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Thursday, January 22, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 22 JAN 2009 (VIS) - At midday yesterday, during a brief ceremony held in a room of the Paul VI Hall, the Pope was made an honorary citizen of the Austrian town of Mariazell, home to one of the most important Marian shrines in Europe.

  Among those present at the ceremony, which was held following the Pope's weekly general audience, were Helmut Pertl, town mayor; Bishop Egon Kapellari of Graz-Seckau, and Fr. Karl Schauer O.S.B., rector of the Shrine of Mariazell.

  In his remarks, the Holy Father expressed his joy "at being a citizen of Mariazell and at being able to live so close to the Mother of God". The Pope visited the town in September 2007.

  "Mariazell is much more than just a 'place'", he said. It also represents "the living history of a pilgrimage of faith and prayer down the centuries", in which "a real answer is also present: ... that God exists and that, through His mother, He wishes to remain close to us. ... For this reason I am happy to be at home in my heart and now, so to say, also by law, in Mariazell".

  After highlighting how Our Lady of Mariazell "has such impressive names as: 'Magna Mater Austriae', 'Domina Magna Hungarorum', 'Magna Mater gentium slavorum'", Benedict XVI explained that the Virgin "is above all 'Magna Mater' yet", he said, "her greatness is evident precisely in the fact that she addresses herself to the smallest, that she is present for them, that we can turn to her at any moment ... just with our hearts".


VATICAN CITY, 22 JAN 2009 (VIS) - The Message for the World Day of Leprosy was published today. It bears the signature of Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, president of the Pontifical Council for Healthcare Ministry. The Day itself is due to be held on Sunday 25 January.

  The document describes leprosy as "a sickness often ignored by the communications media, but which still today still strikes more than 250,000 people every year, most of whom live in absolute poverty". According to World Health Organisation statistics, 254,525 new cases of leprosy were diagnosed in 2007, of which 212,802 are receiving treatment.

  "In the year of the twentieth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child", writes the cardinal in his message, "I appeal to the heads of governmental organisations to ensure, as they implement their healthcare programmes and plans, that they give particular attention to children suffering from leprosy".

  "Unfortunately many unfounded fears still persist, nourished by ignorance of Hansen's disease. These fears generate attitudes of exclusion and often brand leprosy sufferers, making them particularly vulnerable. This fifty-sixth World Day is, then, an occasion to provide ... more broad-ranging and capillary information on leprosy, on the devastating effects it can have on bodies if left untreated, on families and on society, and to arouse a sense of individual and collective responsibility".

  The cardinal lays emphasis on the special concern the Church has always shown for leprosy sufferers over the centuries, and through various religious congregations. In this context he particularly mentions Blessed Damien, "a symbol of all the people consecrated to Christ who still today dedicate their lives to this noble cause".

  Finally, in the name of his dicastery, he expresses his thanks for the acts of solidarity of the many volunteers involved in the struggle against Hansen's disease. To non-government associations and organisations, in particular the "Sasakawa Foundation", he expresses his recognition for "many decades of financial support for the research activities of the institutions of the international community".
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VATICAN CITY, 22 JAN 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

 - Horst Seehofer, minister-president of Bavaria, Germany, accompanied by his wife and an entourage.

 - Bishop Rabban Al-Qas of Amadiyah of the Chaldeans, Iraq, apostolic administrator of Arbil of the Chaldeans, Iraq, on his "ad limina" visit.

 - Bishop Ibrahim Namo Ibrahim of Saint Thomas the Apostle of Detroit of the Chaldeans, U.S.A., on his "ad limina" visit.

 - Bishop Djibrail Kassab of Saint Thomas the Apostle of Sydney of the Chaldeans, Australia, on his "ad limina" visit.

 - Bishop Sahrad Yawsip Jammo of Saint Peter the Apostle of San Diego of the Chaldeans, U.S.A., on his "ad limina" visit.
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VATICAN CITY, 22 JAN 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

 - Appointed Bishop Francesco Beschi, auxiliary of Brescia, Italy, as bishop of Bergamo (area 2,442, population 918,016, Catholics 882,000, priests 1,000, religious 2,672), Italy. He succeeds Bishop Roberto Amadei, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

 - Appointed Msgr. Salvatore Muratore of the clergy of the archdiocese of Agrigento, Italy, vicar general, as bishop of Nicosia (area 1,475, population 80,538, Catholics 80,012, priests 68, permanent deacons 3, religious 56), Italy. The bishop-elect was born in Campobello di Licata, Italy in 1946 and ordained a priest in 1970.

 - Appointed Msgr. Antonio Stagliano of the clergy of the archdiocese of Crotone-Santa Severina, director of the "Istituto Teologico Calabro", as bishop of Noto (area 1,355, population 214,400, Catholics 212,500, priests 123, permanent deacons 15, religious 243), Italy. The bishop-elect was born in Isola Campo Rizzuto, Italy in 1959 and ordained a priest in 1984.

 - Accepted the resignation from the office of auxiliary of the diocese of Bergamo, Italy, presented by Lino Bortolo Belotti, in accordance with canon 411 and canon 401 para. 1 of the Code of Canon Law.
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