Saint Louis IX, King of France, departs on his final crusade which would end a month and a half later in Tunis when he would succumb to the fever.
Saint Thomas More is indicted for high treason for refusing to defy Rome at Henry VIII's order.
The Franciscan missionary Blessed Father Junipero Serra lands in San Diego, California where two weeks later, on the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, he would establish the first of 21 california missions - San Diego de Alcala.
In the text, the Pope states he will undertake a journey on the routes of God's Revelation. Therefore, he will visit those sites that witnessed Biblical scenes like the promise to Abraham, the handing of the Ten Commandments to Moses, the Gabriel's Annunciation to Mary, Jesus' birth in a stable, the Crucifixion, and St. Paul's shattering conversion.
"Abandoning myself entirely to the divine will, I would be very happy if this plan materializes, at least in its essential aspects. It is a strictly religious pilgrimage, both by nature and purpose; it would make me suffer greatly if different interpretations are given to this plan of mine. I have begun this pilgrimage spiritually already because, even going to these places in thought, means rereading the Gospel itself, and traveling on the roads of Revelation," the Holy Father wrote.
The Pope concedes that "God is also present in every corner of the earth," but there are "sacred places" where encounter with the divine can be lived more intensely.
John Paul II will continue to Mount Sinai, the place where Moses received the Ten Commandments, and Mount Nebo, from which the prophet saw the Promised Land.
The journey to the places of Revelation will also offer the possibility of direct dialogue with the other great monotheist religions. Specifically, the Pope is convinced that the Jubilee must make possible, on one hand, awareness of the ties that unite Christians with Jews, by definitively overcoming the "misunderstandings" of the past: and on the other, an increase of knowledge and understanding of Islam, "in order to demonstrate appreciation for the religious commitment and desire to construct a society that is more in keeping with God's plan, which respects every human being and creation."
"It is, undoubtedly, an emblematic pilgrimage. The journey dreamed by the Pope is also a proposal to all the faithful who wish to go back to the roots of their faith," noted the scholar. "It will be important not to get distracted by the beauty of the scenery, by its beautiful colors and perfumes. When one arrives in Palmyra, in Syria, for example, it is difficult not to be enchanted by the ruins in the desert seen in the moonlight."
This is, in fact, the second connotation of this type of pilgrimage: the historical, archeological aspect. And, of course, this dimension is important, Msgr. Ravasi says. "The Christian pilgrimage is by definition a trip into history and into space. It consists of earth, stone, water, air. Christian Revelation is not private or disembodied, but takes place in history."
Msgr. Ravasi reviewed the stages of the papal pilgrimage. He began with Ur of the Chaldeans, "the root of faith of the three religions; the place of the calling; the only source of three rivers: Judaism, Christianity and Islam." Then Mount Sinai, "the place of the Word, of the Covenant, of communion between God and the people. Here, in the desert, an intimacy is established which leads Isaiah to use nuptial images often to describe it."
Then Bethlehem, Nazareth and Jerusalem, "where the Word is made flesh; where the meeting between God and man is total. Kierkegaard said: 'the two worlds -- man's and God's -- collide in Jesus, but they do not cause an explosion but an embrace.' "
To those pilgrims who would like to precede or follow the Holy Father in these places of pilgrimage, Monsignor Ravasi gives some advice. He began with Ur of the Chaldeans, in the a "no fly zone" imposed by the international community on the skies of Iraq. "It will not be easy to reach, but its attraction is unquestionable. Those who make it will find a land that is still wounded; the war left its mark even on the monuments."
For those visiting Mount Sinai, Monsignor Ravasi recommends prayer in St. Catherine's monastery. "The monks complain sometimes because of the superficiality of tourists ... The place has a very special atmosphere. One should go up the Mount at night."
Visits to Bethlehem, Nazareth and Jerusalem are easier; he suggests they be visited in this order, following the stages of Christ's life itself. It should also be noted that Israel must normally be visited after any Moslem countries on the itinerary, since many Moslem countries will not allow a tourist bearing a passport stamped in Israel to enter.
Finally, Msgr. Ravasi spoke about the third stage: Damascus and Athens, the place of St. Paul's calling and mission. The ideal ending to the pilgrimage would be Rome, a unique way of experiencing the Jubilee: in the Holy Land and in the Eternal City.
"Last month I went to Rome heading an Iraqi delegation sent by President Saddam Hussein to thank the Pope for all he has done during his ministry. The Iraqi authorities wanted to thank the Holy See officially for the noble stance it has taken in favor of the Iraqi people. At that time, we invited the Pope to come to our country, to Ur of the Chaldeans, to begin his pilgrimage of faith there in the context of the Great Jubilee. The Holy Father was very happy and expressed enthusiastically his desire to undertake this trip," the Patriarch said.
This hope seems close to realization. "We regard the visit as a blessing from Heaven for Iraq and its people. The Pope does everything possible to unite the hearts of men," continued Patriarch Raphael. "What unites us in the East is the faith of our father Abraham, which is common to the three monotheistic religions -- Christianity, Judaism and Islam. We hope this visit will be the beginning of a road for all believers of these three religions toward the one faith professed by Abraham."
The Patriarch is certain the whole of Iraq looks forward impatiently to the Pope's arrival. "Both Christians and Moslems love the Pope and they appreciate him for the position he has taken in their support during the tragedy that they continue to experience. His visit honors us and makes us happy. We hope he will confirm the principles of justice that will enable us to appeal to faith, and that will give stability to our region."
