The Vatican noted that the attacks would inevitably produce "sentiments of hatred" among the victims. And the statement quoted the words of Pope Pius XI, spoken in August 1939: "Nothing is lost through peace; everything can be lost by warfare."
The Vatican issued an "invitation" to the Yugoslavian government to "immediately return to the path of dialogue." The official Vatican statement also indicated that Pope John Paul is "profoundly concerned by the suffering of the population trapped in a sad situation which is not of their own making." The Holy Father stressed his solidarity with all those concerned: "Albanians and Serbs, Muslims and Christians, Orthodox and Catholics, because all are sons of the Father in Heaven."
"The Holy See remains in contact with the parties involved," said Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls. He said that a special gesture had been made toward Yugoslavia because the Belgrade government had expressed a need for help from European leaders in finding a path to peace.
Recognizing that peace talks to date have proved fruitless, the Vatican spokesman nevertheless insisted that the common cultural ties of the European peoples should provide the basis for a new dialogue. "When one road leads nowhere," Navarro-Valls said, "another must be opened."
In Bogota, Columbia another Catholic priest has become one of the most recent victims of the wave of violence in Colombia. Father Jaime Orlando Acevedo Rojas, the pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Church in Chinacota, has been found slain after being kidnapped on Sunday, March 20.
Local police report that the assassins burst into the priest's residence on Sunday night, and forced him to leave along with them. Two days later a parish catechist discovered the priest's body, marked by two bullet wounds in the head.
Bishop Ruben Salazar Gomez of the local Cucuta diocese will preside at a funeral for the slain priest, and has asked all of the priests of the diocese to attend. Police have not yet identified the assassins.
The Orthodox visitors, led by Metropolitan Kiril of Smolensk, were to be in Rome on March 26 and 27 for meetings at the Vatican. But their trip was postponed by the Moscow Patriarchate, which noted in a public statement that it would be inappropriate to visit Italian soil at a time when air strikes against Yugoslavia are being launched from Italy. The Russian Orthodox leadership has upheld the Yugoslavian cause in Kosovo, citing ties with the Serbian Orthodox Church.
While observing that the Holy See cannot be held responsible for the Italian role in NATO, the Vatican issued a statement indicating that it had agreed to reschedule the planned meetings with the Orthodox delegation. While Vatican sources unofficially indicated that they were surprised by the Orthodox decision to put off the meetings, official spokesman emphasized that the meetings had merely been postponed, and that a new date would soon be set.
The note of uncertainty among Vatican insiders reflects the fact that relations between the Holy See and the Moscow Patriarchate have been marred by tensions and sudden reversals-- most notably in 1997, when a planned summit meeting between Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Alexei II was abruptly cancelled, just days before it was scheduled to occur.
Metropolitan Kiril is the chief spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchate on international affairs. His recent meetings with Vatican officials have been carefully orchestrated, and scheduled well in advance.
In Moscow Russian Orthodox Patriarch Aleksei II on Thursday condemned the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia that began on Wednesday, saying there had been many civilians casualties and warning that the attack could result in the destabilization of Europe.
The patriarch said that despite NATO claims the action is designed to achieve peace in the breakaway region of Kosovo, the real aim is "to force other's will on a nation, to assert double standards, to replace the legitimate aspirations of humanity with the interests of a small group of people." He added, "It should be firmly said: not all that is good for particular circles in the West is good for the world."
He appealed to Christians in the NATO countries to push their leaders to end, what he called, "a sin before God and a crime from the point of view of international law." He also urged Serbians and Kosovo Albanians to end their mutual attacks and seek a compromise that will satisfy all sides.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Russians protested outside the US embassy in Moscow on Wednesday and Thursday, burning the American flag, and calling Americans "fascists." Many in the crowd, as well as some nationalist and Communist leaders, have also begun urging Russia to take up arms against NATO to defend Serbia which they maintain is a Slavic sibling.
Judge Henry Monroy said he had received threatening telephone calls, but did not specify what they said or who he believed made them. Bishop Juan Gerardi Conedera was bludgeoned to death outside his home last April, two days after releasing a human rights report that blamed the military and pro-government death squads for the majority of deaths in the country's recently-ended 36-year civil war.
While investigators had focused on Father Mario Orantes Najera, who lived in the same rectory as the bishop, as the prime suspect, Catholic and human rights groups claimed the government was ignoring the obvious connection to the military or death squads. In February, Monroy ordered the released of Father Orantes. In January, the previous presiding judge, Jorge Figueroa Medina, resigned from the case after being accused of bias by Father Orantes' lawyers.
Late Wednesday a UN observer mission in Guatemala issued a statement expressing concern at the reported threats. "The lack of support for the judge is an element which increases the perception that the organs of the state are inhibited in resolving this case," the UN mission said in a news release.
Catholicos Karekin is in Rome this week for the opening of an exposition at the Vatican Museum, highlighting the relations between the Holy See and the Armenian people. He issued a personal invitation for the Pope to visit his country, and President Robert Kacharian, who also met with Pope John Paul on March 25, issued a separate invitation.
Pope John Paul told each of his visitors that he planned to make the visit, "if Providence permits me." In a particular message to the Armenian prelate, he expressed his satisfaction with "the progress we have made in our common search for unity in Christ." He observed that the Armenian Apostolic Church will celebrate its 17th centennial in the year 2001, and said that date, along with the Jubilee of 2000, should be seen as an invitation to "common witness to our faith in Jesus Christ."
The Pope also recalled his meeting with Catholicos Karekin in 1996, culminating in a joint expression of faith which eliminated theological difficulties between the Catholic and Armenian churches. He said that this ecumenical progress should be ratified "wherever Catholic and Armenian faithful live together," by stronger ecumenical contacts and shared initiatives to promote the message of the Gospel.
On March 25, the Holy Father also received the prime minister of Singapore, Goh Chok Tong, in a private audience at the Vatican.
The Singapore leader, who is in Italy to explore trade contacts with the European countries, also met with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican Secretary of State. An official release stated that the meetings allowed "an exchange of useful information" about the situation in Asia in general and Singapore in particular.
Singapore's population is predominantly Chinese in ethnic origin, although Malaysians and Indians are sizeable minorities. There are roughly 130,000 Catholics among the population of 3 million.
Finally, Pope John Paul II also met with the bishops of Ukraine on March 25, and underlined to them the importance of ecumenical progress.
The Holy Father paid tribute to the remarkable progress made by the Ukrainian Church in rebuilding since the fall of Communism. Noting that there are three separate Catholic traditions in Ukraine-- the Latin-rite community, the Byzantine-rite Ukrainian Catholic Church, and the much smaller Armenian Catholic Church-- he said that pluralism constitutes both a challenge and an incentive for greater unity. In a reference to the sometimes tense relations between Catholics and Ukrainian Orthodox churches, the Pontiff also repeated the need for union "with all Christian churches."
Archbishop Marian Jaworski of Lviv led the Ukrainian bishops, who were in Rome for their ad limina visit.
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. Both CWN and NE are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provides this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.