Saint Peter's Square and the adjacent Via della Conciliazione were unable to contain the human river of faithful. Thus, the celebration which was presided by the Pope, was extended to another historic Roman Square, that of Saint John Lateran; and, of course, to San Giovanni Rotondo, where Padre Pio's convent is located. At these other two locations, the faithful were able to follow the events on giant screens.
It was nearly 10 a.m. when John Paul II pronounced the beatification formula: "After having received the opinion of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, We -- the Pontiff read in Latin, the official language of the Church -- respond to the desire of our brother Vicenzo da Dario, Archbishop of Manfredonia, and of many other brothers in the episcopate and of many faithful, and with our apostolic authority allow that the Venerable Servant of God, Pio of Pietrelcina, henceforth be called Blessed, and that his feast be celebrated in those places and according to the rules established by law, on the day of his birth in Heaven, September 23." The thunderous applause of the more than 150,000 pilgrims from all the continents present in Saint Peter's Square greeted the words of Peter's successor. An applause that was echoed by more than 200,000 people in Saint John Lateran's Square.
Mrs. Consiglia de Martino was present during the solemn rite; it was her inexplicable cure --a miracle through the intercession of Padre Pio --, that made his beatification possible.
When I was a student here in Rome, I myself had the chance to meet him personally, and I thank God for allowing me today to include Padre Pio's name in the book of the Blessed.
"Those who went to San Giovanni Rotondo to attend his Mass, to seek his counsel or to confess to him," the Pope continued, "saw in him a living image of Christ suffering and risen. The face of Padre Pio reflected the light of the Resurrection. His body, marked by the 'stigmata,' showed forth the intimate bond between death and resurrection which characterizes the Paschal Mystery."
"Blessed Pio of Pietrelcina shared in the Passion with a special intensity: the unique gifts which were given to him, and the interior and mystical sufferings which accompanied them, allowed him constantly to participate in the Lord's agonies, never wavering in his sense that 'Calvary is the hill of the saints.' "
Among other things, the Pope referred to the misunderstanding that the new Blessed suffered, especially, by some representatives of the Church. The Holy Father referred to them as a real storm. Harsh denunciations against the friar were made to the former Holy Office by people who did not understand his charisms. Franciscan Father Agostino Gemelli, the founder of the Sacred Heart University and one of the most important hospitals in Italy, in 1920 described him as an "hysteric" after examining his wounds. Bishop Pasquale Gagliardi of his own diocese accused him of being a "swindler."
The Pontiff pointed out that it was precisely in this way that obedience became "a crucible of purification a path of gradual assimilation to Christ, a strengthening of true holiness. Padre Pio was rehabilitated in 1965 by Pope Paul VI.
"He was quite aware that people who are ill and suffering need not only competent therapeutic care but also, and more importantly, a human and spiritual climate to help them rediscover themselves in an encounter with the love of God and with the kindness of their brothers and sisters."
It was in this way that "he wished to show that God's 'ordinary miracles' take place in and through our charity. We need to be open to compassion and to the generous service of our brothers and sisters, using every resource of medical science and technology at our disposal.
At the end of the ceremony, John Paul II went by helicopter to Saint John Lateran. Looking down at the crowds below, the Holy Father said: "We are witnessing a great expression of faith which is moving and makes us feel in a very concrete way the reality of the Church, the family of God, which today is joyful because of the sanctity of one of her faithful and generous children."
The hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who participated in this organized, enthusiastic event, proved that important celebrations, which will characterize the next Jubilee of the Year 2000, can become events of faith. ZE99050204
The university's administration said the firings were due to budgetary constraints, but student groups said the dismissals are really an attempt to curtail traditional religious devotion. "We're not going to take it any more," said student Brian Sayers, who earlier this year led a protest to force the school's freshmen sex orientation program to include greater emphasis on Catholic values. "The university's administration has shown time and again its bias against devotion and religious practice and hostility to devout Christians, in particular."
Among the chaplains dismissed by University Chaplain Father Adam Bunnell, SJ, were Father John Kelly, SJ, Senior Protestant Chaplain the Rev. Bruce Epperly, the only African-American chaplain the Rev. Cynthia Woods, and Director of Liturgy Jeremy Young. Senior Rabbi Harold White, who was served the university since 1968, was also reportedly on the dismissal list until the rabbi spoke with members of the Board of Trustees.
The conservative newspaper The Georgetown Academy called Father Kelly, and another chaplain dismissed last year, Father Bill Watson, instrumental in the resurgence of Catholic identity and devotion among students. The university was rocked last year by a debate on crucifixes missing from classrooms, and the current move was seen by some as payback for supporting the Crucifix Movement.
Special envoy Ana Gomes told reporters upon return from a visit to the Timorese capital Dili that there is general panic at rampant violence by pro-Indonesia militia groups opposed to independence. The province is scheduled to hold a referendum, not set for August, on independence or greater autonomy within Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation in the world. Hundreds of people have been reported killed in recent weeks by the militias, which are allegedly armed and supported by Indonesia's army.
Indonesia invaded mainly Catholic East Timor in 1975 and annexed it the following year in a move not recognized by the United Nations. The Indonesian government has said it will attempt to disarm the militias and invited international observers to help set up and provide security for the vote.
"Reconciliation is an important topic which is so much at the center of what we are about as Church," recalled Bishop Myers to participants. The prelate thanked council members for their willingness to "help us value the sacrament" and penetrate "deeper into the mystery of salvation in Jesus Christ."
Among the main tasks of the Council is that of identifying the obstacles that hold Catholics back from frequent use of the sacrament of reconciliation. Solutions will then be proposed to the bishop to be implemented in the diocese and parishes. Some have been already proposed, such as the promotion of personal and family prayer, specially the rosary, as well as the organization of short retreats, parish missions and holy hours of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. In recent years, these reflections have given important fruits and contributions to the development of the pastoral plan of the diocese.
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