Death of Pope Sylvester II, the 139th successor of Peter who ushered the Church into the second millennium. He tried to repress debauchery and it was this French-born pontiff who introduced the use of Arabic numbers.
Richard I - the Coeur de Lion (the Lionhearted), a great defender of the Church in England solidifies his claim by marrying Lady Berengaria of Navarre.
Saint Louis IX, King of France arrives at Acre in Ptolemais enroute from Egypt.
The Catholic church in Shaftsbury, England elects their fourth new vicar in days after the three previous had all died from the Bubonic Plague - known as the "Black Death."
The Jagiellonian University, second oldest in central Europe and where Pope John Paul II would both attend in 1937 and return to teach in 1954, is endowed in Krakow, Poland.
The Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto, who had discovered Cuba for Spain and the Church, embarks from that tiny island in search of the seven Cities of Gold he had heard so many legends of. With a band of Franciscans, Dominicans and Carmelites, DeSoto and his men would not reach the so-called seven cities of gold but rather the Mississippi River and the faith would be brought to middle America through his efforts.
The Day of the Barricades in Paris, France when the Huguenots would usurp the crown forcing Catholic King Henry III to flee and placing on the throne Henry IV who had been excommunicated by the "iron pope" Pope Sixtus V in 1585. Because of Rome's persistence, the faith in France would be saved and the Huguenots driven from the land.
Pope Siricius built a church in their honor in 398 within the boundaries of the cemetary of Saint Domitilla. Two centuries later another church was built in Rome in the proximity of the Baths of Caracalla. In the 16th century the relics of Nereus and Achilleus were transfered from that church and placed with the relics of St. Domitilla.
Saint Pancras was born in either Syria or Phrygia as historians have assumed and was brought to Rome by his uncle who converted to Christianity and subsequently converted the young Pancratius to the faith when he was 12 years old. Both he and his uncle were discovered and beheaded in 304, many believe on the same day as Sts. Nereus and Achilleus were murdered in Terracina. For that reason they are all celebrated on May 12th every year. Pope Symmacus built a basilica in Pancras' honor in 514 and it was St. Augustine of Canterbury who dedicated the first church he built in England to St. Pancras. From there Pancras' legend grew and in 672 Pope Saint Vitalian sent the saint's relics to one of the kings in Britain where Pancras became firmly entrenched as a saint with great intercessory favors.
In a letter published by the Vatican today, Colonel Buchs pledged that the Swiss Guard would continue to serve the Pontiff with devotion, despite the confusion and mourning caused by last week's tragedy. His success, Colonel Alois Estermann, was killed along with his wife; Corporal Cedric Tornay was found dead at the same time.
The facts produced to date by the Vatican investigation into the deaths all support the initial hypothesis that Tornay committed suicide after gunning down the Estermanns. However, Italian journalists have produced a flurry of conspiracy theories, speculating that the killings may involve elements of romantic passion or international espionage. No evidence has been produced to support such theories.
In a related story, the former head of the East German intelligence service told an Italian newspaper on Sunday that the Communist country had a spy in the Vatican, but said it was not the Swiss Guard commander who was murdered last week as some reports had claimed.
Former Stasi chief Markus Wolf told the Turin newspaper La Stampa that Colonel Alois Estermann was not a spy for East Germany. The Polish newspaper Super Express had quoted Wolf as saying that Estermann was spy for the Stasi. Estermann died in a murder-suicide last week when he and his wife were shot by a junior Swiss Guardsman apparently upset at being passed over for decoration.
La Stampa interviewed Wolf by telephone from his house near Berlin and quoted the ex-chief as saying the Stasi mole was a German researcher working in a Vatican scientific academy. He said the German spy was in his 80s when Wolf left the Stasi in 1986, but refused to say what the mole did. The Vatican has refused to comment on reports about a potential spy in the Vatican or that Estermann was the mole, calling them ridiculous.
