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Monday, May 11, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 11 MAY 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed:

- Fr. Devprasad John Ganawa S.V.D., rector of the Verbite Centre in Udaipur, as bishop of Jhabua (area 21,366, population 4,237,905, Catholics 33,576, priests 54, religious 210), India. The bishop-elect was born in Panchkui, India in 1951 and ordained a priest in 1982.

- Fr. Arockia Sebastian Durairaj S.V.D., superior of the Verbite province of central India, as bishop of Khandwa (area 24,000, population 4,568,000, Catholics 31,432, priests 67, religious 250), India. The bishop-elect was born in Thirunagar, India in 1957 and ordained a priest in 1985.
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VATICAN CITY, 11 MAY 2009 (VIS) - At 11 a.m. local time today (10 a.m. in Rome), Benedict XVI arrived at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, where he was greeted by Shimon Peres, president of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister, the country's civil and political authorities, and the ordinaries of the Holy Land.

In his address, the Pope expressed his thanks for the welcome to the State of Israel, "a land", he said, "which is held holy by millions of believers around the world, ... a land that is hallowed by the footsteps of patriarchs and prophets, a land that Christians hold in particular veneration as the setting for the events of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. ... I come, like so many others before me, to pray at the holy places, to pray especially for peace - peace here in the Holy Land, and peace throughout the world".

He also noted how the Holy See and the State of Israel "have many shared values, above all a commitment to give religion its rightful place in the life of society. The just ordering of social relationships presupposes and requires a respect for the freedom and dignity of every human being, whom Christians, Muslims and Jews alike believe to be created by a loving God and destined for eternal life. When the religious dimension of the human person is denied or marginalized, the very foundation for a proper understanding of inalienable human rights is placed in jeopardy.

"Tragically, the Jewish people have experienced the terrible consequences of ideologies that deny the fundamental dignity of every human person", he added. "It is right and fitting that, during my stay in Israel, I will have the opportunity to honour the memory of the six million Jewish victims of the Shoah, and to pray that humanity will never again witness a crime of such magnitude. Sadly, anti-Semitism continues to rear its ugly head in many parts of the world. This is totally unacceptable. Every effort must be made to combat anti-Semitism wherever it is found, and to promote respect and esteem for the members of every people, tribe, language and nation across the globe.

"During my stay in Jerusalem, I will have the pleasure of meeting many of this country's distinguished religious leaders. One thing that the three great monotheistic religions have in common is a special veneration for that holy city. It is my earnest hope that all pilgrims to the holy places will be able to access them freely and without restraint, to take part in religious ceremonies and to promote the worthy upkeep of places of worship on sacred sites".

The Holy Father continued: "Even though the name Jerusalem means 'city of peace', it is all too evident that, for decades, peace has tragically eluded the inhabitants of this holy land. The eyes of the world are upon the peoples of this region as they struggle to achieve a just and lasting solution to conflicts that have caused so much suffering. The hopes of countless men, women and children for a more secure and stable future depend on the outcome of negotiations for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

"In union with people of good will everywhere, I plead with all those responsible to explore every possible avenue in the search for a just resolution of the outstanding difficulties, so that both peoples may live in peace in a homeland of their own, within secure and internationally recognised borders. In this regard, I hope and pray that a climate of greater trust can soon be created that will enable the parties to make real progress along the road to peace and stability".

The Holy Father completed his remarks by addressing Catholics, recalling how he will be joining them in Nazareth for the concluding celebrations of the Year of the Family. "The family", he said, "is the 'first and indispensable teacher of peace', and hence it has a vital role to play in healing divisions in human society at every level.

"To the Christian communities in the Holy Land, I say: by your faithful witness to Him Who preached forgiveness and reconciliation, by your commitment to uphold the sacredness of every human life, you can make a particular contribution to ending the hostilities that for so long have afflicted this land. I pray that your continuing presence in Israel and the Palestinian Territories will bear much fruit in promoting peace and mutual respect among all the peoples who live in the lands of the Bible".

At the end of the ceremony the Pope travelled by helicopter to the heliport of Mount Scopus in Jerusalem, where he was greeted by Nir Barkat, mayor of the city. From there he was taken by car to the apostolic delegation in Jerusalem where he had lunch.

This afternoon the Holy Father is due to pay a courtesy visit to President Shimon Peres, to visit the Yad Vashem Memorial and to meet with members of organisations dedicated to inter-religious dialogue in the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Centre.


VATICAN CITY, 11 MAY 2009 (VIS) - Having celebrated a private Mass at the apostolic nunciature in Amman this morning, the Pope travelled to Queen Alia international airport, where a brief ceremony was held before his departure from Jordan.

