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Monday, November 23, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 21 NOV 2009 (VIS) - This morning in the Sistine Chapel, Benedict XVI met with artists in an event promoted by the Pontifical Council for Culture to mark the tenth anniversary of John Paul II's Letter to Artists of 4 April 1999, and the forty-fifth anniversary of Paul VI's meeting with artists of 7 May 1964.

  The 262 artists participating in the meeting came from different continents and were divided into five categories: painting and sculpture; architecture; literature and poetry; music and song; cinema, theatre, dance and photography.

  Before the Pope's address, the Sistine Chapel Choir sang "Domine, quando veneris" by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, and the Italian actor Sergio Castellitto read out some extracts from John Paul II's Letter to Artists.

  "At this gathering", the Holy Father began his address, "I wish to express and renew the Church's friendship with the world of art, a friendship that has been strengthened over time; indeed Christianity from its earliest days has recognised the value of the arts and has made wise use of their varied language to express her unvarying message of salvation. This friendship must be continually promoted and supported so that it may be authentic and fruitful, adapted to different historical periods and attentive to social and cultural variations".

  The Pope recalled how in 1964 "an historic event took place, at the express wish of Paul VI" when that Pope "made a commitment to 're-establish the friendship between the Church and artists', and he invited artists to make a similar shared commitment, analysing seriously and objectively the factors that disturbed this relationship, and assuming individual responsibility, courageously and passionately, for a newer and deeper journey in mutual acquaintance and dialogue in order to arrive at an authentic 'renaissance' of art in the context of a new humanism".

  Benedict XVI then went on to refer to the Sistine Chapel fresco of the Last Judgement, explaining that it "reminds us that human history is ... a continuing tension towards fullness, towards human happiness. ... Yet the dramatic scene portrayed in this fresco also places before our eyes the risk of man's definitive fall. ... The fresco issues a strong prophetic cry against evil, against every form of injustice. For believers, though, the Risen Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. For His faithful followers, He is the Door through which we are brought to that 'face-to-face' vision of God from which limitless, full and definitive happiness flows".

  The Holy Father also noted how the present is marked, "not only by negative elements in the social and economic sphere, but also by a weakening of hope, by a certain lack of confidence in human relationships, which gives rise to increasing signs of resignation, aggression and despair".

  "What is capable of restoring enthusiasm and confidence, what can encourage the human spirit to rediscover its path, to raise its eyes to the horizon, to dream of a life worthy of its vocation - if not beauty?" he asked.

  "Beauty ... reminds us of our final destiny" and "gives us the courage to live to the full the unique gift of life. The quest for beauty that I am describing here is clearly not about escaping into the irrational or into mere aestheticism.

  "Too often", the Pope added, "the beauty that is thrust upon us is illusory and deceitful, superficial and blinding, ... a seductive but hypocritical beauty that rekindles desire, the will for power, possession, and domination over others, it is a beauty which soon turns into its opposite, taking on the guise of indecency, transgression or gratuitous provocation. Authentic beauty, however, unlocks the yearning of the human heart, the profound desire to know, to love, to go towards the Other, to reach for the Beyond".

  "Art, in all its forms, at the point where it encounters the great questions of our existence, ... can take on a religious quality, thereby turning into a path of profound inner reflection and spirituality. This close proximity, this harmony between the journey of faith and the artist's path is attested by countless artworks that are based upon the personalities, the stories, the symbols of that immense deposit of 'figures' - in the broad sense - namely the Bible, the Sacred Scriptures".

  The Holy Father then turned his attention to "a 'via pulchritudinis', a path of beauty which is at the same time an artistic and aesthetic journey, a journey of faith, of theological enquiry. ... The way of beauty leads us to grasp the Whole in the fragment, the Infinite in the finite, God in the history of humanity.

  "Simone Weil wrote in this regard: 'In all that awakens within us the pure and authentic sentiment of beauty, there, truly, is the presence of God. There is a kind of incarnation of God in the world, of which beauty is the sign. Beauty is the experimental proof that incarnation is possible. For this reason all art of the first order is, by its nature, religious'".

