The Pope, announcing that he would make charity the theme of his catechetical talks for a series of Wednesday audiences, observed that poverty remains a problem in today's world, particularly in the developing countries. "Millions of people live in inhuman conditions, and many literally die of hunger," he said.
The Holy Father argued that it is impossible to bring the message of Christ to the poor without at the same time "working with them, in the name of Christ, to help build a more just society." While the Church has always worked for the benefit of the needy, John Paul suggested that the Jubilee Year would offer a special opportunity for new efforts to spark "the conversion of hearts" through which the Holy Spirit could produce "new witnesses of charity." He called upon all Christians and men of good will to work for "the necessary structural changes" in society that would ease the sufferings of the poor.
Joanna Bogle, a member of the Association of Catholic Women and a former parliamentary candidate, said the eve of All Saints Day has become an excuse for commercialism and is developing increasingly sexual overtones.
"In the last four or five years we've moved from a merry, if slightly commercialized, obsession with plastic pumpkins to a rather sinister thing where children are being encouraged to relish dark, sinister, black magic, occult symbols," Bogle said.
"The fancy dress used to be a jolly thing. Now it seems to have a slightly unpleasant sexual element. It's become a night to celebrate the nasties. I don't think we need this in modern Britain and, in particular, I don't think we should spend money on it," she said.
Bogle, whose book Feasts and Seasons, helps families celebrate the Church year at home, believes Halloween is an ideal time for getting children involved in the fun and learning about their faith at the same time. "It's not easy to get modern children's eyes to shine because they are a bit tele-puddled," she said, "but you can do it. And we are Catholics, we teach by having fun, by the things we do, make, and eat."
Sacred Heart Primary School, which lies in the shadow of Pendle Hill -- Britain's most notorious site of 16th century witchcraft -- has announced it will not be celebrating Halloween in school this year. "We will be having a fancy dress disco," said head teacher Peter Cunningham, "and it will be an All Saints party. The children can come dressed as anything they like. They can come dressed as a witch or a wizard but we make sure we are celebrating All Saints Day rather than Halloween. And we make sure the parents realize that."
"The children know the folklore about the Pendle Witches. And whatever they get up to during the holidays is up to the parents but we don't advocate they do anything except celebrate All Saints."
President Tudjman was accompanied by several members of his cabinet. After his meeting with the Pope, he also spoke privately with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican Secretary of State, and with Archbishop Jean- Louis Tauran, the Secretary for Relations with States.
The discussions centered on relations between the Croatian government and the Catholic Church, to which 80 percent of the country's people belong. The Holy See has signed accords with the Croatian government, establishing the juridical status of the Church in that country, and setting forth the terms of Church-state collaboration on issues of education, culture, and social work.
The meetings coincided with the opening of a Croatian exhibit at the Vatican Museums.
The Pope also sent his condolences to the Armenian government, following the October 28 terrorist attack in which several Armenian politicians-- including Prime Minister Armena Vasken Sarkissian-- were killed.
Speaking of the "tragic death" of the prime minister and the other parliamentarians, the Pontiff said the assault caused suffering for all of the Armenian people, "wounded in their identity and in their institutions." He added that all men of good will should unite in support of peaceful change for Armenia, "to become involved each day in support of the spiritual and material welfare of the people."
The Pope assured President Robert Kocharian of his prayers for those who died in the attack on the Armenian parliament, as well as for those who were wounded and for the families of the victims.
The attack came at a time when leaders of the Armenian Apostolic Church have gathered to select a successor to their leader, Catholicos Karekin I, who died in June. Pope John Paul II had developed an unusually strong rapport with the Armenian Church leader, and together they had narrowed the gap that has separated the Armenian Church from Rome since the Council of Chalcedon. Pope John Paul had planned to visit Armenian in June, but illness forced him to postpone the trip.
As the Armenian Apostolic Church leaders gathered for the election, some representatives protested that the country's government was becoming unduly involved in the process. Several leading political figures are also voting members of the Church assembly, and have been accused of using their influence to promote their own favored candidate.
The pagan roots of the celebration are attributed to the Celtic celebration of "Samhain," the cult of the dead. It was an established Druid tradition in the British Isles prior to the Romans invasion in 46 A.D. Although little is known about these celebrations, it seems that the Samhain festivities were observed between November 5-7 (midway between the summer equinox and the winter solstice) with a one-week series of events, ending with the feast of "the dead," which marked the beginning of the new Celtic year. During this feast, the Druids communicated with their ancestors hoping to be guided in this life toward immortality.
As early as the year 998, St. Odilon, abbot of the Monastery of Cluny in southern France, added the celebration of November 2, as a day to pray for the faithful dead. Hence the Day of the Dead, observed first in France and later throughout Europe.
These representations were known as the "Dance of Death." In a burlesque spirit, on the eve of the commemoration of the "Faithful Dead," the French adorned the walls of cemeteries with pictures of the devil leading a chain of people: Popes, kings, ladies, knights, monks, peasants, lepers, etc. (death respects no one) to their grave. These representations were inspired in plays with people dressed up as famous personalities in different stages of life, including death, which visits all. ZE99102609