From the moment of his arrival, the great affection of the Poles for this hometown hero was clear. Every public appearance was thronged with people. On Saturday the 13th, John Paul II celebrated Mass for some 800,000 in Gdansk, with crowds reaching 1.5 million in Krakow.
In Elk, one of the poorest zones of the country, he extended this love to the poor. "Let no one be without a roof over his head, or bread on the table; let no one feel alone, abandoned or uncared for," he told the crowds on the 8th.
Human life is also a gift of God's love, a point that the Holy Father stressed in his visit to Lowicz, a small city to the West of Warsaw. "Human life is sacred. No one, under any circumstance can claim for himself the right to directly destroy an innocent human being. God is absolute Lord of man's life, created in his image and likeness. Human life, therefore, has a sacred and inviolable character which reflects the very inviolability of the Creator."
During World War II, half the priests of Pelpin were killed by the Nazis. Celebrating Mass there on the 6th, he said that their memory lives "because it was from their lips that our generation heard the word of God and, thanks to their sacrifice, experienced its power."
The very next day, in Bydgoszcz (some hundred miles south of Gdansk) the Pontiff remembered the martyrs of all time, from the victims of Roman persecution, to Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko, a local priest kidnapped and killed by the Communists in 1987, with special mention of mothers who even today, die to bring life to their children. "The world needs people who have the courage to love and do not retreat before any sacrifice, in the hope that one day it will bear abundant fruit."
One of the most dramatic moments of the visit was the beatification of 108 martyrs of the Nazi persecution in Warsaw on June 13. These brave men and women "gave their lives for Christ, in order to possess life forever in his glory." Many were killed because of their action to help the Jewish people during the war. One mother died in the place of her pregnant daughter. To these 108 martyrs must be added the witness of Fr. Stefan Wincenty Frelichowski, martyred in Dachau, and beatified on the 8th in Torun.
The final witness of sanctity in the Pope's visit was St. Kinga, whom he beatified on the 16th in Stary Sacz. Though she wanted to consecrate her life as a virgin, circumstances forced her to marry. This didn't stop her resolve -- she convinced her husband to live a chaste life within their marriage. This heroic virtue became the springboard for the Pope's homily: "I speak in a special way to you young people: defend your inner freedom! Let no false shame keep you from cultivating chastity!"
On this occasion, John Paul II signed a document commemorating the hundredth anniversary of the consecration of the human race to the Sacred Heart by Leo XIII. "From the Heart of the Son of God who died on the cross flows the perennial source of life, which gives hope to every man. From the Heart of the crucified Christ the new humanity is born, redeemed from sin. The man of 2000 needs the Heart of Christ to know God and to know himself, and to build the civilization of love."
After the Mass, hundreds gathered outside the Archbishop's residence to sing, play instruments, and cheer. When the Pope was finally given a clean bill of health by his physician (about 9 p.m.), he made a brief appearance at the window to wild applause and cheering.
Nowhere was the affection of the Poles for their Pope more obvious than in Wadowice, the Holy Father's birthplace. There, the Pontiff reminisced about old times for almost forty minutes, with the crowd constantly asking for more stories.
The Holy Father ended his pilgrimage with an unplanned stop at the shrine of Jasna Gora, in Chestochowa. There he prayed at the icon of the Black Madonna. "I come to Jasna Gora as a pilgrim in order to bow before Mary, Mother of Christ, to pray to Her, and to pray together with Her. I wish to thank Her for the care extended in these days of my pastoral ministry in the Church of my Homeland. Mary has been with us throughout this pilgrimage, interceding to Her Son for spiritual gifts for us so that we may be able to 'do whatever He tells us.' " ZE99061820
"In 1991 he shouted at us; in 1997 he caressed us. And now ... he has exalted us and made us happy," stated Fr. Kloczowski.
Like a marathon runner who pushes himself to the limits of his physical strength, by drawing on his spiritual strength John Paul II met with some 10 million faithful in his country, in what can best be described as a hectic pilgrimage. He visited 20 places in 13 days: an agenda which would overwhelm anyone. "When I heard about his schedule for the visit, I was afraid the Pope wanted to end his days in Poland," a Catholic Polish journalist said in a low voice.
