Belgium, France, Switzerland

Belgium: the “conference” of Msgr. LéonardA 75-min. conference before a crowded audience: past October 21st the archbishop of Malines-Bruxelles delivered a panel speech in the framework of the “Great Catholic Conferences” held in the ancient Congress Palace in Brussels. The archbishop’s address broached several issues, including topical themes. Msgr. Léonard spoke of the media, also in view of the fact that he was often in the news recently. The bishop conveyed his appreciation of the media, and said he is always is happy to be invited to deliver his contributions. “We must not isolate ourselves”, he remarked. The radio program “Answer the question” broadcast by RTBF gave him the possibility to address 500 thousand people. Thus the press – added the archbishop – is “an expression of democracy that we should appreciate. However – he said – at times the media are the ones that create the event” as happened recently over the book-interview that triggered a hot debate in Belgium for the archbishop’s statement on AIDS. Indeed, the book was published in French in 2006 and then suddenly this year it hit the news after the translation into Dutch. For this, the archbishop said he is sometimes “disappointed” by journalists when the events are not appropriately analyzed, or when a fact is reported without due knowledge. Msgr. Léonard thus addressed the question of AIDS. He explained that after he has told the journalist that “AIDS is not God’s punishment”, he added that when AIDS first appeared – and “without judging anyone”, it could have been a sort of “impending justice”, referring to the “consequences that all of our actions entail”. This phrase triggered heated debate in The Netherlands and in Belgium. For this reason the archbishop reiterated, “AIDS patients must be loved and embraced”. In the 75-min conference the archbishop also addressed the theme of priestly celibacy. “The choice of celibacy on the part of all candidates to priesthood – said Msgr. Léonard – is free and it is the result of the love for the Lord and the service to His Church”. The archbishop believes that in the Latin Church this choice must be preserved since “a well-lived celibacy opens the heart, like a well-lived marriage”. This does not exclude that one day the Church may open up to the ordination of married men, as already is the case in the Eastern Church. However, it should not be done now for two reasons. Firstly because it is not in this way that the Church can overcome the lack of vocations in Europe. Secondly, it would be ridiculous to think that abolishing compulsory celibacy could solve the problem of paedophilia inside the Church. “85% of cases of abuse on minors – the archbishop recalled – take place inside the families, but marriage should not be eliminated for this reason”. France: the true meaning of the feast of the Saints Musical events and meetings for the youth: France is about to celebrate also this year the night of October 31st, the feast of All Saints. Information and material on the feast established by Pope Gregorius IV in 835, who proclaimed that the entire world was to celebrate the Feast of the Saints, is posted on the website of the French Bishops’ Conference. Nowadays the Feast is better known as Halloween, and it is experienced as a popular event. In order to give meaning to the celebration, the bishops’ conference published a series of reflections that the bishops wrote across the years. There is also a reflection by Msgr. Bernard Podvin, spokesperson of the French bishops. “The Feast of All Saints – he said – is one of the major feasts of the liturgical year, when we celebrate that God is One and that He is Saint. And when we honor all those who experienced the joy of receiving his Word in their life. Sanctity is also valid for today! Everyone is called to sanctity”. Switzerland: congratulations to Msgr. KochThe elevation to the rank of cardinal of Msgr. Kurt Koch, archbishop, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity is “a special recognition” of the activity undertaken until now. The bishops receive with these words the decision announced a few days ago by Benedict XVI to elevate also the Swiss archbishop to the rank of cardinal. “The bishop’s access to the College of Cardinals – write the Swiss bishops – marks the importance of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, chaired by bishop Koch since Summer 2010. Since his election as bishop of the diocese of Basilea Msgr. Kurt Koch has been a member of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference (CES) and its president from 2007 until 2009. During the fifteen years of his episcopate he remained a key figure of CES activity. His theological work and his Episcopal service are centered on the development and the transmission of the faith – and especially – of ecumenism”.

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