pope John Paul II began the new year on an ambitious note — by publishing a spiritual blueprint for the Third Millennium. He said he hoped his 84-page apostolic letter, Novo Millennio Theunte ("At the Beginning of the Third Millennium") would help the Church to harness the spiritual energy of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, and he appealed to Catholics worldwide to grow in holiness. On the Feast of the Epiphany, the Holy Father closed the Holy Door of St Peter's Basilica before he celebrated Mass for an estimated gathering of 100,0(X) people. He announced the publication of Novo Millennia Ineunte at the end of his homily.
John Paul said: "We return to our normal activities but this is something quite different from taking a rest. Rather, we need to draw from the experience of the Jubilee useful lessons which can give inspiration and effective direction to our new commitment. I offer these reflections to the particular churches, as a sort of 'legacy' of the Great Jubilee, so that the churches can incorporate them in their pastoral planning.
"We need to 'set out anew from Christ', with the zeal of Pentecost , with renewed enthusiasm. To set out from him above all in a daily commitment to holiness, with an attitude of prayer and of listening to his word. To set out from him in order to testify to his love by living a Christian life marked by communion, charity, and witness to the world. This is the programme which I suggest in the present apostolic letter. It can all be reduced to two words: 'Jesus Christ!"
Archbishop Cormac MurphyO'Connor of Westminster also had great plans for the new millennium, predicting during a lecture at the University of Salford that all Christians will be unified under the Pope perhaps "in our lifetime".
Archbishop Murphy-O'Connor said: "I think that under the next Pope there will be an ecumenical council of all Christians and the Pope will preside not with jurisdiction but with love. Wouldn't that be wonderful! The jurisdiction would not be of authority but service and unity in Christ. I am not unconfident about that."
In Britain, sadly, Jubilee joy soon turned to sorrow as the country became the first in the world to legalise the cloning and destruction of human embryos. Legislation to permit "therapeutic" or "spare part" human cloning, which was approved by the Commons a month earlier, was passed by the Lords by 212 votes to 92 in spite of severe criticism of the Government for its use of an unamendable statutory instrument to drive the legislation through. And in an
unprecedented move, the leaders of all of Britain's major faiths united to send an open letter to the Press calling for the passage of the legislation to be halted — after Prime Minister Tony Blair refused to discuss the matter with them on four separate occasions. The Government was also publicly criticised over the issue by Bishop David Konstant of Leeds.
The ProLife Alliance launched an immediate legal challenge to the Government as soon as the new regulations were passed.
January was also the month the bishops published their document, A Spirituality of Work, and the month when Auberon Waugh, a former Catholic Herald journalist and a columnist with The Daily 7'elegraph, died at home at the age of just 61 years.
Archbishop Murphy-O'Connor became the 10th Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster at a ceremony in Rome this month. Pope John Paul II gave Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor the traditional red zuchetto (skull cap) and biretta (hat) at a consistory in St Peter's Square, which saw the creation of 43 new cardinals.
The next day, the Pope presented the English cardinal with a ring during a papal Mass in the square. The day after the ceremony Cardinal MurphyO'Connor celebrated Mass at the Beda College, where he sang Vespers with Ireland's new cardinal, Archbishop Desmond Connell of Dublin, Cardinal Thomas Winning of Glasgow, and the students of the English and Welsh, Scots and Irish seminaries in Rome.
Three days later, the cardinal returned to England, where he was formally received by the Catholics of England and Wales at a ceremony in Westminster Cathedral.
This month marked a milestone for another English cardinal. Devotees of Cardinal John Henry Newman gathered in Birmingham to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the renowned theologian's birth.
in a letter read out at a solemn Mass at Birmingham Oratory, Pope John Paul II described Newman as "one of the most distinguished and versatile champions of English spirituality", and looked forward to the day when the cardinal could be proclaimed a saint.
He said: "Let us pray that a time will come soon when the Church can officially and publicly proclaim the exemplary holiness of Cardinal John Henry Newman."
In his homily, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham said that there was now strong support for the canonisation of the 19th-century convert to Catholicism.
He said: "The cause of Cardinal Newman is dear to the hearts of many. Many admire his intellectual clarity and achievements, his personal courage, his enduring loyalty in friendship. Many are moved by the depth and eloquence of his sermons.
"Let us pray that the Church will soon be able to formally proclaim that holiness to be exemplary so that we may rejoice in his presence among the acclaimed saints of the Church and confidently seek his intercession before the throne of God."
