VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI has approved the beatification of Louis and Marie Zelie Guerin Martin, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux.
The couple will be beatified Oct. 19, World Mission Sunday, during a Mass in the Basilica of St. Therese in Lisieux, France, the Vatican announced Aug. 19.
St. Therese and St. Francis Xavier are the patron saints of the missions.
The Vatican did not say who would preside at the Martins' beatification Mass.
With beatification, the diocese where the candidate lived or the religious order to which the person belonged is authorized to hold public commemorations on the person's feast day. With the declaration of sainthood, public liturgical celebrations are allowed around the world.
The Martins were declared venerable, one of the first steps in the sainthood process, in 1994. But despite the active encouragement of Pope John Paul II to move the cause forward, the miracle needed for their beatification was not approved by the Vatican until early July.
Louis lived 1823-1894 and his wife lived 1831-1877. They had nine children, five of whom joined religious orders.
Also Aug. 19, the Vatican announced four other beatification ceremonies:
-- Sister Vincenza Maria Poloni, founder of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy in Italy, will be beatified Sept. 21 in Verona, Italy.
-- Father Michael Sopocko, founder of the Sisters of Merciful Jesus and spiritual director of St. Faustina Kowalska, will be beatified Sept. 28 at the Church of Divine Mercy in Bialystok, Poland.
-- Father Francesco Pianzola, founder of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Queen of Peace, will be beatified Oct. 4 in Vigevano, Italy.
-- Father Francesco Giovanni Bonifacio, martyred in 1946 by Yugoslav communists, will be beatified Oct. 4 in Trieste, Italy.
Silvio Berlusconi's government was today engaged in a vigorous damage limitation exercise after Pope Benedict appeared to lend his immense moral authority to speculation that Italy was in danger of returning to fascism under the tycoon's hardline, rightwing leadership.
In his customary midday Sunday address, the pontiff expressed concern at "recent examples of racism" and reminded Catholics it was their duty to steer others in society away from "racism, intolerance and [the] exclusion [of others]".
On any other day, his remarks might have been seen as no more than a restatement of official Catholic doctrine. But they came instead in the midst of a furious dispute over an editorial published by Italy's bestselling Catholic weekly, Famiglia Cristiana.
In an editorial on Friday, condemning recent government moves against immigrants and Roma, the magazine said it was to be hoped fascism was not "resurfacing in our country under another guise". The jibe outraged Berlusconi's supporters, many of whom are themselves pious Catholics.
The leader of his parliamentary group in the upper house, Maurizio Gasparri, announced he would personally sue the priest who is Famiglia Cristiana's editor while the junior minister with responsibility for family affairs, Carlo Giovanardi, said the magazine was "possessed by ideological malice".
In an effort to calm the row, the Vatican's spokesman put out a statement stressing that Famiglia Cristiana was not authorised to speak on behalf of either the Holy See or the Italian bishops' conference - something which, as the magazine's editor noted, it had never anyway claimed to do.
Coming against this background, the pope's comments were interpreted by Berlusconi's critics as a signal that the Vatican was not climbing down or distancing itself from Famiglia Cristiana's interpretation.
Benedict cited in his address the story from Matthew's gospel of Jesus's encounter with a pagan woman and how he rose above his initial misgivings to perform a miracle for her daughter.
The pope said: "One of humanity's great conquests is indeed the overcoming of racism. Unfortunately, however, there are new and worrying examples of this in various countries, often linked to social and economic problems that nonetheless can never justify contempt or racial discrimination."
Berlusconi's family minister, Giovanardi, denied Benedict 's words were aimed at the government. "The pope has a global perspective", he said. "He wasn't talking about Italy."
Famiglia Cristiana's editor, Father Antonio Sciortino, agreed that the pope "was certainly speaking to the whole world". But he added: "And therefore also to Italy where, sorry to say, there are many signs of racism that trouble us and which cannot be hidden."
Urged on by his allies in the anti-immigrant Northern League, Berlusconi has ordered a crackdown on crime, and the illegal immigrants his government says is responsible for a disproportionate share of it.
Earlier this month, the Berlusconi government ordered troops onto the streets to combat an alleged crime wave it blames largely on illegal immigrants and Roma. Interior ministry figures show that more than a third of the arrests carried out by police last year were of non-Italians.
Illegal immigration has been made an offence; mayors have been given new security powers, and deportations have been stepped up.
So far, church leaders have been far more outspoken in their criticism of the government's policies than Italy's main, centre-left opposition party. Earlier this month, they succeeded in blocking an attempt by the mayor of Rome to pass a measure - seemingly aimed at Gypsies - that banned people from rummaging in garbage containers.
In June, Famiglia Cristiana said a government plan to take the fingerprints of Roma children was "indecent".
Pope Benedict XVI to Damascus to celebrate the year of St Paul, the apostle converted on the road to Damascus.
The grand mufti, a leader of Syria's 18 million Muslims, met with Italian journalists who were visiting Damascus as part of their own celebration of the Pauline year.
Vatican Radio reported on August 1 that the grand mufti said he hoped to meet Pope Benedict in Rome and he hoped the Pope would visit Damascus before the Pauline celebrations ended next June.
