February 12, 2007

Vatican Information Service Bulletin

The following, in it's entirety, is a copyrighted transcript of the Vatican Information Service.

SUMMARY: FEBRUARY 10 - 12


COSTA RICA: PROMOTE JUSTICE AND SOLIDARITY

VATICAN CITY, FEB 10, 2007 (VIS) - This morning, Benedict XVI received the Letters of Credence of Luis Paris Chaverri, the new ambassador of Costa Rica to the Holy See.

  In opening his address to the diplomat, the Pope mentioned "the strong religious imprint" of Costa Rica, which "reflects the faith of the people following more than five centuries since the start of evangelization."

  The Holy Father indicated how the various ecclesial communities "cooperate in such vital fields as education, aiding the disadvantaged, healthcare, and the promotion of people in their condition of citizens and children of God." Costa Rican bishops are concerned over "growing levels of poverty, public insecurity and domestic violence, as well as intense immigration from neighboring countries. Faced with such situations, at times conflictive, and in order to defend the common good, they seek to collaborate in initiatives that favor understanding and conciliation, and lead to the promotion of justice and solidarity, fomenting ... national dialogue between the leaders of public life."

  "Social improvements are not achieved by applying only the necessary technical measures, but also by promoting reforms that uphold an ethical view of the person, of the family and of society. To this end, moral values such as honesty, austerity and responsibility must be cultivated for the common good. In this way it will be possible to prevent the individual and collective forms of selfishness and corruption, ... that prevent all forms of progress."

  Benedict XVI praised government initiatives "to promote peace and human rights in the world," as well as the country's "traditional proximity to the positions held by the Holy See in various international organizations on important questions such as the defense of human life and the promotion of marriage and the family.

  "All Costa Ricans," he added, "must be protagonists and architects of the country's progress," cooperating to create "a political stability that enables everyone to participate in public life." In this context, the Holy Father recalled that "the moral teachings of the Church offer values and guidelines which, when taken into consideration - especially by those who work in the service of the nation - are a great help in providing an adequate response to the needs and aspirations of citizens."

  The Pope then went on to refer to "the painful and widespread problem of poverty," which has "serious consequences in the field of education, health and housing, and represents a pressing challenge for governments and heads of public administration."

  This problem "requires a greater awareness, enabling the current situation to be faced in all its dimensions, cooperating in a real commitment for the common good. As in other areas, the poor lack basic essentials and have no access to the indispensable resources that would enable their promotion and integral development, This affects, above all, immigrants seeking a better standard of living. Faced with such a situation, the Church ... seeks to encourage and favor initiatives aimed at overcoming situations of marginalization."

 

FORMATION OF CONSCIENCES IN FUNDAMENTAL VALUES

VATICAN CITY, FEB 10, 2007 (VIS) - Today in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received a delegation from the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences of France, led by their secretary Michel Albert. During the course of the ceremony, the Pope received a medal commemorating his admittance to the academy as a foreign associate member.

  Having expressed his thanks for the medal, the Holy Father recalled how the academy "is a center for exchange and debate, offering citizens and legislators the opportunity to reflect, and to discover forms of political organization more favorable to the common good and to individual development."

  In the modern world, it is more urgent than ever "to call our contemporaries to pay heed to these two questions" said the Pope, observing that "the growth of subjectivism, which leads each individual to consider himself as the sole point of reference and to believe that what he thinks is true, must encourage us to form consciences in those fundamental values that cannot be disdained without endangering human beings and society itself."

  Benedict XVI continued his address by evoking the figure of Andrei Sakharov, a member of the academy whose place on the academy he himself had taken following Sakharov's death, saying his example reminded us "of the need in personal and public life to have the courage to speak the truth and to follow it, to be free from one's environment which often tends to impose particular points of view and forms of behavior."

  "One of the challenges facing our contemporaries, and particularly young people," he continued, "consists in not living merely for the exterior world, but in developing an interior life." This inner life is "the place that unifies being and action, the place to recognize our dignity as children of God called to freedom. ... What brings joy to the human heart is knowing oneself to be a child of God, this is a good and beautiful life, ... this is the victory over death and falsehood."

  The Pope again returned to the example of Sakharov, saying: "If under the communist regime his exterior freedom was fettered, his interior freedom, which no one could take away from him, authorized him to speak out firmly to defend his compatriots in the name of the common good. Today too it is important that human beings do not let themselves be fettered by external chains such as relativism, the search for power and profit at all costs, drugs, disordered personal relationships, confusion over marriage, and the failure to recognize human beings at every stage of their existence from conception to natural death, as if it were thinkable that there could be stages [of life] in which a human being does not truly exist."

  "We must have the courage to remind our contemporaries what human beings and humanity are," the Holy Father concluded, and he invited "civil authorities and people charged with the transmission of values to be courageous in affirming the truth about human beings."

