Home - VIS Vatican - Receive VIS - Contact us - Calendar

The Vatican Information Service is a news service, founded in the Holy See Press Office, that provides information about the Magisterium and the pastoral activities of the Holy Father and the Roman Curia...[]

Last 5 news

VISnews in Twitter Go to YouTube

Wednesday, February 28, 2007


VATICAN CITY, FEB 28, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

 - Accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the territorial prelature of Coari, Brazil, presented by Bishop Gutemberg Freire Regis C.SS.R., in accordance with canon 401 para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law. He is succeeded by Coadjutor Bishop Joercio Goncalves Pereira C.SS.R.

 - Appointed Bishop Esmeraldo Barreto de Farias of Paulo Afonso, Brazil, as bishop of Santarem (area 171,906, population 420,000, Catholics 228,383, priests 42, religious 72), Brazil. He succeeds Bishop Lino Vomboemmel O.F.M., whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese, the Holy Father accepted, in accordance with canon 401 para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law.
RE:NER/.../...                            VIS 20070228 (120)


VATICAN CITY, FEB 28, 2007 (VIS) - Msgr. Gianfranco Ravasi, prefect of the Ambrosian Library of Milan, Italy, will write the meditations for Good Friday's Via Crucis (Way of the Cross), which is due to be presided by the Holy Father on April 6 at the Colosseum in Rome.

  Msgr. Ravasi, an expert in Bible and Hebrew studies, is professor of biblical exegesis at the Faculty of Theology of Northern Italy, and a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission.
.../VIS CRUCIS/RAVASI                        VIS 20070228 (90)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


VATICAN CITY, FEB 27, 2007 (VIS) - The Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff today announced that Cardinal Gaudencio B. Rosales, metropolitan archbishop of Manila, Philippines, will take possession of the title of the Most Holy Name of Mary in Via Latina (via Centuripe 18/22, Rome) at midday on Sunday March 4.
OCL/POSSESSION TITLE/ROSALES                    VIS 20070227 (70)


VATICAN CITY, FEB 27, 2007 (VIS) - The Special Council for Africa of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops met in Rome on February 15 and 16 to discuss preparations for that continent's second synodal assembly.

  According to a communique made public today, the meeting, presided by Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, was attended by two cardinals and six archbishops and bishops.

  At the beginning of the meeting, Archbishop Eterovic referred to the various areas of special concern for the Church in Africa in the light of the theme of the forthcoming Synod, "The Church in Africa, at the Service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace," and of the "Lineamenta," or preparatory document of the Synod.

  The participants in the meeting highlighted the dynamism of the African Church, the increase in the number of Catholics (3.1 percent) being greater than the growth of the population (2.5 percent).

  In order to favor the widespread distribution of the "Lineamenta" - which were published in June 2006 - they has been translated into various local languages such as Swahili. The bishops have also organized prayer and study meetings at university centers on the theme of the Synod. "It is especially sought to involve lay people," the communique reads, "to commit themselves to an integral improvement of the living conditions of all Africans: economically, culturally, from the point of view of healthcare and, above all, spiritually."

  The communique continues: "Consideration was also given to the idea of involving representatives from other religions in the pre-synodal preparations, in order to respond, if possible together, to the current challenges facing the continent, which is seeking a more just and peaceful society ... and ever greater reconciliation."

  During the course of the meeting of the special council, attention also turned to the criteria for participation, which will be put before the Holy Father prior to the official convocation of the Second Special Assembly for Africa.

  The next meeting of the special council is due to be held on November 27 and 28, 2008.
SE/SYNOD BISHOPS AFRICA/ETEROVIC                VIS 20070227 (350)

Monday, February 26, 2007


VATICAN CITY, FEB 24, 2007 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, the Pope received delegates participating in the 13th general assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life, and in the international congress entitled "Christian conscience in support of the right to life," being celebrated in the Vatican on February 23 and 24.

  The right to life, the Holy Father said, "must be supported by everyone because it is fundamental with respect to other human rights." As John Paul II says in his Encyclical "Evangelium vitae," all human beings can, "by the light of reason, ... come to recognize in the natural law written in the heart, the sacred value of human life from its very beginning until its end. Upon the recognition of this right, every human community and the political community itself are founded."

  Christians, Benedict XVI went on, must react to the continual attacks against the right to life, safe in the knowledge that their "motivations have deep roots in natural law and can, therefore, be shared by all people of sound conscience." Yet, despite efforts to make "the contents of these motivations more widely known in the Christian community and in civil society, ... attacks against the right to life in the world have increased." In this context he referred to "pressures for the legalization of abortion in Latin American countries and in developing nations, also through the use of the liberalization of new forms of chemical abortion under the pretext of reproductive health," and to an "increase in population control policies."

  Benedict XVI highlighted developed nations' growing interest in biotechnological research and "the obsessive search for the 'perfect child'." There is, he said, "a new wave of eugenic discrimination," which "gains consensus in the name of the supposed good of the individual while, especially in the economically developed world, laws are being promoted for the legalization of euthanasia. All this is happening as ... pressure increases for the legalization of forms of cohabitation alternative to marriage and closed to natural procreation."

  For this reason, the Pope went on, it is necessary for Christian consciences to be "illuminated in order to recognize the true value of actions," and so as to be able "to distinguish good from evil, even where the social environment, cultural pluralism and the overlay of interests do not help to this end."

  There is a need to reeducate people "in the desire to know the real truth, and in the defense of their own freedom of choice, against the inclination of the masses and the flattery of propaganda."

  The Pope emphasized the need "to open minds and hearts" during the various stages of life, to ensure that people "accept the fundamental duties upon which the existence of individuals and of the community depends. Only in this way will it be possible to ensure that the young understand the values of life, ... of marriage and of the family," and "appreciate the sanctity of love, the joy and responsibility of parenthood, and of collaborating with God in the giving of life." When "continuous and qualified formation" is lacking, it "becomes more difficult to pronounce upon the problems associated with biomedicine in the fields of sexuality, nascent life, procreation, and upon the way to treat and cure patients and the weaker groups of society."

  Benedict XVI called on scientists, doctors, legislators and politicians to contribute, "by teaching and by example," to "reawakening the clear and eloquent voice of conscience in many people's hearts."

  "When the value of human life is at stake, this harmony between magisterial function and lay commitment becomes uniquely important. Life is the primary good we have received from God, the foundation of all the others. Guaranteeing the right to life - for everyone and in the same way for everyone - is a duty upon which the future of humanity depends."
AC/RIGHT TO LIFE:CONSCIENCE/...                VIS 20070226 (650)


VATICAN CITY, FEB 24, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

- Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, president of the 61st Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, accompanied by an entourage.

 - Three prelates from the Italian Episcopal Conference on their "ad limina" visit:

    - Archbishop-Bishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino.

    - Bishop Vincenzo Paglia of Terni-Narni-Amelia.

    - Bishop Mario Ceccobelli of Gubbio.

 - Pradap Pibulsonggram, ambassador of Thailand on his farewell visit.

 - Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.
AP:AL/.../...                            VIS 20070226 (100)


VATICAN CITY, FEB 24, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

- Appointed Bishop Anil Couto, auxiliary of the archdiocese of Delhi, India, as bishop of Jullundur (area 51,120, population 44,908,643, Catholics 107,767, priests 117, religious 768), India. He succeeds Bishop Symphorian Thomas Keeprath O.F.M. Cap., whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese, the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

 - Appointed Fr. Derek Fernandes, chancellor of the diocese of Belgaum, India, as bishop of Karwar (area 10,277, population 1,300,000, Catholics 53,870, priests 99, religious 227), India. The bishop-elect was born in Belgaum in 1954 and ordained a priest in 1979. He succeeds Bishop William Leonard D'Mello, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese, the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

 - Appointed Fr. Raphy Manjaly, pastor of the cathedral of Agra, India, as bishop of Varanasi (area 21,418, population 19,044,428, Catholics 16,595, priests 202, religious 449), India. The bishop-elect was born in Vendere, India, in 1958 and ordained a priest in 1983. He succeeds Bishop Patrick Paul D'Souza, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese, the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

 - As members of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace: Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, archbishop of Cape Coast, Ghana; Archbishops Hector Ruben Aguer of La Plata, Argentina, and Juan Garcia Rodriguez of Camaguey, Cuba; and Savino Pezzotta, president of the "Ezio Tarantelli" Foundation, Italy.

 - As consultor of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Stefano Fontana of the diocese of Verona, Italy, professor of the "Nicolo Rezzara" Institute of Social Sciences, and director of the "Card. Van Thuan" International Observatory of the Church's Social Doctrine.
NER:RE:NA/.../...                            VIS 20070226 (300)


VATICAN CITY, FEB 25, 2007 (VIS) - Before praying the Angelus today, Benedict XVI dedicated his brief remarks to the subject of Lent, reminding the thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square of the theme of his Lenten Message this year: "They shall look on Him Whom they have pierced," a quotation from the Gospel of St. John, in turn inspired by a messianic prophecy of Zechariah.

  "We enter the time of Lent," said the Pope, "with our gaze fixed upon Jesus' side. ... Only by turning our gaze to Jesus, Who died upon the Cross for us, can we understand and contemplate this fundamental truth: 'God is love'." And quoting his Encyclical "Deus caritas est" he added: "In this contemplation the Christian discovers the path along which his life and love must move."

