DAILY CATHOLIC     NEW YEAR'S ISSUE     December 29-January 3, 1999     vol. 9, no. 250

from a CATHOLIC perspective

To print out entire text of Today's issue, go to SECTION ONE and SECTION TWO and SECTION THREE and SECTION FOUR


          VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- Pope John Paul II sent a telegram to Fidel Castro, congratulating the Cuban leader on his government's decision to resume observing a Christmas holiday.

          On December 28, the Vatican made public the contents of a telegram which the Pontiff had sent on December 23, in reaction to the Cuban decision to allow an official Christmas celebration. The message indicated the Pope's "profound appreciation" for the gesture, and conveyed his best wishes for the celebration.

          In the telegram-- formally addressed to the president of the Cuban state council which had announced the decision-- the Holy Father also conveyed his personal greetings to Castro, and said that he prayed that Cuba "will continue on the road to a society that is more prosperous, more just, and more brotherly."

          Cuba had allowed a Christmas holiday in 1997, as a good-will gesture before the January 1998 visit by Pope John Paul. Prior to that occasion, Christmas had not been an official holiday for over 30 years.

          Since mid-November of this present year, when Cuba's Episcopal Conference asked the State to declare Christmas day a holiday, the facts related to this important celebration have been closely followed by the international press. Nevertheless, in many cases there has been manipulation in the information, pessimistic views or reductive accents in what has been published.

          As the Cuban episcopate has declared, it must be recognized -without ingenuity nor false proclamations of triumph- that the simple recognition of the feast of Christmas is a fact of great significance for a people whose liberty has been coerced in such an essential aspect as religious freedom. But, evidently, not only this occurred. Local sources reported that on Christmas Eve as well as on Christmas day, Catholics filled the churches completely. In addition, the last petition done by Cardinal Jaime Ortega, Archbishop of Havana, to let a Christmas message be given on the state's radio, was finally accepted. Cardinal Ortega pointed out in his message the importance of the Christmas feast and the effort that each Christian has to make to live and teach its profound meaning. He concluded wishing the Lord to be born in the heart of every Cuban.

          Another important event was the first concert of Christmas carols held last week after more than 30 years in the Square of the Cathedral of Havana. Hundreds of Cubans gathered to participate in this event. After beautiful Christmas carols were sung and excerpts of the Holy Scripture read, some children acted the story of the birth of the child Jesus. In this occasion Cardinal Ortega affirmed that the celebration of Christmas must be centered in the person of the Lord Jesus and the message of peace, justice and love that He brings.

          The Church in Cuba has constantly reminded that there is plenty of work to do, and much to evangelize in a society that in the past decades has suffered a strong process of secularization. Nevertheless, not a single message shows lack of hope. On the contrary, they show a clear conscience that the challenges motivate to have an increasingly greater hope. The answer of the Catholic people in the last events, as well as the massive assistance to the Christmas Masses are one more sign of the deep faith of the Cuban people, and of its great desire to express and celebrate its faith as part of the Church.

Articles provided through Catholic World News Service.
CWN is not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provides this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

December 29-January 3, 1999       volume 9, no. 250


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