THURSDAY     February 24, 2000    vol. 11, no. 39    SECTION TWO

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SECTION TWO Contents: Go immediately to the article:
  • Events that occurred today in Church History
    WORLDWIDE NEWS & VIEWS with a Catholic slant:
  • Pope completes first leg of his "Jubilee Journey"
  • Top Muslim leader of Egypt ready to welcome Holy Father
  • Pope and Mubarak to discuss Christian persecution
  • Pope leaves instructions for his successor just in case
  • Boston cardinal joins growing list calling for Congo Archbishop's release


  • Events that happened today in Church History

       On this day in 259 the little known African martyrs Saints Flavian, Julian, Lucius, Montanus, Rhenus and Victoricus achieved their Heavenly reward at the hands of the Carthaginian procreator who executed them before the new proconsul who was to pardon them, arrived from Rome. It is fitting that today also, as the Holy Father arrives in northern Africa where 1,741 years ago these men gave their life for Jesus, so also today there are so many little-known African martyrs in Nigeria, the Sudan, Rwanda, the Congo and numerous other countries throughout the continent. For other time capsule events that happened in Church history on this date, see MILLENNIUM MILESTONES AND MEMORIES

    Historical Events in Church Annals for February 24:

    • 259 A.D.
    • Death of the African martyrs Saints Flavian, Julian, Lucius, Montanus, Rhenus and Victoricus at the hands of Carthage procurator Solon who took matters into his own hands against the Christians and expedited persecution while waiting for the new pro-consul to arrive from Rome.

    • 304 A.D.
    • Death of Saint Sergius of Cappadocia who had been the magistrate of Caesarea but, upon his conversion, became a monk not hiding his allegiance to Christ. For this he was put to death during the ruthless persecution of the Roman emperor Diocletian.

    • 616 A.D.
    • Death of Saint Ethelbert, Saxon ruler and convert whose baptism by Saint Augustine of Canterbury triggered a mass conversion of ten thousand more and was largely responsible for helping establish Christianity in England.

    • 1208 A.D.
    • Presumed date that Saint Francis of Assisi received a sign of his vocation in Portiuncula in Italy in the Umbrian region below Assisi.

    • 1296 A.D.
    • Pope Boniface VIII publishes his papal bull Clericis laicos, intended against his bitter enemy King Philip IV of France. It dealt with the fact that clergy could not be taxed without the consent of the Pope, which Philip had been doing. The eventually results were that Boniface would excommunicate Philip.

    • 1510 A.D.
    • Pope Julius II places the entire republic of Venice under interdict for usurping papal territories and possessions.

    • 1530 A.D.
    • Pope Clement V crowns Charles V Holy Roman Emperor in the first imperial coronation by a Roman Pontiff.

    • 1582 A.D.
    • Pope Gregory XIII publicly announces the new style calendar which would be called the "Gregorian Calendar" and which the world goes by today.

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    WORLDWIDE NEWS & VIEWS with a Catholic slant


      Holy Father begins "Jubilee Journey" in a Chaldean atmosphere at Paul VI Hall

         Pope John Paul II began his "Jubilee Journey" yesterday at Paul VI Hall by means of a "spiritual pilgrimage" in spirit to the place of Abraham of the Chaldeans. Aided by readings from the Old Testament, enhanced by a giant video screen depicting sites inherent to the "Father of Faith" were shown. Also on display were works by the artist Marc Chagall depicting the angels announcing to Abraham that his wife Sarah will bear him a son. The Pope noted that to all faithful globally, even the Muslim world, Abraham symbolizes the unconditional surrender to the will of God and Yahweh's covenant with the human race, brought to fulfillment by the Word Incarnate, Jesus Christ. continued inside

    POPE'S "SPIRITUAL PILGRIMAGE" TO ABRAHAM'S HOME

        VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- On February 23, Pope John Paul II carried out his "spiritual pilgrimage" to the birthplace of the Biblical patriarch Abraham, traveling "through thought" to Ur of the Chaldeans during a unique ceremony at the Vatican.

        The Holy Father had indicated his desire to make Ur of the Chaldeans, the home of Abraham, the first step in his Jubilee pilgrimage to "the holy places tied to the history of salvation." But political complications in Iraq, where Ur is located, forced the cancellation of plans for a papal visit to the site. The Pope still intends to visit other sites in Egypt, the Holy Land, Syria, and Greece during the Jubilee year.

