Vatican Media Watch

John Paul a Potent Symbol for Sacredness of Life

NEWSWEEK, Feb. 28 —  He has suffered through a gunshot wound, a stabbing, and, most recently, near-fatal complications from the flu.

These trials are Pope John Paul’s personal Calvary, reported Newsweek, and it’s become his most powerful message. Many Catholics see the Pope’s suffering as something like the agony of Jesus himself.

“The cross is not just something you hang on the wall,” Father Justo Lacunza-Balda, a missionary and director of the Pontifical Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies, said in the magazine. “Christianity is not born in a laboratory or a schoolroom; it’s not conceived in an institute of higher learning. It’s about suffering, torture, the experience of Christ on the cross.”

The afflicted Pope can be seen as “a living presence of the very essence of Christianity, which is the cross — and resurrection,” Lacunza-Balda said. “He’s not just an icon; he is the incarnation in his whole life of the message of Christ.”

Pope Meets With Croatian Prime Minister

ASSOCIATED PRESS, Feb. 22 — Pope John Paul II received the prime minister of Croatia, the first foreign leader to meet with him since he was rushed to the hospital with breathing problems three weeks ago.

The Holy Father appeared alert and in relatively good form, according to the wire report, but did not speak during a five-minute picture taking session that followed a 10-minute private meeting.

“We are praying for your health,” Prime Minister Ivo Sanader told John Paul.

The prime minister, speaking later with Croatian reporters, said the Pope was “well, but still showing the effects of his illness.”

Sanader, whose country is the bastion of Catholicism in the Balkans, was in Rome for an exhibition of religious art.

John Paul also received four Spanish bishops, the report added, the second such group in two days.

Vatican Names New Archbishop for Hanoi

THE CHINA POST, Feb. 21 — Hanoi’s newly named Roman Catholic archbishop has already been running the church’s day-to-day-affairs for more than a year to assist ailing Cardinal Pham Dinh Tung, a Church spokesman said.

Bishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet, 53, of Lang Son and Cao Bang provinces, was named to his new post over the weekend by Pope John Paul II, Hanoi diocese spokesman Dang Duc Ngan said in The Post. Kiet has been the chief church administrator since May 2003.

Tung, 86, who had been Hanoi’s archbishop since 1994, will retain his rank as cardinal, said Ngan. An official ceremony for Kiet will be held March 19 at Hanoi’s St. Joseph’s Cathedral.

“We have reached agreement with the Vietnamese government, so there’s no problem with the appointment,” Ngan said. “He has been living in Hanoi for more than a year and everything is going smoothly.”

Authority of final approval over Church appointments has led to tension between Vietnam and the Vatican in the past, said The Post. The two sides currently have no diplomatic ties.

Vietnam recognizes only a handful of government-sanctioned religions or denominations, including Catholicism.