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Tuesday, June 1, 2004


VATICAN CITY, JUN 1, 2004 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Bishop Arthur Joseph Serratelli, auxiliary of the archdiocese of Newark, U.S.A., as bishop of Paterson (area 3,143, population 1,110,607, Catholics 415,082, priests 396, permanent deacons 174, religious 1,042), U.S.A. He succeeds Bishop Frank Joseph Rodimer whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.
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VATICAN CITY, JUN 1, 2004 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

- Archbishop Pablo Puente, apostolic nuncio to Great Britain.

- Archbishop Jean-Paul Gobel, apostolic nuncio to Nicaragua.

- Eight prelates from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (Region XIII) on their "ad limina" visit:

    - Archbishop Charles Joseph Chaput O.F.M., of Denver, accompanied by his auxiliary Jose Horacio Gomez.

    - Bishop Gerald Frederick Kicanas of Tucson, accompanied by Bishop Manuel D. Moreno, emeritus of the same diocese.

    - Bishop David Laurin Ricken of Cheyenne, accompanied by Bishop Joseph Hubert Hart, emeritus of the same diocese.

    - Bishop Michael John Sheridan of Colorado Springs, accompanied by Bishop Richard Charles Hanifen, emeritus of the same diocese.
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VATICAN CITY, JUN 1, 2004 (VIS) - The Qatar Conference on Muslim-Christian Dialogue, on its concluding day May 29, was marked by three closed-door meetings throughout the day and early evening  between members of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with Muslims and an equal number of invited Muslim guests, an afternoon press conference and a meeting in late evening between Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, president of the commission, and the Catholic journalists who were invited to the conference.

  Archbishop Fitzgerald presided at the press conference, and was joined by Youssef  El-Hage, a professor at Notre Dame University in Lebanon and a member of the pontifical commission, and by Aysha Al-Mannai, dean of the faculty of Sharia, Law and Islamic Studies at the University of Qatar. The archbishop briefly outlined the history of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with Muslims within the council and the background of this second Qatar meeting on dialogue, an idea of Emir Abdullah bin Khalifa Al-Thani of Qatar. Archbishop Fitzgerald said this meeting reflected Qatar's genuineness in wanting to hold such dialogue conferences. Qatar established diplomatic relations with the Holy See in November 2002.

  Dr. Al-Mannai said that the meeting was very positive and that both religions hoped to continue and to deepen the dialogue established between them, noting, when asked by several members of the audience why the sessions were not open to everyone, that such private meetings were necessary to speak frankly, and to achieve the objectives established. She said that Qatar has always sought to create understanding to promote peace through dialogue. Asked if Jews would be present next year at such a meeting - a hope that was expressed by Emir Kalifa Al-Thani when his speech was read on the opening day - she said perhaps this could take place, "if God wills."

  The emir had said: "perhaps it is useful to widen the dialogue in next year's seminar to become an Islamic-Christian-Jewish dialogue, through the participation of representatives of the Jewish religion, which concurs with Islam and Christianity in the belief of the oneness of God. That is the way to build a decent human life where the principles of love, tolerance and equality prevail for the good of mankind."

  Dr. El-Hage underscored the importance of this first ever meeting between members of the pontifical commission and invited Muslims guests, saying that all of their sessions were marked by transparency and cordiality. He said this was a wonderful occasion for the Catholic Church in her dialogue with Muslims, adding that when the pontifical commission started preparing four years ago to work on the question of religious freedom, they felt it very important to hold a meeting together with Muslims. He said the commission's approach was: Is religious freedom one of the rights of believers wherever they live, but especially when a believer is a member of a minority community?

  In the evening encounter with journalists, Archbishop Fitzgerald was asked about his overall feeling after three intense days of meetings. He said he felt there was a sort of anguish in the Muslim community worldwide on the issue of religious freedom, especially when it is interpreted from an individual point of view, not with one voice or a single authority speaking out on this subject. He said his feeling was that the Muslims invited to participate in the closed sessions were very happy with the cordiality and openness of the meetings and with what had been accomplished. No one set out to achieve earth-shattering goals so no one was disappointed in that sense.

   He said that serious discussions and frankness were more possible in the closed-door sessions.

  The archbishop said that the theoretical part of the meeting included a look at the Declaration of Human Rights. When asked if participants had started out with  - or at least ended up with - a common definition of religious freedom, he said that the one used in the Declaration was suggested, but added that this definition - and some other passages in this document, especially related to certain types of freedoms and human rights - are not in fact universally agreed upon. Asked if Muslims, for example, saw this declaration as an imposition by the West on others, he agreed that there were those who saw it this way.

  The second part of the meeting looked at the Magisterium of the Catholic Church in the matter of religious freedom, and part three looked at modern religious authors and thinkers on this topic in Islamic law. Part four looked at the process of monitoring religious freedom in the world through such organizations as Helsinki Watch and the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE).

  Archbishop Fitzgerald, noting the differences in Catholic teaching and Islamic law on religious freedom, said that nonetheless, "we agreed that religious freedom is part of human dignity that comes from God." He noted the difference between freedom of religion (the freedom to believe and to practice one's faith, or to not believe) and freedom within religion. The former is a full right, but the latter is not, because being a believer implies living a specific set of rules, behavior, not being free to change them.

  In conclusion, the archbishop pointed out the difficulties that exist when there is no central authority or hierarchical structure such as the Catholic Church has. Often in the Muslim world, people represent themselves, not a Church or a group.


VATICAN CITY JUN 1, 2004 (VIS) - The Holy Father's general intention for the month of June is: "That all Christians may be constantly more aware of their personal and community responsibility to bear witness to God's love for humanity and for every man and woman."

  His mission intention is: "That religious freedom - a fundamental right of mankind - may meet with ever growing respect in Asian countries."
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VATICAN CITY, JUN 1, 2004 (VIS) - At 8:00 p.m. yesterday, Feast of the Visitation of Mary, the traditional end-of-May procession took place from the church of St. Stephen of the Abyssinians to the Grotto of Lourdes in the Vatican Gardens, during which the faithful prayed the rosary. At the end of the ceremony, Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute for General Affairs, read a message from the Pope.

  In his message, the Holy Father writes that this year the feast of the Visitation is being celebrated the day after Pentecost, "and this brings us to think of the wind of the Spirit driving Mary, and with her the Church, along the paths of the world, so making Christ, the hope of humanity, known to everyone."

  John Paul II affirms that the flames of the candles carried during the procession "stand for the hope that Christ, Who died and rose again, gave humanity. Always be bearers of that light. Indeed, as the Lord told his disciples, be lights yourselves in your own homes, in all situations and in all circumstances of life. Be so with your faithful evangelical witness, following each day the school of Mary, the perfect disciple of her divine Son."
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