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Monday, March 9, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 9 MAR 2009 (VIS) - Having left Rome Town Hall, the Pope travelled by car to the nearby convent of the Oblate Sisters of Santa Francesca Romana. There, having paused in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament and venerated the saint's body, he pronounced a brief address.

  "I am", he said, "particularly grateful to the Lord to be able to pay homage to this 'most Roman of saints'", who was canonised on 29 May 1608 and whose feast day falls today.

  "Contemplation and action, prayer and the service of charity, the monastic ideal and social commitment: all these things have found here a 'workshop' that has brought abundant fruit, in close union with the Olivetan Brothers of Santa Maria Nova".

  After highlighting how the convent is "located at the heart of the city", Benedict XVI told his audience: "Your community, along with all other communities of contemplative life, is called to be a kind of spiritual 'lung' of society, so that all the activities and all the activism of a city may not lack spiritual 'breath': the reference to God and His plan of salvation".

  "Also in our own time, Rome has need of women" like Santa Francesca Romana, he said. Women "entirely dedicated to God and entirely dedicated to others; women capable of prayer and of generous and discreet service; women who know how to obey pastors but also to support and stimulate them with suggestions that arise from their intimacy with Christ and from direct experience in the field of charity, assistance to the sick, the marginalised and young people in difficulties. This is the gift of maternity which is an inseparable part of religious oblation, following the model of Mary Most Holy".

  Having concluded his address, the Pope greeted the fifteen nuns of the community before leaving the convent and returning to the Vatican.
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VATICAN CITY, 9 MAR 2009 (VIS) - Having met with civic leaders of the city of Rome, the Pope appeared at the loggia of Palazzo Senatorio to greet people gathered in the square below, including members of Roman volunteer organisations, immigrants and guests of local authority help-centres.

  "Having lived in Rome for so many years", said the Holy Father, "I feel I have become a little Roman myself; yet it is as your bishop that I feel most Roman".

  Referring then to the city's beauty, Benedict XVI expressed the view that "Rome is beautiful for its ancient remains, for its cultural institutions, for the monuments that tell its history, for the churches and their many artistic masterpieces. But Rome is beautiful above all for the generosity and sanctity of so many of its sons and daughters, who have left eloquent signs of their passion for the beauty of God, the beauty of love that never fades or grows old".

  The Pope went on: "The Apostles Peter and Paul, and the ranks of martyrs of early Christendom, were witnesses to this beauty, as were the many men and women - Roman by birth or adoption - who over the centuries gave their lives in the service of young people, of the sick, the poor and all those in need". In this context he mentioned, among others, Deacon Lawrence, Santa Francesca Romana whose feast day falls today, and St. Philip Neri. "Their example", he said, "shows that when people encounter Christ, they do not close in on themselves but open up to the needs of others and, in all areas of society, place the common good before their own interests.

  "We also have need of such men and women in our own time", he added, "because no small number of families, no small number of young people and adults, are living in precarious, even dramatic, situations; situations that can only be overcome by working together, as is clear of from the history of Rome, which has seen much more difficult moments than these. ... Apart from the necessary solidarity, and from due commitment on everyone's part, we can always rely upon the certain help of God, Who never abandons His children".

  Having completed his address, the Holy Father bid farewell to the mayor then travelled by car to the nearby Via di Teatro Marcello, location of the convent of the Oblate Sisters of Santa Francesca Romana.
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VATICAN CITY, 9 MAR 2009 (VIS) - This morning, Benedict XVI travelled to Rome Town Hall, located on the city's Capitoline Hill, where he met with Mayor Gianni Alemanno and various civic leaders.

  The Holy Father was greeted in the square in front of the Town Hall by Gianni Alemanno and his wife Isabella Rauti. He then entered the building and went up to the mayor's office where he emerged onto the balcony which enjoys a panoramic view over the Roman Forum. The ceremony subsequently continued in the Hall of Tapestries where Benedict XVI greeted municipal counsellors and public functionaries, and in the Hall of Flags where he signed the "Libro d'Oro".

  At 11.30 a.m. before a gathering of the municipal council in the Julius Caesar Hall, the mayor made a speech in which he announced the construction of a help-centre dedicated to Benedict XVI. The centre, for disadvantaged young people, is to be built on a plot of land belonging to Rome city authorities. The mayor having completed his remarks, the Holy Father rose to deliver his address, at the beginning of which he recalled the three visits of his predecessors to the Capitoline Hill: Blessed Pius IX in 1870, Paul VI in 1966 and John Paul II on 15 January 1998.