His body rebelled only once, when fever gripped him for some hours. Yet, it was precisely on that day, that the people's love for the Pope was most powerfully expressed. With great affection they crowded around the Archbishop's residence, playing instruments, singing songs, calling for the Pope's presence at the window. "Father, Father," they cried. "Speak, speak," they implored. Finally, visibly moved, the Pope came to the window and invoked the Virgin Mary. The exultant youth shouted: "Stay, stay. Get well, get well." It would seem that the contact between the Pope and the youths was enough to make the Holy Father decide to keep going. On the very last day of his trip to Poland, full of medicines, the Pontiff went to Gliwice by helicopter -- the place he had been unable to visit on Tuesday because of his illness. And, as though this was not enough, he added another stop: at Czestochowa, where he prayed before the Black Madonna.
It seems that in response to his companions' concern, John Paul II answered he had "eternity" to rest. Sisters Tobiana and Eufrosia, the Polish nuns who care for him at the Vatican, have tried to slow him down. "I am worried about you, Your Holiness," Sister Eufrosia said, after a very tiring trip. "I am also worried about my holiness," the Pope quipped.
In the early part of his pontificate, the Holy Father replied to criticisms from the Curia about his trips: "If I stayed in Rome writing encyclicals, only a few people would read them. If I travel and mix with people, I will meet all kinds of people and will be heard by some who would otherwise never come to see me."
It is not known exactly how, but it seems that John Paul II draws strength from the crowds. In his tireless trips through the continents, during the twenty years of his pontificate, hundreds of millions of men and women have come to greet this Pope.
It is extraordinary to watch how in moments of exhaustion the Pope seems to give in to fatigue, even his voice is affected, but as soon as he starts to talk spontaneously with the multitudes, his tongue is loosened, his voice becomes vibrant and his eyes break into a smile.
Father Kloczowski, who has known the Holy Father for a long time, said, "Contrary to what is thought in the West, this Pope is not, in fact, doctrinaire and dogmatic, but faithful to the origins of his phenomenological thought: the religious dimension is not a theory but an experience, and the figures of the saints embody the concrete reality."
Those who have seen John Paul II pray or celebrate Mass confirm that it is precisely the spiritual dimension, which is almost mystical, that is at the base of his strength. ZE99061808
As proof of his extraordinary ecumenical capacity, today English and foreign newspapers refer to three key events in his time as Archbishop. The Pope's visit in May, 1982, a first in history since the Reformation. A decade later, there was the entry of some 200 married Anglican pastors opposed to the Anglican ordination of women into the Catholic Church. This "drain" could have become a new and irreparable break but, instead, thanks to the Cardinal, it became an occasion of communion between the two denominations. Along with the Anglican pastors, there were some prominent conversions. Two Conservative ministers, Ann Widdecombe and John Gummer, and the Duchess of Kent, a cousin of the Queen, entered the Church at Westminster Cathedral. Finally, in 1995 the Queen herself attended an ecumenical service in the Catholic Cathedral. At the time, there was talk of a Catholic conspiracy in the press, as many believed the country's spiritual leadership had passed from Canterbury to Rome.
Cardinal Hume was born on March 2, 1923 to a family of mixed religions. His father, a Scot, was Protestant, while his mother was a French Catholic, both belonging to the nobility. The future Cardinal learned about the dialogue between confessions at the same time he learned the languages, refining his French with studies at the Swiss University of Freibourg. He was Abbot of Ampleforth Abbey in York for a long period.
Cardinal Hume was tall, with a good face, called by the English "a Plantagenet." He governed with intelligence and modesty, the style of the great, calling himself "a benevolent dictator." He was determined in his condemnation of the sins of the times -- egotism in sensuality, eugenic aberrations -- but he was also able to express his doubts.
He spoke about the loneliness of celibacy and how his faith developed in time. This attitude was confirmed as he faced death. "I am dying of cancer," he told his priests in April, "and, surprisingly, I am serene and at peace with myself."
The Queen conferred the Order of Merit on him in May, given to persons who have shown exceptional service to the country. The Cardinal said it was in recognition of the work done by all Catholics. Today, one of the first to mourn his loss was Dr. George Carey, Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury.
Following the news of Cardinal George Basil Hume's death yesterday afternoon, the Holy Father sent the following telegram to Westminster Cathedral's Administrator.
