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Friday, January 30, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 30 JAN 2009 (VIS) - Today in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received members of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, at the end of their sixth meeting, held over recent days in Rome.

  Addressing the group in English, the Pope praised their "steadfast commitment to the search for reconciliation and communion in the Body of Christ which is the Church". He also pointed out that each member of the commission brings to these meetings "not only the richness of your own tradition, but also the commitment of the Churches involved in this dialogue to overcome the divisions of the past and to strengthen the united witness of Christians in the face of the enormous challenges facing believers today.

  "The world needs a visible sign of the mystery of unity that binds the three divine Persons and, that two thousand years ago, with the Incarnation of the Son of God, was revealed to us", he added. "Our communion through the grace of the Holy Spirit in the life that unites the Father and the Son has a perceptible dimension within the Church, the Body of Christ, ... and we all have a duty to work for the manifestation of that essential dimension of the Church to the world".

  The Holy Father noted how the commission's recently-concluded meeting "has taken important steps precisely in the study of the Church as communion. The very fact that the dialogue has continued over time and is hosted each year by one of the several Churches you represent is itself a sign of hope and encouragement. We need only cast our minds to the Middle East - from where many of you come - to see that true seeds of hope are urgently needed in a world wounded by the tragedy of division, conflict and immense human suffering".

  Benedict XVI concluded by referring to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, recently concluded in the Roman basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls. "Paul", he said, "was the first great champion and theologian of the Church's unity. His efforts and struggles were inspired by the enduring aspiration to maintain a visible, not merely external, but real and full communion among the Lord's disciples".
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VATICAN CITY, 30 JAN 2009 (VIS) - A conference was held this morning in the Holy See Press Office, to present the initiatives planned to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the signing of the Lateran Pacts (11 February 1929) and the foundation of Vatican City State.

  Participating in today's press conference were Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo and Bishop Renato Boccardo, respectively president and secretary general of the Governorate of Vatican City State; Barbara Jatta, director of the office for engravings and designs of the Vatican Museums, and Giancarlo Cremonesi, president of Rome's municipal energy and environment firm, ACEA S.p.A, which is the chief patron of the celebrations.

  In his remarks Cardinal Lajolo indicated that three initiatives have been planned "for the occasion of the eightieth anniversary of the foundation of this small but not insignificant State".

  The first initiative is an exhibition to be held in the Charlemagne Wing - at the end of the left colonnade of St. Peter's Square - from 11 February to 10 May, entitled: "1929-2009: Eighty Years of Vatican City State".

  The cardinal went on to explain how the exhibition is divided into five sections. "The first concerns the Vatican prior to 1929; the second is dedicated to Pius XI (Achille Ratti), the architect of conciliation and the great builder of the juridical and architectural structures of the new State; the third focuses on the Lateran Pacts themselves, in other words the Treaty and the Concordat signed in the Lateran Palace on 11 February 1929; the fourth illustrates the construction of the State, its projects and its new buildings; and the fifth is dedicated to the six pontiffs who succeeded Pius XI, each of whom left his own mark".

  Cardinal Lajolo then turned to the second of the three initiatives, announcing that an academic congress has been organised to take place from 12 to 14 February on the theme: "A small territory for a great mission". The congress will be held at two separate sites: the Conciliation Hall of the Lateran Palace, where the Pacts themselves were signed in 1929, and the New Synod Hall in the Vatican.

  The work of the congress will be opened by Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., and close with a roundtable meeting to be attended by, among others: Franco Frattini, Italian foreign minister; Abdou Diouf, former president of Senegal, and Michel Camdessus, former president of the International Monetary Fund.

  The third initiative, concluded the president of the Governorate of Vatican City State, is a concert to be held in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall at 5 p.m. on Thursday 12 February, in the presence of the Holy Father. Our Lady's Choral Society of Dublin Cathedral and the RTE Concert Orchestra of Dublin will play Handel's "Messiah".


VATICAN CITY, 30 JAN 2009 (VIS) - Pope Benedict's general prayer intention for February is: "That the pastors of the Church may always be docile to the action of the Holy Spirit in their teaching and in their service to God's people".

  His mission intention is: "That the Church in Africa may find adequate ways and means to promote reconciliation, justice and peace efficaciously, according to the indications of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops".
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VATICAN CITY, 30 JAN 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

 - Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

 - Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples.

 - Cardinal Claudio Hummes O.F.M., prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy.
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VATICAN CITY, 30 JAN 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Fr. Guillermo Martin Abanto Guzman of the clergy of the archdiocese of Lima, Peru, episcopal vicar and pastor of the parish of "El Senor de la Divina Misericordia", and Fr. Raul Antonio Chau Quispe also of the clergy of the archdiocese of Lima, former vicar of the parish of "Santa Rosa de Lima", as auxiliaries of Lima (area 639, population 3,335,041, Catholics 3,001,536, priests 548, permanent deacons 4, religious 2,303). Bishop-elect Abanto Guzman was born in Trujillo, Peru in 1964 and ordained a priest in 1992. Bishop-elect Chau Quispe was born in Lima in 1967 and ordained a priest in 1992.
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Thursday, January 29, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 29 JAN 2009 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, the Holy Father received prelates from the Conference of Catholic Bishops of the Russian Federation, who have recently completed their "ad limina" visit.

  The Pope praised the bishops' efforts "towards the inculturation of the faith", and expressed his appreciation "for your commitment to re-launching participation in the liturgy and the Sacraments, to catechesis, to the formation of priests, and to the preparation of a mature and responsible laity capable of becoming an evangelical ferment in families and in civil society".

  He encouraged the prelates not to lose heart in the face of difficulties or when "the results you obtain from your pastoral work do not seem to reflect the effort you have put in. Rather", he went on, "nourish - in yourselves and in your collaborators - an authentic spirit of faith, with the evangelical awareness that Jesus Christ will not fail to make your ministry fruitful with the grace of His Spirit".

  "With constant care and attention, continue to promote and tend vocations to the priestly and religious life. ... Support priests and religious in their permanent doctrinal and spiritual formation. ... Look to the formation of consecrated people and the spiritual development of the lay faithful, that they may come to consider their lives as a response to a universal call to sanctity, which must find expression in coherent evangelical witness in all the circumstances of daily life".

  Benedict XVI highlighted the need for "a renewed commitment to dialogue with our Orthodox brothers and sisters". This dialogue, "despite the progress that has been made, still encounters certain difficulties", he said. In this context he reiterated his best wishes to the newly-elected patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Metropolitan Kirill, "for the delicate ecclesial task with which he has been entrusted".

  "It is important that Christians unite to face the great cultural and ethical challenges of the present moment, which concern the dignity and the inalienable rights of the person, the defence of life at all stages, the protection of the family, and other pressing economic and social questions".

  The Holy Father concluded his remarks to the prelates with an expression of his "profound gratitude for all the good you do, undertaking your episcopal ministry with complete fidelity to the Magisterium. ... My thanks also go to the priests, religious and lay people who collaborate with you in the service of Christ and His Gospel".
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VATICAN CITY, 29 JAN 2009 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received the dean, judges, promoters of justice, defenders of the bond, officials and lawyers of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, for the occasion of the inauguration of the judicial year.

  The Holy Father focused his remarks on questions concerning mental incapacity in causes of nullity of marriage, which were raised by John Paul II in his addresses to the Roman Rota of 1987 and 1998.

  John Paul II's words, he said, "give us the basic criteria, not only for studying the psychiatric and psychological examinations, but also for the judicial definition of the causes".

  In this context Benedict XVI recalled how "the Code of Canon Law's norm concerning mental incapacity, and the application thereof, was further enriched and integrated by the recent Instruction 'Dignitas connubii' of 25 January 2005. ... In order for this incapacity to be recognised, there must be a specific mental anomaly that seriously disturbs the use of reason at the time of the celebration of the marriage, ... or that puts the contracting party not only under a serious difficulty but even under the impossibility of sustaining the actions inherent in the obligations of marriage".

  "We run the risk", the Pope went on, "of falling into a form of anthropological pessimism which, in the light of the cultural situation of the modern world, considers marriage as almost impossible. ... Reaffirming the inborn human capacity for marriage is, in fact, the starting point for helping couples discover the natural reality of marriage and the importance is has for salvation. What is actually at stake is the truth about marriage and about its intrinsic juridical nature, which is an indispensable premise if people are to understand and evaluate the capacity required to get married.

  "Such capacity", he explained, "must be associated with the essential significance of marriage - 'the intimate partnership of married life and love established by the Creator and qualified by His laws' - and, particularly, with the essential obligations inherent to marriage that must assumed by the couple".

