PROMOTING A CULTURE RESPECTFUL OF LIFE
VATICAN CITY, 27 NOV 2010 (VIS) - In the Vatican Basilica this evening, the Holy Father presided at first Vespers for the first Sunday of Advent. This year's ceremony included a "vigil for unborn life", promoted by the Pontifical Council for the Family, which was also celebrated in dioceses all over the world.
Benedict XVI began his homily by noting that "with this celebration of Vespers the Lord gives us the grace and joy to begin the new liturgical year", in which "we will feel that the Church takes us by the hand and, in the image of Most Holy Mary, expresses her maternity by enabling us to experience the joyful expectation of the coming of the Lord, Who embraces us all in His salvific and consoling love".
Highlighting the fact that this evening's celebration "is being enriched" with the solemn prayer vigil for unborn life, the Pope thanked "everyone who has taken up this invitation, and those who specifically dedicate themselves to protecting human life in various situations of fragility, especially at its beginnings and in its first stages".
"The Incarnation reveals to us - with intense light and in a surprising way - that each human life has exalted and incomparable dignity. Man has an unmistakeable originality with respect to all other living things which inhabit the earth. He is a unique and distinctive being, gifted with intelligence and free will, as well as being composed of material reality. He simultaneously and inseparably lives in the spiritual and the corporeal dimensions".
"God loves us deeply, completely, without distinction", the Pope explained. "He calls us to be His friends. He brings us to share in a reality which is beyond all imagination, all thoughts or words: His divine life. Moved and grateful, we become aware of the value and incomparable dignity of each human being, and of the great responsibility we have towards others".
Human beings, said the Pope, "have the right not to be treated as objects to be possessed, or things to be manipulated at will; not to be reduced to the status of a mere tool for the benefit of others and their interests. Human beings are a good per se, and it is necessary always to seek their integral development. Love for everyone, if sincere, spontaneously turns into preferential attention for the weakest and poorest. This is the context of the Church's concern for nascent life, which is the most fragile, the most threatened by the selfishness of adults and the clouding of conscience. The Church continually repeats Vatican Council II's declarations against abortion and all other violations of unborn life: 'from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care'".
The Holy Father went on: "There are cultural tendencies which seek to anaesthetise people's consciences by using pretexts" Yet, "as concerns the embryo in the womb, science itself highlights its autonomy and capacity for interaction with the mother, the co-ordination of its biological processes, the continuity of its development, the increasing complexity of the organism. It is not simply an accumulation of biological matter, but a new living being, ... a new individual of the human race. This is how Jesus was in Mary's womb; this is how it is for each one of us in our mother's womb".
Benedict XVI lamented the fact that "even after birth the life of children continues to be exposed to abandonment, to hunger and misery, to sickness, abuse, violence and exploitation. The multiple violations of children's rights committed in the world are a painful wound on the conscience of all men and women of good will. Faced with the sad spectacle of the injustices committed against the life of man, both before and after birth, I reiterate John Paul II's impassioned appeal for responsibility: 'respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life! Only in this direction will you find justice, development, true freedom, peace and happiness!'"
In this context, the Pope also exhorted "political, economic and media leaders to do everything they can to promote a culture that is ever more respectful of human life, in order to create favourable conditions and support-networks that welcome life and ensure its development".
At the end of the celebration of Vespers the Holy Father read a "Prayer for Life" specially composed for this occasion.
JAPAN: SEEKING SOLUTIONS TO AVOID NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION
VATICAN CITY, 27 NOV 2010 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received the Letters of Credence of Hidekazu Yamaguchi, the new Japanese ambassador to the Holy See.
In his address to the diplomat the Pope highlighted Japan's important contribution "to the spread of peace, democracy and human rights in the Far East and beyond, especially in developing countries". He likewise expressed the Holy See's satisfaction at the "financing of development and other forms of assistance" practiced by Japan.
