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Belgium, Slovakia, England
Belgium: thorough searches in all dioceses
Judicial authorities carryout thorough searches in Belgian dioceses in the framework of operation "Chalice", the inquest coordinated by Brussels’ pre-trial judge Wim De Troy on sexual abuse by ecclesial staff in pastoral relationships. For three days authorities rummaged offices in the dioceses of Malines-Bruxelles, Hasselt, Gand, Bruges, Tournai and Namur. Investigators seized documents regarding priests and religious involved in sexual abuse charges. The spokespersons of the dioceses involved in the searches claimed that "everything took place in an atmosphere of serenity and respect" and that "dioceses have fully collaborated with the detectives". The spokesperson of the Belgian bishops’ conference, father Tommy Scholtes, reiterated to SIR Europe the position of the Belgian Church on this issue, namely, its decision "to be at the disposal of justice provided that the legal conditions of the searches are fully respected". And he added: "in the searched dioceses investigating authorities asked for the documentation on priests charged with sexual abuse with the evident intention of establishing related developments". Just last week, the bishops and the superiors of the religious Congregations in Belgium presented to the press a document on sexual abuse, on procedures for reimbursement and prevention. In the document the bishops and the religious superiors reiterate the abusers’ responsibility and invite the victims to submit a report to the judicial authorities. The website of the Belgian Bishops’ Conference announces that "in line with the global action plan to prevent, recognize and repair sexual abuses committed in a pastoral relationship, the bishops have decided that those responsible of the abuses have to be the first to contribute to the financial reimbursement system adopted by the Church. This measure obviously also applies to the former bishop of Bruges (Roger Vangheluwe, ed.’s note)".
Slovakia: the bishops on religious identity
"Quality ecumenical dialog can only be led by people with healthy and distinct religious identity", said the president of Ecumenical council of the Bishops’ conference on Slovakia, Mons. Andrej Imrich, in regard to the Week of prayers for unity of Christians, under way from 18 January. According to him, people involved in this sort of dialog "must be convinced about their faith and - at the same time - should have a great respect for the religious confession of members of other Christian denominations". Mons. Imrich acknowledged that ecumenism in Slovakia has its shortcomings, rising from the fear of disruption of our own identity, but there are also "positive efforts bringing hope", with emphasis on importance of "more intensive dialog among Catholic theologians and those belonging to other Christian Churches". In this regard, the president of Ecumenical council welcomes the idea of new evangelization, saying that it could provide a chance to deepen and refine one’s religious identity, inviting each Christian to higher level of responsibility. National ecumenical prayers in Slovakia will be conducted in Trebisov on 22 January, with Orthodox archbishop Juraj as the main preacher. Local ecumenical meetings will be held in Bratislava, Trnava, Zilina, Kosice and other Slovak towns.
England: Christian Churches meet Abu Mazen
On January 17 Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, met in London, with representatives of Christian Churches in the UK, led by the Archbishop of Liverpool, the Most Revd Patrick Kelly, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Dr Rowan Williams, and Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Rt Revd David Arnott. The meeting discussed the plight of Christians in the Holy Land and an overview of the political situation affecting the ongoing peace process. In a joint press release issued by the Churches, President Abbas said that the resumption of talks in the context of the Arab Spring offered a rare opportunity that needed to be grasped now or it would be missed forever. Referring about his visit in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, Arnott said: "I have seen the struggle of the Palestinian people in the very basics of living but also their deep desire for a negotiated peace between the peoples who share the land". Archbishop Patrick Kelly, who last week, was in Holy Land with European and American bishops for the Holy Land Coordination, declared that "there is an urgent need for strong and creative leadership in order to address the core issues of this long conflict". The Anglican leader Rowan Williams confirmed his hopes "for a lasting and just peace in the Holy Land. Young people in Israel and in the Palestinian territories long for justice and stability and they must not be let down".