Archive of January 8, 2008

Pope encourages humanity to place hope in God

Vatican City, Jan 8, 2008 (CNA) - In the celebration of the Mass for the Epiphany, Pope Benedict declared that "today we celebrate Christ, Light of the world, and His 'manifestation' to all people" while reflecting on God’s continued faithfulness throughout a human history of sin.

"The evangelical episode we commemorate at Epiphany - the coming of the Magi to the Baby Jesus at Bethlehem - draws us back to the origins of the history of the people of God", said the Holy Father. This should remind us that the covenants that God creates with his people are concerned with “all humanity.”

The Pope continued: “With the calling of Abraham began God's great plan to make humanity a family, [he chose to do this] through His alliance with a new people, chosen by Him to be a blessing among all mankind. This divine plan is still underway and has its culminating moment in the mystery of Christ.”  This plan must be accepted by the history of humanity, “which always remains a history of faithfulness on God's part and, unfortunately, also one of unfaithfulness by we humans.”

"The Church herself, depository of the blessing, is holy and made up of sinners.  In the fullness of time, Jesus Christ came to fulfill the covenant. He Himself, true God and true man, is the Sacrament of God's faithfulness to His plan for the salvation of us all, of humanity entire.

"The coming of the Magi from the East to Bethlehem to adore the new-born Messiah is the sign of the manifestation of the universal King to all peoples, and to all men and women who seek the truth,” he added.

"The faithful and tenacious love of God, Whose covenant never fails from generation to generation... represents the hope of history.  In this mystery of God's faithfulness, the Church fully accomplishes her mission only when she reflects in herself the light of Christ the Lord and thus helps the people of the world on the road of peace and true progress.

"Today too there is still much truth in what the prophet said: 'dense fog envelops nations' and our history", the Pope reflected. "Indeed, it cannot be said that globalization is synonymous with world order".

In this context, "conflicts for economic supremacy and for the monopolization of energy and water resources and raw materials hinder the efforts of those people who, at all levels, are seeking to build a more just and united world.

"Greater hope is needed", he added, "so as to permit the common good of everyone to prevail over the luxury of the few and the poverty of the many.  ‘This great hope can only be God...not any god, but the God who has a human face’.”

"If there is great hope, it becomes possible to persevere in sobriety. If true hope is lacking, happiness is sought in inebriation, in superfluity, in excess, in the ruination of oneself and of the world.

"Moderation is not then just an ascetic rule, but also a path of salvation for humanity. it is now clear that only by adopting a sober lifestyle, accompanied by a serious commitment to the fair distribution of wealth, will it be possible to establish a just and sustainable order of development. To this end", the Holy Father concluded, "there is need for men and woman who nourish great hope and possess great courage".


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Worldwide Eucharistic adoration campaign for priests and sex abuse victims started

Vatican City, Jan 8, 2008 (CNA) - The Congregation for the Clergy has launched a worldwide Eucharistic adoration campaign for the holiness of priests and for vocations to the priestly life. One particular focus of the new effort is to pray for the victims of clergy sexual abuse.

According to Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, the head of the Vatican dicastery, the purpose of the initiative is for there to be somebody, somewhere, praying for priests every hour of the day before the Blessed Sacrament, as well as imploring the intercession of the Virgin Mary.

Hummes, the head of the Vatican ministry for the clergy, said a letter was sent to "dioceses, parishes, rectories, chapels, monasteries, convents and seminaries" calling on them to organise groups of "adorers". The letter asks the faithful "to make amends before God for the evil that has been done and hail once more the dignity of the victims", who had suffered from the "moral and sexual conduct of a very small part of the clergy.”

Women were also mentioned as important members of this new initiative. “The vocation to be a spiritual mother to priests is not well known, poorly understood and therefore not commonly practiced, despite its vital importance.  Regardless of age, all women can be spiritual mothers to a priest”, the congregation noted.  Women are also encouraged to pray anonymously for a specific priest and to spiritual accompany him. 

Another aim of the initiative is to promote the creation of new Eucharistic shrines and perpetual adoration chapels.  Adorers are also encouraged to make reparation for the “moral and sexual misconduct of a very small portion of the clergy.”

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All mankind must be guided by Word of God, Pope emphasizes

Vatican City, Jan 8, 2008 (CNA) - During the recitation of the Angelus at St. Peter’s Square on Sunday’s Feast of the Epiphany, Pope Benedict XVI emphasized the importance of being faithful to one’s vocation in order to help guide the steps of fellow believers.

