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Monday, March 15, 2004


VATICAN CITY, MAR 13, 2004 (VIS) - Pope John Paul today received the staff and members of the Pontifical Council for Culture at the end of their plenary assembly on the theme "The Christian Faith at the Dawn of the New Millennium and the Challenge of Unbelief and Religious Indifference." He remarked that this challenge that they have been studying "is a vital concern for the Church on all continents."

"You are mapping out," he said, "a new geography of unbelief and religious indifference throughout the world, in which you have noted a break in the process of transmitting the Christian faith and values. At the same time we see the search for meaning by our contemporaries - the desire of every man to understand the deep meaning of his existence - of which cultural phenomena are witnesses, notably in the new religious movements that are very present in South America, Africa and Asia."

The Holy Father continued: "Beyond the crisis of civilizations, of philosophical and moral relativism, it is up to the pastors and faithful to discover and delve into the basic questions and aspirations of the men and women of our time," to dialogue with them and "to propose the Gospel message and person of Christ, the Redeemer. Cultural and artistic expressions are not lacking in riches or resources for the transmission of the Christian message," but they must be known to be lived.

The Pope proposed "a new thrust in the intellectual domain" vis-a-vis the diffusion of ideologies. "It is through philosophical and catechetical formation that young people will learn how to discern the truth. A serious rational approach is a rampart against all that which refers to ideologies, leading to the desire to study ever more deeply, so that philosophy and reason become open to Christ."
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VATICAN CITY, MAR 13, 2004 (VIS) - This morning the Holy Father received the Letters of Credence of the new ambassador of the Republic of Nicaragua, Armando Luna Silva, and told him that on the occasion of his visits to that country in 1983 and 1996, he could attest to the fact that "Nicaraguans are a joyful, dynamic people, with deep Christian roots and a desire for a serene future in which all are able to benefit from constant development."

The Pope emphasized that despite the "many trials" that Nicaraguans have endured - natural disasters and internal problems - "there are reasons to be open to hope for a better future. There is greater solidarity not only among allied nations but also above all among citizens, conscious of the need to participate."

"While it is certain," he continued, "that foreign aid is necessary on occasions, we must keep in mind that Nicaraguans, with the rich qualities that characterize them, must be the main protagonists and architects of the daily building up of the country, committing themselves with vigor and persistence to overcoming difficult situations, so often aggravated by extreme poverty, unemployment and the lack of proper housing."

Referring to the problem of extreme poverty, the Holy Father encouraged the efforts of the government "to confront this evil that should not be considered endemic but rather a result of a series of factors that must addressed with decision and enthusiasm, so that quality of life can be truly be improved for Nicaraguans. Such efforts, united to the international community whose aid must be administered with transparent, honest and effective management, are proposals that are necessary to construct a peaceful, just and unified society, one that truly responds to the needs of Nicaraguans and which is compatible with their traditions." John Paul II added that "there is also an important factor in this fight against poverty, the eradication of corruption which undermines the just social and political development of so many peoples."

"In order to build up a more just and fraternal society, the guidance of Catholic social doctrine and the moral teachings of the Church will be of great help. ... We cannot walk toward true social peace," he concluded, "without an order in which the freedom of individuals is ever more solid and in which confidence in public institutions is stimulated in citizens for more active collaboration and responsible participation by all for the common good."


VATICAN CITY, MAR 13, 2004 (VIS) - This afternoon in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope presided at a Marian prayer vigil with thousands of Italian students on the occasion of the Second European Day of University Students. Students from ten countries, future members of the European Union, participated in the gathering via satellite link-up.

The encounter, whose theme was, "Christ, Hope for Europe," was promoted by the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE), the Commission of Episcopal Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) and the office of the vicariate of Rome for university pastoral ministry.

Before John Paul II's arrival there were satellite connections with university students in cities of those countries that will be incorporated into the European Union: Prague, Nicosia, Gniezno, Vilnius, Tallinn, Riga, Bratislava, Budapest, Valletta and Ljubljana.

Later the Pope lead the Holy Rosary and afterwards he greeted those present. "This Marian vigil," he said, "has great symbolic value. And you have an important role in the building up of European unity, which is deeply rooted in the traditions and spiritual values that have shaped it, dear university students. The university is, in this sense, one of the typical environments where, over the centuries, that culture which has been marked by a Christian influence has been formed. This rich heritage of ideals should not be lost."

The Holy Father then noted that the young people in Rome were going to participate in a pilgrimage in which they would carry the cross to the church of St. Agnes in Agony, "where you will renew your profession of faith. The university students in other countries, whom I cordially greet, will join you spiritually on this pilgrimage."


VATICAN CITY, MAR 13, 20004 (VIS) - Made public today was a Message from the Pope to Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, archbishop of Santiago de Chile and president of the Episcopal Conference of Chile, and Archbishop Eduardo Vicente Miras of Rosario, president of the Episcopal Conference of Argentina, on the occasion of the solemn commemoration of the centenary today of the inauguration of the monument of Christ in the Andes.

"Indeed," writes the Holy Father in the message dated February 11, "if the location of this majestic monument represented a notable display of the efforts and close collaboration of numerous people and institutions, no less so were the efforts carried out earlier to give meaning to that event. In previous years, various agreements were achieved in order to resolve by peaceful means the different disputes between both peoples, resulting in four different peace treaties in 1902."

