Archive of March 13, 2008

U.S. Bishops’ immigration committee asks ICE to decrease raids

Washington D.C., Mar 13, 2008 (CNA) - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration met with a high-ranking ICE official on Monday to discuss the impact of immigration raids around the country.  The committee’s bishops encouraged a decrease or elimination of immigration raids and asked that churches, hospitals, and charities not be targeted for enforcement actions.

The committee discussed immigration enforcement policy with Assistant Secretary Julie Meyers of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  Assistant Secretary Meyers, who heads the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division within DHS, oversees the enforcement of immigration law within the country.

Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, the committee chairman, said that the tone of the meeting was cooperative, not confrontational.  According to Bishop Wester, the committee acknowledged the right of the government to enforce the law, but told Assistant Secretary Meyers that the use of raids should be minimized, if not abandoned altogether.

“We wanted to communicate our desire to work with the government to minimize the use of raids and to reduce the negative impact of the raids on immigrant families,” said Bishop Wester.  “We felt that the Assistant Secretary was willing to work more closely with us to prevent the separation of families and to protect children.”

ICE raids have taken place over the past 18 months in Greeley, Colorado, Grand Island, Nebraska, New Bedford, Massachusetts, and Utah, among other places.

During these raids, children who are U.S. citizens have been separated from their undocumented parents who were arrested in the raids.

“Our primary concern is to reduce the trauma that children experience when a parent is taken away suddenly,” said Bishop Wester.  “We informed the Assistant Secretary that diocesan and Catholic Charities personnel are in a good position to help families in the aftermath of an enforcement action.”

Bishop Wester said the meeting also focused on common interests, such as enacting comprehensive immigration reform and ending human trafficking.

The committee also expressed its opposition to immigration enforcement activity focused on churches, hospitals, or social service programs. 

“We do not want migrants to be afraid to attend Mass or to seek the basic assistance that they need,” Bishop Wester explained.

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California resolution denouncing anti-homeschooling ruling introduced

Sacramento, Calif., Mar 13, 2008 (CNA) - A California legislator has responded to a state superior court decision ruling that non-credentialed parents may not home school their children by introducing a bill asking the California Supreme Court to overturn the decision, the California Catholic Daily reports.

However, it is important to note that the resolution will not change the standing law.

On February 28, the California Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles ruled that enrollment and attendance in a public full-time day school is required by law unless the child is enrolled in and attends a private full-time day school, is tutored by someone holding a state teaching credential, or meets one of a few statutory exemptions.

Homeschooling families and advocates across the country have protested the appellate court’s decision.

On Friday Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called the court decision “outrageous” and one that “must be overturned at all costs.” 

“And if the courts don’t protect parents’ rights,” said Schwarzenegger, “then, as elected officials, we will.”

On Monday, Assemblyman Joel Anderson, a Republican from El Cajon, sought to counteract the earlier ruling by introducing Resolution 115. His proposal expresses support for home schooling and a desire that the Supreme Court overturn the appellate court’s ruling.  The resolution says the ruling is based on a “misguided interpretation” of the state education code.

The resolution was drafted in consultation with the Private and Home Educators of California and the Virginia-based Home School Legal Defense Organization.  Both organizations insisted the resolution will not change any California laws, saying that introducing binding legislation at present would be “premature and counterproductive.”

Both organizations have urged Californians to encourage their legislators to pass the resolution.

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Religious health care providers denied 'place at the table', Vatican tells UN Council

Geneva, Ill., Mar 13, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Silvano Tomasi encouraged the UN’s Human Rights Council on Tuesday to continue promoting the human right to mental and physical health. However, he challenged the Council to include religious organizations in discussions on the topic and to allocate a more proportionate share of the resources to them.

The archbishop, who is the head of the Holy See’s permanent observer mission to the United Nations in Geneva, made his comments in light of a recent report on “the Right of Everyone to the Enjoyment of the Highest Attainable Standard of Physical and Mental Health”.

He said his delegation was pleased with the report’s identification of the right to health as a “fundamental building block of sustainable development, poverty reduction, and economic prosperity.” 

