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Wednesday, April 15, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 9 APR 2009 (VIS) - In the Vatican Basilica at 9.30 a.m. today, Holy Thursday, the Holy Father presided at the Chrism Mass, which is celebrated on this day in churches and cathedrals throughout the world. Cardinals, bishops and priests present in Rome concelebrated with the Pope. Following the homily, there was the renewal of priestly vows and the blessing of the oil used for catechumens, the sick and those being confirmed.

  In his homily the Pope commented upon the prayer of the Lord for His disciples and for "disciples of all time: ... Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, so that they also may be consecrated in truth".

  "In the Old Testament", the Holy Father explained, "the giving over of a person to God, his 'sanctification', is identified with priestly ordination. ... The priest is removed from worldly bonds and given over to God, and precisely in this way, starting with God, he must be available for others, for everyone".

  The word of God, he continued, is as the bath which purifies the disciples, "the creative power which transforms them into God". And he asked his listeners: "is that word truly the nourishment we live by, even more than bread and the things of this world? Do we really know that word? Do we love it? Are we deeply engaged with this word to the point that it really leaves a mark on our lives and shapes our thinking? Or is it rather the case that our thinking is constantly being shaped by all the things that others say and do?"

  Dwelling then on the phrase "sanctify them in the truth", the Pope explained how this means "make them one with me, Christ. Bind them to me. ... Our being priests is simply a new and radical way of being united to Christ. ... Being united to Christ calls for renunciation. It means not wanting to impose our own way and our own will, not desiring to become someone else, but abandoning ourselves to Him, however and wherever He wants to use us".

  "Celebrating the Eucharist means praying. We celebrate the Eucharist rightly if with our thoughts and our being we enter into the words which the Church sets before us", said Benedict XVI.

  "To be immersed in God's truth and thus in His holiness", he went on, "for us this also means to acknowledge that the truth makes demands, to stand up, in matters great and small, to the lie which in so many different ways is present in the world".

  "If we become one with Christ, we learn to recognise Him precisely in the suffering, in the poor, in the little ones of this world; then we become people who serve, who recognise our brothers and sisters in Him, and in them, we encounter Him".

  At 5.30 p.m. in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Benedict XVI presided at the Mass of the Lord's Supper. During the celebration, imitating the gesture of the Lord towards the Apostles, the Pope washed the feet of twelve priests. At the presentation of the gifts, he was given alms collected to support the Catholic community in Gaza.

  Commenting in his homily on the narrative of the institution of the Eucharist, the Pope insisted that the Eucharist is first and foremost a prayer, "and only in the course of the prayer is the priestly act of consecration accomplished, which becomes transformation, transubstantiation of our gifts of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ".

  In that narrative "the praying Church gazes upon the hands and eyes of the Lord", said Pope Benedict, recalling then how "at our priestly ordination, our hands were anointed, so that they could become hands of blessing. Let us pray to the Lord at this hour that our hands will serve more and more to bring salvation, to bring blessing, to make His goodness present!"

  When the Canon uses the words: "Looking up to heaven, to You His Almighty Father", the Pope explained, "the Lord teaches us to raise our eyes, and especially our hearts. He teaches us to fix our gaze upwards, detaching it from the things of this world, to direct ourselves in prayer towards God and thus to raise ourselves".

  "Breaking the bread is the act of the father of the family who looks after his children and gives them what they need for life. ... Thus, in the act itself, the intimate nature of the Eucharist is already indicated: it is 'agape', it is love made corporeal. In the word 'agape', the meanings of Eucharist and love intertwine".

  The wine chalice the Lord gives to His disciples is "the glorious chalice - the chalice of great joy, of the true feast, for which we all long - the chalice filled with the wine of His love".

  What happened at the Last Supper, "and what has been renewed ever since whenever we celebrate the Eucharist", is that "God, the living God, establishes a communion of peace with us, or to put it more strongly, He creates 'consanguinity' between Himself and us. ... The blood of Jesus is His love, in which divine life and human life have become one.

