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Monday, October 26, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 24 OCT 2009 (VIS) - During the twentieth and final General Congregation of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, held this morning in the Synod Hall, the relator general, Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, archbishop of Cape Coast, Ghana, continued reading out the final list of propositions which he had begun during the session of yesterday afternoon. Subsequently the final vote on the propositions took place, using the procedure "placet" or "non placet". The president delegate on duty was Cardinal Theodore-Adrien Sarr, archbishop of Dakar, Senegal.

  At 1 p.m. the participants in the Synod attended a luncheon with the Holy Father in the atrium of the Vatican's Paul VI Hall.

  Cardinal Sarr pronounced some words thanking the Pope for the "paternal concern, respect and diligence he had shown towards Africa and its peoples, the Churches of the continent and all their members" since the beginning of the Synod.

  At the end of lunch the Pope addressed those present, expressing his satisfaction for the progress made by the Synod, the theme of which - reconciliation, justice and peace - "was not", he said, "an easy challenge".

  "The subject matter", he went on, "clearly had strong political implications, even though it is obvious that reconciliation, justice and peace are not possible without a profound purification of the heart, without a renewal of the mind, a 'metanoia', without the newness that arises from the meeting with God.

  "Yet even if this spiritual dimension is profound and fundamental", the Pope added, "the political dimension is also very real because without political achievements the novelties of the Spirit are not normally realised".

  Hence the temptation could have been to politicise the theme, to speak less as pastors and more as politicians, and thus in a sphere which is not our own".

  Benedict XVI went on: "The other danger was that, precisely in order to escape this temptation, we should retreat into a purely spiritual world, an abstract, beautiful but unrealistic world. Yet a pastor's words must be realistic, they must touch reality but within the perspective of God and of His Word.

  "Maintaining this equilibrium means, on the one hand, remaining true to reality, careful to speak about what is really there and, on the other, not falling into purely political solutions. This means using words that are concrete but spiritual.

  "This", the Pope concluded, "was the great problem facing the Synod, and it seems to me that, thanks to God, we managed to resolve it. For me this is another cause to give thanks because it facilitates the preparation of the post-Synodal document".

  Before concluding his remarks, the Pope announced that he had decided to appoint Cardinal Turkson as the new president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, in which role he succeeds Cardinal Renato Martino.
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VATICAN CITY, 24 OCT 2009 (VIS) - The working sessions of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops concluded this morning with the approval of the fifty-seven propositions which the Synod Fathers have presented to Benedict XVI.

  By order of the Pope, a provisional and unofficial version of the propositions has been made public by the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops. This is the third time that Benedict XVI has allowed the publication of the closing propositions of a Synodal assembly. Normally the propositions are given privately to the Pope for him to consider while preparing the Apostolic Exhortation, the official closing document of a Synod.

  The first proposition aims at fomenting greater ecclesial communion at all levels, encouraging co-operation within the Church. The Synod Fathers wish to stimulate existing structures of ecclesial communion, at the same time promoting others such as, for example, the establishment of continent-wide councils for the clergy, the laity and Catholic women.

  The prelates launch a "heartfelt appeal to all those who are at war in Africa and make their people suffer so much: 'Stop the hostilities and be reconciled!'" They likewise invite the international community "to give strong support to the struggle against all the manoeuvres which destabilise the African continent".

  In proposition 20 the Synod Fathers affirm as "unacceptable" article 14 of the Maputo Protocol. The article concerns the reproductive rights of women, "authorising medical abortion in cases of sexual assault, rape, incest, and where the continued pregnancy endangers the mental and physical health of the mother or the life of the mother or the foetus". Yet, they say, this is "in contradiction with human rights and the right to life. It trivialises the seriousness of the crime of abortion and devalues the role of childbearing".

  On the subject of the environment - another recurring theme of the Synod - the Synod Fathers note "an irresponsible degradation and senseless destruction of the earth, which is 'our mother'. In complicity with those who exercise political and economic leadership in Africa, some businesses, governments and multinational and trans-national companies engage in business that pollute the environment, destroy flora and fauna, thus causing unprecedented erosion and desertification of large areas of arable land".

  The bishops also express their concern for "fifteen million migrants who are looking for a homeland and a place of peace. ... The principle of the universal destination of created goods and the Church's teachings on human rights, freedom of movement and the rights of migrant workers are increasingly violated by the world's restrictive migration policies and laws against Africans", they say.

  In another of their propositions the Synod Fathers call for the defence of the family and of human life, which is facing the threat of "abortion, the devaluation of maternity (child-bearing), the distortion of the notion of marriage and the family itself, the ideology of divorce and a new relativist ethic".

  On the subject of women in Africa, the prelates "condemn all acts of violence against women, such as the battering of wives, the disinheritance of daughters, the oppression of widows in the name of tradition, forced marriages, female genital mutilation, trafficking in women and several other abuses such as sex slavery and sex tourism. All other inhumane and unjust acts against women are equally condemned".