  The Holy Father continued: "Contemplating Christ upon the Cross with the eyes of faith, we can understand the profundity of sin, how tragically serious it is and, at the same time, how measureless is the Lord's power of forgiveness and mercy. During these days of Lent, let us not remove our hearts from this mystery of profound humanity and exalted spirituality. Contemplating Christ, we simultaneously feel we are contemplated by Him.

  "He Whom we have pierced with our sins," the Pope added, "never tires of pouring an endless torrent of merciful love upon the world. May humanity understand that only from this source is it possible to draw the spiritual energy indispensable for building the peace and happiness that all human beings tirelessly seek."

  Benedict XVI concluded by reminding people that today marks the beginning of the spiritual exercises of the Roman Curia, in which he too will participate. "I ask you," he said, "to accompany us with your prayers, which I will happily return in the quiet of the retreat, invoking divine power upon each of you, upon your families and upon your communities."
ANG/LENT/...                            VIS 20070226 (330)

Friday, February 23, 2007


VATICAN CITY, FEB 23, 2007 (VIS) - During a meeting held yesterday morning in the Vatican with pastors of the diocese of Rome, the Holy Father answered a number of questions addressed to him by priests on such matters as the pastoral care of youth, the importance of Sacred Scripture, ecclesial movements and sacred art.

  Answering a question put by a priest from the Roman Shrine of "Divino Amore," the Pope highlighted how such places enable people to participate in an experience of prayer that has extended over generations and centuries, and he stressed the value of popular piety and Marian devotion.

  A large part of Benedict XVI's reflections were dedicated to the subject of the pastoral care of the young. "Young people," he said, "must truly be a priority in our pastoral activities, because youth lives in a world very distant from God. In such a cultural context, it is difficult to meet Christ and to live a Christian life of faith. The young need to be closely accompanied in order to find this path."

  In answer to another question, the Holy Father emphasized the importance of reading Holy Scripture, a subject that is due to be the theme of the next Synod of Bishops in October 2008. The Bible, he said, "must be read as a whole." It represents a single path and, "in Christ we find the key to everything." Holy Scripture is a journey that leads only one way because "it leads to the Cross of Christ." For this reason, he went on, it must be read not only in its historical and Christological dimensions, but also in an ecclesial light, "because all its passages are footsteps of the people of God."

  Another priest asked about ecclesial movements. In his answer, the Pope referred to the need for dialogue at all levels while taking care "not to extinguish the charisms. ... If the Lord gives us new gifts, we must be grateful even if they are difficult. It is good that they arise without an initiative from the hierarchy. They result from grassroots initiatives," but such initiatives also "come from on high, in other words from the gifts of the Holy Spirit."

  During the course of the meeting, Benedict XVI also recalled the spiritual nature of the Church which, he said, "is the body of Christ, and hence a spiritual body, as St. Paul says. The Church is not an international organization, she is not an executive body or an organ of power. Nor is she a social agency, though she does undertake social work, but a spiritual body."

  Speaking of the need to balance the spiritual and pastoral dimensions, Benedict XVI commented that "the Gospels tell us that during the day He worked, at night He was on the mountain with His Father and He prayed. Here I must confess my own weakness because at night I cannot pray, I want to sleep, ... but seriously we must nonetheless find free time for the Lord."

  Finally, the Pope mentioned sacred art, which he described as a living catechesis. The richness of religious art, he added, shows that the Church "has always been a source of inspiration."
AC/.../PASTORS ROME                        VIS 20070223 (540)


VATICAN CITY, FEB 23, 2007 (VIS) - In the course of an Ordinary Public Consistory held this morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI established that on Friday, May 11, during the course of his apostolic trip to Brazil, he will canonize Blessed Antonio de Santa Ana. He further established that he will canonize Blesseds George Preca, Szymon of Lipnica, Charles of St. Andrew and Marie Eugenie de Jesus in Rome on Sunday, June 3.
.../CANONIZATIONS/...                        VIS 20070223 (90)


VATICAN CITY, FEB 23, 2007 (VIS) - This evening, the Holy Father is due to receive in audience Archbishop Angelo Amato S.D.B., secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
AP/.../...                                VIS 20070223 (40)


VATICAN CITY, FEB 23, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Fr. Ricardo Lingan Baccay of the clergy of the archdiocese of Tuguegarao, Philippines, rector of the minor seminary of "San Jacinto," as auxiliary bishop of the same archdiocese (area 9,000, population 1,562,503, Catholics 1,250,002, priests 82, religious 116). The bishop-elect was born in Tuguegarao in 1961 and ordained a priest in 1987.
NEA/.../BACCAY                            VIS 20070223 (70)

Thursday, February 22, 2007


VATICAN CITY, FEB 22, 2007 (VIS) - Benedict XVI sent a Message to Cardinal Geraldo Majella Agnelo, archbishop of Sao Salvador da Bahia and president of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil, for the occasion of the Fraternity Campaign traditionally promoted by the Brazilian Church during Lent, and which begins on Ash Wednesday each year. This year, the campaign is dedicated to the theme "Fraternity and Amazonia" and its motto is: "Life and mission in that land."

  In his Message, written in Portuguese, the Pope writes that "Lent is a time in which all Christians are called to reflect deeply upon the ... social situations of the Brazilian people in which fraternity is most necessary."

  The Holy Father recalls that this year's campaign promotes life - "which shows itself with such exuberance in the Amazon region" - and that this "is part of the broader framework of defense of the environment." The Amazon "is a shared heritage which for its human, socio-political, economic and environmental peculiarities, requires special attention from the Church and Brazilian society."

  "It is in this context," he continues, "that the activity of the Church plays a vital role as she aims to foment a process of widespread evangelization that simulates the mission and creates conditions favorable for the discovery and development of the faith by the entire population of the Amazon region."

  After expressing his gratitude to the missionaries who dedicate themselves to this task "even at the cost of their own lives," the Pope expresses the hope that "the various components of civil society become ever more aware of the question of the Amazon, while upholding the ethical requirements of justice and respect for life."


VATICAN CITY, FEB 22, 2007 (VIS) - At 5 p.m. yesterday, Ash Wednesday, in the basilica of Santa Sabina on Rome's Aventine Hill, the Holy Father presided at a Eucharistic celebration during which the blessing and imposition of the ashes took place.

  In his homily, the Pope pointed out that the day's liturgy "identifies the fundamental dimension of Lent in the conversion of hearts to God. This is the evocative symbol we receive with the traditional imposition of the ashes, .... a rite that holds a dual significance: the first concerns interior transformation, conversion and penance; the second recalls the precarious nature of the human condition."

  In the Gospel reading, Pope Benedict continued, "Jesus indicates the instruments to be used to carry out an authentic interior and community renewal." They are "works of charity (almsgiving), prayer and penance (fasting). ... These exterior gestures must be carried out to please God and not to obtain approval or consensus from man; and they are good in His eyes if they express the determination of the heart to serve only Him with simplicity and generosity."

  "The fast, to which the Church invites us at this significant time," he went on, "certainly does not arise from physical or aesthetic considerations, rather it springs from man's need for an interior purification to detoxify him from the pollution of sin and evil, educate him to those beneficial sacrifices that free the believer from the slavery of his own self, and make him more attentive and open to listening to God and to serving his brothers and sisters.

  "For this reason," the Holy Father added, "fasting and other Lenten practices are considered by Christian tradition as spiritual 'arms' to combat evil, the negative passions and vices."

  The Pope recalled that in his Lenten message this year he had "invited people to live these 40 days of special grace as a 'Eucharistic' time." In the Eucharist, he went on, "all Christians can continue the journey that we solemnly begin today. Works of charity (almsgiving), prayer and fasting, together with all other sincere efforts of conversion, find their highest significance and value in the Eucharist, source and summit of the life of the Church and the history of salvation."
HML/LENT/SANTA SABINA                    VIS 20070222 (380)


VATICAN CITY, FEB 22, 2007 (VIS) - This morning, in the Hall of Blessings in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace, Benedict XVI celebrated his traditional Lenten meeting with the clergy of the diocese of Rome.
.../MEETING CLERGY ROME/...                    VIS 20070222 (50)


VATICAN CITY, FEB 22, 2007 (VIS) - In the Holy See Press Office this morning, a press conference was held to present the exhibition "'Tu es Petrus' - the Basilica of Peter in the Medals of the Popes," which has been organized by the Vatican Apostolic Library and the Numismatic Collections of Rome to mark the 500th anniversary of the foundation of the current Vatican Basilica.

  The exhibition is due to be inaugurated at 11 a.m. tomorrow Friday, February 23, at Villa Chiassi on Rome's via Cola di Rienzo by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, archivist and librarian of Holy Roman Church. It is due to run until April 22.

  In the course of the press conference, Ambrogio M. Piazzoni vice-prefect of the Vatican Apostolic Library explained how the pontifical medals correspond to different phases of the construction of the modern basilica. They were coined each time another phase of the building work was completed, he said, from the laying of the first stone in 1506 until the completion of the building. However, they did not stop there "because work has continued over these 500 years."

  The vice-prefect then went on to list a number of the medals that will be on display: the medal coined at the foundation of the basilica (depicting Bramante's design which was never in fact put into effect), the medal showing Sangallo's project, that with Michelangelo's design, with the dome, with Maderno's facade, Bernini's cathedra, etc.

