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Friday, March 30, 2012


Vatican City, 30 March 2012 (VIS) - "Religious perspectives on the current financial crisis: vision for a just economic order" was the theme of the eleventh meeting of the Bilateral Commission of the Delegations of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with Jews, which was held in Rome from 27 to 29 March. The event was presided by Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, and by Cardinal Peter Kodwo Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

In an English-language joint statement issued at the end of the meeting, the two sides highlight that, "while many factors contributed to the financial crisis, at its roots lies a crisis of moral values in which the importance of having, reflected in a culture of greed, eclipsed the importance of being; and where the value of truth reflected in honesty and transparency was sorely lacking in economic activity".

"At the heart of Jewish and Catholic visions for a just economic order is the affirmation of the sovereignty and providence of the Creator of the world with Whom all wealth originates and which is given to humankind as a gift for the common good", the text adds. Therefore "the purpose of an economic order is to serve the well being of society, affirming the human dignity of all people, each created in the divine image". This concept "is antithetical to egocentricity. Rather, it requires the promotion of the well being of the individual in relation to community and society". It also "posits the obligation to guarantee certain basic human needs, such as the protection of life, sustenance, clothing, housing, health, education and employment". The commission also identifies certain particularly vulnerable categories of people, among them migrant and foreign workers "whose condition serves as a measure of the moral health of society".

The statement recalls the obligation on countries with developed economies "to recognise their responsibilities and duties towards countries and societies in need, especially in this era of globalisation". In this context the participants in the meeting recall "the universal destination of the goods of the earth; a culture of “enough” that implies a degree of self-limitation and modesty; responsible stewardship; an ethical system of allocation of resources and priorities". They likewise mention the "partial remission of debts on national and international levels", highlighting the need "to extend this to families and individuals".

The members of the bilateral commission underscore the role that faith communities must play in contributing to a responsible economic order, and the importance of their engagement by government, educational institutions, and the media. Finally they note how "the crisis has revealed the profound lack of an ethical component in economic thinking. Hence, it is imperative that institutes and academies of economic studies and policy formation include ethical training in their curricula, similar to that which has developed in recent years in the field of medical ethics".


Vatican City, 30 March 2012 (VIS) - Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, has written a message for the Fifth World Autism Day, which falls on 2 April, in which he makes an appeal for sensitivity and supportive solidarity towards autistic people and their families. In the message, made public yesterday, he recalls how "autistic spectrum disorders constitute ... a grave alteration of behaviour, of verbal and non-verbal communication, and of social integration, with a wide-ranging effect on the normal development and evolution of the personality".

"The Church", writes the archbishop in his English-language message, "sees as impelling the task of placing herself at the side of these people - children and young people in particular - and their families, if not to breakdown these barriers of silence then at least to share in solidarity and prayer in their journey of suffering". This is particularly important because families with autistic children, "although they look after these children with loving care, experience repercussions as regards the quality of their own lives, and are often, in their turn, led to be closed up in an isolation that marginalises and wounds". For this reason the Church and all men and women of good will "feel committed to being ‘travelling companions’ with those who live this eloquent silence, which calls upon our sensitivity towards the suffering of others".

The president of the pontifical council highlights the efforts of health care workers, educators, professionals and volunteers, adding that "the scientific world and health care policies must also be encouraged to engage in and ... increase diagnostic, therapeutic and rehabilitative pathways that can address a pathology which affects more people in numerical terms than could have been imagined only a few years ago. To encourage and sustain, in the supportive action of the world of schools, voluntary work and associations, these efforts is a duty, not least to discover and bring out that dignity which even the gravest and most devastating disability does not eliminate, and which always fills us with hope".

Finally Archbishop Zimowski commends autistic people and their families to God. "Although enveloped in the mystery of silence because of a grave psychological disturbance, they are never alone, inasmuch as they are passionately loved by God and, in Him, by the community of those whose faith commits them to becoming a living and transparent sign of the presence of the Resurrected Christ in the world".


Vatican City, 30 March 2012 (VIS) - The second Italian-language edition of the "Funeral Rites", produced by the Vatican Publishing House, was presented recently at the headquarters of Vatican Radio. Among other things, the new edition contains fully revised biblical texts and prayers.

The first novelty refers to the visit to the family, which was not part of the earlier edition. Msgr. Angelo Lameri of the National Liturgical Office of the Italian Episcopal Conference, explained how "for a priest this a moment to share in the suffering, to listen to the mourning relatives, to learn about certain aspects of the deceased's life with a view to a correct and personalised presentation during the funeral".

Another change involves the revised and enriched ritual for the closing of the coffin; with a number of different texts for various situations: an elderly person, a young person, or someone who has died unexpectedly. Other changes involve the pronouncement of words recalling of the deceased at the moment of the committal, and the introduction of a broad range of possibilities for the prayer of the faithful.

However the most significant new departure, contained in the appendix of the book, concerns cremation. Msgr. Lameri explained that the issue of cremation had been placed in an appendix to highlight the fact that the Church, "although she does not oppose the cremation of bodies, when not done 'in odium fidei', continues to maintain that the burial of the dead is more appropriate, that it expresses faith in the resurrection of the flesh, nourishes the piety of the faithful and favours the recollection and prayer of relatives and friends".

In exceptional cases the rites normally celebrated at the cemetery chapel or the tomb may be celebrated at the cremation site, and it is recommended that the coffin be accompanied to that site. One particularity important aspect is that "cremation is considered as concluded when the urn is deposited in the cemetery". This is because, although the law does allow ashes to be scattered in the open or conserved in places other than a cemetery, "such practices ... raise considerable doubts as to their coherence to Christian faith, especially when they conceal pantheist or naturalistic beliefs".

The new "Funeral Rites" also focuses on the search for the meaning of death. Concluding the presentation, Bishop Alceste Catella, president of the Episcopal Commission for Liturgy, explained that "the book is testament to the faith of believers and to the importance of respect and 'pietas' towards the deceased, respect for the human body even when dead. It is testament to the pressing need to cultivate memory and to have a specific place in which to place the body or the ashes, in the profound certainty that this is authentic faith and authentic humanism".


Vatican City, 30 March 2012 (VIS) - Pope Benedict's general prayer intention for April is: "That many young people may hear the call of Christ and follow Him in the priesthood and religious life".

His mission intention is: "That the risen Christ may be a sign of certain hope for the men and women of the African continent".


Vatican City, 30 March 2012 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Bishop Luis Artemio Flores Calzada of Valle de Chalco, Mexico as bishop of Tepic (area 22,777, population 1,139,584, Catholics 1,107,800, priests 215, religious 2215), Mexico.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Vatican City, 28 March 2012 (VIS) - At 9 a.m. today the Holy Father presided at Mass in Havana's Plaza de la Revolucion Jose Marti, in the presence of thousands of faithful who had come from all over Cuba. Extracts from Benedict XVI's homily are given below:

"“If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free”. In this text from today’s Gospel, Jesus reveals Himself as the Son of God the Father, the Saviour, the One Who alone can show us the truth and give us genuine freedom. His teaching provokes resistance and disquiet among His hearers. ... Even so, He exhorts them to believe, to keep His word, so as to know the truth which redeems and justifies.

"The truth is a desire of the human person, the search for which always supposes the exercise of authentic freedom. Many, without a doubt, would prefer to take the easy way out, trying to avoid this task. Some, like Pontius Pilate, ironically question the possibility of even knowing what truth is, ... or deny that there exists a truth valid for all. This attitude, as in the case of scepticism and relativism, changes hearts, making them cold, wavering, distant from others and closed. There are too many who, like the Roman governor, wash their hands and let the water of history drain away without taking a stand.

"On the other hand, there are those who wrongly interpret this search for the truth, leading them to irrationality and fanaticism; they close themselves up in “their truth”, and try to impose it on others. ... Anyone who acts irrationally cannot become a disciple of Jesus. Faith and reason are necessary and complementary in the pursuit of truth. God created man with an innate vocation to the truth and He gave him reason for this purpose. Certainly, it is not irrationality but rather the yearning for truth which the Christian faith promotes".

"Furthermore, the truth which stands above humanity is an unavoidable condition for attaining freedom, since in it we discover the foundation of an ethics on which all can converge and which contains clear and precise indications concerning life and death, duties and rights, marriage, family and society, in short, regarding the inviolable dignity of the human person. This ethical patrimony can bring together different cultures, peoples and religions, authorities and citizens, citizens among themselves, and believers in Christ and non-believers.

"Christianity, in highlighting those values which sustain ethics, does not impose, but rather proposes Christ’s invitation to know the truth which sets us free. ... In Christ we find the truth about God and about mankind. He helps us to overcome our selfishness, to rise above our vain struggles and to conquer all that oppresses us. The one who does evil, who sins, becomes its slave and will never attain freedom. Only by renouncing hatred and our hard and blind hearts will we be free and a new life will well up in us".

"The Church lives to make others sharers in the one thing she possesses, which is none other than Christ, our hope of glory. To carry out this duty, she must count on basic religious freedom, which consists in her being able to proclaim and to celebrate her faith also in public, bringing to others the message of love, reconciliation and peace which Jesus brought to the world. It must be said with joy that in Cuba steps have been taken to enable the Church to carry out her essential mission of expressing her faith openly and publicly. Nonetheless, this must continue forwards, and I wish to encourage the country’s government authorities to strengthen what has already been achieved and advance along this path of genuine service to the true good of Cuban society as a whole.

