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NO DEMOCRACY WITHOUT RESPECT FOR LIFE. John Paul II asks U.S. politicians to be coherent

POPE ASKS CROATS TO BE SIGN OF RECONCILIATION. Warm welcome upon arrival in Zagreb

HOLY SEE: "CHARITY BREAD" AGAINST HUNGER. Initiative supported by U.N. World Food Program

POPE ASKS EASTERN CATHOLICS TO DIALOGUE WITH THE ORTHODOX. The Holy See looks for a solution to the problem of the Greek-Catholics in Ukraine

VATICAN DENOUNCES SANCTIONS ON IRAQ. The Nuncio in Bhagdad and the resignation of the coordinator of "Food for Oil"

TELEVISION ALSO NEEDS GOD John Paul II:"Religious ignorance should not stifle film productions"

HOLY SEE APPEAL TO IMF MEETING Requests special measures for highly indebted countries


HALF A MILLION YOUNGSTERS: ONE FAITH Final lap before continental meeting in Santiago


COUNTDOWN FOR MEETING OF LATIN AMERICAN BISHOPS IN CUBA Presidency of CELAM meets with Pope to discuss his forthcoming visit to Mexico

HUMANITARIAN ORGANIZATIONS ABANDON NORTH KOREA In spite of hunger, the sick flee from contaminated hospitals with no medicines

"MACLUHAN PROGRAM" FOR TECHNOLOGY "WITH SOUL" The disciple of the father of the "global village" believes Internet needs spirituality



John Paul II asks U.S. politicians to be coherent

VATICAN CITY, OCT 2 (ZENIT).- "One of the most noble endeavors of bishops is to support life, encouraging those who defend it and working with them to build a genuine culture of life." In his address to the bishops of California, Nevada and Hawaii, whom he received in audience at the end of their "ad limina" visit at the tomb of Saint Peter, John Paul II reminded them of the teachings of Vatican Council II in defense of human life at all its stages. In this connection, he pointed out the importance of Paul VI's encyclical "Humanae Vitae," written thirty years ago, but absolutely timely in our day.

Just a few hours before his trip to Croatia, the Pope reminded the bishops that the legalization of abortion and euthanasia is in direct opposition "to the true concept of democracy in society," as it does "not protect those persons who are unable to defend themselves."

As a sign of great ecumenical hope, the Pope pointed out the fact that Catholics and members of other Christian communities are working together "against the legalization of practices which are contrary to life, as happens in the United States."

The United States should become once again "a caring society, in which the unborn, the handicapped and the terminally ill are looked after and protected by the law."

The Holy Father made a special appeal to Catholic legislators urging them to have their voice heard in the drafting of cultural, economic, political and legislative projects, and "reminding them that in defending life they are defending, at the same time, an original and vital part of the very foundations on which American society was built." The appeal was especially forceful given the fact that in the recent Congressional vote to override Clinton's veto of legislation banning partial-birth abortion, some of the congressmen who call themselves Catholics voted in favor of retaining this practice.



Warm welcome upon arrival in Zagreb

ZAGREB, OCT 2 (ZENIT).- From the depths of the Balkans, where there is a high risk of renewed warfare, a voice has resonated: "No more wars."

These were the words with which John Paul II began his visit to Croatia. "Today peace is a reality, but many wounds still need healing." The Pope realized that there is at present a paramount problem: the slow return of Serbian refugees who quarrel over houses with Croatian refugees.

The Holy Father has appealed for a profound reconciliation among all the contending groups -- a tall order in itself. But there are others, among them the removal of mines. There are at present more than one million active mines; since 1995 some 600 lives have been claimed, many of them children. To deactivate the mines, $2,000 million and a period of 15 years would be necessary.

Moreover, there are the new and the old poor. "Do not give up," the Holy Father said. "I come to confirm my brethren in faith, to encourage them in hope and to re-enforce them in charity, but justice is also necessary."

The Pope received a truly affectionate welcome from the Croatian people. He was visibly moved and replied by quoting one of their poets: "Here everyone is my brother. I feel very much at home."

President Franjo Tudjman thanked the Holy Father for his visit -- the first head of state to visit the country this year. Croatia suffers from this isolation, which seems like an abandonment. Tudjman rejects the accusations of Western countries and their demands for greater freedom for the opposition and for the media. The government responded by saying that within the next few days Parliament will give greater liberty to Croatian television, which up to now has been controlled by the executive.

The Pope noted that the Croatian people are moving toward a greater democratization of their society. But he insisted on greater respect for life; the abortion law in Croatia is extremely liberal going back, as it does, to communist times. "Today Christ is knocking at the door of your hearts. Know how to welcome him. He has the answer to all your expectations."

