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Thursday, December 1, 2011


VATICAN CITY, 1 DEC 2011 (VIS) - "Witness and Witnesses. The 'Martyria' and the Champions of the Faith" was the theme of the sixteenth public session of the Pontifical Academies, which was held yesterday in the great hall of the Palazzo of St. Pius X on Rome's Via della Conciliazione. The meeting also involved the presentation of the Pontifical Academy Prize, awarded by the Pope to institutions or to young researchers or artists who have distinguished themselves in promoting Christian humanism.

  This year's prize went to the "Studium Biblicum Franciscanum" of Jerusalem which carries our archaeological excavations with the purpose of uncovering and reclaiming the biblical past of the Holy Land, and to Daria Mastrorilli, an archaeologist who specialises in the martyrs Zoticus, Ireneus and Amantius, carrying out research in the cemetery of that name in Rome.

  Another archaeologist, Cecilia Proverbio, was granted the pontifical medal for her doctoral thesis on the iconography of paleo-Christian basilicas of Rome, in particular St. Peter's and St. Paul's.

  During the course of the ceremony, Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. read out a message sent for the occasion by the Holy Father to Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture and of the Co-ordinating Council of the Pontifical Academies.

  The theme of the public session, the Pope explains in his message, provides an opportunity to reflect on Christianity's historical roots, its involvement in history "which it transforms profoundly thanks to the leaven of the Gospel and to sanctity, lived and witnessed".

  In this context, the archaeological remains of early Christian communities are of particular interest, especially in the Holy Land, "the best place in which to seek signs of the historical presence of Christ and of the first community of His disciples", and in Rome, where the catacombs "attest that from its beginnings the Christian community exalted the champions of the faith as models and examples for all the baptised".

  "The vast numbers of monuments and works of art dedicated to martyrs, as documented by archaeological excavations and other research, arose from the Christian community's conviction, yesterday as today, that the Gospel speaks to man's heart and is communicated above all by the witness of believers' lives ", the Pope writes. "If we look carefully at the example of the martyrs, those courageous witnesses of ancient Christianity, as well as at the many witnesses of our own time, we realise that they are all profoundly free, free from compromise and selfish ties, aware of the importance and beauty of their lives, and precisely for this reason capable of loving God and their brothers and sisters, setting a high example of Christian sanctity".

  The Holy Father continues his message: "Today too the Church, if she wishes to speak to the world effectively, if she wishes to continue faithfully announcing the Gospel, ... must bear witness to the credibility of the faith, even in those areas which seem most intransigent or indifferent. In other words, she must offer concrete prophetic witness through effective and transparent signs of coherence, faithfulness and passionate and unconditional love for Christ, not without authentic charity and love for others. Today as yesterday, the blood of the martyrs and their eloquent witness touches the hearts of men and women, making them fruitful, ... open to accepting the life of Christ and to bringing resurrection and hope to the surrounding world".
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VATICAN CITY, 1 DEC 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family led by their president, Cardinal Ennio Antonelli. This year's plenary coincides with the thirtieth anniversary of John Paul II's Apostolic Exhortation "Familiaris consortio" and his creation of the pontifical council itself.

  In his remarks, the Pope noted that "in our time, as in the past, the eclipse of God, the spread of an anti-family ideology and the abasement of sexual morality appear interconnected". This is why "the new evangelisation is inseparable from the Christian family. The family is the Church's 'path', because it is a 'human place' in which we encounter Christ. ... The family founded on the Sacrament of Marriage is an individual microcosm of the Church, a community which is saved and saves, which is evangelised and evangelises. Like the Church, the family is called to live, irradiate and express to the world the love and presence of Christ".

  Accepting and transmitting divine love, Benedict XVI explained, "comes about in the spouses' dedication to one another, in generous and responsible procreation, in raising and educating children, in work and social relations, in care for the needy, participation in Church activity and commitment to civil society". The Christian family "reflects the splendour of Christ and the beauty of the divine Trinity in the world" in the extent to which it manages to experience love "as communion and service, as reciprocal gift and openness to everyone".