  In another of the propositions, they describe HIV/AIDS as "a pandemic, together with malaria and tuberculosis, which is decimating African populations and severely damaging their economic and social life". AIDS sufferers in Africa "are victims of injustice, because they often do not receive the same quality of treatment as in other places. The Church asks ... that African patients receive the same quality of treatment as in Europe". The Synod Fathers also call for "pastoral support which helps couples living with an affected spouse to inform and form their consciences, so that they might choose what is right, with full responsibility for the greater good of each other, their union and their family".

  "This Synod", reads another proposition, "calls for the total and universal abolition of the death penalty".

  Finally the Synod Fathers underline the importance of "the professional training and ethical formation of journalists to promote a culture of dialogue which avoids division, sensationalism, disinformation and the offensive trivialisation of human suffering, all of which could harm the harmony and peace of societies and communities".
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VATICAN CITY, 25 OCT 2009 (VIS) - In the Vatican Basilica at 10 a.m. today the Pope presided at a Eucharistic concelebration with Synod Fathers to mark the closure of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops.

  Commenting on this Sunday's readings in his homily, Benedict XVI explained that "God's plan does not change. Through the centuries and the upheavals of history, He always aims at the same goal: the Kingdom of freedom and of peace for all. This implies His predilection for those deprived of freedom and peace, for those whose dignity as human beings is violated. We think in particular of our brothers and sisters in Africa who suffer poverty, disease, injustice, war, violence and forced migration".

  "The Church that is in Africa, through her pastors who have come from every country on the continent, from Madagascar and from the other islands, has welcomed the message of hope and the light to walk along the road that leads to the Kingdom of God. ... Faith in Jesus Christ - when it is well understood and practiced - guides mankind and nations to freedom in truth, or, to use the three words of the Synod's theme, to reconciliation, justice and peace".

  After then highlighting how the Church in the world is "the community of reconciled persons, workers for peace and justice", the Holy Father made it clear that "for this reason the Synod has forcefully re-emphasised - and expressed - that the Church is the Family of God, in which there can be no ethnic, linguistic or cultural divisions. ... The reconciled Church is a powerful leaven of reconciliation in single countries and in the whole African continent", he said.

  The Church transmits the message of salvation, "always associating evangelisation with human promotion", said the Pope. In this context he mentioned the "historic" Encyclical "Populorum Progressio", saying that what Paul VI wrote there "missionaries have put into effect and continue to put into effect in the field, promoting a development respectful of local cultures and the environment, according to a logic that now, forty years later, appears to be the only one able to bring the African people out of the slavery of hunger and disease.

  "This means transmitting the announcement of hope in 'priestly form'", he added, "that is, living the Gospel in the first person, trying to translate it into projects and deeds consistent with the fundamental driving principle, which is love".

  Pope Benedict encouraged the Church in Africa to arise. "Start down the road of new evangelisation with the courage that comes from the Holy Spirit", he said. "The urgent evangelising action that has been much discussed in these weeks also carries with it a pressing call to reconciliation, the indispensable condition for creating in Africa relationships of justice among mankind and for building an equitable and lasting peace while respecting every individual and every people: a peace that needs and opens up to the contribution of all persons of good will beyond the respective religious, ethnic, linguistic, cultural and social affiliations".

  "Courage! Arise, continent of Africa!" the Pope cried. "Welcome with renewed enthusiasm the proclamation of the Gospel so that the face of Christ might illuminate with its splendour the multiplicity of the cultures and languages of your people. As she offers the bread of the Word and the Eucharist, the Church also dedicates herself to working with every available means to ensure that no African may be without daily bread. This is why, along with the primary task of evangelisation, Christians are active in the work of human promotion".

  The Holy Father concluded his homily by calling on pastors of the Church in Africa, when they return to their communities, to "transmit to everyone the call that so often resounded in this Synod, of reconciliation, justice and peace".
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VATICAN CITY, 25 OCT 2009 (VIS) - After celebrating Mass this morning, Benedict XVI emerged into the atrium of the Vatican Basilica to pray the Angelus with faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square. Before the Marian prayer the Pope spoke of the recently-concluded Synod for Africa, describing it as "three weeks of prayer and of listening to one another, in order to discern what the Holy Spirit is saying today to the Church that lives on the African continent, but also to the universal Church".

  The Pope then referred to the happiness of the Synod Fathers "at the dynamism of Christian communities, which continue to grow in quantity and in quality. We are grateful to God for the missionary energies that have found fertile terrain in many diocese and that find expression in the sending of missionaries to other African countries and to other continents".

