WEDNESDAY    January 19, 2000   vol. 11, no. 13   SECTION TWO

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WORLDWIDE NEWS & VIEWS with a Catholic slant


    VATICAN ( -- "'Unity, Unity!' That cry, which I heard in Bucharest during my visit, comes back strongly to me now like an echo-- 'Unity, Unity!'-- in the cries of the people gathered for this ceremony: Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, Evangelicals, all together crying: 'Unity!'"

    Those were the words with which Pope John Paul II improvised the conclusion of his homily at a January 18 ecumenical ceremony in Rome. Together with representatives of all the major Christian churches, the Pope prayed at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, seeking God's grace for the cause of Christian unity. The celebration marked the opening of the annual week of prayer for that same intention. The ceremony at the Roman basilica also included the opening of a Holy Door-- the final such gesture for the beginning of the Holy Year.

    "Thank you for raising your voices-- for that consoling voice of our brothers and sisters," the Pope said. "Perhaps we can now leave this basilica shouting, 'Unity! Unity!'"

    The Holy Father-- who appeared unusually energetic throughout the event-- was assisted by the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey; and by the Orthodox Metropolitan Athanasius of Heliopolis, the representative of the Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, as he pushed open the Holy Door. More than 50 representatives of other Christian churches assisted in the ceremony.

    The participants in the ceremony, in their differing religious vestments, formed a colorful procession in the vestibule of the basilica, and were warmly applauded by a large crowd as the approached the Holy Door. After opening the door, Pope John Paul entered the basilica alone, carrying the book of the Gospel. He was soon followed by representatives of the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Russian Orthodox Church, and the World Lutheran Federation.

    "We realize that we are brothers who are still divided, but with a firm determination we have placed ourselves on the path that will bring us toward full unity in Christ," the Holy Father said during the ceremony inside the basilica. Asking how the Church-- the Body of Christ-- could remain divided, he said that such divisions show "the human weakness of Christians."

    "During this year of grace," the Pontiff continued, "there should grow within each one of us the recognition of our personal responsibility regarding the breaks that have marked the history of the Mystical Body of Christ." These wounds can be healed, he continued, only by beginning with "interior conversion," so that ecumenical dialogue "goes beyond the limits of an exchange of ideas, and becomes an exchange of gifts-- a dialogue in charity and in truth."

    "Let us as Christ's pardon for everything in the history of the Church that has harmed his plan for unity," the Pope urged. The pursuit that unity, he said, could itself become an instrument of evangelization in the new millennium.

    After the Pope's homily, the representatives of the Christian churches exchanges the Kiss of Peace. The ceremony concluded with a profession of common faith, which was recited in Greek, Latin, and German by the representatives of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria, the Orthodox Patriarch of Romania, and the President of the Union of Utrecht.

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    WASHINGTON, DC ( - The US Supreme Court today rejected an appeal of state laws that grant Good Friday as a legal holiday and prepared to receive arguments on Wednesday in whether so-called "bubble zones" around abortion clinics are constitutional.

    In the first case, the high court, without comment, rejected a retired Maryland teacher's appeal in which she claimed that the state's closing of public schools on Good Friday and Easter Monday violated the separation of church and state. Thirteen states designate Good Friday as a legal holiday but only three -- Maryland, Illinois, and North Dakota -- require all public schools to close on Good Friday. A federal appeals court has struck down the Illinois law, and the Supreme Court has not said whether it will review the ruling.

    The Maryland law was upheld by the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals after it was challenged by Judith Koenick, a former teacher who is Jewish. She said the law "sends the message to non-Christians that the state finds Good Friday, and thus Christianity, to be a religion worth honoring while their religion or nonreligion is not of equal importance."

    On Wednesday, the justices will hear arguments on whether a 1993 Colorado law requiring pro-life demonstrators to maintain a specific distance from people entering abortion clinics violates free speech or is a legal protection against harassment.

    James Henderson of the Virginia-based American Center for Law and Justice, which represents the protesters, contends that the law tramples on free-speech rights. "My way of sidewalk counseling is to be gentle and to be compassionate. Colorado's way is to put me so far away I have to scream and yell," said Jeanne Hill, one of three pro-lifers challenging the law. Fourteen states and several cities have passed laws creating "bubble zones" around people entering clinics and "buffer zones" around the clinics themselves.

