January 12, 1998   vol 9, no. 8    SECTION TWO

WORLDWIDE NEWS & VIEWS with a Catholic slant



      JERUSALEM (CWN) - Jerusalem's Israeli mayor on Thursday said he will send an invitation to Pope John Paul in the next few days, asking him to participate in millennium celebrations in the Holy Land, but Palestinians said the gesture is inappropriate.

      Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah said the time is not yet right for a papal visit. "We hope God will give us the right moment in which to hold this visit. We need the correct context, a historical context," he told Mayor Ehud Olmert during a visit to Christian leaders marking the New Year. Bethlehem Mayor Hanna Nasser said he would advise the Holy Father not to attend the celebrations unless Israel and the Palestinians have negotiated a permanent peace agreement by then and have found a solution for Jerusalem.

      Patriarch Sabbah told Olmert that he blames Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's "hard-line" policies for preventing an appropriate peace agreement. "We need to find peace here in Jerusalem, and as a policy maker we know you have the ability to help us in that endeavor," he said.


      HAVANA (CWN) - Cardinal Jaime Ortega of Havana, in an interview with a Cuban Catholic magazine before Pope John Paul's visit to Cuba this month, said there has yet to be a real dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Communist government concerning the spiritual life of Cuba's people.

      The magazine Verdad y Esperanza quoted Cardinal Ortega as saying that preparations for the papal visit January 21-25 had begun contact, but a real dialogue had not yet begun. The magazine, made available by the church on Thursday, was the first publication produced by an association of Roman Catholic journalists formed last year on the island.

      Meanwhile, US President Bill Clinton said he saw the papal visit as a hopeful sign and said that any concessions by the Cuban government to human rights and freedom would be met with "reciprocal concessions" from the US on an economic embargo and diplomatic relations. "I think there ought to be a reciprocal relationship ... where, as Cuba shows more support for democracy and human rights, we should open up, we should try some reciprocal effort, but it has to be reciprocal," he said. "It will be interesting to see how the Pope's visit goes. I'm very encouraged that he's going," he added. "The Pope is a very persuasive fellow ... we hope that he does well."


     VATICAN (CWN) -- A Catholic club in Khartoum has been closed and confiscated by the government of Sudan, after 40 years of existence.

      Comboni Press, an arm of the missionary Combonien Fathers, yesterday announced the confiscation, saying that government authorities ousted the Catholic owners on December 31. The authorities cited a secret government decree, signed on December 6, which was conveyed to the club only days before the seizure.

      The club, which has been shut down for several years, had once been a meeting place for various Catholic groups in the capital city. It had also housed some athletic facilities, and-- since the influx of refugees caused by the country's civil war-- a school for displaced youngsters.

      Since 1992, the club has been subjected to repeated threats that it could be closed. Police have raided the building and arrested students, and some of the club's property has been confiscated. The club has been closed to the public even during the Pope's visit to Sudan in 1993.

      Tensions surrounding the building reached a new level in 1996, with a government announcement that the lease would not be renewed; the Catholic bishops were "invited" to hand over the club, with the promise of a quick settlement for the property. Bishop Gabriel Zubeir Wako had responded by demanding an explanation for the forced closing of the club, and documentation of the government's legal authority to close out the lease.

      In November, a coalition of Christian groups had lodged a formal protest against the Sudanese government's policies, which have been persistently hostile to Christians. Some observers believe that the decision to close the club in Khartoum was, in effect, the government's response to that complaint.

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A short prayer/ejaculation to say each time you pick up the Word

Come, Holy Spirit, fill my thirsty soul with Thy graces.


"Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Add nothing to His words lest He reprove you, and you be exposed as a deceiver."

Proverbs 30: 5-6

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January 12, 1998 volume 9, no. 8          DAILY CATHOLIC

January 1998