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TUESDAY      December 7, 1999     SECTION THREE      vol 10, no. 232

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

The Blessed Virgin Mary has always been the right person in the right place at the right time!

    In today's editorial, we relate the God-incidence of three TOP 100 CATHOLICS OF THE CENTURY selections this week, and the fact that there is no mistaking these great defenders of the Faith. They are all worthy of their position on the list. Speaking of worthy, there is no one more worthy than Blessed Mary for in order to fulfill her fiat to God, she had to be the perfect tabernacle for the Son of God, her Divine Son Jesus. In order for this to be, she had to be conceived immaculately as Pope Pius IX declared this Dogma 145 years ago tomorrow. We bring up the point that when it comes to Mary and the Protestants, we cannot play down her role in order to appease them, but extoll and honor her just as God wants us to. For the editorial, When it comes to purpose, it's no accident; we do it on purpose! see CATHOLIC PewPOINT

When it comes to purpose, it's no accident; we do it on purpose!

Michael Cain, editor

WORLDWIDE NEWS & VIEWS with a Catholic slant



Most Important Ecumenical Celebration in Holy Land's History

    BETHLEHEM, (ZENIT).- The celebrations of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 began in the Holy Land Saturday with an ecumenical event that has no precedents in history: the common celebration of two thousand years of Redemption that brought together Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Churches in the Square of the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

    Patriarchs, Archbishops, Exarchs, and representatives of thirteen different rites and creeds, including the Franciscan Custodian of the Holy Land, celebrated an unprecedented communitarian religious service together. The very elderly and ailing Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem attended in a wheel chair. Together with his separated brethren he confessed "the sin of secular divisions, which at times became rivalry,... to promise that with no recriminations about the past, and adoring the Word of God made man in Bethlehem, we will only express love and peace to one another, until the much desired re-composition of ecclesial communion is reached."

    This commitment was ratified by praying the Our Father. The coming Jubilee Holy Year could not have started with better ecumenical signs. John Paul II sent a message from Rome, which was confirmed by all the Christian leaders of the Holy Land. "May the Great Jubilee lead all Christ's disciples to atone for our past sins against unity and to work to hasten the blessed hour in which we shall all invoke Our Heavenly Father with a single voice," the Pontiff wrote.

    The Inter-Confessional Committee of the Churches of Jerusalem, born three years ago in December to prepare to celebrate the Jubilee, chose this date to allow the different Churches to have the required time to prepare their own Christmas celebrations, which in some cases are very ambitious. The Greek-Catholic Patriarchy, for example, has invited the leaders of the national sister Churches and heads of State of their respective countries from January 2-7. Among the guests are Boris Yeltsin and Slobodan Milosevic. Armenian Christians will celebrate Christmas from January 17-18, and the highest leaders of the Church will come to Bethlehem for the event. Yasser Arafat has invited many heads of State of Catholic and Protestant countries for December 24 and 25. In addition, on Christmas Eve the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, will officially open the Holy Year at the same time as the Pope.

    For Arafat, the Jubilee represents a unique occasion for international meetings which he will take advantage of to promote the Palestinian cause. For this reason, he has built himself a home in Bethlehem. He was excluded from the religious event at the wish of the other religious leaders, in order to avoid political overtones. Nonetheless, he was invited to participate in a "ceremony of light," when some children will carried candles to the Nativity grotto, from which the flame was passed by the Patriarchs, Archbishops, and Bishops to the congregation. At the same time, Arafat lit the Christmas tree in Manger Square, outside the Basilica.

    The Patriarchs and leaders of the 13 Christian communities in the Holy Land also wrote a letter to be read on the occasion offering a message of hope and love to the whole world, particularly the faithful of Palestine, Israel, Jordan and the Arab countries. "May we all be able to live in justice and peace," they prayed.

    The heads of the Churches in Jerusalem continued, "We must confess honestly and frankly that during our pilgrimage in this Holy Land we have not kept the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace, and that our obedience to the Savior's prayer at the Last Supper has been imperfect: 'That they all may be one, as you Father in me and I in you, that the world may believe.' " ZE99120308


Interview with Ehud Olmert, Mayor of Jerusalem

    JERUSALEM, DEC 5 (ZENIT-FIDES).- There is no lessening of tension in the Holy Land over the disputed government decision to accept a request filed by a group of fundamentalist Muslims to build a mosque in Nazareth next to the Basilica of the Annunciation. The Israeli government's decision dismayed Christian leaders everywhere in the Holy Land and around the world. By way of protest against the symbolic laying of the building's foundation stone on November 23, Christian shrines and churches of all denominations in the Holy Land kept their doors closed for two days.

    Disagreement and discontent have been manifest even among Israel's political leaders. Ehud Olmert, Mayor of Jerusalem since 1993, is among the most critical. "Fides" interviewed Mr. Olmert about the situation.

