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THURSDAY      October 22, 1998      SECTION TWO       vol 9, no. 207

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Events Today in Church History

      Though we celebrate October 16th as the day Pope John Paul II was elected in 1978, today is the day twenty years ago that he was officially installed as Supreme Pontiff in ceremonies at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. For other events throughout the centuries that are memorable in Church history today, click on MILLENNIUM MILESTONES AND MEMORIES

Historical Events in Church Annals for October 22:

NEWS & VIEWS with a Catholic slant

provided by Catholic World News Service



      VATICAN CITY ( - The Knights of Columbus on Wednesday pledged the funds needed to restore the atrium of St. Peter's Basilica, while the Italian oil Company ENI will restore the facade of the largest church in Christendom. Already, the German firm Kaercher has undertaken the cleaning of the Bernini colonnade.

      It is in the atrium that is found the famous "Holy Door" that Pope John Paul II will solemnly open to start the Great Jubilee, beginning with the Christmas Mass on the night December 24, 1999.

      The project was jointly announced by Cardinal Vigilio Noah, president of the Fabric of St. Peter's and Grand Knight Virgil C. Dechant of the Knights of Columbus. Restoration will be made on the marbles and the stuccos of the walls and the vaults of the atrium, but also the Arch of Constantine, the arch of the bells, and the atrium of Charlemagne. For Dechant, this is a "concrete testimony of the spiritual loyalty and devotion of the Knights towards the Church, the Holy Father, and the Magisterium."

      A first announcement of this project had taken place during an audience granted by the Holy Father on October 15 to the representatives of the Knights of Columbus. The Pope expressed on this occasion his gratitude for their "support of the pastoral ministry of the Bishop of Rome" and their "profound sense of Catholic unity with the Successor of Peter," as well as "their ardent effort for the cause of life." The Knights of Columbus are the source of the financing of various works related to the Petrine ministry, by the means of their "Vicarius Christi Fund." The Pope cited as an example the payment of the expenses of the Permanent Mission of Holy See at the UN.

      This Catholic association, founded in United States in 1882, currently has 1.6 million members throughout the world (mainly in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the Philippines). In 1996, the Knights donated more $106 million to charity.


      VATICAN CITY ( - Four monks of the Vietnamese congregation of the Coredemptrix Mother are among the Catholics imprisoned by the Communist government of Vietnam, according to the Vatican news agency Fides, part of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Fides said it hoped that the visit of a special UN envoy on religious matters to Vietnam this week would encourage greater religious freedom in the country.

      The congregation of the Coredemptrix Mother was founded in 1953 by a Vietnamese priest, Father Domenica Marie Tran Dinh Thu and recently founded a province in the United States for Vietnamese who have fled to that country. The four monks of this congregation imprisoned in 1987 (Father John Bosco Pham Minh Tri, and Brothers John Mai Duke Chuong, Bernard Nguyen Viet Huan, and Michael Nguyen Van Thin) are charged with disturbing both "the unity of citizens" and national security, and engaging in antigovernment propaganda and terrorism.

      Fides said the congregation refutes these charges as false and as a consequence suffers from a policy of religious oppression carried out by the government. The arrest of the monks followed criticisms against the government made by certain members of the order.

      Abdelfattah Amor, UN envoy on religious intolerance matters, began a 10-day visit to Vietnam on Monday. The head of the Communist religious affairs commission declared that the government will allow Amor to meet with representatives of all religious groups present in the country and to talk with them in private. He said this openness proves that the news spread abroad on the situation of religions in Vietnam is "false and distorted."

      Amor will meet with two Buddhist monks imprisoned since 1995, charged with organizing, without authorization, aid for the people of an area of the country struck by floods. The visit of the United Nations observer is expected to lead to the release of 11 dissidents and known religious leaders, including two other monks of the Coredemptrix Mother order.

      But the imprisonments are not the only evidence of the lack of religious freedom in Vietnam, according to Fides. The government demands that groups apply for permits for all activities; removes religious leaders as heads of the organizations and checks the contents of homilies and speeches. The Communist government also passed a new law last July that says the State "respects religious freedom" but prohibits "superstitious practices" and bans the printing and distribution of Bibles, limits the movement of people (aimed at pilgrimages), and threatens legal actions against those who "use religion as a means of causing social disorders and opposition to the government." Amor will present his report to the United Nations at the beginning of next year.


      VATICAN CITY ( - Archbishop Renato Martino, Permanent Observer for the Holy See at the United Nations in New York, on Monday expressed the desire of the Holy See for a "general and complete" nuclear disarmament, at the beginning of the fifth session of the general assembly of the organization.

