Sunday, 31 December 2006


VATICAN CITY, DEC 27, 2006 (VIS) - Following today's general audience, Benedict XVI received Manouchehr Mottaki and Rahim Mashai, respectively foreign minister and vice president of Iran, who gave the Holy Father a message from the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, according to a communique from the Holy See Press Office.

"During the meeting," the communique reads, "the Iranian representatives expressed their best wishes to the Pope, and their satisfaction for 50 years of diplomatic relations between Iran and the Holy See.

"For his part, the Holy Father also expressed his best wishes and reaffirmed the role the Holy See intends to play for peace in the world, not as a political but as a religious and moral authority, appealing to consciences so that the problems of peoples are always resolved through dialogue, in mutual understanding and in peace."

Saturday, 30 December 2006


VATICAN CITY, DEC 29, 2006 (VIS) - Following are highlights of the activities of Pope Benedict XVI and the Holy See for the months of August 2006 through to December 2006.
- 2: Telegram of condolence from the Holy Father for the death at the age of 96 of Dutch Cardinal Johannes Willebrands, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
- 11: Telegram from the Holy Father to Susilo Yudhoyono, president of Indonesia, requesting clemency for three men condemned to death for their role in inciting sectarian violence in Poso, Indonesia in 2000.
- 11: The Holy Father asks Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, to travel to Lebanon as his special envoy to express to the people there his spiritual closeness and solidarity, and to pray for peace.
- 13: Publication of the text of an interview granted by Benedict XVI to the television stations Bayerischer Rundfunk (ARD), ZDF and Deustsche Welle, and to Vatican Radio, for his forthcoming apostolic trip to Munich, Altotting and Regensburg, due to take place from September 9 to 14.
- 19: Telegram to His Beatitude Emmanuel III Delly, patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, Iraq, expressing the Pope's closeness to the Chaldean Catholic Church and requesting the release of the kidnapped priest, Fr. Saad Syrop Hanna, seized in Baghdad on August 15.
- 28: The Holy Father receives in audience Angela Merkel, chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, accompanied by her entourage.
- 8: The new ambassador of Chile to the Holy See, Pedro Pablo Cabrera Gaete, presents his Letters of Credence to the Holy Father.
- 9-14: Benedict XVI makes his second apostolic trip to Germany - the first having been in August 2005 when he travelled to Cologne for World Youth Day - divided into three stages: Munich, Altotting and Regensburg.
- 15: In the Apostolic Palace at Castelgandolfo, the Holy Father welcomes the staff of the Secretariat of State for the appointment of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., archbishop of Genoa, Italy, as new secretary of State, and the farewell ceremony of his predecessor, Cardinal Angelo Sodano.
- 16: The new ambassador of Slovenia to the Holy See, Ivan Rebernik, presents his Letters of Credence to the Pope.
- 17: Beatification of Servant of God Sara Salkahazi (1899 - 1944) of the Institute of the Sisters of the Assistance, in the square of St. Stephen's Basilica in Budapest, Hungary. She was killed in 1944 for having protected hundreds of Jews during the Second World War. Beatification of Servant of God Mose Tovini (1877-1930), a priest of the diocese of Brescia, Italy.
- 18: The new ambassador of Austria to the Holy See, Martin Bolldorf, presents his Letters of Credence to the Pope.
- 18-25: Ninth plenary session of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church in Belgrade, Serbia.
- 20: Telegram of condolence from the Holy Father Benedict XVI for the killing of Sr. Leonella Sgorbati of the Consolata Missionary Sisters, in Mogadishu, Somalia.
- 25: The Holy Father receives in audience Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, representatives from Muslim-majority countries that maintain diplomatic links with the Holy See, and a number of leaders of the Muslim community in Italy.
- 28: The new ambassador of the Federal Republic Germany to the Holy See, Hans-Henning Horstmann, presents his Letters of Credence to Benedict XVI.
- 29: The new ambassador of the Republic of Albania to the Holy See, Rrok Logu, presents his Letters of Credence to Benedict XVI.
- 30: Telegram of condolence from the Holy Father Benedict XVI for the death at the age of 94 of Cardinal Louis-Albert Vachon, archbishop emeritus of Quebec, Canada.
- 5: Heinz Fischer, president of the Federal Republic of Austria, received in audience by the Holy Father.
- 6: The Holy Father convokes the XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops dedicated to the theme: "The Word of God in the Life and the Mission of the Church." The Synod is due to will be held in the Vatican from October 5 to 26, 2008.
- 8: Beatification of Servant of God Maria Teresa di Gesu, nee Maria Scrilli (1825-1889), foundress of the Congregation of the Religious of Our Lady of Carmel in the Roman amphitheater of Fiesole, Italy.
- 12: Inauguration of the exhibition "Petros Eni" (Peter is here) dedicated by the Fabric of St. Peter's to the 500th anniversary of the foundation of the current basilica, and to the Apostle Peter to whom the basilica is dedicated. The exhibition runs from October 12, 2006 to March 8, 2007.
- 12: Opening of a new section of the Roman necropolis on the Via Triumphalis. The sector came to light in 2003 during building work on a parking lot within Vatican City, and its inauguration is part of celebrations marking the fifth centenary of the Vatican Museums.
- 12: The Holy Father receives in audience Jaroslaw Kaczynski, prime minister of the Republic of Poland.
- 13: Telegram of condolence from the Holy Father Benedict XVI for the death at the age of 84 of Cardinal Dino Monduzzi, prefect emeritus of the Pontifical Household.
- 13: Romano Prodi, prime minister of the Republic of Italy, visits the Holy Father Benedict XVI.
