DAILY CATHOLIC    THURSDAY     December 2, 1999     vol. 10, no. 229

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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Addresses Portugal's Secularization with Country's Bishops

        VATICAN CITY, NOV 30 (ZENIT).- On the occasion of the visit of the Portuguese Bishops "ad limina apostolorum," the Pope confirmed that Francisco and Jacinta Marto, the two shepherd children who, along with their cousin Lucia, had repeated visions of the Blessed Virgin in Fatima in 1917, will soon be beatified. Lucia, the eldest of the three, who today is in her 90s, is a cloistered nun in a Carmelite convent in Coimbra.

        The decree of beatification of the two children, who died in 1919 and 1920, was promulgated in the Holy Father's presence in June of this year, by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, following a miracle due to their intercession.

        After meeting with the Pope a few days ago, Bishop Serafim de Sousa Ferreira e Silva of Leiria-Fatima, explained to a Catholic radio station in Portugal that the Holy Father hopes to travel to Fatima on May 13, 2000 to beatify the two children. The Vatican Press Office has not yet confirmed this visit. The last time John Paul II was in Fatima was on October 13, 1982, just over a year after the attempt on his life in St. Peter's Square. His pilgrimage to Fatima was in thanksgiving for the Virgin Mary's protection.

        The whole of Portugal is overjoyed at the prospect of these beatifications, as Bishop Antonio Baltasar Marcelino, on behalf of the Portuguese Episcopal Conference told the Holy Father. The Bishop also shared with the Pope the tremendous pastoral challenges the Church faces in Portugal, given the frontal attacks on the family as an institution, and on life at all its stages. Bishop Marcelino referred to "the growing secularism in public life," especially promoted by the media.


        During his address, which was focused on spiritual preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, the Holy Father mentioned the results of a poll on participation in Sunday Mass carried out by the Portuguese bishops in 1991. The number of practicing Catholics in Portugal amounts to no more than 26% of the population, according to this study. According to John Paul II, this is "significant data that [reveals] the immense pastoral task that must be undertaken."

        John Paul II counseled the bishops that they must "overcome the all-too-common tendency that rejects every kind of saving mediation and presents the individual sinner as relating directly to God, because salvation comes to us, in the first place, through the mediation of the historical humanity of Jesus and, after the resurrection, through his Mystical Body, which is the Church."

    Return to the Sacraments

        The Pope confirmed that the sacrament of Penance or Confession is the "ordinary way to receive pardon and the remission of sins committed after baptism," reminding his listeners that it would be foolish, as well as presumptuous, to attempt to do without the instruments of grace and salvation that the Lord has arranged.

        Thus, quoting the papal bull "Incarnationis Mysterium" convoking the Holy Year, the Holy Father expressed the hope that "one of the fruits of the Great Jubilee of 2000 will be a generalized return to the practice of sacramental confession on the part of Catholic faithful."

        With reference to attendance at Sunday Mass, John Paul II encouraged the Portuguese bishops to do everything possible "with delicate pastoral pedagogy," so that this Holy Year will be "an appropriate time to bring non-practicing Catholics, or those of 'occasional' practice or with 'ulterior motives' " (such as simply to obtain the benefit of an indulgence) to a "stable commitment to weekly participation" in the Mass.

        John Paul II counseled the bishops to avoid two pitfalls: "activism, where the best pastoral plans and committed lives come to nothing" and "secularism, where God's voice is not heard or given space" among the people. ZE99113002

Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features 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.

December 2, 1999       volume 10, no. 229


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