MONDAY     February 21, 2000    vol. 11, no. 36    SECTION THREE

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SECTION THREE Contents: Go immediately to the article:
  • Pope hosts over 3000 creative persons during Jubilee of Artists
  • Cardinal Sodano apologizes for terrible treatment of Italian philosopher during the Inquisition in the 17th century
  • Jesuit magazine in Rome calls Israel on the carpet for dropping the ball over the mosque in Nazareth
  • Senseless Satire on TV in Jerusalem turns sour for Catholics
  • Bishop Belo lays out seven points in East Timor's reconstruction process
  • North American bishops come together in Canada for joint meeting
  • Maine Catholics outraged at their bishop for betraying them over gay-rights agenda

  • WORLDWIDE NEWS & VIEWS with a Catholic slant


        VATICAN CITY, FEB 18 (ZENIT).- Today, on the feast of the genius of spiritual art, Blessed Fra Angelico, over 3,000 artists and their families filled St. Peter's Basilica to attend a Mass presided by Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, and to meet with John Paul II. The French Cardinal said that the Holy Father could both preside over this Jubilee celebration as well as be among the participants, since he is an actor and a poet. The Cardinal added: "When I went to Poland to meet Cardinal Wyszinsky, he told me: Cardinal Wojtyla is a great artist, a great poet..."

        At the end of the Mass, which was sung by the Choir of the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, and shortly before the Pontiff's arrival, Cardinal Etchegaray, president of the Central Committee of the Great Jubilee, spoke in praise of art, which every man carries within, as image of the Creator, the Craftsman, as the prophet Isaiah calls him. The congregation laughed when the Cardinal said: "I don't know how to sing, as you just saw... With Paul Claudel, I asked Lady Music to give me the note. Now we await him who can give us the real note -- the Holy Father."

        The Pope's entry into the Basilica was greeted with a "Viva"" here and there, but sober, because the congregation seemed accustomed to the harmony of such moments. As the Pontiff glided past on his platform someone was heard to say "the Pope is young!"

        C. Maria Matthia Langone, an icon painter, came from Vancouver, Canada, to have the Holy Father bless an icon she painted of Christ's face. He did just that as he came down the central corridor, through which he entered slowly, to shake hands with as many pilgrims as possible.

        The artists listened to the Pope's call to conversion in the most difficult work of art of all: the sculpturing of Christ's features on the stone of one's own heart. "The artist who can do this profoundly is the Holy Spirit, but he requires our correspondence and docility," the poet Pope said.

        At this point, the Pontiff intoned a beautiful song about Michelangelo's cupola. Everyone present followed the words with attention, gazing on the beauty of the Basilica transfigured by the clear midday light. "Seen from outside, it seems to curve against the sky over a community recollected in prayer, as is the love of God. From within, instead, with its vertiginous launching to the heights, it evokes the work of elevation toward the full encounter with God. "

        "Dear artists, this is the elevation to which you are invited in this present Jubilee celebration," the Pope said.

        It was impossible for the Holy to personally greet all the artists, but it was impossible. He did shake hands with a large group, however.

        At the end, Cardinal Etchegaray thanked Archbishop Francesco Marchisano, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Goods of the Church, for the good organization with which the Jubilee of Artists was prepared. The previous day, Marchisano had explained that although many offers were made to give the Pope a work of art during this Jubilee day, it was decided to decline these valuable offers in order to emphasize that this is a pilgrimage for everyone to cross the threshold of the Holy Door together and be united with the Pope in celebrating the Holy Year.

        After the Holy Father left, many pilgrim painters, sculptors, poets, musicians and architects from all over the world, knelt in prayer for a just few moments at Blessed Fra Angelico's tomb, to allow an interminable line of the talented to pass by. John Paul II raised him to the glory of the altars on October 3, 1982, and proclaimed him patron of artists on February 18, 1984.