The Holy Father said there were two important aspects to his visit: the cross, with the beatification of Cardinal Stepinac, and Mary, with a pilgrimage to two of her shrines.

In the first instance, the cross. "The communist regime wanted to destroy Cardinal Stepinac, not only physically, but also in his dignity, attempting to deny who he really was and making him out to be a criminal. This was his greatest suffering."

As for Mary, she was the one who "in obscurity entrusted herself to receive all from the Father in order to give all to everyone else." A strong and beautiful message which finally brings hope to the Balkans.



Initiative supported by U.N. World Food Program

VATICAN CITY, SEP 30 (ZENIT).- At the press conference for the launching of "Charity Bread ('Panis Caritatis')," Archbishop Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum," declared that the aim of the project is "to share and to help."

"Poverty always has two faces: one material, the other spiritual," the Archbishop said, speaking as coordinator of all the Catholic institutions for assistance and charity in the world. "Without a doubt, material poverty is more obvious, but spiritual poverty causes more harm. Only charity joins these two dimensions of poverty. Not charity, after the manner of Robin Hood, who stole from the rich to give to the poor; or a good action performed to assuage conscience. Nor is simple generosity sufficient. The response to the misery in the world must engage the whole man, body and soul."

In the context of the Jubilee

The Great Jubilee was inspired by the Jewish tradition of a Jubilee, where land and fruit were distributed, slaves freed and the poor helped. In this context Archbishop Cordes asked, "How can this message be transmitted?" His answer: "This, precisely, is why the idea of the "Charity Bread" was born.

Beginning tomorrow, in the majority of Italian bread-shops it will be possible to buy a 300-gram loaf of bread, decorated with 12 points and a circle in the middle symbolizing Jesus surrounded by the 12 Apostles. From each loaf sold, seven cents to the dollar will go to "Cor Unum" for distribution to projects for emergency food relief in Rwanda, Guinea, Bissau and Sudan." Italy's initiative will be followed by other countries.

The president of the Union of Bread Producers in Rome has given his word that bread prices will not rise; the funds going to charity will come from the current price.

International Support

Trevor Rowe, spokesman for the World Food Program, was present at the press conference. This was the first time that an initiative by the Holy See has received the political support of an organ of the U.N.

Rowe furnished chilling statistics on the problem of hunger in the world. "According to forecasts, in 1998 alone 14,000,000 children will die of hunger and related diseases. And tonight 800,000,000 people will go to bed on an empty stomach. The World Food Program tries to reach as many of the needy as possible. Last year 53,000,000 hungry were fed, but this is only a fraction of those in need.

Trevor Rowe criticized cuts made in food aid. "Four years ago the world offered 17,000,000 tons of food aid. Last year the figure was reduced by almost two thirds." He concluded by saying: "from the human point of view, it is unacceptable, unforgivable and a disgrace that there are people who still die of hunger, when we know that the world has enough food to feed all peoples. ' Charity Bread' helps prove that cynicism is mistaken, that people do want to put an end to the problem of hunger. We hope that this initiative will inspire other similar projects so that no one on this planet, not a single child, will go to bed on an empty stomach."



The Holy See looks for a solution to the problem of the Greek-Catholics in Ukraine

VATICAN CITY, OCT 1 (ZENIT).- In his address to the fifty participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, received in audience with Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, prefect of the Congregation, John Paul II spoke about the total support that the Holy See gives to the Churches of the Eastern rite that are caught in very difficult situations, and about the urgent need for a more important dialogue with the Orthodox Churches.

The Pope talked about the wealth that these Churches bring to the universal Church in terms of ancient traditions. As is well known, many of these Eastern Churches have quite a bit in common with the Orthodox world, both on the liturgical level as well as in customs -- priests in some of them are allowed to marry -- or of government, which is carried out by a synod headed by the patriarch. They remain united to the Catholic Church by their faithfulness and obedience to Peter's successor.

Life for these Eastern Churches is not easy, the Pope acknowledged: "Some of them have emerged from the persecution of communist regimes and are living through the difficulties of a re-birth. Others work in very unstable conditions, where religious fellowship is not always inspired by fraternity and mutual respect." These situations have obliged many of the faithful of the Eastern rite to flee to countries where the Latin Church is established, requiring at times the help and direct intervention of the Holy See.

The problem of the Greek-Catholics

One of the most critical subjects which the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation of Eastern Churches has had to address has been that of the relations between the Greek-Catholics (Uniates) of the Ukraine with the Orthodox Church. At present, it is the problem which blocks relations between Rome and the Orthodox Patriarchs. In an interview on " Vatican Radio," Cardinal Silvestrini acknowledged that proposals are being examined to resolve the problem of the parishes expropriated during Stalin's time, which became part of the Orthodox Church and which now are, or should be, the property of Eastern Catholics.