        The Pope's "spiritual pilgrimage" to Ur was accomplished with the help of a giant video screen, installed in the Paul VI auditorium, showing images of southern Iraq and other sites associated with the story of Abraham. These images were shown during a "service of the Word" honoring Abraham as the father of all believers.

        "Like us, Jews and Muslims look upon Abraham as a model of unconditional submission to the will of God," Pope John Paul observed in his homily during the ceremony. He noted that Abraham left his own land, and began to travel toward "a Promised Land that he had never seen," in compliance with God's instructions. He was even prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac, in what the Pope called "the apogee of Abraham's faith," as well as "an analogy to the salvific event of the death and resurrection of Christ."

        "Through the faith of Abraham," the Pope continued, "God entered into an eternal alliance with the human race-- an alliance which has its definitive accomplishment in Jesus Christ." The liturgical ceremony in the Paul VI auditorium included a series of readings from the Old Testament, relating to the role of Abraham and his call from God. These readings were interspersed with periods of prayer and meditation, accompanied by images designed to encourage reflection on the life of Abraham.

        In addition to the scenes from Ur of the Chaldeans, these images included scenes from the Holy Land, from the site where Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac, and from the tomb of Abraham in Hebron. There were also images drawn from the world of art, notably including the painting by Marc Chagall which depicts the angels announcing to Abraham that his wife Sarah will bear him a son.

        The Paul VI auditorium was richly decorated for the ceremony, with many symbolic references to Abraham and his covenant with God. About 30 cardinals and 100 bishops participated in the "spiritual pilgrimage" along with Pope John Paul.

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    EGYPT'S SHEIK OF AL AZHAR WELCOMES PAPAL VISIT

        CAIRO (CWNews.com/Fides) - Egypt's leading Muslim religious leader said this week that he welcomes Pope John Paul II's visit to Egypt which begins on Thursday, calling the Pontiff a defender of peace, love, and morality.

        The Sheik of Al Azhar, Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi, said: "The Pope is a man of intelligence and wisdom, who defends peace, love, and moral values and encourages the propagation of virtues." Tantawi is the leader of the world's Sunni Muslims, the largest branch of Islam. He will meet with the Holy Father on Thursday.

        The Sheik of Al Azhar, who is known to be affable and tolerant, had refused to grant a statement on the papal visit to journalists, but agreed to give the Vatican news service Fides a written statement. In his message, written in Arabic, the Sheik explained: "We welcome with joy the visit of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to Egypt and Al Azhar ... God, the all merciful, created us in this life so we may know each other and open our hearts to harmony and agreement." He quoted a passage of the Koran: "O humanity, we created you man and woman and made you into peoples and tribes that you may know one another."

        The Sheik also explained that dialogue is part of the duties of a Muslim and is the authentic Islamic sharia law "for the good of humanity and the propagation of virtues sustained by all religions. Dialogue between religions allows us to listen to each other, to learn about and compare ideas which commit us in love, truth and justice." But he also warned about "dogmatic dialogue" which "can only widen the gap between the interlocutors. Only God can speak of dogma."

        "For Islam all humanity came from the same parents [Adam and Eve]," the Al Azhar Sheik said. "The Pope's efforts for peace, love, and moral values and virtues are precisely the goal of all the revealed religions."

        He added, "For our part we wish and work for the propagation of peace and security in the world. The leaders of world religions must work together so peace, security, and love may reign among mankind".

        Cardinal Francis Arinze, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, said: "We must thank God for this historical encounter between the Holy Father and the Sheik of Al Azhar. The meeting is an indication of the right path for Muslims and Christians. We must come together, listen to each other, and try to build a better world under God's guidance. In religion it is essential to listen to God and communicate with neighbor."

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      President Hosni Mubarak and Holy Father hope to bridge the gap between Christian and Muslim

         When the Holy Father meets with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt today concerns for Christians in this mostly Moslem country will be addressed. The Vatican is calling for the guarantee of Christians' inalienable rights in that area. With the Pope's visit, Coptics and other Christians are hopeful their voice will be heard against the violence that Islamic law imposes upon people, where many have lost their lives in toruture and violence.continued inside.