Among the pilgrims present for the ceremonies were Lebanese President Elias Hrauoui and Queen Fabiola of Belgium. An estimated 10,000 Lebanese Maronite pilgrims also made the trip to Rome for the occasion, and Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir concelebrated the liturgy in St. Peter's Square along with the Pontiff and Cardinals Angel Goicoechea and Antonio Rouco Varela-- the past and present archbishops of Madrid.
In his homily the Holy Father called once again for peace in Lebanon, urging the country's people to work for reconciliation, so that Lebanon "might continue to be a country of witnesses and saints." He invoked the example of Blessed Nimatullah Al-Hardini, a monk who, "by his ascetic rigor and his long prayers before the Blessed Sacrament, by his care for theological research and his sympathetic attention toward his brothers," set an example for Christian monks and for the Maronite community.
As he saluted the 10 martyrs who died in Spain in 1936, the Pope made reference to the more recent violence in that land, caused by conflict with Basque separatists. He called for peace and reconciliation there, too, saying that the nuns had offered the sacrifice of their lives while at the same time forgiving those who killed them. He offered his prayers for "a change of heart" on the part of those who continue to "use terror and violence to impose their ideas."
Also beatified was Mother Maravillas Pidal y Chico de Guzman (1891-1974), a Carmelite nun whose father had once served as Spain's ambassador to the Holy See. She joined the Carmelite order after reading the works of Sts. Theresa of Avila and John of the Cross, and became the founder of several new convents. After suffering herself during the Civil War, she obtained Vatican permission in 1972 to unite the convents she had founded as the Association of St. Theresa.
Bishop Zeng Jingmu, 78, was released less than a month before the visit of US President Bill Clinton to China as he seeks to show US voters that China is worthy of favored trade status. Bishop Zeng is a member of the underground Catholic Church in China which adheres to all Catholic doctrine and acknowledges the primacy of the pope. The Communist government has only legalized worship in its state-controlled Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association for which it appoints its own bishops, and persecutes those who remain loyal to the universal Catholic Church.
The bishop is in very poor health and is being kept under house arrest in southern Jiangxi province, the Cardinal Kung Foundation said. He is only allowed to see close family members. "To transfer Bishop Zeng from a labor detention center to house arrest can hardly be called a true release," the group said. He was sentenced in 1996 to three years in a labor camp for holding unauthorized religious services. They also reported that Father Lu Genyou of Baoding was arrested on Palm Sunday, April 5, and was released recently.
In regards religious persecution, the Republican Party used its weekly radio address on Saturday to condemn religious persecution around the world and to stump for legislation proposed in Congress which would required monitoring of and sanctions against countries that persecute religious groups.
Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Virginia, one of the measure's sponsors, called on Americans to help prisoners of faith and highlighted persecution in Sudan, Tibet, and China. "Many around the world are enduring these hardships simply because they practice their faith. They endure mostly in silence and away from the public spotlight and with little hope for a brighter tomorrow," Wolf said.
Using Sudan as an example, he said more than a million people had been killed or allowed to starve in a war between the militant Islamic north and the mainly Christian and animist south. "Starvation is that government's weapon of choice liberally spiced with high-altitude bombing, mass murder, and even selling Sudanese boys and girls as slaves," Wolf said. The Freedom from Religious Persecution Act would create a White House office for reporting religious persecution worldwide, impose sanctions on foreign governments that carry out religious persecution, and improve asylum procedures. The Clinton administration has opposed the legislation, saying it would force them to ignore persecution in order to avoid implementing sanctions.
After finishing it's annual General Assembly, the bishops asked the government for the creation of "a permanent channel of communication between the government and the Guatemalan Bishops' Conference." The conference's spokesman explained that turning down the government's proposal "doesn't mean that we are unconcerned about the case. We urge authorities to hold a full investigation and find those responsible of this horrible crime soon."
"We prefer not to take part in the commission because this is not our mission," the bishops said in a document. "The Church should not be warrantor or judge of the proper operation of civil institutions. On the contrary, we believe that they should operate efficiently and independently as a condition to strengthen democracy, "the bishops said in their message. The document also said that the permanent relationship they expect to achieve with the government "can be the best way to exchange mutual concerns and expectations about this case (the murder of Bishop Gerardi) and others in the future."