MONDAY    January 24, 2000   vol. 11, no. 16   SECTION THREE

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  • COLLEGE OF CARDINALS series: Cardinal Ricardo J. Vidal
  • Events this day in Church History

    WORLDWIDE NEWS & VIEWS with a Catholic slant:

  • Pope to crack down on the idea that annulments are easy to attain
  • Holy See clarifies that money has nothing to do with obtaining an annulment
  • Holy Father explains his special reasons for traveling to Egypt
  • John Paul II blesses virgin wool for the Pallium on Feast of St. Agnes as church in her honor reopens

  • Filipino-born Cardinal Ricardo J. Vidal has been Archbishop of Cebu 18 years

        We continue with this special series introducing you to the Princes of the Church. Our one-hundred-forty-ninth red-hat we feature, in alphabetical order is nearly 69 year-old Cardinal Ricardo J. Vidal, the Filipino Archbishop of Cebu who has served as shepherd there since 1982. He was elevated to the cardinalate during the Consistory of May 25, 1985 by Pope John Paul II. For more on Cardinal Ricardo J. Vidal, see COLLEGE OF CARDINALS COLLECTION

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    Events that happened this Weekend in Church History

       On this date 882 years ago in 1118 Pope Gelasius II was elected the 161st successor of Peter during a time of great upheaval when antipopes and Roman clans threatened the stability of the Church. He was attacked at the Lateran and escaped, returning under disguise as a pilgrim to reclaim the papal throne but it was short lived for he would die at Cluny a year later on January 29, 1119 while trying to organize a Synod to restore the authenticity of the Papacy. For other time capsule events that happened in Church history on this date, see MILLENNIUM MILESTONES AND MEMORIES

    Historical Events in Church Annals for January 24:

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    WORLDWIDE NEWS & VIEWS with a Catholic slant


    John Paul II Confirms Indissolubility in Face of "Divorce" Mentality
        VATICAN CITY, JAN 21 (ZENIT).- John Paul II confirmed the indissoluble character of marriage, "given the current divorce mentality," when he received officials of the Roman Rota Court this morning. Indissoluble     The Pope was very clear in his address: "Being faithful to Christ, the Church cannot but repeat with firmness the joyful news of the definitive character of conjugal love, which finds in Christ its foundation and strength, to all those that in our day consider it difficult or even impossible to be united to a person for the whole of life and to those who are drawn by a culture that rejects matrimonial indissolubility and laughs openly at spouses' commitment to fidelity."

        During his meeting with the judges of the Roman Rota, the Vatican's ordinary Court of Appeal, known primarily for his specific function in annulment cases, the Pope acknowledged that the Church, after examining a situation through the competent ecclesiastical court, can declare "the nullity of matrimony," that is, that a marriage never existed. Proving that a sacramental marriage never took place is not opposed to the principle of indissolubility.

    Not Even the Pope

        The Holy Father then clarified doubts over his power in this matter, saying that not even the Pope can undo a marriage that is consummated and legitimate. "To hold otherwise would imply that there is no marriage that is absolutely indissoluble, which would be contrary to the sense in which the Church has taught and continues to teach the indissolubility of the marriage bond."

        This is a doctrine taught by the Magisterium that "must be considered as definitive, even though it has not been solemnly declared in a definition," explained the Pope. "Moreover, this is a doctrine confirmed by centuries of practice in the Church, maintained with complete fidelity and heroism even in face of heavy pressures by the powerful of this world."

        The new dean of the Roman Rota, Archbishop Raffaelo FunghiniIn, greeted John Paul II on behalf of the group. He lamented "the levity with which the matrimonial problem is addressed, even by parties who call themselves Catholics, the worrying debilitation of moral defenses, the lack of a sense of sin, the difficulty to accept a choice in life that includes a lasting and binding commitment in good and bad times, the rejection of sacrifice, an erroneous idea of liberty that becomes implicit acceptance of divorce as a solution to humanly adverse and painful situations."

        This statement requires careful attention on the part of the Church and that also challenges ecclesiastical judges, who must evaluate "the influence of the consensus of a mentality like the present one -- radically secularized and opposed to the genuine concept of matrimony as sacrament," Archbishop Funghini said. ZE000012109

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    80% of Roman Rota Sentences Have Been Free

        VATICAN CITY, JAN 21 (ZENIT).- Famous cases like that of Caroline of Monaco, on which the Roman Rota has made a pronouncement, have spread the rumor that a sentence of nullity of matrimony is a privilege of the rich. However, the actual figures of this ecclesiastical Court of Appeals are speak for themselves to the contrary. Moreover, not all the cases this Court handles are related to matrimony.

        In 1999, there were 205 cases decided by sentence or decree of the Roman Rota, 150 of which were related to matrimonial annulment. Among these, 76 were affirmative decisions, with the consequent declaration of nullity, and 75 negative, in other words, with confirmation of the validity of the marriage. As of today, there are 963 cases pending in the Roman Rota.

        Far from being a privilege of the rich, the Court, and the people who work there, including lawyers, have sponsored 123 causes at no charge to the persons involved, that is, 80% of the cases ruled upon.

