(Sir Europe - Bratislava) - Respect for the decision of the Holy Father, filial devotion and promise to serve God, Catholic Church, all believers of the Pinsk diocese and anyone who seeks God. These are the future preferences of the new bishop of Pinsk, Belarus, appointed by pope Benedict XVI on 3 May. In an interview by www.catholic.by, Mons. Antonyi Dzemyanko expressed hope that his work will be a common collaboration with people who work within Pinsk Catholic Church in various parishes: I pray for them and also ask for prayers. The bishop counts on his rich experience arising from serving as a responsible for liturgy, families and Caritas Belarus within the Bishopsconference, as well as from 32 years of priesthood and his previous ministry of an executive bishop of Minsk-Mohilev, planning to pay a great deal of attention to formation of new clergy. I believe that my knowledge and experience that I want to share, will help the students of the seminary in Pinsk to become well prepared for a vocation to priesthood given to them by Lord, added Mons. Dzemyanko. He recalled an example of bravery of priests from his diocese who suferred persecution during the Soviet reign and whose lives remind him that priesthood means diligence.
(Sir Europe - Bratislava) - Canada will experience a series of events of great historic and spiritual significance to millions of Eastern Christians. This year, the country commemorates the centenary of the arrival of the first Ukrainian Catholic bishop, Nykyta Budka, in Canada. He served as a sole hierarch for the vast Eastern European immigrant population throughout the entire country for fifteen years. Then he was recalled to Ukraine where he served for another eighteen years as a bishop before his arrest by the Soviet regime and death as a martyr in 1949. Due to this anniversary, the archbishop of Winnipeg, metropolitan Lawrence Huculak, invited the Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) to hold their annual convocation at the historic see of Winnipeg on 9-15 September, presided over by His Beatitude Sviatoslav Schevchuk. The bishops will further develop their goal of a complete revitalization of the UGCC that has already been set into motion. By following the strategy referred to as Vision 2020, they hope to see an increase of membership in the Church. According to the recent statistics, the UGCC members in Canada number well over a milion.
In the same place, on May 11th, the parish priest of the Greek Catholic Church of St Michael was attacked by two men, who also stole his money and personal belongings. Several agencies, including Fides, also said that some armed men drove all the Christian families out of the village of Al Borj Al Qastal, in the Hama province. Some armed gangs - in the troops of the varied Syrian Liberation Army - sneaked into the village and drove out all the families, taking possession of their homes and converting the local church into the military HQ. All such violence must be stopped - the patriarch repeats -. We cannot go on like this. Saying the Government is committing it is not enough. There are lots of places that are under the control of the Opposition and armed people, if not gangsters. Christians are not subjects of the Government, but it must rule. The world cannot watch such violence and do or say nothing. If we really want peace to set in in the Middle East and retain such a viable Christian presence in the region, then Israel-Palestinian conflict needs to be solved. Europe, more than any other country of the international community, must work hard in this sense.
A country in chaos. Rascals and criminals, undercover foreigners in opposition groups, are taking advantage of it. Abductions, abuse, theft and violence are happening, again and again, against the Christians who are fleeing the country. Scenes that we have sadly learnt to see in nearby Iraq. On the day the EU ministers of Foreign Affairs approved a new set of sanctions, the 15th, against Bashar al Assads regime, SIR spoke with the Greek Melkite Patriarch of Antioch, Gregorios III Laham. The double terrorist attack that occurred in Damascus the last weekend and that killed over 50 people and injured hundreds, is, according to the patriarch, a gesture of unprecedented cruelty that took the lives of so many innocent peoples. Violence caused by undercover foreigners in our country. Syrians of all faiths, especially Christians and Muslims, have lived together in this land for centuries. The chaotic situation in which we are now cannot but fuel tension and terror, especially among the minorities. These violent people are finding shelter in the Christian neighbourhoods after the Syrian security forces had driven them out of their positions. Lots of Christian families are now leaving their homes, explains Gregorios III, mentioning, for instance, the village of Qara, where about 600 families have arrived from the Homs region in a very short time.
The problem is that not many of them are willing to undertake the journey leading to this goal. The bishops express gratitude to all those who are not afraid of marriage and having children, accepting all challenges associated with it. Family becomes fruitful by balancing work and rest, providing tenderness and love, effort and unselfishness, concludes the letter, inviting the faithful to support the institution of family with prayers and initiatives.
