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Monday, January 11, 2010


VATICAN CITY, 9 JAN 2010 (VIS) - At midday today, the Holy Father received the rector, students and former students of the Pontifical North American College in Rome, in a meeting marking the 150th anniversary of the foundation of that institution by Blessed Pius IX.

  "The present reunion", said the Pope speaking English, "is an opportunity not only to remember with gratitude the time of your studies, but also to reaffirm your filial affection for the Church of Rome, to recall the apostolic labours of the countless alumni who have gone before you, and to recommit yourselves to the high ideals of holiness, fidelity and pastoral zeal which you embraced on the day of your ordination".

  Recalling his own pastoral visit to the United States in April 2008, Benedict XVI noted how he had then expressed his "conviction that the Church in America is called to cultivate an intellectual 'culture' which is genuinely Catholic, confident in the profound harmony of faith and reason, and prepared to bring the richness of faith's vision to bear on the pressing issues which affect the future of American society.

  "As Blessed Pius IX rightly foresaw", he added, "the Pontifical North American College in Rome is uniquely prepared to help meet this perennial challenge. In the century and a half since its foundation, the College has offered its students an exceptional experience of the universality of the Church, the breadth of her intellectual and spiritual tradition, and the urgency of her mandate to bring Christ's saving truth to the men and women of every time and place".

  The Pope expressed his confidence that, "by emphasising these hallmarks of a Roman education in every aspect of its programme of formation, the College will continue to produce wise and generous pastors capable of transmitting the Catholic faith in its integrity, bringing Christ's infinite mercy to the weak and the lost, and enabling America's Catholics to be a leaven of the Gospel in the social, political and cultural life of their nation".

  At the end of his remarks the Pope recalled how the college chapel, dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, contains portrayals of "four outstanding models and patrons of priestly life and ministry: St. Gregory the Great, St. Pius X, St. John Mary Vianney and St. Vincent de Paul. During this Year for Priests, may these great saints continue to watch over the students who daily pray in their midst; may they guide and sustain your own ministry, and intercede for the priests of the United States".


VATICAN CITY, 9 JAN 2010 (VIS) -  The Bilateral Permanent Working Commission between the Holy See and the State of Israel met on 7 January to continue its work on an Agreement pursuant to article 10 para. 2 of the 1993 Fundamental Agreement between the two Parties, announces a communique made public today.

  The talks proved useful and were held in un atmosphere of cordiality. Some important topics for forthcoming meetings were spelled out.

  The next meeting will take place on 10 February at the headquarters of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the plenary meeting of the commission will be held in the Vatican on 27 May.
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VATICAN CITY, 9 JAN 2010 (VIS) - Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. released the following declaration to journalists this evening:

  "This evening the Holy Father travelled to Rome's Gemelli hospital to visit Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, who was admitted there following a fracture he suffered during the incident at the beginning of Midnight Mass on 24 December last year, which required a surgical operation.

  "The visit took place at around 7 p.m. and lasted for about half an hour. It was characterised by a very cordial conversation in French between the Pope and the cardinal. The Pope expressed his concern and his spiritual closeness, and was able to assure himself personally of the favourable progress and post-operative rehabilitation of Cardinal Etchegaray, whose clinical conditions are excellent. During the conversation the two men were seated and at the end the cardinal walked with the Pope accompanying him to the door. Cardinal Etchegaray's release from hospital is expected for the middle of next week. On his way out the Holy Father also greeted a number of other patients".
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VATICAN CITY, 9 JAN 2010 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

 - Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

 - Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo.

 - Cardinal William Wakefield Baum, major penitentiary emeritus.

 - Archbishop Joseph Augustine Di Noia O.P., secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
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VATICAN CITY, 9 JAN 2010 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed:

 - Fr. Jean Marie Vianney Prida Inthirath, pastor and rector of the major seminary of Savannakhet, Laos, as apostolic vicar of Savannakhet (area 48,100, population 3,680,000, Catholics 15,000, priests 10, religious 55). The bishop-elect was born in Muang Phine, Laos in 1957 and ordained a priest in 1986.