  He then announced that, following its closure on April 22, the exhibition will move to Russia, to the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, where it will be open to public view during the months of May and June. "This," he said, "is highly significant because it is the first time that objects from the Vatican Apostolic Library have been put on display in that great country."
OP/EXHIBITION:VATICAN LIBRARY/...            VIS 20070222 (320)


VATICAN CITY, FEB 22, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

 - Appointed Bishop Manuel Jose Macario do Nascimento Clemente, auxiliary of Lisbon, Portugal, as bishop of Porto (area 3,010, population 2,077,000, Catholics 1,881,000, priests 557, permanent deacons 16, religious 1,169), Portugal. He succeeds Bishop Armindo Lopes Coelho, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese, the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

 - Appointed Msgr. Domenico Mogavero of the clergy of the archdiocese of Palermo, Italy, under-secretary of the Italian Episcopal Conference, as bishop of Mazara del Vallo (area 1,374, population 235,409, Catholics 221,096, priests 94, religious 196), Italy. The bishop-elect was born in Castelbuono, Italy in 1947 and ordained a priest in 1970.

 - Appointed Msgr. Claudio Giuliodori of the clergy of the archdiocese of Ancona-Osimo, Italy, director of the office of social communications of the Italian Episcopal Conference, as bishop of Macerata-Tolentino-Recanati-Cingoli-Treia (area 745, population 139,600, Catholics 134,600, priests 202, permanent deacons 6, religious 240), Italy. The bishop-elect was born in Osimo in 1958 and ordained a priest in 1983.
NER:RE/.../...                                VIS 20070222 (180)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


VATICAN CITY, FEB 21, 2007 (VIS) - During today's general audience, which was held in the Paul VI Hall in the presence of around 10,000 people, Benedict XVI dedicated his catechesis to the subject of Lent.

  "Today, Ash Wednesday," said the Pope, "we begin the Lenten journey, characterized by listening to the Word of God, by prayer and penance. Forty days during which the liturgy will help us to relive the principal moments of the Mystery of salvation."

  For the baptized, Lent is a "new 'catechumenate' in which we return to our Baptism in order to rediscover it and experience it more profoundly. ... It is an occasion to go back to being Christian via a constant process of interior transformation, and of progress in the knowledge and love of Christ."

  "Conversion," the Holy Father explained, is not something that happens once and for all, it is a process, ... a journey, ... that cannot be limited to a specific period but must embrace all existence."

  "In this light," he went on, "Lent is an appropriate spiritual moment to train ourselves more earnestly to seek God, opening our hearts to Christ. Conversion means seeking God. ... It is not an effort of self-realization. ... Self-realization is a contradiction, and it is too little for us. We have a higher destiny. ... Conversion consists precisely in not thinking that one is the 'creator' of oneself, and thus discovering the truth."

  The Holy Father then went on to refer to his Lenten Message for this year, in which he highlights "the immense love that God has for us," and invites Christians to remain "with Mary and John, the disciple Jesus loved, next to Him Who on the Cross gave his life for humanity."

  "The Cross is the definitive revelation of love and divine mercy, also for us, men and women of our time too often distracted by worldly and momentary concerns and interests. God is love and His love is the secret of our happiness. To enter into this mystery of love there is no other way than that of losing ourselves, giving ourselves, the way of the Cross."

  "For this reason," Benedict XVI concluded, "the liturgy of Lent invites us ... to reject sin and evil, and overcome selfishness and indifference, Prayer, fasting, penance and works of charity towards our brothers and sisters thus become spiritual paths to follow in order to return to God."

  Prior to today's audience, the Pope went to the Vatican Basilica where he met bishops from the Italian region of Umbria, who are currently on their five-yearly "as limina" visit.

  "The Church," the Holy Father told the prelates, "has the perennial mission of spreading the light of Christ's truth that illuminates peoples, that it may shine in all areas of society. In announcing the evangelical message, all Christian communities place themselves at the service of man and of the common good. Aware of this missionary mandate, encourage the faithful entrusted to your pastoral care to continue in their efforts to permeate modern culture with the vital lifeblood of divine grace. This is certainly not an easy task, but it is indispensable."
AG/LENT/...                                VIS 20070221 (540)


VATICAN CITY, FEB 21, 2007 (VIS) - Made public today was a Message from the Pope to Fr. Guido Innocenzo Gargano, superior of the Roman monastery of San Gregorio al Celio and to all members of the Camaldolese Order, for the occasion of the 1000th anniversary of the birth St. Peter Damian, whose feast day falls today.

  In his Message, dated February 20, the Holy Father writes that this anniversary "is an appropriate occasion to give more profound consideration to the aspects characterizing the saint's multifaceted personality as scholar, hermit, man of the Church and, above all, enamoured of Christ."

  "St. Peter Damian," he continues, "was first and foremost a hermit, indeed the last theoretician of hermitic life in the Latin Church," who lived "at the very moment when the schism between East and West came about."

  After highlighting how for St. Peter Damian "the hermit's life was a powerful call for all Christians to the primacy of Christ," Pope Benedict recalls that this Italian saint "was ready to travel from his hermitage and go anywhere his presence was necessary to mediate between contending parties, whether they were ecclesiastics, monks or simple faithful."

  "After each ecclesiastical mission he returned to the peace of his hermitage of Fonte Avellana and, free of all ambition, even definitively renounced the dignity of the cardinalate so as not to be drawn away from his hermit's solitude, the cell of his hidden life in Christ."

  The Holy Father also recalls that St. Peter Damian was "the soul of the 'Gregorian reform' which marked the passage from the first millennium to the second and of which Pope St. Gregory VII was the heart and the driving force."

  "With the pen and the word" the saint addressed "his hermit confreres, demanding the courage of a radical commitment to the Lord, as near as possible to martyrdom." He called on "Popes, bishops and high-ranking prelates to show evangelical detachment from honors and privileges in carrying out their ecclesial functions," and he reminded "priests of the exalted ideal of their mission, to be exercised with purity of private life and true individual poverty."

  St. Peter Damian's was aware "that only through a constant harmonic tension between the two fundamental poles of life - solitude and communion - can effective Christian testimony develop. Is not this," the Pope concludes, "also a valid teaching for our own times."
MESS/ST. PETER DAMIAN/GARGANO                VIS 20070221 (410)


VATICAN CITY, FEB 21, 2007 (VIS) - Made public today was a Letter from Benedict XVI to Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus, emeritus of Warsaw, Poland. The text bears the date of February 12.

  The Holy Father thanks the archbishop "for the trust with which you opened your soul before me, showing the anguished suffering of you heart throughout your life as a priest and bishop, until the moment of your resignation from the office of archbishop of Warsaw.

  "In recent times I have participated in you sufferings and wish to assure you of my spiritual closeness and fraternal understanding.

  "As for the past, I am fully aware of the exceptional circumstances in which you had to undertake your service, when the communist regime in Poland used all possible means to suffocate the freedom of citizens, and particularly of the clergy.

  "As rector of the University of Lublin and as bishop of Plock you gave proof of your great piety, and of your profound love for Jesus Christ and for the Church.

  "When, one month ago, you presented your resignation in the awareness that the situation that had arisen made it impossible for you to begin your episcopal service with the indispensable degree of authority, I clearly saw in this act a profound sensitivity for the good of the Church of Warsaw and of Poland, as well as your own humility and detachment from office.

  "I would like, first of all, to encourage you to maintain faith and serenity of heart. I express the desire that you may resume your activity at the service of Christ, in whatever way proves possible, so that your vast and profound knowledge and priestly piety may be used for the good of the beloved Church in Poland.

  "The episcopal mission, today as in the past, is marked by suffering. May Our Lord never cease to support you with His grace. Help will also come from the friendship of brother bishops and of the people who have known and respected you."
BXVI-LETTER/.../WIELGUS                    VIS 20070221 (350)


VATICAN CITY, FEB 21, 2007 (VIS) - On February 25, the first Sunday of Lent, the annual spiritual exercises of the Holy Father and the Roman Curia will begin in the "Redemptoris Mater" Chapel of the Vatican's Apostolic Palace. This year's exercises, dedicated to the theme "the things of above," will be directed by Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, archbishop emeritus of Bologna, Italy.

  The retreat will begin with Eucharistic exposition at 6 p.m., the celebration of Vespers, an introductory meditation, adoration and Eucharistic blessing.

  Over the following days there will be the celebration of Lauds and meditation at 9 a.m.; celebration of Terce and meditation at 10.15 a.m.; meditation at 5 p.m.; and Vespers, adoration and Eucharistic blessing at 5.45 p.m.

  The spiritual exercises will come to an end on Saturday, March 3, with the celebration of Lauds and a closing meditation at 9 a.m.

  During the retreat all audiences will be cancelled, including the weekly general audience of Wednesday, February 28.
.../CURIA RETREAT/...                        VIS 20070221 (170)


VATICAN CITY, FEB 21, 2007 (VIS) - Yesterday, the Holy Father received in audience Fr. Wojciech Giertych O.P., theologian of the Pontifical Household.
AP/.../...                                VIS 20070221 (30)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


VATICAN CITY, FEB 20, 2007 (VIS) - At 6 p.m. on Saturday, February 17, the Holy Father visited Rome's Major Pontifical Seminary for the occasion of the feast of its patroness, Our Lady of Trust. During the meeting, the Pope responded to six questions addressed to him by the seminarians. The text of their exchanges was made public yesterday afternoon.