John Paul II recalls that "the threat of conflict was overcome, achieving friendly coexistence between two neighboring, sister countries. The jubilation and satisfaction at having reached the invaluable triumph of peace were well-justified. The profound spirit of the faith of Argentines and Chileans recognized in those events an inestimable gift of God, and ... sought to represent their gratitude on the peaks of the Andes so that the divine blessing would arrive from on high to all the neighboring lands and make the border a place of encounter and never one of antagonism."

"At the beginning of the third millennium," he continues, "at a time when peace is threatened, I would like to invite the beloved sons and daughters of Argentina and Chile, in commemoration of this centenary, to direct their gaze toward the Redeemer in order to ask Him for light and the necessary strength to confront the challenges of today with hope and determination."

Finally the Pope asks for "fraternal coexistence to increase, as well as the forums of mutual collaboration and the commitment to build a society founded above all on the recognition of the inalienable dignity of the human person. In this way, peace will be guaranteed and a heritage will be left to new generations which allows them to build a better future on solid and lasting foundations."


VATICAN CITY, MAR 13, 2004 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, as his special envoy to the fourth centenary of the arrival in Lithuania of Pope Clement VIII's brief "Quae ad sanctorum" which authorized the celebration of the feast of St. Casimir in Poland and Lithuania. The festivities will take place in Vilnius, Lithuania on May 9, 2004.
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VATICAN CITY, MAR 13, 2004 (VIS) - Made public today was the text of the telegram sent by the Holy Father to Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, O.P., archbishop of Vienna, Austria, upon the death of Cardinal Franz Koenig, emeritus of the same archdiocese, at age 98. He was the last of the cardinals created by Blessed John XXIII.

"With deep sadness, I learned of the news of the death of His Eminence, Cardinal Franz Koenig, your illustrious predecessor as archbishop of Vienna from 1956 to 1985. Faithful to his motto 'Veritatem facientes in caritate,' the late cardinal shaped the Church and the life of Austria with his long and intense pastoral work. His witness to Christ's message and his commitment to peace and reconciliation went beyond the borders of his homeland. He represented a special resource in sustaining believers in Eastern Europe during the time of unhappy division of the European continent. At the same time, as a builder of bridges, he was recognized by the Churches in the East. I join the archdiocese of Vienna in prayers in memory of the late pastor whom I entrust to the goodness of the Lord of life and death. May God Almighty welcome him in eternal peace and grant him eternal happiness, reserved for him for his faithful service. Through the intercession of Our Lady, Mother of the Church, I impart the apostolic blessing as a sign of divine consolation upon all, especially those in mourning and for the eternal salvation of the late cardinal,."


VATICAN CITY, MAR 15, 2004 (VIS) - Today the Holy Father received in separate audiences:

- Giovanni Lonfernini I and Valeria Ciavatta I, captains regent of the Republic of San Marino, and an entourage.

- Cardinal Bernard Agre, archbishop of Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

- Two prelates of the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference on their "ad limina" visit:

- Archbishop Francis Patrick Carroll of Canberra.

- Archbishop Adrian Leo Doyle of Hobart.

- Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, apostolic nuncio in Burundi, accompanied by his family members.

On Saturday March 13, the Holy Father received in separate audiences:

- Archbishop Ivo Scapolo, apostolic nuncio in Bolivia.

- Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

- Archbishop Jozef Miroslaw Zycinski of Lublin, Poland.
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VATICAN CITY, MAR 15, 2004 (VIS) - Holy See Press Office Director, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, early this afternoon stated that "the Holy Father wished once again to celebrate Mass for the repose of the souls of the victims of the attacks in Spain. In addition, at noon he stopped for a moment of recollection, spiritually joining all those who are suffering because of this attack, and praying for their intentions."


VATICAN CITY, MAR 14, 2004 (VIS) - Today at noon an enormous crowd of faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square to pray the Angelus with Pope John Paul and to salute him on the day his pontificate became the third longest in history. In his traditional address to the pilgrims, the Holy Father once again expressed his "absolute condemnation" of last Thursday's barbaric terror attack in Madrid, and asked the Blessed Virgin "to protect and watch over the dear Spanish nation, Europe and the entire world." Following are his remarks in their entirety:

"The Gospel story proposed to us in this Sunday's liturgy refers to two tragic events at the time of Jesus: the cruel repression of a revolt and the collapse of the tower of Siloam on the nearby crowd. This brings us to current events of our days, marked unfortunately by repeated news of violence and death.

"Last Sunday I spoke of the hot spots of war and of the terrorist attacks that have bloodied various parts of the world. Last Thursday there was the dramatic attack in Madrid which caused 200 victims and more than 1,000 wounded. This horrendous crime shocked world public opinion. In the face of such barbarity we are profoundly shaken, and we ask how the human soul is able to conceive such abominable crimes.

"While I repeat my absolute condemnation of such unjustifiable acts, I express once again my participation in the pain of the families of the victims and my closeness in prayer to the wounded and to their families.

"The choral display of solidarity that arose in every corner of Spain last Friday, with the participation of political leaders from all of Europe, had an emotional echo throughout the world.

"It is precisely relying on the unified contribution of all the wholesome forces of the continent that we can look forward with trust and hope in a better future. In particular those who believe in God, Creator and Father of all men, must feel committed to working for the building of a more fraternal world, marked by solidarity, notwithstanding the difficulties and obstacles that are encountered in this necessary and non-deferable path."
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