From its first appearance, then, the light of Christ began to draw to itself the men "whom God loves", of every language, people and culture,” the Pope said before the traditional prayer.

“It is the power of the Holy Spirit that moves hearts and minds to seek truth, beauty, justice, peace,” he continued.

Quoting John Paul II’s encyclical Fides et Ratio, the Pope noted that the Wise men found in the Child of Bethlehem the goal of their “search for the truth and a search for a person to whom they might entrust themselves.”

Men and women of every generation, in this their pilgrimage, have need of direction,” the Pope continued, and “the star that guided the Magi had completed its function, but its spiritual light is ever present in the word of the Gospel…which is nothing if not the reflection of Christ, true man and true God,” he said.

The Pope stressed that every Christian is “called to help guide the steps of his brothers by word and the witness of his life.  How important it is, then, that we Christians are faithful to our vocation!”

In conclusion, the Pontiff offered “cordial greetings to the brothers and sisters of the Eastern Churches who, following the Julian calendar, celebrate holy Christmas tomorrow: It is a great joy to share in the celebration of the mysteries of faith, in the multiform riches of the rites that attest to the bi-millennial history of the Church.”

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225 delegates to elect new Jesuit general superior

, Jan 8, 2008 (CNA) - Today the 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus will begin in Rome. During the meeting, 225 Jesuit delegates from around the world will elect a new general superior to replace their outgoing leader Father Peter Hans Kolvenbach.

The delegates will also address a number of modern-day challenges facing the order founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola. Also on the table are discussions about issues related to the society’s internal life, including the dramatic decline in the number of vocations in the West and the growth of vocations in the East, especially in India.

The issues discussed are taken from petitions that any Jesuit—regardless of whether nor not he is a delegate to the Congregation—can send in beforehand.  Some of the 225 delegates attend because of their position in the Society, but most are commissioned to attend by their local provinces or regions.

Of the 225 delegates (not including the Father General), 217 will be able to vote for the new superior.  The remaining eight will only be involved in the discussions. The Congregation will be opened on Monday morning at the Church of Gesu.

New General Superior

The first part of the General Congregation will be devoted to the election of a new superior to replace Father Peter Hans Kolvenbach, who will be stepping down.  Sources within the Society of Jesus said that in the process for electing a new superior, “there are no candidacies or campaigns.  In fact, it is forbidden to carry them out in favor of or against a particular Jesuit.”

In order to prepare for the elections, a report on the challenges facing the Society of Jesus is presented at the outset of the general congregation, allowing the electors to discern which type of person and which qualities are needed in the new superior.

After a few day of discussion among the delegates, the voting will take place by secret ballot.  For the first time in history, voting will be done electronically.  110 votes are needed to be elected.

The closing date of the Congregation has yet to be determined.  The meetings will be held at the General Curia of the Society of Jesus, located in Rome near the colonnade that surrounds St. Peter’s Square.

The official languages of the Congregation will be Spanish, English, French and German.

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Pro-life proposal threatens to unseat Italian government

, Jan 8, 2008 (CNA) - A new bill tightening abortion laws could split the Italian government’s ruling coalition, Bloomberg News reports.

Sandro Bondi, a member of former Prime Minister Silvio Berluscioni’s Forza Italia party, has called for a law to ban abortions after the 90th day of pregnancy.  Italy legalized abortion in 1978.  Abortions are currently allowed after the 90th day only when the mother’s life is in danger.

The present nine-party coalition, which enables Prime Minister Romano Prodi to rule, includes the pro-abortion Radical Party and the Communists.  However, conservative Catholics across party lines are increasingly supporting the proposal, which would also review the parts of the law that pertain to advanced pregnancies.

High-ranking clergy voiced their views of the proposal.  Cardinal Camillo Ruini said re-opening the abortion debate would be a “very logical step” in light of the recent United Nations vote on a moratorium on the death penalty.  Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, present head of the Italian bishops’ conference, expressed his hope that the existing law would be revised.

“Bondi’s motion is a great step toward justice,” Senator Paola Binetti, a member of the largest party in the ruling coalition, said Friday.  Senator Binetti, a celibate member of Opus Dei, almost caused the government to fall in December.  She opposed Prime Minster Prodi’s bill to criminalize discrimination based on “sexual preferences,” which would have made the offense punishable by a prison sentence.