  In his Letter of 1999 Pope John Paul II "restated the Church's desire to renew dialogue and co-operation with artists" writing that, "in order to communicate the message entrusted to her by Christ, the Church needs art". However, noted Pope Benedict, John Paul II "immediately went on to ask: 'Does art need the Church?' - thereby inviting artists to rediscover a source of fresh and well-founded inspiration in religious experience, in Christian revelation and in the 'great codex' that is the Bible".

  "You are the custodians of beauty", the Pope told the artists, "thanks to your talent, you have the opportunity to speak to the heart of humanity. ... Through your art, you yourselves are to be heralds and witnesses of hope for humanity! And do not be afraid to approach the first and last source of beauty, to enter into dialogue with believers, with those who, like yourselves, consider that they are pilgrims in this world and in history towards infinite Beauty!

  "Faith takes nothing away from your genius or your art: on the contrary, it exalts them and nourishes them, it encourages them to cross the threshold and to contemplate with fascination and emotion the ultimate and definitive goal, the sun that does not set, the sun that illumines this present moment and makes it beautiful".

  Following the Holy Father's words, the Sistine Chapel Choir sang "Veni delicte mi", also by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. After the Pope had bid farewell to the artists, Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, gave each of them, in Benedict XVI's name, a medal to commemorate the event.
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VATICAN CITY, 21 NOV 2009 (VIS) - The Holy See Press Office today released the following communique:

  "This morning His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI received in private audience His Grace Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury.

  "In the course of the cordial discussions attention turned to the challenges facing all Christian communities at the beginning of this millennium, and to the need to promote forms of collaboration and shared witness in facing these challenges.

  "The discussions also focused on recent events affecting relations between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion, reiterating the shared will to continue and to consolidate the ecumenical relationship between Catholics and Anglicans, and recalling how, over coming days, the commission entrusted with preparing the third phase of international theological dialogue between the parties (ARCIC) is due to meet".
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VATICAN CITY, 21 NOV 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

 - Appointed Bishop Jose Ignacio Munilla Aguirre of Palencia, Spain as bishop of San Sebastian (area 1,977, population 694,944, Catholics 641,515, priests 523, religious 2,136), Spain. He succeeds Bishop Juan Maria Uriarte Goiricelaya, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

 - Appointed Bishop Jesus Sanz Montes O.F.M. of Huesca and of Jaca, Spain, as metropolitan archbishop of Oviedo (area 10,565, population 1,059,136, Catholics 1,006,179, priests 565, religious 1,096), Spain. The archbishop-elect was born in Madrid, Spain in 1955, he was ordained a priest in 1986 and consecrated a bishop in 2003.

 - Conferred the "ad personam" title of archbishop on Bishop Peter Liu Cheung-chung of Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

 - Appointed Bishop Brian Joseph Dunn, auxiliary of Sault Sainte Marie, Canada, as bishop of Antigonish (area 18,800, population 226,000, Catholics 130,600, priests 124, permanent deacons 1, religious 279), Canada.
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VATICAN CITY, 22 NOV 2009 (VIS) - Today, Solemnity of Christ the King and the last Sunday of the liturgical year, the Pope told the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square that today's feast, though "established relatively recently, nonetheless has deep biblical roots".

  "The tile of 'King' applied to Jesus is very important in the Gospels and allows us to gain a full understanding of His person and His mission of salvation. ... When Jesus is placed upon the cross, the Jewish leaders mock Him saying: 'He is the king of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him'. The truth is that, precisely because He is the Son of God, Jesus gave Himself up freely to His Passion, and the cross is the paradoxical sign of His royalty which consists in the victory of the love of God the Father over the disobedience of sin".

  Yet, the Holy Father asked, "in what does Jesus' 'regal' power consist? It is not that of the kings and leaders of the world; it is the divine power to give eternal life, to free people from evil, to defeat the dominion of death. It is the power of love which knows how to draw good from evil, to soften hardened hearts, to bring peace to the harshest conflict, to enkindle hope in the murkiest darkness.

