Ccee-Comece, Austria, England

Ccee-Comece: EU and USA bishops in the Holy Land The traditional visit to the Holy Land of the bishops of the coordination of the Bishops Conferences of the USA and Europe in support of the Catholic Church and Christians in the Holy Land will take place from 10th to 14th January. The schedule of events, which will be based in Jerusalem, will include meetings with the apostolic nuncio, mgr. Antonio Franco, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, the religious leaders of the Christians who live in the Holy Land and the Christian communities of Ramallah and Bethlehem. Events will include meetings with the managers of “Kairos”, an initiative aimed to bring the Palestinians’ path to freedom back to the attention of the international community, the political leaders of the region and the Churches across the world and meetings with Israeli and Palestinian politicians and leaders. A release will be issued at the end of the meetings. The delegation will be composed of bishops from Canada, England, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Switzerland and the USA, plus delegates of the Council of European Bishops Conferences (Ccee) and the Commission of the EU Bishops Conferences (Comece). This visit, taking place one year after the Gaza conflict, is all the more important in the light of the forthcoming Synod for the Middle East, due to be held from 10th to 24th October about ‘The Catholic Church in the Middle East: communion and testimony’ based on the Acts 4,32.Austria: Caritas, one million at risk of poverty The new Secretary General of Caritas Austria Bern Wachter, asked politicians to adopt radical measures in the light of the surging numbers of poor people and of those at poverty-risk. “The number of people living in a state of poverty in Austria has reached 500,000. And one million Austrian citizens are at risk of poverty”, Wachter told Austrian news agency APA a few days ago, and called for the adoption of minimum wage introduction, “which is constantly postponed” and is now scheduled for the next fall. To this regard, Caritas demanded that the minimum wage be higher than the envisaged 774 Euro. “The threshold of poverty amounts to approximately 950 euro” – Wachter pointed out – while Caritas established that minimum wages “should be no less than 855 Euro”. Help to the poor “should come in one installment and those in need should not be compelled to beg for financial support”, he said, since “poor people don’t enjoy the support of lobbies”. “In Austria, there is an ongoing fight not against poverty but against the poor”, Wachter declared. “Considering the pace at which bank bailouts and scrapping premiums are implemented, we wonder what value the government ascribes to persons”. The Caritas secretary general criticized the approach to the question of asylum. “It appears that the political realm is striving to trigger concerns on this issue marked by emotional involvement, whilst diverting attention from important themes such as poverty and integration. As relates to the reception centre planned in Eberau it must be said that these are people who seek protection and a secure life. However, politics often appears to spread ‘distorted news and fear “. England: Tablet, advance news on the Papal visitThe visit to England and Scotland, the drop in callings, and the rise in secularism: these are some of the points on the agenda that the Bishops of England, Wales and Scotland will discuss with Benedict XVI in their visits ad limina, due to take place from January 25th for the English and Welsh Bishops and from late February for the Scottish Bishops. Visits that take special importance not least in the light of the Pope’s announced journey in those countries “next September”, about which the Catholic weekly “The Tablet” provided a preview. Quoting the Catholic Scottish Minister Jim Murphy, appointed by Prime Minister Gordon Brown as the organiser of Benedict XVI’s visit, The Tablet writes that the Pope “seems to have turned down the offer of a procession in an open coach and a banquet at Buckingham Palace”, as per the usual State protocol. According to the English Catholic weekly, also quoting the Scottish Minister, Benedict XVI should stay at the apostolic nunciature in Wimbledon, south-west London, instead of Buckingham Palace, and will spend three days in England and one day in Scotland.As to the schedule of the visit, the Tablet reports that the two Bishops Conferences have prepared a tour that is being examined by the Holy See over these days: “it includes public Masses, ecumenical events and other functions, but of course it is up to the Vatican to decide. Benedict XVI will also meet the Queen, but the meeting is thought to take place in Scotland, at Balmoral, where the Queen will be holidaying during the Pope’s visit”. According to the Scottish Catholic weekly The Catholic Observer, “Edinburgh, Glasgow and St. Andrews are some of the cities that have been suggested for the visit to Scotland, while, according to the Scottish Prime Minister Alex Salmond, the Pope might give a speech to the Scottish Parliament”. According to the weekly, the University of St. Andrews too, which will be celebrating its 500th anniversary, asked for the Pontiff to go there. Finally, there are rumours of an “outdoor Mass in Hampden Park, Glasgow”.

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