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To my Venerated Brother

Several years ago you expressed to me, orally and in writing, your wish to leave Rome and return to Venezuela once you reached 75 years of age, in order to comply punctually with the norms on the retirement from the guiding positions of the Offices of the Roman Curia and also to be able to dedicate your pastoral ministry to the land where you were born.

Some days ago, when you arrived at the age of 75, you reaffirmed to me your petition of leaving the office of President of the Pontifical Commission for the State of the Vatican City, to return to your beloved Venezuela. Acknowledging the noble and sincere feelings with which you have presented your request, I have accepted it notwithstanding my high consideration for the work you have been carrying out with great dedication and competence.

At the moment of your departure from the Vatican, I wish to express to you my high gratitude for the commitment and the love with which you have accomplished the diverse and onerous duties that were entrusted to you during your service to the Holy See.

Recalling the long and laborious years of your religious life and those of your pastoral ministry, together with you I thank God for all the goodness you accomplished in favour of the Apostolic See and the Church.

Since you were called to Rome twenty two years ago by my beloved predecessor, Godís Servant Pope Paul VI, you made available your conspicuous legal competence, first in the preparatory work for the new Code of Canonical Law, then as President of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of the Legal Texts and, later, as President of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See and of the Pontifical Commission for the State of the Vatican City, as well as member of diverse Offices of the Roman Curia.

I am sure that the consciousness of having generously dedicated your sacerdotal energies to the duties you have been entrusted with, as well as the collaboration that you, Mister Cardinal, will continue offering to the Holy See as a member of the College of Cardinals, will fill your heart with deep joy. May the Lord bless with abundant fruits of goodness the years of life that he will grant you and that you intend to spend in pastoral ministry among the people of your beloved country and, particularly, among the young, according to the charisma of Saint John Bosco.

While I entrust you to the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary, I wish to grant you and those who are close to you with a special and loving Blessing.

The Vatican, 24 November 1997


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