  "This Kingdom of Grace never imposes itself and always respects our freedom. Christ came 'to testify to the truth'. ... It is necessary then, for each conscience to make a choice: whom to follow? ... Opting for Christ does not guarantee success according to the criteria of the world, but it does ensure the peace and joy that only He can give. This is apparent, in every age, from the experience of so many men and women who, in Christ's name, in the name of truth and justice, have shown themselves capable of resisting the lure of earthly power in its various disguises, even to the point of crowning their faithfulness with martyrdom".
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VATICAN CITY, 22 NOV 2009 (VIS) - After praying the Angelus at midday today, the Pope recalled today's ceremony in Nazareth, Israel, for the beatification of Sr. Maria Alfonsina Danil Ghattas, born in Jerusalem in 1843 to a Christian family of nineteen children.

  "To her", said the Holy Father, "goes the merit of having founded a congregation formed exclusively of local women with the aim of teaching religion, combating illiteracy and improving the condition of women in that time, in the same land where Jesus Himself had exalted their dignity".

  "The beatification of such a significant female figure is of particular comfort to the Catholic community in the Holy Land, and is an invitation for them always to entrust themselves, with firm hope, to Divine Providence and to the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary", he concluded.

  Benedict XVI then went on to refer to yesterday's Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin in the Temple, which also marks "'pro orantibus' Day, in support of cloistered religious communities".

  He invited everyone to support such communities and publicly thanked the nuns who successively occupy the small cloistered convent founded by John Paul II in the Vatican: Poor Clares, Carmelites, Benedictines and, most recently, Visitandines.

  "Your prayer, dear sisters, is very valuable for my ministry", he told them.
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VATICAN CITY, 23 NOV 2009 (VIS) - The Holy See Press Office released the following communique at midday today:

  "Today, 23 November, the Holy Father Benedict XVI received in audience Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, prime minister of the State of Kuwait. The prime minister subsequently went on to meet Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. who was accompanied by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.

  "During the cordial discussions mention was made of the excellent bilateral relations, which have existed for more than forty years, between the Holy See and Kuwait. Likewise, consideration was given to certain questions of mutual interest, with particular reference to the promotion of peace and inter-religious dialogue in the Middle East. Subsequently, emphasis was given to the positive contribution that the significant Christian minority makes to Kuwaiti society, underlining the need for pastoral assistance to that community".
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VATICAN CITY, 23 NOV 2009 (VIS) - Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum", the Holy See dicastery responsible for the Church's charitable agencies, is due to travel to Australia at the invitation of the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference. During his visit, scheduled to last from 22 to 29 November he will meet with the bishops gathered at their plenary assembly in Sydney.

  "The aim of the visit", according to an English-language communique announcing the event, "is to strengthen the Catholic Church's witness in the field of charity. Benedict XVI has made the mission of 'diakonia' a focal point of his teaching, which together with the proclamation of the Word of God and the celebration of the Sacraments, expresses the Church's deepest nature. Cardinal Cordes will reflect together with the pastors on the teaching of 'Deus Caritas Est' in the light of the experience of the local Churches.

  "In the course of his trip, Cardinal Cordes will discuss the different facets of charity with priests, seminarians, charity workers and various lay groups. He will also deliver a lecture at the Australian Catholic University on the Encyclical 'Caritas in veritate'".
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VATICAN CITY, 23 NOV 2009 (VIS) - The Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff today announced that in the Vatican Basilica at 5 p.m. on Saturday 28 November, Benedict XVI will preside at the celebration of first Vespers for the first Sunday of Advent.
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VATICAN CITY, 23 NOV 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences six prelates from the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil, on their "ad limina" visit:

    - Bishop Fernando Mason O.F.M. Conv. of Piracicaba.

    - Bishop Irineu Danelon S.D.B. of Lins.

    - Bishop Paulo Mendes Peixoto of Sao Jose do Rio Preto.

    - Bishop Osvaldo Giuntini of Marilia.

    - Archbishop Maurício Grotto de Camargo of Botucatu.

  On Saturday 21 November he received in audience Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.
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