TUESDAY     April 25, 2000    vol. 11, no. 81    SECTION TWO

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SECTION TWO Contents: Go immediately to the article:
WORLDWIDE NEWS & VIEWS with a Catholic slant:
  • Nearly 200,000 celebrate Easter with the Holy Father
  • Archbishop of Paris says what many fear about Pope's physical ailments
  • Easter in Jerusalem draws pilgrims of all faiths
  • Caritas makes plea to come to the aid of Ethiopia and other African countries in dire need
  • After two hostages martyred for the Faith through beheading, government troops take action
  • Same-sex union initiative passed in Vermont, forbodes further deterioration of morals and values

  • WORLDWIDE NEWS & VIEWS with a Catholic slant:

    Calls for Defense of Human Dignity and Opposes Xenophobia

        VATICAN CITY, APR 23 (ZENIT.org).- Eight catechumens were baptized and confirmed by John Paul II, during the luminous Jubilee Easter Vigil in St. Peter's Square. They ranged in age from 5 to 40, and came from Japan, China, Cameroon, Albania and Italy. At the end of the ceremony, they received their First Communion from the Pontiff's hands. Given the extraordinary number of pilgrims, this was the first time a Pope has celebrated this all important Christian feast outside the Basilica.

        The Holy Father encouraged the new Catholics, who would become "intimate sharers in the mystery of the love of God, Father and Son and Holy Spirit," to make of their life "a song of praise to the Most Holy Trinity, and a witness of love that knows no bounds."

        The Vigil began with the blessing of the Paschal fire at the foot of the obelisk in St. Peter's Square, witness of St. Peter's martyrdom in Nero's circus. The Paschal candle was moved forward, in the silence of the night, until it arrived in the atrium of St. Peter's Basilica, shedding its light along with that of thousands of candles being carried by pilgrims.

        "At the Easter Vigil, 'the mother of all vigils,' everyone can likewise acknowledge their own personal history of salvation, which has its basic moment in our rebirth in Christ through Baptism," the Holy Father said, explaining the reason he administered Baptism to the new Christians, among whom was a darling 5-year old Japanese girl. She was baptized along with her parents. Several times during the ceremony, she made the Holy Father smile. In the last 4 days, John Paul II has presided over close to 20 hours of celebrations.

        At the end of the Vigil, when the catechumens went to greet the Pope, he kissed the little radiant Japanese girl twice, in the presence of her overwhelmed young parents. The other baptized included a 30-year-old man from Cameroon, a 38-year-old Italian, and a 30-year-old Albanian. Particularly significant was the baptism of two Chinese, Peter Cong Shen, 28, and Elena Hong Ye, 38, not only because of the difficult situation of the Church in China and the Holy Father's hope to visit that country, but also because of the stressful circumstances faced by Chinese immigrants in Italy, who must often deal with a type of mafia, which controls some communities of the diaspora. Some underground workshops oblige them to work in inhuman conditions.

        The open-air celebration in the dead of night implicitly underlined the cosmic character of Jesus' Resurrection. "Yes, Christ is truly risen and we are witnesses of this," the Pope exclaimed. "We proclaim this witness to the world, so that the joy, which is ours, will reach countless other hearts, kindling in them the light of the hope that does not disappoint."

        In giving his traditional Easter message, at the end of the Mass on Resurrection Sunday, John Paul II wished a "just and lasting peace" for humanity in the third millennium. The crowds in St. Peter's Square beat all records. There were at least 150,000 pilgrims, but some reporters think the figure was more like 200,000.

        The space embraced by Bernini's colonnade was not large enough to accommodate all those who came to receive the "urbi et orbi" papal blessing; the river of humanity spilled over into adjacent streets, particularly the Via della Conciliazione. There were 58 television channels transmitting the ceremony throughout the world.

        The Holy Father himself beat a personal record: in celebration of Jesus' Resurrection, he greeted Catholics worldwide in 60 languages. The scene was nothing short of spectacular: the atrium of the Vatican Basilica was transformed into a veritable "Garden of Resurrection," thanks to 50,000 bushes, plants, and flowers donated by the Netherlands.

        On Resurrection Day of the Great Jubilee Year, which the Holy Father has been preparing for since the day he was elected Pope, John Paul II addressed the world, speaking about the evils and wars causing bloodshed, announcing the message of universal love, and new life and hope on Easter Sunday. "Yes, life and death were locked in combat, and Life was victorious for ever. All is once again oriented to life, to Eternal Life!," the Pope exclaimed. "The Risen Christ signals the paths of hope along which we can advance together towards a more just and mutually supportive world, in which the blind egoism of the few will not prevail over the cries of pain of the many, reducing entire peoples to conditions of degrading misery."

        As the Pope pronounced these words, the sun broke through a gray and misty Roman morning. "May the message of life, proclaimed by the angel near the stone rolled back from the tomb, overturn the hardness of our hearts; may it lead to removing unjustified barriers and promote a fruitful exchange between peoples and cultures. May the image of the new man, shining on the face of Christ, cause everyone to acknowledge the inalienable value of human life," he added.