 - Msgr. Luigi Lemmo of the clergy of the archdiocese of Naples, Italy, pastor of the parish of "Madonna della Libera" and dean of the fifth deaconate, as auxiliary of the same archdiocese (area 274, population 1,744,000, Catholics 1,736,000, priests 1,064, permanent deacons 232, religious 3,086). The bishop-elect was born in Naples in 1946 and ordained a priest in 1973.

 - As members of the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology: Fr. Enrico Dal Covolo S.D.B., professor at Rome's Pontifical Salesian University; Fr. Angelo Di Berardino O.S.A., president emeritus of the "Augustinianum" Patristic Institute in Rome; Giovanni Maria Vian, director of "L'Osservatore Romano" and professor of patristic philology at Rome's "La Sapienza" University; Jean Guyon, director of research at the "Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique", France, and Hugo Brandenburg of the German Archaeological Institute in Rome, professor emeritus at the "Institut fur Klassiche Archaologie und Fruhchristliche Archaologie" of the "Westfalische Wilhems-Universitat" in Munster, Germany.
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VATICAN CITY, 10 JAN 2010 (VIS) - As is customary on today's Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, this morning in the Sistine Chapel the Pope presided at the celebration of the Eucharist during which he baptised fourteen newborn children, seven boys and seven girls.

  In his homily the Holy Father explained how "today Jesus showed Himself, on the banks of the River Jordan, to John and the People of Israel". The Baptism of the Precursor was "a Baptism of penance, a sign inviting people to conversion, to change their lives because the One is coming Who 'will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire'. Indeed, we cannot aspire to a new world while wallowing in selfishness and in the habits of sin", he said.

  "The Son of God, He Who is without sin", the Pope went on, "comes among sinners, He shows how close God is to man's journey of conversion. Jesus takes on His shoulders the weight of sin of all humanity. He begins His mission by placing Himself in our position, the position of sinners, from the perspective of the cross".

  Referring then to the babies he was about to baptise, Benedict XVI explained that "they will receive as a gift the grace of Baptism, and the Holy Spirit will dwell in them as in a temple, transforming the depths of their heart. ... Today they are baptised in the faith of the Church, as professed by their parents, their godparents and by the Christians present, who will then lead them by the hand in the following of Christ".

  And he went on: "Today is a great day for these children. With their Baptism, having become participants in the death and resurrection of Christ, they begin with Him the joyful and exciting adventure of being disciples".

  "It is Baptism that illuminates us with the light of Christ, opens our eyes to His splendour and introduces us to the mystery of God through the divine glow of the faith. The children who are about to be baptised must walk in this light all their lives, helped by the word and example of their parents and godparents who should undertake - through their words and the witness of their own lives - to feed the torch of the children's faith that it may shine in this world of ours, which is often groping in the shades of doubt, and bring the light of the Gospel which is life and hope".

  "In our days too, the faith is a gift to be rediscovered, cultivated and witnessed. With this celebration of Baptism, the Lord grants each of us the chance to live the beauty and joy of being Christians, that we too may introduce baptised children to the fullness of following Christ.

  "We entrust these little one to the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary", added the Holy Father in conclusion. "We ask her that they, dressed in white as a sign of their newly-acquired dignity, may be faithful disciples of Christ for all their lives, courageous witnesses of the Gospel".
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VATICAN CITY, 10 JAN 2010 (VIS) - At the end of today's Mass in the Sistine chapel, during which he baptised a group of newborn infants, at midday the Pope appeared at the widow of his private study to pray the Angelus with faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square below.

  "Baptism", said the Pope, "gives a very good idea of the overall meaning of the Christmas festivities, during which the predominant theme is that of becoming children of God thanks to the fact that the only-begotten Son adopted our humanity. He became man that we might become children of God. God was born that we might be reborn".

