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Saturday, May 9, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 9 MAY 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

- Appointed Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, as pontifical legate to solemn celebrations marking the millennium of Lithuania. The celebrations are due to take place in the Lithuanian capital city of Vilnius on 6 July.

- Appointed as members of the Congregation for the Evangelisations of Peoples: Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, archbishop of Cape Coast, Ghana; Cardinal Claudio Hummes, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy; Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, archbishop of Montreal, Canada; Archbishop Erwin Joseph Ender, apostolic nuncio; Archbishop Felix del Blanco Prieto, apostolic nuncio; Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops; Msgr. Oscar Zoungrana, national director of the Pontifical Missionary Works, Burkina Faso, and Fr. Adolfo Nicolas S.J., superior general of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits).

- Appointed as members of the Council of Cardinals for the Study of the Organisational and Economic Problems of the Holy See: Cardinal Agostino Vallini, His Holiness' vicar general for the diocese of Rome; Cardinal Jorge Liberato Urosa Savino, archbishop of Caracas, Venezuela, and Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer, archbishop of Sao Paulo, Brazil.

- Accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Cochin, India, presented by Bishop John Thattumkal S.S.C., in accordance with canon 401 para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law.

- Appointed Fr. Paul Kariuki of the clergy of the diocese of Embu, Kenya, professor of Sacred Scripture at the Major Seminary of Christ the King in the diocese of Nyeri, Kenya, as bishop of Embu (area 2,741, population 628,403, Catholics 316,481, priests 59, religious 82). The bishop-elect was born in Kathunguri, Kenya in 1963 and ordained a priest in 1993.
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VATICAN CITY, 9 MAY 2009 (VIS) - Made public today was a Letter from the Pope, written in Latin and dated 2 April, in which he appoints Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins C.M.F., prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, as his special envoy to celebrations marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Shrine of Christ the King in Almada, Portugal. The event is due to take place there on 17 May.

The mission accompanying the cardinal will be made up of Msgr. Jose Joao Aires Lobato, vicar general of the diocese of Setubal, and Fr. Mario Rui Leal Pedras, pastor of the parish of Sao Nicolau in Lisbon.


VATICAN CITY, 9 MAY 2009 (VIS) - At 11.30 a.m. today, the Pope travelled to the King Hussein bin Talal Mosque in Amman, built by order of King Abdullah II in memory of his father and inaugurated in 2006. The Holy Father also visited the Hashemite Museum located next to the mosque.

The Holy Father subsequently met with Muslim religious leaders, the diplomatic corps and rectors of Jordanian universities on an area near the mosque.

The Pope first addressed some remarks to Prince Ghazi bin Talal, one of the signatories of the message "A Common Word between Us and You" of 13 October 2007, sent by 138 Muslim scholars to the Pope and to other Christian leaders. Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. later replied to the message in the Pope's name, and a delegation of Muslim leaders led by Prince Ghazi was received by Benedict XVI in the Vatican on 6 November last year.

The Holy Father expressed concern at the fact that some people "assert that religion is necessarily a cause of division in our world". Yet, he asked, "is it not also the case that often it is the ideological manipulation of religion, sometimes for political ends, that is the real catalyst for tension and division, and at times even violence in society?"

Muslims and Christians, he went on, must be "consistent in bearing witness to all that is true and good, and ever mindful of the common origin and dignity of all human persons, who remain at the apex of God's creative design for the world and for history".

The Pope praised the resolve of Jordanian educators and religious and civic leaders "to ensure that the public face of religion reflects its true nature" and highlighted how collaboration between Christians and Muslims in the country "sets an encouraging and persuasive example for the region, and indeed the world, of the positive, creative contribution which religion can and must make to civic society".

He also stressed the need for Christian and Muslims to embrace "the challenge to cultivate for the good, in the context of faith and truth, the vast potential of human reason. ... As believers in the one God we know that human reason is itself God's gift and that it soars to its highest plane when suffused with the light of God's truth. In fact, when human reason humbly allows itself to be purified by faith, it is far from weakened; rather, it is strengthened to resist presumption and to reach beyond its own limitations. In this way, human reason is emboldened to pursue its noble purpose of serving mankind".

"Thus", he went on, "genuine adherence to religion - far from narrowing our minds - widens the horizon of human understanding. It protects civil society from the excesses of the unbridled ego which tend to absolutise the finite and eclipse the infinite; it ensures that freedom is exercised hand in hand with truth, and it adorns culture with insights concerning all that is true, good and beautiful".

"We are reminded that because it is our common human dignity which gives rise to universal human rights, they hold equally for every man and woman, irrespective of his or her religious, social or ethnic group. In this regard, we must note that the right of religious freedom extends beyond the question of worship and includes the right - especially of minorities - to fair access to the employment market and other spheres of civic life".