  The Holy Father pointed our that "certain 'humanistic' schools of anthropology, which tend towards self-realisation and egocentric self-transcendence, idealise human beings and marriage to such an extent that they end up denying the mental capacity of many people, basing this on elements that do not correspond to the essential requirements of the conjugal bond".

  "In principle, causes of nullity through mental incapacity require the judge to employ the services of experts to ascertain the existence of a real incapacity, which is in any case an exception to the natural principle of the capacity necessary to understand, decide and accomplish that giving of self upon which the conjugal bond is founded".
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VATICAN CITY, 29 JAN 2009 (VIS) - In the Holy See Press Office this morning, a press conference was held to present various initiatives marking the year of astronomy, in which the organisations and institutions of the Holy See are participating.

  Attending the press conference were Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture; Fr. Jose Gabriel Funes S.J., director of the Vatican Observatory; Nicola Cabibbo, president of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and Paolo Rossi, professor emeritus of the history of science at the University of Florence, Italy, and at Rome's "Accademia dei Lincei".

  Archbishop Ravasi explained that the United Nations decided to make 2009 the "year of astronomy" in order "to commemorate 400 years since the first astronomic discoveries". The event gives pride of place to Galileo, he said.

  After stating that "the Church wishes to honour the figure of Galileo, innovative genius and son of the Church", the archbishop explained that "the time is now ripe for a fresh consideration of the figure of Galileo and of the entire Galileo case".

  Referring then to the events planned for this year, Archbishop Ravasi announced that an international academic congress will be held in Florence from 26 to 30 May on the theme: "Galileo Galilei: A new historical, philosophical and theological reading". Organised by the Jesuit-run Stensen Institute of Florence, the congress is being promoted by the Pontifical Council for Culture, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Vatican Observatory. It will be attended by world experts on the subject (theologians, historians and philosophers) such as George Coyne, Evandro Agazzi, Nicola Cabibbo and Annibale Fantoli.

  From 15 October 2009 to 15 January 2010 the Vatican Museums will host an exhibition entitled: "Astrum 2009: the historical legacy of Italian astronomy from Galileo to today", dedicated to the historical material held by astronomical observatories in Italy and the Vatican. The exhibition is being organised by the Italian National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF) in collaboration with the Vatican Museums and the Vatican Observatory.

  Archbishop Ravsi also mentioned an international congress to be held in November on the theme: "1609-2009. From the birth of astrophysics to evolutionary cosmology. Science, philosophy and theology", organised by Rome's Pontifical Lateran University.

  The Vatican Secret Archives are also planning to produce a new edition of all the documents from the trial of Galileo Galilei, due to be published before the end of this year.

  The president of the Pontifical Council for Culture concluded his remarks by announcing a new project being promoted by the Italian Church through the internet site www.disf.org (Interdisciplinary Documentation of Science and Faith). "It will", he said, "dedicate particular attention to the year of astronomy, publishing documents, text and ideas every month, so as to give a Christian orientation to the debate between science and faith".
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VATICAN CITY, 29 JAN 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in audience Bishop Antoni Stankiewicz, dean of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota.
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VATICAN CITY, 29 JAN 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the territorial abbey of Wettingen-Mehrerau, Austria, presented by Fr. D. Kassian Lauterer O. Cist., upon having reached the age limit.
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Wednesday, January 28, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 28 JAN 2009 (VIS) - In today's general audience, held in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope turned his attention to the theological content of St. Paul's final Letters, known as the pastoral letters because addressed to his close collaborators Timothy and Titus.

  These Letters, said the Holy Father, refer to a situation in which "certain erroneous and false doctrines had arisen, such as the attempt to present marriage as something bad. This concern remains current today because Scripture is sometimes read as a historical curiosity and not as the Word of the Holy Spirit, in which we can hear the voice of the Lord Himself and perceive His presence in history".

  Against such doctrines, St. Paul affirmed the need to read Sacred Scripture "as 'inspired by' and proceeding from the Holy Spirit". He also speaks of the "good 'deposit', by which he means 'the tradition of apostolic faith which must be safeguarded with the help of the Holy Spirit Who dwells within us, ... and is the criterion of faithfulness to the announcement of the Gospel".

  Benedict XVI highlighted how the "sense of universality" of salvation - "God wishes all mankind to be saved and to know the truth" - is "strong and decisive" in these Pauline Letters.

  The Letters also contain "a reflection upon the ministerial structure of the Church. They present for the first time the triple division of bishops, priests and deacons".

  "Thus", he went on, "we have the essential elements of Catholic structure. Scripture and Tradition, Scripture and announcement form a single whole. But to this structure - so to say, a doctrinal structure - must be added a personal structure, the successors of the Apostles as witnesses of the apostolic announcement".

  Speaking of the episcopate, the Pope recalled how in the Letter to Timothy, for example, the bishop "is considered as the father of the Christian community. The idea of the Church as the 'house of God' has its roots in the Old Testament and is again formulated in the Letter to the Hebrews, while in the Letter to the Ephesians we read that Christians are no longer strangers and aliens, but citizens and saints, members of the house of God".

  "Let us ask the Lord and St. Paul that we too, as Christians, may always be characterised - with respect to the society in which we live - as members of the 'family of God'. We also pray that the pastors of the Church may increasingly acquire parental sentiments, tender and strong at one and the same time, for the formation of the house of God, the community, the Church".
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VATICAN CITY, 28 JAN 2009 (VIS) - At the end of his general audience this morning, the Pope expressed his happiness at the election of Metropolitan Kirill as the new Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia. "Upon him I invoke the light of the Holy Spirit", he said.

  Kirill, who is currently metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, and president of the Department for External Church Affairs of the Patriarchate of Moscow, succeeds Patriarch Alexis II who died on 5 December 2008.

  In an English-language telegram sent to the newly-elected Patriarch, the Pope writes: "May the Almighty bless your efforts to maintain communion among the Orthodox Churches and to seek that fullness of communion which is the goal of Catholic-Orthodox collaboration and dialogue.

  "I assure Your Holiness", he adds, "of my spiritual closeness and of the Catholic Church's commitment to co-operate with the Russian Orthodox Church for an ever clearer witness of the truth of the Christian message and to the values which alone can sustain today's world along the way of peace, justice and loving care of the marginalised".

  In a communique published today, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity also expressed its joy at the election of "a Patriarch with whom we have maintained fraternal relations for many years, and who met the Holy Father immediately following his election in April 2005, and again in the months of May 2006 and December 2007.

  "We trust we will be able to continue together down the path of mutual understanding we have already begun. We do not, of course, wish to lose sight of the difficulties that still remain, but we are ready and willing to co-operate in the social and cultural fields in order to bear witness to Christian values while, nonetheless, not forgetting that the ultimate aim of dialogue is the realisation of the testament of Jesus Christ our Lord: the full communion of all His disciples.

  "We hope and pray that God may grant the new Patriarch abundant blessings and guide him with the gifts of strength and wisdom".
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VATICAN CITY, 28 JAN 2009 (VIS) - At the end of his general audience today, the Pope mentioned his recent decision to revoke the excommunication on "the four bishops ordained without pontifical mandate by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988".

  "I have undertaken this act of paternal benevolence because those same bishops have repeatedly expressed to me their profound suffering at the situation in which they found themselves.

  "I hope that this gesture of mine will be followed by a prompt commitment on their part to take the further steps necessary to achieve full communion with the Church, thus showing true faithfulness to, and true recognition of, the Magisterium and authority of the Pope and of Vatican Council II".
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VATICAN CITY, 28 JAN 2009 (VIS) - "May the Shoah be for everyone an admonition against oblivion, negation and reductionism, because violence against a single human being is violence against all", the Holy Father told pilgrims attending his weekly general audience.

  Referring to recent commemorations of the Shoah, the Pope highlighted how at Auschwitz - a place he has visited several times, the last in May 2006 during his apostolic trip to Poland - "millions of Jews were cruelly massacred, innocent victims of blind racial and religious hatred.

  "As I once again affectionately express my full and indisputable solidarity with our Brothers and Sisters who received the First Covenant", he added, "I trust that the memory of the Shoah will induce humankind to reflect upon the unpredictable power of evil when it conquers the heart of man".

