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THURSDAY      June 24, 1999      SECTION TWO       vol 10, no. 122

To print out entire text of Today's issue, print this section as well as SECTION ONE


      Today is the Solemnity of the Birth of Saint John the Baptist while tomorrow is the Twelfth Friday in Ordinary Time. For the readings, liturgies, meditations and vignette on the Baptizer, click on DAILY LITURGY.

Thursday, June 24, 1999


Friday, June 25, 1999

Events that happened this day in Church History

      Today is the eighteenth anniversary of the first time the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared in Medjugorje. Tomorrow is the actual date of her first message for she did not speak on this day in 1981, but did so the next day to the six visionaries present, thus making the anniversary the 25th of the month, rather than the feast of Saint John the Baptist which has significance in Our Lady choosing this date to first appear to the children as one making ready the way of the Lord - her Divine Son. For other pertinent events throughout the centuries that are memorable in Church history today, click on MILLENNIUM MILESTONES AND MEMORIES

Historical Events in Church Annals for June 24:

Excuses are for losers!

      They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but the words of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen have been known to launch a thousand images in one's mind, one of the ways this late luminary did so much to evangelize the faith. Because of the urgency of the times and because few there are today who possess the wisdom, simplicity and insight than the late Archbishop who touched millions, we are bringing you daily gems from his writings. The good bishop makes it so simple that we have dubbed this daily series: "SIMPLY SHEEN".

"There is no field in which more excuses are given than in the realm of the spiritual and the moral. Any excuse is better than none for the accepance of the word of God, which demands the pricking of the balloon of pride, and the surrender of the illegitimate revels of the flesh. That is why there has to be a Day of Judgment to send the excuses to hell and the reasons to Heaven."

with a Catholic slant

provided by
Catholic World News Service
and Noticias Eclesiales Church News and ZENIT International News Agency



      VATICAN CITY ( - As is his custom after each pastoral visit abroad, Pope John Paul II expressed his reflections concerning his seventh and longest trip to Poland during his Wednesday general audience in St. Peter's Square.

      In different languages, the obviously joyful Pope recalled that this trip had been for him "a great song of praise to God the Father," and thanked God once again for having allowed him to go to his native land. Twenty years after his first trip to Poland as pope, June 2-19, 1979, the Holy Father returned to his homeland for different reasons: the millennial anniversary of the canonization of St. Adalbert and the institution of new dioceses, the conclusion of the national synod and the proclamation of a new saint, Sister Kinga, and many beatifications of martyrs of the Nazis.

      In his catechesis, which was a little longer than usual, the Pope underlined the great faith of the Poles, "greatly supported by the devotion to the Sacred Heart and to the Virgin Mary." His detour by Czestochowa before returning to Rome was "a moment of great spiritual emotion," he confessed. He desired to put into the hands of Mary his own life and his "Petrine ministry" and to devote to her the Church in Poland and the whole world, without forgetting to call upon "the precious gift of peace for all humanity and solidarity among people."

      Other reasons for joy for the Pope were the "transformations which took place in Poland these past twenty years in the name of liberty and of solidarity." He recalled particularly his time in Gdansk, symbolic home of the Solidarisnosc movement. When he visited the Polish Parliament, first of its kind, he saw the chance to pray for "the old continent, so that it can continue to be a light to civilization and of authentic progress, rediscovering its spiritual roots and fully developing the potential of its people, from the Urals to the Atlantic."

      Lastly, addressing his compatriots, present in the square, in Polish, the Pope did not fail to encourage them to remain faithful to the moral and ethical principles which are the basis of democracy and all political life.


German Bishops Support Papal Decision

      WUERZBURG, JUN 23 (ZENIT).- The German Bishops have responded to John Paul II's letter, in which he requested them to take measures to avoid any kind of ambiguity in the certificates granted by the Catholic consultation centers for crisis pregnancies. Up to now, these certificates have allowed women the possibility of decriminalized abortion in established health institutions.

Unity in Supporting Papal Position

      Following two days of meetings in the Bavarian monastery of Wuerzburg, Archbishop Karl Lehmann, president of the German Episcopal Conference, stated that the Bishops will implement the directives given in the Pope's letter.

      The Bishops' spokesman said that the Holy Father has never asked them to close the consultation centers to help mothers in difficulty, thus denying the constant rumors spread by the press.

      The document that the Catholic consultation centers will grant, after meeting with the mothers in difficulty, will contain the statement: "This certificate cannot be used for carrying out decriminalized abortions."

Legality of New Certificate

      In Archbishop Lehmann's official statement on the matter, he also heads off criticism from pro-abortion groups who will likely claim that the new certificate perverts the spirit of the law. German law, says the Archbishop, "guarantees the Church the independent administration of its affairs within the limits of the law that applies to all. This free space also includes the entire scope of the Church's Caritas organization, and thus the advising of pregnant women."

      Secondly, he points out that the original reason for the consultation law was to "protect the life of the child." German law "requires the State to protect human life, including the unborn." In this case, Church law and State law actually coincide, according to the Archbishop.

      Arguing from these two points, Archbishop Lehmann concludes that "the ecclesial consultation centers in the scope of the Pregnancy and Family Health Amendments of August 21, 1995 fulfill their own task and will continue to exercise their activity."

Vatican Clarification

      In order to clarify further John Paul II's position on this matter, the Secretariat of the Vatican State published a note explaining the context within which the Pontiff made this decision.

