Benedict XVI's Address to UK Envoy
"Integral Human Development ... Truly Worthy of the World's Attention"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 9, 2011 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today when he received the letters of credence of the new U.K. ambassador to the Holy See, Nigel Baker.

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Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the Holy See. I am grateful for the warm greetings which you bring from Her Majesty The Queen and I ask you to convey my prayerful good wishes for Her health and prosperity. I am also pleased to send my cordial greetings to Her Majesty’s Government and to all the British people.

The Holy See and the United Kingdom have enjoyed excellent relations in the thirty years that have passed since full diplomatic relations were established. The close bond between us was further strengthened last year during my Visit to your country, a unique occasion in the course of the shared history of the Holy See and the countries which today compose the United Kingdom. I would therefore like to begin my remarks by reiterating my gratitude to the British people for the warm welcome which I received during my stay.

Her Majesty and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh received me most graciously and I was pleased to meet the leaders of the three main political parties and to discuss with them matters of common concern. As you know, a particular motive for my Visit was the Beatification of John Henry Cardinal Newman, a great Englishman whom I have admired for many years and whose raising to the altars was a personal wish fulfilled. I remain convinced of the relevance of Newman’s insights regarding society, as the United Kingdom, Europe and the West in general today face challenges that he identified with remarkable prophetic clarity. It is my hope that a fresh awareness of his writings will bear new fruit among those searching for solutions to the political, economic and social questions of our age.

As you rightly remarked in your address, Mr Ambassador, the Holy See and the United Kingdom continue to share a common concern for peace among nations, the integral development of peoples throughout the world, especially the poorest and weakest, and the spread of authentic human rights, especially through the rule of law and fair participative government, with a special care for the needy and those whose natural rights are denied. On the subject of peace, I was very pleased to note the success of Her Majesty’s recent Visit to the Republic of Ireland, an important milestone in the process of reconciliation that is happily becoming ever more firmly established in Northern Ireland, despite the unrest that occurred there during this past summer. I take this opportunity once again to encourage all who would resort to violence to put aside their grievances, and to seek instead a dialogue with their neighbours for the peace and prosperity of the whole community.

As you pointed out in your speech, your Government wishes to employ policies that are based on enduring values that cannot be simply expressed in legal terms. This is especially important in the light of events in England this summer. When policies do not presume or promote objective values, the resulting moral relativism, instead of leading to a society that is free, fair, just and compassionate, tends instead to produce frustration, despair, selfishness and a disregard for the life and liberty of others. Policy makers are therefore right to look urgently for ways to uphold excellence in education, to promote social opportunity and economic mobility, to examine ways to favour long-term employment and to spread wealth much more fairly and broadly throughout society.

Moreover, the active fostering of the essential values of a healthy society, through the defence of life and of the family, the sound moral education of the young, and a fraternal regard for the poor and the weak, will surely help to rebuild a positive sense of one’s duty, in charity, towards friends and strangers alike in the local community. Be assured that the Catholic Church in your country is eager to continue offering her substantial contribution to the common good through her offices and agencies, in accordance with her own principles and in the light of the Christian vision of the rights and dignity of the human person.

Looking further afield, Your Excellency has mentioned several areas where the Holy See and the United Kingdom have already agreed and worked together, including initiatives for debt relief and financing for development. The sustainable development of the world’s poorer peoples through well-targeted assistance remains a worthy goal, since the peoples of developing countries are our brothers and sisters, of equal dignity and worth and deserving of our respect in every way, and such assistance should always aim to improve their lives and their economic prospects. As you know, development is also of benefit to donor countries, not only through the creation of economic markets, but also through the fostering of mutual respect, solidarity, and above all peace through prosperity for all the world’s peoples. Promoting models of development which employ modern knowledge to husband natural resources will also have the benefit of better protecting the environment for emerging and developed countries alike.

This is why I remarked in Westminster Hall last year that integral human development, and all that it entails, is an enterprise truly worthy of the world’s attention and one that is too big to be allowed to fail. The Holy See therefore welcomes Prime Minister Cameron’s recent announcement of his intention to ring-fence Great Britain’s aid budget. I would also invite you, during your mandate, to explore ways of furthering development cooperation between your Government and the Church’s charity and development agencies, especially those based here in Rome and in your country.

Finally, Mr Ambassador, in offering you my prayerful good wishes for the success of your mission, allow me to assure you that all the departments of the Roman Curia stand ready to support you in your duties. Upon you, your family and all the British people, I cordially invoke God’s abundant blessings.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vatican

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Benedict XVI's Address to Envoy From Syria
"An Example of Harmonious Relations Between Christians and Muslims"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 10, 2011 - Here is the message Benedict XVI gave on Thursday to Hussan Edin Aala, the new ambassador of Syria to the Holy See, upon receiving his letters of credence.

The Pope received in audience at the same time Stefan Gorda of Moldava, Narciso Ntugu Abeso Oyana of Equatorial Guinea, George Robert Furness Troup of New Zealand, Henry Llewellyn Lawrence of Belize, and Geneviève Delali Tsegah of Ghana. The Holy Father gave one speech addressing all the new diplomats and then gave letters to each individually, which addressed the specific nations they represent.

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Mr. Ambassador

I am pleased to receive you this morning at the moment of the presentation of your letters, which accredit you as ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the Arab Republic of Syria to the Holy See. You have transmitted to me the greetings of His Excellency the president of the republic, and I would be grateful if you thanked him. Through you, I would also like to greet the whole Syrian nation, wishing it peace and fraternity.

As you have stressed, Mr. Ambassador, Syria has been a very significant place for Christians since the origins of the Church. Since his meeting with the Risen Christ on the road to Damascus, Paul would become the Apostle to the Gentiles, becoming the first of numerous great saints who have marked the religious history of your country. Numerous are the archaeological testimonies of churches, of monasteries, and of mosaics of the first centuries of the Christian era, which refer us to the origins of the Church. Syria has traditionally been an example of tolerance, concord, and harmonious relations between Christians and Muslims and today the ecumenical and interreligious relations are good. I very much hope that this coexistence between all the cultural and religious components of the nation will continue and develop for the greater good of all, thus reinforcing a unity founded on justice and solidarity.

However, such unity can only be built in a lasting way through the recognition of the centrality and dignity of the human person. "As one created in the image of God, each individual human being has the dignity of a person; he or she is not just something, but someone, capable of self-knowledge, self-possession, free self-giving and entering into communion with others" (Message for the World Day of Peace, 2007, No. 2). Hence, the path toward unity and stability in every nation passes through the recognition of the inalienable dignity of every human person. Therefore, the latter must be at the center of institutions, of laws, and of societies' action. Consequently, it is of essential importance to foster the common good, putting aside personal or party interests. Moreover, the path of listening, of dialogue and of collaboration must be recognized as a means by which the different components of society can compare their points of view and achieve a consensus on the truth relative to the particular values and ends. This will bring great benefits for individuals and communities (cf. Address to the United Nations, April 18, 2008).

In this perspective, the events of the past months in some nearby Mediterranean countries, Syria among them, demonstrate the desire for a better future in the areas of political, economic, and social life. Nevertheless, it is greatly desirable that this evolution not take place in a climate of intolerance, discrimination, or conflict and, sill less, of violence, but rather in a climate of absolute respect for the truth, for co-existence, for the legitimate rights of the person and the collective, and of reconciliation. These are the principles that should guide the authorities, keeping always in mind the aspiration of civil society and international directives.

Mr. Ambassador, I wish to stress here the positive role of Christians in your country, who as citizens are involved in the construction of a society where everyone finds his place. I cannot fail to mention the service carried out by the Catholic Church in the social and educational realm, which is appreciated by all. Allow me to greet very particularly the faithful of the Catholic communities, with their bishops, and to encourage them to develop bonds of fraternity with everyone. Daily contact with their Muslim countrymen highlights the importance of interreligious dialogue and the possibility of working together in many ways for the common good. May the impulse given by the recent Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops bring abundant fruit to your country, for the benefit of the whole population and for authentic reconciliation among peoples!

To advance peace in the region, a comprehensive solution must be found. It must not damage the interests of the parties involved, and it must be the fruit of a compromise and not of a unilateral decision imposed by force. This [force] does not resolve anything, nor do partial or unilateral solutions, which are insufficient. Conscious of the population's suffering, one must proceed with a comprehensive approach that deliberately excludes no one from seeking a negotiated solution that takes into account the legitimate aspirations and interests of the various peoples involved. Moreover, the situation that the Middle East has been facing for so many years has led you to receive a great number of refugees, primarily from Iraq, and among them many Christians. I heartily thank the Syrian people for their generosity.

At the moment that you begin your noble mission of representation to the Holy See, I address to you, Mr. Ambassador, my best wishes for the success of your mission. Be sure that you will always find among my collaborators the reception and understanding you might need. Upon Your Excellency, your family and your collaborators, as well as upon the inhabitants of Syria, I invoke from my heart an abundance of divine blessings.

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Holy Father's Note to Envoy of Equatorial Guinea
"Participate Actively and Wisely in the Building of a Serene and Harmonious Coexistence"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 10, 2011 - Here is the message Benedict XVI hand delivered on Thursday to Narciso Ntugu Abeso Oyana, the new ambassador of Equatorial Guinea to the Holy See, upon receiving his letters of credence.

The Pope received in audience at the same time Hussan Edin Aala of Syria, Stefan Gorda of Molova, George Robert Furness Troup of New Zealand, Henry Llewellyn Lawrence of Belize, and Geneviève Delali Tsegah of Ghana. The Holy Father gave one speech addressing all the new diplomats and then gave letters to each individually, which addressed the specific nations they represent.

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Mr. Ambassador:

1. I am happy to receive from Your Excellency's hands the letters that accredit you as ambassador extraordinary plenipotentiary of Equatorial Guinea to the Holy See, expressing at the same time my most cordial welcome to this solemn act.

I am grateful for the kind greeting you transmit to me on behalf of the president of the republic. While I correspond with pleasure to this deference, I pray to the Almighty that the diplomatic mission that Your Excellency begins today will strengthen further the trajectory of healthy independence and reciprocal respect between the Church and state in your dear nation, with which the Holy See maintains close relations and which it follows with solicitous attention, eloquent sign of which is the recent appointment of the new bishop of Ebebiyin.

2. Mr. Ambassador, as your courteous words manifested, which have made me feel closer to your homeland, your compatriots harbor profound sentiments toward the Successor of Peter, all of them filled with heartfelt and faithful devotion, fruit of the vigor and diligence with which the evangelical seed was sown in your noble lands, to be deeply rooted in them and to produce a splendid harvest both in the spiritual as well as the material order.

3. In perfecting a society and in implementing new structures capable of giving it a more flexible character, the encouraging presence of the Church is not absent to the sons and daughters of Equatorial Guinea, instilling the light of faith in Christ, who manifests to man his authentic vocation and helps him to work without faltering for all that which dignifies and exalts. This makes one harbor the firm hope that your compatriots, strengthened by this same faith, will not vacillate in their resolutions to participate actively and wisely in the building of a serene and harmonious coexistence. In that climate, the human person will be able to realize himself fully in keeping with his lofty dignity and fundamental rights and the essential values of protection of life, health care, the development of education and solidarity, as well as the safeguarding of the environment and the equitable distribution of wealth will germinate copiously. All this is the indispensable condition to intensify real social progress, which reaches all, but especially the poorest and neediest, and to which all can contribute with their appropriate, free and responsible, contribution.

4. In this connection, I do not doubt that the authorities of your beloved country, whom Your Excellency represents, will be able to channel and interpret the genuine aspirations of your fellow citizens, reflection of the historical, moral and cultural patrimony itself, and in whose development and subsequent consolidation in persons' conscience and in society itself the constant, selfless and intense task of the Church has also had a role of eminent significance.

In this respect, one cannot fail to note with heartfelt satisfaction the efforts carried out to recuperate and restructure many places of worship, as well as the business initiatives for improving living conditions of the citizens, especially those who experience great difficulty living in a dignified way. Hence I encourage all to continue following this path with enthusiasm, remedying the existing social, economic and cultural needs. For its part, in the realm of its own mission, the Christian community will continue with renewed and generous commitment to put at the disposal of the people of Equatorial Guinea its long and fruitful experience in the field of the promotion of marriage and the family, health care, the formation of new generations and the exercise of charity and beneficence. It could not be otherwise, as the Church does not ignore that all that fosters concord and fraternity, the eradication of poverty, the increase of justice and dialogue, as well as the fostering of mutual understanding, opens luminous horizons for the future and exalts the human being, whom it must never be forgotten is image of God.

5. Mr. Ambassador, on praying to the Almighty that the high responsibility that has been entrusted to you be surrounded by abundant success, I assure you that the Roman Curia and its different offices will always be willing to help you in carrying it out. Upon Your Excellency, your relatives and collaborators, as well as on all the peoples of Equatorial Guinea, I invoke fervently bountiful blessings from heaven.

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Papal Letter to Molodovan Ambassador
"Your Nation Has Written Glorious Pages in the History of the European Continent"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 10, 2011 - Here is the message Benedict XVI gave on Thursday to Stefan Gorda, the new ambassador of Moldova to the Holy See, upon receiving his letters of credence.

The Pope received in audience at the same time Hussan Edin Aala of Syria, Narciso Ntugu Abeso Oyana of Equatorial Guinea, George Robert Furness Troup of New Zealand, Henry Llewellyn Lawrence of Belize, and Geneviève Delali Tsegah of Ghana. The Holy Father gave one speech addressing all the new diplomats and then gave letters to each individually, which addressed the specific nations they represent.

* * *

Mr. Ambassador,

I am happy to receive you this morning, on the occasion of your presentation of the letters that accredit you in the capacity of ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the Republic of Moldova to the Holy See. I thank you for the kind words you addressed to me. In turn, I will be grateful if you transmit to Mr. Marian Lupu, acting president of the Republic of Moldova, my cordial wishes for his person, as well as for all the Moldovan people.

The year 2011 marks the 20th anniversary of your country's independence. It is possible to see what has already been achieved and what still remains to be built. In your address, you frequently stressed the tests that your country has faced, as well as the intense hope that prevails among the population when it comes to resolving the economic problems and those of national unity. It is evident that unity in peace and in serenity is a factor that fosters economic and social development, and that this development also has a positive effect for the realization of unity. I pray that lasting solutions will be found for the good of all through a just political mediation and the safeguarding of the various identities. Your nation has written glorious pages in the history of the European Continent. May this past inspire your present!

Your country wishes to continue progressing. It has established very comprehensible and necessary economic priorities, but they must also respect the interests of national sovereignty, and contribute to the well being of all the components of your society, attempting to avoid derivations that favor some to the detriment of others. To contribute the achievement of this objective, your country wishes to establish close relations with the European Union. It is good that Moldova has the desire to return to the common European home, but this legitimate quest cannot be done if it does not respect the positive values of your country. It must not be determined solely by the economy and material well being. The ideologizing of these two elements in the past indicates the pitfalls to be avoided, given that they can lead to the unilateral abdication of the age-old values of your culture. This adherence, which is an important element, will only be authentic if the European Union recognizes the specific contribution that Moldova can make to be able advance united toward a rich future because of the identity of each nation. Because of its tradition and Christian faith, Moldova can courageously help the European Union rediscover what it no longer wants to see and even denies. Moreover, Moldova's peace, justice and prosperity, which will result certainly from the realization of its European aspirations, will only be effective if they are experienced by each one of your fellow citizens in the quest for the common good and a permanent ethical concern. Among the essential values are religious values.

Diplomatic relations between Moldova and the Holy See, established 18 years ago now, are harmonious, and I am delighted because of this. They are so because of the Christian faith that dwells in your nation and its inhabitants, and I pay homage to the whole of the Orthodox Church. It has always shared with the Catholic Church the need to defend religious and cultural values against the materialism and relativism that put into question the Christian contribution to life and society. I hope that fraternal relations between Orthodox and Catholic faithful will deepen. These relations of reciprocal respect and friendship are a testimony of love that indicates that beyond the divisions and their consequences, hearts can open to reconciliation, solidarity and fraternity.

The faithful of the Catholic Church in Moldova are not very numerous. Through you, I greet them and, very particularly, the bishop of Chisinau. I am grateful for the juridical recognition that the Catholic Church enjoys in Moldova, for her progressive organization and for the building of new churches such as the cathedral. These events demonstrate the excellence of the dialogue and the collaboration between civil institutions and the Catholic Church. We all know that certain inherited problems from the recent past must yet be resolved. To attempt to cure and close the wounds is another way of contributing positively to the unity of the country and to its development.

I hope that the civil Authorities will have the courage to find satisfactory, just and equitable solutions for the confiscated ecclesiastical patrimony, to allow the Catholic Church to have at her disposal the means to realize her mission, not only in the religious realm, but also in the educational, health care and charitable realms. The Church does not ask for the granting of particular privileges. She wishes to be faithful to her own end and to serve every person without distinction, in keeping with the mission entrusted by Christ. The happy integration of Catholics in your country and the excellent relations with the Orthodox Church demonstrate their good will.

Moreover, many Moldovans have established themselves in European countries of Catholic tradition. Of course they seek economic stability but they also establish bonds with Catholics, thus deepening even more the good relations between both Churches. These two factors are encouraging to find further solutions that will reinforce even more the harmony between the Moldovan State and the Catholic Church. However, I am thinking particularly of young Moldovans. I pray for them and wish to encourage them. I want to express my joy on learning that some one hundred of them will be able to take part for the first time in next August's World Youth Day in Madrid. And, next October, the Catholic Church will organize her first Social Week. The prospects of these two events have given me great satisfaction. It should inspire pride in your country.

At this time that Your Excellency begins officially your functions to the Holy See, I express my best wishes for your success in the realization of your mission. Be assured, Mr. Ambassador, that among my collaborators you will find the cordial attention and understanding that your high office deserves, as well as the affection of the Successor of Peter for your country.

Invoking the intercession of the Virgin Mary, I pray to the Lord that he may shed abundant blessings upon you, your family and your collaborators, as well as upon the Moldovan people and their leaders.

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Holy Father's Words to 6 New Ambassadors
"Technology Should Help Nature Develop Along the Lines Envisioned by the Creator"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 9, 2011 - Here is a translation of the message Benedict XVI gave to six new ambassadors to the Holy See: George Robert Furness Troup of New Zealand, Stefan Gorda of Moldava, Narciso Ntugu Abeso Oyana of Equatorial Guinea, Hussan Edin Aala of Syria, Henry Llewellyn Lawrence of Belize, and Geneviève Delali Tsegah of Ghana.

The Holy Father gave one speech addressing all the new diplomats and then gave letters to each individually, which addressed the specific nations they represent.

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Lady and Gentlemen Ambassadors,

I receive you happily this morning in the Apostolic Palace for the presentation of the letters that accredit you as ambassadors extraordinary and plenipotentiary of your respective countries to the Holy See: Moldavia, Equatorial Guinea, Belize, the Arab Republic of Syria, Ghana and New Zealand. I thank you for the kind words you addressed to me on behalf of your respective heads of state. Please be kind enough to transmit to them in return my deferent greetings and my respectful wishes for their persons and for the high mission they carry out at the service of their countries and their people. Through you, I also wish to greet all the civil and religious authorities of your nations, as well as the whole of your compatriots. Naturally, my prayers and thoughts go also to the Catholic communities present in your countries.

As I have had the opportunity to meet each one of you privately, I now wish to speak to you in a more general way. The first half of this year was marked by innumerable tragedies that have affected nature, technology and people. The magnitude of these catastrophes challenges us. It is good to remember that before all else, the person comes first. Humanity, to whom God has entrusted the stewardship of nature, cannot be dominated by technology and become its subject. This awareness should lead states to reflect together on the short-term future of the planet, given their responsibilities with regard to our lives and technology. Human ecology is an imperative. Adopting a lifestyle that respects our environment and supports the research and use of clean energies that preserve the patrimony of creation and that are safe for human beings should be given political and economic priority.

In this sense, it is necessary to completely revise our approach to nature. Nature is not simply a space that is useful or recreational. It is, rather, the place where man was born; his "home," so to speak. It is essential for us. A change in mentality in this realm, even with the contradictions it entails, must make it possible to quickly arrive at a global lifestyle that respects the covenant between humanity and nature, without which the human family risks disappearing. Hence, serious reflection must be engaged in and precise and viable solutions must be proposed. Every government must commit themselves to protecting nature and assisting it to carry out its essential role in the survival of humanity. The United Nations seem to be the natural framework for this type of reflection, which should not be obscured by blindly partisan political or economic interests in order to give preference to solidarity over particular interests.

It is also helpful to ask ourselves about the appropriate role of technology. The wonders it is capable of go hand in hand with social and ecological disasters. By extending the relational aspect of work to the planet, technology imprints on globalization an especially accelerated rhythm. However, the basis of the dynamism of progress corresponds to man who works and not to technology, which is no more than a human creation. To bet on it unreservedly or to believe it is the exclusive agent of progress or happiness, entails a reification of humanity that leads to blindness and misery when he himself attributes and delegates to it the powers it does not have. It is enough to see the "ravages" of progress and the dangers that an all-powerful and ultimately uncontrolled technology poses to humanity.

Technology that dominates human beings deprives them of their humanity. The pride it generates has created an impossible economism in our societies as well as a hedonism that subjectively and selfishly regulates behavior. The weakening of the primacy of the person leads to existential confusion and the loss of the meaning of life. The vision of man and material things that lacks a reference to transcendence uproots man from the earth and, more fundamentally, impoverishes his very identity. Hence, it is urgent that we match technology with a strong ethical dimension, given that the capacity man has to transform and, in a certain sense, to create the world through his work is always based on the first original gift of things made by God (John Paul II, "Centesimus annus," No. 37). Technology should help nature develop along the lines envisioned by the Creator. In working together, the researcher and the scientist adhere to God's plan that wished to place humanity as the apex and the administrator of creation. Solutions based on this principle will protect human life and its vulnerability, as well as the rights of the present and future generations. And humanity will be able to continue to benefit from the progress that man, by his intelligence, is able to realize.

Conscious of the risk that humanity runs when it considers technology to be a more efficient "answer" than political will or patient educational efforts to civilize customs, governments should promote a humanism that respects the spiritual and religious dimension of human persons. The dignity of the human person does not vary with changes in opinion. Respecting human aspirations to justice and peace allows the construction of a society that promotes itself when it sustains the family or when it refuses, for example, the exclusive primacy of finance. A country lives from the plenitude of the life of the citizens that make it up, each one being conscious of his own responsibilities and being able to give worth to his own convictions.

Moreover, the natural tendency to the true and the good is a source of a dynamism that engenders the will to collaborate in bringing about the common good. Thus social life can be enriched constantly by integrating the cultural and religious diversity through putting values in common, source of fraternity and communion. Social life should be considered, above all, as a reality of the spiritual order. Politicians in charge have the mission of guiding persons to human harmony and the wisdom they so desire, which should culminate in religious freedom, a true sign of peace.

On beginning your mission to the Holy See, I assure you, Excellencies, that you will always find in my collaborators attentive listening and the help you might need. Upon you yourselves, your families, the members of your diplomatic missions and upon all the nations you represent, I invoke the abundance of divine blessings.

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Pontiff's Letter to New Zealand Representative
"Nurture the Greatest Respect for the Whole Human Person"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 9, 2011 - Here is the message Benedict XVI gave to George Robert Furness Troup, the new ambassador of New Zealand to the Holy See, upon receiving his letters of credence. The Pope received in audience at the same time Stefan Gorda of Moldavia, Narciso Ntugu Abeso Oyana of Equatorial Guinea, Hussan Edin Aala of Syria, Henry Llewellyn Lawrence of Belize, and Geneviève Delali Tsegah of Ghana.

The Holy Father gave one speech addressing all the new diplomats and then gave letters to each individually, which addressed the specific nations they represent.

* * *

Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican today and to accept the letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of New Zealand to the Holy See. I thank you for the kind greeting which you conveyed from Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand, and I would ask you kindly to assure him of my good wishes and prayers for the well-being of the nation.

I take this opportunity to express once more my solidarity with all those still suffering from the devastating earthquake which struck Christchurch on 22 February last. Conscious of the considerable work of reconstruction on which you and your fellow citizens have embarked, I am confident that the impressive outpouring of generosity and the countless acts of charity and goodness which were seen in the wake of the disaster will contribute in no small part to meeting the material and moral challenges of the immense task now before you.

In your address you kindly made reference to the cordial relations existing between the Holy See and New Zealand. By its presence in the international community, the Holy See seeks to promote universal values which are rooted in the Gospel message of the God-given dignity of each man and woman, the unity of the human family and the need for justice and solidarity to govern relations between individuals, communities and nations. These values are deeply inscribed in the culture which gave birth to New Zealand’s political and legal institutions. A cornerstone of that heritage remains respect for the rights of freedom of religion and freedom of worship, to the benefit of all. These rights, enshrined in the legal traditions to which you are heirs, are proper to each person because they are inherent in the humanity which is common to us all. Through the promotion of these freedoms, society is better equipped to respond to profound political and social challenges in a way consonant with humanity’s deepest aspirations.

Due to its geographical position, your country is able to assist in the development of smaller, more distant countries with fewer resources. Some neighbouring countries, including the Small Island Developing States, look to New Zealand as an example of political stability, rule of law and high economic and social standards. They also look to you as a source of assistance, encouragement and support as they develop their own institutions. This gives your country a particular moral responsibility. Faithful to the best of its traditions, New Zealand is called to use its position of influence for the peace and stability of the region, the encouragement of mature and stable democratic institutions, and the fostering of authentic human rights and sustainable economic development. The desire for development poses a number of important challenges concerning the environment, some of them with serious consequences for people’s well-being and livelihoods, and especially for the poor. I would like to encourage the work being done to promote models of development at home and abroad that reflect a truly human ecology, are economically sustainable and fulfil our duty as stewards of creation (cf. Caritas in Veritate, 48; 51).

The Catholic Church in your country, drawn from the populations both ancient and new of your islands, strives to play her part in knitting together a truly multicultural society with a sense of mutual respect, shared purpose and solidarity, for the peace and prosperity of all. She wishes to serve the common good by bringing the spiritual and moral wisdom of the faith to bear upon the important ethical questions of the day. In a particular way, the Church wishes always to nurture the greatest respect for the whole human person, defending the inalienable right to life from conception until natural death, promoting a stable family environment and providing education.

Regarding this last point, the Church has always placed great emphasis on the education of young people, recognizing it as an essential component in the preparation and development of individuals for the good, so that they might take their proper place in society. In addition to the pursuit of excellence in academic studies, athletics and the arts, Catholic schools are concerned above all with the moral and spiritual formation of their pupils. The enduring attraction of educational institutions steeped in authentic Christian values demonstrates the perennial desire of parents to have their children prepared for life in the best possible way in a healthy environment that will bring out the best in young people as they prepare for life’s challenges. I am confident that your Government will continue to support parents in their role as the primary educators of their children, by ensuring that the faith-based education system remains accessible to those who wish to avail themselves of it for the good of their children and of society at large.

Finally, Mr Ambassador, let me take this opportunity to reiterate my good wishes as you begin your mission and to assure you that the Roman Curia stands ready to assist you. Upon you and your family and upon all the people of New Zealand, I cordially invoke God’s abundant blessings.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Papal Message to Ghanaian Envoy to Holy See
"May Your Country Give an Example in Establishing Effective Instruments of Solidarity"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 9, 2011 - Here is the message Benedict XVI gave to Geneviève Delali Tsegah, the new ambassador of Ghana to the Holy See, upon receiving her letters of credence. The Pope received in audience at the same time Stefan Gorda of Moldavia, Narciso Ntugu Abeso Oyana of Equatorial Guinea, Hussan Edin Aala of Syria, Henry Llewellyn Lawrence of Belize, and George Robert Furness Troup of New Zealand.

The Holy Father gave one speech addressing all the new diplomats and then gave letters to each individually, which addressed the specific nations they represent.

* * *

Your Excellency,

In welcoming you to the Vatican and accepting the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Ghana to the Holy See, I wish first of all to express my gratitude to you for transmitting the courteous greeting of your President, His Excellency John Evans Atta Mills, and I would ask you kindly to reciprocate and to convey, in turn, my good wishes to him, as well as my appreciation of the cordial relations existing between the Holy See and your country.

It is widely acknowledged that Ghana has been able to overcome certain obstacles in order to make steady economic, social and political progress in recent times. Certainly, the conduct of regular and peaceful democratic elections does credit to both the people and the political leaders of your country. The establishment of ethnic harmony, too, not without the contribution of the local Christian communities including the Catholic Church, has been an important factor in creating conditions of peace, stability and greater social progress for all your citizens. I hope that this process will be crowned by the positive outcome of the ongoing constitutional consultation, in such a way that the nation’s legislative and administrative framework will consolidate a culture of responsible and active participation in the development of the country in freedom, justice and solidarity.

I have also noted the climate of religious freedom enjoyed in Ghana. A democratic society that fosters freedom of religion and freedom of worship, and that appreciates the presence of religious institutions that strive to rise above political interests and are instead motivated by faith and moral values, understands that there is much to gain through these freedoms for the positive growth of all the country’s institutions. Indeed, countries that do so may derive many benefits from those institutions, by drawing on the wisdom found in religious traditions, especially when citizens are confronted by questions for which science and technology provide little or no answer. Indeed, here secular and religious interests find common ground and are able to grow together by combining the demands of macroeconomic progress and scientific knowledge with religion’s perennial wisdom and understanding of man and society. All stand to benefit from such cooperation in a world that has grown uncertain about moral choices and is often drawn towards narrow interests and selfishness.

Your Excellency, your land has been blessed with natural resources which are now bringing prosperity to your people. It is much to be hoped that, through social solidarity, the proceeds from the correct exploitation of these resources will contribute to the sustainable economic development of your people. Let this be achieved, however, while giving due attention to those who are much poorer, or unable to provide for their families through no fault of their own. In this sense, may your country give an example in establishing effective instruments of solidarity (cf. Centesimus Annus, 16), to the true enrichment of all members of society.

You also mention the work of the Catholic Church in Ghana in the fields of education, health care and other social services. Motivated by the love of Christ, and acting on the basis on the human dignity shared by all members of the human family, the Church wishes to contribute in many ways to the good of society, especially in the areas you have mentioned. She is a willing partner with civil authorities wherever she is able to fulfil her mission untrammelled, in the light of Gospel values.

Finally, Your Excellency, I wish you every success in your mission as Ambassador of the Republic of Ghana to the Holy See and I assure you of the willing cooperation of the departments of the Roman Curia. May Almighty God bestow upon the people of Ghana abundant and lasting blessings of harmony, prosperity and peace!

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Benedict XVI's Letter to New Belizean Ambassador
"Education Bears Fruit When Based on Virtue Already Grounded in the Family"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 9, 2011 - Here is the message Benedict XVI gave to Henry Llewellyn Lawrence, the new ambassador of Belize to the Holy See, upon receiving his letters of credence. The Pope received in audience at the same time Stefan Gorda of Moldavia, Narciso Ntugu Abeso Oyana of Equatorial Guinea, Hussan Edin Aala of Syria, Genevieve Delali Tsegah of Ghana, and George Robert Furness Troup of New Zealand.

The Holy Father gave one speech addressing all the new diplomats and then gave letters to each individually, which addressed the specific nations they represent.

* * *

Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to receive the Letters of Credence by which you have been appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belize to the Holy See. I am grateful to you for transmitting the courteous greetings from the Governor-General, Sir Colville Young, and in return I would ask you kindly to convey my own good wishes to him and to all the people of your nation.

The Holy See values its diplomatic relations with Belize as an important means for achieving mutual cooperation for the moral and material well-being of all its citizens. With the cooperation of men and women of good will throughout Central America, the Church works to promote peace and prosperity among all the peoples of the region, even amid challenging circumstances, based upon unchanging Gospel values which have always served the people of the region well. With a special care for the poor and the weak, the Church draws attention to the dignity of man and works to foster and promote that dignity through her many social, charitable and developmental initiatives. The commitment to this activity draws strength not only from a love for the human person, but first and foremost from a profound love for God, "in whose light the identity, meaning and purpose of the person are fully understood" (World Day of Peace Message 2011, 1).

Historically, the Catholic Church in Belize has enjoyed cordial relations with the civil authorities, in an atmosphere conducive to the fulfilment of the mission entrusted to her by the Lord. Such an atmosphere is due in large part to the foundations upon which Belize was established, a basis which supports traditional Christian values and acknowledges the perennial value of authentic human rights and fundamental civil and political freedoms that promote respect for the human person, social harmony and the progress of society as a whole.

Among the laws established in your country are the rights to religious freedom and freedom of worship. As I had occasion to note recently, "the right to religious freedom is rooted in the very dignity of the human person, whose transcendent nature must not be ignored or overlooked" (ibid., 2). Freedom of religion and freedom of worship allow believers to flourish as individuals and to contribute positively and fully to the life of the country in every sphere of human activity. May your country, Mr Ambassador, be an example in this regard to its neighbours and to those who would seek to diminish the consequences of such rights and their corresponding values.

The Catholic Church in Belize involves herself in society in a variety of ways, including the education of the young in cooperation with the state. In principle, education prepares individuals and draws the best from them so that they in turn may willingly contribute socially, culturally and economically to society as a whole. Religious education, and Catholic education in particular, makes its own contribution to your people's welfare, since it "leads new generations to see others as their brothers and sisters, with whom they are called to journey and work together so that all will feel that they are living members of the one human family" (ibid., 4). Education bears fruit when based on virtue already grounded in the family, "the first cell of human society," and "the primary training ground for harmonious relations at every level of coexistence, human, national and international" (ibid.). Possessing a solid grounding in faith and virtue, intelligence and good will, the young people of Belize will be better prepared to assume the mantle of civic and social leadership, and provide for a stable, just and peaceful future for the nation.

With these sentiments, Mr Ambassador, I offer you every good wish for your new mission and assure you of the readiness of the Roman Curia to assist you in your high office. Upon you and upon all the people of Belize, I invoke Almighty God's abundant blessings.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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To Macedonian Delegation on Sts. Cyril and Methodius Feast
"There Can Be No Real Unity Without Respect for the Dignity of Every Person"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 23, 2011 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address today to Gjorge Ivanov, president of Macedonia, whom he received in audience together with a Catholic-Orthodox delegation from the country.

The Pope received delegations from both Bulgaria and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to celebrate the feast day -- May 11 in the East and Feb. 14 in the West -- of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, the co-patrons of Europe.

* * *

Mr. President,

Honorable Members of the Government and Distinguished Authorities,

Venerable Brothers Representatives of the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church

I am particularly happy to receive you and to address my cordial greeting to each one of you, in particular to the president of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius is a motive of joy for us all. These holy brothers sent to the Slav peoples proclaimed the Gospel amid many difficulties, but always sustained by an indestructible trust in the Lord. They were animated by the passion to make the Gospel of Christ known and for that reason they spent themselves in teaching the Christian doctrine, reproducing it in books written in the Slavic language. Without a doubt this was a decisive event for the growth and development of the Slav civilization and culture in general. The testimony and teaching of Sts. Cyril and Methodius are still current both for those who are at the service of the Gospel as well as for those called to govern the destinies of nations.

The life of these men was totally dedicated to apostolic activity, and the divine intuition to make the message of Revelation comprehensible and accessible to the peoples was the reason for unity for different traditions and cultures. In acceptance of God's salvific plan, peoples can rediscover the foundations on which to build civilizations and societies imbued with the spirit of reconciliation and peaceful coexistence. There can be no real unity without respect for the dignity of every person and his inalienable rights. Sts. Cyril and Methodius understood well that the Gospel of Christ is able to illumine every ambit and dimension of the human experience, to make it fully human. The Word of God calls constantly to conversion of heart, so that every decision, every choice is purified of egotistical interests; and it is precisely from this permanent conversion to God that it is possible to have a new humanity born.

May your annual pilgrimage to Rome be the occasion to renew the bonds of friendship between your nation and the Catholic Church and, at the same time, to reinforce and promote the commitment for the good of your country. Let us invoke the intercession of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, so that the Lord may give you his peace and bless the peoples of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

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Papal Address to Spain's New Envoy to Holy See
"Life Is Sacred and No One Can Dispose of It Arbitrarily"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 18, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Saturday upon receiving the letters of credence from Spain's new ambassador to the Holy See, María Jesús Figa López-Palop.

* * *

Mrs. Ambassador,

On receiving the letters of credence that accredit Your Excellency as ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of Spain to the Holy See, I thank you cordially for the words you addressed to me, as well as the deferent greeting that you transmit to me from Their Majesties the [monarchs of Spain], the government and the Spanish people. I correspond gladly expressing my best wishes for peace, prosperity and spiritual good for all of them, whom I have very present in my memory and prayer. Receive the most cordial welcome on beginning your important task in this diplomatic mission, which has centuries of brilliant history and very many illustrious predecessors of yours.

I recently visited Santiago de Compostela and Barcelona, and I recall with gratitude so many attentions and manifestations of closeness and affection to the Successor of Peter on the part of the Spanish and their authorities. They are two emblematic places, in which is highlighted both the spiritual attraction of the Apostle James, as well as the presence of admirable signs which invite to look on high even in the midst of a plural and complex environment.

During my visit I perceived many expressions of the vivacity of the Catholic faith in those lands, which have seen the birth of so many saints, and which are dotted with cathedrals, centers of assistance and culture inspired by the fecund rootedness and fidelity of its inhabitants in their religious beliefs. This entails also the responsibility of diplomatic relations between Spain and the Holy See which will try to foment always -- with mutual respect and collaboration, within the legitimate autonomy in their respective fields -- all that leads to the good of persons and the genuine development of their rights and liberties, which includes the expression of their faith and conscience, both in the public as well as the private sphere.

Because of your significant trajectory in diplomatic activity, Your Excellency knows well that the Church, in the exercise of her own mission, seeks the integral good of every nation and its citizens, acting in the ambit of their competencies and respecting fully the autonomy of the civil authorities, whom it appreciates, and for whom it prays to God that they will exercise their service to society with generosity, honesty, success and justice. This framework in which the mission of the Church and the function of the state come together, moreover, has acquired a definite form in bilateral agreements between Spain and the Holy See on the main aspects of common interest, which furnish the juridical support and necessary stability so that their respective actions and initiatives benefit all.

The beginning of your lofty responsibility, Mrs. Ambassador, takes place in a situation of great economic difficulty of global reach that also grips Spain, with truly worrying results, above all in the field of unemployment, which causes discouragement and frustration especially in young people and less favored families. I keep all the citizens very present and ask the Almighty to illumine all those who have public responsibilities to seek boldly the path to a profitable recovery for the whole society. In this connection, I would like to point out the praiseworthy action that Catholic institutions are carrying out to give prompt aid to the needy, and at the same time I hope there will be a growing disposition to the cooperation of all in this solidaristic endeavor.

With this, the Church shows an essential characteristic of her being, perhaps the most visible and appreciated by many, whether or not they are believers. However, she intends to go beyond mere external and material aid, and to aim at the heart of Christian charity, for which the neighbor is first of all a person, a child of God, always in need of fraternity, respect and acceptance in any situation in which he finds himself.

In this connection, the Church offers something that is innate to her and that benefits persons and nations: She offers Christ -- the hope that encourages and strengthens -- as an antidote to the disappointment of other fleeting proposals and a heart lacking in values, which ends by being hardened to the point of no longer being able to perceive the genuine meaning of life and the reason for things.

This hope gives life to confidence and collaboration, thus changing a somber present into strength of spirit to address the future with hope, [the future] both of the person as well as of the family and of society.

However, as I reminded in the message for the celebration for the 2011 World Day of Peace, instead of living and organizing society in such a way that it fosters openness to transcendence (cf. No. 9), there is no lack of ways, often sophisticated, of hostility to the faith which "are expressed at times reneging history and religious symbols, in which the identity and culture of the majority of the citizens is reflected" (No. 13). The fact that in some realms there is a tendency to consider religion as a socially insignificant factor, even annoying, does not justify trying to marginalize it, at times through denigration, ridicule, discrimination and even indifference in face of incidents of clear profanation which violate the fundamental right of religious liberty inherent to the dignity of the human person, and which is "an authentic weapon of peace, because it can change and improve the world" (cf. No. 15).

In her concern for every human being in a concrete way and in all his dimensions, the Church watches over the person's fundamental rights, in frank dialogue with all those who contribute to their being effective and without reductions. She watches over the right to human life from its beginning to its natural end, because life is sacred and no one can dispose of it arbitrarily. She watches over protection and aid to the family, and advocates economic, social and juridical measures so that the man and woman who enter marriage and form a family will have the necessary support to fulfill their vocation to be sanctuaries of love and life. She also advocates an education that integrates the moral and religious values in keeping with the parents' convictions, as is their right, and as fits the integral development of young people, and that, for the same reason, includes also the teaching of the Catholic religion in all centers for those who choose it, as is established in the juridical legislation itself.

Before concluding, I wish to make a reference to my new visit to Spain to participate in Madrid, in the forthcoming month of August, in the celebration of the 26th World Youth Day. I join with joy the efforts and prayers of its organizers, who are preparing carefully such an important event, with the hope that it will give abundant spiritual fruits for young people and for Spain. I am conscious also of the willingness, cooperation and generous help that both of the government of the nation as well as the autonomous and local authorities are dispensing for the greater success of an initiative that will attract the attention of the world and show once again the greatness of heart and spirit of the Spanish.

Mrs. Ambassador, I wish you the very best in carrying out the lofty mission that has been entrusted to you, so that relations between Spain and the Holy See are consolidated and progress, while I assure you of the great appreciation the Pope has for the ever beloved peoples of Spain. I ask you also to be the interpreter of my sentiments to the monarchs of Spain and the other authorities of the nation, while I invoke abundant blessings from the most High on Your Excellency, your family accompanying you today, as well as on your collaborators and the noble Spanish people.

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Pope's Letter on 150th Anniversary of Italian Unity
"Christianity Contributed in a Fundamental Way to the Construction of the Italian Identity"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 16, 2011 - Here is a translation of the letter Benedict XVI sent to the president of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Italy's political unity. The message was delivered by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope's secretary of state.

* * *

The 150th anniversary of the political unification of Italy offers me the happy occasion to reflect on the history of this beloved country, whose capital is Rome, city in which Divine Providence placed the See of the Successor of the Apostle Peter. Hence, in formulating to you and to the entire nation my most fervid good wishes, I am happy to share with you, in sign of the profound ties of friendship and collaboration that link Italy and the Holy See, these considerations of mine.

The process of unification that took place in Italy in the course of the 19th century, which passed into history with the name Risorgimento, constituted the natural outlet of a national identity development that began a long time before. In fact, the Italian nation, as a community of persons united by language, culture, sentiments of the same membership, though in the plurality of political communities articulated on the Peninsula, began to be formed in the Middle Ages. Christianity contributed in a fundamental way to the construction of the Italian identity through the work of the Church, of her educational and charitable institutions, fixing models of behavior, institutional configurations, social relationships, but also through a very rich artistic activity in literature, painting, sculpture, architecture and music. Dante, Giotto, Petrarch, Michelangelo, Raphael, Pierluigi of Palestrina, Caravaggio, Scarlatti, Bernini and Borromini are only some of the names of a long line of great artists that, through the centuries, have made a fundamental contribution to the formation of the Italian identity.

Also the experiences of holiness, with which numerous individuals have studded the history of Italy, contributed strongly to construct such identity, not only under the specific profile of a peculiar realization of the evangelical message, which has marked in time the religious experience and spirituality of Italians (one thinks of the great and manifold expressions of popular piety), but also under the cultural and even political profile. St. Francis of Assisi, for example, is pointed out also for his contribution in forging the national language; St. Catherine of Siena, though a simple ordinary woman, offered a formidable stimulus to the elaboration of Italian political and juridical thought. The contribution of the Church and of believers to the process of formation and consolidation of the national identity continues in the modern and contemporary ages.

Also, when parts of the Peninsula were subjected to the sovereignty of foreign powers, it was precisely thanks to this identity, now clear and strong, that notwithstanding the persistence in time of the geo-political fragmentation, the Italian nation was able to continue to subsist and to be conscious of itself. Because of this, the unity of Italy, realized in the second half of the 1800s, was able to take place, not as an artificial political construction of different identities, but as a natural political outlet of a strong national identity, rooted and subsisting for some time. The nascent unitary political community at the conclusion of the Risorgimento movment had, in short, as cement the still subsistent local diversities, precisely the pre-existing national identity, to whose molding Christianity and the Church made a fundamental contribution.

For complex historical, cultural and political reasons, the Risorgimento passed as a revolt against the Church, against Catholicism, and at times against religion in general. Without denying the role of traditions of different thought, some marked by jurisdictional or secular veins, one cannot omit the contribution of thought -- and at times of action -- of Catholics to the formation of the unitary state. From the point of view of political thought, suffice it to recall the whole affair of neo-Guelphism which had in Vincenzo Gioberti an illustrious representative; or to think of the Catholic-Liberal orientations of Cesare Balbo, Massimo d'Azeglio, Raffaele Lambruschini. Outstanding for philosophic, political and also juridical thought is the great figure of Antonio Rosmini, whose influence was displayed in time, to the point of informing significant points of the present Italian Constitution. And in that literature which contributed so much to "make the Italians," namely to give them the sense of belonging to the new political community that the process of the Risorgimento was molding, how can one not recall Alessandro Manzoni, faithful interpreter of the Catholic faith and morality; or Silvio Pellico, who with his autobiographical work on the painful vicissitudes of a patriot was able to witness the compatibility of love of the homeland with an unbending faith. And again figures of saints, such as St. John Bosco, driven by his pedagogical concern to compose manuals of homeland history, which molded membership in the institute founded by him on a paradigm consistent with a healthy liberal conception: "A citizen before the state, and a religious before the Church."

The political-institutional construction of the unitary state involved several personalities of the political, diplomatic and military world, among whom were, also, exponents of the Catholic world. This process, in as much as it must be inevitably measured with the problem of the temporal sovereignty of the Popes (but also because it led to extend the territories it gradually acquired a legislation in ecclesiastical matters of a strongly secular orientation), it had lacerating effects on the individual and collective conscience of Italian Catholics, divided between the opposite sentiments of fidelity born from citizenship on one side and of ecclesial membership on the other. However, it must be recognized that, if it was the political-institutional process of unification that produced that conflict between state and Church, which passed into history with the name of the "Roman Question," arousing as a consequence the expectation of a formal "conciliation," no conflict was verified in the social body, marked by a profound friendship between the civil and ecclesial community.

The national identity of Italians, so strongly rooted in the Catholic traditions, constituted in truth the most solid foundation of the acquired political unity. In short, the conciliation should have happened between the institutions, not in the social body, where faith and citizenship were not in conflict. Even in the years of the conflict, Catholics worked for the unity of the country. The abstention from political life, following the "non expedit," turned the reality of the Catholic world toward a great assumption of responsibility in the social realm: education, instruction, charity, health, cooperation, social economy were realms of commitment which made a solidaristic and strongly cohesive society grow.

The controversy that began between the state and Church with the proclamation of Rome as capital of Italy and with the end of the Papal State was particularly complex. It was undoubtedly a wholly Italian case, to the degree in which Italy alone has the singularity of hosting the headquarters of the papacy. Moreover, the question also had an undoubted international relevance. It must be noted that, with its temporal power at an end, the Holy See, though claiming the fullest liberty and sovereignty that corresponds to it in its order, has always rejected the possibility of a solution of the "Roman Question" through impositions from outside, trusting in the sentiments of the Italian people and in the sense of responsibility and justice of the Italian State. The signing of the Lateran Pacts, on Feb. 11, 1929, marked the final solution of the problem. In connection with the end of the Papal States, in memory of Blessed Pope Pius IX and of his Successors, I take up again the words of cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini, in his address held in Campidoglio on Oct. 10, 1962: "The papacy takes up with unheard of vigor its functions of teacher of life and witness of the Gospel, so as to rise to such heights in the spiritual governance of the Church and in her radiation on the world as never before."

The fundamental contribution of Italian Catholics to the elaboration of the Republican Constitution of 1947 is well known. If the Constitutional text was the positive fruit of a meeting and a collaboration between several traditions of thought, there is no doubt that only the Catholic constituents presented themselves to the historic appointment with a precise project on the fundamental law of the new Italian State; a project matured within Catholic Action, in particular by the FUCI and the Laureates' Movement, and of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, and object of reflection and of elaboration in the Camaldoli Code of 1945, and in the 19th Social Week of Italian Catholics of the same year, dedicated to the topic "Constitution and Constituent." From there began the very significant commitment of Italian Catholics in politics, in labor union activity, in public institutions, in the economic realities, in the expressions of civil society, thus offering a very important contribution to the growth of the country, with demonstrations of absolute fidelity to the state and of dedication to the common good, placing Italy in a European projection.

In the painful and dark years of terrorism, then, Catholics gave their witness of blood: How can one not remember, among the different figures, that of the Honorable Aldo Moro and of Professor Vittorio Bachelet? The Church, thanks also to the long liberty ensured by the Lateran Concordat of 1929, continued with her own institutions and activity, to furnish an energetic contribution to the common good, intervening in particular in the support of the most marginalized and suffering persons, and above all continuing to nourish the social body with those moral values that are essential for the life of a democratic, just and ordered society. The good of the country, understood integrally, was always pursued and particularly expressed in moments of high significance, such as in the "great prayer for Italy" proclaimed by the Venerable John Paul II on Jan. 10, 1994.

The conclusion of the Agreement of revision of the Lateran Concordat, signed on Feb. 18, 1984, marked the passage to a new phase of relations between Church and State in Italy. This passage was clearly perceived by my Predecessor who, in his address given on June 3, 1985, in the ceremony of exchange of instruments of ratification of the Agreement, noted that, as "instrument of concord and collaboration, the Concordat is now situated in a society characterized by the free competition of ideas and by the pluralistic articulation of the different social components: this can and must constitute a factor of promotion and growth, fostering the profound unity of ideals and sentiments, by which all Italians feel themselves brothers in one same homeland." And he added that in the exercise of her diakonia for man "the Church intends to operate in full respect of the autonomy of the political order and of the sovereignty of the State. Likewise, she is attentive to the safeguarding of the liberty of all, indispensable condition for the construction of a world worthy of man, who only in liberty can seek the truth fully and adhere to it sincerely, finding in it the motive and inspiration for solidaristic and unitary commitment to the common good."

The Agreement, which contributed largely to the delineation of that healthy laicism which denotes the Italian State and its juridical ordering, has evidenced the two supreme principles which are called to preside over the relations between Church and political community: that of the distinction of realms and of collaboration. A collaboration motivated by the fact that, as Vatican Council II taught, between both, namely the Church and the political community "even if with different title, are at the service of the personal and social vocation of the same human persons" (Constitution "Gaudium et Spes," No. 76).The experience matured in the years of enforcement of the new agreed dispositions has seen, yet again, the Church and Catholics committed in various ways in favor of that "promotion of man and of the good of the country" that, in respect of their reciprocal independence and sovereignty, constitutes the inspiring and guiding principle of the Concordat in force (Article 1). The Church is aware not only of the contribution she makes to the civil society for the common good, but also of what she receives from the civil society, as Vatican Council II affirmed: "whoever promotes the human community in the field of the family, of culture, of economic and social life, as well as of politics, whether national or international, offers not little help, according to the will of God, to the ecclesial community in the things on which she depends on external factors" (Constitution "Gaudium et Spes," No. 44).

In taking a long look at history, it is necessary to recognize that the Italian nation has always perceived the burden but at the same time the privilege given by the peculiar situation by which there is in Italy, in Rome, the See of the Successor of Peter and, hence, the center of Catholicism. And the national community has always responded to this awareness expressing affectionate closeness, solidarity, and help to the Apostolic See for its liberty and to support the realization of the conditions favorable to the exercise of the spiritual ministry in the world of the Successor of Peter, who is bishop of Rome and Primate of Italy. The turbulence having passed of the "Roman Question," having arrived at the hoped for Conciliation, the Italian State also offered and continues to offer a precious collaboration, which the Holy See enjoys and of which it is consciously grateful.

In presenting to you, Mr. President, these reflections, I invoke from my heart on the Italian people the abundance of heavenly gifts, so that they will always be guided by the light of faith, source of hope and persevering commitment to liberty, justice and peace.

From the Vatican, March 17, 2011

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Papal Words to New Austrian Ambassador
"The Social Order Finds an Essential Support in the Spousal Union of Man and Woman"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 3, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving in audience the new ambassador from Austria to the Holy See, Alfons M. Kloss.

* * *


Very dear Ambassador,

With pleasure I accept the letters through which the president of the Austria accredits you as ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to the Holy See. At the same time I thank you for the cordial words with which you also expressed the closeness of the president and of the government to the Successor of Peter. I wish to send to the president, to the chancellor, and to the members of the government, as well as to all the citizens of Austria, my affectionate greetings and I wish to express the hope I have that relations between the Holy See and Austria will continue giving fruits in the future.

The culture, history and daily life of Austria -- "land of cathedrals" (National Hymn) -- are profoundly marked by the Catholic faith. I was able to verify this also during my pastoral visit to that country and during the pilgrimage to Mariazell four years ago. The faithful, whom I have been able to meet, represent the thousands of men and women of the whole country, who with their life of faith in their daily routine and their availability to others, show the most noble features of man and spread the love of Christ.

At the same time, Austria is a country in which the peaceful coexistence of several religions and cultures has a long tradition. "Strength resides in love," said the old popular hymn already in the time of the monarchy. This is also true for the religious dimension which has its roots in the depth of man's conscience and because of this belongs to the life of every individual and to the coexistence of the community. The spiritual homeland, as point of support, of which many persons are in need, who live a working situation of greater mobility and constant movement, should be able to exist publicly and in a climate of peaceful coexistence with the rest of the confessions of faith.

In many European countries, the relationship between the state and religion is facing a particular tension. On one hand, the political authorities take care not to grant public places to religions, understanding them as merely individual ideas of faith of the citizens. Sought, on the other hand, is the application of criteria of a secular public opinion to religious communities. It seems that they would like to adapt the Gospel to the culture and yet, they seek to impede, in an almost shameful way, that the culture be molded by the religious dimension.

Despite what has been said, account must be taken of the attitude of some states of Central and Eastern Europe that seek to make room for man's fundamental questions, faith in God, and faith in salvation through God. The Holy See has been able to observe with satisfaction some activities of the Austrian government in this connection. Examples are the important position assumed in relation to the so-called "decision of the crucifix" (Kreuzurteil) of the European Court of the Rights of Man, and the proposal of the minister of Foreign Affairs "that the new European service for external action, not only observe the situation of religious liberty in the world, but that it also write a report on it regularly and present it to the minister of Foreign Affairs of the European Union" (Austria Press Agentur, Dec. 10, 2010).

