The Italian Church follows with interest and passion the developments of the canvassing campaign, known as One of Us, a European action to ask for legal protection of the human embryo. This has been confirmed today, during a press conference in the Vatican, by the secretary general of the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI), monsignor Mariano Crociata. Answering a question from SIR, he stated: We believe that this One of Us canvassing campaign for the defence and promotion of the status of the embryo in Europe is an important opportunity. We said that, we repeated that, and we have personally committed to that. The bishop then went on: Of course, even in this area, I think it is important to point out that it is not a confessional commitment, even if the understanding the Church has, the believers have, of such issue makes us somehow passionately involved. But I am sure, and we have proofs, that interest in such matter is not just in the Church. It is not by chance that not only from a moral standpoint, not only the Italian but the European pro-life movements have no confessional status. We are confident that this canvassing campaign will really attract more and more people, we still have enough time to complete and exceed the target.
Green lights to the ordination of openly gay ministers in the Church of Scotland, the Presbyterian Church that represents the most important Scottish religion of the country, with half a million members. Yesterday afternoon, the general assembly, the body that rules this denomination which takes inspiration from John Knoxs and Calvins lessons, decided that, in keeping with its tradition of letting the congregations choose their own ministers, any of them may decide to call a pastor engaged in a gay union. And a release published by Kirk, which is the Scottish name of the Church, defines the vote a very important step for the peace and unity of the Church. As to the ordination of gay pastors, the Kirk has been divided for four years, since an openly homosexual pastor, Scott Rennie, had been chosen to lead the parish of Queens Cross, in Aberdeen, in 2009. Back then, the general assembly voted for pastor Rennie but stopped any new ordination of gay people until a special committee had finished studying the matter. With yesterdays vote, the Church decided to let the congregations choose homosexual ministers if they want to, but to let those that are against opt for heterosexual pastors. Until now, two important congregations, that of k St. George Tron in Glasgow and that of Gilcomston in Aberdeen, have left the Church because they were against it, and others are expected to do the same in the next few months.
(Sir Europe - Strasbourg) - In the EU, we pay gas four times as much as the USA, which by the way have turned into exporters by exploiting shale gas. At the same time, the European families energy bills range from 7 to 17% of their income, depending on the country in which they live. The president of the EU Commission, José Manuel Barroso, submits some actual figures to explain the absolute relevance of the items on the agenda of the summit of 22nd May. The heads of state and government will discuss energy and taxation, two potential tools to support recovery in Europe. As to taxes, the Portuguese politician, who is in Strasbourg for the plenary session of the European Parliament, harshly denounces tax evasion and then insists by stating that citizens confidence needs to be regained as they move from a feeling of fairness to one of duress. In the past, the EU Executive had submitted a number of operational proposals in this respect (such as taxation of savings and fight against tax havens) and now it comes back: By 2015 - Barroso explains - we need to have an exchange of all information about income and profits from capitals in the perspective of transparent taxation. Other related issues are taxes on consumption, taxes on businesses and work, and the fight against money laundering. To do all this - the president of the EU Commission concludes -, political determination is needed.
A heart-felt appeal for the two bishops of Aleppo of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch, Boulos al-Yazij, and the Syrian Orthodox Church, Youhanna Ibrahim, abducted on 22nd April, of whom there are no news. It is contained in the patriarchal Encyclical written by the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, on the occasion of the 17th centenary of the promulgation of the Edict of Milan. An issue and a commemoration that over these days have been at the centre of Patriarch Bartholomews work, first with a journey to Milan and, just after that, with a workshop promoted in partnership with the Council of European Bishops Conferences. Now, the Patriarchate has come out with and Encyclical about the Edict of Milan, in which it expresses again its deep concern and anxiety for the persecution still so widespread in the land and particularly the recent one against the Christian populations of the Middle East. Murders, abductions, threats and lawsuits against Christians: We share - Patriarch Bartholomews Encyclical reads - the pain, the grief and the difficulties that Christians face in the Middle East and in Egypt, especially in the ancient, venerable Patriarchate of Antioch.
(Sir Europe - Strasbourg) - These two issues are key to the competitiveness of the European economic system and to the very future of the EU: Lucinda Creighton, Irish Minister currently in charge of the EU presidency, says she believes in the importance of the summit convened in Brussels on 22nd May, when the 27 leaders of the member states will focus on energy and tax policies. Citizens and businesses must have certain, sustainable energy supplies at competitive prices. This is the way to go for economic development. In this respect, the domestic market must be completed, creating interconnections and modernising the infrastructure. To do this, private investments need to be encouraged, alongside public and European investments (structural funds). Creighton does not forget to mention the commitments undertaken some time ago by the member states to improve their energy efficiency and to use more renewable sources. As to tax policies, the basic problem is still about fighting tax evasion, for which a transparent system must be created that is based on an exchange of information about profits and capitals that goes beyond the national borders. However, the Irish minister raises, again, the matter of a fair taxation of income and savings.
Van Rompuy then sets out three priorities to be discussed during the summit, in the form of questions: To boost Europes competitiveness, growth and employment, what should be done at a EU-level to further increase energy efficiency? And to further develop our own resources? And to achieve a more consistent energy policy as a prerequisite to attract investments for a modern energy infrastructure? The other item on the agenda is the issue of taxation. Last March, we already pointed out that more efforts must be done to improve the efficiency of the tax collection systems and to fight tax evasion. In a time of strict budget restrictions and spending cuts, the fight against fraud and tax evasion is above all a matter of fairness. The debate at the summit will also help the EU achieve a strong, coordinated position at such international meetings as the G8, the G20 and OECD, as well as in its relations with the international partners.
(Sir Europe - Brussels) - The goal of this European Council is to set the direction for future work on two issues that are crucially important for European economy and social cohesion: energy and taxation. Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, writes a letter to the heads of state and government of the European Union to pave the way to tomorrows summit in Brussels. The summit on such two items is one of a series of themed discussions (budget, digital agenda, trade, economic and monetary Union, defence, industrial policy, idea of Europe…) to provide plainness and consistency to all our policies aimed to improve competitiveness, employment and growth. The summit will be opened by a discussion with the president of the European Parliament; then, the floor will be taken by the president of the European Commission, Barroso, who will describe the political process towards the completion of the single energy market, investments, trading policies with supplier countries. The European Council - Van Rompuy reveals - has already prepared a draft of the final document (which is coming out right now): This gives us the chance to engage in a strategic discussion between us about the key issue of the energy policy and competitiveness, instead of going into the details of the conclusions. (continued)