Was German bishop misquoted by media in calling for resignation of the Holy Father?
On January 9, a German television interviewer had asked Bishop Lehmann whether the Pope might consider stepping down at the age of 80, because of his declining physical condition. The bishop responded: "The Holy Father has the power to make a brave admission, saying: 'I can no longer perform my duty adequately.'" Bishop Lehmann told the audience of the "Deutschlandfunk" radio program that he felt sure "the Pope would do so if he felt he was no longer capable of guiding the Church authoritatively."
On the following day, after his comments received front-page coverage in the Italian press, Bishop Lehmann appeared on Vatican Radio to clarify his remarks. "I never asked for the Holy Father's resignation," he said. "That would not be my style, and it would not correspond to my thinking."
Bishop Lehmann said that the Pope appears to be "in good form, intellectually," and had taken a keen interest in the opening of the Holy Year. He added that he was quite certain Pope John Paul "would have the courage and the strength, if one day he deems it necessary, to make his own decision on this matter." The German bishop said he was "extremely upset" with the Italian reporters who had, he charged, distorted his remarks.
The only historical precedent for a papal resignation came in the case of Pope Celestine V, who stepped down in 1294. At the time, a number of cardinals expressed doubts about the validity of that resignation, even as the conclave elected Boniface VIII.
There have been several other historical incidents in which popes left office, always under questionable circumstances. Pope Martin I, who was exiled by the Byzantine emperor in 653, tacitly approved the election of a successor, Pope Eugene I. In 964 Pope Benedict V, often seen as an anti-pope, was deposed by Emperor Otto I, and accepted that verdict, renouncing his pontificate. Pope Sylvester III was expelled by his rival, Pope Benedict IX, in 1045; Benedict IX in turn abdicated several months later in favor of Pope Gregory VI. And in 1415, during the great Western Schism--when there were three men claiming title to Peter's throne--Pope Gregory XII voluntarily resigned after the Council of Constance.
Pope John Paul II himself addressed the question of papal resignation in his apostolic constitution Universi Dominici Gregis, concerning the procedures for a papal conclave. The Pope cited #332 of the Code of Canon Law: "Should it happen that the Roman Pontiff resigns from his office, it is required for validity that the resignation be freely made and properly manifested, but it is not necessary that it be accepted by anyone."
The ceremony will take place in the atrium of the basilica, which is built on the site where-- according to tradition-- the Apostle Paul was buried in the year 67. The service will include readings from Scripture and the singing of hymns, after which the participants will join the Holy Father for lunch at a neighboring Benedictine abbey.
The Pontifical Council for Christian Unity has not yet released a full list of participants, pending some late responses to the invitation. However, Vatican sources indicate that 35 church bodies have already confirmed their intent to participate-- in many cases, sending two or more representatives. Many of the participants will be housed at the St. Martha House inside the walls of the Vatican.
The patriarchs of the Orthodox churches have, for the most part, named prominent metropolitans to represent them at the service. The Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, will himself attend.
There were some 20,000 participants, who gathered in a semi-circle that extended over more than half a mile. The celebration was presided by Catholic Bishops of the Latin and Greek rites, and by Orthodox and Anglican bishops. There were also representatives from the Armenian, Coptic-Orthodox, Syrian-Orthodox, Maronite, Chaldean, and Lutheran Churches. The homily was given by Malachite Bishop George Elmour.
Following the Liturgy of the Word, the participants renewed their baptismal promises. Simultaneously, 2,000 candles were lit on the altar representing the 2,000 years of light brought by Christ into the world. At the end of the ceremony, seven doves were released as a sign of peace.
The celebration ended with performances by various Church choirs and the Jordanian army's military band. The civilian authorities openly expressed their enthusiasm over the event. Indeed, it was regarded by some as a rehearsal for John Paul II's visit to the country next March. The event was covered by several national and foreign television stations.
