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Monday, January 26, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 24 JAN 2009 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican the Holy Father received prelates from the Chaldean Church, who have just completed their "ad limina" visit. In the course of their audience with the Pope, the bishops gave him a cape used by Archbishop Faraj Rahho of Mosul and a stole belonging to Fr. Ragheed Aziz Ganni, both killed in Iraq over recent months.

  Through Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, the Pope sent greetings to all the Chaldean faithful, assuring them of his fervent prayers "at this very difficult time for your region, especially for Iraq". Recalling, among others, Archbishop Rahho and Fr. Ganni, he said: "I ask God that the men and women of peace in that beloved region may unite their efforts to put an end to violence and enable everyone to live in security and mutual harmony".

  "The Chaldean Church, the origins of which stretch back to the first centuries of the Christian era, has a long and noble tradition", said the Pope. This tradition "is an expression of her deep roots in the East, ... and of the vital contribution she makes to the Universal Church, especially with her theologians and masters of spirituality. Her history also shows how she has participated actively and fruitfully in the life of your nations. Today the Chaldean Church, which occupies an important place among the various institutions of your countries, must continue this mission at the service of human and spiritual development".

  Benedict XVI underlined the fact that the Chaldean Church, "by establishing cordial relations with members of other communities, is called to play a vital moderating role in the building of a new society where everyone can live in harmony and reciprocal respect. I know that coexistence between the Muslim and Christian communities has gone through various vicissitudes", he said. "The Christians who have always lived in Iraq are full citizens of the country with the same rights and duties as everyone else, without any religious distinction".

  The Holy Father invited Chaldean bishops to place the Word of God at the centre of their pastoral activities and projects, because "it is on faithfulness to that Word that unity among all the faithful is founded, in communion with pastors". In that patriarchal Church, he went on, "the synodal assembly is an indubitable gift which must be used as a means to help make ties of communion stronger and more effective, and to experience inter-episcopal charity", because the synod "is the place where co-responsibility is effectively achieved thanks to real collaboration among its members".

  "Furthermore the Chaldean Church, above all in Iraq where it is the largest [Christian community], has a particular responsibility to promote the communion and unity of the mystical body of Christ. Thus I invite you to continue meeting with pastors of other 'sui iuris' Churches, and with leaders of other Christian Churches, in order to further the cause of ecumenism".

  The Pope also dwelt on the critical situations bishops have to face, in the first place that of the "faithful who must confront the daily threat of violence", and he expressed his appreciation "for your courage and tenacity in the face of the ordeals and dangers to which you are subject, especially in Iraq". He then asked the bishops "to help your faithful overcome current difficulties and affirm your presence, appealing to those in charge for the recognition of your human and civil rights", and he invited them "to love the land of your ancestors to which you remain so deeply rooted".

  Turning his attention then to the Chaldean diaspora, "whose numbers never cease to grow especially in the wake of recent events", Benedict XVI emphasised the importance of "maintaining and intensifying bonds with your Patriarchate, so as not to feel excluded from its central unity" and "to uphold your cultural and religious identity".

  Finally the Pope praised "the Church's witness of charity towards all those in need, without distinction of origin or religion. This cannot but stimulate all people of good will to expressions of solidarity". In Iraq, "despite the terrible moments the country has gone through", such witness has given rise to works of charity "which do honour to God, the Church and the Iraqi people".

  "I invite you", he concluded, "to continue your mission with courage and hope. ... May the prayers and assistance of your brothers and sisters in the faith, and of so many people of good will, accompany you, that God's loving gaze may continue to illuminate the long-suffering Iraqi people".
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VATICAN CITY, 24 JAN 2009 (VIS) - The Congregation for Bishops has published a decree signed by its prefect, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, and dated 21 January, concerning the Pope's remission of the excommunication pronounced on four bishops consecrated by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988.