Recognition of religious liberty allows the ecclesial community to develop its manifold activities, which benefit the whole of society. Reference is made to the different institutes of formation and charitable services run by the Church which you, Mr. Ambassador, have mentioned.

The effort of the Church for the needy makes evident the way in which she is the spokesman of underprivileged persons. This ecclesial effort, which receives widespread recognition in the society, cannot be reduced to mere welfare. Its most profound roots are in God, in the God who is love. Hence it is necessary to respect fully the action proper to the Church, without converting it into one of the many services of social aid. It is necessary to consider it in the totality of its religious dimension. Therefore, it is always necessary to combat the egoistic isolation of man. All the social forces have the urgent and constant task of guaranteeing the moral dimension of culture, the dimension of a culture that is worthy of man and of his life in community. That is why the Catholic Church will work with all her strength for the good of society.

Another important intention of the Holy See is a balanced policy destined to the family. The latter occupies a place in society that implies the foundations of human life. The social order finds an essential support in the spousal union of man and woman, which is also directed to procreation. Because of this, marriage and the family call for special protection on the part of the state. It is for all its members a school of humanity with positive effects for the individuals in addition to being so for society. In fact, the family is called to live and protect mutual love and truth, respect and justice, fidelity and collaboration, service and availability to others, in particular towards the weakest.

However, the family with many children is often harmed. The problems in this type of families, as for example a high potential of tensions and disputes, low standard of life, difficult access to formation, indebtedness and increase in divorces, make one think that they should be eliminated from society. Moreover, it is necessary to lament that the life of newborns does not receive sufficient protection, and in addition, they are often given a secondary right of existence in relation to the liberty of their parents' decision.

The building of the common European home can come to a good end only if this continent is conscious of its own Christian roots and of the values of the Gospel, in addition to the Christian image of man, which are -- also in the future -- the leaven of European civilization. Faith lived in Christ and active love for one's neighbor, reflecting the word and life of Christ, and the example of the saints, must weigh more in Western Christian culture. Your compatriots proclaimed saints recently, such as Franz Jagerstatter, Sister Restituta Kafka, Ladislaus Batthyany-Strattman and Karl of Austria, can offer us wider perspectives. These saints, through different paths of life, offered themselves with the same dedication to the service of God and of his message of love for one's neighbor. Thus they leave us an example of guidance in the faith and of their witness of understanding among peoples.

Finally, Mr. Ambassador, I wish to assure you that in the development of the important mission that has been entrusted to you, you can count on my support and on that of my collaborators. I entrust you, your family and all the members of the embassy of Austria in the Holy See to the Blessed Virgin Mary, "Magna Mater Austriae," and from my heart I give you and all the beloved Austrian people the apostolic lessing.

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Benedict XVI's Address to Andorran Ambassador
"Harmony Is Possible Within Countries and Between Peoples"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 21, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Thursday upon receiving in audience Miquel Àngel Canturri Montanya, the new ambassador from Andorra to the Holy See.

* * *

Mr. Ambassador

I am delighted to receive Your Excellency and to accredit you in your capacity of ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the Principality of Andorra to the Holy See. I thank you for the kind words you addressed to me and in turn, I wish to transmit through you my cordial greetings to the two co-princes, the archbishop of Urgell and the president of the French Republic. Through you, I also greet the government, the authorities and the Andorran population.

The principality, going back to Charlemagne, is ruled by the pariage. The co-lordship approved by the Holy See at the time, converted into co-sovereignty, which you evoked in your address, is the legacy resulting from an historical evolution that has taken into account the legitimate interests of the Andorran people and has guaranteed its sovereignty. This original and unique system of its kind enables the population to live in peace, far from conflicts. It is true that the institutional solution that your country has found cannot be applied in other places, yet it is appropriate to draw a lesson from it. Harmony is possible within countries and between peoples. Juridical inventiveness and good will often enable numerous problems to be solved which, unfortunately, arise between peoples, and favor the much desired international concord.

In this context, I wish to point out the excellence of relations between the principality and the Holy See. These relations, which are situated in an historical continuity of entity and support -- you have pointed out moreover that the Holy See has always supported Andorra when its sovereignty was in danger -- have been consolidated in the first place by the establishment of diplomatic relations and later, two years ago, by the signing of a bilateral agreement. This agreement is the result and expression of a healthy and loyal collaboration between the Church and the state, which, with different titles, are at the service of the personal and social vocation of human persons. Yesterday as today, the cordial relations between the Church and Andorra serve these same persons more effectively for the benefit of all. This agreement is a supplementary stone contributed to the consolidation of relations between the principality and the Church.

In the words you addressed to me, you mentioned, Mr. Ambassador, the recent demographic evolution of your country. It shows the attraction it exercises over young generations. It is a question above all of young Andorrans who return to the country. Moreover, your nation also welcomes new populations. This openness entails a necessary awareness and responsibility on the part of institutions and of each one. In fact, social harmony, which could become unbalanced, is linked not only to a just and adapted legislative framework, but also to the moral quality of each citizen because "solidarity is seen ... under two complementary aspects: that of a social principle and that of a moral virtue" (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, No. 193).

Solidarity is raised to the rank of social virtue when it can lean at the same time on structures of solidarity, but also on the firm and persevering determination of each person to work for the common good, because we are all responsible for everyone. For its part, moral virtue is expressed through decisions and laws that are adjusted to ethical principles. These consolidate democracy and enable Andorrans to live according to age-old positive values, permeated by Christianity, and to cultivate and preserve its very marked identity.

To arouse the lasting sense of solidarity, which I have just mentioned, the education of young people is, undoubtedly, the best way. Whatever your level of responsibility, I encourage each one to show creativity in this realm, to invest the necessary means, and to sow generously for the future, being concerned to give them the necessary ethical bases. With education, it is also appropriate to give the family the support it deserves. Basic cell of society, the family fulfills its mission when it is fomented and promoted by the public powers as the first place of apprenticeship of life in society. Giving all the components of the family the necessary help, it will facilitate effectively social harmony and cohesion. The Church can make a positive contribution to the consolidation of the family, weakened by contemporary culture.

During my recent trip to Barcelona, I had the pleasure of seeing the presence of a beautiful delegation from your country. These faithful of all ages, but especially young people, went to express their adherence to the Successor of Peter. I would like to thank them for this warm presence and invite them, without wishing to abuse your intermediation, to the forthcoming World Youth Days.

I take advantage of the opportunity of this meeting, Mr. Ambassador, to greet warmly, through your mediation, your archbishop and his collaborators, as well as the whole of the Catholic faithful who live in your country. May they keep the desire to give witness of Christ and, in agreement of all Andorrans, to build a social life where each one can find the paths of personal and collective fulfillment! They will also give witness of the always timely fruitfulness of the Word of God.

At the moment you begin your noble mission of representation to the Holy See, I give you, Mr. Ambassador, my best wishes for the good fulfillmet of your mission. Be assured that you will always find in my collaborators the reception and understanding you might need. The people of Andorra have a particular veneration for the Virgin Mary, the Virgin of Meritxell, patroness of the co-principality whose national feast is celebrated on Sept. 8, Marian solemnity.
I entrust the authorities of your country and the whole of the population to her maternal protection. On Your Excellency, your family and your collaborators, as well as on the whole of the Andorran people and its leaders, I invoke from my heart the abundance of divine blessings.

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Papal Address to Envoy From Seychelles
"Economic Development Must ... Respect the Integrity and Rhythms of Nature"
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 21, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Thursday upon receiving in audience Vivianne Fock Tave, the new ambassador from Seychelles to the Holy See.

* * *

Mrs. Ambassador,

I receive you with pleasure this morning in which you present the letters that accredit you in the capacity of ambassader extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the Republic of Seychelles to the Holy See. I thank you for transmitting to me the greetings of Mr. James Alix Michel, president of the Republic, whom I had the honor of receiving during his recent visit to the Holy See. I would be very grateful if you would express to him my gratitude for the cordiality expressed during our meeting. Through you, I also greet the authorities, the different political leaders and the whole of the people of Seychelles.

Your country continues to progress and to affirm itself on the path of peace, prosperity and stability. Without a doubt, this is the result of the persistent efforts and of the generous contribution of all political and social spheres, of the public and private sectors. I am happy to congratulate the government and the people of Seychelles for having surmounted the challenge of the world economic crisis, confirmed by a renewal of tourism and of direct foreign investments, by an impulse of the national economy, giving favorable fiscal space to the reduction of the debt and priority expenses. However, the liberation of the economy preserving the social gains is a mutation which does not require a change in mentalities: It is a question of supporting this evolution to anticipate the effects that cannot always be controlled in time giving a necessary ethical base and playing the card of responsibility. "Everyone has the right to participate in economic life and the duty to contribute, each according to his own capacity, to the progress of his own country and to that of the entire human family" (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, No. 333).

The planning of economic development must also consider carefully the need to respect the integrity and rhythms of nature because natural resources are limited and some are not renewable. The solution of the ecological problem calls for economic activity that respects the environment more, conciliating the needs with environmental protection and "strengthening that covenant between human beings and the environment" ("Caritas in Veritate," No. 50).

In this realm, I appreciate in particular the government's initiatives to restore and preserve the coral reef. This is the front line of defense in the rising of the level of the ocean and also continues to be an important habitat for the raising of fish -- principal contributor of protein of the country. It also provides income and employment in the areas of fishing and tourism. Hence, it is necessary that consumers and agents of industrial activities develop greater responsibility in their behavior.

To increase everyone's responsibility also entails an active and effective cooperation in respecting and protecting human dignity in face of every attempt to propose reductionist and deformed images, or the instrumentalization of each person. International tourism, notable factor of economic development and cultural growth, can become an occasion for exploitation and moral degradation (cf. "Caritas in Veritate," N. 61). Only acknowledgment of human dignity makes possible the common and personal growth of all (James 2:1-9).

To foster this integral human development and also to reinforce solidarity between generations, it is necessary to protect the family. Promoted and supported by the state and society, the family has a totally original and irreplaceable function in the education of children. With the family, your nation will continue building its future, giving an appropriate formation to its young generations so that they will be able to transcend the limits in which at times there is a desire to enclose them and giving them the concrete means to struggle against social evils, especially unemployment and drugs. From this point of view, I highlight and encourage once again the efforts made for a long time to develop an educational system of quality. It is also appropriate to support the most underprivileged and to fight against corruption by guaranteeing an objective equality before the law among the different social classes.

For her part, the local Church wishes to continue making a specific contribution to your nation, both in supporting the family, education, and the formation of young people as well as the integral human development of each person. This development implies spiritual growth and not just material growth whose criterion of orientation is found in the active force of charity in truth (cf. "Caritas in Veritate," No. 76-77). The spiritual search that dwells in the heart of the people of Seychelles finds in Christ its meaning and plenitude; it dynamizes the whole of the society, with the capacity to breathe into it the force of reconciliation to promote justice, fraternity and to build prosperity and peace. With this objective, I encourage the continuation of that collaboration and I wish to greet warmly, through you, the bishop of Puerto Victoria and his collaborators, as well as the whole of the Catholic faithful present in your country.

At the time you begin your noble mission of representation to the Holy See, I wish to renew the expression of my satisfaction for the excellent relations maintained by the Republic of the Seychelles and the Holy See, and I address to you, Mrs. Ambassador, my best wishes for the fulfillment of your mission. Be assured that you will always find in my collaborators the reception and understanding you might need. On Your Excellency, your family and your collaborators, as well as on the people of Seychelles, and on its leaders, I invoke from my heart abundant divine blessings.

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Holy Father's Address to Envoy of Mali
"Education Constitutes a Vital and Existential Necessity"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 20, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Thursday upon receiving in audience Boubacar Sidiki Toure, the new ambassador from Mali to the Holy See.

* * *

Mr. Ambassador,

I am pleased to receive the letters that accredit you as ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to the Holy See. On this happy occasion, I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and thank you for the kind words, with which you expressed the respectful tribute of the President of the Republic and the Malian people. I would be grateful if in turn you would transmit to His Excellency Mr. Amadou Toumani Toure, Head of State, my sentiments of gratitude and respect and the guarantee of my prayers for his person and all Malians.

As a good number of African countries, Mali celebrated this year the 50th anniversary of its independence. The progress achieved is always accompanied by challenges to point out. I mention among others social peace, education and the right to nourishment. For the building of a peaceful and stable society, Mali can extract from its cultural patrimony which encloses human, intellectual and religious values. I want to encourage their preservation and transmission to the new generations, because a society served by persons gifted with a profound moral perspicacity, always promotes justice and peace. The leaders of such a society are able to transcend their own interests to be virtuous governors totally dedicated to the common good. They are also able to cultivate human relations animated by trust and solidarity, mutual respect and sincere dialogue. Hence, I encourage the different Malian leaders to help their compatriots to be reconciled among themselves after the conflicts that have marked Mali's recent history. I also invite them to struggle against discrimination between ethnic groups and religions. In fact, it is legitimate that the identity of each ethnic or religious community be expressed visibly, in mutual respect, fostering peaceful coexistence at all levels of the national community (cf. Address to the Bishops of Mali, May 18, 2007).

Looking at the future, the Malian government has included among its priorities the formation of cadres capable of ensuring the development of your country. In a world characterized by the interdependence of peoples and the rapid spread of imitation of human behavior accompanied by growing individualism, education constitutes a vital and existential necessity. However, it could be reduced to an accumulation of intellectual knowledge or technical competence. Abilities should go hand in hand with knowing how to live and how to be so that, based on human wisdom and spiritual resources, they reflect better the essential truth of human existence. That is why, in the education of their children, Malian families are not content with the academic results achieved, to the neglect of human, cultural and religious virtues. They offer their children the reference values that will lead them to the truth about life, about the duty of solidarity and of dialogue, which are co-existential to human nature. It corresponds to the state to support families in their task of education, and to watch over the intellectual and human quality of the educational personnel. May Malian young people not let themselves be seduced by easy money that could incite them to pact with networks that lead to criminality or drug trafficking!

Your country is committed, Mr. Ambassador, on the path of harmonious development elaborating projects such as the new code of persons and the family. I harbor the great hope that it might help to reduce the inequalities between persons and social groups. This new code will contribute to social peace, if the leaders of your country also work to ensure the right to nourishment. Receiving with approval the efforts to increase the production of cotton and rice, I encourage your government to address the problem of food insecurity "eliminating the structural causes that give rise to it and promoting the agricultural development (...) by investing (...) in the development and dissemination of agricultural technology that can make the best use of the human, natural and socio-economic resources (...). All this needs to be accomplished with the involvement of local communities in choices and decisions that affect the use of agricultural land" ("Caritas in Veritate," No. 27).

As you can attest, Your Excellency, several executives of your country have been formed in Catholic schools. The Church's commitment in formation and education, as well as in the charitable, health and social realms, shows her willingness to collaborate with the state, preserving the particular nature of her structures. I take advantage of the occasion to acclaim the convention on health care, which was signed by the Episcopal Conference of Mali and the Ministry of Health of Mali, as well as this ministry's commitment to grant subsidies to ecclesial health structures.

To conclude, I greet warmly through you the Catholic community of Mali with its pastors, and I invite it to continue its courageous and joyful witness of the faith and of fraternal love taught by Christ. I also wish to encourage the efforts of the Episcopal Conference of Mali and of the government to consolidate the relations of mutual esteem between Mali and the Holy See. At the moment in which you begin your mission, I offer you, Mr. Ambassador, my best wishes, assuring you of the support of the different services of the Roman Curia for the fulfillment of your function. To this end, I am happy to invoke on you and your family, as well as on all your collaborators, abundant Divine Blessings.

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Pope's Address to Envoys of Nepal, Zambia, Andorra, Seychelles and Mali
"Fraternity Finds a Concrete Expression in Gratitude and Respect"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 16, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave on Thursday to the new ambassadors of Nepal, Zambia, Andorra, the Seychelles and Mali to the Holy See, whom he received in the Vatican on the occasion of the presentation of their Letters of Credence.

* * *

Lady and Gentlemen Ambassadors,

I am very happy to receive you this morning in the Apostolic Palace for the presentation of the Letters that accredit you as Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of your respective countries to the Holy See: Nepal, Zambia, the Principality of Andorra, the Republic of the Seychelles and Mali. You have addressed courteous words to me, on behalf of your Heads of State, for which I thank you. I would like to transmit in turn my deferent greetings and my respectful wishes for your persons and for the high mission you fulfill in the service of your country and your people. Through you, I also wish to greet all the civil and religious authorities of your nations, as well as all your compatriots. My prayers and thoughts go, of course, also to the Catholic communities present in your countries. Living the Gospel, they are concerned to give witness of a spirit of fraternal collaboration.

Excellencies, I would like to speak of human fraternity. A heartfelt appeal has been made all this year to alleviate Haiti, first devastated by an earthquake and then by cholera. Other tragedies unfortunately have stricken other countries during this year. Your countries, the international community and the associative world have responded to the especially urgent appeals for help, aid which it would be appropriate to continue and to intensify. For her part, and through her different institutions, the Church makes a manifold contribution which she prolongs in the course of time.

The beautiful ideal of fraternity, which is found in the national emblem of many countries, has found in the development of philosophical and political thought less resonance compared with other ideals such as liberty, equality, progress and unity. It is a principle that to a large extent has remained a dead letter in modern and contemporary political societies, above all because of the influence exercised by individualist or collectivist ideologies (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, No. 390). As you know, fraternity has a particular meaning for Christians due to God's design of fraternal love, of fraternity, hence, revealed by Christ. In my last encyclical, "Caritas in Veritate," I certainly addressed extensively this indispensable topic for harmonious human coexistence.

To live worthily, every human being needs respect: he also needs justice to be done, and his rights recognized in a concrete way. However, this is not enough to lead a fully human life: in fact, a person also has need of fraternity. This is true not only in close relations but also on a global scale. However, although the process of globalization under way brings human beings closer to one another, it does not, because of this, make them brothers. It is an important problem because, as my predecessor Pope Paul VI revealed, "underdevelopment has as its profound cause the lack of fraternity" (cf. "Populorum Progressio," No. 66).

Human reason is capable of recognizing the equality of all men and the need to limit the excessive disparities among them, but it is incapable of instituting fraternity. This is a supernatural gift. For her part, the Church sees the realization of human fraternity on earth as a vocation contained in God's creative plan, who wishes that she be ever more faithfully the maker of that fraternity, both in the universal ambit and well as the local ambits as it is in the countries that you represent to the Holy See.

If, supporting the specifically spiritual mission that Christ has entrusted to her, the Church arouses among her disciples a particular proximity, she does not lessen her desire to make a sincere and strong contribution to the formation of a more fraternal community among all human beings. Because of this, she prohibits herself from acting as a lobby, concerned only with her interests, and yet she works under the gaze of Him who is the Creator of all men, wishing to honor the dignity of each one. Thus, she makes an effort to put love and peace at the base of the many human bonds that relate persons among themselves, as God has willed in his creative wisdom.

In daily life, fraternity finds a concrete expression in gratitude and respect. These are called to be manifested in all areas of human activity, including economic activity. Man's profound identity, his being-in-relation, is also expressed in his economic activity, which is one of the areas of greatest cooperation between men. Through my last Encyclical, I wished to make evident the fact that the economy is a place where the gift is also possible and even necessary (cf. "Caritas in Veritate," No. 34-39).

Every form of gift is, in a word, a sign of the presence of God, because it leads to the fundamental discovery that, at the origin, everything is given. Such an awareness does not make man's conquests less beautiful, but liberates him from the first of all slaveries, that of wishing to create himself. On the contrary, in acknowledging what he is given, man can open himself to the action of grace and understand that he is called to develop himself, not against others or at their expense, but with them and in communion with them.

However, if fraternity lived among men can find a positive echo in terms of "social effectiveness," it must not be forgotten that it does not constitute a means, but is an end in itself (cf. "Caritas in Veritate," No. 20). The Church believes in Christ who reveals to us that God is love (cf. John 4:8). She is also convinced that to all those who believe in divine charity, God gives the certainty that "the way of love is open to all men and that the effort directed to establishing a universal fraternity is not in vain" ("Gaudium et Spes," No. 38).

As diplomats, you are interested without a doubt in a particular way, in the different aspects of socio-political life that I have just developed. During your mission to the Apostolic See, you will have the possibility, Excellencies, to discover more directly the actions and concerns of the Church in all the continents. You will find in my collaborators kind attention. On you, your families, the members of your diplomatic Missions and all the nations you represent, I invoke abundant Divine Blessings.

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Papal Address to Ambassador From Zambia
"Continue to Respect and Defend the Dignity of Every Human Life From Conception"
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 18, 2010 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered Thursday to the new ambassador from Zambia to the Holy See, Royson Mabuku Mukwena.

* * *

Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are accredited Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Zambia to the Holy See. I thank you for the greetings which you have brought from President Rupiah Bwezani Banda, and I gladly reciprocate with my own good wishes and the assurance of my prayers for His Excellency and for all the beloved people of Zambia.

The Holy See values its diplomatic relations with your country as an important instrument for achieving mutual cooperation for the spiritual, moral and material good of all Zambians. Indeed, with the cooperation of men and women of good will throughout Africa, the Church works for the promotion of a moral, legal and social equilibrium among the members of the human family. Through her various social, developmental and charitable works, she fosters a balanced realization of the rights and duties of individuals and of society as a whole. She seeks to draw attention to the need for justice, solidarity and harmony, always with a special care for the poorer and weaker members of society. The Church is therefore proud of the example of Christian men and women who bring honour to their country and its institutions by selflessly pursuing the common good and teaching others to do the same, rising above local, regional or ethnic concerns.

It is a source of particular satisfaction that Zambia’s laws continue to respect and defend the dignity of every human life from conception. Powerful influences, many from beyond Africa, seek to place limitations on the right to life, seeing it as somehow restricting the freedom of others. Yet, for her part, the Church affirms that the right to life of the innocent is inviolable, and must take precedence over all other supposed rights. In doing so, she draws attention to an objective moral principle, rooted in the natural law, the content of which is accessible to right reason and is not dependent upon political choices or social consensus (cf. Address to Representatives of British Society, London, 17 September 2010). It is greatly to be hoped, Mr Ambassador, that Zambia will continue to foster due respect for the rights of every human being without exception, in harmony with the duty to protect life from conception to natural death in the manner of a truly Christian country.

Turning to the question of economic development, presently there appear to be encouraging signs of improvement in your country, particularly in the agricultural sector. With economic growth, funds have become available for important development projects, particularly in the extension of adequate sanitary conditions. The nation has been making significant progress in this area, as reflected in lower infant and maternal mortality rates and other areas related to health. Improvements too in infrastructure, the availability of suitable housing, the struggle against corruption and the extension of educational opportunities are indispensable for the economic, social and cultural progress of your country. Likewise, due attention must always be given to the needs of the less fortunate. It is to be hoped that a diversified economic structure will be encouraged, as well as an increase in the number of small enterprises since, "alongside macro-projects, there is a place for micro-projects and above all there is need for the active mobilization of all the subjects of civil society" (cf. Caritas in Veritate, 47).

I am pleased to note that the Church in your country has been contributing positively in the fields of education, development and health care, especially in the struggle against malaria and HIV/AIDS. Be assured that she will continue to be actively involved in promoting the health of the population with a strong emphasis on prevention through education. Long-lasting health improvements will be achieved through formation in moral responsibility and solidarity, and in particular through faithfulness in marriage. In this way, the Church works to encourage a greater sense of integrity on the part of individuals and the building of a society which truly cherishes life, the family and the wider community.

Allow me to conclude these welcoming remarks by reiterating my good wishes and prayers for Zambia and her people. As you begin your mission, Mr Ambassador, I assure you that the various departments of the Roman Curia will be happy to assist you. Upon you and your family and upon all Zambia’s citizens I cordially invoke Almighty God's abundant blessings.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Benedict XVI's Address to Nepal Ambassador
"Continue to Be Supportive of the Church’s Presence in Health and Education"
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 18, 2010 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered Thursday to the new ambassador from Nepal to the Holy See, Suresh Prasad Pradhan.

* * *

Mr Ambassador,

In welcoming you to the Vatican and accepting your Letters of Credence as Ambassador of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal to the Holy See, I wish to express my satisfaction at the cordial relations which we continue to enjoy. I am grateful to you for transmitting the courteous greeting of your President, Mr Ram Baran Yadav, and in return I would ask you kindly to convey my own good wishes to him and to all the people of the Federal Democratic Republic.

Recent years have seen much change in your nation as Nepal’s leaders have sought to chart a new political course for the benefit of her people. In this regard, among the most important tasks is the drafting of a new Constitution. Ensuring the legal guarantees of civil and political rights, as well as guaranteeing those of an economic, social and cultural nature, is surely one of the most delicate and demanding undertakings in any nation’s political life. For this reason, the Holy See is hopeful that once present difficulties are overcome, the Constituent Assembly will be able to complete its work and contribute in this way to ensuring a stable, harmonious and prosperous future.

The Holy See is pleased to note the expressions of commitment to democratic ideals and norms found in the interim political arrangements currently in force in your country. These include the wish to promote competitive multi-party democracy, civil liberties and fundamental human rights, adult enfranchisement, periodic elections, press freedom, an independent judiciary and the rule of law. It is acknowledged that much still needs to be done to consolidate these good intentions, but the public expression of such a commitment by Nepal’s leaders already bodes well.

As Your Excellency is aware, of the over one million Christians in your country, the Catholic Church numbers very few souls and yet, through her institutions, she has sought to make a significant contribution to the well-being of all your citizens. The Church’s charitable agency Caritas runs a variety of projects in poorer areas and takes care of refugees. Spurred by the love of Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Cor 5:14-15), the Church is always ready and willing to do whatever she can to help those in distress, irrespective of their race, colour or creed.

While the Catholic Church can trace her first contacts with Nepal back to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, over the past seventy years she has been particularly active in the service of the people through her hospitals, welfare organizations and schools. I am pleased to note the freedom in which these important institutions operate and the respect in which they are held. It is greatly to be hoped that your Government will continue to be supportive of the Church’s presence in health and education and ensure that human rights in general and religious freedom in particular are duly respected.

In contrast to the Nepalese people’s long tradition of tolerance, a few regrettable incidents of violence against the lives of Catholics have occurred in recent years, as well as damage to church property. Let me express the hope that a spirit of tolerance will prevail, and that cooperation for the general good and reconciliation through dialogue will be strengthened and will continue to mark the brotherly relations between Nepalese Catholics and their fellow citizens of other religions.

Finally, Mr Ambassador, I am confident that the cordial relations already existing between the Holy See and Nepal will do much to promote such fraternity, respect and dialogue. In offering my good wishes at the beginning of your mission as Ambassador to the Holy See, I assure you of the readiness of the Roman Curia to assist you in your high office. Upon you and upon all the people of Nepal I invoke an abundance of divine blessings.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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COMMUNIQUÉ OF THE HOLY SEE PRESS OFFICE: EIGHTH ASSEMBLY OF CHINESE CATHOLIC REPRESENTATIVES (BEIJING, 7-9 DECEMBER 2010)

1. With profound sorrow, the Holy See laments the fact that from 7 to 9 December 2010 there was held in Beijing the Eighth Assembly of Chinese Catholic Representatives. This was imposed on numerous Bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful. The manner in which it was convoked and its unfolding manifest a repressive attitude with regard to the exercise of religious liberty, which it was hoped had been consigned to the past in present-day China. The persistent desire to control the most intimate area of citizens’ lives, namely their conscience, and to interfere in the internal life of the Catholic Church does no credit to China. On the contrary, it seems to be a sign of fear and weakness rather than of strength; of intransigent intolerance rather than of openness to freedom and to effective respect both of human dignity and of a correct distinction between the civil and religious spheres.

2. On several occasions the Holy See had let it be known, first and foremost to the Bishops, but also to all the faithful, and publicly, that they should not take part in the event. Each one of those who were present knows to what extent he or she is responsible before God and the Church. The Bishops in particular and the priests will also have to face the expectations of their respective communities, who look to their own Pastor and have a right to receive from him sure guidance in the faith and in the moral life.

3. It is known, moreover, that many Bishops and priests were forced to take part in the Assembly. The Holy See condemns this grave violation of their human rights, particularly their freedom of religion and of conscience. Moreover, the Holy See expresses its deepest esteem for those who, in different ways, have borne witness to their faith with courage and it invites the others to pray, to do penance and, through their works, to reaffirm their own will to follow Christ with love, in full communion with the universal Church.

4. Addressing those whose hearts are full of dismay and profound suffering, those who are wondering how it is possible that their own Bishop or their own priests should have taken part in the Assembly, the Holy See asks them to remain steadfast and patient in the faith; it invites them to take account of the pressures experienced by many of their Pastors and to pray for them; it exhorts them to continue courageously supporting them in the face of the unjust impositions that they encounter in the exercise of their ministry.

5. During the Assembly, among other things, the leaders of the so-called Episcopal Conference and of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association were appointed. Concerning these two entities, and concerning the Assembly itself, the words written by Pope Benedict XVI in his 2007 Letter to the Church in China continue to apply (cf. nos. 7 and 8). In particular, the present College of Catholic Bishops of China cannot be recognized as an Episcopal Conference by the Apostolic See: the "clandestine" Bishops, those not recognized by the Government but in communion with the Pope, are not part of it; it includes Bishops who are still illegitimate, and it is governed by statutes that contain elements incompatible with Catholic doctrine. It is deeply deplorable that an illegitimate Bishop has been appointed as its President. Furthermore, regarding the declared purpose to implement the principles of independence and autonomy, self-management and democratic administration of the Church, it should be remembered that this is incompatible with Catholic doctrine, which from the time of the ancient Creeds professes the Church to be "one, holy, catholic and apostolic". It is therefore lamentable also that a legitimate Bishop has been appointed President of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

6. This is not the path that the Church must follow in the context of a great and noble nation, which attracts the attention of world opinion for its significant achievements in so many spheres, but still finds it hard to implement the demands of genuine religious freedom, despite the fact that it professes in its Constitution to respect that freedom. What is more, the Assembly has rendered more difficult the path of reconciliation between Catholics of the "clandestine communities" and those of the "official communities", thereby inflicting a deep wound not only upon the Church in China but also upon the universal Church.

7. The Holy See profoundly regrets the fact that the celebration of the above-mentioned Assembly, as also the recent episcopal ordination without the indispensable Papal mandate, have unilaterally damaged the dialogue and the climate of trust that had been established in its relations with the Government of the People’s Republic of China. The Holy See, while reaffirming its own wish to dialogue honestly, feels bound to state that unacceptable and hostile acts such as those just mentioned provoke among the faithful, both in China and elsewhere, a grave loss of the trust that is necessary for overcoming the difficulties and building a correct relationship with the Church, for the sake of the common good.

8. In the light of what has happened, the Holy Father’s invitation – addressed on 1 December 2010 to all the Catholics of the world to pray for the Church in China which is going through a particularly difficult time – remains pressing.

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Papal Address to New Hungarian Envoy
"Faith ... Is a Purifying Force for Reason"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 2, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address that Benedict XVI gave today upon receiving in audience the new ambassador from Hungary to the Holy See, Gabor Gyorivanyi, who presented his letters of credence.

* * *

Mr. Ambassador,

I welcome you with joy on this solemn occasion of the presenting the letters of credence that accredit you as ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the Republic of Hungary to the Holy See, and I thank you for your kind words. I am grateful for the deferent greetings that you have given me on behalf of the president, Dr. Pal Schmitt, and of the government, which I am pleased to return. At the same time I would like to ask you to assure your fellow citzens of my sincere affection and benevolence.

After the renewal of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Republic of Hungary in 1990, it has been possible to develop new trust for an active and constructive dialogue with the Catholic Church. At the same time I cherish the hope that the profound wounds of that materialistic vision of man, which took hold of the hearts and of the community of citizens of your country for almost 45 years, can continue to be healed in a climate of peace, liberty and respect for the dignity of man.

Without a doubt the Catholic faith forms part of the fundamental pillars of the history of Hungary. When, in the distant year 1,000, the young Hungarian Prince Stephen received the royal crown that Pope Sylvester II sent him, joined to it was the mandate to give space and a homeland in that land to faith in Jesus Christ. The personal piety, sense of justice and human virtues of this great king are a lofty point of reference which serves as stimulus and imperative, today as then, to all those entrusted with a government post or other similar responsibility. Not expected, of course, is that the state impose a specific religion; rather, it should guarantee the liberty to profess and practice the faith. Still, politics and Christian faith touch one another. Of course, faith has its specific nature as encounter with the living God, which opens new horizons to us beyond the realm proper of reason. However, at the same time it is a purifying force for reason itself, enabling it to carry out its task better and to see better what is its own. It is not a question of imposing norms or ways of behavior on those who do not share the faith. It is simply about the purification of reason, which wishes to help to make what is good and just able, here and now, to be recognized, and then also realized (cf. encyclical "Deus Caritas Est," No. 28).

In the last years, little more than 20, since the fall of the Iron Curtain, an event in that Hungary had a prominent role, your country has had an important place in the community of nations. For six years now, Hungary has also been a member of the European Union. With this it makes an important contribution to the chorus of more voices of the States of Europe. At the beginning of next year, for the first time, it will be Hungary's turn to assume the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Hungary is called in a particular way to be mediator between East and West. Already the Sacred Crown, legacy of King Stephen, in the union of the Greek circular crown with the Latin crown placed as an arch over it -- both bear the face of Christ and are crowned by the cross -- shows how East and West must support and enrich one another from the spiritual and cultural patrimony and the intense profession of faith. We can also understand this as a leitmotiv for your country.

The Holy See notes with interest of the efforts of the political authorities to elaborate a change in the Constitution. Expressed has been the intention to make reference in the preamble to the legacy of Christianity. Also desirable is that the new Constitution be inspired by Christian values, particularly in what concerns the position of marriage and the family in society and the protection of life.

Marriage and the family constitute the decisive foundation for a healthy development of the civil society of countries and peoples. Marriage as a basic form of ordering the relationship between man and woman and, at the same time, as basic cell of the state community, has also been molded by biblical faith. Thus marriage has given Europe its particular aspect and its humanism, also and precisely because it has had to learn to acquire continually the characteristic of fidelity and of renunciation traced by it. Europe will no longer be Europe if this basic cell of the social construction disappears or is substantially transformed. We all know how much risk marriage and the family run today -- on one hand, because of the erosion of its most profound values of stability and indissolubility, because of a growing liberalization of the right of divorce, and of the custom, increasingly widespread, of man and woman living together without the juridical form and protection of marriage, on the other, because of the different types of union which have no foundation in the history of the culture and of the law in Europe. The Church cannot approve legislative initiatives that imply a valuation of alternative models of the life of the couple and the family. These contribute to the weakening of the principles of the natural law and, hence, to the relativization of the whole of legislation, in addition to the awareness of values in society.

"As society becomes ever more globalized, it makes us neighbours but does not make us brothers" (encyclical "Caritas in Veritate," No. 19). Reason is capable of guaranteeing equality between people and of establishing a civic coexistence, but in the end it is unable to found fraternity. This has its origin in a supernatural vocation of God, who created men out of love and taught us through Jesus Christ what fraternal charity is. Fraternity is, in a certain sense, the other side of liberty and equality. It opens man to altruism, to the civic sense, to care of the other. The human person, in fact, finds himself only when he overcomes the mentality centered on his own pretensions, and projects himself with an attitude of gratuitous gift and authentic solidarity, which responds much better to his community vocation.

The Catholic Church, as the other religious communities, has a not insignificant role in Hungarian society. She is committed on a large scale with her institutions in the field of school education and culture, in addition to social welfare and in this way contributes to the moral construction, truly useful, to your country. The Church trusts in being able to continue, with the support of the State, to carry out and intensify this service for the good of men and the development of your country. May collaboration between the state and the Catholic Church in this field grow also in the future and bring profit for all.

Illustrious Mr. Ambassador, at the beginning of your noble task I wish you a mission full of success and assure you at the same time the support of my collaborators. May Mary Most Holy, the Magna Domina Hungarorum, stretch her protecting hand over your country. From my heart I implore for you, Mr. Ambassador, for your family and for your men and women collaborators in the embassy, and for all the Hungarian people, the abundant divine blessing.

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Benedict XVI's Letter to Iran's President
"Peace Is ... Also the Result of the Efforts of People of Good Will"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 11, 2010- Here is the letter Benedict XVI sent to the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on the occasion of the visit to Tehran of Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, who met Tuesday with Ahmadinejad.

* * *

To His Excellency Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
President of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Mr President,

I am writing to acknowledge the courteous words of greeting and the reflections that Your Excellency kindly sent me by the good offices of His Excellency Mr Hojjat ol Eslam Haj Sayyed Mohammad Reza Mir Tajjadini, Vice President of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

It is my profound conviction that respect for the transcendent dimension of the human person is an indispensable condition for the construction of a just social order and a stable peace. Indeed, one’s relationship with God is the ultimate foundation for the inalienable dignity and sacred character of every human life.

When the promotion of the dignity of the human person is the primary inspiration of political and social activity that is committed to search for the common good, solid and enduring foundations are created for building peace and harmony between peoples.

Peace is, above all, a gift from God, which is sought in prayer, but it is also the result of the efforts of people of good will. In this perspective, believers of every religion have a special responsibility and can play a decisive role, cooperating in common initiatives. Interreligious and intercultural dialogue is a fundamental path to peace.

Strongly convinced of this, the recent Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, which took place in the Vatican from 10 to 24 October 2010, was a significant moment of reflection and sharing on the situation in the Middle East and on the great challenges placed before the Catholic communities present there. In some countries these communities face difficult circumstances, discrimination and even violence and they lack the freedom to live and publicly profess their faith. I am certain that the work of the Synod will bear good fruit for the Church and for the whole of society.

The Catholics present in Iran and those around the world make efforts to collaborate with their fellow citizens to contribute loyally and honestly to the common good of the respective societies in which they live, becoming builders of peace and reconciliation.

In this spirit, I express the hope that the cordial relations already happily existing between the Holy See and Iran will continue to progress, as well as those of the local Church with the civil authorities. I am also convinced that the launch of a bilateral Commission would be especially helpful in addressing questions of common concern, including that of the juridical status of the Catholic Church in the country.

With these sentiments, I avail myself of the occasion to renew to you, Mr President, the assurance of my highest consideration.

From the Vatican, 3 November 2010

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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Pontiff's Address to Salvadorian Envoy
"Peace Is the Yearning of Every Person"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 18, 2010 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving in audience El Salvador's new ambassador to the Holy See, Manuel Roberto López Barrera.

* * *

Mr. Ambassador:

1. With great pleasure I welcome you to this solemn ceremony of presentation of the letters that accredit you as ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the Republic of El Salvador to the Holy See, and I thank you for the cordial sentiments you expressed on the part of the government and of the beloved Salvadorian people. I am pleased to correspond to this delicate attention and I beg you to please convey my deferent greeting to the president of the Republic, Mauricio Funes Cartagena, assuring him that the Apostolic See will contribute to support the path of dialogue and peaceful coexistence undertaken by the authorities of your country, so that every Salvadorian may consider his homeland's soil a genuine home that welcomes him and offers him the possibility of living in it with serenity. In this way, the strengthening of internal agreement will enhance the good of the nation and contribute to its having an important place in the whole of Central America, where it is important that there are voices that invite to mutual understanding and generous cooperation, for the sake of just progress and the stability of the international community.

2. With the permanent dedication of Your Excellency to the mission you begin today, the authorities of your homeland have wished to exalt the diplomatic representation of El Salvador to the Holy See, in agreement with the majority feeling of your fellow citizens, who profess profound veneration and filial devotion to the Successor of St. Peter. The personal gifts that adorn Your Excellency, your faith, as well as your vast experience in several fields of teaching, public administration and social life, are the best guarantee in your endeavor to reinforce the fruitful and fluid relations that your country has had with the Holy See for a long time.

3. These close ties that unite the faithful Salvadorian people to the Chair of the Prince of the Apostles manifest a most noble tradition and it is impossible to separate them from the history and customs of that blessed land, since the days in which the sons of St. Dominic and St. Francis arrived there. The Catholic faith fell into a fertile furrow and inspired, from the name itself of that Central American nation to a never ending number of famous artistic monuments, shaping also the fecund health, educational and charity initiatives, as well as the innumerable personal, family and social virtues that the Christian condition bears with it. That patrimony of values fermented with the evangelical leaven is a heritage that Salvadorians have received as a mark of honor, a flow of wisdom that they must nourish to consolidate the present correctly and in order, and from which sufficient moral energies can be extracted in view of projecting a luminous future.

4. The Church in El Salvador, from her specific competence, with independence and liberty, tries to serve the protection of the common good in all its dimensions and to foment those conditions that will enable men and women to develop their persons integrally, permeating, to do so, the social context with the light that issues from her renewing vocation in the midst of the world. Evangelizing and giving witness of the love of God and of all men without any exceptions, she becomes an effective element for the eradication of poverty and a vigorous incentive in the struggle against violence, impunity and drug trafficking, which is causing so much ruin, especially among young people. On contributing in the measure of her possibilities to the care of the sick and the elderly, or to the reconstruction of areas devastated by natural disasters, she wishes to follow the example of her Divine Founder, who does not allow her to remain aloof from the aspirations and dynamisms of the human being, or to look on with indifference when such primordial exigencies as the equitable distribution of wealth, honesty in carrying out public functions or the independence of the courts of justice are weakened. Nor does the ecclesial community fail to looks for answers when many are lacking suitable housing or do not have a job that enables them to fulfill themselves and maintain their families, being obliged to emigrate from the homeland.

In the same way, it would be strange if Christ's disciples were neutral in the presence of aggressive sects, which appear as an easy and comfortable religious answer, but which, in reality, undermine the culture and habits that, for centuries, have conformed Salvadorian identity, clouding also the beauty of the evangelical message and splitting the unity of the faithful around their pastors. Instead, the maternal work of the Church in her constant determination to defend the inviolable dignity of human life from its conception until its natural end -- as proclaimed also by the country's Constitution -- the value of the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman, creates a climate where the true religious spirit is fused with the boldness to reach ever higher targets of well-being and progress, opening the nation to an expanded horizon of hopes.

5. It is consoling to see the effort of your country in the construction of an ever more harmonious and solidaristic society, advancing on the clear path of those Agreements that were signed in 1992, and which put an end to the long internal struggle that El Salvador went through, land of abundant natural riches that speak eloquently of God and that must be conserved and protected earnestly to bequeath them in all their luxuriance to the new generations.

The Salvadorian people, of sacrificial and industrious spirit, will find great joy if the peace process is seen confirmed daily and decisions tending to favor the citizenry's security are implemented. In this respect, I pray to the Almighty with fervent confidence that your fellow countrymen will be given the help that is necessary to give up definitively everything that provokes confrontations, replacing enmities with mutual understanding and the safeguarding of their persons and possessions. To achieve these goods, it is necessary that they be convinced that violence achieves nothing and everything worsens, as it is a dead end, a detestable and inadmissible evil, a fascination that fools the person and fills him with indignity. Peace, on the contrary, is the yearning of every person. As gift of the Divine Savior, it is also a task to which all must cooperate without hesitation, finding in the state a firm protector through pertinent juridical, economic and social dispositions, as well as adequate police and security forces and corps, which protect in the framework of legality the well-being of the population. In this path of overcoming obstacles they will always find the outstretched hand of the children of the Church, whom I earnestly exhort, so that, with their witness of disciples and missionaries of Christ, they identify with him more every day and they pray that he make of every Salvadorian an architect of reconciliation.

6. To Our Lady of Peace, heavenly Patroness of El Salvador, I entrust the concerns and challenges of a personal, family and public order of your compatriots. May she also assist and protect you, Mr. Ambassador, in the significant responsibility that you now begin and in which you will always have the diligent solicitude of my collaborators. While invoking her maternal protection on Your Excellency, your egregious family and the staff of the diplomatic mission, I implore copious blessings from the Almighty for the Republic of El Salvador.

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Pope's Address to Ambassador From Colombia
"Look With Serenity and Hope to the Approaching Future"
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 18, 2010 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving in audience Colombia's new ambassador to the Holy See, César Mauricio Velásquez Ossa.

* * *

Mr. Ambassador:

1. On presenting the letters of credence which accredit you as ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of Colombia to the Holy See, it gives me profound pleasure to give you my cordial welcome and, reiterating the heartfelt affection I profess for the beloved children of your homeland, to wish you a fruitful service in carrying out the mission your government has entrusted to you. I am also grateful for the words you addressed to me, as well as the sentiments you expressed on behalf of the president of the republic, Doctor Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, who recently assumed the high responsibility of leading that beloved nation on the paths of progress in justice, sheltered by absolute respect for the basic rights of the person and in constant progress toward ever more noble and lofty aims, both human as well as spiritual. I beg you to give him my best wishes for peace and well being, as well as the assurance of my prayer for the fruitful exercise of such important work.

2. Your Excellency's presence and kind words bring me again the affection and devotion of a people known for its unblemished human and Christian virtues, its deep Catholic roots that, even in the mist of arduous situations of different sorts, has been able to maintain its faith in God and its firm will to cultivate and practice the values of the Gospel, inexhaustible source of energy and inspiration to be committed to the noblest causes.

3. Mr. Ambassador, you begin your delicate assignment to the Holy See at a moment of particular importance for Colombia. In fact, taking place this year is the commemoration of the bicentenary of the start of the process that led to the independence and the Constitution of the republic. I am certain that this significant anniversary will be a singular occasion to accept the lessons that history furnishes, to intensify initiatives and measures that consolidate security, peace, harmony and the integral development of all its citizens and to look with serenity and hope to the approaching future. Of fundamental importance on this path is the agreement of all, so that the most profound yearnings and projects of the Colombian people will increasingly build a happy and promising reality.

4. Not only during these two centuries, but also since the dawn of the arrival of the Spanish in America, the Catholic Church has been present in each of the stages of the historical evolution of your country, always carrying out a primordial and decisive role. In fact, the abnegated work of so many bishops, presbyters, religious and laity has left indelible imprints in the most varied ambits in the molding of your homeland, such as culture, art, health, social coexistence and the building of peace. It is a spiritual patrimony that has germinated in the course of the years and in all corners of Colombia in innumerable and fruitful human, spiritual and material realizations. These efforts, not exempt from sacrifices and adversities cannot be ignored. It is worthwhile to safeguard them as valuable heritage and to develop them as a beneficial proposal for the whole nation. To this effect, and faithful to the task received from the Lord, the Church will continue, in the context of the bicentenary, to give the best of herself to the Colombian people, being solidaristic in her aspiration to improve and help all from the mission proper to her. In this connection, in the message I addressed on June 30, 2008, to the Episcopal Conference of Colombia, on the occasion of the centenary of its foundation, I had the opportunity to urge the bishops so that, with farsightedness and paying heed to the eloquent testimony of apostolic zeal of the pastors who preceded them, they continue "responding with solicitous dedication, firm faith and renewed ardor to the challenges that are presented to the Church in your homeland," serving "all with enthusiasm, especially the least favored, taking to them a message of peace, justice and reconciliation."

In this exciting task, the Church in Colombia does not ask for any privilege. She only wishes to be able to serve the faithful and all those who open to her the door of their heart, with an outstretched hand, always willing to strengthen everything that promotes the education of the new generations, care of the sick and the elderly, respect for the indigenous populations and their legitimate traditions, the eradication of poverty, drug-trafficking and corruption, care of prisoners, the displaced, emigrants and laborers, as well as care of needy families. In short, it is about continuing to offer loyal collaboration for the integral growth of the communities in which pastors, religious and faithful carry our their service, moved only by the needs that spring from their priestly ordination, their religious congregation or their Christian vocation.

5. In this framework of mutual cooperation and cordial relations between the Holy See and the Republic of Colombia, which this year celebrates its 165th anniversary, I wish to manifest again the concern the Church has in protecting and fomenting the inviolable dignity of the human person, for whom it is essential that the juridical ordering respect the natural law in essential areas such as the safeguarding of human life, from conception until its natural end; the right to be born and to live in a family founded on marriage between a man and a woman and the right of parents to have their children receive an education in keeping with their own moral criteria or beliefs. All of them are irreplaceable pillars in the construction of a society truly worthy of man and of the values that are inseparable to him.

6. In this solemn meeting with Your Excellency, I also wish to manifest my spiritual closeness and assure my prayer for those in Colombia who have been unjustly and cruelly deprived on their liberty. I also pray for their families and, in general, for the victims of violence in all its forms, begging God to put an end to so much suffering, and that all Colombians may be able to live reconciled and in peace in that blessed land, so filled with natural resources, beautiful valleys and soaring mountains, with large rivers and picturesque landscapes, which it is necessary to preserve as a magnificent gift of God.

7. Mr. Ambassador, on concluding my words, I reiterate my best wishes for the mission you undertake today, in which you will find continually the hospitality and support of my collaborators. While invoking the maternal intercession of Our Lady of Chiquinquira on Your Excellency and the members of that Diplomatic Mission, on the government and the beloved Colombian people, I pray to the Almighty that your homeland will be at the forefront in service of the common good and fraternity between all men, and that it will encourage Colombians to walk without hesitation on the paths of mutual understanding and solidarity.

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Pope's Address to Council of Europe Delegation
"Defend the Inviolable Dignity of the Human Person"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 8, 2010 - Here the address Benedict XVI gave today upon receiving in audience in a side chamber of Paul VI Hall members of the Bureau of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

* * *

Mr President,

Dear members of the Bureau of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe,

I am very grateful to the Honourable Mr Çavus,og(lu for the kind words he addressed to me on behalf of the Bureau and I extend to all of you a cordial welcome. I am happy to receive you on the sixtieth anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights which, as is well known, commits Member States of the Council of Europe to promote and defend the inviolable dignity of the human person.

I know that the Parliamentary Assembly has on its agenda important topics that deal above all with persons who live in particularly difficult situations or are subjected to grave violations of their dignity. I have in mind people afflicted with handicaps, children who suffer violence, immigrants, refugees, those who pay the most for the present economic and financial crisis, those who are victims of extremism or of new forms of slavery such as human trafficking, the illegal drug trade and prostitution. Your work also is concerned with victims of warfare and with people who live in fragile democracies. I have also been informed of your efforts to defend religious freedom and to oppose violence and intolerance against believers in Europe and worldwide.

Keeping in mind the context of today’s society in which different peoples and cultures come together, it is imperative to develop the universal validity of these rights as well as their inviolability, inalienability and indivisibility.

On different occasions I have pointed out the risks associated with relativism in the area of values, rights and duties. If these were to lack an objective rational foundation, common to all peoples, and were based exclusively on particular cultures, legislative decisions or court judgments, how could they offer a solid and long-lasting ground for supranational institutions such as the Council of Europe, and for your own task within that prestigious institution? How could a fruitful dialogue among cultures take place without common values, rights and stable, universal principles understood in the same way by all Members States of the Council of Europe? These values, rights and duties are rooted in the natural dignity of each person, something which is accessible to human reasoning. The Christian faith does not impede, but favors this search, and is an invitation to seek a supernatural basis for this dignity.

I am convinced that these principles, faithfully maintained, above all when dealing with human life, from conception to natural death, with marriage -- rooted in the exclusive and indissoluble gift of self between one man and one woman -- and freedom of religion and education, are necessary conditions if we are to respond adequately to the decisive and urgent challenges that history presents to each one of you.

Dear friends, I know that you also wish to reach out to those who suffer. This gives me joy and I encourage you to fulfill your sensitive and important mission with moderation, wisdom and courage at the service of the common good of Europe. I thank you for coming and I assure you of my prayers. May God bless you!

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Holy Father's Address to Iraqi Envoy
"The Fundamental Rights of All Should Be Recognized, Protected and Promoted"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 2, 2010 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving the Letters of Credence from the new ambassador from Iraq, Habbeb Mohammed Hadi Ali Al-Sadr.

* * *

Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you at the start of your mission and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Iraq to the Holy See. I thank you for your kind words, and I ask you to convey to President Jalal Talabani my respectful greetings and the assurance of my prayers for the peace and well-being of all the citizens of your country.

On 7 March 2010, the people of Iraq gave a clear sign to the world that they wish to see an end to violence and that they have chosen the path of democracy, through which they aspire to live in harmony with one another within a just, pluralist and inclusive society. Despite attempts at intimidation on the part of those who do not share this vision, the people showed great courage and determination by presenting themselves at the polling stations in large numbers. It is to be hoped that the formation of a new Government will now proceed swiftly so that the will of the people for a more stable and unified Iraq may be accomplished. Those who have been elected to political office will need to show great courage and determination themselves, in order to fulfil the high expectations that have been placed in them. You may be assured that the Holy See, which has always valued its excellent diplomatic relations with your country, will continue to provide whatever assistance it can, so that Iraq may assume its rightful place as a leading nation in the region with much to contribute to the international community.

The new Government will need to give priority to measures designed to improve security for all sectors of the population, particularly the various minorities. You have spoken of the difficulties faced by Christians and I note your comments about the steps taken by the Government to afford them greater protection. The Holy See naturally shares the concern you have expressed that Iraqi Christians should remain in their ancestral homeland, and that those who have felt constrained to emigrate will soon consider it safe to return. Since the earliest days of the Church, Christians have been present in the land of Abraham, a land which is part of the common patrimony of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It is greatly to be hoped that Iraqi society in the future will be marked by peaceful coexistence, as is in keeping with the aspirations of those who are rooted in the faith of Abraham. Although Christians form a small minority of Iraq’s population, they have a valuable contribution to make to its reconstruction and economic recovery through their educational and healthcare apostolates, while their engagement in humanitarian projects provides much-needed assistance in building up society. If they are to play their full part, however, Iraqi Christians need to know that it is safe for them to remain in or return to their homes, and they need assurances that their properties will be restored to them and their rights upheld.

Recent years have seen many tragic acts of violence committed against innocent members of the population, both Muslim and Christian, acts which as you have pointed out are contrary to the teachings of Islam as well as those of Christianity. This shared suffering can provide a deep bond, strengthening the determination of Muslims and Christians alike to work for peace and reconciliation. History has shown that some of the most powerful incentives to overcome division come from the example of those men and women who, having chosen the courageous path of non-violent witness to higher values, have lost their lives through cowardly acts of violence. Long after the present troubles have receded into the past, the names of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, Father Ragheed Ganni and many more will live on as shining examples of the love that led them to lay down their lives for others. May their sacrifice, and the sacrifice of so many others like them, strengthen within the Iraqi people the moral determination that is necessary if political structures for greater justice and stability are to achieve their intended effect.

