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Wednesday, April 30, 2003


VATICAN CITY, APR 30, 2003 - In this Wednesday's general audience celebrated in St. Peter's Square, the Pope resumed the catecheses on the Psalms, commenting on Psalm 100, "Way of a king, faithful to God."

John Paul II explained that Psalm 100 is "a meditation that paints the figure of an ideal political ruler" who is characterized by "perfect moral integrity and a resolute commitment to fighting against injustice. The text is presented as a way of life for the faithful who begin their day of work and of relations with their neighbor."

In the first part, the Holy Father said, "personal life decisions, made with 'a whole heart', that is with perfect rectitude of conscience, are praised." The "wisdom that helps one to understand and to judge well" is noted, as is the "struggle against every form of evil and injustice."

The Pope indicated that the psalm also points out "the importance of the more typical public and social gifts. ... Above all, the struggle against calumny and detraction. In addition, it rejects all arrogance and pride; and refuses the company and counsel of those who always use trickery and lies."

After referring to the last verse of the psalm which speaks about destroying the sinners of the land, John Paul II emphasized that with this sentence proclaimed by the king, who exercises the function of judge, "he expresses his firm commitment to combat criminality, a necessary commitment shared by all those who exercise responsibility in public administration."

The Holy Father concluded by emphasizing that all the faithful are called "every morning to uproot from their hearts and their conduct the evil plant of corruption and violence, perversion and wickedness, as well as every form of selfishness and injustice."

At the end of the audience, John Paul II recalled that tomorrow, with the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, we start the month of May, which is dedicated to Our Lady. "Today we entrust the world of work to the Holy Virgin and especially to her chaste spouse Joseph. May St. Joseph, who knew the fatigue of daily work well, be an example and a support to all those look after the needs of the family and the entire human community."

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VATICAN CITY, APR 30, 2003 (VIS) - The Holy Father's general prayer intention for the month of May is: "That children in difficulty and those who devote themselves to their care, may find in Mary, Mother of life, constant support and help."

His missionary intention is: "That in the local Churches of Asia, the Holy Spirit may kindle renewed ardor for evangelizing the entire Continent."

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VATICAN CITY, APR 30, 2003 (VIS) - Pope John Paul II, when he was elected to the papacy on October 16, 1978, became the 263rd successor to St. Peter, the first Pope. As of today, John Paul's pontificate becomes the fourth longest in the two millennium-old history of the Catholic Church at 24 years, 6 months and 8 days, having just surpassed Pius VI. The date is calculated as of October 22, 1978, the official start of his papacy.
Only three Roman Pontiffs have now reigned longer than Pope John Paul. In ascending order they are: Leo XIII (25 years, 5 months), Pius IX (31 years, 7 months, 21 days) and St. Peter (precise dates unknown).

In this almost-quarter-of-a-century reign, the Holy Father has amassed unparalleled statistics, including 98 foreign apostolic trips (the May 3-4 trip to Madrid will be his 99th), and 142 within Italy, not including those to various institutions in his diocese of Rome, for a total of nearly three-quarters of a million miles. He has written 14 encyclicals, 13 apostolic exhortations, 11 apostolic constitutions, 42 apostolic letters and 28 Motu proprio.

John Paul II has proclaimed 1,314 Blesseds in 138 ceremonies and, as of Sunday, May 4, will have proclaimed 469 Saints in 48 liturgical celebrations. He has held eight consistories for the creation of cardinals and has named a total of 201 cardinals. The last consistory was February 2001. The current College of Cardinals is comprised of 168 members, of whom 112 are eligible to vote in a conclave.

Over the years the Pope has held 1,083 weekly general audiences, including today's audience, and has welcomed nearly 17 million faithful from every part of the world. Other audiences, including various groups and heads of State and government, total just over 1,500.

In addition to these figures, Pope John Paul II has achieved many "firsts" in his long reign. To name but a few, he is the first Pope to ever visit a synagogue (Rome, April 1986); to visit a mosque (May 2001, Omayyad Great Mosque of Damascus); to hold press conferences in airplanes and one in the Holy See Press Office (January 24, 1994); to publish books of prose and poetry; to stay at a hotel instead of residing in the apostolic nunciature during his travels (Irshad Hotel in Baku, Azerbaijan, May 2002); to add five new mysteries to the Rosary (October 2002); to say Mass in an airplane hangar (December 1992, Rome's Leonardo da Vinci Airport); to call for a Day of Pardon (Jubilee Year 2000).