        In the afternoon, an International Symposium was held in the Vatican Audience Hall on the "Church and Art in the Pilgrimage toward God," including representatives from all the branches of the world of contemporary art, interspersed with musical moments. Among the speakers was Spanish sculptor Venancio Blanco, Portuguese painter Emilia Nadal, Polish film director Krzystof Zanussi, Italian composer Ennio Morricone, French painter Andre Gence and English architect Austin Winkley.

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    Letter of Cardinal Sodano on Philosopher Condemned To Stake

        VATICAN CITY, FEB 18 (ZENIT).- The Church expresses "profound sorrow" for the condemnation to death of Giordano Bruno, the philosopher burnt at the stake exactly 400 years ago. Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican Secretary of State, wrote a letter to this effect, which he sent yesterday to the participants in a congress on this Italian thinker, being held in the Faculty of Theology of Southern Italy in Naples.

        It was "an atrocious death,... a sad episode in modern Christian history," the Cardinal wrote. It reflects the incoherence that at times has marked the behavior of Christians over the centuries, "casting a shadow over the announcement of the Gospel."

        Because of this, and on the occasion of the Jubilee, the Pope appeals to all "to make a courageous and humble act of acknowledgment of one's own faults and of those of (persons) who are and are called Christians." Giordano Bruno's case reminds us that "truth only imposes itself with the force of truth itself." Cardinal Sodano continued by explaining that truth "must be witnessed with absolute respect for the conscience and dignity of every person."

        Cardinal Sodano called on his readers to overcome "the temptation to arguments," instead analyzing this event with "an open spirit to the full historical truth." Indeed, it is impossible to understand what occurred if one disregards the historical context and the mentality of society in the 1600s. The Tribunal of the Inquisition, the Secretary of State emphasized, prosecuted Bruno "with the methods of coercion that were common at the time, giving a verdict that was in conformity with the law of the period." One must hope that "the thinker's judges were inspired by the desire to serve truth and promote the common good, doing all that was possible to save his life."

        The document does not attempt to rehabilitate Giordano Bruno's ideas, which were "incompatible with Christian doctrine." But, "in this case as in similar ones" it is important to recognize the errors "to give direction to a Christian conscience that is more attentive to fidelity to Christ in the future."

    The Bruno Case

        Giordano Bruno was born in Nola, near Naples, at the foot of Mt. Vesuvius, in 1548. Christianity was in the throes of an overwhelming crisis. The Church was split in just a few years. Luther, Calvin, and Henry VIII took whole nations away from Rome. Religious wars broke out. The Catholic Church responded to the Protestant Reformation with the Council of Trent, which fostered profound spiritual renewal, but at the same time gave birth to a defensive mentality in order to safeguard unity.

        Bruno was born at this time, a time in which the pluralism of ideas was often synonymous with war between peoples. Bruno was an intelligent youth, ardent to learn. From the beginning his life was marked by loneliness. He lost his parents when he was very young. He entered the Dominican convent in Naples at age 17. Already the following year, plagued by doubts about the Trinity and the Incarnation, he fled from the suspicion of heresy.

        He began to wander through Europe. He went to the north of Italy, to Switzerland, France, England and Germany. Wherever he went he was initially admired, but eventually ridiculed, hated, and expelled. A very cultured man, of extraordinary memory and fascinating ingenuity, he broke all the fixed ideas of the time. He belonged to no school in particular. He rejected all principles of authority.

        Genial and irreverent, he considered monks to be "holy idiots." For him, religions were no more than a conglomeration of useful superstitions to keep ignorant peoples under control. He regarded Jesus as a kind of magician, and the Eucharist as a blasphemy. He believed in re-incarnation and saw the beating of a universal soul in everything. He was virtually a pantheist: God was confused with Nature. Bruno left Christianity. Before being excommunicated by Catholics, he was excommunicated by both Calvinists and Lutherans.

