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TUESDAY      August 24, 1999      SECTION TWO       vol 10, no. 159

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

with a Catholic slant

provided by Catholic World News Service
and Noticias Eclesiales Church News and ZENIT International News Agency



      DILI, East Timor ( - Bishop Carlos Belo of Dili affirmed that no matter what the outcome of this month's independence vote, the Catholic Church will stay out of politics in the region.

      The bishop, who was a co-winner of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize, said his goal is to reconcile warring factions of pro- and anti-independence militias ahead of the August 30 referendum. Bishop Belo told Indonesia's official Antara news agency, "The Church will not seize power. It has no desire at all to share earthly power."

      Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation in the world, invaded mainly Catholic East Timor in 1975 and annexed it the following year in a move not recognized by the United Nations. In January, President B.J. Habibie proposed a UN-supervised referendum to allow Timorese to choose either autonomy within Indonesia or full independence.

      Violence has flared in the region as anti-independence militias trained and armed by the Indonesia military have sought to intimidate voters. Dozens of people have been killed and thousands displaced from the homes.

      In the latest violence, pro-and anti-independence supporters fought in Ainaro, about 30 miles south of Dili, on Saturday, when the office run by independence activists was damaged, along with a house occupied by UN personnel. One man was wounded. "People in this region are in rival political groups, suspecting each other and even killing their own brothers," Bishop Belo said, urging reconciliation. "There can be no peace without sincere unity."


Letter to Commemorate Event in Belgian Shrine

      VATICAN CITY, AUG 23 (ZENIT).- On Sunday, the 50th anniversary of the Virgin Mary's apparitions in Banneux, located in the Belgian diocese of Liege, Cardinal Jan Schotte, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, celebrated Mass at the shrine. John Paul II sent a letter to Bishop Albert Houssiau of Liege, to commemorate the occasion.

      In the apparitions at Banneux, Our Lady "exhorted leaders in society to become protagonists of peace and educators of peoples, encouraging each man to care for his brothers, for the little ones, for the unwanted and for those who suffer, all persons loved by God," the Pope wrote.

      "Every pilgrimage is an intense moment in a Christian's spiritual life; he discovers the power of prayer, which unifies his being, making him the witness that each one is called to be in his mission. With Mary, we become humble children in the Lord's hands, asking forgiveness for our faults and finding (once again) the glory of being sons of God," the Holy Father explained.

      Quoting St. Bernard, John Paul II gave special advice to all the faithful gathered at Banneux: "when you feel the wind of temptation, when you see the reefs of unhappiness, look at the star, and call on Mary."

      The Pope said that the Banneux apparitions challenge Christians to question themselves on one of the most profound mysteries of human existence. "In face of suffering, for which there is no human explanation, the believer goes directly to God, the only one who can help him bear it and live with it, and who offers him the hope of salvation and eternal happiness. God is present in a special way, with tenderness and love, in every person who suffers illness, because He allows Himself to feel what His people experience, whom He loves, and whom He wishes to console and comfort."

      John Paul II ended by entrusting to Mary's intercession all the people who participated in this feast day of Belgian Catholics. ZE99082302


      MEXICO CITY ( - In a joint public statement, the Mexican bishops' conference and the papal nuncio in Mexico have emphasized that only the Pope has the authority to appoint a diocesan bishop or accept his resignation. The unusual announcement came in response to the news that a controversial bishop had handed over authority to his coadjutor bishop.

      In recent months, Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia of San Cristobal de las Casas had convened several ceremonies at which he has apparently announced that Bishop Raul Vera Lopez is the new bishop of the diocese. These ceremonies were widely interpreted by reporters as a formal transfer of authority. However-- as the nuncio and the head of the episcopal conference emphasized-- Bishop Vera had been appointed only as a coadjutor to Bishop Ruiz, and the Vatican has not yet authorized any transfer of authority.

      In their statement, the papal representative, Archbishop Justo Mullor Garcia, and the president of the bishops' conference, Bishop Luis Morales Reyes, said that the meetings convened by Bishop Ruiz should be seen as welcoming ceremonies, in which the bishop made "mere expressions of respect" for his new coadjutor. They pointed out under the Code of Canon Law, a new bishop cannot take office without express approval from the Pope. And while a coadjutor bishop may have the right to succeed the incumbent bishop of the diocese, the transfer of authority can take place only through a formal act, approved by the Vatican. Until the Pope makes that decision, the statement concludes, Bishop Ruiz remains the bishop in authority in the Chiapas diocese.

      Bishop Ruiz has become the focus of considerable controversy in Chiapas-- the southern region where the San Cristobal diocese is located-- because of his involvement with the Zapatista rebellion there, and his identification with new forms of liberation theology. The appointment of a coadjutor bishop was widely seen as an expression of concern by the Vatican that Bishop Ruiz had become too heavily involved in political and theological controversies.


Holy See Obtains Agreement in Face of Canadian Proposal

      NEW YORK, AUG 23 (ZENIT).- Bishop Vincent R. LaRocca, Holy See delegate of the Preparatory Commission, which is responsible for articulating the statutes of the future Court, said the International Criminal Court will respect the secrecy of the confessional.

      Several weeks ago, Canada proposed that the International Court rethink the centuries-old tradition, according to which a priest is not compelled to reveal what he hears in the confessional. The proposal would apply to the ministers of all Christian denominations.

      Such a proposal, would have had especially grave consequences for Catholic priests. According to the Code of Canon Law, a priest who reveals a secret told in confession is automatically excommunicated. The only institution that can lift the excommunication is the Holy See (can. 1388,1). According to Canada's proposal, the priest who refused to reveal the secret of confession would be prosecuted by law. The Code of Canon Law (can. 983) specifies that the sacrament is inviolable and the confessor does not have the right to betray the penitent. There have been saints in history, like St. John Nepomucene, who gave their life to protect the secrecy of the confessional.

      The proposal to create an International Criminal Court was made last year during a Conference in Rome, sponsored by the United Nations. It is hoped that the proposal will be ratified by at least 60 countries. The Court's establishment was supported by the Holy See, so that genocide and other grave crimes against humanity, might be brought to justice. ZE99082303

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 and the features, dossiers and Daily Dispatches at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

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August 24, 1999 volume 10, no. 159   DAILY CATHOLIC