COMECE, Moscow, France, Poland

COMECE: Mgr. Josef Homeyer passed awayThe Church in Europe “loses one of its most fervent artisans”, while Europe “loses a great European”: mgr. Adrianus van Luyn, president of Comece (Commission of the EU’s Bishops Conferences), commemorates his predecessor, mgr. Josef Homeyer, emeritus bishop of Hildesheim, who passed away on March 30th. A member of Comece since 1990, mgr. Homeyer became had been its president since 1996 for thirteen years, accompanying the eastwards expansion of the EU, the constituent stage, the beginning of the single currency, and a greater economic and political integration. Mgr. Van Luyn (bishop of Rotterdam) emphasises mgr. Homeyer’s “indefatigable commitment” to “a more effective presence of the Bishops Conferences within the European institutions”, with a special focus “on the countries of Central and Eastern Europe” so as to prepare them, not least with the support of the Churches, the accession to the EU, which took place in 2004. “The challenge of combining freedom with solidarity and a sense of responsibility in politics, in economy and in society, are ideas that were the underlying theme of his years at the head of Comece”. In addition, mgr. Van Luyn points out that Bishop Homeyer was “convinced of the need to state the Christian heritage in the Preamble” to the EU Constitution, as well as expressing the “common values, as a compass” for European politics and economy.Moscow: in prayer for the victimsIn silence, the Churches conveyed their prayers for the victims and their families, for the Russian population and for the city of Moscow soon after the blast of two Moscow metro stations at peak hour. “It is a deep pain in the heart”, said the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kyrill, who called upon the clergy to “visit the wounded in the hospitals”. “Unfortunately”, he said, “it’s not the first time that Russia falls victim of terrorist attacks” nor that “danger hovers over us”. “We do not respond with fear, panic or anger”. The response consists in “the unity of our people”. Having learned of the terrorist attacks, the Catholic archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow made a series of phone-calls to find out whether Catholic church members were among the victims. In fact, blasts took place during Mass celebrations in two nearby churches. “Luckily none of them were hurt”, said the archbishop of Moscow Msgr. Paolo Pezzi over the phone. “Anything said in this moment appears out of place”. We are deeply “upset”. “We are part of this people” and similar attacks “strike against the innocent and defenseless”, the archbishop said. The only thing the archbishop wishes to say is that the Catholic Churches in Moscow and Petersburg will anticipate celebrations of the Chrismal Mass, prayers will be recited for the victims “for the good of this people and this city”. France: total defence of Benedict XVITotal defence of Benedict XVI’s commitment in combating the cases of paedophilia in the Church was conveyed by French bishops and by the president of the French Bishops’ Conference Cardinal André Vingt-Trois during the plenary Spring Assembly in Lourdes. “We have conveyed our feelings of solidarity and communion to the Holy Father before the defamation and slanderous campaigns fabricated to darken the papal image – His Eminence said -. We are all aware of the Pope’s vigorous action, first in his capacities as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and then as Supreme Pontiff, in conveying to the bishops all the necessary tools to address the criminal situations with force and clarity”. In their message to the Pope, the French bishops write: “We are all regretful and ashamed for the abominable acts perpetrated by the priests and religious. We share in your strong words to the victims. Those responsible of these crimes disfigure our Church, wound the Christian communities and extend suspicion to all the members of the clergy”. “We also acknowledge that these unacceptable deeds are exploited in a campaign aimed at attacking Your person and Your mission to the service of the ecclesial body. We all suffer for these disloyal and shameful attacks against you and convey our communion and our support to you”. “In this priestly year and in view of the upcoming celebration of the Holy Week and of the Chrismal Mass we wish to renew our faith in our priests. We encourage them in their gift and in the mission entrusted to them by Christ in his Church”.Poland: “ungrounded” accusations against the Pope After the archbishops presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences of France, England and Wales, also the Primate of Poland, archbishop Henryk Muszynski, spoke out in defence of the pope. The archbishop conveyed his “spiritual unity” with Benedict XVI in a statement released on his website March 29 “before an unprecedented media attack on Benedict XVI”. “It is my belief – he added – that all insinuations claiming that Benedict XVI sought to hide and silence painful cases of abuse are completely lacking foundations and can only be understood as a direct attack to the person and dignity of the Pope and as an attempt to discredit the Catholic Church”. Msgr. Muszynski said he is “surprised that a case dating back to 30 years ago, relating to a dead priest whose case was presented to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1996, is used against the Pope, who at the time served as the Prefect”. The archbishop also referred to a case of abuse that took place in the United States in the 1970s on which detailed information was given by both the Osservatore Romano and by the director of the Vatican Press office, father Federico Lombardi.

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