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June 5, 1998

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1998 The Message m for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana 5 Rome: Pentecost Eve, May 30, 1998 By BISHOP GERALD A. GETTELFINGER in Rome, the lodging that the bishops of VII, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin, have cho- preference is the Casa Intemazionale del a residence owned by the Vatican that is men and women religious who are in on official Church matters. It is located across in the old city of Rome within a few f the Vatican. is a simple one - some are quite elabo- e is on the "street side" of the quadrangle is no air-conditioning. To provide air movement of air that is possible ;an open window. / there seem to be no "bugs" to intrude, streets below are amplified off the and buildings faced with hard To sleep is one thing. Restful sleep is quite stay in Rome is too brief to allow me to to the "open window" method ;. Nonetheless, I have managed. Noise to abate about three o'clock in the morning. th fifth floor of the Casa Intemazionale terrace. This evening after a delightful dinner with Bishop Gregory of Belleville, Illinois, our neighbor to the West, and Auxiliary Bishop John Manz of Chicago, our neighbor to the north, I went out on the terrace. From the rooftop, the views of St. Peter's Basilica, the Hall of Justice, the Colosseum, and the rest of Rome by floodlight are inspirational at night. They complement the more revealing facets of the historical sights as seen in bright sunlight. These seemingly unimportant details of my jour- ney to Rome are not intended to be a travelogue. My observations are not dissimilar from those of the Apostles Peter and Paul in their journeys. Here in Rome, I am in their presence. Both bore witness to our faith by dying in this very city. Those of us who are bishops do not take lightly our obligation to pray at the tombs of Sts. Peter and Paul when we come to Rome for our "Ad Limina" visit. The other happy duty is to present ourselves to the Holy Father. On Monday, May 24, 1998, the Bishops of Region VII concelebrated Mass at the tomb of St. Peter. Cardi- nal Francis George of Chicago presided. On Thursday, May 29, 1998, we concelebrated the Eucharist at the Tomb of St. Paul outside the walls of ancient Rome with Archbishop Weakland of Milwaukee presiding. It was my special privilege as a diocesan bishop to meet with the Holy Father personally, and alone, for 10 to 12 minutes on Thursday at noon. On Friday, I joined half our group (14) with our Holy Father for his main meal at one o'clock in the afternoon. This morning, Saturday, we concelebratefl the Holy Father's early morning Mass. After Mass he greeted each of us with a special statement supporting Catholic schools. As this "official visit" ends, I greet a large group of family members to share a few days in Rome. I asked Paul Leingang to join with us along with his wife, Jane. It is my hope that his physical experience of Rome will help him, as a lay person, to interpret for you the incredible mystery of the unity of the Church in its diversity. The meeting of the Holy Father by the bishops of the world emphasizes the unity of the universal church in the person of the Holy Father. All bishops are in solidarity - are one with the Holy Father. The unity of the Church depicted in a single place is evident in St. Peter's Basilica, the Cathedral of the Universal Church. It is the Pope's Cathedral. The Holy Father's Cathedral as Archbishop of the Rome is the Basilica of St. John Lateran. A Cathedral Church as a place is symbolic of unity. The bishop exhibits the unity of the church in his person wherever he goes. The dual symbols of . place and person are essential to communicate the full meaning of unity in a diocese as it does in the universal Church. scholars comment on apocalyptic predictions (CNS) -- end is at hand," are emblazoned by unsmil- predictions. ]D REPORT ' LOU PANARALE News Service rou- at such places rallies, sporting even in front of the decry mod- the third predictions of the World seem to be ;more frequentl Often on apocalyptic that use, among other imagery about vengeance and I of numbers, such as in the last book of the World in constant dis- the doomsayers is the Book a valid source for of dire things l the 21st century? II, at his April St. Peter's mak- predictions in With the year 2000. teaching of Christ end of time and page 4 have details about system disorder. the Vatican it a private mat- the most public time. as a historical process that literature, which is: Don't even "God is in control and he wants come, like the depletion of the already has begLm, try to make predictions," said us to be the active users of time Amazon rain forest and global In interviews with Catholic News Service, three biblical scholars -- two Catholics and a Protestant w who teach at Catholic universities talked about the validity of apocalyptic predictions: m Paul Aspan, a professor of theology at St. Joseph's Univer- sity in Philadelphia, examines and discusses issues related to the millennium in his New Tes- tament class. He has been highly critical of those who see sensa- tional miUennium-related proph- esies based on the Scriptures. Marianist Father George T. Montague of St. Mary's Univer- sity in San Antonio is a renowned