At the end of this the first stage of his Holy Land pilgrimage, the Holy Father expressed his thanks to King Abdullah II for his hospitality, and to everyone who had made his visit possible.

"I would like to encourage all Jordanians, whether Christian or Muslim, to build on the firm foundations of religious tolerance that enable the members of different communities to live together in peace and mutual respect", said the Pope.

"His Majesty the King has been notably active in fostering inter-religious dialogue, and I want to put on record how much his commitment in this regard is appreciated. I also gratefully acknowledge the particular consideration that he shows towards the Christian community in Jordan. This spirit of openness not only helps the members of different ethnic communities in this country to live together in peace and concord, but it has contributed to Jordan's far-sighted political initiatives to build peace throughout the Middle East".

The ceremony over, the Pope boarded his plane bound for Tel Aviv, Israel, where he arrived half an hour later.


VATICAN CITY, 10 MAY 2009 (VIS) - At 4.30 p.m. today, Benedict XVI travelled by car to the area of Bethany beyond the Jordan, located 50 kilometres from Amman on the border between Jordan and Israel. The precise location of Bethany remains unknown but it is believed to be located some 200 metres west of the Hill of the Prophet Elijah, in an area yet to be excavated.

On arrival the Pope boarded an electric car to visit the site. He was accompanied by King Abdullah, Queen Rani and Prince Ghazi, while an entourage followed in eleven other similar vehicles. As they went, the director of the al-Mughtas Centre explained the various features of the archaeological itinerary of the "Baptism Site" which concludes in an area where two churches are currently being built, one Latin and one Greek-Melkite. The purpose of the Holy Father's visit was to bless the cornerstones of the new buildings.

Having completed the itinerary, the Holy Father began his remarks by affirming that Bethany is "a place marked by many memorable events in biblical history. The prophet Elijah ... was from this area", he said. "Here the Spirit of the Lord called John the son of Zechariah to preach a conversion of hearts. John the Evangelist also places in this area the meeting between the Baptist and Jesus, Who at His baptism was 'anointed' by the Spirit of God".

"The foundation stone of a church is a symbol of Christ", Pope Benedict explained. "The Church rests on Christ, is sustained by Him and cannot be separated from Him. He is the one foundation of every Christian community. ... With Him, we too are living stones built into a spiritual house. ... The Church is in Christ a community of new life, a dynamic reality of grace that flows from Him".

The Holy Father then recalled how "we enter the Church through Baptism. The memory of Christ's own Baptism is brought vividly before us in this place. Jesus stood in line with sinners and accepted John's baptism of penance as a prophetic sign of His own passion, death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins. ... May the Jordan always remind you that you have been washed in the waters of Baptism and have become members of the family of Jesus. Your lives, in obedience to His word, are being transformed into His image and likeness".

"May the prayerful contemplation of these mysteries", he continued, "enrich you with spiritual joy and moral courage. With the Apostle Paul, I encourage you to grow in the whole range of noble attitudes covered by the blessed name of 'agape', Christian love. Promote dialogue and understanding in civil society, especially when claiming your legitimate rights. In the Middle East, marked by tragic suffering, by years of violence and unresolved tensions, Christians are called to offer their contribution, inspired by the example of Jesus, of reconciliation and peace through forgiveness and generosity.

"Continue being grateful to those who lead you and serve you faithfully as ministers of Christ", the Pope added in conclusion. "You do well to accept their guidance in faith knowing that, by receiving the apostolic teaching they transmit, you welcome Christ and you welcome the One Who sent Him".

Following the rite of blessing the cornerstones, Benedict XVI returned to the apostolic nunciature in Amman, where he spent the night.


VATICAN CITY, 10 MAY 2009 (VIS) - In Amman, Jordan, at 10 a.m. today, the Pope celebrated Mass in the city's international stadium, which has capacity for 25,000 people.

In his homily the Holy Father mentioned the difficulties and uncertainties the Catholic community in the country has to face. "May you never forget", he said, "the great dignity which derives from your Christian heritage, or fail to sense the loving solidarity of all your brothers and sisters in the Church throughout the world!"

Recalling then that the World Day of Prayer for Vocations is being celebrated in Jordan today, Benedict XVI invited the many young people present "to consider how the Lord is calling you to follow Him and to build up His Church", either in the priesthood, in consecrated life or in the Sacrament of Marriage.

The Pope also pointed out that the Church throughout the Holy Land has been celebrating the Year of the Family, in which context he expressed the hope that every Christian family may "grow in fidelity to its lofty vocation to be a true school of prayer, where children learn a sincere love of God, where they mature in self-discipline and concern for the needs of others, and where, shaped by the wisdom born of faith, they contribute to the building of an ever more just and fraternal society. ... May today's families be faithful to that impressive heritage, and never lack the material and moral assistance they need to carry out their irreplaceable role in service to society".