  Gregorpaolo Stano of the diocese of Oria, Italy asked how, "among the thousands of interior voices," to discern the voice of God speaking within,

  "God speaks," Pope Benedict replied, "through other people, through friends, through our parents, ... through the priests who guide you," above all He speaks "in Sacred Scripture" which must be read "not as the word of a man or a document from the past, ... but as the Word of God which is always valid and speaks to me."

  "It is important to remain attentive to the other voices of the Lord, to let ourselves be guided also by people who have, so to say, experience with God and help us along this path. ... In this way our discernment grows, our personal friendship with God grows, [as does] the capacity to perceive, in the thousands of voices we hear today, the voice of God, which is always present and always speaks to us."

  Claudio Fabbri from the diocese of Rome wanted to know about the Holy Father's life during his own period of training for the priesthood at the seminary of Freising, Germany.

  "I believe that our life in the seminary of Freising was structured very much like your own. ... I can say that Sacred Scripture was at the heart of our theological studies: we truly lived with Sacred Scripture and learned to love it, to communicate with it." Another "vital area for us was liturgical formation." The Pope also mentioned his interest in literature and his "great love for music."

  Gianpiero Savino of the diocese of Taranto, Italy asked how, bearing in mind human weakness, it is possible to respond to a vocation "as demanding as that of being pastors of God's people."

  "It is good to recognize one's own weakness," said the Pope, "because thus we know that we have need of the Lord's grace. ... I [also] believe it is important to recognize that we are in need of a permanent conversion." This is a journey with no lack of "joy and light from the Lord, but also no lack of dark valleys where we must walk with trust seeking support in the Lord's goodness. ... And therefore the Sacrament of Penance is also important, ... to convert us to a new beginning and thus grow and mature in the Lord, in our communion with Him."

  The Holy Father also dwelt upon the necessity of not "isolating ourselves, not believing we can progress alone. We need the help of priest friends and lay friends to accompany and help us. ... The gift of perseverance brings us joy, it gives us the certainty that we are loved by the Lord, and this love sustains us, it helps us and does not abandon us in our weaknesses."

  A Bulgarian seminarian, Dimov Koicio from the diocese of Nicopoli, asked a question concerning "corruption in the Church" to which the then Cardinal Ratzinger had alluded during the 2005 Way of the Cross, and the dangers of "seeking to advance one's career through the Church."

  "The Lord knows," the Pope replied, "and knew from the beginning that sin also exists in the Church. And by our humility it is important to recognize this - not to see sin only in others, in institutions and in high office, but also in ourselves - so as, in this way, to be more humble and to learn that ecclesial standing does not count before the Lord, what counts is to remain in His love."

  Francesco Annesi of the diocese of Rome wanted to know how "a priest can bear witness to the Christian meaning of suffering, and how he must behave before those who suffer without the risk of seeming rhetorical or pathetic."

  "We must recognize that it is right to do everything possible to alleviate the afflictions of humanity, and help those who suffer ... to discover a life that is worthwhile and free from the evils which we ourselves provoke: hunger, epidemics, etc.," said the Holy Father in his reply. "But at the same time, recognizing this duty to combat the sufferings we have caused, we must also recognize and understand that suffering is an essential factor for our maturation. ... It is true that it is always problematic, if one is more or less in good health, to console someone else affected by a serious illness. ... Faced with these ills, which we all know and recognize, it is almost inevitable that everything seems rhetorical and pathetic. But if people feel ... that we want to carry the cross with them ... helping them in every way we can, they will believe in us."

  Marco Ceccarelli, a deacon of Rome, soon to be ordained a priest asked the Holy Father's advice on how to approach the first years of priestly ministry.

  In his reply, the Holy Father highlighted "the need to be with the Lord in the Eucharist every day, not as a professional obligation but as a true interior duty," and "to dedicate time to the Liturgy of the Hours" because "it helps us to be more open and to remain in profound contact with the Lord." It is also important "not to lose communion with other priests, your companions on the journey, or to lose personal contact with the Word of God, meditation."

  "Never lose," he concluded, "friendship with priests, listening to the voice of the living Church, or, of course, a readiness toward the people entrusted to us because from them, with their sufferings, their experiences of faith, their doubts and difficulties, we too can learn, and seek and find God."
BXVI-VISIT/ROME MAJOR SEMINARY/...            VIS 20070220 (1010)


VATICAN CITY, FEB 20, 2007 (VIS) - At 11 a.m. on Friday, February 23, in the Consistory Hall of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, an Ordinary Public Consistory will be held for the canonization of the following Blesseds:

 - George Preca, Maltese, priest, founder of the "Societas Doctrinae Christianae" (M.U.S.E.U.M.).

 - Szymon of Lipnica, Polish, priest of the Order of Friars Minor.

 - Charles of St. Andrew (ne Johannes Andreas Houben), Dutch, priest of the Congregation of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

 - Antonio de Santa Ana (ne Antonio Galvao de Franca), Brazilian, priest of the Order of Alcantarine or Discalced Friars Minor, and founder of the Convent of Conceptionist Sisters "Recolhimento da luz."

 - Marie Eugenie de Jesus (nee Anne-Eugenie Milleret de Brou), French, foundress of the Institute of Sisters of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.
OCL/CANONIZATION CAUSES/...                VIS 20070220 (150)


VATICAN CITY, FEB 20, 2007 (VIS) - At 11.30 a.m. today in the Holy See Press Office, a press conference was held to present an international congress entitled "Christian conscience in support of the right to life," due to be held in the Vatican on February 23 and 24 under the auspices of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

  Participating in today's press conference were Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life; Bishop Anthony Fisher O.P., auxiliary of Sydney, Australia and professor of bioethics and moral theology at the John Paul II Institute in Sydney; Msgr. Jean Laffitte, vice president of the Pontifical Academy for Life and professor of anthropology and of conjugal spirituality at the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family; Monica Lopez Barahona, biologist, professor of bioethics and director of the bioethical institute at the University of Francisco de Vitoria, Madrid, Spain.

  In his comments, Bishop Sgreccia made it clear that the theme chosen for this year's congress reflects the urgent need to form Christian consciences "in the modern context, indicating the foundation, the specific nature and the duties of a conscience illuminated by faith, though not overlooking the need for dialogue with the lay world and the pluralism of cultures."

  Going on to refer to the question of conscientious objection, which is due to be discussed on the second day of the congress, the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life indicated that if such objection "is accompanied by love for truth and for all people it is not an avoidance of responsibility but, on the contrary, a testimony of support and assistance." Today, in the field of healthcare, "a whole series of new cases and situations arise in which doctors and other figures associated with their work are called to put this objection into effect."

  Bishop Anthony Fisher, speaking English, began his comments by considering "the question of what conscience is and is not and what authority conscience has."

  "The classical Christian conception of conscience," he said, "is of the natural perception of basic moral principles, their application in particular circumstances, and the final judgement about what is to be (or has been) done. ... But conscience must be both well-informed and well-formed."

  The bishop mentioned "the authority of the Church as a moral teacher and former/informer of conscience, ... the ideas of the Magisterium, the unconditional assent of faith, religious assent and dissent. ... Can there be a conflict between the Church as teacher and the individual conscience and how is this to be resolved?"

  Bishop Fisher also considered "the problematic of those who oppose conscience to Magisterium," identifying "two helpful strands of contemporary thought: the communitarian call to think with one's moral community and the 'practical reason' approaches to maturation of conscience. On these views the Magisterium is not some external source of moral thinking with which private conscience must grapple: it informs conscience much like a soul informs a body, giving it its shape and direction from within."

  Msgr. Laffitte spoke of the concept of tolerance which, he said, has ceased "to be an expression of the classical virtue of prudence and, hence, a practical virtue," while "ideological tolerance has been raised to the rank of theoretical virtue."

  "Ideological tolerance" he continued, "is always linked to an individualistic concept of moral conscience. ... And the norms received from moral authority, from social tradition and from the teaching of the religious authorities will, at best, be considered as interesting guidelines or stimulating opinions upon which to reflect, but in no case will such norms involve the individual as a moral subject."

  Professor Lopez Barahona recalled that "man is a free being who establishes his behaviour and forges his will in a series of ethical and/or religious principles. Loyalty to these principles brings the right and the need of conscientious objection."

  "We have," she said, "witnessed incessant concessions to scientific research by the legislator, justified with reasoning that may seek to present the consecration of bioethics by the law as the protection of the person, whereas these concessions actually involve creating new exemptions in favour of biomedical research even when this fails to take the dignity of human life into account."


VATICAN CITY, FEB 20, 2007 (VIS) - Made public today was a note signed by Catholic Archbishop John Bathersby and Anglican Bishop David Beetge, co-presidents of the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM), regarding an article published yesterday in the British newspaper "The Times" on the IARCCUM document: "Growing Together in Unity and Mission."

