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Friday, June 22, 2012


Vatican City, 22 June 2012 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican the Holy Father received a first group of prelates from the Episcopal Conference of Colombia, who have just completed their "ad limina" visit. The Pontiff began his remarks by praising them for their "initiatives aimed at fomenting a renewed and fruitful movement of evangelisation", at the same time he noted that "Colombia is not immune to the consequences of neglecting God".

"While years ago there was a recognisable and unified social fabric in which reference to the faith and the inspirations of faith was broadly accepted, today in vast areas of society this no longer seems to be the case, due to the crisis in spiritual and moral values which has had a negative effect on many of your fellow citizens", the Holy Father told the prelates. And he invited them to contrast this state of affairs by following "with tenacity and perseverance" the guidelines of the Episcopal Conference's Global Plan (2012 - 2020), and by taking advantage of the reflections to emerge from the forthcoming Synod of Bishops and the Year of Faith".

"Growing religious pluralism", he went on, "calls for serious consideration. The increasingly active presence of Pentecostal and Evangelical communities, not only in Colombia but also in many other regions of Latin America, cannot be ignored or underestimated. In this sense, the people of God are clearly called to purification and the revitalisation of their faith, ... because 'often sincere people who leave our Church do not do so as a result of what non-Catholic groups believe, but fundamentally as a result of their own lived experience; for reasons not of doctrine but of life; not for strictly dogmatic, but for pastoral reasons; not due to theological problems, but to methodological problems of our Church'. What is important, then, is to become better believers ... so that no one may feel marginalised or excluded".

Benedict XVI told his audience that they should not fail "to identify the factors which hinder equitable development in Colombia, seeking to reach out to those whom iniquitous violence deprives of their freedom". You must, he told the prelates, "increase measures and programmes to accompany ... and assist people facing difficulties, especially the victims of natural disasters, the poor, peasants, the sick and the afflicted. ... Nor must you neglect those forced to emigrate from their homeland because they have lost their job or have difficulty finding employment, people whose fundamental rights are trampled underfoot and are forced to abandon home and family under the threat of terror and criminality, or those who have fallen into the barbarous networks of drugs or arms dealing. I wish to encourage you to continue your generous and fraternal service, which is not the result of any human calculation, but is born of love for God and neighbour: the source whence the Church draws the strength she needs to carry out her task".

"Dear brothers in the episcopate", the Holy Father concluded, "in order that the Light from on high may still make the Church's prophetic and charitable efforts in Colombia fruitful, continue to help the faithful to a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, ... to meditate assiduously upon the Word of God and to participate ... in the Sacraments, celebrated in accordance with canonical norms and liturgical texts. All this will help towards an appropriate process of Christian initiation, inviting everyone to conversion and sanctity, and helping towards much-need ecclesial renewal".


Vatican City, 22 June 2012 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican the Pope received a delegation from the Italian agricultural organisation "Coldiretti", which is currently celebrating its national congress on the theme "Family agriculture for sustainable development".

"Society, the economy and work are not exclusively secular environments", the Pope said, "even less so are they alien to the Christian message. They are, rather, spaces to be fecundated with the spiritual richness of the Gospel. The Church, in fact, is never indifferent to people's quality of life and working conditions; she feels the need to care for man in the contexts in which he lives and produces, that these may increasingly become places that are authentically human and humanising".

"It is in Coldiretti that Catholic teaching on social ethics has found one its most fertile 'laboratories', thanks to the intuition and far-sighted wisdom of its founder, Paolo Bonomi. ... Now it is up to you, remaining faithful to the values you have acquired, to enter into a courageous dialogue with a changing society. ... Each of you in his or her own role must commit yourselves to support the legitimate interests of the categories you represent, ... in order to bring out the most noble and salient aspects of the human person: a sense of duty, a capacity for sharing and sacrifice, solidarity, and observing the just requirement for rest and corporeal (and, even more so, spiritual) regeneration".

The Holy Father invited the members of Coldiretti to continue their evangelical witness,"highlighting the values which make working activity a valuable instrument in the creation of a more just and human form of coexistence. I am thinking of respect for the person, the search for the common good, honesty and transparency in the supply of services, food security, protecting the environment and the landscape, and the promotion of a spirit of solidarity".

The uncertainty generated by the enduring economic and financial crisis means that people in the agriculture and fisheries sector are facing "a series of difficult challenges which you are called to face as Christians, by cultivating a renewed and profound sense of responsibility and showing your capacity for solidarity and sharing", the Pope said. "Considering that at the roots of current economic difficulties there lies a moral crisis, you must work with solicitude to ensure that ethical requirements maintain their primacy over everything else".

"It is on this ethical terrain that families, schools, trade unions and all other political, cultural and civic institutions must play an important role of collaboration, ... especially as regards young people. The young are full of ideas and hopes, and generously seek to build themselves a future. From adults they expect worthwhile examples and serious proposals. We must not delude them".


Vatican City, 22 June 2012 (VIS) - This morning Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. delivered the opening address at the eighth International AIDS Conference, being held at the San Gallicano Institute in Rome under the title: "Long live mothers and children".

In his remarks the cardinal noted that maternal mortality in Africa is, to a large extent, associated with AIDS. "We can no longer tolerate the death of so many mothers", he said. "We cannot think of thousands of children as a lost generation. Nothing is lost; Africa has sufficient resources; it is the continent of hope. Thus we need to make a joint effort ... to protect women in their role as mothers".

"The Church, which is present in countries where the pandemic exists, is extremely concerned at this tragedy of our times. It is a tragedy which swallows many human lives, weakens entire societies, burns up the future. We must do more. The more the infection spreads among women, who are the mainstay of families and communities, the greater the risk of social breakdown in many countries. The sickness of women, of children, of men, becomes the sickness of a whole society".

The Cardinal then recalled how thirty per cent of HIV/AIDS treatment centres in the world are Catholic. Church activities in this field, he said, include "awareness raising campaigns; prevention and health education programmes; support for orphans; distribution of medicines and food; home help; hospitals, centres and communities for the assistance of AIDS sufferers; collaboration with governments; assistance in jails; catechism courses; help systems over the internet, and the creation of support groups for the sick".

"I would", the secretary of State said, "like to make an appeal to the international community, to States and to donors: let us ensure that AIDS sufferers are given prompt, free and effective treatment. Access to treatment should be universal. Let us do this beginning with mothers and children. Here, in the name of the Holy Father, I speak for so many suffering voices, for so many sick people who have no voice: let us not waste time, but invest in the necessary resources. ... Studies by the World Health Organisation confirm that ... universal access to treatment is possible, scientifically proven and economically viable. It is not a utopia, it is possible. ... Yet we cannot conceive of universal access to treatment without taking account of the weakness - especially the economic weakness - of the majority of African people. What is needed is free access to treatment".


Vatican City, 22 June 2012 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in audience Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach, archbishop of Barcelona, Spain.

This evening he is scheduled to receive in audience Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples.

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