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Tuesday, January 13, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 13 JAN 2009 (VIS) - In a homily pronounced at the end a funeral Mass for Cardinal Pio Laghi, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Catholic Education, the Holy Father recalled the career of the late prelate, who died on Sunday 11 January at the age of 86, following a long illness. The Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals.

  Benedict XVI mentioned the cardinal's spiritual testament, dated 14 November 2008, in which the late prelate writes: "'Once again I offer my life to God for the Church, for the Holy Father and for the sanctification of my confreres in the priesthood'. ... We can say", the Pope commented, "that the entire priestly mission of Cardinal Pio Laghi was passed in the direct service of the Holy See.

  "Always", added the Pope, "he drew inspiration from the words Peter addressed to Jesus on the occasion of the miraculous catch of fish: 'Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so I will let down the nets'. ... He chose these words as the motto of his episcopal ministry ... because when he was consecrated a bishop on 22 June 1969, that Sunday's liturgy included the evangelical episode of the miraculous catch of fish".

  The Holy Father then reviewed the various stages of the late cardinal's life, highlighting how he was born into a family "where he received a sound human and Christian formation, and which he described in his spiritual testament as 'Christian, Catholic, hardworking and honest'". The Pope also dwelt on the cardinal's studies in Faenza, Italy, and at the Major Pontifical Seminary of Rome, and his ordination as priest on 20 April 1946.

  Having graduated in theology and canon law from Rome's Lateran University, "he began his long itinerary of diplomatic and pastoral work" in the apostolic nunciatures to Nicaragua, U.S.A. and India, after which he returned to the Secretariat of State for five years. In 1969, Paul VI appointed him as delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine, pro-nuncio to Cyprus and apostolic visitor to Greece; and in 1974 he was appointed as apostolic nuncio to Argentina. There he remained until 1980 when he took the office of apostolic delegate to the United States. "It was during those years", the Pope recalled, "that official relations were established between the Holy See and the U.S. government".

  John Paul II, aware of Cardinal Laghi's "long experience and knowledge of the Church", appointed him as prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, making him a cardinal in 1991. In 1993, he also appointed him as patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

  "We must remember", the Pope went on, "the special missions" entrusted to Cardinal Laghi, such as consigning a pontifical Message to Israeli and Palestinian authorities in May 2001 "to encourage them to implement an immediate cease-fire and resume dialogue". Also that of March 2003 when, as special envoy to Washington, he delivered a pontifical Message to U.S. President George W. Bush "explaining the Holy See's position and initiatives to contribute to disarmament and peace in the Middle East. Delicate missions", said Pope Benedict, "which he, as always, sought to fulfil with faithful dedication to Christ and His Church".

  Finally, the Holy Father mentioned the cardinal's "zeal in the promotion of vocations and formation for the priesthood", and he concluded: "At the moment in which we bid him farewell, our hearts are moved by the firm hope which ... 'is full of immortality', the same hope that illuminated the priestly and apostolic life of Cardinal Pio Laghi".
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VATICAN CITY, 13 JAN 2009 (VIS) - Made public yesterday afternoon was an address by Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi C.S., Holy See permanent observer to the United Nations at Geneva, delivered during the ninth special session of the Human Rights Council, on "the grave violations of human rights in the occupied Palestinian Territory, including the recent aggression of the occupied Gaza Strip".

  The English-language address, pronounced on 9 January and touching on such subjects as solidarity with victims of extreme violence, appeals for a cease-fire and a return to negotiation, intended to express the Holy See's "solidarity with both the people in Gaza, who are dying and suffering because of the on-going military assault by the Israeli Defence Forces, and the people in Sderot, Ashkelon and other Israeli cities who are living under the constant terror of rocket attacks launched by Palestinian militants from within the Gaza Strip, which have caused casualties and wounded a number of people".

  The archbishop mentioned the initiative taken by patriarchs and heads of Churches of Jerusalem who declared Sunday 4 January "as a day of prayer with the intention to put an end to the conflict in Gaza and to restore peace and justice in the Holy Land". He also recalled the Pope's comments during the Angelus on that day and his meeting with members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See on 8 January during which he reiterated "that military options are no solution and that violence, wherever it comes from and whatever form it takes, must be firmly condemned".

  "It is evident", the permanent observer went on, "that the warring parties are not able to exit from this vicious circle of violence without the help of the international community that should therefore fulfil its responsibilities, intervene actively to stop the bloodshed, provide access for emergency humanitarian assistance, and end all forms of confrontation.

  "At the same time", he added, "the international community should remained engaged in removing the root causes of the conflict that can only be resolved within the framework of a lasting solution of the greater Israeli-Palestinian conflict, based on the international resolutions adopted during the years".
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