Apologizing for his inability to deliver his usual catechetical address, the Holy Father explained that he is still recovering from what he described as a "seasonal" ailment, which has sidelined him for several days with a cough and a mild fever.
Taking note of the unusually cold weather in Rome, the Pope asked his listeners to pray for those who suffer from the winter weather-- particularly for those who are homeless, for the victims of the recent devastating earthquake in Colombia, and for those who are vulnerable: the elderly, young children, and the sick.
Citing the Roman proverb that says Candlemass (the feast of the Presentation, February 2) marks the end of the winter, the Pope concluded his brief remarks by wishing for warmer weather, then joining the pilgrims in reciting the Lord's Prayer.
Meanwhile, the Noticias Eclesias News Agency reported that St. Peter's Basilica yesterday WAS beautifully illuminated by the candles of the many consecrated men and women from different parts of the world gathered for the Day of Consecrated Life. The solemn Mass, on the occasion of the Presentation of the Lord, was presided by Cardinal Eduardo Martinez Somalo, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, in representation of the Holy Father, who wasn't able to attend due to the cold he has caught these days.
Cardinal Martinez Somalo read during the celebration the words the Holy Father had sent for the occasion. The text was directed to the consecrated men and women of the whole world, those that "have given their lives entirely to the work at the service of their brethren for the Kingdom of God." He specially mentioned those consecrated men and women that have "poured their blood at the frequently difficult apostolic service done in mortifying conditions," and who are "faithful to their spiritual and charitable mission have known how to unite their own sacrifice to Christ's sacrifice for the salvation of humankind."
He also mentioned the "consecrated lay persons, discrete witnesses in the world", as well as those who are "in the front line among the poor and margined." He later referred to the consecrated as to those men and women who "decisively contribute in the work of evangelization, giving it a prophetic force founded on the deepness of their option for the Gospel."
In a highly unusual speech for its length and for the fact that it was given off-the-cuff, Chavez, a retired army colonel who led an attempted military coup in 1990, referred to God as "the true Commander in Chief of all this," and proclaimed himself a "devout Catholic willing to call and integrate all religions in this effort" of recovering from the present economic crisis.
Although Chavez is divorced and remarried and therefore cannot receive Communion, he requested Archbishop Ignacio Velasco of Caracas to celebrate a Te Deum Mass prior to the installation ceremony as a way to confirm his Catholic faith. During the ceremony, Archbishop Velasco prayed to God "to guide our new President so he may fulfill his mission righteously and with prudence."
After the Mass, Chavez told Archbishop Velasco that he has expressed before Pope John Paul II "my conviction that human life and human dignity must be defended and protected from the moment of conception." In the afternoon after his installation, Chavez immediately signed a presidential decree calling for a referendum that will lead to a Constitutional Convention. Chavez said he wants to deeply reform the Venezuelan political establishment based on a bipartisanship that many believe prone to corruption.
In the social field, Chavez described himself a "radical reformist" but his signals about his economic policies have been mixed: he has kept the former government's conservative Finance Minister, but has appointed a cabinet that includes two former Communists, a former Socialist, and two well-known political journalists.
Chavez' predecessor Rafael Caldera, retiring president of Venezuela, attended yesterday's Te Deum Mass. On his last day as President of Venezuela, Caldera participated in the Eucharist celebration presided by Archbishop Ignacio Velasco of Caracas, together with other ministers of the executive cabinet as well as some retiring members from the High Military Staff. The Mass was held moments before the presidential ceremony took place in the Congress.
During the Eucharistic celebration, Archbishop Velasco thanked God for the good direction in which the country was now heading, requesting also that the Lord may illuminate the new President, Hugo Chavez. Upon concluding his homily, the Archbishop of Caracas manifested his hope in the future, pointing out that it is "a new millennium that will open up new horizons for the youth and the children that aspire for a future of peace, progress and well-being."
"The situation is getting ever more dramatic. The military junta, led by General Ansumane Mane, is advancing slowly into the city," MISNA said. The church on the outskirts of Bissau collapsed under the shelling, as dozens of people were seeking refuge from the fighting.
Thousands have fled Bissau since fighting erupted again on Sunday, shattering a three-month truce that followed the signing of a peace agreement between President Joao Vieira and rebel leader General Mane in the Nigerian capital Abuja in November.
Vieira's soldiers have been reportedly using civilians in the capital as human shields, and even forbade them from leaving the city to escape the fighting. As the fighting there intensified, rebel leaders have called for a ceasefire, to allow civilians time to leave the city. But Vieira's troops have told reporters, "Civilians are forbidden to leave Bissau."
Meanwhile in Jakarta, Indonesian officials said on Wednesday that the death toll from recent riots between Christian and Muslim gangs in the remote Spice Islands had jumped to 95 after more bodies were found in destroyed buildings.
Authorities expect the toll to rise as they search hundreds of wrecked homes, shops, mosques, and churches in the city of Ambon where the fighting was centered. Rioting broke out again on Tuesday between rival groups, leaving one person dead and several more injured. Local officials blamed the rioting on outside forces moving into the area to incite the inter-religious fighting.
The Kompas newspaper in the city of Medan quoted the vice-governor of North Sumatra province on Wednesday that about 200 "provocateurs" had moved into the area this week to incite riots in that area. "I have received information from Jakarta that there are plans to make North Sumatra the second Ambon," he was quoted as saying.
The defendants -- a group of pro-life organizations and individuals -- had claimed that the Nuremberg Files web site and the posters fell within the protections of the First Amendment. They had said in court that site and posters were not death threats, but educational items declaring that abortionists could be considered guilty of crimes against humanity.
"It's really just a statement from the court that says, 'Please shut up,'" said defendant Michael Bray. "It's an obscene assault upon the right to free speech. It says that when an abortionist cries out that he feels frightened by the speech of others, that the speakers should shut their mouths." The lawsuit was brought under the 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act which makes it illegal to incite violence against abortionists.
Unlike previous cases brought under the 1994 law, this one did not involve any physical confrontations or explicit threats. Because of that, the pro-life activists contended the Internet site and the posters were protected by the First Amendment. But the plaintiffs said that the Web site marked off the names on its list of abortionists who were killed, making it into a death list.
Some legal experts said the verdict is on shaky ground because US District Judge Robert Jones used a lesser standard than the Supreme Court, which said threats must be likely to cause "imminent lawless action."
The plaintiffs now want an injunction shutting down the Web site. "We have no intention of squelching free speech," said plaintiff Dr. Elizabeth Newhall. "Free speech is not in jeopardy. Women and their providers are."