  The Synod also gave "particular emphasis to the family, which in Africa too represents the primary cell of society and which today is threatened by ideological currents, some of which come from outside. And what can we say of the young people exposed to this kind of pressure, influenced by models of thought and behaviour that contrast with the human and Christian values of the African people?"

  The Synodal assembly also turned its attention to "the current problems facing Africa and its great need for reconciliation, justice and peace", to which the Church responds with "the announcement of the Gospel and with human promotion", making every effort to ensure "that no-one remains without vital necessities, and that everyone can lead a life worthy of human beings".

  The Pope then addressed "all the people of Africa, in particular those who share the Christian faith", ideally consigning the final message of the Synod to them. "I encourage you with the words of the Lord Jesus", he said, "be light and salt of the beloved land of Africa".

  Finally, Benedict XVI recalled that a Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops will be held next year, announcing that he will deliver that event's "Instrumentum laboris" to participants during his forthcoming visit to Cyprus.

  After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father spoke of this morning's beatification in the Italian city of Milan of Fr. Carlo Gnocchi, "a great educator of children and young people". During World War II he acted as a military chaplain in the Italian "Alpini" regiment, accompanying them on their retreat from Russia during which he escaped death by a miracle.

  "It was then that he decided to dedicate himself entirely to works of charity. Thus, as Milan was being rebuilt, Don Gnocchi worked to 'rebuild the human person', gathering orphans and child victims of war and offering them help and education. He gave all of himself unto the end and, dying, donated his corneas to two blind children".

  "His work has continued over time and currently the Don Gnocchi Foundation is a leader in caring for people of all ages who need therapy and rehabilitation. I greet Archbishop Tettamanzi, archbishop of Milan and ... make the motto of this beatification my own: 'On the side of life, always'".
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VATICAN CITY, 24 OCT 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, archbishop of Cape Coast, Ghana, as president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
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VATICAN CITY, 26 OCT 2009 (VIS) - This morning the Holy Father received members of the Pontifical Biblical Institute which is currently celebrating its centenary. The institute was founded by Pope Pius X.

  Benedict XVI greeted Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, and expressed his thanks to Fr. Adolfo Nicolas Pachon S.J., superior general of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). The Jesuits, "not without considerable effort, invest financial and human resources in running the Faculty of the Ancient East, the Biblical Faculty here in Rome and the institute's office in Jerusalem", said the Pope. He also extended his greetings to include the rector, professors and students of the Pontifical Biblical Institute.

  "This centenary represents a goal and, at the same time, a starting point", said the Holy Father. "Enriched by the experience of the past, you continue your journey with renewed enthusiasm, aware of the service to the Church that is asked of you: that of bringing the Bible into the life of the People of God that they may know how to face the unprecedented challenges that the modern age poses to the new evangelisation. Our shared hope is that, in this secularised world, Sacred Scripture may become not only the heart of theology but also a source for spirituality and for vigour of faith among all who believe in Christ".

  The Holy Father recalled that the Vatican Council II Dogmatic Constitution "Dei Verbum" highlighted "the legitimacy and importance of the historical-critical method, identifying therein three essential elements: attention to literary genres; study of historical context; and the examination of what is often called 'Sitz im Leben'. ...The conciliar text also adds another methodological indication. Given that Scripture is a single thing rooted in the one People of God, which has carried it through history, it follows that reading Scripture as a unified whole means reading it on the basis of the Church, ... and maintaining faith in the Church as the true key for its interpretation.

  "If exegesis also wishes to be theology, it must recognise that faith is the Church is that form of 'sympathy' without which the Bible remains a closed book. Tradition does not close access to Scripture, but it opens it. Furthermore it is the Church, in her institutions, that has the decisive word in the interpretation of Scripture. It is, in fact, the Church that is entrusted with the task of authentically interpreting the Word of God as written and transmitted, exercising her authority in the name of Jesus Christ".
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VATICAN CITY, 26 OCT 2009 (VIS) - The Holy See Press Office released the following communique late this morning:

  "On Monday 26 October in the Palazzo del Sant'Uffizio, headquarters of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei", the study commission made up of experts from "Ecclesia Dei" and from the Society of St. Pius X held its first meeting, with the aim of examining the doctrinal differences still outstanding between the Society and the Apostolic See.

  "In a cordial, respectful and constructive climate, the main doctrinal questions were identified. These will be studied in the course of discussions to be held over coming months, probably twice a month. In particular, the questions due to be examined concern the concept of Tradition, the Missal of Paul VI, the interpretation of Vatican Council II in continuity with Catholic doctrinal Tradition, the themes of the unity of the Church and the Catholic principles of ecumenism, the relationship between Christianity and non-Christian religions, and religious freedom. The meeting also served to specify the method and organisation of the work".
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VATICAN CITY, 26 OCT 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

 - Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez, archbishop of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

 - Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, archbishop of Madrid, Spain.

 - Cardinal Severino Poletto, archbishop of Turin, Italy.
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