DAILY CATHOLIC     FRI-SAT-SUN     April 23-25, 1999     vol. 10, no. 80

from a CATHOLIC perspective


  • Largest Crowd in History Expected for Padre Pio's Beatification
  • A Child's Prayer: "Lord, Turn Me Into A TV"
  • New Wave of Violence in Indonesia
  • Peace Agreement Signed in East Timor
  • Capuchins to Stay in Angola
  • Inter-Religious Congress on God the Father in Jerusalem
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Largest Crowd in History Expected for Beatification

          VATICAN CITY, APR 22 (ZENIT).- Father Gerardo Di Flumeri, vice-postulator for the beatification cause of Padre Pio, explained the reason for the extraordinary devotion to the stigma-bearing Capuchin of Pietrelcina. Padre Pio is a "universal saint, because his message is valid for all men: 'Pray, Pray, Pray.' In fact, the way he described himself was as "a poor friar who prays!"

          John Paul II will beatify Padre Pio on Sunday, May 2 in Saint Peter's Square and , according to the Italian press, the ceremony could be the largest crowd in the history of Rome.

          Some already say there will be about one million pilgrims, although that number seems a bit exaggerated. What is certain is that they will not fit in Saint Peter's Square or in the adjacent Via della Conciliazione.

          Because of this, some 300,000 will have to follow the event from Saint John Lateran's Square in Rome, where the Pope will go at the end of the celebration. Thousands of people will also converge on San Giovanni Rotondo, where Padre Pio's monastery is located, as well as the hospital he founded.

          The devotion he has inspired is reflected especially in prayer groups, explains Auxiliary Bishop Riccardo Ruotolo of the Italian diocese of Manfredonia-Vieste. These prayer groups have sprung up "spontaneously all over the world."

          Bishop Francesco Ruppi of Lecce took the opportunity to tell a personal experience. In 1969 he accompanied Paul VI as a journalist on his trip to Uganda. "When we went into a poor house, I saw two photographs: Padre Pio's and Pope John XXIII's. An elderly man said to me: 'These are two persons who have loved me, because they are close to us, the poor, and they never abandon us.' "

          No one knows how that photograph arrived in Africa that long ago. Yet the story confirms that devotion to Padre Pio goes beyond the roads of Italian emigration.

          Father Di Flumeri recalls that in the United States the devotion spread when soldiers returned home from Italy at the end of the Second World War. In fact, after Italy, the United States is the country with the largest number of prayer groups.

          The San Giovanni Rotondo Coordination Center calculates that there are 2,000 prayer groups in Italy and some 370 abroad.

          "There are prayer groups in Australia, India, Bangladesh, South Africa, Latin America, the Philippines," Bishop Ruotolo said. After the fall of the Berlin wall, the devotion spread to Russia and Eastern Europe. "In these countries, in spite of the limitations imposed by the communist regime, the veneration for Padre Pio existed before" the fall of the wall. "Let us not forget that it was the Polish bishops, including the then Cardinal Wojtyla, who requested the opening of the beatification process in the first place."

          "Padre Pio's virtues, his simplicity, his love for everyone, his closeness to the men and women who suffer, will always shine. He has been a protagonist of our century, who has known how to transmit the message of reconciliation with God. A message which cannot be ignored, especially now as we prepare to cross the threshold of a new millennium," Bishop Ruotolo concluded. ZE99042208


Challenges of Fifth International "TV Turnoff Week"

          ROME, APR 22 (ZENIT).- The promoters of the Fifth International "TV Turnoff Week," which begins today and will run from April 22-28, have published a rather unusual prayer: a child asks God to transform him into a television, even if only for a day, so that his parents will pay as much attention to him as they do to the TV set. While this prayer may only be the product of someone's imagination, it is not that far from reality in some cases, and certainly calls for reflection.

          This is the prayer: "Lord, turn me into a television. So that my parents will care for me the way they do the television. So that Mommy will look at me with the same interest she looks at the soap operas, and Daddy will look at me the way he does the ballgames. Lord, please, let me be a television, even if only for a day."

          With this petition of an "abandoned" child at the end of the 20th century, the organizers wish to reflect the reality in a good many families. In many cases, much more attention is paid to the television than to the persons one loves most.