  The complete text of the decree is given below:

  "In a letter of 15 December 2008 addressed to Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, president of the Pontifical Commission 'Ecclesia Dei', Bishop Bernard Fellay once again requested - also in the name of the other three bishops consecrated on 30 June 1988 - the removal of the excommunication 'latae sententiae' formally pronounced by a decree of the prefect of this Congregation for Bishops on 1 July 1988. In that letter Bishop Fellay affirmed, among other things, that 'we continue firmly resolute in our desire to remain Catholics and to put all our strength at the service of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which is the Roman Catholic Church. We accept her teachings in a filial spirit. We firmly believe in the Primacy of Peter and in its prerogatives, and for this reason the current situation causes us much suffering'.

  "His Holiness Benedict XVI - in his paternal compassion for the spiritual discomfort expressed by the parties concerned, because of the excommunication, and trusting in the commitment they expressed in the aforesaid letter to spare no efforts in examining outstanding questions through the requisite discussions with the authorities of the Holy See in order to reach a prompt, full and satisfactory solution to the original problem - has decided to reconsider the canonical position of Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta, which arose following their episcopal consecration.

  "With this act it is hoped to consolidate reciprocal relations of trust, and to intensify and stabilise the relations of the Fraternity of St. Pius X with this Holy See. This gift of peace, coming at the end of the Christmas celebrations, also wishes to be a sign to promote the Universal Church's unity in charity, and to remove the scandal of division.

  "It is hoped that this step will be followed by the prompt attainment of full communion with the Church by the entire Fraternity of St. Pius X, thus demonstrating true faithfulness and true recognition of the Magisterium and authority of Pope with the sign of visible unity.

  "On the basis of the powers expressly granted to me by the Holy Father Benedict XVI, and by virtue of this decree, I remit the sentence of excommunication 'latae sententiae' declared by this congregation on 1 July 1988 against Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta. At the same time I declare that, as of today's date, the decree then issued is devoid of juridical effect".


VATICAN CITY, 24 JAN 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

 - Appointed Cardinal Paul Poupard, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Culture, as his special envoy to celebrations marking seven hundred years since the beginning of the Roman Pontiffs' exile in the French city of Avignon (1309-1377). The event will be held in Avignon on 9 and 10 March.

 - Appointed Msgr. Robert E. Guglielmone of the clergy of the diocese of Rockville Centre, U.S.A., rector of Saint Agnes Cathedral, as bishop of Charleston (area 80,401, population 4,254,000, Catholics 176,372, priests 141, permanent deacons 91, religious 192), U.S.A. The bishop-elect was born in New York in 1945 and ordained a priest in 1978.

 - Erected the new diocese of Hpa-an (area 30,164, population 1,164,000, Catholics 10,781, priests 18, religious 31) Myanmar, with territory taken from the archdiocese of Yangon, making it a suffragan of the same metropolitan church. He appointed Bishop Justin Saw Min Thide, auxiliary of Yangon, as first bishop of the new diocese.

 - Appointed Msgr. Luis Alberto Fernandez, vicar general of Lomas de Zamora, Argentina, as auxiliary of the archdiocese of Buenos Aires (area 203, population 2,815,000, Catholics 2,578,000, priests 878, permanent deacons 6, religious 2,352), Argentina. The bishop-elect was born in Lomas de Zamora in 1946 and ordained a priest in 1975.
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VATICAN CITY, 25 JAN 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father dedicated his remarks before praying the Angelus to today's Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, and to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity which also comes to a close today.

  Commenting on the reading from St. Mark in which Christ invites people to convert and believe in the Gospel, the Pope explained to the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square that in the case of St. Paul "some people prefer not to use the term conversion because, they say, he was already a believer, indeed a zealous Jew, and hence he did not move from non-faith to faith, from idols to God; nor did he have to abandon the Jewish faith in order to adhere to Christ. In fact, the experience of the Apostle can be a model for all true Christian conversion".