  "In particular", the Holy Father concluded, "may the Shoah show both old and new generations that only the arduous path of listening and dialogue, of love and forgiveness, can lead peoples, cultures and religions of the world to the longed-for goal of fraternity and peace, in truth. May violence never again humiliate man's dignity".
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VATICAN CITY, 28 JAN 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

 - Appointed Bishop Gil Antonio Moreira of Jundiai, Brazil, as metropolitan archbishop of Juiz de Fora (area 10,757, population 686,000, Catholics 548,000, priests 147, permanent deacons 15, religious 239), Brazil. The archbishop-elect was born in Divinopolis, Brazil in 1950, he was ordained a priest in 1976 and consecrated a bishop in 1999. He succeeds Archbishop Eurico dos Santos Veloso, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

 - Appointed Fr. Jose Valmor Cesar Teixeira S.D.B., former inspector of the Salesian Inspectorate of "Sao Pio X" in the archdiocese of Porto Alegre, Brazil, as bishop of Bom Jesus da Lapa (area 56,230, population 365,000, Catholics 291,000, priests 24, religious 37), Brazil. The bishop-elect was born in Rio do Sul, Brazil in 1953 and ordained a priest in 1979. He succeeds Bishop Francisco Batistela C.SS.R., whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

 - Appointed Fr. Bernardo Johannes Bahlmann O.F.M., head of the "Albergue Sao Francisco" and of the "Centro Franciscano de Re-insercao Social" in the archdiocese of Sao Paulo, Brazil, as bishop-prelate of the territorial prelature of Obidos (area 182,960, population 204,000, Catholics 166,000, priests 18, religious 28), Brazil. The bishop-elect was born in Visbek, Germany in 1960 and ordained a priest in 1997. He succeeds Bishop Martinho Lammers O.F.M., whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same territorial prelature the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

 - Appointed Fr. Sebastian Taltavull Anglada of the clergy of the diocese of Menorca, Spain, director of the pastoral care secretariat of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, as auxiliary of the archdiocese of Barcelona (area 339, population 2,469,000, Catholics 2,340,000, priests 942, permanent deacons 40, religious 3,697), Spain. The bishop-elect was born in Ciudadela, Spain in 1948 and ordained a priest in 1972.
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Tuesday, January 27, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 27 JAN 2009 (VIS) - Benedict XVI has sent a message to participants in the national congress of the Italian Catholic Press Union (UCSI). The congress, held last week, commemorated the institution's fiftieth anniversary.

  "Half a century after the foundation of the UCSI many things have changed", writes the Holy Father. This change has been "more visible in areas ranging from science to technology, from the economy to geopolitics; less perceptible but deeper, and more worrying, in the field of modern culture, in which respect for the dignity of the individual seems to have notably diminished, along with a sense of such values as justice, freedom and solidarity, which are so essential for the survival of a society".

  The work of Catholic journalists, says the Pope, "anchored in a heritage of principles that have their roots in the Gospel, ... is even more arduous today. To your characteristic sense of responsibility and spirit of service, you must add an ever great professionalism, and a capacity for dialogue with the 'lay' world in the search for shared values".

  After telling the journalists that "you will be listened to more readily when the testimony of your own lives is coherent", the Holy Father assures them that "no small number of your 'lay' colleagues expect from you the silent witness - not only in appearance but in substance - of a life inspired by the values of faith".

  Benedict XVI writes of his awareness that they are committed to "an ever more demanding task, one in which spaces for freedom are often under threat, and economic and political interests often take precedence over the spirit of service and the criterion of the common good.

  "I encourage you", he adds in conclusion, "not to make compromises in such important values but to have the courage of coherence, even at the cost of personal sacrifice. Serenity of conscience is a priceless quality".
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Monday, January 26, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 24 JAN 2009 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican the Holy Father received prelates from the Chaldean Church, who have just completed their "ad limina" visit. In the course of their audience with the Pope, the bishops gave him a cape used by Archbishop Faraj Rahho of Mosul and a stole belonging to Fr. Ragheed Aziz Ganni, both killed in Iraq over recent months.

  Through Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, the Pope sent greetings to all the Chaldean faithful, assuring them of his fervent prayers "at this very difficult time for your region, especially for Iraq". Recalling, among others, Archbishop Rahho and Fr. Ganni, he said: "I ask God that the men and women of peace in that beloved region may unite their efforts to put an end to violence and enable everyone to live in security and mutual harmony".

  "The Chaldean Church, the origins of which stretch back to the first centuries of the Christian era, has a long and noble tradition", said the Pope. This tradition "is an expression of her deep roots in the East, ... and of the vital contribution she makes to the Universal Church, especially with her theologians and masters of spirituality. Her history also shows how she has participated actively and fruitfully in the life of your nations. Today the Chaldean Church, which occupies an important place among the various institutions of your countries, must continue this mission at the service of human and spiritual development".

  Benedict XVI underlined the fact that the Chaldean Church, "by establishing cordial relations with members of other communities, is called to play a vital moderating role in the building of a new society where everyone can live in harmony and reciprocal respect. I know that coexistence between the Muslim and Christian communities has gone through various vicissitudes", he said. "The Christians who have always lived in Iraq are full citizens of the country with the same rights and duties as everyone else, without any religious distinction".

  The Holy Father invited Chaldean bishops to place the Word of God at the centre of their pastoral activities and projects, because "it is on faithfulness to that Word that unity among all the faithful is founded, in communion with pastors". In that patriarchal Church, he went on, "the synodal assembly is an indubitable gift which must be used as a means to help make ties of communion stronger and more effective, and to experience inter-episcopal charity", because the synod "is the place where co-responsibility is effectively achieved thanks to real collaboration among its members".

  "Furthermore the Chaldean Church, above all in Iraq where it is the largest [Christian community], has a particular responsibility to promote the communion and unity of the mystical body of Christ. Thus I invite you to continue meeting with pastors of other 'sui iuris' Churches, and with leaders of other Christian Churches, in order to further the cause of ecumenism".

  The Pope also dwelt on the critical situations bishops have to face, in the first place that of the "faithful who must confront the daily threat of violence", and he expressed his appreciation "for your courage and tenacity in the face of the ordeals and dangers to which you are subject, especially in Iraq". He then asked the bishops "to help your faithful overcome current difficulties and affirm your presence, appealing to those in charge for the recognition of your human and civil rights", and he invited them "to love the land of your ancestors to which you remain so deeply rooted".

  Turning his attention then to the Chaldean diaspora, "whose numbers never cease to grow especially in the wake of recent events", Benedict XVI emphasised the importance of "maintaining and intensifying bonds with your Patriarchate, so as not to feel excluded from its central unity" and "to uphold your cultural and religious identity".

  Finally the Pope praised "the Church's witness of charity towards all those in need, without distinction of origin or religion. This cannot but stimulate all people of good will to expressions of solidarity". In Iraq, "despite the terrible moments the country has gone through", such witness has given rise to works of charity "which do honour to God, the Church and the Iraqi people".

  "I invite you", he concluded, "to continue your mission with courage and hope. ... May the prayers and assistance of your brothers and sisters in the faith, and of so many people of good will, accompany you, that God's loving gaze may continue to illuminate the long-suffering Iraqi people".
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VATICAN CITY, 24 JAN 2009 (VIS) - The Congregation for Bishops has published a decree signed by its prefect, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, and dated 21 January, concerning the Pope's remission of the excommunication pronounced on four bishops consecrated by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988.

  The complete text of the decree is given below:

  "In a letter of 15 December 2008 addressed to Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, president of the Pontifical Commission 'Ecclesia Dei', Bishop Bernard Fellay once again requested - also in the name of the other three bishops consecrated on 30 June 1988 - the removal of the excommunication 'latae sententiae' formally pronounced by a decree of the prefect of this Congregation for Bishops on 1 July 1988. In that letter Bishop Fellay affirmed, among other things, that 'we continue firmly resolute in our desire to remain Catholics and to put all our strength at the service of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which is the Roman Catholic Church. We accept her teachings in a filial spirit. We firmly believe in the Primacy of Peter and in its prerogatives, and for this reason the current situation causes us much suffering'.

  "His Holiness Benedict XVI - in his paternal compassion for the spiritual discomfort expressed by the parties concerned, because of the excommunication, and trusting in the commitment they expressed in the aforesaid letter to spare no efforts in examining outstanding questions through the requisite discussions with the authorities of the Holy See in order to reach a prompt, full and satisfactory solution to the original problem - has decided to reconsider the canonical position of Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta, which arose following their episcopal consecration.

  "With this act it is hoped to consolidate reciprocal relations of trust, and to intensify and stabilise the relations of the Fraternity of St. Pius X with this Holy See. This gift of peace, coming at the end of the Christmas celebrations, also wishes to be a sign to promote the Universal Church's unity in charity, and to remove the scandal of division.

  "It is hoped that this step will be followed by the prompt attainment of full communion with the Church by the entire Fraternity of St. Pius X, thus demonstrating true faithfulness and true recognition of the Magisterium and authority of Pope with the sign of visible unity.