"The right to freedom of religion, both in its private and in its public dimension, manifests the unity of the human person, who is at once a citizen and a believer. It also legitimises the fact that believers have a contribution to make to the building up of society. Strengthening religious freedom consolidates social bonds, nourishes the hope of a better world, creates favourable conditions for peace and harmonious development. ... When the Church upholds this human right, she is not claiming any special privileges for herself. She wishes only to be faithful to the command of her divine founder, conscious that, where Christ is present, we become more human and our humanity becomes authentic. This is why the Church seeks to give witness by her preaching and teaching, both in catechesis and in the schools and universities. It is greatly to be hoped that the moment will soon arrive when, here too, the Church can bring to the fields of knowledge the benefits of the mission which the Lord entrusted to her and which she can never neglect.

"A shining example of this commitment is found in the outstanding priest Felix Varela, teacher and educator, an illustrious son of this city of Havana, who has taken his place in Cuban history as the first one who taught his people how to think. Father Varela offers us a path to a true transformation of society: to form virtuous men and women in order to forge a worthy and free nation, for this transformation depends on the spiritual, in as much as “there is no authentic fatherland without virtue”. Cuba and the world need change, but this will occur only if each one is in a position to seek the truth and chooses the way of love, sowing reconciliation and fraternity".


Vatican City, 28 March 2012 (VIS) - After celebrating Mass this morning in Havana's Plaza de la Revolucion Jose Marti, Benedict XVI held a meeting in the apostolic nunciature with Fidel Castro, former president of Cuba.

"I took the decision to ask for some moments of your time, which I know is full of commitments, when I learned that you would take pleasure in this modest and simple encounter", said Fidel Castro to the Pope. During the meeting, which according to Vatican Radio lasted about half an hour, the former president spoke to the Holy Father of his pleasure at the beatification of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who had been a great benefactress of Cuba, and of John Paul II, "a man whose contact with children and ordinary citizens invariably aroused feelings of affection". For his part Benedict XVI spoke of his own pleasure at being in Cuba and at the cordiality of his welcome.

Fidel Castro asked the Pope a number of questions about changes in the liturgy and the role of the Pontiff, and Benedict XVI replied by speaking about his meeting with peoples and his service to the universal Church. The former president also turned his attention to the plight mankind is facing in the modern world, while the Pope spoke of the absence and non recognition of God, and the fundamental importance of the relationship between faith and reason. Finally, Castro asked the Pope to send him a number of books to enable him to study the issues raised in their talk, and Benedict XVI said he would give thought to which texts to send. Finally, the former president presented the Pope his wife and two of his children.


Vatican City, 28 March 2012 (VIS) - As the Pope prepared to leave Cuba this afternoon he recalled the profound impression that country had left on his predecessor Blessed John Paul II, "when he came to these lands as a herald of truth and hope". Benedict XVI reiterated the fact that he had come to Cuba as a pilgrim of love, to give thanks to the Virgin Mary "who has accompanied the journey of the Church in this nation and given encouragement to all Cubans so that, from the hand of Christ, they might discover the true meaning of the desires and aspirations found in the human heart and gain the strength needed to build a fraternal society in which no one feels excluded".

At Jose Marti airport in Havana, where he arrived at 4.30 p.m. amid the acclamation of tens of thousands of faithful who had thronged to see him, the Pope thanked the president and other State authorities "for the interest and generous cooperation which they have shown in the the preparation of this journey". He also thanked members of the episcopal conference and others who had spared no effort to ensure the success of his visit. "I hold deep in my heart all the Cuban people, each and every one. You have surrounded me with prayer and affection, offered me cordial hospitality and shared with me your profound and rightful aspirations.

"I came here as a witness to Jesus Christ, convinced that, wherever He is present, discouragement yields to hope, goodness dispels uncertainties and a powerful force opens up the horizon to beneficial and unexpected possibilities", said the Holy Father. He also expressed the hope that Christ's message of salvation would strengthen the zeal and pastoral concern of Cuban bishops and all who cooperate the work of evangelisation, particularly the lay faithful so that, "by intensifying their commitment to God in the midst of their homes and workplaces, they may never tire of offering their responsible contribution for the good and the integral progress of their homeland.

"The path which Christ points out to humanity, and to each particular individual and people, is not a source of constraint, but rather the primary and principal premise for their authentic development. The light of the Lord, has shone brightly during these days; may that light never fade in those who have welcomed it; may it help all people to foster social harmony and to allow the blossoming of all that is finest in the Cuban soul, its most noble values, which can be the basis for building a society of broad vision, renewed and reconciled. May no one feel excluded from taking up this exciting search for his or her basic freedoms, or excused from this this by indolence or lack of material resources, a situation which is worsened when restrictive economic measures, imposed from outside the country, unfairly burden its people.

"I now conclude my pilgrimage, but I will continue praying fervently that you will go forward and that Cuba will be the home of all and for all Cubans, where justice and freedom coexist in a climate of serene fraternity. Respect and promotion of freedom which is present in the heart of each person are essential in order to respond adequately to the fundamental demands of his or her dignity and, in this way, to build up a society in which all are indispensable actors in the future of their life, their family and their country.

"The present hour urgently demands that in personal, national and international coexistence we reject immovable positions and unilateral viewpoints which tend to make understanding more difficult and efforts at cooperation ineffective. Possible discrepancies and difficulties will be resolved by tirelessly seeking what unites everyone, with patient and sincere dialogue, and a willingness to listen and accept goals which will bring new hope.

"Cuba, look again to the faith of your elders, draw from that faith the strength to build a better future, trust in the Lord’s promises, and open your heart to His Gospel so as to renew authentically your personal and social life.

"As I bid you a heartfelt adios, I ask our Lady of Charity of El Cobre to protect all Cubans under her mantle, to sustain them in the midst of their trials and to obtain from Almighty God the grace that they most desire. Hasta siempre, Cuba, a land made beautiful by the maternal presence of Mary. May God bless your future".

Having concluded his farewell address, Benedict XVI boarded his plane for Rome where, following a flight of ten and a half hours, he arrived at 10.15 a.m. local time on 29 March.


Vatican City, 29 March 2012 (VIS) - Given below is the text of a declaration issued today by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith concerning the canonical status of the "so-called Greek-Catholic bishops of Pidhirci": Fr. Elias A. Dohnal O.S.B.M., Fr. Markian V. Hitiuk O.S.B.M., Fr. Metodej R. Spirik O.S.B.M., and Fr. Robert Oberhauser. The text is dated 22 February and bears the signatures of Cardinal William Joseph Levada and Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer S.J., respectively prefect and secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

(1) The Holy See has followed with great concern the activities of Fr. Elias A. Dohnal O.S.B.M., Fr. Markian V. Hitiuk O.S.B.M., Fr. Metodej R. Spirik O.S.B.M., and Fr. Robert Oberhauser who, having been expelled from the Basilian Order of St. Josaphat, subsequently proclaimed themselves as bishops of the Greek-Catholic Ukrainian Church. With their disobedience, these priests continue to challenge ecclesiastical authority, causing moral and spiritual damage, not only to the Basilian Order of St. Josaphat and the Greek-Catholic Ukrainian Church, but also to this Apostolic See and the Catholic Church as a whole. All this provokes division and bewilderment among the faithful. The aforementioned priests, having established a group of "bishops" of Pidhirci, have recently sought to have that group recognised and registered by the competent State authorities as the "Ukrainian Orthodox Greek-Catholic Church".

(2) Since the beginning of this painful episode, Church representatives of various ranks have sought to dissuade them from continuing a conduct which, among other things, could deceive the faithful, as has already happened in a number of cases.

(3) The Holy See, concerned to protect the unity and peace of Christs flock, had hoped in the repentance and subsequent return of the aforementioned priests to full communion with the Catholic Church. Unfortunately the most recent developments - such as the unsuccessful attempt to acquire State registration for the "Pidhirci" group under the name of the "Ukrainian Orthodox Greek-Catholic Church" - demonstrates their continuing disobedience.

(4) Therefore, to safeguard the common good of the Church and the "salus animarum", and given that the so-called "bishops" of Pidhirci show no sign of repentance but continue to create confusion and disarray in the community of faithful, in particular by calumniating representatives of the Holy See and of the local Church, and asserting that the supreme authority of the Church is in possession of documentation testifying to the full validity of their episcopal ordination, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, accepting the request presented by the ecclesiastical authorities of the Greek-Catholic Ukrainian Church, and by other dicasteries of the Holy See, has decided, by this declaration, to inform the faithful, especially in the countries of origin of the so-called "bishops", about their current canonical status.

(5) This Congregation, disassociating itself entirely from the actions of the so-called "bishops" aforementioned, and from their aforesaid declarations, formally declares that it does not recognise the validity of their episcopal ordinations, or of any and all ordinations that have derived, or will derive therefrom. Moreover, the canonical status of the four so-called "bishops" is that of excommunication, pursuant to canon 1459 para. 1 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (CCEO), in view of the fact that an appeal sentence of the ordinary tribunal of the Major Archiepiscopal Ukrainian Church, issued on 10 September 2008, recognised them as guilty of offences under canons 1462, 1447 and 1452 of the CCEO; i.e., the offences of illegitimate usurpation of office, inciting sedition and hatred towards certain hierarchs, provoking subjects to disobedience, and harming a third party's good name by calumny.

(6) Furthermore, the use of the name "Catholic" by groups which are not recognised by the competent ecclesiastical authority is to be considered as illegitimate, pursuant to canon 19 of the CCEO.

