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Friday, January 16, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 16 JAN 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

 - Cardinal James Francis Stafford, Penitentiary Major, accompanied by Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, O.F.M. Conv., regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary.

 - Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, archbishop of Madrid, Spain.
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VATICAN CITY, 16 JAN 2009 (VIS) - On 14 January, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, addressed the Security Council in the course of an open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflicts.

  Speaking English, the archbishop noted that although the Security Council has been discussing this topic for more than a decade, "civilian security during conflict is becoming more and more critical, if not at times dramatic, as we have been witnessing in these past months, weeks and days in the Gaza Strip, Iraq, Darfur and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to name just a few".

  "Humanitarian access, special protection of children and women and disarmament continue to be three vital pillars for providing greater protection to civilians", he said. "It is sadly clear that political and military designs supersede basic respect for the dignity and rights of persons and communities, when methods or armaments are used without taking all reasonable measures to avoid civilians; when women and children are used as a shield for combatants; when humanitarian access is denied in the Gaza Strip; when people are displaced and villages destroyed in Darfur and when we see sexual violence devastating the lives of women and children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo".

  In this context he noted that "protection of civilians requires not only a renewed commitment to humanitarian law, but demands first and foremost good political will and action".

  "The broad spectrum of mechanisms the UN is putting in place to ensure the protection of civilians will be successful if, at the very least, it is able to foster a culture of responsible exercise of leadership among its members and holds them and every party in a conflict accountable to such a responsibility towards individuals and communities.

  "The increasing burden of war casualties and consequences imposed on civilians comes also from the massive production, continued innovation and sophistication of armaments", Archbishop Migliore added. "In this context", he concluded, the Holy See "fully supports and encourages the objectives of the recent General Assembly resolution 'Towards an Arms Trade Treaty', which lays down the first important step toward a legally binding instrument on arms trade and transfers".
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VATICAN CITY, 16 JAN 2009 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received prelates from the Episcopal Conference of Iran, who have just completed their "ad limina" visit. The conference is made up of ordinaries of the Armenian, Chaldean and Latin Churches who, the Pope reminded them, represent "the richness of unity in the diversity that exists in the bosom of the Catholic Church, to which you bear daily witness in the Islamic Republic of Iran".

  "Yesterday as today", he went on, "the Catholic Church never ceases to give encouragement to those concerned for the common good and peace among nations. For its part neither will Iran, a bridge between the Middle East and sub-continental Asia, cease to fulfil this vocation".

  The Pope reaffirmed that the bishops live "in a land with a very ancient Christian presence that has developed and survived through the many vicissitudes of Iranian history". After then thanking priests and religious for their efforts, he also highlighted the collaboration of the Catholic Church in rebuilding work in the region of Bam, recently struck by an earthquake".

  "Nor do I wish to forget the Catholic faithful", he said, "whose presence in the land of their ancestors brings to mind the biblical image of the yeast in the dough, which makes the bread rise and gives it flavour and texture". The Holy Father then went on to invite Iranian Catholics to "continue steadfast in the faith of their fathers and to remain rooted in their land, so as to collaborate in the development of the nation".

  "Although your various communities live in different situations", he told the prelates, "some of your problems are shared. It is necessary to develop harmonious relations with public institutions which, with the grace of God, will certainly become more profound and enable those communities better to carry out their ecclesial mission, while upholding mutual respect. ... I invite you to promote all initiatives that may favour better reciprocal knowledge. There are two avenues to be explored: cultural dialogue, which is the centuries-old richness of Iran, and charity".

  Referring to the lack of priests and religious, and the difficulties they face on their mission, such as that of travelling to distant communities, the Pope identified a way of overcoming these problems in "the institution of a bilateral commission with the authorities - which is already at the planning stage - so as to enable the improvement of relations and mutual understanding between the Republic of Iran and the Catholic Church".

  Turning his attention to migrants "who go beyond their own frontiers in search of more favourable possibilities for their professional lives and the education of their children", the Holy Father told the bishops that this question requires them, "as shepherds of your flock, to give particular help to the faithful who live in Iran, inviting them to remain in contact with relatives who have chosen a different destiny, that they may maintain their identity and their ancestral faith".

  "The road before you is long and requires perseverance and patience. The example of God, patient and merciful with His people, will serve you as a model and help you find the space necessary for dialogue".

  "Your Churches are heirs to a noble tradition and to a long Christian presence in Iran", Pope Benedict concluded. "They have, each it its own way, contributed to the life and development of the nation, and they wish to continue their efforts in the service of Iran, while conserving their own identity and freely living their faith".
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