  "'Growing Together in Unity and Mission' has not yet been officially published," the English-language note reads. "It is unfortunate that is contents have been prematurely reported in a way which misrepresents its intentions and sensationalizes its conclusions. The first part of the document, which treats doctrinal matters, is an attempt to synthesize the work of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) over the past 35 years. It identifies the level of agreement which has been reached by ARCIC, but is also very clear in identifying ongoing areas of disagreement, and in raising questions which still need to be addressed in dialogue. Those ongoing questions and areas of disagreement are highlighted in boxed sections interspersed throughout the text. It is a very honest document assessing the state of Anglican-Roman Catholic relations at the present moment."

  The note continues: "The Times article speculates about the Catholic Church's response to a possible schism within the Anglican Communion. It should be pointed out that the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity has consistently spoken of the value of the Anglican Communion remaining a communion, rooted in the Apostolic faith, as indicated in this statement from 2004: 'It is our overwhelming desire that the Anglican Communion stays together, rooted in the historic faith which our dialogue and relations over four decades have led us to believe that we share to a large degree'."
../IARCCUM/BATHERSBY:BEETGE                VIS 20070220 (300)


VATICAN CITY, FEB 20, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy See Press Office released the following communique at midday today:

  "Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, president of the Commission for Religious Relations with Muslims, and president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, was received in Cairo, Egypt, today by Sheikh Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi, Grand Imam of al-Azhar.

  "Welcomed in an atmosphere of great cordiality, Cardinal Poupard relayed to Sheikh Tantawi the greetings of His Holiness Benedict XVI, and the Pope's invitation to meet him in Rome, an invitation that was accepted with satisfaction.

  "The meeting of the two men provided an opportunity to evaluate the work of the 'Joint Dialogue Commission' comprised of members of the 'Al-Azhar Permanent Committee for Dialogue with Monotheistic Religions' and of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue. The commission meets on February 24 every year - alternately in Cairo and Rome - in memory of Pope John Paul II's visit to al-Azhar on February 24, 2000. The two also discussed other aspects of relations between Christians and Muslims.

 "Cardinal Poupard will also meet Hamdi Zaqzuq, the government minister for religion."


VATICAN CITY, FEB 20, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Cardinal Salvatore De Giorgi, archbishop emeritus of Palermo, Italy, as a member of the Congregation for Bishops.
NA/.../DE GIORGI                            VIS 20070220 (40)

Monday, February 19, 2007


VATICAN CITY, FEB 17, 2007 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican's Consistory Hall, Benedict XVI received pontifical representatives to Latin America, to whom he expressed his appreciation for their "important ecclesial service" which, he said, they carry out "often in the face of no small number of difficulties" due to the distance separating them from their homeland, "frequent travel and, sometimes, social and political tensions."

  Nuncios are called, the Pope said, "to consolidate the bonds of communion between the particular Churches and Peter's Successor." They have "the responsibility to promote ... dialogue and collaboration with civil society in order to achieve the common good." Being a pontifical representative "is a ministry of ecclesial communion and a service to peace and harmony between peoples."

  Recalling how John Paul II had defined Latin America as the "continent of hope," the Holy Father observed that the Fifth General Assembly of the Episcopate of Latin America - which is to be celebrated in Aparecida, Brazil in May and which he is due to attend - "aims to identify the great priorities and to inject fresh energy into the Church's mission at the service of the Latin American people in the real circumstances of the early 21st century." This is all part of "the catholicity which ... has left its mark on the cultural structure that up to now has characterized Latin American identity."

  The nations that make up Latin America "consider themselves as 'sisters' and, indeed, seek to become a community, united in peace and in cultural and economic development. The Church ... is in natural concordance with all legitimate aspirations of peoples to greater harmony and cooperation," to which end "she makes her own special contribution, that of the Gospel."

  Pope Benedict expressed the hope that "in those Latin American countries with Constitutions that limit themselves to 'conceding' freedom of belief and worship, but still fail to 'recognize' religious liberty," reciprocal relations may soon be defined on the basis of "principles of autonomy and of healthy and respectful collaboration."

  The Church's role in Latin America, said the Pope, "continues to be of primary importance, thanks also to the fortuitous blending of the ancient and rich sensibility of the indigenous people" on the one hand, "with Christianity and modern culture" on the other. "The Catholic Church is the institution that enjoys the greatest degree of credit among the people of Latin America" for "the work she undertakes in the fields of education, healthcare and solidarity towards the needy. Help for the poor and the fight against poverty are and continue to be a fundamental priority" and "the Church is also active in mediation efforts which, not infrequently, are asked of her during moments of civil strife."

  The Church today, however, must face "the proselytism of sects and the growing influence of secularism," while families "show signs of giving way under the pressure of lobbies," which have the power to "exercise a negative influence on legislative processes." For this reason it is necessary "to reaffirm that marriage and the family have their foundations in the most intimate nucleus of truth about man and his destiny."

  The Holy Father also turned his attention to other themes due to be discussed during the Aparecida conference, such as "the phenomenon of migration, closely associated with [the question of] the family; the importance of schooling; ... and the need adequately to inform public opinion on the great ethical questions in accordance with the principles of the Church's Magisterium."

  Finally Benedict XVI mentioned ecclesial movements which, he said, represent "a valid resource for the apostolate, but must be helped to remain ever faithful to the Gospel and to the teaching of the Church, also when they work in the social and political spheres. In particular, I feel I must reiterate that it is not for men of the Church to head social and political groupings, but for mature and professionally trained lay people."

  "We ask the Lord, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary," the Pope concluded, "that the fruits ... of the forthcoming general assembly of the Latin American episcopate may be of benefit the entire Church."
AC/LATIN AMERICA/NUNCIOS                    VIS 20070219 (700)


VATICAN CITY, FEB 17, 2007 (VIS) - Made public today was a Letter from Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. to Giuseppe Mazzella, president of the "Medicine, Dialogue, Communion" association, for the occasion on an international congress on the theme: "Communication and relations in medicine. New perspectives for medical activity." The congress has been promoted by the association in collaboration with the Sacred Heart Catholic University.

  Cardinal Bertone writes that the theme of the congress, held in Rome on February 16 and 17, "is particularly important for modern medicine, which is ever more subject to manipulation and to attempts to distort its specific nature, which is that of being a source of knowledge at the service of the sick and of their physical and spiritual suffering."

  A vital element of this mission, the cardinal continues, is the "relationship between doctor and patient." This "also includes the entire medical staff, the healthcare structure and the domestic context, not forgetting the relatives of the sick."

  "It would be wrong," the secretary of State says, "to identify human beings entirely in their capacity to relate and communicate, thus denying those who do not have this possibility the intrinsic and objective value they possess simply for being human. This - as the venerated John Paul II wrote in his Encyclical 'Evangelium vitae' - is 'the mentality which tends to equate personal dignity with the capacity for verbal and explicit, or at least perceptible, communication. It is clear that on the basis of these presuppositions there is no place in the world for anyone who, like the unborn or the dying, is a weak element in the social structure, or for anyone who appears completely at the mercy of others and radically dependent on them, and can only communicate through the silent language of a profound sharing of affection'."

  Cardinal Bertone concludes his Letter by expressing the hope that the "new perspectives" of the congress may be considered from a point of view "that places the human being above those false values that are ever more relentlessly imposed by modern society: efficiency, productivity and autonomy."


VATICAN CITY, FEB 17, 2007 (VIS) - This afternoon, the Pope visited Rome's Major Pontifical Seminary for the occasion of the feast of its patroness, Our Lady of Trust, which always falls on the Saturday before the beginning of Lent.

  During the meeting, the Pope replied to questions addressed to him by the seminarians. Later, having greeted the deacons and superiors, he dined with the community of the seminary before returning to the Vatican.
BXVI-VISIT/ROME MAJOR SEMINARY/...            VIS 20070219 (90)


VATICAN CITY, FEB 18, 2007 (VIS) - Shortly before midday today, Benedict XVI appeared at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.

  Commenting on today's Gospel reading, the Pope pointed out how "it contains one of the most typical and powerful phrases of Jesus' teaching: 'love your enemies.' ... almost a 'manifesto' ... to which He asks His disciples to adhere, proposing His own model of life in radical terms."

  "Why," Pope Benedict asked, "does Jesus propose love for one's enemies, in other words a love that exceeds human capacities?" And he went on: "In reality, Christ's proposal is realistic because it takes into account the fact that there is too much violence in the world, too much injustice, and that, therefore, this situation cannot be overcome without the counterbalance of extra love, extra goodness. This 'extra' comes from God: it is His mercy, which became flesh in Jesus and which alone can 'tip' the world from evil towards good."

  "This evangelical episode is considered as the 'Magna Carta' of Christian non-violence, which does not consist in surrendering to evil ... but in responding to evil with good, thus breaking the chain of injustice. ... For Christians this is not merely a tactical form of behavior, but an individual way of life, the attitude of people who are so convinced by the love of God ... that they are not afraid to face evil only with the arms of love and truth.

  "Love for one's enemies," he added, "is the nucleus of the 'Christian revolution,' a revolution that is not based on ... economic, political or media power, but that is a gift of God. ... This is the novelty of the Gospel, which noiselessly changes the world. This is the heroism of the 'little ones' who believe in God's love and disseminate it."

  After praying the Angelus, Benedict XVI spoke of his "spiritual closeness" to Guinea. "The bishops of that country," he said, "have expressed to me their concern for the situation of social paralysis, general strikes and violent reactions that have caused numerous victims. In calling for human and civil rights to be respected, I give assurances of my prayers that a shared commitment to follow the path of dialogue may overcome the crisis."

