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Monday, March 21, 2011


VATICAN CITY, 19 MAR 2011 (VIS) - Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. made the following declaration yesterday afternoon concerning the sentence issued by the "Grande Chambre" of the European Court of Human Rights:

  "This sentence of the European Court of Human Rights concerning the exposition of the crucifix in the classrooms of Italian State schools has been received with satisfaction by the Holy See.

  "It is, in fact, a significant and historic sentence, as shown by the conclusion reached by the Grande Chambre after a detailed appraisal of the matter. The Grande Chambre has, indeed, overturned in all respects a first degree sentence, adopted unanimously by a Chamber of the Court. This sentence led to an appeal by the Italian State, which received an unprecedented degree of support from numerous other European States as well as from many non-governmental organisations, an expression of widespread feeling amongst people.

  "It is thus acknowledged, at an authoritative and international juridical level, that the culture and rights of man should not be placed in contradiction with the religious foundations of European civilisation, to which Christianity has made an essential contribution. It is furthermore recognised that, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, each country should be guaranteed a margin of appreciation with regard to the value of religious symbols within its cultural history and national identity, and in terms of the places in which they are displayed (as has been demonstrated in these days also by sentences of the supreme courts of several European countries). By contrast, in the name of religious freedom there is a paradoxical tendency to limit or indeed even to deny this freedom, with the result of excluding every expression of it from public spaces. Thus this very freedom itself is violated, obscuring specific and legitimate identities. The Court therefore declares that the display of the crucifix is not a form of indoctrination, but rather an expression of the cultural and religious identity of countries with a Christian tradition.

  "This new sentence of the Grande Chambre is also welcome as it effectively contributes to re-establishing trust in the European Court of Human Rights on the part of a large number of Europeans, convinced of the vital role played by Christian values in their history, and in the construction of European unity and its culture of rights and freedom".
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VATICAN CITY, 19 MAR 2011 (VIS) - In the Vatican's "Redemptoris Mater" Chapel this morning, Solemnity of St. Joseph, the Holy Father and Roman Curia concluded their spiritual exercises. This year's meditations were led by Fr. Francois Marie Lethel, O.C.D., secretary prelate of the Pontifical Academy of Theology and professor at the Teresianum Pontifical Theology Faculty. The theme was "The Light of Christ at the Heart of the Church: John Paul II and the Theology of the Saints".

  At the end of the Lenten exercises Benedict XVI addressed the participants, also thanking Fr. Lethel for the "safe guidance and spiritual richness" shown in these days. "You have shown us the saints", he said, "as stars in the firmament of history ... demonstrating that the 'small' saints are 'great' saints. You have shown us that the "scientia fidei" and the "scientia amoris" ... complete one another, that reason and great love go together and, even more, that great love sees farther than reason alone".

  The Pope noted that the exercises finished on the feast St. Joseph, his personal patron as well as Patron of the Church, "a humble saint, a humble worker, who was considered worthy to be the Redeemer's guardian".

  The Pontiff continued, "St. Matthew defined St. Joseph with a word: 'he was just', ... and in light of the Old Testament ... the 'just' is the person who is immersed in God's word, who lives in the Word of God, who lives the Law not as a 'yoke' but as 'happiness', one who lives the Law - we could say - as 'Gospel'. St. Joseph was just, he was immersed in the Word of God as written and transmitted in the wisdom of his people, and in this way he was prepared and called to know the Incarnate Word - the Word that came to us as man - and he was destined to guard and protect this Incarnate Word. This is his mission forever, to guard the Church and our Lord".

  Subsequently in the Clementine Hall, the Holy Father received the greetings of the members of the Curia for his feast day. The address was made by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals.