        In his Easter message, the Pontiff implored that Christ "grant the human family of the third millennium a just and lasting peace" and "bring to a happy outcome the talks undertaken by people of good will who, despite so many doubts and difficulties, are trying to bring an end to the troubling conflicts in Africa, the armed clashes in some countries of Latin America, the persistent tensions affecting the Middle East, vast areas of Asia, and some parts of Europe."

        Christ's Resurrection is not something of the past but is forever. In the name of this same Jesus, John Paul II called mankind "to overcome old and new rivalries, by rejecting attitudes of racism and xenophobia."

        There was a special liturgical touch to this Jubilee Easter Sunday. The Resurrection was proclaimed by a deacon before the icon of the Most Holy Savior, known as the "Acheropita," which means, "not executed by the human hand," which is kept in the Chapel of the "Sancta Sanctorum" of the Scala Santa in Rome. This was a Medieval tradition, which disappeared when the See of the Bishop of Rome was moved to Avignon in 1309, but which the Holy Father decided to restore on this occasion.

        With the blessing, John Paul II, who will be 80 in May, concluded the marathon of celebrations and liturgical events he has presided this Holy Week. At the end of the ceremony, he climbed into a jeep with his golden priestly ornaments so that the pilgrims could see him close up. By this time, 1 p.m., the sun was strong, but John Paul II smiled at the crowds, despite the past week's punishing schedule. ZE00042305 and ZE00042304

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        PARIS (CWNews.com) - Pope John Paul II is suffering from a progressive paralysis, Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger of Paris told Le Journal Du Dimanche magazine this week.

        In an interview, Cardinal Lustiger said: "We know that his illness is causing progressive paralysis of the body but his mind remains intact. This man, who was an athlete, is becoming more and more a prisoner in his body."

        The archbishop said the Pope "retains a spiritual strength, an intellectual capacity and a memory, which are extraordinary for someone who will be 80 next month."

        The Holy Father has had a variety of apparent medical problems during his pontificate, beginning with an assassination attempt in 1981, hip surgery after a fall six years ago, and hand and head tremors associated with Parkinson's disease, a progressive neurological disorder.

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      Pilgrims pack Jerusalem for Holy Week and Easter festivities at Church of the Holy Sepulchre

        Easter celebrations in Jerusalem atttracted thousands of pilgrims this Jubilee year from around the world, beginning at the empty tomb at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where the Holy Father prayed a month ago. Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah told those gathered that as Christians, united in the spirit of Christ, together with their fellow Jews, Muslims and Druses, all evil could be overcome in the name of Christ, the Savior of the world. continued inside.

    Beautiful Celebrations in Basilica of Holy Sepulcher

        JERUSALEM, APR 23 (ZENIT.org).- The profession of faith raised in the very place that verified the event that marked human history forever just under 2000 years ago, was an electrifying "Jesus is risen" in this Jubilee Easter in the Holy Land.

        The climax of Holy Week in Jerusalem was the Mass celebrated before the empty tomb, including a triple candle-lit procession around it. In this holy place the liturgy was characterized by the proclamation of all four Gospel narratives of Jesus' Resurrection from four different parts of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher, which was overflowing with pilgrims.

        Following the Catholic celebration of Easter, Orthodox faithful, many of whom had come from Cyprus and the Aegean, commemorated Palm Sunday, since they celebrate Holy Week 7 days later. Consequently, in just one day, there were several extraordinary processions: solemn ornaments, standards, and beautiful singing, especially by the Armenians.

        In his Easter homily, when recalling John Paul II's messages during his recent pilgrimage to these lands, Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah said, "Adoring the mystery of Christ together with the inhabitants of this Holy Land, with all believing Jews, Muslims and Druses we, Christians, say that we can conquer the spirit of evil. Here, in this land of the Resurrection, we are called to give testimony of justice and peace." ZE00042306

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    War, Drought, and Famine Impede Humanitarian Aid

        ADDIS ABABA, APR 18 (ZENIT.org).- The poor farmers of Giset, a remote and dust-ridden mountain village in Ethiopia, have done everything possible to survive in spite of 2 years of no rains. If humanitarian aid does not arrive soon, the inhabitants of Giset could pass from famine to starvation. Like them, 7.7 million Ethiopians are in danger of starvation, akin to the situation in the 80s. The World Food Program estimates that an additional 8 million are in danger in 9 more countries of the Horn of Africa (the other most affected countries are Somalia, Eritrea, northern Kenya, and southern Sudan) and they run the risk of being forgotten.

        Caritas-Italy has made an appeal to respond to the troubling situation of this African region. "The situation cannot continue with the few crumbs of the rich to take away the hunger of the poor: there must be a change in the distribution of places at the table, so that Lazarus can become one of the guests."

        "Every day this continent suffers because of hunger, natural calamities, and wars, and we cannot just remember it when we see skeletons and cadavers on our television screens," the Caritas statement continues.

        In Ethiopia, for example, among its 60 million inhabitants, infant mortality reaches 10%, the foreign debt per capita equals $173 and dependence on food from abroad is higher than 20%. This is a dramatic record. Over the last 20 years, there have been one million deaths for lack of food and a million inhabitants have fled their homes to seek refuge in other safer places because of the war.

