VATICAN CITY—The Pope has attacked what he called the "intolerable contrast" between the rich and the poor in the world.
The contrast was of one "portion of humanity that enjoys all the advantages of economic well-being," he said, and the"enormous masses of those who live in conditions of dire poverty."
In his Sunday Angelus message. which coincided with the feast of St Vincent de Paul, the patron saint of charity organisations, he recalled Christ's parable of Lazarus and the glutton, to underline that a "commitment to justice and peace" must be a key feature of the millennium Jubilee celebrations.
It was not right to resign oneself to what he called the "immoral spectacle" of a world where people still died of hunger.
He said that the parable of Lazarus taught us that the "promotion of a culture of solidarity" begins with the individual, by allowing oneself to be approached by the needy. — (Bruce Johnston, Rome Correspondent) VATICAN CITY—Thieves broke into Vatican offices causing almost one thousand pounds of damage last week.
Unidentified felons smashed their way into the Palazzo delle Congregazione, which houses the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Congregation for Clergy. They rifled through desks and cupboards. Vatican sources said that sensitive documents and computer files were not disturbed during the raid.
The break-in did not have the hallmarks of a professional operation, the sources said. The Italian police were not called in to investigate the raid which occurred over the weekend.—(KNA)
VATICAN CITY—The Vatican signed an agreement last week with the Republic of Kazakhstan guaranteeing the rights of the Catholic Church.
Under the agreement, the central Asian state will grant the Church wide-ranging freedoms in the fields of education., health and charitable work. It also identified areas for co-operation between the Church and State.
Documents giving the Church a secure footing in the country were signed by Vatican Secretary of State, Angelo Sodano, and Kazakhstan's foreign minister. Ka.ssymzhomart K Tokaev in the Vatican. Afterwards Pope John Paul II met Kazakhstan's prime minister, Abiscevich Nazarbayev at his summer residence in Castelgandolfo.
This is the first official agreement of its kind between the Vatican and a former member of the Soviet Union, said the Vatican spokesman Joachim Navarro-Valls.
Kazakhstan has a population of 16 million, of whom 335,800 are officially Catholic. The Vatican and Kazakhstan opened diplomatic relations in October 1992 following the collapse of the Soviet Union. One and a half years later Rome appointed a Polish archbishop. Marian Oles, as the first nuncio. However. Kazakhstan has yet to appoint a diplomatic representative to the Vatican.—(KNA)
VATICAN CITY—Catholics and Hindus must work together to combat terrorism, injustice, poverty and war, the Vatican said last week.
The call came in a message to the Hindu world marking the Diwali "festival of lights" from Cardinal Francis Arinze, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue.
Cardinal Arinze urged Catholics to forge better relations with Hindus so that both religions can give "humanity new hope". He said that both faiths must "accept each others' differences and mutually respect them."
There are nearly 750 million Hindus in the world and almost one billion Catholics. — (KNA) VATICAN CITY—The influential International Theological Commission met in Rome to discuss the Church's role in the Inquisition last week.
The Commission met for a week to consider whether the Church bore any guilt over the Inquisition and its treatment of non-Catholics in the Middle Ages. The Commission, presided over by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, discussed a 35-page preliminary paper written by the Italian theologian Bruno Forte. The week-long deliberations will lead to an eagerly anticipated Vatican conference on the Inquisition later this month. This may result in a statement appraising the Church's role.
In the year 2000 the pope is planning a day of atonement for the sins of the Church over the past millennium, possibly including references to the Inquisition. — (KNA)
ROME—Celebrations marking the 30th anniversary of the death of Padre Pio ended last week with a plea for his swift canonisation.
Speaking at a Mass at the Capuchin monk's grave in San Giovanni, curial official Carlo Fumo said: "Our wish is that Padre Pio is proclaimed a saint as soon as possible." He said that Padre Pio was "a light, illuminating future generations."
The official cause for the celebrated stigmatic monk began in 1973. Vatican sources suggest he will be beatified before the end of the year 2000.
Over 50,000 people from all over the world gathered in San Giovanni for the anniversary celebrations. The event was overshadowed by an earthquake whose epicentre was just 20 kilometres from the pilgrimage centre. (KNA) ROME—The Knights of Malta, exiled from the island since the 18th century, opened their headquarters to the public for the first time last week.
