The question goes to the heart of one of the most profound Christian mysteries. God who forgives everything and is infinitely merciful, is also infinitely just.
The Pontiff answered the question by referring to Sacred Scripture. He began by explaining how in the Old Testament, "intervention in favor of the oppressed is conceived as justice, in other words, as God's faithfulness to the saving promises he made to Israel." For the Jewish people, "God is just because he saves, fulfilling his promises, whereas judgment of sin and of the wicked is nothing other than a manifestation of his mercy. The sinner who is sincerely repentant can always count on this merciful justice."
Precisely because of "the difficulty of finding justice in men and in their institutions, the Bible reveals the truth that justice will be fully realized only in the future, through the work of a mysterious person, who progressively assumes more specific 'Messianic' connotations," the Pope continued.
Thus, St. Paul was able to understand one of the most stirring truths about Christianity, as the Holy Father noted. "God's justice is intimately connected to the gift of reconciliation: if we allow ourselves to be reconciled with the Father through Christ, through him we can also become God's justice."
John Paul II came to the conclusion that "judgment and mercy are two dimensions of the same mystery of love." This conviction gives the believer tremendous peace in face of any negative or fearful idea of God and Christianity. "Love, which is the basis of the divine attitude and must become a fundamental virtue of the believer, makes us have confidence in the Day of Judgment, and excludes all fear."
Among those on hand to greet the Holy Father was the new parish priest of the town, Fr. Quinto Vacquin, a simple person who has worked with mountaineers for thirty years. "We hope you will be able to have the best possible rest," Fr. Vacquin said with slight embarrassment.
The people of the area in general are very quiet, underlining the reserved character of these places, something the Pontiff undoubtedly appreciates. The Holy Father will stay in a two-story chalet, the property of the Chevreres family of Introd. It is made of stone and wood and, although originally a stable, over the years has become a very welcoming home. It has central heating, in case the temperature drops. John Paul's room is on the second floor, a loft that has been furnished by the diocesan seminary of Aosta and the nearby priory Church of Saint Pierre.
The Pope's refuge has a very simple bedroom. When the weather is good, the window offers a spectacular view, crowned by the imposing Mont Blanc. Next door is a small office with a balcony.
The Pope will be here, some 12.5 miles from Aosta, until July 20. His only public engagements are the Angelus messages on July 11 and 18. On the 18th he will give a message to the world from the Carmelite monastery that he himself inaugurated in 1989. The rest of the time will be spent in prayer. The contemplation of nature has always been a time of transcendental awareness for the Pope. Reading, conversations with lifelong friends (including some who might come from Poland), and walking in the woods will be his other activities. This is a very special time during which the Pope has often prepared a particularly moving document or address. On his agenda for the coming months is the Synod of Bishops for Europe, preparation for his much awaited trip to the Holy Land and places of Revelation and, of course, the marathon of events scheduled for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. ZE99070704 and ZE99070705
After returning from a visit to Rome, where he participated in the formal announcement of the upcoming canonization of the "Cristero" martyrs, Cardinal Rivera said that he shared the "great hope" felt by all Mexican Catholics-- and especially by those of Indian origin-- that Juan Diego would soon be canonized as well. He observed that while there are other Mexican candidates for canonization, the cause of Juan Diego-- the peasant to whom the Virgin Mary appeared-- is a particularly significant one because of the enormous popular devotion to Our Lady of Gaudalupe throughout Mexico and indeed the Western hemisphere.
UN officials announced on July 5 that President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone and Foday Sankoh of the United Front rebels would sign a peace treaty in Lome, the capital of Togo, after several weeks of diplomatic talks. Although the rebel forces in Sierra Leone have been split into several competing groups, sources in Togo said that all of the important rebel leaders would accept the peace treaty.
Negotiations had nearly broken down in recent days when Sankoh demanded at least eight positions for rebel representatives in the Cabinet of a new unity government. But Sankoh and his allies backed away from that demand-- as they also gave up on a plea for the withdrawal of Nigerian peacekeeping troops from Sierra Leone.
