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WEDNESDAY-THURSDAY      December 8-9, 1999     SECTION THREE      vol 10, no. 233-234

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

Wednesday, December 8, 1999


Thursday, December 9, 1999

Feast of Blessed Juan Diego, Hermit and Visionary of Guadalupe

Friday, December 10, 1999

WORLDWIDE NEWS & VIEWS with a Catholic slant



15th Century Paintings Recover Original Splendor

    VATICAN CITY, DEC 6 (ZENIT) - After 20 years of work, the restoration of the Sistine Chapel is now complete. The last task to be undertaken was the cleaning of the frescoes on the side walls, which include scenes from the lives of Moses and Christ.

    The final phase of the restoration, which lasted five years, has made possible the recovery of the splendor of the 15th century paintings that were commissioned by Pope Sixtus IV, before Michelangelo painted the Creation on the ceiling (1508-1512) and the Last Judgment on the altar wall, modifying forever the first artistic conception of this Chapel, which has witnessed the election of so many Popes.

    The restoration was carried out by experts from the Vatican Museums, who were precise in matters of chronology in the Chapel's artistic works, and testified to the decisive role of painters like Pietro Perugino, Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, and Cosimo Rosselli.

    The restoration, which was financed by the Patrons of the Vatican museums, has made possible a thorough analysis of the techniques used by the artists to decorate the Chapel. The Vatican experts have also been able to discover with certainty the contribution made by each of the above-mentioned artists. ZE99120612


Designer Inspired by Virgin's Image in Paris' Rue du Bac

    ROME, DEC 7 (ZENIT) - December 8 is a very special day for Europe: in 1955, on that day, the European Ministers' delegates officially adopted the European flag designed by Arsene Heitz, who today is an octogenarian artist in Strasbourg.

    The decision was taken following the 1950 European Council's (one of the predecessors of today's European Union) convocation of a competition to design the flag of the newborn European Community. Among many other artists, Heitz presented several designs, and one was chosen: 12 stars on a blue background.

    Recently Heitz revealed to a French magazine the reason for his inspiration. At that time he was reading the history of the Blessed Virgin's apparitions in Paris' Rue du Bac, known today as the Virgin of the Miraculous Medal. According to the artist, he thought of the 12 stars in a circle on a blue background, exactly the way it is represented in traditional iconography of this image of the Immaculate Conception. In the beginning, Heitz saw it as a flight of fancy, among the many that run through an artist's imagination; but the idea caught his attention, to the point that it became the subject of his meditation.

    According to Javier Paredes, Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Alcala in Spain, in statements sent to ZENIT, "Heitz listens to God in his interior; in other words, he prays with his heart and his head. He says he is profoundly religious and devoted to the Virgin, to whom he never misses praying a daily Rosary, together with his wife. Because of this, he believes the inspiration not only from his artistic talents, but from the silent voices that Heaven always speaks to men of good will, among whom Heitz can undoubtedly be numbered. He is an artist who, virtually at the end of his life and at the zenith of his career, can proclaim with the guarantee of authenticity that he recalls that moment, that he is interested in very few but very important things, that he regards himself as a man who loves the whole world, but especially the Blessed Virgin, who is our Mother."

    Professor Paredes admits that "neither the stars nor the blue of the flag are particularly religious symbols, thus respecting the conscience of all Europeans, regardless of their beliefs."

    Indeed, he recalls that "when Paul M.G. Levy, first director of the Press and Information Service of the European Council had to explain to the Members of the Economic Community the meaning of the design, he interpreted the number of 12 stars as a 'figure of plentitude,' given that in the 50s there were not 12 members in that Council, nor in the European Community."

    "However, in Heitz's soul the words of the Apocalypse were very present: 'A great sign appeared in the Heavens: a Woman clothed with the sun and with the moon at her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.' And, perhaps without realizing it, the delegates of the European Ministers officially adopted the design proposed by Heitz on the feast of Our Lady: December 8, 1955," explained Prof. Paredes. "That's a lot of coincidences, so henceforth it should not be difficult for us to discover in the folds of the Europeans' flag the smile and affection of Our Mother, the Queen of Europe, ready to lend a hand in that great challenge that St. Peter's successor has proposed to us: to re-Christianize the Old Continent with the example of our lives and the testimony of our words." ZE99120707


    VATICAN ( -- On December 20, the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints will read a series of decrees approving beatification and canonization for a number of candidates.

    Many of these beatifications and canonizations will be scheduled for the Jubilee Year. And according to the Italian weekly Famiglia Cristiana, the beatification of Popes John XXIII and Pius IX have already been set for September 3, 2000.

    The Congregation for the Causes of Saints has not confirmed the beatification of either pope; in fact, no statement about the cause of any candidate will be made until the official decrees are read in the presence of Pope John Paul II.

    In the case of Pope John XXIII, there are two steps remaining before he can be beatified. The Congregation has not yet issued a decree recognizing his "heroic virtue." If such a decree is among those read on December 20, the Congregation must still recognize the validity of a miracle attributed to the late pope's intercession. However, informed sources say that a miracle-- the 1966 cure of an Italian nun-- has already been approved, so that the cause of John XXIII could proceed quickly to beatification.

    The case of Pope Pius IX is quite different. The decree recognizing his "heroic virtue" was promulgated in 1985, and in 1986 the Congregation approved a miracle through his intercession. Thus the path is clear for his beatification. But Pope John Paul II has delayed scheduling the ceremony, because of sensitivities in Italy over the role of Pius IX In the political events that led to the unification of Italy. Pope John Paul sought the advice of a panel of historians, who recently delivered their judgment that the political passions had cooled, and the beatification could now proceed.

    Other possible candidates for beatification in 2000 include Don Marmion, the Irish Benedictine and spiritual writer; and Cardinal John Henry Newman, the renowned English convert and author.

    Despite the absence of any official confirmation from the Vatican, it is already common knowledge that one of the December 20 decrees will clear the way for the beatification of Francisco and Jacinta Marto, two of the three children to whom the Virgin Mary appeared at Fatima. That beatification is already scheduled to take place in Fatima on May 13.


    LONDON ( - Lapsed Catholics in London may soon receive a visit from local parishioners as part of a campaign to win them back.

    The Westminster Archdiocese is leading the way in the Millennium Campaign to renew contact with the thousands of Catholics who have drifted away from the Church. Some parishes have adopted the method of the Jehovah's Witnesses of door-knocking in pairs.

    The campaign was launched on Sunday, less than a week after new figures were published showing that while estimated Catholic population has grown to an estimated 4.2 million, Mass attendance figures have dropped by 30,000 over the last year to just 1,056,027.

    Westminster has responded by starting an outreach program asking parishes to set up teams who will write to lapsed Catholics in the area and visit them at home. The campaign is led by Auxiliary Bishop Vincent Nichols, who has been diocesan administrator since the death of Cardinal Basil Hume earlier this year.

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December 8-9, 1999 volume 10, no. 233-234  DAILY CATHOLIC