THURSDAY     March 23, 2000    vol. 11, no. 59    SECTION THREE

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SECTION THREE Contents: Go immediately to the article:
  • JOHN PAUL II's "JUBILEE JOURNEY" - Day THREE: Homily and Address to Refugees
  • Events that occurred this day in Church History

    WORLDWIDE NEWS & VIEWS with a Catholic slant:

  • Papal Mass extra special for 2000 youth in Jordan
  • Yasser's wife sees Pope's remarks as political statement
  • Security extra tight for Papal visit

    Homily at Manger Square and later the Address to Palestinian Refugees


      "To us a Child is born, to us a Son is given... and His name will be called 'Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God... Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6).

      Your Beatitude,
      Brother Bishops and Priests,
      Dear Brothers and Sisters,

      1. The words of the Prophet Isaiah foreshadow the Saviour's coming into the world. And it was here in Bethlehem that the great promise was fulfilled. For two thousand years, generation after generation of Christians have pronounced the name of Bethlehem with deep emotion and joyful gratitude. Like the shepherds and the wise men, we too have come to find the Child, "wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger" (Lk 2:12). Like so many pilgrims before us, we kneel in wonder and adoration before the ineffable mystery which was accomplished here.

          On the first Christmas of my ministry as Successor of the Apostle Peter I mentioned publicly the great desire I had to celebrate the beginning of my Pontificate in Bethlehem at the cave of the Nativity (cf. Homily at Midnight Mass, 24 December 1978, No. 3). That was not possible then; and has not been possible until now. But today, how can I fail to praise the God of all mercies, whose ways are mysterious and whose love knows no end, for bringing me, in this year of the Great Jubilee, to the place of the Saviour's birth? Bethlehem is the heart of my Jubilee Pilgrimage. The paths that I have taken lead me to this place and to the mystery that it proclaims.

          I thank Patriarch Michel Sabbah for his kind words of welcome and I cordially embrace all the members of the Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land. Significant is the presence, in the place which saw the birth of the Son of God in the flesh, of many of the Eastern Catholic Communities which form the rich mosaic of our catholicity. With affection in the Lord, I greet the Representatives of the Orthodox Churches and of the Ecclesial Communities present in the Holy Land.

          I am grateful to the officials of the Palestinian Authority who are taking part in our celebration and joining us in praying for the well-being of the Palestinian people.

      2. "Do not be afraid! Listen, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you: He is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:10-11).

          The joy announced by the angel is not a thing of the past. It is a joy of today the eternal today of God's salvation which embraces all time, past, present and future. At the dawn of the new millennium, we are called to see more clearly that time has meaning because here Eternity entered history and remains with us for ever. The words of the Venerable Bede express the idea clearly: "Still today, and every day until the end of the ages, the Lord will be continually conceived in Nazareth and born in Bethlehem" (In Ev. S. Lucae, 2: PL 92, 330). Because it is always Christmas in Bethlehem, every day is Christmas in the hearts of Christians. And every day we are called to proclaim the message of Bethlehem to the world "good news of great joy": the Eternal Word, "God from God, Light from Light", has become flesh and has made his dwelling among us (cf. Jn 1:14).

          The newborn Child, defenceless and totally dependent on the care of Mary and Joseph, entrusted to their love, is the world's entire wealth. He is our all! In this Child the Son Who is given to us we find rest for our souls and the true bread that never fails the Eucharistic Bread foreshadowed even in the name of this town: Beth-lehem, the house of bread. God lies hidden in the Child; divinity lies hidden in the Bread of Life. Adoro te devote latens Deitas! Quae sub his figuris vere latitas!

      3. The great mystery of divine self-emptying, the work of our redemption unfolding in weakness: this is no easy truth. The Savior was born in the night in the darkness, in the silence and poverty of the cave of Bethlehem. "The people who walked in darkness has seen a great light: on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone", declares the Prophet Isaiah (9:2). This is a place that has known "the yoke" and "the rod" of oppression. How often has the cry of innocents been heard in these streets? Even the great church built over the Savior's birth-place stands like a fortress battered by the strife of the ages. The Crib of Jesus lies always in the shadow of the Cross. The silence and poverty of the birth in Bethlehem are one with the darkness and pain of the death on Calvary. The Crib and the Cross are the same mystery of redemptive love; the body which Mary laid in the manger is the same body offered up on the Cross.