(7) The faithful are, then, enjoined not to adhere to the aforementioned group as, to all canonical effects, it is outside ecclesiastical communion. The faithful are invited to pray for the members of the group, that they may repent and return to full communion with the Catholic Church.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Vatican City, 27 March 2012 (VIS) - At 9.30 a.m. today, the Holy Father travelled to the Shrine of "Nuestra Senora de la Caridad del Cobre", patron of Cuba, where he was greeted by the archbishop of Santiago de Cuba, and by the shrine's rector. The Holy Father paused in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament then before the image of the Virgin. He lit a candle and recited the prayer of the Virgin of Charity, the Jubilee Year ritual by which pilgrims may obtain plenary indulgence.

He then went to the main entrance of the building from where he greeted and blessed the faithful gathered on the square and the steps leading up to the shrine. "Receive the affection of the Pope", Benedict XVI told them, "and carry it with you from this place, so that everyone can experience consolation and strength in faith. Let all those you meet know, whether near or far, that I have entrusted to the Mother of God the future of your country, advancing along the ways of renewal and hope, for the greater good of all Cubans. I have also prayed to the Virgin for the needs of those who suffer, of those who are deprived of freedom, those who are separated from their loved ones or who are undergoing times of difficulty. I have placed in her Immaculate Heart young people, that they may be authentic friends of Christ and that they may not succumb to things which bring sadness in their wake.

"Before Mary of Charity, I remember in a particular way Cubans who are the descendants of those who arrived here from Africa, like the nearby people of Haiti, where the consequences of the earthquake of two years ago are still being suffered. And I cannot forget the many country people and their families who wish to live the Gospel deeply in their homes and who offer their homes as mission centres for the celebration of Mass.

"Following the example of the Most Holy Virgin", the Pope concluded, "I encourage all the sons and daughters of this dear country to continue to build their lives on the firm rock which is Jesus Christ, to work for justice, to be servants of charity and to persevere in the midst of trials. May nothing or no one take from you your inner joy which is so characteristic of the Cuban soul".

The history of Our Lady of Charity and her shrine, the most venerated pilgrim site in Cuba, began in 1606 when three fishermen - two Indios and a black slave - found a wooden image of the Mother of Christ inscribed with the words "I am the Virgin of Charity" floating on the waters of Nipe Bay. The statue was taken to the mine of El Cobre where the first shrine was built in 1684. It was at the shrine that, in the year 1801, the "Manifesto for the Liberation of the Slaves of the El Cobre Mines" was proclaimed. In 1916, Pope Benedict XV proclaimed the Virgin of Charity patron of Cuba. The current shrine was inaugurated in 1927, and Pope Paul VI granted it the title of minor basilica in 1977.


Vatican City, 27 March 2012 (VIS) - Having completed his visit to the Shrine of "Nuestra Senora de la Caridad del Cobre", the Holy Father was taken to the airport of Santiago de Cuba where he boarded a flight for the nation's capital city Havana.

The Pope arrived at Jose Marti airport at midday local time (7 p.m. in Rome), where he was welcomed by Raul Castro, president of Cuba, who had not been scheduled to be present; by Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino, archbishop of San Cristobal de La Habana, by the local authorities and by hundreds of children holding white and yellow flowers.

After having had lunch at the apostolic nunciature, Benedict XVI travelled by car to the Palacio de la Revolucion where he paid a courtesy visit to President Raul Castro. Since 1965 the building complex known as Palacio de la Revolucion has been home to the Council of State, the Office of the President, the Council of Ministers and the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party.

Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. described the meeting between the two men as "long, cordial and serene". Their discussions, he said, had focused on the condition of the Cuban people, including humanitarian issues and the Church’s expectations in her service of the common good. The Pope also made a specific request for Good Friday to be re-established as a holiday.

At the end of their meeting the Pope and President Castro exchanged gifts. Benedict XVI gave the Cuban leader a facsimile of Ptolemy's "Geography", and the president gave him a bronze reproduction of "Nuestra Senora de la Caridad del Cobre". The Holy Father then returned to the apostolic nunciature where he dined with Cuban bishops.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Vatican City, 26 March 2012 (VIS) - This morning, the Holy Father took his leave of Mexico, arriving at the airport of Leon at 9 a.m. where the departure ceremony took place.

Addressing Felipe de Jesus Calderon Hinojosa, president of Mexico, and other civil and religious authorities who were there to greet him, the Pope noted that his departure was not the end of his affection and closeness to a country so dear to him.

"Recognising the faith in Jesus Christ which I have felt resounding in your hearts, and your affectionate devotion to His Mother, invoked here with beautiful titles like Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady of Light, a light I have seen reflected in your faces, I wish to reiterate clearly and with vigour a plea to the Mexican people to remain faithful to yourselves, not to let yourselves be intimidated by the power of evil, but to be valiant and to work to ensure that the sap of your Christian roots may nourish your present and your future.

"I have also seen for myself expressions of concern for various aspects of the life in this beloved country, some more recent and others long standing, which continue to cause such great divisions in society. I take them with me as well, as I share in the joys and the suffering of my Mexican brothers and sisters, so as to place them in prayer at the foot of the Cross, in the heart of Christ, out of which flowed the blood and water of redemption.

"In these circumstances, I strongly urge Mexican Catholics, and all men and women of good will, not to yield to a utilitarian mentality which always finishes by sacrificing the weakest and most defenceless. I invite you to a common effort so that society can be renewed from the ground up, in order to attain a life of dignity, justice and peace for everyone. For Catholics, this contribution to the common good is also a requirement of that essential dimension of the Gospel which is the human promotion and a supreme expression of charity. For this reason, the Church exhorts all her faithful to be good citizens, conscious of their responsibilities and concerned for the good of others, of everyone, both in their personal lives and throughout the various sectors of society.

"Dear Mexican friends, I say to you “Adios!” in the traditional sense of this fine Hispanic expression: remain with God! Yes, “Adios!”; for ever in the love of Christ, in which we meet each other and will again meet with one another. May the Lord bless you and may Mary Most Holy protect you!"

Having concluded his remarks the Holy Father boarded his flight for Cuba where he is scheduled to arrive at 2 p.m. local time (9 p.m. in Rome).


Vatican City, 26 March 2012 (VIS) - "I come to Cuba as a pilgrim of charity, to confirm my brothers and sisters in the faith and strengthen them in the hope which is born of the presence of God’s love in our lives. I carry in my heart the just aspirations and legitimate desires of all Cubans, wherever they may be, their sufferings and their joys, their concerns and their noblest desires, those of the young and the elderly, of adolescents and children, of the sick and workers, of prisoners and their families, and of the poor and those in need".

These were the words pronounced by Benedict XVI as he began his apostolic trip to Cuba, where he arrived this afternoon from Mexico. The Pope was greeted at the airport of Santiago de Cuba, the island's second largest city, by Raul Castro, president of Cuba, Archbishop Dionisio Guillermo Garcia Ibanez, president of the Cuban Episcopal Conference, and Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino, archbishop of Havana.

In his welcome address the Holy Father spoke of the "indelible mark" left on the island by the visit of Blessed John Paul II. "For many, whether believers or not", he said, "his example and his teachings are a luminous guide for their personal lives and their public activity in the service of the common good of the nation. His visit to this island was like a gentle breath of fresh air which gave new strength to the Church in Cuba, awakening in many a renewed awareness of the importance of faith and inspiring them to open their hearts to Christ, while at the same time kindling their hope and encouraging their desire to work fearlessly for a better future. One of the important fruits of that visit was the inauguration of a new phase in the relationship in Cuba between Church and State, in a new spirit of cooperation and trust, even if many areas remain in which greater progress can and ought to be made, especially as regards the indispensable public contribution that religion is called to make in the life of society".

The Holy Father also referred to the four hundredth anniversary of discovery of the image of "Nuestra Senora de la Caridad del Cobre", saying that "since the beginning she has been very much present in the personal lives of Cubans as well as in the great events of the nation, especially since independence, for she is honoured by all as the true mother of the Cuban people.

"Devotion to the 'Virgen Mambisa'", he added, "has sustained the faith and inspired the defence and promotion of all that gives dignity to the human condition and fundamental rights, and it continues to do so today with ever greater strength, giving visible witness to the fruitfulness of the preaching of the Gospel in these lands, and to the profound Christian roots which shape the deepest identity of the Cuban soul. Following in the footsteps of countless pilgrims down the centuries, I too wish to go to El Cobre to kneel at the feet of the Mother of God, to thank her for her concern for all her Cuban children, and to ask her to guide the future of this beloved nation in the ways of justice, peace, freedom and reconciliation".

The Pope then went on to refer to the difficult world economic situation, noting that many people see it "as part of a profound spiritual and moral crisis which has left humanity devoid of values and defenceless before the ambition and selfishness of certain powers which take little account of the true good of individuals and families. We can no longer continue in the same cultural and moral direction which has caused the painful situation that many suffer. On the other hand, real progress calls for an ethics which focuses on the human person and takes account of the most profound human needs, especially man’s spiritual and religious dimension. In the hearts and minds of many, the way is thus opening to an ever greater certainty that the rebirth of society demands upright men and women of firm moral convictions, with deep values who will not be manipulated by dubious interests and who are respectful of the unchanging and transcendent nature of the human person".

"I am convinced", he concluded, "that Cuba, at this moment of particular importance in its history, is already looking to the future, and thus is striving to renew and broaden its horizons. Of great help in this enterprise will be the great patrimony of spiritual and moral values which created the nation’s true identity, and which are to be found concretely in the work and the life of many distinguished fathers of the country, like Blessed Jose Olallo y Valdes, the Servant of God Felix Varela, and the worthy Jose Marti. For her part, the Church too has diligently contributed to the cultivation of those values through her generous and selfless pastoral mission, and renews her commitment to work tirelessly the better to serve all Cubans".


