Germany, Ukraine, Hungary-Slovakia, Czech Republic
Germany: the home of german catholic media in Bonn
The “Katholisches Medienhaus”, the facility that hosts the operations of the German Catholic Church in the area of the media, was opened in Bonn on 11 June. Mgr. Robert Zollitsch, president of the German Bishops Conference (Dbk), presided over the unveiling ceremony and recalled that the “Church bravely takes a big leap in a world of rapidly-changing media”. Rather than a building, the new facility is “an attempt to effectively pool together the energies spent by the Church in the area of the media. In this way, we want to find appropriate responses to the challenges of the digital media era and feature more heavily in public opinion, in the interest of the Church and all matters of faith”. The archbishop pointed out that the Medienhaus is not a “centralisation or concentration of work on the media”. Partners working with the Katholisches Medienhaus include the Catholic portal katholisch.de and the Catholic news agency Kna, the magazine “Christ & Welt” and a few national Catholic radio desks, as well as the radio of the archdiocese of Cologne “Domradio”.
Ukraine: Catholic University on the language bill
The community of the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) issued a statement regarding a language bill that would boost the status of the Russian language in Ukraine. The law has recently passed its second reading in parliament. “Ukraine is on the brink of a civil conflict again”, reads the address. In the opinion of the authors, the purpose of the bill is not to protect the Russian language in Ukraine – it is “an implementation of a political order that was not formulated from the Ukrainian perspective and which is extremely dangerous for Ukraine”. According to the Religious Information Service of Ukraine, UCU calls on the Ukrainian society, especially its Russian-speaking population, to oppose this “political provocation”. The University encourages the entire Ukrainian society to realize that “the political games which are being engineered by the regime around the language issue are inherently immoral and criminal in their consequences”. The controversial law, causing nationwide protests, was introduced last year by the ruling Party of the Regions which backs president Viktor Yanukovych. It would elevate languages spoken by “minorities” of more than 10% to the status of regional languages. If passed, the law would change the status of Russian in 13 of Ukraine’s 27 administrative regions. The bill does not only apply to Russian but would also benefit 17 other languages. The All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations issued a statement warning that the law would “harm the normal constitutional functioning of the Ukrainian language”, expressing regret that “such sacred attributes of the state originality like language, history and religion become a subject of political manipulations”.
Hungary-Slovakia: meeting of military ordinaries
The Hungarian village of Zalavár, historical residence of prince Pribina in the 9th century, was the venue for the meeting of the military ordinaries of Slovakia and Hungary on 9 June. Mons. Frantisek Rábek and Mons. László Bíró celebrated a holy mass for pilgrims and paid tribute to the memory of Ss. Cyril and Methodius, “apostles of the Slavs”, by laying flowers at their memorial. Mons. Bíró pointed to the importance of the historical mission of the saints, “inspiring a desire for unity and communion in every Christian”. Mons. Rábek expressed gratitude for efforts aimed at building mutual relations between the Slovak and Hungarian nations. In his homily, he reflected on the role of laymen in the new evangelization, stressing that the universal good of a man consists not only of his material welfare, but also of his “cultural, spiritual and moral good”. “Let us pray for brave and faithful laymen who cooperate with their spiritual leaders in the work of the new evangelization in our contemporary times, in areas that have been entrusted to our responsibility”, exhorted the Slovak bishop. According to the spokesman of the Military Ordinariate of Slovakia, Tibor Ujlacký, the second Slovak-Hungarian meeting initiated by the military ordinaries contributed to a tradition of joint meetings of representatives of both nations in “brotherly Christian love”; these meetings are a sign that “our neighbourly relations are growing in mutual respect, peace and friendship”.
Czech Republic: bill on church property restitution
The law on Church property restitution in Czech Republic was passed to the third reading by the Parliament on 6 June, despite the suggestions of the opposition CSSD party that the property should be returned only in the form of estates (75 billion CZK), without any financial compensation which - in accordance with the bill - is supposed to amount to 59 billion CZK. The only amendment concerns a condition that the Churches will have to prove clearly the ownership of the property in question back to 1948, before the nationalization. The total value of the property to be returned (134 billion CZK) was calculated in 2007 on the base of the data provided by Churches and religious associations and the materials submitted by the Land Fund and Forestry of Czech Republic. The calculation has been examined by two independent studies. It is estimated that after the third reading and eventual approval by the Senate, the bill on Church property restitution could definitely settle the property compensation for Churches and religious associations, thereby bringing to an end a long and difficult process.