      4. Where then is the dominion of the "Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God and Prince of Peace" of which the Prophet Isaiah speaks? What is the power to which Jesus himself refers when he says: "All power has been given to me in heaven and on earth" (Mt 28:18)? Christ's kingdom is "not of this world" (Jn 18:36). His kingdom is not the play of force and wealth and conquest which appears to shape our human history. It is rather the power to vanquish the Evil One, the ultimate victory over sin and death. It is the power to heal the wounds which disfigure the image of the Creator in his creatures. Christ's is the power to transform our weak nature and make us capable, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, of peace with one another and communion with God himself. "To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God" (Jn 1:12). This is the message of Bethlehem today and for ever. This is the extraordinary gift which the Prince of Peace brought into the world two thousand years ago.

      5. In that peace, I greet all the Palestinian people, aware as I am that this is an especially important time in your history. I pray that the recently concluded Pastoral Synod in which all the Catholic Churches took part will encourage you and strengthen among you the bonds of unity and peace. In this way you will bear ever more effective witness to the faith, building up the Church and serving the common good. I offer the holy kiss to the Christians of the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities. I greet the Muslim Community of Bethlehem and pray for a new era of understanding and cooperation among all the peoples of the Holy Land. Today we look back to one moment two thousand years ago, but in spirit we embrace all time. We gather in one place, but we encompass the whole earth. We celebrate one newborn Child, but we embrace all men and women everywhere. Today from Manger Square, we cry out to every time and place, and to every person, "Peace be with you! Do not be afraid!" These words resound through the pages of Scripture. They are divine words, spoken by Jesus Himself after He rose from the dead: "Do not be afraid!" (Matthew 28:10). They are the words of the Church to you today. Do not be afraid to preserve your Christian presence and heritage in the very place where the Saviour was born. In the cave of Bethlehem, to use the words of Saint Paul in today's Second Reading, "God's grace has been revealed" (Titus 2:11). In the Child who is born, the world has received "the mercy promised to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants for ever" (cf. Lk 1:54-55). Dazzled by the mystery of the Eternal Word made flesh, we leave all fear behind and we become like the angels, glorifying God who gives the world such gifts. With the Heavenly choir, we "sing a new song" (Ps 96:1): "Glory to God in the highest Heaven, and peace on earth to those whom He loves" (Luke 2:14).

          O Child of Bethlehem, Son of Mary and Son of God, Lord of all time and Prince of Peace, "the same yesterday, today and for ever" (Heb 13:8): as we set forth into the new millennium, heal all our wounds, strengthen our steps, open our hearts and minds to "the loving kindness of the heart of our God Who visits us like the dawn from on high" (Luke 1:78). Amen.


      Dear Friends,
      Dear Brother and Sister Refugees,

      1. It is important to me that my pilgrimage to the birthplace of Jesus Christ, on this the two thousandth anniversary of that extraordinary event, includes this visit to Dheisheh. It is deeply significant that here, close to Bethlehem, I am meeting you, refugees and displaced persons, and representatives of the organizations and agencies involved in a true mission of mercy. Throughout my pontificate I have felt close to the Palestinian people in their sufferings.

          I greet each one of you, and I hope and pray that my visit will bring some comfort in your difficult situation. Please God it will help to draw attention to your continuing plight. You have been deprived of many things which represent basic needs of the human person: proper housing, health care, education and work. Above all you bear the sad memory of what you were forced to leave behind, not just material possessions, but your freedom, the closeness of relatives, and the familiar surroundings and cultural traditions which nourished your personal and family life. It is true that much is being done here in Dheisheh and in other camps to respond to your needs, especially through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. I am particularly pleased at the effectiveness of the presence of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine and many other Catholic organizations. But there is still much to be done.