The bishops of England and Wales demanded for the first time this month that organisations prove their commit
ment to Church teaching before they are included in the bishops' official directory They issued the strict new guidelines on entry into the Catholic Directory of England and Wales, after they were criticised for listing groups which openly dissented from Church teaching on such issues as abortion, contraception and women priests.
The new guidelines insist that groups not only have a "fundamental commitment" to Catholic teaching, but also a national membership, and an involvement in work "properly described as being of national importance".
Bishop Vincent Malone, chairman of the applications panel, stressed that only organisations within the "Catholic Societies" section of the Directory would be affected by the move.
Pope John Paul ll's uncanny sense of timing was again on display this month. By coincidence, the Pontiff issued a strong condemnation of "spin" on that same day that Peter Mandelson was forced to resign his government post for misleading the media.
As New Labour's original spin doctor stepped down, the Pope blamed the culture of media manipulation for blurring the distinction between truth and falsehood.
"Where once the media reported events, now events are often shaped by the media," the Pope said. "Thus the relationship between the reality and the media has grown more intricate, and this is a deeply ambivalent phenomenon."
John Paul IL who was delivering his annual World Communications Day message — signed on the feast of St Francis de Sales, patron saint of journalists — said that "spin" was more prevalent in societies marked by postmodern relativism.
The bishops of England and Wales published a statement ahead of the General Election called Vote for the Common Good. Sections included families, human life, global poverty and injustice, asylum seekers and refugees, crime and prison and family members needing care. In the foreword, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor explained that Catholic social teaching set out principles and goals for life in society, the focus of which was "the common good".
"It illuminates our view of society and how we evaluate public policy. It is not a political programme and committed Catholics are rightly to be found in all the main political parties," he said.
The document, which complemented the bishop's 1996 statement, The Common Good and the Catholic Church's Social Teaching, contained a hard-hitting condemnation of abortion, compared euthanasia to murder. and also urged Catholics to extend the "life ethic" to global poverty and deprivation.
Bishop Konstant, a co-author of the document. said the bishops wished to stress that Catholics had a real duty to turn out on polling day and vote responsibly.
March was also dominated by a row over whether or not Catholics should give money to Comic Relief, which had consistently allocated proceeds from its Red Nose Day appeal to such abortion groups as Marie Stopes International, Brook Advisory Centres, Population Concern and the International Planned Parenthood Federation for projects overseas. Trouble started the previous December when the Catholic bishops of England and Wales, acting on the advice of Cafod director Julian Filochowski and Jesuit Fr Frank Turner, an assistant general secretary to the bishops' conference, declared that Catholics could give money to the appeal in good conscience.
Mr Filochowski and Fr Turner had been allowed access to Comic Relief's documents and had established that while money had been given to the groups, no money had been used to provide or fund abortions, though some had been used to fund contraceptive services. However, pro-life groups and some Catholic teachers objected, arguing that any money given to the abortion groups simply freed up other funds to be used to provide abortion elsewhere. Comic Relief explicitly refused to guarantee that it would not fund anti-life projects again.
March was also the month when the Anglican bishops declared the Catholic Church's rules on intercommunion to be "hurtful and unhelpful". They published a document called Eucharist: Sacrament of Unity in response to the 1998 Catholic teaching document on the Euchiuist, One Bread, One Body. It argued that "eucharistic communion should not be reserved for the end point of unity". In the foreword, Dr George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said: "We take issue with the discipline that the bishops of the Roman Catholic Church are seeking to apply ... we do not believe it follows from the eucharistic theology on which Anglicans and Roman Catholics largely agree."
The document said One Bread, One Body made explicit "a number of erroneous assumptions by the Roman Catholic Church about the Church of England, the Reformation, Anglican teaching regarding the Eucharistic sacrifice and the presence of Christ in the sacrament, and Anglican ministerial and episcopal orders. We take the opportunity to correct these misapprehensions."
March was also the month when the Pope named Mgr Declan Lang as the new Bishop of Clifton; when the Jesuits rejected a bid by St Austin Press to take over The Month; when Mgr John Hine was ordained auxiliary Bishop of Southwark, when Bishop Konstant published his "gateway" to the Catechism, and when Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor's plans to reorder Westminster Cathedral were revealed.
In Italy, the body of Blessed Pope John XXIII was found to be incorrupt, while Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, Archbishop of Genoa, dedicated his pastoral Lenten letter to a list of 10 commandments on how to fight the devil. He said the first falsehood of the demon, whom he also referred to as the "tempter" in his 40-page document, was to "make us believe that he doesn't exist".