  Finally, the Holy Father turned his attention to Poland where the bishops have called "a special day of prayer and penance for the entire Polish clergy" to fall on Ash Wednesday. "May this prayer for the sanctity of priests," said the Pope, "fill all the faithful with a spirit of forgiveness, reconciliation and mutual trust."
ANG/NON-VIOLENCE:GUINEA:POLAND/...            VIS 20070219 (450)


VATICAN CITY, FEB 19, 2007 (VIS) - Today in the Vatican, the Pope received Cardinal James F. Stafford, major penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary, prelates and officials of that tribunal, and father confessors of Roman basilicas.

  In his address to them, the Pope pointed out how a confessor, "following the Church's Magisterium with gentle insistence, becomes a minister of the consoling mercy of God, he emphasizes the reality of sin, and at the same time reveals the limitless renovating power of divine love, the love that restores life."

  "Experiencing the Lord's tenderness and forgiveness, penitents are more easily persuaded to recognize the gravity of sin, and more determined to avoid it in order to remain and grow in a renewed friendship with Him."

  The confessor is "an active instrument of divine mercy," said the Holy Father. "Therefore, he must unite a highly-developed spiritual and pastoral sensitivity with serious theological, moral and educational training making him capable of understanding people's life experiences. Furthermore, it is good for him to know the social, cultural and professional background of those who come to the confessional, in order to be able to give appropriate advice and spiritual and practical guidance."

  Priests must not forget that in the Sacrament of Penance they are "fathers, spiritual judges, teachers and educators," said the Pope, adding that "this calls for constant 'aggiornamento'." In this context, he also mentioned the advantages of "the courses of the so-called 'internal forum' promoted by the Apostolic Penitentiary."

  "We cannot preach forgiveness and reconciliation to others if we do not experience these things personally. Although it is true that in our ministry there are various ways and instruments with which to communicate the merciful love of God to our brothers and sisters, it is nonetheless in the celebration of this Sacrament that we can do so in the most complete and exalted manner. Christ has chosen us, dear priests, to be the only ones with the power to pardon sins in His name. This then, is a specific ecclesial service to which we must give priority."

  Many people in difficulty "seek the comfort and consolation of Christ," Pope Benedict concluded. "How many penitents find in confession the peace and joy they were seeking for so long! How can we not recognize, also in our own time marked by so many religious and social challenges, that this Sacrament must be rediscovered and presented anew?"


VATICAN CITY, FEB 19, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

 - Four prelates from the Italian Episcopal Conference on their "ad limina" visit:

    - Archbishop Riccardo Fontana of Spoleto-Norcia.

    - Bishop Giovanni Scanavino O.S.A., of Orvieto-Todi.

    - Archbishop Giuseppe Chiaretti of Perugia-Citta della Pieve.

    - Bishop Pellegrino Tomaso Ronchi O.F.M. Cap., of Citta di Castello.

 - Bishop Gregor Maria Hanke O.S.B., of Eichstatt, Germany.

  This evening he is scheduled to receive in audience Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals.
AL:AP/.../...                                VIS 20070219 (90)


VATICAN CITY, FEB 19, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Bishop Adalberto Martinez Flores of San Lorenzo, Paraguay, as bishop of San Pedro (area 20,002, population 390,000, Catholics 358,000, priests 20, religious 30), Paraguay.
NER/.../MARTINEZ                            VIS 20070219 (40)

Friday, February 16, 2007


VATICAN CITY, FEB 16, 2007 (VIS) - In the Holy See Press Office at 11.30 a.m. on Tuesday, February 20, a press conference will be held to present an international congress entitled "Christian conscience in support of the right to life." Promoted by the Pontifical Academy for Life, the congress is due to be held in the Vatican on February 23 and 24.

  Participating in Tuesday's press conference will be Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life; Bishop Anthony Fisher O.P., auxiliary of Sydney, Australia and professor of bioethics and moral theology at the John Paul II Institute in Sydney; Msgr. Jean Laffitte, vice president of the Pontifical Academy for Life and professor of anthropology and of conjugal spirituality at the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family; Monica Lopez Barahona, biologist, professor of bioethics and director of the bioethical institute at the University of Francisco de Vitoria, Madrid, Spain.


VATICAN CITY, FEB 16, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

 - Six prelates from the Italian Episcopal Conference on their "ad limina" visit:

    - Archbishop Francesco Marinelli of Urbino-Urbania-Sant'Angelo in Vado.

    - Archbishop Pietro Coccia of Pesaro.

    - Bishop Gervasio Gestori of San Benedetto del Tronto-Ripatransone-Montalto.

    - Bishop Vittorio Tomassetti of Fano-Fossombrone-Cagli-Pergola

    - Msgr. Pietro Spernanzoni, apostolic administrator of Macerata-Tolentino-Recanati-Cingoli-Treia.

    - Bishop Arduino Bertoldo of Foligno.

  This evening he is scheduled to receive in audience Cardinal William Joseph Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
AL:AP/.../...                                VIS 20070216 (100)


VATICAN CITY, FEB 16, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Bishop Albert D'Souza of Lucknow, India, as archbishop of Agra (area 49,162, population 27,173,476, Catholics 12,750, priests 66, religious 269), India. The archbishop-elect was born in Moodubelle, India in 1945, he was ordained a priest in 1974, and consecrated a bishop in 1993.
NER/.../D'SOUZA                            VIS 20070216 (60)

Thursday, February 15, 2007


VATICAN CITY, FEB 15, 2007 (VIS) - Today in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received in audience Roh Moo-hyun, president of the Republic of Korea, accompanied by his wife and an entourage, according to a communique released today by the Holy See Press Office.

  "The president" the communique reads, "then went on to meet Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. During their discussions, mention was made of the cordial relations between the Holy See and the Republic of Korea, as well as of the understanding and cooperation that exist between the Catholic Church and the civil authorities.

  "Attention turned to the political and social situation of eastern Asia and, in particular, to the evolution of the process of reconciliation on the Korean peninsula and to the respect and promotion of human rights in that region."
OP/VISIT KOREAN PRESIDENT/...                VIS 20070215 (150)


VATICAN CITY, FEB 15, 2007 (VIS) - During the course of his meeting today in the Vatican with Roh Moo-hyun, president of the Republic of Korea, the Pope gave his guest a Letter, written in English, in which he affirms that the visit "serves to strengthen the good relations that exist between [Korea] and the Holy See," and that it "is also a clear sign of [the president's] esteem for the Catholic Church.

  "I would ask you," the Holy Father adds, "to convey my affectionate greetings to the people of Korea, and to assure them of my prayers for peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and throughout the region.

  "For over fifty years, the Korean people have suffered the consequences of division. Families have been split, close relatives have been separated from one another. ... I pray for a speedy solution to the problem which impedes so many from communicating with one another."

  Pope Benedict's Letter continues: "Sadly, the modem world is marked by an increasing number of threats to the dignity of human life. I wish therefore to commend all those in your country who work to uphold and defend the sanctity of life, marriage and the family, areas in which, as you know, the Catholic Church in Korea is particularly active.

  "The risk of a nuclear arms race in the region is a further source of concern, fully shared by the Holy See. I urge all interested parties to make every effort to resolve the present tensions through peaceful means and to refrain from any gesture or initiative that might endanger the negotiations, while ensuring that the most vulnerable part of the North Korean population has access to humanitarian aid."

  "Your country," the Holy Father concludes, "has experienced remarkable economic growth in recent times. ... At the same time, I am conscious that not all citizens are yet able to benefit fully from this increased prosperity. I therefore urge your government to work in harmony with all those who seek to promote the common good and social justice."
AC/KOREA/MOO-HYUN                        VIS 20070215 (350)


VATICAN CITY, FEB 15, 2007 (VIS) - At 4.30 p.m. on February 21, Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, Benedict XVI will preside at a moment of prayer in the church of St. Anselm on Rome's Aventine Hill. There will follow a penitential procession to the basilica of Santa Sabina attended by cardinals, archbishops, bishops, the Benedictine monks of St. Anselm, the Dominican Fathers of Santa Sabina and lay faithful.

  Following the procession, the Pope will preside at a Eucharistic celebration in the basilica of Santa Sabina, with the traditional rite of blessing and the imposition of the ashes.
OP/ASH WEDNESDAY/SANTA SABINA            VIS 20070215 (120)


VATICAN CITY, FEB 15, 2007 (VIS) - From February 15 to 17, a meeting of pontifical representatives to Latin America will be held in the Vatican. The gathering has been called by Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., in view of the Fifth General Assembly of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean (CELAM), due to be celebrated in Aparecida, Brazil from May 13 to 31.

  According to a communique made public today, following an introduction by Cardinal Bertone, the 20 pontifical representatives, together with Archbishops Leonardo Sandri, substitute for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State, and Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States, will exchange information and reflect upon the social, religious and ecclesial situation in Latin America.

  Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, will speak upon the fifth general assembly of CELAM. Cardinal Re is one of three cardinals appointed by the Pope to preside at the forthcoming CELAM meeting, the other two being Cardinals Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, archbishop of Santiago de Chile, and Geraldo Majella Agnelo, archbishop of Sao Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, who are also due to speak at the current meeting.