  The Pope then recalled his recent visit to Ancona to close the Italian National Eucharistic Congress where he had met priests and married coupes together. "Both these states of life", he said, "have the same roots in Christ's love whereby He gave Himself for the salvation of humanity; they are called to a shared mission of bearing witness to this love, and causing it to be present through service to the community for the edification of the people of God. Such a perspective enables us to overcome a reductive vision in which the family is seen as the mere recipient of pastoral activity. ... The family is the best place to impart human and Christian education, and thus remains the greatest ally of priestly ministry".

  The Pope then identified a number of areas in which the cooperation of priests and Christian families is vital: educating children, adolescents and young people in love, seen as communion and the gift of self; preparing engaged couples for marriage; forming spouses; participating in charitable, educational and civil activities, and in pastoral care by families for families.

  Finally, referring to the forthcoming seventh World Meeting of Families, due to be held in Milan, Italy, in June 2012, the Pope said: "It will be a great joy for me and for us all to come together, pray and rejoice with families from all over the world".
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VATICAN CITY, 1 DEC 2011 (VIS) - Made public today was an English-language statement from the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers for World AIDS Day 2011.

  The text, signed by Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the pontifical council, says that the Day "must constitute a new opportunity to promote universal access to therapies for those who are infected, the prevention of transmission from mother to child, and education in lifestyles that involve, as well, an approach that is truly correct and responsible as regards sexuality. In addition, this is a privileged moment to relaunch the fight against social prejudice".

  An estimated 1,800,000 people still die every year because of HIV/AIDS, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. "These are people who could lead normal lives if they only had access to suitable pharmacological therapies, those known as antiretroviral therapies.

  "Deaths are thus witnessed that are no longer justifiable, just as the pain of the relatives of the people involved. ... By now the transmission of the infection from mothers to their children, who often become victims even before they begin to see the outlines of the world that surrounds them, equally, cannot be justified.

  "Although the extension of these therapies to all peoples and to all the parts of a population is something that cannot but be engaged in, of fundamental importance, on the other hand, remains the formation, the education, of everyone, and in particular the new generations, in a sexuality based upon 'an anthropology anchored in natural law and illuminated by the Word of God'. The Church and her Magisterium ask for a lifestyle that privileges abstinence, conjugal faithfulness and the rejection of sexual promiscuity, because, as the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation 'Africae munus' emphasised, all of this forms a part of the question of the 'integral development' to which people and communities have a right.

  "In launching this new appeal for commitment and solidarity in favour of all the (both direct and indirect) victims of HIV/AIDS, we would like to thank, in union of spirit with the Holy Father, all those who have striven, often for very many years, to help them. We are referring here to institutions, agencies and volunteers who 'work in the sector of health care and especially of AIDS'. ... who, without doubt, deserve the operational support, and support without ideological ties, of international organisations and benefactors.

  "Lastly, we wish to express our proximity to people afflicted by HIV/AIDS, to those who are near to them, and to all those healthcare workers who, being exposed to the risk of infection as well, provide all possible care to them, respecting their personalities and their dignity".
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VATICAN CITY, 1 DEC 2011 (VIS) - The sixth meeting of the twelfth Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops was held in the Vatican on 23 and 24 November, according to a communique made public today.

  Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary general of the Synod, began by recalling that the thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops is due to be held in the Vatican from 7 to 28 October 2012 on the theme: "The new evangelisation for the transmission of the Christian faith". Participants in the meeting were then presented with a summary of the responses to the "Lineamenta" sent in by episcopal conferences, synods of "sui iuris" Eastern Catholic Churches, offices of the Roman Curia and the Union of Superiors General. Taking account of these responses, attention turned to the draft outline of the "Instrumentum laboris" for next year's Synod.

