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The awakening of parishes
Bishops´ Assembly: Year of the Faith, defense of life and religious freedom
Parish elections, the Year of the Faith, the World Day with people with Down-syndrome, the Fatwa of the Grand Mufti Ibn Abdullah against all Churches are the major themes addressed by the Austrian Bishops’ Conference during the plenary held in Tainach from March 19-22. The day after the end of the meeting the bishops issued a statement on the outcome of the plenary assembly presented by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, president of the Bishops’ Conference. Follows an excerpt of the declaration.
Election of parish councils. Austrian bishops expressed their “gratitude” for the availability offered by “approximately 30 thousand men and women” to provide their volunteer services for the next five years in 3000 parishes. The bishops underlined “the tendency to the presence of younger people in parish councils. This is all the more remarkable considering that life expectancy is steadily increasing. The increase also regards the presence of women, now amounting to 56% of the whole”. The new parish councils are now called to “fulfil important obligations. They represent a crucial aspect of Christian community life and a Church network that intends to remain close to the faithful. With their service, parish councils are called to serve as ‘apostles of our times’”.
Year of the faith. “The Year of the Faith called by Benedict XVI opens on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council of October 11 2012” and “it is an invitation and a good occasion to renew, deepen and give voice to faith through personal life witness. In Austria, the inauguration of the Year of the Faith will be celebrated in all dioceses as a common sign”. In the whole Country, “the doors of all Churches will be opened at Midday. The bells will chime to invite the faithful at the Angelus prayer. Several initiatives are under way and others are being planned, such as a meeting of Austrian youth in Salzburg”. For the bishops, “the Year of the Faith can bring about an authentic renewal of the Church if the faithful will be inspired and let themselves be inspired by it. Faith is the foundation on which we repose. A great part of all that is true, good, and authentic in our society was engendered by our Christian faith”.
The World Day of the people with Down syndrome. “Every year on March 21 recurs the world Day of people with Down syndrome, expression of the infinite value and of the inviolable dignity of every human person. With love and respect the bishops are close to people affected by trisomy 21 syndrome and to their families”, the bishops write. “At the same time we ask ourselves for how long this Day will be celebrated: according to accredited surveys, the diagnosis of Down syndrome determines a pregnancy interruption in approximately 90% of cases”. “At the basis of this phenomenon there are various diagnostic methods whose purpose, rather than healing, is pre-natal selection”. This situation “was worsened by the regulation that provides for the possibility to abort until shortly before the time of birth in case of child with disabilities”. In this way, the bishops caution, “social pressure on people with Down syndrome or other disabilities has substantially increased. There is an ever more frightening tendency to grant the right to live only to those who are perfect and correspond to people’s wishes”. For this reason “the bishops support and strengthen all initiatives of the political and social realms, aimed at ensuring full recognition and value to people affected by Down syndrome”.
Fatwa on the destruction of the churches. “With great disconcert Austrian bishops learned about the fatwa of the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia Abd-al-Aziz Ibn Abdullah”, who said that it is forbidden to erect new churches in the Arab peninsula and that all churches have to be destroyed, as there would be far too many. It is, according to the bishops, “an absolutely unnecessary and incomprehensible decree, as in the Arab peninsula there exist various initiatives of interreligious dialogue”. It is therefore necessary to clarify how come the Mufti released this fatwa” along with “an official clarification and a univocal recognition of the right to exist of the Churches and of Christians in the region”. This decree, continues the communiqué, “questions the seriousness of the dialogue” and does not help the people, especially “at a time when the entire region is upset by the Arab revolutions”. The Fatwa also risks to “dangerously worsen the already difficult situation of Christians in Arab countries”. Austrian bishops strongly demand “political and religious leaders of the Islamic world to clearly reject the fatwa of the Great Mufti of Saudi Arabia.