Vatican City, 26 March 2012 (VIS) - Two hundred thousand people today participated in a Mass presided by Benedict XVI at Plaza Antonio Maceo in Santiago de Cuba, to mark the four hundredth anniversary of discovery of the image of "Nuestra Senora de la Caridad del Cobre", patron of the Island. Among those attending the ceremony was Raul Castro, president of Cuba.

Before the celebration, which took place under driving rain, the original image of "Nuestra Senora del Cobre" was displayed in the square, before which, to mark the Solemnity of the Annunciation, the Holy Father placed a golden rose.

In his homily, the Pope expressed his appreciation for "the sacrifices and the dedication" with which the Cubans have prepared their Marian Jubilee Year. "I was deeply touched to hear of the fervour with which Mary has been invoked by so many Cubans during her journey to every corner of the island", he said.

"These important events in the Church in Cuba take on a special lustre because of the feast celebrated today throughout the universal Church: the Annunciation of the Lord to the Virgin Mary. The Incarnation of the Son of God is the central mystery of the Christian faith, and in it Mary occupies a central place".

"In Mary", the Holy Father explained, "the Son of God is made man. ... The Apostle St. John expresses it in the following way: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”. The expression, “became flesh” points to our human reality in a most concrete and tangible way. In Christ, God has truly come into the world, He has entered into our history, He has set His dwelling among us, thus fulfilling the deepest desire of human beings such that the world may truly become a home worthy of humanity. On the other hand, when God is put aside, the world becomes an inhospitable place for man, and frustrates creation’s true vocation to be a space for the covenant, for the “Yes” to the love between God and humanity who responds to Him. And so Mary became the first fruit of believers with her unreserved “Yes” to the Lord.

"For this reason, contemplating the mystery of the Incarnation, we cannot fail to turn our eyes to her, ... seeing how our God, coming into the world, wished to depend upon the free consent of one of His creatures. Only from the moment when the Virgin responded to the angel ... did the eternal Word of the Father began His human existence in time. It is touching to see how God not only respects human freedom: He almost seems to require it. And we see also how the beginning of the earthly life of the Son of God was marked by a double “Yes” to the saving plan of the Father - that of Christ and that of Mary. This obedience to God is what opens the doors of the world to the truth, to salvation. God has created us as the fruit of His infinite love, and so to live in accordance with His will is the way to encounter our genuine identity, the truth of our being, while apart from God we are alienated from ourselves and are hurled into the void. The obedience of faith is true liberty, authentic redemption, which allows us to unite ourselves to the love of Jesus in His determination to conform Himself to the will of the Father. Redemption is always this process of the lifting up of the human will to full communion with the divine will".

"The Virgin Mary, by her unique role in the mystery of Christ, represents the exemplar and model of the Church. The Church, like the Mother of Christ, is also called to embrace in herself the mystery of God Who comes to live in her. Dear brothers and sisters, I know with what effort, daring and self-sacrifice you work every day so that, in the concrete circumstances of your country, and at this moment in history, the Church will better present her true face as a place in which God draws near and encounters humanity. The Church, the living body of Christ, has the mission of prolonging on earth the salvific presence of God, of opening the world to something greater than itself, to the love and the light of God. ... I encourage you in this task of sowing the word of God in the world and offering to everyone the true nourishment of the body of Christ. Easter is already approaching; let us determine to follow Jesus without fear or doubts on His journey to the Cross. May we accept with patience and faith whatever opposition or affliction may come, with the conviction that, in His Resurrection, He has crushed the power of evil which darkens everything, and has brought the dawn of a new world, the world of God, of light, of truth and happiness. The Lord will not hesitate to bless with abundant fruits the generosity of your commitment.

"The mystery of the Incarnation, in which God draws near to us, also shows us the incomparable dignity of every human life. In His loving plan, from the beginning of creation, God has entrusted to the family founded on matrimony the most lofty mission of being the fundamental cell of society and an authentic domestic church. With this certainty, you, dear husbands and wives, are called to be, especially for your children, a real and visible sign of the love of Christ for the Church. Cuba needs the witness of your fidelity, your unity, your capacity to welcome human life, especially that of the weakest and most needy".

The Pope concluded his homily: "Before the gaze of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, I appeal to you to reinvigorate your faith, that you may live in Christ and for Christ, and armed with peace, forgiveness and understanding, that you may strive to build a renewed and open society, a better society, one more worthy of humanity, and which better reflects the goodness of God".


Vatican City, 27 March 2012 (VIS) - "Rejoice in the Lord always", a verse from St. Paul's Letter the Philippians, is the theme chosen by the Holy Father for twenty-seventh World Youth Day, which is to be celebrated in dioceses throughout the world on Palm Sunday. Extracts from the English-language version of the message are given below.

"This year’s World Youth Day theme comes from St. Paul’s exhortation in his Letter to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always”. Joy is at the heart of Christian experience. At each World Youth Day we experience immense joy, the joy of communion, the joy of being Christian, the joy of faith. This is one of the marks of these gatherings. We can see the great attraction that joy exercises. In a world of sorrow and anxiety, joy is an important witness to the beauty and reliability of the Christian faith. The Church’s vocation is to bring joy to the world. ... In these difficult times, so many young people all around you need to hear that the Christian message is a message of joy and hope!"

1. Our hearts are made for joy

"A yearning for joy lurks within the heart of every man and woman. ... This is particularly true for you, because youth is ... a time of openness to the future and of great longing for happiness, friendship, sharing and truth, a time when we are moved by high ideals and make great plans. ... Yet each day we also face any number of difficulties. Deep down we also worry about the future; we begin to wonder if the full and lasting joy for which we long might be an illusion and an escape from reality. ... How can we distinguish things that give real and lasting joy from immediate and illusory pleasures? How can we find true joy in life, a joy that endures and does not forsake us at moments of difficulty?"

2. God is the source of true joy

"Whatever brings us true joy, whether the small joys of each day or the greatest joys in life, has its source in God, even if this does not seem immediately obvious. This is because God is a communion of eternal love, He is infinite joy that does not remain closed in on itself, but expands to embrace all whom God loves and who love Him. ... God wants us to share in His own divine and eternal joy, and He helps us to see that the deepest meaning and value of our lives lie in being accepted, welcomed and loved by Him. Whereas we sometimes find it hard to accept others, God offers us an unconditional acceptance which enables us to say: “I am loved; I have a place in the world and in history; I am personally loved by God".

"God’s infinite love for each of us is fully seen in Jesus Christ. The joy we are searching for is to be found in Him. ... The cause of all this joy is the closeness of God Who became one of us. ... Christ is the One Who lives and Who overcame evil, sin and death. He is present among us as the Risen One and He will remain with us until the end of the world. Evil does not have the last word in our lives; rather, faith in Christ the Saviour tells us that God’s love is victorious".

3. Preserving Christian joy in our hearts

"The discovery and preservation of spiritual joy is the fruit of an encounter with the Lord. Jesus asks us to follow Him and to stake our whole life on Him. ... Joy is the fruit of faith. ... Learn to see how God is working in your lives. ... Turn your eyes to Him often. He gave His life for you on the cross because He loves you. Contemplation of this great love brings a hope and joy to our hearts that nothing can destroy".

"To seek the Lord and find Him in our lives also means accepting His word. ... God’s word reveals the wonders that He has accomplished throughout human history. ... The liturgy is a special place where the Church expresses the joy which she receives from the Lord and transmits it to the world. Each Sunday at Mass the Christian community celebrates the central mystery of salvation, which is the death and resurrection of Christ".

4. The joy of love

"Joy is intimately linked to love. They are inseparable gifts of the Holy Spirit. Love gives rise to joy, and joy is a form of love. ... To love means to be steadfast, reliable and faithful to commitments. ... If we are to experience the joy of love, we must also be generous. We cannot be content to give the minimum. We need to be fully committed in life and to pay particular attention to those in need. The world needs men and women who are competent and generous, willing to be at the service of the common good. ... Find ways to help make society more just and humane wherever you happen to be. ... I would like to mention one particular joy. It is the joy we feel when we respond to the vocation to give our whole life to the Lord. ... Do not be afraid if Christ is calling you to the religious, monastic or missionary life or to the priesthood. Be assured that He fills with joy all those who respond to His invitation. ... In the same way, God gives great joy to men and women who give themselves totally to one another in marriage in order to build a family. ... A third element that will lead you to the joy of love ... is allowing fraternal love to grow in your lives and in those of your communities".

5. The joy of conversion

"Experiencing real joy also means recognising the temptations that lead us away from it. Our present-day culture often pressures us to seek immediate goals, achievements and pleasures. It fosters fickleness more than perseverance, hard work and fidelity to commitments. ... Experience teaches us that possessions do not ensure happiness".

"God wants us to be happy. That is why He gave us specific directions for the journey of life: the Commandments. If we observe them, we will find the path to life and happiness. At first glance, they might seem to be a list of prohibitions and an obstacle to our freedom. But if we study them more closely, we see in the light of Christ’s message that the Commandments are a set of essential and valuable rules leading to a happy life in accordance with God’s plan. ... At times the path of the Christian life is not easy, and being faithful to the Lord’s love presents obstacles; occasionally we fall. Yet God in His mercy never abandons us; He always offers us the possibility of returning to him. ... Have frequent recourse to the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation! It is the Sacrament of joy rediscovered".

6. Joy at times of trial

"In the end, though, we might still wonder in our hearts whether it is really possible to live joyfully amid all life’s trials, especially those which are most tragic and mysterious. ... We can find an answer in some of the experiences of young people like yourselves who have found in Christ the light that can give strength and hope even in difficult situations.

"Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati experienced many trials during his short life. ... When Blessed John Paul II presented Blessed Pier Giorgio as a model for young people, he described him as “a young person with infectious joy, the joy that overcame many difficulties in his life”. Closer to us in time is Chiara Badano, who was recently beatified. She experienced how pain could be transfigured by love and mysteriously steeped in joy. ... Authentic Christians are never despairing or sad, not even when faced with difficult trials. They show that Christian joy is not a flight from reality, but a supernatural power that helps us to deal with the challenges of daily life".

7. Witnesses of joy

"To conclude I would encourage you to be missionaries of joy. We cannot be happy if others are not. ... Go and tell other young people about your joy at finding the precious treasure which is Jesus Himself. We cannot keep the joy of faith to ourselves. If we are to keep it, we must give it away".

"Christianity is sometimes depicted as a way of life that stifles our freedom and goes against our desires for happiness and joy. But this is far from the truth. Christians are men and women who are truly happy because they know that they are not alone. They know that God is always holding them in His hands. It is up to you, young followers of Christ, to show the world that faith brings happiness and a joy which is true, full and enduring. If the way Christians live at times appears dull and boring, you should be the first to show the joyful and happy side of faith. The Gospel is the “good news” that God loves us and that each of us is important to Him. Show the world that this is true!"

Monday, March 26, 2012


Vatican City, 24 March 2012 (VIS) - At 5 p.m. today the Holy Father left Miraflores College in Leon to travel to the city of Guanajuato, sixty-four kilometres away. He covered the first part of the journey by car, transferring to the popemobile shortly before reaching his destination. The city of Guanajuato, which has a population of around 70,000, underwent its greatest expansion during the period of Spanish rule, thanks to the nearby silver and gold mines. It is also famous for being the cradle of the Mexican national independence movement led by Miguel Hidalgo. In 1998 the city and its silver mines became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After entering Guanajuato, the Pope made his way to the Casa del Conde Rul, the headquarters of the State government, where he paid a courtesy visit to Felipe de Jesus Calderon Hinojosa, president of Mexico. The two men held a private meeting, after which Benedict XVI, accompanied by Archbishop Jose Guadalupe Martin Rabago of Leon, appeared on the balcony of the building to greet children and faithful gathered below in the Plaza de la Paz.

"You have a very special place in the Pope’s heart", he told the children. "And in these moments, I would like all the children of Mexico to know this, especially those who have to bear the burden of suffering, abandonment, violence or hunger, which in recent months, because of drought, has made itself strongly felt in some regions. I am grateful for this encounter of faith, and for the festive and joyful presence expressed in song. ... God wants us to be happy always. He knows us and He loves us. If we allow the love of Christ to change our heart, then we can change the world. This is the secret of authentic happiness.

"This place where we stand today has a name which expresses the yearning present in the heart of each and every person: “la paz”, peace. This is a gift which comes from on high. “Peace be with you”. These are the words of the Risen Lord. We hear them during each Mass, and today they resound anew in this place, with the hope that each one of you will be transformed, becoming a sower and messenger of that peace for which Christ offered His life.

"The disciple of Jesus does not respond to evil with evil, but is always an instrument of good instead, a herald of pardon, a bearer of happiness, a servant of unity. He wishes to write in each of your lives a story of friendship. Hold on to Him, then, as the best of friends".

"I have come that you may know my affection. Each one of you is a gift of God to Mexico and to the world. Your family, the Church, your school and those who have responsibility in society must work together to ensure that you receive a better world as your inheritance, without jealousies and divisions.    That is why I wish to lift up my voice, inviting everyone to protect and to care for children, so that nothing may extinguish their smile, but that they may live in peace and look to the future with confidence.

"You, my dear young friends, are not alone. You can count on the help of Christ and His Church in order to live a Christian lifestyle. Participate in Sunday Mass, in catechesis, in apostolic works, looking for occasions of prayer, fraternity and charity. Blessed Cristobal, Antonio and Juan, the child martyrs of Tlaxcala, lived this way, and knowing Jesus, during the time of the initial evangelisation of Mexico, they discovered that there is no greater treasure than He".

"We will remain close in prayer. So I invite you to pray continually, even in your homes; in this way, you will experience the happiness of speaking about God with your families. Pray for everyone, and also for me. I will pray for all of you, so that Mexico may be a place in which everyone can live in serenity and harmony".


Vatican City, 25 March 2012 (VIS) - This morning Benedict XVI celebrated Mass in the Parque Bicentenario of the city of Leon. He reached the venue by helicopter from Miraflores College where he is staying during his apostolic visit to Mexico. On arrival he was welcomed by the governor of the State of Guanajuato before boarding the popemobile to greet the 500,000 faithful.

The Holy Father concelebrated Mass with Mexican cardinals and bishops, the presidents of the twenty-two episcopal conferences of Latin America and the Caribbean, and some 3,000 priests. The ceremony was accompanied by a 200-strong choir and the faithful were able to follow the event on giant screens.

Extracts from the Holy Father's homily are given below.

"We said, “A pure heart, create for me, O God” during the responsorial psalm. This exclamation ... helps us to look deeply into the human heart, especially in times of sorrow as well as hope, as are the present times for the people of Mexico and of Latin America.

"The desire for a heart that would be pure, sincere, humble, acceptable to God was very much felt by Israel as it became aware of the persistence in its midst of evil and sin as a power, practically implacable and impossible to overcome. There was nothing left but to trust in God’s mercy and in the hope that He would change from within, from the heart, an unbearable, dark and hopeless situation".

"This should remind each one of us and our peoples that, when addressing the deeper dimension of personal and community life, human strategies will not suffice to save us. We must have recourse to the One Who alone can give life in its fullness, because He is the essence of life and its author; He has made us sharers in the same through His Son Jesus Christ.

"Today’s Gospel takes up the topic and shows us how this ancient desire for the fullness of life has actually been achieved in Christ. ... On the cross ... His “glory” will begin, because of His sacrifice of expiation for all, as the grain of wheat fallen to the ground that by dying germinates and produces abundant fruit. ... Our Lady of Guadalupe showed her divine Son to St. Juan Diego, not as a powerful legendary hero but as the very God of the living, by Whom all live, the Creator of persons, ... of heaven and earth. At that moment she did what she had done previously at the wedding feast of Cana. Faced with the embarrassment caused by the lack of wine, she told the servants clearly that the path to follow was her Son: “Do whatever he tells you”".

"By coming here I have been able to visit the monument to Christ the King situated on top of the Cubilete. ... This monument represents Christ the King. But His crowns, one of a sovereign the other of thorns, indicate that His royal status does not correspond to how it has been or is understood by many. His kingdom does not stand on the power of His armies subduing others through force or violence. It rests on a higher power that wins over hearts: the love of God that He brought into the world with His sacrifice and the truth to which He bore witness. This is His sovereignty which no one can take from Him and which no one should forget".

"From this park, foreseen as a memorial of the bicentenary of the birth of the Mexican nation, ... we ask Christ for a pure heart, where He as Prince of Peace may dwell “thanks to the power of God Who is the power of goodness, the power of love”. But for God to dwell in us, we need to listen to Him; we must allow His Word to challenge us every day, meditating upon it in our hearts after the example of Mary. In this way we grow in friendship with Him, we learn to understand what He expects from us and we are encouraged to make Him known to others.

"At Aparecida, the bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean saw with clarity the need to confirm, renew and revitalise the newness of the Gospel rooted deeply in the history of these lands. ... We need to overcome fatigue related to faith and rediscover “the joy of being Christians, of being sustained by the inner happiness of knowing Christ and belonging to His Church. From this joy spring the energies that are needed to serve Christ in distressing situations of human suffering, placing oneself at His disposition and not falling back on one’s own comfort”. This can be seen clearly in the saints who dedicated themselves fully to the cause of the Gospel with enthusiasm and joy without counting the cost, even of life itself. Their heart was centred entirely on Christ from Whom they had learned what it means to love until the end".

"Let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to assist us in purifying our hearts. ... And let us also ask her to continue accompanying and protecting her Mexican and Latin American children, that Christ may reign in their lives and help them boldly to promote peace, harmony, justice and solidarity".


Vatican City, 25 March 2012 (VIS) - "As we now pray the Angelus and remember the Annunciation of the Lord, our eyes too turn spiritually towards the hill of Tepeyac, to the place where the Mother of God, under the title of “the Ever-Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe” has been fervently honoured for centuries as a sign of reconciliation and of God’s infinite goodness towards the world", said the Holy Father this morning before the Marian prayer.

"Do not forget", he went on, "that true devotion to the Virgin Mary always takes us to Jesus, and “consists neither in sterile nor transitory feelings, nor in an empty credulity, but proceeds from true faith, by which we are led to recognise the excellence of the Mother of God, and we are moved to filial love towards our Mother and to the imitation of her virtues”. To love her means being committed to listening to her Son, to venerate the Guadalupana means living in accordance with the words of the blessed fruit of her womb.

"At this time, when so many families are separated or forced to emigrate, when so many are suffering due to poverty, corruption, domestic violence, drug trafficking, the crisis of values and increased crime, we come to Mary in search of consolation, strength and hope. She is the Mother of the true God, who invites us to stay with faith and charity beneath her mantle, so as to overcome in this way all evil and to establish a more just and fraternal society.

