From the South to the North, from the East to the West

Litterae Communionis: in brief from the European Bishops' Conferences

The latest issue of “Litterae Communionis Episcoporum Europae” (May – August 2010), CCEE’s four-monthly periodical co-directed with SIR Europe, features an editorial by Bishop Youssef Soueif Archbishop of the Maronites of Cyprus, Secretary for the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, on ecclesial discernment between communion and witness. Ample excerpts of the article were published on SIR Europe n.65. The primary events on the agenda include the CCEE plenary meeting scheduled from September 30 to October 3 in Zagreb on “Demography and the Family in Europe today”; the 2nd Catholic-Orthodox Forum “Theological Approach to Church-State relations” (Rhodes, October 18-22); the CCEE-SECAM seminar in Abidjan (Ivory Coast) next November 10-14 on “Exchange of clergy, pastoral workers and formation”. As customary, “Litterae” articles cover CCEE meetings, along with news items from COMECE and the Council of Europe. The WIDEANGLE section presents the initiatives of the Bishops’ Conferences in Europe, (overview follows). Each issue of SIR Europe devotes ample space to European Churches’ activities.Belarus. On 15 June the Congregation for Catholic Education adopted “Rationem institutionis sacerdotalis” for the seminaries, with a 6-year validity. Participants in the plenary of Belarus’ Bishops’ Conference discussed the outcomes of the Year for Priests (June 22). After the birth of the first child born from frozen embryos the bishops decided to released a statement presenting the teachings of the Belarus’ Church which was read in churches across the Country on July 4. On the government’s request, the Catholic Church cooperates with the Public Health Ministry for the adoption of a “Suicide Prevention Program”. Bosnia and Herzegovina. During the joint plenary meeting of the Bishops’ Conferences of Bosnia Herzegovina and Croatia (Bijelo Polje [Mostar], May 24-25 2010, the bishops were informed on the situation of Croatia’s Catholic missions in the five continents; on the state of the Pontifical College of Croatia of Saint Jerome in Rome and on the joint activity of Caritas Croatia and Caritas Bosnia-Herzegovina. On June 2, in the framework of the Year for Priests, a meeting for all the priests of Bosnia and Herzegovina took place in Kupres. The Bishops’ Conference coordinated the English translation of the Catholic Bishops of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Pastoral Letters and statements (1997-2009), and edited the prayer book Obiteljski Molitvenik (Prayers in the family).Bulgaria. During the ordinary assembly of the Bishops’ Conference (June 2-3, Ruse) the bishops discussed several aspects of the life of the universal Church and of the Church of Bulgaria. The bishops agreed to write a letter in support of the Italian government on the Lautsi case. Among the various themes addressed, the bishops discussed the review of the “particular legislation” and Statutes of the Catholic Church in Bulgaria. From August 23-28 the international festival for the youth organized by the Capucins fathers took place in Belozem. This year’s edition features various initiatives, which include the ‘new evangelization’ school. Cyprus. The Pope’s visit (June 4-6) was a major event. At Church level it stirred the development of various areas of ecumenism and interreligious dialogue. In Cyprus Benedict XVI presented the Special Synod for the Middle East (Rome, October 10-24) and nominated archbishop Youssef Soueif Special Secretary of the Synod. Croatia. On May 24-25 took place the annual plenary meeting of the two Bishops’ Conferences of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia (Bijelo Polje – Mostar). On May 31, for the festivity of the Virgin Mary of Stone, Patron of Zagreb, the prefect of the Congregation for the Bishops card. Giovanni Battista Re presided over a Mass in the capital city and met the members of Croatia’s Bishops’ Conference the following day. On June 29 the permanent Bishops’ Council, with reference to the Lautsi case, issued a statement on the display of Christian symbols in public places.Russian Federation. The Youth Days of the archdiocese of the Mother of God were held in Moscow at the beginning of May. On May 27 the diocesan Centre of Novosibirsk was consecrated in the framework of the pastoral conference of the Transfiguration diocese – May 22-27. On June 16-17 the 31st Plenary Meeting of the Russian Bishops’ Conference was held in Sochi, while on June 23-24 St. Petersburg hosted the meeting of Caritas Russia. The visit of the general provost of the Society of Jesus took place in July. The general provost had meetings with Catholic and Orthodox Churches dignitaries.Lithuania. During the plenary of the Lithuanian Bishops’ Conference (May 4-6 Vilnius), the bishops voiced their concern over widespread homosexuality: the homosexuals’ “For Equality” march was being organized in Vilnius. According to the prelates, this stance is against marriage between man and woman and contradicts the natural order established by the Creator, as well as the Lithuanian Constitution, which stipulates the family as the