        Catherine Bertini, special U.N. envoy in the zone, visited Giset last Sunday, which is 90 miles northeast of Asmara, the capital of Eritrea. She denounced the lack of response to the petition made by World Food Program for this month, for a total of $7.9 million to feed 212,000 Eritreans. Bertini, who is also a director of the World Food Program, is visiting Ethiopia, Djibouti, Eritrea, and Kenya. "These people have been able to resist up until now, but their own reserves are almost exhausted," she said.

        "There have been no rains this year," one village inhabitant, named Fatima, said. "There is nothing. I am waiting for help; my husband cannot work because he is sick." The family's livestock died last year. They had planted sorghum but it did not rain and the seeds never germinated. Stories like this are repeated all over Giset, a village of scarcely 1,000 inhabitants.

        The only help the villagers receive is 33 pounds of grain every month from a government aid agency. Fatima said that even if the rains come, it will not be much help, because the family has not prepared the field, which is full of stones and parched by the Eritrean sun. The price for grain has gone up by 30%, and cutbacks affect commerce, explained Kofi Owusu, coordinator of the World Food Program in Eritrea. Meanwhile, the wars of the region are affecting the aid operations in many countries with serious cutbacks in foodstuffs, including Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, and Burundi.

        The World Food Program estimates that some 850,000 persons, a quarter of Eritrea's population, needs help, having been displaced by the border war that Eritrea has been engaged in for 23 months against Ethiopia, according to Worku Tesfamichael, the commissioner of government aid. "The war does not help Ethiopians and Eritreans who need food and development," he said. "War is only destruction, there is nothing to be gained."

        In cooperation with the Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat, the Caritas international network launched an emergency program in 1999, and at present is organizing a massive transport of cereals, to be distributed in the Korem and Alamata centers, which are in the south of Tigrai. Over the next few weeks, $1 million in food will be sent. ZE00041902

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      Filipino government troops raid terrorist camp after beheading of two Catholic hostages in retaliation for government not meeting their demands

         Heaven just gained two more marytrs with the news that Abu Sayyaf rebels, who were holding 29 hostages on the southern Filipino island of Basilan, cruelly beheaded two male teachers being held hostages as they had threatened to do if their demands were not met by the government. The government has steadfastly refused to deal with the Muslim terrorists and, because of that, Church leaders are fearful more will be executed although government troops have launched a counterattack in an effort to free the remaining 27 before it is too late. The rebels have vowed to behead five more if the soldiers do not retreat from their armed position around the camp in the highly forested mountains of Basilian. continued inside.

    Government's response to rebels' beheading of two male teachers

        MANILA (CWNews.com) - The Philippine army attacked extremist Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines on Monday, fighting to free 27 hostages taken from Catholic schools in the area last month.

        The government forces were less than a quarter mile from three outlying camps of the Abu Sayyaf separatist rebels that were targeted by artillery attacks, said Maj. Gen. Diomedio Villanueva, chief of the military's Southern Command. The hostages are believed to be kept at the main compound further up the steep, forested mountain where they have been held.

        The Abu Sayyaf rebels kidnapped more than 70 children, teachers, and a Claretian missionary priest last month as part of their efforts to establish a separate Muslim homeland in the mainly Catholic country. Most of the hostages were released in the first few days, but the rebels beheaded two male teachers last Wednesday as a "birthday present" for President Joseph Estrada.

        The rebels have warned they will behead their five remaining adult male hostages -- including the priest -- if the military does not halt its assault. "This is a hostage situation and we're considering the safety of the hostages to give them the best chance to survive," Villanueva said.

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        MONTPELIER (CWNews.com) - The Vermont Senate on Wednesday approved a bill that would set up a system of legalized same-sex unions that would essentially create gay marriage.

        The Senate voted 19-11 to approve the civil unions bill after defeating two proposed constitutional amendments that would have banned same-sex marriage 0n Tuesday. Gov. Howard Dean, a Democrat, has said he will sign the bill after it returns to the House of Representatives for reconciling with a similar bill that body passed last month.

        The law was mandated by the state Supreme Court last year when it ruled that denying homosexual couples the same right to legal unions as heterosexuals was unconstitutional. The new law would allow couples to receive a "certification ceremony" from a judge or member of the clergy. They would then receive all the same legal benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples.

        "It's a tragic day for the state of Vermont, for the Senate has ignored the will of the people. But it's an even sadder day for the state of marriage," said Janet Parshall of the Family Research Council. "The Vermont Senate's vote today to allow homosexual partners to form 'civil unions' is nothing short of an endorsement of 'same-sex marriage'."

        In all 50 straw polls conducted on the topic in March during Vermont town hall meetings, "same-sex marriage" was overwhelmingly rejected. In addition, "domestic partnerships" -- such as the "civil unions" envisioned by the law -- were rejected by all but four of the 30 towns that included such proposals on the ballot.

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    April 25, 2000     volume 11, no. 81
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