You have spoken of your Government’s commitment to respect human rights. Indeed, it is of the utmost importance for any healthy society that the human dignity of each of its citizens be respected both in law and in practice, in other words that the fundamental rights of all should be recognized, protected and promoted. Only thus can the common good be truly served, that is to say those social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to flourish, to attain their full stature, and to contribute to the good of others (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 164-170). Among the rights that must be fully respected if the common good is to be effectively promoted, the rights to freedom of religion and freedom of worship are paramount, since it is they that enable citizens to live in conformity with their transcendent dignity as persons made in the image of their divine Creator. I therefore hope and pray that these rights will not only be enshrined in legislation, but will come to permeate the very fabric of society – all Iraqis have a part to play in building a just, moral and peaceable environment.

You begin your term of office, Mr Ambassador, in the months leading up to a particular initiative of the Holy See for the support of the local Churches throughout the region, namely the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops. This will provide a welcome opportunity to explore the role and the witness of Christians in the lands of the Bible, and will also give an impetus to the important task of inter-religious dialogue, which has so much to contribute to the goal of peaceful coexistence in mutual respect and esteem among the followers of different religions. It is my earnest hope that Iraq will emerge from the difficult experiences of the past decade as a model of tolerance and cooperation among Muslims, Christians and others in the service of those most in need.

Your Excellency, I pray that the diplomatic mission that you begin today will further strengthen the bonds of friendship between the Holy See and your country. I assure you that the various departments of the Roman Curia are always ready to offer help and support in the fulfilment of your duties. With my sincere good wishes, I invoke upon you, your family, and all the people of the Republic of Iraq, abundant divine blessings.

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Statement at Conclusion of Vatican-Vietnam Meeting
"The Two Sides Noted Encouraging Developments"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 27, 2010 - Here is the statement released Saturday by the Vatican press office at the conclusion of the two-day meeting of the Vietnam-Holy See Join Working Group, held last Wednesday and Thursday at the Vatican.

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As agreed upon at the First of Vietnam-Holy See Joint Working Group in Hanoi in February 2009, the Second meeting of the Vietnam-Holy See Joint Working Group took place in the Vatican from 23-24 June 2010 co-chaired by Monsignor Ettore Balestrero, Under-Secretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States, Head of the Holy See Delegation and Mr. Nguyen Quoc Cuong, Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Head of the Vietnamese Delegation.

After reviewing the progress made since the first Joint Working Group meeting, the two sides discussed international issues and those related to bilateral relations and to the Catholic Church in Viet Nam. The Vietnamese side recalled its consistent policy of respect for freedoms of religion and belief as well as the legal provisions to guarantee its implementation. The Delegation of the Holy See took note of this explanation and asked that further conditions be established so that the Church may participate effectively in the development of the country, especially in the spiritual, educational, healthcare, social and charitable fields. The Delegation of the Holy See also mentioned that the Church in her teaching invites the faithful to be good citizens and therefore to work for the common good of the population.

The two sides noted encouraging developments in various areas of Catholic life in Vietnam, especially in relation to the Jubilee Year. Furthermore they recalled the address of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI during the last Ad Limina visit of the Vietnamese Bishops and the Holy Father’s Message to the Catholic Church in Vietnam on the occasion of the Jubilee Year, and agreed that these teachings of the Holy Father would serve as an orientation for the Catholic Church in Vietnam in the years ahead.

On bilateral relations the two sides appreciated the positive developments since the first meeting of the Joint Working Group, especially the meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and the Vietnamese State President Nguyen Minh Triet in December 2009. The two sides also had in-depth and comprehensive discussions on bilateral diplomatic relations. In order to deepen the relations between the Holy See and Vietnam, as well as the bonds between the Holy See and the local Catholic Church, it was agreed that, as a first step, a non-resident Representative of the Holy See for Vietnam will be appointed by the Pope.

The two sides decided to hold the third meeting of the Joint Working Group in Vietnam; the time of the meeting will be settled through diplomatic channels.

On the occasion of the meeting, the Vietnamese Delegation paid a courtesy call to H.E. Archbishop Mamberti, Secretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States, to the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and to the Vicariate of the Diocese of Rome. The Delegation also visited the Pediatric Hospital Bambino Gesù of the Holy See in Rome.

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Papal Addresses on Feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius
"Celestial Patrons of ... the Whole of Europe"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 24, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here are the addresses Benedict XVI delivered Saturday upon receiving in separate audiences delegations from Bulgaria and Macedonia, present in Rome for the feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius.

The Bulgarian delegation was led by Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, and the Macedonian delegation by the president of the Parliament, Trjako Veljanoski.

* * *

[To the delegation from Bulgaria]

Mr. Prime Minister,

Honorable Members of the Government and Distinguished Authorities,

Venerated Brothers of the Orthodox Church and of the Catholic Church,

I am happy to be able to give each one of you a cordial welcome, honorable members of the official delegation, who have come to Rome in happy celebration of the liturgical memorial of Sts. Cyril and Methodius. Your presence, which attests to the Christian roots of the Bulgarian people, offers the propitious occasion to confirm my esteem for this dear nation and enables us to reinforce our friendship, enhanced by the devotion to the two brother saints of Thessalonica.

Through an untiring endeavor of evangelization, carried out with true apostolic ardor, Sts. Cyril and Methodius providentially rooted Christianity in the spirit of the Bulgarian people, so that it is anchored in those evangelical values that always reinforce the identity and enrich the culture of a nation. The Gospel, in fact, does not weaken what is authentic in the various cultural traditions; on the contrary, precisely because faith in Jesus shows us the splendor of truth, the latter gives man the ability to recognize the true good and helps him to realize it in his own life and in the social context. Because of this, with reason one can hold that Sts. Cyril and Methodius contributed significantly in molding the humanity and spiritual physiognomy of the Bulgarian people, inserting it in the common Christian cultural tradition.

In the path of full integration with the other European nations, Bulgaria is called, therefore, to promote and give witness to these Christian roots that derive from the teachings of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, today more timely and necessary than ever; she is called, therefore, to remain faithful and to protect the precious patrimony that unites between them, both Orthodox as well as Catholics, all those who profess the same faith of the Apostles and are united by the common baptism. As Christians, we have the duty to preserve and reinforce the intrinsic bond that exists between the Gospel and our respective cultural identities; as disciples of the Lord, in mutual respect of the different ecclesial traditions, we are called to give common testimony of our faith in Jesus, in whose name we obtain salvation.

It is my heartfelt hope that this meeting might be for all of you here present and for the ecclesial and civil realities that you represent, motive of ever more intense fraternal and solidaristic relations. With these sentiments, I encourage the Bulgarian people to persevere in the objective to build a society founded on justice and peace; to this end I assure you of my prayer and spiritual closeness. I renew to you, Mr. Prime Minister, and to each one of you, my blessed greeting, with which I wish to reach all the citizens of your beloved country.

* * *

[To the delegation from Macedonia]

Mr. President of the Parliament,

Honorable Members of the Government and Distinguished Authorities,

Venerated Brothers of the Orthodox Church and of the Catholic Church,

I am happy to welcome you and to express to the Lord, giver of all graces, the joy and gratitude for this moment that sees you united on invoking him through the intercession of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, celestial patrons of your people and of the whole of Europe, in the annual pilgrimage you make to Rome to venerate the relics of Saint Cyril.

My beloved predecessor, the Venerable John Paul II, in the encyclical "Slavorum Apostoli," wished to remind everyone that, thanks to the teaching and the fruits of Vatican Council II, we can look today in a new way at the work of the two holy Brothers of Thessalonica, "now separated from us by eleven centuries. And we can read in their lives and apostolic activity the elements that the wisdom of divine Providence placed in them, so that they might be revealed with fresh fullness in our own age and might bear new fruits" (No. 3).

Truly abundant were, in their time, the fruits of the evangelization of Cyril and Methodius. They knew sufferings, privations and hostilities, but endured everything with unbreakable faith and invincible hope in God. With this strength they consumed themselves for the peoples entrusted to them, protecting the texts of Scripture, indispensable in the celebration of the sacred liturgy, translated by them into the paleo-Slavic language, written in a new alphabet and successively approved by the authority of the Church. In trials and in joys, they always felt accompanied by God and daily experienced his love and that of the brothers. We also understand increasingly that when we feel loved by the Lord and are able to correspond to this love, we are enveloped and guided by his grace in every activity and action of ours. According to the effusion of the many gifts of the Holy Spirit, the more we are able to love and give ourselves to others, the more the Spirit can come to the aid of our weakness, pointing out to us new ways for our action.

According to tradition, Methodius remained faithful to the end to the words that his brother Cyril said to him before dying: "Behold, my brother, we have shared the same destiny, ploughing the same furrow; I now fall in the field at the end of my day. [...] Do not [...] give up your work of teaching" (Iibid., No. 6). Dear brothers and sisters, let us put our hand to the plough and continue to work on the same furrow that God in his providence indicated to Sts. Cyril and Methodius. May the Lord bless your work at the service of the common good and of your whole nation, and infuse abundantly in her the gifts of the Spirit of unity and peace.

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Pope's Words to Mongolia's Envoy
"Religion and Culture ... Naturally Serve as Incentives for Dialogue and Cooperation"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 20, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving in audience Mongolia's new ambassador to the Holy See, Luvsantseren Orgil.

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Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mongolia to the Holy See. I am most grateful for the greetings which you have brought from President Tsakhia Elbegdorj, and I ask you to convey to him my own prayerful good wishes for him and for all your fellow-citizens. As your nation celebrates the twentieth anniversary of its passage to democracy, I express my confidence that the great progress made in these years will continue to bear fruit in the consolidation of a social order which promotes the common good of your citizens, while furthering their legitimate aspirations for the future.

I also take this occasion, Mr Ambassador, to express my solidarity and concern for the many individuals and families who suffered as a result of the harsh winter and the effects of last year’s torrential rains and flooding. As you have rightly observed, environmental issues, particularly those related to climate change, are global issues and need to be addressed on a global level.

As Your Excellency has noted, the establishment of diplomatic relations between Mongolia and the Holy See, which took place after the great social and political changes of two decades ago, are a sign of your nation’s commitment to an enriching interchange within the wider international community. Religion and culture, as interrelated expressions of the deepest spiritual aspirations of our common humanity, naturally serve as incentives for dialogue and cooperation between peoples in the service of peace and genuine development. Authentic human development, in effect, needs to take into consideration every dimension of the person, and thus aspire to those higher goods which respect man’s spiritual nature and ultimate destiny (cf. Caritas in Veritate, 11). For this reason, I wish to express my appreciation for the constant support of the Government in ensuring religious liberty. The establishment of a commission, charged with the fair application of law and with protecting the rights of conscience and free exercise of religion, stands as a recognition of the importance of religious groups within the social fabric and their potential for promoting a future of harmony and prosperity.

Mr Ambassador, I take this occasion to assure you of the desire of Mongolia’s Catholic citizens to contribute to the common good by sharing fully in the life of the nation. The Church’s primary mission is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In fidelity to the liberating message of the Gospel, she seeks also to contribute to the advancement of the entire community. It is this that inspires the efforts of the Catholic community to cooperate with the Government and with people of good will by working to overcome all kinds of social problems. The Church is also concerned to play her proper part in the work of intellectual and human formation, above all by educating the young in the values of respect, solidarity and concern for the less fortunate. In this way, she strives to serve her Lord by showing charitable concern for the needy and for the good of the whole human family.

Mr Ambassador, I offer you my prayerful good wishes for your mission, and I assure you of the readiness of the offices of the Holy See to assist you in the fulfillment of your high responsibilities. I am confident that your representation will help to strengthen the good relations existing between the Holy See and Mongolia. Upon you and your family, and upon all the people of your nation, I cordially invoke abundant divine blessings.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Papal Address to UAE Ambassador
"Faith in the Almighty Cannot But Lead to Love for One’s Neighbor"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 20, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving in audience Hissa Abdulla Ahmed Al-Otaiba, the first ambassador from the United Arab Emirates to the Holy See.

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Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United Arab Emirates. On this notable occasion, I would ask you to convey my greetings to His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahayan. Kindly assure him of my gratitude for the good wishes which you have just expressed on his behalf, and of my prayers for his well-being and that of all the people of the Emirates.

As diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the United Arab Emirates have only recently been established, your presence here today as your country’s first Ambassador to the Holy See is a particularly auspicious event. During a joint ceremony with other Ambassadors on 15 April 2008, the President of the United Arab Emirates noted that the Papal Representative "exercises a particular mission, which is above all for the preservation of faith in God and the promotion of intercultural and interreligious dialogue." Faith in the Almighty cannot but lead to love for one’s neighbor for, as I wrote recently, "love – caritas – is an extraordinary force which leads people to opt for courageous and generous engagement in the field of justice and peace" (Caritas in Veritate, 1).

Love of God and respect for the dignity of one’s neighbour motivates the Holy See’s diplomacy and shapes the Catholic Church’s mission of service to the international community. The Church’s action in the field of diplomatic relations promotes peace, human rights and integral development, and thus strives for the authentic progress of all, without regard for race, colour or creed. Indeed, it is towards men and women, understood as unique in their God-given nature, that all politics, culture, technology and development are directed. To reduce the aims of these human endeavours merely to profit or expediency would be to risk missing the centrality of the human person in his or her integrity as the primary good to be safeguarded and valued, for man is the source, the focus and the aim of all economic and social life (cf. Caritas in Veritate, 25). Thus, the Holy See and the Catholic Church take care to highlight the dignity of man in order to maintain a clear and authentic vision of humanity on the international stage and in order to muster new energy in the service of what is best for the development of peoples and nations.

Your Excellency, the United Arab Emirates, notwithstanding difficulties, have experienced notable economic growth in recent years. In this context, your country has welcomed many hundreds of thousands of foreigners coming to seek work and a more secure financial future for themselves and for their families. They enrich the State not only by their labour but by their very presence, which is an opportunity for a fruitful and positive encounter between the world’s great religions, cultures and peoples. The openness of the United Arab Emirates towards those foreign workers requires constant efforts to strengthen the conditions necessary for peaceful coexistence and social progress, and is to be commended. I would like to note here with satisfaction that there are several Catholic churches built on lands donated by the public authorities. It is the Holy See’s earnest wish that this cooperation may continue and indeed flourish, according to the growing pastoral necessities of the Catholic population living there. Freedom of worship contributes significantly to the common good and brings social harmony to all those societies where it is practised. I assure you of the desire of the Catholic Christians present in your country to contribute to the well-being of your society, to live God-fearing lives and to respect the dignity of all peoples and religions.

Madam Ambassador, in offering you my best wishes for the success of your mission, I assure you that the various departments of the Roman Curia are ready to provide help and support to you in the fulfilment of your duties. It is the sincere desire of the Holy See to strengthen the relations now happily established between it and the United Arab Emirates. Upon Your Excellency, your family and all the people of the Emirates, I cordially invoke abundant divine blessings.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Benedict XVI's Address to Belgian Ambassador
"The Gospel Is a Force That There Is No Reason to Fear"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 25, 2010 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address given Saturday in an audience with the new Belgian ambassador to the Holy See, Charles Ghislain.

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Mr. Ambassador,

I am happy to welcome you on the occasion of the presentation of the letters that accredit you as extraordinary and plenipotentiary ambassador of Belgium to the Holy See. I thank you for the words that you have addressed to me. For my part I ask you to kindly express to His Majesty Albert II, King of Belgium, whom I recently was able to greet in person, my cordial vows to his person, and also for the happiness and success of the Belgian people. Through you I also greet the government and all the officials of the kingdom.

Your country experienced at the beginning of this year the two sad tragedies of Liege and Buizingen. I would like to renew the assurances of my spiritual nearness to the families that were affected and to the victims. These catastrophes bring us to measure the fragility of human existence and grasp the necessity, in order to protect it, of authentic social cohesion that does not weaken the legitimate diversity of opinions. This is based on the conviction that human life and dignity constitute a precious good that must be defended and promoted with decision, founding itself upon natural law. For quite some time the Church has inscribed itself fully in the history and the social fabric of your nation. It desires to continue to be a factor in the harmonious coexistence among all. It contributes to this in a very active way, especially through its numerous educational institutions, its work of a social character and the voluntary efforts of so many faithful. The Church is happy therefore to place itself at the service of all the components of Belgian society.

Nevertheless, it does not find it unnecessary to stress that it has, as an institution, the right to express itself publicly. It shares this right with all individuals and institutions, with the scope of speaking its mind on questions of common interest. The Church respects the right of everyone to think differently from it; it would like that its right to expression also be respected. The Church is a depository of a teaching, of a religious message that it received from Jesus Christ. It can be summarized with the following words from Sacred Scripture: "God is love" (1 John 4:16) and throws its light upon the meaning of the personal, familial and social life of man. The Church, having the common good as its objective, asks nothing other than the freedom to be able to propose this message, without imposing it on anyone, in respect for freedom of conscience.

It was in nourishing himself with this ecclesial teaching in a radical way that Joseph de Veuster became he who is now called "St. Damien." The exceptional destiny of this man shows to what point the Gospel awakens an ethics that is a friend to the person, above all if he is in need or marginalized. The canonization of this priest and the universal fame that he enjoys is a legitimate reason for pride among the Belgian people. This attractive personage is not the fruit of a solitary journey. It is well to recall the religious roots that nourished his education and formation as well as the teachers who awakened that admirable generosity in him. It led him to share the marginalized life of the lepers, to the point of exposing himself to the illness from which they suffer. In the light of similar witnesses everyone can understand that the Gospel is a force that there is no reason to fear. I am convinced that despite the sociological developments, the Christian "humus" is still rich in your land. It can generously nourish the commitment of a growing number of volunteers who, inspired by evangelical principles of fraternity and solidarity, accompany persons who experience difficulties and who, for this reason, need to be helped.

Your country, which already hosts the headquarters of international community institutions, has seen its European vocation once again reaffirmed by the choice of one of your countrymen as president of the European Council. Certainly these successive choices are not only linked to the geographical position of your country and its multilingual capacities. A member of the original nucleus of founding countries, your nation committed itself and distinguished itself in seeking a consensus in very complex situations. This quality must be encouraged at the moment to face, for the good of all, the challenges internal to your country.

Today I would like to underscore that the art of consensus, if it is to bear lasting fruit, must not be reduced to a purely dialectical ability but must seek the true and the good. Because "[w]ithout truth, without trust and love for what is true, there is no social conscience and responsibility, and social action ends up serving private interests and the logic of power, resulting in social fragmentation, especially in a globalized society at difficult times like the present" ("Caritas in Veritate," no. 5).

Profiting from our meeting, I would like to warmly greet the bishops of Belgium, whom I will have the pleasure of receiving very soon on the occasion of their ad limina Apostolorum visit. My thoughts turn especially to His Excellency Archbishop Léonard, who, with enthusiasm and generosity, has just begun his new mission as archbishop of Malines-Brussels. I would also like to greet the priests of your country as well as the deacons and all the faithful who make up the Catholic community of Belgium. I invite them to bear witness to their faith with audacity. In their roles in society may they assert fully their right to propose values that respect human nature and correspond to the deepest and most authentic spiritual aspirations of the person!

In the moment in which you officially assume your functions at the Holy See, I offer my best wishes for a happy carrying out of your mission. You can be certain, Mr. Ambassador, that you will always find a cordial attention and understanding among my coworkers. Invoking the intercession of the Virgin Mary and St. Damien, I pray to the Lord to pour out his generous blessings upon you, upon your family and your coworkers, and also upon the Belgian people and their leaders.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Papal Address to Macedonian Envoy
"Your Country Is Proud of a Long and Luminous Christian Tradition"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 22, 2010 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today as he greeted Macedonia's new ambassador to the Holy See, Gioko Gjorgjevski.

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Mr. Ambassador

I am happy to receive Your Excellency for the presentation of your Letters of Credence as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to the Holy See. I am grateful for the cordial expressions you addressed to me, also on behalf of the authorities and of the noble Nation that you represent. I ask you to convey to them the expression of my esteem and benevolence, united to the certainty of my prayer for concord and the harmonious development of the whole country.

On receiving you, my thought goes to the annual meeting between the Successor of Peter and an authoritative official delegation from your country, which is held on the occasion of the feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, venerated spiritual guides of the Slav peoples and co-patrons of Europe. This meeting, which has become a pleasant custom, attests to the good relations that exist between the Holy See and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. They are bilateral relations, which have developed, especially in the last year, in a positive way, and which are characterized by cordial cooperation. In regard to this, I wish to manifest my pleasure over the mutual commitment manifested in the recent construction of new buildings of Catholic worship in several places of the country.

As you have underlined, visible in the Macedonian people are the signs of human and Christian values, embodied in the life of the people, which constitute the cherished spiritual and cultural patrimony of the nation, of which are also eloquent the wonderful religious monuments, which arose in different periods and localities, notably in the city of Ohrid. To this precious heritage, the Holy See looks with great esteem and consideration, favoring, in what is of her competence, its historical-documentary deepening, for a greater knowledge of its religious and cultural past. Beginning from this patrimony, the citizens of your country will continue building also in the future their own history and, strong in their spiritual identity, will be able to contribute their experience to the concert of European nations. Because of this, I very much hope that the aspirations and growing efforts of this country to form part of a united Europe will come to a good end, in a condition of acceptance of the relative rights and duties and in the mutual respect of collective agencies and of the traditional values of each nation.

Mr. Ambassador, in the words you pronounced on the commitment of the Macedonian people to increasingly favor dialogue and coexistence between the different ethnic and religious realities that constitute the country, I have perceived that universal aspiration to justice and internal cohesion which has always animated it, and which can become an example for other regions of the Balkans. In fact, the bridges of exchange of more ample agreements and close religious relations between the different components of Macedonian society have favored the creation of a climate in which persons recognize themselves brothers, children of the same God and citizens of one country. It is certainly the task, in the first place of those in charge of institutions, to find ways of translating into political initiatives the aspirations of men and women to dialogue and peace. Believers, nevertheless, know that peace is not only the fruit of planning and human activities, but that first of all it is a gift of God to men of good will. Of this peace, moreover, justice and forgiveness are the basic pillars. Justice ensures full respect of the rights and duties and forgiveness heals and rebuilds from the foundations relations between persons, who still resent the consequences of the confrontation between ideologies of the recent past.

Having surmounted the stage of the last World War, after the sad experience of a totalitarianism that denied the fundamental rights of the human person, the Macedonian people have pointed themselves to a harmonious economic progress, giving proof of patience, willingness to sacrifice and persevering optimism, tenaciously directed to the creation of a better future for all its inhabitants. A stable social and economic development cannot but keep in mind the cultural, social and spiritual needs of the people, as it must also appreciate the most noble traditions and popular resources. All this in the awareness of the growing phenomenon of globalization, which entails, on one hand, a certain leveling of social and economic differences, could, on the other, aggravate the balance between those who take advantage of ever greater possibilities of wealth and those, instead, who are left on the margins of progress.

Mr. Ambassador, your country is proud of a long and luminous Christian tradition, which dates back to Apostolic times. I hope that in a global context of moral relativism and of little interest in the religious experience, in which a part of European society often moves, the citizens of the noble nation that you represent will be able to make a wise discernment by opening themselves to the new horizons of authentic civilization and true humanism. To do this, it is necessary to keep alive and firm, at the personal and community level, those principles that are also at the base of this nation's civilization: attachment to the family, the defense of human life, the promotion of religious needs, especially of the young. Although the Catholic Church in your nation constitutes a minority, it wishes to make a sincere contribution in the building of a more just and solidaristic society, based on the Christian values that have fertilized the consciences of its inhabitants. I am certain that the Catholic community, in the awareness that charity in truth "is the principal driving force for the true development of every person and of the whole of humanity" (Caritas in Veritate, n. 1) will continue its charitable mission, especially in favor of the poor and the suffering, so appreciated in your country.

Excellency, I am sure that you also, in the fulfillment of the lofty task entrusted to you, will contribute to intensify the already good existing relations between the Holy See and the Macedonian nation, and I assure you that you can count, to this end, on the full availability of all my collaborators of the Roman Curia. With these fervent desires, I invoke upon you, Mr. Ambassador, upon your family, upon those governing and upon all the inhabitants of the nation that you represent, an abundant divine Blessing.

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Pope's Address to World Food Summit
"Win the Battle Against Hunger and Malnutrition"

ROME, NOV. 16, 2009 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon visiting the Rome headquarters of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on the occasion of the World Summit on Food Security, being held there through Wednesday.

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Mr President,
Ladies and Gentlemen!

1. I was very pleased to receive an invitation from Mr Jacques Diouf, Director General of FAO, to speak at the opening session of this World Summit on Food Security. I greet him warmly and I thank him for his kind words of welcome. I greet the distinguished authorities present and all the participants. Echoing the sentiments of my venerable predecessors Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II, I should like once more to express my esteem for the work of FAO, which the Catholic Church and the Holy See follow attentively, taking a keen interest in the day-to-day work that is carried out there. Thanks to your generous engagement, aptly expressed in your motto Fiat Panis, the development of agriculture and food security remain among the key priorities of international political action. I am confident that this same spirit will inform the decisions taken at the present Summit, and those that will follow later, in the common desire to win the battle against hunger and malnutrition in the world as quickly as possible.

2. The international community is currently facing a grave economic and financial crisis. Statistics bear witness to the dramatic growth in the number of people suffering from hunger, made worse by the rise in price of foodstuffs, the reduction in economic resources available to the poorest peoples, and their limited access to markets and to food – notwithstanding the known fact that the world has enough food for all its inhabitants. Indeed, while low levels of agricultural production persist in some regions, partly owing to climate change, sufficient food is produced on a global scale to satisfy both current demands and those in the foreseeable future. From these data we may deduce that there is no cause-and-effect relationship between population growth and hunger, and this is further demonstrated by the lamentable destruction of foodstuffs for economic gain. In the Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate I pointed out that, "Hunger is not so much dependent on lack of material things as on shortage of social resources, the most important of which are institutional. What is missing, in other words, is a network of economic institutions capable of guaranteeing regular access to sufficient food and water … and also capable of addressing the primary needs and necessities ensuing from genuine food crises …" I added, "The problem of food insecurity needs to be addressed within a long-term perspective, eliminating the structural causes that give rise to it and promoting the agricultural development of poorer countries. This can be done by investing in rural infrastructures, irrigation systems, transport, organization of markets, and in the development and dissemination of agricultural technology that can make the best use of the human, natural and socio-economic resources that are more readily available at the local level, while guaranteeing their sustainability over the long term as well" (no. 27). Hence the need to oppose those forms of aid that do grave damage to the agricultural sector, those approaches to food production that are geared solely towards consumption and lack a wider perspective, and especially greed, which causes speculation to rear its head even in the marketing of cereals, as if food were to be treated just like any other commodity.

3. The weakness of current mechanisms for food security and the need to re-examine them are confirmed, one might say, by the mere fact that this Summit has been convoked. Even though the poorest countries are more fully integrated into the world economy than in the past, movements in international markets make them more vulnerable and force them to seek the aid of intergovernmental institutions, which no doubt do valuable and indispensable work. The concept of cooperation, though, must be consistent with the principle of subsidiarity: it is necessary to involve "local communities in choices and decisions that affect the use of agricultural land" (ibid.). This is because integral human development requires responsible choices on the part of everyone and it demands an attitude of solidarity – meaning that aid or disaster relief should not be seen as opportunities to promote the interests of those who make resources available or of elite groups among the beneficiaries. With regard to countries that are in need of external support, the international community has the duty to assist with the instruments of cooperation, assuming collective responsibility for their development, "through the solidarity of … presence, supervision, training and respect" (ibid., 47). Within this overall context of responsibility, every country has the right to define its own economic model, taking steps to secure its freedom to choose its own objectives. In this way, cooperation must become an effective instrument, unbeholden to interests that can absorb a not insignificant part of the resources destined for development. Moreover, it is important to emphasize that an attitude of solidarity regarding the development of poor countries also has the potential to contribute to a solution of the current global crisis. Support given to these nations through financial plans inspired by solidarity, enabling them to provide for their own requirements of consumption and development, not only favours their internal economic growth, but can have a positive impact on integral human development in other countries (cf. ibid., 27).

4. In the current situation there is a continuing disparity in the level of development within and among nations that leads to instability in many parts of the world, accentuating the contrast between poverty and wealth. This no longer applies only to models of development, but also to an increasingly widespread perception concerning food insecurity, namely the tendency to view hunger as structural, an integral part of the socio-political situation of the weakest countries, a matter of resigned regret, if not downright indifference. It is not so, and it must never be so! To fight and conquer hunger it is essential to start redefining the concepts and principles that have hitherto governed international relations, in such a way as to answer the question: what can direct the attention and the consequent conduct of States towards the needs of the poorest? The response must be sought not in the technical aspects of cooperation, but in the principles that lie behind it: only in the name of common membership of the worldwide human family can every people and therefore every country be asked to practise solidarity, that is, to shoulder the burden of concrete responsibilities in meeting the needs of others, so as to favour the genuine sharing of goods, founded on love.

5. Nevertheless, while it is true that human solidarity inspired by love goes beyond justice – because to love is to give, to offer what is "mine" to the other – it is never without justice, which leads us to give the other what is "his", what belongs to him by virtue of his being and acting. Indeed, I cannot "give" the other what is "mine", without first giving him what belongs to him in justice (cf. ibid., 6). If the aim is to eliminate hunger, international action is needed not only to promote balanced and sustainable economic growth and political stability, but also to seek out new parameters – primarily ethical but also juridical and economic ones – capable of inspiring the degree of cooperation required to build a relationship of parity between countries at different stages of development. This, as well as closing the existing gap, could favour the capacity of each people to consider itself an active player, thereby confirming that the fundamental equality of all peoples is rooted in the common origin of the human family, the source of those principles of "natural law" that should inspire political, juridical and economic choices and approaches in international life (cf. ibid., 59). Saint Paul speaks eloquently on this subject: "I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of equality your abundance at the present time should supply their want, so that their abundance may supply your want, that there may be equality. As it is written, ‘He who gathered much had nothing over, and he who gathered little had no lack’" (2 Cor 8:13-15).

6. Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen, in order to combat hunger and promote integral human development, it is necessary to understand the needs of the rural world, and likewise to ensure that any decline in donor support does not create uncertainties in the financing of activities of cooperation: any tendency towards a short-sighted view of the rural world as a thing of secondary importance must be avoided. At the same time, access to international markets must be favoured for those products coming from the poorest areas, which today are often relegated to the margins. In order to achieve these objectives, it is necessary to separate the rules of international trade from the logic of profit viewed as an end in itself, directing them towards the support of economic initiative in countries with greater need of development; once they have greater income at their disposal, these countries will be able to advance towards the self-sufficiency that leads to food security.

7. Nor must the fundamental rights of the individual be forgotten, which include, of course, the right to sufficient, healthy and nutritious food, and likewise water; these rights take on an important role in the realization of others, beginning with the primary one, the right to life. It is necessary, then, to cultivate "a public conscience that considers food and access to water as universal rights of all human beings, without distinction or discrimination" (Caritas in Veritate, 27). Much has been patiently accomplished in recent years by FAO in this regard: on the one hand it has favoured an enlargement of the objectives of this right over and above the mere guarantee of satisfying primary needs, and on the other it has emphasized the need for its adequate regulation.

8. Methods of food production likewise demand attentive analysis of the relationship between development and protection of the environment. The desire to possess and to exploit the resources of the planet in an excessive and disordered manner is the primary cause of all environmental degradation. Protection of the environment challenges the modern world to guarantee a harmonious form of development, respectful of the design of God the Creator and therefore capable of safeguarding the planet (cf. ibid., 48-51). While the entire human race is called to acknowledge its obligations to future generations, it is also true that States and international organizations have a duty to protect the environment as a shared good. In this context, the links between environmental security and the disturbing phenomenon of climate change need to be explored further, focusing on the central importance of the human person, and especially of the populations most at risk from both phenomena. Norms, legislation, development plans and investments are not enough, however: what is needed is a change in the lifestyles of individuals and communities, in habits of consumption and in perceptions of what is genuinely needed. Most of all, there is a moral duty to distinguish between good and evil in human action, so as to rediscover the bond of communion that unites the human person and creation.

9. As I pointed out in the Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate, it is important to remember that "the deterioration of nature is … closely connected to the culture that shapes human coexistence: when ‘human ecology’ is respected within society, environmental ecology also benefits." Indeed, "the ecological system is based on respect for a plan that affects both the health of society and its good relationship with nature." And "the decisive issue is the overall moral tenor of society." Therefore, "our duties towards the environment are linked to our duties towards the human person, considered in himself and in relation to others. It would be wrong to uphold one set of duties while trampling on the other. Herein lies a grave contradiction in our mentality and practice today: one which demeans the person, disrupts the environment and damages society" (ibid., 51).

10. Hunger is the most cruel and concrete sign of poverty. Opulence and waste are no longer acceptable when the tragedy of hunger is assuming ever greater proportions. Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Catholic Church will always be concerned for efforts to defeat hunger; the Church is committed to support, by word and deed, the action taken in solidarity – planned, responsible and regulated – to which all members of the international community are called to contribute. The Church does not wish to interfere in political decisions: she respects the knowledge gained through scientific study, and decisions arrived at through reason responsibly enlightened by authentically human values, and she supports the effort to eliminate hunger. This is the most immediate and concrete sign of solidarity inspired by charity, and it brooks neither delay nor compromise. Such solidarity relies on technology, laws and institutions to meet the aspirations of individuals, communities and entire peoples, yet it must not exclude the religious dimension, with all the spiritual energy that it brings, and its promotion of the human person. Acknowledgment of the transcendental worth of every man and every woman is still the first step towards the conversion of heart that underpins the commitment to eradicate deprivation, hunger and poverty in all their forms.

I thank you for your gracious attention and, as I conclude, I offer greetings and good wishes in the official languages of FAO, to all the Member States of the Organization:

God bless your efforts to ensure that everyone is given their daily bread.

Thank you.

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Benedict XVI's Address to Iranian Envoy
"Faith in the One God Must Bring All Believers Closer"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 29, 2009 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address upon recieving in audience today Ali Akbar Naseri, the new ambassador from Iran to the Holy See.

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Mr. Ambassador:

I am pleased to receive you on this day in which you present the Letters that accredit you as ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the Holy See. I express my gratitude for the affable words you addressed to me, as well as for the good wishes you have transmitted on behalf of His Excellency Mr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of the republic. In response, I would be grateful if you would thank him and assure him of my cordial wishes for the whole nation.

Your presence here, this morning, manifests your country's interest in the development of good relations with the Holy See. As you know, Mr. Ambassador, by your presence in international entities and bilateral relations with numerous countries, the Holy See wishes to defend and promote human dignity. It also wishes to be at the service of the good of the human family, paying particular attention to the technical, moral and humanitarian aspects of relations between peoples. From this point of view, the Holy See wishes to consolidate relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran, and to foster mutual understanding and collaboration for the common good.

Iran is a great nation that has eminent spiritual traditions and its people have a profound religious sensibility. This can be a reason for hope for a growing openness and confident collaboration with the international community. For its part, the Holy See will always be willing to work in harmony with those who serve the cause of peace and promote the dignity with which the Creator has endowed all human beings. Today we must all expect and support a new phase of international cooperation, more solidly based on humanitarian principles and on effective aid to those who suffer, than on cold calculations of exchanges and technical and economic benefits.

Faith in the one God must bring all believers closer and encourage them to work together for the defense and promotion of fundamental human values. Among the universal rights, religious liberty and freedom of conscience occupy an essential place, because they are the source of the other liberties. The defense of other rights that stem from the dignity of persons and populations, in particular the promotion of the protection of life, justice and solidarity, must also be the object of a true collaboration. Moreover, as I have often had the opportunity to underline, the establishment of cordial relations between believers of the different religions is an urgent need of our time, to build a more human world, more conformed to the plan of God on creation. Hence I celebrate the existence, for several years, of meetings organized regularly, jointly by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Organization for Islamic Culture and Relations, on topics of common interest. Contributing to seeking together what is just and correct, those meetings allow all to progress in reciprocal knowledge and to cooperate in the reflection of great questions that affect the life of humanity.

On the other hand, Catholics have been present in Iran since the first centuries of Christianity and have always been an integral part of the life and culture of the nation. This community is truly Iranian and its age-old experience of coexistence with Muslim believers is of great usefulness to promote greater understanding and cooperation. The Holy See trusts that the Iranian authorities will be able to reinforce and guarantee to Christians the liberty to profess their faith and to ensure for the Catholic community the essential conditions for its existence, especially the possibility of having sufficient religious personnel and the facilities of movement in the country to ensure the religious service of the faithful. From this perspective, I hope that a confident and sincere dialogue will develop with the country's institutions to improve the situation of the Christian communities and their activities in the context of the civil society, so that its sense of belonging to the national life will increase. For its part, the Holy See, whose nature and mission is to be interested directly in the life of the local Churches, wishes to make the necessary efforts to help the Catholic community in Iran to maintain alive the signs of the Christian presence, in a spirit of understanding and of good will with all.

Mr. Ambassador, finally I would like to take advantage of this pleasant occasion to greet affectionately the Catholic communities living in Iran, as well as their pastors. The Pope is close to all the faithful and prays for them so that maintaining with perseverance their own identity and remaining linked to their land, they may collaborate generously with all their compatriots in the development of the nation.

Excellency, at the beginning of your mission to the Holy See, I wish you every success. I can assure you that you will always find understanding and support in my collaborators for its happy fulfillment.

I invoke from my heart on your person, your family, your collaborators and on all Iranians abundant blessings of the Most High.

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Papal Address to European Community Envoy
"That Europe Not Allow its Model of Civilization to Be Eroded"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 19, 2009 Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving in audience Yves Gazzo, new head of the delegation of the Commission of European Communities to the Holy See.

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Mr. Ambassador,

I am happy to receive you, Excellency, and to accredit you as Representative of the Commission of the European Communities to the Holy See. I would be grateful if you would express to Mr. Jose Manuel Barroso, who has just been re-elected as head of the commission, my cordial wishes for his person and for the mandate entrusted to him, and also for all his collaborators.

This year Europe commemorates the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. I wished to honor this event in a particular way, traveling to the Czech Republic. In that land, tested by the yoke of a painful ideology, I was able to give thanks for the gift of recovered liberty, which has allowed the European Continent to find its integrity and unity again.

You, Mr. Ambassador, have described the European Union as "an area of peace and stability that brings together 27 States with the same fundamental values." It is a happy description. And yet, it is right to observe that the European Union has not gifted itself with these values, but rather it has been these shared values that made it come to birth and be the force of gravity that has attracted to the nucleus of the founding countries the different nations that subsequently have adhered to it, in the course of time.

These values are the fruit of a long and torturous history in which, no one can deny, Christianity has played a major role. The same equality of all human beings, the liberty of the act of faith as root of the other civil liberties, peace as the decisive element of the common good, of human development -- intellectual, social and economic -- in so far as divine vocation (cfr. "Caritas in Veritate," Nos. 16-19), and the meaning of history derived from it, are a few of many other central elements of Christian Revelation that continue to mold European civilization.

When the Church recalls the Christian roots of Europe, she is not seeking a privileged status for herself. She wishes to make a historical memorial reminding in the first place of a truth -- increasingly relegated to silence -- namely, to the decidedly Christian inspiration of the Founding Fathers of the European Union. At a more profound level, she also wishes to show that the basis of the values comes above all from the Christian heritage that continues to nourish it even today.

These common values are not an anarchic or accidental aggregate, but form a coherent whole that is ordered and articulated, historically, from a precise anthropological vision. Can Europe omit the original organic principle of these values that, at the same time, have revealed to man his eminent dignity and the fact that his personal vocation opens him to all other men, with whom he is called to build only one family?

Does allowing oneself to be led by this forgetfulness not mean to expose oneself to the risk of seeing these great and beautiful values enter into competition or conflict with one another? More than that, do these values not run the risk of being instrumentalized by individuals and pressure groups desirous of furthering particular interests in detriment of an ambitious collective project -- which Europeans expect -- which is concerned with the common good of the inhabitants of the Continent and of the whole world? This risk was perceived and criticized by numerous observers that belong to very different horizons. It is important that Europe not allow its model of civilization to be eroded, bit-by-bit. Its original impulse must not be suffocated by individualism and utilitarianism.

The immense intellectual, cultural and economic resources of the Continent will continue to bear fruit if they continue to be fertilized by the transcendent vision of the human person, which is the most precious treasure of European heritage. This humanist tradition, in which so many families of different thoughts recognize themselves, makes Europe capable of addressing the challenges of tomorrow and of responding to the population's expectations.

It is primarily the search for a just and delicate balance between economic efficiency and social exigencies, the safeguarding of the environment and, above all, the indispensable and necessary support to human life from conception to natural death, and to the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman. Europe will be really itself only if it is able to preserve the originality that has constituted its greatness, and this is capable of making of it, in the future, one of the principal actors in the promotion of the integral development of persons, which the Catholic Church regards as the genuine way able to remedy the present imbalances of our world.

For all these reasons, Mr. Ambassador, the Holy See follows with respect and great attention the activity of European institutions, hoping that the latter, with their work and creativity, will honor Europe that, more than a continent, is a "spiritual home" (cfr. Address to the Civil Authorities and to the Diplomatic Corps, Prague, Sept. 26, 2009). The Church wishes to "accompany" the construction of the European Union. For this reason, she allows herself to remind you of the fundamental and constitutive values of European society, so that they can be promoted for the good of all.

As you begin your mission to the Holy See, I wish to reaffirm my satisfaction for the excellent relations maintained by the European Community and the Holy See and I express to you, Mr. Ambassador, my best wishes for the good development of your noble task. Be assured of finding in my collaborators the reception and understanding of which you might be in need.

On you, Excellency, on your family and on your collaborators, I invoke from my heart the abundance of divine blessings.

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Papal Address to Netherlands Envoy
"Globalization Needs to Be Steered Towards the Goal of Integral Human Development"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 2, 2009 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today to Baroness Henriette Johanna Cornelia Maria van Lynden-Leijten, the new ambassador from the Netherlands to the Holy See.

* * *

Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the Holy See. I would like to express my gratitude for the good wishes that you bring from Queen Beatrix. For my part, please convey to Her Majesty my cordial greetings and assure her of my continuing prayers for all the people of your nation.

In a world that is ever more closely interconnected, the Holy See's diplomatic relations with individual states afford many opportunities for cooperation on important global issues. In this light, the Holy See values its links with the Netherlands and looks forward to strengthening them further in years to come. Your country, as a founder member of the European Economic Community and home to several international juridical institutions, has long been at the forefront of moves to strengthen international cooperation for the greater good of the human family. Hence the mission on which you are about to embark is rich in opportunities for joint action to promote peace and prosperity in the light of the desire that both the Holy See and the Netherlands have, to help the human person.

The defence and promotion of freedom is a key element in humanitarian engagement of this kind, and it is one to which both the Holy See and the Kingdom of the Netherlands frequently draw attention. It must be understood, though, that freedom needs to be anchored in truth -- the truth of the nature of the human person -- and it needs to be directed towards the good of individuals and of society. In the financial crisis of the past twelve months, the whole world has been able to observe the consequences of exaggerated individualism that tends to favour single-minded pursuit of perceived personal advantage to the exclusion of other goods. There has been much reflection on the need for a sound ethical approach to the processes of economic and political integration, and more people are coming to recognize that globalization needs to be steered towards the goal of integral human development of individuals, communities and peoples -- shaped not by mechanical or deterministic forces but by humanitarian values that are open to transcendence (cf. Caritas in Veritate, 42). Our world needs to "reappropriate the true meaning of freedom, which is not an intoxication with total autonomy, but a response to the call of being" (ibid., 70). Hence the Holy See's conviction regarding the irreplaceable role of faith communities in public life and in public debate.

While some of the Dutch population would declare itself agnostic or even atheist, more than half of it professes Christianity, and the growing numbers of immigrants who follow other religious traditions make it more necessary than ever for civil authorities to acknowledge the place of religion in Dutch society. An indication that your Government does so is the fact that faith schools receive state support in your country, and rightly so, since such institutions are called to make a significant contribution to mutual understanding and social cohesion by transmitting the values that are rooted in a transcendent vision of human dignity.

Even more basic than schools in this regard are families built on the foundation of a stable and fruitful marriage between a man and a woman. Nothing can equal or replace the formative value of growing up in a secure family environment, learning to respect and foster the personal dignity of others, acquiring the capacity for "acceptance, encounter and dialogue, disinterested availability, generous service and deep solidarity" (Familiaris Consortio, 43; cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 221) -- in short, learning to love. A society, on the other hand, which encourages alternative models of domestic life for the sake of a supposed diversity, is likely to store up social consequences that are not conducive to integral human development (cf. Caritas in Veritate, 44, 51). The Catholic Church in your country is eager to play its part in supporting and promoting stable family life, as the Dutch Bishops' Conference stated in its recent document on the pastoral care of young people and the family. It is my earnest hope that the Catholic contribution to ethical debate will be heard and heeded by all sectors of Dutch society, so that the noble culture that has distinguished your country for centuries may continue to be known for its solidarity with the poor and the vulnerable, its promotion of authentic freedom and its respect for the dignity and inestimable value of every human life.

Your Excellency, in offering my best wishes for the success of your mission, I would like to assure you that the various departments of the Roman Curia are ready to provide help and support in the fulfilment of your duties. Upon Your Excellency, your family and all the people of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, I cordially invoke God's abundant blessings.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Benedict XVI's Address to US Ambassador
"What Is Needed Is a Model of Globalization Inspired by an Authentic Humanism"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 2, 2009 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today to Miguel Humberto Díaz, the new ambassador from the United States to the Holy See.

* * *

Your Excellency,

I am pleased to accept the Letters by which you are accredited Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America. I recall with pleasure my meeting with President Barack Obama and his family last July, and willingly reciprocate the kind greetings which you bring from him. I also take this occasion to express my confidence that diplomatic relations between the United States and the Holy See, formally initiated twenty-five years ago, will continue to be marked by fruitful dialogue and cooperation in the promotion of human dignity, respect for fundamental human rights, and the service of justice, solidarity and peace within the whole human family.

In the course of my Pastoral Visit to your country last year I was pleased to encounter a vibrant democracy, committed to the service of the common good and shaped by a vision of equality and equal opportunity based on the God-given dignity and freedom of each human being. That vision, enshrined in the nation's founding documents, continues to inspire the growth of the United States as a cohesive yet pluralistic society constantly enriched by the gifts brought by new generations, including the many immigrants who continue to enhance and rejuvenate American society. In recent months, the reaffirmation of this dialectic of tradition and originality, unity and diversity has recaptured the imagination of the world, many of whose peoples look to the American experience and its founding vision in their own search for viable models of accountable democracy and sound development in an increasingly interdependent and global society.

For this reason, I appreciate your acknowledgement of the need for a greater spirit of solidarity and multilateral engagement in approaching the urgent problems facing our planet. The cultivation of the values of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" can no longer be seen in predominantly individualistic or even national terms, but must rather be viewed from the higher perspective of the common good of the whole human family. The continuing international economic crisis clearly calls for a revision of present political, economic and financial structures in the light of the ethical imperative of ensuring the integral development of all people. What is needed, in effect, is a model of globalization inspired by an authentic humanism, in which the world's peoples are seen not merely as neighbors but as brothers and sisters.

Multilateralism, for its part, should not be restricted to purely economic and political questions; rather, it should find expression in a resolve to address the whole spectrum of issues linked to the future of humanity and the promotion of human dignity, including secure access to food and water, basic health care, just policies governing commerce and immigration, particularly where families are concerned, climate control and care for the environment, and the elimination of the scourge of nuclear weapons. With regard to the latter issue, I wish to express my satisfaction for the recent Meeting of the United Nations Security Council chaired by President Obama, which unanimously approved the resolution on atomic disarmament and set before the international community the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. This is a promising sign on the eve of the Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Genuine progress, as the Church's social teaching insists, must be integral and humane; it cannot prescind from the truth about human beings and must always be directed to their authentic good. In a word, fidelity to man requires fidelity to the truth, which alone is the guarantee of freedom and real development. For her part the Church in the United States wishes to contribute to the discussion of the weighty ethical and social questions shaping America's future by proposing respectful and reasonable arguments grounded in the natural law and confirmed by the perspective of faith. Religious vision and religious imagination do not straiten but enrich political and ethical discourse, and the religions, precisely because they deal with the ultimate destiny of every man and woman, are called to be a prophetic force for human liberation and development throughout the world, particularly in areas torn by hostility and conflict. In my recent visit to the Holy Land I stressed the value of understanding and cooperation among the followers of the various religions in the service of peace, and so I note with appreciation your government's desire to promote such cooperation as part of a broader dialogue between cultures and peoples.

Allow me, Mr. Ambassador, to reaffirm a conviction which I expressed at the outset of my Apostolic Journey to the United States. Freedom - the freedom which Americans rightly hold dear - "is not only a gift but also a summons to personal responsibility;" it is "a challenge held out to each generation, and it must constantly be won over to the cause of good" (Address at the White House, 16 April 2008). The preservation of freedom is inseparably linked to respect for truth and the pursuit of authentic human flourishing. The crisis of our modern democracies calls for a renewed commitment to reasoned dialogue in the discernment of wise and just policies respectful of human nature and human dignity. The Church in the United States contributes to this discernment particularly through the formation of consciences and her educational apostolate, by which she makes a significant and positive contribution to American civic life and public discourse. Here I think particularly of the need for a clear discernment with regard to issues touching the protection of human dignity and respect for the inalienable right to life from the moment of conception to natural death, as well as the protection of the right to conscientious objection on the part of health care workers, and indeed all citizens. The Church insists on the unbreakable link between an ethics of life and every other aspect of social ethics, for she is convinced that, in the prophetic words of the late Pope John Paul II, "a society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized" (Evangelium Vitae, 93; cf. Caritas in Veritate, 15).

Mr. Ambassador, as you undertake your new mission in the service of your country I offer you my good wishes and the promise of my prayers. Be assured that you may always count on the offices of the Holy See to assist and support you in the fulfillment of your duties. Upon you and your family, and upon all the beloved American people, I cordially invoke God's blessings of wisdom, strength and peace.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Papal Message to Filipino Ambassador
"The Work of Charity Is Particularly Urgent"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 2, 2009 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today to Mercedes Arrastia-Tuason, the new ambassador from the Philippines to the Holy See.

* * *

Madam Ambassador,

Grateful for the kind words which you have addressed to me, I gladly accept the Letters of Credence accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of the Philippines to the Holy See. I would like to reciprocate the warm greetings which you have extended to me on behalf of Her Excellency, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and I would ask you to convey to her and to all the beloved Filipino people the assurance of my spiritual closeness and prayers, especially for the victims of Typhoon Ketsana.

For over half a century, the Holy See and the Philippines have maintained excellent diplomatic relations, strengthening their long-standing cooperation for the promotion of peace, human dignity and freedom. The spirit of good will which has brought us to this day will surely enkindle a fresh desire to work together so that justice and freedom go hand-in-hand, and that democratic principles be grounded in truth. For her part, in the midst of the many changing social, economic and political conditions around the globe, the Church continues to hold out the Gospel as the path to authentic human progress (cf. Spe Salvi, 23). I am confident that the faith of the Filipino people - a faith, as Your Excellency has indicated, which gives them the "resilience" to face any hardship or difficulty - will arouse in them a desire to participate ever more fervently in the worldwide task of building up a civilization of love, the seed of which God has implanted in every people and every culture.

Your Excellency, I am pleased to note the various development initiatives under way in your country, including the modernization of irrigation systems, the improvement of public transportation and the reform of social assistance programs. As the Philippines continues to implement these and other plans for a just and sustainable development, I am confident that she will draw upon all her resources - spiritual as well as material - so that her citizens may flourish in body and soul, knowing the goodness of God and living in solidarity with their neighbors. Such programs, of course, are primarily aimed at improving the actual living conditions of the poorest, thus enabling them to fulfill their responsibilities towards their families and to carry out the duties which fall to them as members of the wider community. Above all, the struggle against poverty calls for honesty, integrity and an unwavering fidelity to the principles of justice, especially on the part of those directly entrusted with the offices of governance and public administration.

In an age when the name of God is abused by certain groups, the "work of charity" (Caritas in Veritate, 57) is particularly urgent. This is especially true in regions that have been sadly scarred by conflicts. I encourage all to persevere so that peace may prevail. As you have mentioned, Madam Ambassador, initiatives that aim at facilitating dialogue and cultural exchange are particularly effective, for peace can never come about merely as the product of a technical process engineered through legislative, judicial or economic means. In the conviction that evil is only conquered with good (cf. Rom 12:21), many in your country are taking courageous steps to bring people together in order to foster reconciliation and mutual understanding. I am thinking in particular of the commendable work of the Bishops Ulama Conference (BUC), the Mindanao People's Conference, as well as that of many grassroots organizations. The Special Non-Aligned Movement Ministerial Meeting on Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace and Development, which your country will host in December, also holds out the promise of advancing peace in Mindanao and throughout the world.

In closing, Madam Ambassador, I would like to take this opportunity to reassure the Filipino people of my affection and continued prayers for them. I encourage them to allow their deep faith, their cultural heritage and the democratic values that have been a part of their patrimony from the time of their independence to shine as an example to all.

Extending a cordial welcome to you and to your distinguished family, I offer you my best wishes that your stay in Rome may be pleasant, and that the important mission entrusted to you may consolidate relations between the Holy See and the Republic of the Philippines, to the benefit of all. Through the intercession of Our Lady of Truth, Justice and Holiness, may God bless the efforts of the authorities and citizens, so that your nation may walk the way of authentic human progress in an atmosphere of harmony and peace.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Papal Letter to Italian Leader Ahead of G-8
"Maintain and Reinforce Aid for Development"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 9, 2009 - Here is a Vatican translation of the letter Benedict XVI sent July 1 to Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi ahead of the Group of Eight summit L'Aquila, which is under way through Friday.

* * *

Hon. Mr Prime Minister,

With a view to the upcoming G8, the Group of the Heads of State and Government of the most industrialized countries, that will be taking place in L'Aquila from 8 to 10 July under the Italian Presidency, I am pleased to send a cordial greeting to you and to all the participants. I therefore willingly take the opportunity to make a contribution to the reflection on the meeting's themes, as I have done in the past.

