Papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls observed that the unilateral move by the Patriotic Church comes at a time when "voices have been raised on several fronts" suggesting the possibility of a move toward normalization of relations between the Holy See and the Beijing government. The ordination of new bishops for the Patriotic Church, which rejects ties with the Holy See, will "create obstacles which would certainly block such a development," Navarro-Valls said.
The ordination of bishops without the consent of the Pope is not a new development in China; it has been occurring regularly within the Patriotic Church since the government established that body in 1957. But the new ordinations are scheduled to be performed in Beijing rather than in the individual dioceses. Vatican sources see that move as a direct challenge.
The Chinese slap at the Vatican is particularly clear since the unauthorized episcopal ordinations in China will take place on January 6-- the very day when Pope John Paul II himself will ordain 12 new bishops in St. Peter's Basilica.
Pressed for information on the "voices" which Navarro-Valls cited as predicting moves toward diplomatic relations between Rome and Beijing, Vatican officials insisted that those voices were coming from China. The Vatican has consistently denied reports of secret negotiations with the Beijing leadership.
On December 23, the French newspaper Figaro reported "very advanced" talks between the Vatican and the Chinese government on the prospects for diplomatic relations. But at the time, Navarro-Valls dismissed that report, saying that there was "nothing new" in Vatican relations with Beijing. Similar denials had been issued from Rome after reports that appeared in Hong Kong newspapers in October and again earlier in December, also suggesting that negotiations were underway.
The Chinese government has never wavered from its insistence that diplomatic relations with the Holy See will be impossible until the Vatican breaks off relations with Taiwan, and promises not to intervene in the "internal affairs" of China-- which would include the appointment of bishops. The Holy See, in turn, has insisted that religious freedom would be a precondition for diplomatic ties.
The Italian newspaper Il Messaggero reported on January 4 that the Vatican appeared willing to submit the nomination of bishops to the government for approval-- an arrangement which has been followed with other Communist countries. But the Vatican will not accept the continued independence of a Patriotic Church subject to the control of the Communist Party, the newspaper reported.
Diplomatic relations between China and the Vatican were broken off in 1951, when the papal nuncio-- Archbishop Antonio Riberi-- was expelled from mainland China, and forced to seek refuge in Taiwan. Since that time, a papal nuncio has continued to serve in Taiwan-- although the Vatican has hinted that he would be transferred quickly to Beijing if a diplomatic agreement were reached.
"When CAFOD carried out a MORI poll to launch our debt campaign in 1998, the British public voted overwhelmingly for the Government to mark the millennium by giving a new start to the poorest people in the world," said Julian Filochowski. "Domes, street parties, and Ferris wheels were rejected in favor of a meaningful gesture that would actually change the world for the better. Now, after years of hard campaigning, the British Government has given us the Jubilee declaration that we have been waiting for."
Chancellor Gordon Brown announced the scheme to write off hundreds of millions of pounds in debts owed to it by some of the world's poorest countries a week before Christmas. "It's obviously only a start to completing this process of debt relief and poverty reduction, but it is the important start that I think everyone is looking for," he told the BBC. "It is no longer a question of people talking about what they are going to do, it is now a question of action."
Before the announcement, Filochowski met with Brown and pressed the Government to use its own announcement to put pressure on the governments of Germany, France, and Japan to mark the millennium with a similar gesture.
Addressing a multi-faith gathering in the Houses of Parliament, Blair said that, while technological would always be important, the values of religious teaching should form the basis of any civilized society.
"This new millennium will be a time, I have no doubt at all, of great discoveries and huge scientific advances," he said. "We will no doubt again do things that people could not possibly have dreamt of 10, 20, 30 years ago. But if this gathering means anything, it means an affirmation of the fact that we need direction and purpose and values too."
Blair stressed that "justice, mutual respect, compassion, community" were values shared by all the faiths represented at the 400-strong gathering."
"These are all values that all [faiths] share in common," he continued, "and they are not values that are not incidental to their religious belief, but central to them." He also emphasized the need for tolerance and respect between different faiths and cultures and called for the human race to accept its own frailties.
Representatives of all Britain's major faith attended the gathering which included prayers, readings, and speeches. Together they promised to "build a better society, grounded in values and ideals we share" and to work together "to help bring about a better world now and for generations to come."
Anglican Archbishop George Carey of Canterbury stressed the Christian basis of the millennium celebrations but acknowledged "the increasingly important contribution of other faiths." He added: "This event will, I believe, be seen by future generations as truly historic."
Although it remained on the books, the death penalty had been practically abolished in Ukraine following its adherence to the European Council. Since the mid 90s, a presidential moratorium prevented implementation of such court sentences. In response to an appeal by a group of deputies, the Constitutional Court has now pronounced that the death penalty is in opposition to the country's basic laws, which prohibit cruel punishments, and to the European Council's Convention on the abolition of the death penalty, which was signed by Ukraine when it became a member of this organization in Strasbourg.
There are similar situations to that of Ukraine in Russia and in other Republics of the former Soviet Union. In Turkmenistan the death penalty was formally abolished last Wednesday by a decree of Saparmurad Niyazov, who was proclaimed the previous day President for life by Parliament. Because of this, on December 31 and January 1, the Coliseum in Rome was illuminated in recognition of the step forward in human rights. ZE00010210
Cardinal Lopez Rodriguez also said that the pursuit of common good in a political community, its acting and policy, can not go against the common good of humanity. "Every human being is a child of God. Therefore, we are called to be a family," he stated, noting that there will be peace among men as long as people learn to discover and live this calling.
The Archbishop also emphasized the need for a better distribution of goods, "but without falling in the ideological errors that Marxism brought during the XX century. Neither it's true that the earth lacks resources nor that there is no capacity to feed these thousands of millions of persons," he stated. "It is simply that they are applying a model of development that doesn't contemplate the great richness of humanity, that is, that the resources be distributed with equality."
And so they did. In order to accomplish this feat, they had to keep Milagros artificially alive for a month and a half. She was 34. The baby, a 7-month old boy, weighed 2 lbs. 13 oz. at birth; yesterday his state of health was described as good, although he had slight breathing difficulty and symptoms of anemia. His mother was buried yesterday in Luanco, Asturias. Two of the mother's five brothers have expressed the desire to adopt the baby. ZE00010208
"This truce has been a very good experience, because it has shown that it is possible to create a better environment for negotiations," said Archbishop Giraldo. "We strongly believe that this context, and not one of violence, is the most adequate to start negotiations."
Both the government and the rebels have agreed to resume peace negotiations on January 10. "The effort on both sides to avoid conflict and to keep this context of peace would send a mutual, powerful message of the willingness to reach an agreement," he said. "Peace, in fact, is made up of these apparently small but concrete gestures."
The proposal was immediately supported by Archbishop Isaias Duarte Cancino of Cali, another key Church figure in the conflict. "The truce has been respected by both sides and has shown Colombians that it is possible for us to live in peace," he said.
"Let us keep this environment! Let us all remember that we can choose between peace and violence, between life and death, between a future and the lack of it," Archbishop Duarte concluded.