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>JN March 12, 1999, Vol. 7, No. 50

Vatican Opens Millenium Website

By IsraelWire


The Vatican has announced its millenium website, catering to visitors in Italian, English, Portuguese, Spanish, French, German, and Polish. Vatican officials report it will be ready in the multi-language format, for the millenium. One may visit the site at http://www.jubil2000.org/


US Works to Prepare Bethlehem for Millenium

By IsraelWire


The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has announced the launching of its millenium project, allocating $37 million towards preparing Bethlehem for the anticipated influx of Christian pilgrims during 2000.


"Bethlehem is a gateway for not only religious events but also for a better economic future and future prosperity for all of the Palestinian people," acting Consul-General Jerry Feierstein said.


The monies allocated by the US agency are earmarked for roads, water pipelines infrastructure, and other necessary work to improve the city and prepare it for the anticipated millions of visitors.


PLO authority officials are looking for donors among the international community to commit to funding projects totaling 200 million. Much of the needed funds are expected to come from private investors.


Matthew Bunson's "Prophecies: 2000"

By Nancy Beardsley (VOA-Washington)


The approaching millennium brings with it a long history of prophecies, both gloomy and joyful. Religious scholar Matthew Bunson has collected many of those forecasts into a book called "Prophecies: 2000. Predictions, Revelations and Visions for the New millennium."

The start of a new year, not to mention the start of another 1000 years, might seem like a cause for celebration. But Bunson says that for many people, it's a source of panic:



"It's similar to what we saw in 999, as the first millennium of the Christian age came to an end, in which people gave away their possessions and moved into cemeteries to greet their loved ones as they rose from the dead when the lord returned, or they settled on top of mountains to greet Gabriel when he came to announce the end of the world."



Although he doesn't endorse any of the predictions in "Prophecies: 2000," Bunson does point to parallels with contemporary developments. While the prophets talk of devastating natural disasters, scientists worry about earthquakes and volcanoes overdue to erupt. Visions of deadly plague have real life counterparts in the AIDS epidemic and the threat of germ warfare. International conflicts around the world also seem to support one of the book's central themes:


"Unfortunately one of the longest sections in the book relates to war, in part because it ties together the idea of the anti-Christ rising across the world and he will use war and chaos and terror as a means of obtaining power. There are any number of prophecies, from scripture to more modern prophets such as Count Louis Hamon, who had the nickname Cheiro. He was an occultist who predicted that the wars that are going to trouble us over the next few years will have a positive effect, because once the world is satisfied with blood and destruction, people will rise from that and see that war is no longer the answer."


The 16th century French physician and astrologer Nostradamus also saw hard times leading to a better world. He envisioned three world wars, with the Middle East as an ultimate center of conflict, and then a golden age of peace and prosperity.


Edgar Cayce, an American seer who died in 1945, also predicted strife in the Middle East, and called Russia the hope of the world: "He foretold that Russia would abandon communism, and that from the rebirth of Russia would come great promise for the future."


Bunson believes there are prophetic parallels to current religious trends as well, as many people turn away from mainstream religion to new age faiths that draw on a variety of spiritual beliefs. There have long been predictions of turbulent times for established churches, he says, and visions of two possible outcomes:

"The one is that churches will be much stronger as a result of their persecution. The other, and this is a reflection of the more optimistic visions of many of the modern prophets, they hope that the faiths will gather together and form a kind of worldwide religion."


If many prophets see crisis leading to better times, others believe the millennium will bring the end of the world. Some envision a religious apocalypse ushering in the second coming of the messiah; others a doomsday crisis of death and destruction. Visionaries have even pinpointed specific dates in 1999 and 2000 when that final reckoning will occur. But Bunson remains confident that humanity will continue on, well past the millennium.


Among the many prophets he read, Bunson says his favorite was Sister Hildegarde of Bingen, a 12th century German abbess who predicted that a comet would one day strike the earth. She also had apocalyptic visions. For Bunson, she seemed to symbolize the eternal nature of prophecy--a woman living in a convent in the Middle Ages with visions of the future not unlike our own.








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