  "On the basis of the powers expressly granted to me by the Holy Father Benedict XVI, and by virtue of this decree, I remit the sentence of excommunication 'latae sententiae' declared by this congregation on 1 July 1988 against Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta. At the same time I declare that, as of today's date, the decree then issued is devoid of juridical effect".


VATICAN CITY, 24 JAN 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

 - Appointed Cardinal Paul Poupard, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Culture, as his special envoy to celebrations marking seven hundred years since the beginning of the Roman Pontiffs' exile in the French city of Avignon (1309-1377). The event will be held in Avignon on 9 and 10 March.

 - Appointed Msgr. Robert E. Guglielmone of the clergy of the diocese of Rockville Centre, U.S.A., rector of Saint Agnes Cathedral, as bishop of Charleston (area 80,401, population 4,254,000, Catholics 176,372, priests 141, permanent deacons 91, religious 192), U.S.A. The bishop-elect was born in New York in 1945 and ordained a priest in 1978.

 - Erected the new diocese of Hpa-an (area 30,164, population 1,164,000, Catholics 10,781, priests 18, religious 31) Myanmar, with territory taken from the archdiocese of Yangon, making it a suffragan of the same metropolitan church. He appointed Bishop Justin Saw Min Thide, auxiliary of Yangon, as first bishop of the new diocese.

 - Appointed Msgr. Luis Alberto Fernandez, vicar general of Lomas de Zamora, Argentina, as auxiliary of the archdiocese of Buenos Aires (area 203, population 2,815,000, Catholics 2,578,000, priests 878, permanent deacons 6, religious 2,352), Argentina. The bishop-elect was born in Lomas de Zamora in 1946 and ordained a priest in 1975.
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VATICAN CITY, 25 JAN 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father dedicated his remarks before praying the Angelus to today's Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, and to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity which also comes to a close today.

  Commenting on the reading from St. Mark in which Christ invites people to convert and believe in the Gospel, the Pope explained to the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square that in the case of St. Paul "some people prefer not to use the term conversion because, they say, he was already a believer, indeed a zealous Jew, and hence he did not move from non-faith to faith, from idols to God; nor did he have to abandon the Jewish faith in order to adhere to Christ. In fact, the experience of the Apostle can be a model for all true Christian conversion".

  "Saul converted because, thanks to the divine light, 'he believed in the Gospel'. His conversion, and ours, consists in this: in believing in Jesus, dead and risen, and in opening oneself to the illumination of His divine grace. At that moment, Saul understood that his salvation depended not upon good works undertaken in accordance with the Law, but on the fact that Jesus died also for him - the persecutor - and was, and is, risen. This truth which, thanks to Baptism, illuminates the life of each Christian, completely changes the way we live". Trusting in Christ's power of forgiveness means "escaping from the quicksand of pride and sin, of lies and sadness, of selfishness and false security, to know and experience the richness of His love".

  "The call to conversion - strengthened by St. Paul's own witness - rings out today at the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which is particularly important in the field of ecumenism. The Apostle shows us the right spiritual attitude in order to progress along the path of communion. 'Not that I have obtained this or have already reached the goal, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own'. Of course, we Christians have not yet attained the goal of full unity, but if we allow ourselves to be continually converted by the Lord Jesus we will surely reach it".
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VATICAN CITY, 25 JAN 2009 (VIS) - In remarks following the Angelus, Benedict XVI turned his attention to three subjects: the World Day of Leprosy which falls today, the beginning of the new lunar year celebrated in this period in many Asian countries, and his own recent Message for the World Day of Social Communications.

  "The Church", he said, "following Jesus' example, has always shown particular concern for" leprosy sufferers. "I am pleased that the United Nations, in a recent declaration from the High Commission for Human Rights, has encouraged States to help leprosy sufferers and their families. For my own part, I assure them of my prayers and give renewed encouragement to those working for their cure and social rehabilitation".

  He then expressed the hope that people of various East Asian nations may experience a joyful beginning to the new lunar year. "Joy is an expression of being in harmony with ourselves", he said, "and this can come only from being in harmony with God and with His creation. May joy always abide in the hearts of the citizens of those countries, which are so dear to me, and irradiate to the whole world".

  Finally, Pope Benedict mentioned the recent publication of his Message for the World Day of Social Communications, released on the eve of the Feast of St Francis de Sales, patron of journalists, and dedicated this year to "the new technologies which have made the internet a resource of utmost importance. ... Undoubtedly, wise use of communications technology enables communities to be formed in ways that promote the search for the true, the good and the beautiful, transcending geographical boundaries and ethnic divisions, To this end, the Vatican has already launched a new initiative which will make information and news from the Holy See more readily accessible on the world wide web".


VATICAN CITY, 25 JAN 2009 (VIS) - Yesterday afternoon in the Roman basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls, the Pope presided at the celebration of the second Vespers of the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, thus marking the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity which was dedicated to the theme "That they may become one in your hand" (Ezek. 37, 17). The ceremony, which this year coincided with the two thousandth anniversary of the birth of the Apostle, was attended by cardinals and bishops, as well as by representatives from other Churches and ecclesial communities.

  In his homily the Holy Father reflected upon the conversion of St. Paul, saying "it presents us with a model of, and shows us the way to, full unity" which, "indeed, calls for conversion: from division to communion, from a lacerated unity, to a restored and complete unity".

  The conversion of the Apostle of the Gentiles "was not a move from immorality to morality, from an erroneous faith to a correct faith, rather it was the fact of being conquered by the love of Christ, of renouncing one's own perfection. It was the humility of one who placed himself unreservedly at the service of Christ for his brothers and sisters. And it is only in this self-renunciation, in this conformity to Christ, that we also become united to one another, that we become 'one' in Christ. It is communion with the risen Christ that gives us unity".

  "Of course, the unity that God gives His Church, and for which we pray, is communion in a spiritual sense, in faith and in charity; yet we know that this unity in Christ is also a ferment for fraternity at a social level, in relations between nations and among the entire human family. ... The prayers we raise over these days, with reference to Ezekiel's prophecy, are also a form of intercession for the various situations of conflict that currently afflict humankind".

  Benedict XVI pointed out that "where human words are powerless because the tragic noise of violence and arms prevails, the prophetic power of the Word of God does not fail but repeats to us that peace is possible, and that we must be instruments of reconciliation and peace. Hence our prayer for unity and peace must always be backed up by courageous gestures of reconciliation among us Christians".

  "How important it is", said the Pope referring to the Holy Land, "that the faithful who live there, and the pilgrims who visit, provide testimony before the whole world that the diversity of rites and traditions is not be a hindrance to mutual respect and fraternal charity.

  "In the legitimate diversity of varying positions we must seek unity in the faith, in our fundamental 'yes' to Christ and to His one Church", he added. "And thus diversity will no longer be an obstacle that separates us, but a richness in the multiplicity of expressions of the shared faith".

  The Holy Father recalled that fifty years ago today Blessed John XXIII "first expressed his desire to call 'an ecumenical Council for the Universal Church'", which led to "a fundamental contribution to ecumenism, as recapitulated in the Decree 'Unitatis redintegratio'".

  He went on: "The attitude of interior conversion to Christ, of spiritual renewal, of increased charity towards other Christians, has given rise to a new situation in ecumenical relations. The fruits of theological dialogue, with its points of agreement and with a more exact understanding of remaining differences, encourage us to continue courageously in two directions: in accepting what has been achieved and in a renewed commitment to the future".

  "What remains before us is the horizon of complete unity", Benedict XVI concluded. "This is a demanding but stimulating task for Christians who wish to live in harmony with the prayer of the Lord: 'that they may all be one, that the world may believe'".
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VATICAN CITY, 26 JAN 2009 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, the Holy Father received the Letters of Credence of Stanislas Lefebvre de Laboulaye, the new French ambassador to the Holy See.

  Opening his address, the Pope expressed his happiness and gratitude at having been able to make a pilgrimage to the French shrine of Lourdes in September 2008, for the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of the Virgin to Bernadette Soubirous.

  Going on then to consider the debate currently taking place in France on the subject of bioethics, Benedict XVI spoke of his contentment "at the parliament having reached prudent conclusions, replete with humanity, on questions concerning the end of life. ... My hope is that this prudence, which recognises the intangible nature of all human life, is upheld when it comes to revising the laws on bioethics".

  In order to face the current economic crisis measures are needed that "favour social cohesion, protect those most exposed and, above all, restore to the majority of people the capacity and opportunity to become real players in an economy that creates true services and real wealth", he said.

  Turning his attention to a recent agreement between France and the Holy See concerning recognition of diplomas issued by pontifical universities and Catholic institutes, the Pope pointed out how this "will benefit many French and foreign students".