- 15: Canonization in the Vatican Basilica of Blesseds: Rafael Guizar Valencia (1878-1938), Mexican, bishop; Filippo Smaldone (1848-1923), Italian, founder of the Institute of the Salesian Sisters of the Sacred Hearts; Rosa Venerini (1656-1728), virgin, Italian, foundress of the Congregation of the "Maestre Pie Venerini;" and Theodore Guerin, nee Anne-Therese (1798-1856), virgin, French, foundress of the Congregation of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary "ad Nemus" (Saint Mary of the Woods) in the U.S.A.
- 19: Telegram of condolence from the Holy Father for the death at the age of 77 of Cardinal Mario Francesco Pompedda, prefect emeritus of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura.
- 19: Pope travels to the Italian city of Verona for the 4th Italian Ecclesial Congress on the theme: "Witnesses of the Risen Christ, Hope of the World."
- 22: Beatification, in the cathedral of Bilbao, Spain, of Servant of God Margarita Maria Lopez de Maturana (1884-1934), Spanish, foundress of the Institute of the Missionary Sisters of Mercy.
- 26: The new ambassador of Belgium to the Holy See, Frank De Coninck, presents his Letters of Credence to the Holy Father.
- 26: The Holy Father receives in audience participants in the fifth international congress of Military Ordinariates, marking the twentieth anniversary of the Apostolic Constitution "Spirituali Militum Curae," promulgated by Servant of God John Paul II.
- 27: The Pope receives in audience Jose Ramos-Horta, prime minister of East Timor, accompanied by an entourage.
- 29: Beatification, in the cathedral of Speyer, Germany, of Servant of God Paul Josef Nardini (1821-1862), German, diocesan priest and founder of the Congregation of Franciscan Sisters of the Holy Family.
- 5: Beatification of Servant of God Mariano de la Mata Aparicio, Spanish, priest of the Order of Saint Augustine. (1905-1983), in the cathedral of Sao Paulo, Brazil.
- 6: The Holy Father receives in audience Laszlo Solyom, president of the Republic of Hungary.
- 10: The Holy Father receives in audience Tassos Papadopoulos, president of the Republic of Cyprus.
- 13: The new ambassador of Japan to the Holy See, Kagefumi Ueno, presents his Letters of Credence to the Holy Father.
- 14: Publication of Benedict XVI's Message for the 93rd World Day of Migrants and Refugees, due to be celebrated on Sunday, January 14, 2007 on the theme: "The Migrant Family."
- 18: Benedict XVI receives in audience Horst Kohler, president of the Federal Republic of Germany.
- 20: The Pope receives Giorgio Napolitano, president of the Italian Republic, on an official visit. President Napolitano took office on May 15 this year.
- 21: Announcement that the Holy Father Benedict XVI has completed writing the first part of a book, entitled 'Gesu di Nazareth. Dal Battesimo nel Giordano alla Trasfigurazione' (Jesus of Nazareth, From His Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration). The book is due to be published in spring 2007.
- 21-26: Official visit to Rome by the primate of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, England.
- 24: The Holy Father receives in audience Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales, president of the Republic of Honduras.
- 28-1 December: Benedict XVI makes an apostolic trip to Turkey - the fifth journey outside Italy of his pontificate - divided into three stages: Ankara, Ephesus and Istanbul.
- 30: Joint Declaration signed by the Holy Father Benedict XVI and His Holiness Bartholomew I, ecumenical patriarch, at the ecumenical patriarchate in Istanbul.
- 3: Beatification of Servant of God Eufrasia of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Eluvathingal, nee Rosa (1877-1952), Indian, religious of the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel at Ollur in the archdiocese of Trichur, India.
- 10: The Pope makes a pastoral visit to the Roman parish of St. Mary Star of Evangelization, where he celebrates Mass and consecrates the new parish church.
- 11: Telegram of condolence from the Holy Father for the death at the age of 88 of Cardinal Salvatore Pappalardo, emeritus of Palermo, Italy.
- 11: Press conference presided by Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, archpriest of the Roman basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls, to present recent excavations that brought to light the sarcophagus of St. Paul in that basilica.
- 12: Publication of the Holy Father's Message for the World Day of Peace 2007, which has as its theme: "The Human Person, the Heart of Peace."
- 13-16: First official visit of His Beatitude Christodoulos, archbishop of Athens and of all Greece, to His Holiness Benedict XVI and the Church of Rome. The Pope and the Archbishop sign a Joint Declaration.
- 13: Publication of the Holy Father's Message for the 15th World Day of the Sick. The event is due to be celebrated in Seoul, South Korea on February 11, 2007, Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.
- 13: Benedict XVI receives in audience Ehud Olmert, president of the State of Israel.
- 14: Six new ambassadors to the Holy See - Lars Moller of Denmark, Maratbek Salievic Bakiev of Kyrgyzstan, Carlos Dos Santos of Mozambique, Princess Elizabeth Bagaya of Uganda, Makram Obeid of Syria, and Makase Nyaphisi of Lesotho - present their Letters of Credence to the Holy Father.
- 15: Benedict XVI receives His Beatitude Antonios Naguib, Patriarch of Alexandria of the Coptic Catholics, on his first official visit to the Holy See since his election in March of this year.
- 16: The Holy See and the Republic of Montenegro decide, in common agreement, to establish diplomatic relations, at the level of an apostolic nunciature on the part of the Holy See, and of an embassy on the part of the Republic of Montenegro.
- 20: The Pope receives the "Prize for Charity" from the Italian foundation "Banca Alimentare." The reason for granting the prize, according to a communique released by the foundation, is that since the start of his pontificate, the Holy Father "has sought to present charity - the sincere giving of oneself to others - as a natural dimension of Christian life."