    PAPAL TRIP TO EGYPT WILL GIVE IMPETUS TO UNDERSTANDING WITH ISLAMIC WORLD
    Christians Are Victims of Fundamentalist Violence

        CAIRO, FEB 22 (ZENIT).- John Paul II is travelling this week to Egypt, a country of Muslim majority that plays an important role in the Middle East peace process. When he meets with religious and civil authorities -- President Hosni Mubarak will welcome him at the airport -- he will address the future of this region, where the roots of Christianity run deep.

        The Holy See is concerned for Christians in the area. At present, they are increasingly marginalized in the Arab world, and even in the Holy Land. Consequently, the Vatican calls for the guarantee of their inalienable rights. President Mubarak seems to be in agreement: "The time has arrived for Muslims, Christians and Jews to live in peace in the region," he has stated on several occasions.

        In particular, Catholics in the Middle East are very pleased with statements made by Egypt's Grand Mufti Nasr Farid Wasel, an Islamic authority, who last November declared himself in solidarity with the Christian community opposed to the Islamic fundamentalists' insistence on constructing a mosque in Nazareth, a few steps from the Basilica of the Nativity.

        The darkest note is the marginalization that Muslims impose on Christians as regards public offices. This situation has led to situations of extreme tension. The Orthodox Copts, who are the great majority, and Catholics are opposed to fundamentalist pressures to introduce harsh Islamic laws, including amputation of limbs for theft and capital punishment for apostasy. In the summer of 1998, in the village of El Kosheh in Upper Egypt, some 1,000 people were savagely tortured by the police. At the beginning of this year, 20 persons violently lost their lives in the same village.

        Given the situation, the Pope's visit to Egypt will be of decisive importance for the dialogue with the Islamic world. The Holy Father is arriving 15 days after naming a Permanent Observer to the Arab League (a historic agreement that has gone virtually unnoticed by the world media), and after signing an agreement with Yasser Arafat, which lays the foundations for religious liberty for Catholics in the future State of Palestine -- an agreement that was protested by Israel.

        As the Vatican agency "Fides" states, fundamentalism erupted in Egypt in the 70s, first among Muslims and later among Christians. Above all, this is a sociological phenomenon -- a response to social changes: the crisis in the Arab world, the transition from a "soviet-style" to a market economy, and modernization. In face of such problems, the typical Egyptian -- famous for his openness and jovial hospitality, has withdrawn into himself. Ahmad Bahaeddine, a journalist, wrote 15 years ago: "I don't understand what is happening. Why does Egypt, which has been able to transform ('Egyptianize') Christianity and Islam, foster differences today? Why is the accent put on differences rather than on our common past?"

        At present, and for many years, authorities are severely repressing extremism, but at the local level constant incidents occur. All Christian churches in the country are guarded by police. But this action is symbolic, and would be virtually useless if an attack took place.

        Although Islam is the official religion, the government tries to play down antagonisms. The official press always emphasizes coexistence and publishes Christmas messages of religious leaders; Pope Shenouda III, leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, is invited to all ceremonies.

        At the political level, the small Christian representation in Parliament prevents the influencing of legislation, which provokes Christian rejection of political commitment, increases electoral abstention -- which in Egypt reaches almost 50% (during the Nasser regime, participation was almost 100%).

        Relations between Christian and Muslim intellectuals are good, as they are united in the struggle against fundamentalism. In this sense, the culminating moment of the papal visit to Egypt will be John Paul II's meeting with Imam Mohammed Sayed Tantawi of Al-Azhar, in "Dar al-Islam" (House of Islam) -- an unprecedented event. Sayed Tantawi is the highest Muslim authority in Egypt and a point of reference of the old University of Al-Azhar, which is one of the country's principal religious poles. The Vatican and this university have created a Joint Commission for Dialogue between Christianity and Islam. ZE00022203

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      Vicar of Christ takes precautions in the event of mishap

         According to the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera the Holy Father has left behind instructions for the Roman Curia in the even he would meet with any kind of peril during his "Jubilee Journey" to Egypt. Taking into account what happened to Abdul Nasser and others in Egypt, the Pope has left instructions with Cardinal Bernadin Gantin, Dean of the College of Cardinals. They reflect normal instructions given in the past when the Bishop of Rome has traveled outside the Vatican. We can take precautions, too, and pray all the harder for the Pope's safety. continued inside.

