mat denounced sanctions on Iraq this week, saying that they "cause great suffering to the people, especially the weakest and the most vulnerable."
Speaking on Vatican Radio, Bishop Giuseppe Lazarotto, Apostolic Nuncio in Baghdad, described several projects that are aiming to help the Christian connnunity in Iraq, including food aid for needy families, health clinics, support for school and university students, and resettlement of Christian families in the Iraqi-controlled zone of Kurdistan.
Bishop Lazarotto stressed the importance of solidarity among Iraqi Christians, saying that this was as important as material aid.
The comments came in response to the resignation of Denis Halliday, the coordinator of the UN Oil for Food programme, who said that the sanctions do not "serve the interests of the US which has insisted on them, nor do they affect the government, but they do punish the innocent population."
.1 I II VATICAN CITY—The president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace launched renewed calls for the relief of international debt in the Jubilee year.
Coinciding with the annual meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, Archbishop Francois Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan from Vietnam renewed the Vatican's appeal for decisive progress on debt.
He said: "Today the international economic order is facing many challenges.
"It is important that the plight of the world's poorest countries is not considered secondary. There needs to be decisive intervention to resolve their problems of endebtedness and to achieve sustained development of society and the economy."
The Archbishop said that the day was fast approaching when the world's richest countries must decide once and for all whether or not they want to relieve the debt burden of the world's poorest countries.—(L'Osservatore Romano) VATICAN CITY—The Holy See has backed the struggling churches of East Europe.
In a speech to the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, the Pope stressed the importance of closer dialogue with the Orthodox Churches and more harmonious relations. He spoke of the wealth of tradition that these Churches bring and how their circumstances are far from easy at the moment.
In particular, he referred to the ongoing situation between the GreekCatholics (Uniates) in the Ukraine and the Vatican, and the properties seized during Stalin's reign which became property of the Orthodox Church. These are now deemed the property of Eastern Catholics and therefore, he said. an ecumenical dialogue is vital.—(ZENTI) VATICAN CITY—The Vatican underlined its concern over the treatment of immigrants with a brisk round of diplomacy this week.
Archbishop Giuseppe Bertello, the head of the Vatican delegation to the UN High Commission on Refugees, voiced the Holy See's concern about the high number of asylum rejections in Europe, at a meeting in Geneva.
He expressed dismay at the trend among developed countries towards tightening border controls and a growing lack of sympathy for genuine refugees. Archbishop Bertello called for "international solidarity" and urged world leaders to develop policies which ensure that families remain united if they are displaced from their homeland. He called on the international community to guarantee that refugees would find help rebuilding their houses, if and when they returned home.
Meanwhile, the Vatican hosted the World Congress on the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees. Experts from all over the world gathered to discuss recent trends in migration.—(EW77V) VATICAN CITY—The Pope praised the Cistercian order for its effort to give Cistercian nuns a greater voice in governing the order.
The message of congratulations follows the Vatican's recent approval of a Cistercian proposal to allow abbesses and prioresses to be full voting members of the order's general chapter, synod and abbot general's council.
The Holy Father said that the changes recognised "the dignity of women" and allowed the order "the possibility of being recognised, valued and allowed to bear fruit for the glory of God and for the good of the church and of humanity."— (NCR. KNA)
VATICAN CITY—The Vatican and the Republic of Yemen have forged diplomatic ties, bringing the number of countries enjoying relations—including special missions—with the .Ho/y See to 168.
Yemen will send an ambassador to the Holy See, and in turn will host an Apostolic Nuncio.—(From Our Rome Correspondent)
LONDON—The Millennium Prayer put forward by Churches Together in England was roundly criticised upon its release last week for omitting to mention Christ or God.
The prayer, to be distributed to 20 million homes in the UK, was criticised by Christian denominations and organisations. Some said they will refuse to use or distribute it for the Millennium celebrations.
The Millennium Resolution , as it will be known, is:
"Let there be The most prominent criticism among Catholics came from Lord Alton, who said: "Any prayer that doesn't mention Jesus in the Millennium isn't worth the paper it's written on".
One group, the United Kingdom Alliance, urged the Churches Millennium Group to abandon its plan for churches to distribute candles to every home for lighting on December 31, 1999 on the grounds of fire risk.
They said: "Alcohol is involved in 39 per cent of deaths in fires and the majority of the population will be under the influence of alcohol that evening."
BRUSSELS—A high court has absolved Cardinal Godfried Danneets of responsibility for the actions of a priest convicted of sexually assaulting children.
The judgement overturns the ruling that the cardinal and Bishop Pau! Lanneau were at fault for failing to stop Fr Andre Vanderlyn from molesting boys in his care between 1989 and 1996.
Vanderlyn was jailed in April and Cardinal Danneels and Bishop Lumeau ordered to pay £900 to one I 2-year-old victim.—(NCR) UPPSALA, Sweden—The Pope has cancelled his meeting this weekend with the Lutheran Archbishop of Sweden. following an exhibition in the town's Lutheran Cathedral which features photographs depicting Christ in a homosexual tableau.