Before concluding his remarks, the Pope indicated that the presence of His Beatitude Emmanuel III Delly, patriarch of Baghdad, "brings to mind the people of neighbouring Iraq many of whom have found welcome refuge here in Jordan. The international community's efforts to promote peace and reconciliation, together with those of the local leaders, must continue in order to bear fruit in the lives of Iraqis. ... Once again, I urge diplomats and the international community they represent, together with local political and religious leaders, to do everything possible to ensure the ancient Christian community of that noble land its fundamental right to peaceful coexistence with their fellow citizens".


VATICAN CITY, 9 MAY 2009 (VIS) - At 9.45 a.m. today, Benedict XVI travelled to the town of Madaba, 19 kilometres from Mount Nebo in Jordan. The site is famous for the "Map of Madaba", a floor mosaic of a sixth-century Byzantine church, discovered in 1896, showing a map of the Holy Land with an itinerary to reach Jerusalem passing through 150 localities, and a detailed description of the city.

The Pope travelled through the Christian quarter of Madaba by popemobile to the site where, at the express wish of His Beatitude Fouad Twal, patriarch of Jerusalem of the Latins and a native of Madaba, the University of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem is being constructed. On arrival, the Pope blessed the cornerstone of the new building, then addressed some words to those present in which he commended "the promoters of this new institution for their courageous confidence in good education as a stepping-stone for personal development and for peace and progress in the region".

"While assimilating their own heritage, young Jordanians and other students from the region will be led to a deeper knowledge of human cultural achievements, will be enriched by other viewpoints, and formed in comprehension, tolerance and peace", he said.

"This 'broader' education is what one expects from institutions of higher learning and from their cultural milieu, be it secular or religious. In fact, belief in God does not suppress the search for truth; on the contrary it encourages it".

"Religion, of course, like science and technology, philosophy and all expressions of our search for truth, can be corrupted", the Holy Father said. "Religion is disfigured when pressed into the service of ignorance or prejudice, contempt, violence and abuse. In this case we see not only a perversion of religion but also a corruption of human freedom, a narrowing and blindness of the mind".

And yet, he proceeded, "every person is also called to wisdom and integrity, to the basic and all-important choice of good over evil, truth over dishonesty, and can be assisted in this task.

"The call to moral integrity", he added, "is perceived by the genuinely religious person, since the God of truth and love and beauty cannot be served in any other way. Mature belief in God serves greatly to guide the acquisition and proper application of knowledge. Science and technology offer extraordinary benefits to society and have greatly improved the quality of life of many human beings. ... At the same time the sciences have their limitations. They cannot answer all the questions about man and his existence".

"The use of scientific knowledge needs the guiding light of ethical wisdom. Such is the wisdom that inspired the Hippocratic Oath, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Geneva Convention and other laudable international codes of conduct".

Benedict XVI concluded by addressing some words to the young Christian students of Jordan: "You are called", he told them, "to be builders of a just and peaceful society composed of peoples of various religious and ethnic backgrounds. These realities - I wish to stress once more - must lead, not to division, but to mutual enrichment".


VATICAN CITY, 9 MAY 2009 (VIS) - Having celebrated a private Mass at the apostolic nunciature in the Jordanian capital of Amman, the Holy Father travelled by car to Mount Nebo. The mountain, 806 metres above sea level, is the site of the Basilica of the Memorial of Moses, a fourth century structure built over an earlier monument dating from the classical age.

Since the year 1933 there has been a Franciscan monastery at Siyagha on Mount Nebo. It has areas in which faithful from the nearby city of Madaba can pray, and special buildings for archaeologists. The top of the mountain affords a unique view over the Holy Land.

At the beginning of his address, the Pope mentioned the Franciscan Fr. Michele Piccirillo, who died last year having "devoted his life to the study of Christian antiquity, and is buried in this shrine which was so dear to him". The Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land have had a presence on this site since 1932.

"It is appropriate that my pilgrimage should begin on this mountain, where Moses contemplated the Promised Land from afar", said the Holy Father. "Here, on the heights of Mount Nebo, the memory of Moses invites us to 'lift up our eyes' to embrace with gratitude not only God's mighty works in the past, but also to look with faith and hope to the future which He holds out to us and to our world".

Like the prophets, the apostles and the saints, we too, said Benedict XVI, "are called to welcome the coming of Christ's Kingdom by our charity, our service to the poor, and our efforts to be a leaven of reconciliation, forgiveness and peace in the world around us. ... And we know that the God Who revealed His name to Moses as a pledge that He would always be at our side will give us the strength to persevere in joyful hope even amid suffering, trial and tribulation".

"Here, in the footsteps of the countless pilgrims who have preceded us in every century, we are challenged to appreciate more fully the gift of our faith and to grow in that communion which transcends every limit of language, race and culture".

The Pope recalled how "from the beginning the Church in these lands has commemorated in her liturgy the great figures of the Old Testament, as a sign of her profound appreciation of the unity of the two Testaments.

"May our encounter today inspire in us a renewed love for the canon of Sacred Scripture", he added, "and a desire to overcome all obstacles to the reconciliation of Christians and Jews in mutual respect and co-operation in the service of that peace to which the Word of God calls us!"

The visit to Mount Nebo over, the Pope travelled by car to the University of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, located 19 kilometres away in Madaba.


