Tuesday, January 11, 2011

VATICAN: POPE: ADDRESS TO DIPLOMATIC CORPS AND OTHER NEWS

MASS TO MARK THE FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF HAITIAN EARTHQUAKE

VATICAN CITY, 8 JAN 2011 (VIS REPORTS) - At 4.30 p.m. on Wednesday 12 January in the papal basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome, Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. will preside at a Eucharistic celebration to commemorate the first anniversary of the Haitian earthquake.

According to a communique "the initiative to hold a commemorative Mass for the victims of the terrible earthquake was promoted by the Haitian ambassador to the Holy See. Members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See and other diplomats present in Rome have been invited to attend".

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IMAGE SOURCE: RADIO VATICANA

AUDIENCES

VATICAN CITY, 8 JAN 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

- Cardinal William Joseph Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

- Cardinal Mare Ouellet P.S.S., prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

- Cardinal Claudio Hummes O.F.M., prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy.

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COLLABORATION BETWEEN CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY AND FAMILY

VATICAN CITY, 9 JAN 2011 (VIS) - As is customary on today's Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, this morning in the Sistine Chapel the Pope presided at the celebration of the Eucharist during which he baptised twenty-one newborn boys and girls, children of employees of the Vatican and the Holy See.

In his homily the Pope explained how Baptism makes its recipients part of "the reciprocal exchange of love that exists in God between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. By the gesture that I am about to perform", he said, "the love of God flows over them inundating them with His gifts. Through the washing of the water your children are made part of the life of Jesus, Who died on the cross to free us from sin and, rising again, defeated death".

"By giving us the faith, the Lord gave us the most precious thing in life: the most authentic and most beautiful reason to live. ... The faith is a great gift with which He also gives us eternal life, which is true life. ... By receiving Baptism, these children are given an indelible spiritual seal, the 'character' which will exist forever as an interior mark of the fact that they belong to the Lord, and which makes them living members of His mystical body which is the Church. In becoming part of the People of God, a journey begins for these children today, which should be a journey of sanctity and conformity to Jesus. He is placed within them like the seed of a magnificent tree which must be allowed to grow".

"Of course", the Pope went on, "a free and informed adherence to this life of faith and love will later become necessary, and this is why, following Baptism, children must be educated in the faith, instructed in accordance with the wisdom of Holy Scripture and the teachings of the Church so that the seed of faith they receive today may grow within them and they may achieve full Christian maturity.

"The Church", he added, "which today welcomes them among her children must, with the parents and godparents, take on the responsibility of accompanying them on this journey of development. Collaboration between the Christian community and the family is more necessary than ever in the current social context in which the institution of the family is threatened on many sides and finds itself having to face no small number of difficulties in its mission to educate in the faith. The collapse of stable points of cultural reference and the rapid and continual transformation of society make the task of education truly difficult. Hence it is necessary that parishes make every effort to support families, small domestic Churches, in their duty to transmit the faith", the Holy Father concluded.

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REDISCOVERING THE BEAUTY OF BAPTISM

VATICAN CITY, 9 JAN 2011 (VIS) - At midday today, following this morning's celebration in the Sistine Chapel during which he baptised a number of newborn infants, the Pope appeared at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with several thousand pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square below.

The Holy Father explained how today's Feast of the Baptism of the Lord ends the liturgical period of Christmas. "This mystery of Christ's life", he said, "is a visible sign that His assuming the flesh was the sublime act of love of the three divine Persons. We can say that after this solemn event the creative, redemptory and sanctifying action of the Most Holy Trinity became increasingly manifest in the public mission of Jesus, in His teaching and miracles, in His passion, death and resurrection".

"It is truly the Messiah, Son of the Most High God, Who, emerging from the waters of the River Jordan, establishes regeneration in the Spirit and opens, for those who wish, the possibility of becoming children of God. It is, indeed, no coincidence that each baptised person acquires the status of child on the basis of a Christian name, an unmistakeable sign that the Holy Spirit causes man to be 'born again' in the bosom of the Church".

Benedict XVI highlighted how "Baptism is the beginning of spiritual life, which reaches fullness through the Church. At the moment of the Sacrament, while the ecclesial community prays and commends a new child to God, the parents and godparents undertake to welcome the neo-baptised and to support it in its formation and Christian education. This is a great responsibility, which derives from a great gift! Therefore, I wish to encourage all the faithful to rediscover the beauty of being baptised and thus of belonging to the great family of God, and to bear joyful witness to their faith that it may generate fruits of goodness and harmony".