          Never have families been so unhappy within themselves as they are at present, in the era of "communications," the organizers of the "Fifth International TV Turn Off Week" report. There has never been more lack of generation or interpersonal communication. There has never been less conversation. According to the organizers, it is a mathematical equation: more minutes spent with the television, less minutes given to affection, dialogue, creative entertainment. Less time for growth.

          According to psychologist Robert Kubey of Rutgers University, those who watch too much television suffer from these symptoms:
    --The more they watch television, the harder it is to turn it off.
    --In hoping to watch one or two programs, they end up spending hours before the set.
    --Important family activities are reduced or cancelled to watch television.
    --They later suffer the syndrome of withdrawal as a result of not watching television.

          While, according to the organizers, some 12 million people have participated and benefited from the past four TV Turn Off's , for the first time, big name personalities have stepped up to support the activity. U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher and undersecretary of Agriculture for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, Shirley Watkins have both offered to endorse the effort, said Henry Labalme, executive director of TV-Free America, the Washignton D.C. based group that promotes the event.

          But the most vocal support comes, not surprisingly, from the front lines or living rooms of America.

          Dan Teller, Principal at St. Bernadette School in Amelia, Ohio acknowledged: "Our school amassed over 900 TV-free days. I have heard nothing but positive comments from parents and, believe it or not, children. One parent remarked, 'Will we be doing this TV-Turnoff again...every month?' "

          Nina Berkani of Madison, Wisconsin pointed out: "TV is influencing everything in our children's lives. It affects their health, their likes and dislikes in toys and entertainment, their language and gestures, the amount of time they have to help with family chores and their lack of interest in family and outdoor activities. Also, when we discuss with them the restrictions we try to place on TV-viewing, their nutrition and their obsessions with advertised products, we find that we are not only arguing with them, but also with huge companies that have bombarded them with advertising. It seems that these companies have more control and influence over our children than we do."

          Among the many things Surgeon General Satcher is concerned about is an epidemic of obesity. Turning off the TV and getting up off the couch, is a great place to start, he says.

          He suggests alternative activities: "Go bicycling, play soccer, jump rope, fly a kite, dance, start a garden, wash the dog, swim laps, clean your room, do gymnastics, throw a Frisbee, walk around the block, learn to rollerskate, build a fort. " Anything, just turn off the tube and "Get a Life!"

          More information on how to organize TV Turnoff Week in your area can be found at http://www.tvfa.org/turnoff.html. ZE99042008


A Mosque Bombed; A Church Burnt

          JAKARTA, APR 22 (ZENIT).- In spite of calls for calm, following the bombing of a mosque, the reprisal was not long in coming. A Catholic church was attacked with Molotov bombs in the city of Ujung Pandang, in the province of Sulawesi Sud. According to local sources, some 1,000 persons attacked and fired on a complex of buildings adjacent to a church, which includes a school.

          Following the bombing of a mosque last Monday, the authorities expressed their concern over the growing climate of violence in the country on the eve of elections, scheduled for the beginning of June. The spiritual leader of the mosque burnt in Jakarta appealed to Moslems for calm, stressing that the attack, which was not claimed by any group, was an attempt to sow hatred between the Islamic and Christian religious communities.

          The Catholic Church immediately condemned the attack on the mosque and its perpetrators. "It has been an irresponsible act, whether it was committed by delinquents or for political reasons," the communiqué stated.

          Because of previous attacks on places of worship, some observers are blaming military groups who are interested in retaining power and are opposed to the current process of transition to democracy. These groups could be encouraging the inter-religious violence as a way of justifying armed intervention against the people and of delaying the electoral process. ZE99042104


In Residence of Bishop Ximenes Belo, Nobel Peace Prize Winner

          JAKARTA, APR 22 (ZENIT).- Yesterday, a peace agreement was signed between those favoring independence and the pro-Indonesia paramilitary. The agreement could prove to be a way out of the violent situation this former Portuguese colony is experiencing, although attacks continue by those determined to have Timor belong to Indonesia.

          The agreement was signed by Xanana Gusmao, leader of the pro-independence faction who is under house arrest in Jakarta, and by the leaders of the paramilitary; the signing took place at the residence of Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Bishop Carlos Felipe Ximenes, in Dili, the capital.