  Having then expressed his pleasure at the French government's desire to enter into dialogue with the Catholic Church, Benedict XVI also thanked French bishops for their concern "to lay the foundations for inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue, in which the various religious communities have an opportunity to demonstrate that they are agents for peace".

  In the face "of the many crises currently characterising the international scene ... the Holy See follows with concern situations of conflict and cases of violation of human rights; yet she does not doubt that the international community, in which France plays an important role, can make an ever more just and effective contribution in favour of peace and harmony among nations, and for the development of all countries".

  Finally the Holy Father considered Catholic communities in France "whose joy", he said, "will surely be great this year at the canonisation of Jeanne Jugan, foundress of the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Poor. ... This event will show once again how living faith is prodigious in good works, and how sanctity is a healing balm for the wounds of humankind".
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VATICAN CITY, 26 JAN 2009 (VIS) - The programme of Benedict XVI's forthcoming apostolic trip to Cameroon and Angola from 17 to 23 March was made public today.

  The Pope will depart from Rome's Fiumicino airport at 10 a.m. on Tuesday 17 March, arriving at 4 p.m. in Yaounde, Cameroon, where he will be greeted by the authorities.

  On Wednesday 18 March he will make a courtesy visit to the president of Cameroon at the Palais de l'Unite in Yaounde. Later he will meet with the country's bishops in the church of Christ-Roi in Tsinga, then celebrate Vespers with local clergy and with representatives of ecclesial movements and of other Christian confessions in the basilica of Marie Reine des Apotres.

  In the apostolic nunciature in Yaounde on Thursday 19 March, the Holy Father will meet with representatives of the Muslim community of Cameroon. At 10 a.m. he will celebrate Mass at Yaounde's Amadou Ahidjo stadium, to mark the publication of the "Instrumentum Laboris" of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. At 4.30 p.m. he will meet with sick people in the Cardinal Paul Emile Leger Centre. Later he will pronounce an address before members of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops.

  On Friday 20 March, the Pope will travel from Yaounde to the Angolan capital Luanda where he is due to arrive at 12.45 p.m. Following the welcome ceremony at the airport, he will visit the president of the Republic of Angola in the presidential palace in Luanda where, at 5.45 p.m. he will also deliver an address to political leaders and the diplomatic corps. At 7 p.m., he is due to meet with bishops of Angola and Santo Tome in the chapel of the apostolic nunciature in Luanda.

  At 10 a.m. on Saturday 21 March, Benedict XVI will celebrate Mass in Luanda's church of Sao Paulo. At 4.30 p.m. he will meet with young people in the stadium of Coquieros.

  On Sunday 22 March, he will celebrate Mass with bishops of IMBISA (Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa) at Cimangola. That afternoon in the parish of Santo Antonio in Luanda he will meet with Catholic movements for the promotion of women.

  At 10.30 a.m. on Monday 23 March he will leave Luanda for Rome, where his plane due to land at Ciampino airport at 6 p.m.
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VATICAN CITY, 26 JAN 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father sent a Message to Archbishop Jaume Pujol Balcells of Tarragona, Spain, for the conclusion yesterday, 25 January, of the archdiocese's Jubilee year marking the 1750th anniversary of the martyrdom of St. Fructuosus, bishop and patron of the city, and of his deacons St. Augurius and St. Eulogius.

  "The commemoration of these martyrs", writes the Pope in his Message dated 19 January, "brings to mind a community which, having received at the dawn of Christianity the evangelical message transmitted by the Apostles, fearlessly confessed, lived and celebrated its faith in an atmosphere of incomprehension and hostility. The witness of those who gave their blood for Christ continues to illuminate and strengthen the faith of the Church, because it unequivocally indicates that the significance and fullness of our lives, our reason for hope and our deepest joy, is our relationship with God, the source of life".

  "With this Jubilee Year, the ecclesial community of Tarragona ... has had a special opportunity to appreciate the treasure it conserves at its heart and that must shine out again today to give greater splendour and profundity to Christian life in people, families, and social relationships".


VATICAN CITY, 26 JAN 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences four prelates from the Conference of Catholic Bishops of the Russian Federation, on their "ad limina" visit:

 - Archbishop Paolo Pezzi F.S.C.B. of the archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow.

 - Bishop Clemens Pickel of San Clement at Saratov.

 - Bishop Cyryl Klimowicz of St. Joseph in Irkutsk, apostolic administrator "ad nutum Sanctae Sedis" of the apostolic prefecture of Yuzhno Sakhalinsk.

 - Bishop Joseph Werth S.J. of the Transfiguration at Novosibirsk, ordinary for faithful of the Byzantine rite resident in Russia.

  On Saturday 24 January he received in separate audiences:

 - Archbishop Philip Edward Wilson of Adelaide, Australia, president of the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference.

 - Bishop Petros Hanna Issa Al-Harboli of Zaku of the Chaldeans, Iraq, on his "ad limina" visit.

 - Bishop Michel Kassarji of Beirut of the Chaldeans, Lebanon, on his "ad limina" visit.

 - Bishop Youssef Ibrahim Sarraf of Le Caire of the Chaldeans, Egypt, on his "ad limina" visit.

 - Bishop Antoine Audo S.J. of Alep of the Chaldeans, Syria, on his "ad limina" visit.

 - Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.
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Friday, January 23, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 23 JAN 2009 (VIS) - The Holy See Press Office released the following communique at midday today:

  "This morning the Holy Father Benedict XVI received in audience Branko Crvenkovski, president of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The president subsequently went on to meet Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.

  "The president expressed his recognition for the interest the Holy See has shown in his country since its independence, and underlined the good relations that exist between the two sides, one sign of which is the annual visit of an official delegation to Rome for the Feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius.

  "The overall situation in the region was also examined, and consideration given to certain bilateral questions".


VATICAN CITY, 23 JAN 2009 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received bishops of the Syriac Catholic Church, led by His Beatitude Ignace Youssif III Younan, recently elected as patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians by the Synod of Bishops of the Syriac Catholic Church, meeting in Rome from 18 to 20 January.

  The Pope began his remarks by asking the Lord to concede "the grace of the apostolate" to the new patriarch, that he may "serve the Church and glorify her Holy Name before the world". He then greeted Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, who presided over the recent synod; Cardinal Ignace Moussa I Daoud, prefect emeritus of same dicastery; His Beatitude Ignace Pierre Andel Ahad, patriarch emeritus of Antioch of the Syrians, and all the prelates who came to Rome "to carry out this most important act of synodal responsibility".

  "Since the origins of Christianity", he continued, "the Apostles Peter and Paul were intimately associated with Antioch where the disciples of Jesus first received the name of Christians". He also mentioned various illustrious Fathers of the faith from that region, including St. Ignatius and St. Ehprem, "whose spirituality continues to illuminate the universal Church".

  "The new patriarch is the main guardian of this heritage", he said, "yet each of you, as brothers and members of the synod, will have to help him in his task in a spirit of authentic episcopal collegiality. In the hands of the new patriarch and of the Syriac Catholic episcopate I place, first and above all, the duty to maintain unity, both among pastors and within ecclesial communities".

  The Holy Father then went on to refer to the ecclesial communion requested of him by the new patriarch, underlining how he had granted it "willingly, thus performing a part of the Petrine ministry which gives me particular pleasure. Communion with the Bishop of Rome, Peter's Successor, established by the Lord as the visible foundation of unity in faith and charity, guarantees the bond with Christ the Pastor and introduces the particular Churches into the mystery of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church".

  Having reviewed the biography of the new patriarch, who was born in Syria but spent his episcopal ministry in America, Benedict XVI affirmed that "the diaspora has also contributed to giving the Syriac Church her new patriarch. In this way, even stronger ties will be forged with a motherland that so many Eastern Christians have had to leave in search of better living conditions".

  "My hope is that in the East, where the Gospel was first announced, Christian communities may continue to live and bear witness to their faith, as they have over the centuries. At the same time I hope that all those outside their homeland may receive adequate pastoral care so as to maintain the bond with their religious roots". The Pope then expressed the hope that the Eastern communities, "wherever they may be, are able to integrate themselves into their new social and ecclesial surroundings without losing their own identity and conserving the imprint of their Eastern spirituality, so that, using the words East and West, the Church may speak effectively of Christ to modern mankind".

  The Pope concluded by indicating that the members of the Syriac Catholic Church should "be peacemakers in the Holy Land, Iraq and Lebanon", where their historical presence has been "much appreciated".


VATICAN CITY, 23 JAN 2009 (VIS) - This morning in the Holy See Press Office, the Message for the 43rd World Day of Social Communications was presented. The theme this year is: "New Technologies, New Relationships: Promoting a culture of Respect, Dialogue and Friendship".