"With these sentiments, I place once again this country, all Latin America and the Caribbean before the gentle gaze of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I entrust all their sons and daughters to the Star of both the original and the new evangelisation; she has inspired with her maternal love their Christian history, has given particular expression to their national achievements, to their communal and social initiatives, to family life, to personal devotion and to the continental mission which is now taking place across these noble lands. In times of trial and sorrow she was invoked by many martyrs who, in crying out “Long live Christ the King and Mary of Guadalupe” bore unyielding witness of fidelity to the Gospel and devotion to the Church. I now ask that her presence in this nation may continue to serve as a summons to defence and respect for human life. May it promote fraternity, setting aside futile acts of revenge and banishing all divisive hatred", the Pope concluded.

After the Angelus, Benedict XVI prayed for a few moments in silence before the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. As he imparted the final blessing, he also blessed ninety-one images of the Virgin of Guadalupe which are destined to be displayed in all the dioceses of Mexico.


Vatican City, 25 March 2012 (VIS) - At 6 p.m. today the Holy Father arrived at the cathedral of "Nuestra Senora de la Luz" in the city of Leon, where he celebrated Vespers with Mexican bishops and numerous other prelates from the episcopal conferences of Latin America and the Caribbean. On arrival the Pope was greeted by the cathedral chapter, then paused for a moment of private prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.

Following a greeting by Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes of Tlalnepantla, president of the Mexican Episcopal Conference and of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM), the celebration of Vespers began. Extracts from the homily delivered by the Holy Father during the ceremony are given below.

"The Blessed Virgin ... has shown us Jesus and passed down to us the great things which God constantly does for humanity. ... A decisive sign of these great things is given to us in the reading just proclaimed at these Vespers. The people of Jerusalem and their leaders did not acknowledge Christ, yet, by condemning Him to death, they fulfilled the words of the prophets. Human evil and ignorance simply cannot thwart the divine plan of salvation and redemption. Evil is simply incapable of that. ... There is no reason, then, to give in to the despotism of evil".

"I have greatly looked forward to this meeting with you, the pastors of Christ’s pilgrim Church in Mexico and in the different countries of this great continent. I see this meeting as an occasion to turn our gaze together to Christ. ... Certainly your dioceses face a number of challenges and difficulties at the present moment. Yet, in the sure knowledge that the Lord is risen, we are able to move forward confidently, in the conviction that evil does not have the last word in human history, and that God is able to open up new horizons to a hope that does not disappoint".

"In you I see reflected the concerns of the flocks which you shepherd, and I am reminded of the assemblies of the Synod of Bishops, where the participants applaud after an intervention by someone who exercises his ministry in particularly troubling situations for the Church’s life and mission. That applause is a sign of deep faith in the Lord and fraternity in the apostolate, as well as gratitude and admiration for those who sow the Gospel amid thorns, some in the form of persecution, others in the form of social exclusion or contempt. Neither are concerns lacking, for want of means and human resources, or for limitations imposed on the freedom of the Church in carrying out her mission.

"The Successor of Peter shares these concerns and he is grateful for your patient and humble pastoral outreach. You are not alone. ... All of us are one in sufferings and in consolation. Know that you can count on a special place in the prayers of the one who has received from Christ the charge of confirming his brethren in faith. He now encourages you in your mission of making our Lord Jesus Christ ever better known, loved and followed in these lands, and he urges you not to let yourselves be intimidated by obstacles along the way".

"The initiatives planned for the Year of Faith must be aimed at guiding men and women to Christ; His grace will enable them to cast off the bonds of sin and slavery, and to progress along the path of authentic and responsible freedom. ... I encourage you to continue to share freely the treasures of the Gospel, so that they can become a powerful source of hope, freedom and salvation for everyone".

"Amid the challenges now facing us in our pastoral care and our preaching of the Gospel, it is essential to show great concern for your seminarians. ... No less fundamental is the need to remain close to your priests; they must never lack the understanding and encouragement of their bishop, nor, if necessary, his paternal admonition in response to improper attitudes. ... The same should be said for the different forms of consecrated life, whose charisms need to be gratefully esteemed and responsibly encouraged, in a way respectful of the gift received. Greater attention is due to the members of the lay faithful most engaged in the fields of catechesis, liturgical animation, charitable activity and social commitment. Their faith formation is critical if the Gospel is to become present and fruitful in contemporary society. It is not right for them to feel treated like second-class citizens in the Church, despite the committed work which they carry out in accordance with their proper vocation, and the great sacrifice which this dedication at times demands of them. In all of this, it is particularly important for pastors to ensure that a spirit of communion reigns among priests, religious and the lay faithful, and that sterile divisions, criticism and unhealthy mistrust are avoided".

"Stand beside those who are marginalised as the result of force, power or a prosperity which is blind to the poorest of the poor. The Church cannot separate the praise of God from service to others. The one God, our Father and Creator, has made us brothers and sisters: to be human is to be a brother and guardian to our neighbour. ... The Church must relive and make present what Jesus was: the Good Samaritan Who came from afar, entered our human history, lifted us up and sought to heal us".

Following the ceremony, Juan Manuel Oliva Ramirez, governor of the State of Guanajuato, handed the Pope a device with which he illuminated the new lighting system of the nearby Shrine of Christ the King.


Vatican City, 25 March 2012 (VIS) - This evening, following the celebration of Vespers, Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. presided at a dinner in the courtyard of the cathedral of Leon. The event was attended by Mexican and Latin American bishops, and by members of the papal entourage.

The secretary of State pronounced an address in which he observed that the Pope's visit to Mexico was "an occasion of profound happiness, seeing how this beloved nation has once again opened wide its doors to the Successor of Peter, manifesting in this way the greatness of spirit of her children, her exquisite hospitality and the robust Catholic faith rooted among her citizens".

Cardinal Bertone noted that this year marks the twentieth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Mexico and the Holy See. "Both the Church and the State share a common duty, each according to its specific mission, in protecting and promoting the fundamental rights of each person", he said. "Of special note among them is the freedom of man to search for the truth and to profess his own religious convictions, in public as well as in private, which has been recognised and guaranteed by civil law. And it is to be hoped that in Mexico this fundamental right will continue to be strengthened, conscious that it goes much further than mere freedom of worship. It penetrates every dimension of the human person, called to express his or her faith, to proclaim it and share it with others, without imposing it, as the most precious gift from God.

"Moreover", the cardinal added, "diplomatic efforts must be more fully rooted in the promotion of this great common cause, to which Christianity can offer a valid contribution, because it is “a religion of freedom and of peace, and it is at the service of the authentic good of humanity”. The Church never ceases to call on everyone to let political activity be a praiseworthy and ceaseless endeavour in support of citizens, and not become a struggle for power or an imposition of rigid ideological systems, which so often result in the radicalisation of wide sectors of the population.

"In this sense, the bishops here present represent the Catholic Church’s engagement to work for the benefit of the human family, for whom Jesus Christ gave His life. In each generation, she has written a page of this history of service to humanity. Some lines of it are the work of saints, others of the martyrs. This history has not been lacking in daring pastors, in exemplary religious men and women, in young people with prophetic voices, in valiant witnesses to charity and in faithful lay people who, often with great simplicity, have offered a hand and an open door to their brothers and sisters in need. The beauty of Christianity has been expressed in many different ways so that each man or woman, without regard to race, language or social class can be embraced. In it, much of the dimension of faith has come to be so deeply professed and celebrated, as is seen in Mexico and throughout Latin America, and shown through the many charitable projects which have inspired so many to overcome selfishness and to help with the most basic and urgent social needs. Nor should we forget initiatives for the promotion of the right of every person and all peoples, the defence of their liberty and the cultivation of art and culture.

"If this mission has been tainted in some way, that does not tarnish the splendour of the Gospel, which is always present to purify and illuminate our path, which today is seen in the revitalisation of the faith to which Benedict XVI continues to invite us".

Saturday, March 24, 2012


Vatican City, 24 March 2012 (VIS) - Yesterday morning, before boarding his flight for Mexico, Benedict XVI was greeted at Rome's Fiumicino airport by Mario Monti, prime minister of Italy. Later, during the course of the journey, the Holy Father participated in the traditional in-flight press conference with the more than seventy journalists accompanying him on the plane. He answered questions on a wide range of subjects, from drug trafficking and violence in Mexico to the social situation in Cuba and new evangelisation on the Latin American continent.

The Pope noted that his journey was taking him in the footsteps of John Paul II, who had made five visits to Mexico and one to Cuba, and that he hoped to continue the work begun by his predecessor. "I share the joys and hopes, but also the suffering and difficulties" of the Mexican people, he said. "I am going to bring encouragement but also to learn, to bring comfort in faith, hope and love; a commitment to goodness and to the struggle against evil. Let us hope that the Lord will help us".

A Mexican journalist asked the Pope how the Church in Mexico can help to resolve the problem of drug trafficking, which has caused more than 50,000 deaths in the last five years. The Holy Father replied: "we are well aware of the beauty of Mexico, but also of this great problem of drug trafficking and violence. This is certainly a great responsibility for the Catholic Church in a country that is 80 per cent Catholic. We must do everything we can against this evil, which is so destructive of humanity and of our young people. The first thing is to announce God. God the judge. God Who loves us, but Who asks us to abide in goodness and truth, and to reject evil.

"Therefore, one great responsibility the Church has is to educate people to moral responsibility and to unmask evil, to unmask the idolatry of money which enslaves man. ... We must remember that men and women need the infinite. If there is no God, they replace Him by creating their own heavens, a seeming infinity which is really only a lie. This is why it is so important for God to be present and accessible. ... In this way the Church can unmask evil, making people aware of God's goodness, His truth, authentic infinity. This is the great duty facing the Church".

Another Mexican journalist pointed out that great social inequalities persist in Latin America and that the at times the Catholic Church is not sufficiently encouraged to intervene in this field.