  Benedict XVI has also written a letter to Fr. Lethel expressing his gratitude for the preaching of the spiritual exercises. "You have led us through the meditations," the Pope writes, "a spiritual journey inspired by the witness of my venerable predecessor John Paul II, whose upcoming beatification raised the topic of sainthood. ... With this focus you have matched the catechesis I have been developing in the Wednesday general audiences over the years with the purpose of making the Church better known and loved as she appears in the lives, the works, and the teachings of the saints. ... Such reflection and contemplation on the mystery of Christ, reflected in the existence of its most faithful followers, constitutes a fundamental element that I have inherited from Pope John Paul II and that I continue with full conviction and great joy".
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VATICAN CITY, 20 MAR 2011 (VIS) - This morning, Benedict XVI made a pastoral visit to the Roman parish of St. Corbinian, where he celebrated Mass and consecrated the new church.

  In his homily, the Pope commented on the Gospel of the Transfiguration of Christ of the second Sunday of Lent, which has "two elements, both very important: on the one hand, the mystery of the Transfiguration and, on the other, that of the temple, or rather the House of God within your own homes".

  The Holy Father explained that by means of the Transfiguration "the disciples were prepared for the Paschal mystery of Jesus: to overcome the terrible trial of the Passion and to better understand the luminous truth of the Resurrection".

  "The will of God", he continued, "is fully revealed in the person of Jesus. A person who wishes to live according to God's will must follow Jesus, listen to Him, welcome His words and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, absorb them more deeply. The first invitation I wish to extend to you", the Pope to the parishioners, "is to grow in your knowledge of and love for Christ, both as individuals and as a community; to encounter Him through the Eucharist, by listening to His words, in prayer and in charity".

  Pope Benedict XVI went on to state that "the second point concerns the Church, as an edifice but above all as a community". In this respect, he recalled that St. Corbinian founded the diocese of Frisinga in Bavaria, where he served as bishop for four years. In giving thanks to those who have contributed to building this church, he remarked, "today is an important day, which crowns the efforts, the work, the sacrifices and the commitment of the residents here to create a mature Christian community. They now have a new definitively consecrated church".

  "Just as the church building has been erected, my visit here is intended to encourage you to continue to build the Church of living stones, which you yourselves represent. ... To this end, I exhort you to make your church the place in which you learn to hear the Word of God, the permanent 'school' of Christian life from which every activity of this young and busy parish originates".

  The Pope remarked that the parish community of St. Corbinian is young, composed in large part of newly-married couples. He exhorted the community to "give life to family pastoral care characterised by an open and cordial welcome to new families, and to favour reciprocal knowledge so that the parish community increasingly becomes a 'family of families', able to share with each other, not only the joys but the inevitable difficulties of initiating family life".

  "Dear friends of St. Corbinian! The Lord Jesus Christ, who conducted the Apostles to the mount to pray and showed them His glory, has today invited us to this new church; here we may hear Him, to acknowledge His presence in the Eucharist; and thus become a living Church, temple of the Holy Spirit, a worldly sign of the love of God".
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VATICAN CITY, 20 MAR 2011 (VIS) - At noon today, following his pastoral visit to the Roman parish of St. Corbinian, the Holy Father appeared at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.

  The Pope noted that the second Sunday of Lent is that of the Transfiguration when Christ, after having announced His Passion to His disciples, took Peter, James, and John with Him to a mountaintop, as narrated by the Apostle Matthew: "He was transfigured before them; His face shone like the sun and His clothes became white as light".

  "For our senses, sunlight is the most intense in nature", the Holy Father said, "but for the spirit, the disciples saw, for a few moments, an even more intense radiance, that of Jesus' divine glory that illuminates all the history of salvation. ... The Transfiguration is not a change in Jesus but the revelation of His divinity. ... Peter, James, and John, in contemplating the divinity of the Lord, were preparing to face the scandal of the cross".

  "We too participate in this vision and in this divine gift, making space for prayer and for listening to the Word of God", the Pope concluded. "Moreover, during this time of Lent I urge you, as did Servant of God Paul VI, to answer the divine call to penance with some voluntary act that goes beyond the denials imposed by the weight of daily life".