  Participating in today's press conference were Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli and Msgr. Paul Tighe, respectively president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications; Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., director of Vatican Radio, of the Vatican Television Centre (CTV) and of the Holy See Press Office, and Henrique de Castro, Managing Director of Media Solutions for Google.

  In his remarks Archbishop Celli underlined the fact that this year's Message represents "a real watershed" because, he said, "the theme itself guides us along the path of novelty, not only by focusing on new technologies but by exploring their effects. It does so by addressing the 'digital generation', thus appealing directly to the young".

  "The cordial tone is the first distinctive feature of a Message which provides ... ample evidence of an open and positive attitude, even defining the new technologies as 'truly a gift to humanity'. ... The Message also accentuates the values that distinguish such an environment, in the first place that of friendship and of the networks of relationships that new technologies have now made possible".

  "Yet the range of benefits is even greater and also spreads into the sphere of family relationships (families can eliminate differences more easily), and into that of study and even of scientific research which cannot but draw advantage from the continuous breaking down of barriers" by people working together while geographically distant from one another.

  "Truly, we are facing a new world", the archbishop concluded. A world "to be explored not by opening our eyes in amazement before new technological advances, but by opening our hearts and giving room to hope in the face of the great possibilities for the common good opening before us. This is even more important if we consider that the Message also examines certain dangers, associated not just with media distortion but with inequality in the uses to which the media may be put. One is reminded of that 'digital divide' which cannot but be a cause for concern, precisely because the new technologies must be considered as primary resources for human development and promotion".

  "Never before, perhaps, has a Message been so powerful but also so challenging".

  For his part Msgr. Tighe highlighted how the Message "celebrates the capacity of the new technologies to foster and support good and healthy relationships and various forms of solidarity. It appeals to friendship as a motive to ensure that the new digital world is truly accessible to all. It finds in friendship a shared reference point with all of humanity that grounds the appeal of the Message to promote a culture where there is respect for all and where all are invited to search for truth in dialogue".

  Fr. Lombardi announced the creation of a new Vatican channel on YouTube, through which various forms of video news will be available concerning the activities of the Pope and events in the Vatican. The site will be updated with one or two news pieces each day, none longer than two minutes, he said. For the moment, the languages available are English, Spanish, German and Italian.

  The web page of the new channel, he explained, contains various links via which the visitor can find more information and documentation on the Pope, the Vatican and the Catholic Church. The main links connect to the multi-lingual web pages of CTV and Vatican Radio, to the Vatican and to the new site of Vatican City State. "Of particular importance", said Fr. Lombardi, "is the link to H2O News which transmits other video news items on the life of the Church in the world".

  He went on: "Further links under the main video give access to other Vatican news sources: in each linguistic sub-channel is a link to the web page of Vatican Radio in that language, to the web page of the Holy See Press Office Bulletin (with complete texts in original language), and to that language's edition of the 'Osservatore Romano' newspaper".

  In the light of the possibility offered by YouTube to exchange information, establish relationships, etc., "we will consider how best to administer this 'global' flow of comments and replies", said the Holy See Press Office Director.

  "The Pope", he concluded, "was personally informed of our project, and gave his approval with his usual courtesy and graciousness. For us this is a great encouragement".
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VATICAN CITY, 23 JAN 2009 (VIS) - Made public today was the Holy Father's Message for the 43rd World Day of Social Communications, which will be celebrated on 24 May and has as its theme: "New Technologies, New Relationships: Promoting a culture of Respect, Dialogue and Friendship".

  The Message, dated 24 January, Feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron of journalists, has been published in English, Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese and German. Excerpts from the Message are given below:

  "The new digital technologies are bringing about fundamental shifts in patterns of communication and human relationships. ... In this year's message, I am conscious of those who constitute the so-called 'digital generation' and I would like to share with them, in particular, some ideas concerning the extraordinary potential of the new technologies, if they are used to promote human understanding and solidarity. These technologies are truly a gift to humanity and we must endeavour to ensure that the benefits they offer are put at the service of all human individuals and communities, especially those who are most disadvantaged and vulnerable".

  "Young people, in particular, have grasped the enormous capacity of the new media to foster connectedness, communication and understanding between individuals and communities, and they are turning to them as means of communicating with existing friends, of meeting new friends, of forming communities and networks, of seeking information and news, and of sharing their ideas and opinions".

  "The desire for connectedness and the instinct for communication that are so obvious in contemporary culture are best understood as modern manifestations of the basic and enduring propensity of humans to reach beyond themselves and to seek communion with others. In reality, when we open ourselves to others, we are fulfilling our deepest need and becoming more fully human. Loving is, in fact, what we are designed for by our Creator".

  "Reflecting on the significance of the new technologies, it is important to focus not just on their undoubted capacity to foster contact between people, but on the quality of the content that is put into circulation using these means. I would encourage all people of good will who are active in the emerging environment of digital communication to commit themselves to promoting a culture of respect, dialogue and friendship.

  "Those who are active in the production and dissemination of new media content, therefore, should strive to respect the dignity and worth of the human person. If the new technologies are to serve the good of individuals and of society, all users will avoid the sharing of words and images that are degrading of human beings, that promote hatred and intolerance, that debase the goodness and intimacy of human sexuality or that exploit the weak and vulnerable.

  "The new technologies have also opened the way for dialogue between people from different countries, cultures and religions. The new digital arena, the so-called cyberspace, allows them to encounter and to know each other's traditions and values. Such encounters, if they are to be fruitful, require honest and appropriate forms of expression together with attentive and respectful listening. The dialogue must be rooted in a genuine and mutual searching for truth if it is to realise its potential to promote growth in understanding and tolerance. Life is not just a succession of events or experiences: it is a search for the true, the good and the beautiful. It is to this end that we make our choices; it is for this that we exercise our freedom; it is in this - in truth, in goodness, and in beauty - that we find happiness and joy. We must not allow ourselves to be deceived by those who see us merely as consumers in a market of undifferentiated possibilities, where choice itself becomes the good, novelty usurps beauty, and subjective experience displaces truth.

  "The concept of friendship has enjoyed a renewed prominence in the vocabulary of the new digital social networks that have emerged in the last few years. The concept is one of the noblest achievements of human culture. ... We should be careful, therefore, never to trivialise the concept or the experience of friendship. It would be sad if our desire to sustain and develop on-line friendships were to be at the cost of our availability to engage with our families, our neighbours and those we meet in the daily reality of our places of work, education and recreation. If the desire for virtual connectedness becomes obsessive, it may in fact function to isolate individuals from real social interaction while also disrupting the patterns of rest, silence and reflection that are necessary for healthy human development.

  "Friendship is a great human good, but it would be emptied of its ultimate value if it were to be understood as an end in itself. ... It is gratifying to note the emergence of new digital networks that seek to promote human solidarity, peace and justice, human rights and respect for human life and the good of creation. These networks can facilitate forms of co-operation between people from different geographical and cultural contexts that enable them to deepen their common humanity and their sense of shared responsibility for the good of all.

  "We must, therefore, strive to ensure that the digital world, where such networks can be established, is a world that is truly open to all. It would be a tragedy for the future of humanity if the new instruments of communication, which permit the sharing of knowledge and information in a more rapid and effective manner, were not made accessible to those who are already economically and socially marginalized, or if it should contribute only to increasing the gap separating the poor from the new networks that are developing at the service of human socialisation and information.

  "I address myself in particular to young Catholic believers: to encourage them to bring the witness of their faith to the digital world. Dear brothers and sisters, I ask you to introduce into the culture of this new environment of communications and information technology the values on which you have built your lives".

  "The proclamation of Christ in the world of new technologies requires a profound knowledge of this world if the technologies are to serve our mission adequately. It falls, in particular, to young people ... to take on the responsibility for the evangelisation of this 'digital continent'. Be sure to announce the Gospel to your contemporaries with enthusiasm",

  "The greatest gift you can give to them is to share with them the 'Good News' of a God Who became man, Who suffered, died and rose again to save all people. Human hearts are yearning for a world where love endures, where gifts are shared, where unity is built, where freedom finds meaning in truth, and where identity is found in respectful communion. Our faith can respond to these expectations: may you become its heralds! The Pope accompanies you with his prayers and his blessing".
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VATICAN CITY, 23 JAN 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

 - Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, Iraq, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishops Shlemon Warduni and Andraos Abouna, and by Auxiliary Archbishop Jacques Ishaq, on their "ad limina" visit.

 - Archbishop Louis Sako of Kerkuk of the Chaldeans, accompanied by Archbishop emeritus Andre Sana, on their "ad limina" visit.