foundation of the State. The bishops equally addressed the situation of female and male monastic communities in the Country, and discussed the guidelines for the missions and future cooperation with local parishes and bishops. Malta. Considering that the pro-divorce lobby has gained further momentum after a parliamentarian presented a the draft law to debate the legal introduction of divorce on the island, the bishops issued a pastoral letter exhorting Church members -individuals and ecclesial groups alike – to contribute to the debate. “In doing so they will be serving not only the Church but also Maltese society as a whole”. Moldavia. Consolidating priestly Communion along with the permanent formation of clergy and religious through pastoral commitment. This is the spirit characterizing May’s Presbyteral Council called by Msgr. Anton Cosa. In June the priestly ordination of a young Moldavian was celebrated, while the number of native priests is increasing. The presence of Msgr. Cosa at the Jubilee Feast of the Orthodox diocese of Tiraspol in Transnistria, is a token of Chisinau’s diocese yearning to be involved in respectful and constructive dialogue with the Orthodox Church.Czech Republic. From July 2-3 the 81st plenary of the Czech Bishops’ Conference took place in the framework of a pilgrimage to the Velehrad shrine in Moravia. The bishops approved the draft directive for preparation to the sacrament of marriage in the Czech Republic and were updated on the preparations for the 800th anniversary of the birth of St. Agnes of Bohemia (2011), on the international Congress of permanent deacons due to take place in Velehrad (2013), on the 1150° anniversary of the arrival of Saints Cyril and Methodius in the Great Moravia (2013), and on the Eucharistic Congress (2013). The “Bible for the Youth” project was presented during the plenary.Romania. The main themes addressed during the plenary of the Romanian Bishops’ Conference (May 25-27, Oradea) were: a new Ratio Studiorum for seminaries and for theological teaching in Romania; the need for a renewed stance on abortion – a widespread phenomenon – and a national congress for the family; the question of the relations with Romania’s Orthodox Church, which continues to refuse the restitution of Greek-Catholic churches, and the “common prayer” with Catholics regularly held abroad. The new president is the Major Archbishop of the united Romanian Church in Rome His Beatitude Lucian Muresan. Scandinavia. A Catholic congress on the family, organized by the Bishops’ Conference of Nordic countries, centered on “Love and life” was held in Jönköping (Sweden) in May. Panel lectures were delivered by the Patriarch of Venice His Eminence Cardinal Angelo Scola by the auxiliary bishop of Birmingham, along with other speakers. “Marriage is an instrument of salvation” is the theme of the Pope’s broadcast message. Slovenia. Following a three-year deliberation, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Slovenia issued a ruling on certain articles contained in the Law on Religious Communities, appealed by the Council of State for alleged constitutional illegitimacy. The Court ruled the Law falls within constitutional provisions, while only a few secondary regulations were considered unlawful. The ruling is very important since it reaffirms the Churches’ positive role in society along with that of other religious communities, often questioned by laicist claims which dominate the Country’s political and media environments. On June 22-23 a meeting between Slovenian and Austrian bishops took place in Mariazell to compare pastoral experiences and step up the ties between the respective Churches.Ukraine (Latin rite). On May 21-22, the 35th assembly of the Conference of Romanian-Catholic bishops of Ukraine took place at the Major Seminary of Vorsel (Kiev). The prelates decided to hold a Eucharistic National Congress in 2011 or in 2012, for the 600th anniversary of the foundation of the Metropolitan Church of Lviv. They invited Pope Benedict XVI to take part in the celebrations. The assembly was preceded by the first joint retreat of Catholic bishops of Byzantine and Latin rite, held by Msgr. Stanislas Padewski, former bishop of the diocese of Kharkiv-Zaporizhzhya.Ukraine (Byzantine rite). On the invitation of cardinal Lubomyr Husar, Msgr. Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, went to Ukraine at the end of May for a visit aimed at “actualizing the outcomes of the Synod on the Word of God in the context of the Ukrainian Church, enhancing the cultural heritage of the Country in missionary terms”. On July 27 – the day of the commemoration of the blessed martyrs of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church – cardinal Husar conferred the honorary award of Blessed Omeljan Kovc to Aron Weis (Israel), Grzegorz Linkowski (Polonia), Vasyl Koscynets and Jevhen Sverstjuk (Ukraine) in Lutsk (province of Volyn), that they may “fulfill those values for which father Omeljan died” (as martyr of Nazi persecution ed.’s note.) He is remembered as “the parish priest of Majdanek” for his pastoral zeal, from the name of the concentration camp he was deported to.

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