Archive of December 6, 2006

Trip to Turkey served three levels of Pontifical mission, Pope says

Vatican City, Dec 6, 2006 (CNA) - Speaking to the thousands of pilgrims gathered in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall today, Pope Benedict XVI recalled his recent apostolic trip to Turkey and explained how the visit served what he called the three “concentric circles” of his Pontifical mission.
"The Pope's journeys also contribute to the accomplishment his mission," began Benedict XVI, a mission he described as being divided into "concentric circles."

“In the innermost circle,” the Holy Father explained, "Peter's Successor confirms Catholics in the faith, in the intermediate circle he meets other Christians, and in the outermost circle he addresses non-Christians and humanity entire."
Part of this latter circle, the Holy Father went on, was the first day of his journey to Turkey, when he met with the civil authorities. These meetings were "a very important part of my visit, above all because Turkey is a country with a very big Muslim majority, but regulated by a constitution affirming the laicism of the State. Consequently, the country is emblematic of the great challenge facing the world today: on the one hand ... rediscovering the reality of God and the public importance of religious faith and, on the other, guaranteeing that the expression of faith remains free, repudiating all forms of violence and not degenerating into fundamentalism."
The Pope recalled how, during his trip, he had stressed the importance of "joint Christian and Muslim commitment ... in favor of life, peace and justice, reiterating that the distinction between the civil and religious spheres constitutes a value and that the State must guarantee ... effective freedom of worship.”

“In the field of inter-religious dialogue,” the Pope continued, “an initially unplanned gesture, but one that revealed itself as particularly significant, was my visit to the famous Blue Mosque of Istanbul. Pausing in meditation for a few minutes in that place of prayer, I addressed myself to the One Lord of heaven and earth.”
On the second day, in Ephesus, Benedict XVI recalled how, "in the 'innermost circle' of my journey, in direct contact with the Catholic community, in a climate of peace, we prayed for peace in the Holy Land and in the whole world."
The "intermediate circle," that of ecumenical relations, occupied the central part of the visit. "In the footsteps of Paul VI and of John Paul II," Benedict XVI and the Ecumenical Patriarch His Holiness Bartholomew I renewed "the mutual commitment to continue along the path towards the re-establishment of full communion between Catholic and Orthodox.”

Pope Benedict noted that his and Patriarch Bartholomew’s signing of a Joint Declaration was the ratification of a firm intention to take further steps in the direction of establishing full communion.
He also recalled how he met the patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic church, the Syro-Orthodox metropolitan, and the chief rabbi of Turkey.
The visit concluded, the Pope recalled, with a return to the "innermost circle," in other words "meeting the Catholic community ... in Istanbul's Latin Cathedral of the Holy Spirit," where he celebrated a Mass also attended by Christians of other rites, Orthodox and Protestants.

"Comforted by the Word of Christ," said Pope Benedict, "we lived a renewed experience of Pentecost."
In conclusion, the Holy Father called upon the Lord to help "the Turkish people, their leaders and the representatives of the various religions to build a future of peace together, so that Turkey may be a 'bridge' of friendship and fraternal collaboration between West and East." 

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Vatican seeks official relations with China, maintains ties with Taiwan

Taipei, Taiwan, Dec 6, 2006 (CNA) - The Vatican will seek to resume relations with China after more than half a century if religious freedom is allowed, a Vatican official said on Tuesday.

While Vatican-China relations took a negative turn last week when China consecrated a bishop without Vatican permission, it is reportedly still the Vatican’s intention to seek to restore official relations with the communist state and to establish its official presence there.

According to Msgr. Ambrose Madtha of the Vatican's diplomatic mission in Taipei, Taiwan, the Vatican would seek to restore an apostolic nunciature in Beijing for the first time since the Communist Party began ruling China in 1949, Reuters said.

Taiwan split from China in 1949, and the Vatican went with it. Taiwan sees the Vatican as an important ally in its continued fight for international legitimacy.

Msgr. Madtha said the Vatican would seek to keep a delegate in Taiwan in addition to reestablishing relations with Beijing.

However, it is believed that China will not let the Vatican maintain ties with Taiwan, which it considers to be part of its territory, while pursuing diplomatic relations in Beijing.

There are an estimated 10 million Catholics in China, and many worship underground. There are 300,000 Catholics in Taiwan.

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Cardinal Bertone insists Catholic Church is not "poaching for converts" in Russia

Vatican City, Dec 6, 2006 (CNA) - The Vatican Secretary of State told reporters yesterday that the Roman Catholic Church is not engaging in proselytism in Russia and “poaching for converts” among members of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone made this comment after journalists asked him to comment on Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II's appeal to the Vatican to stop its "extremely unfriendly policy" toward the Russian Orthodox Church, reported Zenit.

"I do not know Patriarch Alexy's statement, but I believe that relations between Moscow's patriarchate and the Holy See are sufficiently good and talks are taking place, with frequent visits," the cardinal reportedly said.