  "Let us pray to the Lord", the Pope added in conclusion, "that we may come to understand ever more deeply the greatness of this mystery. Let us pray that in our innermost selves its transforming power will increase, so that we truly acquire consanguinity with Jesus, so that we are filled with His peace and grow in communion with one another".
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VATICAN CITY, 10 APR 2009 (VIS) - In the Vatican Basilica at 5 p.m. today, Good Friday, the Pope presided at the celebration of the Lord's Passion. Following the reading of the Passion, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa O.F.M. Cap., preacher of the Pontifical Household, pronounced his traditional Good Friday homily. The ceremony continued with the universal prayer, veneration of the Cross and Holy Communion.

  At 9.15 p.m. the Holy Father went to the Colosseum where he led the "Via Crucis" or Way of the Cross. The meditations this year were prepared by Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil S.D.B. of Guwahati, India.

  Benedict XVI oversaw the ceremony from the Palatine Hill while Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar general for the diocese of Rome, carried the cross over the first and last stations. Over the other stations it was carried by a young disabled person assisted by a doctor from the Sovereign Military Order of Malta; a family from Rome; a young sick person accompanied by a stretcher-bearer and a nun; an Asian girl and two Indian nuns; two young people from Burkina Faso, and two Franciscan friars from the Custody of the Holy Land.

  At the end of the ceremony, the Holy Father addressed some remarks to those present.

  Quoting the words of the centurion as Jesus breathed His last, "truly this man was the Son of God", the Pope indicated that we are reminded of this profession of faith "every time we listen anew to the Passion according to St. Mark. This evening, like the centurion, we pause to gaze on the lifeless face of the Crucified One".

  "This man, seemingly one of us, Who while He was being killed forgave His executioners, is the Son of God Who, as the Apostle Paul reminds us, 'did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant ... He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross'.

  "The anguish of the Passion of the Lord Jesus cannot fail to move to pity even the most hardened hearts, as it constitutes the climax of the revelation of God's love for each of us", the Pope added.

  "Throughout the course of the millennia, a great multitude of men and women have been drawn deeply into this mystery and they have followed Him, making in their turn, like Him and with His help, a gift to others of their own lives. They are the saints and the martyrs, many of whom remain unknown to us. Even in our own time, how many people, in the silence of their daily lives, unite their sufferings with those of the Crucified One and become apostles of a true spiritual and social renewal!"

  Christ's disfigured face "is reflected in that of every person who is humiliated and offended, sick and suffering, alone, abandoned and despised. Pouring out His blood, He has rescued us from the slavery of death, He has broken the solitude of our tears, He has entered into our every grief and our every anxiety".

  In the certainty of the Resurrection "let us continue our journey", the Holy Father concluded. "Let us pray together with Mary, the Sorrowful Virgin, let us pray with all who are sorrowful, and especially with all the suffering people from the earthquake zone in L'Aquila: let us pray that in this dark night, the star of hope will appear also to them, the light of the Risen Lord".
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VATICAN CITY, 10 APR 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father has sent holy oils blessed in the Vatican Basilica during Holy Thursday's Chrism Mass to Archbishop Giuseppe Molinari of L'Aquila, Italy. Due to the damage caused by the earthquake of 6 April, the archbishop was unable to gather the priests of his archdiocese to celebrate the Mass himself.

  This morning, Good Friday, at the military academy of Copito in L'Aquila, Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. presided at a funeral service for the nearly 300 victims of the earthquake. Among those attending the Mass were Giorgio Napolitano, president of the Italian Republic, and Silvio Berlusconi, prime minister.

  At the beginning of the Eucharistic celebration, Msgr. Georg Ganswein, the Pope's private secretary who also participated in the ceremony as a sign of Benedict XVI's spiritual closeness to those affected by the earthquake, read out a Message from the Pontiff.

  "At this dramatic time in which such a huge tragedy has struck this land, I feel myself to be spiritually present among you to share your anguish, and to implore from God eternal rest for the victims, a speedy recovery for the injured and, for everyone, the courage to continue to hope without surrendering to despair".