VATICAN CITY, DEC 29, 2006 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in audience Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

VATICAN CITY, DEC 29, 2006 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Fr. Jorge Herbas Balderrama O.F.M., secretary for formation and study of the Franciscan Province of San Antonio and president of the ecclesiastical tribunal of first appeal of the archdiocese of Cochabamba, Bolivia, as coadjutor bishop of the territorial prelature of Aiquile (area 23,325, population 230,000, Catholics 200,000, priests 27, religious 86), Bolivia. The bishop-elect was born in Mizque, Bolivia in 1963 and ordained a priest in 1990.


VATICAN CITY, DEC 29, 2006 (VIS) - During the year 2006, more than three million faithful participated in public meetings with the Pope, either in the Vatican or at his summer residence of Castelgandolfo.
According to statistics released by the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household, a total of 3,222,820 people attended the Wednesday general audiences, special audiences, liturgical celebrations and Sunday Angelus prayers during the course of the year.
The Wednesday general audiences, held in St. Peter's Square and the Paul VI Hall, attracted 1,031,500 people. This figure reflects the number of tickets distributed, and does not take into account the thousands of faithful who arrive without tickets and also participate.
The Angelus prayers of 2006 drew a total of 1,295,000 people to St. Peter's Square, while more than half a million attended the various liturgical ceremonies presided by the Holy Father, 196,000 in April alone.