According to Interfax, Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow told clergy at the Christ the Savior Cathedral yesterday that “the Catholic mission continues” among Orthodox Christians in Russia and other ex-Soviet states.

He expressed the hope that the Vatican will “take concrete steps to change the situation for the better.”

If the situation remains the same, he said, "our meetings with representatives of the Roman Catholic Church will be just formal events, which will not help relieve the pain of people who suffer from the non-brotherly actions" of the Catholic Church.

There are 144 million people in Russia; about 600,000 are Roman Catholic.

The ongoing conflict over the Catholic Church’s duty to minister to its faithful in a majority Orthodox country has prevented the two churches from moving forward toward Christian unity and reconciliation.

The Russian Patriarch’s comments come following a successful meeting between Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and Pope Benedict XVI in Turkey, and as Greek Orthodox Patriarch Christodoulos announces he will make a first ever official visit to the Roman Pontiff at the Vatican.

Despite centuries of separation, the Catholic Church considers the worldwide Orthodox Church a sister Church.  The Holy See has repeatedly stated its desire that the Body of Christ breathe once again through "both lungs" in reference to the reunification of the Eastern and Western Churches.

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St Paul burial place 'confirmed'

Vatican City, Dec 6, 2006 (CNA) - Vatican archaeologists say they have conclusive evidence that a Roman tomb, located in St Paul Outside the Walls, the largest church in Rome after St Peter's, belonged to St. Paul.

The tomb has been long-revered by tradition as that of St. Paul; however, archaeologist Giorgio Filippi says that scientific evidence now backs up the evidence of tradition that the tomb belongs to the great Saint of the Early Church.

Filippi said his team had found a Roman sarcophagus "exactly underneath the epigraph Paulo Apostolo Mart (Paul the Apostle and Martyr) at the base of the cathedral's main altar," reported ANSA.

"It has a hole on top through which pieces of cloth could be pushed, touching the relic and becoming holy in their turn," Filippi reportedly said.

Paul was a Roman Jew, born in Tarsus, in modern-day Turkey, who started out trying to fight Christianity but later converted after seeing a shining light on the road to Damascus.

The Saint, who called himself the Apostle to the Gentiles, was a great traveler and writer. His 14 letters, which form part of the New Testament, are largely written to churches that he had founded or visited.

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Turkish bishops hope papal visit will help Iraqi refugee situation

Istanbul, Turkey, Dec 6, 2006 (CNA) - The Chaldean and Syrian Catholic bishops of Turkey, Bishop Francois Yakan and Bishop Yusuf Sag, said this week they are very hopeful that the recent visit by Benedict XVI will help to improve the Iraqi refugee situation in the country.

Both bishops called on countries of the European community to open their doors to Christian Iraqi refugees, who have no place to go.

Bishop Yakan decried that “each day, five or six people who are relatives of somebody in our community in Istanbul are killed in Iraq.  Returning to their country is something unthinkable at this moment.”

“There is no place for Iraqi Christians in their own country, like there is for Sunnis, Shiites or Kurds.  Many Christians were forced to leave Iraq sometime ago and they cannot return now to their country, where in addition, they would find other people living in their homes and working their fields,” Bishop Yakan said.

According to Bishop Sag, who ministers to 174 families in his diocese, “This is a humanitarian catastrophe.  I ask you to continue praying, and although some may be tired of doing so, we should always be sure of one thing: God is always taking care of us.”

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Relativism has invaded the realm of faith, warns Argentinean archbishop

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dec 6, 2006 (CNA) - In his weekly program, “Keys to a Better World,” Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata warned that indifference toward the truth and the spread of multiple and extravagant opinions “have also invaded the realm of faith.”

Archbishop Aguer focused his comments on what he said was one of the fundamental problems facing contemporary culture, which is “indifference towards the truth, or relativism,” that is, the decline of the truth and the rise of changing and inconsistent opinion: “I have my truth, you have yours.”

This problem has also begun to appear in the realm of faith, the archbishop noted.  “The idea that faith is above all an emotion, an experience, a feeling, rather than a firm conviction in the truth of Divine Revelation” is becoming more prevalent, he explained.  The problem is particularly acute in catechesis, which though improved in terms of methodology, is experiencing “a lack of doctrinal content.”

“Without a doubt, faith is the personal adherence to God through Christ our Savior, the great Revealer of the Father; but Christ is the Logos, the Word of God, and the truth of the faith that Christ has handed on to us is articulated in a set of doctrines, which the Church has developed and taught throughout the centuries.  That is the content of our faith,” he explained.

Archbishop Aguer warned that Christians are often confused by “many disputable and even clearly erroneous theological opinions” that “are the work of well-known personalities, renowned theologians and writers whose books become the latest fad” and turn the minds of Catholics into “a storehouse of strange ideas which lack the clear, serene and joyful conviction of the truth of our faith.”