I was informe d by my collaborators of the commitment with which the Government, over which you have the honour to preside, is preparing for this important meeting. I am also aware of the attention you have given to the reflections which, based on the themes of the upcoming Summit, have been formulated by the Holy See, the Catholic Church in Italy and the Catholic world in general, as well as the Representatives of other religions. The participation of Heads of State or Government not only of the G8 but also of many other nations will ensure that in order to find ways to a shared solution to the principal problems that are affecting the economy, peace and international security, the decisions to be adopted can more faithfully mirror the viewpoints and expectations of the peoples of all the continents.

Broadened to encompass the discussions of the forthcoming Summit, this participation therefore seems particularly timely, given the many problems in the world today that are highly interco nnected and interdependent. I refer in particular to the challenges of the current economic and financial crisis, as well as to the disturbing data of the phenomenon of climate change. These cannot but impel us to wise discernment and new projects to ""convert' the model of global development" (Benedict XVI, Angelus Reflection, 12 November 2006; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 15 November 2006, p. 1), rendering it capable of effectively promoting integral human development, inspired by the values of human solidarity and of charity in truth. Several of these themes are also treated in my third Encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, which in the next few days will be released to the press.

In preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, on the initiative of John Paul II, the Holy See paid great attention to the work of the G8. My venerable Predecessor was in fact convinced that the liberation of the poorest countries from the burden of debt and, more generally, the uprooting of the causes of extreme poverty in the world depended on the full assumption of shared responsibility towards all humanity, which is incumbent on the most financially developed Governments and States.

These responsibilities have not diminished; on the contrary, they are even more urgent today. In the recent past, partly thanks to the impetus that the Great Jubilee of 2000 gave to the search for adequate solutions to problems related to the debt and to the economic vulnerability of Africa and other poor countries, and partly thanks to the notable economic and political changes in the global scene the majority of less developed countries has been able to enjoy a period of extraordinary growth. This has permitted many of them to hope in the achievement of the goal fixed by the international community on the threshold of the third millennium: to defeat extreme poverty by 2015.

Unfortunately, the financial and economic crisis that ha s been besieging the entire planet since the beginning of 2008 has transformed the circumstances. Now, there is a real risk not only that hopes of emerging from extreme poverty will be extinguished but on the contrary that even populations which have until now benefited from a minimum of material well-being will sink into poverty.

Furthermore, the current global economic crisis carries the threat of the cancellation or drastic reduction of programmes for international aid, especially for Africa and for the other economically less developed countries. Therefore with the same force as that with which John Paul II asked for the cancellation of the foreign debt I too would like to appeal to the member countries of the G8, to the other States represented and to the Governments of the whole world to maintain and reinforce aid for development, especially aid destined to "make the most" of "human resources", not only in spite of the crisis, but precisely becau se it is one of the principal paths to its solution.

Is it not in fact through investment in the human being in all the men and women of the earth that it will be possible to succeed in effectively dispelling the disturbing prospectives of global recession? Is not this truly the way to obtain, to the extent possible, a trend in the world economy that benefits the inhabitants of every country, rich and poor, large and small?

The issue of access to education is intimately connected to the efficacy of international cooperation. Thus if it is true that "investing" in men and women is necessary, then the goal of basic education for all, without exception, by 2015 must not only be met but must also be generously reinforced. Education is an indispensable condition for democracy to function, for fighting corruption, for exercising political, economic and social rights and for the effective recovery of all States, poor and rich alike. And, by correctly applyi ng the principle of subsidiarity, the support of development cannot but take into account the far-reaching educational action that the Catholic Church and other religious Denominations carry out in the world's poorest and most neglected regions.

I am therefore keen to remind the distinguished participants of the G8 that the measure of technical efficacy of the provisions to adopt in order to emerge from the crisis coincides with the measure of its ethical value. In other words, it is necessary to bear in mind practical human and family needs. I refer, for example, to the effective creation of positions for all, that enable workers to provide fittingly for their family's needs and to fulfil their primary responsibility as educators of their children and protagonists in the community to which they belong.

"A society in which this right is systematically denied", John Paul ii wrote, "in which economic policies do not allow workers to reach satisfact ory levels of employment, cannot be justified from an ethical point of view, nor can that society attain social peace" (Centesimus Annus, n. 43; cf., Laborem Excercens, n. 18).

And for this very purpose the urgent need for a fair system of international trade is essential, putting into practice and if necessary even going beyond the decisions made in Doha in 2001 to promote development.

I hope that all creative energy will be devoted to achieving the UN Millennium Goals concerning the elimination of extreme poverty by 2015. It is only right to reform the international financial structure to ensure effective coordination of national policies, to prevent credit speculation and to guarantee a broad international availability of public and private credit at the service of production and work, especially in the neediest countries and regions.

The ethical legitimization of the political commitments of the G8 will naturally demand that they be confr onted with the thought and needs of the entire International Community. To this end, it seems important to reinforce multi-lateralism, not only for economic matters but also for the entire spectrum of the issues concerning peace, global security, disarmament, health and protection of the environment and of natural resources for the present and future generations. The extension of the G8 to other regions certainly constitutes important and significant progress; yet at the time of the negotiations and concrete and operational decisions, it is necessary to take into careful consideration all needs, not only those of the countries that are most important or that have a more marked financial success. In fact, only this can make these decisions actually applicable and sustainable over time.

Let the voices of Africa and of the less economically developed countries be heard! Let effective models be sought in order to link the decisions of the various groups of countries, includi ng the G8, with the Assembly of the United Nations. In this way each nation, whatever its political and financial importance, may legitimately express itself in a position of equality with the others.

Lastly, I would like to add that the decision of the Italian Government to host the G8 in the city of L'Aquila a decision approved and shared by the other member States and guests is particularly significant. We have all witnessed the generous solidarity of the Italian people and of other nations, of national and international organizations towards the populations of the Abruzzo region hit by the earthquake.

This mobilization of solidarity could constitute an invitation to the members of the G8 and to the Governments and Peoples of the world to face united the current challenges that place humanity with no possibility of postponement before crucial decisions for the destiny of mankind itself, which is closely connected with the destiny of creation.

Hon. Mr Prime Minister, as I implore God's assistance for all those present at the upcoming G8 in L'Aquila and for the multilateral initiatives intended to resolve the economic and financial crisis and to guarantee a future of peace and prosperity to all men and women without exception, I gladly take this opportunity to express, once again, my esteem for you and, as I assure you of my prayers, I extend to you a respectful and cordial greeting.

From the Vatican, 1 July 2009

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Papal Message to Envoy From Norway
"A Generous and Welcoming Nation"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 3, 2009 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave in writing Friday to Rolf Trolle Andersen, the new ambassador from Norway to the Holy See.

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Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Norway to the Holy See. I would like to express my gratitude for the good wishes that you bring from King Harald V. Please convey to His Majesty my cordial greetings and assure him of my continued prayers for all the people of your nation. It seems particularly fitting that today’s ceremony, an important landmark in our diplomatic relations, should occur at a time when the twentieth anniversary of the historic visit of Pope John Paul II to the Scandinavian countries is almost upon us.

Not only is your country blessed with a notable degree of prosperity, but it has a most distinguished record in coming to the aid of others less fortunate than itself. In the wake of the financial turmoil of recent months, Norway was swift in offering expert assistance to other countries to help them weather the storm, despite suffering its own share of economic difficulties in consequence of the crisis. In opening its doors to significant numbers of refugees and immigrants, Norway has for many years shown itself to be a generous and welcoming nation. As Your Excellency has observed, the effect of this influx on Norwegian society, and especially on the small Catholic community, has been to introduce far greater cultural and ethnic variety. This in turn has stimulated deeper reflection on the presuppositions and values that govern life in Norway today and its place in the modern world.

"Blessed are the peacemakers." These words of Jesus (Mt 5:9) have been taken very much to heart by Norwegians, whose culture has been strongly shaped by its thousand-year Christian history. Norway’s commitment to peace-keeping is clearly illustrated by its high-level involvement in the United Nations Organization, whose first Secretary-General, Trygve Lie, came from Norway, as do a number of current senior office-holders. The Holy See very much appreciates your country’s contribution to conflict resolution in some of the world’s most troubled areas. From Sri Lanka to Afghanistan, from Sudan to Somalia, from Chad to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Norway has played its part, whether it be in peace negotiations, in calling upon the parties to observe international law, in humanitarian assistance, in helping with reconstruction and peace-keeping, or in promoting democracy and providing expert advice on building up the social infrastructure. Having just returned from my Apostolic Visit to the Holy Land, I am particularly conscious of the crucial work that your country has done in brokering peace agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. I hope and pray that the spirit of reconciliation and the search for justice which gave rise to the Oslo Accords will eventually prevail and bring lasting peace to the peoples of that tormented region.

In addition to such humanitarian concerns, Norwegians have taken very much to heart the needs of the natural environment, placing particular emphasis on developing renewable sources of energy and attending to the causes and the consequences of climate change. Characteristic of your country’s long-term vision for the good of the planet and the welfare of its inhabitants is the initiative of the Global Seed Vault, designed to guarantee the survival of countless varieties of plant life, so that vital food sources in particular can be insured against the possibility of extinction.

In all these activities, your country is motivated by the fundamental ethical values of which Your Excellency has spoken, values that are rooted in Norway’s Christian culture, and which, therefore, are central to the perspectives and the goals which it shares with the Holy See. In less than thirty years of diplomatic relations between us, much has been achieved. The close cooperation between the Holy See and the Kingdom of Norway -- alongside other nations -- in drawing up and ratifying the recent convention banning cluster munitions is a good example. I too look forward to further developing and strengthening our excellent relations in many different fields, with a view to promoting the ethical vision that we share for the sake of building a more humane and just world.

On a domestic level, the Catholic community in Norway, small though it is, is eager to play its part in national life and to make its voice heard in public debate. I mentioned earlier the deeper reflection that is currently taking place on the presuppositions and values governing Norwegian society, and here the Catholic community, with its substantial patrimony of social teaching, has a valuable contribution to offer. Like many European countries today, Norway is increasingly called upon to examine the implications of the right to religious freedom in the context of a liberal and pluralist society. I am confident that the high ethical principles and the generosity so characteristic of Norway’s activity on the international scene will also prevail at home, so that all the citizens of your country will be free to practise their religion, and all the different religious communities will be free to order their affairs in accordance with their beliefs and juridical systems, in this way making their particular contribution to the common good

Your Excellency, in offering my best wishes for the success of your mission, I would like to assure you that the various departments of the Roman Curia are ready to provide help and support in the fulfilment of your duties. Upon Your Excellency, your family and all the people of the Kingdom of Norway, I cordially invoke God’s abundant blessings.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Papal Message to Envoy From Namibia
"Continue Along the Path of Strengthening the Common Good"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 2, 2009 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave in writing Friday to Neville Melvin Gertze, the new ambassador from Namibia to the Holy See.

* * *

Your Excellency,

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Vatican and to receive the Letters of Credence by which you are accredited as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Namibia to the Holy See. I thank you for the courteous greetings which you have expressed on behalf of the President of the Republic, Mr Hifikepunye Pohamba. Please convey to him my gratitude and my good wishes. I would also ask you kindly to transmit my greetings to the members of the Government, to the civil authorities and to all your fellow citizens.

Diplomatic relations between the Holy See and individual countries serve to create a framework in which mutual interests are provided for and safeguarded, while at the same time giving opportunities to both parties to promote common values at the national and international levels. I am satisfied with the cooperation that in such a short time has produced many positive results for the Holy See and Namibia.

Mr Ambassador, as you are well aware, Africa presents a varied panorama of political, social and economic realities. Some of these are success stories, other have not met the expectations of the peoples that such initiatives were meant to serve. Namibia has a relatively short history as a member of the family of independent nations. Your citizens and their elected officials have benefited from observing examples of other countries. This in time has led to recognize the need to protect the nation’s resources, mineral and agricultural, and to oversee their rational exploitation and use for the common good. Efforts to bring the uranium extraction and diamond industry processes under responsible vigilance are positive initiatives. Indeed transparency, honest business practices and good governance are essential to sustainable economic development. I am pleased to see that the Constitution of your country incorporates a clear awareness of the State’s ecological responsibilities. As you continue to strive towards a balanced distribution of wealth that will offer greater possibilities of improvement for those who are less fortunate, I encourage the nation to continue along the path of strengthening the common good by consolidating democratic institutions and practices and seeking justice for all.

The Holy See is confident, Mr Ambassador, that your country can contribute to positive developments in Africa and in the international community. Because of its history of peaceful independence and integration, its unity in diversity, and its responsible management of natural resources, Namibia can offer an example for the development of other countries. It is important furthermore that the voice of Namibia be expressed in international meetings since the present needs and aspirations of the people of your continent must be presented objectively and from an African perspective, and not solely in accordance with the interests of others.

The Catholic Church is pleased to exercise her mission in a climate of religious freedom. The Church’s contribution to civic life can be seen not only in the achievements of individual Christians or institutions but also in the impact of its message. By preaching the Gospel and encouraging attitudes of faith, hope and love, the Church invites people to a life of virtue supported by that spiritual and moral strength which comes with faith and is expressed in integrity and the responsible use of freedom, respect and tolerance of others. People, especially political, economic and cultural leaders, who are inspired in one way or another by these or similar moral and spiritual perspectives, contribute positively to the good of society in its social, economic and political dimensions.

The Church’s mission of evangelization includes a strong witness to generous initiatives in favour of those in need. As you mentioned in your address Mr Ambassador, the Church in your homeland has developed over the years an extensive presence of communities and institutions of good will, dedicated to pastoral attention, education, professional instruction and concern for those in difficult situations. Through schools and centres of specialized formation, through hospitals and charitable institutions, the Church exercises that love of neighbour expressed clearly in the supreme commandment. I pray that the Catholic institutions of the country will continue to offer their expertise for the promotion and development of the people of Namibia in accordance with present and future needs.

I am aware that one of the priorities on the Government’s agenda is to provide for greater attention to the health of the population and especially the need to care for the number of people afflicted with HIV/Aids. In this area the Church will continue to offer its assistance willingly. She is convinced that only a strategy based on education to individual responsibility in the framework of a moral view of human sexuality, especially through conjugal fidelity, can have a real impact on the prevention of this disease. The Church is pleased to cooperate in this task especially in the field of education where new generations of young people are formed as active and responsible members of society.

Mr Ambassador, I have expressed freely some thoughts inspired by the present situation of your nation, seen with love of your people and confidence in the future of Namibia. I wish you every success in your mission and I invite you to avail yourself of the willing cooperation of the Departments of the Roman Curia. May Almighty God bestow upon Your Excellency, your family and the nation you represent, abundant and lasting blessings of well-being and peace!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope's Message to South African Ambassador
"One of the Most Influential Nations on the Continent"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 1, 2009 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave in writing Friday to George Johannes, the new ambassador from South Africa to the Holy See.

* * *

Your Excellency,

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Vatican and to receive the Letters of Credence that accredit you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of South Africa to the Holy See. I thank you for the courteous greetings and sentiments of good will which you have expressed on behalf of President Jacob Zuma. I gladly reciprocate, and I ask you kindly to convey my congratulations and good wishes to His Excellency, as he assumes the office of President, and to the civil authorities and people of your country.

South Africa’s rapid and peaceful transition to democratic rule has been widely acclaimed and the Holy See has followed with interest and encouragement this historic period of change. None can doubt that much credit for the progress achieved is due to the outstanding political maturity and human qualities of former President Nelson Mandela. He has been a promoter of forgiveness and reconciliation, and enjoys great respect in your country and in the international community. I would ask you kindly to convey to him my personal good wishes for his health and well-being. I also wish to recognize the contribution of all those many ordinary men and women whose integrity, reflected in their honest approach to work, has also helped to lay the foundations for a future of peace and prosperity for all.

The size of your country, its population and economic resources and the generosity of your people make South Africa one of the most influential nations on the continent. This gives her a unique opportunity to support other African countries in their efforts to achieve stability and economic progress. Having overcome the isolation associated with the Apartheid era, yet drawing on its own painful experience, your country has made commendable efforts to bring about reconciliation in other lands through its peacekeeping forces and diplomatic initiatives. Countries such as Ruanda, Angola, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe have benefited from this assistance. I encourage South Africa to strengthen her commitment to the noble task of assisting other nations along the road of peace and reconciliation and, especially in these difficult economic times, to continue to use her considerable human and material resources in ways conducive to the good governance and prosperity of neighbouring countries. Undoubtedly there are many challenges encountered along this path, not least of which is the large number of refugees in the region. I am confident, however, that these difficulties can continue to be addressed in the same spirit of solidarity and generosity already demonstrated by South Africans.

Mr Ambassador, you have spoken of some of the social challenges facing your country and of the development plans drawn up to meet them. Continuing poverty, and lack of basic services and employment opportunities, are present in some areas and have given rise to many other problems including violence and insecurity, substance abuse, ethnic tensions, and corruption. The distress and aggressiveness caused by poverty, unemployment and family breakdown make the efforts of the Government to address these difficulties all the more urgent. In this regard, I am encouraged to note the efforts being made to ensure the conditions necessary to attract international investment and to create greater opportunities for education and employment especially of your young people.

Your Excellency, in your address you speak of the great achievement of universal democratic rule as the basis for a better life for all. The people of South Africa have shown great moral courage and wisdom in facing past injustices. I am confident that in the current struggle against poverty and corruption, such courage and wisdom will again prevail. Your Government is rightly promoting the development of health and education services together with sustainable economic development, seeking to eradicate poverty and consolidate a climate of security. Families should be assisted in their needs and recognized as the indispensable agents in the building of a healthy society, while children and young people have the right to be granted their desire for quality schooling, extracurricular activities, and the chance to take their place in the workforce. Corruption has the effect of discouraging business initiative and investment, as well as leaving individuals disillusioned. The dynamism South Africa has introduced into the struggle against it, is therefore extremely important and must be recognized and embraced by every citizen. It falls to civic leaders in particular to ensure that the fight to eradicate corruption is sustained with impartiality, and accompanied by the respect for an independent judiciary and the ongoing development of a highly professional police force. I offer my encouragement for these challenging tasks, and trust that obstacles will continue to be overcome.

The Catholic Church is confident that the services she provides in the sectors of education, social programmes and health care have a positive impact on the life of the country. She contributes to the moral fibre of society by advocating integrity, justice and peace, and by teaching respect for life from conception until natural death. In particular, the Church takes seriously her part in the campaign against the spread of HIV/Aids by emphasizing fidelity within marriage and abstinence outside of it. At the same time she already offers much assistance on a practical level to people suffering from this affliction on your continent and throughout the world. I encourage individuals and institutions of your country to continue to give support both at home and in the region to all who seek to alleviate human suffering through research, practical assistance and spiritual support.

Mr Ambassador, I wish you every success in your mission and assure you of the willing cooperation of the Departments of the Roman Curia. May Almighty God bestow upon Your Excellency, your family and the nation you represent, abundant blessings of well-being and peace!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Papal Address to Envoy From New Zealand
"It Is From God That Men and Women Receive Their Essential Dignity"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 1, 2009 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave in writing Friday to Robert Carey Moore-Jones, the new ambassador from New Zealand to the Holy See.

* * *

Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of New Zealand to the Holy See. I would ask you kindly to convey to the Governor General, and to Prime Minister John Key and his Government, together with all the people of New Zealand, my sincere best wishes and the assurance of my prayers for the well-being of the country.

The Church’s engagement with civil society is anchored in her conviction that authentic human progress -- whether as individuals or communities -- is dependent upon the recognition of the spiritual dimension proper to every person. It is from God that men and women receive their essential dignity (cf. Gen 1:27) and the capacity to transcend particular interests in order to seek truth and goodness and so find purpose and meaning in their lives. This broad perspective provides a framework within which it is possible to counter any tendency to adopt superficial approaches to social policy which address only the symptoms of negative trends in family life and communities, rather than their roots. Indeed, when humanity’s spiritual heart is brought to light, individuals are drawn beyond themselves to ponder God and the marvels of human life: being, truth, beauty, moral values, and relationships that respect the dignity of others. In this way a sure foundation to unite society and sustain a common vision of hope can be found.

The young people of Aotearoa rightly enjoy a reputation for generosity and a keen sense of what is fair. Appreciating the many privileges they are offered, they readily engage in voluntary work and service to others while assuming the ample opportunities they are afforded for personal achievement, and cultural and academic development. World Youth Day, held for the first time in Oceania last year, gave me an opportunity to experience something of the spirit of the thousands of young New Zealanders who took part. I pray that this new generation of Christians in New Zealand will channel their enthusiasm into forging friendships across divides and creating places of living faith in and for our world, settings of hope and practical charity. In this way they can assist other young people who might be misled by the lure of false promises of happiness and fulfilment, or find themselves struggling on the margins of society.

Your Excellency, cultural diversity brings much richness to the social fabric of New Zealand today. The growing presence within your shores of migrant communities from various religious traditions together with the Government’s increasing participation in Pacific and Asian affairs has raised the awareness of the fruits that can be obtained through inter-religious dialogue. Indeed, not so long ago, your nation hosted the Third Asian-Pacific Regional Interfaith Dialogue in the historic setting of Waitangi. Yet some continue to question the place of religion in the public sphere and struggle to imagine how it might serve society, particularly in a highly secular culture. This of course heightens the responsibility of believers to bear witness to the significance of the essential relationship of every man and woman to God, in whose image they are made. When God’s gift of human reason is exercised in reference to the truth he reveals to us, our powers of reflection are adorned with wisdom, and thus reach beyond the empirical and the piecemeal, and instead give expression to our deepest common human aspirations. In this way public debate, rather than being entrapped by the narrow horizon of particular interest groups, is broadened and held accountable to the true source of the common good and dignity of every member of society. Far from threatening the tolerance of differences or cultural plurality, truth makes consensus possible, ensures that political choices are determined by principles and values, and enriches culture with all that is good, uplifting and just.

New Zealand’s diplomatic activity predominant in the Pacific and considerable in Asia and beyond is marked by a strong commitment to justice and peace, good governance, sustainable economic development and the promotion of human rights. Your generous commitment of personnel to peace-keeping initiatives can be found from Solomon Islands to Sudan, and New Zealand’s innovative approaches to foreign aid include an outstanding recent example of the development of eco-tourism in Afghanistan. As Your Excellency has indicated, the Holy See has worked closely with New Zealand in developing the Convention on the Prohibition of Cluster Munitions; an achievement which illustrates well the need for ethics, which stem from the truth of the human person, to stand at the heart of all international relationships including those of defence.

Mr Ambassador, the Catholic Church in New Zealand continues to do all she can to uphold the Christian foundations of civic life. She is much involved in the spiritual and intellectual formation of the young, especially through her schools. Additionally her charitable work extends to those living on the margins of society and I am confident that, through her mission of service, she will respond generously to new social challenges as they arise. In this regard, I wish to take this opportunity to express my spiritual closeness to those families in New Zealand who, like many across the globe, are suffering from the effects of the current economic uncertainty. I think especially of those who have lost their jobs and those young people finding it difficult to obtain employment.

Your Excellency, I trust that your appointment will serve to strengthen further the bonds of friendship which already exist between New Zealand and the Holy See. As you take up your new responsibilities you will find that the broad range of offices of the Roman Curia are ready to assist you in the fulfillment of your duties. Upon you and your fellow citizens, I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

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Papal Address to Envoy From India
"Subsidiarity Both Presupposes and Fosters Individual Responsibility"

ROME, MAY 29, 2009 .- Here is the address Benedict XVI gave in writing today to Chitra Narayanan, the new ambassador from India to the Holy See.

* * *

Madam Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you today and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of India to the Holy See. Thanking you for the kind words which you have addressed to me in your own name and on behalf of the Government, I would ask to reciprocate my own respectful greetings to Her Excellency, Mrs Pratibha Patil, President of the Republic, and to the re-elected Prime Minister, His Excellency Mr Manmohan Singh, assuring them of my prayers for their well-being and for that of all the people of India.

India is a land fertile with ancient wisdom. Her people, representing many different religions and cultures, are sensitive to the need for self-awareness, integrity and harmonious coexistence with one's neighbor for overall personal and social well-being. The immense variety within your borders opens a range of possibilities for dialogue between philosophies and religious traditions intent upon probing life's deepest questions. Cultivating this dialogue not only enriches your own Nation but serves as an example to others throughout Asia and indeed throughout the world.

Notwithstanding the financial hardships currently facing the entire global community, India has made remarkable economic strides in recent years. Other nations have drawn inspiration from the diligence, human ingenuity and foresight which have contributed to your country's growth. Increased prosperity calls for heightened vigilance to ensure that the poor are protected from being exploited by the unbridled mechanisms of the economy which often tend to profit only an elite few. Hence the motive for your Country's ambitious rural jobs program which was designed to help the disadvantaged -- especially the rural poor -- to earn a subsistent wage by participating in building projects and other cooperative initiatives. Programs such as this show that labor is never a mere commodity but a specifically human activity. They must therefore be implemented in a way that upholds human dignity and repudiates any temptation to favoritism, corruption or fraud.

The principle of subsidiarity is of particular value in this regard. A society that allows subordinate organizations to perform their proper activities encourages citizens to take an active part in building up the common good, placing themselves at the service of others and committing themselves to resolving differences justly and peacefully. Subsidiarity both presupposes and fosters individual responsibility, enjoining all members of society to seek the good of others as their own. While bureaucratic structures are necessary, it must always be kept in mind that the various levels of governance -- national, regional, and local -- are oriented towards the service of citizens, as they themselves are administered by citizens.

Democratic systems of governance must be kept in check by broad social participation. Having recently completed an important round of national elections, India has shown the world that this key democratic process is not only possible, but can be conducted in an atmosphere of civility and peace. As the newly elected face the challenges ahead of them, I am confident that the same spirit of patient cooperation will prevail, sustaining them in their weighty responsibility of drafting laws and deliberating social policy. May they be ready to subordinate special interests, placing them within the wider context of the common good which is an essential and indispensable goal of political authority (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 409).

Madam Ambassador, as Chief Shepherd of the Catholic Church, I join religious and governmental leaders throughout the world who share a common desire that all members of the human family enjoy the freedom to practice religion and engage in civil life without fear of adverse repercussions on account of their beliefs. I therefore cannot help but express my deep concern for Christians who have suffered from outbreaks of violence in some areas within your borders. Today I have the opportunity to express my appreciation for your Country's efforts to provide the afflicted with shelter and assistance, relief and rehabilitation, as well as for the measures taken to implement criminal investigations and fair judicial processes to resolve these issues. I appeal to all to show respect for human dignity by rejecting hatred and renouncing violence in all its forms.

For her part, the Catholic Church in your Country will continue to play a role promoting peace, harmony and reconciliation between followers of all religions, especially through education and formation in the virtues of justice, forbearance and charity. Indeed, this is the inherent goal of all genuine forms of education since -- in conformity with the dignity of the human person and the call of all men and women to live in community -- they aim at cultivating moral virtues and preparing young people to embrace their social responsibilities with a refined sensibility for what is good, just and noble.

Madam Ambassador, as you assume your responsibilities within the diplomatic community accredited to the Holy See, I offer you my good wishes for the successful fulfillment of your high mission. I assure you that the various offices and departments of the Roman Curia will always be ready to assist you. Upon yourself and upon the beloved people of India I invoke abundant divine blessings.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Benedict XVI's Address to Mongolian Envoy
"Human Well-being Cannot Be Measured Solely in Terms of Wealth"

ROME, MAY 29, 2009 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave in writing today to Danzannorov Boldbaatar, the new ambassador of Mongolia to the Holy See.

* * *

Your Excellency,

I am pleased to extend a cordial welcome to you as you present the Credential Letters appointing you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mongolia to the Holy See. Grateful for the warm greeting which you have conveyed to me on behalf of your President, Mr. Nambaryn Enkhbayar, I reciprocate with my own best wishes for his health and well-being. I assure him and all the citizens of Mongolia of my prayers as they continue to promote peace and social harmony at home and abroad.

I am grateful, Mr. Ambassador, that the cooperative spirit which has marked the diplomatic ties between Mongolia and the Holy See has yielded much fruit. An explicit and mutual recognition of the benefits to be gained through diplomatic relations paved the way for the establishment of the Apostolic Prefecture of Ulaanbaatar, thus making it possible to coordinate more effectively the pastoral care of Catholics in Mongolia and to give a new impetus to their charitable activities for the good of all your fellow citizens. A particular sign of this fruitful collaboration was the dedication of Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral in July of 2002, which took place on the auspicious occasion of the 10th Anniversary of diplomatic ties between Mongolia and the Holy See. I wish to voice personally my deep gratitude for all that your Government and the local civil authorities did to make this historic event possible. Not only did it help to build a sense of unity between the Catholic faithful in your land and their fellow believers throughout the world, it also bore clear witness to Mongolia's long-standing respect for religious freedom. This fundamental human right, enshrined in Mongolia's Constitution and upheld by its citizens as conducive to the full development of the human person, allows them to search for the truth, engage in dialogue and fulfill their duty to worship God immune from any undue coercion.

The opportunity for adherents of different religions to speak and listen to one another has a vital role in strengthening the human family. You have referred to the bold initiative of Chinggis Khan in the 13th century to invite Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and Daoists to live together on the steppes of Mongolia: a gesture that continues to find expression in the openness of the Mongolian people, who treasure the religious customs passed down from generation to generation, and who show a profound respect for traditions other than their own. This religious earnestness was especially evident as Mongolia emerged from years of oppression under a totalitarian regime. In this time of greater peace and stability, I heartily encourage forums that facilitate the amicable exchange of ideas about religion and how it contributes to the good of civil society. Peoples who practice religious tolerance have an obligation to share the wisdom of this tenet with the entire human family, so that all men and women might perceive the beauty of tranquil co-existence and have the courage to build a society that respects human dignity and acts upon the divine injunction to love one's neighbor (cf. Mk 12:32).

Your Excellency, this spirit of fraternal cooperation will serve Mongolia well as she strives to achieve goals for development in the years ahead. As you have noted, foremost among these is the reduction of poverty and unemployment. These objectives are placed within the framework of the overall economic growth and equitable distribution of goods your country wishes to sustain in the long-term future. The values of fairness and trust in the marketplace upheld by the Mongolian people provide a sure foundation to meet these goals. Criteria for designing programmes to this end must reflect social as well as commutative justice (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 303); they must take into account the objective value of work rendered, the dignity of the subjects who perform it, the varying needs of citizens, and the merit that justly corresponds to the quality of work done (cf. Centesimus Annus, 35).

Mongolia is a country which acknowledges that human well-being cannot be measured solely in terms of wealth. Educational achievement -- of which literary and artistic accomplishments are reliable indicators -- is also an essential feature of a flourishing society. I am appreciative that your country has singled out the need to expand educational opportunities for the betterment of all its people. Systems of instruction must not, of course, neglect the technological formation that enables students to acquire and maintain gainful employment in this age of rapid globalization and technological progress. At the same time, an integral education attends to man as a whole rather than simply his ability to produce. In particular, the young deserve a comprehensive intellectual and spiritual formation that opens their eyes to the dignity of every human person and inspires them to hone the virtues necessary to place themselves at the service of all mankind. I therefore encourage the initiatives undertaken by your Government to increase access to education and to buttress it with a clear view of what is genuinely good for human beings.

For its part, the Catholic community, though still small in Mongolia, is eager to offer its assistance in fostering interreligious dialogue, promoting development, expanding educational opportunities, and furthering the noble goals that strengthen the solidarity of the human family and turn its gaze to the action of the divine in the world. While recognizing the due autonomy of the political community, the Catholic Church is compelled to cooperate with civil society in ways suitable to the circumstances of the time and place in which the two find themselves living together.

I therefore thank you, Mr. Ambassador, for the kind assurance of Mongolia's desire to build upon the accomplishments that have sprung from the diplomatic relations forged between your nation and the Holy See. As you begin your mission, I assure you that the various offices of the Roman Curia are ready to assist you in the fulfillment of your duties, and I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God upon you, the members of your family and all the citizens of Mongolia.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope's Greeting to New Envoy From Australia
"World Youth Day Was an Event of Singular Importance"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 12, 2009 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today upon receiving the letters of credence of Timothy Andrew Fischer, the first residential ambassador from Australia to the Holy See.

* * *

Mr Ambassador,

It is with particular pleasure that I welcome you to the Vatican and accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Australia to the Holy See. I would ask you kindly to convey to the Governor-General, Ms Quentin Bryce, and the Government and people of your nation my gratitude for their greetings. With vivid memories of my recent visit to your beautiful country, I assure you of my prayers for the country’s well-being and in particular I wish to send my condolences to the grieving individuals and families in Victoria who have lost loved ones in the recent bush fires.

Your Excellency’s appointment as Australia’s first residential Ambassador to the Holy See marks a welcome new stage in our diplomatic relations and provides an opportunity to deepen mutual understanding and to extend our already significant collaboration. The Church’s engagement with civil society is anchored in her conviction that human progress -- whether as individuals or communities -- is dependent upon the recognition of the supernatural vocation proper to every person. It is from God that men and women receive their essential dignity (cf. Gen 1:27) and the capacity to seek truth and goodness. Within this broad perspective we can counter tendencies to pragmatism and consequentialism, so prevalent today, which engage only with the symptoms and effects of conflicts, social fragmentation, and moral ambiguity, rather than their roots. When humanity’s spiritual dimension is brought to light, individuals’ hearts and minds are drawn to God and to the marvels of human life: being itself, truth, beauty, moral values, and other persons. In this way a sure foundation to unite society and sustain a vision of hope can be found.

World Youth Day was an event of singular importance for the universal Church and for Australia. Echoes of appreciation continue to resound within your own nation and across the globe. Above all, every World Youth Day is a spiritual event: a time when young people, not all of whom have a close association with the Church, encounter God in an intense experience of prayer, learning, and listening, thus coming to experience faith in action. Sydney residents themselves, as Your Excellency observed, were inspired by the sheer joy of the pilgrims. I pray that this young generation of Christians in Australia and throughout the world will channel their enthusiasm for all that is true and good into forging friendships across divides and creating places of living faith in and for our world, settings of hope and practical charity.

Mr Ambassador, cultural diversity brings much richness to the social fabric of Australia today. For decades that collage was tarnished by the injustices so painfully endured by the Indigenous Peoples. Through the apology offered last year by Prime Minister Rudd, a profound change of heart has been affirmed. Now, renewed in the spirit of reconciliation, both government agencies and aboriginal elders can address with resolution and compassion the plethora of challenges that lie ahead. A further example of your Government’s desire to promote respect and understanding among cultures is its laudable effort to facilitate inter-religious dialogue and cooperation both at home and in the region. Such initiatives help to preserve cultural heritages, nourish the public dimension of religion, and kindle the very values without which civic society’s heart would soon wither.

Australia’s diplomatic activity in the Pacific, Asia and more recently in Africa is multifaceted and growing. The nation’s active support of the Millennium Development Goals, numerous regional partnerships, initiatives to strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and keen concern for just economic development are well known and respected. And as the shadows and lights of globalization cast their reach over our world in increasingly complex ways, your nation is showing itself ready to respond to a growing variety of exigencies in a principled, responsible and innovative manner. Not least of these are the menacing threats to God’s creation itself through climate change. Perhaps more than ever before in our human history the fundamental relationship between Creator, Creation and Creature needs to be pondered and respected. From this recognition we can discover a common code of ethics, consisting of norms rooted in the natural law inscribed by the Creator on the heart of every human being.

In my message this year for the World Day of Peace, I drew particular attention to the need for an ethical approach to the creation of positive partnerships between markets, civil society and States (cf. no. 12). In this regard I note with interest the Australian Government’s determination to establish relations of cooperation based on the values of fairness, good governance, and the sense of a regional neighbourhood. A genuinely ethical stance is at the heart of every responsible, respectful and socially inclusive development policy. It is ethics which render imperative a compassionate and generous response to poverty; they render urgent the sacrificing of protectionist interests for fair accessibility of poor countries to developed markets just as they render reasonable donor nations’ insistence upon accountability and transparency in the use of financial aid by receiver nations.

For her part, the Church has a long tradition within the healthcare sector where she brings to the fore an ethical approach to every individual’s particular needs. Especially in poorer nations, Religious Orders and church organizations – including many Australian missionaries – fund and staff a vast network of hospitals and clinics, often in remote areas where States have been unable to serve their own people. Of particular concern is the provision of medical care for families, including high-quality obstetrical care for women. How ironic it is, however, when some groups, through aid programmes, promote abortion as a form of ‘maternal’ healthcare: taking a life, purportedly to improve the quality of life.

Your Excellency, I am sure that your appointment will further strengthen the bonds of friendship which already exist between Australia and the Holy See. As you exercise your new responsibilities you will find the broad range of offices of the Roman Curia ready to assist you in the fulfilment of your duties. Upon you and your family together with your fellow citizens, I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope's Address to Envoy From Hungary
The Family: "Heart of Every Culture and Nation"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 2, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today upon receiving in audience Signor János Balassa, the new ambassador from Hungary to the Holy See.

* * *

Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you at the start of your mission and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Hungary to the Holy See. I thank you for your kind words and for the greetings you bring from President László Sólyom. Please convey to him my respectful good wishes and the assurance of my prayers for all the people of your nation.

The Holy See’s reestablishment of full diplomatic relations with the countries of the former Eastern bloc, after the momentous events of 1989, opened up new horizons of hope for the future. In the twenty years that have passed since, Hungary has made great progress in establishing the structures of a free and democratic society, able and willing to play its part in an increasingly globalized world community. As you have observed, the forces that govern economic and political affairs in the modern world need to be properly directed – they need, in other words to be built upon an ethical foundation, giving priority always to the dignity and the rights of the human person and the common good of humanity. In view of its strong Christian heritage, stretching back over a thousand years, Hungary is well placed to assist in the promotion of these humane ideals within the European community and the wider world community, and it is my hope that our diplomatic relations will serve to support this vital dimension of your country’s contribution to international affairs.

The experience of newly gained freedom has, at times, brought with it the risk that those same Christian and human values, so deeply rooted in the history and culture of individual peoples, and indeed of the whole continent of Europe, can be supplanted by others, based on unsound visions of man and his dignity and harmful to the development of a truly flourishing society. In my 2008 World Day of Peace Message, I stressed the primordial importance of the family for building peaceful community relations at every level. In much of modern Europe the vital cohesive role that the family has to play in human affairs is being called into question and even endangered as a result of misguided ways of thinking that at times find expression in aggressive social and political policies. It is my earnest hope that ways will be found of safeguarding this essential element of our society, which is the heart of every culture and nation. One of the specific ways government can support the family is by assuring that parents are allowed to exercise their fundamental right as the primary educators of their children, which would include the option to send their children to religious schools when they so desire.

The Catholic Church in Hungary has lived with particular intensity the transition between the period of totalitarian government and the freedom that your country now enjoys. After decades of oppression, sustained by the heroic witness of so many Christians, she has emerged to take her place in a transformed society, able once more to proclaim the Gospel freely. She seeks no privileges for herself, but is eager to play her part in the life of the nation, true to her nature and mission. As the process continues of implementing the agreements between Hungary and the Holy See -- I think of the recently signed memorandum on religious assistance for the armed forces and border police -- I am confident that any outstanding questions affecting the life of the Church in your country will be resolved in the spirit of good will and fruitful dialogue which has characterized our diplomatic relations ever since they were so happily restored.

Your Excellency, I pray that the diplomatic mission which you begin today will further strengthen the bonds of friendship that exist between the Holy See and the Republic of Hungary. I assure you that the various departments of the Roman Curia are always ready to offer help and support in the fulfilment of your duties. With my sincere good wishes, I invoke upon you, your family, and all your fellow citizens abundant blessings of peace and prosperity. May God bless Hungary!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Papal Address to Taiwanese Envoy

"Promote Peaceful Solutions to Disputes of Whatever Kind"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 10, 2008 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving in audience Wang Larry Yu-yuan, Taiwan's new ambassador to the Holy See.

* * *

Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you at the start of your mission and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of China to the Holy See. I thank you for your kind words and for the greetings you bring from President Ying-jeou Ma. Please convey to him my cordial good wishes on his recent election, as well as the assurance of my prayers for him, the first Catholic to be elected President of the Republic, and for all the people in Taiwan.

The Government in Taipei has a keen sense of belonging to a world community, a global human family. This is expressed in many ways, not least in the generosity with which aid and emergency relief is supplied to poorer nations. In this regard, your country makes a valuable contribution to the building of a more secure and stable world. The Holy See is pleased to work together with all those who seek to promote peace, prosperity and development, and appreciates the Republic of China’s commitment to that noble cause.

Although Catholics in the Republic of China represent little more than one per cent of the population, they are eager to play their part in building up a society that is humane, just, and marked by genuine concern for the welfare of the weaker members of the community. It is part of the Church’s mission to share her "expertise in humanity" with all people of good will in order to contribute to the well-being of the human family. Characteristically, it is in the fields of education, healthcare and charitable assistance that she offers this contribution. Your Government’s firm commitment to freedom of religion has made it possible for the Church to carry out her mission of love and service, and to express herself openly through worship and the proclamation of the Gospel. On behalf of all the Catholics in Taiwan, I would like to express my appreciation of this freedom that the Church enjoys.

Thanks to their "innate spiritual insight and moral wisdom" (Ecclesia in Asia, 6), there is great religious vitality and capacity for renewal among the peoples of Asia. Hence the ground is particularly fertile for interreligious dialogue to take root and grow. Asians continue to demonstrate a "natural openness to the mutual enrichment of peoples in the midst of a plurality of religions and cultures" (ibid.). How important it is in today’s world for different peoples to be able to listen to one another in an atmosphere of respect and dignity, conscious that their shared humanity is a bond far deeper than the cultural variations that seem to divide them! Such growth in mutual understanding offers a much-needed service to society at large. By bearing clear witness "to those moral truths which they hold in common with all men and women of good will, religious groups … exert a positive influence on the wider culture" (Address to Representatives of Other Religions, Washington, 17 April 2008).

Frank and constructive dialogue is also the key to the resolution of the conflicts that threaten the stability of our world. In this regard, the Holy See welcomes the recent positive developments in relations between Taiwan and mainland China. Indeed the Catholic Church is eager to promote peaceful solutions to disputes of whatever kind, "giving attention and encouragement to even the faintest sign of dialogue or desire for reconciliation" (Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations, 18 April, 2008). In this way, she wishes to support the efforts of Governments to become "staunch champions of human dignity and courageous builders of peace" (Message for the 2007 World Day of Peace, 16).

Your Excellency, I assure you of my good wishes and prayers for the success of the diplomatic mission which you begin today. At all times you will find that the various departments of the Roman Curia are ready to offer help and support in the fulfilment of your duties. With sentiments of sincere esteem, I invoke God’s abundant blessings upon you, your family, and all the people in Taiwan.

© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Papal Address to Lithuanian Envoy

"Shared Faith Is a Wonderful Source of Strength and Unity"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 7, 2008 - Here is the English-language address Benedict XVI gave today upon receiving the letters of credence from Vytautas Alisauskas, the new ambassador from Lithuania to the Holy See.

* * *

Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you at the start of your mission and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Lithuania to the Holy See. I thank you for your kind words and for the greetings you bring from President Valdas Adamkus. Please convey to him my respectful good wishes and the assurance of my prayers for all the people of your nation.

I am particularly heartened by your comments concerning the need for modern Europe to draw upon the tradition that flows from the teaching of the Gospel. Your country has a long and noble Christian history, reaching back to the days of Saint Casimir and beyond. In recent centuries, the faith of the Lithuanian people has sustained them through periods of foreign domination and oppression, and has helped them to preserve and consolidate their identity. Now that the Republic has regained its independence, it can offer moving testimony to the values which enabled its people to survive those difficult years. As my predecessor Pope John Paul II knew from his personal experience, shared faith is a wonderful source of strength and unity in the midst of adversity.

Communities that have lived under such circumstances acquire a deep conviction that true happiness is to be found in God alone. They know that any society which denies the Creator inevitably begins to lose its sense of the beauty, truth and goodness of human life.

As Your Excellency has observed, however, a new generation has now grown up in the former Eastern bloc countries, a generation which did not share in that experience of totalitarian government, and tends therefore to take its political freedom for granted. In consequence of this, there is a risk that some of the fruits which matured in testing times may begin to be lost. Your Excellency understands well the dangers facing today's society which, although free, suffers increasingly from fragmentation and moral confusion. In this context, it is vitally important that Lithuania, and indeed the whole of Europe, cultivates the memory of the history that shaped it, in order to preserve its true identity and thus to survive and flourish in the world of the twenty-first century.

It is both a paradox and a tragedy that in this era of globalization, when the possibilities of communication and interaction with others have increased to a degree that earlier generations could scarcely have imagined, so many people feel isolated and cut off from one another. This gives rise to many social problems which cannot be resolved on the political plane alone, since even the best structures "function only when the community is animated by convictions capable of motivating people to assent freely to the social order" (Spe Salvi, 24). The Church has a vital part to play here, through the message of hope that she proclaims. She seeks to build a civilization of love by teaching that "God is love", and exhorting people of good will to enter into a loving relationship with him. Since "love of God leads to participation in the justice and generosity of God towards others" (ibid., 28), the practice of Christianity leads naturally to solidarity with one's fellow citizens and indeed with the whole of the human family. It leads to a determination to serve the common good and to take responsibility for the weaker members of society, and it curbs the desire to amass wealth for oneself alone. Our society needs to rise above the allure of material goods, and to focus instead upon values that truly promote the good of the human person.

The Holy See values its diplomatic links with your country, marked as it is by centuries of Christian witness. Working together, we can help to forge a Europe in which priority is given to the defence of marriage and family life, to the protection of human life from conception to natural death, and to the promotion of sound ethical practices in medical and scientific research: practices which are truly respectful of the dignity of the human person. We can promote effective solidarity with the poor, the sick, the vulnerable, and all those on the margins of society. These values will strike a chord with all those, especially the young, who are seeking answers to their profound questioning about the meaning and purpose of life. They will resonate with all who are anxious to discover the truth that is so often obscured by the superficial messages propagated by post-modern society. They will appeal to all who are discriminating enough to reject the world-view built upon relativism and secularism, and who aspire instead to live in a manner befitting the true nobility of the human spirit.

Your Excellency, I pray that the diplomatic mission which you begin today will further strengthen the bonds of friendship that exist between the Holy See and the Republic of Lithuania. I assure you that the various departments of the Roman Curia are always ready to offer help and support in the fulfilment of your duties. With my sincere good wishes, I invoke upon you, your family, and all your fellow citizens abundant blessings of peace and prosperity. May God bless Lithuania!

© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Papal Address to Philippine Ambassador
"Distinction Between Religion and Politics Is a Specific Achievement of Christianity"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 27, 2008 -Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving the letters of credence from Cristina Castañer-Ponce Enrile, the new ambassador of the Philippines to the Holy See.

* * *

Madam Ambassador,

I am pleased to receive you today as you present the Letters of Credence accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of the Philippines to the Holy See. I reciprocate the warm greetings which you have graciously extended to me on behalf of Her Excellency, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and I would ask you to convey my own best wishes for her well-being and that of all your fellow citizens.

The Filipino people are renowned for their warm generosity and the high value they place on friendship and family life. The Catholic faithful in your country-through their hunger for prayer, their lively devotion, and their eagerness to serve others-demonstrate a firm trust in God’s loving providence. I am grateful for the unique contribution they have made and continue to make to the life of the local and universal Church, and I encourage all men and women of goodwill in your nation to devote themselves to forging bonds of peace and social harmony within your borders and across the globe.

For its part, and in a special way through its diplomatic activity, the Holy See seeks to engage the world in dialogue so as to promote the universal values that flow from human dignity and advance mankind on the road to communion with God and one another. The Catholic Church is eager to share the richness of the Gospel’s social message, for it enlivens hearts with a hope for the fulfilment of justice and a love that makes all men and women truly brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. She carries out this mission fully aware of the respective autonomy and competence of Church and State. Indeed, we may say that the distinction between religion and politics is a specific achievement of Christianity and one of its fundamental historical and cultural contributions. The Church is equally convinced that State and religion are called to support each other as they together serve the personal and social well-being of all (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 76). This harmonious cooperation between Church and State requires ecclesial and civic leaders to carry out their public duties with undaunted concern for the common good. By cultivating a spirit of honesty and impartiality, and by keeping justice their aim, civil and ecclesial leaders earn the trust of the people and enhance a sense of the shared responsibility of all citizens to promote a civilization of love. All should be motivated by the desire to serve rather than to gain personally or to benefit a privileged few. Everyone shares in the task of strengthening public institutions so as to safeguard them from the corruption of factionalism and elitism. In this regard, it is encouraging to see the many initiatives undertaken at various levels of Filipino society to protect the weak, especially the unborn, the sick and the elderly.

Your Excellency, I appreciate the concern you have expressed on behalf of your Government for the well-being of Filipino migrant workers. Indeed, the Meeting of the Global Forum on Migration and Development hosted in Manila clearly attests to the Philippines’ solicitude for all who leave their homeland in search of employment in a foreign land. Initiatives such as the Global Forum are fruitful when they recognize immigration as a resource for development rather than as an obstacle to it. At the same time, government leaders face numerous challenges as they strive to ensure that immigrants are integrated into society in a way that acknowledges their human dignity and affords them the opportunity to earn a decent living, with adequate time for rest and a due provision for worship. The just care of immigrants and the building up of a solidarity of labour (cf. Laborem Exercens, 8) requires governments, humanitarian agencies, peoples of faith and all citizens to cooperate with prudence and patient determination. Domestic and international policies aimed at regulating immigration must be based on criteria of equity and balance, and particular care is needed to facilitate the reunification of families. At the same time, conditions that foster increased work opportunities in peoples’ places of origin are to be promoted as far as possible (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 66).

In this regard, Madam Ambassador, the leaders of your nation have passed legislation for comprehensive land reform with the aim of improving the living conditions of the poor. Carefully planned agrarian reforms can benefit a society by instilling a sense of common responsibility and stimulating individual initiative, making it possible for a nation both to feed its own and expand its participation in international markets so as to enhance opportunities for growth in the process of globalization. I pray that by implementing measures that foster the just distribution of wealth and the sustainable development of natural resources, Filipino farmers will be granted greater opportunities for increasing production and earning what they need to support themselves and their families.

Your Excellency, it is encouraging to see that your nation will continue to participate actively in international forums for the advancement of peace, human solidarity and interreligious dialogue. You have indicated how these noble goals are intimately related to human development and social reform. In light of the Gospel, the Catholic Church has always been convinced that the transition from less humane to more humane conditions is not limited to merely economic or technological dimensions, but implies for each person the acquisition of culture, respect for the life and dignity of others, and acknowledgment of "the highest good, the recognition of God Himself, the author and end of these blessings" (Populorum Progressio, 21). I am confident that the Republic of the Philippines will continue to offer this holistic vision of the human person in world forums, and I join all Filipinos in praying that the peace of God may reign in the hearts and homes of all people.

Madam Ambassador, your presence here today is a pledge that the bonds of friendship and cooperation between your nation and the Holy See will continue to grow stronger in the years ahead. I assure you that the various agencies and dicasteries of the Roman Curia will always be ready to assist you in fulfilling your duties. Offering you my best wishes and prayers for the success of your mission, I invoke the blessings of Almighty God upon Your Excellency, your family and the beloved people of the Philippines.

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Pope's Address to New Czech Ambassador
"Gospel Urges People of Faith to Offer Themselves in Loving Service"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 28, 2008 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday upon receiving the credentials of the new Czech envoy to the Holy See, Pavel Vosalik. The audience took place at Castel Gandolfo.

* * *

Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to receive you today as you present the Letters of Credence accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Czech Republic. I am grateful for your kind words as you begin the mission entrusted to you by your Government. Please express my respectful greetings to His Excellency, Mr Václav Klaus, President of the Republic, assuring him of my prayers for the well-being of all the people of your Country.

Mr Ambassador, I appreciate the emphasis you have placed on the influence of Christianity on the rich cultural heritage of your nation, and particularly the role that the Gospel played in bringing hope to the Czech people in times of oppression. Hope is indeed the timeless message which the Church offers to every generation, and it prompts her to participate in the global task of forging bonds of peace and goodwill among all peoples. She does this in a special way by her diplomatic activity, through which she extols the dignity of persons as destined for a life of communion with God and with one another.

Your nation, bolstered by the sense of solidarity that enabled her to emerge courageously from the collapse of totalitarianism, also desires to contribute to the welfare of the human family by enhancing international cooperation in the struggle against violence, hunger, poverty and other social ills. New avenues of influence will soon open for your country as it prepares to assume the Presidency of the Council of the European Union next year. I am confident that by setting clear goals and facilitating the involvement of all member States, the distinct honour of presiding over the Council for a six-month term will permit the Czech Republic to exercise strong leadership in the shared endeavour of combining unity and diversity, national sovereignty and joint activity, and economic progress and social justice across the continent.

The Church is well aware of the many challenges facing Europe precisely at a time when its nations aspire to build a more stable international community for future generations. To move forward, its leaders are called to recognize that human happiness and well-being cannot be achieved through structures alone or by any single stratum of social or political life (cf. "Spe Salvi," 24). The realization of a genuine culture worthy of man's noble vocation requires the harmonious cooperation of families, ecclesial communities, schools, businesses, community organizations and governmental institutions. Far from being ends in themselves, these entities are organized structures intended for the service of all, and are integrally connected to one another in the pursuit of the common good (cf. "Centesimus Annus," 13).

For this reason, all of society benefits when the Church is afforded the right to exercise stewardship over the material and spiritual goods required for her ministry (cf. "Gaudium et Spes," 88). In your nation, there are signs of progress in this area, but there is more to be done. I am confident that the special Commissions set up by your Government and Parliament for resolving outstanding issues regarding ecclesiastical property will move forward with honesty, fairness, and a genuine recognition of the Church's ability to contribute to the welfare of the Republic. In particular, I hope that such considerations will be kept in clear view while a solution is sought concerning the future of the Cathedral in Prague, which stands as a living witness to the rich cultural and religious heritage of your land, and testifies to the harmonious coexistence of Church and State.

