Even if religions are not a political party or a financial lobby, they are not weak; they have the power of prayer and faith, which through sincere dialogue can make the world more humane. This was said in Sarajevo today by the cardinal archbishop Vinko Puljic, who spoke at the press conference for the presentation of the International Meeting for Peace Sarajevo 2012, due to take place from 9th to 11th September on the initiative of Comunità di SantEgidio, 20 years after the war in former Yugoslavia and 15 years after the historic visit of John Paul II. We have been forced by love to promote the Meeting in Sarajevo, added today mgr. Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Bishops Conference of Umbria, who thinks that our task today, as people of religion, is to redesign the future of mankind. We would like to start from Sarajevo, the scene of the deepest grief caused by war in the last century. Other people at the press conference included delegates of the Islamic community, the Serbian Orthodox Patriarchate and the Jewish community in Bosnia and Herzegovina - Croatians, Serbians and Bosnians - taking part in the organisation of the meeting. The special participation of His Holiness Irinej, patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and Herman van Rompuy, president of the European Council, was also announced.
For the first time Caritas Europa Regional Conference is to be held in Warsaw, from 10 to 12 May. Participating in the Conference dedicated to migration issues will be, alongside the chair of the organisation Erny Gillen, the president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, Card. Robert Sarah, and the president of the Polish Bishops Conference, Mons. Jozef Michalik. The Conference will also be attended by Caritas Poland Director, Father Marian Subocz, and by representatives of 49 member organisations of Caritas Europa. The Conference - promoters explain - will be the occasion not only to present the activities of the organisation, but also to exchange experiences and discuss future challenges and activities both at European and regional levels. As Caritas Europa Secretary-General Jorge Nuno Mayer recently said, the organisation is committed to effectively supporting the implementation of humanitarian principles as a key element in ensuring a safe humanitarian space and providing the needy with the help they need.
Second - Commissioner Lewandowski continues -, in recent years the Member States within the Council and the European Parliament have adopted EU budgets that were well below our estimated needs for payments. This has led to a ‘snowballing effect of unpaid bills as each year we could not honour some of our legal commitments due to shortages of funds. When your electricity or water bill arrives - the Polish commissioner says -, you must pay it even if you seek savings. Italian MEP Giovanni La Via, European Parliaments Rapporteur for the 2013 EU General Budget, also comments on the Commissions proposal. I hope that the proposed budget will allow EU projects to continue without difficulty. This is why we asked the European Commission to make a realistic proposal for payments. This proposal looks sufficient even though it is below our requests. To recover from the crisis, I am convinced that we need ‘more Europe not ‘less Europe. Therefore I don‘t agree totally on this proposal. We need a stronger commitment to find effective ways to get back to growth and job creation that are the priorities agreed by all three European Institutions.
(Sir Europe - Brussels) - The Commissions draft budget for 2013 - which is now to be approved by the Council and the European Parliament - includes €62.5 billion in investments to stimulate growth and employment in Europe. This is the biggest budget item, accounting for 46.7% of the overall budget. The Commission says: A particular effort has been made towards the Research Framework Programmes (€9.0 billion, 28.1% increase on 2012), the competitiveness and innovation programmes, structural and cohesion funds, as well as life long learning. €50 billion, that is, 40% of the budget would go to agriculture and the preservation and management of natural resources. It is legitimate for people to wonder why we call for a 6.8% increase in payments in these times of crisis, says Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski. There are two reasons for this: first, 2013 is the last year of the current financial period and the last year of each financial period always sees a sharp increase in payments as EU-funded projects across Europe reach completion: bridges, railways, motorways have been built for the greater good of all, now we must pay the bills for them. (continued)
The health of the former Prime Minister of Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko, and the conditions in which she is detained are being reviewed by the European Court for Human Rights. It was disclosed today by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, who said he is very worried about the news he has just received about Tymoshenko, who was already in poor health, having been even beaten up in jail. It is in the Ukrainian Governments interest - Jagland stated - to make such reports be transparently and reliably investigated and, if needed, to punish the offenders. Last August - he added -, Ms Tymoshenko appealed to the Court of Strasbourg, claiming that her indictment and detention were politically grounded, not criminally grounded, that the legitimacy of her temporary imprisonment was completely overlooked, that the conditions in which she is detained are inappropriate and she is not receiving appropriate health care. On 15th March, the Court asked the Ukrainian Government to provide details so as to understand whether Yulia Tymoshenko is actually receiving appropriate health care, and it is still waiting for a reply. I hope - Jagland concluded - I may receive its conclusions soon.