A similar idea, the prelate noted, was expressed in a speech by Pope Benedict XVI, where the Pope said, “the building of a more secure future for the human family means first and foremost working for the integral development of peoples, especially through the provision of adequate health care [and] the elimination of pandemics like AIDS.”

Nevertheless, Tomasi stressed that the Holy See recognizes in addition to this the need to assure access to spiritual assistance as another condition that guarantees “the full enjoyment of the right to health.”

Religious organizations, the archbishop said, can and should play a key role in strengthening the health systems of the world.

“Such organizations often assume significant responsibility for the burden of health care delivery, most especially to the poorest sectors of the population and to those living in rural areas,” Archbishop Tomasi said. “Too often, however, these faith-based service providers are not allowed a ‘place at the table’ during the formulation of health care plans on national or local levels.”

The archbishop said that religious organizations are also deprived of an “equitable share in the resources” from both local and national budgets and international donors.  Such funding, he said, is vital to health system maintenance, training and retaining professional staff, and addressing global pandemics such as HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria.

The delegation from the Holy See, the archbishop said, was pleased with the report’s inclusion of non-discrimination as a core obligation of health systems.  The delegation also approved of the report’s emphasis on the obligation of governments to address the needs of disadvantaged individuals, communities, and populations.

Archbishop Tomasi took care to point out that people can never ignore or deny the right to life among the most vulnerable, such as children in the womb and those suffering from grave and life-threatening illnesses.

However, he voiced concern that references of the right to health would be interpreted to include abortion or to encourage the neglect of the sick. 

“My Delegation urgently hopes that references to ‘emergency obstetric care’ will never be misconstrued to justify the forced ending of human life before birth and that the reference to a state’s obligation to ‘identify a minimum ‘basket’ of health services’ and to ‘striking balances’ will not be interpreted in a manner that denies essential services to the seriously ill,” the archbishop said.

Archbishop Tomasi also criticized the report’s possible weakness in defending an absolute right to life, saying, “While the report claims that ‘few human rights are absolute,’ it is the firm belief of my delegation, Mr. President, that no compromise can be made with a person’s right to life itself, from conception to natural death, nor with that person’s ability to enjoy the dignity which flows from that right.”

The archbishop closed his address in saying that the report’s recognition of health as a public good and the need for international cooperation on health issues should direct attention to the plight of refugees, migrants, and displaced persons.  He also repeated his exhortation to include religious organizations in the provision of health care.

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Kidnapped Archbishop of Mosul dies in captivity

Baghdad, Iraq, Mar 13, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Paulos Rahho, who was kidnapped on February 29, was found dead yesterday near Mosul, according to Bishop Shlemon Warduni. Pope Benedict XVI has once again condemned the kidnapping of the archbishop as “an act of inhuman violence” and expressed his pain at the news of the Iraqi prelate’s death.

“Bishop Rahho is dead. We found him lifeless near Mosul. His abductors had buried him,” Bishop Shlemon Warduni told SIR.

Bishop Warduni, who is the auxiliary bishop of Baghdad, related how the Iraqi Church discovered that Archbishop Rahho was dead:

“Yesterday, the abductors had told us that Bishop Rahho was very ill; yesterday afternoon, they told us he had died. This morning, they called us to say they had buried him. Some of our young men followed the directions given by the abductors to reach the place. Here they dug up and found the lifeless bishop. We do not know yet whether he died because of his unstable health or if he has been killed. The abductors only told us he had died”.

CNN is reporting that the archbishop's body was found with gunshot wounds.

Upon finding out about the archbishop’s death, Pope Benedict sent a telegram to Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, Iraq.

In his telegram the Pope expresses his closeness "to the Chaldean Church and to the entire Christian community", reaffirming his "condemnation for an act of inhuman violence which offends the dignity of human beings and seriously damages the cause of the fraternal coexistence of the beloved Iraqi people".

Benedict XVI gives assurances of his prayers for the archbishop "who was kidnapped just after he had completed the Way of the Cross" and invokes the Lord's mercy "that this tragic event may serve to build a future of peace in the martyred land of Iraq".

Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. also released the following declaration today:

"We had all continued to hope and pray for his release, something the Pope had requested on a number of occasions in his appeals.

