From South to North, from East to West

Litterae Communionis: in brief from European bishops' Conferences

An editorial by Fr. Duarte da Cunha, Secretary General of the Council of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe, dedicated to the evangelization service of the Catholic Church in the Continent, whose citizens “need to discover Christ”, opens the issue of “Litterae Communionis Episcoporum Europae” (January – April 2010). In addition to a briefing on the recent CCEE meetings, and an agenda retracing major past -and future – events involving the CCEE, with news items from COMECE and the Council of Europe, as customary the section (WIDEANGLE) presents the initiatives of the Bishops’ Conferences in the continent on which a brief survey follows. Each issue of SIR Europe devotes ample space to European Churches’ activities. Albania. Celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the Pontifical National Seminary in Albania were held in Shkodër (Scutari) to the presence of the bishops of the Country along with those from the Albanian areas of Kosovo and Montenegro. The moments of reflection and the words of Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, were especially meaningful. At the end of the plenary meeting (May 4-5), the bishops addressed a heartfelt appeal to the political authorities in the Country on the social and political situation of Albania, consumed by a crisis that becomes worse every day. Belarus. On April 14 the 42nd plenary meeting of the Belarus Bishops’ Conference took place in Minsk. The bishops focused their debates on Benedict XVI’s invitation to address the “educational emergency” in the Country, conveyed during their ad limina visit (December 2009). The Holy Father exhorted the bishops “to step up efforts aimed at providing appropriate formation to the young generations”. For this purpose, His Holiness encouraged the prelates of Belarus to cultivate “apposite catechesis” along with the “discernment and the accompaniment of the different vocations”. Past February 5 the Apostolic Nuncio in Belarus and the local bishops met Government officials to discuss a draft agreement between the Apostolic See and the Republic of Belarus.Bosnia and Herzegovina. On April 8 the Treaty between the Holy See and Bosnia and Herzegovina on the Pastoral Care of Catholic faithful, Armed Force members of Bosnia and Herzegovina, underwent ratification by the Apostolic Nuncio archbishop Alessandro D’Errico and by the Minister of Defense Selmo Cikotic. The 48th plenary meeting of the Bishops’ Conference was held March 16 in Mostar, during which the bishops elected the new president, Msgr. Franjo Komarica, bishop of Banja Luka.Bulgaria. On April 11 in the concathedral of Saint Joseph in Sophia the apostolic nuncio to Bulgaria Msgr. Janusz Bolonek, co-officiated a requiem Mass for the victims of the plane crash in Smolensk with the president of the Bishops’ Conference Msgr. Christo Proykov. Requiem Masses were celebrated in churches across the Country. On April 16, on the occasion of the birthday of Benedict XVI, Masses for the Pope were held in churches of Bulgaria. From April 25-28 a group of faithful led by Fr. Petko Valov, went on a pilgrimage to Turin to venerate the Holy Shroud.Czechia. The 80th Plenary Assembly of the Czech Bishops’ Conference took place in Prague April 20-21. In the opening Mass the prelates celebrated the 5th anniversary of the election of Benedict XVI. During the meeting the bishops appointed the new president, the archbishop of Prague Msgr. Dominik Duka. The bishops defined as unacceptable the intention of the Ministry of Education to draw up a sexual education handbook and drew up a joint statement on Pope criticism by the media. Cyprus. The Apostolic visit of Benedict XVI will take place in Cyprus from June 4 to 6. The local Church views this visit as a major event in the recent history of the Country and a sign of love and peace. The Government’s cooperation with Orthodox Church is proceeding with positive results. This year recurs the 1600th anniversary of the death of St. Maron. World Maronites (amounting to 10.000.000 faithful), in unity with their patriarch, Cardinal Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, proclaimed the year 2010 the Year of St. Maron, father, protector and founder of the Maronite Church. Croatia. On March 22nd, on the occasion of Croatia’s EU membership negotiations, the bishops of Croatia presented in Zagreb a “Letter on Europe”. During the 40th plenary session of the Bishops’ Conference (Zagreb, April 12-14), it was decided to promote the Catholic Social Weeks. The bishops discussed the documents on the laity and the formation of candidates to priesthood. It was announced that the plenary Assembly of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences be held in Zagreb next September 30 to October 3. Russian Federation. On January 24 archbishop Paolo Pezzi addressed the theme of “Christian presence in the city’s cultural activity” for the opening of the Franciscan Cultural Centre in Moscow. On January 28-29 the 30th plenary session of the Russian Bishops’ Conference took place in Novosibirsk. On Febrary 3-6 took place the 27th session of the Council of the Caritas in Russia. On March 10 the liturgical Commission of the Bishops’ Conference met in Moscow. Participants addressed the theme of the edition of the new Missal and the liturgical texts for the administration of Sacraments. Lithuania. In 2010 Lithuania will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the reconstitution of independence. On the occasion of this anniversary the bishops proclaimed 2010 Year of Thankfulness to the Lord for the bestowal of freedom. On March 9 an international conference was held at