When it is launched, the new site-- Jubil2000.org-- will provide information and announcements from the central committee coordinating the Jubilee celebration at the Vatican. It will also offer news about local events around the world, on the basis of reports obtained from apostolic nuncios and national committees.
For now the site is available only on a restricted basis, for those who have obtained a password. But in February it will be made open to the public, and the various announcements will be available in 7 languages: Italian, French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and Polish. Eventually the translations will also include Russian and Chinese.
The new site is an answer to the Holy Father's request to the New Evangelization through mass media. In his encyclical Redemptoris Missio, Pope John Paul II affirmed: "Involvement in the mass media, however, is not meant merely to strengthen the preaching of the Gospel. There is a deeper reality involved here: since the very evangelization of modern culture depends to a great extent on the influence of the media, it is not enough to use the media simply to spread the Christian message and the Church's authentic teaching. It is also necessary to integrate that message into the `new culture' created by modern communications."
At a January 15 press conference in Rome, Cardinal Roger Etchegaray-- the president of the Jubilee committee-- announced the construction of the new Internet site among the major accomplishments of the Jubilee effort. He also unveiled new publications designed to help pilgrims coming to Rome for the Jubilee; these publications will offer practical guides as well as calendars of events and suggestions for prayers.
The Jubilee committee has also completed the composition of an official hymn for the Jubilee year, and a special votive Mass "pro jubileo" which will be offered for use by the world's priests during the holy year.
The committee is establishing a welcome center for the millions of pilgrims who are expected to travel to Rome during 2000. The center will be a joint project of the Vatican and secular officials in Rome. And the committee has signed agreements with hotels, religious institutes, and bed-and-breakfast establishments, to guarantee that at least 60,000 beds will be available to visitors.
In a related story out of Frankfort, Germany, DaimlerChrysler AG announced on Wednesday that it had received a major contract from a Rome-based transportation company to provide more than 1,000 buses in time for the Jubilee Year in 2000.
DaimlerChrysler's German-based EvoBus GmbH Setra-Omnibusse unit said that it had agreed to provide the Templa consortium with the buses by 2000. The first buses would be delivered this July under the 500 million mark (US$2.98 million) contract. More than 25 million pilgrims are expected to visit the Eternal City during the Holy Year marking the start of the third Christian millennium.
The Holy Year starts on Christmas Eve, 1999 and ends on January 6, 2001. The event is expected to possibly attract history's biggest pilgrimage to Rome. The Setra S 315 GT-HD and Mercedes-Benz O 404, also called Satellite coaches, are to be bought by Italian bus companies to transport visitors to Rome.
UN special envoy Francis Okelo said he had been contacted by the rebel Revolutionary United Front who planned to begin the cease-fire on Monday. The rebels also demanded to speak to their imprisoned leader, Foday Sankoh, and insisted on his release next week.
Meanwhile, the Rome-based MISNA missionary news agency said rebels told Catholic officials that Archbishop Joseph Ganda of Freetown, who was kidnapped this week, and Italian missionary Father Mario Geurra, who was kidnapped in November, could be released in exchange for a cease-fire.
The government has passed new austerity measure in the latest budget that sharply increase gasoline prices and deregulate the price of tortillas, the staple food of the Mexican diet -- moves which many see as part of an effort to pad the pockets of a few at the expense of many. "We are caught in the whirlwind of an economy which has exclusion as its premise ... and which has placed in the hands of a few the majority of goods, leaving millions without real opportunities for progress," Cardinal Norbeta Rivera of Mexico City said in a homily at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Mexican officials were said by some commentators to be nervous that the Holy Father might speak on the issue which allow opposition groups to seize on the comment and use it against the government policies. But Bishop Luis Morales Reyes, president of the Mexican bishops' conference, said: "He will not touch on delicate subjects. He has always shown the utmost respect for the autonomy of each country."
On the last ad limina visit by the bishops of Bosnia-Herzegovina, in 1993, the Pope had expressed deep concern about the radical drop in the number of Catholics living in the divided country, the flood of refugees, and the devastation suffered by the local dioceses during the fighting in central Bosnia-- especially around the dioceses of Banja Luka and Posavina. Now, with the Church in the midst of a major rebuilding project, the Holy Father emphasized the need to guarantee a stable peace, to ensure that refugees are able to return to their homes, and to provide equal treatment for the three main ethnic groups of Bosnia-Herzegovina: the Bosnians, Serbs, and Croats.
"What is demanded of Catholics should apply to the other religious communities and ethnic groups as well," the Pope said. He encouraged the bishops to continue their active participation in dialogue with other groups, mentioning in particular the Orthodox churches. "Be untiring messengers of pardon and reconciliation," he urged them.
The bishops of Bosnia-Herzegovina, led by Cardinal Vinko Puljic of Sarajevo, reported that the Church is recovering from the devastation of war, and religious vocations have been numerous in the post-war years.