(Sir Europe - Bratislava) - The family institution has no alternative, affirm Czech and Moravian bishops in their pastoral letter written on the occasion of the forthcoming VII World Meeting of Families in Milan. According to their words, family is a place where people adhere to the sense of responsibility. Indeed, the freedom, justice and tolerance of our civil society depend on the level of education given to children by their parents. Individualism and desire for personal benefit, typical of our times, make our families fragile, write the prelates, emphasizing that the first victims of such attitude are children, lacking positive examples of behaviour. In spite of this tendency, the members of the Bishops Conference of the Czech Republic see hope in the fact that according to recent statistics, 90% of citizens in the country declare finding a suitable partner for a lasting relationship to be the highest value of their lives. (continued)
Considering that the same person set the same cross on fire ten years ago - a statement signed by Mgr. Marjan Turnšek, metropolitan archbishop of Maribor and president of the Commission, reads - we are seeing a repeated performance of an act that had already been morally and legally rejected in the cultural space of Slovenia. Hence the appeal to the national competent authorities to determine in the shortest time frame possible, the presence and extent of civil and criminal liability of the perpetrators according to the penal code, the provisions of the Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia, and the Law on Religious Freedom, all of which unequivocally condemn incitation of religious hatred and intolerance. On 17 May, there will be a celebration of reconciliation entitled Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do! in the parish of the Apparition of Mary in Strunjan.
An act of public incitation and provocation of religious hatred and intolerance through desecration of religious symbols of Christianity, an attempt at stigmatization of Christians in our society and an effort to deliberately offend religious feelings. The Commission for Justice and Peace of the Slovenian Bishops Conference (CES) described in these words the christianophobic burning of the cross at Strunjan, on 10 May 2012, by Dean Verzel, an artist who set the same cross on fire ten years ago and was prosecuted for this act, but acquitted. The cross was erected by seamen and fishermen in the year 1600 to fulfill a vow and obtain divine protection on the sea. Last year, it was restored by the local residents in preparation for this years celebration of the 500th anniversary of apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary. (continued)
(Sir Europe - Brussels) - The EU Commission is still working to defend and strengthen European citizens rights. Having launched the Citizens Initiative on April 1st and in the run-up to the Citizens Year in 2013, the Have your Say campaign has been launched to collect feedback and suggestions about how to remove the obstacles found when working, studying or living in some other EU member state. The European citizens can have their say through a consultation on the EUs citizens (open until 9th September 2012). Feedback, ideas and experiences will inspire the next EUs Citizenship Report, due to be submitted in 2013. The previous Report found 25 measures that the EU should take to make sure its citizens can effectively assert their rights. Such measures - according to the EU Executive - are well under way. Some examples? Cutting down on bureaucracy for registration of a car in a different EU member state, settlement of problems of inheritance tax in a different EU member state. It should be kept in mind that citizens of a members state do not just have national rights, but also a number of additional rights that are acknowledged in all of the 27 member states and are protected by treaties. For more info: http://ec.europa.eu/news/pdf/haveyoursay_it.pdf
(Sir Europe - Brussels) - Making the European dimension grow among the young, bringing the new generations closer to the integration process, collecting ideas and plans that will encourage the development of a shared feeling of European identity: these are some of the goals of the Charlemagne Prize for the Youth, with the 2012 awards ceremony due to take place in Aachen, Germany. Guests at the ceremony, with twenty-six young people aged 16 to 30 who won the national selection (Malta did not take part), will include the president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, the former president of the European Assembly, Hans-Gert Pöttering, the President of the Charlemagne Prize Foundation, Michael Jansen, and the Mayor of the city of Aachen, Marcel Philip. The selected projects - the promoters explain - include cultural exchanges, conferences and Internet project of European scope. Now in its fifth year, the award consists in a cheque for the first three winners across the EU and a visit to the European Parliaments headquarters. For further information about the origin and goals of the awards or for a list of national winners, visit http://www.charlemagneyouthprize.eu.
