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Monday, April 18, 2011


VATICAN CITY, 16 APR 2011 (VIS) - Benedict XVI, who celebrates his 84th birthday today, received in audience Maria Jesus Figa Lopez-Palop, the first woman to serve as Spain's Ambassador to the Holy See.

  At the beginning of his address, the Pope recalled his visit to Santiago de Compostela and Barcelona this past November where, he said, "I saw many demonstrations of the vitality of the Catholic faith of those lands that have seen the births of so many saints and which are sown with cathedrals, centers of assistance and culture, which are inspired by the fertile tradition and faithfulness of its inhabitants to their religious beliefs. This also entails the responsibility of diplomatic relations between Spain and the Holy See that always endeavor to promote, with mutual respect and collaboration, within each one's legitimate autonomy in their respective areas, everything that promotes the good of persons and the authentic development of their rights and freedoms, which include the expression of their faith and conscience, both in the public as well as in the private sphere".

  The Holy Father highlighted that "the Church, in carrying out her mission, seeks the whole good of each nation and its citizens, acting in the area of her competency and fully respecting the autonomy of civil authorities. She seeks the good of those who are dear to her and those who ask God to serve Him in society with generosity, honor, skill, and justice. This goal, in which the Church's mission and the function of the state meet, moreover has given expression to bilateral accords between Spain and the Holy See".

  Referring afterwards to the difficult economic situation today, with its resultant unemployment "that provokes discouragement and frustration, especially in the youth and less-privileged families", the Pope assured his prayers that God "will enlighten those with public responsibilities, that they will tirelessly seek a path of recovery that is beneficial to all of society".  In this regard he emphasized the praiseworthy work that the Catholic institutions are carrying out to swiftly assist those most in need". 

  "The Church", he continued, "offers something inherent to her, which benefits persons and nations: She offers Christ, the hope that encourages and strengthens, like an antidote to the deception offered by other fleeting proposals or to the hearts lacking in values that wind up hardening to the point of not being able to perceive the genuine emotion of life and the reason of things. This hope gives birth to confidence and collaboration, thus changing the bleak present into the spirit's effort to face the future with hope, both as a person as well as a family and a society".

  Benedict XVI lamented that "in place of living and organizing society in such a way that favors openness and excellence, there are ways of living, often even having a certain sophistication, that are hostile to faith. ... There are certain environments that tend to consider religion as a socially insignificant factor that seek to offend it. This does not excuse the marginalization of religion, that at times takes place through denigration, ridicule, discrimination, and even indifference in the face of clear profanation. Such is a violation of the fundamental right to religious freedom inherent to the dignity of the human person, the "true weapon of peace because it can change and better the world".

  "The Church", he said, "Keeps watch over fundamental human rights. ... She keeps watch over the right to human life from its conception to its natural end because life is sacred and nobody can dispose of it arbitrarily. She keeps watch over the protection of and assistance to the family, defending the economic, social, and juridical means by which men and women contract marriage and form a family so that it has the support necessary to fulfill its vocation and to be the sanctuary of love and life. She also champions education that integrates moral and religious values according to parents' convictions as their right and as is beneficial to the complete development of youth. For that same reason this is included, as is the provision of teaching the Catholic religion in all centers for those who choose it, in the Church's own legal ordinances.

  Before concluding, the Pope expressed the desire that the next World Youth Day that will take place in Madrid in August, "will bear abundant spiritual fruit for the youth and for Spain. I also note the availability, cooperation, and generous assistance that the [Spanish] government as well as autonomous and local authorities are extending for the success of an initiative that will attract the attention of the entire world and will demonstrate once more the greatness of the hearts and souls of the Spanish people".
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VATICAN CITY, 16 APR 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

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

 - Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
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VATICAN CITY, 17 APR 2011 (VIS) - Benedict XVI presided over the thousands of persons who filled St. Peter's Square for the Eucharistic celebration of Palm Sunday and the Lord's Passion and the day that celebrates, at a diocesan level, the XXVI World Youth Day on the theme "Rooted and Built in Christ: Firm in the Faith" (cf. Col 2:7).

  Before Mass the Pope blessed the palms and olive branches at the obelisk of the square, then he moved in the Popemobile to the altar.

  In the homily the Holy Father, reflecting on the meaning of Jesus' pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover, explained that "he knew that ... he himself would take the place of the sacrificial lambs by offering himself on the cross. ... The ultimate goal of his pilgrimage was the heights of God himself; to those heights he wanted to lift every human being".

  "But", he asked, "how can we keep pace with this ascent?  Isn't it beyond our ability?  Certainly, it is beyond our own possibilities.  From the beginning men and women have been filled - and this is as true today as ever - with a desire to 'be like God', to attain the heights of God ... And yet the force of gravity which draws us down is powerful. With the increase of our abilities there has been an increase not only of good. Our possibilities for evil have increased and appear like menacing storms above history. Our limitations have also remained: we need but think of the disasters which have caused so much suffering for humanity in recent months".

