MONDAY    January 10, 2000   vol. 11, no. 6   SECTION THREE

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    ROME, 7 (NE) Approximately three thousand pilgrims participated yesterday afternoon in the ceremony of opening of the door of the sanctuary of "Holy Mary of Grace," in St. Giovanni Rotondo, Italy, where the relics of Blessed Padre Pio are kept. Thousands of pilgrims are expected to travel this year to the sanctuary, in the region of Foggia, to pay homage and ask for the intercession of Padre Pio.

    As the Italian news agency ANSA informed, a procession of faithful headed by the Archbishop paid homage to the relics of the Blessed capuchin father, raised to the altars last year in one of the most attended ceremonies celebrated in the city of Rome. Yesterday's opening of the door of the shrine in St. Giovanni Rotondo was part of the activities on occasion of the Great Jubilee of the year 2000 in this region of Italy.

    As a capuchin religious declared to ANSA, "this year we expected a greater number of pilgrims coming to pray over the tomb of Blessed Padre Pio. Our predictions have been confirmed by the thousands of faithful that this afternoon have waited in prayer for the opening of the door of the sanctuary."

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    AMMAN, Jordan ( - Thousands of pilgrims flocked to the site of Christ's baptism on the Jordan River today as Jordan officially opened the location.

    Jordan has prepared the site for two years in anticipation of a crush of pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land during the Jubilee Year. Pope John Paul II is also expected to visit the site during a visit to the region in March.

    Jordanian archaeologists, whose claims are supported by leading Christian clerics, say a cluster of old Byzantine churches and mosaics recently unearthed prove the site called Wadi Kharrar is where Jesus was baptized. Others claim that a site in Israel close to the sea of Galilee is the real site of Jesus' baptism.

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    SAN SALVADOR ( - The president of El Salvador on Thursday refused to reopen an investigation into the 1989 murder of six Jesuits, claiming the act would reopen old wounds.

    A regional human rights court had recommended that El Salvador investigate those responsible for the murder of five Spanish Jesuits, a Salvadorean Jesuit, their cook, and her daughter at a prominent university at the height of the country's 12-year civil war. But President Francisco Flores said doing so would violate an amnesty agreement that was part of the peace process that ended the war in 1992.

    Right-wing deaths squads, composed of army officers, were accused of the murders, citing their suspicions that the Jesuits were sympathizers of Marxist rebels.

    The Inter-American Human Rights Commission, part of the Organization of American States (OAS), last month criticized the government's decision not to prosecute army officers who subsequently were implicated in ordering the massacre. "We don't think little of the OAS nor of the UCA, but we do respect peace and its enormous price," Flores told a news conference. "We think highly of the peace and stability we have."

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Threaten Boycott of Christian Unity Week and Opening of Holy Door at St. Paul's

    VATICAN CITY, JAN 9 (ZENIT).- On January 18, first day of Christian Unity Week for , Pope John Paul II will open the Holy Door of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in an ecumenical ceremony. Now some Protestants in Germany are expressing concern about participating in a ceremony related to indulgences.

    Indulgences were the point of departure for the Protestant Reformation. According to modern Protestants, the doctrine of indulgences is in contradiction to justification through grace alone and through faith alone. Some say that the use of indulgences is contrary to the Common Statement on Justification signed by Lutherans and Catholics on October 31, 1999.

    However, the Annex to that document made it clear that "Justification takes place 'by grace alone' (JD 15 and 16), by faith alone, the person is justified 'apart from works' (Rom 3:28, cf. JD 25). 'Grace creates faith not only when faith begins in a person but as long as faith lasts' (Thomas Aquinas, S. Th. II/II 4, 4 ad 3). The working of God's grace does not exclude human action: God effects everything, the willing and the achievement, therefore, we are called to strive (cf. Phil 2:12 ff)." That is, human actions can have a saving effect, by the grace of God. The indulgence is an excercize of the Church's authority to bind and loose, granted by Christ first to Peter, and later to all the Apostles.

    The President of the Lutheran World Federation, Bishop Christian Krause, is currently being pressured by his church not to attend the event. Nonetheless, according to reports in "Die Welt," Krause plans to attend. Anglican Archbishop George Carey and other Protestant leaders have also accepted the Vatican invitation.

    Udo Hahn, spokesman for the United Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany, notes that the problem of indulgences is more keenly felt among Germans than other nationalities. However, he points out that technically, only a Catholic service would be "indulgence capable," so that a Lutheran could attend the ecumenical service without fear of diluting his beliefs. He told "Die Welt," "Bishop Krause will go, despite all speculations."

    Auxiliary Bishop Hans-Jochen Jaschke of Hamburg, Head of Holy Year plans for the German Catholic Bishops' Conference, is working to avoid a reopening of the conflict over indulgences. He assures that those who carefully read the Bull that opened the Holy Year will see that there is no conflict between a correctly understood teaching on indulgences and the teaching on justification. ZE00010922

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January 10, 2000     volume 11, no. 6
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