DAILY CATHOLIC    FRI-SAT-SUn     October 22-24, 1999     vol. 10, no. 202

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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Patriarch of Baghdad was in Rome while Nuncio met with Iraqi Government

        VATICAN CITY, OCT 21 (ZENIT).- "I believe the Pope will travel to Iraq, although the date has not been fixed," Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Oriental Churches, said this morning in a side comment during a press conference.

        Cardinal Silvestrini met with the Iraqi Catholic Patriarch, His Beatitude Raphael Bidawid, in the Vatican yesterday. At present, the Patriarch is mediating between Baghdad and the Vatican to define the details of John Paul II's pilgrimage to Ur of the Chaldeans, Abraham's birthplace, Father of the Faith of believers of the three monotheist religions.

        No details were given about the meeting between the Patriarch and Cardinal but, during a press conference today to present the book, "Jubilee 2000 and the Catholic Eastern Churches," prepared by his Congregation, Cardinal Silvestrini seemed confident that the trip would take place.

        "The Catholic Eastern Churches are living in very difficult circumstances. Emerging from harsh persecution by an atheist regime in Central and Eastern Europe, weakened by social and political instability in the Middle East, they have become the target of a heated debate fanned by the Orthodox Churches," he said.

        "Finally, after recovering their freedom, Eastern European Catholics are attempting to rebuild pastoral structures that were destroyed and, in spite of enduring difficulties, are desirous to overcome all forms of controversy with their Orthodox brothers," Cardinal Silvestrini stated.

        Bishop Claudio Gugerotti, under-secretary of this Vatican Congregation, explained that the volume "Jubilee 2000 and the Catholic Eastern Churches" is being published at this moment in order to appreciate and live the spiritual attitudes that the Jubilee promotes, paying special attention to the Eastern tradition."

        The press conference offered the opportunity to announce a meeting of Bishops and religious Superiors of the Eastern Catholics of America and Oceania, which will take place in Boston, from November 7-12. According to Cardinal Silvestrini, the purpose of the meeting is to study "the questions that affect life and the future of Eastern Catholics in the countries of immigration."

        After the Vatican clarified its position regarding the papal trip to Iraq -- insisting that it cannot be used for political ends, the Italian newspaper "La Repubblica" disclosed that Bishop Raphael Bidawid, the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Baghdad, traveled secretly to Rome over the weekend to agree with the Vatican Secretariat of State on the minimum conditions for the Pope's visit to Iraq.

        His Beatitude Bidawid returned to Iraq yesterday. Although he did not meet John Paul II, he was received by the Holy Father's close collaborators in the Secretariat of State, who insisted on the strictly religious character of the papal pilgrimage. The Pope wants to make this trip very much, but rejects any politicization of it whatsoever.

        United States pressures against the papal trip have intensified over the last weeks. Opposition to Saddam has led the U.S. to exhort John Paul II to "reconsider his decision" so as not to reinforce the dictator's position.

        No news has been given about the last-minute mediation of Patriarch Bidawid, who arrived in the Vatican with the hope of setting a date for the trip -- something he was unable to accomplish. "We wait for Baghdad's response," the Vatican stated.

        However, the Apostolic Nunciature in Iraq announced yesterday that a meeting was held between the Nuncio and the Minister of Foreign Affairs to discuss John Paul II's visit, with a possible date sometime in December. Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto met with Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf to study the recent events that affected both sides in planning the papal visit to Ur of the Chaldeans, Abraham's birthplace.

        The Iraqi press stated that, although no date for the visit has been set, al-Sahaf expressed to Archbishop Lazzarotto that Iraq will be very happy to receive the Vatican team of planners who usually prepare the Pope's visits, to discuss details of the pilgrimage. ZE99102105 and ZE99102002

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.

October 22-24, 1999       volume 10, no. 202


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