"Efforts to construct the unity of the human family through international co-operation will help build a global economy in which all the world comes to occupy its rightful place and can enjoy, as never before, the earth's resources", said the Pope. In this context, he encouraged the Japanese government "to continue its policies of co-operation and development, particularly in areas that most affect the poorest and weakest".
Going on then to recall that this year marks the sixty-fifth anniversary of "the tragic atomic bombardment of Hiroshima and Nagasaki", Benedict XVI said "this tragedy is an insistent reminder to us of the need to persevere in efforts to promote disarmament and the non-proliferation of nuclear arms. Nuclear arms continue to be an important concern; their possession and the risk of their possible use increase tension and mistrust in many parts of the world. Your country", he told the ambassador, "should be cited as an example because of its constant support for political solutions to avoid the proliferation of nuclear arms, and for efforts to ensure that war is not considered a way of resolving conflicts between nations and peoples".
"The Holy See", he concluded, "encourages all nations to work patiently to weave a political and economic fabric of peace, in order to promote integral human development and peoples' authentic aspirations. Part of the finances allocated for armaments could be devolved to projects of economic and social development, of education and healthcare. Without doubt this would contribute to internal stability within countries and among peoples. In these unstable times for markets and employment, the need to ensure the financing of development continues to be a constant concern".
The Pope laid emphasis on the important position Japan occupies in the world economy, noting that "the decisions of its government will continue to have an impact far beyond its frontiers".
"May all men and women of good will see in the current economic crisis an opportunity for discernment and for preparing projects characterised by charity in truth, by solidarity and commitment in an ethically-oriented economy", he said.
The Holy Father then went on to refer to the freedom of conscience and worship which exist in Japan, and the opportunity the Catholic Church has "to live in peace and fraternity with everyone in the country".
"The members of the Catholic Church in Japan", he said, "have long been committed to open and respectful dialogue with other religions. ... The Church has always promoted respect for human beings in their integrity and their spiritual dimension, being an essential element common to all cultures which finds expression in the personal search for the sacred through the practice of religion. ... I wish to ensure the Japanese people", Pope Benedict concluded, "of the great respect with which the Catholic Church undertakes inter-religious dialogue, while remaining firmly committed to fostering mutual trust, understanding and friendship, for the benefit of the entire human family".
VATICAN CITY, 27 NOV 2010 (VIS) - The Special Assembly for America of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops held its fifteenth meeting on 16 and 17 November. The work focused on the question of "New evangelisation for the transmission of the Christian faith" which was one of the key themes of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Ecclesia in America".
Under the presidency of Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, a number of questions concerning the social and ecclesial situation in various countries of the continent were discussed.
According to a communique released after the meeting, America shows "many signs of hope but also some causes for concern. The positive economic development of certain countries was noted with satisfaction, although the more equal distribution of wealth and natural resources should be encouraged". People are showing "growing ecological awareness" and there are "efforts towards greater continental integration ... which seek to recover the unity of the entire continent". Among the reasons for concern, the communique mentions "the alarming social situation in Haiti" where "the concrete solidarity shown by foreign governments and ecclesial organisations would being better fruits if the local bodies were able to make more organic use of the aid received.
"Migration is one of the aspects to arouse most concern", the text adds. Illegal immigrants have to face serious difficulties and are often forcibly repatriated to their countries of origin. The Church remains dedicated to promoting programmes of social and religious assistance to immigrants, in order to favour cultural integration and social peace.
"Other sources of concern include the production and trafficking of drugs, the trafficking of arms, violence and political corruption. ... Particular attention must be given to the promotion of a series of laws that run counter to ethical norms (laws on abortion, euthanasia, and marriage between persons of the same sex), and the diffusion of a spirit that does not conform with Christian values in the fields of education and of communications".
From a social perspective "it must be noted with satisfaction that electoral processes regularly take place in various countries. ... Nonetheless, there is no lack of ideological attempts to alter constitutional and legislative norms, provoking internal tensions even with local Churches. ... In this context the tendency is to ignore the Catholic Church, excluding her as a partner in social dialogue despite the high credibility she enjoys among the people.
