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Wednesday, April 29, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 30 APR 2009 (VIS) - Pope Benedict's general prayer intention for May is: "That the laity and the Christian communities may be responsible promoters of priestly and religious vocations".

His mission intention is: "That the recently founded Catholic Churches, grateful to the Lord for the gift of faith, may be ready to share in the universal mission of the Church, offering their availability to preach the Gospel throughout the world".


VATICAN CITY, 29 APR 2009 (VIS) - The Vatican Museums, in a show of solidarity with victims of the 6 April earthquake in the Italian region of Abruzzo, will exceptionally remain open on Sunday 10 May. The Vatican Museums are usually closed on Sundays, except the last Sunday of each month.

"Accepting the proposal of the Custodians of the Museums, the Governorate of Vatican City State will donate the entire day's taking to people affected by the tremor", reads a communique made public today.

"All the staff of the Vatican Museums will adhere to the initiative by dedicating one day of work".
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VATICAN CITY, 29 APR 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Fr. Stanisalus Tobias Magombo of the clergy of Dedza, Malawi, national secretary for pastoral care of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi, as auxiliary of Lilongwe (area 24,025, population 4,584,000, Catholics 981,784, priests 82, religious 272), Malawi. The bishop-elect was born in Matowe Village, Malawi in 1968 and ordained a priest in 1996.
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VATICAN CITY, 29 APR 2009 (VIS) - During his general audience this morning Benedict XVI dedicated his catechesis to St. Germanus of Constantinople, who "played an important role in the complex history of the battle for images during the so-called iconoclastic crisis, and was able to resist the pressure of an iconoclastic emperor, ... Leo III.

"During Germanus' patriarchate (715-730)", the Pope added, "the capital of the Byzantine empire, Constantinople, was subject to a threatening siege by the Saracens. On that occasion (717-718) a solemn procession was organised and passed through the streets carrying the image of the Mother of God ... and the relic of the Holy Cross to call upon the Most High to defend the city. In fact, Constantinople was freed from the siege".

This event convinced the patriarch "that God's intervention was to be interpreted as evident approval of the reverence people showed towards holy icons. Leo III on the other hand, who came to the throne in that year of 717, ... began ever more openly to show his conviction that the consolidation of empire had to begin by reorganising expressions of faith, with particular reference to idolatry, a risk to which, in his view, the people were exposed by their excessive veneration for icons".

The Holy Father went on: "Patriarch Germanus' appeals to Church tradition and to the real effectiveness of certain images, unanimously recognised as 'miraculous', were all to no avail. The emperor became ever more intractable in implementing his policies of reform. ... Germanus had no desire to bow to the emperor's will in matters he considered vital to orthodox faith. ... As a consequence he felt obliged to resign as patriarch, condemning himself to exile in a monastery where he died in obscurity. Nonetheless his name re-emerged at the Second Nicean Council ... of 787 where his merits were recognised".

Of Germanus' works "certain homilies on Marian themes have survived, of which some have had a profound influence on the piety of entire generations of faithful, both in the East and the West", including one which Pope Pius XII "set like a pearl in the 1950 Apostolic Constitution 'Munificentissimus Deus'", dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

Benedict XVI went on to recall the "great contribution" this saint made to the Byzantine tradition in which "the rhetorical forms used in preaching, and even more so in hymns and poetical compositions, ... are as important to the celebration of the liturgy as the beauty of the sacred building in which it takes place".

The Holy Father concluded by considering three aspects in which St. Germanus still has something to say to modern man. Firstly, in the need to recognise "the visibility of God in the world and in the Church", because "God created man in His image but that image was covered with dirt and sin" and the Creator "could almost no longer see it. Thus the Son of God became man and ... in Christ, the true image of God, we too can ... learn to see ourselves as His image". If, to prevent idolatry and the danger of pagan images, God prohibited the Israelites from creating His image, yet "when He became visible in Christ through the Incarnation it became legitimate to reproduce the face of Christ. ... Holy images teach us to see God in the face of Christ, ... of the saints and of all human beings".

Secondly, Germanus shows us "the beauty and dignity of the liturgy", which must be celebrated "with an awareness of the presence of God and with a beauty and dignity that enable us to glimpse His splendour".

The third aspect is that of "love for the Church", the Pope concluded. "It may be that in the Church, as in ourselves, we see sin and other negative things, yet with the help of faith ... we can always rediscover divine beauty in the Church. In the Church, God offers Himself to us in the Eucharist, He speaks to us, ... He forgives us and He teaches us to forgive. Let us pray that God may teach us to see His presence and His beauty in the Church, to see His presence in the world".
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VATICAN CITY, 29 APR 2009 (VIS) - At the end of today's general audience, the Pope received a delegation of representatives from Canadian aboriginal communities, to whom he expressed his concern for aboriginal peoples in Canada who continue to suffer from the impact of the former Indian Residential Schools, according to a communique issued by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The meeting will be attended by Phil Fontaine, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, and Archbishop Vernon James Weisgerber, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, accompanied by representatives from Catholic dioceses and communities in the country.

In the late nineteenth century the federal government established residential schools for Canadian aboriginal children. The schools were administered by Catholic organisations and by other Christian Churches and communities, and financed by the Canadian government. "The number of students who attended residential schools is estimated at 100,000. These children were cut off from their families and forced to suppress their language, religion and traditional way of life. ... As well as being subjected to the process of cultural purging, some children were also the victims of sexual and physical abuse", says the communique.

On 11 June 2008 Stephen Harper, prime minister of Canada, and the Canadian government made a formal apology to the former students of residential schools in a special assembly at the House of Commons in Ottawa.
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