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February 23, 1998             SECTION ONE              vol 9, no. 38

Last martyr before Lent

     Today is the feast of Saint Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr who holds the liturgical distinction of being the last martyr in Ordinary Time before Lent begins this year. For his story, the readings and meditations today and tomorrow, click on LITURGY OF THE DAY

MONDAY, February 23, 1998

Feast of Saint Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr

     Consecrated bishop of Smyrna by Saint John the Apostle, the holy Saint Polycarp staunchly defended the faith in the face of heresy, particularly Valentinianism and Marcionism. Born around 69 A.D. he dedicated his life to upholding the new Christian faith and preaching everywhere he went. Towards the end of his life when he was in his eighties, he traveled to Rome during the papacy of Pope Anicetus, the eleventh in the line of Peter. There Pope and bishop discussed a mutual date for Easter but could not come to an agreement and parted ways deciding each should celebrate it the way they had been doing it. Before he left Rome Polycarp was captured by the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and thrown into prison. Refusing to sacrifice to the gods, acknowledge the divinity of Aurelius and reject his faith, Polycarp was ordered to be burned at the stake. But as they flames seared up and around him, they miraculously did not touch him. Furious, the Emperor ordered the soldiers to spear him to death. There in Rome on February 23, he gave up the ghost. Historians gage his death anywhere between 155 and 165, because of his association with Anicetus who was pontiff during those years. Many regard Polycarp as the chief link between the apostolic age, when he knew some of the apostles such as John, to the age of the great Christian Writers in Roman Asia which evolved late in the second century. They consider his Martyrium Polycarpi the first and oldest authentic example of the Acts of the Martyrs.

TUESDAY, February 24, 1998


Today's prayer is taken from the Opening prayer of today's Mass

     God of all creation, You gave Your bishop Polycarp the privilege of being counted among the saints who gave their lives in faithful witness to the gospel. May his prayers give us the courage to share with him the cup of suffering and to rise to eternal glory.

Medjugorje Monthly Message for January 25th

      Dear children! Today again I call all of you to prayer. Only with prayer, dear children, will your heart change, become better, and be more sensitive to the Word of God. Little children, do not permit satan to pull you apart and to do with you what he wants. I call you to be responsible and determined and to consecrate each day to God in prayer. May Holy Mass, little children, not be a habit for you, but life. By living Holy Mass each day, you will feel the need for holiness and you will grow in holiness. I am close to you and intercede before God for each of you, so that He may give you strength to change your heart. Thank you for having responded to my call! For more on Medjugorje, click on MEDJUGORJE

676 and counting, hoping and praying..

WORLDWIDE NEWS & VIEWS with a Catholic slant



     ;HAVANA (CWN) - The Communist Cuban government said on Thursday that it had acceded to Pope John Paul's request to free certain prisoners held in Cuban jails, but it was unclear whether political prisoners on the papal list were among those given their freedom.

      Cuban Foreign Ministry spokesman Alejandro Gonzalez said 299 prisoners, including 70 political detainees, had been released in response to an appeal by the Holy Father last month during his visit to the country, but refused to confirm whether certain high-profile detainees -- Vladimiro Roca, Felix Bonne, Rene Gomez and Marta Beatriz Roque, who have been in custody, without being formally charged, since last July 16 -- had been freed. He said the 299 were all those included in an official pardon approved by the ruling Council of State on February 12.

      Before the Foreign Ministry announcement, human rights groups had only been able to confirm that 136 prisoners, 64 of them political detainees, had been released as of last Saturday. Gonzalez said all 299 had been freed by Saturday and that the list had been sent to the Vatican. Of the total number released, he said 75 had been Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano list handed over during the January 21-25 visit to Cuba. The remaining 224 were prisoners being freed for humanitarian reasons, such as advanced age or sickness.

      Of the Vatican's list of 302 names, 106 had already been released prior to the papal visit and at least 25 more names were either repeated, unclear, or inaccurate, Gonzalez said. He said 60 or 70 would not be released because they had been convicted of serious crimes such as murder, spying, or acts which threatened the country.


     VATICAN (CWN) -- Cardinal-designate Paul Shan Kuo-Hsi of Kaohsiung, Taiwan, arriving in Rome to receive a cardinal's red hat, said that he has seen signs of progress in relations between the Holy See and the government of China. He noted that the Beijing government is no longer pressing Catholics to break relations with the Vatican.

      The cardinal-designate, a Jesuit, was born on mainland China in 1923, said that he had returned to Beijing in 1979 to visit family members, with whom he maintains steady contacts. He noted that Catholics on the mainland now have government permission to pray for the Pope: an indication of some softening in the government's campaign to repress the loyal Catholic Church.

      However, Cardinal Shan observed that heavy restrictions remain in place. He said that he looked forward to the possibility of visiting the mainland again himself, to renew the Jesuit tradition of evangelization in Asia. But he said that such a visit would probably have to wait until circumstances were "appropriate."

      Cardinal Shan is the third known Chinese member of the College of Cardinals, joining Cardinal Ignatius Kung, who now lives in exile in the United States, and Cardinal Jean-Baptiste Wu of Hong Kong. It is widely believed that at least one of the cardinals named by Pope John Paul II in pectore is also Chinese.


     VATICAN (CWN) -- Pope John Paul II has again called for a new effort to stimulate ecumenical dialogue-- explicitly ruling out "halfway measures"-- as a preparation for the Jubilee.

      The Pope addressed his thoughts to the members of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, which met at the Vatican today. "We must infuse new vigor into our actions, to realize clearly our Lord's will for unity," he said. The ecumenical impulse begins with the recognition that "we are brothers," the Holy Father explained.

      While recognizing that progress has been made, the Pope added that such progress should only encourage greater effort, since "we cannot be content" to have overcome some of the obstacles that block the way to full Christian unity. "The goal is full unity," he observed.

      One "precondition" for real ecumenical progress is the "assimilation" of the teachings of Vatican II, the Pope continued. He asked those who lead ecumenical efforts to do their utmost to spread those teachings-- while avoiding the tendency to "simplify" them.

      Pope John Paul II hopes that Europe will become a "crucible" of ecumenical activity, promoting Christian unity throughout the world.

      The Holy Father advanced his vision for "ever more intense" ecumenical work as he spoke to members of the joint counsel of European episcopal conferences, at their meeting in Rome today. The Pope again renewed his plea for a drive to realize Christian unity for the millennium celebrations.

      Pope John Paul observed that all Christians share the duty to spread the Gospel throughout the world, to be leaven in society. "The witness of unity," he said, "is an essential element of authentic evangelization."

      Noting that Europe in recent years has seen the arrival of many representatives of other faiths-- he mentioned specifically Islam and Asian religions-- the Holy Father added that Christian churches "must show a spirit of confident openness" and work with these new faiths to advance "the dialogue of life." In particular he said that Christians and other believers could work together to restore the stability of family life, and the appreciation for human dignity.

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"My son, to My wisdom be attentive, to My knowledge incline your ear."

Proverbs 5: 1

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

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February 23, 1998 volume 9, no. 38         DAILY CATHOLIC