  "Saul converted because, thanks to the divine light, 'he believed in the Gospel'. His conversion, and ours, consists in this: in believing in Jesus, dead and risen, and in opening oneself to the illumination of His divine grace. At that moment, Saul understood that his salvation depended not upon good works undertaken in accordance with the Law, but on the fact that Jesus died also for him - the persecutor - and was, and is, risen. This truth which, thanks to Baptism, illuminates the life of each Christian, completely changes the way we live". Trusting in Christ's power of forgiveness means "escaping from the quicksand of pride and sin, of lies and sadness, of selfishness and false security, to know and experience the richness of His love".

  "The call to conversion - strengthened by St. Paul's own witness - rings out today at the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which is particularly important in the field of ecumenism. The Apostle shows us the right spiritual attitude in order to progress along the path of communion. 'Not that I have obtained this or have already reached the goal, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own'. Of course, we Christians have not yet attained the goal of full unity, but if we allow ourselves to be continually converted by the Lord Jesus we will surely reach it".
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VATICAN CITY, 25 JAN 2009 (VIS) - In remarks following the Angelus, Benedict XVI turned his attention to three subjects: the World Day of Leprosy which falls today, the beginning of the new lunar year celebrated in this period in many Asian countries, and his own recent Message for the World Day of Social Communications.

  "The Church", he said, "following Jesus' example, has always shown particular concern for" leprosy sufferers. "I am pleased that the United Nations, in a recent declaration from the High Commission for Human Rights, has encouraged States to help leprosy sufferers and their families. For my own part, I assure them of my prayers and give renewed encouragement to those working for their cure and social rehabilitation".

  He then expressed the hope that people of various East Asian nations may experience a joyful beginning to the new lunar year. "Joy is an expression of being in harmony with ourselves", he said, "and this can come only from being in harmony with God and with His creation. May joy always abide in the hearts of the citizens of those countries, which are so dear to me, and irradiate to the whole world".

  Finally, Pope Benedict mentioned the recent publication of his Message for the World Day of Social Communications, released on the eve of the Feast of St Francis de Sales, patron of journalists, and dedicated this year to "the new technologies which have made the internet a resource of utmost importance. ... Undoubtedly, wise use of communications technology enables communities to be formed in ways that promote the search for the true, the good and the beautiful, transcending geographical boundaries and ethnic divisions, To this end, the Vatican has already launched a new initiative which will make information and news from the Holy See more readily accessible on the world wide web".


VATICAN CITY, 25 JAN 2009 (VIS) - Yesterday afternoon in the Roman basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls, the Pope presided at the celebration of the second Vespers of the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, thus marking the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity which was dedicated to the theme "That they may become one in your hand" (Ezek. 37, 17). The ceremony, which this year coincided with the two thousandth anniversary of the birth of the Apostle, was attended by cardinals and bishops, as well as by representatives from other Churches and ecclesial communities.

  In his homily the Holy Father reflected upon the conversion of St. Paul, saying "it presents us with a model of, and shows us the way to, full unity" which, "indeed, calls for conversion: from division to communion, from a lacerated unity, to a restored and complete unity".

  The conversion of the Apostle of the Gentiles "was not a move from immorality to morality, from an erroneous faith to a correct faith, rather it was the fact of being conquered by the love of Christ, of renouncing one's own perfection. It was the humility of one who placed himself unreservedly at the service of Christ for his brothers and sisters. And it is only in this self-renunciation, in this conformity to Christ, that we also become united to one another, that we become 'one' in Christ. It is communion with the risen Christ that gives us unity".

  "Of course, the unity that God gives His Church, and for which we pray, is communion in a spiritual sense, in faith and in charity; yet we know that this unity in Christ is also a ferment for fraternity at a social level, in relations between nations and among the entire human family. ... The prayers we raise over these days, with reference to Ezekiel's prophecy, are also a form of intercession for the various situations of conflict that currently afflict humankind".