The new Life Week opened in Portugal yesterday (until 20th May) and, with it, the countrys Bishops Conference aims at calling families to political involvement in defence of their own rights and duties. Quoting the appeal made in 1991 by John Paul II, the National Department of the Family Pastoral Service (Dnpf) issued a document, which states that awareness raising and common ethical efforts are needed to promote an effective pro-life strategy. We must join forces to build a new culture of life. Focussed on the Committed to Life theme, the Life Week revolves around John Paul IIs encyclical Evangelium vitae. Speaking to families as the protagonists of social change, Dnpfs document calls for a reflection on the culture of life that currently prevails in individual Christians, within families, groups and diocesan communities, to promote a serious, extensive cultural debate. This years theme must be a basis for an essential investigation, consisting of moments of individual prayer, praying in groups, in families and in communities. Everyone is responsible for having life, as Gods gift, worshipped, loved and promoted. The Weeks documents can be consulted at www.leigos.pt/semanadavida/2012/index.html.
Yesterday, due to the bad weather, the Pope could not visit La Verna where St. Francis received the stigmata. In La Verna - the address prepared by Benedict XVI for the cancelled visit reads - St. Francis experienced in himself the profound unity between following Christ and ‘imitatio e conformatio Christi. To us too, he says: saying that you are Christian does not make you a Christian, and trying to do good works does not make you a Christian either. According to the Pope we need to conform ourselves to Christ, through a slow, progressive transformation of our being, in the image of the Lord, so that, by Gods grace, each member of His Body, which is the Church, may resemble the Head, Christ Our Lord. Bringing Christs love! Many pilgrims - the Holy Father remarked - climbed and still climb this Sacred Mountain to contemplate the Love of the Crucified God and be captivated by Him. Many pilgrims have climbed in search of God, which is the true reason why the Church exists: to serve as a bridge between God and mankind. And here, they also meet you, sons and daughters of St. Francis. Hence a call to bring Christs love to the man of our time, who is often a prisoner of his own individualism; be a sign of Gods infinite mercy!.
This thousandth anniversary provides an opportunity for reflection which is, at the same time, an inner journey along the paths of faith and commitment to rediscovering the Christian roots, so that the values of the Gospel may continue to bear fruit in the souls and daily lives of the people. Benedict XVI said this yesterday evening, upon meeting with the citizens in Torre di Berta Square in Sansepolcro on the occasion of the thousandth anniversary of foundation of the city (click here). Today, the Pope remarked, there is a need for the service of the Church in the world to be carried out by enlightened lay faithful, able to work inside the city of man, willing to serve beyond personal interests and biased views. The common good is more important than that of a single individual, and Christians are also called to contribute to the creation of a new public ethics. So the Pontiff said: Christians, especially young people, are called to respond to the general distrust in political and social commitment with their commitment and love for responsibility, showing evangelical charity, which requires all of us not to close in upon ourselves, but to care for others.
As Mother of the Church, the Most Holy Mary always wants to comfort her children at times of great difficulty and suffering. Benedict XVI said this yesterday morning (click here), before praying the Regina Cæli in Il Prato Park in Arezzo. This city has often experienced her maternal assistance. So, today too, we entrust to her intercession all the people and families of your community who find themselves in situations of great need. At the same time, he continued, through Mary, we implore from God the gift of moral comfort, so that the community of Arezzo, and the whole of Italy, may resist the temptation of discouragement and, strengthened by this great humanist tradition, may resume the path of spiritual and ethical renewal, as only this can lead to an authentic improvement of civil and social life. Each and everyone can and must make their contribution to this.
Be ferment in society, be present as Christians, be active and coherent: this was the invitation made by Benedict XVI (click here) to the community of Arezzo during the Mass celebrated in Il Prato Park on the first leg of his pastoral visit to Arezzo, La Verna and Sansepolcro. Among the treasures of your tradition - he recalled - you are proud of your Christian identity, which is visible in many signs and rooted devotions such as the one to Our Lady of Comfort. According to the Pontiff we must ask ourselves, especially in this Region which is the homeland of the Renaissance, what vision of man we can propose to the new generations. The Word of God we have just heard is a powerful invitation to live Gods love towards all, and among the distinctive values of the culture of this land are solidarity, attention to the weakest, and respect for the dignity of all. Of course - the Holy Father remarked -, your Province was also severely affected by the economic crisis. So the Diocesan Church is called to be caring and attentive towards people in need and also to teach how to overcome the purely materialistic logic which often marks our age and ultimately clouds our sense of solidarity and charity.