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Monday, March 7, 2005


VATICAN CITY, MAR 7, 2005 (VIS) - Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls made the following statement today to journalists on the health of Pope John Paul II:

  "The general conditions of the Holy Father continue to improve, which allows the Pope to spend long periods of the day in an armchair.

  "No complications have arisen because of the tracheotomy surgery.

  "Continual improvement can also been seen in speaking, thanks to the daily rehabilitation sessions.

  "Furthermore, doctors have prescribed a prudent limitation in the Pope's use of his voice so as to promote a better recuperation of the function of the larynx.

  "The next communique will be given on Thursday, March 10 at 12:30 p.m."

   In answer to journalists' questions, Navarro-Valls stated that "in all probability, the Pope will spend Holy Week in the Vatican." He said "when the Pope is here he will decide on his participation in the liturgical ceremonies that are scheduled."
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VATICAN CITY, MAR 7, 2005 (VIS) - Cardinal Angelo Sodano, in the name of Pope John Paul II, this morning received in separate audiences two new ambassadors to the Holy See, Helmut Turk of Austria and Stavros Lykidis of Greece. Each ambassador presented his Letters of Credence to the secretary of State who in turn gave them a signed Message from the Holy Father. The diplomats also gave the cardinal a copy of their speeches.

  The Pope's speech to Ambassador Lykidis, noting that "St. Paul founded there the first Christian communities in Europe," underscored "the legacy of the Christian faith in Greece, which is one of the constitutive elements of the nation. ... I am sure your country can continue to play an important role in the European Union so that this religious dimension will be recognized and expressed in an opportune fashion."

  "In today's world," said the message, "made unstable by terrorism and the presence of lasting and continually threatening conflicts, the European Union seems in many ways a model of political will in favor of the union of peoples for peace." He expressed the Holy See's delight in this and invited the peoples of Europe to "work with all their strength" for "dialogue and understanding among peoples."

  John Paul II extended "warm greetings" to the "small and dispersed" communities of Catholic faithful living in Greece who "are attached to their faith and anxious to give a living witness to it in the midst of their Orthodox brothers. In this regard, It would be opportune if the Catholic Church ... could have the juridical statute due her which would be a sign of the full recognition of her rights, as is the case in the other countries of the European Union."

  In his speech to Ambassador Turk, the Pope recalled his pastoral visits to Austria and paused to reflect on his "spiritual union" with the 2004 Mitteleuropaischer Katholikentag (Central European Catholic Day), when participants met on the theme "Christ, The Hope of Europe." He underlined the "Catholic identity" of Austria and its people.

  In his message, the Holy Father said: "The pilgrimage of peoples towards Mariazell under the auspices of the Catholics of Austria brought to my mind once again that your country is called to act politically within a broader European context. The reasons for this come from Austria's history and its geo-political placement in the heart of the continent. From being a border region, ... it has become a land that is a bridge."

  "Even the Church," said the Pope, "through her various institutions, wishes to offer her contribution to the common good. ... The Holy See notes with joy that in Austria there is a lasting and fruitful collaboration between Church and State for the good and for the convenience of its citizens, independent of their religious affiliation or denomination."


VATICAN CITY, MAR 6, 2005 (VIS) - Pope John Paul, as he did last Sunday, appeared briefly at his hospital window to wave to and bless the faithful gathered in the courtyard at Gemelli Hospital. Just prior to this, Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute of the Secretariat of State, read the Pope's reflections, led the Angelus prayer and imparted, in the Pope's name, the apostolic blessing in St. Peter's Square.

  The Holy Father followed the Angelus on television in his hospital suite, accompanied by doctors, Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano and Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, secretary for Relations with States. Pilgrims in St. Peter's Square were linked to events at Gemelli by giant television screens.

  "Today," said the Pope in his reflections, "I wish to renew expressions of my gratitude for the many signs of affection that reach me. I am thinking, in particular, of the many cardinals, bishops, priests and groups of faithful, of ambassadors and of the ecumenical delegations that have come these days to Gemelli Polyclinic.

  "I especially wish to recognize the closeness of believers of other religions, most particularly Jews and Muslims. A number of them have wished to come and pray here at the hospital. For me this is a comforting sign, for which I thank God."

  Referring to Lent, John Paul said: "We continue together our preparation for Easter, offering even our sufferings to God, for the good of mankind and for our purification. In today's Gospel message, Christ, in healing the blind man, presents Himself as 'the light of the world'. He came to open the eyes of man to the light of faith. Yes, dear ones, faith is the light that guides our path in life, it is the flame that comforts us in difficult moments."

  "For believers, born into supernatural life through Baptism," he concluded, "Lent is a favorable time to 'come to light', that is, to be reborn in the Spirit, renewing our baptismal grace and commitment."
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VATICAN CITY, MAR 5, 2005 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Bishop Marcel Honorat Leon Agboton of Porto Novo, Benin, as metropolitan archbishop of Cotonou (area 3,222, population 1,640,916, Catholics 580,442, priests 136, religious 475), Benin. He succeeds Archbishop Nestor Assogba whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.
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VATICAN CITY, MAR 5, 2005 (VIS) - This evening thousands of students from Roman universities participated in a Marian prayer vigil, concluding the Third European Day for Universities on the theme "Intellectual and Scientific Research, a Way to Meet Christ." The event was presided by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar general for the diocese of Rome.

