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April 29, 1998             SECTION TWO              vol 9, no. 83

To print out entire text of Today's issue, print this section as well as SECTION ONE

WORLDWIDE NEWS & VIEWS with a Catholic slant
provided by Catholic World News Service



      VATICAN CITY (CWNews.com) - Pope John Paul II expressed his revulsion on Tuesday at the murder of a Guatemalan bishop on Sunday, calling it "an abominable crime."

      Auxiliary Bishop Juan Gerardi Conedra of Guatemala City, who headed the archdiocesan human rights office, was killed in apparent retaliation for the release of a report critical of the army for human rights abuses during the country's 36-year civil war. The Holy Father said the murder is an example of the futility of violence in the central American country.

      "I express my strongest revulsion for this act of violence which is an attack on peaceful co-existence," said the Holy Father who lasted visited Guatemala in 1996. "I deeply hope that this abominable crime, which has taken the life of a true servant of peace and untiring worker for harmony among all sectors of the population, clearly shows the futility of violence."

      Meanwhile in Guatamala City and all through the country, Guatemalans on Monday mourned the murder of a human-rights crusading bishop who was killed on Sunday, just two days after releasing a report critical of the army for human rights abuses during the country's 36-year civil war.

      Flags hung at half-mast, black bows adorned doors, and people pinned black ribbons on their clothes as newspaper ran full-page advertisements from business and civil groups demanding justice for Auxiliary Bishop Juan Gerardi Conedra. "For the first time in our history, a bishop is assassinated, a deed that pains us and fills all Guatemalans with shame," President Alvaro Arzu said in a televised address on Monday evening.

      Although many observers quickly linked the murder to the bishop's report on human rights abuses during the civil war, prepared in his position as head of the archdiocesan human rights office, government officials and prosecutors pointed out that no conclusions had been drawn. "We do not want to enter into speculation," said president spokesman Ricardo De la Torre.

      When Bishop Gerardi was head of the Diocese of Quiche in the late 1970s and early 1980s, he saw several priests in his care killed by government-backed paramilitary groups. He also survived an assassination attempt in 1980, and was forced into exile in 1982 and 1984. A silent march and vigil for Bishop Gerardi was planned for Tuesday afternoon and a funeral Mass for Wednesday morning.


      VATICAN CITY (CWNews.com) - "We expect 500 million pilgrims throughout the world for the celebration of the Great Jubilee Year 2000," said Cardinal Giovanni Cheli as he released a new Vatican pastoral letter entitled: "Pilgrimages in the Great Jubilee Year 2000."

      The document was prepared by the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerants, which also oversees the world of tourism. It is signed by Cardinal Cheli, president of the council, and Bishop Francesco Gioia, the secretary. It was presented on Tuesday at the Vatican during a press conference. The letter contains in six chapters: The pilgrimage of Israel; The pilgrimage of Christ; The pilgrimage of the Church; The pilgrimage for the Third Millennium; The pilgrimage of humanity; The Christian pilgrimage today.

      Pope John Paul II has in the past said he desired that this Great Jubilee can be celebrated in all the local Churches throughout the world and not only in Rome. The unique character of the Year 2000 Jubilee of the Birth of Christ will give a "new impetus" to the pilgrimages in the five continents: the documents estimates that 500 million Catholics throughout the world will travel to a pilgrimage shrine for the occasion.

      The document recalls that the Christian pilgrimage, the pilgrimage of the Church, itself falls under the biblical tradition of pilgrimage in the Old Testament, from the migration of Abraham to the pilgrimage which Jesus of Nazareth took part in during his childhood, according to the Gospel of Luke. The bishop emphasized the importance of always putting the pilgrimage in relation to these spiritual origins, and said that the pilgrimage is thus conceived to be full of "richness of prayer, of conversion." This foundation in the Bible and in Christ marks the character of the Christian pilgrimage compared to the other religious pilgrimages, the document's authors said.