Thursday, 21 December 2006

Benedict XVI's Regensburg Address Hailed

REGENSBURG, Germany, December 20, 2006 ( Benedict XVI's lecture at Regensburg has been chosen "Address of the Year" in the German language.

The decision was made by the Seminar der Allgemeine Rhetorik, the renowned School of General Rhetoric of the University of Tuebingen.

According to this honour, one of the most prestigious prizes in the German language, the Sept. 12 address "is magisterially constructed in its direct composition" and multileveled.

The school defended the "courage and determination with which the Pope produced his address, without the disposition to please and be accommodating, which often passes as dialogue."

Many news media, taking out of context a quotation of Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus, presented the address as a condemnation of Islam.

The jury, however, insisted that the address was "in reality about the relationship between reason and faith and affirmation of the Christian conviction that to act according to reason corresponds to the very nature of God."

Study Centre founded by Benedict XVI's former theology students

Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., speaking during a meeting between the Vatican Publishing House and other international publishers, highlighted the fact that the award coincides with Benedict XVI's decision to donate part of his copyright earnings to a study center founded by his former theology students.

Monday, 18 December 2006

Anthropologist Foresees a Christian Renaissance

"Ideologies Are Virtually Deceased," Says René Girard

ROME, DEC. 17, 2006 ( French anthropologist René Girard, one of the most influential intellectuals of contemporary culture, thinks that a Christian Renaissance lies ahead.

In a book published recently in Italian, "Verità o fede debole. Dialogo su cristianesimo e relativismo" (Truth or Weak Faith: Dialogue on Christianity and Relativism), the anthropologist states that "we will live in a world that will seem and be as Christian as today it seems scientific."

Girard, recently elected to be one of the 40 "immortals" of the French Academy, said: "I believe we are on the eve of a revolution in our culture that will go beyond any expectation, and that the world is heading toward a change in respect of which the Renaissance will seem like nothing."

The text published by Transeuropa, is the result of 10 years of meetings between the French thinker and Italian professor Gianni Vattimo, theorist of so-called weak thought, on topics such as faith, secularism, Christian roots, the role of the Gospel message in the history of humanity, relativism, the problem of violence, and the challenge of reason.

The book presents specifically to the general public the transcription of three unpublished conferences in which the two authors challenge each other on the most radical points of their thought.

New need

In the book, the French professor states that "religion conquers philosophy and surpasses it. Philosophies in fact are almost dead. Ideologies are virtually deceased; political theories are almost altogether spent. Confidence in the fact that science can replace religion has already been surmounted. There is in the world a new need for religion."

In regard to moral relativism, defended by Vattimo, René Girard writes: "I cannot be a relativist" because "I think the relativism of our time is the product of the failure of modern anthropology, of the attempt to resolve problems linked to the diversity of human cultures.

"Anthropology has failed because it has not succeeded in explaining the different human cultures as a unitary phenomenon, and that is why we are bogged down in relativism.

"In my opinion, Christianity proposes a solution to these problems precisely because it demonstrates that the obstacles, the limits that individuals put on one another serve to avoid a certain type of conflicts."

The French academic continues: "If it was really understood that Jesus is the universal victim who came precisely to surmount these conflicts, the problem would be solved."

According to the anthropologist, "Christianity is a revelation of love" but also "a revelation of truth" because "in Christianity, truth and love coincide and are one and the same."

Christian truth

The "concept of love," which in Christianity is "the rehabilitation of the unjustly accused victim, is truth itself; it is the anthropological truth and the Christian truth," explains Girard.

In the face of Vattimo's appeals to justify abortion and euthanasia as well as homosexual relations, the French professor stresses that "there is a realm of human conduct that Vattimo has not mentioned: morality." Girard goes on to explain that "understood in the Ten Commandments is a notion of morality," in which the notion of charity is implicit.