"In the ecclesial field, one cause for consolation is the increase in vocations to the priesthood, though this varies greatly between different countries and between different dioceses. ... One particularly important aspect is the awareness that all the Church on the continent must be in a state of mission".
"The impact of the Twelfth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God in the life and the mission of the Church was judged to be very positive, as was that of its respective Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation 'Verbum Domini'".
"The other point of order", the communique reads, "concerned the expectations of the Church in America about the Thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, due to be held from 7 to 28 October 2012 on the theme 'The new evangelisation for the transmission of the Christian faith'".
The next meeting of the Special Assembly for America of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops will be held from 27 to 28 October 2011.
VATICAN CITY, 27 NOV 2010 (VIS) - The Holy Father:
- Erected the new diocese of Bunda (area 5,530, population 1,023,390, Catholics 335,000, priests 2, religious 2) Tanzania, with territory taken from the archdiocese of Mwanza and from the diocese of Musoma, making it a suffragan of the metropolitan church of Mwanza. He appointed Fr. Renatus Leonard Nkwande, diocesan administrator of Mwanza, as first bishop of the new diocese. The bishop-elect was born in Mantare, Tanzania in 1965 and ordained a priest in 1995.
- Appointed Fr. Santo Loku Pio Doggale of the clergy of the archdiocese of Juba, Sudan, vice pastor of the cathedral, as auxiliary of the same archdiocese (area 25,137, population 875,199, Catholics 679,916, priests 45, religious 56). The bishop-elect was born in Katire, Kenya in 1969 and ordained a priest in 2001.
- Appointed Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, as his special envoy to celebrations marking the fourth centenary of the foundation of the "Santo Tomas" Pontifical University at Manila, Philippines, due to take place on 28 January 2011.
VATICAN CITY, 28 NOV 2010 (VIS) - At midday today, the first Sunday of Advent and beginning of the liturgical year, the Holy Father appeared at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.
The Pope remarked on the dual nature of the period of Advent, which "looks both to the first coming of the Son of God, when He was born of the Virgin Mary, and to His glorious return, when He will come 'to judge the living and the dead'". He described this "expectation" as a "profoundly human aspect in which the faith becomes, so to say, a single thing with our flesh and our heart.
"Expectation and awaiting represent a dimension that touches our entire individual, family and social existence", he added. "Expectation is present in many situations, from the smallest and most insignificant to the most important". These include "a couple expecting a child; awaiting a relative or friend who comes to visit us from far way; ... the expectation of the result of some decisive examination; ... in personal relations the expectation of meeting the loved one. ... We could say that man is alive so long as he expects, so long as hope remains alive his heart. And man can be recognised by his expectations: our moral and spiritual 'stature' may be measured by what our hopes are".
Thus, "in this time of preparation for Christmas each of us may ask ourselves: what do I expect? ... And this same question can be posed at the level of the family, the community, the nation. What do we expect together? What unites our aspirations, what brings us together?" In this context, Benedict XVI recalled how "in Israel in the period prior to Jesus' birth there was a very strong expectation of the Messiah, ... who would free the people from all moral and political slavery and establish the Kingdom of God.
"But no-one could have imagined that the Messiah would be born of a humble girl like Mary, who had been promised in marriage to the good Joseph. Neither could she have imagined it; yet in her heart the expectation of the Saviour was so great, her faith and hope so ardent, that in her He could find a worthy mother. ... There is a mysterious correspondence between the expectation of God and that of Mary, the creature 'full of grace', completely transparent before the Almighty's plan of love. Let us learn from her, the woman of Advent, to live daily life with a new spirit, with feelings of profound expectation which only the coming of God can satisfy".
In his greetings following the Marian prayer, Benedict XVI made various references to respect for unborn life. Addressing Polish pilgrims he said: "With Mary, who lovingly awaited the birth of the Divine Child, let us persevere in our prayers, thanking God for the gift of life and asking Him to protect all human existence. May the future of the world become the civilisation of love and of life".