the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania. During the meeting the encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” was presented to politicians, entrepreneurs, diplomats, prelates and representatives of ecclesial organizations attending the event. In the Cathedral of Vilnius archbishop Card. Audrys Juozas Baèkis celebrated a solemn Suffrage Mass for the victims of Smolensk to the presence of the President of the Republic and of high State officers.Moldova. In February the Moldovan bishops joined the prelates of Romania for an ad limina visit. In the audience with Msgr. Antonio Cosa, Benedict XVI entrusted to him a message of hope and his paternal vicinity with the Catholics in the Country. During the meeting of the bishops of South-East Europe held in Chisinau, CCEE bishops had the opportunity of learning more about the dioceses and their pastoral and social activities. An important encounter took place at the Government Building – for the first time in Moldova – with Prime Minister Vladimir Filat, who conveyed his appreciation and gratitude for the Catholic Church’s commitment, especially for the poor, along with the wish that such cooperation will continue. Munich. On March 3rd the Church of Munich welcomed Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, recipient of the “Cardinal Paul Poupard Foundation” Award in recognition of his activity and teaching for the protection of the Creation which “promotes the dialogue between cultures and religions”. This year the “Christian Day for Communication” coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Television Festival in Monte-Carlo. Long before Prince Ranieri III had initiated this prestigious event, Munich staged the first international meetings organized by Unda, (today’s Signis).Romania. Romanian bishops were in Rome February 8-13 for the ad limina apostolorum visit together with Moldovan bishops. During the meeting with the Holy Father Msgr. Ioan Robu, archbishop of Bucharest and president of the Romanian bishops’ Conference, invited Benedict XVI to Romania for a “pastoral pilgrimage” (the visit of John Paul II, in May 1999, was an ecumenical visit). The Pope encouraged the bishops to cooperate with the Orthodox Church of Romania for “the defense of the Christian roots of Europe and Christian values”, and for a common testimony “on the family, bioethics, human rights, honesty in public life and ecology”. Slovakia. In the plenary of the Slovakian Bishops’ Conference (Donovaly, March 15 – 16), the annual reports on the activity of the Commissions and Bishops’ Conferences for the year 2009 were examined. The educational program for the teaching of religion in kindergartens was approved and the negative consequences of Church institutes’ social services legislation was discussed. On April 29 a meeting on the situation and service of the priests in Slovakia and Hungary was held in conjunction with the Hungarian Bishops’ Conference. The bishops agreed on an exchange program for Hungarian and Slovakian seminarians. Slovenia. The Faculty of Business Studies, the first in the recently developed Catholic University of Slovenia, presented the academic program for the year 2010/2011. The Slovenian Catholic translation of the Holy Scriptures – New Testament and Psalms – was released in April, (Jerusalem edition). The remaining Books will be translated and published by 2015. Turkey. Past January Fr. Anton Bulai took office as secretary general of the Bishops’ Conference of Turkey, succeeding Fr. Mauro Pesce. Istanbul is the European Capital of Culture 2010. For the occasion Turkey’s Church will contribute various publications. This year also recurs the 50th anniversary (1960-2010) of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Turkey, undertaken by Msgr. Roncalli, the then apostolic delegate to Istanbul (1935-1944). A publication on the event is being drawn up. Ukraine (Byzantine rite). With a pastoral Letter Card. Lubomyr Husar proclaimed 2010 the Year of Christian Vocation, with a focus on vocation to consecrated life. The second Saturday of Lent was dedicated to prayer for the children killed with abortions. The initiative is part of a larger Program adopted by the Synod of the Greek-Catholic Church to protect human life from its beginning. On March 25 the International Conference on: “The 70th anniversary of the Vatican Radio-Ukraine: history, current events and future developments”, took place in Bryuchovyci-Leopoli.Ukraine (Latin rite). On January 12 in Kiev the President of Ukraine awarded 22 prelates of different confessions with State recognitions. Recipients include the secretary of the Roman-Catholic Bishops’ Conference, bishop Marian Buczek. On April 10 the international day in memory of the victims of Katyn was celebrated in Charkiv. The commemorative Mass was officiated by bishop Buczek to the presence of numerous dignitaries. On April 17, in Odessa, Msgr. Buczek took part in the inauguration of the cathedral of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Ukraine. Hungary. On April 15 a meeting of Hungarian-speaking priests was held in Esztergom. 660 priests met to celebrate the Year of Priesthood with Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the Pontifical Household. On April 19 the apostolic nuncio, Msgr. Julius Janusz, celebrated a Mass on the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the election of Benedict XVI. A joint statement by the four historical churches in Hungary in view of parliamentary elections, the balance of the Catholic Church, the definition of legal measures to grant further funding to Catholic schools (that failed to arrive in the past years) are the themes debated in the Spring plenary Assembly (March 2-3).

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