      The text, published by L'Osservatore Romano, explains that the Holy Father intervened because the Episcopal Conference had not come to a common decision on the problem. "The majority of Bishops wanted a new 'plan of consultation and help,' including consultation and compromising commitments that offer the woman support, help and mediations, proposing, in addition, a new formulation of the consultation certificate. However, another group of Bishops thought that this proposal did not fully correspond with the Pope's request and opted for a consultation that would refuse to grant a certificate according to the law."

Synthesis of Conciliation

      The Vatican note says that in his letter the Pope "is aware of the essential demands of both opinions within the German Episcopal Conference and proposes a decision that will be a synthesis of conciliation." Thus, he requests that they help the mothers in difficulty but that at the same time they avoid any ambiguity, explaining in the certificate itself that this document does not justify the carrying out of decriminalized abortion.

      The Vatican note clarifies that, with this decision the Pope hopes to collaborate in the restoration of "unity of the Episcopal Conference on this important problem" and in overcoming "the tensions which have emerged in Catholic public opinion."

Defense of Human Life

      "This clarification contributes to free the Catholic Church from a situation which obfuscated the clarity and resolution of its testimony in favor of the intangibility of all human life," the Secretariat of State explained.

      "The letter clarifies that in regard to this problem, all controversy is out of place. This is exclusively a commitment of love and truth in favor of the mother and child. The only winners must be the mothers in difficulty and the unborn children," the Vatican note concludes.

      The background on the German abortion consultation centers has presented thorny questions of law that followed this country's unification. It all began on June 29, 1995 when the Parliament in Bonn adopted by a large majority a law on abortion seeking a compromise between the extreme permissiveness that reigned in the former German Democratic Republic (East Germany) and the much more restrictive attitude of the German Federal Republic (West Germany). Abortion was declared illegal, but it was decriminalized, on the condition that it took place during the first three months of pregnancy and that women would attend a consultation with psychologists, doctors and social workers in a consultation center.

      The certificate granted by the consultation center is not an authorization to abort, although in practice it is much like a "ticket" toward access to this intervention, which terminates the life of an unborn child.

Assistance to Mothers in Difficulty

      Of the 1,700 consultation centers that operate in Germany within the framework of the law, 270 are directed by Caritas and 126 by the social service for Catholic women. Although it criticized the new law on abortion, the German Catholic Church considered it opportune to open its own structures of social assistance to women in difficulty and thus enter the system of consultation promoted by the law.

      The decision was made during the Bishops' plenary assembly in the autumn of 1995, and already at that time the Pope asked the Bishops to reflect thoroughly on the consequences: "Be on guard lest the consultation offered by Catholics makes you accomplices in the suppression of innocent lives."

      The Bishops reaffirmed that in the consultation centers attempts are made to dissuade from abortion and, in fact, in 20% of the cases, the women have changed their mind. Work within the state system allows the Church to get close to mothers in difficulty. However, in public opinion, especially among Catholics, the granting of a certificate permitting by an institution directed by the Church constituted a real problem of conscience. Juridically it could be justified -- morally, it remained a thorny problem.

Avoid All Ambiguity

      For this reason, in January 1998, John Paul II requested the German Bishops to take the necessary measures to avoid this ambiguity. "A request which we welcome. We shall look for new ways," Archbishop Karl Lehmann, President of the Episcopal Conference said.

      As a result, a working group was created, which gave its results in February of this year. The German Bishops committed themselves to offer aid and assistance to mothers in difficulty and believed that the solution to the ethical problem was in a new formulation of the certificate granted by the consultation center. They produced three possible texts, one of them stating, "The distribution of this consultation and assistance plan in no way indicates an acceptance of the interruption of pregnancy."

      In responding to this proposal, the Pope requested, in a letter made public yesterday, that the text of this document add an explicit statement: "This certificate cannot be used for carrying out decriminalized abortions." ZE99062308 and ZE99062307


      VATICAN CITY ( - Thirty-seven archbishops of 22 different countries will receive pallium from the hands of Pope John Paul II on Tuesday, during a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica.

      This ritual of the bestowal of the pallium, consisting of a broad collar made of lamb's wool and worn around the neck by the pope and archbishops, always takes place in Rome, near the Confession of St. Peter, on the feast day of Ss. Peter and Paul. It is a sign of communion of new archbishops with the Successor of Peter.

      Among the 10 European prelates, in addition to the archbishop of Turin named Saturday, Archbishop Severino Poletto, four French archbishops will receive pallium: Archbishop Louis-Marie Bille of Lyon, Archbishop Andre Vingt-Trois de Tours, Archbishop Claude Feidt of Aix-en-Provence and Archbishop Francois Saint-Macary of Rennes. Africa will be represented by 7 new archbishops, including three in Uganda. For Asia, there will be one prelate from the Philippines and three from India. For the Americas, there are two Canadians and 14 Latin American prelates.


      ROME, JUN 23 (ZENIT).- A few days ago, the Missionaries of Charity made a formal request for opening the diocesan process of beatification of Mother Theresa of Calcutta. The petition was presented by Archbishop Henry D'Souza of Calcutta. The Archbishop said the process would begin within the next few weeks. The Archbishop pointed out that the tribunal, which must call and hear the witnesses, has not been appointed yet. Although, normally five years must go by after the death of a candidate before introducing the cause of beatification, John Paul II gave a dispensation from this norm in the case of Mother Theresa of Calcutta, who died on September 5, 1997. ZE99062310

For more headlines and articles, we suggest you go to the Catholic World News site at the CWN home page and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and Daily Dispatches, Dossiers and Features from ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

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June 24, 1999 volume 10, no. 122   DAILY CATHOLIC