There was a positive atmosphere with regard to our main request, that of obtaining legal recognition for the Church in Turkey. I believe the Governments representatives were right in saying that this request does not depend on the new Constitution but can be accepted with a particular law. In an interview with SIR, Mgr. Ruggero Franceschini, president of the Turkish Bishops Conference (CET) and Archbishop of Smyrna, commented on yesterdays hearing of the CET in Ankara before the Grand Assembly (the Turkish Parliament), during which the CET presented the problems and requests of the Church to be inserted into the new Constitution that is being drafted. Next meetings - the prelate explained, recalling the content of a previous statement from the CET - will focus on problems related to properties owned by Churches, schools, hospitals, and to other goods of which the Latin Church currently owns title deeds which have been granted by the Sultan or by the current Republic until 1936. It takes time and patience, and it is not easy. Our delegation was comprised of only four people: besides myself there was Mgr. Louis Pelâtre, Latin Apostolic Vicar of Istanbul; Mgr. Yusuf Sað, Patriarchal Vicar of the Syrian Catholics; and Rinaldo Marmara, CET spokesman. The small size of our Turkish Bishops Conference may have affected the views of the Assembly.
(Sir Europe - Strasbourg) - The European Union will have a special representative for human rights: the proposal, contained in a report submitted to the European Parliament, was clearly reaffirmed by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton, during todays debate at the European Parliament. The Report (dealing with the EUs commitment to the protection of human rights in the world) was submitted by its author, British MEP Richard Howitt, who stressed the need to bridge the gap between enumerated rights and effectively protected rights, calling on the Union to show greater and more effective commitment. Ashton, for her part, stressed the commitment to fighting discrimination against believers in the world, particularly Christians. Religious freedom cannot be limited, noted the British politician. The High Representative went on to say that the young, the elderly and women fight for freedom in the Middle East and North Africa; many of them lost their lives for freedom. We have to support them through a coordinated and effective approach to the protection of fundamental rights.
The seventh World Congress on the Pastoral Care of Tourism, jointly organized by the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant Peoples and the Prelature of Cancun-Chetumal, with the collaboration of the Bishops Conference of Mexico, will be held in Cancun, Mexico, from 23 to 27 April. The Congress entitled Tourism that makes a difference will discuss topics related to tourism in general, religious tourism, and tourism of Christians. This will allow us - organisers explain - to tackle a number of issues such as social tourism, tourism as an economic resource for poor countries, the fight against sex tourism, proposals for formation and liturgy in touristic areas, cultural heritage at the service of evangelisation, pastoral care for those who work in the tourism industry, etc. The Congress will be attended by bishops, priests, religious and lay people involved in the pastoral care of tourism, as well as people who, in various capacities, are committed to this sector of human mobility: travel agencies, entrepreneurs in this sector, political representatives, professors and students of tourism. A representative from the National Office for the Pastoral Care of Leisure Time, Tourism and Sport of the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI) will also take part in the event.
The situation of Catholics in the regions of the former GDR can inspire the Church on how to face future challenges, Mons. Wolfgang Ipolt, bishop of Görlitz, told Austrian Catholic News Agency Kathpress yesterday. The reality of the Catholic diaspora in these regions demands creativity, flexibility and bright examples, said the bishop, stressing that this is a challenge for both the faithful and pastoral care. A Catholic in diaspora must seek the Church. He cannot wait for the Church to go to him, he said. Then Mons. Ipolt denied the claim that a secularised society cannot give rise to religious needs: There is a hidden nostalgia for direction. The bishop said he believes that young people can change the Churchs image. The main feature of the diaspora Church in the regions near the border with Poland also shows that the Church plays a vital liaison role between the two countries, even in ecumenical terms: This is the essence and the task of our small diaspora Church, Mons. Ipolt concluded.
