Catholics shun millennium

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MILLIONS OF people are being urged to resist celebrating the millennium. The Catholic Church wants its members to distance themselves from what it calls a "secular and hedonistic jamboree".

The Church has even stopped talking about the millennium, to avoid the heathen thrust and pleasures of the flesh in national events surrounding the year 2000. The faithful are being urged to turn their attention instead to the "Great Jubilee of the 2,000th anniversary of Christ's birth" on 25 December.

They have been told by Cardinal Basil Hume, leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, that New Year's Eve is "of no religious significance".

Nor will they be ill-prepared for Christ's birthday. A quick check on the calendar, and the all-male clergy has managed to spot the significance of 25 March. They urge congregations to begin their run-up to the big day exactly nine months in advance, with prayer.

The Church's misgivings about the national celebrations are expressed in a pamphlet for priests, circulating in Cardinal Hume's Westminster diocese.

The Catholic Church has lost thousands of members in recent years, often due to its stand on divorce and re-marriage, and one of its key aims for Jubilee year is to welcome back those who have left.

But the pamphlet warns: "It would be unbearably cruel to hold out hope of a reconciliation which we cannot deliver or, by insensitive blundering, to tear open wounds that time has healed."