01/21/2008, 00.00
VATICAN
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Christians of all confessions invited to Rome for the Pauline Year

Illustrating today the Vatican's initiatives, "always strongly marked by a clear ecumenical dimension", for the bimillennial of the Apostle to the gentiles, Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo said the pope will issue a document inaugurating the celebrations. The baptistry of Saint Paul becomes an ecumenical chapel.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Liturgical celebrations and prayer meetings, but also exhibits, concerts, and performances, the production of special stamps and coins: these are some of the initiatives, "always strongly marked by a clear ecumenical dimension", scheduled for the Pauline Year (June 28, 2008 to June 29, 2009), illustrated today by Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, archpriest of the papal basilica of Saint Paul's Outside the Walls. There is also the possibility that Benedict XVI will go on pilgrimage to the sites associated with Saint Paul. Cardinal di Montezemolo also says that the pope "will soon release a document inaugurating the Pauline year, establishing its aims and its spiritual benefits for the faithful".

In the basilica where the body of the Apostle to the gentiles is kept, the baptistry will be converted into an "ecumenical chapel" for the occasion. In the new chapel, the cardinal announced, will be placed the altar that contains the relics of Saint Timothy of Antioch (martyred in 311) and of other unidentified fourth century martyrs. The altar was removed from the sepulchre of Saint Paul in 2006, "to make the sarcophagus of the apostle visible". The chapel "is intended to offer our brother Christians who request it a special place for prayer, for their individual groups that come on pilgrimage to the tomb of Paul, or so that they can pray together with Catholics, without the celebration of the sacraments".

The ecumenical character that the Vatican intends to impart to the celebration of the two thousandth anniversary of Saint Paul's birth is confirmed by the invitation that will be addressed to all of the leading representatives of the other Christian confessions. "We are preparing, with Cardinal Kasper", Cardinal Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo said, "a letter of invitation to all the leading representatives of the Christian communities, asking them to be present in some way". The Pauline Year, in fact, "is eliciting interest from non-Catholic Christian communities around the world" - ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew has already called for a Pauline Year - which will be invited "both to the inauguration ceremony and to the scheduled celebrations, whether on their own or together with us".

Saint Paul is also raising interest outside of the Christian world. Dom Johannes Paul Abrahamowicz, prior of the abbey of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, has emphasised the attention being paid to the website www.annopaolino.org, which has even been placed on the home page of a Chinese search engine. And the Vatican's pilgrimage office might also charter a ship that would travel to the places linked with the memory of the apostle.

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