A high level Conference on the future of the European Court of Human Rights, organised within the framework of the British Chairmanship of the Council of Europes Committee of Ministers, will kick off tomorrow in Brighton (until 20 April). The aim of the Conference is that the Ministers of the 47 member states of the CoE agree on a package of measures leading to the reform of the Strasbourg Court. According to a note from the CoE, at the Interlaken (2010) and Izmir (2011) Conferences, member states, while recognising the extraordinary contribution of the Court to the protection of human rights in Europe (Ed.s note: over 10,000 judgements in 50 years), agreed unanimously that its reform is needed in order to ensure the continuing effectiveness of the Convention system. The aim of the Brighton Conference, British Prime Minister David Cameron explained on his recent visit to Strasbourg, will be to agree on a package of concrete reforms to ensure that the Court can be most effective for all 800 million citizens of Council of Europe member states. The United Kingdom, for its part, supports the reform, but over the past few months, there has been much debate among the Courts supporters and its detractors. The latter would like to see the privileges of the Strasbourg judges limited and the influence of the body reduced.
Jean-Claude Mignon, president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, welcomes the release of the Belarusan opponent and former presidential nominee Andrei Sannikov, whom in May had been sentenced to five years in prison, and of his former assistant Dzmitry Bandarenka, and urges president Lukashenko to fully free and rehabilitate all the other political prisoners. Recalling that last January PACE had deplored that a given number of people, including former presidential nominees, civil activists and well-known human rights defenders, should stay in prison for political reasons, Mignon mentioned the Assemblys resolution 1857 and explained that some of the pardoned political prisoners stated that, in order to be released, they were forced to ask for clemency and plead guilty. In many cases, he added, the freed prisoners state they were tortured, received poor medical care and were denied actual access to legal defence. Hence the call for an extensive and reliable investigation into such charges of abuse and torture during arrest and imprisonment, defined by the president of PACE as essential.
This trial is reopening an extremely painful wound associated with a tragedy that is the fruit of human folly. Its a bit too early to say something today: we will have to wait for the conclusions, but for the people here its clear: this trial will never bring the victims lives back. And this is the greatest loss, the greatest pain. This statement opens the interview about the ongoing trial of the rightist extremist Anders Breivik in Oslo that SIR EUROPE had with mgr. Rolandas Makrickas, delegate of the apostolic nunciature to the Nordic countries. These events - he states - are still too recent to forget them and heal such a great pain. Its been less than a year since the tragedy. However, the government has been very determined in insisting that now the time has come to recover and move on and that such horrible things should not decrease or affect a whole countrys wish to stay open and democratic. A deeper reflection will probably be made after the end of this trial. What can be very clearly seen is that the wound is still open and still very raw in these people. What I can very clearly and distinctly feel is that the Norwegians, despite their still raw pain, are seeking justice and want to understand the reasons behind such great evil, but they do not wish for revenge on the murderer.
(Sir Europe - Brussels) - In 2012, at least 130 thousand young people will receive support to work as interns abroad. Such figure should rise to about 150 thousand next year: this was stated by the European Commission in opening its We Mean Business campaign, the aim of which is to encourage businesses to create more internships to promote the skills and employability of young people. Tomorrow, the EU Executive will reveal a wide package of proposals to promote growth and employment: one of such goals is to encourage employment in green economy, health care, and new ITC technology. But, today, in giving a preview of such provisions, the attention is focussed on young people and internships abroad, aiming to strengthen professional training, advanced education and language learning. Internships - the EU Commission explains - can help young people move from the academic world to their first job. Such placements can also be beneficial for the companies, as they can find prospective employees who, with their fresh ideas, could be key to future productivity and competitiveness. In the two years 2012-2013, the EU Executive will give financial support to 280 thousand placements through Leonardo da Vinci and Erasmus programmes.