Because of this, John Paul II invited these Churches to commit themselves to an ecumenical dialogue "with courage and resolution, and in spite of the memory of the wounds inflicted in the past, given their theological and cultural proximity with the Orthodox Churches." The Pope acknowedged that because of "present circumstances" this would not always be easy.



The Nuncio in Bhagdad and the resignation of the coordinator of "Food for Oil"

VATICAN CITY, OCT 1 (ZENIT).- The sanctions the U.N. has imposed on Iraq over the past eight years are "damaging and useless." They do not "serve the interests of the United States which has insisted on them, nor do they affect the government, but they do punish the innocent population." This was the statement made by Denis Halliday, coordinator of the United Nations program "Oil for Food" in his resignation.

According to Halliday, 57, who is Irish and has worked for the U.N. for the past 30 years, and who has been in Iraq for the past 13 months, "the leadership in Bhagdad has been reinforced by the sanctions, while the population has been debilitated by emigration and infant mortality, and by crime which in earlier times was virtually unknown."

Halliday is convinced that the embargo against Iraq is incompatible with U.N. declarations, as well as with conventions on human rights and the rights of children.

Vatican Reaction

Speaking on "Vatican Radio," the apostolic nuncio in Bhagdad, Bishop Giuseppe Lazarotto, has revealed that the agreement made on February 23 of this year, between Iraqi authorities and Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the U.N., in no way has improved the conditions of the population. "That agreement awakened great hope," the Nuncio said, "especially because it seemed to introduce a new element in the relations between the two sides; there was greater understanding and respect, as the Secretary General himself observed at the time of his departure from Bhagdad. Unfortunately, that hope has not borne fruit, and the situation of the population deteriorates daily; this will continue until the sanctions are totally revoked."

The Nuncio said that, organized by the hierarchy, "Caritas Iraq" is responsible for a number of projects to help the people. They include: "food for needy families, clinics, support for high school and university students, and re-settlement of Christian families in the Iraqi-controlled zone of Kurdistan. But the Church in Iraq has very limited resources and must count on the help of large international charitable organizations. The Christian communities are very conscious of the need to promote solidarity both within the country as well as abroad; Iraq needs this more than material aid."

Bishop Lazarotto believes that the sanctions have done no more than "cause great suffering to the people, especially the weakest and most vulnerable. It is of utmost importance that the international community give serious consideration to the manner in which sanctions are applied to prevent their becoming a means of general collective punishment, as has been the case in Iraq."



John Paul II: "Religious ignorance should not stifle film productions"

CASTELGANDOLFO, SEP 28 (ZENIT).- God is not dead on television; in fact, the small screen could be used as an instrument for the resurrection of God in the daily life of modern man. This is one of the more important conclusions agreed to at an international congress on the use of biblical language in contemporary communication promoted by the producer "Lux Vide." This Italian company, established just a few years ago, has produced a television series on characters of the Bible which has been very well received by audiences in many countries and has garnered some of the highest awards given by the U.S. television industry.

To show his support for such initiatives, John Paul II wanted to meet the participants of the congress to tell them directly how much he appreciates projects of this type. The transmission of the biblical message to a wider audience through powerful means of communication, especially films and television, "is a service of great human and spiritual value, which must grow and improve all the time." These were the Pontiff's words to the fifty experts on biblical exegesis and social communication attending the congress.

"When there is respect for truth and the content of the Bible and the right use of the means of communication, the bringing together of divine revelation and the means of social communication can result in great good," the Holy Father said. "On one hand, it raises the mass media to a most noble task, rescuing it from coverage of improper and vulgar situations. On the other, it offers new and extraordinarily effective possibilities to bring the Word of God to the public."

Impudence of Ignorance

The Pope felt that the problem initiatives like these would face would be due to the lack of a biblical and religious culture. Because of the enormous effect that religious film and television productions have on such large audiences, "it is necessary that great care be taken to avoid improvisations which are to be regretted, or spectacular effects which are in bad taste." The great Bible productions on television and film, the Holy Father continued to say, make possible the transfer from one form of language to another: "from the written word, well rooted in the hearts of the faithful and in the memory of many people, to communication by visual film fiction which - although in appearance more superficial - in certain ways is more powerful and incisive than other languages."

Neglect of the School System

Ignorance of the Bible was the issue that came up repeatedly in the talks by the participants of the congress. Among these were representatives from RAI (Italian radio and television); Ettore Bernabei, president of "Lux Vide" and Franco Zefirelli, director of "Jesus of Nazareth."