"The Church must of course ask if she does enough for social justice on that great continent", the Pope replied. "It is a question of conscience which we must always pose ourselves. ... What must the Church do? What can she not do? What must she not do? The Church is not a political power, she is not a party but a moral entity, a moral power. ... I reiterate what I have already said. The Church's first concern is to educate minds in both individual and public ethics, thus creating the necessary sense of responsibility. Here perhaps there are some shortcomings. In Latin America, as elsewhere, no small number of Catholics show a kind of schizophrenia between individual and public morals. ... We must educate people to overcome this schizophrenia, educate them not only in ... individual morality, but also in public morality. This we must seek to do with the social doctrine of the Church because, of course, such public morality must be a reasonable morality, shared and shareable by non believers. We, of course, in the light of faith can better see many things that are also visible to reason, but it is faith which serves to liberate reason from the false interests that cloud it. Thus we must use social doctrine to create fundamental policy models, and so ... overcome these divisions".

Another journalist recalled the words used by John Paul II on his trip to Cuba, "may Cuba open to the world and, and may the world open to Cuba", and noted that many defenders of human rights had spoken out in anticipation of Benedict XVI's visit to the island.

The Pope reiterated the continuity of his ideas with the words of John Paul II "which are still highly relevant". The visit marked, he said, "the beginning of a journey of collaboration and constructive dialogue, a long journey which requires patience but which is moving forward. It is clear today that Marxist ideology as it was conceived no longer responds to reality. ... In order to build a new society new models must be discovered, patiently and constructively. In this process, which requires patience but also firmness, we wish to make our contribution in a spirit of dialogue, in order to avoid traumas and facilitate the way to a fraternal and just society for all people. Obviously, the Church is always on the side of freedom, freedom of conscience, freedom of religion. ... The faithful can also contribute to the progress of this journey".

Finally the Holy Father responded to a question about new evangelisation in Latin America, in the light of the Aparecida Conference.

"The path of new evangelisation began with Vatican Council II. This was the fundamental intention of Blessed John XXIII, it was also emphasised by John Paul II and its importance in a world undergoing such great changes has become even more evident. The Gospel must be expressed in new was. ... There is a condition which exists throughout the world: secularisation, the absence of God, the difficulty of seeing Him as a reality which concerns us. ... It is today, in the context of modern day rationality, that we can rediscover God as a fundamental guide for life, the fundamental hope for life, the foundation of the values upon which our society rests. ... I think it is very important to announce a God Who responds to our reason. ... However, we also have to take account of concrete reality. It is important to bear in mind that, in Latin America as a whole, religion is a question not of reason but of the heart. ... Yet this intuition of the heart must be linked to the rationality of faith, and to the profundity of faith that goes beyond reason. We must not lose the heart, but unite heart and reason, ... only in this way is the human being complete".


Vatican City, 24 March 2012 (VIS) - Yesterday at 4.30 p.m. local time (11.30 p.m. in Rome), Benedict XVI landed at the international airport of Guanajuato in the Mexican city of Leon, where he was greeted by Felipe Calderon Hinojosa, president of Mexico, and by Archbishop Jose Guadalupe Martin Rabago of Leon. Also present were representatives of the civil authorities and the diplomatic corps, a number of Mexican prelates and thousands of faithful including a choir and a mariachi group who sang for the Pope.

Following the salute of the flag and the playing of the national anthems of Vatican City State and the United Mexican States, and after listening to an address by President Calderon Hinojosa, the Holy Father pronounced his first words on Mexican soil.

"I am very happy to be here", he said, "and I give thanks to God for allowing me to realise the desire, kept in my heart for a long time; to confirm in the faith the People of God of this great nation in their own land. The affection of the Mexican people for the Successor of Peter, whom they always remember in their prayers, is well known. I say this here, considered to be the geographical centre of your land, which my venerable predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, wanted to visit during his first apostolic journey. Although he was not able to come, on that occasion he left a message of encouragement while flying over its airspace. I am happy to repeat his words here on land among you: “I am grateful”, he said in the message, “to the faithful of El Bajio and Guanajuato for your affection towards the Pope and your faithfulness to the Lord. May God be with you always”".

"With this brief visit, I wish to greet all Mexicans and to include all the nations and peoples of Latin America, represented here by many bishops. Our meeting in this place, where the majestic monument to Christ the King on Mount Cubilete, gives testimony to the deep roots of the Catholic faith among the Mexican people, who receive His constant blessings in all their vicissitudes.

"Mexico, and the majority of Latin American nations, have been commemorating in recent years the bicentennial of their independence. There have been many religious celebrations in thanksgiving to God for this important and significant moment. During these celebrations, as in the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Most Holy Mary was invoked fervently, she who gently showed how the Lord loves all people and gave Himself for them without distinction. Our Heavenly Mother has kept vigil over the faith of her children in the formation of these nations and she continues to do so today as new challenges present themselves.

"I come as a pilgrim of faith, of hope, and of love. I wish to confirm those who believe in Christ in their faith, by strengthening and encouraging them to revitalise their faith by listening to the Word of God, celebrating the Sacraments and living coherently. In this way, they will be able to share their faith with others as missionaries to their brothers and sisters and to act as a leaven in society, contributing to a respectful and peaceful coexistence based on the incomparable dignity of every human being, created by God, which no one has the right to forget or disregard. This dignity is expressed especially in the fundamental right to freedom of religion, in its full meaning and integrity.

"As a pilgrim of hope, I speak to them in the words of St. Paul: “But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope”. Confidence in God offers the certainty of meeting Him, of receiving His grace; the believer’s hope is based on this. And, aware of this, we strive to transform the present structures and events which are less than satisfactory and seem immovable or insurmountable, while also helping those who do not see meaning or a future in life. Yes, hope changes the practical existence of each man and woman in a real way. ... Moreover, when it takes root in a people, when it is shared, it shines as light that dispels the darkness which blinds and takes hold of us. This country and the entire continent are called to live their hope in God as a profound conviction, transforming it into an attitude of the heart and a practical commitment to walk together in the building of a better world".

"Together with faith and hope, the believer in Christ - indeed the whole Church - lives and practises charity as an essential element of mission. In its primary meaning, charity “is first of all the simple response to immediate needs and specific situations”, as we help those who suffer from hunger, lack shelter, or are in need in some way in their life. Nobody is excluded on account of their origin or belief from this mission of the Church, which does not compete with other private or public initiatives. In fact, the Church willingly works with those who pursue the same ends. Nor does she have any aim other than doing good in an unselfish and respectful way to those in need, who often lack signs of authentic love".

"In these days I will pray to the Lord and to Our Lady of Guadalupe for all of you so that you may be true to the faith which you have received and to its best traditions. I will pray especially for those in need, particularly for those who suffer because of old and new rivalries, resentments and all forms of violence. I know that I am in a country which is proud of its hospitality and wishes no one to feel unwelcome. I already knew this, and now I can see it and feel it in my heart. I sincerely hope that many Mexicans who live far from their homeland will feel the same way and that nothing will cause them to forget it or to lose the wish to see it growth in harmony and in authentic integral development".

Having concluded his address, the Holy Father travelled by popemobile to Miraflores College where he spent the night.


Vatican City, 24 March 2012 (VIS) - The French Episcopal Conference has organised a meeting on the theme: "Joy and Hope, Fifty Years after Vatican Council II". The event is being held in the French shrine of Lourdes on 24 and 25 March, and is being attended by French bishops and some 2,500 lay people, religious and priests from all over the country. For the occasion, Benedict XVI recorded a video message which was projected this morning before the first session began. Extracts of the message are given below.

"Vatican Council II was a genuine sign of God for our time. If we know how to interpret and accept it within the tradition of the Church, and under the secure guidance of the Magisterium, it will become an increasingly important driving force for the future of the Church. For this reason I hope this anniversary will be - for you and for the entire Church in France - an occasion of spiritual and pastoral renewal".

"This renewal, which is part of a continuous and ongoing process, takes many forms. For the Year of the Faith, to which I have called the entire Church, we must seek a more conscious faith and renew our adherence to the Gospel. To this end, we must become increasingly open to the person of Christ, and rediscover the pleasure of the Word of God in order to achieve a profound conversion of heart and walk the paths of the world, proclaiming the Gospel of hope to the men and women of our time, in respectful dialogue with everyone. May this time of grace also make it possible to consolidate communion within the great family of the Catholic Church, and contribute to restoring unity among all Christians, which was one of the main objectives of the Council".

"The renewal of the Church also includes the witness of Christians' own lives, that the Word of Truth the Lord left us may shine forth. If you approach witnesses of faith such as St. Bernadette the humble seer of Lourdes, Pauline Jaricot who gave new missionary drive to the Church, and many others who have made the soil of France fruitful, you will gain a deeper knowledge of Christ. ... St. Joan of Arc, the sixth centenary of whose birth falls this year, is one shining example. She brought the Gospel into the most dramatic events of the history of France and of her time. Rediscovering the joy of believing and the enthusiasm of communicating the power and beauty of the faith is a fundamental challenge of the new evangelisation to which the whole Church is called".


Vatican City, 24 March 2012 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed :

- Archbishop Santo Gangemi, apostolic nuncio to the Solomon Islands, also as apostolic nuncio to Papua New Guinea.

- Msgr. Wieslaw Smigiel of the clergy of Pelplin, Poland, head of pastoral theology at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, as auxiliary of Pelplin (area 12,890, population 780,000, Catholics 730,000, priests 569, permanent deacons 1, religious 292). The bishop-elect was born in Swiec nad Wilsa, Poland in 1969 and ordained a priest in 1994. He has worked in pastoral care and education, as well as serving for two years as secretary and chaplain to the bishop of Pelplin.