  After reading the message, Msgr. Ganswein announced that the Holy Father has donated a chalice for the celebration of the Eucharist, as a sign of his profound participation in the pain and suffering of the earthquake victims, and that he has made a donation to meet peoples most urgent requirements and given Easter eggs for children on Easter Sunday.
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VATICAN CITY, 11 APR 2009 (VIS) - At 9 p.m. today in St. Peter's Basilica, the Pope presided at the solemn Easter vigil during which he administered the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation to a number of catechumens from various countries.

  The celebration began in the atrium of the basilica where the Holy Father blessed the new fire and lighted the Easter candle. This was followed by the procession towards the altar with the singing of the "Exultet." Then came the Liturgy of the Word and the Baptismal and Eucharistic Liturgies which the Holy Father concelebrated with cardinals.

  In his homily, the Holy Father explained how the Easter vigil shows the meaning of the Resurrection through three symbols: "light, water, and the new song - the Alleluia".

  "God's creation", he said, "begins with the command: 'Let there be light!' Where there is light, life is born, chaos can be transformed into cosmos. ... The resurrection of Jesus is an eruption of light. Death is conquered, the tomb is thrown open. The Risen One Himself is Light, the Light of the world. ... Beginning with the resurrection, God's light spreads throughout the world and throughout history".

  "At the Easter Vigil", the Pope went on, "the Church represents the mystery of the light of Christ in the sign of the Paschal candle, whose flame is both light and heat. ... The Paschal candle burns, and is thereby consumed: Cross and Resurrection are inseparable. From the Cross, from the Son's self-giving, light is born, true radiance comes into the world. ... In Him we recognise what is true and what is false, what is radiance and what is darkness. With Him, there wells up within us the light of truth, and we begin to understand.

  "On one occasion", he added, "when Christ looked upon the people who had come to listen to Him, seeking some guidance from Him, He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Amid the contradictory messages of that time, they did not know which way to turn. What great compassion He must feel in our own time too - on account of all the endless talk that people hide behind, while in reality they are totally confused. Where must we go? What are the values by which we can order our lives? The values by which we can educate our young, without giving them norms they may be unable to resist, or demanding of them things that perhaps should not be imposed upon them? He is the Light. The baptismal candle is the symbol of enlightenment that is given to us in Baptism. ... Let us pray to the Lord that the fragile flame of the candle He has lit in us, the delicate light of his word and His love amid the confusions of this age, will not be extinguished in us, but will become ever stronger and brighter, so that we, with Him, can be people of the day, bright stars lighting up our time".

  The Holy Father continued: "The second symbol of the Easter Vigil - the night of Baptism - is water" which appears in two forms. One is the sea, an "element of death. ... Christ descended into the sea, into the waters of death, as Israel did into the Red Sea. ... With Christ we, as it were, descend into the sea of death, so as to rise up again as new creatures.

  "The other way in which we encounter water is in the form of the fresh spring that gives life, or the great river from which life comes forth. ... St. John tells us that a soldier with a lance struck the side of Jesus, and from His open side - from His pierced heart - there came out blood and water. The early Church saw in this a symbol of Baptism and Eucharist flowing from the pierced heart of Jesus. In His death, Jesus Himself became the spring. ... From Him the great river pours forth, which in Baptism renews the world and makes it fruitful; the great river of living water, His Gospel which makes the earth fertile. ... In Baptism, the Lord makes us not only persons of light, but also sources from which living water bursts forth. ... Let us ask the Lord, Who has given us the grace of Baptism, for the gift always to be sources of pure, fresh water, bubbling up from the fountain of His truth and his love!

  "The third great symbol of the Easter Vigil is ... the singing of the new song - the Alleluia. ... What happens when a person is touched by the light of the Resurrection, and thus comes into contact with Life itself, with Truth and Love? He cannot merely speak about it. Speech is no longer adequate. He has to sing. The first reference to singing in the Bible comes after the crossing of the Red Sea. Israel has risen out of slavery. ... It is as it were reborn. It lives and it is free. ... At the Easter Vigil, year after year, we Christians intone this song after the third reading, we sing it as our song, because we too, through God's power, have been drawn forth from the water and liberated for true life".

