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Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Vatican City, 6 March 2012 (VIS) - The Holy Father, through Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., has sent a telegram of condolence to Archbishop Jozef Michalik, president of the Polish Episcopal Conference, for the victims of the 3 March train crash at Szczekociny near Zawiercie, which killed fifteen people and left many others injured.

In the telegram, the Pope makes known his sadness on hearing the news and his spiritual closeness to everyone affected by the tragedy. He also gives assurances of his prayers for the victims and shares the mourning of families and of the entire nation. He implores divine mercy and eternal life for the deceased and wishes a speedy recovery to the injured. He also asks for the gift of courage and peace for those who suffer and comforts them with the words of St. Paul to the Thessalonians: "Since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died".

The Holy Father has likewise sent a telegram, also through Cardinal Bertone, to Archbishop Louis Portella-Mbuyu, president of the Episcopal Conference of Congo, for the death of more than 200 people in Brazzaville in the wake of a series of explosions in an arms depot.

Having been informed of this "tragic catastrophe" the Holy Father expresses his profound condolence to the families and friends of the victims, and asks the Lord to welcome the deceased into His peace and light. The Pope also expresses his thanks for the efforts of rescue workers and appeals to God to bring "consolation and hope" to the injured and to everyone affected by this dramatic event.


Vatican City, 6 March 2012 (VIS) - "Terrorist attacks on Christians in Africa, the Middle East and Asia increased 309 per cent between 2003 and 2010. Approximately 70 per cent of the world’s population lives in countries with high restrictions on religious beliefs and practices, and religious minorities pay the highest price". These words were pronounced on 1 March by Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi C.S., permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations at Geneva, during the course of the nineteenth ordinary session of the Human Rights Council.

Speaking English, Archbishop Tomasi recalled how, "in general, rising restrictions on religion affect more than 2.2 billion people. Those affected have either lost the protection of their societies or have experienced some government-imposed and unjust restrictions, or have become victims of violence resulting from an impulsive bigotry".

Among the causes of this phenomenon, the archbishop mentioned "the evolving political situation, wrong perceptions of the role of religion, expediency, and subtle ambiguities in the understanding of secularism". In the current situation, it is vital for the international community "to assure the protection of people in their exercise of freedom of religion and religious practice".

In this context, the Holy See observer noted that States must guarantee all their citizens the right to religious freedom, at both the individual and community level. Freedom of religion is not a derived or granted right, "but a fundamental and inalienable right of the human person. ... The task of government is not to define religion, ... but to confer upon faith communities a juridical personality so that they can function peacefully within a legal framework.

"Respect for the religious freedom of everyone may be at stake in places where the concept of “State religion” is recognised, especially when the latter becomes the source of unjust treatment of others, whether they believe in other faiths or have none".

The archbishop went on: "Above the institutional considerations, the critical problem facing the promotion and protection of human rights in the area of religious freedom is the intolerance that leads to violence and to the killing of many innocent people each year simply because of their religious convictions. The realistic and collective responsibility, therefore, is to sustain mutual tolerance and respect of human rights and a greater equality among citizens of different religions in order to achieve a healthy democracy where the public role of religion and the distinction between religious and temporal spheres are recognised. ... But to achieve this desirable goal, there is a need to overcome a culture that devalues the human person and is intent on eliminating religion from public life".

"Religions are not a threat, but a resource", he said. "They contribute to the development of civilisations, and this is good for everyone. Their freedom and activities should be protected so that the partnership between religious beliefs and societies may enhance the common good. ... The educational system and the media have a major role to play by excluding prejudice and hatred from textbooks, from newscasts and from newspapers, and by disseminating accurate and fair information on all component groups of society.

"But lack of education and information, that facilitates an easier manipulation of people for political advantages, is too often linked to underdevelopment, poverty, lack of access to effective participation in the management of society. Greater social justice provides fertile ground for the implementation of all human rights. Religions are communities based on convictions and their freedom guarantees a contribution of moral values without which the freedom of everyone is not possible. For this reason", Archbishop Tomasi concluded, "it becomes an urgent and beneficial responsibility of the international community to counteract the trend of increasing violence against religious groups and of mistaken and deceptive neutrality that in fact aims at neutralising religion".


Vatican City, 6 March 2012 (VIS) - The Choir of Westminster Abbey in London, England, is due to sing alongside the "Cappella Musicale Pontificia", or Sistine Choir, on 29 June, in an event which will be broadcast across the world. The Westminster Choir has been invited to the Holy See through Msgr. Massimo Palombella, director of the Sistine Choir.

A joint communique made public today notes that "this momentous ecumenical occasion is the first time in its over-500 year history that the Sistine Chapel Choir has joined forces with another choir. The invitation to Rome came after Pope Benedict XVI visited the Abbey in September 2010 when he attended Evening Prayer and prayed at the tomb of St. Edward the Confessor with Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, as part of his State visit to England and Scotland".

Speaking about the forthcoming visit, the primate of the Anglican Church has highlighted how St. Peter is patron of both the Vatican Basilica and of Westminster Abbey, therefore "celebrating together his apostolic witness and example is a powerful reminder of the call that our Churches share to be faithful to the apostolic fullness of the Gospel today".

The two choirs will together sing at First Vespers in the Basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls on 28 June, and at Mass in the Vatican Basilica on the morning of 29 June. The Westminster Abbey Choir will also travel to the Benedictine monastery at Montecassino to sing Vespers and Mass with the monastic community at the burial place of St Benedict. It was Benedictine monks who established a tradition of daily worship which continues to this day in Westminster Abbey, founded in the year 960.


Vatican City, 6 March 2012 (VIS) - The Holy Father erected the new eparchy of Faridabad of the Syro-Malabars (priests 44, religious 200) India. He appointed Msgr. Kuriakose Bharanikulangara of the clergy of Ernakulam-Angamaly of the Syro-Malabars, India, counsellor of the apostolic nunciature to Germany, as first bishop of the new diocese, conferring upon him the title of archbishop "ad personam". The archbishop-elect was born in Karippassery, India in 1959 and ordained a priest in 1983. He studied in Rome before entering the diplomatic service of the Holy See, with which he has served in a number of different countries.
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