"With great sadness I have received the news of the death of Cardinal George Basil Hume. I offer prayerful condolences to the Auxiliary Bishops, priests, religious and laity of the Archdiocese of Westminster and to the entire Church in England and Wales. Commending the Cardinal's noble soul to our Heavenly Father's eternal love, I thank the Lord for having given the Church a shepherd of great spiritual and moral character, of sensitive and unflinching ecumenical commitment and firm leadership in helping people of all beliefs to face the challenges of the last part of this difficult century. I am confident that the example of the Cardinal's devoted service as Benedictine monk and Abbot at Ampleforth and as Archbishop of Westminster, his untiring work as president of the Bishops' Conference, as well as his witness of dignity and hope in the face of the mystery of suffering and death will inspire all who knew him to ever greater fidelity to the Gospel of salvation. Invoking the comforting gifts of the Holy Spirit upon the Cardinal's family and upon all who mourn him in the hope of resurrection, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of peace in Our Lord Jesus Christ." ZE99061803 and ZE99061810
The revelations have elicited an immediate reaction from political quarters. Social Democrat Wolfgang Thierse, president of the Bundestag, criticized the Pope's decision and expressed the implicit hope that the bishops will have the courage to disobey.
This is not the first time John Paul II has expressed strong criticism of German legislation on abortion. The interruption of pregnancy is free and unrestricted in Germany during the first three months, but the woman who wants to abort must consult a visit a pregnancy consultation center, that is, a place with social workers, psychologists, doctors and religious experts, where the woman is offered material and social aid to raise and educate the child, should she decide to carry the pregnancy to term.
After the woman has received advice from this center, she receives a certificate, which she must present to the doctor should she decide to abort her child. Some Catholics have argued that if the Church does not provide these certificates, the women will not come to the Church for counseling. The Pope, however, pointed out last year that the certificate had become a virtual ticket to an abortion, and so it is not morally acceptable to give this certification.
Of the 1,700 such consultation centers in Germany, 270 are organized by the Catholic Church and 126 by the social service for Catholic women. On Monday and Tuesday the German Episcopal Conference will be faced with a difficult choice: if it decides to follow the papal directive and abandon collaboration with the authorities in the consultation centers, almost a quarter of the centers nationwide will close and the implementation of the federal law will be problematic if not impossible in part of the national territory. The decision weighs on the shoulders of Bishop Karl Lehmann, president of the Episcopal Conference, who to date has tried to defend the law.
Joaquin Navarro-Valls, director of the Holy See's Press Hall, stated: "In regard to press releases on a letter from the Holy Father to the German bishops, regarding the existence of Catholic family consultation centers in the state system, I confirm that John Paul II has written the German Episcopate a letter on this matter. The content will be made public in the near future by the bishops of Germany." ZE99061809
The House voted 248-180 to allow states to decide whether the Ten Commandments could be posted on state property. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Alabama, said: "Simply posting the Ten Commandments will not change the moral character of our nation overnight. However, it is one step that states can take to promote morality and work toward an end of children killing children."
The proposal is an amendment to a youth crime bill, raised after the school shootings in Littleton, Colorado several months ago. Democrats said the measure is unconstitutional because it would impose one religion over others.
Another religious-freedom proposal was defeated. Rep. Mark Souder, R-Indiana, had proposed banning the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention from producing any materials that "undermine" or "denigrate" the religious beliefs of anyone in programs authorized in the juvenile justice legislation. Democrats said the measure could damage hate crime prevention programs, saying hate crimes sometimes have their sources in religious beliefs.
A third proposal that allows faith-based organizations access to grants from the legislation passed 346-83.
"I share the joy of the former hostages and their relatives," said Archbishop Duarte after receiving the released hostages and bringing them to the local hospital. The National Liberation Army (ELN) on Tuesday released only 33 hostages, keeping some 40 still captive. The Colombian government said the rebels has kept the wealthiest in order to exchange them for money, even though the ELN has insisted the kidnapping was a political action.
"It is sad to see that the National Liberation Army is still committing the perversion of keeping other hostages," the archbishop added. He energetically attacked the ELN for continuing to hold the wealthiest hostages. "We demand, before Colombia and the world, the release of all the kidnapped, and to release them now, without shows and exhibitions," Archbishop Duarte said.
The archbishop strongly criticized the rebels for calling a press conference and setting a stage with ELN banners for the release of the kidnapped. Although he was invited to the "ceremony," the archbishop decided to wait for the released hostages in a nearby town and then go back with them to Cali.
"After these brutal acts, the ELN has turned into a terrorist group and they will have to show a concrete, dramatic change in their attitude and strategy," said Archbishop Duarte when asked by the press if he would suspend the excommunication after the ELN released all hostages. He excommunicated all ELN members two days after the kidnapping at La Maria Church. His decision was backed by the Colombian Bishops' Conference.
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