The Pope's visit to Iraq could even take place while the embargo is still in force, noted the Patriarch. "I think the preparations for the trip will encourage everyone to speed up the end of the embargo. It is a dishonor for humanity to behave this way. I am thinking in particular of those who are politically responsible who impose an inhuman, immoral and senseless measure, when our job as men is to work in the service of peace." ZE99063003, ZE99063004, and ZE99063005 stories
The Pontiff says that his desire to make this "special Jubilee pilgrimage" in order to pray at "the principal places which, in the Old and New Testaments, saw God's interventions." The sites he mentions in his letter are Ur of the Chaldeans, Mount Sinai, Mount Nebo, Nazareth, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem, Damascus, and Athens.
If he is able to realize his ambitions for the pilgrimage, John Paul would visit six different countries for the first time during his pontificate: Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Syria, and Greece, as well as land now governed under the Palestinian Authority. During his years as Archbishop of Krakow, current Pope visited the Holy Land twice: in 1963 and 1964. Pope Paul VI traveled to Jordan, then to Jerusalem, in 1964.
The Pope mentions that his desire to visit sites connected with the Old Testament is an effort to underline the "inseparable" links between Christianity and Judaism. He writes that he hopes the Jubilee observance will "definitively suppress the misunderstandings" which have harmed relations between Christians and Jews over the centuries.
The papal letter indicates that the Holy Father is most emphatic in his desire to visit the Holy Land itself, and to pray in Nazareth, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem-- in particular, to visit the Cenacle there. He also hopes to visit Ur in Chaldea, where Abraham heard God's call. He would like to visit both Mount Sinai in Egypt and Mount Nebo-- the latter being the place in what is now Jordan, from which Moses first looked out over the Promised Land-- but "at least" to visit the monastery of St. Catherine near Mount Sinai. And he envisions stops at Damascus, where St. Paul was converted and baptized, and Athens, where the preaching of St. Paul at the Areopagus is "a symbol of the encounter between the Gospel and human culture."
The Pope's letter does not indicate when his pilgrimage would take place, and the Vatican has not released any dates for the visit he mentions. The Italian daily Il Messaggero reported that the trip to Iraq could take place in December 1999, while the voyage to the Holy Land-- including the visit to Jordan and Syria-- might be scheduled for March 2000. The trip to Egypt would then be scheduled for another time in the year 2000, the Messaggero story suggests.
Describing the pilgrimage as "exclusively religious," the Pope says that he would be "pained" if anyone attempted to assign some political significance to his travels. But he does write that the trip could provide "occasions for meeting" with leaders of other religious groups-- especially Muslims-- and for efforts to promote unity among Christians.
The Pope's letter, which is addressed to all people who "all people who are disposed to celebrate the Jubilee," encourages other Christians to make their own pilgrimages during the Holy Year. If they are unable to make an actual physical pilgrimage, he enjoins all believers to be pilgrims "through their thoughts," so that they enter more fully into the spirit of the Jubilee and the life of the Church.
The Holy Father said that he felt "a profound tie of affection" for the Armenian prelate. Their personal relationship grew during visits by the Catholicos to the Vatican in December 1996 and March 1999. "I came to admire his spiritual stature, his intense love for the Church, and his care for the unity of all Christians," the Pope said.
During the 1996 visit by Karekin, the Armenian Church leader and Pope John Paul II signed a joint theological statement affirming the nature of Jesus Christ as true God and true man. That statement ended a theological dispute between the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Holy See-- a dispute that dated back to the Council of Chalcedon, and precipitated a split between the two Christian bodies. John Paul and Karekin had looked forward to the restoration of full communion.
Pope John Paul had planned to visit the dying Armenian prelate on his return trip from his recent voyage to Poland. But when the Pontiff was forced to curtail his schedule because of a bout with the flu, his plans for that personal visit were shelved. "I had very much wanted to be able to make a visit, as an act of brotherly love," the Pope told his Wednesday audience. "But circumstances did not allow it."
On Tuesday evening, June 29-- the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul-- Pope John Paul II had mentioned the Catholicos by name during a service of prayers for Christian unity, and asked all the faithful to join in prayers for the repose of his soul.
The Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute said this week that senior UN sources told them that Dr. Nafis Sadik, director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), pressured the heads of six Muslim delegations in a late-night meeting during the preparatory conference in March. Sadik was said to have charged the Muslim diplomats with working closely with the Vatican and Christian organizations, and the Muslim delegates apparently reacted with anger.
At this week's special session that began Wednesday and ends Friday, the G-77 developing countries and the industrialized Western nations were set for a showdown on population issues. After pro-life groups at the March meeting were successful in defending parental authority and defeating abortion and contraceptive measures, Sadik encourage a number of pro-abortion groups to apply for participation in this week's meeting to offset them.
Among the groups are Action Canada for Population and Development, the National Abortion Rights Action League, the National Abortion Federation, the US Committee for UNFPA, and the Wallace Global Fund. The groups are intent on opening up sex education, abortion, and contraception to the youngest children, despite parental concerns. "There is a lot of tension between parental duties and adolescent rights to confidentiality and privacy," said Sally Etherton, an official with Population Action International.
Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C. the US House of Representatives on Tuesday voted down a resolution that called for a national day of prayer and fasting as a response to a recent spate of violence, especially the school attack in Littleton, Colorado.
Although a majority approved the resolution, 275-140, that was less than the two-thirds majority needed to pass it under the special rules covering the proposal. The nonbinding resolution was sponsored by Rep. Helen Chenoweth, R-Idaho, who said such a statement is needed today. "Our nation is sick and hurting and now is the time when all Americans of faith must come together and pray for healing and a spiritual renewal," Chenoweth said from the House floor Tuesday. "If there ever is a time when we need almighty God, it is now."
Chenoweth is expected to reintroduce the resolution under regular rules that require only a simple majority. Last week, the House passed a bill permitting the posting of the Ten Commandments in public buildings, including schools.