    A Bundle of Contradictions

        Bruno is a brilliant figure, but also contradictory. In a certain sense, he anticipated modern thought based solely on reason, but at the same time he looked to the past and dedicated himself to magic, removing himself from Galileo's experimental science. He seemed to be the herald of free thinking and freedom of conscience, but at the same time he was a son of his time. He regarded Lutherans as the plague of the world because they denied free will, the possibility of choosing between right and wrong, and called for their violent repression and extermination by governments. Bruno can certainly be regarded as a father of relativism: not only does he go beyond Ptolemy's geocentric system -- dominant at the time, but beyond Copernicus himself and his heliocentrism. "The universe is infinite and I am its center," he cried.

        The thirst for the infinite is, perhaps, one of the most fascinating aspects of Bruno: his desire to surpass his own limitations and reach the absolute, a quest that was never satisfied. It was this "heroic furor" that led him to look for the infinite in God and withdraw into Him in an extreme intuitive thrust. Expelled by all, Bruno ended exhausted and wished to return to the Catholic Church, and to embrace its thought. He returned to Italy, was arrested in Venice and taken to Rome.

        Following 8 years in prison and interminable questioning, and having been close to recanting on several occasions, he was condemned as an impenitent heretic. The words Bruno spoke to his judges are famous: "You tremble more in passing this sentence than I do in receiving it." On February 17, 1600 he was burned at the stake. He was 52. According to a chronicle of the time, Bruno refused to pray to a crucifix and died swearing. The inquisitor at his prosecution was Jesuit theologian St. Robert Bellarmine. ZE00021809

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        ROME, FEB 18 (ZENIT).- The agreement signed last Tuesday between the Vatican and the Palestine Liberation Organization "has as its sole objective the possibility of creating the necessary conditions so that the Church can effectively carry out the exercise of its ministry," "Civiltà Cattolica" magazine states, following protests by Israel's Foreign Ministry, which read into the agreement decisions on the question of Jerusalem and a de-stabilizing element during preparations for the Pope's visit to the Holy Land from March 20-26.

        The Jesuit magazine published a study on the agreement and a second article on the issue of the future Nazareth mosque, which radical groups wish to construct on the same Square as the Basilica of the Annunciation. The article accuses the Israeli government of not respecting the rights of Christian communities in order to arrive at a compromise with the Muslim fundamentalists. Indeed, the Palestinian Authority, aware that the building constitutes a provocation, asked its Muslim brothers to abandon the idea and offered to finance the construction elsewhere.

        "Civiltà Cattolica" adds its voice to the proposal of Christian Churches of the Holy Land to organize a "meeting between representatives of the Islamic party, of the Christian population of Nazareth and the heads of Christian Churches, to discuss the future of this situation," with the possibility that Christians will admit "in principle the construction of the mosque and the Muslims renounce their construction as a gesture of good will and magnanimity toward the Christians."

        As regards the agreement of the Palestinians with the Vatican, the Jesuits' magazine states that the Holy See is concerned "about the future of the Middle East and especially the Holy Places," and hopes that the text represents "a first and significant step" to safeguard the Church's activity "in favor of all those who live or visit those places, which have very special meaning for the whole of humanity."

        In referring to the mosque, the criticism of the Israeli government that unleashed a controversy when permission for construction was granted, can be understood while recognizing that it is a problem that the current government inherited from Benjamin Netaniahu. To qualify this decision, no reference is made to "compromise" but rather to "concession to a group of citizens who have violated the rights of the rest." It should not be forgotten that the land on which the mosque is to be constructed was taken by force and that over Easter Christians were attacked by Islamic fundamentalists. In spite of these events, the Israeli government decided to satisfy the Muslims pretensions.

        "Civiltà Cattolica," which acknowledges the great intelligence and courage of the Israeli leaders, believes the problem will be solved when "they become aware of the chance they are taking at present, which might affect the future of the State of Israel itself." ZE00021710

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        JERUSALEM ( - The Catholic Latin-rite Patriarch of Jerusalem on Thursday demanded a public apology from the producers of an Israeli "candid camera" TV show that portrayed an actor dressed as a priest talking with passers-by about his love life.