 - Bishop Mikha Pola Maqdassi Alquoch of the Chaldeans, Iraq, on his "ad limina" visit.
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VATICAN CITY, 23 JAN 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father granted the ecclesial communion requested of him by His Beatitude Ignace Youssif III Younan, canonically elected as patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians by the Synod of Bishops of the Syriac Catholic Church, which met in Rome from 18 to 20 January. The new patriarch was born in Hassake, Syria in 1944, he was ordained a priest in 1971 and consecrated a bishop in 1995.
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Thursday, January 22, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 22 JAN 2009 (VIS) - At midday yesterday, during a brief ceremony held in a room of the Paul VI Hall, the Pope was made an honorary citizen of the Austrian town of Mariazell, home to one of the most important Marian shrines in Europe.

  Among those present at the ceremony, which was held following the Pope's weekly general audience, were Helmut Pertl, town mayor; Bishop Egon Kapellari of Graz-Seckau, and Fr. Karl Schauer O.S.B., rector of the Shrine of Mariazell.

  In his remarks, the Holy Father expressed his joy "at being a citizen of Mariazell and at being able to live so close to the Mother of God". The Pope visited the town in September 2007.

  "Mariazell is much more than just a 'place'", he said. It also represents "the living history of a pilgrimage of faith and prayer down the centuries", in which "a real answer is also present: ... that God exists and that, through His mother, He wishes to remain close to us. ... For this reason I am happy to be at home in my heart and now, so to say, also by law, in Mariazell".

  After highlighting how Our Lady of Mariazell "has such impressive names as: 'Magna Mater Austriae', 'Domina Magna Hungarorum', 'Magna Mater gentium slavorum'", Benedict XVI explained that the Virgin "is above all 'Magna Mater' yet", he said, "her greatness is evident precisely in the fact that she addresses herself to the smallest, that she is present for them, that we can turn to her at any moment ... just with our hearts".


VATICAN CITY, 22 JAN 2009 (VIS) - The Message for the World Day of Leprosy was published today. It bears the signature of Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, president of the Pontifical Council for Healthcare Ministry. The Day itself is due to be held on Sunday 25 January.

  The document describes leprosy as "a sickness often ignored by the communications media, but which still today still strikes more than 250,000 people every year, most of whom live in absolute poverty". According to World Health Organisation statistics, 254,525 new cases of leprosy were diagnosed in 2007, of which 212,802 are receiving treatment.

  "In the year of the twentieth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child", writes the cardinal in his message, "I appeal to the heads of governmental organisations to ensure, as they implement their healthcare programmes and plans, that they give particular attention to children suffering from leprosy".

  "Unfortunately many unfounded fears still persist, nourished by ignorance of Hansen's disease. These fears generate attitudes of exclusion and often brand leprosy sufferers, making them particularly vulnerable. This fifty-sixth World Day is, then, an occasion to provide ... more broad-ranging and capillary information on leprosy, on the devastating effects it can have on bodies if left untreated, on families and on society, and to arouse a sense of individual and collective responsibility".

  The cardinal lays emphasis on the special concern the Church has always shown for leprosy sufferers over the centuries, and through various religious congregations. In this context he particularly mentions Blessed Damien, "a symbol of all the people consecrated to Christ who still today dedicate their lives to this noble cause".

  Finally, in the name of his dicastery, he expresses his thanks for the acts of solidarity of the many volunteers involved in the struggle against Hansen's disease. To non-government associations and organisations, in particular the "Sasakawa Foundation", he expresses his recognition for "many decades of financial support for the research activities of the institutions of the international community".
CON-AVA/WORLD DAY LEPROSY/LOZANO            VIS 20090122 (340)


VATICAN CITY, 22 JAN 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

 - Horst Seehofer, minister-president of Bavaria, Germany, accompanied by his wife and an entourage.

 - Bishop Rabban Al-Qas of Amadiyah of the Chaldeans, Iraq, apostolic administrator of Arbil of the Chaldeans, Iraq, on his "ad limina" visit.

 - Bishop Ibrahim Namo Ibrahim of Saint Thomas the Apostle of Detroit of the Chaldeans, U.S.A., on his "ad limina" visit.

 - Bishop Djibrail Kassab of Saint Thomas the Apostle of Sydney of the Chaldeans, Australia, on his "ad limina" visit.

 - Bishop Sahrad Yawsip Jammo of Saint Peter the Apostle of San Diego of the Chaldeans, U.S.A., on his "ad limina" visit.
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VATICAN CITY, 22 JAN 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

 - Appointed Bishop Francesco Beschi, auxiliary of Brescia, Italy, as bishop of Bergamo (area 2,442, population 918,016, Catholics 882,000, priests 1,000, religious 2,672), Italy. He succeeds Bishop Roberto Amadei, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

 - Appointed Msgr. Salvatore Muratore of the clergy of the archdiocese of Agrigento, Italy, vicar general, as bishop of Nicosia (area 1,475, population 80,538, Catholics 80,012, priests 68, permanent deacons 3, religious 56), Italy. The bishop-elect was born in Campobello di Licata, Italy in 1946 and ordained a priest in 1970.

 - Appointed Msgr. Antonio Stagliano of the clergy of the archdiocese of Crotone-Santa Severina, director of the "Istituto Teologico Calabro", as bishop of Noto (area 1,355, population 214,400, Catholics 212,500, priests 123, permanent deacons 15, religious 243), Italy. The bishop-elect was born in Isola Campo Rizzuto, Italy in 1959 and ordained a priest in 1984.

 - Accepted the resignation from the office of auxiliary of the diocese of Bergamo, Italy, presented by Lino Bortolo Belotti, in accordance with canon 411 and canon 401 para. 1 of the Code of Canon Law.
NER:RE/.../...                                VIS 20090122 (210)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 21 JAN 2009 (VIS) - Made public yesterday afternoon was a telegram from Benedict XVI to Barack Obama, congratulating him on his inauguration as forty-fourth president of the United States of America.

  In the English-language telegram the Holy Father offers his "cordial good wishes, together with the assurance of my prayers that Almighty God will grant you unfailing wisdom and strength in the exercise of your high responsibilities.

  "Under your leadership", he adds, "may the American people continue to find in their impressive religious and political heritage the spiritual values and ethical principles needed to co-operate in the building of a truly just and free society, marked by respect for the dignity, equality and rights of each of its members, especially the poor, the outcast and those who have no voice.

  "At a time when so many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world yearn for liberation from the scourge of poverty, hunger and violence, I pray that you will be confirmed in your resolve to promote understanding, co-operation and peace among the nations, so that all may share in the banquet of life which God wills to set for the whole human family.

  The Pope concludes: "Upon you and your family, and upon all the American people, I willingly invoke the Lord's blessings of joy and peace".
TGR/PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURATION/U.S.A.:OBAMA                VIS 20090121 (230)


VATICAN CITY, 21 JAN 2009 (VIS) - In today's general audience, held this morning in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope recalled how the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity began last Sunday, inspired this year by the words of the Prophet Ezekiel: "That they may become one in your hand".

  "Full unity, for which the Lord prayed and for which all His disciples must tirelessly strive, is linked to the very life and mission of the Church in the world", he said. "For this reason it is important that all Christian communities become aware of the urgent need to work with every possible means to achieve this great objective".

  "Aware that unity is above all a 'gift' of the Lord", Benedict XVI continued, "it must be implored with tireless and faithful prayer, escaping our own concerns and addressing ourselves to Jesus. This is the invitation the 'Week' makes to believers in Christ from all Churches and ecclesial communities. Let us respond generously".

  From the words of the Prophet Ezekiel it is clear that "the Lord wishes all His people to proceed patiently and perseveringly towards the goal of full unity. Such a commitment requires humble and docile adherence to the command of the Lord, Who blesses it and makes it fruitful".

  "Ezekiel's vision has particular significance for the entire ecumenical movement, because it highlights the vital need for authentic interior renewal in all members of the People of God, a renewal which only God can bring about. ... The week of prayer for unity thus becomes, for all of us, a stimulus to a sincere exchange of ideas, to an ever more humble acceptance of the Word of God, and to an ever deeper faith.

  "The Week", he added, "is also a good occasion to thank the Lord" for "the meetings, dialogue and fraternal gestures He has allowed us to accomplish". In this context the Pope recalled his three meetings with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, and the patriarch's participation in the Synod on the Word of God held in the Vatican in October 2008. He also spoke of his "sharing the pain of the Patriarchate of Moscow for the passing of our beloved brother in Christ, His Holiness the Patriarch Alexis II. I remain in communion of prayer with these our brethren as they prepare to elect a new patriarch of their great and venerable Orthodox Church".