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Malaysian Catholic paper again forbidden to call God “Allah”

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Jan 8, 2008 (CNA) - Malaysia has ruled that a Catholic newspaper cannot use the word “Allah.”  The ruling contradicts earlier reports that the government had reversed the ban on the use of the word by non-Muslims, according to Reuters.

Father Lawrence Andrew, the editor of the Catholic weekly The Herald, had said last week that the government had renewed the publication’s publishing permit without restrictions, despite earlier rulings forbidding non-Muslims to use the word.

 “Allah” is a Malay word for God used in Christian Bibles.  The Herald’s Malay-language section also uses the word.

Abdullah Md Zin, a minister for religious affairs, said on Friday that the ban remained in effect.

"It was just the priest's interpretation that there was no restriction on the use of the word," Abdullah told Reuters.  Such restrictions are increasing fears that non-Muslims’ religious liberty is being eroded in the country.

Malaysian Muslims make up about 60 percent of the nation’s population.  Minority religions include Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity.

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Pope Benedict XVI attracts 3 million in 2007

Vatican City, Jan 8, 2008 (CNA) - Recently released figures reveal that pilgrims continue to come to Rome in significant numbers under Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate.

Nearly 3 million people came to Rome in 2007 to hear the Pope speak at his weekly audiences and Sunday addresses.  The number, slightly lower than 2006, compares favorably with the numbers of Vatican visitors who heard Pope John Paul II in person.

Some observers believe that the increase of visitors as compared to John Paul II is connected to the decrease in Pope Benedict’s world travels. Since people reason that they are less likely to see the Pope while he travels, they visit him at the Vatican.
Pope Benedict’s writings have also attracted attention.  His book Jesus of Nazareth has sold two million copies, while his second encyclical Spe Salvi has sold 1.5 million copies in Italy alone.

''It seemed impossible to imagine a successor to John Paul II who could approach the media success that the 'great' Karol Wojtyla had, but the shy and discreet Ratzinger has done it,'' commented the Italian paper Corriere della Sera.

The Pope is expected to write two more encyclicals and the second volume of Jesus of Nazareth in 2008.  He has scheduled two more trips within Italy and three trips abroad, including a visit to New York City and to World Youth Day events in Sydney.


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Cubans may have their second blessed in November

Havana, Cuba, Jan 8, 2008 (CNA) - Venerable Jose Olallo Valdes, a religious from the Brothers of St. John of God, may become Cuba's second person to be proclaimed a blessed in November 2008, say sources from the Cuban Archdiocese of Camaguey.

Archbishop Juan de la Caridad García Rodríguez recently led a pilgrimage to the church of St. John of God, where the remains of the Venerable are buried.

At the end of the pilgrimage, which included a cultural and artistic festival, Archbishop García described Br. Olallo Valdes as "an accomplished example of the identity and tradition of our city and Archdiocese". The Archbishop also encouraged the artists participating at the cultural festival in honor of the future Blessed to "use your art to highlight the personality of this humble religious."

Born from unknown parents, Jose Olallo Valdes was born on February 12 1820 and a month later was left at the Orphanage of San Jose in Havana. He was baptized just days later on March 15.

Br. Olallo Valdes joined the Order of St. John of God at a very young age and was soon moved to Camaguey to assist the victims of the 1835 cholera epidemic as a nurse.

During his time in Camaguey, he suffered the consequences of the anti-religious laws inspired by the Free Masons that suppressed all religious orders in Spanish territories. Nevertheless, he remained faithful to his vows and, due to his popularity with the people, civil authorities allowed him to remain at the hospital, thus becoming the only remaining Brother of St. John of God remaining in Cuba.

After 54 years of devoted service to the sick and the poor, which included times of both famine and war, Br. Olallo Valdes passed away on March 7 1889. His death so moved Camaguey's citizens, that a vast multitude attended his funeral and mourned his passing.

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Pope and Kenyan bishops pray for peace in election conflict

Nairobi, Kenya, Jan 8, 2008 (CNA) - The Kenya Episcopal Conference denounced the many acts of political violence after the reaction to disputed results and allegations of voting fraud in the national election.  The bishops joined the Pope in praying for peace in the country.

“We wish to make a passionate appeal to all Kenyans, men and women, old and youth, from all the political parties, and from all walks of life, to refrain from violence and from the senseless killing of our brothers and sisters!” the letter said.

The letter was signed by John Cardinal Njue, who was elevated to the cardinalate in November.  He was joined by two other archbishops and 21 bishops. 