In his address, the Italian Latin scholar Vittore Branca decried the school system which in almost all countries neglects study of the Bible, the foundation book for understanding not only Judaism and Christianity, but Western and Middle Eastern culture as well.

Alessandro D'Alatri, director of the film "The Gardens of Eden," which he presented at the Venice Film Festival and which covers the hidden years of Jesus' life, acknowledged that when he started work for the production he realized his total ignorance of biblical culture, "as in school no one taught me these things."

But yearning for the infinite is stronger than the impudence of ignorance. At the dawn of a new millenium, many religious works are being produced which have great success with audiences. The Pope enthusiastically supported those projects which, "join the artistic with the profoundly religious, and are capable of awakening in their viewers not just aesthetic admiration but a deeper interior participation which will encourage their spiritual development."



Requests special measures for highly indebted countries

VATICAN CITY, OCT 1 (ZENIT).- "The needs of the poorest countries cannot be considered second class." This appeal by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace would not be so critical but for the fact that there is ample proof of this attitude in the international forums of the world. This is why Archbishop Francois Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan of Vietnam, new president of the Pontifical Council, has decided to appeal to the annual meeting of directors of central banks and of the International Monetary Fund, which will take place in Washington next week.

"If the hopes of many people are to be fulfilled before the year 2000 -- the Archbishop writes -- then crucial decisions must be taken now."

Archbishop Van Thuan recalled that in number 51 of the letter of preparation for the third millenium --"Tertio Millennio Adveniente" -- John Paul II spoke of the Jubilee as "an ideal time to give thought to a marked reduction, if not an outright cancellation, of the international debt, which weighs so heavily on the future of many nations." He confirmed that this appeal has been made by many other Christian leaders, as well as by many individuals and organizations throughout the world.

The Archbishop went on to say that the measures that international financial institutions have begun to implement in order to resolve in a comprehensive way the debt problems of the poorer nations, "must be given support especially by the richer nations." He concluded: "They must be applied totally, in the most flexible and rapid way."




Final lap before continental meeting in Santiago

VATICAN CITY, OCT 1 (ZENIT).- From Tuesday, October 6 to Sunday, October 11, more than five hundred thousand youngsters of the American continent will meet in Santiago, Chile to participate in the first Continental Meeting of Youth. The concluding celebrations -- the vigil of Saturday the 10th and Mass on Sunday the 11th -- will be presided by the papal legate, Cardinal Angelo Sodano.

Today the press office of the Holy See published the letter, written in Latin by the Holy Father, in which he asks Cardinal Sodano to be his representative at this most important meeting of youth which will focus on the rediscovery of the Holy Spirit's each individual's life.

Cardinal James Francis Stafford, president of the Pontifical Council on the Laity and Archbishop Emeritus of Denver, the city which hosted 1993's World Youth Day, will also attend the Santiago meeting.

According to an article published in the daily "L'Osservatore Romano," the meeting, which has been organized by the archdiocese of Santiago, will be a great opportunity for the Churches of the whole of America to prepare spiritually to celebrate the great Jubilee of the year 2000." This is why the key document during the sessions will be John Paul II's apostolic letter "Tertio Millennio Adveniente." The meeting in Chile is a follow-up to the initiative by European youth who organized their first meeting in Loreto in 1995.

There will be six days of intense activity. During the first four days there will be a common agenda which will be addressed simultaneously in five other dioceses: Valparaiso, San Felipe, San Bernardo, Rancagua and Melipilla. In the remaining days the young pilgrims will meet in Santiago where, according to the tradition established at world meetings with the Pope, they will participate in the vigil and the Mass.

On Tuesday the 6th the youngsters will be welcomed and organized in various centers. Wednesday the 7th is already known as the day of the good news, Thursday will be dedicated to reconciliation, and Friday will be the day of the Kingdom. Saturday is the day of the vigil and of a plan for life, and on Sunday two youngsters from each country of the continent will be confirmed by Cardinal Sodano.



Outreach and evangelism.

WASHINGTON, OCT 2 (ZENIT).- The archdiocese of St. Louis, which will welcome John Paul II next January, has launched a special appeal to the Negro population, led by Auxiliary Bishop and Vicar General Edward K. Braxton, one of the fourteen African American bishops of the United States.

The archdiocese of St. Louis has between 10,000-12,000 African American Catholics, says Braxton. They belong to more than 60 parishes and some are descendants of the close to 200 French-speaking settlers who came to St. Louis in 1790, according to Jesuit historian William Barnaby Faherty.