  "These visits are a testament to the affection and respect Peter's Successors, pastors of the Catholic community of Rome and of the universal Church, have always nourished for Rome, the centre of Latin and Christian civilisation and 'hospitable mother of peoples'", he said.

  The Holy Father gave renewed assurances of "the paternal concern that the bishop of the Catholic community" feels for all the inhabitants of the city, and for people who come to Rome for religious or cultural reasons, or for tourism or work. Recalling, then, how the mayor had expressed the hope that "Rome may continue to be a beacon of liberty, promoting ethical civilisation and sustainable development while respecting the dignity of all human beings", the Pope reaffirmed that "the Catholic Church, as always, will not fail to provide her active support for all cultural and social initiatives that seek to promote the authentic good of all people and of the city as a whole".

  As evidence of such collaboration, Benedict XVI mentioned the gift of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church he had given to the mayor and to the civic leaders of the city.

  "Rome has always been a welcoming city", said the Holy Father noting that, "like Italy and the whole of mankind, it currently finds itself facing unprecedented cultural, social and economic challenges caused by the profound transformations and numerous changes of the last few decades. Rome has come to be inhabited by people from other nations who belong to different cultures and religious traditions; as a consequence it now has the aspect of a multi-ethnic and multi-religious metropolis in which integration is at times demanding and complex".

  Benedict XVI emphasised the contribution made by the Catholic community in "protecting the fundamental rights of individuals, while respecting the law", and he expressed the conviction that, drawing energy from a history moulded by "ancient law and Christian faith, Rome will find the strength to ensure that everyone abides by the laws of civil coexistence, and to reject all forms of intolerance and discrimination".

  "Recent episodes of violence, which we all deplore, are an expression of a deeper malaise. They are, I would say, a sign of the real spiritual poverty afflicting the heart of modern man. Eliminating God and His law, as a way of achieving man's happiness, has not in fact achieved its goal. On the contrary it deprives man of the spiritual certainties and the hope necessary to face the difficulties and challenges of everyday life".

  "Rome must rediscover its most profound soul, its civil and Christian roots, if it wishes to promote a new humanism which focuses upon man, recognised in the fullness of his truth. Man, detached from God, loses his transcendent vocation. Christianity carries a shining message of the truth about man; and the Church, which is the depository of that message, is aware of her responsibility towards contemporary culture".

  Finally, the Pope thanked the mayor for the dedication of the help-centre for disadvantaged youth. It will, he said, "bear the name of an old Pontiff who looks trustingly to young people and prays for them every day. ... May this new enterprise be a stimulus for Rome to create a social fabric of acceptance and respect, where the meeting between culture and faith, between social life and religious witness, may co-operate to create a community that is truly free and animated by feelings of peace".
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VATICAN CITY, 9 MAR 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Bishop Guire Poulard of Jacmel, Haiti, as bishop of Les Cayes (area 4,649, population 1,500,000, Catholics 975,000, priests 94, permanent deacons 2, religious 241), Haiti. He succeeds Bishop Jean Alix Verrier, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

  On Saturday 7 March it was made public that he appointed:

 - Bishop Juan Antonio Reig Pla of Cartagena, Spain, as bishop of Alcala de Henares (area 2,586, population 709,298, Catholics 653,141, priests 186, permanent deacons 4, religious 422), Spain.

 - As members of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches: His Beatitude Fouad Twal, patriarch of Jerusalem of the Latins; Metropolitan Archbishop Jan Babjak S.J. of Presov for Catholics of Byzantine rite, Slovak Republic; Metropolitan Archbishop Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel C.M. of Addis Abeba, Ethiopia, and Metropolitan Archbishop Basil Myron Schott O.F.M. of Pittsburgh of the Byzantines, U.S.A.

 - Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins C.M.F., prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, as his special 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.
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VATICAN CITY, 8 MAR 2009 (VIS) - At the end of today's Angelus, the Holy Father asked the faithful to pray for "the two apostolic trips I am, God willing, about to make".

  He explained: "Next week, from 17 to 23 March, I will travel to Africa, first to Cameroon then to Angola, in order to express my own and the Church's real closeness to Christians and people of that continent, which is particularly dear to me. Then, from 8 to 15 May, I will make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to ask the Lord, while visiting the places sanctified by His earthly life, for the precious gift of unity and peace, for the Middle East and for all humanity. From this moment I hope all of you will give me your spiritual support, that God may accompany me and fill with His grace all the people I meet on my way".

