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England, France, Ireland, Czech Republic
England: no to new marriage definition
The forthcoming consultation started by the Government about the new definition of marriage is a “of great concern to many people in our society, and we will encouraging Catholics to participate in the consultation and to make their objections known”. This is how the Catholic archbishop Peter Smith takes position in a release from the English Bishops Conference on behalf of the Catholic Church of the country about the “formation of the “Coalition for Marriage” as a grass-roots movement to campaign for the current definition of marriage to remain in English law”. Archbishop Smith warns: “A change is not needed because the Civil Partnerships Act provides for the civil rights of same-sex couples already. Nor is a change desirable because it would fundamentally change the legal purpose of marriage by removing any reference to the begetting and rearing of children. Marriage is a fundamental social institution and neither the State nor the Church has the right to redefine its meaning. Together with the Church of England and the new “Coalition for Marriage” we will be encouraging people to sign the petition registering their opposition to a change in the law on marriage”.
France: Lent conferences on solidarity
They begin Sunday 26 February with a lecture of the new Archbishop of Milan, Card. Angelo Scola, and end Sunday 1 April (Palm Sunday) with a report of Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio as well as current minister of the Italian government. It is a major programme this year, too, the one prepared by the archdiocese of Paris for the “Lent Conferences”, which have been taking place at the Paris Cathedral of Notre-Dame every Lent Sunday since 1835, and are a “point of reference for the Christian reflection on the topicality of faith”, for the city and for France. “In the year in which the Catholic Church of Paris – it is written in a press release of the archdiocese – is reflecting on the ethical foundations of solidarity, one wonders how to start walking along paths of hope at a time of crisis, when people look upon the future with anxiety and loss of motivation”. Therefore, the conferences are meant to verify shared reflection and action paths. They will always be animated by two voices, generating debate between a representative of the “Christian conscience” and a representative “of other experiences”. The Italian cardinal Angelo Scola will face the subject “Christian ethics and social life”. Then they will talk about development models, ethic finance, immigration and poverty. Andrea Riccardi has the task of closing the cycle of conferences on “Solidarity: realism and spirit”.
Ireland: first celebration by the new nuncio
Pope Benedict XVI “has always had – and continues to have – a great love for the people of Ireland and a high regard for the Catholic Church in Ireland, with its history of missionary richness and tenacious faith” said the new apostolic nuncio to Ireland archbishop Charles John Brown in the homily of his first celebration in the pro-Cathedral of Dublin, held Sunday February 19. Msgr. Brown recalled that “Pope Benedict was scandalized and dismayed as he learned about the tragedy of abuse perpetrated by some members of the clergy and of religious congregations” and that from the beginning “he was resolute and determined to put into place changes which would give the Church the ability to deal more effectively with those who abuse trust, as well as to provide the necessary assistance to those who had been victimized”. The nuncio underlined that the international Eucharistic Congress, due to take place in Dublin next June 10-17, is “a very significant event not only for the Church of Ireland but also for the Universal Church”, an occasion “to renew our faith”, “our lives” and “the life of the Church”. Finally, the belief that in Ireland “something new is indeed happening” and that “the Lord is preparing something beautiful for his Church”.
Czech Republic: initiative on Lent collection
“Lenten alms” is the name of the project due to start on Ash Wednesday, 22 February, in Czech republic. Its 4th edition will last until Palm Sunday, with aim to collect money to help people in need and to support various charitable activities. The idea is to give up and donate the money that were intended to be used for dispensable personal purposes. “This kind of spiritual experience is particularly suitable for the families with children during the Lenten season. There are many ways to restrain ourselves and help others”, explains the archbishop of Olomouc, Mons. Jan Graubner, emphasizing the deep social dimension of Christian faith hidden in this gesture. The money will be collected in special paper boxes in the churches of all Catholic parishes, with possibility to write suggestions of how to use them, on the bottom of each box. Last year’s collection, organized by Caritas Czech republic, amounted to 2,744,898 CZK (109,800 €).