  An attempt was made to find an adequate definition of "new evangelisation", as addressed to Christians who no longer practise their faith, non-believers, agnostics and faithful from other religions. This concerns the entire Church, though in different ways in different regions. "Through the new evangelisation", the communique reads, "the Church is seeking to respond to the constant changes in the global human community as it undergoes the process of globalisation in a cultural and moral climate of secularisation and agnosticism. These challenges require new languages, new methods and, above all, credible witnesses to transmit the faith to new generations and in new social contexts".

  Finally, the communique explains that the Church, "while ever more acutely aware of her duty to preach the Gospel, is in need of a 'metanoia' (conversion) to enable her, among other things, to present herself as teacher and witness to people who seek the Lord because, by announcing the Gospel, she proclaims conversion and the forgiveness of sins". The next meeting of the council is due to take place on 16 and 17 February 2012.
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VATICAN CITY, 1 DEC 2011 (VIS) - Made public today was a letter of the Holy Father, written in Latin and dated 4 November, in which he appoints Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, as his special envoy to celebrations marking the centenary of the cathedral of Yangon, Myanmar, due to take place on 8 December.

  Cardinal Martino will be accompanied on his mission by Fr. Joseph Maung Win, pastor of St. Anthony's parish, and Fr. George Shwe Htun, vice pastor of St. Mary's Cathedral.
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VATICAN CITY, 1 DEC 2011 (VIS) - Following the consecration yesterday of the coadjutor bishop of Yibin, in the Chinese province of Sichuan, a number of journalists raised the question of the presence of Bishop Lei Shiyin at the ceremony, in reply to whom Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi gave the following response:

  "I learned from the media this morning that Fr. Peter Luo Xuegang has been ordained as coadjutor bishop of the diocese of Yibin in Sichuan province. The main consecrator was the elderly diocesan bishop, Msgr. John Chen Shizhong, and all the consecrating bishops are in communion with the Holy Father with the exception of Lei Shiyin of Leshan.

  "In the wake of three recent episcopal ordinations without pontifical mandate, the fact that there is a new bishop in communion with the Pope and all the Catholic bishops of the world is certainly positive, and will be appreciated not only by Chinese bishops and faithful, but also by the universal Church. Nonetheless, the participation of an illegitimate bishop whose canonical status, as is well known, is one of excommunication, is not a step in the same direction and arouses the disapproval and dismay of the faithful, even more so because he participated as a consecrating bishop and concelebrated the Eucharist. His repeated disobedience to the norms of the Church unfortunately aggravates his canonical position.

  "In normal conditions the presence of Bishop Lei Shiyin should have been completely excluded, and would have led to canonical consequences for the other participating bishops. In the present circumstances it its probable that they were unable to avoid his presence without serious consequences. In any case the Holy See will be able to evaluate the matter in greater detail when it has received more information".
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VATICAN CITY, 1 DEC 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in audience sixteen prelates of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, on their "ad limina" visit:

    - Archbishop Charles Joseph Chaput O.F.M. Cap. of Philadelphia, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishops Daniel Edward Thomas, Timothy C. Senior, John J. McIntyre and Michael J. Fitzgerald.

    - Bishop John Oliver Barres of Allentown.

    - Bishop Mark L. Bartchak of Altoona-Johnstown.

    - Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt of Greensburg.

    - Bishop Joseph Patrick McFadden of Harrisburg.

    - Bishop David Allen Zubik of Pittsburgh, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishop William J. Waltersheid, and by former Auxiliary Bishop William Joseph Winter.

    - Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, accompanied by Bishop emeritus James Clifford Timlin and Bishop emeritus Joseph Francis Martino, and by former Auxiliary Bishop John Martin Dougherty.
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VATICAN CITY, 1 DEC 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Bishop Armando Xavier Ochoa of El Paso, U.S.A., as bishop of Fresno (area 91,268, population 2,778,000, Catholics 1,084,000, priests 166, permanent deacons 46, religious 152), U.S.A.
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