Death of Saint Blaze, Bishop and Martyr. For more on this saint, see DAILY LITURGY.
Death of Saint Laurence of Spoleto, Bishop and Healer. Known as "the Illuminator" for his special gift of healing the blind spiritually and physically as well. He was born in Syria but the Monophysitist heretics drove him out of his homeland. He ended up in Spoleto Italy where he not only was ordained a priest but founded a monastery as well before being chosen Bishop of that see.
Death of Saint Laurence of Canterbury, a devotee of Saint Augustine of Canterbury who followed the latter as head of the Archbishopric there. He was responsible for converting the English King to Christianity.
Death of Saint Ansgar, Bishop and "Apostle of the North." For details of this saint, see DAILY LITURGY.
The Vatican did not indicate whether or not the Pope would be able to make his usual Wednesday audience on February 3.
Meanwhile at the conclusion of the week of prayer for Christian unity, the Church leaders of Jerusalem urged Pope John Paul II to visit the Holy Land during the Jubilee Year 2000.
Speaking on behalf of an ecumenical leadership group, the Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop Loutfi Laham asked: "Holy Father, do not be afraid; come as a pilgrim among us in the Holy Land in the year 2000, to pray with us and to promote peace among Christians, Muslims, and Jews." The archbishop's statement was quoted in the Italian daily newspaper Avvenire of February 2.
Avvenire explained that the statement by Archbishop Laham reflected the product of discussions among the spiritual leaders of Jerusalem, who had met during the week of prayer for Christian unity. Archimandrite Atallah Hanna, the representative of the Greek Orthodox patriarchate, reportedly played an important role in formulating the message.
Archbishop Laham also proposed that the various Christian patriarchs of the Holy Land should produce a statement emphasizing the "many points" of unity among the churches, as well as a setting out a program to bring them closer to full communion. Such a document, which would be signed by the heads of all the Christian churches of Jerusalem and the Holy Land, could be displayed at the pilgrim shrines of the Holy Land during the Jubilee Year, translated into several different languages and accompanied by words of greeting from the churches to the pilgrims.
During the homily, he asked the sponsors to be witnesses of Christian life for the young confirmed. He also remembered the person of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frossati, and narrated his life, showing him as a special example for the candidates who were to be confirmed. He was born 1901 and died in 1925. He was a child of a wealthy family, and excelled in his service to the poor and sick, whom he used to visit at night. The Cardinal recalled that the Holy Father referred to him as the "young man who lived the eight Beatitudes."
Cardinal Stafford encouraged the candidates to live the Beatitudes, inviting them to have a "pure heart, to visit the sick and be peacemakers. One must be open to the presence of Jesus. Jesus identified himself specially when he said 'When you do this to the least of My brothers, you do this to Me'. Open your hearts and be generous." He also asked the young people to pray constantly, specially the Our Father.
The topic for this year is centered on the very foundations of Catholic schools: faith. The president of National Catholic Educational Association pointed out that from the recognition and acceptance of this foundation, "all else flows: a curriculum infused with values, high academic standards and discipline." "The challenge for our schools in 1999," Bishop Raymond Boland, of Kansas City-Saint Joseph, highlighted, "is preparing our youth for a world that is in constant change. Schools should not only focus on imparting information, but also in teaching how to think in a critical way and to solve problems through teamwork... And above all, Catholic schools have the challenge of founding our children in the teaching of Christ."
Today is a central day inside the week's agenda, when the National Appreciation Day takes place. The encounter will be carried out in Washington with a delegation of over 100 Catholic students, professors and parents, that will meet with congressional leaders willing to promote Catholic schools. Meanwhile, across the country, diocesan and school leaders will also meet with civic officials on this day to encourage supporters nationwide to showcase the great accomplishments and contributions of Catholic schools to the country.
The bishop's complaint has been echoed by a member of the National Commission on Human Rights, based in Jakarta. He confirmed that Indonesian military forces have handed out hundred of firearms to untrained civilians who support the rule of the government in Jakarta, and oppose the bid for greater autonomy in East Timor.
East Timor was annexed by Indonesia in 1976, after a 1975 invasion which was widely condemned by the international community. The United Nations has never recognized Indonesia's claim to legal authority over East Timor, and separatist leaders in the region-- with the evident backing of the majority of Timorese-- have steadily fought to free themselves from the control of the Jakarta government.
The methodical arming of the regime's civilian supporters has raised new fears of a bloodbath, as undisciplined paramilitary units carry out terror campaigns against supporters of Timorese independence. One human-rights organization based in Dili has announced that in the Covalima district alone, 22 people were killed during the month of January in clashes between supporters and opponents of independence.
Meanwhile, the Indonesian government headed by President Habibie decided last week to release East Timor separatist leader Xanana Gusmao from prison, instead keeping him under house arrest. Bishop Belo remarked: "He is not a criminal, but a political prisoner. If now the Indonesian government allows him "special prisoner" status, I hope that he will be set free soon." The bishop added that Gusmao could play an important role in resolving the conflict in East Timor, because he enjoys widespread support among young people and among guerrilla fighters supporting the cause of independence.
Bishop Belo also praised a government decision to put the future of East Timor up for discussion in the country's new parliament, the People's Consultative Assembly, which will be elected in June 1999. Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas has said that the possibility of granting full independence to East Timor could be put before the new People's Consultative Assembly, if the East Timorese people reject Jakarta's current offer for greater autonomy.
Such a solution is clearly preferable, said the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, because "the problem cannot be resolved by military violence, but by political arrangement." Bishop Belo added that since the integration of East Timor into Indonesia was originally deliberated in the assembly, it is appropriate that the assembly should now address a solution to the problem.
Bishop Belo said that he has recommended an agreement under which East Timor would be given "as much autonomy as possible" over a period of 10- 15 years, to be followed by a referendum in which the people of East Timor would choose their own future.