"Unfortunately the most senseless and unjustified violence continues to be inflicted on the Iraqi people, and especially on the small Christian community to which the Pope and all of us are particularly close in prayer and solidarity at this moment of great suffering.

"It is to be hoped that this tragic event may once more - and more powerfully - underline the responsibility of everyone, and especially of the international community, for the pacification of so troubled a country".

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Commission discusses future options for the Church in China

Vatican City, Mar 13, 2008 (CNA) - A commission established by Pope Benedict XVI to study issues concerning the life of the Church in China met in the Vatican from March 10-12. The group examined the impact of the Pope’s May 2007 letter to Chinese Catholics and discussed the future of the Catholic Church in China.

Benedict made clear from the outset of his papacy two years ago that improving relations with China was a key priority.  He has been reaching out to the country in an effort to restore diplomatic ties and unite China's estimated 12 million faithful.

Participants in the commission first examined the reaction to the pontifical document within China and around the world.  “They reflected on the theological principles that inspired the Letter” to discuss future possibilities for “the Catholic community in China.” 

The main topic discussed by the members was the “Church's mission as 'instrument of salvation' for the Chinese people." This topic brought several different contexts to mind: evangelization in a world experiencing globalization; the application, in China's current situation, of the Vatican Council II doctrine on the nature and structure of the Church; forgiveness and reconciliation within the Catholic community; the requirements of truth and charity; the government of dioceses, which has great relevance for pastoral activity and for the formation of priests, seminarians, religious and lay faithful.”

The need to foster “a respectful and constructive dialogue with the authorities” was also emphasized by the commission members. This type of dialogue is seen as key to bringing about unity within the Church in China, which is divided into an underground Church and a state sanctioned Church. The state-run Church insists on Communist party officials regulating the internal governance of the Church and on appointing bishops, a fact which undermines the primacy of the Pope. Progress has been made recently in the area of episcopal appointments, with the Chinese government and the Vatican coming to agreements on who should be appointed as a bishop.

The final part of the meeting was dedicated to an exchange of “information and experiences concerning the life and activity of the Church in China.”

At the conclusion of the three days, the commission met with the Holy Father who listened to an account of their work and “encouraged the participants to continue their commitment in favor of the Catholic community in China.”

Pope Benedict also reminded the group to observe the upcoming Universal Day of Prayer for the Church in China on May 24.

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Pope sends condolences for death of John Paul I’s brother

Vatican City, Mar 13, 2008 (CNA) - Holy Father has sent a telegram of condolence to Bishop Giuseppe Andrich of Belluno Feltre, Italy, for the death of Edoardo Luciani, the younger brother of Pope John Paul I.

Luciani died Tuesday, March 11 at the age of 91.

In the telegram, Benedict XVI recalled his "cordial meeting" with Edoardo in Lorenzago di Cadore in July last year, and dwelt on the deceased's "great human and Christian qualities, particularly his exemplary dedication to his family, his generous service to the Church, and his intense social commitment.

"I pray fervently", the Holy Father added, "that the deceased may - alongside his wife and his brother Pontiff whom he loved dearly - share in endless peace and joy with the Risen Lord".

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Deaf couple wants to use genetic selection to have a deaf child

London, England, Mar 13, 2008 (CNA) - Reports are circulating in the British press about the case of two deaf artists who have said they are willing to use genetic selection in order to ensure that their second child—who would be conceived in vitro—is born deaf.

British designer Tomato Lichy and his partner, theater director Paula Garfield, are deaf and have a three year-old daughter named Molly who was born deaf as well.

Both were pleased at the news that their first daughter—conceived naturally—was born deaf and now they will attempt to have a second child.  Due to Paula’s age, they doubt she can conceive naturally and therefore they said they are willing to use in vitro fertilization and genetic selection techniques to ensure the baby is born deaf as well.

Their case has sparked a debate in Britain over the use of in vitro fertilization and cases of genetic defects.  The British government’s current norms stipulate that clinics must reject embryos conceived in vitro that show evidence of physical or mental defects in favor of those that are healthy.

