DAILY CATHOLIC    TUESDAY     December 7, 1999     vol. 10, no. 232

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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

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 7, 1999       volume 10, no. 232


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