By its very nature, the Gospel urges people of faith to offer themselves in loving service to their brothers and sisters without distinction and without counting the cost (cf. Lk 10:25-37). Love is the outward manifestation of the faith that sustains the community of believers and empowers them to be signs of hope for the world (cf. Jn 13:35). An example of this visible charity shines through the work of Caritas, whose members engage daily in a wide range of social services in your country. This is especially evident in the service it offers on behalf of expectant mothers, the homeless, the disabled, and the imprisoned. The coordination between Caritas Czech Republic and the governmental Ministries of Health, Labour and Social Affairs demonstrates the potential fruits that can result from close collaboration between State and Church agencies (cf. Deus Caritas Est, 30). I would emphasize here the enormous formative potential for young people, whose participation in such initiatives teaches them that genuine solidarity does not merely consist in supplying material goods but in making a gift of oneself (cf. Lk 17:33). Moreover, as the Czech Republic searches to expand ways of participating in the task of shaping a more cohesive and cooperative international community, we should not forget the many Czech citizens already serving abroad in long-term development and aid projects under the auspices of Caritas and other humanitarian organizations. I heartily encourage their efforts and commend the generosity of all your fellow citizens who creatively seek ways to serve the common good both within your nation and across the globe.

Before closing, Your Excellency, allow me to express my sincere condolences to you and your fellow citizens upon the tragic death of Mr Ivo  d'árek, Ambassador of the Czech Republic to Pakistan, who was among the victims killed in the recent attack in Islamabad. I pray daily for an end to such acts of aggression, and I encourage all those engaged in diplomatic service to dedicate themselves ever more keenly to facilitating peace and ensuring security throughout the world.

As you begin your service, Mr Ambassador, I extend cordial wishes that the important mission entrusted to you will be fruitful. Please know that the offices of the Roman Curia are eager to assist you in the fulfilment of your duties. Asking you kindly to assure the people of the Czech Republic of my prayers and esteem, I invoke upon them an abundance of divine blessings and entrust them to the loving providence of Almighty God.

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Benedict XVI's Address to Bosnian Envoy
"Every Individual Can Find the Strength to Overcome Past Divisions"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 18, 2008 - Here is the text of Benedict XVI's address today to the new ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Holy See, Jasna Krivosic-Prpic.

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Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you today and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Holy See. On this significant occasion I would ask that you kindly convey my heartfelt greetings to the members of the Presidency and all the citizens of your country. Assure them of my fervent prayers for their ongoing efforts to achieve reconciliation and the consolidation of peace and stability.

The Holy See's diplomatic relations form a part of her mission of service to the international community. Her engagement with civil society is anchored in the conviction that the task of building a more just world must recognize the supernatural vocation proper to every individual. The Church therefore promotes an understanding of the human person who receives from God the capacity to transcend individual limitations and social constraints so as to recognize and uphold the universal values which safeguard the dignity of all and serve the common good.

Ambassador, as you have observed, your country though small in area is blessed with much natural beauty. Such evidence of the hand of the Creator gladdens the hearts of its inhabitants and helps them lift their thoughts towards the Almighty. Reflecting its particular geographical location, Bosnia and Herzegovina also contains a rich mix of cultures and precious patrimonies. Tragically, however, cultural and ethnic differences throughout history have not infrequently been a source of misunderstanding and friction. Indeed, as each of the three constitutive peoples that make up your country know only too well, they have even been the cause of conflicts and wars. No person wishes for war. No parents desire conflict for their children. No civic or religious group should ever resort to violence or oppression. Yet, so many families in your land have been subjected to the suffering which results from these calamities. Listening to the voice of reason, however, and prompted by the hope that we all desire for ourselves and the generations which follow, every individual can find the strength to overcome past divisions and indeed hammer swords into ploughshares and spears into sickles (cf. Is 2:4). In this regard, I wish to acknowledge the progress being made to consolidate gestures of reconciliation and to encourage the International Community to continue its efforts to assist Bosnia and Herzegovina to this end. I trust that, in accepting the facts of regional history and the grave lessons to be learnt from recent years, the courage will be found to build a future with a healthy sense of solidarity.

A State's spirit is shaped at many levels. The family home is where children learn the essential values of responsibility and harmonious coexistence. It is here too that prejudices are either born or broken. Every parent therefore has the grave duty to instil in their children, through example, respect for the dignity that marks every person irrespective of ethnicity, religion or social grouping. In this way, the splendour of lives led justly - with integrity, fairness and compassion - can shine forth as examples for the young, indeed everyone, to emulate. Education too contributes greatly to the soul of a nation. Good schooling not only attends to the cognitive development of children but to the civic and spiritual as well. Teachers who exercise their noble profession with a passion for truth can do much to discredit any false anthropological ideologies that contain seeds of hostility (cf. 2007 "Message for World Day of Peace," 10) and to foster an appreciation of cultural and religious diversity in the life of a country. In this vein, I would also like to offer a word of encouragement to those working in the media. They can do much to overcome lingering attitudes of distrust by ensuring that they do not become tools of prejudice but rather transcend particular interests and promote broad-based and inclusive civic goals, thus becoming instruments at the service of greater justice and solidarity (cf. 2008 "Message for World Communications Day," 2).

Your Excellency, as you are well aware, the State too is called to pursue with vigour its responsibility to strengthen the institutions and extol the principles which lie at the heart of all democracies. This demands unwavering commitment to the rule of law and justice, the eradication of corruption and other forms of criminal activity, the support of an independent and impartial judiciary, and equal opportunity in the employment market. I am sure that the constitutional reforms which your government is currently studying will address the legitimate aspirations of all citizens, guaranteeing both the rights of individuals and social groups, while preserving the common moral and ethical values which bind all peoples and render political leaders accountable. In this way all sectors of society can contribute to the national planning of social and economic development and likewise assist in attracting the investment necessary for economic growth, enabling in particular your young people to find satisfying employment and guarantee a secure future.

For her part the Church in Bosnia and Herzegovina will continue to assist in the attainment of the goals of reconciliation, peace and prosperity. Through her parishes, schools, health-care facilities, and community development programmes she exercises her mission of universal charity in its threefold form: material, intellectual and spiritual. Her participation in ecumenical and interreligious dialogue should be seen as a further way of serving society at large. The promotion of spiritual and moral values, discernible to human reason, not only forms part of the transmission of religious traditions but also nourishes the wider culture, motivating men and women of goodwill to strengthen ties of solidarity and to manifest how a united society can indeed arise from a plurality of peoples.

Your Excellency, I am confident that the diplomatic mission which you begin today will further strengthen the bonds of cooperation existing between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Holy See. The application of the recently ratified Basic Agreement, among other matters, facilitates the right to establish places of religious worship and to undertake ecclesial works, and at the same time offers a positive example of the democratic principles taking root in the country. In this regard, I am confident that the Mixed Commission will soon commence its important work. Assuring you of the assistance of the various offices of the Roman Curia and with my sincere good wishes, I invoke upon you and your family together with all the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the blessings of Almighty God.

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We Are Falling Short on the Commitments We Made"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 8, 2008 - Here is letter British Prime Minister Gordon Brown sent in May to Benedict XVI on the progress of the Millennium Development Goals. The letter and the Pope's response were released Sunday by the prime ministers office.

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Prime minister's letter to Benedict XVI

Your Holiness,

I read with great interest your speech at the UN General Assembly in New York on 18 April. You spoke powerfully of the challenges facing our world and the responsibility on all of us in positions of leadership to act together to promote solidarity in the most fragile regions of the world. You also spoke of the development goals. As things stand today, we are not on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. We are falling short on the commitments we made back in 2000.

The United Kingdom and the Holy See can point to a strong relationship on the issue of international development over the years. In 2004, Pope John Paul II was the first world leader to support the International Finance Facility. In November 2006, Your Holiness, you bought the first International Immunisation Bond and Cardinals Martino, Murphy-O'Connor and O'Brien represented you at the launch in London. The Bond issue raised over $4 Billion and will immunise 500 million children between 2006 and 2015 - leading to 5 million children being saved. Again on 9 February 2007, you greeted me and my colleagues from Italy, Canada, the President of the World Bank and the Queen of Jordan, at the launch of the Advanced Market Commitment which aims to fund research into finding vaccines for diseases which primarily affect the developing world.

On 6 June 2007, Your Holiness, you called on the developed world to work to attain the MDGs. You called for serious efforts to be made to reach these objectives. You highlighted the unique contribution that faith groups play in the field of international development and often in the poorest of countries. Faith communities are essential to achieving the MDGs for in many parts of the world it is faith communities which provide many of the essential services, especially in the fields of health and education. Without their contribution, and in particular the agencies of the Catholic Church, we will not be able to achieve the MDGs.

On 31 July 2007, at the United Nations in New York, the UN Secretary General and I called for a renewed focus on the Millennium Development Goals so that we could deliver on the pledges we made in 2000. The Holy See again was among the first to welcome this call when the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, under the leadership of Cardinal Martino and in consultation with Archbishop Mamberti, issued a press release welcoming the renewed focus on the MDGs.

We are taking this challenge forward under the leadership of the UN Secretary General and the President of the General Assembly. Later this year on 25 September, at the UN in New York, they will convene a High Level Meeting focused on the MDGs will be convened. It will involve UN Member States, faith groups, the private sector, NGOs and other actors from within civil society. The summit will review progress and decide on concrete measures so that we are able to deliver on the goals by 2015.

Your Holiness, I know that you are deeply committed to achieving the MDGs. We are looking to the EU, G8, regional meetings across the world, in particular the 25 September UN Summit, to galvanise the international community to accelerate progress on the MDGs. I believe that without concerted action this year, the MDGs will slide down the political agenda and the opportunity to deliver on our promises to the developing world will be lost for another generation. We are determined to prevent this and are building a global coalition to ensure that we live up to the pledges we made back in 2000. Your Holiness, I sincerely hope that again you will lend your voice to these efforts in the weeks and months ahead.

Your Holiness, I hope that in the coming months I will be able to call on you at the Vatican and to continue our close co-operation on international development.

Gordon Brown

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Pope's Response the British Prime Minister
"Globalize the Expectations of Solidarity"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 8, 2008 - Here is Benedict XVI's response to British Prime Minister Gordon's May letter on the Millennium Development Goals. The letter was sent June 18 via Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope's secretary of state. Brown's letter and the Pope's response were released Sunday by the prime ministers office.

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Dear Prime Minister,

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has received your kind letter of 23 May 2008, and has asked me to respond in his name, thanking you for your courtesy and assuring you that he has taken due note of your comments. In your letter you recall certain practical initiatives in the realm of international cooperation undertaken recently by the British Government and the Holy See for the benefit of poor countries. At the same time you propose the creation of a broad international coalition with a view to honouring the commitments made in 2000 and, consequently, attaining the MDGs by the year 2015.

In this regard, I wish to refer to His Holiness' Message of 3 June 2008 to the FAO summit on food security, in which he asked for a courageous effort to "globalise the expectations of solidarity". In this way it is hoped that due attention will be given to respect for human dignity in all negotiations, all decisions and in the manner of their implementation, so that the fruits of creation will be available to all people, and to all future generations. Only a deeply-felt and responsible sense of generosity will ensure that the MDGs are reached within the projected time scale.

The Holy Father prays that the important international meetings planned for the second half of the present year will be able to provide an effective response to the economic crises afflicting several regions of the planet, and put into effect a concerted international plan of action aimed at freeing the world from extreme poverty, from the scourge of hunger and from the chronic lack of general medical care.

With sentiments of esteem, I avail myself of the opportunity to extend my own good wishes to you personally and in your duties as Prime Minister.

Tarcisio Card. Bertone
Secretary of State

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Pontiff's Address to Nigerian Representative
"One of the Most Influential Countries on the Continent"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 4, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of Benedict XVI's English-language address he gave Thursday to Obed Wadzani , the new ambassador of Nigeria to the Holy See.

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Your Excellency,
It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Vatican and to receive the Letters of Credence that accredit you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the Holy See. I thank you for the courteous greetings and sentiments of good will which you have expressed on behalf of His Excellency, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, President of the Republic. I gladly reciprocate them, and I ask you kindly to convey my personal gratitude and good wishes to His Excellency, to the civil authorities and to the Nigerian people.

It is not only a humanitarian duty, but a source of real joy to come to the aid of those in need. Indeed, assisting others in a spirit of respect, integrity and impartiality is a rich, formative experience both for individuals and societies. In this regard, the size, population, economic resources and generosity of your people make Nigeria one of the most influential countries on the continent and give her a unique opportunity to support other African countries in achieving the well-being and stability they deserve. The nation has contributed to the many efforts to bring social reconciliation to other lands through its peacekeeping forces, material aid and diplomatic efforts. I encourage Nigeria to continue to use her considerable human and material resources in ways conducive to the peace and prosperity of neighbouring countries. Indeed, when this assistance is provided with both integrity and sacrifice it brings honour to a country's citizens and government.

In this same spirit, support must be given at home and abroad to all who seek to alleviate human suffering through research and practical assistance. The Church is confident that the services she provides in the sectors of education, social programmes and health care will continue to have a positive impact on the struggle against poverty and disease. She is a constant advocate for life from conception until natural death. As you are well aware, the Church takes seriously her part in the campaign against the spread of HIV/AIDS by fostering programmes which emphasize fidelity within marriage and abstinence outside of it. Catholic personnel, doctors, nurses, assistants and educators will continue to remind all men and women, and especially young people, to reaffirm family values, and to act with moral courage, based in faith, in the struggle against this disease and related conditions. At the same time she is already assisting on a practical level countless people suffering from this affliction on your continent and throughout the world.

Mr Ambassador, the people of Nigeria desire a vibrant democracy and you have mentioned some of the priorities that your country has identified as necessary steps on her way to significant growth and sustained development. These include democratic governance and the rule of law, internal security, and the efficient administration of justice. As Your Excellency is well aware, good governance requires that elections are clearly seen to be free, fair and transparent. It also depends on internal security, always founded in the democratic ideal of respect for individual rights and the rule of law. To implement properly this building block of democracy requires public officials to address first of all the root causes of social unrest and second to form the populace in the virtues of respect and tolerance.
I am aware that, in the past, friction between different groups has given cause for concern. Conflict of this kind can often be traced to a variety of factors, including errors of administration, isolated grievances or ethnic tension. In this regard, I am pleased to note that in the last few years tensions appear to have eased. This can be seen as a true indicator of progress and a sign of hope for the future. In the promotion of understanding, reconciliation and good will among different groups, the Church continues to encourage a community spirit by working to eradicate prejudice and supporting openness towards all. She is especially interested in fostering interreligious dialogue, in the hope that a strong attitude of solidarity among religious leaders will progressively become embodied in popular nationwide expressions of peaceful acceptance, mutual understanding and cooperation.

A disturbing reality that is present in many countries today is criminal violence. Homicide, kidnapping for extortion, and the exploitation of women, children and foreign workers are some of the worst manifestations of this intolerable practice. Insecurity, distress and aggressiveness caused by family breakdown, unemployment, poverty or despair are some of the social and psychological factors behind this phenomenon. An already fragile situation is compounded by a pervasive materialistic mentality and a loss of reverence for the human person. At times, the feeling of hopelessness can lead people to search for a deceptively simple solution to their problems. Young people in such circumstances must be given every possible encouragement to seek improvement through education, extracurricular activities, voluntary assistance to others and, ideally, opportunities for employment. Corruption can follow in the wake of violent crime and has the effect of discouraging enterprise and investments, and undermining confidence in the political, judiciary and economic institutions of the nation. The dynamism Nigeria has introduced into the struggle against corruption and crime and the strengthening of the rule of law is extremely important and must be sustained and applied with equity and impartiality. I pray that politicians and social workers, professional people in the fields of economy, medicine and law, police officers and judges, and all involved in combating crime and corruption will work together diligently for the protection of life and property, supported by the loyal cooperation of all citizens. The Church will not fail to make her specific contribution by offering an integral education based on honesty, integrity and love of God and neighbour. She strives to create opportunities for young people in difficult circumstances, always reminding them that "all serious and upright human conduct is hope in action" (Spe Salvi, 35).

Mr Ambassador, I wish you every success in your mission and assure you of the willing cooperation of the Departments of the Roman Curia. I recall with appreciation the warm reception my predecessor, Pope John Paul II, was given on the two occasions he visited Nigeria. I pray that the fond memory of this messenger of Peace will continue to unite and inspire the Nigerian people. May Almighty God bestow upon Your Excellency, your family and the nation you represent, abundant and lasting blessings of well-being and peace!

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Papal Address to Sri Lankan Envoy
"Acts of Terrorism Are Never Justifiable"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 4, 2008 - Here is the text of Benedict XVI's English-language address he gave Thursday to Tikiri Bandara Maduwegedera, the new ambassador of Sri Lanka to the Holy See.

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Your Excellency,

It is a pleasure for me to welcome you to the Vatican today and to accept the Letters of Credence whereby His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapaksa has appointed you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka to the Holy See. I thank you for the greetings you have extended on his behalf, and I ask you to assure His Excellency of my prayers for the peace and well-being of the entire nation. Our meeting today is a propitious occasion for me to affirm my deep respect for the people of Sri Lanka and its rich heritage, as well as my desire to strengthen further the diplomatic ties between your country and the Holy See.
Mr Ambassador, I am grateful for the appreciation you have expressed on behalf of your fellow citizens for the Catholic Church's ongoing charitable activity in your nation. In particular, you have highlighted the Church's contribution to the relief efforts after the devastating tsunami struck your nation in 2004. Such action is a concrete example of the Church's willing and prompt response to the mission she has received to serve those most in need (cf. Lk 10:25-37; Deus Caritas Est, 29). I wish to assure your Government that the Church will continue in her efforts to reach out with compassion to all, and I commend any future measures which will help guarantee that Catholic hospitals, schools and charitable agencies can continue to care for the sick, the young and the vulnerable regardless of ethnic or religious background (cf. ibid., 30)
Catholics in Sri Lanka, together with other Christians, are united with many Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims in the ardent longing for lasting peace in the country and a definitive end to long-standing grievances. Sadly, violence continues to take its toll on the populace, causing grave concern to the Holy See and the international community. Frank and sincere negotiations, regardless of the investment of time and resources they require, are the only sure means to achieving reconciliation and addressing problems that have long hindered peaceful coexistence in Sri Lanka. In particular, acts of terrorism are never justifiable and always constitute an affront to humanity (cf. Message for the 2002 World Day of Peace, 4). Indeed, arbitrary attacks fail to give effective voice to the interests of the various groups on whose behalf they are purportedly carried out. They can regrettably provoke indiscriminate reactions that similarly place the innocent in harm's way. Such cycles of violence obfuscate the truth, perpetuate a volley of accusations and counter-accusations, and leave people disillusioned and despondent. For this reason, the struggle against terrorism must always be carried out with respect for human rights and the rule of law (cf. Message for the 2004 World Day of Peace, 8). I exhort all parties to spare no effort in creating a climate of trust, forgiveness and openness by listening to one another and showing reasonable respect for each other's legitimate aspirations.

Your Excellency has also drawn attention to the disturbing trend of recruiting children to engage in combat or in terrorist activities. Such practices must be condemned at the outset, for they inevitably stunt the moral development of children, leaving scars that last a lifetime (cf. Message for the 1996 World Day of Peace, 3) and tearing the moral fibre of society itself. Jesus admonished men and women to avoid causing scandal towards these "little ones" (cf. Lk 17:2), even instructing adults to imitate their virtue and purity (cf. Mt 18:2). I implore leaders in your country and throughout the world to remain vigilant so that no compromise will be made in this regard. Children and adolescents must receive a solid formation in moral values today which will strengthen the social fabric of your country tomorrow. Indeed, an appreciation of these values and an attitude of respect for others are just as important as any technical skills young people may acquire in view of their professional vocation.

Initiatives aimed at achieving peace need to be rooted in a proper understanding of the human person and the inviolability of his or her innate rights. As I recently remarked, the "universality, indivisibility and interdependence of human rights all serve as guarantees safeguarding human dignity" (Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, 18 April 2008). Your Excellency has pointed to new mechanisms which have been set in motion to monitor human rights and redress humanitarian issues in Sri Lanka. In this regard, it is encouraging to note your Government's decision to set up a special Commission of Inquiry for the purpose of investigating cases where there seems to have been a disregard for justice and human rights. It is hoped that every effort will be made to ensure that the Commission completes its work expeditiously so that the truth about all of these cases may come to light. I think in particular of Father Jimbrown and his assistant, whose whereabouts are still unknown, almost two years after their disappearance. The Government's interest in these cases reflects the responsibility of political authorities to guarantee an ordered and upright community life based on the principles of justice and directed towards the attainment of the common good (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 74).

Mr Ambassador, as you assume your new responsibilities, I offer you my good wishes for the successful fulfilment of your mission, confident that the bonds of friendship which exist between the Holy See and Sri Lanka will be further strengthened in the years to come. I assure you that the various offices and departments of the Holy See are ready to offer their resources in a spirit of collaboration. Upon Your Excellency, your family and the people of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

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Benedict XVI's Address to Belarus Ambassador
"Part of the Great Family of Free and Sovereign European Nations"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 4, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of Benedict XVI's English-language address he gave Thursday to Sergei Aleinik, the new ambassador from Belarus to the Holy See.

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Your Excellency,
It is a great pleasure to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Belarus to the Holy See. I wish to express my gratitude for the message of greeting which you bring from President Aleksandr Lukashenko, and I ask you to convey to him my own good wishes and the assurance of my heartfelt affection for the people of your country.
Mr Ambassador, I am grateful for the kind words which you have shared with me concerning the progress that has been made in Belarus. In this regard, I am also appreciative of the many encouraging signs and challenges that are present in the country today. Please be assured that the Holy See will continue to support your nation in her efforts to affirm proper and legitimate aspirations for freedom and in her labours to foster the democratic process as a part of the great family of free and sovereign European nations.
For decades now Europe has actively sought to construct a future of peace and progress by removing walls of separation and overcoming painful divisions. This noble project, motivated by a sense of shared responsibility for the common destiny of European peoples, is of enormous value. Achieving such an ambitious goal is not easy; in fact, it requires all the parties involved to engage in constant, frank and reasonable dialogue, based on genuine solidarity and respectful of the legitimate aspirations, historical circumstances and diversity of others. To this end, every nation on the continent, Belarus included, is called to contribute to the construction of a common European home in which borders are seen as places of encounter and not as lines of division, or worse, as insurmountable walls. Indeed, the history, the spiritual and cultural roots and the geography of Belarus give her an integral role to play in this process. That which unites the nations of Europe is far greater than any political, economic and cultural factors that divide them. To give new impetus to its own history, Europe must "recognize and reclaim with creative fidelity those fundamental values, acquired through a decisive contribution of Christianity, which can be summarized in the affirmation of the transcendent dignity of the human person, the value of reason, freedom and democracy, the constitutional state and the distinction between political life and religion" (Ecclesia in Europa, 109).

The newfound independence of your country and the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with the Holy See have resulted in the development of a good working relationship between the institutions of the State and those of the Church. These relations are marked by the openness of both parties towards strengthening and improving these bonds, which in turn encourage the well-being and prosperity of the country. I am grateful for Your Excellency's kind words regarding the Church's activity in your country, and I am certain that the Government of Belarus will continue to assist the Catholic Church in addressing her needs. This year the Catholic Church in Belarus will mark two significant Anniversaries: the two hundred and twenty-fifth Anniversary of the establishment of the Diocese of Mohylev and the two hundred and tenth Anniversary of the Diocese of Minsk. In this regard one must acknowledge with gratitude the recognition your country has already given to the Church's spiritual, cultural and historic contribution to the life of the nation.

Church and State, in their own particular ways and in the light of their specific missions, are at the service of mankind. It is necessary therefore that they cooperate with one another, always respecting the autonomy and competence of each, in ways that will assist men and women in obtaining both material and spiritual prosperity. Such cooperation can only contribute to the strengthening of ever more dynamic democratic institutions. Considered as an integral part of the life and destiny of Belarus, the Catholic Church for her part looks forward to continuing to exercise her role in society through her various structures and institutions (such as the Episcopal Conference, dioceses, parishes and religious communities). These entities seek only to serve men and women and all of society through the transmission of universal values inspired by the Gospel. In this regard the Catholic Church in Belarus, from both the Latin and Byzantine Traditions, does not ask for special privileges but only to contribute to the growth and development of the country. All she requests is the freedom to be able to fulfil serenely the mandate received from the divine Founder in service of his creation. In this same spirit and with the same sense of mutual responsibility, the Catholics of Belarus are committed to moving forward in the area of ecumenical dialogue, especially with the Orthodox Church in your country. It is my prayer that ecumenical contacts will continue to develop in peace, harmony and fruitful dialogue, contributing in this way to an ever greater social harmony.

Mr Ambassador, as you begin your mission to the Holy See, I offer you wholehearted good wishes, and I assure you of the readiness of the offices of the Roman Curia to assist you. Upon yourself, your co-workers, your family and all the beloved people of Belarus I invoke abundant divine blessings.
   
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Pope's Address to Ambassador of Bangladesh
"Democracy Needs More Than a Set of Rules to be Sustainable"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 3, 2008 - Here is the text of Benedict XVI's English-language address he gave Thursday to Debapriya Bhattacharya, Bangladesh's new ambassador to the Holy See.

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Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to receive you today as you present the Letters of Credence whereby His Excellency President Iajuddin Ahmed has appointed you Ambassador of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh to the Holy See. I would ask you to convey my cordial greetings to him and to the members of the Government, together with an assurance of my good wishes for the well-being of all your fellow citizens.

Established thirty-five years ago, diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Bangladesh have been strengthened by a mutual concern for promoting goodwill in a world increasingly more connected, yet not without signs of new divisions and deeply troubling forms of violence and injustice. These phenomena present new challenges to the whole human family, eliciting an acute sense that more vigorous international cooperation is needed to ensure that the aspirations of all, especially the poor and the weak, are given full voice (cf. Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 43). Mr Ambassador, I am confident that your country’s active participation in bodies such as the United Nations Organization will contribute to the "culture of peace" which Bangladesh desires to build at home and abroad. By engaging in these conversations at the international level, your country will play a role in harmonizing the actions of the global community to attain the common objectives of peace and development (cf. Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, 18 April 2008).

As Your Excellency has suggested, a robust democracy needs more than a set of rules to be sustainable; it requires citizens to embrace the underlying values which inspire democratic institutions and procedures, such as the dignity of the human person, a genuine respect for human rights, and a commitment to the common good as the guiding criterion for political life (cf. Centesimus Annus, 46). By striving to enhance a general consensus about the central importance of these fundamental values, the leaders of your nation will pave the way for stable governance and the harmonious coexistence of all who call Bangladesh their home. As your country prepares to hold general elections within the current year, I am confident that its citizens will reflect upon and renew their appreciation for the moral underpinnings which make authentic democracy possible. Social advancement and cohesion requires all – individuals, families, elected officials, civil servants and professionals – to embrace willingly their responsibility to contribute to community life with integrity, honesty and a sense of service (cf. Pacem in Terris, 55; Centesimus Annus, 46). In particular, those running for public office must be willing to set aside personal interests to safeguard the common good of the people whom they represent and serve. Your Excellency has pointed to the challenge of rebuilding representative institutions which have deteriorated despite the country’s observance of democratic processes in selecting recent governments. This crucial task of restoring confidence in these and other democratic institutions will call for strong leadership on the part of men and women who are trustworthy, fair and competent. No doubt the people of Bangladesh will look for these qualities in their candidates as they exercise the right to vote in a polling process that itself reflects the very values upon which democracy depends (cf. Centesimus Annus, 46).

A vibrant educational system is essential to strong democracies. Both the State and the Church have respective roles in helping families impart wisdom, knowledge and moral virtue to their children, so that they will come to recognize the dignity common to all men and women, including those belonging to cultures and religions different from their own. The Church seeks to contribute to this end by establishing schools that attend not only to the cognitive development of children, but the spiritual and moral as well. Insofar as these and other faith-based schools perform the public service of training young people in tolerance and respect, they should therefore receive the support they need, including financial assistance, so as to benefit the entire human family.

Yours is a country that has made significant strides in economic growth over the last several years. Yet this has not always translated into a proportionate alleviation of poverty and an increase in opportunities for employment. Long-term stability in the economic sector is organically linked to other spheres of civic life, including public institutions and a well-functioning educational system. The former promotes the efficiency and transparency that foster economic growth (cf. Centesimus Annus, 48), and the latter is "society’s most valuable tool for furthering development and economic progress" (Populorum Progressio, 35). For this reason, a nation’s economic goals must always be placed within the broader horizon of its moral, civil and cultural growth (cf. Centesimus Annus, 29). Furthermore, lasting economic development occurs as a result of the dynamic interaction between private initiative, public authority and the support of international organizations (cf. ibid., 10; 32; 49). For her part, the Church, in her constant solicitude for the integral good of the human person, echoes mankind’s aspirations to secure the material goods necessary for corporal and spiritual well-being (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 14). Indeed, she is firmly convinced that development is ultimately a question of peace, "because it helps to achieve what is good for others and for the human community as a whole" (Message for the 1987 World Day of Peace, 7).

Mr Ambassador, as you begin your service, I renew my good wishes for the success of your mission. I assure you that the various offices of the Holy See stand ready to assist you in fulfilling your duties. Upon you, your family and all the people of Bangladesh, I cordially invoke God’s blessings of strength and peace.

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Benedict XVI's Address to Liberian Envoy
"Heal the Wounds Inflicted in the Course of the Civil War"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 3, 2008  - Here is the text of Benedict XVI's English-language address he gave Thursday to Wesley Momo Johnson, Liberia's new ambassador to the Holy See.

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Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Liberia to the Holy See. I would like to express my gratitude for the good wishes that you bring from your President, Mrs Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Please convey to Her Excellency my cordial greetings and assure her of my continued prayers for all the people of your nation.

Let me assure you, Mr Ambassador, that the Holy See values its diplomatic links with your country, and looks forward to developing them further in the years ahead. As the international community strives to fulfil its humanitarian obligations towards the people of Africa, the Holy See regards with particular concern the many citizens of Liberia who were left destitute by the violent conflict that ravaged your country for so many years. After two years of stable elected government, significant progress has been made in the immense task of reconstruction. It was with satisfaction that I learned of the decision by the International Monetary Fund last November to take steps towards cancelling Liberia's debt. This is good news indeed, and it is greatly to be hoped that recent signs of economic growth will be sustained in the years to come. After decades of war and instability, the people of your country deserve to be delivered from the poverty, food insecurity, and unemployment that have afflicted them for so long.

I am sure your people realize that a peaceful and prosperous future can only be attained if a serious attempt is made to acknowledge past failures and to heal the wounds inflicted in the course of the civil war. The "truth and reconciliation process" in Liberia, as in other African countries, is a courageous and necessary step along the path to national renewal, and if it is pursued with integrity and determination, it can only lead to a strengthening of the values on which civilized society depends. When the people of a nation have witnessed violence, mismanagement and corruption, practised with impunity at the highest levels of society, it is not easy to regain trust in the machinery of government. Indeed, it is tempting to withdraw from national life altogether, seeking only to promote one's particular interests or those of one's region or ethnic group. Such partisan attitudes must be overcome by a renewed commitment to promote the common good of all citizens, a profound respect for all members of society, irrespective of ethnic origin or political allegiance, and a willingness to contribute one's own gifts and resources so as to bring about the greater well-being and prosperity of others.

In my World Day of Peace Message at the start of this year, I underlined the importance of the family as a fundamental building block in society, one where the values essential for peaceful coexistence can be learned and then transmitted to future generations. From the responsible and definitive "yes" of a man and a woman, and the conscious "yes" of the children who gradually join the family, its members give their consent to the building up of the common good. This is what makes it possible for the wider community to prosper, locally, nationally, and even internationally (cf. Message for the 2008 World Day of Peace, 6). I know that the people of Africa place a high value on maintaining family bonds, and I encourage your Government to ensure that public policy continues to assist and strengthen the family in every way. Only thus will firm foundations be laid for renewing the social infrastructure that has been so badly damaged by decades of violent conflict.

You can be sure, Mr Ambassador, that the Church in Liberia is eager to contribute to the building up of family life, and to the provision of education and health care that are so sorely needed throughout the country. I greatly appreciate President Johnson-Sirleaf's words of praise for the Church's activity in these areas throughout Liberia's history, and indeed for the courageous witness of the martyrs who dedicated themselves to serving the country even at the cost of their lives. The many devoted men and women - priests, religious and lay faithful - who carry out their apostolate in your country today are no less committed to the people they serve, and to the promotion of justice, peaceful coexistence and reconciliation between the warring factions of the recent past.

The educational apostolate is perhaps their most significant investment in Liberia's future. Many of your children and young people have been traumatized by the experience of war, some of them forced to become soldiers and to abandon their education, resulting in low levels of literacy across the population. The Church in such circumstances seeks to offer the people hope, to give them faith in the future, and to show them that they are loved and cared for, to lead them, in other words, towards an encounter with Christ the Saviour of humanity. In this way, Your Excellency, I am confident that the cordial relations existing between Liberia and the Holy See will bear abundant fruit for the growth and increasing prosperity of your beloved country for many years to come.

In offering my best wishes for the success of your mission, I would like to assure you that the various departments of the Roman Curia are ready to provide help and support in the fulfilment of your duties. Upon Your Excellency, your family and all the people of Liberia, I cordially invoke God's abundant blessings.

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Benedict's  Address to Ugandan Envoy
"New Hope Has Arisen for the People of Northern Uganda"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 29, 2008 - Here is the text of Benedict XVI's English-language address today to Nyine Bitahwa, Uganda's new ambassador to the Holy See.

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Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Uganda to the Holy See. I appreciate the greetings which you have conveyed on behalf of His Excellency Mr Yoweri Museveni, President of the Republic, and I gladly reciprocate with my own good wishes and the assurance of my prayers for His Excellency and all the people of Uganda.

The Holy See establishes diplomatic relations with States with a view to achieving mutual cooperation for the spiritual and material good of their populations. In this regard, the efforts made in your country in the struggle against poverty and its underlying causes are most encouraging. Human development, through the availability of employment, suitable housing and the extension of educational opportunities, is an indispensable factor in the economic and social progress of a nation. Much has been achieved in Uganda in the fields of education, development and health care, especially in the struggle against HIV/AIDS with dedicated attention to those affected and a successful policy of prevention based on continence and the promotion of faithfulness in marriage. True to her commitment to preach love of God and neighbour, the Catholic Church will continue to cooperate with civil authorities, especially in these areas which help to better the human condition.

Mr Ambassador, you have spoken of your people's joy at seeing the culmination of efforts to formalize peace agreements and to bring to a conclusion the long years of warfare marked by cruel and senseless violence. The Church, in view of her call to enlighten consciences, cannot but express her joy at what has been achieved, and her earnest hope that conditions of full security will soon prevail, allowing all displaced people to return to their homes and resume a peaceful and productive existence. In this regard, I wish to convey the Holy See's appreciation to all who have raised their voice against violence and hatred, and to all who have contributed to a negotiated search for peace. I encourage all involved to take part generously in the task of repair and rebuilding after so many years of turmoil and abandonment. That this task is taking place amid fears of a world-wide food shortage and rising prices should be a further stimulus to dedication and perseverance in consolidating peace, reconciliation and reconstruction. I trust that the population's strong desire for peace will inspire the Government to continue to carry out its regional responsibilities and to do all that is in its power to ensure stability and reconciliation throughout the region, where lasting peace will only be possible when all parties involved adhere to international agreements and commit themselves to full respect for national borders. Much has to be done in these years but new hope has arisen for the people of Northern Uganda and their neighbours. May Almighty God assist them in their efforts to begin life anew.

No nation today is free from the influence of globalization with its benefits and its challenges. This phenomenon facilitates trade opportunities, access to information and the communication of values. Unfortunately, it can also promote superficial lifestyles and attitudes that undermine healthy customs based on moral truth and virtue. Men and women of goodwill in Africa rightly reject destructive outlooks which are associated with greed, corruption and the many forms of personal and social disintegration. Democracy and the rule of law are not nurtured by materialism, individualism and moral relativism but by integrity and mutual confidence, especially when sustained by committed and selfless leaders who are willing to offer their service to their fellow citizens for the building up of the common good. It is my fervent prayer that the genuine benefits of contemporary culture will enrich the existence of all Ugandans in harmony with what is true and healthy in the values that have been transmitted from generation to generation.

In this regard the country you represent, Mr Ambassador, embodies many important characteristics found in African culture, such as: a respectful attitude to parental authority and a religious way of seeing important moments of human existence, promoting deep respect for the dignity of every human life from conception to natural death. This is the rich background in which generations of Africans have been educated and from which the seed of the Christian Gospel has produced abundant fruits. The Catholic Church appreciates this heritage for its own sake and because of its harmonious relationship with fundamental truths of the natural moral order and with basic tenets of the faith. I assure you, Mr Ambassador, that the Church will continue to play her part in the defence and promotion of these principles. She sees it as her mission to consolidate and complement them in the marvellous plenitude of the Gospel.

Your Excellency, I have spoken of topics of essential interest both to State and Church and areas in which undoubtedly cooperation will continue to bear fruit for a better future for all Ugandans. The various departments of the Roman Curia will be happy to assist you in your mission as your country's representative to the Holy See. I am pleased to assure you of my prayers as you begin your mandate and I invoke Almighty God's abundant blessings upon you and your family, and upon the people of Uganda.

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Papal Address to Tanzanian Ambassador
"Education ... Is One of the Most Important Factors in Development"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 29, 2008 - Here is the text of Benedict XVI's English-language address today to Ahmada Rweyemamu Ngemera, Tanzania's new ambassador to the Holy See.

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Your Excellency,

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United Republic of Tanzania to the Holy See. I am grateful for the courteous greetings and sentiments of good will which you have expressed on behalf of His Excellency, Mr Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, President of the Republic, whom I had the pleasure of meeting. I ask you kindly to convey my gratitude and my personal good wishes to His Excellency the President, to the Government and to the Tanzanian people.

Your country, Mr Ambassador, is looked upon with respect and appreciation by people in East Africa for its stability and its climate of tolerance and peace. Tanzania is also held in esteem for the important role undertaken by its political leaders in the process of pacification of the Great Lakes Region and other international peacekeeping initiatives. The generous hospitality offered to refugees fleeing from hostilities in neighbouring countries, in spite of domestic economic difficulties, has also awakened due appreciation for the noble sentiments of the Tanzanian people. Some negative trends such as an increase in the regional traffic of arms and interruptions in important initiatives of dialogue and reconciliation have cast doubts recently on the immediate future of the peace process. It is not surprising in this regard that responsible leaders and many men and women of good will are eager to see this process sustained at all costs and brought to fulfilment. No effort should be spared in order to recreate the indispensable conditions for normal living, development and cultural advancement of the populations affected. The Holy See joins its voice to this appeal and continues to exhort all who hold responsibility in the region not to loose confidence in the value of dialogue, but to explore with an open mind and follow all possibilities that may lead to the conclusion of a lasting peace.

Tanzania can be proud of its inheritance of harmonious coexistence between different ethnic and religious groups handed down to the present generations from founding President Julius Nyerere and other important statesmen. Every generation must continue to cherish and protect this treasure. Care must be taken that the common good of all Tanzanians and the dignity and the authentic rights of all persons may prevail over the particular demands or interests of certain groups. In this regard discernment and decisive action on the part of authorities are needed to curb favouritism or initiatives that would be incompatible with a political project based on universal human rights and the rule of law, and could carry in some circumstances seeds of intolerance and violence. The Catholic Church is committed to fostering positive ethnic relations and dialogue with members of other religions as a fundamental component of her desire to give witness to God’s universal love. It gives her great joy to assist society in establishing an environment of good will between all men and women based on mutual knowledge, appreciation and respect.

Creating the proper environment and structures for the economic development of a country is one of the important goals in the task of good governance. International trust and goodwill towards Tanzania has been successfully generated not least by efforts to combat corruption, and the economy has responded with steady progress. Experience in many developing countries shows that accountability and transparency, especially in the use of public funds, not only upholds the necessary moral integrity of those in office, but is in itself an indispensable economic factor for stable progress. Great care has to be taken in order to continue along this path, together with a clear will to bring the less favoured sectors to a just and active participation in the common economic growth. As your country continues to undertake works of infrastructure and promote investments in support of agriculture and industry, it is my hope that your people will work with confidence for the good of their homeland and that Tanzania will always find openness, trust and effective support at international levels.

I am pleased to note that considerable efforts have been made to promote wider access to education in the knowledge that it is one of the most important factors in development. Training programmes have also been wisely established for teachers and for other personnel in schools and health centres since the construction of adequate facilities cannot be separated from the complementary effort to prepare qualified staff. I thank you Mr Ambassador for your words of appreciation of the service that the Catholic Church offers to the people of your country. Both in education and health services, care must be taken to provide financial resources to the different projects or institutions on the basis of pressing need or merit. Equity and transparency in this area greatly facilitate a spirit of loyal cooperation between private initiative and public agencies. In these same fields of development institutions must continue to expand and improve in quality in order to respond to the needs of the population. I am sure that Tanzanian Catholics will not fail to offer their specific contribution through the Church’s institutions and initiatives, animated by Christian service of neighbour and generous love of their country.

Your Excellency, on the occasion of your presentation as the United Republic of Tanzania’s representative at the Vatican, I have given expression to some of the Holy See’s perspectives and sincere hopes for your country. May your mission serve to strengthen the ties existing between the Tanzanian people and the Holy See. Be assured that the various departments of the Roman Curia will be ready to assist you in your task. With my prayers and best wishes for the success of your mission, I invoke Almighty God's abundant blessings upon you and your family, and upon the people of your country.

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Papal Address to Israeli Envoy
"Christians Are Not Alone in Suffering the Effects of Violence"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 12, 2008 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today in English upon receiving in audience Mordechay Lewy, the new ambassador of Israel to the Holy See.

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Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you at the start of your mission and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the State of Israel to the Holy See. I thank you for your kind words, and I ask you to convey to President Shimon Peres my respectful greetings and the assurance of my prayers for the people of your country.

Once again I offer cordial good wishes on the occasion of Israel's celebration of sixty years of statehood. The Holy See joins you in giving thanks to the Lord that the aspirations of the Jewish people for a home in the land of their fathers have been fulfilled, and hopes soon to see a time of even greater rejoicing when a just peace finally resolves the conflict with the Palestinians. In particular, the Holy See values its diplomatic relations with Israel, established fifteen years ago, and looks forward to developing further the growing respect, esteem and collaboration that unites us.

Between the State of Israel and the Holy See there are numerous areas of mutual interest that can be profitably explored. As you have pointed out, the Judeo-Christian heritage should inspire us to take a lead in promoting many forms of social and humanitarian action throughout the world, not least by combating all forms of racial discrimination. I share Your Excellency's enthusiasm for the cultural and academic exchanges that are taking place between Catholic institutions worldwide and those of the Holy Land, and I too hope that these initiatives will be developed further in the years ahead. The fraternal dialogue that is conducted on an international level between Christians and Jews is bearing much fruit and needs to be continued with commitment and generosity. The holy cities of Rome and Jerusalem represent a source of faith and wisdom of central importance for Western civilization, and in consequence, the links between Israel and the Holy See have deeper resonances than those which arise formally from the juridical dimension of our relations.

Your Excellency, I know that you share my concern over the alarming decline in the Christian population of the Middle East, including Israel, through emigration. Of course Christians are not alone in suffering the effects of insecurity and violence as a result of the various conflicts in the region, but in many respects they are particularly vulnerable at the present time. I pray that, in consequence of the growing friendship between Israel and the Holy See, ways will be found of reassuring the Christian community, so that they can experience the hope of a secure and peaceful future in their ancestral homelands, without feeling under pressure to move to other parts of the world in order to build new lives.

Christians in the Holy Land have long enjoyed good relations with both Muslims and Jews. Their presence in your country, and the free exercise of the Church's life and mission there, have the potential to contribute significantly to healing the divisions between the two communities. I pray that it may be so, and I invite your Government to continue to explore ways of harnessing the good will that Christians bear, both towards the natural descendants of the people who were the first to hear the word of God, and towards our Muslim brothers and sisters who have lived and worshipped for centuries in the land that all three religious traditions call "holy".

I do realize that the difficulties experienced by Christians in the Holy Land are also related to the continuing tension between Jewish and Palestinian communities. The Holy See recognizes Israel's legitimate need for security and self-defence and strongly condemns all forms of anti-Semitism. It also maintains that all peoples have a right to be given equal opportunities to flourish. Accordingly, I would urge your Government to make every effort to alleviate the hardship suffered by the Palestinian community, allowing them the freedom necessary to go about their legitimate business, including travel to places of worship, so that they too can enjoy greater peace and security. Clearly, these matters can only be addressed within the wider context of the Middle East peace process. The Holy See welcomes the commitment expressed by your Government to carry forward the momentum rekindled at Annapolis and prays that the hopes and expectations raised there will not be disappointed. As I observed in my recent address to the United Nations in New York, it is necessary to explore every possible diplomatic avenue and to remain attentive to "even the faintest sign of dialogue or desire for reconciliation" if long-standing conflicts are to be resolved. When all the people of the Holy Land live in peace and harmony, in two independent sovereign states side by side, the benefit for world peace will be inestimable, and Israel will truly serve as ??? ????? ("light to the nations", Is 42:6), a shining example of conflict resolution for the rest of the world to follow.

Much work has gone into formulating the agreements which have been signed thus far between Israel and the Holy See, and it is greatly hoped that the negotiations regarding economic and fiscal affairs may soon be brought to a satisfactory conclusion. Thank you for your reassuring words concerning the Israeli Government's commitment to a positive and expeditious resolution of the questions that remain. I know that I speak on behalf of many when I express the hope that these agreements may soon be integrated into the Israeli internal legal system and so provide a lasting basis for fruitful cooperation. Given the personal interest taken by Your Excellency in the situation of Christians in the Holy Land, which is greatly appreciated, I know you understand the difficulties caused by continuing uncertainties over their legal rights and status, especially with regard to the question of visas for church personnel. I am sure you will do what you can to facilitate the resolution of the problems that remain in a manner acceptable to all parties. Only when these difficulties are overcome, will the Church be able to carry out freely her religious, moral, educational and charitable works in the land where she came to birth.

Your Excellency, I pray that the diplomatic mission which you begin today will further strengthen the bonds of friendship that exist between the Holy See and your country. I assure you that the various departments of the Roman Curia are always ready to offer help and support in the fulfilment of your duties. With my sincere good wishes, I invoke upon you, your family, and all the people of the State of Israel, God's abundant blessings.

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Papal Address to Greek Envoy
"Paul's Memory Is Forever Planted in Her Soil"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 17, 2008 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday in English upon receiving in audience Miltiadis Hiskakis, the new ambassador of Greece to the Holy See.

* * *

Your Excellency,
It is a pleasure for me to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the letters by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Hellenic Republic to the Holy See. I am grateful for the courteous greeting which you have conveyed from His Excellency Mr Karolos Papoulias, and I would ask that you assure him, the leaders of your country and the people of Greece of my good wishes and prayers for their well-being and peace.

Recently, several significant encounters have strengthened the bonds of goodwill between Greece and the Holy See. In the wake of the Jubilee Year of 2000, my venerable predecessor Pope John Paul II visited your country during his pilgrimage in the footsteps of Saint Paul. This led to an exchange of visits from Orthodox and Catholic delegations to and from Rome and Athens. In 2006, I was happy to receive your President here at the Vatican, and I was graced by a visit from His Beatitude Christodoulos, whose recent death Christians in your country and throughout the world continue to mourn. I pray that the Lord will grant this devoted pastor rest from his labours and bless him for his valiant efforts to mend the breach between Christians in the East and West. I avail myself of this occasion to extend to the new Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, His Beatitude Ieronymos, my sincere fraternal greetings of peace, together with an assurance of my constant prayers for his fruitful ministry and good health.

Let me also take this opportunity to reiterate my eagerness to work together as we travel the road towards Christian unity. In this regard, Your Excellency has highlighted the signs of hope emerging from the ecumenical meetings that have taken place over the past decades. Not only have these reaffirmed what Catholics and Orthodox already hold in common, but they have also opened the door to deeper discussions about the precise meaning of the Church's unity. Undoubtedly, honesty and trust will be required from all parties if the important questions raised by this dialogue are to continue to be addressed effectively. We take courage from the "new spirit" of friendship that has characterized our conversations, inviting all participants to ongoing conversion and prayer, which alone are able to ensure that Christians will one day attain the unity for which Jesus prayed so fervently (cf. Jn 17:21).

The imminent Jubilee dedicated to the bi-millennial anniversary of the birth of Saint Paul will be a particularly auspicious occasion to intensify our ecumenical endeavours, for Paul was a man who "left no stones unturned for unity and harmony among all Christians" (cf. Homily at the Vespers celebration of the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, 28 June 2007). This brilliant "Apostle to the Gentiles" dedicated his energies to preaching the wisdom of the cross of Christ amidst the people of Greece, who were formed by the highly sophisticated Hellenistic culture. Because Paul's memory is forever planted in her soil, Greece will play an important role in this celebration. I am confident that the pilgrims who come to Greece in order to venerate the holy sites associated with his life and teaching will be embraced with the warm spirit of hospitality for which your nation is renowned.

The vibrant exchange between Hellenistic culture and Christianity allowed the former to be transformed by Christian teaching and the latter to be enriched by Greek language and philosophy. This enabled Christians to communicate the Gospel more coherently and persuasively throughout the world. Even today, visitors to Athens can contemplate Paul's words -- now etched on the monument overlooking the Areopagus -- which he proclaimed to the learned citizens of the polis. He spoke of the one God in whom "we live and move and have our being" (cf. Acts 17:16-34). Paul's powerful preaching of the mystery of Christ to the Corinthians, who highly esteemed their philosophical heritage (cf. 1 Cor 2:5), opened their culture to the salutary influence of the Word of God. His words still resound in the hearts of men and women today. They can help our contemporaries to appreciate more deeply their human dignity, and thus promote the good of the entire human family. It is my hope that the Pauline Year will become a catalyst that will spark reflection upon the history of Europe and stir its inhabitants to rediscover the inestimable treasure of values they have inherited from the integral wisdom of Hellenistic culture and the Gospel.

Mr Ambassador, I thank you for the assurance of your government's resolve to address administrative issues concerning the Catholic Church in your nation. Among these, the question of its juridical status is of particular significance. The Catholic faithful, though few in number, look forward to the favourable results of these deliberations. Indeed, when religious leaders and civil authorities work together to formulate fair legislation in regard to the life of local ecclesial communities, the spiritual welfare of the faithful and the good of all society are enhanced.

In the international arena, I commend Greece's efforts to promote peace and reconciliation, especially in the surrounding area of the Mediterranean basin. Her efforts to quell tensions and dispel the clouds of suspicion which have long stood in the way of a fully harmonious coexistence in the region will help to rekindle a spirit of goodwill between individuals and nations.

Finally, Mr Ambassador, I cannot help but recall the devastation caused by the wildfires that raged through Greece last summer. I continue to remember in my prayers those who were affected by this disaster, and I invoke God's grace and strength upon all those involved in the process of rebuilding. As you assume your responsibilities within the diplomatic community accredited to the Holy See, I offer you my prayerful good wishes for the success of your mission and assure you that the various offices of the Roman Curia will always be ready to assist you in your duties. I cordially invoke upon you and all the beloved people of Greece the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

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Papal Address to U.S. Envoy
"The Future of Humanity Cannot Depend on Mere Political Compromise"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 29, 2008 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today in English upon receiving in audience Mary Ann Glendon, the new ambassador of the United States to the Holy See.

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Your Excellency,

It is a pleasure for me to accept the Letters by which you are accredited Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America and to offer my cordial good wishes as you take up your new responsibilities in the service of your country. I am confident that the knowledge and experience born of your distinguished association with the work of the Holy See will prove beneficial in the fulfillment of your duties and enrich the activity of the diplomatic community to which you now belong. I also thank you for the cordial greetings which you have conveyed to me from President George W. Bush on behalf of the American people, as I look forward to my Pastoral Visit to the United States in April.

From the dawn of the Republic, America has been, as you noted, a nation which values the role of religious belief in ensuring a vibrant and ethically sound democratic order. Your nation’s example of uniting people of good will, regardless of race, nationality or creed, in a shared vision and a disciplined pursuit of the common good has encouraged many younger nations in their efforts to create a harmonious, free and just social order. Today this task of reconciling unity and diversity, of forging a common vision and summoning the moral energy to accomplish it, has become an urgent priority for the whole human family, which is increasingly aware of its interdependence and the need for effective solidarity in meeting global challenges and building a future of peace for coming generations.

The experience of the past century, with its heavy toll of war and violence, culminating in the planned extermination of whole peoples, has made it clear that the future of humanity cannot depend on mere political compromise. Rather, it must be the fruit of a deeper consensus based on the acknowledgment of universal truths grounded in reasoned reflection on the postulates of our common humanity (cf. "Message for the 2008 World Day of Peace," 13). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whose sixtieth anniversary we celebrate this year, was the product of a world-wide recognition that a just global order can only be based on the acknowledgment and defense of the inviolable dignity and rights of every man and woman. This recognition, in turn, must motivate every decision affecting the future of the human family and all its members. I am confident that your country, established on the self-evident truth that the Creator has endowed each human being with certain inalienable rights, will continue to find in the principles of the common moral law, enshrined in its founding documents, a sure guide for exercising its leadership within the international community.

The building of a global juridic culture inspired by the highest ideals of justice, solidarity and peace calls for firm commitment, hope and generosity on the part of each new generation (cf. "Spe Salvi," 25). I appreciate your reference to America’s significant efforts to discover creative means of alleviating the grave problems facing so many nations and peoples in our world. 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, the elimination of pandemics like AIDS, broader educational opportunities to young people, the promotion of women and the curbing of the corruption and militarization which divert precious resources from many of our brothers and sisters in the poorer countries. The progress of the human family is threatened not only by the plague of international terrorism, but also by such threats to peace as the quickening pace of the arms race and the continuance of tensions in the Middle East. I take this occasion to express my hope that patient and transparent negotiations will lead to the reduction and elimination of nuclear weapons and that the recent Annapolis Conference will be the first of a series of steps towards lasting peace in the region. The resolution of these and similar problems calls for trust in, and commitment to, the work of international bodies such as the United Nations Organization, which by their nature are capable of fostering genuine dialogue and understanding, reconciling divergent views, and developing multilateral policies and strategies capable of meeting the manifold challenges of our complex and rapidly changing world.

I cannot fail to note with gratitude the importance which the United States has attributed to interreligious and intercultural dialogue as a positive force for peacemaking. The Holy See is convinced of the great spiritual potential represented by such dialogue, particularly with regard to the promotion of nonviolence and the rejection of ideologies which manipulate and disfigure religion for political purposes, and justify violence in the name of God. The American people’s historic appreciation of the role of religion in shaping public discourse and in shedding light on the inherent moral dimension of social issues -- a role at times contested in the name of a straitened understanding of political life and public discourse -- is reflected in the efforts of so many of your fellow-citizens and government leaders to ensure legal protection for God’s gift of life from conception to natural death, and the safeguarding of the institution of marriage, acknowledged as a stable union between a man and a woman, and that of the family.