The order. now a charitable rather than military organisation, says the move will help it to "open up to the world" and become more accessible in the approach of the new millennium. Visitors. who have hitherto been permitted only extremely limited access, will for the next three months he allowed into the gardens of the Priory and the previously hidden church of Santa Maria del Priorato.—(The Times) WARSAW—The Pope is to visit Poland in June 1999, according to an itinerary published by a joint Church-government planning group.
The eight-day visit will begin on June 5 in the port of Gdansk, where the Solidarity movement was born in 1980. It will end in Warsaw.
A spokesman for the Polish bishops' conference said that a detailed schedule for the visit would be published at the end of the year, following talks between the Vatican and government representatives.
A statue of Pope John Paul II is expected to be dedicated at the Marian shrine of Lichen in time for his arrival.(CNS) PARIS—France's bishops have objected to a proposed law that would give gay and unmarried couples the same legal rights as married ones.
The new law, known as the Civil Pact of Solidarity (PACS). would give heterosexual and homosexual couples the tax benefits of married couples. It would also make them eligible for adoption.
In a statement the French bishops called PACS "a useless and a dangerous law." They called on politicians to reject it when it comes before the National Assembly.
Marriage, the bishops said. "is not a simple contract or a private matter, but constitutes one of the fundamental structures of society, in which it maintains coherence." It "must be treated as a privileged alliance between a man and a woman," the statement said.
The bishops argued that families and social structures were already gravely destabilised and that the new legislation would only produce more "irresponsibility".
The measure "was not preceded by a sufficiently profound reflection by experts," the bishops said. They said it was introducing homosexual marriage through the back door. The ruling socialist party. who introduced the proposed law, said they were pleased to be behind such "progressive" legislation.--(CNS)
STRASBOURG—The ninth symposium of the Council of European Conferences of Priests (CCPE) ended last week with an appeal to Rome not to foreclose debate on the priesthood.
It said the Church must "recognise the existence of different points of view" and he "open to discussion of any topic."
It singled out "the place of women in the Church, changes in criteria for admission to priesthood and the responsibility of the laity" as key issues which ought to be discussed.
Six delegates from the National Conference of Priests of England and Wales attended the conference, which met for a week to consider the theme "Together for the world of today."
Eighty priests from 21 European states were present. They met in four language working groups, before meeting in a plenary session to approve a concluding message.
It urged priests throughout Europe to keep pace with European integration: "We cannot and must not stand aside from these developments," it said.
MADRID—The Spanish Parliament narrowly rejected a proposed law relaxing abortion controls last week.
The legislation, proposed by the Socialist party and the United Left Party was defeated by 173 votes to 172.
A week before the vote. the Spanish Bishops' Conference denounced the legislation, which would have allowed abortion on demand within the first three months of pregnancy. They argued that the available sociological and psychological evidence shows that free abortion is harmful.
According to a law passed in 1985, abortion is permitted in Spain only where the mother's life is endangered.—(KNA)
SPEYER, Germany—A fortnight before the canonisation of Blessed Edith Stein, the bishop of her former diocese of Speyer has described her as "a Jewish Christian and a Christian Jew."
Bishop Anton Schlembach said that Edith Stein, who was born a Jew and became a Carmelite nun after conversion to Christianity, showed that there is a "secret and mysterious relationship" between the two great world religions.
Bishop Schlembach called for a recognition of Stein's Jewishness at her canonisation on 11 October. He argued that she was sent to her death in Auschwitz in 1942 because she was Jewish and therefore the Church should not claim her martyrdom exclusively for themselves. Edith Stein "was always a Jew," the bishop said, "and she was proud of it."
Stein was born in 1891 in the city of Wroclaw, Poland, then part of Germany. She was baptised in 1922 in the diocese of Speyer after reading the life of Saint Teresa of Avila. She made her profession as a discalced Carmelite twelve years later. In 1942 she was deported from a convent in Holland to Auschwitz. In 1987 Pope John Paul II proclaimed her blessed. —(KNA) LONDON—Cardinal Basil Hume pressed the Chancellor Gordon Brown to speed up the cancellation of third world debt last week.
A speech written by the Cardinal was read out at a meeting of religious leaders at 11 Downing Street. It touched on the issue of debt relief for the world's Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC).