There is a great need to evangelize young African Americans who do not come to Church, says Bishop Braxton. "Many of the poor, especially youth and children, think that anything of value can be found on the streets. We cannot wait for them to come to us."

The Bishop likes to change barbers every time he goes for a haircut, as he has realized that it is an ideal place to have deep conversations and evangelize. Every "new" barber notices the Bishop's clothing and asks him about his Church. When he tells them he is a Catholic, the majority are surprised. "Many people do not know that there are African American Catholics." In fact, there are 2.3 million -- more than in any other denomination in the U.S.

Bishop Braxton tells those who are surprised that he is the son of two devout African American Catholics, and that he was baptized in a church in south Chicago shortly after his birth, 53 years ago. He is determined to change the mistaken idea that the Catholic Church does not accept African Americans and, as such, has launched an aggressive campaign for evangelization in St. Louis.

This summer he distributed posters and leaflets in the predominantly African Americans neighborhoods of St. Louis. The ads have themes such as, "Jesus Christ is the center of our faith. The Catholic Church in St. Louis welcomes you to pray with us." An empty cross with a veil is part of the design. The campaign was made possible by a $20,000 donation from a benefactor.

The Catholic Charities of St. Louis, which include 29 non-profit organizations and 67 programs, last year had an annual budget of $57 million. It is the largest source of charity in the state. About 66% of the services are for Afro-Americans, Karen Wollensack, spokeswoman for the Catholic Charities, said.

The vast majority of African Americans are non-Catholics, according to Wollensack. "If poor African Americans understood how much Catholics sacrifice in order to help them, they would understand how welcome they are to attend Mass," the Bishop added.

African American Catholics in the United States

According to figures released by the U.S. Episcopal Conference, there are 2.3 million African American Catholics in the country; of a total of 300 priests 75 head parishes; there are also 500 religious, 400 ordained deacons, 4 superiors of religious orders, 4 seminary professors, 1 seminary rector, and 1 superintendent of the Catholic school system. There are, moreover, 14 bishops and 5 titular bishops.



Archbishop Lozano says many nuns are obliged to leave hospitals

VATICAN CITY, SEP 30 (ZENIT).- From October 1-3 an International Congress will meet to discuss the topic "The Consecrated Woman in the World of Health on the Threshold of the Third Millenium". It will be held in the New Synod Hall in the Vatican.

The meeting, which was specifically requested by Pope John Paul II, has been organized by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Healthcare Workers. It will be attended by delegates from all religious congregations involved in health care.

In order to have a better idea of the topics and objectives of this most important meeting, "Zenit" interviewed Archbishop Javier Lozano Barragan, president of the Pontifical Council for Health. The Holy Father made his request for a Congress on February 14. The pope stated that many women dedicated to the medical and paramedical profession have known how to combine professionalism with the gifts of generosity, intuition and tenderness. They have, he noted, a special talent to handle the more delicate aspects of health care. When the human being feels most fragile and needy, a woman's vocation to motherhood gives her greater sensitivity to listen to the sick person's needs; she is a virtual genius in her response, especially when her natural gifts are combined with a conscious attitude of altruism, faith and charity. Here veritable miracles are wrought by these "angels of consolation."

The Mexican Archbishop remarked, "Recently we were visited by the Egyptian bishops who told us that the Moslems ask for nuns to work in their hospitals; they say that even a glass of water offered by the nuns is blessed and contributes to their cure. Moreover, the nuns' presence in the hospitals fosters dialogue between the religions."

Regarding the objectives of the Congress, Archbishop Lozano expressed hope that this pastoral service would be intensified, given the many problems in the realm of healthcare. "In many parts of the world nuns are leaving the hospitals. We are asking them to stay and to grapple with the difficulties." The archbishop singled out the State's desire for hegemony in health care as the main problem. "The State reduces the space of the Catholic hospitals, hampering the free exercise of their work. In this way the State hopes to substitute religious personnel with others."

"In addition, we are faced with a crisis of vocations. Many religious want to dedicate themselves to teaching in schools, but vocations are needed for other charisms, including the care and cure of the sick," noted Archbishop Lozano.

The Pope wanted this meeting because of the world's need."In spite of technical and scientific progress, the majority of people live in great poverty and isolation. Consecrated women are needed who will be dedicated to serving the sick."

