VATICAN CITY, JUN 18, 1996 (VIS) - Pope John Paul has chosen "Offer Pardon, Receive Peace" as the theme of his 1997 Message for the World Day of Peace, next January 1.
A communique accompanying this announcement stated: "At the approach of the year 2000, there are already appearing on the horizon signs of a growing will of peoples and nations to put an end to wars and conflicts and to peacefully resolve contrasts. With his message for the forthcoming World Day of Peace, the Holy Father desires to encourage all those who have suffered or are suffering because of every type of conflict to courageously persevere along the arduous path of peace, a path which of necessity passes through pardon."
"It is not enough to silence weapons to reestablish peaceful co-existence. In fact, the deep wounds inflicted on families and entire peoples remain open. ... How can we live together in peace? How can we do this without reciprocal pardon? How do we pardon each other? The final answer to these heartfelt questions is found only in God who never ceases pardoning. ... Pardon is thus born in the depths of the heart, even that which suffers the most."
"On the social and political levels, reconciliation cannot do without truth: a commitment which is quite delicate and difficult. Certainly, one cannot be silent in the face of the crimes perpetrated: massacres of innocents, the deportation of peoples and so many other forms of violence. On the other hand, every sign of vendetta must be rejected because it is only the subtle prolonging of war.
"During 1997," concludes the communique, "the first year of immediate preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, the Holy Father asks Christians to reflect seriously on the exigencies of their faith regarding pardon and reconciliation."
VATICAN CITY, JUN 18, 1996 (VIS) - The 1st International Meeting for Priests, organized by the Congregation for the Clergy in preparation for the Holy Year 2000, opened yesterday afternoon in Fatima, Portugal, with the reading of a message sent by the Holy Father.
The Pope underlines the importance of this event to give impulse to the new evangelization, and invites priests to renew their personal consecration to the Heart of Jesus and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. As a sign of his closeness, John Paul II sent a rosary to each priest.
Also read at the opening was a telegram sent by Sr. Lucia, the only survivor of the three little shepherds of Fatima to whom the Blessed Virgin appeared. Then, Cardinal Jose T. Sanchez and Archbishop Crescenzio Sepe, respectively prefect and secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy, emphasized the significance of the meeting. Later, the more than 1,000 priests present concelebrated Mass, which was presided by Cardinal Antonio Ribeiro, patriarch of Lisbon.
This morning work began with a Eucharistic concelebration presided by Cardinal Kazimierz Swiatek, archbishop of Minsk-Mohilev, Belarus. After the Mass, Cardinal John J. O'Connor, archbishop of New York, U.S.A., gave a lecture on "The Ministry of the Priesthood in the Current Circumstances." He is scheduled to give another lecture this afternoon on "The Need for Ongoing Formation for the Priest," to be followed by the Way of the Cross to Los Valinhos and a visit to Aljustrel, birthplace of the three who saw Mary.
BERLIN -- Making his first visit to the city that was the center of the Nazi world, Pope John Paul II is coming to Berlin this week to beatify two German priests who opposed Adolf Hitler.
The Roman Catholic Church has long defended itself against criticism that it did not do enough to save European Jews from the Holocaust. And the pope often has expressed horror that Jews were singled out during World War II.
He is focusing on that period of history by staging Sunday's beatification ceremony -- a step toward sainthood -- in Berlin's Olympic Stadium, built for the 1936 Games that Hitler saw as a triumph of his regime.
One of the priests to be beatified is the Rev. Bernhard Lichtenberg. After witnessing the Kristallnacht destruction of Jewish stores and synagogues on Nov. 9, 1938, he was moved for the first time to condemn the Nazis' mistreatment of Jews from his pulpit at Berlin's cathedral.
"Outside, a temple is burning. It is also a house of God," Lichtenberg told parishioners.
In the years that followed, Lichtenberg became one of the Catholic Church's most visible opponents of the Nazi regime, dedicating regular evening prayers at St. Hedwig's not only to Christian victims of the Nazis, as he had before Kristallnacht, but also to the Jews.
He was finally arrested in 1941. Sentenced to two years in jail, he was not released when his term expired. The 67-year-old priest, weakened by illness, died in transit to the Dachau concentration camp on Nov. 5, 1943.
The second beatification candidate, the Rev. Karl Leisner, was sent to a concentration camp a month before his ordination in 1939, because he was overheard expressing regret that Hitler had not been assassinated.
While in Dachau, Leisner was ordained by a fellow inmate, French Bishop Gabriel Piguet. Leisner survived five years in Sachsenhausen and Dachau, but was so weakened by tuberculosis that he died four months after being liberated by American troops.
The pope's three-day visit begins Friday in the old religious city of Paderborn, 120 miles north of Frankfurt. It will not only reach Germany's substantial Catholic population, but that of neighboring Poland.