      2. The degrading conditions in which refugees often have to live; the continuation over long periods of situations that are barely tolerable in emergencies or for a brief time of transit; the fact that displaced persons are obliged to remain for years in settlement camps: these are the measure of the urgent need for a just solution to the underlying causes of the problem. Only a resolute effort on the part of leaders in the Middle East and in the international community as a whole inspired by a higher vision of politics as service of the common good can remove the causes of your present situation. My appeal is for greater international solidarity and the political will to meet this challenge. I plead with all who are sincerely working for justice and peace not to lose heart. I appeal to political leaders to implement agreements already arrived at, and to go forward towards the peace for which all reasonable men and women yearn, to the justice to which they have an inalienable right.

      3. Dear young people, continue to strive through education to take your rightful place in society, despite the difficulties and handicaps that you have to face because of your refugee status. The Catholic Church is particularly happy to serve the noble cause of education through the extremely valuable work of Bethlehem University, founded as a sequel to the visit of my predecessor Pope Paul VI in 1964.

          Dear refugees, do not think that your present condition makes you any less important in God's eyes!

          Never forget your dignity as his children! Here at Bethlehem the Divine Child was laid in a manger in a stable; shepherds from nearby fields who were your ancestors were the first to receive the heavenly message of peace and hope for the world. God's design was fulfilled in the midst of humility and poverty.

          Dear aid workers and volunteers, believe in the task that you are fulfilling! Genuine and practical solidarity with those in need is not a favour conceded, it is a demand of our shared humanity and a recognition of the dignity of every human being. Let us all turn with confidence to the Lord, asking him to inspire those in a position of responsibility to promote justice, security and peace, without delay and in an eminently practical way.

          The Church, through her social and charitable organizations, will continue to be at your side and to plead your cause before the world. God bless you all!

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    Events that happened today in Church History

       On this day two 445 years ago, Pope Julius III, the 221st successor of Peter, passed away after a five year pontificate in which he reopened the landmark Council of Trent, first convened by his predecessor Pope Paul III in order to counter the Protestant Reformation. Julius also sought to reestablish the Church in England with Mary Tudor though that was thwarted by Elizabeth. For other time capsule events that happened in Church history on this date, see MILLENNIUM MILESTONES AND MEMORIES

    Historical Events in Church Annals for March 23:

    • 1324 A.D.
    • Pope John XXII excommunicates the Holy Roman Emperor Louis IV for conspiracy.

    • 1534 A.D.
    • Pope Clement VII upholds the marriage of Catherine of Aragon to England's King Henry VIII, further infuriating the British monarch.

    • 1540 A.D.
    • Henry VIII confiscates the last remaining Roman Catholic monastery in England - Waltham Abbey.

    • 1555 A.D.
    • Death of Pope Julius III, 221st successor of Peter. Born in Rome, he was elected on February 8, 1550. During his five year pontificate he reopened the Council of Trent and continued to oppose the Lutheran doctrine. When Mary Tudor ascended the throne of England, he sent a legate to reestablish the Catholic Faith there. He also celebrated the Tenth Jubilee in the year he was elected.

    • 1606 A.D.
    • Death of Saint Toribio Alfonso de Mogrovejo on his way back to Lima, Peru after a mission in a Peruvian Indian village. For more see DAILY LITURGY.

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    WORLDWIDE NEWS & VIEWS with a Catholic slant:

    Today in the Holy Land:

        Today the Holy Father remains in Jerusalem, beginning with a private Mass in the Chapel of the Cenacle - the site of the Last Supper. He will visit chief Rabbis, then President Weizman before going to the Hall of Remembrance at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial where he will give a much anticipated speech and finish the day with an interreligious meeting of leaders at Notre Dame Institute of Jerusalem. For more coverage of Day Four, see tomorrow's issue.


        AMMAN 22 (NE) Wednesday morning Pope John Paul II presided yesterday at a Eucharist celebration during which 2000 boys received their First Communion. The Mass was celebrated at Amman stadium, in Jordan. "Jesus is your best friend; he knows what is in your hearts. Stay close to him, and in your prayers remember the Church and the Pope," said the Holy Father to the children making their First Holy Communion.

        "The Successor of Peter is a pilgrim in this land blessed by the presence of Moses and Elijah, where Jesus himself taught and worked miracles, where the early Church bore witness in the lives of many saints and martyrs," recalled the Pope in his homily, during which he called lay people to "not be afraid to take your proper place and responsibility in the Church! Be brave witnesses to the Gospel in your families and in society!" "Build your future on the solid foundation of God's love, and remain ever united in Christ's Church!" said the Pope moments after to the young people present.