The Cardinal said: "Is there not a strong case for granting faster and deeper HIPC relief as soon as countries are able and willing to commit cash savings to properly managed poverty alleviation programmes?"
The speech was read by the Cardinal's public affairs assistant Charles Wookey as the Cardinal was in Rome for a week-long retreat with the bishops of England and Wales.—(The Tablet) LONDON—Six Catholic churches were among the 28 post-war churches honoured by English Heritage last week.
Among the most prominent to be given listed building status was the Church of Good Shepherd in Nottinghamshire, a church built in 1964 and now given Grade II* status.
Elsewhere, Notre Dame de France in central London, which contains the famous mural by Jean Cocteau, was given a Grade E listing.
The Heritage Minister, Alan Howth. said: "The soaring and dramatic designs made possible by the use of concrete resulted in some spectacular interiors. These buildings are among the best examples of their time."
LONDON—Four pupils of the Oratory school in London are facing expulsion and criminal prosecution if found guilty of a mugging carried out in south-west London two weeks ago.
The four boys aged 13 to 15. pupils of the school where Tony Blair's two sons attend, were arrested last week in connection with the mugging of two 16 year old boys. They and three other youths, are said to have threatened and pushed around the two boys at a railway station and on a bus. before stealing £550 of property.
They are now on police bail pending a report making recommendations to the police on their fate.
The headmaster of the Oratory, John McIntosh said "We do not tolerate this kind of behaviour. Even though it happened out of school on Saturday night. the Oratory is inevitably involved". He warned: If it is proved that any of our boys were involved then I will do whatever I can to see that they are properly dealt with."
The school is more than one of 150 primaries and secondaries threatened with backlash from the bishops if they opt for less influence from the church. A row has erupted because of new legislation coming into force next year.
All of the 1500 or so grant maintained schools will have to become either foundation or voluntary aided schools. Catholic authorities want their schools to become voluntary-aided because of a conflict of interest over religious teaching and the practical running of them.
Foundation schools will be required to deliver a broad religious syllabus. Those which are voluntary-aided will be allowed to determine the content of religious education in the classroom.
Some schools are considering defying the bishops and are threatening the creation of breakaway State Catholic schools outside the jurisdiction of the church.
The Catholic Education Service has stressed there is no place for foundation schools, because they would be at risk of "persons hostile to the Christian faith" having a say in their running.—(The Express)
CARDIFF—The Vicar General of Cardiff Archdiocese has criticised the press treatment of allegations of abuse against Nazareth Houses as "lurid and sensational.
Mgr Gerald Chidgey said last week that there was little, if any, evidence of abuse at Nazareth Houses in Swansea and Cardiff. He condemned reports in a local paper that said police were investigating 18 allegations of abuse which date back as far as 1915.
In a letter to the South Wales Echo, Mgr Chidgey accused the paper of using "lurid headlines" and giving "widespread coverage of fantastic claims."
"The Echo, by its unbalanced presentation. sensational headlines, and appeals for further lurid stories appears to be setting itself up as judge, jury and executioner in this affair," Mgr Chidgley wrote. He called on readers to write to the editor expressing their outrage.
Mgr Chidgley. a Nrieereth House chaplain. praised the achievements of the Poor Sisters of Nazareth over the past 120 years.—(South Wales Echo) raised a record £17.8 million for its work in the developing world last year.
The amount raised, a 40 per cent increase on the previous year and the highest in the agency's 25-year history. came largely from donations from the Irish public, with over £6 million received in church collections.
DUBLIN—The number of Irish couples seeking divorce increased significantly over the past six months.
A total of 760 divorces were lodged at Circuit Court offices between January and March, compared to 621 during the whole of 1997.
The number of divorces granted in the first three months of this year has already exceeded last year's total number of divorces.
However, it is not known if this indicates an increase in the number of marital breakdowns in Ireland. as legally separated couples may choose not to divorce.—(Sunday Independent)
BETHLEHEM—Residents and businesses are suffering in the preparations for the millennium in Christ's birthplace.
Six businesses in Manger Square have had to relocate to make way for restoration work.
A British-built police station, used both by Israeli and Palestinian security forces, has been torn down and will be replaced by a peace centre.—(CNS)
JOHANNESBURG—South Africa's Christian churches have criticised the South African army's intervention in Lesotho.