  After praying the Angelus, Benedict XVI mentioned the "worrying news that has been arriving from Libya in the past days" and which has caused him "disquiet and fear". "I prayed to the Lord about it in particular during this week of spiritual exercises", he added.

  "I am now following the latest events with great apprehension", he asserted. "I pray for those who are caught up in that country's dramatic situation and make an urgent appeal to everyone with political and military responsibilities to concern themselves above all with the safety and wellbeing of the citizens, guaranteeing access to humanitarian aid. I ensure the population of my heartfelt closeness, while I ask God that peace and harmony may be reached as soon as possible in Libya and in the entire North African region".
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VATICAN CITY, 21 MAR 2011 (VIS) - Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, has sent a letter to the bishops of the world concerning the traditional Good Friday collection for the Holy Land.

  The English-language letter, which also bears the signature of Archbishop Cyril Vasil S.J., secretary of the same congregation, explains how "the Holy Land expects the brotherhood of the universal Church and desires to reciprocate it in sharing the experience of grace and suffering that marks her journey. She wishes to recognise, first of all, the grace of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, and that of the papal vist to Cyprus. These events have increased the interest of the world and the return of a great number of pilgrims in the historical footsteps of the Lord Jesus. Yet also tangible is sorrow at the escalating violence to Christians in Eastern regions whose consequences are felt acutely in the Holy Land. The Christians of the East are experiencing the actuality of martyrdom and are suffering because of the instability or absence of peace. The most disturbing sign of this is their inexorable exodus. Indeed a few positive signs in some situations do not suffice to invert the sorrowful tendency of Christian emigration which impoverishes the entire area, draining it of the most vital forces constituted by the young generations".

  "This appeal for the collection is inherent in the cause of peace, of which the brothers and sisters of the Holy Land desire to be effective instruments in the hands of the Lord for the good of the whole of the East".

  "It takes place at the beginning of the Lenten journey towards Easter and can culminate on Good Friday or on the occasions considered most favourable in each local context. However, the collection everywhere remains the ordinary and indispensable means of promoting the life of Christians in that beloved Land".

  After highlighting how "the Congregation for the Eastern Churches acts as spokesperson for these Churches' needs for pastoral care, education, social assistance and charity", the prefect and secretary of the dicastery note that "Pope Benedict invites us, however, to go beyond the gesture, although it is praiseworthy, of concrete help. The relationship must become more intense in order to attain a 'true spirituality anchored to the Land of Jesus'".

  An attachment to the letter of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches explains how, in the period 2009-2010, the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land - the mission of which is to "to keep alive the liturgy in the places of worship, to take care of pilgrims, to enhance apostolic works, and support the Christian community" - dedicated particular attention to the planning and execution of such projects as: the Sanctuary of St. John the Baptist at Ain Karem, the Sanctuary of the Transfiguration at Mount Tabor, scholarships for university students, and building homes for the poor and for young married couples.
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VATICAN CITY, 21 MAR 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

 - Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

 - His Beatitude Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, major archbishop of Trivandrum of the Syro-Malankars, India, on his "ad limina" visit, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishops Samuel Irenios Kattukallil and Thomas Anthonios Valiyavilayil.

 - Archbishop Thomas Koorilos Chakkalapadickal of Tiruvalla of the Syro-Malankars, India, on his "ad limina" visit, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishop Philipos Stephanos Thottathil.

  Yesterday the Holy Father received in audience Cardinal Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and Freising, accompanied by Cardinal Friedrich Wetter, archbishop emeritus of the same archdiocese.
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VATICAN CITY, 21 MAR 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Fr. Anthony Fallah Borwah, professor of philosophy at the University of Liberia and administrator of the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Monrovia, as bishop of Gbarnga (area 34,000, population 1,400,000, Catholics 18,000, priests 7, religious 23), Liberia. The bishop-elect was born in Wodu, Liberia in 1965 and ordained a priest in 1996.
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