(Sir Europe - Brussels) - Organised crime prospers because we are blind; it is important to carry out a pedagogical work, to raise the awareness of European citizens. Jean-Franēois Gayraud, Chief Commissioner of the French police, took the floor at a conference held today in the European Parliament on the theme Impact of organised crime in the EU and the fight against it. The European Parliament has just established a new Committee in charge of combating transnational organized crime and mafias. During the Conference, the president of the EP Committee, Sonia Alfano, noted the massive negative impact of mafias in the Union. Today there is talk of criminal mafia systems not just in Italy: there is growing awareness that they are a real threat to citizens freedom and safety. In this sense the Committee will stress the need to attack criminal patrimonies anywhere in the world. Giovanni Kessler, Director of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) declared: Experience shows that organized crime has always a transnational dimension. This is why we cannot tackle this problem with national instruments: we need an integrated approach.
Economic activities; lifestyles; consumption; and protection of creation: these are the topics for discussion at the Summit on Global responsibility and environmental sustainability that is being held (until tomorrow) at the Theological School of Halki, Greece. The event is sponsored by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew, in co-operation with the Southern New Hampshire University (United States). Experts from different countries and backgrounds will discuss topical and timely issues that will also be discussed at the G20 Summit in Los Cabos (Mexico), during the European Sustainable Energy Week (until 22 June at the European level) and at the forthcoming Earth Summit Rio+20 (Rio de Janeiro, 20-22 June). Special attention will be paid to the relation between Christian faith, lifestyles and respect for Creation, and the relative pastoral and ecclesial implications. The work will include three specific sessions on biodiversity and conservation; energy and climate change; and economy and innovation. The closing speech will be by Metropolitan John Zizioulas of Pergamon. The Halki Summit is the eight meeting organized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in the past few years to discuss and exchange views on environmental issues.
(Sir Europe - Brussels) - Unfortunately, slavery has not been confined to history books yet. It is horrifying to see that in this day and age human beings are still sold or forced to work or to prostitution. Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, in presenting the European Strategy for the eradication of human slavery (2012-2016), makes some comments about the trafficking of children, men and women pf all ages that happens in the world as well as in the old continent. The EU Executives proposal, which will now be reviewed by the EU Council and by the EU Parliament, includes a set of concrete, practical measures to be taken in the next five years, such as the establishment of national units specialising in the fight against human slavery and joint European detective teams to investigate international slavery. The Swedish commissioner adds: The key purpose of our initiative is to enable the victims to get support and traders to be brought to justice. We are still far from having this, but our purpose cannot but be: eradicating human slavery. (continued)
In order to come out of the Syrian crisis and put an end to the conflict, it is urgent that all Syrians unify efforts for a genuine national dialogue: this is what Gregory III Laham, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, told Fides news agency, inaugurating the Synod of the Greek Melkite Catholic Church in progress in Lebanon, in the presence of bishops and representatives from the Middle East, Europe, America and Australia. As reported by Fides, the Patriarch expressed solidarity to our Syrian people, tenacious in their quest for life, dignity and unity of their country, hoping the convergence of all social and religious components in the search for a global reform of the country, which must be implemented in all fields of the political, social, cultural and administrative reality, through the efforts of all the Syrians: the government, political parties, intellectuals, constructive opposition. We urge all parties involved in the country and abroad - Patriarch Laham added -, to participate in the construction of a new Syria, on the model of a plural democracy, since violence has exceeded all limits and is destroying the nation. The Patriarch also made an appeal not to push innocent citizens in the political conflict and not to terrorize civilians with kidnappings, murders, extortion, destruction and seizure of their property.
Today the culture of novelty seems to be the key to interpreting our globalised world. Thus to ensure that faith is not affected by the daily decadence brought about by the self-destructive whirlpool of novelty, there is a need to confirm the permanent role of the Gospel in our daily lives, to recognise that its proclamation is somehow capable of countering this trend, but also to seek new tools and new forms of expression to adapt the Gospel proclamation to different contexts. Mgr. Fortunato Frezza, under secretary of the Synod of Bishops, said this during a press conference held this morning in the Holy See Press Office to present the Instumentum laboris of the XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on The New Evangelisation for the Transmission of the Christian Faith (7-28 October 2012). The focus of the three-week Synodal reflection - Mgr. Frezza explained - will be on faith which is the goal of pastoral activity. And also on the Year of Faith which will engage the Universal Church in the long-term, stimulating her reflection on the faith and renewing her pastoral activity in a technological and globalised world, that is, in a world that today runs the risk of becoming anonymous, monochrome, and ephemeral in terms of meaning of life both for the individual as a conscious person and for human communities.