The South African Council of Churches called on the army to immediately withdraw troops from the small mountain kingdom and apologise to the people of Lesotho.
The Council described the situation as "intolerable" after mainly South African
troops entered Lesotho to quell riots. It said that the advance undermined the sovereignty of Lesotho and was comparable to an invasion.
Soldiers representing the South African Development Community moved into Lesotho last week to restore order following a disputed election.(KNA)
WASHINGTON, DC ---Catholic charities launched an urgent plea or aid to the victims of Hurricane Georges this week.
The hurricane has killed more than 300 people and caused billions of pounds of damage in its destructive journey through the Caribbean and southern USA.
Two of the United States's leading Catholic aid agencies, Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities USA. made the joint appeal after the hurricane swept through the US territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Jane Gallagher, Catholic Charities USA disaster response director, said: "The most effective way to help people is through monetary donations."
The Archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, Theodore E McCarrick. issued an appeal throughout his archdiocese authorising special collection in parishes. —(CNS)
LIMA—The Peruvian Bishops' Conference called on the country's citizens to approve an historic peace deal with Ecuador.
Although they may be unhappy with the minor details of the agreement the higher good of peace should be embraced, the bishops said.
Agreement on the 25 year-old border dispute between Peru and Ecuador was reached last month. The dispute led to three wars and a tense armed stand-off.
In September the president of the Peruvian bishops conference. Archbishop Luis and Bambaren, and his opposite number in Ecuador, celebrated a joint service of penitence.—(Kathpress) GUATEMALA CITY—An independent post-mortem on the body of murdered bishop. Juan Gerardi Conedera, appears to exonerate a priest who is accused of his murder.
The post-mortem showed that there were no bite marks on Bishop Gerardi's body. undermining the prosecution case against Fr Mario Orantes, who allegedly killed the bishop with the help of his dog. Baloo, on 26 April.
An autopsy shortly after the bishop's murder appeared to show bite marks attributed to Fr Orantes' dog.
Fr Orantes lawyer. Jose Toledo, said his client was completely exonerated by the results of the new post-mortem and called for his immediate release.
Bishop Gerardi's body was exhumed early on 17 September and reburied the next day after a five-hour autopsy.
Over 500 people gathered in the cathedral church as his body was last to rest in the crypt.
Bishop Gerardi was bludgeoned to death two days after produci ng a damning report on human rights violations during the country's civil war.—(The Tablet)
NEW DEHLI—Indian police took five men into custody in connection with a gang rape of one nun and the molestation of at least three others in the state of Madhya Pradesh.
The All India Catholic Union issued a statement the day after the rape, on 24 September. It said that the men were in police custody but had not been arrested or charged. Sources at the National Bishops' Conference in New Delhi said that the nuns, members of the Foreign Missionary Sisters. were in a state of shock and were receiving treatment. The Diocese of Indore said all four had been gang-raped, although doctors at Jhabua hospital said that they were only certain one had been gang-raped, while the other three had been sexually molested.
The president of the Indian Bishops' Conference, Archbishop Alan de Lastic of Dehli, has written letters of protest to India's president and home affairs minister.
India's Christians are "feeling insecure and disturbed at this increasing violence against them in different parts of the country." the Archbishop wrote.
An official of the Bishops' Conference called for the arrest of the nun's ,attackers and their swift prosecution. — (CNS)
DELHI—A right-wing Hindu group which has called for Christian missionaries to be deported from the country was denounced by Catholic leaders last week.
The group, Bajrang Dal, accused missionaries of being involved with both the drug mafia and with having links with separatist groups within India. The All India Catholic Union condemned remarks by Bajrang Dal as "full of malice and hatred toward the Christian community in India" and called upon the president and prine minister to take legal action against the group.— (NCR)
IPOH, Malaysia—At a seminar in Malaysia on inter-religious dialogue sponsored by the Federahon of Asian Bishops' Conferences. several participants expressed confusion a the Church's claim to uniquely possess de truth alongside its openness to dial ogle. At the First Formatior Institute of Interreligious Affairs, atteided by more than 70 bishops, one partiepant said the Pope "says one thing to adherents of other religions, which is` unitive of religions. and then says sone thing else to us Christians-.
Another delegate accusel the Vatican of "double standards" during the seminar. —(NCR)