Girard then answers Vattimo, who suggests a "hedonist Christianity."

"If we let ourselves go, abandoning all scruples, the possibility exists that each one will end up doing what he wants," writes Girard.

The French anthropologist criticizes the "politically correct world" which considers "the Judeo-Christian tradition as the only impure tradition, whereas all the others are exempt from any possible criticism."

Girard reminds the defenders of the politically correct that "the Christian religion cannot even be mentioned in certain environments, or one can speak of it only to keep it under control, to confine it, making one believe that it is the first and only factor responsible for the horror the present world is going through."

As regards moral nihilism, which seem to permeate modern society, Girard concludes that "instead of approaching any form of nihilism, stating that no truth exists as certain philosophers do," we must "return to anthropology, to psychology and study human relations better than we have done up to now."

Friday, 15 December 2006

Journalist accuses former Burundi president over papal nuncio murder

A Burundian journalist now in hiding in South Africa has accused a former president and other high ranking officials of the central African nation of masterminding the 2003 assassination of Holy See nuncio, Archbishop Michael Courtney.

Archbishop Courtney, an Irish Vatican diplomat, was ambushed and shot several times 40 kilometres from the nation's capital, Bujumbura, as he was travelling south by car to an area that was a stronghold of rebels from the National Liberation Forces, who were accused of carrying out the attack, Catholic News Service reports.

The Archbishop - whose term as nuncio was about to end when he was killed - died on 29 December 2003 during emergency surgery at a nearby hospital.

The National Liberation Forces always denied government allegations that they had carried out the attack, and the rebels blamed government forces for the killing.

According to CNS, the South African national weekly The Southern Cross, has now obtained a summary of a 30-page dossier on the killing by a Burundian investigative journalist currently hiding in southern Africa.

The journalist, whose name was not revealed for safety reasons, said his knowledge of what he believes to be the true circumstances of Archbishop Courtney's death has led directly and indirectly to the deaths of several members of his own family - his wife, son, father, brother and sister.

The report claimed Archbishop Courtney had information concerning the murder of Dr Kassy Manlan, the World Health Organisation (WHO) representative in Burundi, who was assassinated while investigating the alleged embezzlement of European Union funds by Burundi's then-President Pierre Buyoya and his wife.

According to the dossier, Manlan was murdered as he was about to fly to Brussels, where he was expected to discuss the matter with EU officials.

The journalist claimed he had learned that when he was killed Archbishop Courtney was also about to travel to Brussels to present the doctor's report, which had landed in his hands, to the European Union.

"I later got confirmation from the office of one of the country's bishops that the apostolic nuncio had just received the (WHO) report," the journalist said.

"It was not clear who gave him the report. What is known is that he discussed the matter the day before he was killed with the president of the (Burundian) bishops' conference."

The journalist said he became suspicious about the circumstances of Archbishop Courtney's death after speaking to the chief surgeon who had operated on the prelate.

The doctor had observed that the position of the bullet wounds suggested Archbishop Courtney had been shot at close range. The official statement on the death said the car in which the nuncio was travelling did not stop after the shooting took place.

The journalist said Burundian rebels captured him as he was investigating the crime scene. His position as a journalist, he said, saved him from being killed and gave his captors a chance to deny they were involved in the nuncio's killing.

Two days after the journalist was released in January 2004, he received a call from army Captain Edward Nahayo, his cousin, who was in hiding from the authorities at the time. Nahayo had been part of Buyoya's presidential guard until April 2003 when Buyoya handed over power to his successor, Domitien Ndayizeye.

According to the journalist, Nahayo said he had headed up the team of five that carried out Archbishop Courtney's assassination.

The dossier mentions four other soldiers, all but one of whom were subsequently killed. The journalist believes they were targeted by the secret services for their knowledge of the archbishop's assassination.

The phone call also revealed that meetings to plan the nuncio's killing were allegedly chaired by top-ranking leaders in state intelligence, the president's office and the ruling party, UPRONA.

The journalist said he was detained while preparing a report on the case before eventually escaping.

