Judas falls to his knees and he bends his head back and howls. Not even the howl of a wolf or an animal of the earth. This is a thoroughly horrid, demonic howl and his face is fully inhuman. His eyes are rolled up, his hair breathes, his nostrils flare, the lips are completely drawn back from his teeth which gleam and appear as fangs that wish to tear to pieces any and everything they come in contact with.
After he stops howling Judas struggles awkwardly to his feet and now he looks directly at me. There is the most terrible, sickening glow in his eyes. It is not human. Certainly not of God. And I tremble and cry out "Jesus" because I am looking into the eyes of Lucifer. And I am given to see the prince of darkness take and squeeze the last ounce of life from Judas’ soul, and the evil one, like an insidious spreading cancer, takes over all of Judas’ mind. It is Lucifer who thinks, who acts and who would destroy the body he has possessed, tearing it limb from limb in his hatred and fury.
For an instant I see Judas’ body sag, go limp as if he had died, only to jerk spasmodically back into an upright position for Lucifer himself animates, controls, drives.
Judas whirls around, looking in every direction. He seems pushed to return to the Temple area to give witness to his own hideous deed, but in the next instant he is whirled around and propelled in the opposite direction.
His feet are a tangle. He constantly stumbles, falls, rises, runs, stumbles again and sprawls headlong into a filthy gutter. Finally, mercifully, he is gone from my sight and I am shaking, praying, wanting only to be with Jesus.
Communist China restricts the free practice of religion, requiring all Catholics to belong to a state-sanctioned group that denies any fealty to Rome. The two primary obstacles for full relations are the Vatican's current diplomatic recognition of Taiwan, which China views as a renegade province, and accusations by China that the Vatican is interfering in its internal politics by seeking religious control of the Church in China.
Mayor Francesco Rutelli of Rome said he has raised the matter of Vatican-China relations directly and publicly with Jiang. "For us, it would be wonderful news to receive a simple signal of willingness to dialogue in this area," he said. Premier Massimo D'Alema made the same appeal Monday in an interview in an Italian newspaper.
The Holy See has signaled that it is ready to talk with China, offering the possibility of "modified" relations with Taiwan. But Foreign Affairs Minister Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran added, "Our interest in a religious rapport with Chinese Catholics cannot be seen as political interference."
Meanwhile, Taiwan warned the Vatican not to be fooled by the Communists into helping isolate Taiwan diplomatically. "The Chinese Communist regime has always been hostile to religions," a foreign ministry spokesman said on Tuesday. "The Vatican must not be fooled by their pretense to be good."
In a related story, the Vatican news agency FIDES has called upon the Chinese government to release two imprisoned Catholic bishops. But the Holy See, in an official statement released March 22, has cautioned that the FIDES appeal was not officially approved by the Vatican's Secretariat of State.
In an editorial which the Vatican statement described as a "personal initiative," the director of FIDES, Father Bernardo Cervellera, had downplayed the possibility of improved diplomatic relations between the Holy See and China. Father Cervellera quoted leading Chinese government officials as saying that improved diplomatic relations would be "difficult if not impossible" as long as the Vatican maintained relations with Taiwan. The officials also complained that the Vatican seeks to "meddle" in China's domestic affairs.
The FIDES director noted that the Chinese government has never wavered from these two demands. In fact, he wrote, "the Chinese government has said the same thing for at least 15 years." The Beijing demands, Father Cervellera continued, "overlook the actual reality" in China.
Chinese Catholics have been subject to a "very harsh campaign" of government repression in recent years, the FIDES editorial reported. Although the Beijing government claims to respect religious freedom, Catholics who remain loyal to Rome-- and worship in the "underground Church" rather than the government-approved "Patriotic Catholic Association"-- have been political, economic, and psychological pressure, as well as occasional arrests.