The Governmental representatives - the notice of Cet states - highlighted, however, that such claim does not depend on the new Constitution but can be granted under a special law. The next meetings will cover the problems of the property of the Church, the schools, hospitals, and other assets the Latin Catholic Church currently owns. With patience - the release ends - the talks between the two sides suggest there is a chance of finding an agreement. As mentioned by SIR yesterday, the meeting is due to the initiative of the Turkish ambassador to the Holy See, Kenan Gürsoy. The delegation of the Church was composed of mgr. Ruggero Franceschini, president of Cet, mgr. Louis Pelâtre, apostolic vicar of Istanbul, mgr. Georges Khazzoum (for Armenian Catholics), mgr. Yusuf Sað (for Syro-Catholics) and the spokesman of Cet, Rinaldo Marmara. On February 20th, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, had a hearing too.
A meeting that, spent in a serene climate, sounds promising… With patience, the talks between the two sides suggest there is a chance of finding an agreement. This was written in a short release, in which the Turkish Bishops Conference (Cet) took stock of the hearing it had yesterday with the Grand Assembly, which is like the Italian Parliament, during which it explained its problems and its claims, to be added to the new Constitution that is being drawn up. As is known, the Latin Catholic Church asks that its legal status be acknowledged as a Church in Turkey. (continued)
So, the associations say they are also concerned for the fact the access of young people to independence is increasingly difficult: 25% of homeless people are aged 18 to 24. Then, there is the problem of housing. 3.6 million French people live in seriously inadequate houses; 665,000 people have no house of their own, and 113,000 of them are homeless. Then, a section of the appeal speaks of migrants and foreigners. It is urgent to respect the rights of migrants and their families, who are the victims of a world that is looking for its own balance. Foreigners should not be regarded as a burden at the margins of society, exploitable and exploited, but as human beings who take part in the life of the city. Then, the associations warn: the State is not to blame for all this. And so they call to personal and joint responsibility, because, if the main policies depend on the State, they largely depend on our routine practices as well. And they conclude: ‘I was hungry, you gave me food. ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me. For us Christians, these words of Christs (Matthew 25) enlighten our choices, not only when there is some election. With all the believers and non believers who want justice, we refuse to tolerate the intolerable. Together, we can build a sympathetic society.
The current presidential election is upsetting. Lies, unmet promises, using scapegoats, are outrageous. But being outraged is not enough. We are partly responsible for the choices we are going to make. So, this is an appeal to the French and a denunciation of the way the election campaign is taking place, in the run-up to the 22nd April (first round) and 6th May (second round). They were made by a cartel of seven Christian associations, including the Association of Christian Intellectuals; Ccfd-Terre Solidaire; Society of Saint Vincent, Aic; Cimade, Caritas (Secours Catholique), and Scouts and Guides of France. The appeal - relayed by the Catholic newspaper La Croix and by the Protestant paper Réforme and, here, in Italy, by Sir Europe - points out that even France has fallen into recession: The crisis is everywhere, at all levels. French society is fragile, even worse, it might break down because an increasing part of its members is groping in poverty and uncertainty. The appeal shows alarming figures: More and more people in France, despite having an income from their job, are no longer able to live decently. The poor are sinking down, the middle classes are lagging behind. Unemployment is relentless and lasting and mainly hits women and young people. (continued)
(Sir Europe - Strasbourg) - The response to the economic crisis, the EU employment plan, the fight against fiscal evasion all over the EU: these are some of the points on the agenda of the plenary session of the European Parliament, convened in Strasbourg from today to 20th April. The tight schedule of the four days meeting includes a discussion about human rights in the world (a report will be approved), another one about the trafficking of human beings, and another one about the European Unions joining the European Convention on Human Right. Then, the European Parliament will vote on the new EU-USA agreement about the transfer of European air passengers personal details. Another two reports will be about university training and fuel taxation. A solemn session will be held on 18th April with the King of Jordan, Abdullah II. He will give a speech about relations between Amman and the 27 member states, the role of the country in the Middle Eastern scenario, the stability of the region between the Mediterranean and Iran, never-ending tension between Israel and Palestine, the Arab Spring, and riots in such countries as Syria. Today, on opening its session, the European Parliament will precisely discuss Syria, as well as Mali, Myanmar and other states with the European Unions High Representative for Foreign Policy, Catherine Ashton.