  Benedict XVI pointed out that "where human words are powerless because the tragic noise of violence and arms prevails, the prophetic power of the Word of God does not fail but repeats to us that peace is possible, and that we must be instruments of reconciliation and peace. Hence our prayer for unity and peace must always be backed up by courageous gestures of reconciliation among us Christians".

  "How important it is", said the Pope referring to the Holy Land, "that the faithful who live there, and the pilgrims who visit, provide testimony before the whole world that the diversity of rites and traditions is not be a hindrance to mutual respect and fraternal charity.

  "In the legitimate diversity of varying positions we must seek unity in the faith, in our fundamental 'yes' to Christ and to His one Church", he added. "And thus diversity will no longer be an obstacle that separates us, but a richness in the multiplicity of expressions of the shared faith".

  The Holy Father recalled that fifty years ago today Blessed John XXIII "first expressed his desire to call 'an ecumenical Council for the Universal Church'", which led to "a fundamental contribution to ecumenism, as recapitulated in the Decree 'Unitatis redintegratio'".

  He went on: "The attitude of interior conversion to Christ, of spiritual renewal, of increased charity towards other Christians, has given rise to a new situation in ecumenical relations. The fruits of theological dialogue, with its points of agreement and with a more exact understanding of remaining differences, encourage us to continue courageously in two directions: in accepting what has been achieved and in a renewed commitment to the future".

  "What remains before us is the horizon of complete unity", Benedict XVI concluded. "This is a demanding but stimulating task for Christians who wish to live in harmony with the prayer of the Lord: 'that they may all be one, that the world may believe'".
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VATICAN CITY, 26 JAN 2009 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, the Holy Father received the Letters of Credence of Stanislas Lefebvre de Laboulaye, the new French ambassador to the Holy See.

  Opening his address, the Pope expressed his happiness and gratitude at having been able to make a pilgrimage to the French shrine of Lourdes in September 2008, for the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of the Virgin to Bernadette Soubirous.

  Going on then to consider the debate currently taking place in France on the subject of bioethics, Benedict XVI spoke of his contentment "at the parliament having reached prudent conclusions, replete with humanity, on questions concerning the end of life. ... My hope is that this prudence, which recognises the intangible nature of all human life, is upheld when it comes to revising the laws on bioethics".

  In order to face the current economic crisis measures are needed that "favour social cohesion, protect those most exposed and, above all, restore to the majority of people the capacity and opportunity to become real players in an economy that creates true services and real wealth", he said.

  Turning his attention to a recent agreement between France and the Holy See concerning recognition of diplomas issued by pontifical universities and Catholic institutes, the Pope pointed out how this "will benefit many French and foreign students".

  Having then expressed his pleasure at the French government's desire to enter into dialogue with the Catholic Church, Benedict XVI also thanked French bishops for their concern "to lay the foundations for inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue, in which the various religious communities have an opportunity to demonstrate that they are agents for peace".

  In the face "of the many crises currently characterising the international scene ... the Holy See follows with concern situations of conflict and cases of violation of human rights; yet she does not doubt that the international community, in which France plays an important role, can make an ever more just and effective contribution in favour of peace and harmony among nations, and for the development of all countries".

  Finally the Holy Father considered Catholic communities in France "whose joy", he said, "will surely be great this year at the canonisation of Jeanne Jugan, foundress of the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Poor. ... This event will show once again how living faith is prodigious in good works, and how sanctity is a healing balm for the wounds of humankind".
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VATICAN CITY, 26 JAN 2009 (VIS) - The programme of Benedict XVI's forthcoming apostolic trip to Cameroon and Angola from 17 to 23 March was made public today.

  The Pope will depart from Rome's Fiumicino airport at 10 a.m. on Tuesday 17 March, arriving at 4 p.m. in Yaounde, Cameroon, where he will be greeted by the authorities.

  On Wednesday 18 March he will make a courtesy visit to the president of Cameroon at the Palais de l'Unite in Yaounde. Later he will meet with the country's bishops in the church of Christ-Roi in Tsinga, then celebrate Vespers with local clergy and with representatives of ecclesial movements and of other Christian confessions in the basilica of Marie Reine des Apotres.

