Each year, the Pope get together with Curial officials just before Christmas, to exchange greetings and to look back on the work of the passing year. After a formal Christmas greeting from the Curia, represented by the dean of the College of Cardinals (in this case Cardinal Bernardin Gantin), the Pope offered his own comments.
The Holy Father cited a passage from the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead-- who, as he pointed out, was not a Catholic, and in fact had no ties with any Christian church-- to open his remarks. "The life of Christ is not a demonstration of omnipotent force," Whitehead wrote. "His glory is for those who are able to discover it; it is not of this world. His power rests in the fact that he has renounced force." Whitehead argued that Jesus thus set the highest ethical ideals for Christianity, and also divided the course of human history.
For this reason, the Pope continued, the Church now sets her sights on the celebration of the 2000th anniversary of the Incarnation. He insisted, "we cannot forget that the Jubilee is, above all, a great gift of the Lord, through his Church, for all of humanity."
Looking back across 1997, the Pope recalled his six international voyages: to Sarajevo, the Czech Republic, Lebanon, Poland, Paris, and Rio de Janeiro. He also mentioned his anticipation of his January 1998 trip to Cuba.
As particularly significant events in Rome, he mentioned the publication of the official "editio typica"-- that is, the final Latin- language version-- of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the proclamation of St. Therese of Lisieux as a Doctor of the Church.
Looking around the world's stage, he mentioned the death of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, "who the Lord called to Himself after a life totally spent in the service of the poorest of the poor." He said that Mother Teresa's example "remains for believers and non-believers alike" a challenge that must be respected and accepted.
Speaking of the steps taken toward ecumenical unity, and of the work of the Synod (especially the Synod of the Americas, which concluded recently), the Pope said that the work accomplished in these areas reflected the promptings of the Second Vatican Council. The "aggiornamento" proposed by that Council, he said, was an act of "double fidelity to God and to man," insofar as it exemplifies the desire to serve mankind, "but without compromise with the contemporary world."
The survey found that 71 percent of Americans say they never doubt the existence of God compared to 60 percent in 1987. Sixty-one percent also believe miracles find their source in God, whereas only 47 percent said that a decade ago. Researchers pointed to an increase in interest in spirituality and religion in popular culture for the surge. "Touched By An Angel" is a top-rated television show and books on angels, miracles, and spirituality are bestsellers, but religious leaders said that many of these products are the by-product of a de-institutionalized spirituality.
Radio talk show host Laura Schlesinger asserted Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" that the United States is in the midst of a morality crisis. Americans "don't seem to have much of a moral framework," she said. She said the clergy bears responsibility, too. "I yell at the clergy all the time," she said. "I think the clergy -- with all due respect -- have become more like camp counselors than leaders. What they're doing is saying, 'I want the people to come back next week. You can't challenge them too much, can't ask too much, can't tell them that religion demands something of them.' God demands something of you. Since they're not doing that, it's like the inmates are running the institution."
According to the bishops, the false priests are specially targeting liturgical celebrations either in small suburbs or wealthy people in search of a Mass or a sacrament. "These false minister are not only taking economic advantage of the population, but are also confusing the people, since their teachings differ from the Church's true doctrine," the bishops said.
Nevertheless, in the document, the bishops admit: "we bear part of the responsibility for our lack of vigilance," but they add that in order to stop the problem, they will need the help of the public. As a first step, the bishops will issue banners with the names and identity papers of the false priests in order to warn parishes.
Lord Jesus, help us ever to follow the example of Your holy Family, that in the hour of our death Your glorious Virgin Mother together with Saint Joseph may come to meet us, and we may be worthy to be received by You into the everlasting joys of Heaven. You live and reign forever. Amen.