DAILY CATHOLIC     MONDAY     June 7, 1999     vol. 10, no. 109

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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          VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- At the request of Pope John Paul II, four Eucharistic celebrations took place simultaneously on the evening of June 3: in Rome, Tirana, Belgrade, and Skopje. In each case, the Mass was celebrated for the cause of peace in the Balkans.

          In Rome, June 3 is the feast of Corpus Christi-- a feast which is celebrated on the following Sunday in the United States. As he presided at ceremonies in the basilica of St. John Lateran, the Pope said that the Eucharist is "the sacrament of the gift that Christ has made of himself; it is the sacrament of love and peace, which is plentitude of life." The Pope also called attention to the prospects for a peace agreement in the Balkans, and gave thanks that "on this night, in our prayer we find solace in view of the hope that has finally begun to arise."

          At the same time, Archbishop Nguyen Van Thuan, the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, was celebrating Mass with a congregation of about 200 people in Belgrade. The archbishop-- who had been detained at the border when he arrived in Yugoslavia, and was released only through the intercession of the papal nuncio-- had been personally commissioned to convey the Pope's paternal concern for the Serbian people.

          Similarly, Bishop Diarmuid Martin, the secretary of the same Pontifical Council, celebrated Mass in Skopje, Macedonia, while Msgr. Giampaolo Crepaldi, the Council's undersecretary, presided at a liturgical celebration in Tirana, Albania. Each of the Vatican officials had plans to confer with local relief workers and political leaders, and to visit refugee camps, before returning to Rome.

          Pope John Paul II has underlined the determination of the Holy See to pursue ecumenical dialogue with the Orthodox churches, in spite of recent setbacks and obstacles.

          In a letter addressed to Cardinal Edward Cassidy, the president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, the Holy Father called for "renewed intensity" in ecumenical work with the Eastern churches. That new effort is required to overcome "the difficult that still remain," he said.

          The Pope's letter, released by the Vatican on June 4, acknowledges that dialogue with the Orthodox world has been inhibited by the war in the Balkans, and that tensions still surround the Eastern-rite Catholic churches.

          The Kosovo crisis caused the postponement of a meeting of a joint Catholic- Orthodox theological commission. The meeting-- the first session of that commission since 1993-- had been scheduled to take place in Baltimore in June; it was postponed until next year "by mutual agreement." Pope John Paul observed that the postponement, which was announced on April 26, was a prudent move; he said that it was crucially important for the meeting to take place in circumstances that would encourage "the serene pursuit of truth."

          In 1993, the Vatican's theological dialogue with the Orthodox broke down over the question of the Eastern-rite Catholic churches. Orthodox leaders have consistently protested that these churches are engaged in "proselytism," and constitute an offense against the Orthodox. The Pope has said that this is a "difficult" question, which should be addressed with "patience and a fraternal spirit." At the same time, he has pointed out that Catholics of the Eastern-rite are full members of the Church, with all the same rights and duties as other Catholics.

Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at 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.

June 7, 1999       volume 10, no. 109


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