Benedict XVI highlighted that "man finds himself betwixt this twofold gravitational force; everything depends on our escaping the gravitational field of evil and becoming free to be attracted completely by the gravitational force of God, which makes us authentic, elevates us, and grants us true freedom".

  "God himself must draw us up, and this is what Christ began to do on the cross.  He descended to the depths of our human existence in order to draw us up to himself, to the living God. ... Only in this way could our pride be vanquished: God's humility is the extreme form of his love, and this humble love draws us upwards".

  The Pope placed special emphasis on the need we have of God. "he draws us upwards; letting ourselves be upheld by his hands - by faith, in other words - sets us aright and gives us the inner strength that raises us on high. We need the humility of a faith which seeks the face of God and trusts in the truth of his love. The question of how man can attain the heights, becoming completely himself and completely like God, has always engaged mankind".

 "We are on pilgrimage with the Lord to the heights. We are striving for pure hearts and clean hands, we are seeking truth, we are seeking the face of God. Let us show the Lord that we desire to be righteous, and let us ask him: Draw us upwards! Make us pure!" He concluded, "grant that the words which we sang in the processional psalm may also hold true for us; grant that we may be part of the generation which seeks God, 'which seeks  your face, O God of Jacob'"
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VATICAN CITY, 17 APR 2011 (VIS) - At the end of the celebration of the solemnity of Palm Sunday and the Lord's Passion, the Holy Father prayed the Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square. Before the Marian prayer the Pope addressed those present in various languages, exhorting them above all, "to live the celebration of the Lord's Passion and Glorification in order to achieve the fullness of what these feasts mean and hold".

  "I am particularly speaking to you, beloved youth" he continued in Spanish, "that you accompany me at the World Youth Day that will take place in Madrid this coming August, with the theme of "Rooted and Built in Christ: Firm in the Faith".

  "Today I am also thinking of Colombia", he continued, "where the Day of Prayer for victims of violence will be held this coming Good Friday. I am spiritually near to this initiative and earnestly urge Colombians to participate in it, at the same time I ask God for those in this beloved nation who have been appallingly stripped of their lives and their possessions. I renew my urgent call to conversion, repentance, and reconciliation. No more violence in Colombia, that peace there reign!"
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VATICAN CITY, 18 APR 2011 (VIS) - Following is the program of Benedict XVI's apostolic trip to Croatia - scheduled for 4 - 5 June - for the National Day of Croatian Families.

  The Pope will leave at 9:30am on Saturday, 4 June, from Rome's Fiumicino Airport and will land at Pleso International Airport in Zagreb at 11:00am. After the welcoming ceremony, a courtesy visit will be made to Ivo Josipovic, the President of the Republic, at the presidential palace, following which the Pope will meet with Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor at the apostolic nunciature at 1:50pm. At 6:15pm, in the National Croatian Theater of Zagreb, he will meet with representatives of civil society, the political, academic, cultural, and business world, the diplomatic corps, and religious figures. At 7:30pm, in Josip Jelacic Square, he will preside over a prayer vigil with the Croatian youth.

  On Sunday, 5 June, at 10:00am, he will celebrate Holy Mass on the National Day of Croatian Families in the Zagreb Hippodrome. At 2:00pm he will have lunch at the new offices of the Secretary of the Croatian Bishops' Council with the Croatian and other invited bishops. At 5:00pm he will presided over vespers with the bishops, priests, religious, and seminarians and will pray at the tomb of Blessed Aloysius Viktor Stepinac at Zagreb's Cathedral dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and to St. Stephen. When finished there he will meet with Cardinal Josip Bozanic, archbishop of Zagreb, at his residence, and at 7:15pm will travel to Pleso Airport where, at 7:45pm he will make the return flight to Rome. The flight is scheduled to land at Rome's Ciampino Airport at 9:15pm.
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VATICAN CITY, 18 APR 2011 (VIS) - Today, the Holy Father named:

- Fr. Jose Arturo Cepeda of the clergy of the archdiocese of San Antonio, Texas as auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese of Detroit, Michigan (area 10,106, population 4,556,000, Catholics 1,515,000, priests 641, religious 1,552, permanent deacons 191), USA. The bishop-elect was born in 1969 in San Luis de Potosi, Mexico, was ordained to the priesthood in 1996, and, to date, was Rector of the Assumption Seminary of San Antonio, Texas.

- Cardinal Justin Francis Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA) as his special envoy to the bicentennial celebration of the birth of St. John Nepomuceno Neumann that will take place in Prachatitz, Czech Republic on 18 June 2011.

  On Saturday, 16 April, the Holy Father appointed Bishop Beniamino Pizziol, auxiliary bishop of Venice, as bishop of Vicenza (area 2,200, population 855,608, Catholics 790,848, priests 732, permanent deacons 38, religious 2,086), Italy.
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