    The Supreme Court returned the Colorado case to state courts in 1997 to reconsider it in wake of the high court's decision in a New York case, in which the high court allowed pro-lifers to interact with women on public sidewalks as long as they stayed at least 15 feet from the clinic's entrance. A Colorado appeals court again upheld the law, noting it was enacted by lawmakers, while the New York case involved a judge's injunction.

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    GLASGOW ( - Scotland's Cardinal Thomas Winning came under fire yesterday after he branded homosexuality a "perversion."

    Speaking in support of businessman Brian Souter who has offered millions of British pounds to help fight the repeal of Clause 28 -- the so-called anti-homosexual law -- the cardinal said: "I deplore homosexual acts."

    "I hesitate to use the word perversion but let's face up to the truth," he said. "What pains me is that the silent majority are so silent that the silence is deafening. I wish to God they would speak up. But when you do say something about it, you are accused of homophobia which is absolute rubbish."

    He added, "I have no objection to anybody. I'm supposed to love my neighbor and I try to do that as much as I can. But I will not stand for this kind of behavior which is now being regarded as wholesome and healthy."

    He continued: "Homosexuality is promoted every day. It's promoted by people who are on the streets, it's promoted by people who are attracted to others. We only need to look at some of the pamphlets available to see just exactly what is in place to put into schools. I am concerned that children might be converted by some of the literature. There's no doubt about it."

    Several British trade unions have advised members to boycott Stagecoach buses, the company owned by Souter and to avoid using Virgin trains and planes in which Souter is a major shareholder.

    But Cardinal Winning said such action was "unacceptable" and added: "I deplore the witch-hunt they have started against him."

    Peter Tatchell, leader of gay rights group OutRage!, accused Cardinal Winning of championing discrimination. "He is acting like the leaders of the Afrikaner Church in South Africa during the apartheid regime," he told today's Times newspaper. "They advocated discrimination against black people. He is supporting discrimination against gay and lesbian people. The cardinal is storing up prejudice and intolerance. His scaremongering is provoking false fears and worries."

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Vatican Jubilee Committee Will Provide 600 Free Meals Daily

    VATICAN CITY, JAN 17 (ZENIT).- The Jubilee Committe has launched the "Pope's Charity Project" to feed the homeless of Rome and poor pilgrims. Since the beginning of the new year, 7 homeless persons have died in Italy because of the cold, making their tragic lives news only after their deaths.

    In keeping with the project, within the next two weeks 500 meals will be distributed free of charge in Rome every day (including a plate of hot Italian pasta, a snack and a beverage). The distribution points are the four main Basilicas of the Holy Year: St. Peter's in the Vatican, St. John Lateran, St. Paul Outside the Walls and St. Mary Major.

    In order to implement this project, the Vatican counts on the support of food business enterprises that will make available much of the goods that will be distributed.

    200 meals a day will be distributed on the Via Pfeiffer, next to the Vatican; 100 in the Passionist Convent near St. John Lateran, and an additional 200 in St. Paul's and St. Mary Major, on land owned by the Vatican.

    According to Angelo Scelzo, director of the Communications Office of the Vatican Jubilee Committee, the "Pope's Charity Project" is directed primarily "to the neediest of the city, to the indigent, and to pilgrims of scarce resources, to whom the Jubilee wishes to give special attention," at John Paul II's insistence.

    The Jubilee Committee has also approached the religious communities in the Eternal City to undertake similar initiatives. One of them is "Casa Dono di Maria," at No. 9 Via del Santo Ufficio in the Vatican. This is the center opened by Mother Teresa of Calcutta and her religious, at John Paul II's request. Normally, this center gives food to anyone in need at specified times. It is one of six houses of the Missionaries of Charity in Rome.

    Another Catholic organization that is very dynamic in the field is the St. Egidio Community, which not only feeds hundreds of beggars every day, but also goes out to find them in the freezing streets. The members of this Community commit themselves to "adopt" one of these men and women marginalized by the consumer society, and become their friend. The members say that the hardest part of life for the homeless is generally loneliness.