Meanwhile in Dublin, Ireland Irish President Bertie Ahern has cautioned against any effort to exclude Sinn Fein from peace talks regarding Northern Ireland. The Irish leader's statement came shortly after British Prime Minister Tony Blair said he would seek the exclusion of Sinn Fein if the Irish Republican Army refused to disarm.
"The Good Friday agreement is first and foremost an exercise in inclusive, collective politics," Ahern told reporters. He warned that a bid to exclude Sinn Fein could doom the peace process.
Ahern and Blair appeared to be engaged in a public disagreement over the implementation of a peace plan which they had jointly put forward last Friday to break a logjam in the peace talks on Northern Ireland. But officials for both governments, speaking anonymously, assured journalists that the disagreement was only superficial, and Blair and Ahern remained united behind their proposal. The two leaders are struggling to establish support for their plan before a July 15 deadline.
While in Dili, East Timor word has been released that the government of Indonesia has announced plans to send 1,000 more troops into East Timor, to maintain order there during the weeks preceding a referendum on independence for the province.
A spokesman for General Wiranto, the head of the Indonesian military forces, said that the new troops would protect everyone in the troubled region, including UN officials who have come to observe the elections. However, he flatly rejected the notion that UN peacekeeping troops might enter East Timor.
UN officials have warned that the August referendum may be in jeopardy because of the paramilitary groups which are actively seeking to intimidate proponents of independence for East Timor. Those paramilitary groups are generally believed to be receiving support from the Indonesian army.
During a Mass attended by several priests and many young people from different regions of Italy and other European countries, Cardinal Stafford recalled the testimony of lay commitment of blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, whom he called a "lay confessor at the turn of the second millennium".
"In the primitive Church and until the Middle Ages, explained the Cardinal, the title of lay confessor was given to the person who suffered because of his faith, but who still didn't reach martyrdom".
The Cardinal emphasized the need of the commitment of lay people in Evangelization. Recalling blessed Frassati, he said that "it was the street, not the altar nor the cloister, the vocation he had received from God". "In each part of the street he found challenges and sufferings, that which St Paul calls 'combat'", he added.
Saying that Blessed Frassati suffered the incomprehension of his relatives and friends, Cardinal Stafford affirmed that "the lay confessor realizes that persecution is the normal condition of the Church in its relationship with the world". He also emphasized the need of lay people's unity, a unity that gathers all the different interests in Christ.
Pier Giorgio Frassati was born in 1901, and was called by the Father to his Presence in 1925. He was the son of a rich family from the liberal bourgeoisie of Turin. He excelled in his service to poor and sick people, whom he visited during the night. Pope John Paul II beatified him in 1990.
At the same time CWN reports that after a meeting of the Pontifical Council for the Family last week, L'Osservatore Romano has published a report warning about the decline in respect for the father's role in the family.
The Vatican newspaper reports that, in its deliberations, the Pontifical Council focused on the trend to downplay the authority and responsibility of the father. The father is often "seen as superfluous," L'Osservatore remarked, and media portrait's of the father's role are almost invariably unflattering.
This "crisis of paternity" is the result of "deliberate confusion of the sexes," the Pontifical Council for the Family had found. Among the factors contributing to the crisis, the Council pointed to the "ambiguous tendencies of the state regarding one-parent households," and the drive for new models of the family that are not based on marriage.
The educational role of the father is particularly important, the Council argued, and the recent tragedies acted out in American schools should serve as reminders of "the weakness of an educational system in which the father has been eliminated-- or has eliminated himself."
The Pontifical Council warned that this dangerous trend is visible even inside the structures of the Catholic Church. The Council cautioned against catechetical instruction which accepts the "gender ideology" that asserts "the interchangeability of the sexes." Such an approach can have disastrous consequences, frequently leading to the acceptance of homosexuality and the degradation of marriage, the Vatican body observed.