biblical scholar of the New Tes- tament. He is in the process of republishing an update to his book, "The Apocalypse," which will include an introductory chapter on the millennium. w The Rev. Bruce Epperly, a United Church of Christ minis- ter, has been director of Protes- tant ministry and an adjunct professor of theology at George- town University in Washington since 1982. He has been active in interfaith healing and alter- native approaches to medicine and is the author of books on those subjects. While each scholar placed dif- ferent emphases on the mean- ing and value of the Book of Revelation and its apocalyptic visions, all three had similar views on some basic points. They all said the first thing to establish about any biblical pas- sage is an understanding of what it meant to the original readers, and then to interpret it in the light of contemporary history. "If pbople want to take the Bible seriously with regard to predictions about the end, there is one theme that runs consis- tently through all eschatoiogical Aspan. He noted that St. Paul, among other scriptural writers, pre- dicted apocalyptic events that were to occur in his own time and they never happened. "Biblical scholars," Aspan said, "have determined conclu- sively that Revelation cannot be used as a road map to the future for modem generations. "It wasn't written for the modem age. It was written for people in a specific political and social situation, and al! the sym- bolic elements in the text can be linked to referents of that ancient time and place." Each scholar noted that Rev- elation belongs to a particular type of literature -- known as "apocalyptic." Often misunderstood, say the scholars, Revelation is really a message of hope for a people near despair, a triumphant appeal to the sovereignty of the one true God, the God of Israel. "Revelation," said Father Mon- tague, "is one of the most beauti- ful books in the whole Bible, with its images of Christ as the 'Lamb of God,' "The Alpha and the Omega,' 'The Lion of Judah."' But despite the beautiful imagery, he said, Revelation is also confusing to many people "because of its coded and apoc- alyptic kind of imagery and its use of a series of bold visions," some of which warn of dire happenings. "The church today sees these visions as general descriptions of future tribulations," Father Mon- tague said. "But because the visions are so generalized, peo- ple tend to think of them as a crytal ball in which we can fore- tell what is going to happen." Yes, the future is unknown, Father Montague said, but what Revelation emphasizes is that here on earth." Then what about the signifi- cance of the year 2,000? Does it bode the coming of great cata- strophes as the third millenni- um comes into view? All three scholars were emphatic in pointing out that the Western calendar has under- gone so many revisions that one can logically conclude Christ was born some time between 4 and 6 B.C. Since that is the case, as most other scholars agree, then the third millennium has already begun, and the world is -still here, without the astro- nomical catastrophes that have been predicted for it. "There is nothing magical about the year 2000," said Aspan. "We are always fascinat- ed by the zero years, which is fine," he said, because it shows the importance of recognizing the passage of time. Aspan noted, however, that some who see some special sig- nificance in the year 2000 also put all kinds of meaning into the numeric cluster "666" and the dire consequences it sup- posedly portends. That is their prerogative, says Aspan. "But if anyone says that something happening today was envisioned in Revelation, they are just dead-fiat wrong," he said. Aspan said terrible things happen all the time that give warnings of great disasters to warming. Christians should see the unfolding of these events as "rehearsal time," he said. "If you have a near-death experience, like an accident, the experience confron you x the end. of your life before it happens," Aspan said "These are merely invitations to think about the end of all things." Rev. Epperly said one can read Revelation as a book of doom, "but it also speaks of great hope for those who are currently suffering," he said. "I think it goes to the nature of history in general that voices of doom need to be taken quite seriously in one regard," he The Word of Life n a democratic, pluralistic system, the first guarantee of each individual s freedom is established by , unconditionally respecting human dignity at every pha of life, regardless of the intellectual Or physical abilities on possesses or lacks. Pontifical Academy for Life, "Human Cloning is Immoral," July 9,1997 added. "My reasoning is that it is always possible that we will destroy ourselves, that we will destroy the ecological balance and make the planet uninhabit- able by our own actions." He said he doesn't see the world's destruction "coming from the hand of God," but instead "coming from our hand, at least in potentiality," "It is always possible to have both hope and tragedy in our lives. Our experiences are made of both. We need to make room for the tragic elements of life as well as the hopeful," Rev. Epperly added. "In many ways they are to be held in tension to each other because each moment in life may be a time of creation or a time of destruction." o.ll i,