  In this context, the Holy See Press Office today announced that, "accepting the invitation of the king of Jordan, of the president of Israel, of the president of the Palestinian National Authority and of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries, His Holiness Benedict XVI will make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land from 8 to 15 May, visiting Amman, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth".
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VATICAN CITY, 8 MAR 2009 (VIS) - Having prayed the Angelus with thousands of people gathered in St. Peter's Square, the Pope dedicated some remarks to International Women's Day which falls today, 8 March. "It invites us", he said, "to reflect upon the condition of women, and to renew our commitment to ensure that always and everywhere women can live their lives and make full use of their capacities, obtaining complete respect for their dignity.

  "Such was the view expressed", he added, "by Vatican Council II and the pontifical Magisterium, in particular by Servant of God John Paul II's Apostolic Letter 'Mulieris dignitatem' (15 August 1988). Yet, of more worth even than documents is the witness of saints; and our own times have seen that of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, a humble daughter of Albania who, by the grace of God, became an example for the whole world in the exercise of charity and service to humankind.

  "How many other women work unseen every day for the good of humanity and of the Kingdom of God!" he exclaimed.

  Benedict XVI concluded by giving assurances of his prayers "for all women, in the hope that their dignity may always be respected and their positive potential turned to good use".
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VATICAN CITY, 8 MAR 2009 (VIS) - Today, at the Angelus of the second Sunday of Lent, Benedict XVI dedicated his remarks to the recently-concluded spiritual exercises of the Roman Curia. "It was", he said, "a week of silence and prayer. Heart and mind were able to dedicate themselves entirely to God, to listening to His word, to meditating upon the mysteries of Christ".

  Addressing the thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square, the Pope explained that the experience could, in some way, be compared to that of the Apostles Peter, James and John, when Jesus took them with Him to the mountain "where, as He prayed, He was 'transfigured'; His face and person appeared to shine in splendour", as today's Gospel reading recounts.

  "Jesus wanted His disciples, and in particular those who would have the responsibility of guiding the nascent Church, to have a direct experience of His divine glory, in order to be able to then face the 'scandal' of the cross". The Transfiguration was "mainly an experience of prayer. In fact, prayer reaches its pinnacle and becomes a source of inner light when the spirit of man joins the spirit of God and their wills fuse almost to form a single whole.

  "When Jesus went up the mountain", Pope Benedict added, "he saw the Cross appear before him, the extreme sacrifice needed to free us from the domination of sin and death. In His heart he repeated once again: ... Yes, here I am Father, Your will of love be done. And, as happened after His Baptism in the Jordan, the signs of God's pleasure descended from the heavens: the light transfiguring the Christ and the voice proclaiming Him as "beloved Son'".

  The Holy Father went on: "Alongside fasting and works of mercy, prayer is one of the principal structures of our spiritual life. ... During this period of Lent, I encourage you to discover extended moments of silence, if possible of retreat, in order to see your own lives in the light of the heavenly Father's plan of love. In this more intense listening to God, allow yourselves to be guided by the Virgin Mary, teacher and model of prayer. She, in the shadowy darkness of Christ's Passion, never lost the light of the divine Son, but conserved it in her soul".
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VATICAN CITY, 7 MAR 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in audience Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and preacher of this year's spiritual exercises for the Roman Curia.
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VATICAN CITY, 7 MAR 2009 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican's "Redemptoris Mater" Chapel, at the conclusion of the Roman Curia's spiritual exercises, the Pope expressed thanks, in the name of all those present, to the preacher Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. The theme of this year's exercises was: "The priest meets Jesus and follows Him".

  The Pope indicated that, through the meditations, Cardinal Arinze had "guided, illuminated and helped us to renew our priesthood".

  "You offered us no theological acrobatics", he told the cardinal, "but sound doctrine, the good bread of our faith. ... Your preaching was permeated by Holy Scripture - revealing a great familiarity with the Word of God, seen in the context of the living Church from the Fathers to the Catechism of the Catholic Church - and always contextualised in the readings and in the liturgy. Precisely for this reason, Scripture was present in its full contemporary significance".

  The Holy Father explained how he had "admired and enjoyed this tangible experience" of Cardinal Arinze's fifty years of priesthood, "in the light of which you helped us to strengthen our faith. You used the right words, words with real significance for our lives and for our behaviour as priests", he concluded.
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