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May 11, 1998             SECTION TWO              vol 9, no. 91

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WORLDWIDE NEWS & VIEWS with a Catholic slant

provided by Catholic World
News Service



      VATICAN CITY ( - The Vatican's Central Statistics Office said this week that it estimates there are now more than 1 billion Catholics in the world.

      The figure is part of the annual report on the Catholic Church and was calculated based on reports from bishops' conferences in most countries, and by estimating the number of the faithful in countries where the Church is suppressed including China and North Korea. Enrico Nenna of the Central Statistics Office said the figure was arrived at by adding nearly 5 million Catholics in China and North Korea to 995.128 million elsewhere in the world in 1996.

      In 1995, the Vatican estimated there were 989 million Catholics worldwide, excluding China and North Korea.


      VATICAN ( -- Several Italian newspapers today carried slightly differing versions of what was said to be a suicide note written by Swiss Guard Corporal Cedric Tornay to his parents on the afternoon before the fatal encounter in which he apparently killed Colonel Alois Estermann and his wife, then turned his weapon on himself.

      No paper carried a photo of the letter-- a fact which suggested that the text had been dictated to reporters by an indiscreet investigator. And the versions published in different newspapers showed some small differences, presumably because of differences in translating the original French. But the different versions were not fundamentally incompatible, and the text of the letter was plausible. Corriere della Sera, considered one of the country's more respectable papers, carried the most complete text.

      The text, as it appears, matches the investigators' explanation of the crime. In the purported letter, Tornay asks his mother's forgiveness for what he is about to do. He indicates that he has been deeply wounded by the harshness of his superior, Colonel Estermann, and by the absence of any official recognition for his service. "I ask your pardon for leaving you alone, but my duty calls," he says, asking his mother to convey his love to the other members of the family.

      Investigators in Rome have not officially released any information about the contents of Tornay's last letter, and the Vatican has made it clear that the letter would not be made public without the explicit permission of the family. Tornay's mother, who came to Rome for her son's funeral, has avoided all contact with the press.


      ROYAL OAK, Michigan ( - Assisted suicide activist Jack Kevorkian and an assistant were arrested Thursday night after scuffling with police outside a hospital where the two men were bringing the body of an apparent assisted suicide victim.

      Kevorkian was arraigned Friday morning and was wheeled into the courtroom in a wheelchair, apparently because he refused to go voluntarily. Kevorkian sat slumped in the wheelchair and refused to answer the judge's questions as he was arraigned on charges of assault, battery and resisting arrest for allegedly shoving police officers. His associate, Dr. Georges Reding, was charged with interfering with a police officer and resisting arrest. Both men were later released without having to post bail. They are due back in court on June 2.

      Kevorkian and Reding took the body of a 26-year-old quadriplegic from Aptos, California, to William Beaumont Hospital in the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak at 10:23 pm Thursday, hospital spokeswoman Collette Stimmell said. Oakland County Medical Examiner Dr. L.J. Dragovic said an autopsy this morning revealed the man died of a lethal injection. Dragovic said the case has been ruled a homicide, given that the man was a quadriplegic and medically could not inject himself. Kevorkian has admitted helping more than 100 people die since 1990.


      ZAGREB ( - Pope John Paul II is expected to visit Croatia in October and beatify Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac, who was imprisoned by Yugoslav Communist authorities after World War II, said Archbishop Josip Bozanic on Friday.

      Addressing a congregation in Krasic, the birthplace of Cardinal Stepinac, the archbishop said the Holy Father would visit Croatia from October 2-4, the Hina state news agency reported. He is expected to beatify Stepinac on October 3 at the Marija Bistrica shrine.

      Cardinal Stepinac was arrested and tried by Yugoslav authorities for allegedly supporting the Nazi-backed Ustasha fascists, who killed thousands of Jews, Serbs, and Gypsies in Croatia. He died under house arrest in 1960. However, Croatia's Jewish community recently credited the cardinal with helping to avert the persecution of many Jews.