Day of Fasting Recalls a Perennial Discipline

Comments from 2 Close Papal Aides

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 13, 2001 ( The day of fasting that John Paul II has called for this Friday implies the discovery of new elements in the Christian practice of fasting, two of his closest aides told ZENIT.

Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, who is responsible for promoting the Day of Fasting as president of the Pontifical Council «Cor Unum,» pointed out that the international context in which the initiative is taking place gives enormous force to this act of conversion to God and of commitment to those suffering from the effects of violence.

For his part, Dominican Father Georges Cottier, theologian of the Papal Household, said that these two dimensions of fasting take place, moreover, at the end of Ramadan, the Muslim period of abstinence, giving the initiative the character of dialogue and collaboration with all believers.

Archbishop Cordes said, «In the Church´s recent pastoral guidelines, fasting unfortunately remained in the shade. Pastors are often afraid to propose practices that might seem too weighty, even if minor.»

However, the archbishop explained, «fasting reinforces in man the intention to be detached from self and to struggle against the demands of his body.»

«Cor Unum´s» president emphasized that this practice «helps the individual to be open to God´s action, who transmits to him his message of salvation, freeing him so that he can be converted. With this conversion, man is the object of God´s benevolence and is heard by him.»

Referring to international problems, Archbishop Cordes said that, «although at this time Osama bin Laden´s threat and that of his bands seems to be losing force, the danger of terrorism and fanaticism remains.»

Moreover, «the human suffering caused by the war in the Middle East affects us even more in these days of preparation for the birth of Christ,» he added.

«All this makes the Pope´s appeal more alive and understandable, who suffers personally because of men´s sufferings,» Archbishop Cordes concluded.

For his part, Father Cottier said the Holy Father´s initiative has impressed him for two reasons.

Above all, the Pope states that peace «is something very fragile and must be considered a gift of God. This is why we must pray, implore and witness to this supplication with fasting,» the theologian said.

In the second place, Father Cottier is impressed that the fast is taking place at the end of Ramadan.

«It thus underlines the need to think of others,» he said. «The call to carry out charitable acts, the fruit of fasting, is very strong. Because of this, in addition to fasting and prayer, there is an invitation to send the money saved to the neediest.»

For this purpose, the Holy See has opened a special account, managed by «Cor Unum,» at:

Banca di Roma
ABI code: 3002
CAB code: 5008
SWIFT code for offerings outside Italy add: BROMIT
under the heading «Pontificio Consiglio COR UNUM»

All offerings collected will be sent by the Pope on Christmas Day, for victims of terrorism and war.

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