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FRI-SAT-SUN      September 17-19, 1999      SECTION THREE       vol 10, no. 177

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with a Catholic slant



Pontiff Will Beatify 19th Century Bishop

    ROME, SEP 15 (ZENIT).- John Paul II is returning to Slovenia a second time. His first trip took place from May 17 to 19, 1996. On that occasion, he highlighted the heroic virtues of Anton Martin Slomsek, first Bishop of Maribor (1800-1862). Next Sunday, September 19, the Pope will return to the Same city to beatify him. It will be a pilgrimage to the heart of Europe on the eve of the second Synod of Bishops for the European Continent, which will take place from October 1 to 23 in the Vatican.

    Slovenia is a "bridge" nation between the West and the Slavic world, a country of some two million inhabitants, with a history of Christian faith spanning 1,250 years. Today the people of Slovenia are in a time of waiting and hope. In spite of vigorous defense of its cultural identity, for centuries Slovenia was in the shadow of larger countries. Now, located as it is in the heart of Europe, it must face the challenges inherited from the Communist dictatorship, which are not only economic and social, but also moral in character. This is the reason for its forcefulness in knocking at the doors of the European Union, in order to be integrated and find its place in the international chess game of the next millennium.

    The Holy Father will hold up to the people the example of a Bishop who lived during the last century but whose message is very timely. He will do so from Maribor, the city where Bishop Slomsek died on September 24, 1862. His mortal remains lie in the Cathedral. More than one reporter in Slovenia has said that his beatification will be the most important event of this young country, which achieved independence in 1991. Above all, because he is the first Slovenian to be raised to the altars. But also, because he is an historic figure. Frank Kidric, an avowed Mason and Slavic expert of the University of Lubliana, defined Slomsek as "the most important spiritual phenomenon in the history of Slavic Christianity after saints Cyril and Methodius."

    Slomsek incarnated the man of God who, in addition to safeguarding his people's faith, also wanted to save the national identity, committing himself to the cultural raising of the common masses. Sharing his nation's destiny, which had lost its political identity a thousand years earlier and was exposed to rapid Germanization, while he was still a theology student he organized courses in Slovene for his fellow-seminarians who were less aware than he was of their duty as pastors to be close to the people.

    With youthful passion, he submerged himself as a priest in the apostolate, becoming a much sought-after confessor and the "Slovenian Cicero," as he was known by his friends for the enthusiasm of his preaching in Slovene and German. He also wrote many books.

    Slomsek moved the episcopal headquarters from St. Andra to Maribor, to preserve thousands of Slovenians from Germanization. This effort to rescue his people's culture also became a way of consciously opposing German liberalism that, according to the Bishop, could lead to distancing many from the faith and even to de-Christianization.

    He was a man of prophetic vision, ahead of his time, founding the prayer league known as the "Confraternity of Saints Cyril and Methodius." This institution became an instrument of dialogue among the different Christian denominations, especially the Orthodox.

    John Paul II will arrive at Maribor's airport on Sunday around 10 a.m. After a brief welcome ceremony, he will celebrate Mass in the Betnava esplanade, where he will beatify Anton Martin Slomsek. At 5:30 p.m. he will visit the Cathedral and pray at Slomsek's tomb. After meeting all the representatives of this small but dynamic Church, the Pontiff will return to the airport, where he will meet the president of the Republic. He will bid Slovenia farewell and return to Castel Gandolfo around 9 p.m. ZE99091507


    SYDNEY, Australia ( - Australia's Caritas Catholic charity called on Thursday for new support for the group's efforts to help East Timor's people as they deal with a genocidal rampage by pro-Indonesia militias.

    Aid workers said they believe that many of their Timorese colleagues who ran medical clinics across the Indonesian-controlled territory are dead or have been forced to flee as refugees. Indonesian authorities had also blocked attempts to resupply the clinics with medicines, antibiotics, and other basic medical equipment, they said.

    Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation in the world, invaded mainly Catholic East Timor in 1975 and annexed it the following year in a move not recognized by the United Nations. In August, the region held a Jakarta-proposed referendum to allow Timorese to choose either autonomy within Indonesia or full independence. After the pro-independence results were revealed, pro-Indonesia militias, armed and backed by Indonesia's military, went on a rampage, killing thousands and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee the former Portugese colony.

    Caritas and the Catholic Church were the main providers of medical care in East Timor, because local people were too afraid to attend Indonesian-run hospitals, a Caritas aid worker said. "We witnessed and now hear with profound grief and outrage the horrendous brutality occurring there," Caritas nurse Cathy Georgeson said. "The East Timorese are a beautiful and proud people whom we have been privileged to come to know and love." She added, "They were assured the UN would stay ... because they voted for independence, they are now being cruelly and systematically annihilated."


John Paul II Urges Reconciliation

    VATICAN CITY, SEP 15 (ZENIT).- The drama of contemporary man is the loss of hope in God's forgiveness, John Paul II said to more than 10,000 pilgrims from all over the world who attended his traditional Wednesday morning audience in St. Peter's Square. The Pope focused on the sacrament of Reconciliation, within the context of eternity and Christian life, to prepare Christians for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.

Culpability Forgotten

    The Pontiff began by saying that it is urgent for the Church to reflect deeply on God's forgiveness, offered to man through Confession. "This is necessary, above all, because of the Father's love as the foundation of Christian life and action, in the context of contemporary society where very often the ethical dimension of human existence is forgotten . Many have lost the sense of good and evil because they have lost the sense of God, interpreting culpability strictly from psychological and sociological points of view," the Pope explained.

    The Church "must give new impetus to a journey of growth in faith, which emphasizes the value of the spirit and practice of penance in Christian life," he added.

Freedom from Anxiety: Forgiveness

    In fact, the anxiety and sadness that often characterize man at the end of the century can be readily explained. It is the despair of the person who feels he cannot be forgiven. But, on the contrary, the central message of Christianity is the news of God's love that forgives everything. In the Pope's own words, Reconciliation "is a new encounter with one's own interior truth, disturbed and upset by sin, a liberation in the deepest center of one's being and with this, the recovery of lost joy, the joy of being saved, which the majority of the men of our time no longer experience."

    The anxiety of the man who lives away from God's forgiveness, is one of the great challenges of evangelization. Because of this, John Paul II wished to give personal and concrete advice to missionaries at the end of the millennium.

Very Personal Advice

    The Pope began by addressing priests themselves, to whom he said that "to be good confessors, they themselves must be authentic penitents. Confessors must not be careless about their own perfection and progress, in order not to fail in those human and spiritual qualities that are so necessary in relating to consciences."

    The Holy Father also invited the entire Christian community to take part in what he called "the pastoral renewal of Reconciliation."

    He explained that in a reconciled and reconciling community sinners can find the lost way and help from their brothers once again." In fact, "through the Christian community a solid way of charity can be devised, which will make the forgiveness received visible through good works, the reparation done for evil, and the hope of finding again the merciful arms of the Father." ZE99091505

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September 17-19, 1999 volume 10, no. 177   DAILY CATHOLIC