The Argentinean prelate said it was “urgent” that Catholics recover “a level of knowledge that is proper to the faith.” Faith is not only “personal adherence to Christ” motivated by divine grace, but also “the enlightenment of our intellects that affirm with conviction the truth revealed by God.”

“We must recover the sense of truth,” he continued.  “If this sense of truth does not permeate our psychology, if it does not fill our lives with joy, how can we bear witness to the truth before a world that rejects it?”

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Holy See encourages international organization to root out religious intolerance

Brussels, Belgium, Dec 6, 2006 (CNA) - Made public today was the text of a speech given on Monday, by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States, to the 14th ministerial council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).  Mamberti addressed with the participants, the necessity of including a religious dimension in international conversations and of working against religious intolerance.

The meeting, which was held in Brussels, Belgium, was attended by foreign ministers of all States participants in the OSCE.  With 56 participating States from Europe, Central Asia and North America, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) forms the largest regional security organization in the world.
In his address, Archbishop Mamberti expressed the hope that the meeting "would strengthen and implement the 'acquis' of the OSCE, refining the instruments at its disposal in order to attain its final goal: peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic zone through prosperous and safe societies that promote the dignity of human beings and recognize their fundamental religious dimension."
After highlighting how the Holy See is dedicating particular attention to the question of tolerance, Archbishop Mamberti asked: "How can religions authoritatively and effectively promote respect and understanding if they themselves are victims of stereotyping and prejudice?"

In this context, he recalled how in one area of the OSCE, in the last year, a Catholic priest has been murdered and various Christians have continued to be victims of violence and aggression.
Recalling the words of Benedict XVI on his recent apostolic trip to Turkey, which participates in the OSCE, Mamberti said, "recognition of the positive role of religions within the fabric of society can and must impel us to explore more deeply their knowledge of man and to respect his dignity."

"The Holy See hopes that such recognition and such respect may appear openly and honestly in the work of the OSCE and its institutions, as well as in the field of tolerance," the archbishop added.

Mamberti also expressed the gratitude of the Holy See for the OSCE’s newly drafted documents against human trafficking.  He noted that the documents, “aim to intensify the struggle against human trafficking, with an approach that focuses on victims. The scourge of the sexual exploitation of children, often associated with human trafficking, calls for special action.”

“For her part,” the archbishop added, “the Catholic Church will not fail to arouse the world's conscience concerning the magnitude and seriousness of these scourges."

The OSCE is a primary instrument for early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation in its area. It has 19 missions or field operations in South-Eastern Europe, Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia.

The Organization deals with three dimensions of security - the politico-military, the economic and environmental, and the human dimension. It therefore addresses a wide range of security-related concerns, including arms control, confidence- and security-building measures, human rights, national minorities, democratization, policing strategies, counter-terrorism and economic and environmental activities. All 56 participating States enjoy equal status, and decisions are taken by consensus on a politically, but not legally binding basis.

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Stir up in young people the desire to serve common good, Bertone says

Vatican City, Dec 6, 2006 (CNA) - In a message to the participants of the 22nd National Congress of the Italian Catholic Union of Middle School Teachers, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Secretary of State of the Holy See said that an, “appreciation for the positive value of life must be communicated to young people, stirring up in them the desire for dedicating themselves to service of the Good.”

In his message sent in the name of Pope Benedict XVI, the cardinal said the formation of the new generations today requires “the development of educational and pastoral strategies that respond to the hopes of young people of the third millennium.”

Such an endeavor requires the “responsible contribution of everyone: teachers, parents, pastors, and all people genuinely concerned about the future of humanity,” he stressed.

Cardinal Bertone also expressed the Pope’s appreciation for the work of their organization, which is very active in promoting proper formation for teachers, especially in spiritual and religious matters.  

Continue forward, Bertone said, “courageously facing the challenges of the modern era.”

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Bishops in Paraguay invite young people to play lead role in transformation of country

Asunción, Paraguay, Dec 6, 2006 (CNA) - During a Mass in honor of Our Lady of Miracles of Caacupe, the patroness of Paraguay, the bishops of that country issued a statement inviting young people to play a lead role in the transformation of Paraguay and lamenting the difficult situation that many young people are experiencing due to the lack of jobs.
In a letter read by Bishop Ricardo Valenzuela, who heads up the bishops’ youth ministry, the prelates invited young people to “be coherent in their daily lives, no matter what place, occupation, or aspirations they may have.”

“Our proposal is to follow Jesus. Christ calls you to holiness of life. He invites you to be courageous, to not be afraid to be committed to serving others,” they said.

The bishops also expressed their hope at seeing how young people are become more committed to solidarity and charity through volunteer work in local communities.  “This encouraging picture cannot make us forget the problems that profoundly affect them and cause them great sadness and anguish, such as the lack of education opportunities, and other rights, which often force them to emigrate and take the road of vices and violence.”

Lastly, the bishops exhorted young people to “be disciples, missionaries, and witnesses of the love of Christ, in order to overcome through generosity the situations of poverty, corruption and injustices that oppress our people.” 

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