  During the celebration, there were satellite linkups with university students in Bari, Madrid, Zagreb, Berlin, Lisbon, Kiev, Bucharest, Tirana and London.

  From his room in Rome's Gemelli Polyclinic, John Paul II spiritually joined the participants and sent them a message that was read by Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State.

  "Europe," the Pope writes, "is ideally involved in this important moment of prayer and reflection, in preparation for the forthcoming World Youth Day, which will take place right in the heart of the continent, in Cologne."

  Referring to the theme of the European Day, John Paul II writes: "There is no contradiction between faith and reason, as is also shown by the experience of the Magi who arrived in Bethlehem using both these dimensions of the human spirit: intelligence that scrutinizes the signs, faith that leads to adoration of the mystery."

  "Dear young people," the Pope continues, "always be animated by a longing to discover the truth of your existence. May faith and reason be the two wings that bear you to Christ, the truth of God and the truth of the human being. In Him you will find peace and happiness. May Christ be the center of all your lives. This is my sincere desire, which I express to you all from the heart, accompanying it with an assurance of my prayers."

  At the end of his message, the Holy Father wishes all the young people a "Happy Easter and a safe journey to Cologne."

  After the meeting, a procession of university students accompanied the Cross to the church of St Agnes in Piazza Navona.
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VATICAN CITY, MAR 5, 2005 (VIS) - Made public today were two telegrams sent by Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano, in the Pope's name, to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi for the liberation yesterday evening of Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena, who had been held hostage in Iraq, and to Fr. Maurizio Calipari for the death of his brother Nicola who died in the operation to free the journalist.

  The Holy Father expresses his "satisfaction for the work done" by the Italian government and by those who "generously worked for the happy ending of the deplorable kidnapping." At the same time the Pope, "saddened by the tragic death of Nicola Calipari," expresses his "spiritual closeness and heartfelt condolences to the government and to the colleagues of this most faithful and heroic servant of State, who in accomplishing the delicate mission with which he was entrusted did not hesitate to sacrifice his life."

  In the second telegram, to the brother of the deceased security agent, Fr. Calipari, who is an official in the Pontifical Academy for Life, John Paul II expresses his "profound spiritual closeness" to him and to family members, especially the mother, wife and children of the deceased. "In admiration of the heroic gesture, which was motivated by a sense of duty and by sentiments of Christian virtue, His Holiness raises fervent prayers for the repose of the soul" of the deceased.


VATICAN CITY, MAR 5, 2005 (VIS) - E-mail has been pouring in from around the world for Pope John Paul since the Vatican's web site posted an address in each of its six language versions (john_paul_ii@vatican.va). Letters in English, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and German have been arriving daily for the Holy Father, wishing him well, a speedy recovery and a prompt return to his ministry as Pope and Bishop of Rome.

  From March 1 to noon of March 3, according to statistics and sample letters released today, over 20,000 e-mail messages have arrived for the Pope: about 10,000 in English, 6,077 in Spanish, 2,012 in Portuguese, 1,134 in Italian, 850 in German and 800 in French. Many messages in the Pope's native Polish also arrive daily. While these numbers are only for a two-day period, they represent just a portion of mail arriving for the Holy Father: the additional e-mails since March 3 as well as letters and faxes that arrive at the Secretariat of State and other offices of the Roman Curia.

  This is not the first time the Vatican has posted the e-mail address for the Holy Father: it was on the web page on the occasion of his 25th anniversary as Pontiff in October 2003.

  Letters arrive from doctors, heads of volunteer organizations, housewives and mothers, students, religious congregations, hospital employees, pastors and parishioners. Most e-mails seem to be from ordinary faithful throughout the world and a few, as seen from the sample letters provided, are from people who had been away from their faith and now have returned.

  The majority are relatively short letters wishing the Pope well, telling him how much he is loved and admired as the leader of the Catholic Church, how his suffering is an example to all, or simply thanking him for all he has done and continues to do for the Church, especially in promoting the value of human life and human dignity. A number of missives are longer and recount personal experiences of ill health, physical and mental suffering or personal conversions.

  The faithful assure the Pope of their "prayers and personal sacrifices," rosaries and daily Masses and hours of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. One person wrote: "How much you encourage us as we struggle in out day-to-day life to be ever faithful to God." Another: "I pray that, as you suffer greatly, you will also feel the very powerful presence of God with you."

  A letter from Italy tells John Paul II: "You are our father on this earth. We need you! We need your witness as it gives strength to each one of us." A writer in Brazil says he hopes that "in this Year of the Eucharist, ... the Eucharist will fortify your much troubled life." A youth in Brazil tells the Pope he hopes he gets better soon so that "you can be with us young people in Cologne (for World Youth Day) and can continue to lead the Holy Church for many more years."

  Faithful from Panama tell the Holy Father: "We Catholics are very concerned for your health. Masses and prayers have been organized to ask God Almighty for health for you." Another letter in Spanish tells the Pope "We hope you get well soon and continue to be an example of strength and goodness for the entire world."

  A writer in France says he has added the Holy Father to his daily Rosary intentions: "May you be with us as long as possible in the best health that heaven can give. And may you not suffer." Another e-mail in French: "Beloved Holy Father, you lead the Church by your suffering: The Lord, through you, is giving a lesson to both the wise and the prudent of this world."
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