          The two conflicting groups have signed the peace agreement after long mediation by the local Church, supported by Minister of Defense and chief of the Indonesian armed forces, General Wiranto, who was present at the signing.

          "The armed forces are committed to seeing this agreement is respected," the general stated. The leader of the paramilitary said that his followers throughout the territory, which includes some 800,000 people, the majority of whom are Catholic, would lay down their arms even though this is not explicitly required in the agreement.

          However, only yesterday, after the signing of the peace agreement, five youths were killed in retaliation for attacking the paramilitary near Liquisa, where, at the beginning of April, 25 persons were massacred inside a church. The five deaths were reported by pro-independence sources. ZE99042201


Concern Over Renewed Conflict After Four Years of Peace

          ROME, APR 22 (ZENIT).- Over the last few months, Angola has returned to a spiral of violence with a new war being waged in the northeast, virtually on the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, after a four-year parenthesis of peace and reconstruction.

          The existence of petroleum in the area has exacerbated the confrontation between the troops loyal to president Jose Eduardo dos Santos and those of UNITA guerrilla leader Jonas Savimbi; the battle is on for control of land rich in primary resources.

          According to a communiqué of the Capuchin missionaries, published by the agency MISNA, all NGOs have decided to leave the country. "They have their reasons. We have decided to stay because we see promising fruit for the Capuchins and for the Church in general, in spite of the war. This year we have thirty young people studying theology. Six of them are already in their last year before ordination to the priesthood. The churches are full and there are many groups of committed laymen who seek peace wherever they see war and violence," the communiqué stated.

          The Capuchin missionaries said they are aware that "in face of all the evils in Africa, Europeans think the African boat is sinking, and that we are in a 'bottomless pit.' True, without a strong vision of Christian faith and hope it would be difficult to go on but, this is, in fact, what we are called to do. For the people of Angola, who go on fighting and hoping, you in Europe and we here among them are the sign that God has not abandoned or forgotten them."

          According to the magazine 'Newsweek,' since the war restarted last December, it is estimated that hundreds, if not thousands, of civilians have been killed, and close to three million -- a quarter of the population -- are displaced within the country. ZE99042102


Conclusion of Jerusalem Inter-Religious Congress on God the Father

          JERUSALEM, APR 22 (ZENIT).- God the Father was the topic of the congress which ended in Jerusalem in preparation for the year 2000. The participants at this meeting included Catholic Churches of all the various rites, as well as representatives from Judaism and Islam -- the other monotheist religions.

          The congress was the fulfillment of the initiative launched by the assembly of Catholic bishops of the Holy Land, through its Jubilee Committee, which over the last two years has organized congresses on Christ and the Holy Spirit.

          Prestigious institutions of the Holy Land cooperated in the organization of this event, including the Dominican "Biblical and Archeological School," the "Studium Biblicum Franciscanum," the Jesuits' Pontifical Biblical Institute, the Saint Peter's Institute of Sion-Ratisbonne, the Pontifical Notre Dame Institute, the Tantur Ecumenical Institute, the University of Bethlehem, and the Patriarchal Seminary of Theological Studies for Salesians, Franciscans and Benedictines.

          It was an intense meeting of local and foreign professors and exegetes who, over four days, attempted to discover the love of God in biblical revelation, as well as from the monotheist perspectives of Rabbinical Judaism, the Koran and Arab-Christian literature. Papers were presented on the love of God in the life of Theresa of Lisieux as well as in the works of contemporary theologians.

          The meeting was held in the theater of the seminary of the Armenian Orthodox Patriarchy.

          During the opening session, Bishop Pietro Sambi, the apostolic delegate, read a message from John Paul II. "This last year of preparation for the Great Jubilee attempts to broaden believers' horizons so that they will see everything from the perspective of our Father who is in Heaven," the Holy Father said.

          The Pope hopes the congress will "help the Church in the Holy Land and the numerous pilgrims who come to meet the Lord in the very places where our redemption took place." ZE99042209

Articles above provided through ZENIT International News Agency ZENIT is not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provides this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

April 23-25, 1999       volume 10, no. 80


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