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Bishop slams V-monologues at Notre Dame as propaganda, “spiritually damaging”

South Bend, Ind., Mar 13, 2008 (CNA) - John D’Arcy, Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, has responded to the decision by the president of Notre Dame to allow the performance of the Vagina Monologues, calling the play “pornographic” and “spiritually damaging.”

“As bishop of this historic diocese, entrusted with the spiritual welfare of all those who live within its borders, including the students at our beloved Notre Dame, I believe that, once again, I must publicly and respectfully disagree with Father Jenkins’ decision,” Bishop D’Arcy said, in a written statement posted on the website of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

Bishop D’Arcy said that he and university president Father John Jenkins, CSC, had been in communication about the president’s decision to allow the play. 

“Father Jenkins has informed me that, while he thinks that this play is a bad play, he believes that permitting its performance under certain conditions, namely, in an academic building without fundraising and with a panel discussion afterwards in which the Catholic perspective is represented, is consistent with the identity of a Catholic university.”

According to Bishop D’Arcy, Father Jenkins compared the performance to the reading in Notre Dame classrooms of Nietzsche, Gibbon, Luther and Joyce, who in various ways put forward ideas contrary to Catholic teaching.

Bishop D’Arcy said the difference between works by famous authors and this play is “a difference, not of degree, but of kind.”

He explained that the former had written serious philosophical, theological, and literary works that have influenced Western thought.  Therefore, their work has academic merit and is worthy of classroom discussion.

“Father Jenkins believes that Eve Ensler’s play was written to shock and offend,” Bishop D’Arcy wrote.  “How can one put such a play, which many consider pornographic, on the level of serious works such as the writings of Gibbon and Luther?”

The bishop made a distinction between reading and criticizing a play in class and attending the performance of a play. 

“One generally goes to a play and leaves; staying afterwards to listen to a panel discussion about the play is not inherent in the activity of attending a play,” Bishop D’Arcy said.  “No one who comes to the play is required to stay for the panel discussion, and Father Jenkins’ attempt to give the performances of this play an academic quality seems deficient.”

He also said the play performances constitute an endorsement of the “international V-day campaign,” whose agenda is “directly opposed to the dignity of the human person and is antithetical to Catholic teaching.”

The bishop said that the reason some Notre Dame students and departments sponsored the event was because they supported the campaign. He said in his statement that, “…people push to have this play performed year after year because they endorse the message it conveys, and they want to be part of the international campaign to promote this message.”

Bishop D’Arcy also criticized the play’s scheduling for Holy Week, saying, “If this play is performed on the dates scheduled, it will be held during Easter week, the holiest time of the church year…  Surely Notre Dame will not prefer or even seem to prefer the requirements of the V-Day campaign to the proper observance of Easter.”

Making an analogy between the play and Nazi propaganda, Bishop D’Arcy said that just as a Catholic university in Nazi Germany should not have shown propaganda films, a Catholic university in the modern United States should not support modern propaganda.  Speaking of a hypothetical Catholic university in Nazi Germany, Bishop D’Arcy asked, “Would not the university bear moral responsibility for the fact that some students who viewed the film on campus might be persuaded by the propaganda and became Nazi supporters?”

The bishop explicitly called the Vagina Monologues a work of propaganda.  “The play is little more than a propaganda piece for the sexual revolution and secular feminism,” he said.  “While claiming to deplore violence against women, the play at the same time violates the standards of decency and morality that safeguard a woman’s dignity and protect her, body and soul, from sexual predators.”

He called the play’s performance “pornographic and spiritually harmful.”  He also said the play “depicts, exalts, and endorses” the sins of female masturbation, a sexual relationship between an adult woman and a child (which, he also noted, was a crime), and “the most base form of sexual relationship between a man and a woman.”  He said these sinful actions are portrayed in the play as paths to healing, implying that heterosexual marriage is the wrong from which people need to recover.

Bishop D’Arcy said that the overriding issue in the controversy is moral, and if the play is performed it should be denounced.  “Otherwise,” he said, “the university appears to endorse it as in some way good and the impression is given that Catholic teaching is one option competing among many. This method places faith in a defensive position and on the margin and is unacceptable at a Catholic university.”

