At full speed

For the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion

The Pope’s visit to the Caritas hostel in Rome on February 14, over 60 related events held in the respective dioceses, initiatives in many Countries to launch the “Zero poverty” campaign (www.zeropoverty.org) at national level, while signatures are being collected and other events are due to be finalized soon. February was an important month for all that relates to the “Zero poverty act now” campaign, organized by Caritas Europe on the occasion of the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social exclusion called by the European Parliament and Commission. This week SIR Europe – Agensir.it – in conjunction with the Italian Caritas initiates a special section devoted to the European Year, constantly updated with in-depth editorials, reflections, interviews, news reports and links to sites of interest. It is a way to promote interaction between Caritas, the Church in Europe, and European institutions, in view of a joint commitment for solidarity, justice and social inclusion. Eurostat findings show that 85 million people in Europe undergo material deprivations and one in five children live in state of poverty. Why also in Europe? “Why also in Europe?” asked in an editorial published by SIR past March 3 Piotr Mazurkiewicz, secretary general of COMECE (the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union) and of Europe Infos. On the occasion of the visit of Benedict XVI to the Caritas hostel in Rome, COMECE and Caritas Europe called for similar meetings between the bishops and the poor to be held on the coming Sunday, upon the occurrence of the celebrations of the patron Saints of Europe Cyril and Methodius. “The time of Lent – Fr. Mazurkiewicz remarked – is an opportune moment to put conversion into practice in our micro-relations (with friends, relatives, within small groups) and in our macro-relations (in the social, economic and political spheres)”.The launch of “Zero poverty” in the different Countries. After the European launch in January the Caritas Europe campaign was launched at national level in February in Croatia, Germany, Portugal, Bosnia-Herzegovina, that inaugurated apposite websites. In Italy, a press conference in Rome presented the campaign along with the Papal visit to the “Di Liegro” hostel. In Croatia president Ivo Josipovic and the mayor of Zagreb gave their official endorsement of the campaign. Also in Portugal institutional figures assured their interest and their participation. Among the other initiatives, Austria organized an “Action day” with an initiative titled “Coffee to help”, aimed at the diffusion of fair and equal trade products (that in fact includes coffee). The proceeds will serve to fund development projects. For greater visibility, volunteers walked along the streets of Austrian cities dressed up as coffee cups and coffee-bags.March events. An ever-greater number of events are being planned for March. Secours Catholique, France’s Caritas, organized the one-week event (March 4-10) “France for Europe”, with meetings at national and local level that will address the European scope of the fight against poverty. Caritas Malta is due to launch its national campaign on March 17 with an official hymn, while in Italy the Ambrosian Caritas will hold a conference in Milan on March 12 attended, among others, by Msgr. Giuseppe Merisi, delegate bishop for charity and health and president of Italy’s Caritas chapter. Workshops will be held in Berlin on the initiative of Caritas Germany, while Caritas Europe is preparing a seminary on Aids/Hiv due to be held in Sofia, Bulgaria. The petition. Caritas Europe points out that the online petition, aimed at submitting one million signatures to European institutions by the end of the year, can be signed by logging on www.zeropoverty.org. Each national Caritas chapter is collecting signatures on paper, notably Albania, Croatia, Italy, Spain and Portugal. More events and news items on the subject have been posted on the website by the users themselves.

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