The Pope convoked the year-long celebration to mark the 2000th anniversary of St Paul's birth.
The Vatican nuncio in Syria Archbishop Giovanni Battista Morandini told the Italian reporters that the country's two million Christians – Orthodox and Catholics – had joined together to discuss St Paul's life, writings and witness.
The Vatican Radio report said Syria was not the only country that has extended a Pauline year invitation to the Pope; "other nations in the Middle East that saw the passage or presence of St Paul on their territory" have done likewise, Vatican Radio said, although it did not name the countries.
The Vatican has not confirmed any papal trips outside Italy after the Pope's September 12-15 trip to Paris and Lourdes, France.
However, in late July, Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone told an Italian Catholic newspaper that while decisions about papal travel for 2009 had not been finalised Africa was likely to be on the list.
"The Church in Africa deserves a trip by the Pope," Cardinal Bertone told the newspaper Avvenire.
Benedict XVI urged the international community to establish humanitarian corridors in Georgia so that the dead can be buried, the wounded can receive medical help and refugees can return home.
The pope, speaking at a noon blessing Aug. 17, said he was continuing to follow "with attention and worry" the events in Georgia, where a cease-fire agreement was reached the day before.
A Georgian attack on the breakaway province of South Ossetia Aug. 7 followed by a Russian invasion of Georgia left an unknown number of dead, including civilians, and prompted an estimated 60,000 people to flee their homes.
The pope said the situation of the refugees, in particular women and children who lack basic necessities, requires a generous response by the international community.
"I ask for the opening, without further delay, of humanitarian corridors between the region of South Ossetia and the rest of Georgia, so that the dead who have been abandoned may receive a dignified burial, the wounded may be adequately treated, and people who desire to do so may be allowed to reach their loves ones," he said.
The pope said it was important that ethnic minorities in the region be protected and their fundamental rights respected.
He expressed the hope that the cease-fire, brokered with help from the European Union, would last, and he called for new efforts to encourage "a permanent solution, through dialogue and mutual good will."
The pope made his comments at his summer villa in Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, where he was following a reduced summer schedule. Hundreds of people filled the courtyard at the papal palace to cheer the pontiff and receive a blessing.
Meanwhile, the Vatican's diplomatic representative to Georgia, Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, told Vatican Radio Aug. 17 that humanitarian aid was not getting through to the needy.
He said he had visited a school near the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, where he found about 1,500 people temporarily housed without toilet facilities or adequate food. Children in particular were suffering, he said.
"I hope humanitarian aid arrives. It's a question of guaranteeing the minimum for survival to these refugees," he said.
Laura Sheahen, regional information officer with the U.S. bishops' Catholic Relief Services, reported from Georgia that CRS was working with Caritas Georgia to provide emergency aid. Caritas Georgia and CRS are affiliates of Caritas Internationalis, the international umbrella group of Catholic aid agencies.
"Caritas is already ministering to hundreds of internally displaced people in Tbilisi by providing hot meals at a soup kitchen, bringing bread and rolls to temporary shelters, and coordinating additional aid through worldwide Caritas partners," Sheahen said in the report posted on CRS' Web site.
Caritas Georgia has been working to help displaced people from the destroyed sections of Ts'khinvali, the capital of South Ossetia. Caritas has been providing food and other needed items to families who fled the Gori region and have taken shelter in safe places, such as an isolated Catholic retreat house and city shelters.
"Because it already had a soup kitchen and large bakery, Caritas Georgia was able to swing into action early in the crisis and now is feeding 300 people three meals a day at one shelter alone," said Sheahen.
Vatican City, Aug. 8 2008
During a gathering with more than 400 priests in the Italian region of Tirol on Wednesday, the feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus, Pope Benedict XVI said Christianity has always encouraged care for the environment based on the conversion of the human person.
During the closed-door meeting at the Cathedral of Bressanone, the Pope spent over an hour responding to six questions posed by the priests from the region. Some of the Pope’s responses were later summarized for reporters by Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombari.
Pope Benedict also pointed out that “there is not always sufficient emphasis on the relationship between the teaching of the Church on redemption and creation. This is an issue in which Catholics can practice their faith, giving examples with lifestyles respectful of the environment,” Father Lombardi said, summarizing the Pope’s response.
The Pope believes that those who are conscious of the fact that God has entrusted man with creation have a solid foundation for respecting the environment, Father Lombardi explained. “But if one denies God, the world is reduced to the material, and in a world closed in on its materialism, it is easier for the human being to make himself the dictator of all other creatures and of nature,” he said.
As examples of the Christian view of man’s relationship with creation, the Pope pointed to St. Paul and medieval monarchism and in general Christian tradition, in which spiritualities sensitive to the environment such as that of the Franciscans have always existed.
Responding later to a question about administering the sacraments to persons without a solid formation in the faith—especially in the case of parents who request baptism for their children—Father Lombardi said that Benedict XVI responded that “when he was younger he was stricter and thought that it was a problem to administer the sacraments so widely. With time, the Pope said, ‘I understood it was necessary to follow the way of the Lord and be open to the mercy that embraces those who only have a hint of faith as well’.”
“Even if we can only see a small flame of desire for communion with the Church, there is reason to go in that direction,” he explained.