4% of Jordan's inhabitants, who number a total of 5.5 million, are Christian. Catholics constitute about 1%, or some 66,000. ZE00011004
Needless to say, the configuration of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Vatican has changed considerably since the 1400's. The most obvious change is numerical, as today there are 170 countries from around the world that have ambassadors in the Vatican. Added to these are the special agreements between the Vatican and Russia, Switzerland and the Palestinian Liberation Organization. A fourth exceptional case is the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, whose sovereignty is internationally recognized, although it has only a castle on the island of Malta as territory.
The most recent countries to establish relations with the Vatican are Yemen and two archipelagos of Oceania, the Republic of Palau and the Cook Islands. Keeping in mind that there are 185 countries represented at the U.N., it can readily be seen that the "black holes" in Vatican diplomacy are being quickly reduced. But there are still no relations with Rome on the part of geographic areas connected with the Marxist bloc -- China, North Korea and Vietnam; or, with exception of Yemen, the Islamic axis -- the most important being Saudi Arabia.
The Vatican is determined to maintain cordial and official relations with all countries. Indeed, over the last few months the press has reported efforts to establish nunciatures in China, Vietnam and North Korea. Through such agreements, the Church hopes to defend the right of religious liberty for Catholics in all the countries of the world. As Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the top exponent of Vatican foreign policy, stated recently, the Vatican furthers a strategy that ultimately seeks "to carry the leaven of the Gospel to the life of individuals and nations." ZE00011007
The measures were put in place as millions of pilgrims are expected to descend on the Holy Land during 2000 as part of Jubilee Year celebrations and a visit by Pope John Paul II in March.
The cameras feed into a central monitoring station where police on Sunday sat before rows of video screens scrutinizing visitors to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Garden of Gethsemane.
Israel has stepped up security measures in the country over the past year, as police added fringe apocalyptic groups predicting the end of the world to come in 2000 to the list of possible problem groups which already include extremist Jews and Muslims.
Clinton said during his weekly radio address that his 2001 budget proposal would include money for contraceptives aimed at poor women and teenagers, bringing the total budget amount to $274 million. "By making sure women have family planning choices, we are helping to make abortion more rare," Clinton said. Planned Parenthood of America, the nation's largest abortion provider, receives millions of dollars every year from the US government under the "family planning" appropriation.
Clinton also said he will push Congress to lift restrictions on funding international population control groups that promote abortion in the countries where they work.
Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, warned that money earmarked for international family planning can be shifted easily to "abortion-related activities." He added, "By choosing these abortionists and abortion lobbyists as our overseas representatives for family planning, we send a message that the US is on the side of the abortionists, not the babies."
The remarkable statue, which represents a very young pregnant Mary, was sculptured by Gregory Misner and crowned by John Paul II. Over the past two years, the statue was venerated in 35 countries around the world, by millions of faithful in preparation for the Great Jubilee of the year 2000.
The statue arrived in Bethlehem on December 24, for the proclamation of the Holy Year. After a brief stay in Jerusalem, the statue finally arrived "home" in Nazareth, according to Capuchin Fr. Giovanni Maria Leonardi, who organized this worldwide Marian pilgrimage.
After participating yesterday in the consecration of Nazareth and the entire Holy Land to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Fr. Leonardi is returning to his monastery in Italy to write a book on his trip around the world with Mary's statue. The highlights of the pilgrimage will be recorded in a video-cassette. ZE00011003
Needless to say, some of the page's visitors were offended the deception. Consequently, one of the organizations that manages the Internet domains, Network Solutions, has decided not to renew the license for the domain vaticano.org to the "Luther Blisset" software society, a group based in Rome that has taken similar initiatives in the past.
Last Christmas, a similar case occured with http://www.vatican.com , which featured irreverant doctored photos of the Holy Father. That page now comes up with the test page for the installation of the web server.
Network Solutions disclosed it had sold the vaticano.org domain to an Italian Catholic association that will report on the Jubilee. For the time being, the new page is not available; it appears with the message "under construction." ZE00011001