Following the Marian prayer, the Pope mentioned "the people of Haiti a year after the great earthquake which was, alas, followed by a serious cholera epidemic. Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council 'Cor Unum' will travel to the Caribbean island today to express my constant proximity, and that of the entire Church".

The Holy Father then turned to address a group of Italian parliamentarians whom he thanked "for their commitment, and that of their colleagues, in support of religious freedom. With them I also greet the Coptic faithful, who are present here today and to whom I renew expressions of my closeness", he concluded.

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OTHER PONTIFICAL ACTS

VATICAN CITY, 9 JAN 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Fr. Gervas John Mwasikwabhila Nyaisonga of the clergy of the diocese of Mbeya, Tanzania, assistant professor at St. Augustine's university of Tanzania, as bishop of Dodoma (area 41,311, population 1,951,000, Catholics 407,000, priests 106, religious 605), Tanzania. The bishop-elect was born in Bunda, Tanzania in 1966 and ordained a priest in 1996.

On Saturday 8 January it was made public that he appointed:

- Msgr. Antonio Guido Filipazzi, nunciature counsellor, as apostolic nuncio, at the same time elevating him to the dignity of archbishop. The archbishop-elect was born in Melzo, Italy in 1963 and ordained a priest in 1987.

- Msgr. Edgar Pena Parra, nunciature counsellor, as apostolic nuncio, at the same time elevating him to the dignity of archbishop. The archbishop-elect was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela in 1960 and ordained a priest in 1985.

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HOLY FATHER'S ANNUAL ADDRESS TO THE DIPLOMATIC CORPS

VATICAN CITY, 10 JAN 2011 (VIS) - This morning in the Sala Regia of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, Pope Benedict pronounced his traditional annual address to members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See. He also received the greetings of the ambassadors formulated in a speech delivered by Alejandro Emilio Valladares Lanza of Honduras and dean of the diplomatic corps.

The Holy See currently maintains full diplomatic relations with 178 States, to which must be added the European Union and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. It also has relations of a special nature with the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

Furthermore, the Holy See has observer-State status at the United Nations, as well as being a member of seven organisations and agencies of the UN system, observer in eight others, and member or observer in five regional organisations.

Ample extracts of the Holy Father's address are give below:

"Humanity throughout history, in its beliefs and rituals, demonstrates a constant search for God and 'these forms of religious expression are so universal that one may well call man a religious being'. The religious dimension is an undeniable and irrepressible feature of man's being and acting, the measure of the fulfilment of his destiny and of the building up of the community to which he belongs. Consequently, when the individual himself or those around him neglect or deny this fundamental dimension, imbalances and conflicts arise at all levels, both personal and interpersonal".

"The right to religious freedom, ... is indeed the first of human rights, not only because it was historically the first to be recognised but also because it touches the constitutive dimension of man, his relation with his Creator. Yet is this fundamental human right not all too often called into question or violated? It seems to me that society, its leaders and public opinion are becoming more and more aware, even if not always in a clear way, of this grave attack on the dignity and freedom of 'homo religiosus', which I have sought on numerous occasions to draw to the attention of all".

"The Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, which took place in the Vatican in October, was a moment of prayer and reflection in which our thoughts turned insistently to the Christian communities in that part of the world which suffer greatly because of their fidelity to Christ and the Church.

"Looking to the East, the attacks which brought death, grief and dismay among the Christians of Iraq, even to the point of inducing them to leave the land where their families have lived for centuries, has troubled us deeply. To the authorities of that country and to the Muslim religious leaders I renew my heartfelt appeal that their Christian fellow-citizens be able to live in security, continuing to contribute to the society in which they are fully members. In Egypt too, in Alexandria, terrorism brutally struck Christians as they prayed in church. This succession of attacks is yet another sign of the urgent need for the governments of the region to adopt, in spite of difficulties and dangers, effective measures for the protection of religious minorities"

"I appreciate the concern for the rights of the most vulnerable and the political farsightedness which some countries in Europe have demonstrated in recent days by their call for a concerted response on the part of the European Union for the defence of Christians in the Middle East.