  With the Sacrament of Baptism, the Holy Father continued, human beings "truly become children, children of God. From that moment the goal of their lives consists in achieving, freely and consciously, that which was mankind's aim from the beginning. 'Become what you are' is the basic educational principle of human beings redeemed by grace. ... Generated by Baptism to a new life, Christians begin their journey of growth in the faith, which will bring them consciously to invoke God as 'Abba- Father'".

  "Baptism also provides a model for society: that of being brothers. Fraternity cannot be created through an ideology, even less so by a decree on the part of some authority. We recognise one another as brothers on the basis of a humble but profound awareness of being children of the one heavenly Father. As Christians, and thanks to the Holy Spirit we received at Baptism, our lot is to have the gift and the commitment of living as children of God and as brothers, in order to become a 'leaven' for a new humanity, united and rich in peace and hope".

  After praying the Angelus the Holy Father spoke of two events that had caught his attention over recent days: "the situation of migrants who seek a better life in countries which, for various reasons, have need of their presence; and the conflicts in certain parts of the world in which Christians are subject to sometimes violent attacks.

  "We must return to the heart of the problem", he added. "We must return to the meaning of the human person. An immigrant is a human being, different by background, culture and tradition, but a person to be respected, and possessing rights and duties, particularly in the area of work where the temptation to exploitation is greater, but also in the area of living conditions. Violence must never be a way to resolve difficulties. The problems is first and foremost human. I invite people to look at the face of the other and discover that he too has a soul, a story and a life. He is a person and God loves him just as He loves me".

  And the Holy Father continued: "I would like to make similar considerations concerning man in his religious diversity. Violence towards Christians in certain countries has aroused the indignation of many people, also because it happened on the days most sacred to Christian tradition. It is important for both political and religious institutions not to renege ... on their responsibilities. There can be no violence in the name of God, nor can we think to honour Him by offending the dignity and freedom of our fellow man".
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VATICAN CITY, 11 JAN 2010 (VIS) - This morning in the Sala Regia of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, Pope Benedict pronounced his traditional annual address to members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See. He also received the greetings of the ambassadors formulated in a speech delivered by Alejandro Emilio Valladares Lanza of Honduras and dean of the diplomatic corps.

  The Holy See currently maintains full diplomatic relations with 178 States, to which must be added the European Union and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. It also has relations of a special nature with the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

  Furthermore, the Holy See has observer-State status at the United Nations, as well as being a member of seven organisations and agencies of the UN system, observer in eight others, and member or observer in five regional organisations.

  Ample extracts of the Holy Father's address are give below:

  "At Christmas we contemplated the mystery of God and the mystery of creation: by the message of the angels to the shepherds, we received the good news of man's salvation and the renewal of the entire universe. That is why, in my Message for the 2010 World Day of Peace, I urged all persons of good will - those same men and women to whom the angels rightly promised peace - to protect creation".

  "The Successor of Peter keeps his door open to everyone in the hope of maintaining relations which can contribute to the progress of the human family. It is a cause for deep satisfaction that, just a few weeks ago, full diplomatic relations were established between the Holy See and the Russian Federation. The recent visit of the president of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam was likewise very significant; Vietnam is a country close to my heart, where the Church is celebrating her centuries-long presence by a Jubilee Year. In this spirit of openness, throughout 2009 I met many political personalities from all over the world; I also visited some of them and would like to continue to do so, in so far as is possible.

  "The Church is open to everyone because, in God, she lives for others! She thus shares deeply in the fortunes of humanity, which in this new year continues to be marked by the dramatic crisis of the global economy and consequently a serious and widespread social instability. In my Encyclical 'Caritas in veritate', I invited everyone to look to the deeper causes of this situation: in the last analysis, they are to be found in a current self-centred and materialistic way of thinking which fails to acknowledge the limitations inherent in every creature. Today I would like to stress that the same way of thinking also endangers creation.