To the question of why religious leave the hospitals, Archbishop Lozano replied: "There are many reasons, but the most important is economic. The acute economic competition makes it virtually impossible for some congregations to continue. Sadly, we are witnessing a process of globalization directed almost exclusively to profit. We, on the contrary, propose a globalization of charity in solidarity. The economy must be globalized, but not by following purely economic and selfish criteria. Attention to health cannot be converted into a business enterprise. And, although it is true that our Catholic hospitals must have funds in order to keep going, our objective must always be charity and solidarity. With this connection in mind, we are drafting a plan to combine all Catholic hospitals in a single pastoral endeavor. At present there are 21,750 Catholic hospitals in the world. Our concern is to be on guard against reducing healthcare to what is strictly utilitarian and profitable."

"Globalization requires a high degree of specialization. It is argued today that the religious lack adequate preparation. This might have been true in the past, but at present there are many religious with degrees in medicine and nursing. We are conscious of the fact that good will is not enough. Progress in the field of medicine is so great, that religious must receive the training which will give them the competence and experience necessary to respond to the patients' needs. This is an area which will be studied by the Congress, as it might account for the limited vocations in the area of healthcare."

"There are some 350,000 religious in healthcare, and their average age is very high. The many requests for religious from health centers go well beyond the number available. This is an issue the Congress will also address. There is a lack of vocations in the developed world; in other countries there are vocations, but only a minority choose health care."

Asked what the relationship between healthcare and the propagation of the faith is, Archbishop Lozano replied: "Health should not be regarded as an absence of sickness; rather, it is the harmonious interrelationship between the psychic, social and spiritual dimensions of the person. Its goal is to comply with the mission that the Lord has entrusted to us. Death is not the end of life but the beginning of perfect health, of eternal life. This truth must be the foundation of our pastoral care, and this is why we say that health comes to us from Christ in the redemption. When we speak of spiritual health, we speak of love and of a concept of life that harmonizes all other aspects. As a result of my studies I can say with conviction that spirituality is absolutely essential to good health."



Presidency of CELAM meets with Pope to discuss his forthcoming visit to Mexico

ROME, SEP 29 (ZENIT).- In the work assigned to it by John Paul II, the Latin American Episcopal Conference (CELAM) can look forward to important meetings in the next few months to establish "contact, collaboration and service with the Episcopal Conferences of Latin America."

Top of the agenda is John Paul II's visit to Mexico, scheduled for January, during which he will give his exhortation by way of conclusion to the work done by the special Synod of Bishops of America which took place in November and December of last year. CELAM is also organizing, on a continental scale, the meeting of the bishops' representatives which will take place in Cuba in February.

Also on the agenda are several study seminars. Most important among these is the symposium to be held in Newark (United States), on October 22-23, to discuss the problem of foreign debt and globalization.

Lastly, final touches are being made to preparations for the inter-continental meeting on pastoral care in large cities which hopes to attract Cardinals and Archbishops from the largest cities of the world.

It is precisely at this time of intense activity that John Paul II welcomed the five bishops who make up the presidency of CELAM. They met with the Holy Father on September 23, and were led by Archbishop Oscar Andrs Rodrguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa.

Papal Visit to Mexico

On "Vatican Radio," Archbishop Rodriguez said that the meetings with the Pope have been "very friendly and encouraging." John Paul II is "very fond of CELAM and full of enthusiasm for its future. During the audience we spoke about his forthcoming visit to Mexico. He is enthusiastic and happy about the visit. For us it is a significant moment, as he will give us his post-(Synodal) exhortation."

The Holy Father asked the representatives of CELAM about the preparations being made in Latin America for the Jubilee. The prelates answered that "the next visit, scheduled for January of the coming year, will be of significance for the preparations which, in any event, are going very well."

The president of CELAM regards the Continental Meeting of Youth, which will take place in Santiago, Chile, from October 6-11, as a "sign of hope." More than 200,000 young people have already registered. "Among them the first were from Alaska, which surprised us. We know that the life of the Church there is fertile; these young people think of themselves as 'Americans,' not just as 'North Americans.'"

Meeting in Cuba

What is CELAM working on in Cuba? "On the Inter-American Meeting of Bishops," answered Rodrguez Maradiaga. "It has taken place for almost thirty years now, and provides an opportunity for members of CELAM to meet with delegations from Canada and the United States. The meeting will take place in February and will be the first time that the post-(Synodal) exhortation of the Holy Father, which will have been published a month earlier, will be studied in earnest."

The Archbishop was in Havana recently to make plans for the meeting. He agrees with the statement made by Cardinal Jaime Ortega in Paris, that relations with the Cuban government can be improved. "We cannot expect very rapid, or even violent, changes. I believe we are taking steps in line with the Holy Father's wish that 'Cuba open to the world and the world to Cuba'."

