VATICAN CITY, JAN. 8, 2001 (ZENIT.org).- A press conference was held this morning in the Vatican to comment on John Paul II´s Apostolic Letter for the new millennium and to make a preliminary evaluation of the Jubilee.
Program for Christianity Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, president of the Central Committee of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, opened the conference, by explaining that the Letter “Novo Millennio Ineunte” [At the Beginning of the New Millennium] is not a nostalgic reading of the Jubilee that just ended, but a program for the Church as it faces the future with hope.
“It is a dense and engaging program,” Cardinal Etchegaray said, “as it presents again with the same boldness the very commitments that the Church has always proposed to believers: sanctity and mission.”
Archbishop Crescenzio Sepe, secretary of the Jubilee Central Committee, acknowledged that it is impossible to make an evaluation, even in summary form, of the spiritual fruits of the Jubilee. He did confirm officially that more than 25 million pilgrims came to Rome, with an average 3-day stay per person. However, mathematics does not apply when it comes to accounting for the conversions of heart, innumerable sacramental confessions, and hidden acts of charity that the Holy Year elicited.
What is certain, is that “all expectations were surpassed,” the Archbishop added. The number of pilgrims in Rome and in holy places around the world was greater than in 1999, with the exception of the past few months in the Holy Land, because of the violence that broke out last fall.
Specifically, Archbishop Sepe mentioned the increase in the number of pilgrims from Eastern Europe who came to the Eternal City in 2000, totalling about one million. Moreover, the Holy Year witnessed the return of national pilgrimages. There were 21 in total, the most numerous being from Mexico, Argentina, Poland, Slovakia, Lithuania, Estonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Romania, and Hungary.
In addition, 60 large dioceses of the world came on pilgrimage to the Eternal City, the Archbishop said.
During the Holy Year there were 350 afternoon prayer meetings in St. Peter´s Square, and monthly prayer meetings of the sick in St. Mary Major. Archbishop Sepe also referred to the innumerable ecumenical events held in Rome and throughout the world during the Jubilee Year.
Of special interest is the fact that countries like the former Soviet Republics of Central Asia, North Korea, and continental China, celebrated the Jubilee for the first time; and that Sudan held a Youth Jubilee in Khartoum, coinciding with World Youth Day in Rome.
Archbishop Sepe also referred to the 70,000 volunteers who welcomed pilgrims to Rome as one of the fruits of the Jubilee.
30,000 Web Pages
Angelo Scelzo, coordinator of the Committee´s publications, focused on the primary objective of the Communications and Documentation Office, which was to create a system of information covering the topics of the Great Jubilee, including the publications “Tertium Millennium”, Pilgrim´s Journal (with 25 million copies printed), and daily news bulletins sent to main news agencies.
Luca de Mata, responsible for the Committee´s Internet Office, explained the services that were made available through the Jubilee web site.
It was laid out in 30,000 pages, relating to the preparation and development of the Holy Year, in 11 languages, including Chinese, Arabic, and Russian. In response to a reporter´s question, Archbishop Sepe explained that at present the Vatican is studying the use it will make of this page in the future.
During the press conference, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said that 9,000 journalists were accredited to follow some or all of the events of the Jubilee Year. Every day, the Vatican web page received an average of 800,000 hits.
Finally, Cardinal Etchegaray thanked the journalists accredited to the Vatican Press Office for their work to provide the world with news on the Jubilee.