Benedict XVI Praises Achievers in Solidarity

Awards Given During Rights Declaration Celebration

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 10, 2008 ( Benedict XVI joined in congratulating those who have been selected as outstanding in their application of the Church’s social doctrine and commitment to solidarity.

The St. Matthew Foundation, instituted in memory of Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyen Văn Thuận, named last month this year’s winners for outstanding application of solidarity and social doctrine.

The awards ceremony was today, in the context of an event organized by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. After the awards ceremony, there was a concert in Paul VI Hall and the Pope had the chance to speak personally with the winners.

The Cardinal Văn Thuận Prize 2008 was given to Cornelio Sommaruga, former president of the Red Cross International Committee.

Sommaruga was born in Rome in 1932. He has a doctorate in law and served as president of the International Red Cross from 1987 to 1999. He is currently the director of the Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining.

Two priests and two institutions received the Cardinal Văn Thuận «Solidarity and Development» Prize 2008.

Father Pedro Opeka is one of the prize-winners. He founded the Akamasoa project, which seeks to give shelter to the homeless in Madagascar, Africa.

Father José Raúl Matte was recognized for his assistance to lepers in the Amazon in Brazil.

The Gulunap project in north Uganda, a faculty of medicine in collaboration with the Federico II University of Naples, was another award-winner.

Finally, the Gruppo Ercolini project was recognized. It is an initiative that aims to support the social and cultural integration of Gypsy youth in Rome.

The concert after the awards ceremony was directed by Spaniard Inma Shara, who said that «to direct this concert is the best symphony life has offered me and I have to deeply thank the Vatican for this opportunity, which is a dream come true.»

She directed the Brandenburgisches Staatsorchester, which performed works by Mendelssohn, Mozart and others.

After the concert, the Holy Father thanked the musicians and congratulated Sommaruga and the other award winners.

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