Ukraine: the bishops’ synod The 49th Synod of Bishops of the Kyiv-Halych Supreme Archbishopric of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, presided over by Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, closed a few days ago in Lviv-Bryukhovychi. After briefing on the decisions of the previous metropolitan Synod, Cardinal Lubomyr announced the decision of holding a pan-Ukrainian pro-life congress. His Eminence reiterated the Synod’s recommendations to the clergy to adhere to the non-governmental pension fund Pokrova, and made known that a message on the importance of the nation’s understanding of the economy is due soon. During the meeting the bishops addressed the development of the Ukrainian Church’ communication activity, the pastoral service in the national penitentiary system, ‘posthumous’ vocations, the restitution of church property and the project of establishing a “public School” for adults. The Synod equally addressed the ongoing political and social situation in the Country and drew up the content of a letter to ex-President Viktor Yushchenko and an appeal to neo-president Viktor Yanukovych (cf. SIR Europe 25/2010). The bishops also reflected over priesthood-related issues; in particular on the need of setting up a commission for the priests. The bishops also debated proposals and suggestions for the improvement of catechesis services in Ukraine. A report on the activity of the patriarchal pro-pilgrimage Centre was read during the meeting. The bishops decided that celebrations for the Baptism of Ukraine will be held Sunday July 25. The 50th session of the Synod is due to take place next May in Kyiv.Malta: awaiting the Pope, pilgrimages and exhibitions In preparation for the apostolic visit of Benedict XVI to Malta and Gozo (April 17-18) “Pauline pilgrimage” will take place this evening under the auspices of the two dioceses. The pilgrimage will commence at the Mount St Joseph Retreat House, at 6.15pm and end at San Pawl tal-Hgejjeg Sanctuary in St. Paul’s Bay. During the ceremony, a bonfire will be lit; the passage from the Acts of the Apostles which speaks of St. Paul’s Shipwreck will be read; a renewal of baptismal vows will take place and along with the Prayer of the Apostle of the People. Archbishop Paul Cremona will also address the congregation. It is estimated that the whole activity will finish at around 8.30 pm. Msgr. Joseph Farrugia, the coordinator for pastoral activities in connection with the Papal visit, wishes to “encourage people to attend this pilgrimage, which will serve as a means of giving witness to the faith, which our forefathers embraced 1950 years ago when St. Paul came to our islands and announced the Good News of the Kingdom”. In the framework of the initiatives in preparation for the Pontiff’s visit, on April 5 Archbishop Cremona together with Msgr. Tommaso Caputo, apostolic nuncio in Malta, attended the inauguration of the photo exhibit “From Benedict to Benedict”, with pictures on the figures of seven popes: from Benedict XV to Benedict XVI, including photos of Pius XI, Pius XII, John XXIII, John Paul II and John Paul I. The exhibition held in Pardo Hill (Foreign Ministry) is open to the public until April 15. France: politicians in pilgrimage to Lourdes The pilgrimage to Lourdes of the candidates-elect in March’s French regional elections – open to all politicians – “so their political commitment may thrive on faith”, opened yesterday (April 8, ongoing until April 11). The pilgrimage is being proposed for the second time, – the first took place in 2009 – by the senator of Seine-Maritime, President of the association “Chrétien élu public” Charles Revet. The initiative highlights the importance of “a time for prayer, reflection and confrontation” in the Marian city. “May the Lord work in the hearts!” was the wish of the parish priest of Sainte-Clotilde in Paris father Matthieu Rougé, director of the Pastoral Service for Political studies (SPEP), who accompanied and animated also the first edition of the pilgrimage, which he describes as “a moment of great intensity and grace” attended by approximately one hundred politicians from all levels and political groups”. Among the fruits of that experience father Rougé mentioned the meetings that followed in the next months across a number of dioceses: “small initiatives that are gradually developing”. This year’s participants in the pilgrimage will share the reflections of cardinal Philippe Barbarin, archbishop of Lyon, on “The Church to the service of the human person”; of Msgr. Claude Dagens, bishop of Angouleme, on “The religious and cultural future of the churches and of the Church in France”. “The grace of Lourdes and of the lesser ones” is the theme addressed by Marie-Hèlene Mathieu, founder of the Office Chrétien des personnes handicapés. Participants will also attend a workshop on Benedict XVI’s encyclical “Caritas in Veritate”.