"Finally, I would like to state once again that the right to religious freedom is not fully respected when only freedom of worship is guaranteed, and that with restrictions. Furthermore, I encourage the accompaniment of the full safeguarding of religious freedom and other humans rights by programmes which, beginning in primary school and within the context of religious instruction, will educate everyone to respect their brothers and sisters in humanity.

"Regarding the states of the Arabian Peninsula, where numerous Christian immigrant workers live, I hope that the Catholic Church will be able to establish suitable pastoral structures.

"Among the norms prejudicing the right of persons to religious freedom, particular mention must be made of the law against blasphemy in Pakistan: I once more encourage the leaders of that country to take the necessary steps to abrogate that law, all the more so because it is clear that it serves as a pretext for acts of injustice and violence against religious minorities. The tragic murder of the governor of Punjab shows the urgent need to make progress in this direction: the worship of God furthers fraternity and love, not hatred and division. Other troubling situations, at times accompanied by acts of violence, can be mentioned in south and south-east Asia, in countries which for that matter have a tradition of peaceful social relations.

"The particular influence of a given religion in a nation ought never to mean that citizens of another religion can be subject to discrimination in social life or, even worse, that violence against them can be tolerated. In this regard, it is important for inter-religious dialogue to favour a common commitment to recognising and promoting the religious freedom of each person and community. And, as I remarked earlier, violence against Christians does not spare Africa. Attacks on places of worship in Nigeria during the very celebrations marking the birth of Christ are another sad proof of this.

"In a number of countries, on the other hand, a constitutionally recognised right to religious freedom exists, yet the life of religious communities is in fact made difficult and at times even dangerous because the legal or social order is inspired by philosophical and political systems which call for strict control, if not a monopoly, of the State over society. Such inconsistencies must end, so that believers will not find themselves torn between fidelity to God and loyalty to their country. I ask in particular that Catholic communities be everywhere guaranteed full autonomy of organisation and the freedom to carry out their mission, in conformity with international norms and standards in this sphere. My thoughts turn once again to the Catholic community of mainland China and its pastors, who are experiencing a time of difficulty and trial. I would also like to offer a word of encouragement to the authorities of Cuba, a country which in 2010 celebrated seventy-five years of uninterrupted diplomatic relations with the Holy See, that the dialogue happily begun with the Church may be reinforced and expanded.

"Turning our gaze from East to West, we find ourselves faced with other kinds of threats to the full exercise of religious freedom. I think in the first place of countries which accord great importance to pluralism and tolerance, but where religion is increasingly being marginalised. There is a tendency to consider religion, all religion, as something insignificant, alien or even destabilising to modern society, and to attempt by different means to prevent it from having any influence on the life of society. Christians are even required at times to act in the exercise of their profession with no reference to their religious and moral convictions, and even in opposition to them, as for example where laws are enforced limiting the right to conscientious objection on the part of health care or legal professionals.

"In this context, one can only be gratified by the adoption by the Council of Europe last October of a resolution protecting the right to conscientious objection on the part of medical personnel vis-a-vis certain acts which gravely violate the right to life, such as abortion.

"Another sign of the marginalisation of religion, and of Christianity in particular, is the banning of religious feasts and symbols from civic life under the guise of respect for the members of other religions or those who are not believers. By acting in this way, not only is the right of believers to the public expression of their faith restricted, but an attack is made on the cultural roots which nourish the profound identity and social cohesion of many nations. Last year, a number of European countries supported the appeal lodged by the Italian government in the well-known case involving the display of the crucifix in public places. I am grateful to the authorities of those nations, as well as to all those who became involved in the issue, episcopates, civil and religious organisations and associations, particularly the Patriarchate of Moscow and the other representatives of the Orthodox hierarchy, as well as to all those - believers and non-believers alike - who wished to show their sympathy for this symbol, which bespeaks universal values.

"Acknowledging religious freedom also means ensuring that religious communities can operate freely in society through initiatives in the social, charitable or educational sectors. Throughout the world, one can see the fruitful work accomplished by the Catholic Church in these areas. It is troubling that this service which religious communities render to society as a whole, particularly through the education of young people, is compromised or hampered by legislative proposals which risk creating a sort of State monopoly in the schools; this can be seen, for example, in certain countries in Latin America. Now that many of those countries are celebrating the second centenary of their independence - a fitting time for remembering the contribution made by the Catholic Church to the development of their national identity - I exhort all governments to promote educational systems respectful of the primordial right of families to make decisions about the education of their children, systems inspired by the principle of subsidiarity which is basic to the organisation of a just society.