VATICAN CITY, 8 MAY 2009 (VIS) - This morning, during his flight from Rome to the Jordanian capital city of Amman, Benedict XVI granted a brief interview to journalists accompanying him on the papal plane. A transcription of the questions and answers is given below.

"This trip takes place at very delicate moment for the Middle East: There are strong tensions - during the Gaza crisis it was speculated that you would not make this visit. At the same time, a few days after your trip, the political leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority will meet with U.S. President Obama. Do you think that you can contribute to the peace process that currently seems to be running aground?"

Benedict XVI: "Certainly I intend to contribute to peace, not as an individual, but in the name of the Catholic Church, of the Holy See. We are not a political power, but rather a spiritual force, and this spiritual force is a reality that can contribute to the progress of the peace process. I see [a contribution to be made on] three levels: As believers, we are convinced that prayer is a real power. It opens the world to God. We are convinced that God listens and that He can act in history. I think that if millions of people - of believers - pray, this really is an influential power that can contribute to the advancement of peace. Secondly, we try to help in the formation of consciences. The conscience is the capacity of mankind to perceive the truth, but particular interests often block this capacity, and it is difficult to free ourselves from these interests, to open up to truth and to real values. One of the Church's duties is to help us recognise true criteria, true values, and free ourselves from particular interests. As for the third point, let us draw reason in as well: ... precisely because we are not a political institution it is perhaps easier for us, also in the light of faith, to see the true criteria, to help people understand what contributes to peace, to speak to reason, to support truly reasonable positions. This we have already done, and we want to do so now and in the future".

"As a theologian, you have reflected in particular on the shared roots that unite Christians and Jews. How is it possible that, despite the efforts of dialogue, misunderstandings often occur? How do you see the future of dialogue between the two communities?"

Benedict XVI: "The important thing is that in reality we have the same roots, the same Books of the Old Testament which is - for the Jews as for us - the Book of the Revelation. But naturally, after 2,000 years of different, even separate, history, it is not surprising that misunderstandings should arise. Highly diverse traditions of interpretation, language, and thinking have been formed - what we could call very different "semantic universes" - so that the same words have different meanings for each tradition. With the use of these words, which over the course of history have taken on different meanings, misunderstandings are obviously born. We must do everything to learn one another's language, and it seems to me that we are making great progress. Today it is possible for young people, the future professors of theology, to study in Jerusalem, in the Hebrew University; and the Jews have academic contact with us. Thus these "semantic universes" meet. We learn from one another and we progress along the path of true dialogue. We learn from each other and I am convinced we are making progress. This will also help peace, and what is more, reciprocal love".

"Your Holiness, this journey has too principal dimensions of inter-religious dialogue, with Islam and with Jews. Are they completely separate from one another or will there be a shared message that concerns all three Abrahamic religions?"

Benedict XVI: "Certainly there exists a shared message, and there will be a chance to highlight this. Despite the difference of origins, we have shared roots, because, as I have said, Christianity is born of the Old Testament, and the writings of the New Testament would not exist without the Old. ... Islam too was born in an environment where Judaism and various branches of Christianity, Judeo Christianity, Antiochean Christianity, Byzantine Christianity co-existed, and all these circumstances are reflected in the tradition of the Koran. Thus we have much in common from our origins, in the faith in the one God. Hence it is important to maintain dialogue with the two sides - with the Jews and with Islam - as well as a trilateral dialogue. I myself co-founded a foundation for dialogue between the three religions which included such figures as Metropolitan Damaskinos and Rene-Samuel Sirat, chief rabbi of France. This foundation also published an edition of the books of the three religions: the Koran, the New Testament and the Old Testament. For this reason the trilateral dialogue should go forward, it is very important for peace, and as well for living one's own religion well".

"A last question. Your Holiness, you have often mentioned the problem of the decline of the Christians in the Middle East, and also in particular in the Holy Land. It is a phenomenon that has various political, economic and social reasons. What can be done to help Christians in the region? What contribution do you hope to make with your trip? Is there hope for these Christians in the future? Do you have a particular message for the Christians of Gaza who will come to see you in Bethlehem?"

Benedict XVI: "Certainly there is hope, because, as you have said, this is a difficult moment, but also a moment of hope, of a new start, of a new impulse in the path toward peace, and we want to encourage Christians in the Holy Land, and in all of the Middle East, to stay, to make their contribution to their countries of origin. They are important components of life in these regions. In concrete terms the Church, beyond her words of encouragement, has schools and hospitals. In this sense we have a very concrete presence. Our schools form a generation that will have the possibility to be present in public life. We are creating the Catholic University in Jordan, and I feel this offers great prospects for young people - both Muslims and Christians - to meet and learn together, for forming a Christian elite specifically prepared to work for peace. ... Furthermore, there are many Christian associations that help Christians in various ways, and with specific help they encourage them to stay. In this way I hope that Christians are able to find the value, the humility, the patience to stay in these countries, to offer their contribution to the future of these countries".
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