We must not deny or forget this new conflict. Christine du Coudray Wiehe, director of the Africa section at Aiuto alla Chiesa che soffre (Acs), asks us not to turn our eyes away from the border between Sudan and South Sudan. The risk of a new war is high - she reports in a note -, because that is what the Sudanese president Omar Hassan al Bashir wants himself. Nearly ten months after the independence of South Sudan, Juba and Khartoum have not yet agreed about the boundary that separates the two States. According to the experts, a war between the two countries would result in much more serious consequences than the civil war that killed over two million people from 1985 to 2005. In the meantime, the population lives in fear. The Acs executive says that the Sudanese Government prevents the NGOs handing out food or setting up refugee camps: The Church plays a key role in supporting the population, but it cannot make it, on its own. We have to take action as soon as possible. Last Monday, Acs received an appeal from the bishop of Khartoum, rev. Ezekiel Kondo, who tells: A plan seems to be under way to wipe us out of the northern regions. Our only certainty is that Church will stay in Sudan and will keep working, despite the huge challenges it will encounter in the process.
A note in defence of the land and rights of the native populations, the Quilombolas, the fishermen and other traditional populations. It was written by the Brazilian Bishops Conference (Cnbb), as relayed today by the agency Fides. The Brazilian Bishops deeply deplore the postponement of the administrative boundary procedure, as well as the invasion and exploitation of the traditional peoples land. So, the state of discrimination and murders which the Guarani-Kaiowá are exposed to in Mato Grosso do Sul should be watched over. According to the Bishops, it is a veritable genocide that sullies Brazils reputation as a country that defends human rights. We vehemently reject the attack unleashed by the ruralist group and other segments of the National Congress against the rights of the native populations, considered by our Constitution, through the constitutional reform plan, to be PEC 215/2000, the note reads. According to the president of the Pastoral Commission for the Land, mgr. Enemésio Lazzaris, bishop of Balsas, the region is more than the land, it is a relationship that is built with the place in which one lives, where their ancestors lived, where they were raised and where families are made.
The official liturgical hymn for the 7th World Meeting of Families, entitled Your family gives you thanks, has been released. The hymn was written and set to music by Father Claudio Burgio, Choir master and director of the Musical Chapel of the Milan Duomo. The hymn, recorded by the Cara Beltà Choir and the Orchestra of the Sacred Music Academy, both directed by Diego Montrone, will mark the event, from the Theological-Pastoral Congress to the Holy Mass celebrated by Benedict XVI on Sunday 3 June. It will be sung in four parts by all the choirs that will participate in the Feast of Testimonies and the Mass. More than 1,400 choristers will sing at Bresso Airport, from the Musical chapel of the Duomo, to La Verdi Choir, including the choir of Vareses St. Vittore Basilica, Cremonas Gregorian singers, and many other singers from parishes and deaneries of the diocese of Milan. The singers will be accompanied by La Verdi Orchestra. The words of the hymn, revised and approved by Card. Angelo Scola and Card. Ennio Antonelli, celebrate the Trinity, also on the occasion of the Feast of the Most Blessed Trinity due to be celebrated on 3 June. The image of the Trinity is an expression of the family viewed as a subject of communion and father-child relationships. You can listen to the hymn at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dwo3rZzCMBM
(Sir Europe - Brussels) - Economy, geopolitics, energy. These are the three topics of the sessions of the second The State of the Union conference, organised for 9th and 10th May by the European University Institute, a EU body based in Florence. The Salone dei Cinquecento in Palazzo Vecchio, in the heart of the Italian city, will host speakers and guests from all over the European Union. The purpose of the conference is to bring together high profile people on behalf of the European and national institutions and the academic and economic world, to start a debate - the organisers state - about the EUs development and future. Guests include: the president of the EU Commission, José Manuel Barroso; the Italian Prime Minister, Mario Monti; Olli Rehn, EU Commissioner for Economic Affairs; Michel Barnier, Commissioner for the Domestic Market; Tony Barber of the Financial Times; Jean-François Cirelli, president of Gaz de France-Suez; Barry Eichengreen, professor of economics at Berkeley University; Anne-Marie Slaughter, professor of international politics and affairs at Princeton University. The three sessions will be named: Economic governance for the European Union; The EU in a new world; The energy policy in the European Union. For information: www.eui.eu.
The work of the Commission of the European Bishops Conferences (Comece) for the Middle East goes on. On Wednesday 9th May, Comece, along with the European peoples party and the ECR parties at the European Parliament, will organise a workshop on Christians in the Middle East and Northern Africa, which somehow takes inspiration from the workshop held two years ago about the persecution of Christians. The conference, which will be hosted by the European Parliament in Brussels, is called Christians in the Arab world: one year after the Arab Spring. The conference will be opened by the submission of reports about the state of Christians in the Arab world by such associations as Aiuto alla Chiesa che soffre, Open Doors International and Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Then, other speakers will address, in particular, the practice of religious freedom in the Arab world: Cornelius Hulsman, editor of the Arab-West Report (Egypt); mgr. Samir Nassar, Maronite Archbishop of Damascus (Syria); father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, custodian of the Holy Land (Jerusalem), and Damianos Kattar, former Finance Minister (Lebanon). This workshop - a Comece notice reads - will help us understand to what extent the Arab Spring meets the expectations of the more liberal values, such as democracy and fundamental rights. Conclusions will be drawn by mgr. Piotr Mazurkiewicz, secretary general of Comece.