  In the apostolic nunciature in Yaounde on Thursday 19 March, the Holy Father will meet with representatives of the Muslim community of Cameroon. At 10 a.m. he will celebrate Mass at Yaounde's Amadou Ahidjo stadium, to mark the publication of the "Instrumentum Laboris" of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. At 4.30 p.m. he will meet with sick people in the Cardinal Paul Emile Leger Centre. Later he will pronounce an address before members of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops.

  On Friday 20 March, the Pope will travel from Yaounde to the Angolan capital Luanda where he is due to arrive at 12.45 p.m. Following the welcome ceremony at the airport, he will visit the president of the Republic of Angola in the presidential palace in Luanda where, at 5.45 p.m. he will also deliver an address to political leaders and the diplomatic corps. At 7 p.m., he is due to meet with bishops of Angola and Santo Tome in the chapel of the apostolic nunciature in Luanda.

  At 10 a.m. on Saturday 21 March, Benedict XVI will celebrate Mass in Luanda's church of Sao Paulo. At 4.30 p.m. he will meet with young people in the stadium of Coquieros.

  On Sunday 22 March, he will celebrate Mass with bishops of IMBISA (Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa) at Cimangola. That afternoon in the parish of Santo Antonio in Luanda he will meet with Catholic movements for the promotion of women.

  At 10.30 a.m. on Monday 23 March he will leave Luanda for Rome, where his plane due to land at Ciampino airport at 6 p.m.
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VATICAN CITY, 26 JAN 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father sent a Message to Archbishop Jaume Pujol Balcells of Tarragona, Spain, for the conclusion yesterday, 25 January, of the archdiocese's Jubilee year marking the 1750th anniversary of the martyrdom of St. Fructuosus, bishop and patron of the city, and of his deacons St. Augurius and St. Eulogius.

  "The commemoration of these martyrs", writes the Pope in his Message dated 19 January, "brings to mind a community which, having received at the dawn of Christianity the evangelical message transmitted by the Apostles, fearlessly confessed, lived and celebrated its faith in an atmosphere of incomprehension and hostility. The witness of those who gave their blood for Christ continues to illuminate and strengthen the faith of the Church, because it unequivocally indicates that the significance and fullness of our lives, our reason for hope and our deepest joy, is our relationship with God, the source of life".

  "With this Jubilee Year, the ecclesial community of Tarragona ... has had a special opportunity to appreciate the treasure it conserves at its heart and that must shine out again today to give greater splendour and profundity to Christian life in people, families, and social relationships".


VATICAN CITY, 26 JAN 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences four prelates from the Conference of Catholic Bishops of the Russian Federation, on their "ad limina" visit:

 - Archbishop Paolo Pezzi F.S.C.B. of the archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow.

 - Bishop Clemens Pickel of San Clement at Saratov.

 - Bishop Cyryl Klimowicz of St. Joseph in Irkutsk, apostolic administrator "ad nutum Sanctae Sedis" of the apostolic prefecture of Yuzhno Sakhalinsk.

 - Bishop Joseph Werth S.J. of the Transfiguration at Novosibirsk, ordinary for faithful of the Byzantine rite resident in Russia.

  On Saturday 24 January he received in separate audiences:

 - Archbishop Philip Edward Wilson of Adelaide, Australia, president of the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference.

 - Bishop Petros Hanna Issa Al-Harboli of Zaku of the Chaldeans, Iraq, on his "ad limina" visit.

 - Bishop Michel Kassarji of Beirut of the Chaldeans, Lebanon, on his "ad limina" visit.

 - Bishop Youssef Ibrahim Sarraf of Le Caire of the Chaldeans, Egypt, on his "ad limina" visit.

 - Bishop Antoine Audo S.J. of Alep of the Chaldeans, Syria, on his "ad limina" visit.

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