    In addition, 400 houses of Italian dioceses and religious institutes have confirmed that they will offer accommodation to Jubilee pilgrims at economical prices. Some 40 communities will offer free hospitality. Together, these two endeavors add up to 26,000 beds available for those coming to Rome during the year 2000.

    The Committee for the Preparation of the Jubilee has used the money obtained from the sale of the Jubilee's official logo to create a Solidarity Fund dedicated to help poorer pilgrims. Trips and stays in Rome will be paid for by this Fund, whose president, Völker Goetz, said that to date the Fund has raised $16 million.

    Combining the data of these Catholic institutions, it is estimated that around 6,000 persons live on the streets of Rome. ZE00011703

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In Continuity with Spirit of "Pentecost '98"

    ROME, JAN 18 (ZENIT).- For the first time ever, the founders and directors of new Movements and Ecclesial Communities met in Rome to spend some time together, and exchange ideas, experiences, and good times.

    The meeting, an initiative of Chiara Lubich, founder of the Focolare Movement, took place at the Pontifical Athenaeum "Regina Apostolorum," the univeristy directed by the Legionaries of Christ. The meeting was a follow-up to the commitment made by the movements in the presence of John Paul II during the historic 1998 Pentecost encounter, which gathered some 150,000 members of these new Communities in St. Peter's Square. The Holy Father considers these Movements and Communities a "sign" of the work of the Holy Spirit in our times.

    On that occasion, Lubich had publicly assumed the responsibility to become a link of unity and communion among all these organizations, a responsibility she carried out by calling this meeting. In addition to Chiara Lubich, professor Andrea Riccardi, founder of the St. Egidio Community; Fr. Marcial Maciel, founder and general director of the "Regnum Christi" Movement; Fr. Michael Marmann, president of Schönstatt; and Salvatore Martinez, general coordinator of Renewal in the Spirit in Italy, attended yesterday's meeting.

    Following this event, which was outstanding for its cordiality and spontaneity, the participants bid one another farewell promising another get together in the near future. The participants gave special congratulations to Lubich, who will be celebrating her 80th birthday later this month. ZE00011807

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    MATARAM, Indonesia ( - Police fired rubber bullets at rioters in Mataram today, to prevent them from reaching Christians sheltering at the police station as violence against Christians escalated on the Indonesian island of Lombok.

    A police spokesman said security forces had gone to full alert as rioting by extremist Muslims entered a second day, emptying the resort area of tourists. He said one person had died so far after being hit by a rubber bullet and 52 people have been arrested.

    The fighting erupted on Monday at a rally of tens of thousands of Muslims in Lombok, protesting the government's inability to stem violence in the Malukus region between Christians and Muslims that has claimed over 2,000 lives in the past year. Some Muslim leaders in Indonesia have called for a holy war against Christians and the Lombok fighting appeared directed at them as most of the churches on the island were destroyed.

    Indonesia is the most populous Muslim majority nation in the world, although the Maluku region, formerly the Dutch colony known as the Spice Islands, has a sizeable Christian minority. The country's worst economic crisis in decades as well as political turmoil have escalated tensions between the groups, spilling into outright violence between religious gangs. Many Christians are ethnic Chinese and are perceived as being wealthier than the general populace, much as Jews were portrayed in 1930s Nazi Germany.

    President Abdurrahman Wahid, a Muslim, has vehemently rejected the idea of taking armed action against Christians, and threatened harsh action against radicals who tried to fuel the conflict.

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    VATICAN CITY, JAN 18 (ZENIT).- There was real commotion in Rome after receiving the news of the murder of Mexican priest, Fr. José Ignacio Flores Gaytan, who died strangled in the city of Torreon, after being knifed 13 times.

    According to authorities, the killer was a robber who wanted to steal the priest's car and his cellular phone.

    The news was published today on the front page of the Vatican's L'Osservatore Romano newspaper, and in "Avvenire," the newspaper of the Italian Episcopal Conference; it was also carried on Vatican Radio.

    After hearing the news, observers of religious affairs said that in many countries of Africa and Latin America, common delinquency is specifically targeting priests and men and women religious, as they are usually vulnerable, defenseless victims who often direct assistance structures that have materials that malefactors wish to steal. ZE00011808

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January 19, 2000     volume 11, no. 13
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