Cyprus, Scotland, Germany, Italy

Cyprus: the feast of Saint MaronTo the presence of the highest authorities of the country, including the President of the Republic Demetris Christofias, on February 7 the Feast of Saint Maron, father and founder of the Maronite Church, which counts some 10 million faithful worldwide, was celebrated in Nicosia. The event is linked to the 1600th anniversary of the death of the Saint, which recurs in 2010. During the liturgy the Maronite patriarch of Cyprus, Msgr. Youssef Soueif, called for “a peaceful solution” to the island’s division. “This solution is necessary not only for the island but also for the whole of Europe”, he said. “It is an example of how cultures can meet and testify to the values based on the principles of unity in the respect of differences”. Indeed, he added, “the Maronites, along with the other Cypriot cultures, contribute to the creation of the island’s multicultural identity, with the awareness that the more multiculturalism is preserved, the more effective is Cyprus’ role in the world, transmitting its message to Europe”. No less important, continued Msgr. Soueif, is the widespread commitment of the Maronite Church “in bearing witness to the spirit of unity between the Churches, as testified by the Maronite archdiocese of Cyprus’ recent CCEE (Council of European Bishops’ Conferences) membership. Finally, mention was made of the forthcoming visit of Benedict XVI to the island in June, which is bound to “strengthen the values of peace and fraternity in a special moment of our history”. “Indeed – the Patriarch concluded – Cyprus underwent much suffering in the past and its suffering continues, but our hope must be stronger”. Scotland: assisted suicide, “a bad law”It is “a bad law which is wrong in principle”. The archbishop of Glasgow Msgr. Mario Conti spoke out against Scotland’s assisted suicide bill, currently debated by the national Parliament. The head of the largest Scottish diocese asserted, “It is wrong in principle for someone to take their own life; it is wrong in principle for someone to help them to do so.” The bill, proposed by Margo MacDonald, independent MSP suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, would allow the terminally ill to seek medical assistance in ending their lives. During the annual Mass for health workers celebrated a few days ago, Msgr. Conti pointed out that “attempted suicide is no longer considered a crime”, but laws “against assisted suicide are required, for the good of society. There is room for compassion in the administration of justice”. Scottish legislation does not consider attempted suicide a crime while assisted suicide is illegal. “This law is wrong in principle. Hard cases make bad laws”, the archbishop concluded. Germany: the bishops’ plenary meetingThe plenary meeting of the German Bishops Conference (Dbk) will take place from 22nd to 25th February in Freiburg, the archdiocese headed by the president of Dbk, mgr. Robert Zollitsch. It is the first time the meeting will be held in the Baden-Württemberg city. Items on the agenda will include the many reported cases of abuse at Jesuit-run schools: the bishops of the 27 dioceses will discuss what further measures must be taken and their consequences. Proposed ideas, as reported by the German Catholic news agency Kna, should include the priest’ training and a review of the existing directives on the approach to such cases of abuse. One further point on the agenda will be the presence of German troops in Afghanistan. “As a Church, we cannot give any recipe to politics on the way peace should be quickly brought to Afghanistan; however, we will take position on this major issue”, announced Zollitsch. On this occasion, the German bishops might mention the recent criticism made on the German troops’ involvement in Afghanistan by Margot Käßmann, President of the Council of the German Evangelical Church.Italy: a place for worship at the Milan fair On February 18 was inaugurated the Oasis of Silence, an inter-religious area created within the exhibition complex of the Milan Fair. The initiative is coordinated by the Council of Christian Churches and by the city’s Forum of Religions. The Oasis of Silence is a place for recollection and prayer for the faithful of all religious traditions. The area is divided into three sectors: an entrance hall, to receive visitors, a chapel for Christian faithful, a room purposely left bare of religious symbols for other religions. During the Fair’s major exhibitions this area will remain open for religious services. The Muslim rite will be held on Friday, the Jewish celebration on Saturday, and on Sunday the Christian rite will be officiated. No specific functions have been envisaged for Buddhists and Hindus, but prayer books are available for the faithful who wish to gather in spiritual recollection.

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