamental theology at the higher school of philosophy and theology of Freising, he went on to teach in Bonn from 1959 to 1969, in Munster from 1963 to 1966, and in Tubinga from 1966 to 1969. In that year he was appointed professor of dogmatic theology and of the history of dogma at the University of Regensburg and vice president of the same university. In 1962, he made a noteworthy contribution to the work of Vatican Council II as theological consultant to Cardinal Joseph Frings, archbishop of Cologne.

  In 24 March 1977, Paul VI appointed him archbishop of Munich and Freising, making him a cardinal on 27 June 1977. In 1981 he was nominated by John Paul II as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Subsequently he also became president of the Pontifical Biblical Commission and of the Pontifical International Theological Commission, and dean of the College of Cardinals.

  He was elected as Pope on 19 April 2005, the second day of the conclave.
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VATICAN CITY, 16 APR 2009 (VIS) - The Pontifical Biblical Commission is due to celebrate its annual plenary meeting at the Vatican's "Domus Sanctae Marthae" from 20 to 24 April, under the presidency of Cardinal William Joseph Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Fr. Klemens Stock S.J., pro-secretary general of the commission, will oversee and direct the work of the assembly.

  This will be the first gathering of the Pontifical Biblical Commission since the partial renewal of its membership, in accordance with current norms. During the meeting attention will be given to a new study entitled "Inspiration and Truth of the Bible", the draft version of which has already been examined by the commission members.
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VATICAN CITY, 16 APR 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

 - Appointed Archbishop Domenico Umberto D'Ambrosio of Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy, as metropolitan archbishop of Lecce (area 750, population 266,968, Catholics 265,568, priests 207, permanent deacons 38, religious 440), Italy. He succeeds Archbishop Cosmo Francesco Ruppi, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

 - Appointed Archbishop Braulio Rodriguez Plaza of Valladolid, Spain, as archbishop of Toledo (area 19,333, population 655,000, Catholics 634,914, priests 467, religious 169), Spain.

 - Gave his assent to the canonical election by the Synod of Bishops of the Greek-Catholic Ukrainian Church of Fr. Yosyf Milan M.S.U., pastor of the cathedral of the Resurrection of the Lord, as auxiliary of the archieparchy of Kyiv (Catholics 240,000, priests 43, permanent deacons 9, religious 37), Ukraine. The bishop-elect was born in Dobryany, Ukraine in 1957 and ordained a priest in 1984.
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Wednesday, April 15, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 9 APR 2009 (VIS) - In the Vatican Basilica at 9.30 a.m. today, Holy Thursday, the Holy Father presided at the Chrism Mass, which is celebrated on this day in churches and cathedrals throughout the world. Cardinals, bishops and priests present in Rome concelebrated with the Pope. Following the homily, there was the renewal of priestly vows and the blessing of the oil used for catechumens, the sick and those being confirmed.

  In his homily the Pope commented upon the prayer of the Lord for His disciples and for "disciples of all time: ... Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, so that they also may be consecrated in truth".

  "In the Old Testament", the Holy Father explained, "the giving over of a person to God, his 'sanctification', is identified with priestly ordination. ... The priest is removed from worldly bonds and given over to God, and precisely in this way, starting with God, he must be available for others, for everyone".

  The word of God, he continued, is as the bath which purifies the disciples, "the creative power which transforms them into God". And he asked his listeners: "is that word truly the nourishment we live by, even more than bread and the things of this world? Do we really know that word? Do we love it? Are we deeply engaged with this word to the point that it really leaves a mark on our lives and shapes our thinking? Or is it rather the case that our thinking is constantly being shaped by all the things that others say and do?"

  Dwelling then on the phrase "sanctify them in the truth", the Pope explained how this means "make them one with me, Christ. Bind them to me. ... Our being priests is simply a new and radical way of being united to Christ. ... Being united to Christ calls for renunciation. It means not wanting to impose our own way and our own will, not desiring to become someone else, but abandoning ourselves to Him, however and wherever He wants to use us".

