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MONDAY             June 15, 1998             SECTION TWO              vol 9, no. 115

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Events Today in Church History

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Historical Events in Church Annals for June 15:

WORLDWIDE NEWS & VIEWS with a Catholic slant

provided by Catholic World News Service



      VATICAN ( -- Pope John Paul II today met with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, and renewed his appeal for peace in the Middle East. The Palestinian leader, in turn, invited the Pope to visit Bethlehem for a celebration of Christmas during the Jubilee Year 2000.

      The Pope's audience with Arafat was relatively brief, in large part because of the funeral of Cardinal Casaroli. Arafat did not meet with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican Secretary of State, because the cardinal was attending that funeral.

      This was the sixth meeting between Pope John Paul and the Palestinian leader. The two men spoke to each other directly, in English. During their discussion, Arafat emphasized the suffering of the Palestinian people, and the Pope promised that he would remember them in his prayers.

      After the meeting, Arafat told reporters that he had invited the Pope to Bethlehem, and had received a positive response. The Pope has frequently indicated that he would like to visit the Holy Land during the Jubilee, although serious diplomatic problems still militate against such a visit.


      VATICAN ( -- Since the January visit by Pope John Paul II to Cuba, there has been a "new climate" in the country, marked most notably by the prominent social role of the Catholic Church. That was the message of the Cuban bishops at a press conference in Rome today.

      The bishops-- who had traveled to Rome to join with the Holy Father in an assessment of the progress made by Cuban Catholics since his historic visit-- said that relations between the Church and the Castro government have changed dramatically. Bishop Meurice Estiu explained, "The path of the Church in Cuba has passed from a stage of confrontation in the 1960s, through recognition in the 1970s, more acceptance in the 1980s, and a progressive acceptance of her social role during the 1990s." He said that Catholic leaders look forward to "more and more" recognition of the Church's involvement in the life of society.

      The bishops characterized the Pope's visit as an "extraordinary event," which had an enormous impact on the development of more natural church-state relations. The pace of negotiations between the bishops and government officials picked up rapidly, they reported, and the bishops now look forward to further progress on issues such as the Church access to the means of communications and assistance for missionary work.

      Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino of Havana declined to answer reporters' questions about the political impact of the papal visit, and the prospects for a breakdown of the Communist government. "We are not political analysts," he cautioned. "The visit by John Paul II was pastoral. He invited us to recover our heritage, and to reconciliation."


      VATICAN ( -- In a powerful homily delivered at the funeral of Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, Pope John Paul II paid homage to the former Vatican Secretary of State, saying he was a "builder of peace" whose diplomatic contacts-- especially with the regimes of the former Soviet Union-- were an enormous service to the Church.

      The Holy Father also pointed to the late cardinal's generosity and spiritual vigor, mentioning that he had been the quiet benefactor of troubled children in Rome, and that he had celebrated the Eucharist daily for 60 years. "What intimate consolation there is in the thought that he was and always remains a priest of Christ, a minister of the bread of life," the Pope said.

      In his diplomatic work, the Pope continued, Cardinal Casaroli had been a "wise servant of peace," and "a shining example of those who work for justice, whom Jesus called blessed because they will be called sons of God."


      VATICAN ( -- The Catholic bishops of Albania have issued a new statement denouncing the rising violence in Kosovo, the province of Yugoslavia which borders Albania and is home to a predominantly Albanian population.

      "Once again we all for recognition of the fundamental rights of men," the bishops wrote, in a statement made public today by the Vatican press office. The bishops expressed their concern for the "difficult situation that has been created for our brothers in Kosovo," and said that as tensions mount, and the flow of refugees increases, the people of Albania should show their "traditional sympathy and hospitality."

      The arrival of thousands of refugees shows on the Albanian border shows that the situation in Kosovo is rapidly deteriorating, the bishops said. They asked for an end to the violence, and promised to do "everything within our power" to bring about reconciliation-- acting not as political leaders but as spiritual guides.

      "We condemn every act of violence from whatever side it may originate as it only adds to the hate and evil against the weak, the innocent and the defenseless," the bishops said in a letter released by the Vatican. "The exodus of children, women, and elderly makes us think that the situation is worsening still and becoming ever more alarming."

      Kosovo, one of the three partners in the federation along with Serbia and Montenegro, has been the site of violence since the majority ethnic Albanians began demanding self-rule and autonomy from Serbia earlier this year. NATO has threatened air strikes and deployment of ground troops to end the fighting, and the US and the European Union have imposed investment bans on Serbia in response.

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June 15, 1998 volume 9, no. 115   DAILY CATHOLIC