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Thursday, May 24, 2012


Vatican City, 24 May 2012 (VIS) - At midday today the Holy Father received participants in the sixty-fourth general assembly of the Italian Episcopal Conference, to whom he delivered an address focusing on the challenges of the new evangelisation in a society increasingly distanced from God. "Our situation requires renewed drive, aimed at the essential aspects of Christian faith and life", he said. "At a time in which God has, for many people, become the great Unknown and Jesus is simply an important figure of the past, we cannot relaunch missionary activity without renewing the quality of our own faith and prayer. ... We will not be able to win mankind to the Gospel unless we ourselves first return to a profound experience of God".

The Pope began his remarks by recalling that this autumn marks the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of Vatican Council II, and he exhorted the prelates to implement its teachings in order to meet the social and cultural transformations of our time which, he said, "also have visible consequences in the religious sphere". Societies of ancient Christian tradition are today characterised by secularism. Thus the spiritual and moral heritage which lies at the roots of the West "is no longer understood in its profound significance, ... and a rich soil risks becoming an inhospitable desert".

The Pope identified a number of worrying trends, including a drop in religious practice and diminishing participation in the Sacraments. "Many baptised have lost their identity. They do not know the essential contents of the faith, or believe they can cultivate that faith without ecclesial mediation. And while many look doubtfully at Church teaching, others reduce the Kingdom of God to certain broad values, which are certainly related to the Gospel but which do not touch the central nucleus of Christian faith".

"Unfortunately it is God Himself Who remains excluded from many people's horizon and, when not met with indifference, closure or rejection, discourse about God is relegated to the subjective sphere, reduced to an intimate and private affair which is marginalised from the public conscience. The heart of the crisis affecting Europe also arises from this abandonment, this lack of openness to the Transcendent".

In this context, Benedict XVI highlighted the fact that "new methods of announcing the Gospel or of pastoral activity are not enough to ensure that the Christian message finds greater acceptance". As the Council Fathers said, "we must begin again from God, celebrated, professed and witnessed. ... Our primary task, our true and only task, remains that of dedicating our lives to the one thing that ... is truly dependable, necessary and ultimate. Men live from God, from He Whom, often tentatively and unawares, they seek in order to give full meaning to lives. We have the task of announcing Him, revealing Him and leading others to meet Him".

The Holy Father continued: "The fundamental condition in order to be able to speak about God is to speak with God, increasingly to become men of God, nourished by an intense life of prayer and moulded by His Grace. ... We must allow ourselves to be found and seized by God so as to help the people we meet be touched by the Truth. ... The old and new mission facing us is that of introducing the men and women of our time to a relationship with God, to help them to open their minds and hearts to the God Who seeks them and wants to come close to them, leading them to understand that doing His will does not curb freedom; rather, it means being truly free, it means achieving true goodness in life.

"God is the guarantor not the competitor of our freedom", the Pope added in conclusion. "Where space is given to the Gospel, and therefore to friendship with Christ, man realises he is the object of a love which purifies, warms, renews, and makes us capable of serving mankind with divine love".


Vatican City, 24 May 2012 (VIS) - In a traditional annual meeting coinciding with the commemoration of the Feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, the Holy Father this morning received in separate audiences Rosen Plevneliev, president of the Republic of Bulgaria, and Nikola Gruevski, prime minister of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, each accompanied by a delegation. The delegations subsequently went on to meet with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. who was accompanied by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.


Vatican City, 24 May 2012 (VIS) - Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, head of the Holy See delegation to the sixty-fifth World Health Assembly, yesterday delivered an address before that gathering, which is being held in Geneva, Switzerland, from 21 to 26 May. Speaking English, the archbishop reaffirmed the Holy See's support for Resolution WHA64.9 on "sustainable health financing structures and universal coverage", which urges member States to aim for affordable universal coverage and access for all citizens on the basis of equity and solidarity.

He also recalled how Benedict XVI has emphasised the importance of establishing "real distributive justice which, on the basis of objective needs, guarantees adequate care to all. Consequently, if it is not to become inhuman, the world of healthcare cannot disregard the moral rules that must govern it".

Archbishop Zimowski noted that "more countries, especially those with emerging economies, are moving towards universal coverage", thanks also to "good policies that promote equity. ... Therefore my delegation strongly believes that in the endeavour to promote universal coverage, fundamental values such as equity, human rights and social justice need to become explicit policy objectives", he said.

The archbishop made an appeal for high-income countries to show greater solidarity towards poorer nations in order to overcome funding shortfalls in health. In this context he quoted the Encyclical "Caritas in veritate" in which Benedict XVI writes: "More economically developed nations should do all they can to allocate larger portions of their gross domestic product to development aid, thus respecting the obligations that the international community has undertaken in this regard".

In conclusion the head of the Holy See delegation affirmed that "progress towards universal coverage cannot be the effort of State machinery alone. It requires support from civil society. ... With over 120,000 social and healthcare institutions worldwide, the Catholic Church is in many developing countries one of the key partners of the State in healthcare delivery, providing services in remote areas to rural low-income populations, enabling them to access services that would otherwise be out of their reach. The efforts and contribution of such organisations and institutions towards universal access, merit the recognition and support of both the State and the international community, without obliging them to participate in activities they find morally abhorrent".

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