DAILY CATHOLIC     THURSDAY     October 15, 1998     vol. 9, no. 202

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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          VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- Pope John Paul II astonished an Italian broadcasting team last night when he placed an unexpected telephone call to a live show being aired to outline the 20 years of his pontificate.

          The Italian network Rai had prepared a 3-hour show to prepare viewers for the 20th anniversary of the Pope's election. The show, which included interviews with a number of international figures, was being broadcast live from Rome.

          Bruno Vespa, the host for the Rai broadcast, was stunned when he received a phone call from the third floor of the Vatican apostolic palace. The call was placed by Msgr. Stanislaw Dziwisz, the Pope's personal secretary, who quickly handed the phone over to the Holy Father himself.

          "Mr. Vespa, I want to thank you and all the other participants for all you have done and said about these 20 years. Thank you very much," the Pope said.

          The phone call was obviously not planned by anyone involved with the special broadcast. Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the chief spokesman for the Holy See, said, "I didn't even know he was watching the broadcast."

          Navarro-Valls said that the call had been a spontaneous gesture. "He wanted to call, so he did," he remarked. Vespa, clearly astonished and moved by the Pope's gesture, told reporters today, "This is a Pope who has never been formal."

          Among the other luminaries interviewed for the Italian broadcast were Italian Cardinals Noe and Biffi; political leaders Helmut Kohl, Kofi Annan, Yasser Arafat, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Lech Walesa; soccer star Ronaldo; singer Luciano Pavarotti; and the Pope's would- be assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca.

          During the program the former chief of East Germany's spy service said on Tuesday that his agency had managed to insert a spy into the Vatican during the 1980s.

          Former Stasi chief Markus Wolf told Italy's state-run RAI-TV, during a special broadcast to mark Pope John Paul II's 20th anniversary, that the mole -- a Benedictine monk from Germany working in the Vatican's science offices -- had supplied information on Vatican foreign policy and especially the late Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Agostino Casaroli.

          Wolf and former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who also appeared on the program, both denied that any Soviet-bloc country played a role in the assassination attempt on the Holy Father in 1981. Convicted Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Agca initially said the KGB and Bulgarian secret service helped him in his attempt on the Pope's life, but later changed his story. Italian courts also found insufficient evidence to support the claim.

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.

October 15, 1998       volume 9, no. 202


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