Madam Ambassador, as you now undertake your high responsibilities in the service of your country, I renew my good wishes for the success of your work. Be assured that you may always count on the offices of the Holy See to assist and support you in the fulfillment of your duties. Upon you and your family, and upon all the beloved American people, I cordially invoke God’s blessings of wisdom, strength and peace.

© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana



U.S. Ambassador's Address to Benedict XVI
"An Essential Element of Strong Friendship Is Ongoing Conversation"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 29, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Mary Ann Glendon, the new ambassador of the United States to the Holy See, gave today upon presenting her credentials to Benedict XVI.

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Your Holiness,

It is a distinct honor and pleasure to present to you my credentials as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Holy See. I extend warm greetings from President George W. Bush and the American people. I am grateful to President Bush for the opportunity to represent him and my country to the Holy See.

Your Holiness, in your message for the celebration of the World Day of Peace this year, you wrote “We do not live alongside one another purely by chance; all of us are progressing along a common path as men and women, and thus as brothers and sisters.” The United States of America believes that strong alliances, friendships and international institutions enable us to advance along that path through shared efforts to promote freedom, prosperity, and peace. We recognize a privileged place in such a partnership for the Holy See whose strong moral voice resonates in the hearts of men and women throughout the world.

An essential element of strong friendship is ongoing conversation -- a dialogue -- based on mutual respect, understanding and trust. This is particularly true for people of faith. The United States, in its desire to be a partner in interfaith dialogue, is working to amplify the many voices speaking out against the misuse of religion to promote terrorist violence and to support the efforts of those who are striving for greater interfaith understanding. We are encouraging conversations among cultures. In a new program called “Citizen Dialogue,” we have sent Muslim American citizens across the world to engage with citizens in Muslim communities. We have sponsored summer programs for young people, teaching respect for diversity. The U.S. understands that we are part of an increasingly interconnected world that calls on each of us -- no matter what our culture or faith -- to work for peace, life, and hope.

Your Holiness, this year marks the sixtieth anniversary of two important international documents that were the fruits of collaboration among persons of many different faiths and cultures -- the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. These documents emerged from the darkness and horror of the Second World War. They stand today as beacons for the inalienable dignity and rights of the human person. They also stand as testimony to the progress that can be made through reason and good will even in troubled times. Today, both the United States and the Holy See actively promote the principles contained in those documents. It is my heartfelt desire that we will work together to commemorate the anniversary of both the Declaration of Human Rights and the Genocide Convention in a fitting manner.

The United States and the Holy See have collaborated in recent years on many projects to protect and enhance the dignity of the person. The United States is particularly proud of its initiatives to tackle trafficking in human beings. U.S. funded programs have provided anti-trafficking training and support to hundreds of women religious in Europe, Africa, Asia and South America. Similar programs for the clergy and male religious will be offered this year. We are confident that these combined efforts will eventually result in the elimination of trafficking in men, women and children.

Your Holiness, poverty, hunger and disease continue to plague too many regions of our world. For the United States, these are not only humanitarian issues but concerns that affect regional stability and security. We are striving, therefore, to provide impoverished nations with the economic and social tools that will empower them to seize hold of their own destiny. The United States is leading the struggle against global poverty with strong education initiatives and with humanitarian assistance programs like our new Millennium Challenge Account which are geared toward strengthening democracy, transparency, and the rule of law in developing nations. The United States is also in the forefront of efforts to combat global hunger. Today, more than half the world's food aid comes from the United States. In his State of the Union address, President Bush referred to an innovative proposal to provide food assistance by purchasing crops directly from farmers in the developing world, in order to build up local agriculture and help break the cycle of famine. The United States is also confronting the infectious diseases that are taking such a toll in developing nations. We are working to cut the number of malaria-related deaths in 15 African nations. Through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the United States is treating 1.4 million people. We can and will bring healing and hope to many more.

Your Holiness, the United States is an instrument of hope in the world because its people are compassionate and generous. That is why we are eager to work in partnership with the Holy See to enhance the lives of all the world’s people, but in particular, those who are caught up in the despair that comes from poverty, hunger and disease. Your Holiness, in your encyclical "Spe Salvi," you reminded us that “our lives are involved with one another, through innumerable interactions they are linked together. No one lives alone.” It is our commitment to this essential human solidarity that inspires the compassionate actions of the United States in and for the human family.

We are particularly pleased that Your Holiness will visit the United States this coming spring. On your first visit to the U.S. as pontiff, you will find a warm welcome from a nation that understands the important contribution offered by people of faith in our society. You will be among friends. The seven pastoral visits made by your predecessor, Pope John Paul II, were opportunities for a conversation on the important issues of the day. We look forward to a similar dialogue during your own visit as you offer your message of hope and peace.

Your Holiness, in the 24 years of the formal diplomatic relationship between the United States and the Holy See, we have recognized in each other a solid and valuable partner dedicated to making the people of our world safer and more hopeful. As I take up my position as the eighth U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, I want to reaffirm the invaluable nature of that relationship in the quest for freedom, justice, peace and human dignity throughout the world.

Thank you, Your Holiness.

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Benedict XVI's Address to Ambassadors
"Diplomacy Must Give Hope"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 7, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's traditional New Year's address to ambassadors to the Holy See. The Pope gave the message today.

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Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I extend cordial greetings to your Dean, Ambassador Giovanni Galassi, and I thank him for the kind words that he has addressed to me in the name of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See. To each of you I offer respectful greetings, particularly to those who are present at this meeting for the first time. Through you, I express my fervent prayers for the peoples and governments that you represent with such dignity and competence. Your community suffered a bereavement some weeks ago: the Ambassador of France, Monsieur Bernard Kessedjian, ended his earthly pilgrimage; may the Lord welcome him into his peace! My thoughts today go especially to the nations that have yet to establish diplomatic relations with the Holy See: they too have a place in the Pope's heart. The Church is profoundly convinced that humanity is a family, as I wanted to emphasize in this year's World Day of Peace Message.

2. It was in a family spirit that diplomatic relations were established last year with the United Arab Emirates. In the same spirit, I was also able to visit certain countries that I hold dear. The enthusiastic welcome that I received from the Brazilians continues to warm my heart! In that country, I had the joy of meeting the representatives of the great family of the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean, gathered at Aparecida for the Fifth General Conference of CELAM. In the economic and social sphere, I was able to note eloquent signs of hope for that continent, as well as certain reasons for concern. We all look forward to seeing increasing cooperation among the peoples of Latin America, and, within each of the countries that make up that continent, the resolution of internal conflicts, leading to a consensus on the great values inspired by the Gospel. 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.

3. 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; mention must also be made of the great fires. The Cardinal Secretary of State, who went to Peru at the end of August, brought me a first-hand account of the destruction and havoc caused by the terrible earthquake, but he spoke also of the courage and faith of the peoples affected. In the face of tragic events of this kind, a strong joint effort is needed. As I wrote in my Encyclical on hope, "the true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer. This holds true both for the individual and for society" (Encyclical Letter Spe Salvi, 38).

4. The international community continues to be deeply concerned about the Middle East. I am glad that the Annapolis Conference pointed towards the abandonment of partisan or unilateral solutions, in favour 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 invite the international community to be generous towards them and towards their host countries, whose capacities to absorb them have been sorely tested. 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 programme, 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.

5. 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; greater support should be given to efforts for development, and even more intensive work is required in order to build a serene future. In Sri Lanka it is no longer possible to postpone further the decisive efforts needed to remedy the immense sufferings caused by the continuing conflict. And I ask the Lord to grant that in Myanmar, with the support of the international community, a season of dialogue between the Government and the opposition will begin, ensuring true respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

6. Turning now to Africa, 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. The peace process in the Democratic Republic of Congo is encountering strong resistance in the vicinity of the Great Lakes, especially in the Eastern regions, while 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. The Catholic Church is not indifferent to the cries of pain that rise up from these regions. She makes her own the pleas for help made by refugees and displaced persons, and she pledges herself to foster reconciliation, justice and peace. This year, Ethiopia is marking the start of the third Christian millennium, and I am sure that the celebrations organized for this occasion will also help to recall the immense social and apostolic work carried out by Christians in Africa.

7. And finally, focussing upon 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 spectre of violence will be definitively removed and European stability strengthened. I should like also to mention Cyprus, recalling with joy the visit of His Beatitude Archbishop Chrysostomos II last June. It is my earnest wish that, in the context of the European Union, no effort will be spared in the search for a solution to a crisis that has already lasted too long. Last September, I made a visit to Austria, partly in order to underline the essential contribution that the Catholic Church is able and willing to give to European unification. On the subject of Europe, I would like to assure you that I am 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" (Meeting with the Authorities and the Diplomatic Corps, Vienna, 7 September 2007) and if it does not deny its Christian roots.

8. From this rapid overview it appears clearly that the security and stability of the world are still fragile. The factors of concern are varied, yet they all bear witness to the fact that human freedom is not absolute, but is a good that is shared, one for which all must assume responsibility. It follows that law and order are guarantees of freedom. Yet 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.

9. This realization could help, among other things, to give direction to initiatives for intercultural and inter-religious dialogue. These ever increasing initiatives can foster cooperation on matters of mutual interest, such as the dignity of the human person, the search for the common good, peace-building and development. In this regard, the Holy See attaches particular importance to its participation in high-level dialogue on understanding among religions and cultures and cooperation for peace, within the framework of the 62nd General Assembly of the United Nations (4-5 October 2007). In order to be true, this dialogue must be clear, avoiding relativism and syncretism, while at the same time it must be marked by sincere respect for others and by a spirit of reconciliation and fraternity. The Catholic Church is deeply committed to this goal. It is a pleasure for me to recall once again the letter that was addressed to me, on 13 October last, by 138 Muslim Religious Leaders, and to renew my gratitude for the noble sentiments which were expressed in it.

10. Our society has rightly enshrined the greatness and dignity of the human person in various declarations of rights, formulated in the wake of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted exactly sixty years ago. That solemn act, in the words of Pope Paul VI, was one of the greatest achievements of the United Nations. In every continent the Catholic Church strives to ensure that human rights are not only proclaimed but put into practice. It is to be hoped that agencies created for the defence and promotion of human rights will devote all their energies to this task and, in particular, that the Human Rights Council will be able to meet the expectations generated by its creation.

11. The Holy See for its part never tires of reaffirming these principles and rights, founded on what is essential and permanent in the human person. The Church willingly undertakes this service to the true dignity of human persons, created in the image of God. And on the basis of these considerations, I cannot but deplore once again the continual attacks perpetrated on every continent against human life. I would like to recall, together with many men and women dedicated to research and science, that the new frontiers reached in bioethics do not require us to choose between science and morality: rather, they oblige us to a moral use of science. On the other hand, recalling the appeal made by Pope John Paul II on the occasion of the Jubilee Year 2000, I rejoice that on 18 December last the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution calling upon States to institute a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, and I earnestly hope that this initiative will lead to public debate on the sacred character of human life. I regret, once again, the disturbing threats to the integrity of the family, founded on the marriage of a man and a woman. Political leaders, of whatever kind, should defend this fundamental institution, the basic cell of society. What more should be said? Even religious freedom, "an essential requirement of the dignity of every person [and] a cornerstone of the structure of human rights" (Message for the 1988 World Day of Peace, Preamble) is often undermined. There are many places where this right cannot be fully exercised. The Holy See defends it, demands that it be universally respected, and views with concern discrimination against Christians and against the followers of other religions.

12. Peace cannot be a mere word or a vain aspiration. Peace is a commitment and a manner of life which demands that the legitimate aspirations of all should be satisfied, such as access to food, water and energy, to medicine and technology, or indeed the monitoring of climate change. Only in this way can we build the future of humanity; only in this way can we facilitate an integral development valid for today and tomorrow. With a particularly felicitous expression, Pope Paul VI stressed forty years ago in his Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, that "development is the new name for peace". Hence, in order to consolidate peace, the positive macroeconomic results achieved by many developing countries during 2007 must be supported by effective social policies and by the implementation of aid commitments by rich countries.

13. Finally, I wish to urge the international community to make a global commitment on security. A joint effort on the part of States to implement all the obligations undertaken and to prevent terrorists from gaining access to weapons of mass destruction would undoubtedly strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime and make it more effective. I welcome the agreement reached on the dismantling of North Korea's nuclear weapons programme, and I encourage the adoption of suitable measures for the reduction of conventional weapons and for dealing with the humanitarian problems caused by cluster munitions.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

14. Diplomacy is, in a certain sense, the art of hope. It lives from hope and seeks to discern even its most tenuous signs. Diplomacy must give hope. The celebration of Christmas reminds us each year that, when God became a little child, Hope came to live in our world, in the heart of the human family. Today this certainty becomes a prayer: May God open the hearts of those who govern the family of peoples to the Hope that never disappoints! With these sentiments, I offer to each one of you my very best wishes, so that you, your staff, and the peoples you represent may be enlightened by the Grace and Peace which come to us from the Child of Bethlehem.

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Pope's Address to Kuwait Ambassador
"Children Need to Be Educated in Openness to Other Cultures"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 17, 2007- Here is the text of Benedict XVI's English-language address Thursday to Suhail Khalil Shuhaiber, Kuwait's new ambassador to the Holy See.

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Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters by which you are accredited Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the State of Kuwait to the Holy See. I thank you most heartily for the greetings which you have brought me from His Highness the Amir Shaikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, and I ask you kindly to convey to him my warm personal greetings, together with the assurance of my prayers for the continued prosperity of the nation and its citizens.

The coming year marks the fortieth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Kuwait and the Holy See. I willingly take this occasion to express my hope that these good relations will be further consolidated. Your country, which has overcome the devastating effects of violence and war, continues to play an important role in the delicate process of reconciliation which offers the only sure hope for a resolution of the many complex problems affecting the Middle East. Kuwait's democratic Constitution, which reflects the nation's heritage of cultural and religious values, is guided by the principles of justice, respect for the rule of law, and the protection of fundamental human rights. These principles, which are ultimately grounded in the inviolable dignity of the human person, must everywhere find juridical recognition and concrete application if genuine freedom, integral development and peace are to reign among the nations and peoples of the world.

In this regard, I greatly appreciate Your Excellency's reference to your country's acknowledgement of the importance of interreligious and intercultural dialogue for the promotion of peace. Such dialogue - and I think here with satisfaction of the increasing contacts between Muslims and Christians - is essential for overcoming misunderstandings and forging solid relations marked by mutual respect and cooperation in the pursuit of the common good of the whole human family. Children, in particular, need to be educated in the authentic values underlying their own culture and in a spirit of openness to other cultures, respect for others and commitment to peace. In a world where intolerance, violence and oppression are all too often proposed as the solution to disagreements and conflict, there is urgent need of a "human ecology" (cf. Message for the 2007 World Day of Peace, 10) capable of extirpating these evils and sowing those virtues which will foster the growth of a truly humane culture of honesty, solidarity and concord.

Kuwait's national life is characterized by the presence of significant minorities, including a high number of resident foreign workers. Their presence in your country is itself a source of enrichment and a constant incentive to establish the conditions necessary for peaceful coexistence and social progress. I cannot fail to mention in this regard the many Catholics living and working in Kuwait, who can freely worship in their own churches. Your nation's Constitution rightly upholds their religious freedom. This fundamental right, grounded in the inviolable dignity of the person, is fittingly considered the cornerstone of the whole edifice of human rights. I express my appreciation of the cordial relations which the Church enjoys with the civil authorities, and my confidence that, as the Catholic community in Kuwait continues to grow, those authorities will readily assist them in meeting the urgent need for new and more adequate structures for worship and assembly.

Kuwait's Catholics have sought to contribute to the development of the larger society, not least through their educational institutions. These, though few in number, are fully committed to forming the minds and hearts of their students in an environment emphasizing sound spiritual values and inculcating respect for the dignity and beliefs of others. It is my hope that, in freely carrying out their proper mission, including the formation of young Christian students in their faith, these schools will help to strengthen the fabric of society by preparing their students to cooperate in building a future of solidarity and hope for coming generations.

Your Excellency, as you now undertake the mission of representing the State of Kuwait to the Holy See, please accept my personal good wishes for the success of your important work. Be assured that you may always count on the offices of the Holy See to assist and support you in the fulfilment of your high responsibilities. Upon you and your family, and upon all the beloved people of Kuwait, I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of the Almighty.

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Papal Address to Envoy From Singapore
"Economic Success Needs a Firm Ethical Grounding"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 17, 2007 - Here is the text of Benedict XVI's English-language address Thursday to Barry Desker, Singapore's new ambassador to the Holy See.

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Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you as you begin your mission and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Singapore to the Holy See. I am grateful for your kind words and for the greetings you bring from President Sellapan Ramanathan. Please extend to him my respectful good wishes and the assurance of my prayers for the peace and prosperity of all the people of your nation.

For over twenty-five years now, the Holy See has enjoyed excellent diplomatic relations with Singapore, and looks forward to strengthening them further in the years ahead. As one of the most developed countries in South-East Asia, Singapore has a significant contribution to make to the economic and social advancement of the region. While many parts of South-East Asia continue to suffer from the effects of poverty, crime, and political unrest, Singapore, as a prosperous, well-ordered and democratic country, gives an important lead that can offer hope and inspiration to others. The Holy See is eager to continue working with your Government in order to promote the well-being of the region and the resolution of conflicts.

Economic success, however, needs a firm ethical grounding if it is to bring lasting benefits to society. Indeed the needs of the person must always be placed at the heart of economic enterprise, since, as the Second Vatican Council teaches, the human person is "the source, the centre, and the purpose of all economic and social life" (Gaudium et Spes, 63). Likewise, an authentic democracy is not merely the result of a formal observation of a set of rules, but is "the fruit of a convinced acceptance of the values that inspire democratic procedures: the dignity of every human person, the respect of human rights, commitment to the common good" (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 407). For this reason I encourage your Government in its efforts to involve all citizens and groups to participate in political and social life, for the promotion of those authentic values that lie at the heart of a healthy society.

While Catholics constitute only a small percentage of the population of Singapore, they are happy and willing to play their full part in national life and to contribute to the common good. One particularly important way in which they do so is through the witness of marriage and family life. As the natural community in which human social nature is experienced, the family makes a unique and irreplaceable contribution to the good of society. Indeed, a healthy state of married and family life is the best guarantee against the damaging effects of individualism or collectivism, because "within the family the person is always at the centre of attention as an end and never as a means" (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 213). For this reason, I am confident that your Government will wish to continue safeguarding the vital part played in society by the institution of marriage and by the family.

In championing human rights, the Church is especially concerned to defend the universal rights to life and to religious freedom (cf. Message for the 2007 World Day of Peace, 4). The right to life, from conception to natural death, is the first among rights, and the condition for all others. Moreover, the effective recognition of the right to freedom of conscience and religious freedom is one of the most serious duties of every community that truly wishes to ensure the good of the individual and of society. Your Government is known for its commitment to initiatives aimed at promoting dialogue, respect and cooperation between different religious groups, of particular importance in view of the diverse ethnic and religious affiliation of your population. Be assured that the Holy See is also willing to work with your Government in this area in order to promote common objectives.

Recent years have seen a tragic escalation in international terrorism, often linked to religious motives, and South-East Asia has not been spared the effects of this disturbing development. The Holy See firmly rejects the manipulation of religion for political purposes, and especially the attempt to justify violence in this way. This new threat to world peace calls for a renewed commitment on the part of States to the implementation of international humanitarian law (cf. Message for the 2007 World Day of Peace, 14). The support shown by your Government for global peace-keeping initiatives is a sign of Singapore's firm resolve to contribute to this worthy goal. The Catholic Church shares the concern of all those who seek to limit the suffering caused by armed conflict, and to promote the peaceful coexistence of peoples and nations.

Your Excellency, I pray that the diplomatic mission which you begin today will further strengthen the fruitful relations between the Holy See and your country. I assure you that the various departments of the Roman Curia are always ready to offer help and support in the fulfilment of your duties. I invoke upon you, your family, and all the people of Singapore God's abundant blessings.

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Pope's Address to Envoy From Suriname
"Differences of Origin, Custom and Belief Are Opportunities"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 16, 2007- Here is the text of Benedict XVI's English-language address Thursday to Urmila Joella-Sewnundun, Suriname's new ambassador to the Holy See. The Vatican released the text.

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Your Excellency,

It is a pleasure for me to welcome you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Suriname to the Holy See. I gladly accept your letters of Credence, and I thank you for conveying to me the courteous greetings expressed by President Ronald Venetiaan. I would ask you kindly to transmit my own greetings to His Excellency and to the people of Suriname with an assurance of my continued prayers for the peace and well-being of your country. The congenial spirit that has characterized the diplomatic ties between Suriname and the Holy See since 1994 is a great sign of hope for the future. The Church, which has played a key role in the history of your region, continues to share its peoples' aspirations for peace, social harmony and economic stability.

This year marks the Fortieth anniversary of Populorum Progressio, the Encyclical Letter promulgated by my Venerable Predecessor Pope Paul VI to promote "man's complete development and the development of all mankind" (5). The basic principles set forth in this document prompted a vigorous discussion not only among bishops, but also government leaders, lawmakers, economists, businessmen and intellectuals throughout the world. This lively interest continues today, generating fresh ideas for advancing the common good in ways that not only satisfy man's material needs, but actualize his full spiritual potential. Populorum Progressio points to the challenges facing formerly colonized countries on their journey towards national sovereignty (cf. 7). This road has not always been easy for Suriname, but its democratic institutions and national identity have been strengthened as a result of this process of adjustment to a new political reality. I cordially invite the people of your nation to draw from the deep well of the Church's social teaching as they plan for the future.

Your Excellency has noted the extraordinary ethnic and religious diversity present in your country. Differences of origin, custom and belief are marvellous opportunities for people to learn and practise tolerance and sympathy for one another. Such habits build social cohesion and lay the groundwork for a robust democracy (cf. Populorum Progressio, 64). By becoming more familiar with the various mores coexisting within a nation, its citizens learn to set their sights on truths that transcend them both as individuals and as members of local communities. These truths, which need to be upheld by a country's rule of law and the institutions established to uphold it, also inspire men and women of goodwill to leave their limited sphere of self-interest and to place themselves at the service of their neighbours (cf. Populorum Progressio, 73). Suriname's five-year plan opens multiple opportunities for furthering the spirit of solidarity among your people as it paves the way to initiatives that will foster social integration. I pray that the implementation of this five-year plan will help guarantee that the basic rights of all-especially minorities and the poor-continue to be respected at every level of society (cf. Populorum Progressio, 9).

Your Excellency has also drawn attention to Suriname's membership in various international organizations aimed at furthering multi-lateral dialogue and cooperation. Your nation's willingness to participate in these organizations demonstrates Suriname's commitment to the resolution of regional differences in ways that honour the rightful autonomy of all interested States. Cooperation with your neighbours will also galvanize efforts to conquer the disturbing trend of international drug trafficking, the insidious effects of which can be felt throughout the global community and are particularly destructive to the poor, the young and the underprivileged. Not only does the flow of illegal narcotics do grave harm to those who abuse these substances, but the very structures necessary to facilitate this trade entangle society in a web of corruption, greed and exploitation. Madam Ambassador, while expressing my sincere appreciation for the actions already undertaken to address this complex situation, I encourage you and all those in your region to continue making every effort towards the eradication of this problem from society altogether, both by cutting it off at its sources and by combating the factors that drive people to self-abusive behaviours: especially poverty, the breakdown of the family and social disintegration.

Madam Ambassador, it is a joy for me to receive you today as you begin the mission entrusted to you. I am grateful for your assurance of Suriname's steadfast commitment to religious freedom and its spirit of cooperation with the Catholic Church in your country. In turn, I am happy to confirm the ready collaboration of the various offices and agencies of the Roman Curia. May your mission strengthen the bonds of friendship and goodwill between your Government and the Holy See. Upon you and all the people of your country, I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

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Papal Address to Gambian Envoy
"Openness to Others and Submission to Truth Is the Cornerstone of a Human Society"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 16, 2007 - Here is the text of Benedict XVI's English-language address Thursday to Elizabeth Ya Eli Harding, Gambia's new ambassador to the Holy See.

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Your Excellency,

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Vatican as you present the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of the Gambia to the Holy See. I am grateful for the courteous greetings and sentiments of good will which you have expressed on behalf of His Excellency Colonel Yahya Jammeh, President of the Republic. As I willingly reciprocate, I ask you kindly to convey my gratitude and good wishes to His Excellency, to the civil authorities and to the Gambian people.

Diplomatic relations between the Republic of the Gambia and the Holy See were formally established in 1978. These relations, which the Holy See willingly establishes with individual countries, are a privileged opportunity to work together for the promotion of many important values favourable to the genuine growth of human society. Close and cordial relations can be of great advantage to both parties, especially in areas related to the defence of the life, the dignity and freedom of every human person and the promotion of the health, social development and education of less favoured groups of the population.

Christian love is the force that motivates the Church in your country as it offers its service to the Gambian people through the promotion of important values such as justice, solidarity and peace. The Catholic Church in Africa is committed directly to spread the message of Jesus and consequently to give witness to the love of Almighty God through the practice of charity, like the good Samaritan of the Gospel story (cf. Ecclesia in Africa, 41). A similar witness of love and the values of hospitality and compassion are also practised by followers of other religions in your country. In this regard I am pleased to recognize the cordial and peaceful relationship existing in The Gambia between the members of different religions. It speaks well of the friendly disposition of your people and their genuine religious sentiments. I pray that this good atmosphere will be consolidated and protected from the corrupting influence of ideologies that would use religion for political ends.

The Gambia's future is interwoven with the future of West Africa. The Holy See looks with hope on the efforts to consolidate peace in the region. Nothing can dispense with the process of political dialogue where differences are harmonized and group expectations readjusted for the common good of the people. The Gambia has already given an example of this approach in a recent international dispute. I encourage your country to continue along this noble path in the solution of external and internal differences.

Your people continue to aspire, and rightly so, to a life of well-being in dignity and freedom. They seek improved political and social conditions that guarantee growth through initiative, creativity and exchange. The Catholic Church gives its full encouragement and cooperation to all African Governments who strive to strengthen the rule of law and eradicate corruption, to curb political harassment and the abuse of power (cf. Ecclesia in Africa, 112). In all spheres of life, especially in public affairs, the value of openness to others and submission to truth is the cornerstone of a human society worthy of the name. The commitment to truth is the soul of justice; it establishes and strengthens the right to freedom and opens the way to forgiveness and reconciliation (cf. Address to the Diplomatic Corps, 9 January 2006). Political institutions and public officials are by their very nature open to legitimate control and criticism since they serve the common good of the country and the needs and aspirations of the people whom they represent (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 75). A political climate based on the respect for truth is an indispensable foundation of civil society. Love of their nation should encourage all, authorities and citizens, political parties and the media, to contribute actively to the consolidation of a healthy, open and respectful political environment.

While The Gambia as such has been spared the scourge of war, it still labours under a number of hardships. The Government and its respective departments and ministries, other agencies and political parties are attentive to these situations and can count on the loyal and generous cooperation of the Catholic Church. Living standards and sanitary conditions of sizeable segments of the population require continued attention. I encourage all to become involved in the promotion of the essential equality and complementarity of man and woman. Likewise the struggle against AIDS has to continue on the medical and especially educational fronts. Promiscuous sexual conduct is a root cause of many moral and physical ills and must be overcome by promoting a culture of marital faithfulness and moral integrity. The displacement of populations and the influx of refugees, seeking freedom from the many miseries that armed conflicts bring with them, is still a pressing problem which strains available resources. I am aware of the difficulties involved and I encourage the people and the institutions, public and private, who offer their service to those in need. At the same time I appeal to the international community to play a generous part in supporting this humanitarian task.

Madam Ambassador, these are some of the thoughts that arise from the Holy See's attentive consideration and appreciation of your country and the African Continent. I wish you every success in your mission. You may count on the willing and open cooperation of the Offices of the Vatican and the Roman Curia. I am pleased to renew once again my good wishes to His Excellency President Jammeh, to the Government and people of your country. May Almighty God bestow upon the nation abundant and lasting blessings of well-being and peace!

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Papal Address to Seychelles Envoy
"The Future of the State Depends in Large Part on Families"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 14, 2007- Here is the text of Benedict XVI's English-language address Thursday to Alain Butler Payette, Seychelles' new ambassador to the Holy See. The text was released by the Vatican.

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Your Excellency,

I am pleased to accept the Letters by which you are accredited Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Seychelles to the Holy See. I recall with pleasure your visit last year in the company of President James Alix Michel and I am most grateful for the greetings which you have brought from him. For my part, I gladly reciprocate with the assurance of my heartfelt prayers for your beloved country and all its people.

Seychelles has been blessed by Providence not only with great natural beauty and a sound economic life, but also with the social harmony and cohesiveness born of shared values and a strong commitment to solidarity in the pursuit of the common good. Your nation can indeed be grateful for its high standard of living, the fruit of the vision and sacrifice of many generations of citizens. Within the broader context of the African continent, Seychelles is well known for the quality and extent of its educational system and the breadth of its network of health services, available to all citizens. This impressive infrastructure offers great promise for the future of the nation, since it provides a firm foundation for continued economic growth and also, even more importantly, for the realization of the deepest hopes and aspirations of the younger generation.

In this regard, I am grateful for Your Excellency's reference to the importance of acknowledging and fostering those spiritual values, born of your nation's Christian roots, which have been decisive in shaping the present of Seychelles and which offer a sure foundation for its future. The Church in Seychelles is rightly proud of its contribution to the life of the nation, particularly through its historic commitment to the education of the young and to the training of the faithful in the virtues essential for integral human development and the building of a free, just and prosperous society. The Catholic community wishes to persevere in this commitment, and, in a spirit of sincerity and respectful cooperation, to work for the promotion of the common good through the preaching of the Gospel, the work of forming consciences in sound religious and moral principles, and the provision of charitable assistance to all, without regard to race or religion.

On this occasion I cannot fail to express my appreciation for the cordial relations existing between the Republic of Seychelles and the Holy See, marked as they are by reciprocal trust and ready collaboration. I likewise express my gratitude for the Government's efforts to support religious education at the primary level and to contribute to the building of new churches and educational structures. This commitment is a concrete sign of the relationship of trust and responsible cooperation which has long existed between the civil authorities and the Catholic community in the service of the young, who represent the hope of society. The nation has, in fact, made the needs of the young and their sound formation a notable priority, and this will surely bear rich fruit as the young men and women of today gradually take their place as the responsible citizens and leaders of tomorrow. I have great confidence in the youth of Seychelles, and through you I send all of them my affectionate greetings and my hearty encouragement to persevere in cultivating the virtues of honesty, fidelity and generous service to others which not only bring personal happiness and deep fulfilment, but also create a society of ever greater fraternity, freedom, justice and peace.

Among the greatest resources of Seychelles is its strong family life, grounded in the mutual love of husband and wife and strengthened by the gift of children. As the first cell of society, the family rightly looks to society for the encouragement it needs in its irreplaceable mission. I can only encourage the efforts being made by all people of good will, in every sphere of national life and policy, to "guarantee and foster the genuine identity of family life" (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 252), by promoting and defending this fundamental institution, acknowledging and meeting the challenges faced by young families, and supporting parents in their responsibilities as the first educators of their children. The future of the state depends in large part on families that are strong in their communion and stable in their commitment (cf. ibid., 213).

Your Excellency, as you now begin your mission on behalf of the Republic of Seychelles, please accept my personal good wishes for your demanding work. Know that the various offices of the Holy See are ready to assist and support you in the fulfilment of your duties. With these sentiments I cordially invoke upon you, your family, and all the beloved people of Seychelles God's richest blessings of joy and peace.

© Copyright 2007 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope's Address to Namibia's Ambassador
"The Church Dedicates No Less Energy to Education Than She Does to Health Care"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 14, 2007- Here is the text of Benedict XVI's English-language address Thursday to Peter Hitjitevi Katjavivi, Namibia's new ambassador to the Holy See. The Vatican released the text.

* * *

Your Excellency,

It is a pleasure for me to welcome you to the Vatican as I accept the letters by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Namibia to the Holy See. I thank you for the greetings and good wishes which you have expressed on behalf of your President, Mr. Hifikepunye Pohamba, and I would ask that you kindly convey to him and to the Namibian people my own cordial greetings and the assurance of my prayers for their peace and well-being.

Having attained independence in 1990, Namibia is one of the world's youngest nations. Yet the history of her people stretches back much further, encompassing periods of great trial and suffering as well as moments of remarkable success. Your Excellency has kindly expressed appreciation for the Church's steadfast presence throughout this history. Arriving in the territory in the latter half of the nineteenth century, Catholic missionaries, in addition to establishing places of worship, also founded numerous schools and hospitals, many of which are still serving the Namibian people today. The work of these institutions gives witness to the "duty of charity" which has always been at the heart of the Church's mission (cf. Deus Caritas Est, 32).

As you have indicated, authentic love for one's neighbour must be expressed in tangible ways. Yet in the public realm, it is often difficult to ascertain precisely what will be most conducive to the good of our brothers and sisters. Such discernment calls for a long-range vision. This has been the impetus for the many initiatives your country has undertaken to enhance the quality of life of all Namibians by concentrating in a special way on authentic human development. Indeed, the quality of human life cannot be measured solely in terms of consumable goods. The Church shares the conviction that societies must embrace man's "full range of material needs" as well as his "intellectual, moral, spiritual, and religious life" (Gaudium et Spes, 64). I pray that as Namibia implements its strategies for economic and social development, it keeps its sights set on an integral vision of man in his bodily, spiritual and social dimensions.

Namibia's vision for the future recognizes the urgent need to bring the troubling spread of infectious disease to a halt. The tragic toll which HIV/AIDS has had in Southern Africa has been particularly alarming. In this regard, I assure the people of your country that the Church will continue to assist those who suffer from AIDS and to support their families. The Church's contribution to the goal of eradicating AIDS from society cannot but draw its inspiration from the Christian conception of human love and sexuality. The understanding of marriage as the total, reciprocal and exclusive communion of love between a man and a woman not only accords with the plan of the Creator, it prompts the most effective behaviours for preventing the sexual transmission of disease: namely, abstinence before marriage and fidelity within marriage. It is for this reason that the Church dedicates no less energy to education and catechesis than she does to health care and corporal works of mercy. Mr. Ambassador, I encourage the leaders of your nation to legislate in a way that promotes the life of the family, which must always be held as sacred and most fundamental for a stable society.

Human health also depends on a harmonious relationship with nature, which has been entrusted to man's intelligent dominion. Namibia's Constitution is one of the first to make explicit mention of the grave responsibility to protect the environment and to use its resources wisely. I join you in drawing the global community's attention to the importance of respecting nature as a common good destined for the enjoyment of the whole human family (cf. Centesimus Annus, 37). To this end, Namibia has made a concerted effort towards agrarian reform. Yet the road has not been easy. Above all, policies in this area must always uphold the basic right of the hungry to their daily portion of bread (cf. Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 42). Therefore, I warmly encourage everyone involved in these initiatives to persevere. By effectively administering titles, opening access to credit, and utilizing the latest advances in science and technology (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 69), I am confident that your nation will achieve a more equitable distribution of land and reap a more abundant harvest of the earth's fruits in the years ahead.

I assure you, Mr. Ambassador, that the Church will continue to stand with your fellow countrymen as they strive to assist one another in accordance with the divine command to love one's neighbour (cf. Mt 22: 39). As you take on your responsibilities, I am confident that you will find the various departments of the Holy See ready to assist you in carrying out your mission. Upon you, your family, the Namibian people and their leaders, I invoke an abundance of divine blessings.

© Copyright 2007 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope's Speech to 7 New Ambassadors
"I Desire That the Education of Youth Be a Priority"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 13, 2007- Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's speech today to seven new ambassadors to the Holy See, who presented their letters of credence. The ambassadors come from Thailand, Seychelles, Namibia, Gambia, Suriname, Singapore and Kuwait.

* * *

Excellencies:

With much joy, I welcome you on the occasion of the presentation of the letters that accredit you as extraordinary ambassadors and delegates of your respective countries: Thailand, Seychelles, Namibia, Gambia, Suriname, Singapore and Kuwait. I thank you for the kind words you have transmitted to me on behalf of your heads of state. I ask that you express to them my deferential greetings and my best wishes for them and for the important mission they exercise in service of your countries.

My cordial greeting is also directed to all the civil and religious authorities of your nations, as well as all your countrymen. Through you, I assure them of my prayers, encouraging them in the continuation of their mission and the testimony they offer with their commitment of service to everyone.

Your diplomatic mission is particularly important in today's world to show that, in all the situations of international life, dialogue must overcome violence, and the desire for peace and brotherhood should prevail over confrontation and individualism, which only causes tensions and resentment, impeding progress in the reconciliation of societies.

Through you, I wish to launch a fresh call to everyone who plays a role in public life and to those who participate in governing nations, to do everything in their power to restore hope to the peoples they have been entrusted to govern. May they bear in mind their peoples' deepest aspirations and do what is necessary so that everyone may benefit from the natural and economic resources of his or her country, in accordance with the principles of justice and equity.

From this perspective, you should pay particular attention to the younger generations, showing them that they are a country's greatest wealth. Their integral education is a fundamental necessity. In fact, a technical and scientific training is not enough to fashion men and women who are responsible in their families and on every level of society. To reach this objective, one has to promote education based on human and moral values that enable each young person to trust in himself, to hope in the future, concerning himself with his brothers and sisters, and taking on his role in the development of the nation, with an ever increasing and acute sense of concern for others.

For this reason I desire that, in every country, the education of youth be a priority, with the help of international institutions involved in eradicating illiteracy and the lack of formation in all its forms. This is a particularly important way to combat the desperation that can take root in the hearts of young people, and provoke many individual or collective acts of violence.

The Catholic Church, thanks to her numerous educational institutions, is unceasingly committed, alongside men and women of good will, on the front lines of the field of integral formation of the young. I encourage all people who participate in this beautiful mission of educating youth to continue tirelessly in their task, convinced that an adequate formation of youth prepares a promising tomorrow.

You have just received from your heads of state a mission before the Holy See. As we end our meeting, I wish to express to you, men and women ambassadors, my best wishes for the service you are beginning to perform. May the Almighty sustain you, your loved ones, your collaborators, and all your fellow citizens in the building up of a peaceful society, and may an abundance of divine blessings descend on each one of you.

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Papal Address to Thai Envoy to Holy See
Development Must "Highlight the Dignity of the Human Person"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 13, 2007 - Here is the text of Benedict XVI's English-language address today to Chaiyong Satjipanon, Thailand's new ambassador to the Holy See.

* * *

Your Excellency,

With much pleasure I welcome you to the Vatican and accept the Letters of Credence appointing you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Thailand to the Holy See. I greatly appreciate the cordial greetings which you have brought from His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. I warmly reciprocate them and ask you to convey the assurance of my deep esteem for the Royal Family, and my prayers for the well-being of the citizens of your noble nation. The firm bonds of respect and friendship between Thailand and the Holy See, which enjoy a remarkable history of more than four hundred years, today remain a source of particular strength that both parties draw upon in their service to the human family.

On the auspicious occasion of the Sixtieth Anniversary of His Majesty's succession to the throne of the Kingdom of Thailand, I had the profound satisfaction of joining all the citizens of your country in recognizing the many blessings which His Majesty has received over these last six decades. I also took the opportunity to express my respect for the loving service he has rendered through his assiduous care to promote unity, religious tolerance and compassion for the poor. Indeed, for centuries the Royal Family and the Holy See have shared a concern and solicitude for the human family, especially the most vulnerable. The joyous Christmas visit of Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn to the Apostolic Nunciature, which included cultural activities and service to the poor, not only warmed the hearts of all present but manifested afresh our common commitment to the marginalized and less fortunate.

The moral characteristic of authentic development is of fundamental importance to integral progress (cf. Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 9). The right to meaningful work and an acceptable standard of living, the assurance of a fair distribution of goods and wealth, and the responsible use of natural resources all depend upon a concept of development which is not limited merely to satisfying material necessities. Instead, such a concept must also highlight the dignity of the human person -- the proper subject of all progress -- and thereby enhance the common good of all, including minority groups. While such a goal certainly demands the support of the international community, it is also the case that much can be achieved through regional and local initiatives. Your nation's efforts to promote economic cooperation between ASEAN member States affirm the profound value of communal solidarity. Indeed, economic and social cooperation have helped substantially to overcome historical divisions and animosities in the region. They have also helped to lessen the incidents of local unrest of the type which sporadically emerges in the south of your country.

As Your Excellency has kindly observed, the Church in Thailand serves the nation considerably through her extensive educational and social apostolate. In regard to the provision of education, we can take heart that where schools and training institutes function in a professional manner and are staffed by people of personal integrity with a love of learning, a hopeful future is offered to a nation and most especially to its young. Education is a highly effective means to break the cycle of poverty which still afflicts so many families today, and it is increasingly recognized by the international community as an indispensable part of the way to peace. By the learning and socialization gained through schooling, pupils from all strata of society are integrated into a nation's civic life and are thus able to have the satisfaction of contributing to it.

The Catholic Church, in her service of the human family, reaches out to all members of Thai society without distinction. Her charitable mission, particularly to the poor and suffering, bears witness to "the unbreakable bond between love of God and love of neighbour" (Deus Caritas Est, 16). Of particular concern to her is the scourge of AIDS, prostitution and the trafficking of women and children which continue to afflict the countries of the region. Undoubtedly poverty is a major factor underlying this phenomenon and one which the Church constantly addresses. It must also be acknowledged that the decline in moral values, fuelled by the trivialization of sexuality in the media and entertainment industries, leads to the degradation of women and even the abuse of children. The complexity of this unspeakable human exploitation demands a concerted international response. To this end, I note Thailand's increasing commitment to various international conventions and protocols designed to combat sexual exploitation and trafficking. This international cooperation, coupled with an unbending domestic political resolve to confront the corruption and impunity which facilitate such crimes, will lead to a turning point of hope and dignity for all concerned. In these efforts I can assure you of the Church's utmost moral support and practical assistance.

Over the past year, Thailand has made significant strides towards revitalizing its democratic institutions. I join the people of your country as they look forward to a full restoration of the structures and procedures that will help relieve social tensions and respect the political rights of minorities. I take this opportunity to encourage a fair and just electoral process in the weeks ahead which favours the participation of all and honours the voice of the people.

Mr Ambassador, I am confident that the mission which you begin today will help to strengthen still further the bonds of understanding between Thailand and the Holy See. As you take up your new responsibilities I assure you that the various offices of the Roman Curia are ready to assist you in the fulfilment of your duties. Upon yourself and your fellow citizens I invoke an abundance of divine blessings.

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Papal Address to Indonesian Ambassador
"The Church Condemns the Manipulation of Religion for Political Ends"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 12, 2007.- Here is the address Benedict XVI gave when he received in audience today Indonesia's new ambassador to the Holy See, Suprapto Martosetomo.

* * *

Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican as you present the Letters by which you are accredited Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Indonesia to the Holy See. I thank you most heartily for the greetings which you have brought me from the Indonesian Government and people, and I ask you kindly to convey my own greetings to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, together with the assurance of my prayers for the peace and prosperity of the nation and its citizens.

Your Excellency has spoken of Indonesia’s commitment to pursue policies aimed at advancing the noble goals of democracy and social harmony enshrined in the Constitution and eloquently expressed in the national philosophy of Pancasila. This determination, which calls for sacrifice, resolute efforts to discern and promote the common good, and the cooperation of all political and social groups, is indispensable for overcoming the forces of polarization and conflict, carrying forward the renewal of economic life and consolidating a just democratic order in full respect for the rights of every individual and community.

Certainly at present one of the gravest threats to Indonesia’s cherished ideal of national unity is the phenomenon of international terrorism. I deeply appreciate your reaffirmation of the Government’s position of condemning terrorist violence, under whatever pretext it occurs, as a criminal offence which, by its contempt for human life and freedom, undermines the very foundations of society. This is particularly the case when the holy name of God is invoked as a justification for such acts. The Church at every level, in fidelity to the teaching of her Master, unequivocally condemns the manipulation of religion for political ends, while urging the application of international humanitarian law in every aspect of the fight against terrorism (cf. Message for the 2007 World Day of Peace, 14).

Indonesia, as a multi-religious country with the largest Muslim population of any nation in the world, plays an important and positive role in promoting interreligious cooperation, both within its borders and in the international community. Dialogue, respect for the convictions of others, and collaboration in the service of peace are the surest means of securing social concord. These are among the noblest goals which can bring together men and women of good will, and, in a particular way, all those who worship the one God who is the Creator and beneficent Lord of the whole human family. A promising development in this regard is represented by the growing instances of cooperation between Christians and Muslims in Indonesia, aimed particularly at the prevention of ethnic and religious conflicts in the most troubled areas.

Although Indonesia’s Catholics are a small minority, they desire to participate fully in the life of the nation, "to contribute to the material and spiritual progress of society, and to be sources of cohesion and harmony" (cf. Address to the Diplomatic Corps Attached to the Holy See, 8 January 2007). Through their network of educational and health care institutions, they seek to offer a significant service to their brothers and sisters, regardless of religion, and to instil the ethical values fundamental for authentic civic progress and peaceful coexistence. While their right to the free exercise of their religion in complete equality with their fellow citizens is guaranteed by the national Constitution, the protection of this fundamental human right calls for constant vigilance on the part of all. In this regard I note that Indonesia has recently acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and I am confident that this will help to further consolidate the freedom and legitimate autonomy of individual Christians and their institutions.

As Indonesia now sits as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, I take the present occasion to express my confidence that the principles which inspire your own national policies of pacification, dialogue and tolerance will enable Indonesia to make a fruitful contribution to the solution of global conflicts and the promotion of a peace based on international solidarity and concern for the integral development of individuals and peoples.

Your Excellency, as you undertake the mission of representing the Republic of Indonesia to the Holy See, please accept my personal good wishes for the success of your important work. Be assured that you may always count on the offices of the Holy See to assist and support you in the fulfilment of your high responsibilities. Upon you and your family, and upon all the beloved Indonesian people, I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

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Pope's Address to New Irish Ambassador
"The Church Serves All Members of Society"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 16, 2007 - Here is Benedict XVI's address Saturday upon receiving the letters of credence of the new Irish ambassador to the Holy See, Noel Fahey.


* * *

Your Excellency,

1. It is with particular pleasure that I welcome you to the Vatican and accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ireland to the Holy See. I would ask you kindly to convey to your President, Mrs Mary McAleese, and to the Government and people of your country my gratitude for their good wishes. I warmly reciprocate them and assure the citizens of your nation of my prayers for their spiritual well-being.

2. As Your Excellency has observed, for over sixteen hundred years Christianity has shaped the cultural, moral and spiritual identity of the Irish people. This is not simply a matter of historical importance. It lies at the heart of Irish civilization and it remains as a ‘leaven’ in the life of your nation. Indeed, the Christian faith has lost nothing of its significance for contemporary society since it touches "man’s deepest sphere" and gives "meaning to his life in the world" ("Redemptor Hominis," 10), enabling both civic and religious leaders to uphold the absolute values and ideals inherent in the dignity of every person and necessary for every democracy.

3. In recent years Ireland has enjoyed unprecedented economic growth. This prosperity has undoubtedly brought material comfort to many, but in its wake secularism has also begun to encroach and leave its mark. Against the backdrop of these developments, I was interested to learn of the recent launch of a ‘structured dialogue’ between the Church and the Government. I applaud the initiative. Some might question whether the Church is entitled to make a contribution to the governance of a nation. In a pluralist democratic society should not faith and religion be restricted to the private sphere? The historical rise of brutal totalitarian regimes, contemporary scepticism in the face of political rhetoric, and a growing uneasiness with the lack of ethical points of reference governing recent scientific advances -- one need only think of the field of bio-engineering -- all point to the imperfections and limitations found within both individuals and society. Recognition of those imperfections indicates the importance of a rediscovery of moral and ethical principles, and the need both to recognize the limits of reason and to understand its essential relationship of complementarity with faith and religion.

The Church, in articulating revealed truth, serves all members of society by shedding light on the foundation of morality and ethics, and by purifying reason, ensuring that it remains open to the consideration of ultimate truths and draws upon wisdom. Far from threatening the tolerance of differences or cultural plurality, or usurping the role of the State, such a contribution illuminates the very truth which makes consensus possible and keeps public debate rational, honest and accountable. When truth is disregarded, relativism takes its place: instead of being governed by principles, political choices are determined more and more by public opinion, values are overshadowed by procedures and targets, and indeed the very categories of good and evil, and right and wrong, give way to the pragmatic calculation of advantage and disadvantage.

4. The Northern Ireland Peace Process has been a long and arduous endeavour. At last, there is hope that it will bear enduring fruit. Peace has been achieved through widespread international support, determined political resolve on the part of both the Irish and the British Governments, and the readiness of individuals and communities to embrace the sublime human capacity to forgive. The entire international human family has taken heart from this outcome and welcomes this wave of hope sent across the world that conflict, no matter how engrained, can be overcome. It is my fervent prayer that the peace which is already bringing renewal to the North will inspire political and religious leaders in other troubled zones of our world to recognize that only upon forgiveness, reconciliation and mutual respect can lasting peace be built. To this end, I welcome your own Government’s commitment to deploy both experience and resources in the prevention and resolution of conflict, as well as its pledge to increase various forms of assistance to developing countries.

5. Your Excellency, like many nations around the globe, Ireland has in recent years made care of the environment one of its priorities in both domestic policy and international relations. The promotion of sustainable development and particular attention to climate change are indeed matters of grave importance for the entire human family, and no nation or business sector should ignore them. As scientific research demonstrates the worldwide effects that human actions can have on the environment, the complexity of the vital relationship between the ecology of the human person and the ecology of nature becomes increasingly apparent (cf. "Message for the 2007 World Day of Peace," 8).

The full understanding of this relationship is found in the natural and moral order with which God has created man and endowed the earth (ibid., 8-9). Curiously, while the majesty of God’s fingers in creation (cf. Ps 8:3) is readily recognized, the full acknowledgement of the glory and splendour with which he has specifically crowned man (cf. Ps 8:5) is at times less readily understood. A kind of split morality ensues. The great and vital moral themes of peace, non-violence, justice, and respect for creation do not in themselves confer dignity on man. The primary dimension of morality stems from the innate dignity of human life ) from the moment of conception to natural death ) a dignity conferred by God himself. God’s loving act of creation must be understood as a whole. How disturbing it is that not infrequently the very social and political groups that, admirably, are most attuned to the awe of God’s creation pay scant attention to the marvel of life in the womb. Let us hope that, especially among young people, emerging interest in the environment will deepen their understanding of the proper order and magnificence of God’s creation of which man and woman stand at the centre and summit.

6. Your Excellency, I am sure that your appointment will further strengthen the bonds of friendship which already exist between Ireland and the Holy See. As you take up your new responsibilities you will find that the various offices of the Roman Curia are most ready to assist you in the fulfilment of your duties. Upon you, your family and your fellow citizens I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God. 

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Pope's Address to New Slovak Ambassador
"Strong Societies Are Built on the Foundation of Strong Families"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 14, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is Benedict XVI's address Thursday upon receiving the letters of credence of the new Slovak ambassador to the Holy See, Jozef Dravecky.

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Your Excellency,

I am very pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Slovak Republic to the Holy See. I thank you for the cordial greetings which you have brought to me from President Gašparovic(, and I ask you kindly to convey to him my own respectful greetings, together with my prayerful good wishes for the well-being and prosperity of the Republic. Indeed, the bonds uniting the Bishop of Rome to the people of your country stretch back to the time of Saints Cyril and Methodius, and your presence here today is but another example of the mutual respect and affection the Holy See and Slovakia have for one another.

Next year will mark the Fifteenth Anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Slovak Republic and the Holy See. This cooperation has been especially fruitful in recent years, as evidenced by your Government’s ratification of two of the four items contained in the Basic Agreement signed in 2000. I am grateful for Your Excellency's reassurance that the Republic is committed to fulfilling the other two points of the Basic Agreement regarding conscientious objection and the financing of Church activities. In this regard, I reaffirm the Holy See's readiness to assist you and your colleagues in whatever way possible to bring these important matters to a successful conclusion.

A key approved item of the Basic Agreement, as noted by Your Excellency, concerns education. It is important that States continue to guarantee the Church the freedom to establish and administer Catholic schools, affording parents the opportunity to choose a means of education that fosters the Christian formation of their children. As they grasp Christian teaching, young people appreciate their personal dignity as creatures made in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:27), and thus recognize a purpose and direction for their lives. Indeed, a solid education that nourishes all the dimensions of the human person, including the religious and spiritual, is in the interest of both Church and State. In this way, young people can acquire habits that will enable them to embrace their civic duties as they enter adulthood.

The combined efforts of Church and civil society to instruct young people in the ways of goodness are all the more crucial at a time when they are tempted to disparage the values of marriage and family so vital to their future happiness and to a nation’s social stability. The family is the nucleus in which a person first learns human love and cultivates the virtues of responsibility, generosity and fraternal concern. Strong families are built on the foundation of strong marriages. Strong societies are built on the foundation of strong families. Indeed, all civic communities should do what they can to promote economic and social policies that aid young married couples and facilitate their desire to raise a family. Far from remaining indifferent to marriage, the State must acknowledge, respect and support this venerable institution as the stable union between a man and a woman who willingly embrace a life-long commitment of love and fidelity (cf. "Familiaris Consortio," 40). The members of your National Council are engaged in serious discussions on how to promote marriage and foster family life. The Catholic Bishops, too, in your country are worried about increases in the rate of divorce and the number of children conceived out of wedlock. Thanks to the efforts of the Council for Family and Youth, the Conference of Bishops has expanded educational initiatives that raise awareness of the noble vocation to marriage, thus preparing young people to assume its responsibilities. Such programmes open the door to further collaboration between Church and State and help to ensure a healthy future for your country.

As the Republic strives to achieve social progress at home, she also looks beyond her borders towards the wider international community. The rich cultural and spiritual heritage of Slovakia holds great potential for revitalizing the soul of the European continent. Your Excellency has drawn attention to the heroic sacrifices made by countless men and women in your nation’s history who, in times of persecution, laboured at great cost to preserve the right to life, religious liberty, and the freedom to place oneself at the charitable service of one’s neighbour (cf. "Deus Caritas Est," 28). Such essential values are imperative to building a peaceful and just European Union. I am confident that the celebrations marking the 1150th Anniversary of Saints Cyril and Methodius will renew Slovakia’s vigour to bear witness to these timeless values. In this way, she will inspire other member States of the European Union to strive for unity while recognizing diversity, to respect national sovereignty while engaging in joint activity, and to seek economic progress while upholding social justice.

