England, Austria, Italy

England: the journey of Benedict XVI”An unprecedented opportunity to strengthen ties between the UK and the Holy See on global initiatives, as well as the important role of faith in creating strong communities”. This is how the UK Government and the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Scotland, England and Wales welcomed Benedict XVI’s forthcoming visit to the United Kingdom from 16-19 September. It will be the first ever official Papal Visit to the UK as the visit by Pope John Paul II in 1982 was a pastoral visit only. At a joint press conference held on 16 March in London, details were released about the programme: “The Pope will be received at the Palace of Holyroodhouse by Her Majesty The Queen. He will give a major speech to British civil society at Westminster Hall and will also beatify Cardinal John Henry Newman at a public mass in Coventry”. The communiqué released at the end of the press conference gives further details: the Pope will go to Glasgow, London, Coventry and Birmingham. “The visit will include a public mass in Glasgow, a prayer vigil in London and an event focusing on education. Relations between the Christian Churches will be a theme of the visit as will the relations between the major faiths. The Pope will visit the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace and pray with other Church leaders at Westminster Abbey. Full details of the Pope’s itinerary will be announced nearer the time (thepapalvisit.org.uk)”.According to Jim Murphy, Secretary of State for Scotland and Government Minister leading the preparations for the visit, “this is an historic visit at an important time. The Pope will receive a very warm welcome from Catholics and people of all faiths. The Pope and the Holy See have great influence on global policy in areas such as international development, sustainability and the relationships between religions”, he said. “The Papal visit represents an unprecedented opportunity to strengthen ties between the UK and the Holy See on action to tackle poverty and climate change as well as the important role of faith in creating strong and cohesive communities. We aim to build further on the positive relationship we have developed in recent years”. Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh and President of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, said: “I am thrilled that the Pope has accepted the invitation and I am sure he will receive a heartfelt welcome from Catholics as well as members of other faiths. A defining feature of Pope Benedict’s teaching has been to remind Europe of its Christian roots and culture and to give us guidance on the great moral issues of our day”. The same opinion is shared by Mgr Vincent Nichols, President of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales: “Pope Benedict will encourage everyone to aspire again to a vision of life marked by mutual trust, compassion and truth. The great Christian tradition has so much more to offer”.Austria: zero tolerance for racism”No tolerance” for any kind of xenophobia, anti-Semitism or racism. It was confirmed by the Ecumenical Council of Austrian Churches (ORKO) in a declaration made known by the Austrian Catholic press agency Kathpress today. “If the weak are cast out, treated with contempt, and priority is given to violence, Christian Churches and single people must oppose that in a strong way”, it was written in the document presented in Vienna, during the plenary assembly last week. “Churches are forced by the Gospel to address critical requests to politics and society. This implies also the question whether those who require asylum can live in a dignified way, or if they may access human procedures of asylum”. Moreover, in the declaration, the Ecumenical Council pointed out the necessity for politics to be “judged on the basis of proposals for integration measures” and the carrying out of those measures. For the first time, the ORKO assembly, including 14 Christian Churches of Austria, was presided over by the new president, Rumanian Orthodox bishop Nicolae Dura. Apart from the subject of immigration, they also debated the institution of an ecumenical working group, which would have to elaborate guidelines for interreligious celebrations.Italy: Catholic weeklies and EuropeThe national meeting that the FISC (Italian Federation that regroups 186 local Catholic weeklies with a print run of a million copies each week) is holding in Piacenza (Italy) from 18 to 20 March is dedicated to Europe. The meeting is being held in the Emilian city to celebrate the centenary of the diocesan weekly “Il Nuovo Giornale”. The connecting thread of the discussions will be the theme “Building Europe. The roots and the future”. “The choice of this theme – explains Fr. Giorgio Zucchelli, President of the FISC – is inspired by St. Colombanus, the Irish missionary who is buried close to Piacenza and whom we hope may be added to the other Patrons of Europe. The speakers will include Archbishop Jozef Zycinski of Lublin (Poland), member of the Pontifical Council of Culture, who will tackle the theme “Without faith Europe dies”, and Bishop Gianni Ambrosio of Piacenza, delegate of the Italian Bishops’ Conference to COMECE, who will speak about “the Church and Europe”. The question “what and how much is lacking in the common home of the EU” will be addressed by the Director of SIR Europe, Paolo Bustaffa, and by Gianni Borsa, the correspondent of the same European Catholic agency in Brussels. Mgr. Domenico Pompili, spokesman of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, will close the meeting.

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