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Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Vatican City, 16 January 2013 (VIS) -Salvation history, that is, the account of God's saving interaction with humanity, was the theme of the Holy Father's catechesis during this Wednesday's general audience.

The Old Testament narrates how, after creation, God, in spite of original sin, again offers human beings the possibility of His friendship "through the covenant with Abraham and the path of a small people, of Israel, whom He chooses not according to the criteria of earthly power but simply out of love. … For this task He used mediators, like Moses and the prophets and judges, to communicate His will to the people. They recalled the necessity of faithfulness to the covenant and kept alive the hope of the full and definitive realization of His divine promises."

God's revelation reaches its fullness in Jesus of Nazareth. In Him, "God visits His people, He visits humanity in a way that goes beyond all expectations. He sends His Only Begotten Son; God himself becomes man. Jesus does not tell us something about God's nearness, doesn't simply speak of the Father: ... He reveals the face of God to us." Within Jesus' statement, "'Whoever has seen me has seen the Father' ... the newness of the New Testament is contained. … God could be seen, God has revealed His face, He is visible in Jesus Christ."

Benedict XVI recalled the importance of the search for the face of God throughout the Old Testament, that is, for "a 'You' who can enter into relationship, who is not locked away in His heaven, looking down on humanity from on high. Certainly, God is above all things, but He turns toward us and listens to us: He sees us, speaks, extends covenants, and is capable of loving. Salvation history is the story of God with humanity. It is the story of this relationship of God who progressively reveals Himself to mankind."

"Something completely new occurs, however, with the Incarnation. The search for the face of God is unimaginably changed because this face can now be seen. It is that of Jesus, of the Son of God who is made man. In Him God's path of revelation, which began with the call of Abraham, is fulfilled. He is the fullness of this revelation because He is the Son of God as well as 'the mediator and the fullness of all revelation'. In Him coincide the content of Revelation and the One who reveals … Jesus, true God and true man, is not simply one of the mediators between God and humankind, but is 'the mediator' of the new and eternal covenant. … In Him we see and encounter the Father. In Him we can call God by the name of 'Abba, Father'. In Him we are given salvation."

"The desire to truly know God, that is, to see the face of God, is inherent to every human being, including atheists. Perhaps we also, unconsciously, have this desire to simply see who He is. … But this desire is fulfilled in following Christ thus … we finally see God as a friend. What is important is that we follow Christ not only when we need Him or when we find a minute of time among our thousands of daily tasks. … Our entire existence must be directed toward meeting Jesus Christ, toward love for Him. In such an existence, love for our neighbour must take a central position; that love that, in light of the Crucifix, allows us to recognize the face of Jesus in the poor, the weak, and in those who are suffering."


Vatican City, 16 January 2013 (VIS) – After his Wednesday catechesis, Benedict XVI noted that the day after tomorrow, Friday 18 January, will begin the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This year its theme is "What does God require of us?", inspired by a passage from the prophet Micah. The Pope invited all "to pray, asking insistently of God, for the great gift of unity between all of the Lord's disciples. May the Holy Spirit's limitless strength arouse us to the sincere commitment to seek unity, so that we might all profess together that Jesus is the saviour of the world."


Vatican City, 16 January 2013 (VIS) - Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for the Holy See's Relations with States, was interviewed by Vatican Radio on the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights in several cases relating to freedom of conscience and religion.

"On 15 January, the European Court of Human Rights published its judgements on four cases relating to the freedom of conscience and religion of employees in the United Kingdom. Two of these cases concern employees’ freedom to wear a small cross around their neck in the workplace, while the other two concern the freedom to object in conscience to the celebration of a civil union between persons of the same sex and to conjugal counselling for couples of the same sex."

Some time ago, the Holy See’s Mission to the Council of Europe published a Note on the Church’s freedom and institutional autonomy. The archbishop explained the context of the Note as "the issue of the Church’s freedom in her relations with civil authorities," which "is at present being examined by the European Court of Human Rights in two cases involving the Orthodox Church of Romania and the Catholic Church. These are the Sindacatul 'Pastorul cel Bun' v. Romania and Fernandez Martinez v. Spain cases. On this occasion, the Permanent Representation of the Holy See to the Council of Europe drew up a synthetic note explaining the Magisterium [official Church teaching] on the freedom and institutional autonomy of the Catholic Church."

"In these cases," the archbishop said, "the European Court must decide whether the civil power respected the European Convention on Human Rights in refusing to recognize a trade union of priests [in the Romanian case] and in refusing to appoint a teacher of religion who publicly professes positions contrary to the teaching of the Church [in the Spanish case]. In both cases, the rights to freedom of association and freedom of expression were invoked in order to constrain religious communities to act in a manner contrary to their canonical status and the Magisterium. Thus, these cases call into question the Church’s freedom to function according to her own rules and not to be subject to civil rules other than those necessary to ensure that the common good and just public order are respected. The Church has always had to defend herself in order to preserve her autonomy with regard to the civil power and ideologies. Today, an important issue in Western countries is to determine how the dominant culture, strongly marked by materialist individualism and relativism, can understand and respect the nature of the Church, which is a community founded on faith and reason."

Faced with this situation, "the Church is aware of the difficulty of determining the relations between the civil authorities and the different religious communities in a pluralist society with regard to the requirements of social cohesion and the common good. In this context, the Holy See draws attention to the necessity of maintaining religious freedom in its collective and social dimension. This dimension corresponds to the essentially social nature both of the person and of the religious fact in general. The Church does not ask that religious communities be lawless zones but that they be recognized as spaces for freedom, by virtue of the right to religious freedom, while respecting just public order. This teaching is not reserved to the Catholic Church; the criteria derived from it are founded in justice and are therefore of general application."

"Furthermore, the juridical principle of the institutional autonomy of religious communities is widely recognized by States that respect religious freedom, as well as by international law. The European Court of Human Rights itself has regularly stated this principle in several important judgements. Other institutions have also affirmed this principle. This is notably the case with the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] and also with the United Nations Committee for Human Rights in, respectively, the 'Final Document' of the Vienna Conference of 19 January 1989 and 'General Observation no. 22 on the Right to Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion' of 30 July 1993. It is nevertheless useful to recall and defend this principle of the autonomy of the Church and the civil power"


Vatican City, 16 January 2013 (VIS) – Today the Holy Father appointed Archbishop Joseph Salvador Marino as apostolic nuncio to Malaysia and to East Timor and as apostolic delegate to Brunei. Archbishop Marino, titular of Natchitoches, was previously apostolic nuncio to Bangladesh.
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