Your Excellency, I am confident that the diplomatic ties between the Slovak Republic and the Holy See, which already enjoy a spirit of goodwill and mutual esteem, will continue to support the integral development of your nation. I assure you that the various offices of the Roman Curia are eager to assist you in the fulfilment of your duties. With my sincere good wishes, I invoke upon you, your family and all the beloved people of the Slovak Republic abundant divine blessings.

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Pope's Address to 5 New Ambassadors to Holy See
"Build a Society Where It Is Good to Live"

  VATICAN CITY, JUNE 15, 2007 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave June 1 upon receiving the letters of credence of the ambassadors to the Holy See from Pakistan, Iceland, Estonia, Burundi and Sudan.

Your Excellencies,

I am pleased to receive you today at the Vatican for the presentation of the Letters that accredit you as Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassadors of your respective countries: Pakistan, Iceland, Estonia, Burundi and Sudan.

You have conveyed to me the kind words of your respective Heads of State. I thank you for this, and I should be grateful if you would convey to them my respectful greetings and my cordial good wishes for their person and the lofty mission that they carry out at the service of their people.

Permit me also, through you, to address a warm greeting to all the civil and religious Authorities of your respective countries, as well as your countrymen.

My thoughts and prayers also go to the Catholic communities present in your countries. You know the spirit of fraternal collaboration in which they work with all their brethren in humanity, ready to witness to the Gospel that invites living the commandment of love for one's neighbour.

Coming from different continents, your presence here today gives our contemporaries the image of the world that, from North to South, from East to West, is concerned to establish ever stronger relationships in order to build a society where it is good to live.

In reality, in today's world, it is more important than ever to strengthen the bonds that unite countries, taking particular care of the poorest nations.

In fact, it is not possible to use the riches of the poorest countries with impunity, without their being able to take part in world growth. It is the duty of the authorities of all countries to work together for a better distribution of the riches and resources of the planet.

A collaboration of this sort will effect solidarity, peace and fraternal life in the heart of each country and between countries.

I earnestly appeal to all nations, in particular the richest, to renew their commitment so that all people become aware of their responsibility in this regard and agree to transform their lifestyle in view of an ever more equitable sharing.

Also permit me to emphasize the role that religions can have in this field. In fact, they have the duty to form their members in a spirit of fraternity among all the inhabitants of the same country, with respectful attention to all people.

May no one be the object of discrimination or be excluded from society for his or her convictions and religious practice, which are fundamental elements of the person's freedom.

May societies do credit to themselves by protecting these basic rights through the attention they manifest for the dignity of each human being.

Indeed, no true religious initiative can be the cause of division or violence between people and among human communities. On the contrary, the awareness that each person is a brother to protect and promote is fundamental.

At the moment when you are beginning your mission to the Holy See, I offer you, Ladies and Gentlemen Ambassadors, my best wishes for the success of your service.

I ask the Almighty to assist you, your relatives, your collaborators and all your citizens, and to shower his abundant benefits upon each of you.

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Benedict XVI's Appeal to G-8 Leaders

"Let Us Hope That Serious Efforts Be Made"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 6, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the appeal Benedict XVI voiced today after the general audience to the heads of state meeting at the Group of Eight summit.

* * *

Today in Heiligendamm, Germany, under the Presidency of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Annual Summit of Heads of State and Heads of Government of the G8 -- that is, the seven most industrialized countries of the world plus the Russian Federation -- has begun. On 16 December last I had occasion to write to Chancellor Angela Merkel, thanking her, in the name of the Catholic Church, for the decision to keep the theme of world poverty on the agenda of the G8, with specific reference to Africa. Doctor Merkel kindly replied to me on 2 February last, assuring me of the G8's commitment to attaining the Millennium Development Goals. Now, I should like to make a further appeal to the leaders meeting at Heiligendamm, not to retreat from their promises to make a substantial increase in development aid in favour of the most needy populations, especially those of the African Continent.

In this regard, the second Millennium goal merits special attention: "to achieve universal primary education -- to ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling by 2015". This is an integral part of the attainment of all the other Millennium Goals: it is a guarantee of the consolidation of goals already reached; it is the starting-point for autonomous and sustainable processes of development.

It must not be forgotten that the Catholic Church has always been at the forefront in the field of education, reaching places, particularly in the poorest countries, that State structures often fail to reach. Other Christian Churches, religious groups and organizations of civil society share this educational commitment. According to the principle of subsidiarity, this reality should be recognized, valued and supported by Governments and International Organizations, among other things by the allocation of sufficient funding, so that greater efficacy may be guaranteed in the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals. Let us hope that serious efforts be made to reach these objectives.

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Papal Discourse to Estonian Ambassador
"The Truth of the Gospel Sheds Light on the Human Situation"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 4, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the discourse Benedict XVI gave on Friday to Estonia's new ambassador to the Holy See, Juri Seilenthal.

* * *

Mr Ambassador,

I am very pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Estonia to the Holy See. I thank you for the cordial greetings which you have brought to me from President Ilves and I ask you kindly to convey to him my own respectful greetings, together with my prayerful good wishes for the prosperity and well-being of the Estonian people.

In recent years, while carrying forward the demanding task of social and economic reform at home, Estonia has also sought to strengthen its bonds with Europe and the international community. Your nation's membership in the European Union represents, as Your Excellency has pointed out, not only a resumption of ties stretching back over the centuries, but also the reaffirmation of a great political and spiritual heritage which has shaped the soul of your nation. Europe today, caught up in the process of rapid transformation, has made significant progress in building a common home marked by solid economic growth, the development of new models of unity that are respectful of differences, and a dedication to cooperation in the cause of justice and peace. Estonia has much to contribute to the Europe of tomorrow, thanks in no small part to her hard-won realization of the value of freedom and the sacrifices which freedom entails.

The great revolution which swept Eastern Europe in the final decade of the last century testified, in fact, to the innate and irrepressible yearning for freedom present within individuals and peoples, as well as the inseparability of authentic freedom from the pursuit of truth, respect for the transcendent dignity of each human person, and a commitment to mutual respect and solidarity. These values, a precious legacy of Estonia's millennial history, must be constantly reappropriated and given practical expression in every sphere of political and social life, in the conviction that they can ensure the breadth of vision and awaken the spiritual energies necessary for creating a future of hope. In recent years your nation has experienced at first hand the daunting challenge of fashioning a society which is genuinely free yet at the same time faithful to its defining traditions. Europe needs this witness, which will surely help the Continent as a whole to "recognize and reclaim with creative fidelity" its fundamental values, values which were decisively shaped by the Christian message (cf. Ecclesia in Europa, 109) and constitute an inalienable element of its true identity.

I am grateful for Your Excellency's kind words about the Church in Estonia, and I assure you that the nation's Catholics desire to play their part, in a spirit of respectful cooperation with other Christian believers, in the life of the nation. The Church proposes her teaching in the conviction that the truth of the Gospel sheds light on the reality of the human situation and provides the wisdom needed for individuals and communities to discern and embrace the demands of the moral law which provide the necessary and enduring foundation for just and harmonious relations within society. In a special way, the Church is committed to the promotion of the sanctity of marriage, the basic role and mission of the family, the education of children and respect for God's gift of life from conception to natural death. Since the health of any society depends in no small measure on the health of its families (cf. Sacramentum Caritatis, 29), I trust that this witness will contribute to the consolidation of family and community life and, together with wise and far-sighted social policies, will help to revitalize Estonia's long history of strong and united families. For it is in the family, above all, that the young are trained in goodness, generosity, forgiveness and fraternal concern for others, and given a sense of personal responsibility for building a world of freedom, solidarity and hope.

With these sentiments, Mr Ambassador, I offer my prayerful wishes for the work you now undertake in the service of your nation, and I assure you of the constant readiness of the offices of the Holy See to assist you in the fulfilment of your duties. Upon you and your family, and upon all the beloved Estonian people, I cordially invoke God's blessings of joy and peace.

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Pope's Address to Ambassador From Iceland
"Christianity Has Shaped Icelandic Culture"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 3, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of a talk Benedict XVI gave Friday to Larus Stefansson, the new ambassador to the Holy See from Iceland, upon receiving her letters of credence.

* * *

Your Excellency,

It is with particular pleasure that I welcome you to the Vatican and accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Iceland to the Holy See. I would ask you kindly to convey to His Excellency President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, and to the government and people of your country my gratitude for their good wishes, which I warmly reciprocate, and to assure them of my prayers for the nation's spiritual well-being.

The Church's diplomatic relations form a part of her mission of service to the international community. This engagement with civil society is anchored in her conviction that the hope of building a more just world must acknowledge man's supernatural vocation. It is from God that men and women receive their essential dignity and with it the capacity and the call to direct their steps towards truth and goodness (cf. Encyclical Letter "Fides et Ratio," 5). Within this broad perspective we can counter the pragmatic tendency, so prevalent today, which tends to engage only with the symptoms of social fragmentation and moral confusion. Where humanity's transcendent dimension is brought to light, individuals' hearts and minds are drawn to God and to the very essence of human life -- truth, beauty, moral values, other persons, and being itself -- (cf. ibid., 83) leading them to a sure foundation and vision of hope for society.

As Your Excellency has observed, integral to Iceland's history is the Gospel of Jesus Christ including its missionary dimension. For over a thousand years Christianity has shaped Icelandic culture. In more recent times these spiritual roots have found a degree of resonance in your relations with Europe. This common cultural and moral identity, forged by the universal values of Christianity, is not simply of historical importance. Being foundational, it can remain as a 'ferment' of civilization. In this regard, I commend your government's open recognition of Christianity's fundamental role in the life of your nation. When public moral discernment is not emptied of meaning by a secularism which neglects truth while highlighting mere opinion, both civil and religious leaders can uphold the absolute values and ideals inherent in the dignity of every person. In this way together they can offer our young people a future of happiness and fulfilment.

Iceland's significant contribution to the security and social development of the worldwide human family belies its size and the number of its citizens. Your nation's commitment to supporting peace-keeping operations and aid projects is readily recognized by the Holy See and esteemed by the international community. While your founder member status of NATO and your long history of United Nations Organization membership are well known, perhaps less known is the highly effective work of the Icelandic Crisis Response Unit. This well-respected service is an outstanding example, from the field of international relations, of men and women enlightened by the splendour of truth, setting out on the path of peace (cf. Message for the 2006 World Day of Peace, 3). Such initiatives aptly illustrate how the will to resolve conflicts peacefully and the determination to govern by justice, integrity, and service of the common good can be achieved.

Preservation of the environment and promotion of sustainable development are increasingly seen as matters of grave concern for all. As reflections and studies on ecology mature, it becomes more and more evident that there is an inseparable link between peace with creation, and peace among people. The full understanding of this relationship is found in the natural and moral order with which God has created man and has endowed the earth (cf. Message for the 2007 World Day of Peace, 8-9).

The close connection between these two ecologies comes into sharp focus when the questions of food resources and energy supply are addressed. The international community recognizes that the world's resources are limited. Yet the duty to implement policies to prevent the destruction of that natural capital is not always observed. Any irresponsible exploitation of the environment or hoarding of land or marine resources reflect an inhumane concept of development, the consequences of which affect the poorest countries most. Iceland, acutely aware of these matters, has rightly emphasized the relationship between the Millennium Development Goals and environment protection and the sustainable use of resources, and has laudably drawn attention to the fact that the large majority of those who make their living from fisheries are families in the developing world.

Mr Ambassador, the members of the Catholic Church in your country, though few, reach out to the entire Icelandic society. Expressing the Church's belief in the "unbreakable bond between love of God and love of neighbour" ("Deus Caritas Est," 16), they undertake works of charity from their small but vibrant parish communities. A particularly beautiful example of this is found in the Carmelite convent of contemplative life in Hafnarfjordur, where the Sisters pray daily for the needs of all Icelanders.

Your Excellency, I am confident that the mission which you begin today will help to strengthen even further the cordial bonds of understanding and cooperation between Iceland and the Holy See. Please rest assured that the various offices of the Roman Curia are ready to assist you in the fulfilment of your duties. Upon you, your family and your fellow citizens I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

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Pope's Address to Pakistani Ambassador
"Work Tirelessly for Peace, Justice and a Better Future"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 1, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of a talk Benedict XVI gave today to Ayesha Riyaz, the new ambassador to the Holy See from Pakistan, upon receiving her letters of credence.

* * *

Your Excellency,

It gives me pleasure to welcome you to the Vatican as I accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to the Holy See. I would ask you to convey my greetings to His Excellency President Pervez Musharraf, and to the government and people of your nation. I am confident that the spirit of cooperation that has marked our diplomatic relations for over five decades will continue to promote the fundamental values which serve to uphold the inherent dignity of the human person. I would also ask you to extend affectionate greetings to the Catholic faithful in Pakistan and their Bishops and to assure them of my fervent prayers for their well-being.

You have rightly highlighted our common goal of fostering peace and justice in the world to secure a better future for mankind. This can only be accomplished when there is genuine cooperation between peoples, religions and nations. In this regard, the Holy See appreciates Pakistan¡Çs commitment to work together with the international community to bring greater stability to your region and to protect innocent lives from the threats of terrorism and violence. The road to national and international security is long and difficult. It takes great patience and resolve. Notwithstanding the obstacles encountered along the way, all efforts to keep open the pathway to peace, stability and hope should be encouraged and promoted.

The people of Pakistan know only too well the suffering caused by violence and lawlessness which, as Your Excellency correctly noted, lead to destabilization. The principles of democracy assure the freedom to express political opinions publicly in a variety of ways. This right should always be exercised responsibly so that civil order is maintained and social harmony protected and fostered. I know your government is aware that the roots of political unrest and agitation within your borders must be addressed, and ways of sustaining civic and democratic institutions must be strengthened. In this way, national solidarity is enhanced, and peaceful ways of reconciling differences are encouraged.

One such step your country has taken in this direction is exemplified in your recent electoral reforms, which are aimed at facilitating the full participation of all citizens, including those belonging to minority groups. I would also like to acknowledge recent legislative decisions in Pakistan aimed at eliminating unjust forms of prejudice and discrimination against women. Pakistan has always placed a high value on education. Good schooling not only attends to the cognitive development of children, but the spiritual as well. Led by their teachers to discover the uniqueness of each human being as a creature of God, young people will come to recognize the dignity common to all men and women, including those belonging to cultures and religions different from their own. In this way, the civil life of a nation matures, making it possible for all citizens to enjoy the fruits of genuine tolerance and mutual respect.

A robust democratic society depends on its ability to uphold and protect religious freedom -- a basic right inherent in the very dignity of the human person. It is therefore essential to safeguard citizens who belong to religious minorities from acts of violence. Such protection not only accords with human dignity but also contributes to the common good. During an era in which threats against religious freedom are becoming more ominous throughout the world, I encourage Pakistan to bolster its efforts in securing freedom for people to live, worship, and perform works of charity according to the dictates of their conscience and with immunity from intimidation. There is in fact an inseparable bond linking the love and worship of Almighty God with love and service toward one¡Çs neighbour ("Deus Caritas Est," 16). Pakistan witnessed such charity in action in the aftermath of the tragic earthquake that struck your nation in 2005, when many organizations, including the Catholic Church, helped relieve the suffering of those affected by this natural disaster. The Catholic Church continues to play an important role in providing education, health care, and other charitable services to all your citizens, regardless of religious affiliation.

I wish to conclude by expressing my deep respect and admiration for the religious heritage that has inspired the human development of your country, and continues to animate its aspirations for greater peace and mutual understanding. Christians and Muslims both worship the One God, the Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. It is this belief that moves us to unite minds and hearts as we work tirelessly for peace, justice, and a better future for mankind.

Be assured that the various departments of the Roman Curia stand ready to offer their services to help achieve these noble goals. As you carry out the duties entrusted to you, I extend to Your Excellency my sincere wish that your public service will bear much fruit. Upon you, your family and your fellow citizens I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

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Benedict XVI's Letter to South Korean President
"Promote the Common Good and Social Justice"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 15, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the letter Benedict XVI handed to Roh Moo-hyun, president of South Korea, on receiving him in audience today in the Vatican.

* * *

To His Excellency Mr. Roh Moo-hyun
President of the Republic of Korea

I am pleased to welcome Your Excellency to the Vatican and I thank you for your visit, which serves to strengthen the good relations that exist between your country and the Holy See. Your presence here is also a clear sign of your esteem for the Catholic Church. I would ask you to convey my affectionate greetings to the people of Korea, and to assure them of my prayers for peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and throughout the region.

For over fifty years, the Korean people have suffered the consequences of division. Families have been split, close relatives have been separated from one another. Please let them know that I am spiritually close to them in their suffering. On compassionate grounds, I pray for a speedy solution to the problem which impedes so many from communicating with one another.

Sadly, the modern world is marked by an increasing number of threats to the dignity of human life. I wish therefore to commend all those in your country who work to uphold and defend the sanctity of life, marriage and the family, areas in which, as you know, the Catholic Church in Korea is particularly active. The risk of a nuclear arms race in the region is a further source of concern, fully shared by the Holy See. I urge all interested parties to make every effort to resolve the present tensions through peaceful means and to refrain from any gesture or initiative that might endanger the negotiations, while ensuring that the must vulnerable part of the North Korean population has access to humanitarian aid.

Mr. President, your country has experienced remarkable economic growth in recent times, for which I give thanks to God. At the same time, I am conscious that not all citizens are yet able to benefit fully from this increased prosperity. I therefore urge your Government to work in harmony with all those who seek to promote the common good and social justice.

In the meantime, I call upon Saint Andrew Kim Taegon and the Korean martyrs to protect the citizens of your beloved nation, and I assure you of my prayers and good wishes for all the people of Korea.

From the Vatican, 15 February 2007

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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Pope's Address to New Ambassador of Uganda
"To Strive for a Balanced Blend of the Old and the New"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 19, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered last Thursday to the new ambassador of Uganda to the Holy See, Princess Elizabeth Bagaya, when she presented her letters of credence.

* * *

Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Uganda to the Holy See. I thank you for the greetings which you have conveyed on behalf of His Excellency Mr Yoweri Museveni, President of the Republic, and I gladly reciprocate with good wishes and the assurance of my prayers for His Excellency and the people of Uganda.

Your country, situated at the heart of the Great Lakes Region, shares many of the characteristics present in African culture. Some of these splendid values come clearly to mind: the respect which should be given to every human life from conception to natural death, the place of the family as the corner-stone of society, and an inspiring sense of the sacred.

I have followed closely the challenges facing the African Continent, some of which have presented themselves with varying degrees of urgency in your homeland. Sadly these events often arise from human pride and violence. As the people of your nation aspire to a future of peaceful stability, your Government is faced with the pressing obligation of responding decisively to the needs of all who suffer the tragic effects of prolonged violence in the North. The international community is impelled to give proper attention to the grave humanitarian crisis affecting more than a million people in the region. Many Ugandans and some international organizations have been working diligently, often at great risk to their own lives, to assist these displaced and marginalized people, but the situation calls for increasing cooperation in order to create an environment of security and stability.

Uganda can make progress toward authentic integral development by remaining faithful to her own roots. In this regard, your nation must continue to strive for a balanced blend of the old and the new, always fostering respect for the family and the wider community, material progress and cultural enrichment, together with individual freedom and national solidarity. One of the keys to ensuring the success of a democracy lies in participation in, and encouragement of sincere and fruitful dialogue. The mutual exchange of opinions and ideas is not always easy. Good governance, however, requires that those with different opinions be heard, respected and involved in the decision-making process. It is only in such an atmosphere of understanding and cooperation that true and lasting progress can be realized and sustained. In this context, it is my hope that those in authority will do all in their power to ensure that the Church remains an important partner in this exchange of ideas by assigning her the juridical guarantees that recognize her freedom to carry out the divine mission entrusted to her. Her desire is to promote hope and courage through the proclamation of the Good News to all God's people (cf. "Ecclesia in Africa," 14).

I would reassure you that the Catholic Church is sincerely committed to assisting all efforts to promote peace. As the Second Vatican Council reminded us, it is the Church's duty to foster and elevate all that is true, all that is good, and all that is beautiful in the human community by consolidating peace among men for the glory of God (cf. "Gaudium et Spes," 76). In this regard, the Holy See is hopeful that the Second Summit of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, which begins today, will raise hopes for a future of security based on dialogue and cooperation. In the various conflicts some agreements have been reached and a number of those under arms have returned home, availing themselves of the new climate of reconciliation. I remain confident that this regional momentum will be sustained and that those in authority will do all in their power to see that the expectations raised in the hearts of so many are brought to fulfilment. I pray that Almighty God will grant renewed wisdom and courage to those in positions of responsibility so that all parties will return to dialogue and the quest for peaceful and lasting solutions.

It is encouraging to hear of the progress your country is making in promoting long-term development through the reduction of poverty and the extension of educational opportunities. The high proportion of young people in your population gives vitality and renewed hope to the nation. Collaboration between the Church and civil society has yielded many blessings in Uganda, above all in education, in health-care and in the struggle against HIV/Aids, where statistics confirm the practical value of a policy of prevention based on continence and the promotion of faithfulness in marriage. It is my sincere hope that the people of Uganda will continue to draw increasing benefits from this support.

Your Excellency, I assure you of my prayers for the success of your mission as your country's representative to the Holy See. You may be certain that the various departments of the Roman Curia will be ready to assist you. I invoke Almighty God's abundant blessings upon you and upon the beloved people of Uganda.


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Papal Address to New Ambassador of Lesotho
"The Only Sure Foundation for a Stable Society"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 18, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered last Thursday to the new ambassador of Lesotho to the Holy See, Makase Nyaphisi, when he presented his letters of credence.

* * *

Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you at the start of your mission and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Lesotho to the Holy See. I thank you for your kind words and for the greetings you bring from King Letsie III. Please convey to His Majesty my respectful good wishes and the assurance of my prayers for the well-being of all the people of your nation.

As you have observed, you are beginning your mandate shortly after your country's celebration of forty years of independence. In offering renewed congratulations on this significant milestone in Lesotho's history, I would like to reaffirm the Holy See's support and encouragement for your Government as it seeks to strengthen the foundations of democracy and to promote peace and stability within the whole region. In this regard, the recent decision to adopt a new flag symbolizing a nation "at peace with itself and its neighbors", expresses a laudable commitment to these noble goals. Moreover, I am aware that the people of Lesotho themselves have had more than one occasion in the last forty years to demonstrate their resilience and their admirable determination to pursue the path of peace and democracy, whatever pressures to the contrary there may be.

Regrettably, the serious challenges of poverty and food shortage currently facing your people pose serious obstacles to the achievement of your country's objectives. Economic activity has a moral character, and to the degree that every person is responsible for everyone else, the wealthier nations have a duty in solidarity and justice to promote the development of all (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 333). In a world where communications and trade have taken on a global dimension, this duty is all the more evident and the means to discharge it are more readily available. As you know, the Holy See is committed to support the efforts of the international community to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, and likewise all initiatives aimed at a more equitable distribution of resources and opportunities for economic growth. At the same time, she continues to urge governments that receive assistance to be assiduous in cultivating accountability, honesty, and commitment to the rule of law as necessary conditions for ensuring that the aid they receive is used to benefit those most in need (cf. "Ecclesia in Africa," 113). In this regard, I am gratified to hear Your Excellency's words concerning the high priority that the Kingdom of Lesotho has assigned to the fight against corruption, and I offer you every encouragement in this worthy Endeavour.

The scourge of AIDS, which afflicts so many millions in the African Continent, has brought untold suffering to the people of your country. Please be assured of the deep concern of the Catholic Church to do all it can to bring relief to those affected by this cruel disease, and also to their families. In the faces of the sick and the dying, Christians recognize the face of Christ, and it is he whom we serve when we offer help and consolation to the afflicted (cf. Mt 25:31-40). At the same time, it is vitally important to communicate the message that fidelity within marriage and abstinence outside it are the best ways to avoid infection and to halt the spread of the virus. Indeed, the values that flow from an authentic understanding of marriage and family life constitute the only sure foundation for a stable society.

In this regard, I want to assure Your Excellency of the willingness of the Catholic community in Lesotho to continue to play its part in educating future generations of citizens in the values that sustain and promote a healthy social environment. As the Second Vatican Council reminds us, Catholic schools aim to conduct the human formation of their students in "an atmosphere animated by a spirit of liberty and charity based on the Gospel" ("Gravissimum Educationis," 8). They set out to shape and direct the ideals of the young in a way that will enable them to assume their adult responsibilities with generosity and integrity, for the good of the whole of society. I know that the Government of Lesotho appreciates the work done by Catholic educators and will carry on providing them with the encouragement they need as they dedicate themselves to this noble task in the name of Christ Our Lord.

Your Excellency, I pray that the diplomatic mission which you begin today will further strengthen the already fruitful relations existing between the Holy See and your country. I assure you that the various departments of the Roman Curia are always ready to offer help and support in the fulfillment of your duties. With my sincere good wishes, I invoke upon you, your family, and all the people of Lesotho, God's abundant blessings.

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Pope's Address to New Envoy From Kyrgyzstan
"Economic Development Contains a Moral Aspect"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 17, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered last Thursday to the new ambassador of Kyrgyzstan to the Holy See, Maratbek Salievic Bakiev, during the ceremony in which the envoy presented his letters of credence.

* * *

Mr Ambassador,

It is with pleasure that I welcome you to the Vatican today and accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kyrgyz Republic to the Holy See. On this significant occasion I would ask you kindly to convey my cordial greetings to His Excellency President Kurmanbek Bakiyev and the people of your country. Assure them of my gratitude for their good wishes and of my prayers for the nation's peace and well-being.

The Church's diplomatic relations form a part of her mission of service to the international community. Her engagement with civil society is anchored in the conviction that the task of building a more just world must acknowledge and consider man's supernatural vocation. The Holy See strives therefore to promote an understanding of the human person who "receives from God his essential dignity and with it the capacity to transcend every social order so as to move towards truth and goodness" ("Centesimus Annus," 38). From this understanding the Church assists the vast array of cultures and nations that constitute our world to articulate and protect the universal values which safeguard the dignity of every person and serve the common good.

The extraordinary natural beauty of Kyrgyzstan is a blessing for your nation. Such dramatic evidence of the hand of the Creator gladdens the hearts of your people and helps them lift their thoughts towards the Almighty. Indeed, the people of Kyrgyzstan know well the importance of religious freedom and understand that if the spiritual dimension of persons is repressed or even denied, the soul of a nation is crushed. During the tragic epoch of intimidation in Central Asian history, while the supremacy of force endured, religious believers in your country nurtured a hope for freedom and justice, a future in which the supremacy of truth about the human person and the purpose of society would prevail. Today, that hope is experienced in a variety of ways including the tolerance demonstrated between religious and ethnic communities, the respect for the role of the family at the heart of your society, and the flourishing of your nation's fine arts. Such traits and values, which have in fact long adorned your history, assume a heightened importance of regional significance when we consider Kyrgyzstan's unique geographical position as a cultural crossroads.

As the Kyrgyz Republic continues to forge its national identity, it must be borne in mind that the important component of economic development contains a moral aspect, of crucial importance to the well-being and peaceful progress of a nation. It is here that the demand for justice is satisfied (cf. "Sollicitudo Rei Socialis," 10). The right to meaningful work and an acceptable standard of living, the assurance of a fair distribution of goods and wealth, and the responsible use of natural resources all depend upon a concept of growth which is not limited to merely satisfying material necessities. Instead, such a notion must also highlight the dignity of every human person -- the proper subject of all progress -- and thereby enhance the common good of all humanity.

The legitimate aspirations of economic development are intrinsically linked to the principles and practices which favor the civic stability necessary for prosperity. Your country has already taken some steps towards protecting the fundamental rights of citizens and promoting democratic practices. Responsible and transparent governance free of interference, the maintenance of law and order, freedom of the press, and public participation in the civic institutions committed to the genuine development of the nation, all have their particular role in contributing to a culture of peace and collaboration. I encourage your government in its efforts to ensure that this process does not stall but indeed is strengthened.

Mr Ambassador, the members of the Catholic Church in your country are very few. Enjoying friendly relations with the Muslim and Orthodox communities, they are eager to reach out impartially to all peoples of Kyrgyzstan. Already their charitable activity extends from University teaching to prison visiting and to caring for the handicapped. This forms part of the Church's commitment to practical and concrete love for every human being and in a special way for the poor. In providing these services she desires neither power nor privilege, but only the freedom to express her belief in the "unbreakable bond between love of God and love of neighbor" ("Deus Caritas Est," 16) through works of goodness, justice and peace. I am confident that as new social and spiritual needs arise in your land the Catholic community will respond generously and wisely.

Your Excellency, as you enter the diplomatic community accredited to the Holy See, I assure you of the willing assistance of the various offices and agencies of the Roman Curia. You have kindly noted that the relations existing between the Kyrgyz Republic and the Holy See are friendly and based on mutual respect and cooperation. May your mission serve to strengthen these bonds of understanding. With my sincere good wishes, I invoke upon you, your family and all your fellow citizens the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

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Papal Address to New Danish Ambassador
"A Healthy Democracy Requires a Solid Ethical Foundation"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 15, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered Thursday to Lars Moller, the new ambassador of Denmark to the Holy See, during the ceremony to present his letters of credence.

* * *

Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to receive you and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador and Minister Plenipotentiary of Denmark to the Holy See. I am grateful for the message of greetings which you have brought from Queen Margrethe II. I recall with pleasure my meeting with Her Majesty last spring and I ask you kindly to convey to her my own warm greeting, together with my prayerful good wishes for the happiness and prosperity of the Danish people.

In this, the twenty-fifth year since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Denmark, I wish to express the Holy See's esteem for your country's efforts to promote an effective solidarity with poorer nations by supporting integral development and by working to alleviate the tragic situation of poverty, violence, hunger and disease which weighs upon so much of the human family. Denmark has been in the forefront of international efforts to implement the Millennium Development Goals and has generously contributed to the establishment of mechanisms for security and peace-building in areas of the world scarred by armed conflicts. These praiseworthy initiatives have been inspired by a sober recognition that global problems require global solutions. Coordination between national governments, the various institutions and agencies of the international community, and the many regional and local bodies committed to strengthening the social fabric, represent a sure path to increased respect for fundamental human rights and the promotion of justice and peace at every level.

I am grateful for your words of appreciation for the Holy See's presence and contribution within the international community. This service to peace is grounded in a firm conviction, inspired by faith, of the unity of the human family and the God-given dignity and rights of each person. Peace, in the words of the prophet Isaiah (32:17), is the fruit of justice, but it is also the fruit of love, which surpasses what justice alone can ensure (cf. "Gaudium et Spes," 78). In her proclamation of the Gospel and her service of charity, the Church wishes to cooperate with all men and women of good will in building a global community in which hatred and intolerance, injustice and violence will give way to mutual understanding, reconciliation and generous cooperation in the pursuit of the common good. Only such cooperation, capable of transcending national, ethnic and religious boundaries, can ultimately prevail against the many contemporary threats to peace, including the scourge of international terrorism and the ideologies which inspire it.

As the Danish people confront complex political and ethical issues which will determine the future of your society, the nation's rich heritage of Christian faith can serve as a source of wisdom and inspiration in the demanding task of respecting Denmark's distinct identity and cultural heritage, while addressing the challenges of the present time. A vigorous public life benefits from the contribution of believers and a creative dialogue with the nation's religious tradition and values, since a healthy democracy requires a solid ethical foundation and respect for "the moral structure of freedom" (cf. "Ecclesia in Europa," 98). For her part, the Church is ready "to contribute to the purification of reason and reawaken those moral forces without which just structures are neither set in place nor prove effective in the long run" ("Deus Caritas Est," 29). I assure you that Denmark's Catholic community, though small in number, desires to play its part, in cooperation with other Christian believers, in this work of discernment and the elaboration of wise and far-sighted social policies. This is especially so with regard to the fundamental role and mission of the family founded upon marriage, the education of children, respect for God's gift of life from conception to natural death, and the responsible stewardship of the environment.

Mr Ambassador, as you begin your mission, I offer my best wishes for the work you will undertake in the service of your nation, and I assure you of the constant readiness of the offices of the Roman Curia to assist you in the fulfillment of your responsibilities. I am confident that your representation will help to consolidate the good relations existing between the Holy See and Denmark. Upon you and your family, and upon all the beloved Danish people, I cordially invoke God's blessings of joy and peace.


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Pope's Address to New Syrian Ambassador
"Great Sadness at the Cycle of Death and Destruction"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 14, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is Benedict XVI's address to Hakram Obeid, the new Syrian ambassador to the Holy See, during the ceremony to present his letters of credence.

* * *

Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Syrian Arab Republic to the Holy See. I thank you for your words and for the greetings which you bring from your President, Mr Bachar Al Assad. Please assure him of my sincere good wishes and my continuing prayers for the well-being and prosperity of your nation.

As you have indicated, Syria from ancient times has witnessed a great flowering of civilizations and religions. Your capital city, Damascus, is dear to Christians as the site of Saint Paul's baptism, following his dramatic experience of conversion during his journey there. And many great saints have led lives of exemplary holiness on Syrian soil. For centuries now, there have been harmonious relations between the Christian and Muslim communities in your country. Syria, then, is uniquely placed to offer to the world an example of peaceful coexistence and tolerance between the followers of different religions. In this regard, I can assure you of the support of the Holy See for the efforts your Government has made both at home and abroad to promote dialogue between religions and cultures. As I recently had occasion to reaffirm, "all people are linked by profound solidarity with one another, and must be encouraged to assert their historical and cultural differences not for the sake of confrontation, but in order to foster mutual respect" (Address to the Diplomatic Corps, Ankara, 28 November 2006).

You have spoken of your Government's concern over the annexation of the Golan Heights by Israel in 1967. With a heavy heart, I note that a wide range of territorial and other disputes have led to armed conflicts in recent times that threaten the peace and stability of the entire Middle East. Repeatedly I have pleaded for a cessation of violence in Lebanon, in the Holy Land and in Iraq. The world looks on with great sadness at the cycle of death and destruction, as innocent people continue to suffer and targeted individuals are kidnapped or assassinated. Like many impartial observers, the Holy See believes that solutions are possible within the framework of international law through the implementation of the relevant United Nations resolutions. In this regard, I have frequently urged that the various nations of the Middle East should be supported in their aspirations to live in peace within secure internationally recognized borders.

The Church, as you know, emphatically rejects war as a means of resolving international disputes, and has often pointed out that it only leads to new and still more complicated conflicts. Sadly, from the current situation in the Middle East it is only too evident that this is the case. In particular, the scourge of terrorism increases the fear and insecurity experienced by so many in the region today (cf. Message for the 2006 World Day of Peace, 9) and in this regard, I am glad to note your words about the Syrian Government's commitment to counter this growing threat to peace and stability. The world looks especially to countries with significant influence in the Middle East in the hopeful expectation of signs of progress towards the resolution of these long-standing conflicts.

The Catholic community in Syria, as you know, is eager to play its part in national life, in cooperation with fellow Christians from the various Eastern Churches represented there. Your country is certainly fertile ground for progress in ecumenical relations between the followers of Christ and I would like to pledge the continued support of the Catholic Church for this important work. Indeed, I was recently able to do so publicly when I had the joy of visiting the Ecumenical Patriarch in the Phanar; together we signed a Common Declaration expressing the commitment of both Catholic and Orthodox Churches to work in every way towards the goal of full visible communion. I particularly appreciate the recent legislation implemented by the Syrian Government to recognize the juridical status of the Catholic Churches present in your country, in accordance with the norms of canon law. This step augurs well for a future of growing reciprocal understanding between the members of different Churches and different religions in Syria. Moreover, it sets the scene for increasing cooperation between the Church and the Government, that should facilitate the discovery of a solution to differences, such as the question of Church property taken over by the State. It is a sign of real maturity in relations when such matters can be discussed with openness, honesty and mutual respect.

Your Excellency, I am confident that the noble task which you begin today will consolidate these good relations between the Syrian Arab Republic and the Holy See. In offering you my best wishes for the success of your mission, I would like to assure you that the various departments of the Roman Curia are always glad to provide help and support in the fulfillment of your duties. Upon you, your family and all the people of Syria I cordially invoke God's abundant blessings.

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Papal Address to Moldova's New Ambassador
"The West Continues to Be Exposed to Danger of an Alternative Utopia"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 19, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered Thursday to the new ambassador of Moldova to the Holy See, Valeriu Bobutac, on presenting his letters of credence.

* * *

Mr. Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the letters accrediting you as ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the Republic of Moldova to the Holy See. I thank you for your words and for the greetings which you bring from your president, Mr. Vladimir Voronin. Please convey to him my sincere good wishes and assure him of my continuing prayers for the well-being of your nation.

The Holy See greatly values its diplomatic links with your country, established soon after Moldova gained its independence in 1991, and looks forward to building further on the cordial relations that have developed since that time. Mindful of the challenges involved in achieving a smooth transition to democracy and in establishing a place within the international community for the newly independent state, the Holy See continues to offer encouragement and assistance in any way possible.

Although Catholics constitute only a small proportion of the population, they are proud of the rich cultural heritage of their homeland and are eager to play their part in national life, contributing particularly in the area of social assistance. It should be stressed that such activity flows from the very nature and mission of the Church, which include a commitment to promote the dignity of the human person and to come to the aid of those who suffer hardship of any kind.

The Church is committed to full respect for liberty of conscience, and as such she encourages governments to take steps to guarantee this precious freedom for all their citizens. The reassurance that you offer in connection with your own government's position in this regard is most gratifying. Through you, Mr. Ambassador, I would like to greet all the inhabitants of Moldova, and in particular the Catholic community, under the leadership of the bishop of Chisinau, the Most Reverend Anton Cosa.

In view of her concern for peace and justice, the Church naturally takes to heart the debate over the status of Transdnistria. While fully appreciating the complexity of the question, I urge your government to persevere in the search for a peaceful solution, and to work in harmony with the organs of the European Union, the Council of Europe and other international organizations in order to resolve the dispute. I pray that your country may continue to make progress towards the noble goal of peace, which corresponds to the deepest yearnings and hopes of people everywhere.

The interest shown by your government in advancing dialogue with all the states of Europe is welcomed by the Holy See as a sign of hope for the Continent. For too long, Moldova suffered from the imposition of a totalitarian utopia of "justice without freedom." The West, by contrast, continues to be exposed to the danger of an alternative utopia of "freedom without truth," issuing from a false understanding of "tolerance."

If the common good of Europe's citizens is truly to be served, it is essential to avoid both of these harmful partial visions and to rediscover the authentic freedom that proceeds from our shared heritage of faith in Jesus Christ, alive in his Church, the source of hope for Europe (cf. postsynodal apostolic exhortation "Ecclesia in Europa," No. 98). The voice and the experience of your people need to be heard in European debate, so that lessons may be learned from recent experience.

In this way a brighter future may be built that is based on a commitment to truth, and this, as I maintained in my Address to the Diplomatic Corps at the start of this year (Jan. 9), is the soul of justice, it is the means whereby the right to freedom is established and strengthened and it opens the way to forgiveness and reconciliation.

Your Excellency, I am confident that the diplomatic mission which you begin today will consolidate the good relations that exist between the Republic of Moldova and the Holy See. In offering you my best wishes for the years ahead, I would like to assure you that the various departments of the Roman Curia are most glad to provide help and support in the fulfillment of your duties. Upon you, your family and all the people of Moldova I cordially invoke God's abundant blessings.

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Papal Address to India's New Ambassador

"No Citizen Should Ever Have to Experience Discrimination"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 18, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today to the new ambassador of India to the Holy See, Amitava Tripathi, on presenting his letters of credence.

* * *

Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican as you present the letters by which you are accredited ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the Republic of India to the Holy See. I thank you most heartily for the greetings which you have brought me from the Indian government and people, and I ask you kindly to convey my own greetings to President Abdul Kalam, together with the assurance of my prayers for the peace and prosperity of the nation and its citizens.

India's ongoing efforts to build a democratic and free society are grounded in her conviction of the need to respect the variety of cultures, religions and ethnic groups which make up the nation and shape the aspirations of her sons and daughters. The Indian people are rightly proud of the stability of their political institutions, while at the same time recognizing the formidable challenges involved in promoting justice, combating all forms of violence and extremism, and establishing a climate of serene and respectful dialogue, cooperation and good will between the different components of their vast and diverse society.

As the nation continues to enjoy significant economic growth, these democratic values should serve as the inspiration and the sure foundation for sound social policies aimed at enabling all citizens to share in this growth and to enjoy its benefits.

In this regard, I wish to assure you of the wish of India's Catholic community to share fully in the life of the nation in a spirit of collaboration and concern for the common good. You have graciously acknowledged the contribution which the spiritual heirs of St. Thomas the Apostle and St. Francis Xavier have made to the growth of modern India, especially in the fields of education and human development.

The Church sees these works as a fundamental part of her mission of proclaiming the innate dignity and rights of each human person made in the image and likeness of God, as well as an important service to the building of a just, peaceful and pluralistic society. When the gifts and talents of all citizens, men and women, young and old, wealthy and poor alike, are valued and developed, the way is opened to a future of prosperity and social harmony for the whole nation.

I very much appreciate your reference to India's rich spiritual heritage and commitment to religious tolerance and respect. In view of this commitment, no citizen of India, especially the weak and the underprivileged, should ever have to experience discrimination for any reason, especially based on ethnic or religious background or social position. The recent re-establishment of the National Integration Council and the creation this year of the Ministry for Minority Affairs offer practical means of upholding constitutionally guaranteed equality of all religions and social groups.

While protecting the right of each citizen to profess and practice his or her faith, they also facilitate efforts to build bridges between minority communities and Indian society as a whole, and thus foster national integration and the participation of all in the country's development. The disturbing signs of religious intolerance which have troubled some regions of the nation, including the reprehensible attempt to legislate clearly discriminatory restrictions on the fundamental right of religious freedom, must be firmly rejected as not only unconstitutional, but also as contrary to the highest ideals of India's founding fathers, who believed in a nation of peaceful coexistence and mutual tolerance between different religions and ethnic groups.

Here I cannot fail to express the Holy See's appreciation of India's desire to settle through negotiation and peaceful means the long-standing dispute with neighboring Pakistan. Last year's earthquake in Kashmir, with its tragic loss of life and widespread material destruction, showed the urgent need for joint efforts in responding to the emergency, providing relief to the victims and undertaking the immense work of rebuilding. Increased dialogue and cooperation should also prove helpful in meeting a number of other challenges in the region, including the threat of violence linked to political and religious extremism.

As experience has shown, this troubling phenomenon, which is often the fruit of situations of poverty, lack of education, and scant respect for the rights of others, is best combated by concerted efforts to resolve these underlying social problems at their roots. Where the innate dignity and freedom of each man and woman is acknowledged, respected and promoted at every level of society, the foundations are laid for a future of justice, freedom and peace.

Your Excellency, as you undertake the mission of representing the Republic of India to the Holy See, please accept my personal good wishes for the success of your important work. Be assured that you may always count on the offices of the Roman Curia to assist and support you in the fulfillment of your high responsibilities. Upon you and your family, and upon all the beloved Indian people, I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

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Pope's Address to Australia's New Envoy
The Young Are Rediscovering "Quest for Goodness and Truth"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 18, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today to the new ambassador of Australia to the Holy See, Anne Maree Plunkett, on presenting her letters of credence.

* * *

Your Excellency,

It is a pleasure for me to extend a cordial welcome to you today as I accept the letters of credence by which you are appointed ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of Australia to the Holy See. I thank you for the greetings which you bear from the governor-general, government, and people of Australia. Please convey to them my heartfelt appreciation and assure them of my prayers for the well-being of the nation.

The steadfast resolve of the Holy See to promote the cause of peace stands at the heart of her diplomatic activity. With firm conviction and in a spirit of service she reminds all people that if peace is to be authentic and lasting it must be built on the bedrock of the truth about God and about man. Consequently, the irrepressible yearning for peace present in the heart of every person -- regardless of particular cultural identity -- can be satisfied only if it is understood as the fruit of an order planned and willed by the love of God, planted in human society by its divine Founder, and respected by humanity in its thirst for ever more perfect justice (cf. Message for the 2006 World Day of Peace, No. 3).

Your Excellency, you have rightly indicated that practical commitment to ensuring the rule of justice and promoting peace is a widely recognized trait of your people. Tangible _expression of this is found in their leadership of peacekeeping operations, generous assistance with aid projects, and readiness to contribute to the requirements of international stability and security necessary for social and economic advancement across the globe.

Australia's missions in Solomon Islands, East Timor and Afghanistan are highly respected by the international community and bear noble witness to the truth that all people are members of one and the same human family, receiving their essential and common dignity from God and capable of transcending every social and cultural limitation (cf. "Centesimus Annus," No. 38).

The laudable resolve to work for peace on an international scale must be matched with an equal determination to attain justice at the local level. I know that your government has assiduously addressed concerns regarding the reception of refugees, in order to ensure that humanitarian considerations are incorporated within immigration detention policy and duly monitored.

In regard to the Aboriginal people of your land, there is still much to be achieved. Their social situation is cause for much pain. I encourage you and the government to continue to address with compassion and determination the deep underlying causes of their plight. Commitment to truth opens the way to lasting reconciliation through the healing process of asking for forgiveness and granting forgiveness -- two indispensable elements for peace. In this way our memory is purified, our hearts are made serene, and our future is filled with a well-founded hope in the peace which springs from truth (cf. Address to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, Jan. 9).

Your Excellency, as I welcome you to the Vatican my thoughts turn with joy to the visit I shall make, God willing, to Sydney for World Youth Day 2008. In this regard, I wish to thank the people of Australia, and particularly the prime minister and government, for the enthusiasm with which they have embraced this visit and for the practical assistance already being given to its organization.

More than an event, World Youth Day is a time of deep ecclesial renewal, especially among the young, the fruits of which will benefit the whole of your society. In countries such as yours, where the disquieting process of secularization is much advanced, many young people are themselves coming to realize that it is the transcendent order that steers all life along the path of authentic freedom and happiness. Against the tide of moral relativism which, by recognizing nothing as definitive, traps people within a futile and insatiable bid for novelty, the young generation is rediscovering the satisfying quest for goodness and truth. In so doing they look to both Church and civil leaders to dispel any eclipse of the sense of God and to allow the light of truth to shine forth, giving purpose to all life and making joy and contentment possible for everyone.

It is this same respect for transcendent order that has led Australians to recognize the fundamental importance of marriage and stable domestic life at the heart of society, and to expect that political and social forces -- including the media and entertainment industries -- recognize, support and protect the irreplaceable value of families. They appreciate that pseudo-forms of "marriage" distort the Creator's design and undermine the truth of our human nature, confusing a false sense of freedom with the true freedom of choosing the definitive gift of the permanent "yes" which spouses promise to each other. I therefore encourage the people of Australia to continue to take up the challenge of forging a pattern of life, both individually and as a community, in harmony with God's loving plan for all humanity.

For her part the Catholic Church in Australia continues to support marriage and family life, and to uphold the Christian foundations of civic life. She is much involved in the spiritual and intellectual formation of the young, especially through her schools. Additionally her charitable apostolate extends to immigrant communities and those living on the margins of society and, through her mission of service, she will respond generously to new social challenges as they arise.

Your Excellency, I am sure that your appointment will further strengthen the bonds of friendship which already exist between Australia and the Holy See. As you take up your new responsibilities you will find that the various offices of the Roman Curia are most ready to assist you in the fulfillment of your duties. Upon you, your family and your fellow citizens, I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

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Pope's Address to Moroccan Ambassador
"Necessary That Religions and Their Symbols Be Respected"

Pope's Address to Moroccan Ambassador
"Necessary That Religions and Their Symbols Be Respected"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 2, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Feb. 20 when he welcomed Morocco's new ambassador to the Holy See, Ali Achour.

* * *

Mr. Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you, Your Excellency, at the presentation of the letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Morocco to the Holy See.

I thank you for your kind words and for the courteous greetings that His Majesty King Mohammed VI has conveyed to me through you. Please reciprocate by expressing to His Majesty my esteem for the traditional hospitality of acceptance and understanding which for centuries has marked the relations of the Kingdom of Morocco with the Catholic Church. I would be grateful if you will kindly assure His Majesty of my fervent good wishes for himself and for the happiness and prosperity of the noble Moroccan people.

Mr. Ambassador, you have told me of the efforts made by your country that has just celebrated its 50th anniversary of independence, to progress toward a modern, democratic and prosperous future.

One cannot but be delighted at this progress that should enable all Moroccans to live in security and in dignity, so that each one may play an active part in the social and political life of the country. Indeed, an authentic democracy demands consensus on a certain number of essential values, such as the transcendent dignity of the human person, respect for human rights, the "common good" as the purpose and criterion for the regulation of political life (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, No. 407).

Moreover, an ever closer collaboration among the countries bordering the Mediterranean, which began several years ago, should make it possible to face with determination and perseverance not only matters concerning security and peace in the region, but also the question of the development of societies and people with a renewed awareness of the duty of solidarity and justice. For this reason now, more than ever, the Mediterranean is called to be a place of meeting and dialogue between peoples and cultures.

Among the serious problems that the countries bordering the Mediterranean must face, the phenomenon of migration is a major factor in inter-state relations. Migrants from the less privileged regions in search of a better standard of living are coming in ever-greater numbers to knock at Europe's doors. This gives more and more of them an illegal status and sometimes creates situations that seriously threaten people's dignity and safety.

Consequently, the institutions of the host or transit country must take care not to consider migrants as a commodity or a mere work force, and to respect their fundamental rights and human dignity. The precarious situation of so many foreigners should foster solidarity between the nations concerned and contribute to the development of the migrants' countries of origin.

Indeed, these problems cannot be solved by policies that are exclusively national. It is through greater collaboration between all the countries concerned that effective solutions to these distressing situations will be found.

Mr. Ambassador, you stressed your country's contribution to the dialogue between civilizations, cultures and religions. For her part, in the present international context with which we are familiar, the Catholic Church remains convinced that to encourage peace and understanding between peoples and people, it is urgently necessary that religions and their symbols be respected and that believers not be the object of provocations that wound their outlook and religious sentiments.

However, intolerance and violence as a response to offences can never be justified, for this type of response is incompatible with the sacred principles of religion; consequently, we cannot but deplore the actions of those who deliberately exploit the offence caused to religious sentiments to stir up acts of violence, especially since such action is contrary to religion.

For believers, as for all people of good will, the only path that leads to peace and brotherhood is that of respect for the religious convictions and practices of others, so that the practice of the religion a person has freely chosen may be guaranteed to each one.

Mr. Ambassador, through you I would also like to address a warm greeting to the members of the Catholic community of Morocco and to their pastors. May they have at heart to live their Christian vocation joyfully, witnessing ever more generously to the love of God for all men and women, in fruitful collaboration with them all!

At the time when you are beginning your mission to the Holy See, Your Excellency, I offer you my best wishes for the noble task that awaits you. With my collaborators you will always find the attentive welcome and cordial understanding you may need.

I wholeheartedly invoke an abundance of blessings from the Most High upon you, Your Excellency, upon your family, your collaborators, the Moroccan people and its leaders.

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Pope's Address to Diplomatic Corps
"Commitment to Truth Is the Soul of Justice"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 10, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Monday to members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See.

* * *

Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

With joy I welcome you all to this traditional meeting between the Pope and the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See. After our celebration of the great Christian feasts of Christmas and Epiphany, the Church continues to draw life from the joy that they bring: that joy is great, because it arises from the presence of Emmanuel -- God with us -- but it is also quiet, since it is experienced within the domestic setting of the Holy Family, whose simple and exemplary story the Church relives intimately at this time.

Yet it is also a joy that needs to be communicated, because true joy cannot be isolated without becoming attenuated and stifled. So to all of you, Ambassadors, and to the peoples and governments that you worthily represent, to your beloved families and to your colleagues, I wish Christian joy. May it be the joy of universal brotherhood brought by Christ, a joy that is rich in truthful values and is openly and generously shared; may it remain with you and grow every day of the year that has just begun.

Your dean, Excellencies, has conveyed the greetings and good wishes of the Diplomatic Corps, finely expressing your sentiments. To him and to you I offer thanks. He also mentioned some of the many grave problems that afflict today's world. They are of concern to you as also to the Holy See and the Catholic Church throughout the world, which is in solidarity with every form of suffering, with every hope and with every effort that accompanies human history. Hence we feel united as in a common mission, which confronts us with ever new and formidable challenges. Yet we address them with confidence, eager to support one another -- each according to his proper responsibility -- on our path towards great common objectives.

I spoke of "our common mission." And what is this, if not the mission of peace? The Church's task is none other than to spread the message of Christ, who came, as St. Paul writes in the Letter to the Ephesians, to proclaim peace to those who are far away and to those who are near (cf. 2:17). And you, esteemed Diplomatic Representatives of your peoples, according to your statutes (Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations) you have this among your noble goals: to promote friendly international relations. On this foundation, true peace can develop.

Peace, alas, is hindered or damaged or threatened in many parts of the world. What is the way that leads to peace? In the message that I delivered for the celebration of this year's World Day of Peace, I said: "wherever and whenever men and women are enlightened by the splendor of truth, they naturally set out on the path of peace" (No. 3). In truth, peace.

In today's world, alongside appalling scenes of military conflict, open or latent, or only apparently resolved, one can observe, thank God, a courageous and tenacious effort on the part of many people and institutions in support of peace. Reflecting upon this situation, I would like to offer some thoughts by way of fraternal encouragement, which I will set out in a few simple points.

The first: Commitment to truth is the soul of justice. Those who are committed to truth cannot fail to reject the law of might, which is based on a lie and has so frequently marked human history, nationally and internationally, with tragedy. The lie often parades itself as truth, but in reality it is always selective and tendentious, selfishly designed to manipulate people, and finally subject them. Political systems of the past, but not only the past, offer a bitter illustration of this.

Set against this, there is truth and truthfulness, which lead to encounter with the other, to recognition and understanding: through the splendor which distinguishes it -- the "splendor veritatis" -- truth cannot fail to spread; and the love of truth is intrinsically directed towards just and impartial understanding and rapprochement, whatever difficulties there may be.

Your experience as diplomats can only confirm that, in international relations too, by seeking the truth one can identify the most subtle nuances of diversity, and the demands to which they give rise, and therefore also the limits to be respected and not overstepped, in protecting every legitimate interest. This search for truth leads you at the same time to assert vigorously what there is in common, pertaining to the very nature of persons, of all peoples and cultures, and this must be equally respected.

