Turkey, Spain, Ukraine

Turkey: solidarity with earthquake victims “We have scarce and fragmented news: the earthquake extended to an area with an ancient Christian presence. We’re trying to learn more about the situation in order to organize relief with Caritas Turkey”, Msgr. Luigi Padovese, President of Turkey’s bishops, told SIR Europe, referring to the earthquake that hit the surroundings of the city of Elazig, in centre-Eastern Turkey. The first 6 magnitudo mainshock at 4.32 a.m. local time lasted a minute, followed by 30 aftershocks. To date, 57 died and 60 were severely injured, but figures are not definitive since several people are thought to be lying under the debris. A large number of casualties came from the village of Okcular, which was most affected with the village of Yukari Kanatli. Rescue teams keep coming in to help find possible survivors.In these days the annual meeting of the Joint Commission of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences and of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) is being held in Istanbul, Turkey. Soon as the news of the earthquake near the city of Elazig (South-East Turkey) broke out participants conveyed their “sympathy and prayers to the Government and to the Turkish populations hit by this tragic event”. Spain: “immense joy” for the Pope’s visitThe Pope’s visit is an invitation “to recover our Christian roots”, reflecting the interest for “certain fundamental aspects of the history of the Church and of Catholicism in Spain” and the concern “for themes and problems of our times, not only for the way they are lived in Spain but also in the rest of Europe and across the world”. During the Sunday homily (March 7) Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela, president of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference and archbishop of Madrid, expressed his “immense joy” over the visit of Benedict in Spain scheduled for the end of November. The Holy Father will celebrate the Jacobean Holy Year in Santiago de Compostela as faith pilgrim, and will then consecrate the Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona. The history of Spain is unconceivable without the “preaching of the first Apostle who came all the way here”, added card. Rouco Varela, “The visit of the Holy Father is a strong call to prod the process of evangelization”, along with “the soul and essence of the Church’s pastoral commitment which encourages all Spanish faithful to recover their Christian roots”, His Eminence said. Faith in Spain, he added, “has triggered the development of a moral and ethical culture, always centered on the unquestionable identification of the human dignity and on the human person, encompassing all those aspects that are related to it: the family, the common good, solidarity, justice, and notably: existence, conceived and lived under the banner of the love of Christ”.Ukraine: the chaplain of the youth and of the militaryThe Catholic Church in Ukraine “finally recovered her freedom, and today pastoral care is no longer confined to a specific religious confession”. As compared to the Orthodox Church, “Catholics tend to draw close to people, they don’t wait for others to come up and ask questions on their faith”. Fr. Stepan Sus, 29, responsible of the chaplainship of the military Academy in Lviv, the largest in the Country, spoke of his experience at the international association Aid to the Church in Need. Together with another priest and a deacon, Father Sus does apostolate work among the soldiers and teaches philosophy at the Academy. At the beginning – he explained – “many soldiers only had a vague idea of faith, if none at all”. While today, “having overcome their initial skepticism, they regularly attend Catechism sessions and the celebration of the holy Liturgy, while many attend prayer groups”. The priests also hold Catechesis for the families of the military, with the support of 35 seminarians. It is a demanding commitment “with important consequences. In fact many soldiers ask to be baptized. And four of them left the military service and entered the seminary of the Holy Spirit to become priests”. The young chaplain is also in charge of the pastoral care of the youth. He spoke about his initiative for 300 abandoned or orphan children. “At present 50 young volunteer workers and soldiers help transmit to the children the warmth of a home and a family”. “For these young Christians – he concluded – serving others is a concrete way of living and of bearing witness to their faith”.

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