The bishop cited Ex Corde Ecclesiae, Pope John Paul II’s 1986 address to intellectuals, students, and university faculty, as a reason to refuse to allow performances of the play.  Bishop D’Arcy said Catholic universities were made distinctive because “we start from the truth that has been revealed to us in the Word of God, the person of Jesus Christ, and the teaching of His Church.”  He said the idea that truth will emerge from a discussion in which many points of view are represented both “disrespects revealed truth” and “separates the search for truth from the certainty of faith.”

“A decision not to sponsor the play is not only consistent with academic freedom but is a right use of such freedom for it shows respect for the truth, for the common good and the rights of others,” Bishop D’Arcy said.

The bishop encouraged Father Jenkins to reconsider his decision to allow the play for this year and for future years.

The full statement from Bishop D'Arcy can be found at:

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Vatican official hopes government in Spain will improve relations with the Church

, Mar 13, 2008 (CNA) - In statements to the Italian daily Il Messaggero, the undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Msgr. Melchor Sanchez de Toca, who is from Spain, said he hopes that country’s Socialist government will “work to restore serenity” to relations with the Church.

After the triumph by the Socialists in Spain’s elections last Sunday, Msgr. Sanchez de Toca said the first term of the Jose Luis Zapatero administration was marked by “an excessively harsh” tone in bilateral relations, and Zapatero “has had an impact on issues sensitive to a wide sector of the populace.”

Regarding the attacks on the Church because of the Spanish bishops’ statement on the elections, Msgr. Sanchez de Toca pointed out that “the confrontation has been too rough, the tone excessive.  Now the page must be turned for the common good,” he said, reiterating that the Spanish bishops “did not say who to vote for, but rather they offered a reflection.”

“It’s obvious that not all campaign proposals are compatible with the teaching of the Church,” he said, noting that the Spanish bishops referred the non-negotiable principles that the Pope defends and that are echoed by the bishops of the world, with the difference that “in Spain, there was a disproportionate response on the part of the government.”

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Peruvian obstetrician awarded for saving handicapped mother and unborn child

Lima, Peru, Mar 13, 2008 (CNA) - The Peruvian Ministry for Women and Social Development has honored ten women for their dedication and work in diverse social and economic fields. One of the honorees was Ivonne Arriaga Castaneda, an obstetrician from the state of Huanuco who saved the life of a young handicapped mother and her unborn child.

Ivonne, who works at the Acomayo Health Center, learned two years ago of the dramatic case of Jovita Jara, a young woman who lives in the town of Vervenapampa. Dr. Arriaga heard that Jovita, a 20 year-old mildly retarded girl who has no legs, was suffering from anemia and was also pregnant.

Several times Ivonne walked the nine miles between Acomayo and Vervenapampa to visit Jovita and convince her parents that she urgently needed medical care during the rest of her pregnancy. In addition, she told the parents that Jovita needed have a c-section performed to have a safe delivery.

The Ministry for Women and Social Development’s website reported, “With tenacity and refusing to pay attention to the initial refusals by the family, Ivonne went back again and again to Vervenapampa.  She came back with new arguments and with one sole objective: to save Jovita. She finally triumphed and the father, with Jovita on his shoulders, walked the nine miles to the health clinic.  Jovita received her pre-natal care and on June 22, Noemi was born by c-section.”

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Catholic Church is not at war with anyone, says Cardinal Rivera

, Mar 13, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, said this week the Catholic Church is not at war with religious sects or other religions and he recalled that the Church’s mission is to preach the Gospel.

In a meeting with priests of his archdiocese, the cardinal explained that “the Catholic Church must remain firm, evangelistic and testimonial.  We are not at war with anyone, neither with the sects nor with other confessions; our obligation is to preach the Gospel.”

Likewise, he lamented that on occasions people separate themselves from God because of they are materially well-off.  “It’s a cultural change of our times in which people see Christ and his Church with indifference,” the cardinal said.

He insisted that the Church’s priority is the formation of the laity and the promotion of priestly vocations, as the future of the Church in Mexico depends on it.  “Our mission is to educate the laity in diverse areas and fields, so that the Church’s permanent mission may be present everywhere,” he added.