      The Holy See called for rapid progress towards the abolition of nuclear weapons, outlawing them, and setting up a system of regular inspections by an international authority. Archbishop Martino then proposed the convocation of an international conference on nuclear disarmament for the purpose.

      In his declaration on "general and complete disarmament," the prelate expressed his satisfaction for the progress made in this area, in particular concerning the treaty against anti-personnel landmines, ratified by the Holy See, which invites other nations to do so as well.

      He also said he was pleased by the efforts made to reduce the flow of light weapons and defense spending to the benefit of development programs. He however asked for more effective measures against the international arms traffic which feeds "violence and instability without scruples."

      The archbishop also denounced the presence of some 30,000 nuclear ballistic missiles, which constitute a "serious danger to humanity," and an "unacceptable risk" of accidental or terrorist catastrophes. He thus asked the nuclear powers to take concrete initiatives, immediately, without ambiguities. He proposed as a first step that the bearers of nuclear weapons commit to a "No First Use" pledge.

      Also, as the United Nations General Assembly discussed "the promotion and the defense of the rights of the children," Archbishop Renato Martino, Permanent Observer for Holy See at the UN in New York, launched a call on Tuesday for the "immediate demobilization" and rehabilitation in society of child soldiers, along with all necessary psychological counseling and other required assistance.

      According to UN Security Council figures quoted by Archbishop Martino, children currently suffer from the wars in 50 countries, representing 50 million children worldwide. During the last decade, 2 million children have been killed, more than one million were orphaned, 6 million have been seriously wounded or handicapped for life, 12 million have lost their homes, and 10 million suffer from serious psychological traumas. Half of all refugees are children, and 250,000 children are serving under arms. He said these figures constitute an "abomination."

      The Holy See condemns "any form of exploitation or abuse of children, including using them in wars" and he called on "the Family of Nations" to ensure that the children benefit from a "special protection" in these conflicts.

      He also asked for the "immediate demobilization" of children engaged in armed struggle and for their psychological welfare in the long term, as well as the prohibition on the conscripting of children in the future. Archbishop Martino said the time for solemn declarations had passed and now is the time for unified action by the nations. The archbishop then called for the return to their country of origin of the abandoned or refugee children, as well as the implementation of urgently needed medical aid and schools.

      Pointing out that 800 children each month are victims of anti-personnel landmines, he underlined the urgency of putting into place the 1997 Oslo agreement to prevent the death and the mutilation of thousands of innocents. On this topic, he quoted the call made by Pope John Paul II in his message to the secretary-general of the UN in 1990.


      NEW YORK ( - The United Nations' secretary-general warned on Tuesday that United States risks losing its vote in the General Assembly if it does not pay its back dues.

      Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a statement, "Despite the extensive reforms we have undertaken ... the Congress and the administration once again failed to honor America's legal commitment and moral obligation to the United Nations and its 184 other member states." Congress has included a $197 million payment to the UN in a spending bill approved on Wednesday, but the remaining $1.3 billion was not approved for payment because President Bill Clinton threatened a veto. Clinton was opposed to a provision in the bill banning US funds for international population control groups that promote abortion.

      A senior UN official told Associated Press that the US will have to pay some of its back dues next year or risk losing its vote in the General Assembly. The United States' seat on the Security Council is not threatened.

      Undaunted, the US Congress on Tuesday eliminated $20 million in proposed funding for the UN Population Fund, a move with the group said threatened to increase the number of abortions worldwide.

      "The United States' decision is misguided from the point of view of all those, including UNFPA, who seek to minimize abortion," said UNFPA executive director Nafis Sadik. "At the very time when individual demand for family planning is rising all over the world, it will weaken family planning programs and increase the use of abortion to avoid unwanted births."

      Congress' main motivation for the cut was a UNFPA program in Communist China which maintains a one-child-per-family policy and is accused of widespread forced abortions. Sadik said the $20 million cut in funding would deprive 870,000 women of modern contraceptives, thereby threatening 1,200 maternal and 22,500 infant deaths, 15,000 serious illnesses during pregnancies, and causing 200,000 abortions. UNFPA had a budget of $290 million in 1997.

      The funding for UNFPA was separate from a controversy over payment of US back dues owed to the United Nations, but was linked to a provision banning US aid for population control groups that support abortion.

For more headlines and articles, we suggest you go to the Catholic World News site. CWN is not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provides this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.


"When the arrogant man is punished, the simple are the wiser; when the wise man is instructed, he gains knowledge."

Proverbs 21: 11

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October 22, 1998 volume 9, no. 207   DAILY CATHOLIC