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WEDNESDAY      December 2, 1998      SECTION TWO       vol 9, no. 234

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Events Today in Church History

     On this date in 1967, the esteemed and revered Cardinal Francis J. Spellman, the beloved Archbishop of New York, passed away. Thousands upon thousands of mourners lined up inside and outside St. Patrick's Cathedral to say goodbye to this dear friend of the people and upholder of the faith. For other events throughout the centuries that are memorable in Church history today, click on MILLENNIUM MILESTONES AND MEMORIES

Historical Events in Church Annals for December 2:

with a Catholic slant

provided by
Catholic World News Service



      HAVANA ( - Cuba's Communist Party threw its support behind a call for the restoration of Christmas as a legal holiday in the Communist country on Tuesday, virtually guaranteeing the holiday's permanent return after three decades.

      The Communist government ended the celebration of the December 25 as a holiday in 1969, saying the extra day of work was need for the crucial sugar harvest. However, the officially atheist government instituted many measures during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s that sought to repress Christianity, including banning Christians from membership in the Communist Party, crucial for economic or political advancement.

      The government restored Christmas as a holiday last year as a welcoming gesture to Pope John Paul II who visited the country in January, but balked at declaring the holiday had returned permanently. On Tuesday, the Communist Party used the entire front page of the daily newspaper Granma to recommend that Christmas be restored as a holiday "from this year on."


      MANAGUA ( - In a visit to a refugee camp in Nicaragua yesterday, Archbishop Paul Joseph Cordes, who is visiting the region as the Pope's personal envoy, expressed his admiration for "the great courage and faith" shown by the survivors of hurricane Mitch.

      Archbishop Cordes, the president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, celebrated Mass in Posoltega, a region where a mud slide destroyed several villages located at the foot of the volcano "Casitas," killing around 1,200. During the Mass, attended by Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo of Managua and the local Bishop Bosco Vivas, the Vatican envoy a personal message of encouragement and solidarity sent by the Pope.

      In the morning, Archbishop Cordes visited the refugee camp Vida Nueva, where temporary shelters have been constructed from sheets of plastic and cardboard, and was surprised to see that the best areas had been reserved for an altar in which a small image of the Virgin was placed, surrounded by wild flowers and covered with the branches of coconut palms.

      "I have been able to experience how difficult is the situation of these people, but at the same time I have witnessed that, despite the pain, they have not lost their will to move forward, supported in their Catholic faith," the archbishop reported. He promised the Nicaraguan people that he will urgently request more aid from Catholic charities, but he added: "All this help is just the seed; you have to plant it, make it grow and bring permanent fruit." During his visit to Nicaragua, Archbishop Cordes held a meeting with President Arnoldo Aleman as well as the leaders of the Nicaraguan bishops' conference, and visited several refugee camps in the vicinity of Managua and Leon. Today, the Archbishop will arrive in El Salvador and later in the week will travel to Honduras and Guatemala.


      VATICAN ( -- Responding to new reports in the Italian media, the official Vatican newspaper has scoffed at rumors that Pope John Paul II is in failing health.

      It is highly unusual for L'Osservatore Romano to respond to any report by Italian journalists. But the Vatican sharply criticized out at a story by veteran reporter Marco Politi, saying it was "ridiculous" to continue raising questions about the Pope's health. Politi, writing for La Repubblica, had emphasized that John Paul II appeared tired and halting during Sunday's Mass inaugurating the last year of preparation for the Jubilee.

      "It should be enough to note everything that the Holy Father did after his entrance" into St. Peter's Basilica for the Sunday celebration, L'Osservatore Romano remarked. The story went on to note that the Pope celebrated the Eucharistic liturgy, delivered a lively homily, and went on to make his usual public audience, leading the faithful in the Angelus prayer and then delivering another public address. The Pope has also been attending all of the sessions of the Synod for Oceania, receiving the usual number of bishops and public officials in private audiences, continuing his weekly public audiences on Wednesdays, and in general keeping up his regular busy schedule.

      While these rumors were swirling, Pope John Paul II received the bishops of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, who were making their ad limina visits. He insisted that the violence in Papua New Guinea must end, and political leaders must serve the common good by working to heal the scars of historic divisions.

      For the Catholic Church, the Pope continued, pastoral work with young people should emphasize the need to build up society and to respect the dignity of others-- indeed of all human life.

      In a reference to the tidal wave that struck the Pacific islands several months ago, the Pope lamented "the tidal wave of violence and division" afflicting the region today. "We cannot do anything to prevent natural disasters," the Holy Father said, "but there are other causes of human suffering which are under our control." He specified that tribal animosities and religious conflicts should be contained.

      While ancient tribal rivalries may seem difficult to overcome, the Pope continued, the Gospel message contains a promise of final success. "It is in Christ that the people of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands will find the real power, the real victory-- the victory of grace over sin, of love over all that separates men," he said.


      MEXICO CITY ( - A Mexican priest was released on Sunday after being tortured and threatened by kidnappers over the weekend, the Archdiocese of Mexico City reported on Monday

      According to several witnesses, Father Lascurain was captured last Friday by several armed men wearing dark clothing. A few days before his disappearance, while he was speaking with a group of youngsters, a car pulled up, two armed men emerged. One man pointed a gun at the priest and pulled the trigger -- thereby demonstrating that the gun had not been loaded. "There wasn't a bullet this time, but there will be next time," the unidentified man warned.

      Father Lascurain was released on Sunday morning and no ransom was requested at any point. "During his capture, Father was beaten and subjected to psychological torture. He was locked in a cage and left without food by his captors," the archdiocese said.

      For the past year, the priest has been heading an evangelization program in the barrio, working primarily with young drug addicts and alcoholics. His work has provoked the ire of drug dealers, and he has been the target of several attacks and a series of threatening phone calls. Some sources in the Mexican Church have expressed fears that corrupt police officials may have been involved in the abduction.

      Meanwhile, a group investigating the 1994 murder of Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo has postponed the delivery of a final report on the killing, explaining that their information remains incomplete.

      The special investigative group, which includes representatives of both the Mexican bishops' conference and other public organizations, acknowledged that it had been charged with the responsibility to issue a final report by November 30. However, in a three-page report issued yesterday, the investigative commission pointed out that it had been set up in order to resolve public doubts about the cardinal's death, and an incomplete report would not satisfy that goal.

      The investigative commission, chaired by Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez, reported that it still hoped to receive testimony from several expert witnesses, including psychiatrists, handwriting analysts, and forensic experts. Having taken testimony from 67 witnesses already, the commission admitted that many serious questions still surround the case, preventing the formation of a firm and final opinion.

      Cardinal Posadas was gunned down at the Guadalajara airport by a group of men who then boarded a plane, traveled across country, and disappeared after landing several hours later, without any police interference. Although the killing has been attributed to a case of mistaken identity-- with prosecutors theorizing that a group of drug traffickers mistook the cardinal for a rival leader-- skeptics have asked questions as to why the police did not apprehend the assassins, and many Mexicans believe that some government officials were involved in efforts to cover the killers' trail. Thus the case has become a lightning-rod for political controversy.

For more headlines and articles, we suggest you go to the Catholic World News site. CWN is not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provides this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.


"When the wicked prevail, crime increases; but their downfall the just will behold."

Proverbs 29: 16

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December 2, 1998 volume 9, no. 234   DAILY CATHOLIC