(Sir Europe - Brussels) - The humanitarian crisis in Syria is increasingly worrying, we are on the verge of civil war, there are lots and lots of evacuees, no water, no medicines or services. The schools are still closed down, and this situation, even prospectively, might hugely damage the populations. This is the warning given by Claus Sųrensen, director of Humanitarian Aids and Civil Defence (Echo) at the European Commission, during a hearing at the Development Commission of the EU Parliament, during which the EUs response to the humanitarian crises in Sahel, Syria, Yemen and other countries was discussed. It is important to allocate more funds for the Syrian population, but, first, it is essential that we review the efforts that have been made so far by the local authorities to face the current emergency. A high alert level, then, and a continuation of talks with the authorities are the EU Commissions main prerequisites. We are also thinking of holding the Humanitarian Forum earlier instead of July, to increase political pressure on the Syrian issue. Other critical situations are also those of Yemen, in Sahel, Sudan and South Sudan as well as in the Horn of Africa, where problems of malnutrition continue and the number of refugees and evacuees is rising. Sųrensen says that measures need to be taken in the name of solidarity.
(Sir Europe - Brussels) - In 2011, the European Unions member states gave protection to 84,100 asylum seekers, as opposed to the previous years 75,800. The largest national groups were Afghans (13,300 people), Iraqis and Somalis (about 9 thousand). The EU Statistics Office Eurostat discloses - just before the 20th June, proclaimed World Refugee Day - last years asylum statistics, which show that in the EU-27 over 365 thousand decisions were taken about this, about two thirds of which on first instance and the rest on appeal. The proportion of affirmative decisions (including asylum, refugee status, humanitarian protection and subsidiary protection) is less than a quarter of that. Approximately 4 thousand refugees were instead reinstalled in other member states. 75% of the total number of affirmative decisions were taken by six countries, i.e. United Kingdom (over 14 thousand people), Germany (13 thousand), France and Sweden (over 10 thousand), Netherlands (8 thousand) and Italy (7,500). In particular, Germany takes the largest groups of Afghans and Iraqis; most Somalis are instead taken up by Sweden and the Netherlands.
The Introduction, mgr. Eterovię explained, emphasises the importance of the councils documents that have been milestones for the Roman Bishops in enforcing their recommendations over the following decades. The first chapter - Jesus Christ, Gods Gospel for man - confirms the very core of Christian faith, that quite a few Christians know nothing about; the second chapter of the document - Time for a new evangelisation - is about reporting the current challenges to evangelisation as well as describing the new evangelisation; the third chapter - Transmitting faith - dwells on the purposes of the new evangelisation, which are transmitting faith, because the Church transmits the faith it experiences itself and all Christians are called to give their contribution. Then, the fourth chapter - Reviving pastoral work - is about transmitting faith within the sphere of the new evangelisation and goes over the tools acquired during its Tradition, especially the first announcement, the Christian initiation and education, in the attempt to adapt them to the current cultural and social climate. Finally, the conclusion mentions again the new evangelisation which should promote a new apostolic upsurge, giving more dynamism to the ordinary evangelising work of the Church, capable of attracting even those people who have distanced themselves from it.
Handing down Christian faith is one of the big challenges of the Church, which shall be investigated as part of the new evangelisation, keeping in mind that the urgent task of handing down Jesus Gospel to the new generations - without ever breaking up the handing down of faith - takes place within the sphere of the new evangelisation. This was said this morning by mgr. Nikola Eterovię, secretary general of the Episcopal Synod, as he presented, in Aula Giovanni Paolo II of the Vatican Newsroom, the Instrumentum laboris (for the full text, go to www.vatican.va) of the XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Episcopal Synod about The new evangelisation for the transmission of Christian faith (7 - 28 October 2012). The Instrumentum laboris is an important step in the preparations for the Synods work and is the result of the response to the Lineamenta, a document for reflection about the topic of the Synods Assembly, which was sent to the 13 Episcopal Synods of the Catholic Eastern Churches sui iuris, to the 114 Bishops Conferences, to the 26 Ministries of the Roman Curia and to the Union of Superiors General. In addition to a foreword, the Instrumentum laboris consists of four chapters, preceded by an introduction and ended by a short conclusion. (continued)
(Sir Europe - Bratislava) - The First Congress of Catholic Journalists of Belarus will take place on 24-26 August in Grodno. The invitation applies to all those who work for the Catholic press, websites, radio and television broadcasting stations, as well as to the journalists of Catholic faith working for secular media. The program of the forum will include workshops, discussions, round table meetings and seminars on various aspects of professional journalism and its relation to faith, moral and ethical conditions of Catholic journalism, and many other topics. The lectures will be given by renowned representatives of media and Church. For more information: www.catholic.by.
Information to and consent of biobank research participants; challenges to their privacy and the confidentiality of their personal data; and responsible governance of biobanks: these are the main topics for discussion at the Conference that is being held at Palais de lEurope in Strasbourg (until tomorrow). Biobanks collect biological materials of human origin and are an important tool for research into the causes, treatment and prevention of diseases. However, organisers explained, there is a need to safeguard the fundamental rights of biobank research participants. This is why the Committee of Ministers of the CoE adopted a Recommendation in 2006, which now has to be re-examined in the light of the experience acquired and of recent developments. In order to ensure representativeness and to promote a practical approach to the issues addressed, the Symposium gathers experts from the 47 member states of the CoE and non-member states, patient organisations, managers involved in biobank governance and oversight, representatives of pharmaceutical companies and consultants. The European Commissions Expert Group on Biobanks is also participating in the debate.
