DAILY CATHOLIC    TUESDAY     September 7, 1999     vol. 10, no. 169

NEWS & VIEWS
from a CATHOLIC perspective

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POPE MEETS WITH ARAFAT, URGES PRAYERS FOR EAST TIMOR

Troubled Pontiff disheartened by renewed violence, hopeful of visiting Holy Land next year

        VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat met with Pope John Paul II on September 5, at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandalfo.

        The meeting, which took place after the Pope's regular Angelus audience on Sunday, held a special importance insofar as it came just hours after the signing of a new peace accord between Palestinian and Israel leaders. That accord may have removed some of the obstacles to a papal voyage to the Holy Land next year.

        During his Angelus audience-- prior to the meeting with Arafat-- Pope John Paul had spoken of "comforting rays of hope" that allowed for "a hopeful future" despite the woeful current state of world events. Some observers saw those words as a reference to the Israeli-Palestinian agreement.

        The Pope's meeting with Arafat was the seventh encounter between the two, and the second such meeting to take place at Castel Gandalfo.

        Meanwhile, Pope John Paul II is following events in East Timor with deep concern, the Vatican Secretary of State announced on September 6.

        During a telephone conversation with the prime minister of Portugal-- which once ruled East Timor as a colony-- Cardinal Angelo Sodano said that the Pontiff has been deeply troubled by the outbreak of violence in East Timor in the aftermath of a referendum in which a clear majority of the people there declared their preference for independence from Indonesia. The recent violence has apparently been orchestrated by militia groups which- - with backing from the Indonesian army-- are seeking to prevent a break with the Jakarta government.

        Cardinal Sodano said that the Holy See "is in contact with the governments involved" in the crisis-- presumably including the governments of Indonesia and Portugal, as well as the United Nations. The cardinal said that Church leaders are seeking to find a way to stem the violence "at quickly as possible."

        On Sunday, September 5, the Pontiff had called upon the faithful to offer their prayers for the people of East Timor, saying that they have been "sorely tried" by the violence of the past week. The Pope deplored the "grave acts of intimidation" that followed the referendum, and said that a peaceful solution must respect "the will expressed in these recent days by the people of Timor."


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September 7, 1999       volume 10, no. 169
NEWS & VIEWS

DAILY CATHOLIC

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