Now, after the finalisation of peace agreements between Burundi's warring Tutsi and Hutu groups and an election that has seen former rebel groups win political power, Buyoyo, the former president, is still politically active and serves as a senator, The Southern Cross says.

Rwandan priest gets 15 years on genocide charges

Also in Africa, weeks after a Rwandan nun was convicted on genocide charges, a Catholic priest has been sentenced to 15 years prison after being found guilty of ordering the 1994 demolition by bulldozers of his church where 2,000 ethnic Tutsi people had sought refuge.

The New York Times reports that according to local officials Fr Athanase Seromba, a Hutu, was the first Roman Catholic priest to be tried before the International Criminal Tribunal based in Arusha, Tanzania.

At least two other Catholic priests await charges in Arusha, according to reports, while three Catholic nuns and a handful of clergy members from other denominations have already been convicted in various courts for their roles in the killing, which led to an estimated 800,000 deaths.

The mass killing began in April 1994 when Hutu extremists mobilised the majority population in the tiny central African country to root out and kill Tutsi and moderate Hutu.

Some of the most gruesome attacks in what is an overwhelmingly Catholic country took place in churches and missions, where members of the clergy committed acts of heroism but also of shame.

The Vatican has suggested in the past that it is unfairly being made a target over the killings which involved many people and groups in Rwanda.

The Tutsi hiding at Fr Seromba's church on 12 April 1994, in Nyange, a village in western Rwanda, managed to repel the first attackers, according to testimony. But members of the so-called Interahamwe militia, joined by Rwandan soldiers, threw grenades at the church and secured the assistance of Fr Seromba.

He identified the weakest parts of his church as targets for the bulldozer drivers, a panel of judges found. He also later encouraged the fighters who charged the church to finish off any survivors, to whom he referred as cockroaches, according to testimony.

After the massacre, Fr Seromba fled Rwanda, changed his name to Anastasio Sumba Bura and worked as a priest in two parishes near Florence, Italy. He surrendered to the tribunal on 6 February 2002 and pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

The judges said the 15-year sentence for Fr Seromba reflected aggravating factors such as his authority as a Catholic priest and the trust he had from those seeking shelter in his parish.

Paul's Tomb, Unearthed

A Key Find Lays Doubts to Rest

By Elizabeth Lev

ROME, DEC. 14, 2006 ( 2006 has been a year of discoveries for Rome. New frescos, new archaeological finds and statues returned after years of foreign residence have made this year a hit parade of novelties.

But this week the Holy See topped the charts as it announced the unearthing of the tomb (a sarcophagus) of St. Paul. Vatican archaeologist Giorgio Filippi actually found the tomb three years ago, but further research established that "there is no doubt, the sarcophagus found under the pavement of the Basilica of St. Paul's is really that of the Apostle," as Filippi announced in a press conference Monday.

Unlike St. Peter, whose traditional presence in Rome was supported by a paucity of factual evidence until the excavations under St. Peter's Basilica from 1939 to 1950, St. Paul's sojourn in Rome is well documented in the Acts of the Apostles. St. Paul was probably sent to Rome as a prisoner somewhere around A.D. 58 to 60 and spent several years among the early Christian community of Rome.

Eusebius of Caesarea tells us, "Paul was beheaded by him [Nero]," while tradition elaborates that the saint was martyred outside the city at a site now known as Tre Fontane, or the Three Fountains. This picturesque name is derived from the legend that when Paul was beheaded, his head bounced three times on the ground -- miraculously creating three fountains. A church has graced the spot since the fifth century and today it is a monastery.

St. Paul's body was taken a little closer to the city, along the Via Ostiense, or the main road toward the sea, and buried alongside this major thoroughfare. Eusebius also cites the third-century ecclesiastic Gaius who claimed that he "can show you the trophies of the Apostles. If you will go to the Vatican or along the Via Ostiensis you will find the trophies of the founders of this church."

These "trophies" were simple, makeshift affairs meant to remain hidden from the eyes of Imperial persecutors. Only under Constantine were the apostles given due architectural homage. Great basilicas were erected over the simple tombs and the early graves were enclosed in the foundations of these churches.