  The image of crossing the Red Sea, Benedict XVI concluded, could be compared with "the situation of the disciples of Jesus Christ in every age, the situation of the Church in the history of this world. ... And must not the Church, so to speak, always walk on the sea, through the fire and the cold? Humanly speaking, she ought to sink. But while she is still walking in the midst of this Red Sea, she sings - she intones the song of praise of the just ... in which the Old and New Covenants blend into harmony. ... She is standing on history's waters of death and yet she has already risen. Singing, she grasps at the Lord's hand, which holds her above the waters. And she knows that she is thereby raised outside the force of gravity of death and evil - a force from which otherwise there would be no way of escape - raised and drawn into the new gravitational force of God, of truth and of love. At present she is still between the two gravitational fields. But once Christ is risen, the gravitational pull of love is stronger than that of hatred; the force of gravity of life is stronger than that of death. Perhaps this is actually the situation of the Church in every age? It always seems as if she ought to be sinking, and yet she is always already saved. ... The Lord's saving hand holds us up".
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VATICAN CITY, 11 APR 2009 (VIS) - Made public today was a Letter from the Pope, written in Latin and dated 3 February, in which he appoints Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, archbishop emeritus of Bologna, Italy, as his special envoy to celebrations marking the ninth centenary of the death of St. Anselm, due to be held in Aosta, Italy, from 19 to 26 April.

 The cardinal will be accompanied on his mission by Msgr. Benoit Vouilloz, provost emeritus of the Canons Regular of Great St. Bernard, and Fr. Roberto Mastacchi, Cardinal Biffi's own private secretary.
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VATICAN CITY, 12 APR 2009 (VIS) - At 10.30 this morning, Benedict XVI celebrated the Easter Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord in St. Peter's Square.

  In his homily, the Holy Father quoted St. Paul's "triumphant words" to the effect that "Christ, our Paschal lamb, has been sacrificed!" And he went on: "The central symbol of salvation history - the Paschal lamb - is here identified with Jesus, Who is called 'our Paschal lamb'" because "in His Passion and death, Jesus reveals Himself as the Lamb of God, 'sacrificed' on the Cross, to take away the sins of the world".

  "On the basis of this new meaning of the Paschal feast, we can also understand St. Paul's interpretation of the 'leaven'. The Apostle is referring to an ancient Hebrew usage: according to which, on the occasion of the Passover, it was necessary to remove from the household every tiny scrap of leavened bread. On the one hand, this served to recall what had happened to their forefathers at the time of the flight from Egypt: leaving the country in haste, they had brought with them only unleavened bread. At the same time, though, the 'unleavened bread' was a symbol of purification: removing the old to make space for the new. Now, St. Paul explains, this ancient tradition likewise acquires a new meaning, once more derived from the new 'Exodus', which is Jesus' passage from death to eternal life. And since Christ, as the true Lamb, sacrificed Himself for us, we too, His disciples - thanks to Him and through Him - can and must be the 'new dough', the 'unleavened bread', liberated from every residual element of the old yeast of sin: no more evil and wickedness in our heart.

  "'Let us celebrate the feast ... with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth', Benedict XVI added. "This exhortation from St. Paul, which concludes the short reading that was proclaimed a few moments ago, resounds even more powerfully in the context of the Pauline Year. Dear brothers and sisters, let us accept the Apostle's invitation; let us open our spirit to Christ, Who has died and is risen in order to renew us, in order to remove from our hearts the poison of sin and death, and to pour in the life-blood of the Holy Spirit: divine and eternal life".

  "And if Jesus is risen, and is therefore alive, who will ever be able to separate us from Him? Who will ever be able to deprive us of the love of Him Who has conquered hatred and overcome death? The Easter proclamation spreads throughout the world", Pope Benedict concluded. "The Risen One goes before us and He accompanies us along the paths of the world. He is our hope, He is the true peace of the world".
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VATICAN CITY, 12 APR 2009 (VIS) - Following the Easter Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord, celebrated in St. Peter's Square, Benedict XVI pronounced his Easter Message to thousands of faithful gathered there from all over the world, and imparted his "Urbi et Orbi" blessing.

