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Wednesday, September 17, 2003


VATICAN CITY, SEP 17, 2003 (VIS) - The Holy Father accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Aracatuba, Brazil presented by Bishop Jose Carlos Castanho de Almeida in accordance with Canon 401, para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law.

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VATICAN CITY, SEP 17, 2003 (VIS) - Today the Holy Father received in audience Archbishop George Kocherry, apostolic nuncio in Ghana.

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VATICAN CITY, SEP 17, 2003 (VIS) - Pope John Paul, who arrived by car from Castelgandolfo for today's general audience at 10:30 in St. Peter's Square, focussed the weekly catechesis on his just-completed trip to Slovakia. He was welcomed to the sun-drenched square by 11,000 pilgrims from throughout the world, and told them that last week's apostolic trip was his third "to this noble country" where he was greeted "with great cordiality."

"Faithful to Christ and to the Church," the Pope began. "This is how Slovakia presents herself in her history. By going there in person I was able to confirm the country in its fidelity as it moves, with confidence, towards the future. With pleasure I was able to admire the economic and social development that has been realized in these years. I am certain that, when they enter the European Union, the Slovak people will know how to offer to the building of Europe their valid contribution, also on the level of values."

The Holy Father stressed that Slovakia "has a rich spiritual patrimony that, notwithstanding the harsh persecution it underwent in the past, it knew how to steadfastly preserve. An eloquent witness of this is the promising flowering of Christian life and vocations to the priesthood and religious life that can be noted today."

John Paul II then re-lived the single stages of his four-day trip to Slovakia, highlighting his visits to the cathedral of Trnava, the "beautiful and evocative Eucharistic celebrations" and, in a special way, the Mass last Sunday in Bratislava during which he beatified Bishops Vasil' Hopko and Sister Zdenka Cecilia Schelingova, "the victims of atrocious persecutions by the communist regime in the 1950s."

He recalled his visit to the agricultural region of Roznava where, he said, he told farmers "how important their contribution is in building the nation. It is necessary, however, that they remain firmly rooted in their centuries-old Christian tradition. In Roznava I was also able to greet a large community of Hungarian-speaking faithful."

"God bless you, dear Slovakia!" the Pope concluded the catechesis. "Thank you for your love for the Church and the Successor of Peter!"

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