      The estimated number of pilgrims noted by the Council ("We cannot guarantee exactitude," said Bishop Gioia), for the largest shrines in 1996 in Italy are:
- Rome: 7 million
- Assisi, Loretto, San Giovanni Rotondo (Padre Pio): 5 million
- Padua (the tomb of St. Anthony): 4.5 million
- Pompeii (Our Lady of the Rosary): 2 million

      Italy has another 30,000 churches with historic value, 1,500 shrines, 4,000 monasteries, and 700 diocesan museums.

      The number of pilgrims for the shrines on different continents for 1996 were:
- Our Lady of Aparecida (Brazil): 5.8 million - Lourdes: 5.5 million
- Our Lady of Czestochowa (Poland): 4 million, 80% of them young people, 200,000 of them traveling by foot over 600 km.
- Our Lady of Lujan (Argentina): 1 million, the majority of them youth.

      Cardinal Cheli, questioned by a journalist, acknowledged that Medjugorje in Bosnia is currently a significant place of pilgrimage, as mentioned in an interview granted to Vatican Radio.


      PARIS (CWNews.com) - France's Socialist-led government said on Monday that it will move ahead with plans to give the same legal benefits to same-sex couples as it does to heterosexual marriages, but said it will not legalize same-sex marriage or adoptions by such couples.

      Justice Minister Elisabeth Guigou said, "The government has committed itself to the possibility of resolving tax, inheritance, and social problems and that will be done." She added, "There should be no ambiguity about the possibility of homosexuals marrying or adopting children. That must be very clear in the text. It's not possible."

      Although France has seen the decline in adherence to tradition Catholic morality, including legalization of abortion and an increase in extramarital relations, the country's strong Catholic identity in rural areas has galvanized opposition to the idea of legalizing same-sex marriages. Homosexual groups that backed the Socialist Party in last year's elections have complained that the government has not been vigorous in pushing forward legislation in parliament that is favorable to parliament.

      To the south in Lisbon, Portugal, President Jorge Sampaio of Portugal said on Tuesday that a nationwide referendum on plans to allow abortion on demand would be held on June 28.

      The vote would be the first use of a referendum since a change to the country's constitution allowed the practice last year. Parliament has already approved a law allowing abortions up to the 10th week of pregnancy, but the ruling Socialist Party agreed to a vote after a national outcry. Further controversy arose over previous comments by Prime Minister Antonio Guterres who had said that, as a practising Catholic, he opposed any allowance for abortion.

      Portuguese voters will be asked whether they "agree with the de-criminalization of the voluntary interruption of pregnancy, if carried out at the decision of the woman and in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy in a legally authorized clinic." Although abortion was technically legalized in Portugal 14 years ago, the law restricts the procedure to very specific circumstances. In 1997, there were 280 legal abortions.


      WASHINGTON, DC (CWNews.com) - President Bill Clinton urged US religious leaders on Monday to pull their support for a proposed law that would impose economic sanctions on countries that persecute minority religious groups.

      Clinton met with members of the National Association of Evangelicals at the White House and told them that he believed the legislation would harm efforts to promote religious freedom throughout the world rather than help them. Clinton said the threat of mandatory sanctions would put pressure on him and the rest of the government to ignore religious persecution to avoid putting penalties on important trading partners.

      The measure, sponsored in the House by Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Virginia, and in the Senate by Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, would ban exports of goods to foreign governments engaging in abuses. It would shut off US aid to such nations and require the administration to block loans by international financial organizations, such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. It also would establish a special White House office to monitor religious persecution overseas.

      Among countries cited by the bill's supporters as being consistent violators of religious freedom are China, Iran, Pakistan, Vietnam, Algeria, Sudan, Vietnam, and Saudi Arabia.

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     Today, as mentioned above, is the Feast of Saint Catherine of Siena For the liturgy, readings, meditations and vignettes on this stellar saint as well as preparation for tomorrow's feast of Pope Saint Pius V, click on LITURGY FOR THE DAY.

