Portugal, England, Germany, Czech Republic

Portugal: Papal visit, rethinking the Country and the Church “The presence of Benedict XVI challenges us to reappraise the Portuguese nation upon the centenary of the proclamation of the Republic”, said Msgr. Carlos Azevedo, in his capacities as general coordinator of the Papal visit, during a workshop attended by 149 journalists representing 72 social communication networks. Delving into the meaning and the objectives of the Papal mission he added, “the visit of the Holy Father implies a reflection into Church action, after nearly 50 years since the Second Vatican Council. The auxiliary bishop of Lisbon referred to the three Eucharistic celebrations that will be presided over by the Holy Father. “This unique spiritual experience”, he said, “will stir consciences and promote the dynamic thrust of conversion and purification needed by contemporary Church. It is our hope that the spirit of Catholic renewal will trigger responsibility and cohesion”. In the framework of meetings marking the celebrations, the round table “The visit of Pope Ratzinger at a cultural intersection” was held, during which historian José Pacheco Pereira, the bishop of Porto, Msgr. Manuel Clemente and journalist Helena Matos’ recalled: “The concept of cultural intersection is particularly dear to Benedict XVI”. “Culture”, they agreed, “is critical to Church mission and the visit of the Holy Father crosses ecclesial borders. It is an event that bears special relevance in terms of cultural bearing and human civilization”. England: for a just … homeIntroducing capital gains tax on gains above 10% of the original purchase price, increasing state subsidies and cutting taxes to single-earner households whilst providing for affordable homes. These are among the targets of “Housing justice”, an ecumenical charity in support of the homeless, which runs conscience awareness campaigns on the lack of decent housing for all, directed to politicians running in the next general elections in the United Kingdom. The charity noted that despite the housing shortage, speculators continue purchasing and selling property across the Country with very high profits. In order to solve the problem it is necessary that land currently being held back by developers is brought on to the market and at a price that makes development viable while maintaining a quota of social housing. The charity is also involved in environment protection projects and call for better insulation in public property for the poor. “It’s unacceptable that in 2010 some are homeless and in a state of poverty as the result of government policies and that churches and volunteers with no State aid should provide food, clothing and housing to families and individuals” said Alison Gelder, chairperson of “Housing justice”.Germany: Ecumenical Church Day on abuses The second Ecumenical Church Day (Ökt) due to be held in Munich next May 12-15, will devote three round tables to the theme of the sexual abuse of minors. Ökt’s organizing committee released the news today. A conference by the Director of the Institute for legal psychiatry of the University of Duisburg-Essen Norbert Leygraf is scheduled for next May 13. Among the panelists figure Christine Bergmann, government representative in charge of sexual abuse cases and member of the directive committee of the Evangelical Church Day and Ursula Enders, President of the association “Zertbitter”, which provides assistance to the victims of sexual abuse. The cases of sexual abuses within the Catholic Church will be addressed on May 14 by Jesuit Father Klaus Mertes, dean of the Canisius College in Berlin, along with theologian and psychologist Wunibald Müller, director of the Recollectio Haus in Münsterschwarzach. The next round table will be attended, among others, by Msgr.Stephan Ackermann, in charge of abuse-cases in the Church for the Bishops’ Conference, Andrea Heim, Bdkj chairperson for the archdiocese of Freiburg and Gerhard Robbers, jurist and member of the directive committee of the Evangelical Church Day.Czech Republic: Day for Life On the occasion of the Feast of the Annunciation, celebrated on March 25, the Czech Bishops’ Conference issued a statement by Mgr Vojtìch Cikrle, delegate for family. The day 25 March has been proclaimed by the Bishops Conference as “the Day for respect for new begotten life”. “It seems, as if human life loses its value in the world of terrorism, drugs, wars and ecological threats”, reads the document. “Freedom and equality gets more and more to the front of concern of the society. But freedom cannot be separated from responsibility and the principle of equality among people needs to be filled first of all by respect for the right to life of each human being” from conception until natural death. “The Church cannot resign on its duty to stand at the side of life”, declared the bishops praising the fact that even the Constitutional Order of the Czech Republic reaffirms the protection of life before the birth. “We cannot therefore agree with the fact that the quality of life is attributed bigger importance than the life itself”. The document concluded that neither disabled children nor unconscious sick people – who are unable to express their will – can be denied the right to live.

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