Vatican City, Oct 17, 2003 (CNA) - John Paul II told tens of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter's Square for his 25th-anniversary mass that God wanted him to continue as the spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Church despite his poor health.
One of the longest-serving pontiffs celebrated a special outdoor mass yesterday almost 25 years, to the minute, after his election.
"He, while knowing my human fragility, encourages me to respond with faith . and He invites me to assume the responsibilities that He himself has entrusted to me," the pope said.
John Paul, looking weak and having trouble speaking, became emotional as he recalled the moment when cardinals chose him as pontiff in 1978.
"How could I, humanly speaking, not tremble? How could such a huge responsibility not weigh on me?" he said.
"Today, dear brothers and sisters, I am happy to share with you an experience which has been going on for a quarter of a century."
The ceremony began at about 6 p.m. local time (noon ET). As the sun set, the sounds of tolling bells and choirs echoed through the crowded square.
One of the pope's senior aides, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, expressed gratitude on behalf of hundreds of millions around the world: "Holy Father, today the
entire Church thanks you for the service you have given in 25 years.
"Even non-Catholic brothers and sisters, men of good will of other religions and convictions thank you."
Before the mass, the pope issued a 192-page document that reiterated many of his views on the Church, including the need for priests to remain celibate.
Referring to sex-abuse scandals, he called on bishops to act quickly to deal with "grave lapses" in the moral behavior of clergy.
The pope said the world is becoming increasingly divided between the powerful and the poor, and that more must be done to help those in need.
He also said the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks against the United States have created "grave new situations of uncertainty and fear, both for human civilization and
the peaceful coexistence of nations."
The pope has been plagued by health problems, including Parkinson's disease. John Paul had an intestinal tumor removed in 1992. He also suffers from
the effects of being shot in an assassination attempt in 1981.
Vatican City, Oct 17, 2003 (CNA) - Despite good coverage of Pope John Paul II’s 25th anniversary and of the life of Mother Teresa this week, the BBC has offended many Catholics by broadcasting two programs, “which have been biased against and hostile to the Catholic Church,” says the Bishops Conference of England and Wales.
In their statement, issued this morning, the bishops refer to the Oct. 13 broadcast of a BBC Panorama program, entitled “Sex and the Holy City”. The program argues that while the pope preaches peace and life, his teachings against abortion and contraception cause widespread poverty and death.
The bishops also take issue with a 'Kenyon Confronts' program, which aired Oct. 15 and focussed on past cases of child abuse committed by two priests more than 25 years ago. While the bishops contend that the program contained significant disclosures, “they were set alongside contentious and biased reporting of the Church's actions, both past and present,” they said. Furthermore, the bishops claim the BBC used an uncorroborated source for serious allegations against the Church.
“For many decades the BBC has deserved and enjoyed a world-wide reputation for fairness and objectivity,” said the bishops. “This reputation is increasingly tarnished.
“In England and Wales there is considerable concern that elements within the BBC are simply hostile to religious belief and to any traditional sense of the sacred,” they continued.
“The decision to broadcast both of these programs in the week when Catholic people throughout the world are celebrating the silver jubilee of the pope and the life of Mother Teresa is a distressing sign of this insensitivity. It contributes to a further loss in the trust of many in the BBC as a public service broadcaster,” they said.
Vatican City, Oct 17, 2003 (CNA) - Bishops are called to be prophets, witnesses and servants of hope in the world, says the new Vatican document on the role of bishops. "Pastores gregis" addresses all aspects of the ministry of bishops, including their teaching, collegiality and spirituality, and recalls the great importance of the ministry of bishops in the lives of the people of God and the Church.
The 192-page document was signed and issued by the pope yesterday on the occasion of his 25th-anniversary. The apostolic exhortation emerged from the 10th Synod of Bishops that was held in 2001, from Sept. 27 to Oct. 30.
The document, directed to the Church's 4,695 bishops and written under the theme "The Bishop: Minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World", reiterates the need for priests to remain celibate.
In it, the pope reaffirms the bishops' authority on moral issues and emphasizes the bishop's role as a teacher of the faith, underlining the need for clear teachings of the faith, "particularly in this time marked by religious indifference and ignorance."
He calls on bishops to act quickly to deal with "grave lapses" in the moral behavior of clergy - referring to sex-abuse scandals.
He also says the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks against the United States have created "grave new situations of uncertainty and fear, both for human civilization and the peaceful coexistence of nations."