In the run-up to the World Day of Prayer for Vocations that is celebrated on 29th April, Good Shepherd Sunday, about the theme chosen by Benedict XVI, Vocations, the gift of Gods charity, the Irish Bishops Conference has posted on its website www.catholicbishops.ie a special web page called Vocations Sunday 2012. The page opens with an interview with father Willie Purcell, national coordinator for diocesan vocations, who defines his own vocation as a gift and takes stock of the situation of vocations in Ireland and the diocesan directors programmes for vocations in the run-up to the 50th International Eucharistic Congress (Dublin, 10 - 17 June). People - father Purcell notices - still look at priests to find strength in times of weakness, courage and hope in times of desperation. People still believe in their priests; a confidence that is born of the hard work and devotion they see deployed in their parishes, schools, hospitals, universities and community life. The full text of Pope Benedict XVIs message for the Day 2012, documents of the Congregation for the Clergy, a prayer for vocations to be said in the parishes, links and useful contacts for diocesan vocation directors, an interview with card. Timothy Dolan about the happiness that attracts to the priestly call, have also been posted on such web page.
From Ajaccio to Paris passing through Strasbourg and Lille. Up to now, 109 churches across France have confirmed their participation in the event Night of Churches, which invites cathedrals, chapels, shrines and parishes to open their doors to the public on Saturday 7 June, offering a varied program of spiritual and artistic activities to make themselves known. Following the success of last years edition, the National Service for Pastoral Care of the French Bishops Conference decided to re-stage the event: each community is free to decide whether to open the doors of its church during the evening or all night long. This year, those who participate in the event must sign a Charter of commitments to unite different local events under a common goal: the Church asks dioceses that scheduled events be aimed at promoting the artistic and cultural heritage of the Church so as to make the Christian message known. It is also important to respect the sacredness of the places that will host the events. And finally all events must be organised on the same day. The organisers also encourage local communities to light up the façade of their churches in order to highlight their presence among citizens, promote their architectural beauty and invite passers-by in.
(Sir Europe - Brussels) - Investing more in university education, bringing the universities closer to the professional word, promoting students and teachers mobility all over Europe. These are some of the points that will be discussed by the Higher Education Ministers of 47 European countries (those connected with the European Councils Bologna Accords) gathering in Bucharest on April 26th and 27th to agree on reforms for the establishment of a more modern European Higher Education Space. EU Education Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou claimed that the member states must urgently modernise their higher education system to respond to the crisis and to the rise in youth unemployment rates. In her opinion, the European Space of Higher Education has undoubtedly helped fill the gap between the systems of the different countries. But more must be done. Europe must implement reforms that will fully develop its potentials. The preferred goals of the EU Commission include excellent education and skills fit for the employment market; in addition, stimuli to innovation and guarantees of adequate acknowledgement of academic qualifications must be provided. But Vassiliou warns that such goals cannot be achieved without adequate funds.
(Sir Europe - Brussels) - Two complementary sides of one coin. This is how the EU Commission, which yesterday submitted its European budget for 2013, sees the relation between the European Unions budget and the budgets of the member states: the former should be mostly growth oriented, while national budgets are austerity oriented so as to respond to the economic crisis. Overall the budget for next year amounts to 150.9 billion euros for future allocations, that is, 2% more than last year, in keeping with the current inflation rate. Payments - i.e. actually incurred expenses - account for 137.9 billion euros, which is 6.8% more. This is the logical consequence of the allocations of the past, Janusz Lewandowski, budget and financial planning director, explains. And he adds: The vast majority of the citizens across the EU feel the effects of the crisis at a time in which the national, regional and local governments have to make cuts. So the EU institutions working as if they were in routine conditions is not acceptable. After all, funds should be transferred from programmes that bear no fruits to such priority areas as the small and medium enterprises, youth and employment.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), which is holding its plenary assembly in Strasbourg until tomorrow, adopted a resolution calling on Arab Spring countries to introduce reforms to enhance the status of women and eradicate all forms of discrimination against them and to promote womens representation in elected public bodies. According to the PACE, these countries should also bring legislation in the area of family and personal status law into line with international human rights standards, and introduce a legal framework aimed at preventing and prosecuting all forms of violence against women. As proposed by the rapporteur, Fatiha Saïdi (Belgium, SOC), the Assembly also invited the countries of the region to consider the prospects for parliamentary dialogue offered by the status of Partner for Democracy, which the Moroccan parliament obtained in June 2011. Finally, the PACE welcomed the initiatives taken by the Secretary General and other Council of Europe bodies to establish closer dialogue with the countries of the region, especially Morocco and Tunisia, and invited the Committee of Ministers to pursue this course of action through political dialogue and specific action plans - drawn up in consultation with the authorities of the countries concerned - whilst ensuring that gender equality and the enhancement of the status of women are high priorities.