The Gerardi Case

Bishop Rodrguez spoke on the "Pope's Radio" about the investigation being carried out in regard to the murder of the Auxiliary Archbishop of Guatemala, Juan Gerardi, who died five months ago. The Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, who knows Guatemala very well because he worked there for twelve years, said: "It is very clear. The murder of Bishop Gerardi is linked to the report on violations of human rights which happened in the past entitled 'Guatemala: Never Again'. He was the compiler and coordinator. The story that it was Father Orantes' dog which killed him makes no sense. It is absurd and ridiculous. Bishop Gerardi died from a fractured skull, inflicted by a rock. I know Father Orantes, who is accused of this horrible crime. He is a good person; he is innocent. Accusing him is tantamount to trying to cover the sun with a finger. I want to make a public appeal to the authorities in Guatemala -- a country I love very much: change the prosecutor on this case, as his prejudice is self evident. Only in thi



In spite of hunger, the sick flee from contaminated hospitals with no medicines

ROME, SEP 28 (ZENIT).- Because of great difficulties in carrying out their work, important international humanitarian organizations in North Korea have had to close down and leave the country. Only the Humanitarian Office of the European Union (ECHO) remains, with two representatives and an uncertain future.

Koreans continue to die of hunger, but they avoid going to hospitals which are contaminated, poorly supplied and without medicines. In hospitals they get worse and die sooner. The situation is critical, yet Korean authorities do not seem to care. But Pope John Paul II has made repeated appeals for aid for the civilian population, victims of a system that refuses to die -- the last redoubt of Stalinism in the world.

The Korean doctors have thanked ECHO for the medication provided. Foreign volunteers believe that infant and adult mortality have soared, but the regime no longer provides statistics. Even the height and weight of children are State secrets, to avoid comparisons with South Korea. In spite of the terrible conditions in hospitals and clinics, those in charge say the situation is better than in previous years, thanks to international medical assistance. But this too will end, as the Communist regime wants to substitute it for primary materials. The worst is yet to come, states the Madrid daily "El Pas."

One of the last to leave was the organization "Doctors without Frontiers, " which stated in a letter that its help "must go to those in greatest need." Reference is made to malnourished children: "We doubt that it has been this way here. We cannot understand the wall of silence that surrounds these children. To date we have only been able to put a bandage on an open wound, without treating the cause of the problem."

In a few months, no foreign entity will be left to attend the sick. And the North Korean authorities do not seem to care; they have changed their priorities. Said one official: "We want to substitute foreign medicines with our own. We now want primary materials which will allow us to revive our pharmaceutical industry and produce our own medicines."

But ECHO does not want to throw money away. "They will not allow us access to their factories, which are veritable museums of industrial archaeology, and no one guarantees that they will be able to revive them, to produce quality medicines which will not contaminate patients, " said a European doctor. Recently, the government of Pyongyang requested aid to produce chlorine and improve the quality of the water, but was very reluctant to provide the plan for the reviving the factory at Sinhung. It seems the factory he would have contaminated the atmosphere annually with six tons of mercury. Pyongyang's request was turned down.



Orthodox and Catholics Build a 'Boat Church' on the Volga

ROME, SEP 29 (ZENIT).- In its last report on aid given to the Church in Eastern Europe, the organization "Aid to the Church in Need" attests to a veritable renewal of the clergy and laity as reflected in a number of projects for education and the apostolate.

Nowhere was the persecution of the Catholic Church as destructive as in Albania. But forty years of war against God in "the number one atheist state of the world" did not succeed in uprooting the faith from the people's hearts. In the village of Gocay -- the report states -- the young are hungry for the sacraments, children are happy to attend catechism classes and adults have a faith of steel. But they do not have a church where the Eucharist can be celebrated, nor a place to teach the catechism.

In Lithuania the Catholic Church is going through a period of reconstruction in which the training of priests is one of the most important needs. The number of vocations is promising. The seminary received eight new candidates for the priesthood. At present there are 44 seminarians studying in the capital of Lithuania and seven studying abroad.

In Hungary the Church's primary concern is the re-evangelization of the people. "The priest in charge of youth in the diocese of Debrecen Nyiregyhaza" -- the report states - "cares for the youth of 54 parishes and 117 chapels and catechetical centers. The parishes can be as far as 130 kilometers away." The enthusiasm of the young is extraordinary and the dedication of the priests exemplary, but much time is needed to recover and reconstruct the bases which have been lost after so many years of persecution and religious indifference.

A Floating Church on the Volga

Perhaps the most imaginative and progressive initiative is the project of the "boat church" on the Volga River in Russia. The Orthodox Archbishop German of Volgograd made a proposal to "Aid to the Church in Need" for a project to re-evangelize 100 villages and settlements in the region of Stalingrad (now Volgograd), where there is not a single church. The people have no place to go to be baptized or to get married by the Church; they do not have the consolation of a religious burial nor the opportunity to participate in the Divine Liturgy.

