January 3, 2000
volume 11, no. 1
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Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

John Paul II analyzes the outgoing millenium followed by alternative New Year's Eve in St. Peter's Square JOHN PAUL II ANALYZES THE OUTGOING MILLENIUM ALTERNATIVE NEW YEAR'S EVE
Asks God's Pardon for Mistaken Use of Progress against Humanity
    VATICAN CITY, JAN 1 (ZENIT).- Friday evening, John Paul II celebrated first Vespers in the Vatican Basilica, followed by the "Te Deum," in thanksgiving for all the blessings God has sent over the last 2000 years. In his homily, he examined the high and low points of the last century and millennium.

    Five hundred boys, the "Pueri cantores," whom the Pope called "messengers of that beauty that touches the heart," were the musical interpreters of the ancient hymn, which was sung in alternation between the choir and the congregation.

    "What has most marked the millennium that is now coming to its end? How did the geography of the countries, the situation of peoples and nations, appear a thousand years ago? Who knew then of the existence of the other great continent west of the Atlantic Ocean?" the Pope asked himself. "The discovery of America," he replied, "which began a new era in the history of humanity, constitutes without a doubt an extremely important element in the evaluation of the millennium that ends today."

    "This last century has also been characterized by profound and sometimes rapid events," the Holy Father continued, "that have affected culture and relations among the peoples. It is enough to consider the two destructive ideologies [Nazism and Communism], responsible for innumerable victims that were consumed by them. How many sufferings, how many tragedies! But also, how many surprising conquests! These years were entrusted to humanity by the Creator, and bear the signs of man's efforts, of his failures, and of his victories."

    According to the Pope, "the greatest rist in this change of epoch, is that a great number of our contemporaries are not capable of really identifying with perenneal values and harmonizing them with recent discoveries as they should. This is a great challenge for us, men and women who prepare to ender the year 2000."

    In the course of this rereading of history, John Paul II made a significant act of asking forgiveness, imploring the divine mercy: "We ask forgiveness because in many occasions, the discoveries of science and technology, so important for true human progress, have been used against man."

    The press called it an "Alternative New Year's Eve" celebration: some 130,000 youth gathered in St. Peter's Square to listen to music, hear testimonies, and to pray. The high point, at 12 midnight, was not the fireworks, but rather the appearance of the Holy Father at the window of his apartment to give a New Year's blessing to the assembled crowd.

    Despite the cold, the youths were enthusiastic to be at this very unique New Year's Eve party. "I think this is the best way to begin the millennium," stated Miriam, a 22-year-old Spaniard, who was there in the Square with a group of friends.

    "This Pope has always been with us," added Stefano, a 23-year-old Italian. "He is the best person with whom we could end the year."

    The evening alternated between moments of music and moments of prayer and reflection on the Gospel. Sr. Nirmala, successor to Mother Teresa as superior of the Missionaries of Charity, was present to give witness to works of charity. Claudio Baglioni, one of the big names on the Italian music scene, added excitement to the event.

    A group of athletes from the Italian Sports Center lighted St. Peter's Square with a torch carried from Bethlehem, following the path taken by the Apostle Paul. This connection with Jesus' homeland fit in well with the Holy Father's thoughts when he arrived at midnight. "As we cross the threshold of the new year, I would like to knock on the door of your houses to bring every one of you my heartfelt greeting: Happy New Year to all, in the light that radiates from Bethlehem to the entire universe!"

    As the youth listened attentively in silence, John Paul II told them that they must not lose the certainty of God's love. "Today, as 2000 years ago, Christ is coming to direct the uncertain and faltering steps of peoples and nations with his Gospel, leading them to a future of authentic hope."

    After fireworks, New Year's greetings, and glasses of champagne, the concert continued for some time more. Several groups of youth then went to other churches of Rome to await the dawn in prayer. ZE00010109 and ZE00010108


January 3, 2000
volume 10, no. 1

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