The images, by the artist Elisabeth Olsson, include a transvestite version of the Last Supper, Christ surrounded by Aids patients and a gay Jesus being beaten up by skinheads.
Archbishop Harnmar, who has already been criticised by conservative Lutherans for his ordination of homosexuals, said: "I deeply regret the decision of the Vatican and I am very surprised that this point has been made so strongly."—(The Guardian)
PARIS—Two leading French theologians have strongly criticised recent papal writings which they say reveal a new drive to stifle discussion and to favour "some ever more refined dogmatisation" within the Church.
The attacks by Fr Bernard Sesbue, a Jesuit who is professor of philosophy at the Centre Sevres. and the Dominican Fr Jean-Paul Durand, president of the faculty of canon law at the University of Paris, echo similar criticisms around the world. Fr Sesbue denounced what he called the pontificate's growing "refusal of any kind of debate" and lamented the position being assumed by the Holy See of raising certain questions to the level of dogma. Such an extension of the Roman Magisterium was tantamount to an "abuse of power", he told Le Monde.
Fr Sesbue also attacked what he called the Vatican's "diffidence" with regard to the national Bishops' Conferences. which he said were avoided by the Holy See, who preferred to deal with bishops individually so that they remained "isolated."—(From Our Rome Correspondent)
VOLGOGRAD—An unusual approach was taken by Archbishop German of Volgograd when he agreed to the building of a floating church.
Inhabitants of the hundred or so villages and settlements on the River Volga have no church, so the novel idea of a convened boat seemed practical. A boat has been bought and refurbishment has begun.—(ZENIT)
LONDON—Fr Man Cheales, the convert Dominican priest dubbed "the Catholic Lord Soper", was remembered last week at a ceremony marking the second anniversary of his death when his north-west London parish named a lane after him.
Alan Cheales Way, which runs alongside St Dorninic's in Hampstead, was named after the saintly priest who preached on Sunday mornings at Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park. His last visit to the lively open air debate was two days before his death, aged 83, in 1996.
Hundreds attended the ceremony. which included the unveiling of a sculpture of Jesus healing a blind man in recognition of Fr Cheales's work with the British Retinitis Pigmentosa Society. WARSAW—One in ten Poles is listening to a radical Redemptorist radio station which is mounting a vigorous nationalist campaign and targeting proabortion politicians.
Radio Maryja [Mary] which attracts four million listeners has been accused of using anti-semitic language during the continued stand off between Catholics and Jews at Auschwitz, where crosses have been erected to remember the 152 Catholics killed by the Nazis in 1941.— (The Sunday Telegraph) TIRANA—In Albania. work has been completed on the former atheist state's only Catholic seminary, in the.northeni city of Shkoder. The seminary, which is to be formally opened tomorrow by Archbishop Frok Mirdita, was built with the support of the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.
BRUSSELS—The EU is to allow the Vatican to use the Euro as the currency for its stamps, even though it is not an EU member.---(KNA)
JERUSALEM—The Latin-rite Catholic Patriarch of Jerusalem attacked reports that the Palestinian Authority has manipulated Christian Churches in Israel.
In a statement on October 5, Michel Sabbah criticised a story in The Jerusalem Post which alleged that the Israeli government had uncovered a plot by the Palestinian leadership "to control Christian churches in Israel." It said that the Palestinian Authority began "with its takeover of churches in Bethlehem, including the Church of Nativity, and how now been extended to churches and Christian sites in Jerusalem."
Patriarch Sabbah said the report had no foundation. No church pastor in all the Palestinian territories has reported to us of such interference or pressure on the churches by the Palestinian authority," he said. "The Christian holy places, communities, churches, cemeteries, cultural and educational institutions and vast land holdings are fully under Christian control and fully respected. and nobody ever tried to interfere."
The Patriarch said that, on the contrary. he was grateful to the Palestinian Authority for their efforts to secure the rights of Christians. The newspaper report was probably an attempt "to divert the attention of the public from the real issues at stake".
"We mean the oppressive situation that the Palestinian people—both Muslim and Christian—are experiencing as the peace process is blocked," he said.
The Patriarch pointed out that it was the Israeli government. not the Palestinian Authority, which interfered in Church affairs, as it illustrated by Binjamin Netanyahu's attempt to block the appointment of Archbishop Boutros Mouallem, chosen by the Melkite bishops' synod. The Vatican sharply criticised Mr Netanyahu's intervention and he backed down.—(EWTN) KUWAIT CITY—A prominent Kuwaiti Islamic leader called for a moratorium on the building of churches in the Persian Gulf.
Imam Sheikh Kazim al-Misbah writes in Al-Hadath magazine: "The entering of non-Muslims into the Arabian Peninsula and Kuwait is not allowed and as such the building of houses of worship like churches is also banned."