Emphasizing the sanctity of life and the love of neighbor, the bishops said, “We have lived together for all these years as brothers and sisters. There is therefore no reason for us to raise our hand against our neighbor because he or she belongs to a different ethnic group or political affiliation. Life is Sacred! We all belong to one family of God.”

The bishops acknowledged allegations of “electoral malpractices,” but insisted violence was not the right response to alleged injustices.  They encouraged a peaceful resolution to the dispute through a commission that would audit and review poll results.  The bishops themselves offered to serve as mediators to resolve the conflict.

Kenyans, especially the young, were urged to refrain from violence, property destruction, and theft, and to encourage others to do the same.  The bishops exhorted Kenyans to share basic goods with those displaced by the violence and to pray for peace and for the victims of the violence.

Benedict XVI has also made an appeal for peace and dialogue in Kenya following recent violence in the wake of the country's presidential elections.

The Holy Father supported the stance by the bishops and assured them “of his prayers that this great tragedy will soon come to an end". He also expressed his closeness to the victims of the violence.

In his letter, Pope Benedict expressed his “heartfelt hope that this beloved nation, whose experience of social tranquility and development represents an element of stability in the entire troubled region, will banish as quickly as possible the threat of ethnic conflict".

The Pope pleaded “for an immediate end to acts of violence and fratricidal conflict" and issued an appeal to political leaders "to embark resolutely on the path of peace and justice”.

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Attacks in Iraq were coordinated, claims archbishop

Baghdad, Iraq, Jan 8, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, the apostolic nuncio to Iraq and Jordan, denounced the yesterday’s attacks against seven churches and convents in Mosul and Baghdad in an interview with SIR on Monday. The nuncio also told Servizio Informativo Religioso (SIR) that the attacks were coordinated and this worried him.

"We do not know who the authors of these attacks are"… but the fact is that, "if they had been made just a few hours earlier, there would have been a horrible massacre. The Churches were full of devotees," said the archbishop.

"These acts against Christian places of worship in Mosul and Baghdad have been coordinated, and this is sad news, which makes us uneasy", he related.

Archbishop Francis Assisi Chullikatt, the apostolic nuncio to Iraq and Jordan, made these comments in an interview with SIR which is the official news service of the Italian Bishops' Conference.

On Sunday, terrorists carried out attacks against seven churches and convents in Mosul and Baghdad which luckily had no victims but caused material damage.

"It is clear – says the nuncio – that these acts have been coordinated: the patriarch Emmanuel III Delly had officiated Mass in the church of Saint George in the capital. The other attacked church is the church of Saint Paul in Mosul, where the bishop resides for security reasons."

"It is hard to say what kind of message the terrorists meant to give with these attacks. They showed they can hit easily and accurately if they want to. The Government is aware of all this, and we are very worried. What happened yesterday is sad news", Archbishop Chullikatt concluded.

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Cardinal Rode calls on Jesuits to restore “sense of the Church”

, Jan 8, 2008 (CNA) - During the opening Mass for the 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, Cardinal Franc Rode, prefect of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, called on the sons of St. Ignatius to help restore the “sensus ecclesiae”—the sense of Church—and faithfulness to the Holy Father within consecrated life in the Church.

The Mass celebrated on Monday at the historic Church of the Gesu in Rome inaugurated the General Congregation that will elect a new superior to replace Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach.

In his homily, Cardinal Franc noted that “the election of a new General Superior has a fundamental value for the life of the Order,” and that this is “the second time in the history” of the Society founded in 1540 “that a General Congregation is held to elect a new General Superior even though his predecessor is still alive.”

The cardinal stressed as well that the Congregation was being held “to address important and very difficult issues that affect both the body of the Society as well as the way in which it actually operates.”

Such issues to be addressed include: “the identity of today’s Jesuit, the meaning and values of the vow of obedience to the Holy Father which has always characterized this religious family, the mission of the Society within the context of globalization, marginalization, community life, apostolic obedience, vocational ministry and other important issues.”

“There are many institutes of consecrated life that participate in Ignatian spirituality,” the cardinal continued, “and follow your elections attentively.  Likewise there are many future priests studying at your universities and many people visiting your educational centers with the desire to encounter an answer to the challenges that science, technology, globalization, inculturation, consumerism, poverty, pose to humanity, to the Church, to the faith, with the hope of receiving a formation that will make them capable of building a better world of truth, freedom, justice and peace.”

