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January 3, 1992     The Message
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January 3, 1992

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The Message w for Cathglics of Southwestern Indiana Top stories of 1991: U.S.S.R., war, By JERRY FILTEAU Catholic News Service WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Two failed power grabs that changed the shape of world politics dominated both secu- lar and religious news in 1991. The year opened with U.S.- led allies in the Persian Gulf poised to blast Iraq into sub- mission and force Saddam Hussein to end his illegal oc- cupation of Kuwait. The devastation that fol- lowed raised new questions about the morality of modern warfare. But the war itself and the unlikely Soviet-Arabian- Western alliance that was formed to counter the Iraqi invasion opened up new pos- sibilities of peace in the long- troubled Middle East. One happy result in the months that followed was the release of Western hostages held for years by radical Mus- lim groups in Lebanon. The last American released, Asso- ciated Press Mideast bureau chief Terry Anderson, said that as a Christian and Catholic he could not hate those who held him captive for nearly six years. Tenuous Mideast peace talks opened in Madrid Oct. 30, drawing Israeli and Pales- tinian representatives to the same bargaining table for the first time. The dust had scarcely begun to settle from the Gulf war when world attention shifted to Moscow. Commu- nist hard-liners tried in Au- gust to topple Soviet Presi- dent Mikhail Gorbachev and failed miserably -- dealing a final death blow to commu- nist power in the Soviet Union and accelerating the disintegration of the union. Russian President Boris Yeltsin emerged as a new leading figure in Soviet and world politics. With the Soviet Union con- fronting a possible loss of central control over nuclear arms, President Bush in September initiated a series of U.S. nuclear missile cut- backs, to which Gorbachev famed Doomsday Clock seven minutes, to 17 minutes before midnight, symbolically declaring that the world is now farther away from dan- ger of nuclear destruction than it has been at any time since the Bulletin was founded in 1945. But tire Soviet disintegra- tion outstripped accelerated plans to dismantle nuclear weapons. By December even Ukraine, by far the largest So- viet republic after Russia it- sell" and a key component of any future political and eco- nomic structure in the region, followed the earlier lead of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania with a landslide vote for in- dependence. On Dec. 8 the leaders of Russia, Ukraine and Byelorussia formally declared that the Soviet Union was dissolved and announced plans to form a "'common- wealth of independent states" to replace it. The economic and political turmoil and threat of a winter famine throughout the region raised new fears of a reactionary putsch. Soviet events almost over- shadowed another major con- flict in Eastern Europe, the vi- cious civil warfare in Yugoslavia. After the Yu- goslavian republics of Slove- nia and Croatia declared their independence in June, the federal army sided with Ser- bian nationalists who at- tacked hundreds of Croatian villages, towns and cities in a war of territorial expansion. Pope John Paul II tried re- peatedly but in vain to pre- vent the Gulf war and to bring an end to the bloodshed in Yugoslavia. Both the Soviet turmoil and the Serbian-Croatian conflict exacerbated simmering Catholic-Orthodox tensions in Eastern Europe. Catholic-Orthodox rela- tions were one of the critical issues confronting the special Synod of Bishops on Europe, which Pope John Paul con- vened at the Vatican Nov. 28- Dec. 14 to assess the church's role in Europe following the were at the root of some of the controversies. While the Orthodox- Catholic controversy attracted the most attention, the synod also engaged in substantive discussions on the immense resources needed bv the churches in Eastern Europe to overcome decades of oppres- sion and to take advantage of their new freedom. The synod was but one ele- ment in a ferment of religious activity throughout Eastern Europe as Catholic officials worked to reopen churches, seminaries and schools and restore the communications and social service networks that communist governments had taken away from them in the 1940s and '50s. Catholic-Jewish tensions of recent years reached another peak in September as Polish Cardinal Jozef Glemp of War- saw, who had angered Jews two years earlier with com- ments widely seen as foster- ing anti-Semitic stereotypes, prepared to visit the United States. On his arrival in Washing- ton he met with American Jewish leaders, acknowledged D x. that his controversial remarks had been mistaken and apolo- gized for offending them. He subsequently invited U.S. Jewish leaders to visit Poland in 1992 and continue the dia- logue begun in the United States. Pope John Patti continued to make news with Iris world travels, especially his trips to Brazil, where he preached a strong message of social jus- tice, and to post-communist Poland and Hungary. lie named 22 new cardi- nals, including U.S. Arch- bishops Anthony J. Bevilac- qua of Philadelphia and Roger M. Mahony of Los Air- geles, and convened all the world's cardinals for a sum- mit meeting on the church's response to abortion and other threats to life. He con- voked a similar summit of top Middle East bishops and se- lected other church officials to discuss the church's role in that region following the Gulf war. Catholics around the world took a new look at ch.urch in- volvement in society as they observed the centenary of Pope Leo XIII's 1891 encycli- cal "'Rerum Novarum, first modern social cal. In the United States t centenary prompt drods of national, and local events aim0( studying the ilnportan( the church's social today and renewing commitmenl s to peace. Pope John Paul marked! anniversary with a new encyclical, "'Ce Annus" ("The Hundre( Year"), a commentary application of Catholic ings to world political economic systems. "'Centesimus Annus" the pope's second enc in 1991. His first, toris Missio," released inl uary, was a call for church to recover its ary spirit and follow mandate to spread the throughout the world. Many who or about "'Rerum years later noted that the church is most sial when its Gospel calls it to challenge systems and injustices. responded with comparable initiatives. Leading U.S. bishops who had urged such cutbacks years earlier in their peace pastoral  praised the ac- tions as significant steps to- ward a safer world. The Bul- letin of the Atomic Scientists set back the hands of its I i , - Jill Ann White ,xlmlnlttrator I_ "Lil . 57 so, w=lmon, I, 812-254-4516 Prairie Village m living Center collapse of the communism. Five of eight Orthodox leaders invited to attend the Catholic meeting as "'frater- nal delegates" boycotted it over what the Orthodox re- gard as Catholic aggressive- ness in traditionally Ortho- dox lands. 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