Referring then to "the particular dignity, vocation and mission of women in God's plan", which was an important aspect of reflection during the Year of the Family, the Pope noted "how much the Church in these lands owes to the patient, loving and faithful witness of countless Christian mothers, religious sisters, teachers, doctors and nurses, ... to all those women who in different and at times courageous ways have devoted their lives to building peace and fostering love".

"Sadly, this God-given dignity and role of women has not always been sufficiently understood and esteemed. .... By her public witness of respect for women, and her defence of the innate dignity of every human person, the Church in the Holy Land can make an important contribution to the advancement of a culture of true humanity and the building of the civilisation of love".

Commenting then on today's Gospel in which Jesus describes Himself as "the good shepherd" Who "lays down His life for His sheep", the Pope said: "May the courage of Christ our shepherd inspire and sustain you daily in your efforts to bear witness to the Christian faith and to maintain the Church's presence in the changing social fabric of these ancient lands.

"Fidelity to your Christian roots", he added, "fidelity to the Church's mission in the Holy Land, demands of each of you a particular kind of courage: the courage of conviction, born of personal faith, not mere social convention or family tradition; the courage to engage in dialogue and to work side by side with other Christians in the service of the Gospel and solidarity with the poor, the displaced, and the victims of profound human tragedies; the courage to build new bridges to enable a fruitful encounter of people of different religions and cultures, and thus to enrich the fabric of society. It also means bearing witness to the love which inspires us to 'lay down' our lives in the service of others, and thus to counter ways of thinking which justify 'taking' innocent lives".

Following Mass and before praying the Regina Coeli, the Pope appealed to the Virgin Mary, saying: "Let us ask the Mother of the Church to look down in mercy upon all the Christians of these lands, and with the help of her prayers, may they be truly one in the faith they profess and the witness they bear".


VATICAN CITY, 9 MAY 2009 (VIS) - This evening in the Greek-Melkite cathedral of St. George, the Holy Father celebrated Vespers with priests, religious and faithful of the Eastern Catholic Churches (Maronites, Syriacs, Armenians, Chaldeans and Latins). Also present was Archbishop Benediktos Tsikoras of the Greek Orthodox Church.

Following greetings from Greek-Melkite Patriarch Gregorios III Laham and his vicar, Archbishop Yasser Ayyach, Benedict XVI addressed some words to those present.

"The Church herself is a pilgrim people", he said, "and thus, through the centuries, has been marked by determinant historical events and pervading cultural epochs. Sadly, some of these have included times of theological dispute or periods of repression. Others, however, have been moments of reconciliation - marvellously strengthening the communion of the Church - and times of rich cultural revival, to which Eastern Christians have contributed so greatly".

"All Christians are called to respond actively to the Lord's mandate, ... to bring others to know and love Him. In fact the vicissitudes of history have strengthened the members of particular Churches to embrace this task with vigour and to engage resolutely with the pastoral realities of today".

Recalling then how many Eastern Churches trace ancient links to the Patriarchate of Antioch, and are thus deeply rooted in the Near East, Benedict XVI recalled how "also today, as small minorities in scattered communities across these lands, you are recognised as followers of the Lord. The public face of your Christian faith is certainly not restricted to the spiritual solicitude you bear for one another and your people, essential though that is. Rather, your many works of universal charity extend to all Jordanians - Muslims and those of other religions - and also to the large numbers of refugees whom this Kingdom so generously welcomes".

"Your liturgies, ecclesiastical discipline and spiritual heritage are a living witness to your unfolding tradition", said the Holy Father. "Imitating Christ and the Old Testament patriarchs and prophets, we set out to lead people from the desert towards the place of life, towards the Lord Who gives us life in abundance.

"This", he added, "marks all your apostolic works, the variety and calibre of which are greatly appreciated. ... Your presence in this society is a marvellous sign of the hope that defines us as Christian. That hope reaches far beyond the confines of our own Christian communities. So often you find that the families of other religions, with whom you work and offer your service of universal charity, hold concerns and worries that cross religious and cultural boundaries.

"This is especially noticeable in regard to the hopes and aspirations of parents for their children", the Pope proceeded, asking: "What parent or person of good will could not be troubled by the negative influences so pervasive in our globalised world, including the destructive elements within the entertainment industry which so callously exploit the innocence and sensibility of the vulnerable and the young?"

Finally the Holy Father addressed words of encouragement to candidates preparing for the priesthood or the religious life, and to all young Jordanian Christians: "Do not be afraid to make your own wise, measured and respectful contribution to the public life of the Kingdom. The authentic voice of faith will always bring integrity, justice, compassion and peace!"
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