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Monday, September 8, 2003


VATICAN CITY, SEP 6, 2003 (VIS) - Pope John Paul welcomed the bishops of the ecclesiastical provinces of Agra, Delhi and Bhopal to Castelgandolfo this morning as they conclude their quinquennial "ad limina" visit.

Noting the millennia-old presence of the Church in India, he said that "the Apostle Thomas, St. Francis Xavier and Mother Teresa of Calcutta are but a few of the outstanding examples of the missionary zeal which has always been present in India." Even when there are hardships, he added, there has always been the great desire to evangelize and to proclaim Jesus Christ.

The Holy Father noted the "serious manner" in which the bishops prepare the laity to assist them and the clergy, especially given the lack of priests in many regions of India. He spoke of the lay faithful's "impressive involvement in catechesis, pastoral councils, small Christian communities, prayer groups and many programs of social outreach and human development." Such activities, he stated, "are not to be understood as an expansion of the clerical role but as a reality shared by every Christian in the grace received at Baptism and Confirmation."

"From the very earliest days of her presence on Indian soil," noted John Paul II, "the Catholic Church has demonstrated a deep social resolve in the fields of healthcare, development, welfare and especially education," which is "a key factor in preparing young Catholics to become faithful adults."

"Many of your schools have large percentages of teachers who are not Catholic. Their presence in our institutions could help to increase mutual understanding between Catholics and those of other religions at a time in which misunderstanding between Catholics and those of other religions can be a source of suffering to any."

The Pope emphasized that the greatest contribution of Catholic schools to their society "is their uncompromising Catholicity. ... For this reason it is essential that your educational institutes maintain a strong Catholic identity. This calls for a curriculum marked by participation in prayer and the celebration of the Eucharist and requires that all teachers are well-versed not only in their fields of study but also in the Catholic faith."

He then highlighted the importance of the presence of priests in Catholic institutions, saying this is "a time-proven way of fostering vocations." Young people considering religious life are attracted to "the example of a zealous priest who not only loves the priesthood but exercises his ministry with joy and dedication."

The Holy Father remarked that today "more than ever, priests are called to be signs of contradiction in societies which are daily becoming more secular and materialistic." He said that "the lure of a consumer society" and an "individualistic, materialist and hedonistic interpretation of human existence ... can at times creep into the lives of our seminarians and priests, tempting them not to live 'according to the logic of giving and generosity'." Thus, bishops have a special task to fill to ensure this does not occur in seminaries and in the lives of their clergy.

"Preparing today's priests (also) requires that seminarians be educated in the many different traditions of our Catholic faith," he said in closing. "This is especially true in India which is fortunate to have Oriental and Latin Catholics in such close proximity. The numbers of Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Catholics present in your region challenges all the faithful to respect the needs and desires of those who celebrate the same faith in different ways."

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VATICAN CITY, SEP 7, 2003 (VIS) - Numerous faithful joined Pope John Paul II today in the inner courtyard of the apostolic palace at Castelgandolfo where they prayed the Angelus together and the Pope meditated on the rosary.

He noted that "in exactly one month, God willing, I will go to the shrine of Pompeii. That will be an especially meaningful moment in the Year of the Rosary, inaugurated last October 16 with the signing, in St. Peter's Square, of the Apostolic Letter 'Rosarium Virginis Mariae'. I wish today to begin a spiritual pilgrimage to that famous Marian temple, center of spirituality of the rosary, contemplating with Mary the face of Christ in the joyful, luminous, sorrowful and glorious mysteries."

"The liturgical feast of the Birth of Our Lady, which is tomorrow, September 8," remarked the Holy Father, "is a more than ever propitious occasion to undertake this spiritual itinerary. Her birth, in fact, was a sort of 'prologue' to the Incarnation: Mary as the dawn, precedes the sun of the 'new day', preannouncing the joy of the Redeemer."

The Pope said that "the Virgin Mary helps the Christian people to rediscover the rosary as a simple prayer but one of great profundity. Said well, it introduces us to the living experience of the divine mystery and gives hearts, families and the entire community that peace that we need so very much."

Following the Angelus, John Paul II greeted the faithful present in French, English, German, Portuguese, Spanish and Italian, with special words for the citizens of Castelgandolfo who today celebrate the feast of their patron, St. Sebastian.

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VATICAN CITY, SEP 6, 2003 (VIS) - The Holy Father sent a telegram to Archbishop Raphael S. Ndingi Mwana'a Nzeki of Nairobi, Kenya upon the death of Cardinal Maurice Michael Otunga, archbishop emeritus of the same archdiocese, at age 80. Following is the complete text:

"It is with deep sadness that I learned of the death of Cardinal Maurice Michael Otunga, and I wish to assure you and all the faithful of the archdiocese of Nairobi of my prayers to the Good Shepherd that, in His tender love, He will bring this dedicated servant speedily to the place prepared for him at the heavenly banquet. I join you in giving thanks to Almighty God for the many graces bestowed on the Church through Cardinal Otunga's long years of generous service as priest and bishop. With heartfelt condolences to all who mourn the loss of this devoted pastor, I cordially impart my apostolic blessing as a pledge of comfort and peace in the risen Savior."

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VATICAN CITY, SEP 6, 2003 (VIS) - Approximately 2,000 young people from different Italian dioceses, accompanied by leaders and members of Catholic Action, participated yesterday afternoon in a prayer vigil in the Vatican Basilica. As a sign of his spiritual closeness, the Pope arranged for a candle to be lit at 8 p.m. in the window of his private apartment in the Apostolic Palace.

The vigil, organized by the youth of Italian Catholic Action, followed a procession which started in the gardens of Castel Sant'Angelo and proceeded along Via della Conciliazione, ending in St. Peter's Basilica at 8:45 p.m.