  "One of the questions that most preoccupies men and women", he said "is this: what is there after death? To this mystery today's solemnity allows us to respond that death does not have the last word, because Life will be victorious at the end. This certainty of ours is based not on simple human reasoning, but on a historical fact of faith: Jesus Christ, crucified and buried, is risen with His glorified body. Jesus is risen so that we too, believing in Him, may have eternal life. This proclamation is at the heart of the Gospel message".

  "The Resurrection, then, is not a theory, but a historical reality revealed by the man Jesus Christ by means of His 'Passover', His 'passage', that has opened a 'new way' between heaven and earth. It is neither a myth nor a dream, it is not a vision or a utopia, it is not a fairy tale, but it is a singular and unrepeatable event".

  "The proclamation of the Lord's Resurrection lightens up the dark regions of the world in which we live. I am referring particularly to materialism and nihilism, to a vision of the world that is unable to move beyond what is scientifically verifiable, and retreats cheerlessly into a sense of emptiness which is thought to be the definitive destiny of human life. It is a fact that if Christ had not risen, 'emptiness' would be set to prevail. If we take away Christ and His Resurrection, there is no escape for man, and every one of his hopes remains an illusion".

  Yet "if it is true that death no longer has power over man and over the world, there still remain very many, in fact too many signs of its former dominion. Even if through Easter, Christ has destroyed the root of evil, He still wants the assistance of men and women in every time and place who help Him to affirm His victory using His own weapons: the weapons of justice and truth, mercy, forgiveness and love. This is the message which, during my recent apostolic visit to Cameroon and Angola, I wanted to convey to the entire African continent, where I was welcomed with such great enthusiasm and readiness to listen.

  "Africa", the Holy Father added, "suffers disproportionately from the cruel and unending conflicts, often forgotten, that are causing so much bloodshed and destruction in several of her nations, and from the growing number of her sons and daughters who fall prey to hunger, poverty and disease.

  "I shall repeat the same message emphatically in the Holy Land, to which I shall have the joy of travelling in a few weeks from now. Reconciliation - difficult, but indispensable - is a precondition for a future of overall security and peaceful coexistence, and it can only be achieved through renewed, persevering and sincere efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. My thoughts move outwards from the Holy Land to neighbouring countries, to the Middle East, to the whole world.

  "At a time of world food shortage, of financial turmoil, of old and new forms of poverty, of disturbing climate change, of violence and deprivation which force many to leave their homelands in search of a less precarious form of existence, of the ever-present threat of terrorism, of growing fears over the future, it is urgent to rediscover grounds for hope. Let no one draw back from this peaceful battle that has been launched by Christ's Resurrection. For as I said earlier, Christ is looking for men and women who will help Him to affirm His victory using His own weapons: the weapons of justice and truth, mercy, forgiveness and love".

  Having completed his Message Benedict XVI pronounced Easter greetings in more than 60 languages then, returning to Italian, once again recalled the people affected by the earthquake that struck the Abruzzi region of Italy on 6 April.
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VATICAN CITY, 13 APR 2009 (VIS) - At midday today, Easter Monday, the Pope prayed the Regina Coeli with pilgrims at the Apostolic Palace of Castelgandolfo and, through television linkup, with faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.

  "The Christian community rejoices" said the Holy Father, "because the Lord's Resurrection assures us that the divine plan of salvation will certainly be fulfilled. This is why His Easter truly is our hope. And we, risen with Christ through Baptism, must now follow Him faithfully in holiness of life, ceaselessly advancing towards the eternal Easter, sustained by an awareness that the difficulties, the struggles, the trials and the suffering of human existence - including death - can no longer separate us from Him and His love. His Resurrection has created a bridge between the world and eternal life, which all men and women can cross to reach the true goal of our earthly pilgrimage.