About 65 per cent of the population of Kuwait is foreign, mainly Catholic Filipino workers. The Vatican estimates that there are over 100,000 Catholics in the country. Many foreigners are concerned by signs of increasing religious intolerance. Conversion from Islam to Christianity is punishable by death and the law is currently being tested in a court in Kuwait.--(EW7719
LALIBELA, Ethiopia—Authorities have reported a massive increase in the theft of priceless artifacts from the 11 medieval churches in the town, which include some of the most historically valuable Judeo-Christian relics, manuscripts and art in the world.
A priest has been jailed after the disappearance of a priceless 15-pound solid gold cross that had been kept safely in the town for more than 700 years. The cross is still missing. Concern is so great that the Ministry of Culture has proposed a plan to move artifacts out of churches and monasteries and into secure museums.—(NCR)
BUENOS AIRES—Argentina has made huge spiritual and material strides, the Vatican Secretary of State said on a short visit last week.
Cardinal Angelo Sodano said: It is impossible to travel to Chile without a brief visit to this cherished land, this great nation adrnired by the world.
Joachim Navarro-Valls, the Vatican's official spokesman. said: "Argentina and the Holy See have created a new international ethic and for His Eminence Cardinal Angelo Scidano this must also extend to political development."—(aci) PANAMA CITY—The Catholic Church has criticised the proliferation of erotic images in Panama's daily press.
he Church's official paper. Panorama Catolico. denounced advertisements offering erotic phone
conversations and "home calls". The paper said the adverts were "a disgrace for the national press. who are offering a
form which contributes nothing to the edification and growth of the person." They are "denigrating. harmful and destructive of the mind and soul."
It warned that prostitution and erotic phone lines represented a grave attack on the moral health of Panamanians and it criticised the "tolerant and permissive view of the authorities and media proprietors who welcome these adverts. '—(ac!) MEXICO CITY—Bishops called on state prosecutors to reveal the results of an investigation into the assassination in 1993 of Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas.
Cardinal Juan Sandoval Infguez of Guadalajara and the Archbishop of Chihuahua met government representatives to discuss the progress of the investigation. According to Church sources, the bishops called forcibly on the government to clear up the mystery surrounding the murder.
The bishops rejected the official explanation that the Cardinal's car had been mistaken for that of a prominent drug dealer's. "It is essential that Cardinal Posadas is cleared of any involvement with drug traffickers," the bishops said.
The assassination occurred on May 23, 1993 at Guadalajara airport. Cardinal Posadas was there to pick up the then Apostolic Nuncio, Mgr Girolamo Prigione. A group of armed men threw open the doors of his white car and shot the cardinal in the head and chest.—(aci) BOGOTA—Rebel Columbian guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN) met German and Columbian bishops to arrange a National Peace Convention aimed at ending the civil war through talks between the ELN and the Columbian government.
The commanders of the ELN were not present at the meeting, but will attend the National Convention.—(aci) GUATEMALA CITY—A man has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for the murder of a Belgian priest.
A court found Jorge Alfredo Chavez, from El Salvador, guilty of the murder in 1994 of Fr Alfonso Stessel. The presiding judge sentenced Chavez's accomplice, Ingrid Castillo Vega, to three years in prison. She was released immediately as she had already served the sentence awaiting the court ruling.
PHOENIX—A priest accused of violating doctrine by calling for women priests and Communion for nonChristians has been allowed to return to the pulpit following a two-week ban.
Fr. Vernon Meyer, 46, was disciplined by Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien after a visitor taped a sermon he gave in August.
Three weeks ago, Bishop O'Brien told Fr Meyer that he could return on condition that he stop mentioning controversial topics.—(N(R) GREAT FALLS, Montana—A young couple who took their infant son from state custody last month ago in the belief that he was the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, were found last week by federal agents half-freezing to death in the Beartooth Mountains.
Christopher and Kyrtdra Pink were found camping in sub-zero temperatures with their 21-month old infant David, who they call Christ Child. David, who was taken into state care and due for fostering, was snatched from Salt Lake City on September 19.
Mr Fink, believed to be a Mormon, said he received personal revelations from God telling him that the road to salvation involved eating nothing but "starchIess fruits and vegetables and leafy greens". The starving child had survived on a diet of watermelon and lettuce.—(The Independent)
MANILA—Vatican sources said that an Italian missionary kidnapped by Filipino guerrillas will soon be released. Fr Luciano Benedetti was kidnapped on September 9 from his home in Dipolog on the island of Mindanao by a gang of armed men connected to a Muslim rebel group. Eleven others were kidnapped and. except for Fr Benedetti. all were released.
Church officials denied reports that they had paid a ransom for the priest's release. They said the release was arranged through other. moderate. Muslim leaders who believed that taken hostages was morally wrong.--(EWTN)
MANILA—Cardinal Jaime Sin. 70, was admitted to hospital in Manila, officials admitted last week. Local reports suggested that Cardinal Sin had suffered kidney failure.
A nurse at the Cardinal Santos Memorial Center said: We admit the cardinal is staying here. He has to have complete rest We assure you the cardinal is tine and is already ssalking. We have instructions there will be no
visitors and no *Jul' ,L WIN)