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Media is wrong about 7 social sins, says cardinal

Guadalajara, Mexico, Mar 13, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Guadalajara, Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez, responded to inaccurate information in the media about the supposed “new sins” outlined by the Vatican this week and said, “The sins are the same, what has changed is the how they are applied.”

“The commandment is the same: thou shalt not kill,” the cardinal said, “and now there are many ways to kill if we apply this to the field of bioethics and scientific experiments,” in which human embryos are often destroyed.

Cardinal Sandoval stressed that the social sins are not an impediment to reaching heaven, but he noted that “going to heaven is not easy, the road is not downhill.  The Lord said narrow is the door and few are those who find it.”

He also stated that excessive wealth “goes against social justice; the goods of the earth are for all,” and he explained that the Church’s “social doctrine teaches that wealth should redistributed between business owners and workers.”

The cardinals comments came in response to media coverage of a interview given to L’Osservatore Romano by Archbishop Gianfranco Girotti of the Apostolic Penitentiary of the Holy See, in which he explained that today there are social sins such as genetic manipulation, that undermine respect for life, drug use and social inequality.

The media incorrectly interpreted this application to the social sphere as an update of the Church's seven deadly sins.

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The situation in Haiti must change, says Benedict XVI

Vatican City, Mar 13, 2008 (CNA) - On Thursday morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received prelates from the Episcopal Conference of Haiti. They have just completed their "ad limina" visit during which, the Pope called on them to work for change in Haiti.

The Holy Father mentioned John Paul II's visit to Haiti 25 years ago for the country's national Eucharistic congress entitled "Something has to change here". But, Pope Benedict asked, "have things changed?" And he recalled how the country has known "painful moments: ... divisions, injustice, poverty, unemployment, factors that are a source of profound concern to people".

"I ask the Lord to give all Haitians, especially those who bear social responsibility, the courage to promote change and reconciliation so that all the inhabitants of the country may enjoy dignified living conditions, and benefit from the fruits of their land in an ever-increasing solidarity".

"I cannot forget those people who find themselves obliged to travel to the neighboring State (Dominican Republic) in order to satisfy their needs", said Pope Benedict, and he called upon the international community "to continue and to intensify its aid to the Haitian people so that they can take the reins of their own future and development".

One of the primary areas of concern is for the Church in Haiti is the crumbling of the family.

Addressing "the instability of the family structure," Pope Benedict said that he sees multiple contributing factors. The destruction of the family is caused by “the crisis the country is experiencing, but also to the evolution of behavior and to the progressive loss of a sense of marriage and the family" which comes about "when other forms of union are placed on the same level," he said.

Because "society and the Church largely develop from the family" Benedict XVI told the prelates, attention to this area of pastoral activity is "vital because it is the primordial place for the education of the young. I encourage you, then, to support married couples and young families with adequate formation, also teaching them respect for life".

The Holy Father then turned his attention to priests, encouraging the bishops "to look to their permanent formation and to maintain fraternal relations with them" in order "to help them exercise a fruitful ministry". Bishops should also invite priests "to avoid political compromise" and "to base their apostolate on a relationship with Christ, and on the Eucharistic mystery which reminds us how He gave Himself for the salvation of the world".

On the subject of seminarians, Benedict XVI called on the prelates "to work with the episcopates of other countries to identify experienced formators, who lead exemplary priestly lives and may accompany over the various stages of their formation ... the future priests needed for the dioceses in your country. Upon this the future of the Church in Haiti depends. May the local Churches", he exclaimed, "hear this call and undertake to send you priests to help you in the formation of seminarians!"

"Despite their limited means, Catholic schools play an important role and are appreciated by the authorities and by the people" said the Pope, noting that "the personality matures through education, just as it does through the recognition of essential values and the practice of virtue. Also in this way, a concept of the human being and of society is handed down", he said.

Finally, the Holy Father praised the work of religious and volunteers "who work with the poorest, the disinherited of society, demonstrating that, by fighting poverty, we also fight the numerous social problems that depend upon it".

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