The Gospel binds us to denounce any wound inflicted on man, on his conscience, on freedom, including religious freedom, and on the community in which he lives. But the real denunciation feeds on Gods love and so it finds ever new ways to spread charity. That was said today by card. Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, in the celebration to mark the opening of the 85th Assembly of Roaco (Riunione opere aiuto chiese orientali). From this perspective, the cardinal added, every little we can accomplish is always unequal to the strong announcement that we give. It is the announcement of Gods style that makes mercy overabundant where sin abounds and makes true, eternal life be reborn just where everything seems to be doomed to die. The Prefect mentioned the serious situation in Syria: our thoughts for our beloved Syria feed on these evangelical beliefs and starts with prayer, wishing and intending to confirm it by being concretely and totally available to alleviate pain in the body and in the spirit, as much as possible. May the serenity of life go back to the places where mourning and desperation now seem to reign, through everyones prayers and gestures in response to the Lord Jesus Christ. He took up the cry of every poor man on earth in the silence of the Cross, in a love that is stronger than death.
And he added: The integration process involves the recognition of the centrality and dignity of every human being as well as of their equal rights and duties. These are the foundations for human rights and their limits, viewed as the expression of a vision of humanity in which people and their innermost values are the highest priority. The representative of the Holy See also focused on the intense activity of the Church in support of the Roma, saying: the Church cannot meet all the expectations of Roma people and the improvement of their living conditions requires the commitment of all: all should play their role to the best of their ability, with the utmost responsibility and transparency. The Church is often called to face serious problems with little means. It is essential that she continues to do so, but more should be done to promote the central role of Roma and the creation of an open, supportive and fair society.
They live in illegal houses often without water or electricity, exposed to the risk of diseases and with little access to health care. In several countries of the European Union, their children are placed in special schools, while many women are subjected to forced sterilisation. This is a portrait of the Roma, the largest and most disadvantaged minority in Europe, who are victims of discrimination and sometimes even racism. Fr. Gabriele F. Bentoglio, under secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, denounced their situation during the First International Workshop on Roma Inclusion Projects in Central and Eastern Europe that is taking place in Eger, Hungary. The event is jointly organised by the Commission for the Pastoral Care of Roma People of the Hungarian Bishops Conference and by Renovabis, one of the main Catholic charities in Germany. According to Fr. Bertoglio, not only is anti-Gypsyism still present in Europe, but it is also affecting social structures, hindering the efforts aimed at promoting a mentality where feelings of prejudice and distrust are replaced by solidarity and mutual respect. (continued)
(Sir Europe - Bratislava) - The reason of the current world situation is of moral kind in the first place and its solution should be seen as a return to traditional values and nature, to the protection of creation and to local sustainability, reads the statement of the Environmental Subcommission of the Bishops Conference of Slovakia, on the occasion of the forthcoming world summit of leaders of member countries of the UN about sustainable development Rio+20, due to start on 20 June. The message of Slovakia for Rio says that we are aware of our share of responsibility for the current state of Earth and of the fact that each of us can help to improve it on the personal level, writes the Subcommission, emphasizing the role of the Catholic Church in safeguarding creation. The statement invites the faithful to practise garbage separation and calls for an economic use of water, natural resources and energies; to refuse consumerism and to implement solidarity, return to the roots, farming and active involvement in the protection of the environment. At the same time, the Subcommission commits to participate actively in this process by preparing information materials and issuing statements and explanations on the urgent problems associated with the environment in our society.
The EUs High Representative for Foreign Policy, Catherine Ashton, calls the international community, and especially the UN Security Council, to look to the situation in Syria: an immediate end to any violence, the possibility to bring humanitarian aids and let children, old and sick people out of the conflict zones, including the besieged city of Homs, are called for. In addition, according to Ms Ashton, international pressure needs to be increased to strengthen Kofi Annans plan and let a political process be started to bring lawfulness and peace back to the Middle Eastern country. The EU Commission, on its part, decided to allocate another 40 million euros to the food emergency in Sahel, where famine and hunger are threatening - according to the EU Executives estimates - 18 million people. Finally, development and food security issues will be raised today by the EU representatives (Van Rompuy and Barroso) at the G20 summit in Los Cabos (Mexico).
(Sir Europe - Brussels) - The fronts on which the European Union is taking action in terms of humanitarian emergency and justice are multiplying. The first one is Nigeria: escalating violence against the Christian communities over the last few weeks led to the decision to add an urgent discussion to the Council of Ministers of Foreign affairs of the 27 member states that will meet on June 25th. The decision has been supported by a statement from the High Representative for Foreign Policy and Security, Catherine Ashton, who censored the contemptible attacks against the churches in Nigeria, expressed her sympathy to the victims and their families, and confirmed the firm will to help the Nigerian authorities commit the offenders to justice. The EUs position is about upgrading the fight against terrorism and warding off violence spiralling out, which is what terrorists want. Likewise, the EU is monitoring the development of tension in Sudan, also on the Councils radar, on which the European Parliament has recently taken position. Tibet, Congo, Guinea Bissau are other fronts on which, according to the European Union, political and diplomatic action needs to be supported by humanitarian aids and cooperation for development. (continued)