Cardinal Rode warned Jesuits that “the authenticity of religious life is characterized by the following of Christ and exclusive consecration to Him and His Kingdom,” and he said that “consecration to the service of Christ cannot be separated from consecration to the service of the Church.”

The cardinal then went on to point out two areas of special concern to Jesuits; first, the decline of some members of religious families from “sentire cum Ecclesia,” and secondly, the “increasing estrangement of the Hierarchy.”

Regarding the first point, Cardinal Rode reminded the delegates to the Congregation of their task to “restore the sensus Ecclesiae” (the sense of Church) and that “love of the Church in every sense of the word is not a human feeling that comes and goes, but rather a love founded upon the faith, without which love for the Church cannot exist.”
Regarding the Hierarchy, the cardinal pointed out that “religious obedience is understood only as obedience in love; the fundamental nucleus of Ignatian spirituality consists in joining the love of God with the love of the hierarchical Church.”

Cardinal Rode also reminded the delegates of the “need to present to the faithful and to the world the authentic truth revealed in Scripture and Tradition,” something that requires “vigilance over doctrine in magazines and publications.”

Lastly, regarding the need to reconcile the faith with the culture, Cardinal Rode pointed out that the “task is difficult, uncomfortable and risky, and sometimes underappreciated, if not misunderstood, but it is a necessary task for the Church.”

He encouraged Jesuits to “maintain and develop their charism: ‘contemplatives in action’.”


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Padre Pio relatives protest saint’s exhumation

, Jan 8, 2008 (CNA) - Relatives are strongly opposing the planned exhumation and display of the body of St. Padre Pio, the twentieth-century Italian priest renowned for his stigmata and preternatural powers.

Saint Pio’s niece, Pia Forgione, and her eight children have begun legal action to stop the exhumation of the saint’s body, which is planned to be displayed later this year for pilgrims to venerate, according to ANSA.  The family’s lawyer, Francesco Traversi, who also heads an association of Padre Pio devotees, said they were trying to prevent the saint’s body from being “profaned.”

Archbishop Domenico Umberto D'Ambrosio said permission for the exhumation had been granted by his “higher authorities” and was authorized by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints.  The exhumation is part of many initiatives planned to commemorate the anniversary of the saint’s death, which took place 40 years ago this September.

The saint’s body is planned to be displayed for several months, after which it will be returned to the tomb in Santa Maria delle Grazie church in San Giovanni Rotondo, which neighbors the friary where Saint Pio lived.

“I am convinced that we all have the duty to allow future generations the chance to venerate the mortal remains of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina and to conserve them as well as possible,” Archbishop D’Ambrosio said during a Mass on Sunday night.

The lawyer for Padre Pio’s relatives accused the archbishop of acting in a most “uncivilized” way and without “any specific mandate.”  Alluding to the ecclesiastical persecution Padre Pio is reputed to have suffered during his life, Traversi said that the archbishop “will not succeed in his attempt to re-crucify Padre Pio by putting his remains on display.”

Padre Pio, whose real name was Francesco Forgione, was born in 1887 and died in 1968.  He is reputed to have borne the stigmata, the wounds of Christ’s crucifixion, for fifty years on his hands, feet, and side.  His fellow friars credited him with more than a thousand miraculous cures.  He was also said to have emitted the scent of flowers and to have possessed the ability to bilocate, that is, to be in two places at once.

The saint was shunned by church authorities and recognized only after massive popular devotion to him.  He is especially popular in Australia and Ireland.

Padre Pio’s shrine draws close to one million pilgrims each year, and the hospital he founded in San Giovanni Rotondo is one of the biggest in southern Italy.

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“In God We Trust” redesign for dollar coins

Washington D.C., Jan 8, 2008 (CNA) - A provision in a 2008 domestic spending bill will change the positioning of the national motto “In God We Trust” on new dollar coins honoring U.S. presidents, the Winston Salem-Journal reports.

The motto will move from the edge of the new dollar coins to the front or the back of the currency.  Critics had complained about the present placement of the motto, claiming its position on the outer edge of the coins would trivialize the words.

The $555 billion domestic spending bill signed into law by President Bush in December included a provision mandating the design change “as soon as is practicable.”

The U.S. Mint began producing the one-dollar coins in 2007, initially honoring the first four presidents.  The 2008 coins will continue the present design, but the motto will be repositioned for the 2009 minting.
Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, said he was pleased with the change, saying that his group had been concerned that “moving ‘In God We Trust’ off the face of our coins was just one step toward removing it altogether.”

