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Thursday, December 16, 2010


VATICAN CITY, 16 DEC 2010 (VIS) - Today in the Vatican, the Holy Father received the Letters of Credence of five new ambassadors to the Holy See: Suresh Prasad Pradhan of Nepal; Royson Mabuku Mukwena of Zambia; Miquel Angel Canturri Montanya of Andorra, Vivianne Fock Tave of Seychelles, and Boubacar Sidiki Toure of Mali.

  The Holy Father first addressed the diplomats as a group, then gave each of them a speech in written form concerning issues specific to his or her own country.

  The Pope focused his collective remarks on the subject of human fraternity, in which context he recalled appeals made over the course of the year "for Haiti, devastated first by the earthquake and them by the cholera epidemic. Unfortunately", he said, "other tragedies have taken place in a number of nations this year. Your own counties, the international community and the voluntary sector have responded to the urgent appeals for aid, aid which must certainly continue and intensify. For her part the Church, through her various institutions, also contributes in many ways over the course of time".

  "The great ideal of fraternity, which is part of the national emblem of many countries, has had less resonance in the development of philosophical and political ideas than other ideals such as freedom, equality, progress or unity", the Pope observed. "It is a principle which has become a dead letter in contemporary political societies, due above all to the influence of individualist and collectivist ideologies. Yet fraternity has a special significance for Christians, because of God's plan of fraternal love, the fraternity revealed to us by Christ".

  "In order to live with dignity all human beings need respect, just as they need justice to be done and their rights to be recognised in concrete terms. However, this is not enough to live a fully human life, for human beings also need fraternity, ... not only in their immediate relationships but also on a planetary scale. And, although the current process of globalisation brings people closer together it does not make them brothers".

  "Human reason", said Benedict XVI, "is capable of recognising the equality of all men and the need to limit excessive inequalities among them, yet it is incapable of establishing fraternity. That is a supernatural gift. The Church sees the achievement of human fraternity on earth as a vocation that is part of the creative design of God, Who wishes her to create this fraternity at both the local and universal level, as she does in the countries you represent before the Holy See".

  Yet, the Pope concluded, "although fraternity among men can raise positive echoes in terms of 'social effectiveness', it must not be forgotten that it is not a means but an end in itself. The Church believes that Christ revealed to us that God is love. Thus people who believe in divine charity are certain that the path of love is open to all men and women, and that efforts to establish universal fraternity are not in vain".
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VATICAN CITY, 16 DEC 2010 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, the Holy Father received Bishop Munib A. Younan and Rev. Martin Junge, recently elected as president and secretary general of the Lutheran World Federation, who are leading a delegation on an official visit to Rome.

  Beginning his English-language address to the group, the Pope highlighted "the many significant fruits produced by these decades of bilateral discussions" between Catholics and Lutherans.

  "With God's help it has been possible slowly and patiently to remove barriers and to foster visible bonds of unity by means of theological dialogue and practical co-operation, especially at the level of local communities", he said.

  "Last year marked the tenth anniversary of the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification", the Pope noted, affirming that this "proved a significant step along the difficult path towards re-establishing full unity among Christians and a stimulus to further ecumenical discussion.

  "In these years leading up to the five-hundredth anniversary of the events of 1517", he added, "Catholics and Lutherans are called to reflect anew on where our journey towards unity has led us and to implore the Lord's guidance and help for the future".

  The Pope expressed his pleasure at the fact that "the International Lutheran - Roman Catholic Commission on Unity is preparing a joint text which will document what Lutherans and Catholics are able to say together at this point regarding our closer relations after almost five centuries of separation. In order to clarify further the understanding of the Church, which is the main focus of ecumenical dialogue today, the Commission is studying the theme: 'Baptism and Growing Church Communion'".

  The Holy Father concluded: "It is my hope that these ecumenical activities will provide fresh opportunities for Catholics and Lutherans to grow closer in their lives, their witness to the Gospel, and their efforts to bring the light of Christ to all dimensions of society".
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VATICAN CITY, 16 DEC 2010 (VIS) - In the Holy See Press Office at midday today, a press conference was held to present the Pope's Message for the forty-fourth World Day of Peace. The Day falls on 1 January 2011 and has as its theme: "Religious Freedom. The Path to Peace".

  Participating in today's press conference were Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, Bishop Mario Toso, S.D.B., Msgr. Anthony Frontiero and Tommaso De Ruzza, respectively president, secretary and officials of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

  Cardinal Turkson, speaking English, explained how this year's Message is made up of "an introductory reference to the attack on Christians in Iraq, the main body of the text which presents the meaning of religious freedom and the various ways in which it fashions peace and experiences of peace, and a concluding reflection on peace as a gift of God and as the work of men and women of goodwill, especially of believers.

