Vatican Update
[MAR. 24, 2000]
Catholic World News Service
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* PAPAL MASS AT MOUNT OF THE BEATITUDES
* POPE VISITS CAPHARNAUM, HOME OF ST. PETER
* ISRAELI AMBASSADOR MOVED BY POPE'S VISIT
* POPE CALLS FOR PEACE IN ETHIOPIA, ERITREA

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PAPAL MASS AT MOUNT OF THE BEATITUDES

JERUSALEM (CWNews.com) -- Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass on the
Mount of the Beatitudes on March 24, with an estimated 100,000 young
people in attendance.

The outdoor location for the Mass, on the hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee,
was soaked by rain on the previous day. Nevertheless, thousands of young
people gathered there, beginning on the night before the celebration,
bringing plastic sheets and cardboard boxes to protect themselves from the
mud. The Fides news service observed that the enormous crowd-- possibly
the largest in Israel's history-- was "a sort of dress rehearsal for the next
World Youth Day in August in Rome."

Most of the congregation came from Israel and the Palestinian territories,
although thousands also came from nearby countries such as Lebanon and
Syria. There were also groups arriving on pilgrimages from Europe (an
estimated 17,000 from Italy, 9,000 from Spain) and even American (10,000)
and Asian (1,000) countries.

Dozens of lay groups were in evidence, among them Communion and
Liberation, Opus Dei, and Fololare. But the largest single presence was that of
the Neo-Catechumenate Way, which is building a large new seminary and
study center nearby in the hills of Galilee. As he arrived at the Mount of the
Beatitudes, approaching from the nearby town of Korazim where his
helicopter had landed, Pope John Paul stopped briefly to see the construction
site of the study center, which is known as Domus Galilaeae. Kiko Arguello,
the founder of the Neo-Catechumenate Way, led in the singing for the young
people, playing his guitar, and joined by a variety of other performers on
different instruments.
 
"It is marvelous to see you here today," the Pope told the young crowd
before the Mass. He too compared the occasion to the coming World Youth
Day.

In his homily, the Pontiff said that the Sermon on the Mount constitutes a
challenge from Christ, prodding the believer toward "a great conversion of
the heart." He continued, speaking with emphasis: "You young people, you
know why this change of heart is necessary." He observed that the young
people would understand how the voice of conscience conflicts with the
message of a materialistic society.

Unlike those who suggest that happiness can be gained by self-gratification,
the Pope explained, "Jesus offers a very different message" in the Sermon on
the Mount. "And moreover, he was not content to proclaim the beatitudes. He
lived them."

"Which voice will the young people of the 21st century follow?" the Pope
asked. It is not easy to follow the example of Christ, he conceded, but he
urged his young listeners: "It is up to you, today, to be courageous apostles of
the kingdom."

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POPE VISITS CAPHARNAUM, HOME OF ST. PETER

JERUSALEM (CWNews.com) -- During the afternoon of March 24, Pope John
Paul II continued his pilgrimage through the Holy Land by visiting three
sites linked to the New Testament, and particularly to St. Peter.

First the Pontiff spent some time at prayer in a 20th-century church on the
site of the multiplication of the loaves. The new church, built over the ruins
of an early Christian sanctuary, is now served by Benedictine monks. Built in
the Byzantine style, the church is decorated with unusually fine mosaics,
including one 6th-century piece that depicts the Gospel story of how Jesus
fed the crowd. One of the Benedictine monks showed the Pontiff an ancient
key, dating back to the end of the 1st century, which was found in the ruins
of what is believed to be St. Peter's home. Father Bargil Pixner, a renowned
archeologist, remarked: "This is the key to the first Vatican!"
 
Next the Pope visited another church, entrusted to the Franciscans of the
Holy Land, built on the spot where, after the Resurrection, Christ told Peter
to "feed my sheep." This church-- on the shore of the Sea of Galilee-- is
dedicated to the primacy of Peter. For that reason, the Pope was particularly
insistent on including it in his pilgrimage.

Finally, John Paul visited Capharnaum, where St. Peter lived as a fisherman
before leaving that work behind to follow Christ. There he saw the ruins of
another home where Peter once lived, and of the synagogue where Jesus
once preached.

After these three visits, as night began to fall over Galilee, the Pope took
another helicopter ride back to Jerusalem where he would spend the night.

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ISRAELI AMBASSADOR MOVED BY POPE'S VISIT

JERUSALEM (CWNews.com) -- Aharon Lopez, the Israeli ambassador to the
Holy See, told a Roman news agency that he wept freely when he visited the
Holocaust museum with Pope John Paul II on March 22.

"I have been to Yad Vashem more than 100 times, but each time is always
like the first, and I am not ashamed to weep there," Lopez told the I Media
agency. He repeated that the Pope's appearance there was "very moving…
very moving."
 
"I am not one of those who tells the Pope what he should say," Lopez said. He
pointed out that the Pontiff himself had confessed that there are no words
adequate to convey the horror of the Holocaust. However, Lopez went on to
say the Pope John Paul had made an enormous personal contribution to the
relationship between Christians and Jews.

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POPE CALLS FOR PEACE IN ETHIOPIA, ERITREA

JERUSALEM (CWNews.com) -- After celebrating Mass on the Mount of the
Beatitudes on March 24, Pope John Paul II made a short interruption of his
pilgrimage through the Holy Land to issue a statement of support for peace
talks involving Ethiopia and Eritrea.

During his visit to Galilee, the Pontiff said, "my thoughts turn hopefully
toward the initiatives taken by the Organization for African Unity to
reestablish peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea." The Pope indicated that
these peace talks are now at a "very delicate stage," and he asked for
prayers "that a just solution can be found in that part of the world."

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