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    » 01/20/2008, 00.00

    VATICAN

    Two hundred thousand in solidarity with the pope excluded from La Sapienza university



    Saint Peter's Square and the Via della Conciliazione burst at the seams with young students and the faithful, after the opposition to his presence at the university of Rome. Benedict XVI asks all to build "a fraternal and tolerant society". A call for prayers for unity, and the pope's appointment for vespers at Saint Paul's Outside the Walls.

    Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Tens of thousands of young people and adults - more than 200,000, if the television linkups with other cities are counted - streamed into Saint Peter's Square from all over Italy to express their solidarity with Benedict XVI. It was a response to the invitation from Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar of Rome, after the violent controversy that had arisen at the La Sapienza university, leading the Holy See to decline the invitation for the pontiff to give the opening address for the university's academic year. Without any stridency, the pontiff exhorted all to work in a climate of "fraternity" and to "seek truth and freedom, in a shared commitment to a fraternal and tolerant society".

    When Benedict XVI appeared at the window of his study for the recitation of the Angelus, an ovation came from the square full of people and banners. "You did not come to us; we come to you!".

    The pope greeted the crowds, but moved on immediately to his reflection, dedicated to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.

    Benedict XVI recalled that "today the spiritual sons and daughters of Father Wattson, the Brothers and Sisters of the Atonement, are present in Saint Peter's Square". This is the religious community that began the tradition of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

    He then commented briefly on the theme chosen for the Week this year, "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17). "With this appeal, [Saint Paul] . . . wants to make it known that the new life in Christ and in the Holy Spirit brings the ability to rise above every form of egoism, to live together in peace and fraternal union, to bear each other's burdens and sufferings willingly. We must never grow weary of praying for Christian unity!".

    The pope then invited everyone to participate in the solemn Vespers that he will lead on January 25 at the basilica of Saint Paul's Outside the Walls, "to invoke from God the precious gift of reconciliation among all the baptised".

    It was only after the prayer of the Angelus that the pontiff turned to address the crowd that had gathered in Saint Peter's Square "to express your solidarity" after the incident at La Sapienza. Amid the applause and the fluttering banners, Benedict XVI thanked everyone "from my heart", and thanked Cardinal Ruini, "who promoted this encounter".

    Without argumentative tones, the pontiff recalled what had happened: "As you know," he said, "I had very willingly accepted the courteous invitation extended to me to speak last Thursday at the inauguration of the academic year at 'La Sapienza – Università di Roma'. I know this university very well; I respect it and I am fond of the students who attend it: every year, on various occasions, many of them come to meet me at the Vatican, together with their peers from the other universities. Unfortunately, as is well known, the atmosphere that was created made my presence at the ceremony inadvisable. I cancelled the visit unwillingly, but in any case I wanted to send the text that I had prepared for the occasion".

    And as he had done in the written speech that he sent to the university, he explained what the university should be in this way: "I am bound to the university environment, which was my world for many years, by the love for the search for truth, for debate, for the frank and respectful dialogue on the positions in question".

    The pontiff emphasised that this attitude is part of "the mission of the Church, which strives to follow faithfully Christ, the Teacher of life, truth, and love".

    Finally, the pontiff called upon all the people present, among whom were a large number of university students, to live the university as a "search for truth" and as "respect for the opinions of others".  "As a professor 'emeritus', so to speak, who have met so many students in my life, I encourage all, dear university students, to be always respectful of the opinions of others and to seek truth and goodness in a spirit of freedom and responsibility. To all and to each I renew my expression of gratitude, assuring you of my affection and prayers".

    After the greetings in the various languages, the crowd burst into applause and chants of "Viva il papa" and "Freedom". The pope smiled and, waving goodbye, added: "Let us continue to live in this climate of fraternity, in the search for truth and freedom, in a shared commitment to a fraternal and tolerant society". In short, a lesson on authentic secularism from the head of the Catholic Church.

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    See also

    19/01/2008 VATICAN
    In Italy and in the world, millions tomorrow will pray the Angelus with the pope
    Enthusiastic participation everywhere at the invitation from Cardinal Ruini to join the pope in the Angelus prayer tomorrow, as "a gesture of affection, serenity, and joy" after the controversy and cancellation surrounding the pope's visit to the La Sapienza university. 150,000 are expected in Saint Peter's square. Giant television screens will be set up to broadcast the event in Milan and many other cities. The participation of the Catholics in China.

    24/02/2008 VATICAN
    Pope: God thirsts for our faith and our love
    Benedict XVI comments on the dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman, the gift of water to the woman who with her "five husbands" demonstrates "the existential dissatisfaction of those who have not found what they are looking for" and live in a "repetitive and resigned" manner. An appeal for the populations of Ecuador, struck by floods and volcanic eruptions. An appointment with the university students of Europe and America, for the Marian vigil of March 1.

    14/12/2008 VATICAN
    Pope: closeness of God is not physical or temporal, but "of love"
    Benedict XVI blesses the "infants" for Nativity scenes brought by the children of Rome, and offers the prayer: Open our hearts / that we may receive Jesus in joy / always do what he asks / and see him in all those / who are in need of our love.

    16/11/2008 VATICAN
    Pope: the "talents" that Christ has given us are multiplied when given away
    Benedict XVI urges the faithful not to forget the gift of the faith, and not to be afraid of God, but to offer and share the gift given to us by Christ, which is He himself. Acknowledgment of religious who live in cloistered contemplative prayer. All are called to support them in their material needs. Their presence in the world is "indispensable."

    23/11/2008 VATICAN
    Pope: if it rejects the kingdom of God, the world cannot help but go to ruin
    At the recitation of the Angelus, Benedict XVI returns to speaking of charity as the "criterion" of the last judgment. A mention of the beatification, tomorrow in Nagasaki, of 188 Japanese martyrs, and the commemoration of the "great famine" that 75 years ago cost Ukraine millions of dead.



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    The first meeting in centuries between the Pope and the Patriarch of Moscow took place in a relaxed and fraternal atmosphere. Two hours of private talks were followed by the signing of a Joint Declaration. As he thanked Raul Castro, the pope said, "If things continue like this, Cuba will be the capital of unity." Both leaders are committed to defending Christians around the world and support "the foundations of morality, the family and the person".


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