  He went on: "I have also had the chance to meet representatives of the various Christian communities of the West, with whom I continue to consider the important witness Christians are called to give today, ... in a world ever more divided and facing so many cultural, social, economic and ethical challenges".

  In this Pauline Year, said Benedict XVI, "let us make St. Paul's longing our own", for the saint "spent his life entirely for the one Lord and for the unity of His mystical Body, and with his martyrdom rendered a supreme witness of faithfulness and of love for Christ".

  "The desire dwelling in our hearts is that the day of full communion may come quickly, when all the disciples of our one Lord may finally celebrate the Eucharist together, the divine sacrifice for the life and salvation of the world".

  Following the audience, as is the tradition on today's feast of St. Agnes, the Pope blessed two lambs, the wool of which will be used to make the palliums bestowed on new metropolitan archbishops on June 29, Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles.

  Subsequently, in a brief ceremony, the Holy Father received the tile of honorary citizen of the Austrian town of Mariazell, home of a famous shrine which he visited in September 2007.
AG/CHRISTIAN UNITY/...                        VIS 20090121 (630)


VATICAN CITY, 21 JAN 2009 (VIS) - At the end of today's general audience, the Pope addressed some remarks to Spanish speaking pilgrims inviting them, with reference to the recently-concluded Sixth World Meeting of Families, to "give thanks to God for that important event, and accompany with your prayers the preparations for the next meeting, to be held in Milan, Italy.

  "May the Lord support all families with His grace", he added in conclusion, "that they may be filled with living faith, reciprocal respect, sincere love and mutual understanding. I entrust this intention to the protection of the Sacred Family of Nazareth".
AG/FAMILY MEETING/...                        VIS 20090121 (120)


VATICAN CITY, 21 JAN 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father has sent a telegram to His Beatitude Antonios Naguib, Patriarch of Alexandria of the Copts, Egypt, for the death of Cardinal Stephanos II Ghattas, C.M., patriarch emeritus. The cardinal died in Cairo, Egypt, yesterday at the age of 89.

  In his telegram Benedict XVI mentions his "union in prayer with that patriarchal Church, with the family of the deceased and with all those who mourn", and he asks "the risen Christ to welcome into His joy and peace this faithful servant of the Church who, first as a missionary of the Congregation of the Mission, then as bishop of Luxor, and finally as patriarch, committed himself with zeal and simplicity to the service of the People of God, in a spirit of dialogue and coexistence with everyone".

  The Pope also confers his apostolic blessing upon "bishops, priests and faithful of the Coptic Patriarchate of Alexandria, upon the Lazarist confreres of the late cardinal, upon his family and upon all those who, with hope, participate in his funeral".
TGR/DEATH GHATTAS/NAGUIB                    VIS 20090121 (190)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 20 JAN 2009 (VIS) - Accepting an invitation from the mayor and local council of Rome, the Holy Father will visit the town hall of that city on Monday 9 March, where he will participate in an extraordinary session of the council dedicated to the theme of "the universal value of Rome, capital of Catholicism and of its values".
OP/VISIT LOCAL AUTHORITIES/ROME            VIS 20090120 (80)


VATICAN CITY, 20 JAN 2009 (VIS) - A communique made public today announces that at 10 a.m. on 30 January in the conference hall at Via dell'Ospedale 1, Rome, a presentation will take place of a newly-published book entitled "Hebrew Manuscripts in the Vatican Library: Catalogue".

  Among those participating in the event will be Cardinal Raffaele Farina S.D.B., archivist and librarian of Holy Roman Church; Mordechay Lewy, ambassador of Israel to the Holy See; Msgr. Cesare Pasini, prefect of the Vatican Apostolic Library, and Benjamin Richler, former director of the Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts of the Jewish National and University Library.

  According to the communique the book, published by the Vatican Library, represents a significant example of co-operation between the cultural institutions of the Holy See and of Israel. It is a catalogue of all Vatican manuscripts in Hebrew script - a total of around 800 items distributed over eleven collections - edited by the technical staff of the National Library of Israel whose job it is to conserve and study microfilmed Hebrew manuscripts located in various parts of the world.

  The new volume is of particular importance because it comes more than fifty years after the inventory prepared by Umberto Cassuto (Moshe David Cassuto 1883-1951), and is the first catalogue to appear since the "Catalogus" published in the eighteenth-century by Giuseppe Simonio Assemani, "First Custodian" of the Vatican Library.

Monday, January 19, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 17 JAN 2009 (VIS) - On 16 January, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Holy See permanent observer to the United Nations in New York, participated in the tenth emergency special session of the U.N. General Assembly dedicated to: "Illegal Israeli actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory: draft resolution (A/ES-10/L.21)".

  Speaking English, Archbishop Migliore turned his attention to "the dramatic situation in Gaza and some Israeli cities", expressing his solidarity "with the civilians in those regions who bear the brunt of a cruel conflict". He also highlighted the need "to step up the pace of the joint diplomatic efforts and ensure that urgent humanitarian assistance reaches those in need.

  "The Holy See asks that Security Council resolution 1860, of 8 January, which calls for an immediate and enduring ceasefire as well as for unimpeded humanitarian assistance, be implemented fully", he added. "In the past few days we have witnessed a practical failure from all sides to respect the distinction of civilians from military targets. Within the context of this resolution, we call on all parties to fully abide by the requirements of international humanitarian law, in order to ensure the protection of civilians".

  Over sixty years of coexistence, he went on, Israelis and Palestinians have "witnessed a long succession of conflict, but also of dialogue, including the Madrid meetings, the Oslo Accords, the Wye Memorandum, the peace process of the Quartet, the road map and the Annapolis Conference with their two State solution. Unfortunately, however, the many efforts to establish peace between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples have so far failed", he noted.

  "The United Nations has the weighty task to get the parties to respect the ceasefire, pave the way to negotiations and agreements between them and ensure humanitarian assistance. In particular, this General Assembly can assist the parties in the conflict to discover new patterns for establishing peace, patterns based on mutual acceptance and co-operation amid diversity".


VATICAN CITY, 17 JAN 2009 (VIS) - Made public today was a Letter from the Pope, written in Latin and dated 10 December 2008, in which he appoints Cardinal Julian Herranz, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, as his special envoy to celebrations marking the 1750th anniversary of the martyrdom of St. Fructuosus and the deacons St. Augurius and St. Eulogius, known as the proto-martyrs of Tarragona. The event is due to be held in that Spanish city on 24 and 25 January.

  The cardinal will be accompanied on his mission by Msgr. Miquel Barbara Angles, vicar general of the archdiocese of Tarragona and canon of the cathedral, and by Msgr. Joaquim Fortuny Vizcarro, penitentiary canon of the cathedral of Tarragona and diocesan bursar.


VATICAN CITY, 17 JAN 2009 (VIS) - Today, during a private audience with Archbishop Angelo Amato S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the Pope authorised the congregation to promulgate the following decrees:


 - Servant of God Ciriaco Maria Sancha y Hervas, Spanish cardinal archbishop of Toledo, founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Cardinal Sancha (1833-1909).

 - Servant of God Carlo Gnocchi, Italian diocesan priest and founder of the "Pro Juventute" Foundation (1902-1956).

 - Servant of God Bernardo Francisco de Hoyos, Spanish professed priest of the Company of Jesus (1711-1735).

 - Servant of God Raphael Rafiringa (ne Louis), Madagascan professed religious of the Institute of Brothers of Christian Schools (1856-1919).

 - Servant of God Eustachio Kugler, (ne Joseph), German professed religious of the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God (1867-1946).


 - Servant of God Juan de Palafox y Mendoza, Spanish bishop of Osma (1600-1659).

 - Servant of God Robert Spiske, diocesan priest and founder of the Congregation of Sisters of St. Hedwig (1821-1888).

 - Servant of God Carolina Beltrami, Italian foundress of the Institute of "Immaculatine" Sisters of Alessandria (1869-1932).

 - Servant of God Mary of the Immaculate e Conception Salvat y Romerio (nee Maria Isabella), Spanish superior general of the Institute of Sisters of the Company of the Cross (1926-1998).

 - Servant of God Liberata Ferrarons y Vives, Spanish laywoman of the Third Order of Carmelites (1803-1842).

  In the course of a private audience with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. on 22 December 2008, the Pope authorised the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate a decree regarding the heroic virtues of Servant of God Jose Tous y Soler, Spanish professed priest of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchins and founder of the Capuchin sisters of the Mother of the Divine Shepherd (1811-1871).
CSS/DECREES/AMATO                        VIS 20090119 (320)

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