  "Celebrating the Eucharist means praying. We celebrate the Eucharist rightly if with our thoughts and our being we enter into the words which the Church sets before us", said Benedict XVI.

  "To be immersed in God's truth and thus in His holiness", he went on, "for us this also means to acknowledge that the truth makes demands, to stand up, in matters great and small, to the lie which in so many different ways is present in the world".

  "If we become one with Christ, we learn to recognise Him precisely in the suffering, in the poor, in the little ones of this world; then we become people who serve, who recognise our brothers and sisters in Him, and in them, we encounter Him".

  At 5.30 p.m. in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Benedict XVI presided at the Mass of the Lord's Supper. During the celebration, imitating the gesture of the Lord towards the Apostles, the Pope washed the feet of twelve priests. At the presentation of the gifts, he was given alms collected to support the Catholic community in Gaza.

  Commenting in his homily on the narrative of the institution of the Eucharist, the Pope insisted that the Eucharist is first and foremost a prayer, "and only in the course of the prayer is the priestly act of consecration accomplished, which becomes transformation, transubstantiation of our gifts of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ".

  In that narrative "the praying Church gazes upon the hands and eyes of the Lord", said Pope Benedict, recalling then how "at our priestly ordination, our hands were anointed, so that they could become hands of blessing. Let us pray to the Lord at this hour that our hands will serve more and more to bring salvation, to bring blessing, to make His goodness present!"

  When the Canon uses the words: "Looking up to heaven, to You His Almighty Father", the Pope explained, "the Lord teaches us to raise our eyes, and especially our hearts. He teaches us to fix our gaze upwards, detaching it from the things of this world, to direct ourselves in prayer towards God and thus to raise ourselves".

  "Breaking the bread is the act of the father of the family who looks after his children and gives them what they need for life. ... Thus, in the act itself, the intimate nature of the Eucharist is already indicated: it is 'agape', it is love made corporeal. In the word 'agape', the meanings of Eucharist and love intertwine".

  The wine chalice the Lord gives to His disciples is "the glorious chalice - the chalice of great joy, of the true feast, for which we all long - the chalice filled with the wine of His love".

  What happened at the Last Supper, "and what has been renewed ever since whenever we celebrate the Eucharist", is that "God, the living God, establishes a communion of peace with us, or to put it more strongly, He creates 'consanguinity' between Himself and us. ... The blood of Jesus is His love, in which divine life and human life have become one.

  "Let us pray to the Lord", the Pope added in conclusion, "that we may come to understand ever more deeply the greatness of this mystery. Let us pray that in our innermost selves its transforming power will increase, so that we truly acquire consanguinity with Jesus, so that we are filled with His peace and grow in communion with one another".
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VATICAN CITY, 10 APR 2009 (VIS) - In the Vatican Basilica at 5 p.m. today, Good Friday, the Pope presided at the celebration of the Lord's Passion. Following the reading of the Passion, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa O.F.M. Cap., preacher of the Pontifical Household, pronounced his traditional Good Friday homily. The ceremony continued with the universal prayer, veneration of the Cross and Holy Communion.

  At 9.15 p.m. the Holy Father went to the Colosseum where he led the "Via Crucis" or Way of the Cross. The meditations this year were prepared by Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil S.D.B. of Guwahati, India.

  Benedict XVI oversaw the ceremony from the Palatine Hill while Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar general for the diocese of Rome, carried the cross over the first and last stations. Over the other stations it was carried by a young disabled person assisted by a doctor from the Sovereign Military Order of Malta; a family from Rome; a young sick person accompanied by a stretcher-bearer and a nun; an Asian girl and two Indian nuns; two young people from Burkina Faso, and two Franciscan friars from the Custody of the Holy Land.

  At the end of the ceremony, the Holy Father addressed some remarks to those present.