The motto “In God We Trust” first appeared on U.S. coins in 1864.  Congress declared it the national motto in 1956.  It was included on the back of dollar bills one year later.

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Phoenix’s Bishop Olmsted to oversee Gallup diocese

Phoenix, Ariz., Jan 8, 2008 (CNA) - The bishop of Phoenix will act as administrator for the Diocese of Gallup, New Mexico, as its present bishop goes on medical leave for a year, the Arizona Republic reports.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted will oversee the diocese after its sitting bishop, Donald E. Pelotte, began medical leave in December after he exhibited some unusual behavior. 

Bishop Pelotte, 62, was hurt July 23 at his home.  Though he said he fell down some steps, emergency-room personnel and others said the severity of his injuries indicated he could have been assaulted.  After being treated in Phoenix, Texas, and Florida, he returned to Gallup in September.

Soon after his return, the bishop called police to report his home had been invaded by four “gentle people” three to four feet tall, who refused to leave.  Police found no evidence of the intruders.

Bishop Pelotte, who has been bishop of Gallup since 1990, wrote to his diocese’s Catholics last month saying he plans to take “a different approach to my recovery” outside of the diocese.

Bishop Olmsted will effectively serve as bishop of Gallup in addition to his duties as Phoenix’s bishop.  The appointment is temporary until Bishop Pelotte returns or a successor is chosen.

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Archbishop to UN: Without human rights, there is no peace

, Jan 8, 2008 (CNA) - Everyone has “the right and the responsibility to defend and implement all human rights", declared Archbishop Silvano Tomasi in a speech to the U.N. Human Rights Commission, which is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights this year.

Archbishop Tomasi described how the declaration "remains the single most important reference point for cross-cultural discussion of human freedom and dignity in the world and represents the customary-law base for any discussion about human rights".

The rights presented in the declaration "are not conferred by States or other institutions but they are acknowledged as inherent to every person, independent of, and in many ways the result of ethical, social, cultural and religious traditions.

While some people may believe that "Human dignity concerns democracy and sovereignty,” this dignity also “goes at the same time beyond them", he said.

The Holy See’s permanent observer also echoed a theme that the Pope has been teaching on recently saying that, “the respect of all human rights is the source of peace.” He elaborated on the point by explaining that “Peace is not only conceived as an absence of violence but includes also co-operation and solidarity, at the local and international levels, as a necessary way in order to promote and to defend the common good of all people.”

"Sixty years after the declaration", the archbishop added, "many members of the human family are still far from the enjoyment of their rights and basic needs. Human security is still not ensured". This sixtieth anniversary, he concluded, should be spent emphasizing "that every person, as an individual or as a member of a community, has the right and the responsibility to defend and implement all human rights".

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Benedict XVI delivers “state of the world” address to diplomatic corps

Vatican City, Jan 8, 2008 (CNA) - Yesterday at the Vatican, Benedict XVI addressed the 176 States of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See.  The Pope spent most of his talk giving a rundown of the state of the world, focusing on several regions that have seen unrest.

In his address, Pope Benedict mentioned his journeys abroad, pointing specifically to his visit to Brazil.  He expressed hope for “increasing co-operation among the peoples of Latin America, and, within each of the countries that make up that continent, the resolution of internal conflicts.”

He continued, “I wish to mention Cuba, which is preparing to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the visit of my venerable predecessor. Pope John Paul II was received with affection by the authorities and by the people, and he encouraged all Cubans to work together for a better future. I should like to reiterate this message of hope, which has lost none of its relevance.”

The Pontiff also pinpointed destruction due to natural disasters that have recently occurred in different parts of the world.  “My thoughts and prayers are directed especially towards the peoples affected by appalling natural disasters. I am thinking of the hurricanes and floods which have devastated certain regions of Mexico and Central America, as well as countries in Africa and Asia, especially Bangladesh, and parts of Oceania.”

Reflecting on the concern for the Middle East, he said: "I am glad that the Annapolis Conference pointed towards the abandonment of partisan or unilateral solutions, in favor of a global approach respectful of the rights and legitimate interests of all the peoples of the region. I appeal once more to the Israelis and the Palestinians to concentrate their energies on the implementation of commitments made on that occasion, and to expedite the process that has happily been restarted. Moreover, I invite the international community to give strong support to these two peoples and to understand their respective sufferings and fears.”