 

VOLUNTEER WORK CAN BE A SCHOOL OF LIFE

VATICAN CITY, FEB 10, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received the National Confederation of "Misericordie" of Italy, an association of charitable groups that currently comprises 700 confraternities covering the entire national territory. They were accompanied by numerous groups of blood donors, known as "Fratres."

  The confederation, "the oldest form of organized voluntary work in the world," has more than 100,000 volunteers, said the Pope, and he recalled how they are "permanently committed to social work and healthcare. ... With your presence and activities you contribute to spreading the Gospel of God's love to all mankind."

  "Today too - indeed even more so in our own time marked by so many human and spiritual challenges - how necessary it is for Christians to proclaim with works the merciful love of God! ... So many people do not readily welcome Christ and His demanding teachings, yet they are not insensible to the witness of those who communicate His message through the concrete witness of charity. Love is a language that reaches directly to the heart and opens it to trust."

  "Your association represents a typical example of the importance of conserving one's own 'Christian roots' in Italy and in Europe. Today, the 'Misericordie' are not an ecclesial group but their historical roots remain unmistakably Christian. The name 'Misericordie' itself express this, as does the fact that at your origins lies the initiative of a saint. And the roots, in order to continue to produce fruit, must remain healthy and strong."

  The Pope went on to observe that for this reason the confederation offers its members "periods of training and formation to dedicate more profound study to the human and Christian motivations of your activities. The risk, in fact, is that voluntary work can be reduced to mere activism. If, on the other hand, the spiritual dimension is kept alive, [voluntary work] can communicate to others values well beyond what is materially necessary: it can offer people in difficulty the gaze of love of which they have need."

  Finally, Benedict XVI praised the "important educational function" of the "Misericordie," which contribute to "maintaining an awareness of the most noble values such as fraternity and disinterested assistance to those in difficulty." He also highlighted how, especially for young people, volunteer work can be "a school of life that helps them to give meaning and a more exalted and fruitful value to their lives ."

  The Pope concluded his address by recalling that tomorrow, February 11, is the 15th World Day of the Sick, dedicated this year to the terminally ill. And he called upon Mary, Mother of Mercy, to "watch over all your confraternities. ... May she help you to undertake your mission with genuine love, thus contributing to spreading throughout the world the love of God, source of life for all human beings."

 

OTHER PONTIFICAL ACTS

VATICAN CITY, FEB 10, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

 - Accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Speyer, Germany, presented by Bishop Anton Schlembach, upon having reached the age limit.

 - Appointed Bishop Dionisio Guillermo Garcia Ibanez of Santisimo Salvador de Bayamo y Manzanillo, Cuba, as metropolitan archbishop of Santiago de Cuba (area 6,043, population 1,017,785, Catholics 242,378, priests 20, permanent deacons 3, religious 53), Cuba. The archbishop-elect was born in Guantanamo, Cuba in 1945, he was ordained a priest in 1985, and consecrated a bishop in 1996. He succeeds Archbishop Pedro Claro Meurice Estiu, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese, the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

 - Elevated the apostolic prefecture of Nepal (area 147,181, population 23,700,000, Catholics 6,681, priests 51, religious 112), Nepal to the rank of apostolic vicariate, with the same name and territorial boundaries. He appointed Fr. Anthony Francis Sharma S.J., apostolic prefect of Nepal, as the first apostolic vicar of the new apostolic vicariate, at the same time elevating him to the dignity of bishop. The bishop-elect was born in Kathmandu, Nepal in 1937 and ordained a priest in 1968.

 - Confirmed the election, carried out by the Synod of Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church, meeting on February 8, 2007, of Archbishop Issac Cleemis Thottunkal of Tiruvalla, India as major archbishop of Trivandrum of the Syro-Malankars (area 8,684, population 8,657,000, Catholics 270,000, priests 300, religious 1,056), India.

 

HUMAN AND SPIRITUAL SUPPORT FOR THE INCURABLY ILL

VATICAN CITY, FEB 11, 2007 (VIS) - The World Day of the Sick , which falls today Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, was the main theme of Benedict XVI's brief reflections before praying the Angelus this morning with thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.

  The Pope recalled the fact that the Church today celebrates the first appearance of the Virgin Mary to St. Bernadette, an event that took place on February 11, 1858 in the grotto of Massabielle near the French town of Lourdes. "For nearly 150 years, the Virgin's call to prayer and penance has rung out powerfully, almost like a permanent echo of the call with which Jesus inaugurated His preaching in Galilee."

  The shrine of Lourdes, Pope Benedict went on, has attracted "many sick pilgrims who, in listening to Most Holy Mary, are encouraged to accept their sufferings and offer them for the salvation of the world, uniting them to those of the crucified Christ. Precisely because of this connection between Lourdes and human suffering, 15 years ago the beloved John Paul II called for the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes to mark the World Day of the Sick."