VATICAN CITY, SEP 8, 2003 (VIS) - Ninety participants in the 23rd General Chapter of the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, known as the Claretians, were welcomed today by the Holy Father at the summer papal residence of Castelgandolfo.

In his talk to them in Spanish, the Pope noted that "for an adequate understanding of the signs of the times and the evangelizing task that the Claretian missionaries must promote and develop in the most varied regions of the earth, the orientations offered by the post-synodal exhortations directed at the various continents would be very useful for you. Likewise, for this time of great change, the Apostolic Letter 'Novo millennio ineunte' offers you the proper frame for an apostolic spirituality fundamentally centered on the person of Jesus."

"When on the vast horizon of society," he added, "one glimpses more than a few signs of a widespread culture of death, in reflecting on the theme of your Chapter, 'That they may have life', you feel sent by the Lord Jesus to proclaim the God of life. These are moments in which life, an immense gift of the Father, must be defended, cultivated and dignified, above all among the most defenseless, through a word of hope and selfless gestures of welcome and solidarity."

He said he hoped their Chapter would allow them to give, "through evangelical words and gestures, direction and encouragement to all members of the Institute."

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VATICAN CITY, SEP 8, 2003 (VIS) - This morning at Castelgandolfo the Pope received the Letters of Credence of the new ambassador of Bolivia, Valentin Abecia Baldivieso. In his speech to the diplomat, the Holy Father affirmed that the current situation in his country "should not cause division or foment hate or rancor among those who are called to be the builders of the country. It is well known that the future of a nation must be based on peace in society which is the fruit of justice."

After recalling that the bishops of Bolivia offered their collaboration in moments of great difficulty in the country "in order to foster peace initiatives that favor understanding and forgiveness," John Paul II said that "honesty, austerity, responsibility for the common good, solidarity, a spirit of sacrifice and the culture of work, can assure greater development."

"Bolivians," he continued, "with the rich qualities that distinguish them, must be the central protagonists and builders of progress in the country, creating a political stability that allows everyone to participate in public life." The Pope expressed the hope that the "government's action contribute to overcome the grave and prolonged financial crisis that mainly affects the weakest sectors of society."
The Holy Father indicated that "the painful and widespread problem of poverty, with serious consequences in the field of education, health care and housing, is a pressing challenge for those who govern and are responsible for public services for the nation's future. This requires a serious awareness to decisively take hold of the situation which is present on all levels, cooperating in this way in a true commitment to the common good."

"I have in mind," he added, "the farmers, the miners, those who live on the outskirts of cities, and those who are victims of a materialism which excludes human beings and revolves around the interests of getting rich or gaining power. In the face of this trial," he concluded, "the Church, with the contribution of her social doctrine, tries to inspire and promote initiatives aimed at overcoming situations of exclusion that affect so many brothers and sisters in need, in order to eliminate the roots of poverty."



VATICAN CITY, SEP 6, 2003 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, as his special envoy to the celebration of the Second American Missionary Congress which will take place in Guatemala City, Guatemala from November 25 to 30, 2003.

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VATICAN CITY, SEP 8, 2003 (VIS) - Today the Holy Father received in separate audiences:

- Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, apostolic nuncio in Belarus.

- Enrico Gasbarra, president of the Province of Rome, accompanied by his wife.
On Saturday September 6 the Holy Father received in separate audiences:

- Cardinal Ignace Moussa I Daoud, prefect of the Congregation for Oriental Churches.

- Bishop Joseph Vu Van Thien of Hai Phong, Vietnam.

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VATICAN CITY, SEP 8, 2003 (VIS) - Made public today was a Message from the Pope to Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and to the representatives of the Christian Churches and Communities and the great world religions who are participating in the 17th International Meeting of Prayer for Peace which is taking place September 7-9 in Aachen, Germany. The theme of the meeting, organized annually by the Sant'Egidio Community, is "Between war and peace: religions and cultures meet."

"During these years too little has been invested," writes John Paul II in the message dated September 5, "to defend peace and sustain the dream of a world free of war. What has been preferred is the path of the development of special interests, wasting enormous riches in other ways, above all for military expenses."

After recalling that September 11 is the second anniversary of the attack on the Twin Towers in New York, the Holy Father says: "Unfortunately, along with the Twin Towers, many hopes for peace seem to have collapsed. Wars and conflicts continue to go on and to poison the lives of so many peoples, especially in the poorest nations of Africa, Asia and Latin America. I think about the dozens of wars currently going on and about that widespread 'war' which terrorism represents."

"When will all these conflicts come to an end? When will people be able to see a peaceful world? The peace process is not facilitated if people allow themselves to prosper with a guilty conscience, injustices and disparity on our planet. Often poor countries become places of desperation and theaters of violence. We do not want to accept that war dominates the life of the world and of peoples."

John Paul II emphasizes that the city of Aachen, "in the heart of the European continent, ... speaks of its ancient roots, starting with its Christian ones." These "are not a memory of religious exclusivity, but a foundation for freedom, because they make Europe a melting pot of different cultures and experiences. And it is from these roots that European peoples received the inspiration that led them to touch the confines of the land and reach the depth of man, his intangible dignity, the fundamental equality of all, the universal right to justice and peace."

"I am convinced," he states, "that Europe, anchored firmly in its roots, will speed up the process of internal union and offer its indispensable contribution toward progress and peace among all peoples on the earth."

The Pope underscores the "urgent need for unity. The peoples of different religions and cultures are called to discover the path of encounter and dialogue. Unity is not uniformity. Peace is not built in mutual ignorance, but rather in dialogue and encounter. This is the secret of the meeting in Aachen."

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