“Who can remain unmoved by the plight of Lebanon, amid its trials and all the violence that continues to shake that beloved country? It is my earnest wish that the Lebanese people will be able to decide freely on their future and I ask the Lord to enlighten them, beginning with the leaders of public life, so that, putting aside particular interests, they will be ready to pledge themselves to the path of dialogue and reconciliation. Only in this way will the country be able to progress in stability and to become once more an example of the peaceful coexistence of different communities.

“In Iraq too, reconciliation is urgently needed! At present, terrorist attacks, threats and violence continue, especially against the Christian community, and the news which arrived yesterday confirms our concern; it is clear that certain difficult political issues remain unresolved. In this context, an appropriate constitutional reform will need to safeguard the rights of minorities. Important humanitarian aid is necessary for the peoples affected by the war; I am thinking especially of displaced persons within the country and refugees who have fled abroad, among whom there are many Christians.”

“I should also like to express my support for continued and uninterrupted pursuit of the path of diplomacy in order to resolve the issue of Iran's nuclear program, by negotiating in good faith, adopting measures designed to increase transparency and mutual trust, and always taking account of the authentic needs of peoples and the common good of the human family.”

“Turning our gaze now towards the whole of Asia, I should like to draw your attention to some other crisis situations, first of all to Pakistan, which has suffered from serious violence in recent months. I hope that all political and social forces will commit themselves to building a peaceful society, respectful of the rights of all. In Afghanistan, in addition to violence, there are other serious social problems, such as the production of drugs.”

Reflecting on Africa, the Holy Father said: "I should like first of all to reiterate my deep anguish, on observing that hope seems almost vanquished by the menacing sequence of hunger and death that is unfolding in Darfur. With all my heart I pray that the joint operation of the United Nations and the African Union, whose mission has just begun, will bring aid and comfort to the suffering populations.”

“Somalia, particularly Mogadishu, continues to be afflicted by violence and poverty. I appeal to the parties in conflict to cease their military operations, to facilitate the movement of humanitarian aid and to respect civilians.”

“In recent days Kenya has experienced an abrupt outbreak of violence. I join the bishops in their appeal made on 2 January, inviting all the inhabitants, especially political leaders, to seek a peaceful solution through dialogue, based on justice and fraternity.”

Pope Benedict concluded by turning his attention to Europe: “I rejoice at the progress that has been made in various countries of the Balkan region, and I express once again the hope that the definitive status of Kosovo will take account of the legitimate claims of the parties involved and will guarantee security and respect for the rights of all the inhabitants of this land, so that the specter of violence will be definitively removed and European stability strengthened.”

Continuing his discussion on Europe, the Pope gave assurances that he is "following attentively the new phase which began with the signing of the Treaty of Lisbon. This step gives a boost to the process of building the 'European home', which 'will be a good place to live for everyone only if it is built on a solid cultural and moral foundation of common values drawn from our history and our traditions' and if it does not deny its Christian roots.”

“From this rapid overview it appears clear that the security and stability of the world are still fragile. The factors of concern are varied and law can be an effective force for peace only if its foundations remain solidly anchored in natural law, given by the Creator. This is another reason why God can never be excluded from the horizon of man or of history. God's name is a name of justice, it represents an urgent appeal for peace.”


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Beatification of Cardinal Newman "imminent" Vatican says

Vatican City, Jan 8, 2008 (CNA) - Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, Prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Cause of the Saints, has announced that the beatification of the great British convert and scholar, Cardinal John Henry Newman, is "imminent."

In an interview to be published on Wednesday in the daily Italian edition of L'Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Saraiva said that among the most important personalities to be beatified "soon" is "the case of Cardinal Newman, a relevant intellectual, and an emblematic figure of conversion from Anglicanism to Catholicism."

"Personally, I wish his beatification to happen very soon because it would be very important at this moment for the path of ecumenical dialogue,” Cardinal Martins said.

Cardinal Saraiva Martins also revealed the beatification, latter this year, of the parents of St, Therese of Lisieux, Louis Martin and Azelia Guérin. The heroic virtues of the parents of St. Therese, who is now one of the most popular saints in the Catholic Church and a Doctor of the Church, were proclaimed on March 26, 1994.

Cardinal Saraiva implied that the miracle needed to proclaim them Blessed has been approved by his congregation, and will be announced at the next Consistory.

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