This article was originally featured on Beliefnet in December 2000.

NEW YORK (CNS) -- The head of the National Black Catholic Apostolate for Life has urged that Kwanzaa observances between Christmas and New Year's Day reflect the sacredness of life.

Franciscan Father Jim Goode, president of the New York-based apostolate, said in a Dec. 19 release, "As we gather together for Kwanzaa 2000, let us share our rich heritage and the many gifts of harvest.

"Let us also remember during these days of Kwanzaa to pray" for the sacredness of life, he said.

Kwanzaa is a nonreligious celebration of African-American history and culture, focusing on community and family. The seven-day festival, first celebrated in 1966, begins Dec. 26 and ends Jan. 1.

The name "Kwanzaa" comes from a Swahili phrase meaning "first fruits." Now marked in the United States, Canada, England, the Caribbean and Africa, Kwanzaa has roots in ancient African harvest celebrations.

In his "Kwanzaa for Life" statement, Father Goode asked that each value celebrated during Kwanzaa "bring us closer to God and closer to each other."

Referring to Pope John Paul II's 1995 encyclical "Evangelium Vitae" ("The Gospel of Life"), Father Goode said the Gospel of life must be brought "to the heart of every man and woman and make it penetrate every part of society."

According to the pope, he said, the core of this Gospel is "the proclamation of a living God who is closer to us, who calls us to profound communion with himself and awakens in us the certain hope of eternal life."

Jesus has a unique relationship with every person because of this, he said paraphrasing the pope, "which enables us to see in every human face the face of Christ."

Father Goode also released a sample "Kwanzaa for Life" prayer which asks help from Jesus "to respect and defend the sacredness of all human life" in the areas of unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

The National Black Catholic Apostolate for Life was inaugurated in 1997 by the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus, Franciscan Solid Ground Ministry and Archdiocese of New York.
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