  "Religious freedom", he added, "is the theme of the Pope's Message for the World Day of Peace not only because that subject matter is central to Catholic social doctrine, but also because the experience of religious freedom - a basic vocation of man and a fundamental, inalienable and universal human right, and key to peace - has come under great stress and threat: From raging secularism, which is intolerant of God and of any form of expression of religion. From religious fundamentalism, the politicisation of religion and the establishment of State religions. From the growing cultural and religious pluralism that is becoming ever more present and pressing in our day".

  "The Holy Father", the cardinal said, "sees the safeguarding of religious freedom in our multi-cultural, multi-religious and secularised world as one of the ways to safeguard peace".

  "One of the important tasks that our world set for itself following World War II was the formulation, adoption and promulgation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights", said the president of the pontifical council. Benedict XVI, he said, "is also worried about the increasing instances of the denial of the universality of these rights in the name of different cultural, political, social and even religious outlooks".

  "Religious freedom is not a right granted by a State", it "is derived, ... from natural law and from the dignity of the person, which are rooted in creation. Rather, the State and other public institutions, ... need to recognise it as intrinsic to the human person, as indispensable for integrity and peace".

  Cardinal Turkson went on: "Religious freedom is a duty of public authority" but "it is not an unlimited right. ... Religious freedom refers primarily to man's freedom to express his being 'capax Dei': his freedom to respond to the truth of his nature as created by God and created for life with God without coercion or impediments. It is in this that man finds his peace, and from there becomes an instrument of peace".

  "Religious freedom does not imply that all religions are equal. Nor is it a reason for religious relativism or indifferentism. Religious freedom is compatible with defence of one's religious identity against relativism, syncretism and fundamentalism, which are all abused forms of religious freedom".

  After then highlighting how "religious freedom is not limited to the free exercise of worship", the cardinal pointed out that "there is a public dimension to it, which grants believers the chance of making their contribution to building the social order".

  "Denying the right to profess one's religion in public and the right to bring the truth of faith to bear upon public life has negative consequences for true development", he said.

  "The exercise of the right of religious freedom as a way to peace thus implies the recognition of the harmony that must exist between the two areas and forms of life: private and public, individual and community, person and society. ... Accordingly, the development and the exercise of one's religious freedom, is also the task of one's community".

  Referring then to the relationship between religious freedom and the State, Cardinal Turkson affirmed that, "although religious freedom is not established by the State, it (the State) nevertheless needs to recognise it as intrinsic to the human person and his public and communitarian expressions. Recognition of religious freedom and respect for the innate dignity of every person also imply the principle of the responsibility to protect on the part of the community, society and the State".

  "The Church's appeals for religious freedom are not based on a claim of reciprocity, whereby one group respects the rights of others only if the latter respect their rights. Rather, appeals for religious freedom are based on the dignity of persons. We respect the rights of others because it is the right thing to do, not in exchange for its equivalent or for a favour granted. At the same time, when others suffer persecution because of their faith and religious practice, we offer them compassion and solidarity".

  Cardinal Turkson concluded his observations by noting that "all proclamation of the Gospel ... is an effort to awaken the (religious) freedom of man to desire and to embrace the truth of the Gospel. This truth of the Gospel, however, is unique, because it is truth that saves. ... Evangelisation and the carrying out of the missionary charge, then, do not contradict and oppose the sense of religious freedom".

  For his part, Bishop Toso affirmed that Benedict XVI's Message "invites us particularly to examine the truth of the right to religious freedom; in other words, its anthropological, ethical, juridical, political, civil and religious implications. ... Over and above mere tolerance, religious freedom is the marrow bone of all morality and freedom, of reciprocal respect, of peace".

  "The Message reserves the same criticism for fanaticism, fundamentalism and laicism, because they all overlook the essence of religious freedom, which is the free and common search for transcendent truth".

  "For the Church", the bishop concluded, "dialogue between followers of different religions is an important stimulus to collaborate with all religious communities for the promotion of peace. In this way - in a globalised world characterised by increasingly multi-ethnic and multi-confessional societies - the great religions can represent not a problem but a resource, an important factor of unity and harmony".

  To read the text of the Holy Father's Message click here.
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VATICAN CITY, 16 DEC 2010 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

 - Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples.

 - Fr. Jose Rodriguez Carballo, minister general of the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor.
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VATICAN CITY, 16 DEC 2010 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Bishop Paul Stagg Coakley of Salina, U.S.A., as metropolitan archbishop of Oklahoma City (area 109,997, population 2,555,000, Catholics 116,619, priests 146, permanent deacons 92, religious 150), U.S.A. The archbishop-elect was born in Norfolk, U.S.A. in 1955, he was ordained a priest in 1983 and consecrated a bishop in 2004. He succeeds Archbishop Eusebius Joseph Beltran, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.
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