Friday, March 23, 2012


Vatican City, 23 March 2012 (VIS) - Benedict XVI today began his twenty-third apostolic trip abroad, which is taking him to Mexico and Cuba. The Holy Father departed from Rome's Fiumicino airport at 9.30 a.m. and is due to land at Leon in the Mexican State of Guanajuato at 4.30 p.m. local time (11.30 p.m. in Rome). Leon is the fourth largest city in Mexico and lies at the geographical centre of the country.

The Holy Father will remain in Mexico until 26 March, during which time he will lodge in the Miraflores College, an educational institution named after a Carthusian monastery in Burgos, Spain, and run by the Sisters Servants of the Blessed Eucharist and of the Mother of God. The Pope's three days in Mexico will be divided as follows: On Saturday he will meet Federal President Felipe Calderon Hinojosa, then greet and bless children and faithful in Leon's Plaza de la Paz. At 10 a.m. on Sunday he will preside at Mass in the Parque Bicentenario and, that evening, preside at Vespers in the cathedral of Leon. He is due to depart for Cuba on Monday 26 March.

In his weekly editorial for "Octavia Dies", Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. enumerates the reasons for the Pope's trip to Mexico and Cuba: The bicentenary of the independence of the peoples of Latin America; the Mexicans' enthusiastic desire to welcome the Pope; the twentieth anniversary of diplomatic relations between Mexico and the Holy See, and the four hundredth anniversary of the discovery of the image of "Nuestra Senora de la Caridad del Cobre" in Cuba, with its concomitant Holy Year.

However, Fr, Lombardi notes, "this voyage to the heart of the Americas also has a specific purpose. It will be a journey of hope. Hope for Mexicans, a people with immense resources and potential, but currently afflicted by serious problems which weigh on their present and future, first among them the problem of violence".

The Holy See Press Office Director also speaks of "hope for Cubans, who feel they are on the threshold of what is potentially a new epoch, in which John Paul II's words on the reciprocal openness of Cuba and the world may be realised in a climate of development, freedom and reconciliation".

Finally, Fr. Lombardi mentions "the hope of all Latin America, where a Church committed to the 'continental mission' launched at the Aparecida Conference, wishes to continue making her inspirational contribution to the progress of the continent, so that human and Christian values may guarantee integral human development, despite the difficulties and dangers of our time".

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Vatican City, 22 March 2012 (VIS) - The Pontifical Council for the Laity is promoting a meeting of youth pastoral care workers to reflect on World Youth Days (WYD) and prepare for next year's WYD in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The meeting, due to be held in Rocca di Papa near Rome from 29 March to 1 April, will bring together delegates from ninety-eight countries, as well as the organising committees of WYD Madrid 2011 and WYD Rio 2013.

A communique released this morning by the Pontifical Council for the Laity explains that this will be "an important moment of reflection for the pastoral care workers" who number "more than 300, representing 45 communities, associations and Catholic youth movements".

Work will begin on 29 March with a welcome address from Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. The rest of the day will be dedicated to a study of organisational and pastoral aspects of WYD Madrid 2011, and the fruits it has yielded throughout the world. Participants will include Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, archbishop of Madrid, and Yago de la Cierva and Fr. Gregorio Rolgan, respectively executive director and secretary general of WYD Madrid 2011.

On Friday 30 March attention will turn to Rio de Janeiro. The challenges and expectations of next year's WYD will be presented by Archbishop Orani Joao Tempesta O. Cist. of Sao Sebastiao do Rio de Janeiro; Msgr. Eduardo Pinheiro da Silva, president of the Brazilian Episcopal Commission for Youth; Fr. Carlos Savio, head of the youth office of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil, and the WYD Rio 2013 organising committee.

Saturday 31 March will be dedicated to reflection on the "formation of young people; a mission priority for the Church", with contributions from Bishop Josef Clemens, secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and Fr. Fabio Attard, counsellor general of the Salesians for youth pastoral care. On Palm Sunday 1 April, which also marks twenty-seventh diocesan World Youth Day, the delegates will participate in Mass presided by Benedict XVI in St. Peter's Square.


Vatican City, 22 March 2012 (VIS) - Tomorrow, Friday 23 March, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, will travel to Nigeria where he is due to visit a number of dioceses and to close a seminar of inter-religious dialogue with followers of Traditional African Religions, according to a communique released today.


Vatican City, 22 March 2012 (VIS) - The Pontifical Council for Culture is organising a meeting of ambassadors to the Holy See from Africa. The event, due to be held in Rome on 26 March, aims to promote cooperation between the council and countries that are geographically distant from the Vatican. This is the second initiative of its kind, a similar meeting was held last year with ambassadors to the Holy See from Asia.

The programme of the event is divided into several parts and will be held at more than one venue. The first part of the day will be devoted to a detailed presentation of the Pontifical Council for Culture by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi and Bishop Barthelemy Adoukonou, respectively president and secretary of that dicastery. The ambassadors will also have a chance to intervene and make proposals for collaboration. The session will be moderated by Fr. Theodore Mascarenhas S.F.X., head of the department for cultures in Africa.

Participants will then move on to the Temple of Hadrian where they will be welcomed by Giancarlo Cremonesi, president of Rome's Chamber of Commerce who will describe the activities of the organisation he heads. There will also be a detailed cultural introduction to the historical and present day aspects of the temple. The day will end with a visit to Rome's "Parco della Musica" Auditorium.

According to an English-language note released today, "the Pontifical Council for Culture has been receiving very active collaboration from different embassies. The event intends to strengthen further the ties between the embassies and the dicastery and to evolve new ways for cultural cooperation. Twenty-three Embassies have confirmed their participation".

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Vatican City, 21 March 2012 (VIS) - Benedict XVI is due to make an apostolic trip to Mexico and Cuba from 23 to 29 March, to mark the two hundredth anniversary of the independence of Mexico, and the four hundredth of the discovery of the image of "Nuestra Senora de la Caridad del Cobre" in Cuba. For the occasion statistics have been published concerning the Catholic Church in those two countries. The information, updated to 31 December 2010, comes from the Central Statistical Office of the Church.

Mexico has a surface area of 1,958,201 square kilometres and a population of 108,426,000, of whom 99,635,000 (91.89 percent) are Catholic. There are 93 ecclesiastical circumscriptions, 6,744 parishes and 7,169 pastoral centres of other kinds. Currently, there are 163 bishops, 16,234 priests, 30,023 religious, 505 members of secular institutes, 25,846 lay missionaries and 295,462 catechists. Minor seminarians number 4,524 and major seminarians 6,495.

A total of 1,856,735 students attend 8,991 centres of Catholic education of all levels and 1,822 special education centres. Other institutions belonging to the Church or run by priests or religious in Mexico include 257 hospitals, 1,602 clinics, 8 leper colonies, 372 homes for the elderly or disabled, 329 orphanages and nurseries, 2,134 family counselling centres and other pro-life centres, and 340 institutions of other kinds.

Cuba has a surface area of 110,861 square kilometres and a population of 11,242,000, of whom 6,766,000 (60.19 percent) are Catholic. There are 11 ecclesiastical circumscriptions, 304 parishes and 2,210 pastoral centres of other kinds. Currently, there are 17 bishops, 361 priests, 656 religious, 24 members of secular institutes, 2,122 lay missionaries and 4,133 catechists. Minor seminarians number 13 and major seminarians 78.

A total of 1,113 students attend 12 centres of Catholic education of all levels and 10 special education centres. Other institutions belonging to the Church or run by priests or religious in Cuba include 2 clinics, 1 leper colony, 8 homes for the elderly or disabled, 3 orphanages and nurseries, and 3 institutions of other kinds.


Vatican City, 21 March 2012 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed:

- As members of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care: Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier O.F.M., archbishop of Durban, South Africa, and Bishop Walter Mixa, emeritus of Augsburg, Germany.

- As consultors of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care: Bishop Joachim Ntahondereye of Muyinga, Burundi; Orochi Samuel Orach, director of the National Office for Health Pastoral Care in Uganda; Stefano Ojetti, vice president of the Italian Association of Catholic Doctors, and Salvatore Pagliuca, vice president of UNITALSI (Italian National Union for Transport of the Sick to Lourdes and International Shrines).

- Fr. Jose Luiz Gomes de Vasconcelos of the clergy of the diocese of Garanhuns, Brazil, rector of the interdiocesan seminary of Caruaru, as auxiliary of the archdiocese of Fortaleza (area 14,813, population 3,622,000, Catholics 2,562,000, priests 332, permanent deacons 19, religious 1,144), Brazil. The bishop-elect was born in Garanhuns in 1963 and ordained a priest in 1989. He studied in Rome before returning to Brazil where he has worked in pastoral care and education.

- Fr. Giovanni Crippa I.M.C., teacher and pastor in the archdiocese of Feira de Santana, Brazil, as auxiliary of the archdiocese of Sao Salvador da Bahia (area 3,859, population 3,210,878, Catholics 2,284,477, priests 283, permanent deacons 93, religious 1,070), Brazil. The bishop-elect was born in Besana Brianzana, Italy in 1958 and ordained a priest in 1985. He was active in missionary formation in Turin and Rome before moving to Brazil in 2000 where he has worked as a pastor and seminary professor.

- Bishop Adriano Ciocca Vasino of Floresta, Brazil, as bishop prelate of Sao Felix (area 150,000, population 162,000, Catholics 139,000, priests 20, permanent deacons 3, religious 43), Brazil.

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