  Quoting the words of the centurion as Jesus breathed His last, "truly this man was the Son of God", the Pope indicated that we are reminded of this profession of faith "every time we listen anew to the Passion according to St. Mark. This evening, like the centurion, we pause to gaze on the lifeless face of the Crucified One".

  "This man, seemingly one of us, Who while He was being killed forgave His executioners, is the Son of God Who, as the Apostle Paul reminds us, 'did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant ... He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross'.

  "The anguish of the Passion of the Lord Jesus cannot fail to move to pity even the most hardened hearts, as it constitutes the climax of the revelation of God's love for each of us", the Pope added.

  "Throughout the course of the millennia, a great multitude of men and women have been drawn deeply into this mystery and they have followed Him, making in their turn, like Him and with His help, a gift to others of their own lives. They are the saints and the martyrs, many of whom remain unknown to us. Even in our own time, how many people, in the silence of their daily lives, unite their sufferings with those of the Crucified One and become apostles of a true spiritual and social renewal!"

  Christ's disfigured face "is reflected in that of every person who is humiliated and offended, sick and suffering, alone, abandoned and despised. Pouring out His blood, He has rescued us from the slavery of death, He has broken the solitude of our tears, He has entered into our every grief and our every anxiety".

  In the certainty of the Resurrection "let us continue our journey", the Holy Father concluded. "Let us pray together with Mary, the Sorrowful Virgin, let us pray with all who are sorrowful, and especially with all the suffering people from the earthquake zone in L'Aquila: let us pray that in this dark night, the star of hope will appear also to them, the light of the Risen Lord".
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VATICAN CITY, 10 APR 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father has sent holy oils blessed in the Vatican Basilica during Holy Thursday's Chrism Mass to Archbishop Giuseppe Molinari of L'Aquila, Italy. Due to the damage caused by the earthquake of 6 April, the archbishop was unable to gather the priests of his archdiocese to celebrate the Mass himself.

  This morning, Good Friday, at the military academy of Copito in L'Aquila, Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. presided at a funeral service for the nearly 300 victims of the earthquake. Among those attending the Mass were Giorgio Napolitano, president of the Italian Republic, and Silvio Berlusconi, prime minister.

  At the beginning of the Eucharistic celebration, Msgr. Georg Ganswein, the Pope's private secretary who also participated in the ceremony as a sign of Benedict XVI's spiritual closeness to those affected by the earthquake, read out a Message from the Pontiff.

  "At this dramatic time in which such a huge tragedy has struck this land, I feel myself to be spiritually present among you to share your anguish, and to implore from God eternal rest for the victims, a speedy recovery for the injured and, for everyone, the courage to continue to hope without surrendering to despair".

  After reading the message, Msgr. Ganswein announced that the Holy Father has donated a chalice for the celebration of the Eucharist, as a sign of his profound participation in the pain and suffering of the earthquake victims, and that he has made a donation to meet peoples most urgent requirements and given Easter eggs for children on Easter Sunday.
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VATICAN CITY, 11 APR 2009 (VIS) - At 9 p.m. today in St. Peter's Basilica, the Pope presided at the solemn Easter vigil during which he administered the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation to a number of catechumens from various countries.

  The celebration began in the atrium of the basilica where the Holy Father blessed the new fire and lighted the Easter candle. This was followed by the procession towards the altar with the singing of the "Exultet." Then came the Liturgy of the Word and the Baptismal and Eucharistic Liturgies which the Holy Father concelebrated with cardinals.

  In his homily, the Holy Father explained how the Easter vigil shows the meaning of the Resurrection through three symbols: "light, water, and the new song - the Alleluia".

  "God's creation", he said, "begins with the command: 'Let there be light!' Where there is light, life is born, chaos can be transformed into cosmos. ... The resurrection of Jesus is an eruption of light. Death is conquered, the tomb is thrown open. The Risen One Himself is Light, the Light of the world. ... Beginning with the resurrection, God's light spreads throughout the world and throughout history".