  "Each of us could probably cite an example of the damage that this causes to the environment the world over. I will offer an example, from any number of others, taken from the recent history of Europe. Twenty years ago, after the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the materialistic and atheistic regimes which had for several decades dominated a part of this continent, was it not easy to see the great harm which an economic system lacking any reference to the truth about man had done not only to the dignity and freedom of individuals and peoples, but to nature itself, by polluting soil, water and air?

  "The denial of God distorts the freedom of the human person, yet it also devastates creation. It follows that the protection of creation is not principally a response to an aesthetic need, but much more to a moral need, inasmuch as nature expresses a plan of love and truth which is prior to us and which comes from God.

  "For this reason I share the growing concern caused by economic and political resistance to combating the degradation of the environment. This problem was evident even recently, during the 15th Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change held in Copenhagen from 7 to 18 December last. I trust that in the course of this year, first in Bonn and later in Mexico City, it will be possible to reach an agreement for effectively dealing with this question. The issue is all the more important in that the very future of some nations is at stake, particularly some island States.

  "It is proper, however, that this concern and commitment for the environment should be situated within the greater framework of the major challenges now facing mankind. If we wish to build true peace, how can we separate or even set at odds the protection of the environment and the protection of human life, including the life of the unborn? It is in man's respect for himself that his sense of responsibility for creation is shown".

  "I would like to stress again that the protection of creation calls for an appropriate management of the natural resources of countries and, in the first place, of the economically disadvantaged. ... How can we forget, for that matter, that the struggle for access to natural resources is one of the causes of a number of conflicts, not least in Africa, as well as a continuing threat elsewhere?"

  "I forcefully repeat that to cultivate peace, one must protect creation! Furthermore, there are still large areas, for example in Afghanistan or in some countries of Latin America, where agriculture is unfortunately still linked to the production of narcotics, and is a not insignificant source of employment and income. If we want peace, we need to preserve creation by re-channelling these activities; I once more urge the international community not to become resigned to the drug trade and the grave moral and social problems which it creates".

  "The protection of creation is indeed an important element of peace and justice! Among the many challenges which it presents, one of the most serious is increased military spending and cost of maintaining and developing nuclear arsenals. Enormous resources are being consumed for these purposes, when they could be spent on the development of peoples, especially those who are poorest. For this reason I firmly hope that, during the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference to be held this May in New York, effective decisions will be made towards progressive disarmament, with a view to freeing our planet from nuclear arms.

  "More generally, I deplore the fact that arms production and export helps to perpetuate conflicts and violence, as in Darfur, in Somalia or in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Together with the inability of the parties directly involved to step back from the spiral of violence and pain spawned by these conflicts, there is the apparent powerlessness of other countries and the international organisations to restore peace, to say nothing of the indifference, amounting practically to resignation, of public opinion worldwide. ... Finally, how can I fail to mention terrorism, which endangers countless innocent lives and generates widespread anxiety".

  "The grave acts of violence to which I have just alluded, combined with the scourges of poverty, hunger, natural disasters and the destruction of the environment, have helped to swell the ranks of those who migrate from their native land. ... Here I wish to mention in particular the Christians of the Middle East. Assailed in various ways, even in the exercise of their religious freedom, they are leaving the land of their forebears, where the Church took root during the earliest centuries. To offer them encouragement and to make them feel the closeness of their brothers and sisters in faith, I have convened for next autumn a Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Middle East".

  "Sadly, in certain countries, mainly in the West, one encounters in political and cultural circles, as well in the media, scarce respect and at times hostility, if not scorn, directed towards religion and towards Christianity in particular. It is clear that if relativism is considerated an essential element of democracy, one risks understanding secularity solely in terms of excluding or, more precisely, denying the social importance of religion. But such an approach creates confrontation and division, disturbs peace, harms human ecology and, by rejecting in principle attitudes other than its own, finishes in a dead end. There is thus an urgent need to delineate a positive and open secularity which, grounded in the just autonomy of the temporal order and the spiritual order, can foster healthy co-operation and a spirit of shared responsibility".