    POPE LEAVES INSTRUCTIONS BEFORE TRAVELING

        VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- According to an Italian newspaper report, when Pope John Paul II departs Rome on February 24 for his trip to Egypt, he will leave behind instructions to be followed in case he is involved in an accident.

        The daily Il Corriere della Sera reports that the Pontiff will leave his instructions with Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, the dean of the College of Cardinals. The instructions involve episcopal nominations and other bits of unresolved business, the paper claims.

        The short report in Il Corriere della Sera is unsigned and unconfirmed. However, the paper reports that it is "habitual" for the Pope to leave such instructions before embarking on any foreign travel.

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      Nigerian Archbishop asserts violence in Nigeria is not religious but political

         Refuting claims that the violence between Christian and Muslim factions in Nigeria are "religious disputes," Archbishop John Olorunfemi of Aguja in Nigeria says that they are actually attempts by political authorities to destabilize the government of President Olusegen Obasanjo. The threat to defeat democracy is quite real, and must be seen in its true light, rather than a clash between followers of Christ and those who proclaim Mohammed in light of the terrible tragedies that have killed hundreds of Catholics and burned a cathedral. continued inside.

    NIGERIAN BISHOP: POLITICAL MOTIVES BEHIND VIOLENCE

        VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria, has warned that the recent clashes between Muslims and Christians in that country have been provoked not genuine religious disputes, but efforts to destabilize the government of President Olusegen Obasanjo.

        Speaking to representatives of the Fides news agency, Archbishop Onaiyekan said: "There are elements that do not approve of the politics of President Obasanjo, and are using religious problems to put him in trouble." The resulting outbursts, he said, are "endangering democracy" in Nigeria.

        At least 100 people were killed in Nigeria on February 21, in a series of bloody clashes that began with Christians protesting against the imposition of Islamic Shari'a law. The Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano said that the situation was "explosive," and that many Islamic zealots were attacking Christians with clubs and machetes, and burning down the homes of Christian families.

        However, Archbishop Onaiyekan insisted that the drive to establish Shari'a law was itself motivated by a desire to undermine the Obasanjo government. He observed that opponents of the new president are receiving financial support from abroad. "Everyone knows that Saudi Arabia has promised economic aid to countries that introduce Islamic law," he observed.

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      Cardinal Law joins universal call for immediate release of Congo Archbishop

         Joining the Holy Father's plea for freedom, Boston's Archbishop Cardinal Bernard Law in his post as Chairman of the International Policy Committe of the U.S. Catholic Conference, has called for the immediate liberation of Archbishop Ktaliko of the Diocese of Bukuvu who was forcefully taken hostage after making statements against the human rights atrocities of the government. He is being falsely accused of ethnic hatred. The cardinal's plea is just one of a plethora coming from bishops all over the world in an effort to free the incarcerated prelate who is, in essence, a political prisoner. continued inside.

    US CARDINAL CALLS FOR LIBERATION OF ARCHBISHOP IN CONGO

        WASHINGTON, 32 (NE) "I vehemently deplore the recent arrest of Archbishop Emmanuel Kataliko of Bukavu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DCR)," wrote Cardinal Bernard Law, Archbishop of Boston and Chairman of the International Policy Committee of the U.S. Catholic Conference, in a statement issued last week. In it, Cardinal Law affirmed that Archbishop Kataliko was unjustly accused of "inciting ethnic hatred, genocide, and threatening law and order in the region", and is currently maintained under house arrest. "There are no legitimate grounds for these accusations", the Archbishop stated.

        "This outrageous act on the part of the Rassemblent Congolais pour la Democratie (RCD) is a direct affront to the Archbishop's human rights and religious freedom". "It further demonstrates -the Cardinal emphasized- the gross violations of human rights by all parties involved in the war which has ravaged the Congo for more than three years. These violations must be denounced in the strongest possible way." Cardinal Law also recalled that Pope John Paul II called the arrest a "grave violation that painfully injures all Catholics."

        The Archbishop of Boston also sent a letter to Ambassador Edith Grace Ssempala at the Embassy of the Republic of Uganda in Washington, asking them to use "whatever influence it might have with the leaders of the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Democratie to gain the immediate release of Archbishop Kataliko and the safe return to his diocese."

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    February 24, 2000     volume 11, no. 39
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