  For his part Cardinal Claudio Hummes O.F.M., prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, will present some reflections on the situation of the clergy and sects. Moreover the pontifical representatives will have the opportunity to study materials prepared by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and the Congregation for Catholic Education, and by the Pontifical Councils for the Family, "Justice and Peace," and for Promoting Christian Unity.

  The meeting will come to an end on Saturday, when the participants will be received in audience by the Pope.
OP/LATIN AMERICA:CELAM/...                    VIS 20070215 (310)


VATICAN CITY, FEB 15, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

 - Three prelates from the Italian Episcopal Conference on their "ad limina" visit:

    - Archbishop Luigi Conti of Fermo.

    - Archbishop Gianni Danzi, prelate of Loreto, pontifical delegate to the shrine of Loreto.

    - Bishop Silvano Montevecchi of Ascoli Piceno.

  This evening he is scheduled to receive in audience Archbishop Robert Sarah, secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
AL:AP/.../...                                VIS 20070215 (80)


VATICAN CITY, FEB 15, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

 - Appointed Bishop Francesco Coccopalmerio, auxiliary of Milan, Italy, as president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, at the same time elevating him to the dignity of archbishop. The archbishop-elect was born in St. Giuliano Milanese, Italy in 1938, he was ordained a priest in 1962 and consecrated a bishop in 1993. He succeeds Cardinal Julian Herranz Casado, whose resignation from the same office the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

 - Appointed Bishop Bruno Bertagna, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts and auditor general of the Apostolic Camera, as vice president of the same pontifical council, at the same time elevating him to the dignity of archbishop. The archbishop-elect was born in Tiedoli di Borgo Val di Taro, Italy in 1935, he was ordained a priest in 1959 and consecrated a bishop in 1991.

 - Appointed Msgr. Juan Igancio Arrieta Ochoa de Chinchetru of the personal prelature of Opus Dei, as secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.

 - Appointed Fr. Jean Claude Randrianarisoa of the clergy of the archdiocese of Antananarivo, Madagascar, rector of the inter-diocesan seminary of theology of Faliarivo, as bishop of Miarinarivo (area 18,000, population 445,284, Catholics 247,000, priests 43, religious 71), Madagascar. The bishop-elect was born in Nandihizana Carion, Madagascar in 1961 and ordained a priest in 1991. He succeeds Bishop Raymond Razakarinvony, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese, the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.
NA:NER:RE/.../...                            VIS 20070215 (260)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


VATICAN CITY, FEB 14, 2007 (VIS) - The role of women in the history of the Church was the theme chosen by Benedict XVI for his catechesis at today's general audience, which was held in the Paul VI Hall in the presence of 20,000 people.

  "Jesus chose 12 men as fathers of the new Israel, 'to be with Him and to be sent out to proclaim the message'," said the Holy Father, "but ... among the disciples many women were also chosen. ... They played an active role within the context of Jesus mission. In the first place ... the Virgin Mary, who with her faith and her maternal care worked in a unique way for our redemption. ... Having become a disciple of her Son, ... she followed Him even to the foot of the cross where she received a maternal mission for all his disciples in all times."

  After mentioning other women who appear in various parts of the Gospel - such as Susanna, and Lazarus' sisters Martha and Mary - the Pope pointed out that "the women, unlike the Twelve, did not abandon Jesus at the hour of His Passion. Outstanding among them was Mary Magdalene ... who was the first witness of the Resurrection and announced it to the others." Pope Benedict also recalled how St. Thomas Aquinas referred to Mary Magdalene as "the apostle of the apostles."

  In the first Christian communities, Benedict XVI went on, "the female presence was anything but secondary." St. Paul "starts from the fundamental principle according to which among the baptized 'there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female'." Furthermore, "the Apostle admits that in the Christian community it is quite normal that there should be women who prophesy, in other words who pronounce openly under the influence of Holy Spirit for the edification of the community."

  Therefore St. Paul's subsequent assertion that "women should be silent in the churches" must "be relativized," said the Pope, and he explained that "the problem ... of the relationship between these two apparently contradictory indications should be left to the exegetes."

  "The history of Christianity would have developed quite differently without the generous contribution of many women," said the Pope and he recalled how John Paul II had written: "The Church gives thanks for each and every woman ... for all the manifestations of the feminine 'genius'."

  "We share this appreciation, giving thanks to the Lord because He leads His Church, generation after generation, indiscriminately using men and women who know how to bring their faith to fruition ... for the good of the entire body of the Church.

  After the audience, relatives of three Israeli soldiers - Ehud Goldwaser and Eldad Regev, held by the Lebanese group Hezbollah since July 2006, and Gilad Shalit, in the hands of the Palestinian group Hamas since June 25 - handed the Pope the copy of a letter in which they request the immediate and unconditional liberation of their loved ones.

  Prior to the audience in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope had met in the Vatican Basilica with bishops from the Italian region of the Marches, who are currently undertaking their "ad limina" visit. The prelates were accompanied by civil authorities and faithful from their various dioceses.

  The Holy Father also recalled that on September 1 and 2, he will participate in a national meeting of Italian youth at the shrine of Loreto, Italy, and he invited young people to attend in large numbers. In closing, he read a prayer to the Virgin Mary asking, among other things, that she watch over this pastoral initiative so that it may be "fertile soil for the Italian Church."
AG/WOMEN/...                            VIS 20070214 (630)


VATICAN CITY, FEB 14, 2007 (VIS) - Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. sent a telegram of condolence, in the Pope's name, to His Beatitude Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, Lebanon, for yesterday's bomb attack north of Beirut in which three people were killed and around 20 injured:

  "Profoundly grieved by the terrible attack that struck Lebanon this morning, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI asks Your Beatitude to express his spiritual closeness to the injured and to the relatives of the victims, and give them assurances of his prayers. Entrusting to divine providence those who died so tragically, the Holy Father invokes the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary upon the entire Lebanese nation. He calls upon the Lebanese people and their representatives to unanimously reject violence and hopes that, in this dramatic event, they may find the motivation for a commitment in favor of national unity and the common good."
TGR/LEBANON ATTACK/SFEIR                    VIS 20070214 (170)


VATICAN CITY, FEB 14, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

 - Appointed Fr. John Moolachira of the clergy of the diocese of Tezpur, India, former rector of the minor diocesan seminary and pastor of Udalguri, as bishop of Diphu (area 15,222, population 1,090,150, Catholics 44,840, priests 44, religious 136), India. The bishop-elect was born in Puthusserykadavu, India in 1951 and ordained a priest in 1978.

 - Appointed Msgr. Daniel Fernandez Torres of the clergy of the diocese of Arecibo, Puerto Rico, pastor of the parish of "Nuestra Senora del Carmen," as auxiliary of the archdiocese of San Juan de Puerto Rico (area 1,056, population 1,427,970, Catholics 1,063,808, priests 296, permanent deacons 225, religious 690), Puerto Rico. The bishop-elect was born in Chicago, U.S.A. in 1964 and ordained a priest in 1995.
NER:NEA/.../MOOLACHIRA:FERNANDEZ            VIS 20070214 (140)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


VATICAN CITY, FEB 13, 2007 (VIS) - Late yesterday morning, the Holy Father received in audience participants in an international congress on Natural Law, being promoted by the Pontifical Lateran University.

  In his address, which was made public this morning, the Pope began by noting "the great advantages" of technological progress. He also mentioned, however, "the threats menacing the destruction of nature," and also noted "another danger, less visible but no less alarming: the method that enables us to have an ever greater understanding of the rational structures of matter, makes us ever less capable of seeing the source of this rationality: creative Reason."

  For this reason, the Holy Father went on, "there is an urgent need to reflect upon the question of natural law and to rediscover its truth" which "is common to all mankind. ... This law has as its first and most general principle that of 'doing good and avoiding evil'," from which "derive all the other more specific principles that regulate ethical judgements on the rights and duties of everyone."

  These include: "the principle of respect for human life from conception to natural end," because "life is not the property of man but a gratuitous gift of God;" and "the duty to seek the truth, a necessary supposition for all authentic human maturation." Another of the principles is human freedom, which since it "is always shared with others, ... can only be found in that which is common to everyone: the truth of human beings, the fundamental message of existence itself, in other words the 'lex naturalis'."

  Pope Benedict also dwelt upon the need for justice and solidarity, values expressed in "obligatory norms that do not depend upon the will of the legislator, nor even upon the consensus that States may give them. They are, in fact, norms that precede any human law and as such they cannot be repealed by anyone."

  "Natural law," he affirmed, "is the source from which, along with fundamental rights, flow ethical imperatives that must be honored. Modern legal ethics and philosophy reveal the widespread influence of the postulates of juridical positivism. As a consequence legislation often becomes a mere compromise between various interests; there is an attempt to transform into law private interests or desires that clash with the duties deriving from social responsibility.

  "In this situation, it is well to recall that all legal systems, both internal and international, ultimately draw their legitimacy from their rooting in natural law, in the ethical message inscribed in human beings themselves. ... Knowledge of this law ... increases with the development of moral conscience. The primary concern for everyone, and especially for those charged with public responsibilities, must then be that of promoting the maturation of moral conscience."

  "What we have said so far has very concrete applications if referred to the family," explained the Pope, "in other words 'the intimate partnership of married life and love established by the Creator and qualified by His laws.' ... Indeed, no law made by man can overturn the norms written by the Creator, without inflicting a dramatic injury to society in what constitutes its most basic foundation."