The pope said the world is becoming increasingly divided between the powerful and the poor, and more must be done to help those in need. Bishops must promote the "globalization of charity," a preferential option for the poor and the common good of the international community. The bishop must also concern
himself with ethical questions regarding the environment, the humanization of health care and the promotion of a culture of life.
Bishops must be like the Good Shepherd and bear the traits of charity, patience, compassion and forgiveness and perform acts of mercy toward the poor.
The pope says the bishop is called to holiness through his ministry and must undertake a profound spiritual life based on radical service and avoid the risk of taking on a merely administrative or bureaucratic function.
"The bishops are called to be fathers, teachers, friends and brothers of every person," he continued. "They must promote the participation of all of the faithful for the edification of the Church." They must also pay particular attention to the family, to youth and to religious vocations in their dioceses.
"He will be a prophet of peace, a defender of rights for the young and the marginalized. He will have a predilection toward the multitudes of the poor who populate this world. He will sustain ecumenical dialogue and promote interreligious dialogue," the pope told an audience of cardinals and bishops yesterday morning.
The document also delves into the Trinitarian dimension of the episcopacy and the collegiality of bishops. The bishop is the image of the Father, living sign of the Son and animator of communion, spirituality and holiness in the Holy Spirit. The bishops are always in communion with their brother bishops. Episcopal conferences are important to provide community, to enhance pastoral co-operation among dioceses and to offer ongoing support and formation.
Washington D.C., Oct 17, 2003 (CNA) - The United States is better because of the pope's wisdom, guidance and faith, said U.S. President George W. Bush in his greetings to Pope John Paul II on the occasion of the pontiff's 25th anniversary.
"The United States and the world are better because of his (the pope's) dedication to sharing his wisdom, guidance, and faith," said the president in his message.
"For the past 25 years, His Holiness has led worldwide efforts to develop a new culture of life that values and protects the lives of innocent children waiting to be born," said the pro-life president. "He has also brought the love of the Almighty to people of all ages, particularly those who suffer or live in poverty, or who are weak and vulnerable," he continued.
"Pope John Paul II has shown the world not only the splendor of truth, but also the power of truth to overcome evil and to redirect the course of history," he said.
Vatican City, Oct 17, 2003 (CNA) - In an emotional front-page editorial of a special edition of L’Osservatore Romano published this Thursday on the 25th Anniversary of John Paul II’s election to the papacy, Editor-in-Chief Mario Agnes called the Pontiff a “letter from God” that the world has been unable to destroy.
The special edition of the Vatican newspaper included a 52-page photo spread and was sold out by midday.
Agnes said the Pope “continues to present himself as a Letter from God. The ‘envelope’ is a bit worn out—it’s been touched by the faith and love of so many hands for over 25 years.”
“It has been touched by the hands of assassins, whose purpose was to destroy the Letter,” he continued. “But they failed. And the envelope has been mistreated, and the consequences are evident. Yet the letter has remained intact and coherent, its words remain indelible and piercing”
“He is the Letter from God,” concluded Agnes.
Washington D.C., Oct 17, 2003 (CNA) - The American Life League, the largest pro-life educational organization in the United States, marked the pope's 25th anniversary by establishing the Fund for Life in Honor of Pope John Paul II.
The fund will ensure that future generations will be educated about the sanctity of life and pro-life issues based on the pope's teachings in his 1995 encyclical, The Gospel of Life. This document is one of about 80 writings he has authored during his pontificate.
"The Gospel of Life in many ways was the inspiration for the creation of American Life League's Crusade for the Defence of our Catholic Church," Judie Brown, president of the league told the U.S. Newswire today. "We view the work we are doing to challenge the status quo regarding pro-abortion Catholic public figures as doing our part to bring the message of that encyclical to the American people."
She was quoted as saying: "There is no better way to show our gratitude for his tireless efforts on behalf of all human beings, especially the preborn, than to respond to his message of hope by living the Gospel of Life in every facet of our own lives."
Vatican City, Oct 17, 2003 (CNA) - The beatification of Mother Teresa could set a new record for a celebration of this kind if calculations by Vatican officials prove to be correct. Upwards of 400,000 people, perhaps as many as a half million, are expected to attend the beatification Mass which Pope John Paul II will celebrate in St. Peter’s Square this Sunday.
This weekend at least 25,000 people from outside Italy will fly in to the Eternal City, and thousands of others will arrive by bus or train, according to estimates from the committee charged with the organization and security of the event.