The sarcophagus found by Giorgio Filippi was made slightly later, during the reign of Emperor Theodosius, the man who outlawed all other religious cults in 395, leaving Christianity the sole religion of the empire. The large marble sarcophagus was covered by a plaque bearing the inscription "Apostle Paul Martyr."

Thanks to the work of Filippi; the archpriest of the basilica, Cardinal Andrea Cordero del Montezemolo; and the engineers of the church, the sarcophagus, hidden behind the plaque under several feet of cement, was brought to light and can now be seen by pilgrims to the basilica.

This discovery restores to the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls its central purpose as the place where the faithful go to pray at the resting place of the great apostle. For centuries people came to the tomb, especially during the first Jubilee year when Pope Boniface VIII declared the conditions for the plenary indulgence were to pray at the graves of St. Peter and St. Paul.

Dante, Michelangelo, St. Philip Neri and millions of others never questioned the authenticity of the location until a fire in 1823 devastated the basilica. The dramatic rebuilding and the subsequent enclosing of the sarcophagus in a block of cement made the historical reality of Paul's martyrdom at Tre Fontane and his burial along the Via Ostiense seem dim and doubtful.

The impetus for the excavation came during the Jubilee Year 2000. When millions of pilgrims came to the tomb of St. Peter, and thousands visited the excavation of St. Peter's grave and saw the proof of his presence, they then went to St. Paul's and wondered why no one had searched for the tomb of St. Paul.

The excavations began in 2002 and today the sarcophagus has been found and is on view for the faithful through a glass window laid into the floor. The remaining question is whether, as with the tomb of St. Peter, the remains of the Apostle Paul are still present. Catholics the world over had to wait 35 years from Pope Pius XII's announcement of the discovery of Peter's grave to the declaration that the bones had also been recovered.

Pope Paul VI announced the discovery of St. Peter's remains in 1976, inviting us to "rekindle in our minds the veneration, love, fidelity toward these apostles who constituted the beginnings of the Roman church and left to her the heritage of their word, of their authority and of their blood." Words that remain equally pertinent to this newest discovery.

From this moment forward, pilgrims will be able to see the graves of St. Peter and St. Paul, which Paul VI described as the "human and material as they are of the memory of the apostles." No doubt this is great boon for our scientific world of facts and proofs, but while we rejoice in being able to see and believe, Jesus praises those "who have not seen and believe."

Wednesday, 13 December 2006

A Key Work of J. Ratzinger's (Benedict XVI) Is in Russian

ROME, DEC. 12, 2006 - Joseph Ratzinger's "Introduction to Christianity," first published in 1968, is now available for the first time in Russian.

The book includes a foreword by Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, chairman of the Russian Orthodox Church's foreign department. The publication was co-financed by the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

Peter Humeniuk, head of ACN's section for relations with the Russian Orthodox Church, stated: "It is of utmost importance that this reference work by one of the world's most important theologians [now Benedict XVI] is now accessible to Russian readers, especially in academies and seminaries.

"It is a step toward a better understanding for the common roots of our Churches. This is also clear from the letter the Pope has sent to Metropolitan Kirill in order to thank him for his foreword."

Wednesday, 6 December 2006

Become a Citizen of Bethlehem

Become a Citizen of Bethlehem
Paris has the Legion d’Honneur, Britain has its Knighthoods, the US has the Congressional Medal of Honour. With the creation of the Bethlehem Passport, Bethlehem has its own high honour to recognise those who makes an important contribution to the city. The passport has been deliberately crafted as a beautiful object, with leather covers and deep watermarked pages, and a design that features both the star of Bethlehem and the figure of St George – Al Khadir – the patron saint of Bethlehem and a figure who is sacred to Bethlehem’s Muslims and Christians alike. There are several routes to winning a passport, whether as a benefactor prepared to underwrite a specific initiative or an entrepreneur bringing wealth-creating opportunities to the city. The passport is also open to people of imagination and experience who can bring major events to a city that lives through its visitors: imagine an international conference, a festival of sacred music, even a marathon across the mountains of Bethlehem’s wilderness. But the passport will also be offered to anyone willing to make an extended stay in the city – sharing our journey as we work to overcome the wall.
If you would like more information on the passport please contact us.