        The Rota's College of Judges is composed of 20 prelatic auditors, who belong to 10 countries from around the world. ZE00012110

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    John Paul II Himself Responds

        VATICAN CITY, (ZENIT) - The Vatican has officially confirmed John Paul II's visit to Egypt from February 24-26. The purpose of the journey is simple: to visit the places of revelation, and Sinai, the region between the Gulf of Suez and the northern shore of the Red Sea, is the traditionally recognized site of Mount Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments. Today that place is known as Jebel Musa.

        For the Pope, peoples and geography have more value than simply exotic tourism. The witnesses to the great moments of Salvation History -- and today their heirs -- lived in these lands. In the letter John Paul II wrote on June 29 announcing this pilgrimage, he explained that on Mount Horeb -- another biblical name for Mt. Sinai, "Moses received the revelation of God's name, the sign of his mystery and of his powerful saving presence: 'I am Who am' (Ex 3:14)."

        "On the journey through the desert, it was again Sinai that was the setting for the sealing of the Covenant between Yahweh and his people, thus linking the mountain to the gift of the Ten Commandments, the ten 'words' that commit Israel to a life fully obedient to the will of God. In reality, these 'words' are indicative of the pillars of the universal moral law written in every human heart, but they were given to Israel within the context of a mutual pact of fidelity, whereby the people undertook to love God, recalling the wonders he had done in the Exodus, and God guaranteed his enduring kindness: 'I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery' (Ex 20:2). God and the people pledge themselves to each other," the Pope explained.

        "If, in the vision of the burning bush, the place of the 'name' and of the 'plan' of God, Horeb, was above all 'the mountain of faith,' now for the pilgrim people in the desert it became the place of encounter and of the mutual pact, in a sense, therefore, 'the mountain of love.' How often down the centuries, in denouncing the faithlessness of the Covenant people, did the Prophets see it as a kind of 'marital' infidelity, a genuine betrayal of God the bridegroom by the people, his bride (Cf. Jer 2:2; Ezek 16:1-43)," the Holy Father continued.

        While contemplating these passages of revelation, John Paul II admitted in his June letter: "It will probably not be possible for me on my pilgrimage to visit all these places. But I would like at least, please God, to visit Ur, the place of Abraham's origins, and then go to the famous Monastery of Saint Catherine, on Sinai, near the mountain of the Covenant, which in a way speaks of the entire mystery of the Exodus, the enduring paradigm of the new Exodus that was to be fully accomplished on Golgotha," the Holy Father concluded.

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    Church of St. Agnes Restored. Rome's Patron -- Model for Jubilee Youth, Martyred on Site in Piazza Navonna

        VATICAN CITY, JAN 21, 2000 (VIS-ZENIT) - In liturgical memory of the virgin-martyr St. Agnes, for whom the traditional symbol is a lamb, Pope John Paul Friday blessed several lambs whose wool will be used to make the palliums given every year to new metropolitan archbishops as signs of their office.

        In a 1978 document, "Inter Eximina Episcopalis," Pope Paul VI restricted use of the pallium to the Pope and metropolitan archbishops, In 1984 Pope John Paul decreed that it would be conferred on the metropolitans by the Pope on the June 29th solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles.

        The blessing of lambs, who are under one year of age, is traditionally celebrated on the January 21 feast of St. Agnes, who died about 350 and who is buried in the basilica named for her on Rome's Via Nomentana. The lambs are raised by Trappist Fathers of the Abbey of the Three Fountains and the palliums are made from the newly-shorn wool by the sisters of St. Cecilia.

        Usually in attendance at the ceremony in the papal apartments are two Trappist Fathers, two Canons of the Chapter of St. John, the dean of the Roman Rota, two ceremonial officers and two officials from the Office of the Liturgical Ceremonies of the Supreme Pontiff.

        At the same time, ZENIT reported that the Church of St. Agnes in Agony reopened Friday, the saint's feastday, after over 7 years of restoration work. The adolescent martyr is the patron of the city of Rome. She was beheaded after suffering public shame in a brothel on the site of the Church.

        In 1652 Pope Innocent X dedicated this grand Baroque church constructed by the Rainaldis, with finishing touches and a facade by Borromini. The church overlooks Piazza Navonna, which was a stadium in Roman times. There is an account of her trial and the miraculous events connected with it, given her conviction of faith and iron will to preserve her virginity in spite of torture and the threat of death.

        The restoration, which cost $2.8 million, was funded by a number of patrons. The work began in 1992, and was carried out by a group of employees of the Superintendence of Architectural Properties and the "Ente Chiesa Sant'Agnese in Agone," which was given the Church by the Pamphili family in 1992.

        The two notable chapels in the Church are dedicated to St. Agnes and St. Sebastian, famous for his martyrdom by a firing squad of archers. The restorers have described the Sacristy as a church within a church -- the place where the noble family of Pope Innocent X retired to pray.

        Below ground level, under the Church, are remains of emperor Domitian's stadium, the tombs of the Pamphili family, and St. Agnes' place of martyrdom. The restoration of the Church is actually still underway. The cost for the remaining work is double the amount already invested. In addition, and in order to complete this beautiful site, there should be posters explaining the history of the Church and the reason it was dedicated to the young Roman martyr, who is proposed as a model of inspiration for youth coming to Rome for the Jubilee. ZE00012101

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    January 24, 2000     volume 11, no. 16
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