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Friday, January 9, 2004


VATICAN CITY, JAN 9, 2004 (VIS) - Pope John Paul, recalling Italy's rich patrimony of religious, spiritual and cultural values, as well as its spirit of altriuism and solidarity, both nationally and internationally, today welcomed Giuseppe Balboni Acqua, Italy's new ambassador to the Holy See, who presented his Letters of Credence to the Pope.

The Holy Father underlined "the millennia-old ties that link the See of Peter to the inhabitants of the peninsula, whose rich patrimony of Christian values is a vigorous source of inspiration and identity. The February 18, 1984 Accord asserts that the Italian Republic 'recognizes the value of religious culture', bearing in mind that 'the principles of Catholicism are part of the historical patrimony of the Italian people'."

"Italy, therefore," he pointed out, "has a special role to play in working so that Europe, through the competent authorities, recognizes its own Christian roots which are in a position to assure the citizens of the Continent an identity that is not ephemeral or merely based on political-economic interests, but rather on deep and everlasting values. The ethical foundations and ideals which were at the basis of efforts for European unity are even more necessary today if one wishes to offer stability to the institutional profile of the European Union.

"I wish to encourage the government and all Italian political representatives to pursue the efforts undertaken up to now in this field. May Italy continue to remind her sister nations of the extraordinary religious, cultural and civil heritage that has allowed Europe to be great throughout the centuries."

John Paul II then noted that 2004 marks two anniversaries in the relations between Italy and the Holy See: the 75th anniversary of the February 11, 1929 Lateran Pacts which created the sovereign Vatican City State, and the 20th anniversary of modifications in 1984 to this Pact. He said that whatever is missing or remains to be done, "the Church does not ask for privileges, nor does she intend to overstep the spiritual boundaries proper to her mission. The understandings born of the respectful dialogue (between Italy and the Holy See) have no end other than that of permitting the Church to undertake in full freedom her universal duty and to favor the spiritual good of the Italian people."

The Pope dedicated closing remarks to the "the cardinal role of the family, attacked as it is today, in the opinion of many, by a badly understood sense of rights. The Italian constitution calls for and cares for the centrality of this 'natural society based on marriage'. It is therefore the duty of governments to promote laws that favor its vitality. ... It is important that the State take care of the family, without ever suffocating the freedom of the educational choice of parents and sustaining them in their inalienable rights and in their efforts to consolidate the family nucleus."


VATICAN CITY, JAN 9, 2004 (VIS) - The Holy Father received the following in separate audiences:

- Bishop Javier Echevarria Rodriguez, prelate of the personal prelature of Opus Dei.

- Bishop-elect of Armenia, Colombia, Fabio Duque Jaramillo.

- Members of the family of Archbishop Michael Aidan Courtney, apostolic nuncio in Burundi, assassinated on December 29, 2003.

- Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, and members of the dicastery, for the presentation of the volume "Culture and Faith."

- Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi and Msgr. Frank J. Dewane, respectively president, secretary and under-secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

- Jean Vanier, founder of L'Arche Communities.
AP/.../... VIS 20040109 (120)


VATICAN CITY, JAN 9, 2004 (VIS) - Yesterday afternoon at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter's Basilica, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, secretary of State, celebrated a Mass for the repose of the soul of the late Archbishop Michael Courtney, apostolic nuncio in Burundi who was assassinated on December 29 in that country. His funeral was held in the cathedral of the capital city of Bujumbura on December 31.

In his homily, Cardinal Sodano read part of the message that Burundi's seven bishops wrote after the nuncio's death. "Day and night, without ceasing, Msgr. Michael Courtney helped the people of Burundi to re-establish understanding and harmony among themselves through dialogue. ... He spared no effort to bring all Burundians together, excluding no one. In that way he wished to show that there is no way to save our country except that of dialogue, consultation and the definitive rejection of murder and assassinations as a political means. ... The bishops hope that the legacy of this man of God will help all who are working together to implement the agreements reached."

"In this time of trial," said the cardinal, "I would like to repeat Cardinal Arinze's words to the faithful who filled the church in Nenagh in Killaloe, Ireland," where Archbishop Courtney was born: "Our faith guides us, especially in painful moments such as this one, This faith is our faith in the Resurrection, it is faith in Divine Providence, it is faith in the eternal reward which awaits us in Paradise."

The secretary of State concluded, underscoring how the late archbishop "taught us this art of Christian living. A son of the noble land of Ireland, he bore witness to his solid faith on the pathways of the world. In the footsteps of Christ, the Good Shepherd, he sacrificed himself for the people of Burundi, where the Pope had sent him as an apostle of peace."
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