        A hidden camera filmed the actor with an actress/nun asking passers-by how to win her heart. He also "blessed" people by slapping them on the head.

        "This offended thousands of Christians and even non-Christians in the Holy Land and many are continuing to contact us to express their rage," said Wadie Abu Nasser, an adviser to Patriarch Michel Sabbah. "We are asking for an apology. If our demand is not met, we will begin legal action."

        Spokesmen for the Reshet network which broadcast the program on Channel Two commercial television were not immediately available for comment.

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        LISBON, 19 (NE) The people in East Timor "are living crucial moments in their history", and it "is necessary that the correct choices are made," said Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo, Apostolic Administrator of Dili, in a recent message regarding the process of national reconstruction taking place in the island. Expressing the Church's concern for East Timor's current political, social, and economic situation, the Prelate emphasized that "the problems that the people of East Timor find in their pilgrimage as a free and independent nation are also the problems of the Church."

        In his message, Bishop Belo pointed out seven problems that need urgent attention for "the construction of a new society as a nation, free and independent." In the first place, the document mentioned "the creation and application of a new educational system, modernized, keeping in mind the identity of the people of Timor acquired along its history."

        The Bishop also pointed out the necessity of creating a health care and a judicial system, a structure of public administration, as well as a solid economy based on justice, with a new unit of currency. The agricultural development must be adequate to supply for all the people in the island, Bishop Belo further said. Finally he pointed out the necessity of infrastructure to support the process of national reconstruction.

        Referring to this process, Bishop Belo insisted that it must be done taking in consideration that most of the population in East Timor is Catholic. Regarding this, he stressed that all effort "made by the UN's Transition Administration for East Timor must consider the people's tradition, that is their cultural, ethical and religious values." If these elements are not sufficiently considered -he warned- the people of Timor "will feel betrayed, and the work would run the risk of being a total frustration."

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        OTTAWA, 19 (NE) The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops announced this week that Bishops from Canada, the United States and Latin America are to meet at the Westin Grand Hotel in Vancouver, February 21-24, 2000, for a Meeting of the Bishops of America.

        The event will gather bishops from Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Haiti, Honduras, Peru, Mexico, Dominican Republic, the United States and Venezuela. During the meeting, the Bishops will exchange views regarding the life of the Church in the continent. Twenty-three bishops in addition to senior staff will be attending.

        One of the public events during the event will be a Eucharistic celebration with Latin American communities at Holy Family Church, home of the Hispanic Catholic Mission, to be held on Wednesday, February 22.

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        PORTLAND, Maine ( - Catholics in Maine have criticized the Diocese of Portland for changing positions and supporting a controversial homosexual rights bill before the state's Legislature, according to the Portland Press-Herald on Thursday.

        The proposed law would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, credit, and public accommodations. The Legislature's Judiciary Committee will decide next week whether to send the bill onto the House and Senate. A similar law was turned down by Maine voters in a 1995 referendum, and again in 1998.

        Although the Diocese of Portland opposed the 1995 measure, Bishop Joseph Gerry announced earlier this year that the diocese now supports the current proposal. Homosexual activist groups agreed to change the bill to exempt religious groups and church-affiliated organizations.

        Some opponents of the bill said during a public hearing earlier this week they felt betrayed by the reversal. Sandra Navia of Falmouth testified that individual Catholics like her had been ignored by the diocese, which had "capitulated" to "homosexual activists" and ignored its obligation to protect the "public morality of the entire civil society."

        Marc Caron, co-chancellor of the diocese, told legislators at the hearing that the bill would accomplish a basic Catholic goal: affirming the dignity of every human being, and eliminating unjust discrimination. He also noted that Catholic dioceses in New Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode Island have endorsed similar homosexual-rights laws. He added that the bill specifically guards intrusion by the state into Church doctrine.

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