  "Jesus' assurance - 'I have risen and I am with you always' - is fulfilled above all in the Eucharist", the Pope added. "In each Eucharistic celebration the Church, and each of her members, experiences His living presence and benefits from all the richness of His love. In the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the risen Lord purifies us of our sins, He nourishes us spiritually and He gives us strength to sustain the harsh trials of existence and to combat sin and evil".
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VATICAN CITY, 15 APR 2009 (VIS) - More than 30,000 people gathered this morning in St, Peter's Square for the Pope's general audience. The Holy Father, who travelled to the Vatican by helicopter from his residence in Castelgandolfo, focused his catechesis on the joy of the Easter period "which no suffering or distress can cancel, because it is a joy that arises from the certainty that Christ, through His death and Resurrection, has definitively triumphed over evil and death".

  "The astonishing novelty of the Resurrection is so important that the Church never ceases to proclaim it, perpetuating its memory, especially on Sundays, the Lord's day and the weekly Easter of the people of God", he said.

  "It is therefore fundamental for our faith and for our Christian witness that we should proclaim the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth as a real historical event, borne out by many authoritative witnesses. We affirm it forcefully because, even in our own times, there is no lack of people who seek to deny its historical truth, reducing the Gospel narrative to a myth".

  "Of course, for Jesus the Resurrection was not a simple return to His earlier life on earth", said Benedict XVI. "Rather it was a passage to a profoundly new dimension of life". This new dimension "concerns the whole human family, history and the universe entire. The event changed the lives of those who saw it with their own eyes; .... and entire generations of men and women over the centuries have welcomed and borne witness to it with faith, ... even through martyrdom".

  "With St. Augustine we can proclaim: 'The Resurrection of Christ is our hope' and our future", cried the Pope. "It is true", he went on, "Christ's Resurrection is the foundation of our firm hope and illuminates our entire earthly pilgrimage, including the human enigma of pain and death. Faith in Christ crucified and risen is the heart of the entire evangelical message, the central nucleus of our 'Creed'. ... In the Paschal mystery the words of Scripture are fulfilled, in other words it is an event that has ... its own logic: the death of Christ shows that the word of God really and fully became 'flesh', human 'history'".

  "At Easter", the Holy Father concluded, "God reveals Himself and the power of the Trinitarian love that annihilates the destructive forces of evil and death".
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VATICAN CITY, 15 APR 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

 - Accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Hong Kong, China, presented by Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun S.D.B., upon having reached the age limit. He is succeeded by Coadjutor Bishop John Tong Hon.

 - Appointed Fr. Michael McKenna of the clergy of the diocese of Sale, Australia, chaplain of the University of Melbourne, Australia, as bishop of Bathurst (area 103,560, population 211,000, Catholics 66,200, priests 37, religious 89), Australia. The bishop-elect was born in Bairnsdale, Australia in 1951 and ordained a priest in 1983.

 - Appointed Bishop Caetano Ferrari O.F.M. of Franca, Brazil, as bishop of Bauru (area 5,982, population 504,000, Catholics 450,000, priests 62, religious 130), Brazil.

 - Appointed Bishop Gregory O'Kelly S.J., auxiliary of Adelaide, Australia, as bishop of Port Pirie (area 978,823, population 172,713, Catholics 29,653, priests 25, religious 26), Australia.

 - Appointed Fr. Jose Daniel Falla Robles of the clergy of the archdiocese of Bogota, Colombia, rector of the "Monserrate" Shrine, as auxiliary of the archdiocese of Cali (area 2,504, population 2,660,000, Catholics 2,260,000, priests 324, permanent deacons 17, religious 942), Colombia. The bishop-elect was born in Bogota in 1956 and ordained a priest in 1992.

  On Thursday 9 April it was made public that the Holy Father appointed Fr. Silvio Jose Baez Ortega O.C.D., vice president of Rome's Pontifical Theological Faculty and "Teresianum" Pontifical Institute of Spirituality, as auxiliary of the archdiocese of Managua (area 5,312, population 2,509,279, Catholics 1,900,000, priests 166, religious 355), Nicaragua. The bishop-elect was born in Masaya, Nicaragua in 1958 and ordained a priest in 1984.
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