And when these aspects of diversity and equality -- distinct but complementary -- are known and recognized, then problems can be resolved and disagreements settled according to justice, and profound and lasting understandings are possible. On the other hand, when one of them is misinterpreted or not given its due importance, it is then that misunderstanding arises, together with conflict, and the temptation to use overpowering violence.

There seems to me to be an almost paradigmatic illustration of these considerations at that nerve point of the world scene, which is the Holy Land. There, the state of Israel has to be able to exist peacefully in conformity with the norms of international law; there, equally, the Palestinian people has to be able to develop serenely its own democratic institutions for a free and prosperous future.

The same considerations take on a wider application in today's global context, in which attention has rightly been drawn to the danger of a clash of civilizations. The danger is made more acute by organized terrorism, which has already spread over the whole planet. Its causes are many and complex, not least those to do with political ideology, combined with aberrant religious ideas.

Terrorism does not hesitate to strike defenseless people, without discrimination, or to impose inhuman blackmail, causing panic among entire populations, in order to force political leaders to support the designs of the terrorists. No situation can justify such criminal activity, which covers the perpetrators with infamy, and it is all the more deplorable when it hides behind religion, thereby bringing the pure truth of God down to the level of the terrorists' own blindness and moral perversion.

The commitment to truth on the part of diplomatic missions, at both bilateral and multilateral level, can offer an essential contribution towards reconciling the undeniable differences between peoples from different parts of the world and their cultures, not only in a tolerant coexistence, but according to a higher and richer design of humanity. In past centuries, cultural exchanges between Judaism and Hellenism, between the Roman world, the Germanic world and the Slav world, and also between the Arabic world and the European world, have enriched culture and have favored sciences and civilizations.

So it should be again today, and to an even greater extent, since the possibilities of exchange and mutual understanding are much more favorable. To this end, what is needed above all today is the removal of everything that impedes access to information, through the press and through modern information technology, and in addition, an increase in exchanges between scholars and students from the humanities faculties of universities in different cultural regions.

The second point which I would like to make is this: commitment to truth establishes and strengthens the right to freedom. Man's unique grandeur is ultimately based on his capacity to know the truth. And human beings desire to know the truth. Yet truth can only be attained in freedom. This is the case with all truth, as is clear from the history of science; but it is eminently the case with those truths in which man himself, man as such, is at stake, the truths of the spirit, the truths about good and evil, about the great goals and horizons of life, about our relationship with God. These truths cannot be attained without profound consequences for the way we live our lives. And once freely appropriated, they demand in turn an ample sphere of freedom if they are to be lived out in a way befitting every dimension of human life.

This is where the activity of every state, and diplomatic activity between states, comes naturally into play. In the development of international law today, it is becoming increasingly clear that no government can feel free to neglect its duty to ensure suitable conditions of freedom for its own citizens without thereby damaging its credibility to speak out on international problems. And rightly so: for in safeguarding the rights belonging to the person as such, rights which are internationally guaranteed, one must naturally give primary importance to ensuring the rights of freedom within individual states, in public and private life, in economic and political relations, and in the cultural and religious spheres.

In this regard, you yourselves are well aware that by its very nature the Holy See's diplomatic activity is concerned with promoting, among other forms of freedom, the aspect of freedom of religion. Unfortunately, in some states, even among those who can boast centuries-old cultural traditions, freedom of religion, far from being guaranteed, is seriously violated, especially where minorities are concerned.

Here I would simply recall what has been laid down with great clarity in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Fundamental human rights are the same on every latitude; and among them, pride of place must be given to the right to freedom of religion, since it involves the most important of human relationships: our relationship with God. To all those responsible for the life of nations I wish to state: If you do not fear truth, you need not fear freedom! The Holy See, in calling for true freedom for the Catholic Church everywhere, also calls for that freedom for everyone.

I come now to a third point: Commitment to truth opens the way to forgiveness and reconciliation. This necessary link between peace and the commitment to truth has given rise to an objection: differing convictions about the truth cause tensions, misunderstandings, disputes, and these are all the more serious the deeper the convictions underlying them. In the course of history these differences have caused violent clashes, social and political conflicts, and even wars of religion.

This is undeniably true, but in every case it was the result of a series of concomitant causes which had little or nothing to do with truth or religion, and always, for that matter, because means were employed which were incompatible with sincere commitment to truth or with the respect for freedom demanded by truth. Where the Catholic Church herself is concerned, insofar as serious mistakes were made in the past by some of her members and by her institutions, she condemns those mistakes and she has not hesitated to ask for forgiveness. This is required by the commitment to truth.

Asking for forgiveness, and granting forgiveness, which is likewise an obligation -- since everyone is included in the Lord's admonition: Let him or her who is without sin cast the first stone! (cf. John 8:7) -- are indispensable elements for peace. In this way our memory is purified, our hearts are made serene, and our gaze is clearly fixed on what the truth demands if we are to cultivate thoughts of peace. Here I would recall the illuminating words of John Paul II: "There can be no peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness" (Message for the 2002 World Day of Peace).

I repeat these words, humbly and with deep love, to the leaders of nations, especially those where the physical and moral wounds of conflicts are most painful, and the need for peace most urgent. One thinks immediately of the birthplace of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, who had a message of peace and forgiveness for all; one thinks of Lebanon, whose people must rediscover, with the support of international solidarity, their historic vocation to promote sincere and fruitful cooperation between different faith communities; and of the whole Middle East, especially Iraq, the cradle of great civilizations, which in these past years has suffered daily from violent acts of terrorism.

One thinks of Africa, particularly the countries of the Great Lakes region, still affected by the tragic consequences of the fratricidal wars of recent years; of the defenseless people of Darfur, subjected to deplorable violence, with dangerous international repercussions; and of so many other countries throughout the world which are the theater of violent conflict.

Surely one of the great goals of diplomacy must be that of leading all parties in conflict to understand that, if they are committed to truth, they must acknowledge errors -- and not merely the errors of others -- nor can they refuse to open themselves to forgiveness, both requested and granted. Commitment to truth -- which is certainly close to their hearts -- summons them, through forgiveness, to peace. Bloodshed does not cry out for revenge but begs for respect for life, for peace! May the Peacebuilding Commission recently established by the United Nations Organization respond effectively to this basic demand of mankind, with the willing cooperation of all concerned.

And now, Your Excellencies, I would like to make a final point: Commitment to peace opens up new hopes. This is, in some sense, the logical conclusion of everything that I have been saying. Man is capable of knowing the truth! He has this capacity with regard to the great problems of being and acting: individually and as a member of society, whether of a single nation or of humanity as a whole. The peace, to which he can and must be committed, is not merely the silence of arms; it is, much more, a peace which can encourage new energies within international relations which in turn become a means of maintaining peace.

But this will be the case only if they correspond to the truth about man and his dignity. Consequently one cannot speak of peace in situations where human beings are lacking even the basic necessities for living with dignity. Here my thoughts turn to the limitless multitudes who are suffering from starvation. They cannot be said to be living in peace, even though they are not in a state of war: Indeed they are defenceless victims of war. Immediately there come to mind distressing images of huge camps throughout the world of displaced persons and refugees, who are living in makeshift conditions in order to escape a worse fate, yet are still in dire need. Are these human beings not our brothers and sisters? Do their children not come into the world with the same legitimate expectations of happiness as other children? One thinks also of all those who are driven by unworthy living conditions to emigrate far from home and family in the hope of a more humane life. Nor can we overlook the scourge of human trafficking, which remains a disgrace in our time.

Faced with these "humanitarian emergencies" and other human tragedies, many people of good will, along with different international institutions and non-governmental organizations, have in fact responded. But a greater effort is needed from the entire diplomatic community in order to determine in truth, and to overcome with courage and generosity, the obstacles still standing in the way of effective, humane solutions. And truth demands that none of the prosperous states renounce its own responsibility and duty to provide help through drawing more generously upon its own resources.

On the basis of available statistical data, it can be said that less than half of the immense sums spent worldwide on armaments would be more than sufficient to liberate the immense masses of the poor from destitution. This challenges humanity's conscience. To peoples living below the poverty line, more as a result of situations to do with international political, commercial and cultural relations than as a result of circumstances beyond anyone's control, our common commitment to truth can and must give new hope.

Your Excellencies!

In the Birth of Christ, the Church sees the Psalmist's prophecy fulfilled: "mercy and faithfulness will meet; justice and peace will embrace; truth will spring up from the earth and justice will look down from heaven" (Psalm 85:10-11). In his commentary on these inspired words, the great Church Father Augustine, expressing the faith of the whole Church, exclaimed: "Truth has indeed sprung up from the earth: Christ, who said of himself: 'I am the Truth,' has been born of the Virgin" ("Sermo" 185).

The Church always draws life from this truth, but at this stage in the liturgical year she finds it a source of special light and joy. And in the light of this truth, may these words of mine stand for you, who represent most of the world's nations, as an expression of conviction and hope: in truth, peace!

In this spirit, I offer to all of you my heartfelt best wishes for a happy New Year!

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Papal Call for Peace in Address to Ambassadors
"Important to Pay Special Attention to Youth"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 19, 2005 (ZENIT.org).- Here is a recently released translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Dec. 1 to a group of new ambassadors to the Holy See. The envoys presented their credentials.

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Your Excellencies,

I receive you with pleasure on the occasion of the presentation of the letters accrediting you as ambassadors extraordinary and plenipotentiary of your respective countries: Tanzania, Nepal, Finland, Saint Lucia, El Salvador, Denmark, South Africa, Algeria, Eritrea, Togo and Andorra.

I thank you for conveying to me the courteous words of your heads of state. I should be grateful if you would reciprocate by expressing my respectful good wishes for them and for their lofty mission at the service of their countries.

Your presence also affords me an opportunity to greet the different civil and religious authorities of your nations as well as all your compatriots, with a special thought for the Catholic communities.

News of war is arriving from every part of the world. This morning I would like to make a new appeal to the leaders of nations and to all people of good will to cooperate in order to put an end to the violence that disfigures humanity and jeopardizes the growth of peoples and the hopes of numerous populations.

Without the commitment to peace by one and all, creating an atmosphere of pacification and a spirit of reconciliation in all social milieus beginning with the family, it will not be possible to advance on the path of a peaceful society.

In this perspective, for an increasingly more harmonious development of peoples, it is important to pay special attention to youth. Families and the different educational structures must be given the means to form and educate young people and to transmit to them the essential spiritual, moral and social values, thus preparing them for a better future and a true awareness of their role in society and the attitudes they must acquire to serve the common good and be attentive to everyone.

In the long term, this will be one of the essential ways to extricate the world from the spiral of violence.

For her part, the Catholic Church, present on all the continents, never ceases to make her own contribution by developing many educational institutions and by shaping the religious sense of individuals: This cannot but increase in each one the sense of brotherhood and solidarity.

I am aware of the importance you give to this matter in your role as diplomats, one of whose essential tasks is to encourage dialogue and negotiation as well as the increased well-being of peoples.
I also express my hope that all men and women of our time will be committed to furthering peace and reconciliation on all the continents, for it is not enough to opt for peace in order to achieve it; in addition, at the practical level and in all the social categories, no effort must be spared to bring about peace.

At the end of our meeting, I offer you my best wishes for your new mission, as I invoke an abundance of divine benefits upon you, your families, your collaborators and your countries.

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Papal Address to Saint Lucia's New Ambassador
"Moral Aspect of Economic Development Is of Fundamental Importance"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 7, 2005 (ZENIT.org).- Here is the text of an address Benedict XVI gave last Thursday to Saint Lucia's new ambassador to the Holy See, Gilbert Ramez Chagoury, who presented his credentials.

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Your Excellency,

It is with pleasure that I welcome you to the Vatican today and accept the letters of credence by which you are appointed ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of Saint Lucia to the Holy See. I ask you kindly to convey to the governor-general, Dame Pearlette Louisy, and the prime minister, Mr. Kenny Anthony, my appreciation of their good wishes. I warmly reciprocate [with] them and offer the government and people of Saint Lucia the assurance of my prayers for the prosperity of the nation.

The Church's diplomatic relations, fruitfully exercised with your country for over 20 years, form part of her mission of service to the international community. They are specifically intended to promote the dignity of the human person and to encourage peace and harmony among the world's peoples. These essential conditions for progress in attaining the integral development of individuals and nations find their deepest meaning in the moral order established by God the Creator who seeks to draw all men and women into the fullness of his life. For this reason the Holy See speaks so insistently and fervently about respect for human dignity and about the fundamental importance of supporting the family as "the primary vital cell of society" (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, decree on the apostolate of the laity, "Apostolicam Actuositatem," 11).

Mr. Ambassador, the sacred institution of marriage is vital to the well-being of every nation, including Saint Lucia. It is the indispensable foundation of family life and the primary source of cohesion within communities. In the face of traditions and trends which can devalue and even undermine marriage, a determined effort is required on the part of both civic and religious authorities, working together, to ensure that stable and faithful domestic life is upheld and supported wholeheartedly. Indeed, any hope for renewal of society which does not adhere to God's plan for matrimony and the family is destined to founder, for it is there that the God-given dignity of every person is first realized and the self-esteem necessary for mature adult relationships is first experienced and nurtured (cf. apostolic exhortation "Familiaris Consortio," 3).

Your government's commitment to economic diversification and development of social infrastructure offers, particularly to the young generation, a future of confidence and optimism. Crucial to this vision is the creation of educational opportunities. Where schools function in a professional manner and are staffed by people of personal integrity, hope is offered to all and most especially to youth. Integral to such formation is religious instruction. Knowledge enlightened by faith, far from dividing communities, binds peoples together in the common search for truth which defines every human being as one who lives by belief (cf. encyclical letter "Fides et Ratio," 31). In this regard, the principle of religious freedom, when applied to the syllabus of religious instruction in schools, must include the right to teach the content of the Catholic faith and to facilitate participation in its various practices (cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, declaration on religious freedom, "Dignitatis Humanae," 4).

The moral aspect of authentic economic development is also of fundamental importance to the well-being and peaceful progress of a nation. It is here that the demand for justice is satisfied (cf. "Sollicitudo Rei Socialis," 10). The right to meaningful work and an acceptable standard of living, the assurance of a fair distribution of goods and wealth, and the responsible use of natural resources all depend upon a concept of development which is not limited merely to satisfying material necessities.

Instead, such a concept must also highlight the dignity of the human person -- who is the proper subject of all progress -- and thereby enhance the common good of all humanity. While such a goal certainly demands the support of the entire international community, it is also the case that much can be achieved at the level of regional initiatives. This requires that excessive nationalism be laid to rest so that the profound value of communal solidarity be permitted to find _expression in local agreements conducive to regional economic and social cooperation.

As Your Excellency has kindly observed, the Church in Santa Lucia serves the nation considerably through her extensive educational and social apostolate. Faithful to her spiritual and humanitarian mission, she actively seeks to contribute to the advancement of the people. Among the many initiatives in which she is engaged is the battle against the trade and use of drugs. The will to foil this pernicious threat to the fabric of society, which fuels crime and violence and contributes to the physical and emotional destruction of many individuals and families, demands great political resolve, international cooperation, and the support of the whole community. I encourage your government in the efforts it is making to address this scourge and assure you that they have the full support of the Catholic faithful.

Mr. Ambassador, I am confident that your mission which you begin today will help to strengthen the bonds of understanding and cooperation between Santa Lucia and the Holy See. As you take up your new responsibilities I assure you that the various offices of the Roman Curia are ready to assist you in the fulfillment of your duties. Upon you and your fellow citizens I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.


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Papal Discourse to New Nepalese Ambassador
"Violence as a Tool for Political Change Must Always Be Avoided"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 5, 2005 (ZENIT.org).- Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave last Thursday to Nepal's new ambassador to the Holy See, Madan Kumar Bhattarai, who presented his credentials.

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Mr. Ambassador,

I extend a warm welcome to you as I accept the letters of credence appointing you ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the kingdom of Nepal to the Holy See. Most grateful for the greetings and good wishes which you bring from His Majesty King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah, I gladly reciprocate his kind sentiments, and I ask you to convey to him and to the government and people of Nepal the _expression of my esteem and the assurance of my prayers for the well-being and prosperity of your nation.

Your country and the Holy See enjoy bonds of friendship and cooperation which are made ever stronger by a shared commitment to working for peace and security among peoples at every level of society. This joint task involves all men and women of good will, and is intended to foster and promote international solidarity. In fact, without such there can be no true peace. Both the poor and the rich have a right to share in the material goods of the earth and to exercise their God-given capacity to work. My illustrious predecessor, Pope John Paul II, taught that we have a solemn duty to create a world that is more just and prosperous for all, stating in his encyclical "Centesimus Annus" that "the advancement of the poor constitutes a great opportunity for the moral, cultural and even economic growth of all humanity" (No. 28).

While this appeal for greater solidarity is made to the international community as a whole, it has particular relevance for the countries of Asia. As you are well aware, the nations of your continent will need to continue to work closely together if they are to resolve the difficulties brought about by conflict and poverty. Undeniably, your region is blessed with many men and women who have the human and intellectual skills necessary to meet the challenges of our time.

Every attempt to mobilize such talent in a constructive way helps to foster the cooperation needed to support countries in difficulty. I urge you, therefore, to continue to work with your neighbors to ensure that problems on the continent are effectively addressed. Further international cooperation in the analysis and evaluation of political and social options and the promotion of peace and reconciliation will enhance your region's influence in the eyes of the rest of the world. It will also lead to increased assistance to poorer nations and greater respect for their sovereignty.

I wish to express my concern over the violent acts which have taken a devastating toll on your country. I pray that all parties will end the bloodshed which continues to cause so much suffering for the nation and instead embrace the path of dialogue and negotiation. This alone can enable all the people of Nepal to enjoy justice, tranquility and harmony. Indeed, it is only through dialogue that we can overcome the forms of conflict and tension which impede our efforts to build a firm groundwork for peace and fraternity (cf. Address to the Diplomatic Corps, 12 May 2005).

The use of violence as a tool for political change must always be avoided, while the building of mutual understanding and the constructive exchange of ideas is at all times to be upheld. Opposing factions must let the blessing of forgiveness bring about the hope of future peace thereby taking away the pain and wiping away the tears of the past. By insisting on the greatness and dignity of the human person and by spreading a clearer sense of the oneness of the human family, we can together eradicate the causes of violence and injustice.

For her part, the Catholic Church also draws inspiration from the lofty principle of solidarity in her own commitment to serving the integral good of the human person. Although few in number, the Catholics of Nepal have focused attention on the need to support the poor in the fight against poverty. The Church's endeavors are not just an _expression of her concern for the less-fortunate but illustrate her keen desire to work with government authorities for the spiritual and material well-being of every citizen.

The Church is actively involved in advancing human development in Nepal through her presence in schools, orphanages, clinics and hospitals. I am confident that ongoing support for the legal guarantee of religious freedom will enable Christians to continue to fulfill their mission to preach the Good News of salvation and to bear witness to it through practical deeds of love and compassion. The Catholic community remains committed to the principles of interreligious dialogue and promises her continued cooperation with civil authorities in their attempts to promote this essential exchange of ideas.

Mr. Ambassador, I am sure that your mission will further strengthen the bonds of understanding and friendship between us. You can be assured that the Holy See will continue to be a committed partner with Nepal as it seeks to promote its own development and to be a force for stability and peace in Asia and within the wider community of nations. Upon yourself and the beloved people of Nepal I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of peace and harmony.

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Papal Address to Tanzania's New Ambassador
"The Generosity Your Country Has Shown Is Most Praiseworthy"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 4, 2005 (ZENIT.org).- Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave Thursday to Tanzania's new ambassador to the Holy See, Ali Abeid A. Karume, when he presented his credentials.

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Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you today as you present the letters appointing you ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the United Republic of Tanzania to the Holy See. I offer the assurance of my prayers for the well-being and prosperity of your nation and I ask that you thank President Benjamin Mkapa for his warm greetings.

Tanzania, like so much of Africa, is known for its natural beauty and has been blessed with a rich variety of cultures and traditions. These are customs which emphasize the importance of community, mutual respect and human dignity and can offer much to humanity as a whole. Diplomatic relations between Tanzania and the Holy See express our shared conviction that these qualities are essential for fostering understanding between peoples and peace in the world. At the same time, the Holy See's diplomatic role is distinguished from others in the international community in that it is marked by its dedication to serving the advancement of individuals and society through the affirmation of the values of peace, solidarity, justice and liberty (cf. Pope John Paul II, Address to the 50th General Assembly of the United Nations, New York, October 5, 1995, 18).

These central values, founded on the intrinsic dignity of every human being, are also the keys to developing and sustaining vibrant and successful democracies. In this regard, I wish to encourage your government in its efforts to ensure that the country remains open to the richness that political diversity offers. Genuine democracies require that self-interest and efforts to reinforce positions of dominance be resisted, so that every citizen will enjoy the right to choose leaders through free and transparent multiparty elections. Respect for human dignity demands that "public administration at any level -- national, regional, community -- is oriented toward the service of its citizens" who, in turn, make a valuable contribution to the nation as true partners in governance (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 412).

Along these same lines, I am pleased to note that your nation, as a founding member of the East Africa Community, is committed to working with other nations in the area for the creation of a common market. The adoption of a single customs union for the member nations is indeed a positive sign of the progress being made in this important undertaking. Communal solidarity at this level not only assists in the integral development of the region, but also develops a level of rapport and mutual concern which can be most helpful in addressing any differences which may arise.

Moreover, the generosity that your country has shown by taking in nearly a million refugees fleeing the violence and bloodshed of wars in their homelands is most praiseworthy. The nation can certainly be proud of these instances of concern for the greater good of all; they represent significant gestures that make Tanzania an example for Africa and the world. I am also aware of the great material burden which this generosity has placed on your country, and I encourage the international community to continue to support you in your efforts to assist marginalized and displaced peoples.

Mr. Ambassador, I wish to assure you that the Catholic Church will continue to help your country address its many needs. Indeed, she has much to offer in her social teaching which seeks to increase moral awareness of the demands of justice and solidarity, demands which are predicated on the incomparable worth and centrality of the human person. This is the motivation behind her attempts to comfort the poor and the suffering and to promote solidarity and cooperation among the people of Tanzania.

In fact, initiatives sponsored by the Catholic bishops have focused attention on the mobilization of the poor themselves in the fight to eradicate poverty and to foster development. The bishops' endeavors are more than an eloquent _expression of the Church's concern for the poor. They are an example of her keen desire to work with governmental authorities for the spiritual and material well-being of every citizen, regardless of race, religion or social affiliation.

Your Excellency, during your term as Tanzania's representative to the Holy See the various departments of the Roman Curia will do all they can to assist you in the discharge of your duties. I offer my good wishes for the success of your efforts to build further on the positive relations already existing between us, and I pray that Almighty God will bestow abundant blessings upon yourself and the beloved people of Tanzania.

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Papal Address to Eritrea's New Ambassador
"Concerned That All Citizens Should Be Free to Practice Their Faith"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 4, 2005 (ZENIT.org).- Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave Thursday when Eritrea's new ambassador to the Holy See, Petros Tseggai Asghedom, presented his credentials.

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Mr. Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the letters accrediting you as ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the republic of Eritrea to the Holy See. I thank you for the greetings which you bring from your president, His Excellency Mr. Isaias Afwerki, and I ask you to convey my respectful gratitude to him and to assure him of my continuing prayers for the well-being of your nation.

The Holy See greatly values its diplomatic links with your country, which enable it to cooperate with your government in the interests of peace and stability among the beloved peoples of the Horn of Africa. The Church shares with all people of good will a responsibility "to achieve a peaceful society, to overcome the temptation of confrontation between cultures, races and worlds that are different" (Address to the Diplomatic Corps, May 12, 2005). You know from sad experience the appalling human cost of war; let me assure you that the Holy See is eager to do all in its power to support the international community in its efforts to avoid further military escalation and to resolve the continuing conflicts in your part of Africa.

The principal victims of war are always the people whose lives are so badly disrupted by violence and destruction. Many are forced to flee from their homes, or to seek refuge in neighboring states. The Church is close to refugees and displaced persons, "not only with her pastoral presence and material support, but also with her commitment to defend their human dignity" (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 505). In your country, where the effects of war are compounded by the additional burdens of drought and famine, the poverty of the people has reached grave proportions; the Catholic Church is committed to show solidarity with them in their suffering and to offer practical assistance. As world leaders become increasingly aware of the need to provide effective aid to Africa, the Church is pleased to be associated with their fight against hunger, poverty and disease.

Even though they form a small proportion of the population of Eritrea, Catholics can make a significant contribution to national life, through their Christian witness and their commitment to promote the common good. True to her nature and mission, the Church always seeks to come to the aid of the poor and the sick, and to work tirelessly to promote the dignity of the human person, made in God's image. For this reason she welcomes the opportunity to cooperate with the government of Eritrea and to place her considerable resources of personnel and expertise at the service of your people.

I am confident that the government in turn will wish to facilitate the Church's humanitarian endeavors, welcoming those missionaries who arrive from abroad and supporting the native clergy and religious who devote their whole lives to prayer and to the pastoral ministry. In particular I would ask that their right to exemption from military service be respected: Eritrea will be better served if they are free to pursue their Christian calling and respective vocations.

Indeed, I express my hope that concrete steps will be taken to implement as fully as possible your country's constitutional guarantee of religious liberty. As the Second Vatican Council teaches, this is a right based "on the very dignity of the human person as known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself" ("Dignitatis Humanae," 2). The Catholic Church, accordingly, is deeply concerned that all citizens should be free to practice their faith and that no one should feel under threat or coercion of any kind in this regard. She also seeks to promote respectful dialogue and fraternity between different Christian traditions and between different religions, and in this way to contribute towards the peaceful coexistence of all the groups that make up Eritrean society. In seeking the freedom to carry out her mission of love among your people, the Church fervently wishes to hasten the day when all the citizens of your country will be able to live together in peace, prosperity and harmony.

Your Excellency, I am confident that the diplomatic mission which you begin today will consolidate the good relations that exist between the state of Eritrea and the Holy See. In offering you my best wishes for the years ahead, I would like to assure you that the various departments of the Roman Curia are always glad to provide help and support in the fulfillment of your duties. Upon you, your family and all the people of Eritrea I cordially invoke God's abundant blessings.

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Papal Address to Denmark's New Ambassador
On Development Aid, Immigrants, and Defense of Life

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 2, 2005 (ZENIT.org).- Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave Thursday to Denmark's new ambassador to the Holy See, Sten Erik Malmborg Lilholt, who presented his credentials.

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Mr. Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the letters accrediting you as ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the kingdom of Denmark to the Holy See. I thank you for your gracious words and for the greetings you bring from Queen Margrethe II. Please convey to Her Majesty my respectful good wishes and assurance of prayers for the well-being of your nation.

Since 1982 the Holy See and Denmark have enjoyed the benefits of formally established diplomatic relations. This has resulted in an encouraging level of contact and cooperation in the service of peace and justice, especially in the developing world. In this regard, I am pleased to note that your country continues to be most generous in its dedication to reduce world poverty and foster international development.

The Holy See appreciates the importance attached by the Danish government to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, particularly with regard to the contribution by richer countries of 0.7% of their gross national product to the international aid budget. I offer you every encouragement to continue resolutely along this path towards a more just distribution of global resources and I pray that many other nations will be inspired by the leadership your country has shown in this regard.

Besides the material poverty experienced by our brothers and sisters in the developing world, there are other forms of deprivation that give cause for concern in modern society. In Denmark, as in many European countries, there is currently much discussion of the issues associated with immigration. I urge the Danish people to offer a welcome to the newcomers in their midst and I trust also that those who have found a home in Denmark will respect the values and sensibilities of their host nation.

The integration of peoples requires each group to achieve a just balance between asserting its own identity and accommodating that of others (cf. Message for the 2005 World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 2) and I know that your government appreciates the importance of reconciling these different elements. I pray that the various groups represented in Danish society will continue to live together peacefully, giving an example to other nations of the mutual enrichment that host countries and immigrants can offer one another.

This cooperation is especially important in the fields of ecumenism and interreligious dialogue. Even though the Catholic community in Denmark represents only a small percentage of the population, I can assure you that it is eager to play its part in contributing to these significant endeavors. It is my fervent hope that ecumenical dialogue with the established Lutheran Church will start to make significant progress and I trust that you will do all in your power to encourage this. Moreover, in view of the phenomenon of immigration, interreligious dialogue is also taking on increasing significance. The Catholic Church is keen to contribute her considerable experience and expertise in this area so as to promote mutual respect and understanding between the followers of different religious traditions in your country.

As in much of Europe today, Danish society is becoming increasingly secular in outlook. The Church has a right and a duty to point out the dangers that ensue when man's divine origin and destiny are ignored or denied. The tradition of Christian faith in your country, stretching back over a thousand years, has made it what it is today. Indeed, the principles that have shaped Western civilization flow from the underlying vision of the world that the Christian faith proclaims. It is essential to remember that their binding nature is predicated not on mere consensus but on divine revelation.

For this reason it is necessary to examine carefully any new social developments that emerge, even if they enjoy widespread support or appear to promise significant rewards. The defense of life from conception to natural death, for example, and the stability of marriage and family life are goods that must be safeguarded in every society, however vocal the forces that may seek to undermine them. They form part of the objective moral order, and can never be discarded without gravely endangering the common good. Likewise, scientific and technological advances should always be evaluated according to sound ethical criteria, and nothing that threatens the inherent dignity of the human person should ever be tolerated. Only by faithful adherence to these unchanging truths can society create the conditions in which human beings may flourish and prosper.

Your Excellency, I am confident that the diplomatic mission which you begin today will further strengthen the already fruitful relations existing between the Holy See and your country. I assure you that the various departments of the Roman Curia are always ready to offer help and support in the fulfillment of your duties. With my sincere good wishes, I invoke upon you, your family, and all the people of Denmark, God's abundant blessings.

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apal Address to South Africa's New Ambassador
"Your Nation's Policy of Acceptance of Others Has Been Exemplary"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 1, 2005 (ZENIT.org).- Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave today to South Africa's new ambassador to the Holy See, Konji Sebati, who presented her credentials.

* * *

[Madame] Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and accept the letters of credence by which you are appointed ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the republic of South Africa to the Holy See. I thank you for the greetings which you bring on behalf of His Excellency Mr. Thabo Mbeki, president of the republic, and I gladly reciprocate with good wishes and the assurance of my prayers for him and the people of South Africa.

Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1994, the Holy See has followed closely your country's transformation and its successful efforts to bring about an integrated, stable and pluralistic society. While challenges still remain, the reality of a new South Africa has deservedly received acclaim and admiration. The same political good will and administrative maturity that produced the peaceful transition to a full democracy must likewise be brought to bear on other areas of present concern.

Many of these questions are also shared by other countries in the region and are the result of globalization or internal social transformation. Intensive urbanization, for example, has resulted in the lack of proper housing, unemployment, criminality and an exaggerated social stratification. These challenges can only be effectively addressed by promoting both social cohesion and economic growth, while offering, especially to the poor and marginalized, opportunities for education and employment. My prayers are raised to Almighty God that, as your nation continues to address these matters, her political vision will remain open to love of truth, peace and justice.

The high proportion of young people in your population, the traditional African values of deep respect for human life, family, community and social solidarity will certainly contribute to the process of long-term development. This balanced approach to change has indeed helped to raise the moral prestige of the new South Africa and has made her one of the most influential countries on the continent. I am hopeful that her example will enable her to maintain a strong voice in the international community, especially regarding the elimination or reduction of foreign debt, regional peace-building and the assistance to other nations in the consolidation of proven economic and social programs.

[Madame] Ambassador, in recent years the social stability and economic success of South Africa have attracted increasing numbers of refugees from countries sadly troubled by poverty, political unrest and violence. Your nation's policy of acceptance of others has been exemplary for the entire region. It is not easy for local and national governments, already strapped by economic and social problems, to accommodate those who are searching for a new and better life. The attention given to them, however, is a characteristic sign of an authentically civil society, moved by a just compassion for the less fortunate. History has clearly demonstrated that "immigration can be a resource for development rather than an obstacle to it" (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 297). I have no doubt that your nation by drawing on the talents and hopes of these newcomers, and treating them always with the dignity and respect they deserve, will reap many benefits.

The great majority of the South African population is Christian and therefore capable of offering the country the important religious values of solidarity, tolerance and reconciliation. For her part, the Catholic Church remains committed to giving her full support to the promotion of modern society by furthering dialogue and mutual understanding (cf. "Ecclesia in Africa," 79). She is well respected for her efforts to work with civil governments in addressing the many social and human problems affecting Africa.

One notable example of this is the struggle against HIV/AIDS where statistics taken in several regions of Africa confirm the results of policies based on continence, the promotion of faithfulness in marriage and the importance of family life. Education, health-care and assistance to the poor also indicate sectors where collaboration has been most advantageous and rewarding. In this context, I would assure you that the Catholic Church will continue to offer her cooperation wherever she may be of assistance, and I would encourage your government to promote an ever-greater awareness of the dignity of human life from conception to natural death.

[Madame] Ambassador, as you begin your duties as your country's representative to the Holy See I assure you of my prayers for the success of your mission. You may be certain that the various departments of the Roman Curia will be willing to assist you in this task. I ask Almighty God's abundant blessings upon you and upon the beloved people of South Africa.

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Papal Address to New U.S. Ambassador
"Confident That Your Nation Will Continue to Demonstrate a Leadership ……"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 13, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered Saturday to Francis Rooney, the new U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, on the occasion of the presentation of his credentials.

* * *

Mr. Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador and Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Holy See. I am grateful for the message of greetings which you have brought from President Bush; I would ask you kindly to assure him in a particular way of my prayerful solidarity with all those affected by the recent storms in the southern part of your country, as well as the support of my prayers for those engaged in the massive work of relief and rebuilding.

In his Message for the 2005 World Day of Peace, my predecessor, Pope John Paul II, called attention to the intrinsic ethical dimension of every political decision, and observed that the disturbing spread of social disorder, war, injustice and violence in our world can ultimately be countered only by renewed appreciation and respect for the universal moral law whose principles derive from the Creator himself (cf. Nos. 2-3). A recognition of the rich patrimony of values and principles embodied in that law is essential to the building of a world which acknowledges and promotes the dignity, life and freedom of each human person, while creating the conditions of justice and peace in which individuals and communities can truly flourish. It is precisely the promotion and defense of these values, which must govern relations between nations and peoples in the pursuit of the common good of the human family, that inspires the presence and activity of the Holy See within the international community. As the Second Vatican Council stated, the Church's universal religious mission does not allow her to be identified with any particular political, economic or social system, yet at the same time, this mission serves as a source of commitment, direction and strength which can contribute to establishing and consolidating the human community in accordance with God's law (cf. "Gaudium et Spes," 42).

For this reason, I appreciate your kind reference to the Holy See's efforts to contribute to finding effective solutions to some of the more significant problems facing the international community in recent years, such as the scandal of continued widespread hunger, grave illness and poverty in large areas of our world. An adequate approach to these issues cannot be limited to purely economic or technical considerations, but demands broad vision, practical solidarity and courageous long-term decisions with regard to complex ethical questions; among the latter I think especially of the effects of the crushing debt that feeds the spiral of poverty in many less developed nations. The American people have long been distinguished for their generous charitable outreach to the disadvantaged and the needy on every continent. In a world of increasing globalization, I am confident that your nation will continue to demonstrate a leadership based on unwavering commitment to the values of freedom, integrity and self-determination, while cooperating with the various international instances which work to build genuine consensus and to develop a unified course of action in confronting issues critical to the future of the whole human family.

Mr. Ambassador, I take this opportunity to recall that just over two decades ago full diplomatic relations were established between the United States and the Holy See, thanks to the efforts of then-President Ronald Reagan and the late Pope John Paul II. I appreciate the dialogue and fruitful cooperation which these relations have made possible, and I express my hope that in years to come they will be deepened and consolidated. As you begin your mission, I offer you my prayerful good wishes for the work you will undertake in the service of your nation, and I assure you of the constant readiness of the offices of the Holy See to assist you in the fulfillment of your responsibilities. Upon you and your family, and upon all the beloved American people, I cordially invoke God's blessings of prosperity, joy and peace.

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Benedict XVI's Address to President of Italy, Carlo Ciampi.

Quirinal Palace
Friday, June 24, 2005

Mr. President,

I have the joy today of reciprocating the most cordial visit that you were pleased to pay me as Head of the Italian State last 3 May on the occasion of the new pastoral service to which the Lord has called me. First of all, therefore, I would like to thank you and through you, to thank the Italian People for the warm welcome they have accorded me from the very first day of my pastoral service as Bishop of Rome and Pastor of the universal Church.

For my part, I assure the citizens of Rome and then the whole Italian Nation of my commitment to do my utmost for the religious and civil good of those whom the Lord has entrusted to my pastoral care.

The proclamation of the Gospel which, in communion with the Italian Bishops, I am called to make to Rome and to Italy, is not only at the service of the Italian people's growth in faith and in the Christian life but also of its progress on the paths of concord and peace. Christ is the Savior of the whole person, spirit and body, his spiritual and eternal destiny and his temporal and earthly life. Thus, when his message is heard, the civil community also becomes more responsible and attentive to the needs of the common good and shows greater solidarity with the poor, the abandoned and the marginalized.

Reviewing Italian history, one is struck by the innumerable works of charity that the Church, with great sacrifices, set up for the relief of all kinds of suffering. Today the Church intends to journey on along this same path, without any ambition for power and without requesting social or financial privileges. The example of Jesus Christ, who "went about doing good works and healing all" (Acts 10:38), remains the Church's supreme norm of conduct among the peoples.

Relations between the Church and the Italian State are founded on the principle spelled out by the Second Vatican Council, which says: "The political community and the Church are autonomous and independent of each other in their own fields. Nevertheless, both are devoted to the personal vocation of man, though under different titles" ("Gaudium et Spes," 76).

This principle was already present in the Lateran Pacts and was subsequently confirmed in the Agreements that modified the Concordat. Therefore, a healthy secularism of the State, by virtue of which temporal realities are governed according to their own norms but which does not exclude those ethical references that are ultimately founded in religion, is legitimate. The autonomy of the temporal sphere does not exclude close harmony with the superior and complex requirements that derive from an integral vision of man and his eternal destiny.

I am eager to assure you, Mr. President, and all the Italian People, that the Church desires to maintain and to foster a cordial spirit of collaboration and understanding at the service of the spiritual and moral growth of the Country; it would be seriously harmful, not only for her but also for Italy, to attempt to weaken or to break these very special ties that bind her to the Country. The Italian culture is deeply imbued with Christian values, as can be seen in the splendid masterpieces that the Nation has produced in all fields of thought and art.

My hope is that the Italian People will not only not deny the Christian heritage that is part of their history but will guard it jealously and make it produce new fruits worthy of the past. I am confident that Italy, under the wise and exemplary guidance of those who are called to govern it, will continue to carry out in the world its civilizing mission in which it has so distinguished itself down the centuries. By virtue of its history and its culture, Italy can make a very worthwhile contribution, particularly to Europe, helping it to rediscover the Christian roots that enabled it to achieve greatness in the past and can still serve to deepen the profound unity of the Continent.

Mr. President, as you can easily understand, I have many concerns at the beginning of my pastoral service on the Chair of Peter. I would like to point out some of them which, because of their universally human character, cannot but also concern those who are responsible for government. I am alluding to the problem of the protection of the family founded on marriage, as it is recognized also in the Italian Constitution (n. 29), the problem of the defense of human life from conception to its natural end and lastly, the problem of education and consequently of school, an indispensable training ground for the formation of the new generations.

The Church, accustomed as she is to scrutinizing God's will engraved in the very nature of the human creature, sees in the family a most important value that must be defended from any attack that aims to undermine its solidity and call its very existence into question.

The Church recognizes human life as a primary good, the premise for all other goods. She therefore asks that it be respected both at its initial and its final stages and stresses the duty to provide adequate palliative treatment that makes death more human.

As for schools, her role is connected with the family as a natural expansion of its task of formation. In this regard, save the competence of the State to dictate the general norms of instruction, I cannot but express the hope that the right of parents to choose education freely will be respected, and that in so doing they will not have to bear the additional burden of further expenses. I trust that Italian legislators, in their wisdom, will be able to find "human" solutions to the problems mentioned here, in other words, solutions that respect the inviolable values implicit in them.

Lastly, expressing my hope that the Nation will continue to advance on the path of spiritual and material well being, I join you, Mr. President, in urging all the citizens and all the members of society always to live and work in a spirit of genuine harmony, in a context of open dialogue and mutual trust, in the commitment to serve and promote the common good and the dignity of every person. I would like to conclude, Mr. President, by recalling the esteem and affection that the Italian People feel for you, as well as its full confidence in fulfilling the duties inherent in your exalted office.

I have the joy of joining in this affectionate esteem and trust, as I entrust you and your Consort, Mrs. Franca Ciampi, the leaders of the life of the Nation and the entire Italian People to the protection of the Virgin Mary, so intensely venerated in the countless shrines dedicated to her. With these sentiments, I invoke upon you all the Blessing of God, a pledge of every desired good.

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Pope's Address to New Zealand's Ambassador
"Mutual Relationship Between Civil Law and Moral Law"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 16, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today to Geoffrey Kenyon Ward, the new ambassador of New Zealand.

* * *

Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you today and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of New Zealand to the Holy See. I thank you for the gracious words of greeting and I would ask you to convey to the Government and people of New Zealand my sincere best wishes and the assurance of my prayers for the well-being of the nation.

The people of your country, I know, are very conscious of the duty to promote peace and solidarity in our world. Last year your Prime Minister, accompanied by a group of veterans, visited the historic site of Monte Cassino to honor the countless young men who courageously sacrificed their lives to defend fundamental universal values being threatened by false nationalist ideologies. Still today, this readiness to protect and promote the values of justice and peace, which transcend cultural or national boundaries, is a well-recognized and laudable trait of your people. Tangible expressions of this are found in your nation's participation in aid projects and peace-keeping operations extending from the Solomon Islands to Afghanistan and the Middle East, as well as the willingness to champion the causes of sustainable development and environmental protection. At its most significant level, this generosity elicits a recognition of the essential nature of human life as a gift and of our world as a family of persons.

The desire to uphold the common good is founded on the belief that man comes into the world as a gift of the Creator. It is from God that all men and women -- made in his image -- receive their common inviolable dignity and their summons to responsibility. Today, when individuals often forget their origin and thus lose sight of their goal, they easily fall prey to whimsical social trends, the distortion of reason by particular interest groups, and exaggerated individualism. Confronted with this "crisis of meaning" (cf. Encyclical Letter "Fides et Ratio," 81), civic and religious authorities are called to work together encouraging everyone, including the young, to "direct their steps towards a truth which transcends them" (ibid., 5). Sundered from that universal truth, which is the only guarantee of freedom and happiness, individuals are at the mercy of caprice and slowly lose the capacity to discover the profoundly satisfying meaning of human life.

New Zealanders traditionally have recognized and celebrated the place of marriage and stable domestic life at the heart of their society and indeed continue to expect social and political forces to support families and to protect the dignity of women, especially the most vulnerable. They appreciate that secular distortions of marriage can never overshadow the splendor of a life-long covenant based on generous self-giving and unconditional love. Correct reason tells them that "the future of humanity passes by way of the family" (Apostolic Exhortation "Familiaris Consortio," 86) which offers society a secure foundation for its aspirations. I therefore encourage the people of Aotearoa, through you Mr. Ambassador, to continue to take up the challenge of forging a pattern of life, both individually and as a community, in relation to God's plan for all humanity.

The disquieting process of secularization is occurring in many parts of the world. Where the Christian foundations of society risk being forgotten, the task of preserving the transcendent dimension present in every culture and of strengthening the authentic exercise of individual freedom against relativism becomes increasingly difficult. Such a predicament calls for both Church and civil leaders to ensure that the question of morality is given ample discussion in the public forum. In this regard, there is a great need today to recover a vision of the mutual relationship between civil law and moral law which, as well as being proposed by the Christian tradition, is also part of the patrimony of the great juridical traditions of humanity (cf. Encyclical Letter "Evangelium Vitae," 71). Only in this way can the multiple claims to "rights" be linked to truth and the nature of authentic freedom be correctly understood in relation to that truth which sets its limits and reveals its goals.

For her part the Catholic Church in New Zealand continues to do all she can to uphold the Christian foundations of civic life. She is much involved in the spiritual and intellectual formation of the young, especially through her schools. Additionally her charitable apostolate extends to those living on the margins of society and I am confident that, through her mission of service, she will respond generously to new social challenges as they arise.

Your Excellency, I know that your appointment will serve to strengthen further the bonds of friendship which already exist between New Zealand and the Holy See. As you take up your new responsibilities I assure you that the various offices of the Roman Curia are ready to assist you in the fulfillment of your duties. Upon you, your family and your fellow citizens, I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

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Benedict XVI's Address to Zimbabwe's Ambassador
"The Urgent Need for 'a Responsible and Accountable Leadership'"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 16, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today to David Douglas Hamadziripi, the new ambassador of Zimbabwe to the Holy See.

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Your Excellency,

As I accept the Letters accrediting you as the Ambassador and Minister Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Zimbabwe, I offer you a warm welcome to the Vatican. I ask you kindly to convey to President Mugabe my greetings and prayerful good wishes for your nation and all its people.

With the elections of 31 March 2005, Zimbabwe made a new beginning in confronting the grave social problems which have affected the nation in recent years. It is my fervent hope that the elections will not only contribute to the immediate goals of pacification and economic recovery, but will also lead to the moral rebuilding of society and the consolidation of a democratic order committed to enacting policies dictated by genuine concern for the common good and the integral development of each individual and every social group. At this important hour in the history of your country, particular concern must be shown for the poor, the disenfranchised and the young, who have been most affected by the political and economic instability and who demand genuine reforms aimed at meeting their basic needs and opening before them a future of hope. The great challenge of national reconciliation also demands that while past injustices be recognized and addressed, every effort must be made in the future to act with justice and respect for the dignity and rights of others.

In this regard, I can only second the observations made by Zimbabwe's Bishops on the eve of the recent elections about the urgent need for "a responsible and accountable leadership" marked by truthfulness, a spirit of service to others, honest management of public goods, commitment to the rule of law and the promotion of the right and duty of all citizens to participate in the life of society. The noble goal of attaining the common good through an ordered social life can only be attained if political leaders are devoted to ensuring the welfare of individuals and groups in a spirit of integrity and fairness. Looking towards Africa's future role in the international community, my predecessor, Pope John Paul II, insisted that "a better world will come about only if it is built on the foundation of sound ethical and spiritual principles" ("Ecclesia in Africa," 114).

I appreciate Your Excellency's kind reference to the religious, educational and charitable apostolate of the Church in your country, and I assure you of the desire of the nation's Catholics to support the legitimate aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe. Through her network of educational institutions, hospitals, dispensaries and orphanages the Church stands at the service of people of all religions. She seeks to offer a specific contribution to the future of the nation by educating people in the practical skills and the spiritual values which will serve as the foundation for social renewal. For her part, the Church asks only for the freedom to carry out her proper mission, which serves the coming of God's Kingdom through her prophetic witness to the Gospel and her inculcation of its moral teaching. The Church thus works for the building of a harmonious and just society, while at the same time respecting and encouraging the freedom and responsibility of citizens to participate in the political process and in the pursuit of the common good.

Your Excellency, as you undertake your mission of representing the Republic of Zimbabwe to the Holy See, I offer my good wishes for the success of your work. Be assured that you may always count on the offices of the Roman Curia to assist and support you in the fulfillment of your high responsibilities. Upon you and your family, and upon all your fellow-citizens, I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

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Papal Address to Azerbaijan's Ambassador
"That Religious Freedom … Be Sanctioned as a Fundamental Civil Right"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 16, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today to Elchin Oktyabr oglu Amirbayov, the new ambassador of Azerbaijan to the Holy See.

* * *

Your Excellency,

It is with particular pleasure that I welcome you to the Vatican as the first Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the Holy See. On this auspicious occasion I would ask you kindly to convey my cordial greetings to His Excellency President Aliev, and to the Government and people of your noble land. Assure them of my gratitude for their good wishes and of my prayers for the nation's peace and well-being.

The Church's diplomatic relations form a part of her mission of service to the international community. Her engagement with civil society is anchored in the conviction that the task of building a more just world must acknowledge and consider man's supernatural vocation. The Holy See strives therefore to promote an understanding of the human person who "receives from God his essential dignity and with it the capacity to transcend every social order so as to move towards truth and goodness" (Encyclical Letter "Centesimus Annus," 38). From this foundation the Church applies the universal values which safeguard the dignity of every person and serve the common good to the vast array of cultures and nations that constitute our world.

The people of Azerbaijan know only too well that, if the spiritual dimension of persons is repressed or even denied, the soul of a nation is crushed. During the tragic epoch of intimidation in eastern European history, while the supremacy of force prevailed, the monotheistic faith communities present for centuries in your country preserved a hope for justice and freedom, a future in which the supremacy of truth would prevail. Today, they propose this anew. In fact, when my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II met last November with Religious Leaders of Azerbaijan representing the Muslim, Russian Orthodox and Jewish communities, he commented that the gathering was a symbol for the world of how tolerance between faith communities prepares the ground for a broader human, civil, and social development in greater solidarity.

As Azerbaijan continues to engage in the delicate task of forging its national character, it is to faith communities that political and civic authorities can turn for a determined commitment to shaping the social order in accordance with the common good. Such commitment demands that religious freedom, which preserves the singularity of each faith community, be sanctioned as a fundamental civil right and afforded protection by a robust framework of juridical norms which respect the laws and duties proper to religious communities (cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Declaration on Religious Freedom "Dignitatis Humanae," 2). Such practical support of religious freedom by political leaders becomes a sure means for authentic social progress and peace. In this regard, I acknowledge with thanks the role of President Aliev and your Government in facilitating the reconstruction of the Catholic Church in Bakù together with the foundation of a home for the needy.

Mr. Ambassador, sound economic development has been a long-standing aspiration of all Azerbaijan's citizens. It is also a right which carries the corresponding duty to contribute, according to one's ability, to the genuine progress of the community. The priority of promoting social and commercial projects capable of creating a more equitable society represents a difficult though stimulating challenge for all who regulate and work in the business sector.

Your country has already taken some steps towards ensuring the fundamental rights of its citizens and promoting democratic practices. Much, however, remains to be achieved. Only in respecting the inviolable dignity of the human person and promoting the corresponding individual liberties can a civil society be constructed which contributes to the prosperity of all its citizens. Be assured that the Catholic Church community, though few in number in Azerbaijan, will, for its part, continue to contribute selflessly to the promotion of justice and the protection of the poor.

Your Excellency, I am confident that the diplomatic mission which you begin today will further strengthen the already fruitful relations existing between the Holy See and your country. Please know that the various offices of the Roman Curia are ready to assist you in the fulfillment of your duties. With my sincere good wishes, I invoke upon you, your family and all the people of Azerbaijan, abundant divine blessings.

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Benedict XVI's Address to Diplomatic Corps

"Overcome Temptation of Clash of Civilizations"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 12, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today, when receiving in audience the ambassadors representing the 174 countries with which the Holy See enjoys full diplomatic relations.

* * *

Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am happy to meet with you today, less than one month since the beginning of my pastoral service as Successor of Peter. I very much appreciate the words just addressed to me on your behalf by professor Giovanni Galassi, dean of the Diplomatic Corps to the Holy See, appreciating the care of all the diplomats for the mission the Church realizes in the world. To each of you, as well as to your collaborators, I present my cordial greetings and best wishes, thanking you for the attentions you dispensed during the great events we lived through the past month of April, as well as the work you carry out daily.

In addressing you, my thoughts also go to the countries you represent and to their leaders. I also think of the nations with which the Holy See does not yet enjoy diplomatic relations. Some of them associated themselves to the ceremonies on the occasion of the death of my predecessor and my election to the See of Peter. Appreciating these gestures, I wish to express my gratitude to them today and address a deferential greeting to the civil authorities of those countries, formulating the desire to see them represented as soon as possible in the Apostolic See. From those countries, in particular those in which the Catholic communities are numerous, I have received messages that I have appreciated particularly. I would like to express the great appreciation I feel for these communities and for the ensemble of peoples to which they belong, assuring all that they are present in my prayer.

When meeting with you, how can we not evoke the long and fruitful ministry of dear Pope John Paul II! Tireless missionary of the Gospel in the numerous countries he visited, he also offered a unique service to the cause of the unity of the human family. He showed the way to God, inviting all men of good will to ceaselessly revive their conscience and build a society of justice, peace, solidarity, in mutual charity and forgiveness. Nor must we forget the innumerable meetings with heads of states, heads of government, and ambassadors, here, in the Vatican, in which he defended the cause of peace.

For my part, I come from a country in which peace and fraternity have a great place in the heart of its inhabitants, in particular, of those who, like me, knew war and the separation of brothers belonging to the same nation, because of devastating and inhuman ideologies that, cloaked in dreams and illusion, imposed on human beings the yoke of oppression. You will understand therefore that I am particularly sensitive to dialogue among all men, to overcome all forms of conflict and tension, and to make our world a world of peace and fraternity. Uniting efforts, all together, the Christian communities, leaders of nations, diplomats, and all men of good will, are called to realize a peaceful society to overcome the temptation of the clash between cultures, ethnic groups, and different worlds. To achieve this, every nation must draw from its spiritual and cultural heritage the best values of which it is bearer to go out, without fear, to meet the other, ready to share its spiritual and material riches for the good of all.

To continue in this direction, the Church does not cease to proclaim and defend fundamental human rights, unfortunately still violated in different parts of the world, and works so that the rights of every human person will be recognized to life, food, a roof, work, health care, protection of the family, the promotion of social development, and respect of the dignity of man and woman, created in the image of God. You may be sure that the Church will continue to offer her collaboration to safeguard the dignity of every man and to serve the common good, in the framework and with the means proper to her. She asks for no privileges for herself, but only the legitimate conditions of freedom and action to fulfill her mission. In the concert of nations, she always wishes to foster understanding and cooperation among peoples, based on an attitude of loyalty, discretion and cordiality.

Finally, I ask you to renew my gratitude to your governments for their participation in the ceremonies on the occasion of the death of Pope John Paul II and of my election, as well as my respectful and cordial greetings, which I accompany with a special prayer that God fill you and your families, as well as your countries and all those who reside in them, with the abundance of his blessings.

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