The committee announced that the Via de La Conciliazione, the large thoroughfare that runs from the Tiber River up to St. Peter’s Square, will remain closed to traffic and reserved for those attending the Mass. Large television screens will be set up half-way down the large avenue, as well as in St. Peter’s Square and in the Pius XII Plaza, to enable the faithful to follow the Mass.
Vatican City, Oct 17, 2003 (CNA) - In an interview with the Fides News Agency, Fr. Brian Kolodiejchuk, Postulator of the Cause of Beatification of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, called the future blessed “a woman in love with God.”
Father Kolodiejchuk, who is from Canada and is one of the first priests of the masculine branch of the Missionary of Charity founded by Mother Teresa, was responsible for presenting to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints the five volumes of documentation on Mother Teresa, as well the Positio, a compilation of documents and testimonies demonstrating her heroic virtues.
In the interview Father Kolodiejchuk explained that “every experience of Mother can be summarized in her intense and passionate love for Jesus. Her answer was to Love: in the first years of her life in Skopje, she already would say that Jesus was her first love. Her faithfulness to this love grew over the years until the end of her life. The key to understanding Mother Teresa is to see her as a woman in love.”
Mother Teresa’s works of solidarity always had a spiritual basis. “One time some government officials of India came to see up close the work of Mother Teresa’s sisters. Mother’s response to their questions was: ‘We don’t care for the poor and the sick in order to get something. We do it for someone--Jesus, who is in that person.’ The service of Mother was an expression of her love for Jesus, who is present in all people, especially in the poor and neglected,” he said.
“Mother was a woman of prayer. When she wasn’t working she was praying the Rosary. She had an intense prayer life centered on the Eucharist. She lived fully the sacramental life. Even today the sisters who follow in her steps lead an intense life of prayer as the foundation of their apostolate,” he added.
Father Kolodiejchuk also mentioned the friendship between John Paul II and Mother Teresa, which was based on “mutual respect and love, as can be seen in the various pictures that show the particular affection the Pope had for Mother. The photos of the Pope with his hand on her head and kissing her on the forehead are so beautiful. This friendship was built on great faith and love for Jesus.”
“Mother lived and practiced many of the most important teachings of the Pope, especially his insistence on the respect for human live and the dignity of the person. It is very significant that the Pope has desired to connect her beatification to the 25 anniversary of his Pontificate. The Holy Father wishes to tell us: ‘This humble sister has been important person for my Pontificate,” he added.
Washington D.C., Oct 17, 2003 (CNA) - The Lutheran religion editor of United Press International claims that John Paul II, who shared his faith and values around the world, is also "his" pope.
In his commentary "Everybody's pope", this great admirer of the 83-year-old pontiff says he doesn't have to be Roman Catholic to claim John Paul II as "his" pope. Uwe Siemen-Netto's commentary was published october 15, on the eve of Pope John Paul's silver jubilee celebrations.
"For the last quarter of a century, this non-Catholic has had a pope," writes the religion editor of the international news agency.
"Who else but John Paul II gave voice to my faith and my values in 117 countries? Who else posited personal holiness and theological clarity against post-modern self-deception and egotism? Who else preached the Gospel as tirelessly as this man?"
The pope, who he describes as the "only one true catholic (meaning universal) voice of discipleship", speaks for all Christian believers, he says.
In his commentary, Siemen-Netto is confident that he is reflecting the views of many fellow Protestants.
He admires the pope for his role in bringing down communism, for being a "powerful defender of the sanctity of life," for his criticism of capitalism and for his capacity for forgiveness, which he demonstrated by forgiving Ali Agca, who shot him in an assassination attempt in 1981.
Siemen-Netto says that he has often found himself defending the pope to Catholics or other Protestants, who accuse him of being stubborn on several issues, namely priestly celibacy and ecumenism.
But Siemen-Netto appreciates the pope's uncompromising position on these issues, his refusal to sway from the Gospel and Church teachings and his courage to pronounce the truth. "This is not a cuddly pope," he writes.
The UPI editor also admires the pontiff's courage to continue as the leader of the Church despite his physical ailments and to pursue his discipleship "to the bitter end."
"He bears his cross, for all to see, especially the young who come to surround this severely handicapped old man by the hundreds of thousands wherever they can," he writes. "For he represents to them the opposite of the wishy-washy aberrations of postmodernity with its ever-shifting 'truth' claims."
For Siemen-Netto's full commentary, go to