Celebrations of the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ should be primarily a private matter rather than "a big event", Italian Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, one of the most influential leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, told journalists in a rare interview today.

Asked about churches' plans for the Christian "jubilee," Cardinal Martini said that the word jubilee was often misunderstood. "I don't speak about jubilee, I speak about the 2000th year from the birth of Christ."Various churches are planning celebrations for the year 2000 in Israel, Rome and elsewhere. The plans have provoked tension among some churches which fear that celebrations could be monopolized by the Vatican.