        During the evening, Pope John Paul II traveled by helicopter to Wadi Al-Kharrar, a traditional baptismal site on the east bank of the Jordan River. There, in the presence of 2,000 people, the Pope presided a prayer service. After the prayer service, the Holy Father traveled by helicopter to Queen Alia Airport in Amman, Jordan, where following a farewell ceremony he departed for Tel Aviv, Israel.

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      Arafat's wife signal's Holy Father's remarks as a significant political statement

        While the Vatican tried to warn the media and politicians not to make the leap that the Pope's remarks yesterday mean total recognition of Palestinian statehood, Shua Tawii, wife of Yasser Arafat, saw great political significance in his remarks that veered from the spiritual to the political because they are both so intricately intertwined and inherent in the message of the angels "Peace on earth to men of good will". continued inside.


        BETHLEHEM ( -- The wife of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat saw great political significance in the visit of Pope John Paul II to Bethlehem-- despite Vatican disavowals of any political message.

        Suha Tawil-- who is a baptized Christian, although she also practices Islam-- told reporters that most Palestinians are "joyous" and "pride" to welcome the Pope to their territory. But she made a point of the fact that John Paul kissed the ground of Palestinian territory-- a gesture which, she insisted, "sends us a clear message: the Pope is speaking in favor of a free and independent Palestinian state."

        (Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls insisted that the papal gesture had no such significance. He pointed out that Pope John Paul has habitually kissed the ground upon his arrival in each new land.)

        Questioned about the status of Jerusalem-- which is claimed by both Israel and Palestine as a capital-- Suha Tawil deferred, saying that such questions were beyond her competence. However, she did say, "I think there is a place for everyone in Jerusalem."

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      Israeli police doing double-time protecting Pope under Operation "Old Friend"

         Though there have been several outbreaks of ugly protests against the Pope, including a death threat from one Meir Baranes, a radical with a criminal record, overall the Israeli police are handling security extremely well. In addition, the cooperation of Muslims has been commendable including yesterday's call to prayer by the muezzin that was held up and shortened until after the Holy Father had finished his homily so as not to disturb the Pope. Those in attendance applauded the Islamic gesture when the prayer call went out. continued inside.


        JERUSALEM ( - Israeli police on Wednesday arrested an ultra-Orthodox Jew for placing a death curse on Pope John Paul II, similar to a curse placed on slain Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin before his assassination in 1995.

        The suspect, Meir Baranes, has a criminal record, according to police who said he will be held under a court order until the end of the papal visit on Sunday. Baranes, and a fringe group of ultra-Orthodox Jews placed the curse on the Pope at a midnight rite at a cemetery in northern Israel, the official said.

        Meanwhile, hundreds of Palestinian youths threw stones at Palestinian Authority police after the Holy Father visited a refugee camp today. Witnesses said police tried to push back curious onlookers and beat several of them with batons. In response, the crowd threw stones at the police, highlighting increasing discontent with PLO leader Yasser Arafat's rule.

        After the initial clash died down, others tried to smash the police barricades set up for the papal visit. Hundreds of protesters marched in the streets as demonstrators and police alike fired shots in the air.

        Earlier, in Bethlehem's Manger Square, the papal Mass was briefly interrupted by the Muslim call to prayer. As the Holy Father finished his homily, the muezzin at the Omar Mosque on the side of the square began his noon-time call of "Allahu Akbar" or "Glory to God." The Pope and thousands of worshippers waited for several minutes in prayerful silence until the prayer call ended.

        Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the brief interruption of the Mass underscored religious coexistence. "It was just something that happened in a very mutual and respectful way," Navarro-Valls said, noting that the starting time of the Mass had been delayed.

        Latin-rite Patriarch Michel Sabbah spoke of the unifying symbolism of the Muslim call to prayer in the middle of a Catholic liturgy. "We spoke of love and the muezzin said Allah Akbar and both are an assertion of Muslim and Christian unity within this city," said the patriarch.

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