France, Spain, Ireland

France: advertisements for vocations”I’m a man just like any other. I accompany people in the major events of their life. I feel passionate about Christ and I say so. I love life. I’m a priest!”. That’s the phrase that dominates the posters with which the French Bishops’ Conference is supporting this year’s national campaign of communication on vocations. To the side of the text, a 41-year-old priest: open face, young, jacket hanging from his shoulder. It’s a strongly media-savvy campaign that aims to reach youth by using the media available to them: from the internet with a dedicated website to the creation of a facebook page which can be accessed by keying in the same slogan “Et pourquoi pas moi ?” (Why not me?). The campaign is being promoted by the National Service for Vocations of the French Bishops’ Conference and coincides both with the Prayer Day for Vocations (planned for Sunday 25 April) and with the wider-ranging programme of the Year for Priests proclaimed by Benedict XVI. The objective – explains Father Eric Poinsot, director of the National Service, in Paris – is to rejuvenate the status and role of the priest in our society, especially by seeking a language that is close to the young”. The campaign – as Father Poinsot himself admits – is this year taking place in a media context strongly dominated by the denunciations of child abuse and hence “with little serenity” to tackle this question. “It’s true – he adds – that we are going through a painful phase. Paedophilia disgusts and profoundly shocks us. We cannot forget the sufferings of the victims”. But what Cardinal Vingt-Trois of Paris recently said – he continues – is also true: we cannot permit the 20,000 priests and religious present in France to be covered in shame. So it’s not out of place to communicate today what a priest is. We wish to demonstrate that priests are men who are at peace with themselves; who are happy and passionate; and who live their vocation with joy. It’s also an occasion to show, with the laity, that it’s possible to be ever more creative in inventing a presence in the Church geared to the life of their contemporaries”. The media campaign is aimed at reaching young people between the ages of 16 and 22 and has been realized with the help of lycée students and also by opting for an ironic style. 70,000 posters will be displayed in over 700 cafés, restaurants and Virgin Megastores in the days ahead. The advertisements will also appear in leading French dailies such as Le Monde, Le Figaro and Le Nouvel Observateur. Spain: Cardinal Varela, “the Pope isn’t alone””Our gratitude covers with affection and intensity the power of evil that with unaccustomed force has been unleashed against the person who represents the Church of Christ”, said Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, Archbishop of Madrid, in his homily in the cathedral of Santa Maria la Real de la Almudena. The Cardinal was celebrating a mass marking the fifth anniversary of the pontificate of Benedict XVI together with the apostolic nuncio and some fifty Spanish bishops. In his homily, the Cardinal explained that the Spanish bishops had joined together in the celebration as “sign of communion with the One who is the principle of unity of the whole Church and as sign of gratitude for his generous and tireless dedication to the Church. In this eucharistic celebration we wish to unite ourselves with him, together with our respective churches, and to express to the Pope our unconditional support and our deep filial affection”. From the beginning of the pontificate of Benedict XVI – continued the archbishop – “we have been witnesses of the love of a man who has defined his role as a humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord”. The Spanish bishops, he said, especially appreciate in Benedict XVI “the meekness and serenity” with which he has confronted “the difficult moments of his ministry”. “Wherever Peter is – said Cardinal Varela – the Church is there. The attacks on Peter are also attacks on the Church. That’s why, in our thanksgiving to Christ for having given us a good and humble pastor, we rally round him, and we say to him: You aren’t alone, Holy Father, the Church supports you”. Ireland: “renewal and conversion”The Year for Priests, which began on the feast of the Sacred Heart on 19 June 2009, is “a call for renewal and conversion”, says the Bishop of Raphoe, the Most Rev. Philip Boyce, president of the episcopal Commission for the Clergy, in a reflection marking the visit of the relics of the Curé d’Ars (St. Jean Marie Vianney) to Ireland, promoted from 25 to 29 April as part of the Year for Priests. It’s an occasion – adds the bishop – to support “the fidelity and sanctity of priests, and to deepen their commitment to an inner renewal out of love for a stronger and more incisive witness of the Gospel in the contemporary world”. In his reflection, the bishop also touches on the difficult and painful crisis of the Irish Church due to the denunciations for sexual abuse and he says: “The shameful acts that have come to light in recent times have caused scandal and anguish. The Year for Priests, therefore, offers to laypeople and to priests the opportunity truly to become the people of God of whom St. Peter speaks in his letter”. “May the visit of the relics of Jean Vianney to Cork, Dublin, Knock and Armagh be a moment of grace and renewal for priests!”.

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