As the most peripatetic Pontiff in history, John Paul II has visited 133 countries, the overwhelming majority of which were welcoming a Pope for the first time.

He is also the first Pope: to visit a prison cell (when he spoke in December 1983 with Ali Agca, the Turk who made an attempt on his life in 1981 in St. Peter's Square); to say Mass in the northernmost Catholic community in the world, over 350 kilometers north of the Arctic Polar Circle (Tromso, Norway 1989); to use a letter (the letter "M" for Mary) on his papal crest (normally heraldic rules allow words around a crest, but not on it).



VATICAN CITY, APR 30, 2003 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

- Appointed Fr. Marco Eugenio Galrao Leite de Almeida, of the clergy of Aracaju, Brazil and pastor of St. Mark the Evangelist Parish, as bishop of Estancia (area 6,737, population 425,857, Catholics 419,652, priests 26, religious 70), Brazil. He succeeds Bishop Hildebrando Mendes Costa whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepteed upon having reached the age limit.

- Appointed Msgr. George William Coleman, diocesan administrator of the diocese of Fall River, U.S.A., as bishop of the same diocese (area 3,107, population 590,911, Catholics 350,570, priests 294, permanent deacons 62, religious 461). The bishop-elect was born in Fall River in 1939 and was ordained a priest in 1964.

- Appointed Fr. Enrique Diaz Diaz, episcopal vicar of the archdiocese of Morelia, Mexico, as auxiliary bishop of San Cristobal de Las Casas (area 36,821, population 1,531,372, Catholics 995,322, priests 73, permanent deacons 342, religious 264), Mexico. The bishop-elect was born in Huandacareo, Mexico in 1952 and was ordained a priest in 1977.

- Appointed Fr. Jeno Schonberger, of the clergy of the diocese of Satu Mare, Romania and pastor of Sighetu Marmatiei Parish, as bishop of the same diocese (area 10,500, population 925,000, Catholics 110,000, priests 74, religious 33). The bishop-elect was born in 1959 in Turulung, Romania, and was ordained a priest in 1985.

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VATICAN CITY, APR 30, 2003 (VIS) - The following declaration, made by the patriarchs and bishops of Iraq and dated April 29, was published by the Holy See Press Office this afternoon in both Italian and French. We present it in its entirety:

"At this moment when Iraq is turning a page and is beginning a new chapter in her millenary life, we, the patriarchs and bishops of the Christian Churches in Iraq, driven also by pressure from our faithful, wish to express our aspirations relative to the future of this country, in the hope that the Iraqi people, which has had a long history marked by defeats and successes, will be able, without religious or ethnic distinction, to live in freedom, justice and respect for interreligious and multiethnic coexistence.

"When Hammurabi sculpted his Code on the stone of this land, law became the basis of the development of civilization.

"When Abraham looked at the heavens above Ur, they opened up to him and, by this revelation, Abraham became the father of a multitude of peoples.

"When Christianity and Islam met, their respective 'holy ones' began the two religions in respectful and reciprocal coexistence.

"In addition, by virtue of our original right of belonging to the most ancient peoples of this land, we claim for ourselves and for all those who live in it today, whether a majority or minority, united by a long history of coexistence, the full right to live in a State of law, in peace, freedom, justice, and equality, according to the Human Rights Charter. Consequently, we - Chaldeans, Assyrians, Syrians, Armenians, Greeks and Latins - forming together one Christian community, ask that the new Iraqi constitution:

- recognize our religious, cultural, social and political rights;
- envision a legal statute in which each person will be considered according to their capacities, without discrimination, so that each may have the right to actively participate in the government and the service of this country;
- consider Christians as Iraqi citizens with full rights;
- guarantee the right to profess our faith according to our ancient traditions and our religious law, the right to educate our children according to Christian principles, the right to freely assemble, to build our places of worship, and our cultural and social centers according to our needs.
"And lastly, we make this appeal before everyone, the Iraqi people, rich in ethnicities and religions, the political and religious authorities, as well as to everyone who has the good of the country at heart, and to the leaders of the international community."

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