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CHRISTMAS ISSUE      December 23-27, 1998      SECTION FOUR       vol 9, no. 248

To print out entire text of Today's issue, print this section as well as SECTION ONE and SECTION TWO and SECTION THREE

WORLDWIDE NEWS & VIEWS with a Catholic slant

provided by Catholic World News Service and Noticias Eclesiales Church News



      VATICAN ( -- In the traditional exchange of Christmas greetings between the Pontiff and the Roman Curia, Pope John Paul II reviewed the events of 1998 and indicated his desire to serve the Church through 1999, and "if it is God's will" to make several more apostolic voyages, beginning with his January trip to Mexico and the United States.

      "I ask all of you to continue your prayers that I will be able to serve the Lord, and the brothers he has confided to my care, with greater love each day," the Holy Father said as he met the leaders of the Curia in the Apostolic Palace on Tuesday.

      On behalf of the Curial officials, Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, the dean of the College of Cardinals, responded with the traditional prayer: "Dominus te conservet et vivificet te." He observed that the power of the Holy Spirit sustains the hearts of the faithful, and gives them perpetual youth-- an apparent allusion to the continued health of the Pope.

      In his account of the year that is drawing to a close, the Pope emphasized the preparations for the Jubilee Year 2000. He spoke of the "moments of reflection, such as the symposium on the Shoah," which have encouraged recognition for past offenses, and a renewed sense of humble commitment to God's will. He also underlined the importance of the City of Rome itself in the celebration of the Jubilee, insisting that the city has a key responsibility for greeting pilgrims and beginning a new evangelization of the entire world.

      Among the "moments of great emotion and spiritual joy" during the year, the Holy Father mentioned first his visit to Cuba, then his trips to Nigeria, Austria, and Croatia. And among the major projects of the year he recalled the issuance of his latest encyclical, Fides et Ratio, in which "I wanted to express my confidence in the efforts of human though, inviting my contemporaries to rediscover the role of reason and to recognize that faith is a precious ally in the search for truth."

      The number of pilgrims attending papal audiences and public events in 1998 was up by 61 percent in 1998, according to figures released on Tuesday by the Pontifical Household.

      Nearly 2 million people saw the Pope during audiences and special ceremonies, the report indicated. The official attendance figures showed 1,946,050 people participating at papal ceremonies this year, as against 1,192,580 in 1997.

      Through December 22, 656,200 people had attended the weekly papal audiences on Wednesdays, 518,000 had attended other special audiences, and religious ceremonies had brought 771,850 faithful to the Vatican.


      ROME, 22 (NE) After the ceasing of the recent Anglo-American air bombing over Iraq, the Catholic community in the Mid East country thanked God for listening to their insistent prayers. "We have prayed everyday so that the attacks end. Now we pray to God and we thank Him for the end of the air bombings… Now we can celebrate Christmas," said Father Bassel Marrougi, from the parish Sacred Heart, in Al Wadha, a neighborhood in Northwest Baghdad. Ceasing the attacks five days before the celebration of Christmas has filled with joy the hearts of the catholic Iraqis. The possibility of a new attack and the difficult economic situation that Iraq is going though due to the blockade and the sanctions that the UN has imposed for more than 8 years generate an atmosphere of great suffering and tension in the Iraqi people.

      The Catholic community in Iraq is trying to confront this fact with hope in the Lord and with fervent prayers. The Catholic Church in Iraq, say official sources, has 621,000 members, which represents 3.04% of its population. The bordering countries to Iraq have considerably less: Syria has 295,000 Catholics (2.08%), Kuwait has 152,00 (9.14%), Jordan has 66,000 (1,21%), Turkey has 30,000 (0.05%) and Iran has 13,000 (0,02%). Therefore, within the countries of the region, Iraq is the one that has, by far, the greatest number of Catholics and is the second in percentage compared to its total population. Furthermore, it is one of the Muslim countries where Catholics are best treated.


      NEW YORK, 22 (NE) Cardinal John O´Connor, Archbishop of New York, recently highlighted in his Christmas Pastoral Letter the centrality of reconciliation in the celebrations of the Great Jubilee. "Why do we rejoice in celebrating Christ's coming as a man? We rejoice, we are jubilant because of his reason for coming: to reconcile us. He reconciled us by becoming not simply one of us. He made us one with himself," said the Cardinal. The Lord Jesus "made possible our purification, our renewal, our reconciliation with his Father. He began that process by being conceived in the womb of a woman, by being born into the world on the first Christmas Day, by being crucified unto death, by rising to restore us to life… That's what the great jubilee will commemorate. That's why we will be jubilant."

      Expressing his hope "that a year, a millennium, of reconciliation will see an end to the culture of death," the Archbishop of New York invited Catholics of his archdiocese to actively work for the reconciliation of mankind, so that we could see "an end to killing; to the destruction of infants in or leaving their mothers' wombs; the killing of men and women on endless battlefields; the destruction of the poor by oppression and greed and indifference; the killing of minds by the poisons of pornography; the self-destruction of human lives by suicide."

      "We prepare for a year -for a thousand years- of great reconciliation: reconciliation of the whole world with itself, with God," said Cardinal O´Connor.


      JERUSALEM ( - The Latin-rite Patriarch of Jerusalem and the Holy Land on Tuesday called for Palestinian Christians and Muslims to put aside their differences for the common good.

      Patriarch Michel Sabbah warned that "a foreign hand" is the source of discord in disputes between Christian and Muslims in Israel and Palestinian areas, especially the town of Nazareth. He did not elaborate on who or what the "foreign hand" was. In his annual Christmas message, the Patriarch also warned Israel that any delay in the implementation of the peace accords would cause a growth of fear and destruction.

      Patriarch Sabbah also condemned the recent US and British air strikes on Iraq last week. "In Iraq, a whole people remains hostage to political world conflicts ... We affirm that no reason whatsoever can justify and tranquilize the conscience of those who impose death upon a whole people," he said.

      In Nazareth, city elections this year brought several Islamist candidates into power in the city's council. The town already has a Christian mayor. The election tensions erupted into street battles between Christians and Muslims earlier this month.


      LISBON, 21 (NE) The devotion to the Virgin of Fatima in Portugal has lead to plans for a new Basilica for the Mother of God. Before this year ends, 14 experts in different fields will gather together in Fatima to analyze three projects that have been chosen in order to build the new Basilica, which will welcome the thousands of pilgrims that each year visit this sanctuary in Portugal. It is expected that the Basilica will finally be ready in the year 2005. As it has been informed, the new temple will be able to receive 10.000 persons seated.

For more headlines and articles, we suggest you go to the Catholic World News site at the CWN home page and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales. Both CWN and NE are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provides this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

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December 23-27, 1998 volume 9, no. 248   DAILY CATHOLIC