The proposal was to regularly visit the villages near the Volga with a boat converted into a church, in order to celebrate the Divine Liturgy and proclaim the Good News. After several conversations with the Archbishop and his delegate, the archpriest Nicolaj Agafonov, and a number of committed Russians, they were successful in acquiring the funds for the purchase of a boat which fit their needs. The adaptations are already underway, and very soon the "boat church" of the Volga will be ready to begin its first missionary trip.



The disciple of the father of the "global village" believes Internet needs spirituality

ROME, SEP 30 (ZENIT).- Even more than television, the computer changes the mentality of the user. Its new dogma is interaction, a cathodic heresy which puts an end to belief in television's one-way communication which offers no possibility other than changing channels or turning the machine off. But to connect with Internet, however, is to enter a network in which the other person, at times, wants an immediate and direct answer. It could be the frontier of global communication. It depends on the contents, on the degree of "spirituality" available on the net. In a word, it depends on us.

To get this message across, Derrick Kerckhove is traveling all over the globe. He has arrived in Rome to participate in a congress which will address this topic."I am afraid I might be too extravagant for the conventional way of thinking and even, perhaps, for the Church, " he said, smiling.

An expert in mass communication, Kerckhove was traveling to Castelgandolfo for a private audience with the Pope, which included other speakers of the Congress organized by the television producer "Lux Vide" to address the question of whether God has died on television.

Mr. Kerckhove, favorite pupil of the "global village" theoretician Marshall MacLuhan, has started the "MacLuhan Program for Culture and Technology" at the University of Toronto. At present he is establishing affiliates in other academic centers worldwide to disseminate the idea of technological humanism through a video-conference course. He said his teacher would have felt at home in Italy since he was a Catholic.

Asked about his own convictions by Francesco Ognibene of the newspaper "Avvenire," Kerckhove replied: "I consider myself a man of faith; MacLuhan inspired me profoundly in this sense. Although I go to Mass, I cannot say that I have "converted" to Catholicism yet, that my way of seeing life and reality identifies with Catholicism's. The life of the soul is the central factor of my existence as is also prayer."

Do you really believe in a spirituality of the means of communication? "The new means of communication are very suited to the religious message precisely because they recover the value of the multi-sensory dimension, which was lost in the era of the printed word and, even more so, in the era of television dominance. The Greco-Roman alphabet took the 'logos,' the oral word, to the level of individual sensory representation. MacLuhan used to say that it was no accident that God became incarnate at the moment when the meeting between the Greek and Latin tongues was maturing, languages privileged to transmit Hebrew concepts, a fact that is always emphasized. From here is derived the fact that until the Middle Ages the Church chose a language, to spread the message of faith, which would involve the senses: through architecture, song, the liturgy. The press, however, has "desensitized" religious communication. Reading has placed man before the written word. And television has not discussed the process of the

But the Church moves with prudence when it judges new means. Nevertheless, says Kerckhove, she "must be alert and not lose this opportunity, nor undermine it by being on the defensive. Television is a 'general' means of communication with only one direction and a high capacity to persuade. Internet is the only electronic means which favors the user's answer: it is 'the means that suits me,' which restores primacy to personal communication. I insist: there is no reason for the Church to fear the Internet, except in one instance -- only one."

Which one is that? "Precisely its ability to disseminate any individual message and reach anyone anywhere. Internet, moreover, has the possibility of 'schismatic' implications, so to speak. These must be watched."

Can a schism be effected on the Internet? "The use of the net is vital for religious communication, but we are dealing with an instrument devoid of a hierarchical sense. So there can be an unlimited diffusion of 'uncontrolled' opinions on the faith.This is what I mean by its 'schismatic potential,' which the Church can forestall by giving her word right at the heart of the development of new currents of thought. I am also thinking of an 'internal' telematic net linked to institutions of the Church which will guarantee orthodoxy."

Is Internet a waste of time? "A very serious aspect of the net is that it enables Christians to practice what the Gospel teaches, which the television does not. 'There, where two or more are gathered in my name ...' Internet gives birth to small communities of faith. It is truly a 'global' experience, that is, global in extension and absolutely local in content. Here I see the vital catholicity of the Church."

Will it replace the book? "It is a diverse field. Like books, Internet goes straight to the heart. And, like books, it is a 'silent' means and, consequently, apt for meditation. Where Internet surpasses books is in the reciprocal 'heart to heart' communication. Its redeeming potential is far superior to that of the conventional literature."



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