Wednesday, April 29, 1998


      One of the great Doctors of the Church, Saint Catherine, born in 1347 in Sienna, was blessed with apparitions of Our Lord when she was only seven years old. Jesus requested of Catherine, "Please give Me your heart." Catherine willingly did so and in return, He gave her His Most Sacred Heart for God had a special mission for this special saint He raised up for the Church. At 15 she entered the Third Order of St. Dominic. Though courted by many young and noble bachelors, Catherine remembered what Christ had asked her and turned down numerous offers of marriage to become a bride of Christ with the Dominicans. Catherine did not know what exactly her mission was, but prepared for it through penance and prayer, devoting herself to the poor. She knew in her heart the Pope belonged in Rome, the seat of Christianity. Therefore, she made a pilgrimage to Avignon in Southern France to persuade the Pontiff Pope Gregory XI to return from exile to Rome where he belonged. Heeding the advice of this simple nun, he did as she requested for he knew intuitively that it was God's Will for God had sent Catherine as a light in the darkness during this dark time in Church history. Dissension followed Gregory's decision to return and those who followed their own will tried to elect a false pope and keep him in Avignon, but again Catherine intervened and lovingly, wisely counseled those in power to accept Gregory as the true pope and desist from promoting anyone else. They, too, understood this was God's Will and they obeyed, lifting all barriers and allowing Gregory to return the papacy to Rome. Both Gregory and his successor Pope Urban VI asked her counsel often, knowing it was of the Holy Spirit. Catherine died at the same age as Christ, 33 years old, receiving not only Jesus' Heart but His wounds as well as she was bestowed with the stigmata. The world mourned this great saint in 1380 for she had touched and brought many nations and princes back to the true faith through her simple, but firm faith. She also prophecied the schisms that would come in the following centuries. In 1970, Pope Paul VI officially proclaimed her a Doctor of the Church.

Thursday, April 30, 1998


      A Dominican who followed in the tradition of St. Catherine of Siena nearly two centuries later was Cardinal Michael Ghislieri who went on to become the great Pope Saint Pius V. Another of the great saints who God rose up in the "Century of Saints," Pius V was one of the most influential in Church history as he brought about renewal in the Church, carrying out many of the reforms that would reinstate the holiness and status of Holy Mother Church. Amidst the ruin of the Protestant Reformation, the corruption within the Church, and the threat of Turkish invasion, Pius carried out the teachings of the Council of Trent which had begun in 1545. The fruits of Trent are still evident today for Pius ordered the founding of seminaries for the training of priests, published a new Missal, Breviary, Catechism and initiated the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) for the youth to learn the faith. In addition, he established the Tridentine Mass which he proclaimed would be said "in perpetuity." His devotion to the Rosary and spreading the power of Our Lady's special weapon, proved victorious when he summoned all Catholics to throw themselves upon the Mercy of God and pray the Holy Rosary in begging God to save the Church from the Turks. On October 7, 1571 against unsurmountable odds, the Christian forces were miraculously victorious over the Turks in the Gulf of Lepanto off of Greece. The tremendous power of the Rosary was made manifest and that date became the official feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. Pius died in 1572.


Today's Prayer is taken from the Preface of the Dominican Missal of which St. Catherine of Siena was a Third Order member.

     Father, all-powerful and ever-living God, we do well always and everywhere to give You thanks. We praise You today because You revealed to St. Catherine the unsearchable mysteries of Your Own life and gave her a special love for Your Church. She contemplated You in constant prayer and pleaded that discord might give way to unity. Obedient and humble, she challenged the Church of Christ to be mindful of its mission and be a faithful spouse of Christ, holy and spotless until the end of time.

For all other standard features, articles and columns, click on Archives

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Apri1 29, 1998 volume 9, no. 83   DAILY CATHOLIC