"Continuing my reflection, I cannot remain silent about another attack on the religious freedom of families in certain European countries which mandate obligatory participation in courses of sexual or civic education which allegedly convey a neutral conception of the person and of life, yet in fact reflect an anthropology opposed to faith and to right reason".

"On this solemn occasion, allow me to state clearly several principles which inspire the Holy See, together with the whole Catholic Church, in its activity within the intergovernmental international organisations for the promotion of full respect for the religious freedom of all. First, the conviction that one cannot create a sort of scale of degrees of religious intolerance. Unfortunately, such an attitude is frequently found, and it is precisely acts of discrimination against Christians which are considered less grave and less worthy of attention on the part of governments and public opinion. At the same time, there is a need to reject the dangerous notion of a conflict between the right to religious freedom and other human rights, thus disregarding or denying the central role of respect for religious freedom in the defence and protection of fundamental human dignity. Even less justifiable are attempts to counter the right of religious freedom with other alleged new rights which, while actively promoted by certain sectors of society and inserted in national legislation or in international directives, are nonetheless merely the expression of selfish desires lacking a foundation in authentic human nature. Finally, it seems unnecessary to point out that an abstract proclamation of religious freedom is insufficient: this fundamental rule of social life must find application and respect at every level and in all areas".

"Promoting the full religious freedom of Catholic communities is also the aim of the Holy See in signing Concordats and other agreements. I am gratified that States in different parts of the world, and of different religious, cultural and juridical traditions, choose international conventions as a means of organising relations between the political community and the Catholic Church, thus establishing through dialogue a framework of co-operation and respect for reciprocal areas of competence. Last year witnessed the signing and implementation of an agreement for the religious assistance of the Catholic faithful in the armed forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and negotiations are presently under way with different countries. We trust that they will have a positive outcome, ensuring solutions respectful of the nature and freedom of the Church for the good of society as a whole.

"The activity of the papal representatives accredited to States and international organisations is likewise at the service of religious freedom. I would like to point out with satisfaction that the Vietnamese authorities have accepted my appointment of a representative who will express the solicitude of the Successor of Peter by visiting the beloved Catholic community of that country. I would also like to mention that in the past year the diplomatic presence of the Holy See was expanded in Africa, since a stable presence is now assured in three countries without a resident nuncio. God willing, I will once more travel to that continent, to Benin next November, in order to consign the Apostolic Exhortation which will gather the fruits of the labours of the second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops".

"I would like once more to state forcefully that religion does not represent a problem for society, that it is not a source of discord or conflict. I would repeat that the Church seeks no privileges, nor does she seek to intervene in areas unrelated to her mission, but simply to exercise the latter with freedom. I invite everyone to acknowledge the great lesson of history: 'How can anyone deny the contribution of the world's great religions to the development of civilisation? The sincere search for God has led to greater respect for human dignity. Christian communities, with their patrimony of values and principles, have contributed much to making individuals and peoples aware of their identity and their dignity, the establishment of democratic institutions and the recognition of human rights and their corresponding duties. Today too, in an increasingly globalised society, Christians are called, not only through their responsible involvement in civic, economic and political life but also through the witness of their charity and faith, to offer a valuable contribution to the laborious and stimulating pursuit of justice, integral human development and the right ordering of human affairs'.

A clear example of this was Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta: the centenary of her birth was celebrated at Tirana, Skopje and Pristina as well as in India, and a moving homage was paid to her not only by the Church but also by civil authorities and religious leaders, to say nothing of people of all religions. People like her show the world the extent to which the commitment born of faith is beneficial to society as a whole.

"May no human society willingly deprive itself of the essential contribution of religious persons and communities! ... For this reason, as we exchange good wishes for a new year rich in concord and genuine progress, I exhort everyone, political and religious leaders and persons of every walk of life, to set out with determination on the path leading to authentic and lasting peace, a path which passes through respect for the right to religious freedom in all its fullness".

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