P R E S S R E L E A S E
PRESENTATION OF THE 1999 LENTEN MESSAGE OF POPE JOHN PAUL II
Two months ago at a meeting of our Dicastery Pope John Paul II said, "Sometimes the unjust suffering by many can also instil doubts about the goodness and providence of God..." but precisely for this he spurs us on to discover that "God, who in his fatherhood loves man with a matchless and infinite love, and to increase our generosity to those who are in difficulty."
In the light of this teaching, the President of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" His Excellency Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, announced the Lenten Message of the Holy Father for this year, this final period of preparation for the Jubilee, a year dedicated to the Father and to Charity. In the message the Pontiff asks each one of us to make a "living gift"; Charity is the giving of one's self and not payment with a credit card. Today, throughout the world many individuals continue to risk their lives to spread the love of God. In 1998, for example, 39 missionaries were killed in the world, only because of their witness to the love of Christ.
The President of Caritas Italy, His Excellency Bishop Benito Cocchi, brought the testimony of thousands of Catholic volunteers who each day do not speak of the needy but concretely help them. "We must fill 1999 with daily gestures of love, which include sharing, welcoming, time freely given without payment to anyone".
Of particular significance is the initiative of this Pontifical Council entitled "100 Projects of the Holy Father" where the true miracle of "multiplication" is born out. We began by asking assistance for 100 "poor" Dioceses and were able to find in the "rich" world the willingness to realise 223 micro projects, of which 161 are financed by Dioceses and 62 by International Catholic Organisations. In this way, it was possible to destine some thirty million Italian lire to projects, which will be completed by the end of 1999.
Also of assitance is the initiative "Panis Caritatis", a bread to be shared with those who do not have any. Five million loaves have been sold which have made possible a donation of 500,000,000 Italilan lire (258,202 Euro given the plan to make the project international) destined for the Dioceses of the Great Lakes Region in Africa and of Sudan for programmes of food for refugees. In particular in Kinshasa, a city of five million inhabitants, they constructed ovens for bread to feed the population, which during the armed attacks becomes isolated in the confines of the city without food supplies.
The most important news: at the centre of the celebration of the Year of Charity is the day - 16 of May 1999. The Holy Father, for the first time, will meet in St. Peter's Square all those who work in the area of help and assistance. The Church wants to give a witness to today's world that "Charity will never end. All are invited to this meeting.
Vatican City, 19 January 1999