DAILY CATHOLIC     WEDNESDAY     July 8, 1998     vol. 9, no. 132

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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          VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- Dies Domini, a new apostolic letter by Pope John Paul II encouraging proper respect for the Sabbath, was released today.

          The Lord's Day, the Holy Father writes, should be a "great school of charity, justice, and peace." He calls on Christians to demonstrate their spiritual maturity and to reinforce their Christian identity by their observance of the Sabbath.

          The Sabbath rest is not a way of avoiding work, the Pope argues; rather it is a time for engaging in acts of charity, strengthening family bonds, and deepening interior life.

          At the same time, the Sabbath rest is not merely a religious obligation, the Pope continues. It is a human right, which should be protected by appropriate legislation.

          The 104-page apostolic letter responds to what John Paul sees as a "banalization" of the Sunday rest. He observes that in some countries the day has become simply a portion of the weekend-- stripped of its character as the day devoted especially to celebration of the Resurrection.

          Earlier generations of Christians had a much better understanding of the Sabbath, the Pope writes. He points to the example of the martyrs who died at the hands of the Roman Emperor Diocletian because they refused to profane the Lord's Day. Their example led eventually to the Church's decision to make attendance at Sunday Mass a religious obligation. But in reality that obligation reflects the Third Commandment, the Pontiff continues; it is a natural expression of the obligation to "keep holy the Lord's Day."

          Citing the 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum, by Pope Leo XIII, John Paul notes that the Church has always insisted on the right of workers to a day of rest. He denounced the "exploitation" practiced by employers who ignore this fundamental human need, observing that the exploitation is most common in poor countries.

          Along with worship and rest, Sunday is an appropriate day for religious education, the Pope writes. In the apostolic letter, he takes pains to explain the origin of the Sunday observance. It is, he says, an expression of the lively Christian faith in the risen Christ, living in the Church.

          The Pope urges all pastors to plan carefully for the Sunday liturgy, and to take the time to prepare homilies that will "deepen in the faithful the hunger for the Word of God." He also encourages the faithful to participate fully in the Eucharistic liturgy, preparing themselves through the Sacrament of Penance.

          Meanwhile at a press conference in Rome announcing the publication of Dies Domini, Cardinal Jorge Medina Estevez, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, said that the faithful should be educated in the meaning of liturgical rites, so that they are not "mute spectators" at the Mass.

          Msgr. Geraldo Majella Agnelo, the secretary of the same congregation, echoed the same theme when he called upon pastors to "re-educate the faithful" in the meaning of the Sunday liturgy.

          Emphasizing that the Pope's apostolic letter is another effort to safeguard the Christian identity, Cardinal Medina Estevez underlined the importance of the Sunday Mass, saying that there is "no other religious experience similar to the Sunday celebration." He emphasized the need for active participation in the liturgy.

Articles provided through Catholic World News Service.
CWN is not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provides this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

July 8 1998       volume 9, no. 132


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