VATICAN CITY, 29 NOV 2010 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, the Holy Father received prelates from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, who have just completed their "ad limina" visit. Addressing them in English, the Pope referred to the close ties that for four centuries have united the Philippines and the See of Peter, highlighting the benefits the leaven of faith has brought to the Filipino people and their culture.
"To be such a leaven, the Church must always seek to find her proper voice, because it is by proclamation that the Gospel brings about its life-changing fruits", he said. "Thanks to the Gospel's clear presentation of the truth about God and man, generations of zealous Filipino clergymen, religious and laity have promoted an ever more just social order. At times, this task of proclamation touches upon issues relevant to the political sphere. This is not surprising, since the political community and the Church, while rightly distinct, are nevertheless both at the service of the integral development of every human being and of society as a whole".
"At the same time, the Church's prophetic office demands that she be free 'to preach the faith, to teach her social doctrine ... and also to pass moral judgments in those matters which regard public order whenever the fundamental human rights of a person or the salvation of souls requires it'. In the light of this prophetic task, I commend the Church in the Philippines for seeking to play its part in support of human life from conception until natural death, and in defence of the integrity of marriage and the family. In these areas you are promoting truths about the human person and about society which arise not only from divine revelation but also from natural law, an order which is accessible to human reason and thus provides a basis for dialogue and deeper discernment on the part of all people of good will. I also note with appreciation the Church's work to abolish the death penalty in your country.
"A specific area in which the Church must always find her proper voice comes in the field of social communications and the media", Pope Benedict added. "It is important that the Catholic laity proficient in social communications take their proper place in proposing the Christian message in a convincing and attractive way. If the Gospel of Christ is to be a leaven in Filipino society, then the entire Catholic community must be attentive to the force of the truth proclaimed with love".
Finally the Holy Father turned his attention to "a third aspect of the Church's mission of proclaiming the life-giving word of God: ... her commitment to economic and social concerns, in particular with respect to the poorest and the weakest in society". The Church in the Philippines, he said, takes "a special interest in devoting herself more fully to care for the poor. It is heartening to see that this undertaking has borne fruit, with Catholic charitable institutions actively engaged throughout the country. Many of your fellow citizens, however, remain without employment, adequate education or basic services, and so your prophetic statements and your charitable action on behalf of the poor continue to be greatly appreciated. In addition to this effort", he concluded, "you are rightly concerned that there be an ongoing commitment to the struggle against corruption, since the growth of a just and sustainable economy will only come about when there is a clear and consistent application of the rule of law throughout the land".
VATICAN CITY, 29 NOV 2010 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:
- Cardinal Marc Ouellet P.S.S., prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.
- Eight prelates of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, on their "ad limina" visit:
- Bishop Leopoldo C. Jaucian S.V.D. of Bangued.
- Bishop Sergio L. Utleg of Laoag.
- Bishop Camilo D. Gergorio, prelate of Batanes.
- Bishop Ramon B. Villena of Bayombong.
- Bishop Joseph A. Nacua O.F.M. Cap. of Ilagan.
- Bishop Riodolfo F. Beltran, apostolic vicar of Bontoc-Lagawe.
- Bishop Marlo M. Peralta of Alaminos.
- Bishop Sofronio A. Bancud S.S.S. of Cabanatuan.
On Saturday 27 November he received in separate audiences:
- Eight prelates of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, on their "ad limina" visit:
- Archbishop Ernesto A. Salgado of Nueva Segovia.
- Archbishop Diosdado A. Talamayan of Tuguegarao, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishop Ricardo L. Baccay.
- Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishop Renato P. Mayugba.
- Archbishop Paciano B. Aniceto of San Fernando, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishops Roberto C. Mallari and Pablo Virgilio S. David.
- Justino Maria Aparicio Guterres, ambassador of the Democratic Republic of East Timor, on his farewell visit.