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November 24, 1998



In preparation for the coming of the Third Millennium of Christianity, Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua, Archbishop of Philadelphia, launched a revolutionary toll-free, confidential hotline for people to call to help them reconnect with the Catholic Church. "We want to let everyone know that no matter what their problem is, no matter how far away from God they feel that they are, no matter what sin they have committed, they are welcome to return to the Church," said Cardinal Bevilacqua at a news conference to formally announce the program November 24, 1998.

More than 100 phone calls a day have been received since the hotline was started Monday, November 16, 1998. The phones are staffed by priests from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. The issues discussed by callers have included topics such as marriage, divorce and abortion.

"We are opening the door to people who feel a spiritual need to talk about why they have turned away from God. We want to let them know that, like the prodigal son, they are welcome home," said Cardinal Bevilacqua. "People are searching for answers. They are not getting the answers in other places. We think the Church can help them find those answers."

The hotline has been advertised with radio and television commercials, and flyers sent to the 434,000 homes of registered Catholics in the Archdiocese. Starting next month, billboards and posters on buses will be placed throughout the Archdiocese to advertise the hotline.
"We are not advertising in order to get more business, or to fill the pews," said Cardinal Bevilacqua. "We are doing it for the people's sake. In other words, for their goodness, for their happiness, for their peace, and also for their salvation. People are not obligated to do anything. We are simply offering them a chance to come home."

The hotline is part of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's massive millennium effort. This millennium program consists of five phases. Phase One is the ongoing Journey of the Millennium Cross of Reconciliation through the Archdiocese. The Cross is made of olive wood from the Holy Land, and was blessed by Pope John Paul II. Phase Two is the hotline. Phase Three is the commissioning ceremony for volunteers, who will go door-to-door to invite people to come, and in some cases, return, to the sacraments. Phase Four is the actual home visits by these volunteers. Phase Five is Reconciliation Weekend, which is set for March 19-20, 1999. There will be numerous events in the Archdiocese during the Great Jubilee Year 2000, culminating in an Archdiocesan Eucharistic Celebration in October, 2000.

"We are just trying to carry out what Jesus did in his lifetime," said Cardinal Bevilacqua. "He came at a very bad time in history, but he went out, as we are trying to do, to all the towns and the villages. We are carrying out the wishes of the Holy Father for a new evangelization, reaching out to people as never before."


Cathy Rossi

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