  "I express my hope that in building its future, Europe will always draw upon the wellsprings of its Christian identity. As I said during my apostolic visit last September to the Czech Republic, Europe has an irreplaceable role to play "for the formation of the conscience of each generation and the promotion of a basic ethical consensus that serves every person who calls this continent 'home'.

  "To carry our reflection further, we must remember that the problem of the environment is complex. ... Creatures differ from one another and can be protected, or endangered, in different ways, as we know from daily experience. One such attack comes from laws or proposals which, in the name of fighting discrimination, strike at the biological basis of the difference between the sexes. I am thinking, for example, of certain countries in Europe or North and South America. ... Freedom cannot be absolute, since man is not God, but the image of God, God's creation. For man, the path to be taken cannot be determined by caprice or wilfulness, but must rather correspond to the structure willed by the Creator.

  "The protection of creation also entails other challenges, which can only be met by international solidarity. I think of the natural disasters which this past year have sown death, suffering and destruction in the Philippines, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Taiwan. Nor can I pass over Indonesia and, closer to us, the Abruzzi region, hit by devastating earthquakes".

  "Yet, in addition to solidarity, the protection of creation also calls for concord and stability between States. Whenever disagreements and conflicts arise among them, in order to defend peace, they must tenaciously pursue the path of constructive dialogue. This is what happened twenty-five years ago with the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Argentina and Chile, reached thanks to the mediation of the Apostolic See. That treaty has borne abundant fruits of co-operation and prosperity which have in some way benefited all of Latin America".

  "I am gratified by the agreement concluded between Croatia and Slovenia on the arbitration regarding their sea and land borders. I am also pleased by the accord between Armenia and Turkey for the re-establishment of diplomatic relations, and I express my hope that, through dialogue, relations will improve among all the countries of the southern Caucasus.

  "In the course of my pilgrimage to the Holy Land, I urgently appealed to the Israelis and the Palestinians to dialogue and to respect each others' rights. Once again I call for a universal recognition of the right of the State of Israel to exist and to enjoy peace and security within internationally recognised borders. Likewise, the right of the Palestinian people to a sovereign and independent homeland, to live in dignity and to enjoy freedom of movement, ought to be recognised. I would also like to request the support of everyone for the protection of the identity and sacred character of Jerusalem, and of its cultural and religious heritage, which is of universal value. Only thus will this unique city, holy yet deeply troubled, be a sign and foreshadowing of that peace which God desires for the whole human family.

  "Out of love for the dialogue and peace which protect creation, I exhort the government leaders and the citizens of Iraq to overcome their divisions and the temptation to violence and intolerance, in order to build together the future of their country. The Christian communities also wish to make their own contribution, but if this is to happen, they need to be assured respect, security and freedom. Pakistan has been also hard hit by violence in recent months and certain episodes were directly aimed at the Christian minority. I ask that everything be done to avoid the reoccurrence of such acts of aggression, and to ensure that Christians may feel fully a part of the life of their country.

  "With regard to acts of violence against Christians, I cannot fail to mention also the deplorable attack which the Egyptian Coptic community suffered in recent days, during its celebration of Christmas. Concerning Iran, I express my hope that through dialogue and co-operation joint solutions will be found on the national as well as the international level. I encourage Lebanon, which has emerged from a lengthy political crisis, to continue along the path of concord. I hope that Honduras, after a period of uncertainty and unrest, will move towards a recovery of normal political and social life. I desire the same for Guinea and Madagascar with the effective and disinterested aid of the international community".

  "Looking to Christ, I exhort every person of good will to work confidently and generously for the sake of human dignity and freedom. May the light and strength of Jesus help us to respect human ecology, in the knowledge that natural ecology will likewise benefit, since the book of nature is one and indivisible. In this way we will be able to build peace, today and for the sake of generations to come".
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