  The Holy Father sent his greetings to Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, president of the Pontifical Council for Healthcare Ministry, who is presiding over the celebrations for this year's World Day, being held in Seoul, Korea. He also extended his thoughts "to healthcare workers all over the world, well aware of the importance your service to the sick has in our society.

  "Above all," he added, "I wish to express my spiritual closeness and affection to our brothers and sisters who are sick, with a special thought for those struck by the most serious and painful illnesses. To them in particular our concern is directed on this World Day. It is necessary to support the development of forms of palliative care that provide integral assistance, and offer the incurably ill that human support and spiritual accompaniment of which they have such great need."

 

DO NOT ABANDON PEOPLE SUFFERING FROM SERIOUS ILLNESSES

VATICAN CITY, FEB 11, 2007 (VIS) - In the Vatican Basilica at 4.30 p.m. today, Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and the 15th World Day of the Sick, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar general for the diocese of Rome, celebrated Mass for the sick and for pilgrims of UNITALSI (Italian National Union for Transport of the Sick to Lourdes and International Shrines), and of Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi. The theme of this year's World Day is: "Pastoral and spiritual attention to the incurably ill."

  At the end of Mass, Benedict XVI arrived in the basilica where he blessed the sick and made some brief remarks.

  "Mary," said the Pope, "who with her faith accompanied her Son even to the foot of the cross, she who was associated by mysterious design with the sufferings of Christ, never tires of exhorting us to live and to share with serene trust the experience of pain and illness, offering it faithfully to the Father and thus completing what is lacking in our flesh for the afflictions of Christ."

  Going on to refer specifically to the seriously ill, the Holy Father called for them to be made aware "of the material and spiritual closeness of the entire Christian community. It is important not to leave them abandoned and alone as they find themselves facing such a delicate moment in their lives." In this context, Pope Benedict praised the work of doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, volunteers, religious and priests "who dedicate all their energy to the sick, concerned, like the Good Samaritan, not for their social status, the color of their skin or their religious belief, but only for their needs. In the face of each human being, and even more so if tried and disfigured by illness, shines forth the face of Christ."

  In the grotto of Massabielle "human suffering and hope, fear and trust, come together. How many pilgrims, comforted by the gaze of the Mother, find in Lourdes the strength to put the will of God into effect more easily, even at the cost of sacrifice and pain. ... May no one, especially people undergoing harsh suffering, ever feel alone and abandoned."

 

PRESENTATION OF PONTIFICAL YEARBOOK 2007

VATICAN CITY, FEB 12, 2007 (VIS) - This morning, Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. presented the Holy Father with the 2007 edition of the "Annuario Pontificio," or pontifical yearbook. Also present were Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute for General Affairs, and the officials responsible for compiling and printing the volume.

  A communique regarding the presentation highlights some of the salient facts contained in the new yearbook. In 2006, 12 new episcopal sees were created, as well as nine metropolitan sees and one apostolic administration; 180 new bishops were also appointed.

  Between 2004 and 2005, the number of Catholics in the world increased from 1,098 million to 1,115 million, a growth of 1.5 percent. However, because this growth is very similar to that of the population of the planet (1.2 percent), the percentage of Catholics in the world remained substantially unchanged at 17.2 percent.

  A geographical analysis of these variations shows that over the period 2004-2005, the number of Catholics in Africa grew by 3.1 percent, while the population of the continent grew by 2.1 percent. In Asia and the Americas the number of Catholics also increased slightly with respect to the population (2.71 percent against 1.18 percent in Asia, 1.2 percent against 0.9 percent in the Americas). In Europe, the number of Catholics grew slightly while the population remained almost stationery.

  In 2004-2005, the number of religious and diocesan priests passed from 405,891 to 406,411 (a growth of 0.13 percent). However, the distribution of priests differed from continent to continent, with their numbers growing in Africa and Asia (respectively, by 3.8 percent and 3.55 percent) and falling in Europe and America (by 0.5 percent), and in Oceania (by 1.8 percent).

  Numbers of candidates to the priesthood, both diocesan and religious, increased overall, passing from 113,044 in 2004 to 114,439 in 2005 (an increase of 1.23 percent). Vocations are most numerous in Africa and Asia, they are falling in Europe and are stationary in Oceania.

 

AUDIENCES

VATICAN CITY, FEB 12, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

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

    - Archbishop Edoardo Menichelli of Ancona-Osimo.

    - Bishop Giancarlo Vecerrica of Fabriano-Matelica, and apostolic administrator of Camerino-San Severino Marche.

    - Bishop Gerardo Rocconi of Jesi.

    - Bishop Giuseppe Orlandoni of Senigallia.

 - Participants in an international congress on Natural Law, being promoted by the Pontifical Lateran University.

  On Saturday, February 10, he received in separate audiences:

 - Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, archbishop emeritus of Paris, France.

 - Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

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