  "At the Easter Vigil", the Pope went on, "the Church represents the mystery of the light of Christ in the sign of the Paschal candle, whose flame is both light and heat. ... The Paschal candle burns, and is thereby consumed: Cross and Resurrection are inseparable. From the Cross, from the Son's self-giving, light is born, true radiance comes into the world. ... In Him we recognise what is true and what is false, what is radiance and what is darkness. With Him, there wells up within us the light of truth, and we begin to understand.

  "On one occasion", he added, "when Christ looked upon the people who had come to listen to Him, seeking some guidance from Him, He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Amid the contradictory messages of that time, they did not know which way to turn. What great compassion He must feel in our own time too - on account of all the endless talk that people hide behind, while in reality they are totally confused. Where must we go? What are the values by which we can order our lives? The values by which we can educate our young, without giving them norms they may be unable to resist, or demanding of them things that perhaps should not be imposed upon them? He is the Light. The baptismal candle is the symbol of enlightenment that is given to us in Baptism. ... Let us pray to the Lord that the fragile flame of the candle He has lit in us, the delicate light of his word and His love amid the confusions of this age, will not be extinguished in us, but will become ever stronger and brighter, so that we, with Him, can be people of the day, bright stars lighting up our time".

  The Holy Father continued: "The second symbol of the Easter Vigil - the night of Baptism - is water" which appears in two forms. One is the sea, an "element of death. ... Christ descended into the sea, into the waters of death, as Israel did into the Red Sea. ... With Christ we, as it were, descend into the sea of death, so as to rise up again as new creatures.

  "The other way in which we encounter water is in the form of the fresh spring that gives life, or the great river from which life comes forth. ... St. John tells us that a soldier with a lance struck the side of Jesus, and from His open side - from His pierced heart - there came out blood and water. The early Church saw in this a symbol of Baptism and Eucharist flowing from the pierced heart of Jesus. In His death, Jesus Himself became the spring. ... From Him the great river pours forth, which in Baptism renews the world and makes it fruitful; the great river of living water, His Gospel which makes the earth fertile. ... In Baptism, the Lord makes us not only persons of light, but also sources from which living water bursts forth. ... Let us ask the Lord, Who has given us the grace of Baptism, for the gift always to be sources of pure, fresh water, bubbling up from the fountain of His truth and his love!

  "The third great symbol of the Easter Vigil is ... the singing of the new song - the Alleluia. ... What happens when a person is touched by the light of the Resurrection, and thus comes into contact with Life itself, with Truth and Love? He cannot merely speak about it. Speech is no longer adequate. He has to sing. The first reference to singing in the Bible comes after the crossing of the Red Sea. Israel has risen out of slavery. ... It is as it were reborn. It lives and it is free. ... At the Easter Vigil, year after year, we Christians intone this song after the third reading, we sing it as our song, because we too, through God's power, have been drawn forth from the water and liberated for true life".

  The image of crossing the Red Sea, Benedict XVI concluded, could be compared with "the situation of the disciples of Jesus Christ in every age, the situation of the Church in the history of this world. ... And must not the Church, so to speak, always walk on the sea, through the fire and the cold? Humanly speaking, she ought to sink. But while she is still walking in the midst of this Red Sea, she sings - she intones the song of praise of the just ... in which the Old and New Covenants blend into harmony. ... She is standing on history's waters of death and yet she has already risen. Singing, she grasps at the Lord's hand, which holds her above the waters. And she knows that she is thereby raised outside the force of gravity of death and evil - a force from which otherwise there would be no way of escape - raised and drawn into the new gravitational force of God, of truth and of love. At present she is still between the two gravitational fields. But once Christ is risen, the gravitational pull of love is stronger than that of hatred; the force of gravity of life is stronger than that of death. Perhaps this is actually the situation of the Church in every age? It always seems as if she ought to be sinking, and yet she is always already saved. ... The Lord's saving hand holds us up".
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