Great Jubilee News

15,000 Leaders Arriving in Rome

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 3, 2000 ( There can be no liberty without religious liberty, and vice versa, says a leading European political leader on the eve of the Jubilee of Statesmen and Politicians.

"If there is no liberty as such, there can be no religious liberty; and, vice versa, if there is no religious liberty, there can be no talk of liberty," said Senator Giulio Andreotti on Vatican Radio today. "We are inspired by this principle."

Andreotti, one of the most influential politicians in Europe since the Second World War, will touch on the same theme Saturday when he opens the working sessions in the Vatican general audience auditorium.

For one day, this hall will be turned into a worldwide parliamentary assembly. There will be debates and motions for approval on topics of global relevance, such as foreign debt, religious liberty, and ethics and globalization.

Deputies, senators, and national and local public administrators -- 15,000 in all -- from all over the world are expected in Rome for the Jubilee event. Delegates from non-Christian countries, including Iran, Israel, Kuwait and Tunisia, will be on hand.

The sessions will end with an address by John Paul II. On Saturday night 5,000 parliamentarians will dine with the Holy Father in the Apostolic Palace.

Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, president of the Central Committee for the Great Jubilee, which organized this event, told Vatican Radio: "This pilgrimage of the political leaders is also our pilgrimage."

"We must not look at them from the platform with curiosity," he added. "They represent us, what is more, we are part of them, because the whole Church must be an evangelical ferment in society, committing herself to give men and peoples her own contribution, her community life of reconciled sinners; her priority concern for the disinherited; and her style of exercising authority, lived as service."

During the morning, representatives of two of the largest parties in the world and majority parties in the European Parliament will speak: Walter Veltroni, vice president of the Socialist International, and Senator Carlo Casini, of the European Popular Party.

Nicola Mancino, president of the Italian Senate, will speak in the afternoon. Mancino told Vatican Radio: "It will be an extraordinary event that will also mark the possibility to consider the role of parliaments in the international context. This event not only affects the Catholic world; it affects the universality of religious aspirations. Religions have the possibility of addressing one another during the speeches."

The highlight of the Jubilee event will take place Sunday, with Mass celebrated by John Paul II in St. Peter's Square.