Father Cervellera called special attention to the cases of Bishop Su Zhimin of Baoding and his auxiliary Bishop An Shuxin, who were arrested three years ago, and-- in a clear breach of China's own law-- have not yet been either tried or released. The main "offense" committed by Bishop Su Zhimin, FIDES said, was a 1996 public letter to the National Assembly, pleading for real religious freedom. The FIDES director concluded his editorial by suggesting that if Chinese President Jiang Zemin could prove the sincerity of his desire for friendlier relations by releasing the two imprisoned bishops.
However, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said that the FIDES editorial expressed only "the personal opinions of Father Cervellera, for which he only is responsible." And the Vatican's Secretariat of State indicated a willingness to proceed with efforts to improve relations with Beijng, apart from any discussion of the bishops' status.
In an interview published by the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran said that the Vatican is prepared to respond to Beijing's insistence on a break in relations with Taiwan. The Vatican's top foreign-policy official indicated that the Holy See recognized the Beijing regime as the real government of China, and would prefer to have the papal nuncio located in Beijing rather than (as at present) in Taipei. Archbishop Tauran also said that the Vatican was prepared for "a dialogue leading to a normalization of relations" with the Communist government.
As for Beijing's second condition-- the ban on Vatican "meddling" in domestic political affairs, Archbishop Tauran said the recent Chinese statements surprised him. "I do not see how a relationship which is religious in nature, such as that which exists among Catholics and the Pope, could constitute interference in the internal affairs of a country, or bring into question the sovereignty and independence of the state," he said. He added that Chinese Catholics would not create any political difficulties for the government, since they could remain loyal to the Beijing regime at the same time that they maintained allegiance to the Holy See.
"A normalization of relations would be beneficial not only to the Chinese Catholic community…, but also to the country, which could count on still more active and generous collaboration on the part of Chinese Catholics," Archbishop Tauran concluded.
On Monday, March 22, Israeli tourism minister Moshe Katsav told reporters that the Pope would visit Jerusalem in March of next year. The Vatican did not deny that report, but pointedly remarked that no dates had been set.
After meetings with the Israeli government leadership, Cardinal Roger Etchegaray-- who heads the Vatican committee preparing for the Jubilee-- said that it is "very probable" that the Holy Father will visit the Holy Land during the Jubilee year. Cardinal Etchegaray had traveled to Israel to study some of the difficulties that may be associated with such a visit. During his stay, he will meet with Latin Catholic Patriarch Michel Sabbah to discuss preparations for the holy year in Jerusalem-- a city that the Pope has described as "one of the two poles of the Jubilee."
The political problems frequently cited as obstacles to a papal visit are the absence of a final peace agreement between Israel and Palestine, the unresolved question of the status of Jerusalem, and the restraints on the freedom of Palestinian people.
On March 25, Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, the President and Secretary of the Brazilian Bishops' Conference will meet in Braga, Portugal, with the President of the Portuguese Bishops' Conference in order to carry out the ceremony of the delivery of the crosses. Before sending each cross to the corresponding 16 Episcopal regions of Brazil, they will be taken to the Vatican where they will be blessed by the Pope John Paul II.
Armen Sarkissian, the Armenian ambassador, told reporters in Rome, "We are now working on technical aspects" of a proposed papal trip. He disclosed that the Pope has received two formal invitations for such a visit: one from the country's President Robert Kocharian; the other from the leader of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Catholicos Karekin I. Both men are in Rome this week for the opening of a special exposition at the Vatican Library tracing the history of relations between Rome and Armenia. Pope John Paul II himself reportedly plans to attend the exposition.
Diplomatic relations between the Armenian government and the Holy See were established in May 1992, just eight months after the former Soviet republic gained independence. Ties between the Vatican and the Armenian Church have also seen marked improvements in recent years, particularly since Karekin I visited the Vatican in December 1996 to meet with Pope John Paul and sign a joint declaration ending a theological dispute which had divided the Armenian Church from Rome since the Council of Chalcedon in 451.