-- What do you think about Minister Ben Ami's decision to give government land for the building of a mosque in front of the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth?

EHUD OLMERT: I think the decision is wrong. The government land was assigned to squatters who took possession claiming previous historic rights of ownership, rights which proved to be without foundation and were rejected by the Court in Nazareth.

-- What impact has this decision had on relations between the Israeli government and the various churches?

EHUD OLMERT: The relationship between churches (in this case with the Catholic Church) and the State of Israel is a tapestry woven with delicate and fragile threads; it cannot bear heavy blows. This decision does not contribute to good relations. It is obvious that the churches reject this act and see it as a humiliation for Christian status in the Holy Land. At the same time, for the churches the relationship is important and must be maintained and improved. Good sense must prevail and every effort be made to localize the incident, putting it into perspective to avoid compromising these fragile relations.

-- What must be done now?

EHUD OLMERT: The decision should be annulled. I suggest reclaiming the ownership of the property for the building of a public square for residents and tourists alike. This is on the government level. On the municipal level, the local building committee and the district building committee should not approve the construction of the plan, since these statutory rights are in their jurisdiction. I am not familiar with the specific details in Nazareth, but it does not seem to me that the plan could be approved in such a short period of time. So I find it difficult to see how the municipality of Nazareth gave permission for the laying of the foundation stone for a building of which the plans have yet to be approved. The only one in charge of these matters is the city of Nazareth, not the government of Israel.

    -- In Israel and the rest of the world people are thinking of the imminent Christian Jubilee Year and wondering if this humiliation and friction will cause pilgrims and tourists to decide not to visit their Holy Places of Bethlehem, Nazareth and Jerusalem, towns that are preparing to accommodate hundreds of thousands of visitors. As mayor of Jerusalem, are you concerned?

EHUD OLMERT: Although squatters have illegally taken the land, the churches are not in the habit of disturbing the peace or breaking the law. The churches are confident that the Jubilee, an occurrence of unprecedented importance for all Christians, will be a peaceful, joyful event. ZE99120220


On New Year's Eve He Will Impart a Special "Urbi et Orbi" Blessing

    VATICAN CITY, DEC 5 (ZENIT).- On Friday, the Vatican published the Pope's calendar for the Christmas season, including several surprising changes. Among these is a second "Urbi et Orbi" Blessing on January 1 at 12:00 a.m. Most significant, however, is the fact that John Paul II will personally open the Holy Doors of the four Patriarchal Basilicas of Rome.

    On Saturday, December 11, the Holy Father will bless the Sistine Chapel, where the long restoration process has finally been completed. After restoring Michaelangelo's ceiling and the Last Judgment, Vatican experts have spent the last two years attending to the frescoes on the walls. This includes paintings by Perugino, Ghirlandaio, Botticelli and other masters of Italian art, depicting scenes from the lives of Moses and Christ. The magnificent splendor of the choir loft has also been restored.

    The most important novelty this year is the change in the schedule for the opening of the Holy Doors. As already announced, the Pope will open the Holy Door of the Vatican Basilica on December 24 at the Midnight Mass. However, instead of delegating the other Basilicas to Cardinals, he will solemnly open the Holy Door of St. John Lateran on the afternoon of the 25th and that of St. Mary Major on January 1, 2000; finally, in honor of the Week of Prayer for the Unity of Christians, he will open the Holy Door of St. Paul Outside the Walls on January 18. This is the first Jubilee in history in which a Pontiff has personally opened the doors of all these major basilicas.

    Another big surprise of the papal agenda is an extraordinary "Urbi et Orbi" blessing, which will take place at 12 midnight on New Year's Eve, when the Pontiff will appear at the window of his library to greet the youth, who will be gathered for a prayer vigil to begin the new year in St. Peter's Square. Prior to the greeting, the Holy Father will have prayed the solemn "Te Deum" of thanksgiving in St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, instead of the Roman Church of "Gesú" where the "Te Deum" has been held in previous years.

    The remaining engagements of the calendar of Christmas rites presided by the Pope are traditional. Very important is the blessing of images of the Christ Child on Sunday, December 12 in St. Peter's Square. Two days later, there will be a Mass for the university students of the city of Rome, and on the 21st, an audience with the Roman Curia, where John Paul II will touch on deeper topics. On January 2 the Children's Jubilee will be celebrated. On January 6, as customary, the Pope will consecrate new bishops, and on the 9th he will baptize several newborns in the Sistine Chapel. Finally, on January 10 he will receive ambassadors accredited to the Holy See, whom he will greet in the New Year and touch upon important issues of the current international scene. ZE99120309

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December 7, 1999 volume 10, no. 232  DAILY CATHOLIC