  "Finally, I feel the need to reaffirm once again that not everything that is scientifically possible is also ethically legitimate. Technology, when it reduces the human being to an object of experimentation, ends up by abandoning the weak to the power of the strongest. Entrusting oneself blindly to technology as the only guarantee of progress, without at the same time presenting an ethical code, ... would be an act of violence against human nature, with devastating consequences for everyone."

  "Scientists must also contribute in helping us to acquire a profound understanding of our responsibility for man, and for the nature entrusted to him. On this basis it is possible to develop a fruitful dialogue between believers and non believers, between theologians, philosophers, jurists and scientists, all of whom can also give legislators precious guidance for individual and social life."

  The Pope concluded his talk by expressing the hope that the conference will "bring not only a greater sensitivity among scholars towards moral natural law, but also help to create the conditions ... for an ever greater awareness of the inalienable value of 'lex naturalis' for a real and coherent progress of individual life and of the social order."
AC/NATURAL LAW/...                        VIS 20070213 (730)


VATICAN CITY, FEB 13, 2007 (VIS) - At midday today in the Holy See Press Office, the presentation took place of Benedict XVI's Message for Lent 2007. Participating in the press conference were Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum," Msgr. Karel Kasteel and Fr. Giovanni Pietro Dal Toso, respectively secretary and under-secretary of the same dicastery, and Fr. Oreste Benzi, president of the John XXIII Foundation.

  Until now the pontiffs' Lenten Messages have concentrated, said Archbishop Cordes, "on works of charity in the sense of the social commitment of Christians." However, Benedict XVI's Message this year "focuses forcefully upon God the Father of Jesus Christ and has, therefore, not an anthropocentric but a theocentric emphasis. ... This alteration is also discernable in the preaching of Benedict XVI in general. He seems to want us to address ourselves more intensely to the Father in heaven, to entrust ourselves to His Son, Jesus Christ."

  "Of course, Benedict XVI is also aware that God seems to be the great missing presence of our time, whether man knows it or not. ... Clearly, the Pope cannot accept this impoverishment. The absence of God is worse than material poverty because it kills all sure hope and leaves man alone with his pain and grief."

  The president of "Cor Unum" pointed out how in this year's Message, "the Pope resumes the reflections on 'eros and 'agape' he began in his Encyclical, and sees these two forms of love come together in all their fullness in the crucified Christ. He writes: 'only the love that unites the free gift of oneself with the impassioned desire for reciprocity instills a joy, which eases the greatest of sacrifices.'

  "Thus," Archbishop Cordes added, "the Pope also uses his Lenten Message to go back to the pain that weighs upon our lives through our own or others' fault, and he invites us to raise our eyes from the depths to the heights, 'they shall look on Him whom they have pierced'." The Holy Father reveals "a sensitivity to the despair of the world, not exclusively, perhaps not even principally, to eliminate misery by one's own efforts, but to seek energy in the fountain of love against all forms of resignation."

  Archbishop Cordes concluded by pointing out that no one, "by appealing for us to turn to Christ, seeks to substitute the service of man with service to God."

  For his part Fr. Oreste Benzi indicated that Lent must be, for all Christians, "a renewed experience of the love of God, donated to us in Christ, a love that in our turn we must 're-donate' to our fellow man, especially to the needy and the suffering."

  In this context, Fr. Benzi enumerated the tasks facing the communities and movements recognized by the Church. These include: "the struggle to defend women from abortion, recognition of the true family, the fight against drugs, the commitment to show a real welcome to immigrants ... and gypsies, the commitment to help prisoners, ... the commitment not to be employees of charity but lovers of Christ, the commitment to be a [united] people, and the struggle for freedom from slavery and prostitution."
OP/LENTEN MESSAGE/CORDES                    VIS 20070213 (540)


VATICAN CITY, FEB 13, 2007 (VIS) - Made public today was The Message of Benedict XVI for Lent 2007. The text, dated November 21, 2006, has as its title a verse taken from the Gospel of St. John: "They shall look on Him whom they have pierced." The full English-language version of the document is given below:

  "'They shall look on Him whom they have pierced.' This is the biblical theme that this year guides our Lenten reflection. Lent is a favorable time to learn to stay with Mary and John, the beloved disciple, close to Him Who on the Cross, consummated for all mankind the sacrifice of His life. With a more fervent participation let us direct our gaze, therefore, in this time of penance and prayer, at Christ crucified Who, dying on Calvary, revealed fully for us the love of God. In the Encyclical 'Deus caritas est,' I dwelt upon this theme of love, highlighting its two fundamental forms: 'agape' and 'eros.'

  "The term 'agape', which appears many times in the New Testament, indicates the self-giving love of one who looks exclusively for the good of the other. The word 'eros,' on the other hand, denotes the love of one who desires to possess what one lacks and yearns for union with the beloved. The love with which God surrounds us is undoubtedly 'agape.' Indeed, can man give to God some good that He does not already possess? All that the human creature is and has is divine gift. It is the creature then, who is in need of God in everything. But God's love is also 'eros.' In the Old Testament, the Creator of the universe manifests toward the people whom He has chosen as His own a predilection that transcends every human motivation. The prophet Hosea expresses this divine passion with daring images such as the love of a man for an adulterous woman. For his part, Ezekiel, speaking of God's relationship with the people of Israel, is not afraid to use strong and passionate language. These biblical texts indicate that 'eros' is part of God's very heart: the Almighty awaits the 'yes' of His creatures as a young bridegroom that of his bride. Unfortunately, from its very origins, mankind, seduced by the lies of the Evil One, rejected God's love in the illusion of a self-sufficiency that is impossible. Turning in on himself, Adam withdrew from that source of life Who is God Himself, and became the first of 'those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.' God, however, did not give up. On the contrary, man's 'no' was the decisive impulse that moved Him to manifest His love in all of its redeeming strength.

  "It is in the mystery of the Cross that the uncontainable power of the heavenly Father's mercy is revealed in all of its fullness. In order to win back the love of His creature, He accepted to pay a very high price: the blood of His only begotten Son. Death, which for the first Adam was an extreme sign of loneliness and powerlessness, was thus transformed in the supreme act of love and freedom of the new Adam. One could very well assert, therefore, together with Saint Maximus the Confessor, that Christ 'died, if one could say so, divinely, because He died freely.' On the Cross, God's 'eros' for us is made manifest. 'Eros' is indeed - as Pseudo-Dionysius expresses it - that force 'that does not allow the lover to remain in himself but moves him to become one with the beloved'. Is there a more 'mad eros' than that which led the Son of God to make Himself one with us even to the point of suffering as His own the consequences of our offences?

  "Dear brothers and sisters, let us look at Christ pierced in the Cross! He is the unsurpassing revelation of God's love, a love in which 'eros' and 'agape,' far from being opposed, enlighten each other. On the Cross, it is God Himself Who begs the love of His creature: He is thirsty for the love of every one of us. The Apostle Thomas recognized Jesus as 'Lord and God' when he put his hand into the wound of His side. Not surprisingly, many of the saints found in the Heart of Jesus the deepest expression of this mystery of love. One could rightly say that the revelation of God's 'eros' toward man is, in reality, the supreme expression of His 'agape.' In all truth, only the love that unites the free gift of oneself with the impassioned desire for reciprocity instills a joy, which eases the greatest of sacrifices. Jesus said: 'When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself.' The response the Lord ardently desires of us is above all that we welcome His love and allow ourselves to be drawn to Him. Accepting His love, however, is not enough. We need to respond to such love and dedicate ourselves to communicating it to others. Christ 'draws me to Himself' in order to unite Himself to me, so that I learn to love the brothers with His own love.

  "'They shall look on Him whom they have pierced.' Let us look with trust at the pierced side of Jesus from which flow 'blood and water'! The Fathers of the Church considered these elements as symbols of the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist. Through the water of Baptism, thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit, we are given access to the intimacy of Trinitarian love. In the Lenten journey, memorial of our Baptism, we are exhorted to come out of ourselves in order to open ourselves, in trustful abandonment, to the merciful embrace of the Father. Blood, symbol of the love of the Good Shepherd, flows into us especially in the Eucharistic mystery: 'The Eucharist draws us into Jesus' act of self-oblation … we enter into the very dynamic of His self-giving.' Let us live Lent then, as a 'Eucharistic' time in which, welcoming the love of Jesus, we learn to spread it around us with every word and deed. Contemplating 'Him whom they have pierced' will move us in this way to open our hearts to others, recognizing the wounds inflicted upon the dignity of the human person; it will move us, in particular, to fight every form of contempt for life and human exploitation and to alleviate the tragedies of loneliness and abandonment of so many people. May Lent be for every Christian a renewed experience of God's love given to us in Christ, a love that each day we, in turn, must 'regive' to our neighbor, especially to the one who suffers most and is in need. Only in this way shall we be able to participate fully in the joy of Easter. May Mary, Mother of Beautiful Love, guide us in this Lenten journey, a journey of authentic conversion to the love of Christ. I wish you, dear brothers and sisters, a fruitful Lenten journey, imparting with affection to all of you, a special Apostolic Blessing."
MESS/LENT 2007/...                            VIS 20070213 (1200)

Copyright © VIS - Vatican Information Service